Android apps for developers and IT pros
These handy tools help you make the most of the Linux at the root of your Google Android phone
Programmers, tech support jockeys, system admins, and just about everyone else in the IT world -- they're just like the rest of us. They can prattle on about whether the Google Nexus One is a wonderful new phone or just a knockoff of the great iPhone. There are dozens of little enhancements, like a 5-megapixel camera with a real lens, that suggest Google and HTC collaborated to build something wonderful. There are also dozens of quirks that might lead a discerning UI expert to the conclusion that Apple did it first and continues to build a better device.
Those are all fair topics that can carry a conversation through several rounds of drinks, but tech-savvy customers should blip over these details. There's another big reason for choosing Android: Much of the software is open source, and Google is substantially more sympathetic to letting us do whatever we want with the new toy for which we paid so much of our hard-earned money. The SDK is open, and you don't have to use the official Android Market to distribute your code. Compare that with the very polite phone call I got just yesterday from someone at Apple's Dev Center reminding me that if I don't cough up another $100, they will remove my not-so-hot-selling apps from their store.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Get the most out of your Google phone with these can't-miss Android apps for developers and IT pros. | Poor governance could allow malware to run amok in smartphone app stores. See "Android malware: How open is too open?" ]
This flexibility offers such a great advantage that it alone should make Android phones the better choice than the iPhone for anyone with the ability to code a loop. Apple blocked a number of programs that come with code interpreters, out of fear that someone might reprogram the phones or use the interpreter as a backdoor to do something evil. That might be possible, but Apple's lockdown eliminates the ability to create apps that anyone can customize with a language more powerful than a check box or a pull-down menu. If you want to write scripts to customize your workload, you can skip the iPhone.
At the moment, most Android apps look like good starts. They seem to work well enough, but they're just not as polished as the apps I've seen in the iPhone world. There are a few worthwhile suggestions, but the market is still making its way through gimmicky apps like iFart. After that, I'm sure the programmers will turn to real apps -- these small, pocket-sized devices are ideal platforms for extending the office and the workplace. Meanwhile, here is a quick tour of some of today's Android tools that make life easier for IT professionals.