Google Android: All Hands on Deck for Mobile Showdown

It certainly has been a big week for the Android phone platform and those consumers who have long waited for it’s arrival. What a long way we have come since just a few weeks ago when it appeared that Android was far from ready for the public.

Google

Credit: Google

From Ars Technica:

The user interface has been completely redesigned, with a strong focus on attractiveness and usability. The new home screen provides a loose grid for placing icons and small widgets, such as a digital clock and search bar. Users can drag application launchers to the home screen directly from the main menu. The widgets and icons are organized across three separate home screen panes that the user can flip between with a dragging gesture.

The main application menu flies up from a tab at the bottom of the screen and displays launchers for all of the installed programs. The home screen background image is now configurable through a wallpaper selector that is activated from the hardware menu button. The top row of the screen has a status bar with a clock and notification icons. Dragging down that bar will provide access to the notification pane, which shows information about missed calls, recent messages, and other application-specific notices.

The applications included with the platform have been improved, too. The entire set of software exhibits a uniformly high level of usability. The dialer and address book are pretty much what one would expect, but everything is a lot more polished now. The mapping software got some new features, including support for Google Streetview, but still has a few bugs. For instance, switching between modes on the map will clear an active search, and there is no way to have street view and satellite view enabled at once.

Android offers a flawlessly desktop-like browsing experience with excellent support for JavaScript and modern web applications.

Screenshot

Screenshots

The SDK is still extremely easy to install and configure. The user just has to download and decompress the SDK, install the Eclipse plugin, and then provide the plugin with the path of the SDK. If you already have Eclipse installed, it’s really a five-minute operation.

The most significant area where Android has an advantage over the iPhone right now is in the potential for hardware diversity. Users who want a mobile device with a hardware keyboard, full Bluetooth support, a microSD slot, and any number of other similar features that haven’t been blessed by His Steveness, will not be inclined to buy an iPhone. The iPhone’s one-size-fits-all approach is conducive to a great user experience, but necessarily locks the product out of large segments of the market. Android, on the other hand, can be shipped on a wide range of hardware devices that are designed to cater to the needs of specific audiences. That alone will give Android a big boost in the competitive mobile phone market.

So what will we need to see in terms of security: Check out InformationWeek for more on this.

This version of the Software Developers Kit (SDK), version 0.9, Google says, is very close to what the final SDK will look like. While this is all good news for anyone who has yet to buy an iPhone and sign-up for a lengthy AT&T contract, it also means that more security researchers, if they haven’t already started, will begin hammering away for any existing security related vulnerabilities. It’s what they do, and in the long-run, their work improves the quality of software.

Google knows this, and is already bracing for the storm.

See this e-mail the Android Security Team posted to the popular Full Disclosure mailing list yesterday.

Not surprisingly, the Google Android Security Team favors reasonable disclosure practices, which is to say researchers would contact Google with the flaws they find, give Google a chance to fix the flaw, and then the flaw and patch are announced the same day with kudos going to the security researchers who found the problem.

Responsible disclosure is the best way to go for everyone. Whenever security flaws are randomly dumped out publically, end users get attacked and vendors are forced to rush shoddy patches out the door. With responsible disclosure, the flaws get fixed, and we all have a chance to patch our systems.

We are getting closer and closer to the long anticipated release of Android. Now we must wait and see if Google can deliver and how many problems consumers will have to deal with upon its release. Thoughts?

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2 Comments on “Google Android: All Hands on Deck for Mobile Showdown”

  1. Leila Says:

    I think its going to be an interesting time really. Now is the time we get to see if Google will indeed start spreading into the mobile world on a software basis instead of just advertising.

    I tend to think of Google as the online world’s Microsoft….

    There could be lots of “patches” and such, much like Microsoft.

    Tally Ho. I just wonder how this will effect mobile phone sales…

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