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November 03, 2008

Android vs. S60 -- Introduction

by Matthew

I've had the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) for a few days now and I can safety say that Nokia and S60 are in serious trouble if they don't step it up. Android might be new and, yes, over-hyped but for good reason. The G1 is far from perfect but it is a first generation Android product and the first Linux based mobile device to gain such recognition and attention, perhaps more due to Google than Linux. Of course I know there have been Linux PDA's before, I've used a few, but not like this.

Let me say that I didn't expect to like Android. I was tired of the hype and kept saying and thinking, "Common people its just Linux, so what Google is making it." Google may be making it but that's not the only thing what makes it a great device, or is it? I haven't drummed up the courage to flash my N810 with Android but I just might, now. My feeling is Android for the N810 isn't nearly as ready for prime time as it is on the G1. Let's get into the meat of what makes Android better and where S60 still edges it out.

There is so much customization and personalization available and built into the G1 right out of the box. A few examples:

  • Each contact has the option to send straight to Voicemail
  • Contact Groups - they come across when syncing (I hate PC Suite that doesn't do this)
  • Contact Favorites - This is much more than speed dial as it can be for email, sms or calls.
  • Simple contact editing - easily change info from Home to Work to Other with two taps, no more add the field then copy and paste --  not even Outlook does that much.
  • Contact to Map integration - Select a contact's address, bam it's coming up on the map. Nokia Maps is the other way around only and then hit and miss.
  • Sounds - device sounds and multimedia sounds have seperate controls
  • Email - Full HTML support
  • Seemless and Integrated Online Syncing - I realize Nokia has released the syncing of contacts, calendar and notes online but it's not automatic, not even on schedule. The best you can hope for is automatic Bluetooth syncing if so configured. There is no configuring for the G1, it just happens!
  • Screen customization - You decide which applications on on your home screen, as many or as few (up to 16 on each, left, center and right) as you want. Choose where each sits along with widgets.
  • Open Source - This is the biggest advantage Android as a platform has over any of the other OS's available today on mobile devices whether it be Nokia or Apple.

There are more of these examples, too many in fact. Of course there are things that S60 and Nokia excel over the G1. Here's a few of those examples:

  • Offline mapping - There is no offiline mapping. If you're not online you don't have mapping available.
  • Navigation - Google maps as great as it is at finding locations it doesn't have voice navigation or even turn by turn directions.
  • Camera - The camera on the G1 is one of the poorest I've seen in a while. In low light, which isn't all that low in my opinion, the camera is useless. In bright sunlight its usable but hardly acceptable for camera rated as a 3.2mp. I've seen iPhone 2mp images of far better quality. Nokia devices even at 2mp have great quality.
  • Audio - Currently no A2DP (Stereo Bluetooth), fix is expected soon for Android.
  • Outlook/Exchange - As poor as PC Suite might be at syncing Android doesn't support two-way syncing to either solution. Until there is support for Exchange including group policy and security tools Android won't ever catch on in the business world.
  • Bluetooh - DUN, OBEX. The G1 currently lacks all Bluetooth protocols other than Headset. Something is said to be fixed in future release but still a current flaw.

I struggle to find areas where S60 excels over the G1, something I wasn't expecting from a first generation device. The bottom line is Android is new and has so much undeveloped potential, as does S60 for that matter. Maybe Android won't over take S60, its still yet to be seen how much Android is going to be accepted over the long run. For a first release device Google did a lot right, more than they did wrong.

What are your thoughts? Is Android a real threat or another passing phase from a long list of other platforms?

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Comments

Shawn Honnick

Darla, I'd say it's more than a real threat. It's very real and most carriers are going to feature Android enabled devices.

Given your analysis, I'd say it's going to be the top choice for those who are fed up with S60 and others. I wish I could have it now!

(PocketPC here)

Great review--thanks!

Renegade Fanboy

I think this is why Nokia has decided to open up Symbian. It was really not living up to today's standards and not gathering enough support. It seems that the Symbian Foundation will be better, but might be too late for the race.

The only concern about Android is Google itself - but as they gather a large developer community for the OS, this might not be a problem starting next year.

Cribbagegeek

I think one of the biggest negatives for Android could be Google themselves. I know that the LAST thing I want to do is let them have even MORE personal information. I see Android's success as the death of privacy. The easier Google makes accessing information, the more people are likely to pony up their own, and that is the biggest nail yet in personal privacy's coffin.

Is there any way to opt out of sending your personal information to Google with the G1? Can you prevent them from tracking your calls or activities each time you connect to the Internet? If those activities can be nullified, as they were with Google's open source browser, then there is hope for it as a platform I might use.

If not, the mindless masses may (and probably will) still flock to it like proverbial lemmings, which could spell doom for alternatives for the privacy-minded. I sincerely hope that doesn't happen.

vrykolas

My wife has the G1 (pre-ordered), and I've used Nokia phones since about 2001, since the first S60 device (7650,3650, etc..).

