Monday, December 30, 2013

Another place to land (Blackberry)

A few months ago, I saw an article saying that Samsung is working on their own OS.  That sent a small chill down my spine, mostly because I like Samsung.  Nokia released the immensely awesome N900 and then went over to the Windows Mobile dark side (though admittedly their Windows phones aren't that bad, they're just not as cool as the N900 was with it's FM transmitter, IR blaster, and Maemo).  I refused to make the jump to Android until I saw that Android had apps that would allow me to be just as productive as I was on my N900.  To be honest, I still probably jumped over too soon, but the Note 1's massive screen and stylus were called out to me. I do like the Note, and the Note 2.  The stylus is cool, though admittedly not as handy as I'd expected.  But I'm happy with Samsung devices.

But if Samsung switches to another OS?  I doubt I'll stick with them.  It mostly comes down to apps and what I know Android can do.

I have my Android workflow figured out.  I sync my work files between all my devices, meaning my phones and my laptops.  I can edit any of my files on any of my devices, and that wasn't always possible.  Did you know, for instance, that the Android text editor element that most apps used didn't allow editing of any files over something like 10,000 characters?  That means any apps that used that element had that limitation.  Some apps, like Jota (I think), NeedToWrite and also office apps like Kingsoft surpassed that limitation, but all the other apps I tested had that issue.  I don't know if the current Android version has a limit, but I think once I upgraded to 4.0 I noticed that the 10,000 character limitation was gone.  It does get laggy editing large files, but at least now it's possible.

It's taken this long for Android to finally start getting some decent, power-user apps.  I love FolderSync, which provides the full cloud sync to my phone that Google Drive and Dropbox won't.  FolderSync also allows me to upload a copy of any directory of my choosing at a automatic interval to the cloud in a time-stamped directory.  This way works best for me, because my Chromebook stops in it's tracks as soon as it's screen shuts off, and I like to leave my laptop off if I'm not using it.  The best way to make sure my files get backed up regularly is to use my only always-on device---my cell phone.

And then we have the drawing apps that Android is finally getting, particularly the vector drawing apps.  ScribMaster, which I like but some people have had issues losing work with it.  Infinite Design is fairly old, but it's only just gotten a streamlined interface.

Did you know that there is now a port---yes, a port---of Open Office on Android now?  It's called AndrOpen Office, it's huge, and it actually works.  That takes me back to the days of Maemo, where nearly any Linux App could be run on my N900, albeit with the desktop interface. 

Another thing in Android that remings me of Maemo is F-Droid.  F-Droid is an  independent app catalog that only allows free and open source software.  I get the impression reading the app descriptions that they actually scour the code looking for malicious bits when decideing whether or not to distribute it.  You never know what you're going to get.  I was looking for a new calculator app, and there are some rough ones and some really cool ones.  It reminds me so much of Maemo's app catalog, where just browsing through it expands your awareness of what your device is actually capable of.

A switch to a new OS would require a lot of vetting on my part.  Text editor capacity.  Any sync apps?  Any backup apps?  Can I root it?  Is there modding?

I think the main reason that Samsung wants it's own OS is to get a bigger piece (aka all) of the app purchase pie.  There are other reasons that manufacturers may start shying away from Android, most importantly the slow creep of Android's components from being open source to being proprietary apps.  For instance, the music player app became Google Music, the photo app is becoming integrated with whatever picture sharing service Google owns, etc.  Personally I'd rather see Samsung put their resources into something like CyanogenMod, a version of Android that's completely open source.  They can ship their phone without the Play Store app, if they like.

I heard a while ago that Blackberry had the ability to run Android apks, though when I looked it up it seemed a little complicated.  Well, now Blackberry OS version 10.2.1 is out (or maybe just in beta) and its Android runtime is reportedly way easier.  I've read a few blog posts about it, and it seems pretty cool.

I have a lot of respect for Blackberry and their hardware, and the Z30 looks really cool.  I especially respect that they're potentially letting in other app stores take a piece of their sales pie by opening themselves up to Android apps, which brings other marketplaces with it.  I imagine if they get back on top again (and I'm rooting for them) they'll cut that out, but we'll see.  I'm actually a lot less worried about Samsung coming out with their own OS now, because even if it means losing the stylus, I could happily jump over to Blackberry.

You know, there was a rumor a long time ago that Blackberry was working on a custom version of one of the Notes that would include a slide-out keyboard. I think I would probably trade in my stylus if it would get me a large screen device that had a Blackberry-style portrait slide-out keyboard.  I've gotten used to on-screen keyboards, but they're still way less convenient than physical ones.

Til then,


No comments:

Post a Comment