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First impressions after two hard hours
My credentials first. Have used Palm products since very beginning (August 1996). Accustomed to optimized Palm PIM GUI. Willing to migrate PIM data from PC to cloud (already moved Palm Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks to Google... bit of a nightmare, as any of you who may have tried can testify). Have used a friend's iPhone 3GS for one week as basis of comparison with subsequent contenders.
Have read N1 User Guide (all 320 pages) twice. Little need to fumble around figuring out how things work. Had already devised a list of key tests.
A friend dropped by today and let me hit his N1 hard for two hours. For what they are worth, in no particular order, here are my impressions (+ positive, * neutral, - negative):
+ lovely physical design & feel; 2-tone color scheme is refreshing
+ first impressions of camera and camcorder are positive; need more testing (I use a Canon prosumer DSLR heavily, but realize that cellphone photography won't compete yet for a few years).
+ gorgeous bright screen - 800x480 is a huge leap past iPhone; did not test in direct sunlight
* did not (yet) evaluate color accuracy, which has been severely criticized
* neutral on soft key responsiveness - sometimes failed, often worked if pressed just above icons
+ VERY fast app launching
- occasional jerky scrolling - annoying
- frequently missed touch gestures (swipe, tap) - VERY annoying
- dislike desktop/launcher dichotomy (much prefer iPhone single level metaphor)
+ love multi-tasking (not as cool as Palm Pre/Pixi, though)
* surprised that apps cannot be killed manually; 3rd-party solution, perhaps? Why not just press-hold Home to get view of running apps, then press-hold an app icon to get menu for Kill / About (parameters & status)? Developers say: why would you worry about killing apps? Android OS will "do the right thing" automagically. Hmmm... Maybe.
+ best Bluetooth pairing with my Oticon Streamer I have experienced - no need to enter passcode or to manually connect; still need to test leaving and re-entering range to verify automatic reconnection. FYI, Oticon Streamer is functionally equivalent to any other Bluetooth headset. It communicates with my hearing aids via Near-Field Magnetic Induction, and with cellphones via Bluetooth
+ noise cancellation of running water and rattling paper sounds seemed effective at other end of call
- confusing sequence during creation of new contacts - completing a new e-mail address usually led directly into an invitation to create a new IM contact; fewer clicks than iPhone, but entire affair was awkward; maybe just need more practice to get used to this
+ surprisingly accurate ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition)
- unacceptable lag while speech segments are uploaded to servers and processed for ASR; Google needs to provision this service with much greater capacity
+ Android Calendar works very much like online Google Calendar; more streamlined than iPhone
+ glass keyboard process better than iPhone - as accurate, useful banner of suggestions, supposedly possible to view/edit accumulated dictionary
- use of Shift key somewhat inconsistent and less polished than iPhone - sometimes Shift is sticky, sometimes pseudo-modal for only one subsequent alphabetic character; either is OK, but predictability is essential
- 3G speeds seemed like molasses in January - and yes, 3G was on the entire time; my son's T-Mobile Sidekick seems much snappier during network transactions
- very awkward implementation of select/cut/copy/paste - too modal, too fussy; iPhone far superior
- no copying allowed of read-only text and images from Browser and received Gmail; this is absurd. Yes, iPhone failed here at first, too. This is a deal-killer until it's fixed.
- no native Tasks application; 3rd-party solution, perhaps?
- only 192 MB (or is it 512 MB? nobody seems to know for sure) for installed apps; supposedly this will be fixed "sometime" when Google quits worrying about piracy or finds a workable solution for storing apps on microSD cards
- bizarre mode after entering Market app - glass keyboard stayed up... and up... and up... until Back... Back... Back... eventually closed the KB
+ most excellent implementation of status/notification; less instrusive than WebOS version
+ appreciate removable battery; would buy a couple of extras and use battery charger (assume that Seidio or equivalent will introduce this accessory soon)
- why are all of these vendors so obsessed with thinness? I would prefer another 0.125" of thickness and batteries that last a full day under heavy usage
- awkward to rely upon trackball for fine positioning; this just indicates a failure in imagination during touch-based interface design
- no multi-touch; OK, so the hardware supports it... but it should be built in EVERYWHERE, just like speech enabling; + / - zoom control is a bit crude... and not always available
TESTS FOR NEXT TIME
1. Color wedges & photos to evaluate accuracy and gamut.
2. Various A/V formats (familiar music, audio frequency and linearity tests, various video resolutions and formats and data rates).
3. USB transfer speed.
4. More extensive camera/camcorder tests (manual controls, focus, macro, upload to YouTube).
5. Maps and Navigation (map caching upon loss of 2G/3G signal, 2G/3G map download speed, relative speeds of Map/Satellite/Street Views, usability while walking and driving).
6. Reboot time after battery replacement.
7. Ringer volume.
8. Experiment with technique suggested by others: to get around lack of native Notes app, try embedding notes in Notes field of contacts all labeled "Note".
9. Ease of dragging missed tasks forward in time.
10. Search Android Market for apps equivalent to Palm (AreaCodes, BeeTagg, Cribbage, DeltaFlights, Documents To Go (I know this is available for Android), Files, FileZ, FlightStatus, Focus+, Klondike, LoanWizPro, MovieGuide, MunduRadio, NoahPro, NVBackup, Parens, ShortCut5, RPN, Thesaurus, TikTok).
11. Overload system limits with "too many" apps; see how Android OS decides what to kill.
12. Compare speed and ease of browsing CNN and NY Times between Palm Treo 755p and N1. Sure, everybody disses the Palm browser, but turn off image downloading, and you can zip through CNN and NY Times faster than you might believe.
13. Test screen in bright sunlight.
14. Leave/re-enter Bluetooth range to verify automatic reconnection with Streamer.
Very impressive overall. Real alternative to iPhone Closed Garden. Designers not as single-mindedly obsessed with clean and consistent GUI design as Apple, but let's assume that Android will only improve.