Global Constant
Steve Nay's ramblings

On second thoughts...I'm glad I stayed with webOS

I posted quite a while ago about how I was switching to Android from webOS. I never actually did, and I’m very glad of it.

That was right around the time that the HTC Droid Incredible was getting all the hype in the Android world. It was the studly new favorite kid on the block: its specs were amazing (at the time) and it was on Verizon (which I have with my Palm Pre Plus).

As is the way with Android, the Incredible has since been eclipsed by the Droid X (also on Verizon). And I’m sure that in another month or two (or perhaps a week or two) there will be another amazing device to take it’s place.

Android devices are at the cutting edge as far as hardware goes. That’s great if you happen to have the newest device. But it also means that you’re almost guaranteed to be outperformed by the next device in a couple months. And don’t even get started on which devices are stuck with Android 1.6 or 2.1 and which ones won’t even be able to run Android 3. It’s a mighty competitive and fragmented world.

As far as hardware goes, then, the iPhone 4 is putting up some good competition. It’s a great device. The poor Palm Pre and Pixi can’t even compete any more with iPhone or Android.

But the reason I’m glad I stuck with my Pre isn’t the hardware. It’s the OS.

Take a look at PreCentral’s post today, “What switchers miss from webOS.” Seven of the nine points describe things about webOS that are superior to Android–they have nothing to do with the hardware at all. My personal favorites are universal search, gesture-based navigation, and Synergy.

  • Universal search is super easy and really powerful: I can search my contacts and apps just by starting to type. Throw in direct links to Google, Google Maps, and Wikipedia and it's just perfect.
  • Gestures: Once I got the hang of these, they became a bit of second nature. I don't have to move my finger up to the top of the screen and tap a small "back" button. I just swipe my finger back across the bottom of the screen (where it already was anyway). It's a much more fluid system, less prone to errors.
  • Synergy: All my contacts from Gmail, LinkedIn, and Facebook are all there, linked together. And seriously, what's cooler than seeing my friend's most recent Facebook profile pic on my screen when he calls?

I recently got an iPad. Ostensibly it’ll be a tool for reading e-books and taking notes in class without having to carry around my heavy HP Pavilion laptop. At the moment it’s more of just a toy. But one thing that has really struck me (again) is how beautiful the OS is. The apps have a consistent look-and-feel and they work well together. It’s a pleasure to use, and it does warrant the adjective “magical.”

webOS is getting quite close to this. The interface is very fluid and intuitive (in several ways more so than iOS). That consistency doesn’t always transfer to all the apps I have, but they do a pretty good job on the whole.

I’ve been using a Motorola Droid at my work for some mobile apps we’re developing. While it’s a powerful device that is (sometimes) faster than my Pre, the OS just isn’t as nice to use as either webOS or iOS. It feels like Linux. It’s still rather raw, and it seems like it was built for engineers. I’m an engineer myself, so I understand that. But when I’m using a mobile device, I’m doing it to have a fluid, pleasurable experience with my media on the go, whether that’s email, Twitter, web pages, or YouTube.

My Palm Pre is still slow. It still has a small screen. It’s still plagued with GPS issues. But I’ve delved a little into the Android world and found out that the grass isn’t as green there as I had thought.

I’m content to stay the course and see what great new things are coming for webOS this year.