Today is another day after, this time the day after Google announced its Android Mobile OS initiative. Incredible amounts of posts have already been written about it, many of them talking about the breaking news, a lot of them analysing what it means (for example here and here), and very few talking about what it means for the mobile user (actually, I tried searching for it in Google reader and couldn’t come up with a search term that showed me more about the user perspective). Look at techmeme for the tech bloggers bandwagon overview.
So let’s take a look at the user’s perspective. In a previous post I stated that Mobile Internet will eventually break through to the mass but that there are still a number of hurdles to be taken.
The question is now, does the Android initiative provide possibilities to take on any of these hurdles? The most important aspect of the Android Mobile OS, in my opinion, is that it will be open source. What I hope will happen is that it will trigger many developers to start developing new software for mobile users that will work on all kinds of handsets, and will integrate much better with existing mobile phone functionalities. Off course there are already mobile OS platforms available, Windows mobile and Symbian probably being the most important competitors. But, Android, by its open nature, will bring mobile application development into a new ball game, forcing the other platforms to open up as well.
Besides the smart things other people wrote on the subject I named 5 reasons why mass adoption is not there yet:
- There aren’t that many really useful services that really enforce mobile Internet into the lives of mobile users. Releasing an open source Mobile OS platform is smart. It will trigger developments, not only by mobile carriers, but by people that understand the mobile being your remote control to life. People that will develop user centric services on your mobile.
- Mobile devices don’t deliver technically yet what is needed. The main question is always, can a non-tech family member or friend start up your phone and connect it to the Internet. Without you helping out? I think not. But the open source character of the Android platform will force developers to concentrate on UI and user value! It is the only way to differentiate themselves from competitors.
- The mobile Internet interface is not nearly as flexible, intuitive and usable as the Internet browser and a mouse is on a PC. This is a difficult barrier to take. It not only involves clever UI design and new paradigms to let your mobile phone become the remote control of applications, but there is also a hardware component involved. Phone manufacturers will need to develop better phones with faster CPUs, increased graphics performance, touch screens and new interface paradigms to compensate for the fact that this remote control is rather small when you try to use it in life.
- The cost is high for a large adoption in the market. You need high end (expensive) handsets like the Nokia N95 or Apple iPhone and transferring data is still pretty expensive.This is an issue that can’t really be solved by the Android OS. We need high end hardware terminals and fast Internet access to make the mobile Internet experience useful to the user. But the mobile terminal manufacturers and mobile carriers need to reconsider pricing of the goodies. Especially data rates are an issue. If I am being punished with high bills for connecting and transerring data between my mobile and the Internet, then I won’t be using it very often.
- There might be a psychological barrier for users to download new applications onto their mobile phone. It is your most personal device and you won’t put any software on it unless the source is trusted. Trust is an issue. People download ringtones, wallpapers and games to their mobile phones. But will they download social applications which tentacle their way into their address books, pictures, video’s as easily? Tech people will. Business people will, but will the man on the street do it as well? Only if the source is trusted and privacy is a key element in development.
Having said all this, let me state my 5 wishes for functionalities that would really help me as a mobile user:
- I want to be able to save, reply to and forward voice messages. Sometimes you get a personal message that is important to you. But the message can’t be saved, replied to, or forwarded, and the mobile carrier deletes it after a few days.
- I want to be able to sent pictures and video messages to my friends phones as well as to the Internet. While applications like Shozu take care of the Internet part. It seems impossible to send a taken picture to a friend, regardless of the handset he uses. Not only does it not arrive half of the time, but I also need to think abut the protocol I use to send it, or look in different inboxes when it arrives. And make sure it is so simple to do that anyone non TECH can actually use it without understanding anything about protocols, message formats, Internet connection parameters, installation etc. An application I will be looking into is Radar. Seems very nice for mobile image and conversation sharing, so I’ll give it a go.
- I want a integrated graphics enabled inbox for all messages, regardless if they are SMS, MMS or e-mail. Who cares about the different types, the distinction is purely technical. I get all these ugly text based headlines when someone sends me a picture. Show me the thumbnail of the picture and text together so I know what it is about before I actually open the message.
- I would like much better group features allowing me to call, SMS, send voice messages, pictures, video, or microblog with my friends in the mobile space and Internet space. So if I’m on-line the messages go on-line, and if I’m on the move they go to my mobile. But I hate it the way Twitter clutters my SMS inbox. Having me to look at each message separately and deleting them after I read them. Too much work, and each beep when a new message arrives is annoying (yes I can turn of sound, but that is not the point). We need live feeds, allowing me to follow the flow and only act upon it if I want to.
- I would like someone to start implementing the best possible distribution platform for downloading cool new applications. How am I supposed to know what software is available for me? I only found out about Shozu after another tech blogger pointed me to it, but my mom will never find it?
I could go on for quite a while, haven’t even said anything about location based services, streaming video, music, applications that have nothing to do with the phone itself (like identification, buying , selling, maps, etc). I am really curious about mobile developments. They can have a huge impact if executed the right way. Who is going to add value to my remote control of life?