Smartphones optimize

10 things Android does really well

Android may have some room for improvement. But as Justin James points out, it also has some significant things going for it.

I believe that Android has a number of things that need to come up to speed for it to remain a long-term player in the mobile space, but there are also a lot of things I think Android gets right. This is a list of 10 things Android does well that provide it with competitive advantages.

1: Hardware access

The Android development model's wide open nature allows app developers to do things (or do them more easily) that they can't do on other platforms. As a result, entire categories of applications can be written for Android but not for other platforms. If that is what you need (and for many folks it is), Android is a winner.

2: Variety of device types

Because OEMs can access the source code and modify it to fit their needs, and because of the Linux-underpinnings of Android, it is relatively easy for Android to find its way into all sorts of things that are not smartphones or tablets. When you think of Android not as a phone OS but as a compact Linux distribution with specialization in certain capabilities, a lot of avenues for use open themselves up.

3: User modifications

Android phones are much easier for end users to directly control with software. Its use of certain common computing standards and ideas (for example, presenting its storage as a standard USB thumb drive when attached to a PC) makes it easy to make those modifications, put data onto the device outside the applications themselves, and do much more with the phone.

4: In-depth system information

Again, what we see with Android is that applications (and users) have much more access to the device's guts. While this may not be necessarily useful for the typical user, the capability certainly does not hurt, and power users and developers get a lot of mileage out of it.

5: Multitasking

The Android multitasking model is identical to a PC's. Although this has drawbacks (particularly around resource usage), there is no substitute for it if you want to write certain types of applications. Sure, other systems may allow tricks like push notifications, but they really can't do everything that a full multitasking system like Android can do. Again, this speaks to Android enabling applications that just aren't possible on other platforms.

6: Support for new hardware concepts

If you have a great idea for a hardware device, and that idea goes outside the established hardware universe, Android is your only real option as a manufacturer. Apple and RIM completely control the iOS and BlackBerry hardware, respectively. And with WP7, Microsoft has established certain baselines that devices must meet. While it doesn't forbid going above and beyond it, it is much harder for an OEM to do something like the Droid Bionic with WP7 than it is with Android.

7: Widgets

The Android widgets allow for some really neat functionality to be put directly on the "desktop" of the device. Yes, the WP7 Live Tiles are a great way of providing a basic at-a-glance piece of functionality, but the widgets go so much further than that. For example, as much as I like my WP7 phone's Facebook integration, the Facebook widget that came with the MotoBlur UI is phenomenally easy to use and is not possible on anything other than Android.

8: Google integration

If you have brought Google's services into your workflow in a significant way, Android does a good job of bringing those services to your phone, tablet, and other devices. Other OSes have their own integrations, but they are with systems that right now do not have much traction or usage outside those integrations. Lots of people are heavily invested with Google's products long before they buy a smartphone, so for them, Android is a natural extension of their work habits.

9: Carrier compatibility

At this point, Android is ubiquitous. Every carrier offers Android phones and usually has a good variety of them to boot. If you make an investment into the Android ecosystem, you can be sure that even if your device can't transfer, your knowledge and integrations will go to the new device pretty smoothly. As iPhone owners could tell you, before non-AT&T carriers had the iPhone, it was pretty miserable to be tied to just one carrier.

10: Price

The cost of Android itself ranges from "free" to "cheap" depending on the OEM and who they are paying patent protection to. (I know, that's a mess!) While the cost of the OS itself isn't a major component of the cost of making a phone, Android has been easy for phone makers to work with, so they can put it on a wide range of phones at different price points and still make a profit. This allows you to get an Android phone at a very attractive price.

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

10 comments
SBMobile
SBMobile

This article just showed 10 things no one buying mobile-devices cares about! Plus, those same "10" things Android does well, only points out what the overall UI/UX does very poorly! What a joke!

skyeenter
skyeenter

I'm in total agreement with the previous poster. Even with the limited apps for the HP Touch Pad, I always get jaw dropping, envious looks from the Apple & Android users I show my Touch Pad to. I have a Verizon Pre that, as a sales incentive, came with unlimited Mobil Hot Spot on it. Today I rode the bus to work. Fired up the Mobile Hot Spot on the Pre, ignited the Wi-Fi app on the Touch Pad and basically increased the size of my phone work platform to the Table Screen. I'm the only person out of around 26 bus riders who used their tablet to do actual online internet connected work while commuting. The rest were all struggling with their tiny little screens. Stupid HP not realizing what they had and what they are going to miss out on. They're dead in the water and will limp on with past legacy while the mobile world whizzes by and leaves them to the last century. I truly mourn that loss. WEB OS needs to be released to the open source community and then it may have a chance for some apps to be converted for it's use.

R.C.D.
R.C.D.

Look at what WebOS had and you will see what true multitasking looks like. I could consistently run 25+ cards at once with no stuttering or complaints. Most I ever ran at once was 42 including games, applications etc. My Android not so much. It will stutter just changing from my home screen at times and that is with very minimal programs running. If WebOS had the hardware and apps that Android had it would be unmatched. I like my Revolution running Gingerbread, (gingerbread update helped a bunch) but many things that WebOS just did (syncing with email, Facebook, consolidating contacts, multitasking, homebrew) my Android is way behind on.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

I've always felt this way ... never understood when WP7 did its tiles thing why it was touted as such a revolution. But, on the other hand, it seems like there are only a few stellar examples of excellent design work going into Android widget design - maybe now that the Android tablet ecosphere is picking up, it'll prompt some shops to devote some design love to excellent widgets.

chdchan
chdchan

Can it recognize a face full of makeup different from the plain original?

technomom_z
technomom_z

You forgot Automation. iPhone and WP7 don't even come close to the kinds of things you can do with Tasker or Locale.

Justin James
Justin James

... I love the WP7 tiles for "at a glance" stuff, but I like the widgets an awful lot for actual "work". I wish that WP7 had a way of doing "widgets" but when I put on my software developer hat, I don't see how they'd go about it within the programming model of WP7. J.Ja

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Just curious ... I've never played with WP7. If you position a widget and leave it alone, is it basically a tile? or do tiles provide something that can't be done with widgets?

Gromanon
Gromanon

I've tried both Android widgets and Windows Phone 7 live tiles and this is what I think. Essentially both are accomplishing the same goal by taking different approach with its own pros and cons. Android widgets are good because there is more to it, they are much more flexible due to customization and you can actually interact with them giving you latest email, social/rss feeds or etc at glance. There is however downsides to them first they take up more resources and can significantly slow down the home pages when there are alot of them, they also more difficult to code for than live tiles, and last they somewhat feel more of an afterthought in the entire OS and from app developers. Live Tiles provide the same "glance and go" and is very much the focal point for WP app developers. I had some 20 something live tiles populating the start screen and noticed no slowdown or increased battery drain and thats because they use much less chrome = less code to accomplish the same. What I do wish live tiles had is some flexibility and being able to interact with to at least some degree like Android's widgets. Microsoft needs to make Windows Phone's live tiles to be more like Windows 8 live tiles to perfect the live tile paradigm. So for basic "glance and go" I think live tiles win because most WP7 apps offer some live tile support and I never have to worry when throw another live tile on home screen.

Justin James
Justin James

I think in terms of the information provided, there is no reason why widgets *couldn't* provide the information that tiles do. That said, I think that it is a lot easier for a developer to work with a tile than to write a widget that provides the same functionality. One is a simple function to add within an existing app, the other is an app unto itself, and I'm not 100% sure how easy it is for a widget to launch a full-blown app when you tap it. J.Ja