Google IO: Android 2.2 Froyo Thoughts

Android has really been picking up steam recently and I have to say I didn’t expect it to start challenging Apple so soon. Yes, it has been 18 months, but that isn’t really that long when you’re faced with a monumental task of creating a brand new mobile operating system from scratch. Not only that, but trying to get a foothold in the marketplace with many established companies already creating impressive stuff of their own. Finally, they had to forge relationships with as many device manufacturers and mobile carriers as possible all over the world.

The stats that Google had to present at Google IO were very impressive. 100,000 new phone activations per day is a huge number. They are also now lead in US mobile browser usage, beating out the iPhone. Of course Apple only sell one phone and google have many partners making android handsets, but even so, this is impressive.

Another reason why this is impressive is because until recently, and to some extent even now, Android in my opinion is more of a geeky and less mainstream OS than the iPhone, and far less polished in terms of performance or intuitiveness. Maybe I’m just out of the loop and this is old news, but it appears that Froyo is taking further big steps in improving these areas. iPhone and Apple in general always seem to do the little things exceptionally well, and this is an area Google need to work on. The integration with iTunes is a huge selling point. The way everything syncs, including contacts and calendars with the desktop versions of those apps is so seamless. No other mobile company can match it, or at least until now potentially.

I use Google for a lot of things. If they can integrate their services such as contacts and mail to an extent where it is smooth enough to compare well with Apple’s syncing solution, then maybe Android can equal Apple in that department. In that vein, Google announced a multitude of changes intended to bring them right up to par with the iPhone OS. They’ve improved the browser considerably, even claiming that it is now the fastest mobile browser. I’m not sure I believe that but if it’s true then it’s fantastic for them. Other improvements include updating of apps on the device itself including auto-updating as well as a new desktop browser store which can instigate downloads over-the-air which is a nice feature.

There are many other smaller but significant improvements. These include better enterprise features, the ability to install apps on an SD card and a number of new APIs including a new advanced push notification system which takes Apple’s interpretation a step further with notifications that can automatically open apps and perform tasks on their own.

Overall, Android is very much on the up and Apple should be very wary of their threat. Google are not to be underestimated. They have an unorthodox business model but it seems to work well for them and Android seems to be very close to the level of Apple’s iPhone OS. I think it’s going to take them another 6 months to a year to catch up fully if they can at all, but with the market penetration they now have, the developers are going to be coming thick and fast in support.