Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoughts on the Summer of Android

For me, the summer of Android, when I really discovered Google's mobile operating system, started at Google I/O:

  • Froyo, the new Android version was launched.
  • We were given the additional conference gift of the Sprint EVO 4G, then arguably the most advanced Android phone available.

Like Saul on the road from Tarsus to Damascus, my eyes were opened within a day of possessing the EVO. Since, I've purchased the Droid x for myself (an upgrade from my original Droid) and have been following all telephony, not just mobile, closely. The summer has seen a tidal wave of telephony developments from Google and its partners.

Here are my summary observations about where we stand today, the weekend before summer informally ends:

  • The ability to make calls from Gmail when combined with Google Voice is simply game changing. Suddenly, I have the best, free telephone routing system (Google Voice) liberated from the need for a physical device. At this juncture, I don't need separate POTS (plain old telephone service), and I only really need mobile for when I'm out of contact with a land-based network.
  • It's easy to see the day when everyone in the phone business will just be a data network provider. Coverage and speed for price will be the defining characteristics.
  • Since I now view mobile connectivity as a supplement to and not a substitute for land connectivity, I'm most concerned with net neutrality for land-based networks and trunk lines. That's where most connectivity is playing out for me now. It turns out mobile is a specific use case where I want to access specific things. In other words, I can see how prioritization might make sense in the mobile scenario.
  • The biggest value in my mobile phone is my ability to connect back to "web-based" services that add context to my current situation, for instance, all Google location-aware services.
  • The next biggest value in my mobile phone is the ability to connect to my "social graph" (i.e., the network people I'm connected to via some electronic service) in all of its forms. Android-facebook integration is useful in this regard, but the real ace in the hole is the contacts manager, and I think eventually, profiles. By the way, since I've had to resort to various Google Reader hacks to follow aspects of my social graph, I'll throw that in there too.
  • The third biggest value in my phone is my ability to use it to access reference information in all forms, be it electronic books or the web.

Note how making voice phone calls is not listed as a separate item. I do this infrequently and would tend to include it as part of connecting with my social graph. I should point out that this is a giant change from where I was at the time of the ATT breakup in 1984. Then, I was excited by the new plethora of voice-related communication options. Simply put, times have changed. Text has replaced voice in most applications.