As I prepare for my eTech 2011 presentation, An iPad, Kindle, and iPod
Touch walked into a classroom…, I decided that it would be
beneficial to plan on questions about Android, Android Tablets, and how
they may work in schools. The Consumer Electronics Show was held this
past week, and during it a bevy of manufacturers announced tablets, with
almost all of them running Android.
Android is an open source operating system created at Google based on
Linux. Google allows distributes this OS free of charge to be used by
manufacturers and cellular providers on mobile devices. It competes
against other mobile operating systems such as Apple’s iOS (used on the
iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), Microsoft Windows Phone 7, RIM Blackberry
OS, and HP’s WebOS.
I purchased a Motorola Droid off of eBay and received it this past week.
I’ve been playing around with it for the last couple of days, so this
isn’t so much as a review as it is my first impressions.
My smartphone history
A little history about my past and smartphones. I bought my first
smartphone, a Motorola Q around 2007 (I think. :-)). While it was my
first taste of online connectivity whereever I was, it was also my first
taste of, as the French would say, le pew. It was slow, ate batteries
like it was going out of style, ugly, and would just restart for now
reason. I moved on to a Samsung Omnia, then an HTC Ozone. The Ozone, at
the time (mid 2009) was Verizon’s most unlocked phone. It had wifi and
the GPS was useable. All in all, not a bad phone, but still running
Windows Mobile. In August I purchased a Palm Pre Plus, which was heaven
compared to the Ozone. What holds it back is not the OS (which feels
like it could be an Apple product) but the hardware and lack of apps. As
an aside, AT&T does not offer service in my area, so I’ve gotten by with
an iPod Touch (first gen represent!) I bought in 2008.
This “First Look” will try to focus on the software itself, since in the
Android universe the quality and quantity of devices would overshadow
any comments about the hardware of the Motorola Droid.
Things I like:
- The back button: Until I used WebOS I hadn’t really thought about
how useful a back gesture (or button) could be.
- Widgets: It’s nice to be able to put my calendar on a screen, or a
battery life indicator with other information about the hardware.
- The number of applications: So far I’ve been able to find an
application for everything I need. In the market place there are
also tons of clones of iOS games, but for the most part these are
inferior to their iOS counterpart. Rope Cut is not Cut the Rope for
Things I don’t like:
- Notifcation bar: To open notifications you have to click and hold on
the top bar and then drag down. Why I can’t just click on the top
bar for notifications I don’t know.
- Application switching: Unless I’m missing something, the only way to
switch apps is to either exit back to home and click on the item or
hold down the home key until the recently used applications show up.
And heaven forbid you want to return to an open browser window.
- Navigation in applications: This is not consistant. Some apps, like
imo.im (the instant messaging app I use) gives me a different menu
depending on what screen I’m on, and to navigate to a certain screen
may require several key presses and swipes through several other
Uses in Education
Until models are released that don’t require a cellular plan,
educational uses of Android are going to be limited. This year is going
to be interesting, but if you are currently researching which OS to use
in your classroom it would be hard to recommend Android until other
models are released. Android will have two big advantages over iOS
(which is going to be its biggest competitor in the upcoming year):
price and openness.
Schools rarely look at the total operating costs of equipment and
instead focus on purchase price. The Android tablets and handhelds will
be cheaper than their iOS cousins, and in some form factors will not
have competition (the 7 inch form factor such as the Nook).
Since Android is Open Source, companies can release software to
automatically manage a fleet of devices. If you’ve been involved with
iOS app purchases, it requires several hoops to jump through, and then
it can’t even automatically install the apps. This can change with
Android. Unfortunately, this will probably mean that any price savings
you received on the purchase of the devices will be eaten in the
Is it a contender?
Yes, Android is a contender in the mobile space. I believe that it is a
credible threat to the iPad/iPod Touch dominance we see in schools
today. Should you wait? No. If you are looking at implementing a mobile
device initiative then don’t wait for Android devices. From an
educational point of view there isn’t anything that can be done on one
that can’t be done on the other. The Android app store seems to be
thriving, and as more devices are sold it will only entice more
developers. Mobile devices are set to overtake personal computers any
day now :-).
What device do you use a majority of the time?