Android

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Android is a mobile operating system primarily designed for mobile phones. Android was the first complete, open, and free mobile platform and runs on the Linux kernel. It was launched on 5 November 2007.

It was initially developed by Android Inc., a firm later purchased by Google, who then transferred further management and development of the operating system to the Open Handset Allianceā„¢. The Open Handset Alliance is a group of 65 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile platforms and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience.

Various companies, including Motorola, Samsung and HTC, are commercially deploying handsets and services using the Android Platform.

Android enabled mobile phones (and even netbook computers) provide many functions equivalent to desktop and laptop computers but use a fraction of the power, so they are a welcome innovation in support of green computing.

Android is designed to integrate with "cloud computing" services provided by Google and possibly others. This means that your data is stored in the cloud as well as your handheld device. If you lose the device your data is safe "in the cloud". This also means that you no longer have to sync with a specific desktop or notebook computer, unlike the iPhone which requires you to sync with iTunes on another computer to load digital content such as music and videos.

Contents

[edit] Development environment

The Android SDK is a free development environment which can be downloaded for Linux, Windows or Mac OS-X platforms. It allows developers to write managed code in the Java language, controlling the device via Google-developed Java libraries.

Most of the Android code is available under the Apache License, a free software and open source license.

[edit] Versions

  • 1.0 - 5 November 2007
  • 1.5 (Cupcake) - 30 April 2009
  • 1.6 (Donut) - 15 September 2009
  • 2.0/2.0.1/2.1 (Eclair) - 26 October 2009. Revamped user interface and introduced HTML5 and Exchange ActiveSync 2.5 support
  • 2.2 (Froyo) - 4Q2010. Speed improvements with JIT optimization and the Chrome V8 JavaScript engine, and added Wi-Fi hotspot tethering and Adobe Flash support
  • 2.3 (Gingerbread). User interface refinements, improved soft keyboard and copy/paste features, added support for Near Field Communication
  • 2.4 (Gingerbread) - April 2011. Update to 2.3, anticipated to be released in April 2011.
  • 3.0 (Honeycomb) - Feb 2011. Tablet-only release with support for larger screen devices, many new user interface features, supports multicore processors and hardware acceleration for graphics. The first device featuring this version, the Motorola Xoom tablet, is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2011.
  • 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), announced on October 19, 2011, brought Honeycomb features to smartphones and added new features including facial recognition unlock, network data usage monitoring and control, unified social networking contacts, photography enhancements, offline email searching, app folders, and information sharing using NFC. The first Android 4 phones were released in late 2011.

[edit] User experience by Peter Campbell

The following user experience provides some information on the functionality and performance of the Android platform.

[edit] Comparison with iPhone

I had looked at the HTC Magic Android phone for a few months and was impressed by its look, feel and function. We bought an iPod Touch for our Europe trip in September 2009 because it was easy to load videos for our daughter to watch and its browsing and email functions (via Wifi) were easy and convenient to use. However, I find the following features of the iPhone limiting and/or frustrating:

  • You have to load content via iTunes software running on a notebook or desktop computer
  • You have to provide Apple with your credit card details to download free applications from the Apple store.
  • The single select/exit button dumps you out of apps; it is not easy (or possible) to switch between running apps
  • iPhone and iPod Touch devices are fairly expensive, and the software on them is proprietary, even though it is based on Unix.
  • iPhone and iPod Touch devices have features disabled on them which appears to be a marketing ploy by Apple to "roll out new features" when in fact they are often just enabling them via software.

I decided to buy an HTC Magic on eBay in November 2009 and give Android a go.

[edit] First impressions

The phone is easy to use, the screen has a good resolution, the screen keyboard works surprisingly well. I found the response times reasonable to good. Accessing Google services such as email and calendar is quick and easy. You enter your gmail address and password and everything just works. The menus are easy to navigate and access.

[edit] Ergonomics

The HTC Magic fits in my pocket well. I also wear it in a neoprene belt pouch for easy access. The phone has a slight curve at its base which makes it easy to grasp and handle.

