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Old 16th April, 2012, 10:59 AM
Aedan Aedan is offline
Chief Systems Administrator
Join Date: September 2001
Location: Europe
Posts: 13,075

Coming up now for nearly 2 years of using Android phones and tables in various incarnations (1.6 through to 3.x), I've found myself getting more and more frustrated with the general half-finishedness of it. Whilst Android in terms the underlying API might be good for developers, I've encountered far too many devices that curl up and crash on me. Anyone who's been bitten by the Android "I'm stuck halfway between online and flight mode" bug will understand the frustration of having to factory wipe a device to get it back working again! (This is the bug where the device can't get itself out of flight mode, and hence can't use the cellular network for calls/data, but can use WiFi and Bluetooth).

I've also seen far too many crashes in drivers for me to be comfortable with what manufacturers do to build their Android phones. I don't need to be messing with a device that decides that it doesn't like a WiFi access point just because the access point has the "wrong" chipset in it - I've been bitten by that one more than once.

I'm also very cautious of rooting or jailbreaking. I know from first hand experience that rooting/jailbreaking completely destroys the sandboxing on a device, pretty much removing any security features that might otherwise offer protection from malicious or badly written apps. One of my experiences included writing code for Android phones (and tablets!) to extract confidential data from a supposedly "secure" and "encrypted" business email client. Confidential data in this case included extracting all attachments from emails, as well as the encryption key used to encrypt email. The upshot was the the "secure" email client couldn't keep email secure because the OS couldn't protect it once I had root.

For Android, the fact that manufacturers aren't able or willing to patch their firmware means that most Android phones have kernel vulnerabilities that allows malware to root the device without needing the user to perform any actions. Once code has root access, it's really game over for any security - see my comment about about the email client!

One of the things that a number of people often push about Android phones is that they can tweak and play with their phone, including the innards of the OS. I'm sorry, but I really don't want to have to keep sorting out my phone as I might a computer I use for testing or playing. I need my phone to be reasonably reliable. After all, I have the device primarily so that people can contact me via various means - undermining that seems to be counterproductive. Of course, that assumes that the manufacturer of the phone was able to build the thing to be stable in the first place!

So, what do I like at the moment? (Disclaimer, I work for BlackBerry, so I will be biased here, but nothing I'm putting here reveals anything of BlackBerry's plans or speaks for BlackBerry as my employers) Well, actually, I'm quite liking what I'm hearing about the BlackBerry devices that are coming up. The older devices, I was never too keen on, like many people I suspect. Move to the newer devices, and I think that BlackBerry have learnt a lesson or two even in the transition from OS6 to OS7.

I'm favouring a physical keyboard, so something like the BlackBery Bold 9900 makes for a good match on the keyboard front for me. I've used many virtual keyboards and being honest, they suck for any significant entry of text. A physical keyboard is much better in my opinion. I know that I may be in the minority, but I've been using virtual keyboards in one form or another for some time now (~9 years), and they're not better (Yes, I have tried alternative keyboards like Swype etc). Sorry, but that's how it is in my book. Virtual keyboard = limited input ability.

I also like what I've seen of the BlackBerry PlayBook, especially since the update of the OS. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the web browser the PlayBook uses is WebKit, which is pretty ubiquitous on mobile devices these days. It does mean the PlayBook is using the same web browser as Apple and Google, but unlike Apple, there is a Flash player, which means a number of websites I use work as intended. Flash isn't dead yet folks. The browser also has good support for HTML5, although HTML5 seems to be a bit in flux as people figure it out at the moment. I also like the fact that I can have all my messaging in one place - I don't have to use different apps to pick up on email, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn messages, as they're all in one inbox. There's a lot more to like about it too - for example the fact that the gestures used for the OS all start from offscreen means you've already got a clear context as to if the gesture you're using is for the app or for the OS. The virtual keyboard is fine as virtual keyboards go, but you already know I dislike any virtual keyboard for entry. Pairing it up with a Bluetooth keyboard works well, and pairing it up with a Bluetooth mouse gives me a mouse pointer.

I'm hoping that the BB10 platform (BlackBerry's new OS) which looks like it'll be based on the same code as Playbook, will bring all the same goodness to BlackBerry's new devices. I see no reason why that won't be the case, and it means I'm looking forward to replacing my current Android phone with something running BB10.
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