Google Android comes to life

With new smartphones, surging unit sales, and advances in app development, Google's mobile OS is hitting its stride

I did it -- I've jumped into Android with both feet. Judging by recent news in the Android sphere, I'm not alone in my Android appreciation.

The HTC Android Incredible lives up to its name

You may recall that when I was trying to review BlackBerry applications I brought a bricked BlackBerry Tour into a Verizon Wireless store -- twice, in fact. On one of those occasions I was left to my own devices for upward of half an hour while a tech re-imaged the Tour.

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I wasn't idle -- I tried out all the interesting phones on display. I was much more impressed by the Droid and Droid Eris than with any of the BlackBerry phones, although I deemed both Droid devices underpowered.

When the Nexus One came out, I was sorely tempted to acquire one, but the deal-breaker for me was that, in the United States at least, it only works on the T-Mobile network.

When the HTC Android Incredible was released on the Verizon Wireless network last month, I hied myself to my local reseller, who happened to have them in stock. It took me about two minutes to decide to upgrade from my old feature phone.

After almost two weeks with the Incredible, I have no regrets. It has two small hardware drawbacks that I have to work around: It's hard to read in direct sunlight, and the battery life can be less than a day if you use it heavily -- especially its excellent GPS navigation features -- and don't recharge. I'm still acquiring and getting used to the software, but overall I find the quality of Android software higher than I expected.

Android unit sales climb past the iPhone

As we've reported elsewhere, Android phone sales have surpassed the Apple iPhone in the United States. This number is strictly units sold for the first quarter of this year, not the number of units in the field, and reflects the number of phones purchased, not the dollar value of the sales. BlackBerry was still first with 36 percent of quarterly sales, Android second with 28 percent, and Apple third with 21 percent.

This says little about the size of the market for Android applications, but it's an encouraging trend if you're interested in Android development.

Android development: The open approach

Last month I wrote about developer issues around implementing multitouch gestures on Android, warning about bugs in the APIs. But you can work around them, and the fact that the pinch gesture functions so well on the Incredible's Web browser tells me it can be done. However, I don't know how much of the credit should go to the Sense UI, the browser code, and or the Android operating system.

Since buying an Incredible, I've become more serious about Android development, updating my SDK and reading the latest documentation and books, including the final version of "Hello, Android, 3rd Edition" by Ed Burnette. It's not part of my day job, but I'm spending some of my own time becoming more familiar with the capabilities and quirks of the Android 2.1 SDK and the level 7 Google APIs.

I don't know whether I'll ever publish an application to the Android Market, but I like the fact that I can do it when I think the application is ready, not when the gatekeepers of a walled garden (I'm looking at you, Apple) decide it's ready.

This article, "Google Android comes to life," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Martin Heller's Strategic Developer blog and follow the latest news in Google Android and software development at InfoWorld.com.

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