Sorry, this isn’t about robots discussing Aristotle.  It’s about my approach to the Android smart phone I have.

It’s a definition of the way I see the phone, the way I choose software, the way I decide what apps to keep and which to pitch.

The Android operating system is provided by Google, and customized by various manufacturers.  You are not tied to Google, but everything flows much better if you accept that and don’t fight it. GMail, Google Search, Google Navigator, Google Calendar, Google Books, Google Docs, Google Maps – it’s their ecosystem, and their toys play well in here.

But they don’t have everything, and aren’t the best at everything.  I have several other newsreaders besides the default one.  Google’s great browser, Chrome, is not available on the phone.  And if you’re looking for games instead of utilities, don’t look towards Google.  They do some things well, other things not at all.

As far as where to get applications, there are two main places: Google’s Market, and Amazon’s Appstore.  There is some overlap between them, and they don’t cover the whole universe of available apps – but they cover between 95 and 98% of it.  Of course, if the only thing you want lives in that 2 to 5 percent, the app stores don’t really matter.

I am a big believer in free.  Free apps are a breath of fresh wind.  The ones that are ad-supported sometimes blow in some stinky air.  If you root your phone (change the operating system to let unauthorized changes to be made), you can intercept calls to the ad sites.  I would consider doing it, partly for the ad-blocking, partly because it would be beneficial to get rid of some Verizon-installed apps that I will never use (a tennis game that somebody had to pay to be included?  No, thanks.).  Unfortunately, the latest Verizon update removed the rooting ability of the current set of software.  It’s a race, rooters against the phone company, and the consumers are the winners.  If my phone is rootable, good for me.  If Verizon patches the phone so those back-doors are no longer available, good for me.  Not everybody who uses a backdoor way of getting into your phone is a helpful person.

Even though I like free, I have purchased some applications.  Prices for some apps are 99 cents, and very few are over 4 or 5 bucks.  I will be covering the ones I have paid for, but I will tend to focus on free.

Finally, I have a single platform, my own HTC Thunderbolt, with service from Verizon.  I have Android 2.2 on this phone now.  Google likes to name their releases after sweets, and version 2.2 is also known as Froyo (frozen yogurt).  That’s what I have, and that’s what I’ll have until Verizon decides to upgrade the phone.  I can’t tell you if a specific program will run on your 1.6 flavor of an Android phone, or if a game will scale smoothly up to your 3.0-based tablet.  I have no way of knowing, and I can’t do everything.

I will try to guide you towards good games, utilities, and best practices.  Part of the joy of owning an Android device is that you are deliberately walking off the trail, blazing your own way in the woods.  Yes, you’re doing it with hundreds of thousands of other people, but you aren’t stuck on the sidewalk saying “Oooooh, look over there, that’s nature!” (like the Apple people are).

Choosing an Android phone is an act of individualism.  Deciding on what apps to install makes it uniquely yours.  I’m not sure if it’s as strong as when a browser can be uniquely identified, but there can be disadvantages to being unique and individualistic.  To me, the benefits far outweigh the potential pitfalls.

Now that the table is set, it will be time for us to begin eating!

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