[edit] Features I like

  • Control buttons - home, menu, back, search, make call, end call/exit app are easy to access and work as expected.
  • Track ball - very handy when editing text and navigating web pages to select hyperlinks.
  • The form factor is good- the curve on the bottom of the phone makes it easy to grab and handle and the phone fits easily into pockets or a small belt pouch.
  • Predictive text is excellent - word options are presented as you type which can be selected.
  • Gmail and Google calendar and gmail contacts integration is excellent
  • Automatic hyperlinks from calendar and contact addresses to Google maps and GPS funtion
  • Searches (accessed by the Search button) are relevant to the app you are in (browser, contacts, gmail etc)\
  • The camera works well
  • You can tether the phone and use it as a modem to access the Internet from a connected PC (via the PDANet application)
  • Standard micro USB connector for charging and/or connecting to a PC
  • Easy access to device content via USB "Mount" option which creates a USB drive for the device
  • Standard Micro SD card support - provides cheap upgradeable and transferable storage
  • User replaceable battery
  • The battery life is reasonable. The battery will last 3 to 4 days if lightly used, but only 1.5 days if heavily used
  • The Android market place for applications is easy to access and provides a wide assortment of useful applications
  • The screen gestures are easy and effective to use; swipe to scroll, zoom in/zoom out controls work well
  • The lock screen pattern is easy to set up and use and hard for others to crack.
  • The flick down status bar gives quick and easy access to recent events (SMS message, app updates etc.)
  • The three home screens are easy to customise and add/remove/move apps and widgets from, and you can add as icons:
    • a URL for a commonly accessed website
    • an application shortcut
    • a widget
    • a direct dial phone number (from your Contacts)
  • Keyboard shortcuts such as
    • Long press of Home button to get recently used apps
    • Long press of End call key to bring up menu with Silent Mode / Airplane Mode / Power off options.
  • Configure Google contacts to
    • Provide access to specific groups
    • Only display contacts with phone numbers
    • Display "starred" contacts only

[edit] Missing features and short comings

  • The HTC Magic phone supplied by Vodafone Australia has standard Android voice control function removed from its Android 1.6 operating system. I have installed Google voice libaries and can do Google searches and even find contacts by voice, but not dial them. This is inferior to the voice control and dialling that my Nokia 6120 phone has.
  • No camera zoom. Later versions of Android support this but the handset must also support zoom functions. I can live without this.
  • Searching for a contact is restricted to the contact name only. This is a major limitation compared to older PDAs such as Palmpilots which support searching all informtion for contacts including notes, address information and phone numbers. Hopefully this will be addressed in later versions of Android.

[edit] Applications

See also: Top Android apps

The applications I have installed are:

