Android Hates Users

Tested.com has a nice rundown of all the different button layouts and a discussion on what might constitute the best layout. One of the comments goes on to say:
[quote]I have the Droid 1 and my girlfriend has the Droid 2. The back button and menu button are switched on the two phones. Every single time she tries to use my phone she ends up exiting a program by accident for this reason.[/quote]

Lots of people call me an  Android hater. I have my reasons. Chief among them is Google’s utter disrespect for consistency and user experience.

Here I have a composite image of Google’s new “flagship” Nexus S (top) and the Samsung Galaxy on which the Nexus is based. Notice anything different?

I’ll help you out: every single hardware button is in a different place. Every. Single. Button.

But hey guess what! The Nexus S has Near Field Communications! NFC! You can use it right now for all sorts of cool stuff like … ummm … actually no, it’s of no use whatsoever.

HTC Goes Forking Crazy: HTC Desire HD, new HTC Sense, and HTCSense.com

Android’s open approach allows OEMs to muck about with the UI and functionality, and the kings of muckings-about are HTC. They stick their indisputably sweet “Sense” UI over top of Android, and have just announced a brand new version of Sense, with a device and a website to back it up. The most interesting bit is perhaps HTCSense.com, a website that allows you to customise, contact, and access the content  on their phones via the web.

But hey, don’t listen to me, here’s the Australian PR company telling you all about it (no idea if/when it will be available in New Zealand):
[quote]

HTC UNVEILS HTC DESIRE HD WITH NEW HTC SENSE AND HTCSENSE.COM

Sydney, Australia – 27 October, 2010 – HTC Corporation, a global designer of smartphones, today unveiled a new HTC Sense experience with the new Android-based smartphone – HTC Desire HD. The HTC Desire HD will be available from early November 2010 exclusively on Vodafone and 3 mobile.

“The HTC Desire HD includes the new version of HTC Sense which introduces a number of key innovations including a series of connected services called HTCSense.com, that broadens a user’s mobile experience,” said Anthony Petts, Sales and Marketing Director ANZ, HTC Corporation. “The HTC Desire HD’s sleek unibody design offers a stunning visual experience and window to your news, friends, photos, favourite places, and video content. It’s perfect for those who want a great multimedia and web experience, interacting, connecting and sharing with friends.”

“The HTC Desire HD is one of the most highly anticipated Android smartphones this year, and will give customers an even simpler and more amazing experience,” said Ross Parker, General Manager Devices and Pricing, Vodafone. “Available to our Vodafone and 3 customers, we expect the HTC Desire HD, with its stunning features and multimedia performance, along with a competitive price point to be one of the hottest Android devices this Christmas.”

HTC Desire HD

The first smartphone to be powered by the new 1GHz Qualcomm 8255 Snapdragon processor, its bright 4.3” super LCD display, coupled with Dolby Mobile and SRS virtual sound, 720p HD video recording and an 8-megapixel camera with dual-flash, means the HTC Desire HD is designed for optimal enjoyment of outstanding multimedia content. Building on the unibody heritage of the HTC Legend, the HTC Desire HD is sculpted from a single block of solid aluminium and embodies the quality and innovation that HTC is known for. Busy professionals will also appreciate the new HTC Fast Boot feature that significantly cuts short the power-up sequence, allowing users to quickly respond to emails and calls the moment their planes touch down.

HTC Sense

The new HTC Sense experience offers a variety of enhancements that improve how people capture, create, share and access multimedia content. Shoot videos in HD, edit photos using a host of fun camera effects, and then share photos and videos directly to YouTube or to your big screen TV via DLNA. The new HTC Locations offers a differentiated online mapping experience that delivers instant, on-demand mapping without download delays.

HTC Sense also includes a new integrated online e-reading experience that comprises an e-book store powered by Koboä and a mobile-optimised e-reader which allows users to highlight, annotate and quickly search for definitions or translate unfamiliar terms.

HTCSense.com

With the new HTCSense.com service, people can simply manage their mobile phone experience from their HTC phone or personal computer. For example, people can easily locate a missing phone by triggering the handset to ring loudly, even if it is set to silent, or to flag its location on a map. If the phone has been lost or stolen, users can remotely lock the phone, forward calls and texts to another phone, send a message to the phone to arrange its return or even remotely wipe all personal data from it. HTCSense.com makes it easy to setup a new HTC phone or access archived mobile content such as contacts, text messages and call history from a PC browser. People can also customise their phones with exclusive HTC content like wallpapers, HTC scenes, sounds or plug-ins.

