As much as I would like to go on about the Android platform as a whole, I will focus this article on the Motorola Droid, the phone I have. I also like this route as there are no “built in” social apps for the Droid. The only options are the apps and widgets you can download via the market pace. What I will show you, the reader, is the great social experience I gain from my Moto Droid using the apps from the market, with no MotoBlur. With the Android platform, you have some great choices. What I will cover is my experiences with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Tumblr, Brightkite, Google Buzz, Wordpress, and Where.
First off, let’s talk about MySpace. The social network that kick started the revolution. The website and the app share a lot of similarities in functionality and overall style. The app does seem to act a bit quicker than the browser version, but not by a great deal considering both gather their data from the same locations. The MySpace app has three widgets that are 1 x 4 and each does something different. However, I find them a bit useless and crowded for the information I am wanting. A single widget with all three features rolled up into a single 2 x 4 or even a 3 x 4 widget would have been great. The app itself allows you to do a decent amount of editing and you can upload images to your account easily.
Facebook put out a really good application for the Android platform, and on the Droid, it works like a dream. It sees periodic updates, which in my opinion seem to be few and far between. Perhaps that is due to a stable release? You can access your profile, pictures, wall, news/status updates, messages, and friends list easily. I admit, I like the browser’s “touch” version better, though. It has a bit more robust interface and more options. The widget is a 2 x 4 widget that shows friends updates, a status update bar, and a button to open the app. A key feature missing in the app, however, is the ability to confirm/deny friend requests. This is something still done via the browser interface. You also have issues updating your profile via both the browser and the app. The only truly best way to update your profile is from a standard PC browser.
Twitter is designed for mobile devices, so to see Twitter’s own app on the Droid is only natural. The app is wonderful, easy to use, and has every feature you would expect. This is an app that MySpace and Facebook should take notes off of and try to replicate! One thing missing, however, is the ability to quickly switch between multiple accounts. Seesmic has a great Twitter app that allows you to do this, and has an equally gorgeous design with many great features, as well. One thing that puts Twitter’s own app above the rest is that it is 100% free, no ad’s and has a great widget. The widget is a 2 x 4 widget with an update bar, a display of the most recent tweet, and the twitter button to go directly into the app. This is one app so far that is better than its browser counter part.
Jaiku is such a let down. It has the potential to be a competitor to Twitter, but it is just so dead. There is no real mobile interface, and NOT an app to speak of! In many ways, because of this, it is truly disqualified from even coming close to competing. Even by going to the website, you will see that virtually NO ONE even bothers using it. Google Buzz gets more action than Jaiku. This in itself is proof that a good app can save a social network from utter failure. Come on guys!
Tumblr is one of those niche networks that has the potential to be something really worth while, but doesn’t really seem to push itself beyond where it is. The app has just enough features to make it function as it should, but nothing really beyond that. The thing going for Tumblr is that it can display images without any outside provider. That is something Twitter should consider integrating down the road, such as buying out twitpic perhaps. I also have to admit that I had to buy the app for a buck!
Next we have Brightkite. Another microblogging social network. This one is on the lines of a mixture between Glympse and Twitter. Personally, it has potential to be something good, but it is far from great. It is a nice means of letting friends and family know your whereabouts, but for the more savvy mobile user, it is lacking a bit. The official Android app is a pretty decent app that uses your 3G and GPS to determine your location. It isn’t as spot on as Glympse, or even Twitter, but it does a decent job of it.
Google created a pretty impressive social app in the form of Google Buzz. In a standard browser, you need to use GMail to access it. Using it on your Android phone is a lot easier. The widget is a 1 x 4 widget that does a fine job of updating your Buzz status. However, there is no status reading via the widget, which limits its overall usefulness to the point that the basic icon would probably do just fine. Google Buzz ties into a lot of your other social networking accounts to display your status updates from those on your buzz, integrating it all into one. The mobile site is pretty useful, which is a LOT more than can be said for the app. The sole purpose of the app is to simply post updates.
WordPress is another social experience, blogging. Blogging has been around for at least the last ten years. It has been the one single tool that want to be journalists have relied on to get their opinions out there. In many cases, it has garnered many to be respected individuals that would have normally not been able to get the recognition for in the print media. WordPress is perhaps one of the most versatile blogging tools available, and for free. There is SO much you can do with WordPress thanks to the plethora of plug-ins and template themes. You can turn a simple WordPress blog into a full fledged social networking site with BuddyPress. As for use on your Android, there is an unofficial app simply called WordPress by Automattic, Inc. Personally, I find WordPress as the best blogging tool out of the general group of blog sites and tools. Speaking of which, LiveJournal, Blogger, and a few others have unofficial apps available for the Android platform as well, but they do not function as wonderfully as the WordPress app. One thing the app does not have is a widget of any sort. However, in this case, there really is no need for a widget.
Where is an impressive social app for your Android phone. It is also available for iPhone, Blackberry, and Palm. It gives you many details on your surroundings, such as movies, restaurants, hotels, and more. It also has Pulse integration. It is a full on social activity app that helps you decide what you want to do, and where you want to do it at. It also has the ability to allow you to rate, and view ratings from other users, on places. This actually handles a lot of different things that normally takes several other apps to accomplish. The app comes with three different widgets of varying sizes so you will have constant streams of information directly to your screen for easy access.
All in all, without MotoBlur, the Droid is a very socially adept phone with the proper applications installed. Personally, I find it better than what the MotoBlur could offer, as this method gives me a choice of what I want. It gives me the power to decide if I want to go with these apps, or go with third party variants.