[Editorial] What makes Android Android?

Editors note: The following is a piece written by Thomas Devaux, originally appeared on Google+ and has be reposted with permission.


My intent is not to start a flame war between Android / iPhone / BlackBerry / Windows Phone, etc. It’s just that I was asked several times why to chose an Android phone over an iPhone, BlackBerry… (or the opposite). I am a day-1 Android user, so I think I have a pretty good idea about what makes Android appealing – at least to me.


I’d be glad to hear what you like most about the mobile OS you’re using!


Third party app integration
The “share” functionality in Android is awesome. In many apps, when you press “share”, the OS gives you a list of the apps you can use to share: Facebook, Twitter, Email, SMS, Google+, QR code, etc.
The beauty of it is not the completeness of the list, but the fact the list is dynamic. The more apps you install, the more share options you’ll have.



It makes data the starting point of many actions. You take a picture, share it via Bluetooth right from where you took it. You’d like to share the page you’re browsing right now; press share and put it on Google+ or share it via a bar code that you’re friend can scan.


You don’t have to rely on other apps to implement Facebook / Twitter / Whatever integration into their app, and trust them by giving your login/password.


It is not limited to the “share” functionality. Third party apps can also have other entry points that makes use of app seamless and content driven.


You don’t have to know which app you can use to read a PDF. Click on a PDF, and Android will tell you apps that have the ability to do so.


Same to send an SMS. You have multiple apps to send SMS (like Google Voice) ? Just send an SMS from your contacts, Android will suggest you what you can use.



Same from the browser. An app can tell which links it recognizes. Click on a link to a Grooveshark music playlist, Android will ask you if you want to open it with the browser or with the native Grooveshark app.


Google Maps / GPS (http://goo.gl/NzyQp)
No matter how you put it, the Google Maps experience is way better and complete on Android than on any other platform.


You basically have a free turn-by-turn 3D navigation system, with always up to date maps, live traffic.


You can also “pre-download” map areas. So if you know you’ll be offline during this week-end in NYC, you can download the whole map of the city, and never get lost.


It is also linked to your Google profile. So if you recommend places you go to, Maps will suggest you what you may like first, based on what other places you rated before or you’re friends recommendations.


Tight integration with Google Maps (online) does not stop here.
Whenever you “star” a place on the web, you’ll be able to access it within seconds on the Android app.
Few exclusive features you also get: 3D directions when walking, 3D buildings, vectorial maps (so no “blurry” zooming), terrain layer, My Maps, labs…


Google services integration
If you are a heavy Google services user, you’ll feel at home in Android. Login once, and “it just works”.
Contacts, Gmail, Picasa, Google Reader, GTalk, Calendar…
You don’t have to set up anything. What you get on the web, you’ll get it on your device.


Grooveshark (http://grooveshark.com | http://mobile.grooveshark.com/)
MP3s are today’s VHS. I just love Grooveshark. I pay a monthly fee to get unlimited music streaming.



Online, and on my Android phone. The app is beautiful, probably one of the best I’ve seen in terms of design. I used to be available on iPhone as well, but it was pulled from the App Store and now you need to jailbreak.


Sure there are other streaming options, but I have tried many others and to me it’s the best option: radios, offline caching, search, playlists…


Google Reader (google.com/reader | http://goo.gl/O3y9F)
If you use Google Reader online, the Android app is the perfect companion.
One the the app I use the most when I have 15 minutes to lose.



Real multitask (tasker)
Sure it can drain your battery, but Android apps can run and do whatever they want in background or wake up based on system events.


For instance, I have an app (Tasker: http://goo.gl/tKpBL) that shows me a popup of which music app to use when plugin headphones.


It also turns the volume down and cut data synchronisation during the night.
You want an app that tracks your moves when jogging ? It can be done in background, while you’re doing something else on your phone (but watch your steps !).


Full customization
Everything is an app. You don’t like the SMS app ? You don’t like the way the home screen behaves ?
Just replace them with third party apps.


To me, one of the best features of Android.
Phone screens are so large today. Why limiting the content of your home screen to just a grid of icons ?
Especially on tablets, the real estate you have can be used to much more on Android.
Just unlock your phone, and you’ll get the content that matters most to you, without having to open any app.



Just to name a few: Weather, Twitter feed, Facebook, Gmail, Quick setting switches (to turn off WiFi, etc).


The Android market (https://market.android.com/)
Not only you can buy / download apps from the native Market app, you can also do it via the market.android.com website, right from your computer.
Browse the app catalog and by just clicking “download”, your app will be pushed to your device. Automagically.



I also love the 15-minutes refund window. Basically you get 15 minutes to try an app and decide if you like it or not. If you don’t, you get a full refund and can go on trying another one.


Alternative Keyboard (http://www.swype.com/ | https://market.android.com/search?q=keyboard&so=1&c=apps)
Everything is an app, even the keyboard. So if you don’t like the native keyboard, or think there are better ways to input text, try something else!


I am a big fan of Swype, recently purchased by Nuance. It gives you the ability to enter text by roughly connecting letters by a line, and it’s incredibly fast and accurate!


USB mass storage
Just connect your phone via USB. It becomes a USB key.



Crazy apps
Yes, you have Bittorent clients on Android.


Alarm clock that works
(that one was easy)


Picasa sync, Google+ auto upload
You take a picture, it’s automatically online, saved, and ready to be shared via Google+.
The sync works the other way as well. All my pictures are in full quality in Picasa, and the Gallery app shows all my albums automatically.
I can see all my pictures from the web, my desktop, tablet or phone.


YouTube in HD
You can enjoy HD videos on YouTube, whether you’re on WiFi or 3G. It also supports closed captioning.



Upgradable storage
You need more storage ? Most Android phones have a MicroSD slot.
You can get 32GB for 50$ on Amazon.


Flash support
As much as I am not a big fan of flash, I am glad it exists and Android supports it.
Whether you need to see the menu of this shabby restaurant website, see this concert on YouTube live or your favorite TV show. Sometimes, Flash is the only option.

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  • Marioserrano09

    What a great post, i’m 1000% agreed in everything. And i just a 2 month Android’s user. Btw “everthing is an app” is the best of Android

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