Availability and Pricing
HTC Desire HD will be available for $0 upfront on Vodafone’s $59 promo offer over 24 months (min total cost $1416)¹. The device will be available through Vodafone from early November and launch dates to follow soon on 3 mobile.

About HTC
HTC Corporation (HTC) is one of the fastest growing companies in the mobile phone industry. By putting people at the center of everything it does, HTC creates innovative smartphones that better serve the lives and needs of individuals. For more information about HTC, please visit www.htc.com.

About Vodafone Hutchison Australia
Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) is Australia’s fastest growing mobile provider, operating the Vodafone, 3, and Crazy Johns brands. Formed in June 2009 following a merger between Vodafone Australia and Hutchison 3G Australia, VHA provides mobile services to over 7.4 million customers in Australia. http://www.three.com.au & www.vodafone.com.au

¹: Approved customers only. Offer ends 25/11/2010 (unless extended). Offer available to new customers who sign up to a Vodafone $69 Contract Cap over 24 months. Minimum monthly spend is $59 for months 1-24. From month 25 onwards, if you remain on this Plan, minimum monthly spend is $69 per month. Early exit fee: $69 x months left on contract. Offer will be applied as a $10 credit to your Vodafone mobile bill each month for the first 24 months of your contract. $10 credit may be used towards included services only. Any charges for additional or excluded services will still apply. Not available with any other offer, not transferable and not redeemable for cash.”

# # #
The names of companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks
of their respective owners.[/quote]

Telecom does Backflips

motorola-backflip-motus In the fifth of their recent Android releases, Telecom are launching the super-weird looking Motorola Backflip. What does that keyboard do when its on the back of the phone?

The Android releases are fair pouring into the New Zealand market at the moment. One wonders if there’s any room at all for Microsoft to wedge Windows Phone 7 in there after tomorrow’s announcement.

Full press release follows:

[quote]

Android gathers pace as Telecom launches new phones

Telecom is boosting its range of Android smartphones to nine in the coming months, as worldwide sales of the Google-developed mobile platform outpace rivals.

Telecom’s fifth and latest Android phone, the Motorola Backflip, launched here in late September and the company plans to have an additional four Android handsets in market, including the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy Si9000, in time for Christmas.

General Manager of Marketing at Telecom, Kieren Cooney says Android is increasingly becoming the connected device operating system of the future.

“Android is driving a revolution in mobile – in fact it’s the world’s fastest growing mobile operating system, outselling even the Blackberry and the iPhone.

“The key difference with Android is that it’s an open platform, which means leading manufacturers such as Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG and Samsung are all able to freely produce their own Android phones. What this means for the customer is that there is an Android for everyone, no matter what style or brand of phone you prefer, or how much you want to spend.”

Mr Cooney says the XT network is the natural home for Android smartphones in New Zealand because its speed and coverage means mobile users can get the most out of their phone’s features across the country.

The other key benefit of Android phones, says Mr Cooney, is the freedom and flexibility that comes from being able to personalise your phone using applications, or ‘apps’.

“The Android Market is where you go to find the apps to customise your phone to your own needs. There are around 75,000 apps currently available, and this is growing each day. Even better, more than half of them are free to download so you can have a very enriched and personalised mobile experience at very little cost.”

For the latest information about Telecom’s range of Android phones please visit a Telecom retail store or go to telecom.co.nz/android

Ends

[/quote]

Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro: Great hardware, but…

x10miniproI was expecting my abhorrence for the X10 to carry over to the Mini Pro, but the plucky little brother gives a good showing. Nowhere near perfect, but better.

Perhaps it’s the restricted screen size, but the Mini Pro seems to run Android 1.6 a bit quicker than its big brother. I could get around the phone rapidly, making calls and taking photos with some delays, but nothing horrific. All the normal features of a smartphone are there: browser, calendar, contacts, apps and sync.

It certainly is a charming little phone. Something that you’d be happy with as a feature phone, but somehow they’ve stuffed the guts of a full blow smartphone in there. The build quality is flawless – the sliding keyboard is built like a Glock, sliding in and out with a snick-snack that would make Rambo proud. The 5MP camera with flash gives gorgeous photo.

