I always get a kick out of Android apps that would never be a approved by Apple if it was an iPhone app. There are many such apps on my Android device but two primary apps really stick out. The first is a paid app called Better Keyboard. I am pretty sure the developer of this app did not have a very large marketing budget if I am judging by the amount of creativity in its name. I mean “Better Keyboard”? They couldn’t come with a better name? On second thought, what am I complaining about? Who cares about the name? The app rocks.
One of my biggest complaints about my Android device (I am still using Android 1.5) was its text input. I don’t know whether it was the size of the keyboard, the layout, or the bundled corrective software, I just could not type even the shortest word without mistakes. It is true I am a BlackBerry user and comparing the Android virtual keyboard to a hardware QWERTY, especially the one on the Bold, is not a fair comparison. However, I do use an iPod Touch regularly and to compare the iPod and the Android keyboard is a fair game that Android lost.
It was therefore a joyous day for me when I read about Better Keyboard, and immediately turned to the market to download it. When I searched the market for the words “Better Keyboard”, I was not happy with the results. The list of apps that came up to that search were not actually apps, they were skins for the Better Keyboard app, but where was the app? Nowhere to be found. That, by the way, is my second biggest complaint about Android (now it’s my first since I got rid of the bad keyboard), the market is a mess. Apple keeps the App Store clean, neat, and relevant, but as a result of the openness of the Android market, it is all over the place, and this long list of skins was a direct result.
I then turned to Google to try and locate the developer, which I thought might help me locate the app. Did not help. All I could find was this blog, which apparently belongs to the developer, but no link to the app, no way to contact the developer, and pretty much offered no more information than I already had. Long story short, I ended up finding the app and using it. It offers a complete replacement keyboard for Android, and as you know by now, has a large number of skins to accompany it. Generally speaking, I would not use an app that is no hard to find and does not find me, but this is such an important addition to my Android device that I could not pass up on it. Maybe the developer knows that his/her product is just that good and that is why they do not bother marketing it. Just a thought.
The second app that Apple would never allow in their App Store even if it was the last app on earth is SMS Popup. This was recommended to me by a friend, and as soon as I downloaded it, I did not understand what I did before I had it. What does it do? It changes the fundamental way you access your text messages on your Android phone. The most important feature it provides is that when receiving an SMS, no matter what screen you are on, the message will pop up, allow you to read it, and even reply directly without opening the Messages app of the phone.
It is a huge time saver, and one that would not be available had it not been for the openness of the Google mobile OS. Other options supported by SMS Popup include notification customization for each contact, defining the buttons that appear on the popup, defining the way you reply thorough the popup including the signature, preset messages, and much more.
SMS Popup is a great and useful app and the developer offers it for free even though I believe most people would be willing to pay for such an app.
All in all, both Better Keybaord and SMS Popup are important apps, both because they make Android more pleasant of an experience, but even more so because they are a clear and concrete example of the difference between the Apple and Google philosophies, namely open vs. closed.
Apple did not approve Google Voice to the App Store because it changed the basic way you use the iPhone. Can you imagine Apple approving an alternate keyboard or an app that changes the way you read messages on the iPhone? I am pretty sure that would never happen. So, for that reason alone, Android gets some extra brownie points, at least in my book.
- Better Keyboard: 5/5
- SMS Popup: 5/5