I want to make something clear. I like, if not love, Android. I'm glad Android is around. From my perspective, the more people with decent smart phones that can download the apps I make, the better. I don't really care about the platform. Android is really good for my business. This is the reason why I wrote the post last week. I want Android to succeed, so I needed to say some stuff to help push it in the right direction. It seems to have worked. At least a little bit. (1,000 comments! heh.).
Listen, I expect more from Google. Do they have the same experience creating and marketing products and operating systems as Apple? No. Should they be doing a better job with Android? Yes. This isn't about technology (I'll let others discuss that). It's about the consumer experience. And until Google decides to finally be more "open" about how closed Android really is, it's going to get worse. If Google openly embraced Android as the commercial product it is, then perhaps we'd get a more consistent and unified Android experience. When I say "closed", I'm talking about the handset OEM environment-- the pre-load system, not the post-load software/app developer environment.
Google ultimately controls the pre-load. This means it can control the aforementioned OOBE. Which means it can hopefully deliver an awesome and consistent UI and user experience across all Android devices. Choice is good, but fragmentation isn't. It makes it more difficult to create quality software. It's that simple.
Instead, Google allows carriers and handset manufacturers to install their own garbage and flavors of the OS because it's supposedly "open". This garbage further fragments the experience. There should be a new classification for this kind of open source software. Ajar source? Exclusive source? Android is as open as a southern, private golf course. Android is open for business.
Read all about it on TechCrunch. MG's latest is spot on.
Read this too about how "open" Android is... Good stuff.
I don't mean to suggest that everything has to be like Apple. That thought frightens me. I'm thinking about this from a pure product and user experience perspective.
Android can do a lot! My colleague, Michael Galpin (who is writing a book about Android), does a great job explaining the awesomeness of Android and its capabilities. I totally agree. This is one of the reasons why I think the eBay app for Android can be so much better. Trust me, we're working on it. But knowing what it can do and getting it to do that stuff are two different things. This is has been the struggle.
I'll tell you, from my point of view, it's shocking to see the surge of growth Android has experienced the past 60 days. I can only judge this by the number of downloads of my app, but it's astonishing. I think it's a combination of the lack of variety of carriers and the whole iPhone 4 hardware debacle. When something becomes a societal joke, such as AT&Ts sucky service and the faulty iPhone 4 antennae... people don't want to become (in part) the butt of that joke. They don't want to be made fun of. Android is the safer choice.
I was at an eBay seller event this past week in Santa Clara. These sellers were average people. Small business people that supplement or derive their income from selling on eBay. I had more people coming up to me with brand new Android phones (mostly the Droid X) than iPhones. These people showed me their phones like it was made by aliens, but they were all happy about the purchase. I had several folks tell me that they just got their phone "yesterday". Most of them wanted help. How to find the eBay app, how to use the Market, even how to use the basic functions of the phone. I was happy to help, but this experience supported my view that Google/Android need to do a better job with the post-transaction experience. This is no longer a phone for nerds, it's a phone for your mom.
A couple of thoughts about some of the comments I've seen...
"But the Developer Console doesn't handle commas, so I have nearly 2000000 downloads. Wow. Just wow. This is what bothers you?"
Yes it bothers me. It bothers me because I know that this means that the Android Developer Console must have a backlog of bugs and improvements a mile long. This is probably a P3 in their eyes. If that's the case, what's ahead of it? This tells me that they are rather resource constrained and that's troubling.
"Android does have a HIG, but few people follow it: http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/ui_guidelines/index.html And yeah the Market sucks."
This is a start, but we need more. It's not the kind of thing I'm looking for as a product manager or designer. And if no one follows them, then what good are they?
About an hour ago, I was handed an HTC Droid Incredible. Which looks not at all like the Motorola Droids (Droid, Droid 2, Droid X). I really don't like the HTC flavor of Android. That big clock and the weird curved bar that needs to be swiped to start it up. But I'm going to try to use it as my primary phone for at least a week. I'll use it for calls, email, apps, music, photos, social networking, and anything else I use my iPhone for. This will be interesting. I doubt it will be "Incredible", but at least it will bring me close to the OS and possibly the people that use it.
I'll keep you posted. Follow me here: @beach for regular updates.