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My Final Post… ?!?!?!


Like most of the times I write (this blog), I am going to sit down with beers and let my brain go. I have neglected this blog – a lot recently. I often write about the appreciation I have for developers and themers. They take time from their personal life and it allows people like you and me to benefit from their massive efforts.
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You do realize how lame Android would be without these people, right?
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Another common theme I have noticed that I like to write about is the “what is wrong with Android” hypothetical rants. I love these personally. I love to find flaws and conjure up grand ideas.
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Well, tonight I am going to be a bit more harsh. Lets discsuss the development community and combine it with my “what is wrong with Android” ranting philosophy. O yeah – I am going there. Cue the Mitt Romney Rant.
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You know what is wrong with the Android Community? It’s not the patent wars, it is not the stock UI every manufacturer crams down your throat, the lack of polish on apps by comparison to Apple or any of the other things I have rambled about in the past.
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The fact is, the thing that is wrong with Android is how fluid it is. It is constantly changing. There is some huge new issue (or benefit) around every corner. It is why many of us are addicted to it. This is as much a  good thing as a bad thing, I suppose.
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You know what is really bothering me right now in the Android Community?
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Developers.
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There, I said it. I meant it. Now let me explain.
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There are so VERY few that actually bring something to the table. Android is shared by millions of people. You would expect more. I know that I do. There are maybe a dozen developers that I have come across in 3+ years where I can actually say to myself, “wow, this person has really added something to the user experience.”
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Okay, that is all Callip – big whoop? Nope. The problem is there are a TON of people who now claim to be developers. I have had many phones and now have a Galaxy Tab 10.1. I am certain if you are reading this, you likely have had more than one Android device too. Think back on all your days at XDA and RootzWiki. How many developers ADDED features that required a lot of knowledge, skill, creativity. I hope a lot. I doubt it. I bet you can think of a lot of people who took another persons ROM (or a manufacturers leak) and added small tweaks to it… if you were even given that luxury. We have all seen the developers bickering… the you stole this… the you did not credit me… it is endless and annoying.
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Okay, so there are a lot of “developers” who post their work for download. Big whoop again Callip.

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I like having choices too, I get it. It is nice to have options. But Android has blown up. The volume of people posting on XDA has led to a whole new development forum for Android (try RootzWiki if you have not already).  There are countless blogs and “news” sites that promote developers work. Everybody and their mother wants attention – seriously, I get it.
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Hmm… suppose I rambled and did not say it directly enough.
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There are too many people getting credit for too little work. Worst of all…. they ask for donations, expect phones to be given to them, and they encourage donations by promising work that usually is not delivered. Even those who do not directly ask for money beat their chest like they have created something magical. Sorry, but you did not.
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Direct enough now? I could have been more harsh. I truly hate that part of the community. Mostly because it detracts from those who actually do bring something to the table. Those people typically are the ones too humble to advocate for themselves.
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Okay. So Callip?
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Do you know why I started this blog? It was a suggestion from Roman (@Romanbb). He acknowledged something and said I should run with it. A few hours later this blog was created. Not long after that I had one of my first blog entries – a Q&A with Roman. He was a new developer to many at the time… I tried his ROM on a whim. It was superior. It had features I had not seen before. I knew I needed to know more about this guy. To this day it is still the most viewed page on this blog. With good reason. I encourage you to read it: Q&A with Roman.
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Roman is the epitome of one of those developers who can take the source code and actually DO SOMETHING with it. There are countless tweaks he has brought to many phones. If you have ever owned a Vibrant, Nexus One, G2X, Galaxy S2, G1, Sensation, Galaxy Nexus… you have been influenced by his work. Hell, even if you did not have these phones his tweaks may have been ported over to other phones. Pro Tip: not everyone credits Roman like they should.
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Here is his HTC Sensation ROM. Take a gander at some of those tweaks.
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More impressive stuff? Yeap – gotcha covered. Take a look at his AOKP Project for the Galaxy Nexus.
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Honestly, I hope you looked. There are a ton of features he added in there. Other ROMs do not have that.

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Why?

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Do other developers not care enough about added features… maybe the lack of skill…. maybe just not creative enough to think of the ideas? Either way, the point remains… Roman brings more to the table than the average developer.
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The ironic thing to me, he rarely gets much credit for it. He has gotten upset at times (though never publicly shown), as anyone would… but he still keeps trucking on, creating, adding features and gaining recognition by other REAL developers.
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Why would I bash so many developers, then isolate one and put him on a pedestal?
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Well, I said things were fluid in Android. I also said that I hate when developers plea for money or pools of money are made and fall on empty promises.
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All that said….
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I want to get Roman a Galaxy Tab 10.1 AND his AOKP tweaks will be ported to it. This will be the best ROM the Galaxy Tab has ever seen and could set the stage for many other tablets development.

