Today, I had an epiphany.
I’ve had my new HTC Desire for about two weeks. It’s a very nice Android phone, looks awesome, and for the most part it’s a delight to use. I have, however, been cursing the difficulty of text input. I’ve been using Nokia smartphones and communicators for ages, with solid and usable physical keyboards or numpads, and getting used to the touchscreen is not very easy. What made things worse is that the virtual keyboard on the Desire was not localized, and typing characters such as Ä and Ö was not very fast. (English speakers would call them ‘accented characters’ and bury them behind tricky UI maneuvers, but they are in fact very common vowels in the beautiful Finnish language.)
I had no idea what to do except try and learn to type even just a little bit, and accept the idea that this is not a very good device for text input. Oh well, I can always use the netbook if I need to write a long email or notes. It never even dawned on me to complain to fellow Android users about this, or ask for survival tips and tricks. They were probably just trying to cope and enjoying YouTube and the marvelous Web browser.
Only today, after two weeks of usage, I learned something that blew me away. Browsing the web, I stumbled upon a Finnish Android forum discussion about the relative merits of different options for Finnish typists on Android. Turns out there’s an app called ‘Scandinavian Keyboard‘, and it’s Free Software and all.
I launched the Android Market on my phone, and downloaded this new keyboard.
I downloaded a keyboard.
I also downloaded a Finnish dictionary for it, so that predictive text works both in Finnish and English (unlike before).
So then it dawned on me. The Nokia Way that I have learned since getting my first Communicator, working through all my life with Nokia devices, is the paradigm of shipping a very powerful ESeries smartphone to you that does everything out of the box that most people ever need. You only download a few special apps that geeks need like PuTTY.
The iPhone Way (and the Android way) is all about shipping a nice, lean system (and don’t forget to make it pretty!) and making everything available as apps.
And when I say “everything available as apps,” i mean everything! When I got my Desire it certainly looked good, and it paid due attention to importing my Facebook friends, but I had no SIP calling. I had no password manager. I had no system task manager (worth mentioning). The RSS reader sucked. I didn’t even have a damn task list to go with the calendar! And worst of all, no Finnish keyboard layout or dictionary.
But there sure was an app for all that.
P.S. I have no idea which way is better. I always enjoyed a new Nokia device, because it was so powerful right from day one. But the way of the Android might be a good idea as well: just try and ship a nice, lean base system and let users add their own bloat.
P.P.S. In case you’re wondering, I fixed SIP with Sipdroid, passwords with KeePassDroid (yay!), processes with Advaced Task Killer, RSS with … nothing! the iPhone version of Google Reader rocks. For a Task list I use Astrid, which has very nice Remember The Milk sync and a friendly and funny nagging feature. Feel free to suggest better/more!