Save Us From Android
The recent release of the Nokia N9 started me thinking about the direction that mobile phone operating systems are heading. Actually it was the negative feedback from the Android supporters that was the incendiary spark to my mental bonfire. Since my Motorola Q, I have been an iPhone user. My investment in the ecosystem and my grandfathered unlimited plan have been the deciding factors thus far in my purchases. Android phones have always been the red devil on my shoulder, tempting me to make a change with bigger screens and better hardware. Never, however, have I been tempted to switch platforms because of the Android OS.
At this point the Android fans are fuming. I realize this, but I want to start off my honest dialogue with an honest description of my position. I have gone to stores and played with phones; I have used my friends phone. Every time I use one, I walk away unimpressed. The experience is complicated, messy, and changes from one Android phone to another. When I use my iPhone it is intuitive; when I pick up an Android phone it is not.
On the opposite side of the isle, I find myself yearning to switch to WP7. When I play with WP7, I love it. It too makes sense, and it looks incredible, much better than the pages of icons in iOS. Then recently Nokia throws the Meego bomb into the mix. The N9 hits the shelf, orphaned by its parent company. It is like Einstein's parents giving him up before they found out he was a genius. The N9 is brilliant, and Meego is yet another OS that has made me want to cut my iOS ties. If both of these new operating systems so easily charm me, why has Android not won me over?
After mulling over it for a few days, I think I have the answer, and it goes back to the fundamental function of an OS. An OS pulls all the tools of a system together. Its main purpose is to allow people to accomplish a task using some other function of that system. I want to talk on the phone. I want to take pictures. I want to run my app. The OS allows me to access those functions. Nowhere in my list of priorities is customizing my phone. I could care less about customizing my phone. And if I had the actual time to sit there and customize my phone, I would want to use it to do one of those other things instead. Android's strength is its customization, but that strength complicates the OS to a point where the OS starts getting in the way.
Now the Android fans will call me stupid, too dumb to figure it out, brainwashed by Apple, cattle, or various other insults for insinuating that Android is too complicated. The logic is solid, however, and if the logic is solid, then my reasoning is intelligent, not the successful implementation of Steve Jobs' evil scheme. I want my OS to get out of the way of my phone. I want my OS to be as light as possible, so the battery lasts, I want my OS to be intuitive. and I want my OS to be fast! WP7, Meego (well it was headed there anyway), and iOS have accomplished this. Android has not.
Now to my title, "Save Us from Android." Andriod is on a fat diet. It is growing bigger and more complex with each build, as it tries to be everything for everybody, whether they want it or not. What I fear is that other companies will try to compete with Android, especially now that Jobs is gone from Apple. He was the driving force behind the keep it simple stupid philosophy. Meego is dead, and we know Microsoft has no compass of its own. How long before they destroy WP7 in hopes of competing with Android and iOS by weighing it down with unnecessary features?
What do I need my phone to do? Voice communication, text and email, calendars, pictures, voice memos, apps, video chat, music and videos, web access, I would love a nice drawing/note/stylus combo, and serve as a hotspot. I would like my OS to allow me to do those things very efficiently, and otherwise be invisible. If a functionality is added, then the OS needs to expand, but I do not need to waste my time deciding what skin to use or what I want my icons to look like.
I believe Meego was destroyed by Android's success. I think Android's success is not due to its design but mostly due to the lack of alternative on many carriers. Had Meego or WP7 been available in the iPhone 3G years, I think they would have been the choice of most people. In fact, I believe they would have more quickly dethroned iOS as king of the mobile OS's. They are the lean mean prize fighters in contrast to the fat drunk bar room brawler that is Android. My money is on the prize fighter, but only if he stays in shape.