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I am starting a donate pool for him (which I have already donated to). He would never ask, so I am. There is nobody else who can bring the tweaks to tablets like he could. If others can get devices in this manner who are less deserving, well, here I am making it happen for someone qualified.

UPDATE: You can check the status of the donate pool HERE
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I test drove the CyanogenMod 9 Kang for the Tab. It is on a whole new level. The Tab is already an amazing device with a ton of life in it. I also know there is ONE person that can make it even better, that is Roman.
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If you know him…..
If you have owned a phone that benefited from his work….
if you like me or my blog….
If I or Roman have ever helped you on XDA/Rootzwiki….
If you simply appreciate the Android Community….
If you can appreciate a young guy working hard and learning…..
If you want to see his AOKP build on the best tablet for Android…..
If you have $5 to spare or you are willing to eat a PB&J at work this week…..
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You get the point.

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Everyone of you fit in one or many of these categories. lets get this guy a Tab. Lets see what he can do. Lets see what an android tablet can REALLY be like… lets see a ton of customization brought to an otherwise dead development community (tweaks to a leaked Samsung ROM do not cut it, sorry).
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If you are willing, PLEASE do me three favors.
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1 – Share this and ask for others help. This is not for just people with a Tab. It’s for people who respect development. Real development.
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2 – Donate what you can by FOLLOWING THIS LINK. << MOST IMPORTANT >>
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3 – Follow Roman (@Romanbb) and sent him a tweet saying you donated for ******* reason.
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On a sad note, I am entering a new chapter in my life. I am very close to starting a new career that may involve a relocation. This is something I will be taking very serious, and this addiction will hinder my work. I plan to try and step away from Android. I may post on here or visit XDA, I may not. I would prefer to break my Android habit and focus on other real life things.

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Roman got me started here, I felt it fitting that if I am going out, it goes out boasting him.
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The Android Community is something special. I am passionate about it and I love it.

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ACSyndicate is getting everything lined up so we should be having an Android East Coast BBQ here in Raleigh, NC on May 12-13th.
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It would mean the world to me if I could meet some of you guys. Please come. Please find me. Please drink beers with others like us. We already have West Coast people hopping on it and we have a lot of surprises and appearances lined up.
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You can follow the ACS guys (@ACSyndicate) and send them a tweet asking for details. I created the official twitter account for the BBQ, so give them a follow too (@Androids_EC_BBQ). We will periodically send out information about the event and what all is lined up.
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Thank you to everyone who has supported me. Now go support a real developer.

You will feel good about it, I promise.

Champions of The Android Community…


I’ve neglected my blog. It’s been a combination of a crazy personal and work life… that and my Samsung Vibrant was destroyed (long story).

To pass the time without a phone, a reader of this blog / twitter follower / XDA user sent me a phone. Pause…

Yeap, there are people in this community THAT good. Please tell Casey that he is amazing! You can find/follow him on Twitter – @oka_XDA.

But wait, there is more… I’ve been one of the more vocal, at least in the early stages, against Samsung. They just didn’t seem to get it.

Actually, I was so vocal Samsung contacted me… not only did they ask how they could improve, they shared plans that weren’t public at the time on what they were already planning to do to improve their relationship with the Android Community. Color me impressed from that day forward.

Who called you ask? Some guy that nobody knew at the time, John – a developer / social guy for Samsung. (@SamsungJohn on twitter). Now he is one of those that Many in the community are aware of, you should to.

Why bring this all up? I’m going to leave out some details, but in short… I sent my phone to Samsung… unable to charge… Battery nearly dead (couldn’t odin to stock)… with a corroded charging port… not surprisingly, they sent it back, unrepaired.

Scratching my head on how to proceed & a bit upset (even though I didn’t expect a repair), I reached out to those in the community who have proven to be helpful… John was one of those people.

John had a representative call me within 20 minutes of my tweet to him… Not just that, they are sending me a Vibrant, no questions asked.

You can say what you want, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know… A rule that’ll always ring true.

In the case of Android, it’s just knowing the Community and offering help when you can.

I try to drop what i’m doing to help others, and it has been paid back plus some.

I’ve always championed the Community… I am eternally grateful and hope that I can one day feel others good deeds to me are deserved.

