Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Android, for whom

We never walked into a mobile retail showroom and asked for a Symbian or a Bada or a Windows phone. Did we? We asked for a Nokia or Samsung or HTC phone. But of late, many people are going in for an Android phone. But, why is everyone now seeking this particular operating system (without realising it is one) when they wouldn’t care to know if the phone is on Symbian or Bada or Mango?

Over the past one month, five people have asked me, “What’s an Android phone? Now that I have to buy a new one, you think it will be a good idea to try out an Android?” The surge in numbers of phones having the Google’s operating system isn’t surprising going by the near-cult following it’s amassing by the day, much like iPhone in the US. But do we all actually need an Android phone?

The rule of thumb when going in for any gadget is: what do I need it for? The question should be increasingly asked, more so now, when the market is swarmed by a huge variety of models with confusing permutations and combinations of specifications.

Let’s first get this clear: if you are using the phone merely to text and call, and if you hate GPRS, you don’t need an Android (which is a smart phone as different from the simpler feature phone). Instead of worrying about Android or any other OS, you could look at keypad or voice clarity or price or design.

What make Android phones attractive are the applications. If you are an app freak, go for Android. And there are tens of thousands of them in the Android Market -- anything from breaking news and cricket scores to astrological forecasts and currency converters. There are also those that help you see stars and planets. And, if you are shy of popping that all-important question to your partner, well, there’s an app for that too.

Don’t others phones like Nokia, iPhone and BlackBerry have apps? Yes, they do. But not the variety and numbers that Android offers. Why? Mainly because Android is an Open Source platform, meaning app developers in any part of the world can write the codes to develop the apps, and put them on the Android Market. Nokia has lately woken up to the app power, and is proactively forming a vibrant developer community.
If you are a fan of Google products, like Gmail, Picasa, Blogger, Calendar, Reader etc, then too it makes sense to go for Android. The phone contacts, for example, get synced with Gmail contacts; and serve as a good back-up.

Even if you are only texting and calling, an Android smart phone can significantly enhance user experience. There’s, for example, Gesture Search that lets you quickly find a contact, a bookmark, an application or a music track on your device by drawing on the screen. The, there’s the translator app that can work as an interpreter if you are a new place where you don’t understand the local language.

So, do I need an Android phone? Well, it’s the same old question: What do I need the phone for?

(This article was published in The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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