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Android and Intents
I’ve been an iPhone user since 3G (I stuck with Blackberry through the metal-backed one). Generally I’d say I’m pretty happy and impressed by both the hardware and software. However, as someone who a) is fascinated by technology and b) runs a software company, I thought it was important that I got to know Android a lot better.
So a few weeks ago I started my concerted effort for an Android education. It started with a Moto X I was given to test, which I liked a lot, but since I couldn’t switch out my sim card I couldn’t really get to know properly. I started to try and use it around the house as a tablet replacement, however, and I really liked it. Of course it wasn’t made for that, though, so I went out and bought the Nexus 7, which I thought would give me exactly what I needed to get to know the OS (at least from a tablet perspective).
Overall I’ve been very impressed, but the point of this isn’t to do a review of iOS versus Android (specifically 4.3 Jelly Bean). That seems useful to do at some point, but for now I want to talk about “intents”. This is the function that allows one application to pass you to another for a specific action. The place you see this most is in the share intent, which allows you to hit share in any application and have access to all the other apps you have installed that you might want to share that piece of content on.
This, for me, makes Android feel a lot more social than iOS, which requires each application to hard-code in their sharing functionality (except for the Facebook and Twitter integrations which happen at the app level). This is awesome both from a user experience standpoint (I don’t have to copy and paste anything) as well as a developer standpoint (if you’re building apps you don’t have to make decisions on which platforms to put in/leave out and you can easily register your app as a share service and make it available inside other apps). The Android developer blog has a bunch more advantages to this approach, including:
Forward Compatible with new services — If some swanky new service springs up out of nowhere with an Android Application, as long as that application knows how to receive the share intent, you already support it. You don’t spend time in meetings discussing whether or not to wedge support for the new service into your impending Next Release(tm), you don’t burn engineering resources on implementing support as fast as possible, you don’t even upload a new version of anything to Android Market. Above all, you don’t do any of that again next week, when another new service launches and the whole process threatens to repeat itself. You just hang back and let your users download an application that makes yours even more useful.
Anyway, my point here was really just to highlight a little bit of functionality in Android that totally changes the experience and makes it feel, at least to me, like a more social OS.