People don’t just overnight phones to strangers so they can take pictures at a music festival… People don’t read a tweet at night, drop what they are doing, no questions asked & help someone get a replacement phone…

Well, maybe in THIS ANDROID COMMUNITY THEY DO.

Oh, any Samsung/Sprint employees reading this, I’ve already scheduled time to go meet a stranger who is picking up the new galaxy S2 (the epic touch) at my recommendations. I plan to teach about Android & TouchWiz… and the capabilities of this amazing phone.

Please… Please… Take the time to tweet Casey & John. Let them know how cool they are for being “that guy.”

Casey – @oka_XDA
John – @SamsungJohn

My Top 20 Android Apps For Beginners….


Android apps are essential to the end-users experience. There are several categories of apps, but I am going to ignore some as they are limited in their scope (ie, apps that are games, or are only focused on those who root their phones).

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I believe the average smartphone user is going to want to focus on improving the user interface (apps that are better than the stock apps that come on the phone), social apps (ie Twitter, texting, conferencing), and media apps (ie music, photos, news).

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Below are those categories and the apps that I feel can improve the Android experience.

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Disclaimer: There are hundreds of thousands of Android apps. This is in no way all inclusive and can change daily.

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BETTER THAN THE STOCK ANDROID APPLICATIONS:

Text Messanging:

1 – Go SMS Pro / Handcent SMS / Chomp SMS / Google Voice.

They are all better than the stock messenger, in their own regard. The average user can be complacent with the stock messaging app, it does send texts and MMS (ie pictures) just fine after all, but for the user who wants more, these are the apps to try.

To be fair, Google Voice should not be lumped in here as it does so much. This app should be on every Android device, period.

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Browser:

2 – Dolphin Browser HD / Skyfire / Miren

Wait, three more suggestions? Yeap. Why? Because their all awesome in their own regard. The stock browser I find fantastic, it does what you need and does it well. Again though, Android allows the user to do a lot more.

Dolphin is great because of tabbed browsing, gestures (finger swipes to open bookmarks for example) and multi-touch.

Skyfire emphasizes playing video – even those that are not compatible with Android.

Miren is extremely fast, minimalistic UI, and a lot of neat features (scrolling with the volume button, swipes to go forward/backward, etc).

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Gallery:

3 – QuickPic

I hate the stock android gallery. It is a CPU hog, slow to load and limited in features. It is frankly my least favorite part of Android. QuickPic by Alensw (there are several apps with that name) is amazing. It is extremely fast to load, you can exclude certain albums from displaying, very high resolution/image quality, and built in editing tools (ie cropping, rotating, etc).

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The Launcher (your homescreen):

4 – ADW EX / LauncherPro / Go Launcher EX

There I go again, three suggestions. Most of these have similar features, but each have unique features. I prefer ADW EX because it allows me to use swipe gestures to open my notifications or to open a second hidden dock bar (a place to stash commonly opened apps). This allows my homescreen to be less cluttered. You can customize the layout a lot more as well (ie, instead of the standard 4×4 layout, you can make it as much as 10×10), overlap widgets, infinite scrolling, change animations, etc. The list of options go on and on. I strongly suggest trying a new launcher.

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Camera:

5 – CameraZoom FX / Camera360 / Retro Camera / Little Photo

All of these apps have features above and beyond the stock camera. I prefer Retro Camera because it is free and it also has a very unique UI. I can take some pretty spectacular photos with it, with very little effort. I’m a sucker for black and white photos that have a vintage look though.

A reader also suggested Little Photo – which seems wildly popular but was not known by me – NICE!

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Music:

6 – PowerAMP / UberMusic / TuneIn Radio / Google Music / Amazon MP3

Again, each have unique qualities. PowerAMP is great in that it plays most anything and has an equalizer. UberMusic is just sexy. TuneIn Radio allows you to stream music from all over the world. Google Music is great for its cloud capabilities – I love having my music sync and not be stored on precious memory space. Amazon MP3 also has cloud capabilities and offers free music.

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Dialer / Contacts:

7 –Go Contacts EX

Not every Android has a smart dialer (when you start typing a phone number or contact name, it filters out your results). I find that hard to believe. Go Contacts EX not only has a great smart dialer, but the UI is great too. You can swipe left to right to change from the dialer to contacts for instance. The app can also be themed by simply downloading themes from the Market (most of which are also free)

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Photos:

8 – TouchRetouch / PicSay Pro / Little Photo

We talked about the Camera and the Gallery, but what about editing photos? Ever have something in your shot that you wish wasn’t there. TouchRetouch is essentially a magic eraser for your photos. It’s pretty brilliant for an app on your phone and can easily remove objects.