  • Find my Droid - a marvellous application for locating a lost phone (even if muted) by sending it an SMS
  • Documents to Go - provides access to MS Office documents and PDF files. The only application I have bought.
  • Astro - file manager
  • Advanced Task Killer - allows you to kill running apps to lighten battery usage. Very handy, and you can specify which apps to leave running.
  • APN Backup and Restore - backs up your APN settings and allows you to restore them.
  • Bookmarking for Delicious - allows you to bookmark to Delicious from browser and access your Delicious account
  • Stop 3 data roaming - essential if you are using the 3 network in Australia; stops the phone from roaming onto the expensive Telstra data network.
  • eBay - eBay application client
  • Battery widget - shows how much battery you have left
  • Wapedia Mobile wikis - for accessing Wikipedia articles
  • The Weather Channel - customised weather updates in various locations
  • URL Shortener - shorten and share URLs via serices such as Tinyurl.com, bit.ly and several others.
  • Text-To-Speech Extended - library for use by other applications.
  • Facebook for Android - Facebook client with good features, including taking a photo and uploading it directly to Facebook.
  • Google Maps - access to Google maps functions and integration with GPS
  • GTasks - Google tasks client which keeps local copies of tasks and syncs with Google (Gmail) tasks
  • GPS OnOff - fast toggle for GPS on and off
  • Flashlight - illuminates screen to function as a light
  • Google Search by voice - provides voice control for Google searches
  • Transport Maps 1.6 - download and install transport maps for many cities which can then be used when you are off the network
  • OI Safe - encrpyted password and information safe
  • tRSS Reader - RSS reader
  • PdaNet free edition - provides tethering function to access Internet from connected laptop or netbook.
  • QuickSave - allows quick save of webpage to booking marking service (e.g. Delicious.com) by a few clics.
  • Places directory - Google directory for places nearby current proximity
  • Video player
  • Finance - Google finance client for accessing share prices etc.
  • OI Notepad - simple notepad for storing notes
  • Wifi OnOff - toggle switch for Wifi
  • Photoshop.com Mobile - Adobe photo editor
  • Worldwide time
  • Dolphin Browser - fantastic browser that has tabbed browsing, good bookmark feature and is easy to use
  • Memento - a great database application that syncs with Google docs spreadsheets, complete with templates
  • Inserty - define custom text snippets to insert into messages, and even include your current GPS coordinates
  • GPS Tracker - keep track of your phone, and activate this by SMS if necessary (find a lost phone)
  • Google sky maps - simply stunning. Hold your phone up to the sky at night and see which constellations, stars and planets are there.
  • Dropbox - access a "Dropbox" web folder for your documents, accessible across many devices and via a browser
  • Secrets - encrypted information store
  • Catch - store notes on your device and in the cloud. Formerly know as Snaptic and 3Banana
  • Navigation - a tool for navigation - to contacts, or speak a destination, or to stored locations
  • Wind Alert - get information on wind reports for locations you define
  • Anycut - create an icon for any Android menu command - I have one for "Network connections" to find and check mobile networks
  • PayPal - client for your PayPal account
  • Stopwatch - handy for when you want to time something
  • Google Talk - IM client
  • My Tracks - use for recording tracks using the GPS
  • BeyondPod - download and listen to podcasts

I have installed the following apps but not used them much or at all:

  • Barcode scanner.
  • Twidroid for twitter - Twitter client
  • Linked (beta) - LinkedIn client
  • Google Voice - currently only available in the US
  • Skype Lite Beta - Skype client

[edit] Setting up Android 1.6 on an HTC Magic

If you get the phone from your network provider it will work out of the box with no technical setup. Later versions of Android (4.0 ICS and later) configure their own settings. Earlier versions required some setup by the user.

The HTC Magic phone (running Android 1.6) I purchased was for the Vodafone Australia network and had no carrier (APN) information loaded in it. After some research on the Internet and a few calls to "3" (my mobile phone company) I was able to get the phone working.

The main challenge is to find out the APN (Access Point Name) settings for your carrier if you don't get the phone supplied by your carrier.

[edit] Settings / Wireless controls / Mobile networks / Access Point names

For the 3 network in Australia you need these two:

  • Name: 3Internet
    • APN: Services
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 06
    • APN type: default

All other settings <not set>.

  • Name: 3MMS
    • APN: 3services
    • MMSC: http://mmmsc.three.net.au:10021/mmsc
    • MMS proxy: 10.176.57.25
    • MMS port: 8799
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 06

All other settings <not set>.

With these in the phone I was up and connected.

Settings for a Motorola DEFY phone on the Telstra NextG network are:

  • Name: Telstra
    • APN: telstra.internet
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 01
    • APN type: dun

All other settings <not set>.

  • Name: Telstra Internet
    • APN: telstra.iph
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 01
    • APN type: default

All other settings <not set>.

  • Name: Telstra MMS
    • APN: telstra.mms
    • MMSC: http://mmsc.telstra.com:8002/
    • MMS proxy 10.1.1.180
    • MMS port 80
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 01
    • APN type: mms

All other settings <not set>.

APNs for HTC Desire on Telstra NextG

  • Name: Telstra Internet
    • APN: telstra.wap
    • Proxy: 10.1.1.181
    • Port: 80
    • MMS protocol WAP 2.0
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 01
    • Authentication type: CHAP
    • APN type: mms
  • Name: Telstra MMS
    • APN: telstra.mms
    • MMSC: http://mmsc.telstra.com:8002/
    • MMS proxy 10.1.1.180
    • MMS port 80
    • MMS protocol: WAP2.0
    • MCC: 505
    • MNC: 01
    • Authentication type: CHAP
    • APN type: mms

All other settings <not set>.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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