BBC has provided a preview of Microsoft Mango, the new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, adopted by Nokia to replace their aging and rendered obsolete Symbian operating system. It certainly looks like a worthy competitor to iOS and Android with the usual incorporations such as threaded conversations, unified inboxes, social networking support and seamless integration between various different aspects of functionality. It tries, however, in addition to go a few steps further with many of these features. The UI is pleasing to the eye being lean, simple and calm in its colour scheme. Flash is only partially supported which in effect will mean that the default browser probably won’t work on the majority of flash websites but this is no different to iOS for the time being.
Nokia certainly need the assurance of revival that Mango offers and I would say it’s a positive move for them. For Microsoft I think the Nokia deal has added the essential, previously lacking, momentum to take this project to production. Microsoft just have to make sure that they keep the operating system stable (like Symbian was) and that they learn valuable lessons from the successes of iOS and Android since they are following in their footsteps. It’s great to see aggressive competition in the field of mobile operating systems and I’m certainly looking forward to Mango going live to see how they push the boundaries of what currently exists.
I wonder what the next generational leap can be for all parties concerned. Near field communication is one that comes to mind which Google is going to market with very soon. Mobile Money is also kicking off with the joint initiative between Barclays and Orange. It’s also interesting to consider how phones will adapt to upcoming 4G. There will I think always be a trend towards improving hardware whilst improving also the battery life of devices. What more would you like to have with your phone?
Augmented reality applications is one way in which the iPhone is currently behind Android since, as far as I could tell from the Android for Java Developers talk I went to, this functionality already exists in Android. I wonder why this API is currently not public.
“The L.A. Times reports that Apple will begin allowing developers access to the tools they need to produce augmented reality applications starting with upcoming iPhone OS 3.1. While there have been many impressive demos floating around showing the possibilities, these applications have used unpublished APIs which prevent them from being allowed on the App Store. Apple, however, told one developer that the tools necessary would become available with iPhone 3.1.”
I just watched the official video on HTC Hero and I can’t help wondering what is the value add? Let me say at the outset that I admire the Android platform and handsets adopting it and that what I’m about to say is in no way a criticism. However I would like to ask the question: how will Android and adopting handsets distinguish themselves in the shadow of the iPhone? The fundamental problem that Android and adopting handsets are facing is that it’s all been done before by Apple who have had the added advantage of refining and maturing their product over time. The typical characteristics of the OS and the handset marketed in that video, touchscreen, seamless integration with the internet and catering for all possible needs of the user, have all been done before and replicating that unfortunately gives the impression of lack of originality.
Android attempts to add more animation and eye candy but it’s all too easy to overdo it. The only real unique value add I can see is that they allow you to fully customise your desktop and that in my opinion is one of the annoyances of the iPhone and a real plus point of Android. Some might say that the Android platform being open and supporting multiple languages including Java is a major win. However this cannot be the defining value add as if you have no consumer who will you develop for? For the common consumer there has to be a very real tangible value over alternative platforms and sadly having come much later than the iPhone and being relatively new still Android is in my opinion at a serious disadvantage. It nevertheless shows more promise than Symbian and other non-Apple platforms and in due time I’m sure it will have overcome this difficulty to an extent and established its place on the market. I look forward to its progress in the future. If I can get my hands on an Android handset cheaply maybe I’ll even try my hands on some development.
Today Google and T-Mobile released the first Android handset in the UK. It is called the ‘G1‘ and under the hood is an HTC Dream. The user experience at first glance looks highly impressive although unsurprisingly falling far short of the usability of the Apple iPhone. The basic idea appears to be that you sign on with your google account and all google services become available immediately without you requiring to signon again. As everything is synced with the internet losing the phone means you lose only the hardware and not the data.
The user interface lacks the finesse and polish of that of the iPhone and is distinctly dull. However it provides great utility through all the usual Google provisions. The one strength that Android provides over the iphone however is an open development platform which rather excitingly is based on the language Java and an Eclipse plugin although they have written their own virtual machine, Dalvik, optimised for embedded use. The lack of a standard headphone socket however has annoyed some.
A friend of mine expressed earlier today that he will be getting one of these instead of an iPhone and my response to him is what prompted me to blog about this particular topic. In my reply I pointed out that T-Mobile has the worst network coverage of all four networks in the UK and that I had learnt the hard way after having purchased the iPhone that mobile applications are only as good as the network coverage and conditions allow them to be.
Today I struggled to do anything whatsoever on my iPhone while sitting in Starbucks. 2G and 3G coverage were both intermittent and neither worked reliably. The wifi was provided by T-Mobile/BTOpenZone and (surprisingly) required payment and there was no free ‘Cloud‘ hotspot available. As such all the applications I wanted to use and tried in vain to use were absolutely useless. It’s surprising just how little value and utility and iPhone offers when offline. Incidentally by offline I’m being inclusive of the times when frequently there is no voice reception either or intermittent at best. I will definitely be reviewing my choice in 18 months at which point I’m hoping that Android, iPhone OS and the mobile networks will have learnt to work together more harmoniously for the betterment of the customer.
Update: With the release of Android handsets every move of either Android or iPhone will be compared with its competitor. This is already beginning to happen as Apple further constrains SDK developers’ free speech.