PicSay Pro is more of an effects tool. It allows a tremendous amount of customization to your photos.

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Keyboards:

9 – Swype Beta / Swiftkey X

Swype is hands down the most revolutionary keyboard out. I was afraid of moving to a phone with no physical keyboard, till I tried Swype. The beta is open and free, and it’s the best keyboard out, in my opinion. Do yourself a favor and register now. Most know that Swype allows you to move from letter to letter (not peck each letter), but it also has a tremendous amount of features. I’ve got a huge guide on this, please contact me if interested. Swiftkey X is another revolutionary keyboard in a different sense. It actively seeks the NEXT word you would type, and it learns as you type. So, the more you use it, the more accurately it can predict your next word. I’ve written entire sentences by simply selecting the word it thought I would use. These are both amazing and something I am certain an iPhone would love to have (avoiding some of the famous auto-correct iPhone typo blunders).

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SOCIAL APPS:

Disclaimer: I despise FaceBook, but their app seems very feature rich with a decent UI.

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10 – Plume

I’ve tried every twitter app out there, and none can touch the power of Plume. Feature rich it won’t let you down. Get this if you use Twitter, or start using twitter if you do not already! I’ve found it to be the best way to get brief bits of news information catered to me. So much so that it’s now my favorite feature of a smartphone.

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11 – GroupMe

A completely free way to keep in contact with a group. Send text messages (with your data plan – not a traditional text message), share photos, conference calling, etc. This is a powerful app that could serve teenagers to the executive on business trips.

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12 – Google+

Say what it really is, a FaceBook killer. Google hit a homerun with their social network in my opinion, and the app is feature rich. Want to have private conversations, or share with the world? Want to instantly sync photos taken from your phone? Want to use an alternate messenger or video chat with up to 9 people? Get it.

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TRAVEL APPS:

13 – Google Maps

The features of Maps is pretty robust, but it is the Navigation that is its strong point in my opinion. I had two Garmin GPS units that became junk when I got my first Android phone. Not only did the Navigation work better (accuracy of turn by turn directions) from my phone, but the GPS signal was more accurate. You can also use Places to find and rate places and Lattitude to locate friends near you.

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14 – Worldmate

Short and sweet, a must if you travel a lot. Forward your confirmation emails and it groups all of your itinerary into an incredibly simple package. Organize your plans, change your itinerary, share your itinerary with people, get flight alerts or check on a flight, get reminders, it locates hotels near you and even brings in the weather. Seriously, if you travel, try this!

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MISCELLANEOUS APPS:

15 – Beautiful Widgets / Fancy Widgets

Another benefit of Android is the widgets – an easy to find and attractive thing to have on your homescreen with relevant information. I enjoy knowing the time and weather near me, and these apps give it accurately and in an attractive way that can be easily themed to my liking.

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16 – Alarm Clock Plus

If you use your smartphone as your alarm, for lunch or sleep – this is the one to try. Feature rich and known as one of the best. This will be better than the stock Alarm on the phone and incorporates weather.

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17 – Amazon’s Appstore

There are many nice features about Amazon’s Appstore, including their review process (added security perhaps over the Android Market), but lets be honest… its best feature is that they offer a paid app for free every day. Sometimes these apps are pretty amazing too. On more than one occasion I have went and bought the app in the official Android Market when I wanted to show my support to a developer.

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18 – Chrome to Phone

If you use Android, there is a strong chance Chrome is your browser on your PC. This dandy of an app allows you to press the button on your PC’s browser (using the Chrome to Phone extension), and instantly that page/document/download link will show on your phone. Amazingly simply and powerful.

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19 – Wheres My Droid

Are you one that easily misplaces their phone? Once installed, this app lets you send a text to your phone if it’s misplaced to help locate it. What if you left your phone on silent… what if you are not near it? Well, not only does it turn the volume to max (just in case), but it also lets you get the GPS coordinates if you REALLY misplaced it. A must have on any Android in my opinion.

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20 – Astro File Manager

With Android you have the ability to view and move files around. This is the best way to manage your files, make backups of important files, open zip/tar files, allow downloads from the browser, etc. Frankly, every Android phone should come with a file manager, but they do not. Even if your phone did come with a file manager, there is a strong chance that it is not as good as Astro File Manager.

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This list is no way inclusive. There are MANY apps that I use daily that did not get a mention. Perhaps I will make an extended list with more categories next time. I would appreciate your feedback. If you know someone new to Android, shoot them a link to this… I’d love to hear what someone new to Android thought of this list.

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Thanks!!

