My trusted Nokia E71 sort of gave up on me about a month ago, which is never a great thing to happen while you are on the road. Since I was already on the lookout for a decent Android phone, I gave into the lure of extreme gadget lust and went for the latest Samsung Galaxy S GTi9000.
I was very skeptical about getting a touchscreen phone. I like buttons that I can feel and don't quite like the idea of tapping on a sheet of glass to type. It is just not my thing. A month on, I have grown used to typing on it. Swype has helped matters considerably, but the entire flick, pinch, tap routine is still a bit alien to me.
Android by itself is a major paradigm change for me. I am used to phones that do a few smart bits. Even though the E71 is a massive improvement on the earlier phones (you can watch videos, browse most parts of the net, use a Twitter client etc), Android is a world apart compared to that.
The first major change that stares you in the face is that being online and consuming data is not an add-on, but something that is at the core of the whole experience. Of course, it is very much possible to use Android without a data connection, but it is only less than half of what it is capable of when you don't use data on it.
The phone runs Eclair, which is Android 2.1, with update1 on it. The experience has been largely OK and feels more or less complete and consistent, but there is still room for a massive amount of improvement. And I am saying that without having used an iPhone in a while and I have not owned one either, ever.
The weakest point I feel in the whole Android game is not fragmentation. Apple has altered perceptions on this front a bit too far from reality. You can't control the entire ecosystem if you want massive scale. The “i” ecosystem is not about massive scale, it is a high margin play. Android is a different pony from that. So, if you are looking for the Apple experience on the Android, you are out of luck. If you are willing to put up with a few niggles here and there and a largely polished outcome, Android will do fine for you.
That said, the Android Market is one of the weakest links in the Android chain. It feels and works like having been designed and conceptualized by a 2-year-old. It really needs to be done better and I am surprised that Google has allowed it to languish like this. There is very much a lovely market opportunity for someone to start a “certified by xyz” marketplace, where every app is tested and rated. I would gladly pay for something like that and as Android takes on more market share, I can imagine a lot of others too would like that.
What I don't often understand are the constant flamewars between the Apple and Android fanatics. Both are phones/platforms that work well and have their respective strengths and weaknesses. The passion with which each of the groups go at each other really baffles me.