A couple of weeks ago I caught up with the 20th century and got my first mobile phone. I also leaped into the future because my phone is the Google Dev Phone 1 – an unbranded HTC Dream running Google’s Android operating system. There aren’t many Android phones available on the market right now, but a slew of them are due to be released later this year.
The Dev Phone phone is network unlocked and root enabled, but having one is a trade-off. I can upgrade the phone operating system outside the standard HTC Dream path to get access to new/privileged phone features (good), but on the other hand Google won’t give me access to the copy-protected apps in their Marketplace (bad).
My thoughts on the handset aren’t unusual, but here they are anyway. I love the swing-out keyboard and the look and responsiveness of the screen. But the battery life is woeful, even with WiFi, bluetooth, and GPS turned off. I’d also slightly prefer a standard 3.5mm jack instead of having to rely on USB headsets.
On the software side, I’m not ditching my Windows Mobile device yet, because there’s not yet a good free solution for automatic 2-way synchronisation between Android and the calendar and contacts in my work’s Exchange server. I can at least connect with the Exchange secure IMAP interface using the K9 email client (the core Android client doesn’t support this!). Maybe the gmail and google calendar applications are fantastic, but I wouldn’t know because I feel I should use my work’s IT infrastructure for work purposes, and I handle my private email through my own domain and mail server. One can only hope that Android will get more serious native support for business users later this year.
Finally, I should say that the HTC Dream handset is a “patriotic” handset to buy, because the Qualcomm chipset running the phone functionality runs the OK Labs version of the L4 microkernel that came out of NICTA. The phone has two chips – one for the phone functionality, and one for the rest of the OS and applications. This is despite the fact that with L4 it should be perfectly possible to instead have two (or more) isolated virtual machines running on just one chip. Apparently phones like that will be coming out late this year. Maybe they’ll have better battery life!