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Thread: "Androids" Book Review

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    "Androids" Book Review

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    Last month Chat Haase, one of the original architects of Android, released his chronicle of the world's dominant operating system. Assembled from many hours of audio interviews with fellow engineers, it focuses on the period from Android's founding until the end of 2009 — when the original Moto Droid and HTC-manufactured Nexus One were brought to market.

    Now I myself haven't read Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, but I was keen to see if any related drama would be present in this title. And as it turns out, not so much. Those who know their smartphone history will recall that the the first Android device was immediately scrapped when Jobs announced the iPhone in January of 2007. Here's how the author recounts that existential crisis:

    When the iPhone was announced, the Android team was very much heads-down in development. The device they were working on was called Sooner, so named because they wanted it to come out sooner than the real target device for Android, the Dream (which was based on the HTC Dream hardware). Sooner had no touchscreen. Instead, it relied on a hardware keyboard for UI navigation, which was a common user experience on phones… before touchscreens became must-have features.

    The Dream device did have a touchscreen, and the Android platform was being designed to incorporate that capability. But Dream was slated to launch later while the team focused on shipping 1.0 with the Sooner device, well, sooner. Suddenly, touchscreen capability had to be prioritized and shifted from a future device to the first device. And that first device had to change accordingly.

    The Sooner was dropped and development pivoted to the Dream device (which was eventually launched in the U.S. as the T-Mobile G1). Brian Swetland remarked on the team’s pivot: “When the iPhone happened, the decision was: We’re going to skip shipping Sooner and we’re gonna ship Dream as soon as it’s ready. Because it didn’t make sense to ship a BlackBerry wedge after Steve shipped the iPhone.”
    Well, okay, then... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    If the above passage reads as somewhat anticlimatic, it was actually a welcome relief from the section prior, where — I kid you not — the book seems to turn into a programming manual for a couple of chapters. I stuck with it for as long as I could before skipping ahead.

    So is it worth reading? If you're an Android fan or simply curious about how it all came to be, I would recommend Androids mostly for the insights at the very beginning, and in the second half of the book — specifically how the team had to prioritize optimizing for the Droid when they knew the Nexus was the better product. Spoiler alert.

    Score: 3.5 Howies out of 5.

    Link: Androids: The Team That Built the Android Operating System (Amazon.ca / Amazon.com)
    My mobile memoirs — free ebook available here.
    My HoFo feedback... is that still a thing?

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    Hi, that looks really interesting thanks for sharing.

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