So again, I'm not behind - go look at my twitter feeds they are moving. But that said let me jump in on why I'm going to rant now, and rant I will! But first the back story, last night I got an invite to go to the Google dinner for OSCon. Really LH is the one I should blame the 'you will be there!' with glares of death if I didn't say yes (was going to anyway) were a key part to this. It was a lovely evening, I caught up with a bunch of people, had some good food and at the end of the evening walked home with an Android G1 Dev phone. Score one for my side!
Now, if you have been hanging around with me at all for the last year or so, you would have heard me rant at some point about how I'm dead convinced that all the cell phones (new) on the market these days suck rocks. Now I'm being specific to the smartphones here, "normal" phones just work thankfully and I can't fault them in the slightest. Smartphones however, suck, plain and simple. Lets break this down some, shall we?
What options exist for smartphones:
- Apple - iPhone
- Access - PalmOS
- Palm - WebOS
- Google - Android
- Symbian - Symbian
- RIM - Blackberry
- Microsoft - Windows Mobile
So realistically that's a solid list, there should be competition, ever increasing features, selection, and really all kinds of awesome there. However, there's basically several piles of steaming poo, a couple of antiquated offerings, and one or two things that only a corporate IT department could love. Really I'm mortified and angry, unsurprisingly since I'm moved to 'blog'. So while I come up on 24hrs with an Android phone let me get down in writing my experiences with the above and ponder what can be done.
Access - PalmOS I'll start with the old PalmOS, now owned by Access. I've been a Palm user for ages, I've had Palm's, Handsprings and my latest is a Treo 755p from Sprint (yes I'm on CDMA in the States. I understand this adds to my angry bitterness because CDMA is the unloved protocol, rarely gets the 'cool' phone and generally gets screwed. Why do I stay? I've got a good phone plan with Sprint and I'm reluctant to change it.) I've had the phone for two years now, and it's a frelling tank. I've dropped it down flights of concrete steps, water logged it, dropped it, thrown it, and by and large it's got very little damage for all of the abuse and daily battering it takes. The software stack is time tested and while quite antiquated at this point, does generally just work. The only really big gripe I could have with the PalmOS is the fact that the phone applications, interactions, etc are clearly giant shoehorned applications onto the side of the original PalmOS. It works, it's just clunky though, and by today's standards is anything but sexy.
Ultimately if the issue was that the PalmOS wasn't sexy, I would happily live on with the PalmOS and accept I am not hip or cool. However developers have fled from PalmOS, or really they fled 5 years ago when Palm (at the time) hadn't done anything resembling a major update to the OS in years and was working on it's "new improved Linux based OS!". There are still a few places putting out new or updated PalmOS apps but at this point it really feels like I'm standing in a ghost town when I pull out my Treo. But I'll also say that as of right now, it's the best smartphone platform on the market today.
Apple - iPhone As much as I want to hate the iPhone, it's lack of 'real' keyboard and all, it is probably the second best smartphone & smartphone OS out there right now. Why? Well it comes down to this: that's where all the development is. Apple, right now, is winning if by no other virtue than they have convinced the ravenous hordes of developers that their phone is the one to program for. My bank has a bunch of mobile apps to make depositing checks, and doing other things out. What platform do they support? The iPhone & iPod touch. Do they support anything else? Nope. Why? Not enough market share. Same goes for Skype, I would love to be able to use my phone as a wifi connected device I can throw in my back pocket and make Skype-to-Skype calls, however the only platform you can do that on is *drumroll please* the iPhone. Everyone else gets thrown into the "Skype Lite" category which doesn't use your wifi connection, should you have one, for the voice portion of the call.
So what does this mean? Apple is winning, and if they continue to have a dominance in the developer community and mindshare they will force every other platform out there to suck, and eventually faulter and possibly die. If that's not depressing as hell I don't know what is, I like the idea of an 'open' platform a la the old PalmOS, you could do basically anything on it, install anything you want, etc. With the Apple and the iPhone you can do sorta everything you want assuming you either jailbreak your phone (a constant cat and mouse game with Apple) or you bend to Apple's whims.