Pity about the software

But this solid hardware is let down – like the X10, but in new and interesting ways – by Android 1.6. The overall inconsistency is there, with Sony’s custom apps like warty appendages on the mottled skin of Android. Then there’s the hundreds of apps in the Android Market that are built for phones with large screens and no landscape keyboard. Some work, some work partially, and some just utterly fail.

And then there’s sync. You might want to cover your ears before you read what I wrote on Twitter after a clash between GMail sync and Roadsync for Exchange deleted half my contacts in Outlook:
[quote]Fucking Roadsync is a bullshit piece of trash assfest. And Android is the shit-tastic horse it rode in on. Fuck you both.[/quote]
Harsh? Maybe. But I had tried hard for most of a day to set up the X10 Mini Pro as a phone I would like to use. This means syncing with both Exchange and GMail. Android 1.6 doesn’t do this well, and when you disable GMail sync, the Roadsync app diligently deletes those same contacts from Exchange. Useless.

Now Android fanboys will be grumbling into their keyboards that multi-source sync is much improved in Android 2.1, and other hardware vendors (HTC notably) provide better software for Exchange sync. This is true. But Sony Ericsson sell the X10 and the X10 Mini Pro as their flagship smartphone devices – devices that power users like myself are expected to buy and love.

Keep up!

The Android release timeline doesn’t make wonderful reading if you’re an OEM – 2.0 was released little more than a month after 1.6, and seven months later we’re up to 2.2. But even at this pace, Sony Ericsson is lagging massively behind competitors HTC and Motorola in their ability to get these significantly improved releases to their end users. And why? Hubris.

Look at the crap Sony has layered on top of Android. Take Timescape for example – a pointless piece of eye-candy that displays recent events from contacts (partial tweets, email headers, phone calls). It’s unneeded and unnecessary. But this is one more thing that Sony Ericsson has to update, test, and rebuild with each new release of Android.

My advice? Get over yourselves Sony Ericsson. Your hardware is mostly gorgeous, but if you keep putting crapware on your phones and delaying OS updates, people will use some other platform that keeps them more up to date.

HTC Desire and Sony X10 Mini Pro coming to Vodafone

Now we’re talking. Finally a “real” Android device is being released in the New Zealand market. The HTC Desire is a wicked fast phone with the latest (well, almost, but let’s not quibble), Android software. HTC also have a reasonable track record of keeping their current devices up to date, so with Android 2.2 out to the public yesterday, we might see it on the Desire in the near future.

There’s a new Sony Ericsson listed there too, but it’s running 1.6 and Sony have been appalling at getting upgrades out. Hopefully I’ll get a Mini Pro to test, but I’m not holding out any hope that it will be a decent device.

Brilliantly titled full press release follows:
[quote]

These are the Droids you’ve been looking for

Vodafone is unleashing the power of Google’s Android operating system on the New Zealand public with three new Android-powered devices joining our line up.

Vodafone was first in the country to offer the revolutionary power of Google’s operating system on a smartphone with the HTC Magic and we followed up last month by launching Sony Ericsson’s flagship Xperia X10i.

Now we’re adding three new Android smartphones to our range.

First off the rank we have the HTC Desire, with its 1GHz snapdragon processor and its 3.7” AMOLED full touch screen. The Desire is one of the leading lights of the Android world and includes HTC’s native platform “Friendstream” which collates all your social media updates from Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.

The HTC Desire will be selling for $999 RRP (less if you’re on a contract).

Complementing our Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i is the X10i Mini PRO which offers a full touch screen plus slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 5MP camera with autofocus and LED flash. Retailing from $599 RRP.

Rounding out the Android collection will be the LG Optimus (GT540), with its 3” full touch screen display, 3MP camera with auto face tagging technology and advanced multimedia supporting DivX & Xvid. The LG Optimus will be selling for $399 RRP.

Vodafone’s Director of Sales, Grant Hopkins, says Vodafone is leading the smartphone revolution in New Zealand.

“We already offer some of the world’s best-known brands in the smartphone space and now with this full range of Androids at different price points, we have the country’s most complete range of smartphones.

“Smartphones are the fastest growing segment in the handset world, yet the devices themselves have always been at the top end of our price range. With Google’s Android operating system available right across the range we now have a smartphone to suit every pocket.”[/quote]