How do developers write apps for the scores of hardware variations that characterize the Android platform? They shoot for the broadest compatibility and that means writing for the lowest common denominator, which has led to inferior features and quality (let the fandroid vituperation begin).
GeekWire has published an interview with K.C. MacLaren, Starbucks’ director of mobile and emerging platforms, and he has few kind words for Google’s Android development tools or the ecosystem they’re designed to serve.
You mentioned … that Android is a ‘watered down’ experience. What did you mean by that?
MacLaren: “In a broad sense, in terms of some of the fragmentation in Android, with multiple resolutions, multiple screen sizes, different capabilities of different platforms that run Android, some users may find that they have to produce a watered down experience. They can’t deliver a consistent one. If they are using a lot of native device elements — like the accelerometer and the camera and gyroscope and all of the different pieces of the hardware — those are handled very differently on different devices. So, if you needed that, you might not be able to deliver that in a great way… [Also] their SDK — in terms of development environment — is really now maturing. They are about a year behind where Apple is, but they are catching up.”
Thereupon, MacLaren says his company is working on extending mobile payments via the iPhone, something that’s been available in limited release since January. However, Starbucks doesn’t yet offer an Android app and, as you might imagine, all of those hardware and interface iterations could play havoc with a payment system.
Interestingly, MacLaren is more optimistic about rolling the company’s iPhone app overseas than pushing out an Android version here in the U.S. Additionally, Starbucks has no immediate plans to roll an iPad app, though one imagines that’s merely a matter of choosing to and then porting it up to the larger form factor.
Are we there yet?
I keep going to the local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile stores hoping to be seriously impressed by an Android device and it just hasn’t happened. There’s nice hardware to be had and I like the devices per se, but not love like I do the iPhone and iPad.
Apparently, I’m not alone in this view. Moreover, given that Google and its partners still lag iPhone development by at least a year, this state of affairs won’t be changing anytime soon…
What’s your take?