review of Android phone operating system

Playing with Android

Saw recently that Google’s software developers have released a Beta of the up and coming Android operating system for phones. A small number of devices are already on the market with this new platform. This might seem a difficult market to get into with a plethora of handsets already available such as the supremely hip and clever iPhone and the more business preferred Blackberry and of course Microsoft’s Windows Mobile which has been around for many years now.

I decided to play with it. The download is in the form of an ISO image which can be burnt to CD (or there is a USB stick version too.) You have to join the two pieces of the file together first using a free app or with a DOS command.

I used my favourite virtualisation application Virtualbox which I already running Windows 7 and Linux quite happily. So I made a new virtual machine with 256Mb of memory and set the default options, I had to create a hard disk image even though the current beta only runs from CD and doesn’t have a hard disk install option. I then mounted the ISO file and booted it up. The Android logo came up, being a little slow to get going, then I had the desktop with a few icons and signal bar and clock. I couldn’t see the mouse pointer, as it took a few seconds for it to be visible and it moved a little erratic at first, I could then click on the sliding bar to bring up the menu. There’s a fair few bugs, there is no sound, I get an error about 15% of power left (I am on a laptop on mains) and some menus are greyed out. Google are going the laptop development version of this OS on the ever popular Asus EEE mini laptop, as its ideal for small laptops with 7-10 inch screens.

The browser is simple but very nice. I didn’t need to play with any settings, it all worked first time. I could log into my Gmail account and look at Facebook, both obviously different screen formatting, however the screen size seems big and not cramped.

I am big fan of most things Google does, and as they are the biggest commercial backers of free software I think its quite certain this new OS will be a success, not just for phones but for other devices as well, there’s at least 10 different hardware makers committed to developing devices based on it including Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC and Garmin. Non-subsidised handsets with full email and browser capabilities are also expected to be around costing less than US$100 by 2010. This is great as the iPhone is still hugely expensive or require 2 year contract on a hefty monthly tariff.

iPhones are not officially available where I live in Israel, but some people have managed to get them anyhow.

Microsoft made a memo to their employees a little while back that people were not allow to be seen using iPods at their work place (because of their own developed rival Zune player, as yet not seen in Europe) I am sure they wont be happy as Android is expected to take a huge chunk out of the smartphone market that MS have had for years. HTC, one of the biggest backers of Windows mobile are rumoured to be abandoning it altogether for Android.

Too be honest I don’t really get excited about phones, but as of yesterday playing with the newer (0.3) build just released with quite a bit of improvement, and seeing some of my favourite free software such as VLC player, VNC and MAME is available, I am very tempted. I don’t want 3G data access as I don’t want a confusing and possibly hugely expensive 3G contract and would rather just do occasional web browsing or downloads when near a normal wireless point.

I dont get Twitter, I think its boring, but there are numerous free clients to do tweeting for those who like it.

I can just think of this quote from the alien bar from the original Star Wars movie, when thinking about Microsoft’s view of employees other brand items “we dont want your Droids here, they’ll have to stay outside..”

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By Jonathan Posted in it

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