Android Ecosystem — This Week in Android

Welcome to our newest Monday feature — Android Ecosystem! After a week of Google Nexus One ownership, I shared 16 things I like about the device, not to mention half as many that I don’t like. During this second week, I’ve been slowly getting used to the platform and the device. I find that I’m getting faster on the software keyboard — mainly because the native dictionary / predictive text functionality is excellent. My typing in general is improving over time. But Android devices lack the intelligent approach taken by Apple  — on the iPhone, the area around the possible next keystrokes is enlarged. You don’t notice or visually see this, but it’s helping out behind the scenes.

ThickButtons promises to do the same, although it does include visual clues. As you begin typing a word, ThickButtons begins to predict the next possible or likely letters and makes those keys larger. It looks like a nice combination of predictive text and visual help. Unfortunately, the Android version is still in development, so I’ll have to wait until it’s released before testing it. I’m also intrigued by Swype, which is just starting to land on other devices. For now, this video shows the promise of ThickButtons:

Input aside, something else I learned about Android this week has to do with auto-rotation of the display. I often get frustrated with this function on the iPhone, particularly first thing in the morning when I’m still in bed. One of my initial activities is to scan email and the web for anything important before I start my day. Often, the display is rotating back and forth between portrait and landscape because I’m half propped-up and lying on my side.

With the Nexus One, I realized this wasn’t happening. But it’s not because the auto-rotation is better — it’s simply different and can be controlled. In fact — and this may be a negative to some of you — the display only rotates if you turn the device 90-degrees to the left, as in counter-clockwise. Rotating the handset clock-wise doesn’t change the display. Surprisingly, this limitation works perfect for me since I usually sleep on my right side — the display stays in the proper orientation for my specific situation. Even if it didn’t however, I’d be OK. Under the Sound & Display Settings, I found an option to enable or disable screen rotation with the accelerometer. In this case, having more control over the device is a good thing.

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