60 days in WebOS land an Android users perspective

first_imgWhen I first began this experiment, my Twitter feed exploded from WebOS users imploring me not to judge the OS on the extremely limited hardware that I was using. The Palm Pre Plus is certainly not a new phone after all, and I knew that going into this. Still, the G1 certainly wasn’t a fast phone by any stretch, so I should be able to compare my experiences and move on from there. I find the fact that Palm/HP isn’t moving into the “how big can we make this screen, anyway?” market refreshing. The display on every WebOS device I have used so far has been pleasant in both the sun and indoors. While it’s not the biggest screen out there, text and images still display nicely and it’s just plan nice for a phone to disappear in my pocket from time to time.My Pre came with a Touchstone wireless charger, which I really must say completes the experience with the convenience of just dropping it on the stand to charge instead of hunting for a cord. The keyboard on this Pre was kind of hit or miss. Sometimes it would double-strike and sometimes it would just not recognize the press. This became a problem when entering passwords, and since there is no virtual keyboard you’re essentially stuck. Now, I have seen the newer Pre 2 and Veer, and I know that the keyboard have improved quite a bit, so I won’t hold that against them.The WebOS user experience is refreshing. I was plenty frustrated my first week every time I went for a menu button or to hold the home key to switch apps. I think the gesture controls of WebOS are amazing, and I hope HP continues to grow that feature from its current limitations. When you have more than three cards open, its more work using gesture controls to get to them then it is to switch applications in iOS or Android. That said, I found myself continually impressed with how well my “old slow Pre” switched elegantly from app to app, and even allowed me to close apps under load with ease.For a Google Addict, WebOS has you covered as well as they can I think. From the first time you login you’re given rapid access to Gmail, Google Talk, and the Google Calendar. The WebOS HTML5 support is so good that even the Google Voice website was really easy to use, and the card system allowed me to keep the website open as though it were an app. Unfortunately, the email client doesn’t thread emails like Gmail does, the Google Talk implementation doesn’t sync with your computer. These features remain pretty exclusive to Android, but are really only important for power users I think. All of the major apps that people use today are available for WebOS. Movies by Flixster, Facebook, Twitter clients, and more were all just as nice to use here as anywhere else. It may take a little getting used to, but if Developers continue to support WebOS it would really be quite simple for an Android user to make the change.The hacker/modder community for Android is the definition of fragmented. Team this is at war with Team that. Team so and so stole code from Team those guys and didn’t give credit. Collaboration is almost non-existent and the result is sheer chaos. If you’re not a “techie”, you shouldn’t bother rooting your phone or trying your hand at modding your Android phone. For all of their chaos, however, some really great things have come out of that community. The WebOS modder community is much smaller, and yet I feel like they’ve accomplished more in many aspects.  For starters, they are organized in a near militant fashion. Instead of half a dozen different forums with information and developer scattered about, there’s an app you download to your phone. The app is a step by step manual for downloading and using the tools necessary to start playing with your phone. Within minutes I was cruising an alternative market with apps that were either not vetted for the regular store or developer friendly tools and themes for the phone.This alternative market tapped a nerdy side of me as well because it functioned much like a Linux repository would function, and there was a desktop-side client for installing apps if you were sitting at your computer. The PreWare Homebrew store is just the tip of a very impressive iceberg. Battery management tools, processor clock management, modified kernels, and so much more are available. The Pre Plus was not included in the last update to the latest version of WebOS, but the hombrew guys fixed that quickly, and paired with a clock speed bump it runs really well.  It’s true that there are far fewer WebOS devices, but when you compare just the size of the communities and the quality of the work being generated by these developers, the decrease in signal to noise in the WebOS world shows a clear desire to keep the platform alive.From my conversations with the die hard WebOS fan groups, the belief is that all the platform needs is competitive hardware in order to spring to life. Faster processors, more ram, and a better keyboard will cause people to flock to the OS in their opinion. Well, the first step on that road, being the HP Touchpad, has already come out. Following that, there’s not a whole lot known about the Pre 3 other than it is to be the flagship of the first of the entirely HP owned and manufactured devices. If the tiny but powerful Veer and the absolutely rabid yet organised fan community is any indication of the direction WebOS is heading, the OS could make a rapid recovery under HP’s stewardship.As for me? I’ll be heading back to Android for now, but of all the mobile OS’ out there right now, I think that if the circumstances are right and growth happens quickly, WebOS could definitely be my new home when the Pre 3 comes out. In the mean time, I’ll be putting my hands on a TouchPad soon to compare it to the scattered and messy world of Honeycomb Android. I had resigned myself to be an Android user the day the G1 was announced. I stared at my LG enV 3 with disgust, both at the limitations of my phone and at my carrier. I would spend hours converting music and movies so I could enjoy my phone, and still was really just not feeling it. The G1 represented the entertainment value of a portable media player, the productivity of a smartphone, and the advantages of open source. Since then I’ve used or owned just about every flavor of Android out there, across over 30 devices, and with the exception of the occasional fling with a friends iPhone I had been a loyal Android user. It fit my use case, and I was already deeply inserted into many of Google’s other products.AdChoices广告About six months ago, however, I began to wonder about how the other mobile products had grown. When the HTC HD7 crossed my path a little while ago, I decided to abandon my Nexus S and live among the Windows Phone folks for awhile. The experience was fun, but I eventually went back to my Nexus S. About a month later, I was presented with the opportunity to repeat the experiment, only this time with a Palm Pre Plus. With the HP Touchpad on its way, I wanted to get a feel for how WebOS worked, explore the differences, and take a look into the community that was still loyal to WebOS.last_img read more