S60 has come a long way, but Android (the platform/OS) blows the doors off S60 in it's first try!

Granted, some features are still missing/lacking in Android that exist in other platforms, but they will be fixed very soon.

It's already evident in the Android Market, that the developer community is in hyper-drive (or it seems like it to me). Maybe not quite as hyper as iPhone yet, but there are lots of 'fervor' over enthusiasts and developers of Android.

I'm excited, and can't WAIT to get an Android phone for myself (as soon as I can use it for work).

Nick

To be fair, the camera on the G1 is far superior to the E61i, which was what this G1 replaced for me. I got a phone with a keyboard, a touch screen, and all of the features I loved about the S60, minus tethering ability.

Which is going to be remedied.

Get back on the ball, Nokia. I feel dirty leaving you behind, but you have nothing for me, and Google is promising meaningful software updates.

James Burland

I would be stunned if 5 years from now Nokia aren't putting out various Android based smartphones. I've lost faith, not in Nokia, but in Symbian.

dean

WOW, down on the S60 are we? well alot of talk can be made about when and how but the facts are this. i use 4 things daily. exchange server, voice guidence GPS, fantastic camera and sling media. till the android or the iphone gets any of these the nokia n82 is still top of my list. the exchange on the iphone is a joke... no features at all... and did i mention the flash in the browser on the nokia with skyfire? it kills everyone right now

chlettn

@James Burland: I very much doubt Nokia will offer an Android device anytime soon, or ever. Think about it - in order to do so, they'd have to give up Ovi. Ovi and what it stands for is why they're completely restructuring this huge company right now, so they *certainly* won't toss it aside for...what exactly? An OS that is good, but arguably much less useful if you're not already using various Google services?
I don't see anything about Android that can't be done with Symbian as well, and the UI is good, but certainly not light-years ahead.

Having said that, yeah, I also think S60 needs a *proper* refresh, and Symbian needs to do everything they can to better support developers (app store, better documentation, better development tools, refactoring of legacy APIs) pronto. But I'm quite positive that we'll get the first thing with the Symbian Foundation UI, and the second will at least become better once Symbian is open source...so I'll at least wait till those things have become a reality and the Android hype phase is a thing of the past and its real-life advantages and manufacturer support becomes clearer.

Maciek

@chlettn

Who's preventing Nokia from using Ovi with Android??? It's an open system. Google said EVERYTHING can be customized so if nokia wants to use Ovi instead contacts and Nokia e-mail with android, nobody will stop them. As a matter of fact I think this would be quite cool idea. I just gave up my beloved N95 in lieu of Android. I made a move due to the fact that N95-3 (the so called US edition) does not support T-Mobile's frequency, and hence is the reason I'm putting nokia on the back seat until they decide to launch a comparable to N82, 95 or 85 handset with a good camera). Android's camera stinks - true..but again Nokia can tie Android to Ovi Share...there you go..all services are already in place and one i LOVE the most - it the unobtrusive sync in the background - no damn bar that prevents the user from accessing any feature until it's finished. So let's hope that Nokia WILL indeed release an Ovidroid with Ovi Sync/Share/N-Gage/nMail - ahh...and of course a full qwerty keyboard and a touch screen. I think I just dreamed of my perfect device.
Soon I'll be doing a feature comparision between two devices and will post my findings.

Kedar

This just means we will be seeing better and better phones in days to come, be it Symbian, Android or Windows etc.

chlettn

@Maciek: I think you're overestimating the real openess of Android. What do you think Google's motivation for offering Android without licensing cost is?

Yes, to get more people to use their services, and subsequently, get more opportunities to place ads, and to generally push their AdSense program to the next level by additional context information provided by handsets.

Google is not in this for charities' sake, and as soon as a HUGE company like Nokia would just start using an customized Android with all the Google-related bits ripped out or made optional, an army of lawyers would knock on Espoo's doors. Why else do you think SE's CTO recently stated regarding Android: "If you want to give every service away to Google, then Android is the perfect solution." (http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2226817/sony-ericsson-voices-android)?

@Kedar: yeah, agree on that. More competition, better products.

C. Enrique Ortiz

Darla, hi. It is good to see you analyze and write about mobile things beyond Nokia handsets. I like your analysis and you are right on spot. I have been using the G1 for a week now, and I like it very much; its integration w/ services on the web, right off the box, and its customization, and ease of adding new apps, and its sensors, etc. make this handset great, and for mobile geeks, a playground to play with new ideas. And this is just the 1st attempt at an Android phone; not bad...

ceo

zhubham

“All SYMBIAN based end devices accept Java language Applications” :: need clarification

(i) Does this mean that the applications made for Android would run in S60 , without any modifications??
(ii) If not then what exactly we mean when we say the above statement?? Is there any web link to which I can refer to??
(iii) What are the coding guidelines that we need to follow so that an Android application can be ported on S60 with minimum changes??

Thank you all in advance.

Best Regards,
Zhubham

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