Is Apple Better Than Android?


The user interface (UI) is the space where interaction between humans and machines occurs. The goal of interaction between a human and a machine at the user interface is effective operation and control of the machine, and feedback from the machine which aids the operator in making operational decisions.

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This is the definition from Wikipedia. I am bringing this up again for a few reasons… I am too tired and concerned to talk about patents. I believe this is something Google and Manufacturers need to pay better attention to. I also received a tweet from a very popular writer on Mobile Tech topics.

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He sent a generic tweet that he uses Android (phone) and Android/WebOS (tablets), but when someone asked for a recommendation, he responded with “iPhone” or “iPad.”

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I admitted to the iPad suggestion – I’ve openly bashed Honeycombs UI. It really is not ready for mainstream… but why an iPhone over an Android phone? We have better hardware (similarly priced phones) and better (or the same) networks… I just didn’t get it. I asked him for the logic and if he just “assumed people are dumb?”

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His response was that these people just want to use their phone… this made me sit back and think. Do people really have a better experience with an iPhone over an Android if it’s merely being used as a phone (because anyone interested in customizing has no argument – Android is better)?

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Both seem to have a power button, both seem to have icons for the Phone and Contacts. Both have the ability to easily download apps (I believe the Android version is better)…. I don’t get it. What makes the iPhone better for a user with no interest in development/ROMs/rooting?

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It’s the polish of the UI.

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There is nothing iPhone can do that Android cannot. But when the icons and graphics look pretty, it’s amazing what the perceived value is. It’s just like the Apple marketing – eye catching and cleverly done. I will give nothing but praise to Apple here – they are the absolute best at making their product look… well, better than it is.

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Android has been out long enough to where this should be a moot point. It’s not evolving though, not fast enough anyway. I’m hopeful that Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) will remedy this.  Google I/O honestly did not provide enough of a glimpse, so my faith is blindly guided by the positive hype that surrounded it – and it somehow helping the fragmentation issue of Android.

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Before I get too far down that road (getting side-tracked), I wanted to ask you… what makes for a good UI in your eyes?

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Is it pretty buttons… fancy-smancy animations or is it just common-sense knowing what/where to press? I picked up Android having not owned a phone for several years prior. That may surprise a lot of you…. I actually enjoyed the fact I could remember peoples phone #’s. I was in college at the time, so I used AOL IM (wow) and my feet to actually have interactions.  I was basically a Grandpa when I got my first smartphone… I say that because there was nothing challenging to me about navigating the G1. It was clear to me how it worked and I had never even held a smartphone.

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Oh, Menu > Settings for settings… Oh, either press or long-press on something… oh, the notification bar pulls down to show me notifications… Oh, the Market has apps I can download by pressing “Install.” Honestly, what is so hard about this?

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Nothing. Which leads me to believe Apple’s success comes from crazy good PR and pretty icons. And those are two things Android lacks. Say what you will about custom UI’s like Sense, TouchWiz, etc… but you can’t deny they bring polish and features that should just be a part of Android.

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How do I know I am right? The most popular (over 500 million installs) custom ROM out there, CM7 incorporates a lot of these custom UI’s features. One of my favorite features of CM7 is the Notification bar and the toggle switches – unmistakably inspired by TouchWiz. Ironic that most of those guys bash Samsung, but that’s another rant. I do wish they would incorporate the Smart Dialer… it’s so incredibly nice to start typing the first few #s / letters and it sort and show your results.

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Let me know what you think. Is there more than the UI that accounts for Apple’s success? Does it really do things better? Am I completely off my rocker and a total Google Fanboi? I really want to know what you think about the lack of effort shown by Google to make the UI better too.

The Community Growth… A Problem?


This will sound odd from me. Bare with me.

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I believe when Android was just starting to roll, one of the best things about it was the FEW places to go to for information. You had a select few Android blogs and for development, well, you had XDA. Compare that to now… there are a plethora of Android sites for information. Developers have their own sites. Some even refuse to post on XDA. Competitors to XDA are springing up (ie, Rootzwiki – which I am a fan of by the way).

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I guess there is a lot of irony here. I am trying to spread information about Android and to help the community… ie, I am contradicting myself. I also said I like Rootzwiki… so WTF am I trying to say? Well, I guess I just feel overwhelmed by ALL of the places to get Android information. I guess I HATE having to go to multiple sites to check for new ROMs… or to help a noob.

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I suppose I hate the Fragmentation of the Android Community more than that of it’s OS. Am I wrong? Have you noticed this? Are there ways to fix it? Thank God for Twitter!!