Palm - WebOS So after Palm sold off their antiquated OS to Access, they finally got their act together and got something that resembles a good phone stack out the door again. From what I've seen the WebOS is a very, very solid stack. They might have even been justified, for a time, in calling it a serious contender against the iPhone and launching it as an iPhone killer. Well that was until a week after the Palm Pre (the only, to date, WebOS enabled phone) launched, the latest iPhone came out and drowned out the Pre's existance. This particularly sucks because it's a CDMA phone on Sprint's network. Bonus points the hardware looks like it takes the same, built as a tank, stance that my Treo has. Really I should be practically giddy over this phone, and yet I'm not. I feel like it's an utter disappointment, a phone that *SHOULD* be perfect, have everything I could dream of, and I already know it's not what I want. Palm has taken a novel approach in WebOS and created what they call Synergy, or in lay terms - take all this data you have in various places like Google and Facebook and mash it all together so that it looks like a single contacts database, calendar, etc. It's neat, but it (currently) has one downside I can't condone: it only supports Facebook and Google as it's "cloud" storage medium. Me as someone who, shockingly, doesn't use these primarily is left completely out in the cold. There is not way to sync it to a CalDav or SyncML server that I run, there is nothing right now but what Palm approves of to use Synergy. Heck there's not even desktop syncing.
So if Palm would be kind enough to let those of us who *DON'T* trust our data on these "clouds" and let us use our own storage and accessing systems to handle our contacts, events, todos and notes I would probably jump on a Pre without question (Also if Sprint would stop being idiots and not force you to have a specific data plan to use a phone - LAME and DUMB!) WebOS and the Pre are still new, maybe I'll be proven wrong and what I want will come to it soon. I'm not going to hold my breath though, I'm getting convinced the entire cell phone market just hates me and all it's users.
Google - Android Here's another platform that has a huge amount of potential, possibly even more than the WebOS if you ask me, it promises a completely open phone stack that should be extensible, modifiable, and really just plain awesome to use. It has a lot of the hallmarks of the original PalmOS, I can even (and have) installed apps that aren't available in the store on the phone, even going so far as to install an entire additional appstore in parallel with the Android Market. This has serious potential, and since it won't be limited to a specific vendor (a la Palm & and the Pre/WebOS) there's room for it to grow in ways that Google (the main backers) weren't expecting or intended. This is *GOOD*!!!
However Android (as anything that isn't the iPhone these days) is really a second class citizen from an apps perspective. Skype doesn't have a client that's worth having, Facebook is having a serious spat at Google (so no nice and good Facebook app, like the one on the iPhone) and the development model for Android is a little cumbersome in comparison to the iPhone. Couple that with the whole thing feeling SLUGGISH in comparison to both my treo 755p (PalmOS) and the iPhone, and you have a platform that's got a black eye. It still suffers from the same problem as the WebOS & Synergy, in that it only syncs with Google, but I have more hope of fixing that than I do on the WebOS in the short term. Really if Android continues to feel slow and lack some of the pizzaz that the iPhone does, it will always be a second class citizen.
Symbian - Symbian Sadly I don't have a lot to say here, I haven't used a Symbian much ever (though I hear good things about it), and they seem to be well respected. It does have the same issues with Skype that Android does, and all of that but at least it doesn't seem to be embroiled in the same scuffles as everyone else. Sadly I can't say more than that.
Rim - Blackberry It's a company that wants to be hip and cool, and as those Mac vs. PC ads that Apple ran seem to indicate, it's a stodgy business suit trying to be hip and cool. I know a few people who use them, and love them, but really I think they are at the point of trying to do to much to stay afloat and not sure how to break out of the corporate & and push e-mail business.
Microsoft - Windows Mobile At this point, it's as antiquated as the PalmOS. It has been around long enough that software is plentiful and 'first class' so to speak, Skype being able to do Skype-to-Skype and such. But Microsoft needs to spend some time updating it and trying to make it better for today's market. Yeah it works fine, and businesses love it at this point - but if Apple pulls all the developers away that won't last forever.
*sigh* ok I've ranted myself out it seems. I'm really disappointed the more I look, the more I explore the more I get my hopes up, the more they get dashed. Well now that I've got a G1 I can at least try and help make it better in the hopes of succeeding but who knows.