All things modern.
A good operating system is one that you can pick up and be able to use first time, as well as incorporate powerful useful features. When I used the first android phone (T-mobile G1) about year ago in a T-mobile store in Taunton, I was taken back with how little of the hype was delivered. I could find nothing groundbreaking about it, indeed it confused me.
Granted I used a demonstration phone for all of 10 minutes in a store, but first impressions count.
Fast forward a year to today when I came across a video demonstration of the new Android powered handset from HTC, the Hero. From what I have seen, this may very well be the hero to save android OS.
Check out the video:
Now I can only talk about the usability of the device based on what I can see. Since I don’t have the budget to purchase all the phones in the world (just most), I can’t comment on the power of the OS. For example, I have always found that the OS of the I-phone is the best touch OS ever made but there are aspects that make it impossible to live with such as the locked down Bluetooth, dependence on I-tunes etc.
What strikes me first is the similarities to the Touch-flow 3D (TF3D) interface that HTC ships with its windows mobile phones, which is a very good effort at skinning the frankly reeeee-diculous user interface that comes with Windows Mobile. If the wide acceptance of the TF3D interface is anything to go by, the Hero will sell like hot bread.
So if the big progress with Android is that it now looks just like what HTC has been making for its Win Mo devices for over a year, what’s the big deal? Well, my hope is that putting the TF3D over a different OS will remove many of those annoying aspects of Win Mo that we would all like to see gone.
For example gone is the fat bar at the bottom of the screen serving no other function other than to indicate what the left and right soft keys do. There should not BE any soft keys on a touch screen phone in the first place! In fact Blackberry has done without this screen real-estate waste since they first made phones and those weren’t even touch screen based. Instead of leaving two soft instructions permanently taking up a huge chunk of screen, a hardware key brings up a full menu.
On the topic of hardware keys, a touch phone should have 6 keys a “home” key, a “menu” key, a “back” key, a camera key a volume rocker and a power button. Nothing else. The Hero comes close to this ideal but annoyingly still includes the redundant call and end-call keys even though the OS provides on-screen control of these functions.
The question remains as to where the pretty skin made by HTC ends and the Android itself shows itself through. On Win Mo devices, the end of the skin means instant sighs at the underlying line-art UI and an instant reach for the stylus to manipulate the fiddly on-screen controls. I don’t know if this also happens with Android, but if it did I’m sure they won’t put it in the demo video. We will just have to wait and see 🙂