Mobile platform comments

I’ve recently downloaded the Palm WebOS SDK, the iPhone SDK, and the Android SDK and have been playing with developing for them. I doubt I’ll ever do anything serious, so it’s not a critical issue for purchasing a tablet.

Having written some play apps for all three I have the following observations, which are entirely my opinions, backed up with 30 years of professional programming.

Palm WebOS
I’d say that this operating system is in many ways the slickest and easiest to develop for. The Palm Pre emulator is pretty nice too. Conceptually, this is the most clean and clear operating system.

But they don’t make a tablet, and given that this is Palm, why isn’t the calendar better? In week view it doesn’t show you the names of the events, just their color and when and how long.

Of course, it’s been some years since I owned a Palm PDA and maybe I’m misremembering the built-in calendar app. I always used DateBook from Pimlico software.

I’m not a big fan of JavaScript as a development language, though.

But hey, you could probably develop for WebOS in DreamWeaver!

Google Android
This is the clunkiest operating system of the three in my opinion. Or maybe it’s just the emulator. But it’s pretty easy to develop for. It’s actually quite fun to develop for Android. And it’s not hard to use, just a bit unpolished with its look and feel.

Android has the most options in the tablet market, and that’s partly what I’m interested in, so I’m giving it a very close look.

Its calendar is excellent, especially if you wanted to sync with Google Calendars, which I’m not averse to doing. The only problem with the built-in apps is that having adding a website to a contact in their Contacts app, it doesn’t take you to the browser and open that page when you click on the website on the contact screen. This should be easy to fix, but given that this is Google, it’s rather a glaring deficiency.

I usually program in Java, so having Java as the default programming language for Android is nice for me. They don’t use the usual virtual machine and they use some different APIs for creating the look and feel, but they’re not hard to learn to use and I understand their reasons for doing what they did in most cases.

Android has been the most fun to work with.

Apple iPhone OS
Okay, I already have an iPhone. I’ve looked at the iPad. This is the mobile operating system where all the design went. All the built-in apps work together seamlessly. And it looks great! And the emulator is decent, though not zippy.

The only complaint I’ve had after using an iPhone for a year and a half is that you can’t set calendar events at arbitrary times, and you can’t set alarms at arbitrary times. And having an alarm at the time in iCal doesn’t sync correctly to the iPhone. They have their set of times and intervals and you will use them.

On the other hand, it hasn’t been a show stopper, and if I want an alarm at a specific time, there’s the Clock application, which serves the need.

Memo functions on the iPhone are very weak and have not gotten a lot better, although you can now sync in a lame fashion to your desktop. I use the SyncBook app to handle that. I tried EverNote, but got frustrated. I tried FliqNotes but got even more frustrated.

And why does Apple charge $100 for their SDK if you want to distribute your app? Just to keep out riffraff? I’m tempted to ask if anyone in the computer world’s head is as big as Steve Jobs’s and then I remember Larry Ellison.

Anyway, the biggest obstacle to me developing for the iPhone OS is Objective C. I despise the language. It’s C with SmallTalk grafted onto it. It’s a stylistically bastardized language.

I will force myself to port my Hexaflexagon flexing app to the iPhone and we’ll see what I think after that.

Common comments:

Why don’t the people that make the emulators include buttons to simulate accelerometer functions, such as shaking and turning the device on its side? Only the Apple people seem to have that, at least on the Mac. That would be very useful. Also, they should all have a way to supply a fake GPS location.

Anyway, that’s my set of observations and opinions.

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