By Ariel Aberg-Riger
I love Google. Like, a lot. I use Google Reader. And Gmail. And Google Docs. And Google Calendar. And Google Analytics. I happily let Google see everything I do. I eagerly await the day Google search can be fused to my brain.
So, when I first heard the rumors about Google’s mobile operating system Android last year, I got excited. And when I heard that they were partnering with T-Mobile, the service provider to whom I owe years of indentured servitude, I got really excited. I imagined what a great workhorse it would be. Not as sexy as the iPhone, but solid. Functional. Ugly hot. OPEN SOURCE.
Last month, I followed the live blog of the press conference and immediately spent the rest of the afternoon refreshing the G1 Web site until I could pre-order.
Last week, it came.
I wish I could say the phone was perfect, but the reviews have been fairly spot on: it’s not quite there yet. Google integration for their most popular services is seamless. My Gmail and GCal are gorgeous, Google Reader is amazing, and the Google search is just as fast and precise as on my laptop. Google maps are the biggest disappointment, since my phone can never figure out precisely where I am (350 feet may not mean much elsewhere, but a block off in New York is crucial). The keypad is great (even if the little banana ending gets in the way), and the phone quality is fabulous (even though my battery runs out in a hot millisecond). Also, the phone isn’t nearly as ugly as I expected it to be (although it’s obviously not as beautiful as the iPhone).
The most exciting part is what happens next. The app offering is still paltry at this point, but growing. For now, one of my favorite party trick apps is the barcode scanner. Hold the phone over a barcode and in a few seconds you get a picture of the product, user reviews, best online prices with links to buy, and local stores with directions on how to get there. It works less well with random items (it told me my US Weekly was a pair of Ralph Lauren boxer shorts, and that my Aquafina was Fuse water), but with books it’s a thing of beauty.
Which made me wonder why Google didn’t bother optimizing Google Books for Android. On the phone, you just float around the page as you would online, only tinier. I’ve never actually been a big fan of Google Books (I’ve always found it much easier to search Amazon), but in envisioning future iterations of the phone, I imagine there will be more seamless integration between the mobile platform and GBooks as both continue to improve. And now that Google is allowed to host far greater portions of books online with a higher revenue share (some 63% for copyright holders) after it ponied up $125 million in its settlement with publishers, what’s to stop them from becoming an “iTunes for Books,” as one recent headline proclaimed?
I will never, ever buy a dedicated e-reader (a tirade for a different day), but I could imagine myself downloading books straight to my phone. And therein lies the future.