Is Android evolving too fast?

Google announced the latest Android device the Nexus One today only two months after the release of the Droid device from Motorola. It appears that with every announcement, Android devices get a little better; the problem is that these devices are getting better every quarter instead of every year. Since its debut on the market over a year ago, there have been multiple OS versions and over 15 handsets released.

Unless you are a highly tech savvy consumer, you may not be aware of all the changes that are occurring in the Android OS. Consumers are aware of the new devices being released due to large marketing campaigns funded by operators and handset vendors, but not many can tell the difference between a 1GHz snapdragon implementation and a 500MHz one. Add to this the changes in OS capabilities and which carriers offer which OS version on which device and suddenly consumers can’t see the forest through the trees. The vast majority of consumers are still learning that Android is Google’s mobile OS and have yet to determine what the Android experience is.

A personal example: it took me longer than it should have to explain to a friend who had recently purchased a Droid Eris that her phone was not the new Droid from Motorola and what that meant. This conversation was quickly followed by a G1 owner also not understanding the difference between his device and the Eris (beyond the basic form factor differences). To date neither understands how these differences affect them and how they use their devices.

To be fair, Android is a relatively new mobile OS and application processors are in the midst of a switch to the next technology tier of multi-core and 1GHz speeds. Putting these two factors together, it can be expected that there will be many incremental improvements to Android handsets running on improved hardware. Add into this the fact that Android development cycles and hardware development cycles are currently out of sync, and it becomes apparent that the Android world needs some guidance to reduce the confusion and fragmentation.

The Nexus One announced today by Google may help to steer the Android handset market back towards true north and help consumers to understand what an Android handset should be…at least according to Google. With the Nexus One, Google is offering a handset where the software and the hardware are in developmental synch. This device can act as the bar for handset manufacturers to measure their Android implementations against. That is not to say that handset OEMs must make a device with all the latest bells and whistles to compete with Google, but that this device can be the statistical mean from which their offerings will vary. The release of the Nexus One will help consumers and handset OEMs tangibly understand what Google wants its software to do for the mobile handset. From this point, handset OEMs can set to the task of showing consumers what their handsets can do with Android.