10 reasons to switch to Android

With so much talk on our pages, as well as with tech news in the papers and the Web, it's quite impressive to think that Android has only been around for 16 months or so. In that time we've seen the software updated thrice, the launch of at least 10 different Google OS-toting mobile phones - depending upon where in the world you are - all sorts of other tablet and reader devices on the platform and a host of gadgets running it yet to come.

Yes, the iPhone may be the smartphone of choice at the moment, but Android is unmistakably on the march. So is it time you made the switch from a feature phone, from Symbian, from BlackBerry, Windows Mobile or even the Apple handset itself? Here's 10 reasons why it may be the OS for you.

1) Total Google Integration

Like it or not, Google very nearly owns the Internet and, short of laws meddling with the company's plans, that grasp will be larger and further reaching than ever in years to come. So, you can either fight the irresistible force or give in to its power as many people have done with gmail, google docs, google calendars, maps, maps for navigation and all the other cloud jazz the big G now offers. If you're happy to succumb or a goner already, then you may as well have the mobile tool that knits them all together, and that's a smartphone with Android.

We'll save the in-depth details for another time, but suffice to say that the interfacing on your handset with the rest of your Google-loving web life is a treat to which no other mobile operating system can or will ever likely come close to. If this speaks to you, then don't even read the other nine reasons. Just switch now.

2) The Best App Store in town

That got your attention. While the Apple-ites are busy scraping themselves off the ceiling, here's why the Android Market beats the App Store hands down.

There may be five times the number of applications for the iPhone, but Android is catching and catching fast. That difference has halved over the last year as developers have caught onto the idea of the Google mobile OS, and you could also argue that all of the important apps are present in both stores and that the excess of those on iTunes is simply more dross to sift through.

The other major issue is that the guidelines on what's kosher and what isn't is a hell of a lot more stringent on the iPhone's store. There's all sorts of apps that have famously never been accepted by Jobs Inc. as well as those thrown off because of lewd or distasteful content - boobs being the latest casualty. All that said, the App Store is still really the leader in the field, but the point is that wanting apps is an equally valid reason to choose an Android device these days.

3) Choice of Networks

Until recently, there's been an awful lot of handset exclusivity, but one of the good things about Android is that you can pick a handset running it on just about any network out there. Certainly all the big ones in the UK and the States are covered and, on top of that, it's both easy, cheap and often better value to go and buy a SIM-free Android phone and then a SIM-only package with the mobile service provider of your choice. Essentially, you can have it any way you choose without losing out.

4) Low cost options

You don't have to have a super-smartphone to be able to give Android a go. There are entry level options which the iPhone OS doesn't offer. Naturally, the Pixi, the Pearl and assorted low-end S60 devices are out there to try as well, but the nice thing with Android is that you can still pick up phones like the Magic and the Hero at very reasonable prices these days, while still getting a top end handset experience. It also happens to be cheaper when you want to buy the biggest phones of the moment too.

5) It's an open OS

Granted, it may not be open in quite the same way as Linux is open, but there's much more flexibility in what you do and how you do it on Android, than there is on other platforms. Well, let's face it; we're talking about the iPhone again here. Android doesn't lock you into an ecosystem in quite the same way.

One basic example is that you're not forced into iTunes for your music if you'd rather not be. iTunes is a very reasonable piece of music software, but keep using the Apple handset and you might well find a reason to feel the masonry of that famous walled garden closing in around you. Not something you have to cope with on Android

6) Multitasking

Again, there is a certain handset out there which you may either already be using or might be thinking of purchasing that doesn't allow you to multitask - rather annoying if you wish to use your mobile phone as the mini computer that it truly is these days. Mercifully, the Android platform positively encourages the act with its little drop down menu window available on every screen.

The advantage of not allowing this is that the iPhone will probably run a little smoother and safer, but it's not a trade off that most people are happy with. Talk to iPhone users and multitasking would be at the top of most wish lists for iPhone 4.0 OS.

7) The Cloud

Talking about the cloud almost has a unwarranted magical, breath-drawing aura of its own, but there's some very practical advantages to Android OS syncing your life in the cloud rather than the handset itself. First, it means that you don't need a computer around to update all your data and details and second, if you happen to lose your phone, you haven't lost your life as well. Of course, the downside is that should Google do down, then you've got access to nothing, but them's the breaks in cloud computing.

8) Keyboard or no keyboard

There's an endless debate in the wilds of the intertubes as to whether it's better to have a hard QWERTY keyboard or not. Google Android is one of the few OSes that offers you that choice. So, whether you'd prefer the Milestone or the Nexus One, you can feel safe that you can get a top-end smartphone with the hardware that suits you.

9) A camera with a flash

While some smartphones left the camera as an afterthought, it seems that most Google Android handset manufacturers were good enough to offer some competitive megapixels, along with an LED flash to capture photos at night. Admittedly, no Android phone has really wowed the world with the quality of optics they've offered and you'd probably still have to hand the plaudits to some of the Nokia phones, LG phones or even the iPhone. What you can have faith with, however, is that the Google option will be able to get a properly exposed shot no matter what the lighting.

10) Not many people have them

Everyone's got an iPhone these days. If they haven't got one, then they've probably got a BlackBerry. Beyond that, you're likely to stand out from the crowd a little more.

Naturally, that leaves Symbian, Windows Mobile and, if you really want to be out there, the excellent webOS, but it also leaves Android. The good thing about Android here is that it's going to be big soon and, when it is, you'll be able to stand tall and say you were there. Yes, you were there back in the underground days of 2010 when only the technophiles knew what it was.

Conclusions

As much as we've had a dig in the ribs of the iPhone and others with this, the point is that over the last few months Android has really graduated to the mobile OS that people have been looking for. There's still plenty to clean up and get right, but it's clear now that as a platform it's going places and is worth consideration along with the superb iPhones and BlackBerrys of this world.

With Symbian rather in the doldrums at the moment, Windows Mobile in a state of transition and the only other choices, although often good, probably not quite mainstream enough for good app support, you'd be crazy not to be thinking about the Milestone, the Legend, the Nexus One and friends.

To find out more about Motorola Milestone, click here



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