There's no doubt that Android is the best it's ever been, but somehow the early days felt way more awesome.
Was Android more awesome back then? No. It was definitely great in its time, but the current versions are definitely better. That isn't the same thing as it feeling more awesome.
Here's what I mean.
Early Android had a certain wow factor
Early versions of Android, the first version included, had a certain wow factor to them. That's not to say that there isn't anything exciting about new versions. And, this isn't a wish that we could go back to those days.
The thing is, the software back then was so very different from everything else that was available. Excluding iOS to some degree.
It offered things that you couldn't get with something like BlackBerry, which at the time was arguably one of the more popular operating systems. I remember seeing the G1 and thinking, wow. Look at all of the stuff it's capable of.
If you wanted a touch screen, you got it. If you wanted a browser, you got it. There were even loads of apps and various games to play. Sure, nothing like on the same scale as now, but back then apps and games on phones in the way they are offered on Android and iOS were still very new. The possibilities felt endless.
I was in awe of how easy it was to scroll through the Play Store (then called the Android Market) and sift through lists of apps, all offering something unique and just a finger tap away from installation. This was something that was never available before unless you had an iPhone, and even then those weren't nearly as common. It was something all very new.
Ringtones played a big part in those days
As simple as it is, ringtones were one of the defining things for me with Android when it first arrived.
Back in those days it was extremely satisfying to have varied ringtone options. Songs, sound clips from games or other oddball sounds. They were way easier to access than ever before, especially if you compare that to ringtones on something like the Nokia 3390. A phone that was one of the first phones to offer cool ringtone options.
With Android, you had a selection of apps that had literal thousands of options. It wasn't so much that ringtones themselves existed as a possibility on the phone. More so that it was so easy to scroll through a list, find one you wanted, then download it and apply it to your phone calls.
Android has always been king of customization. It was now easier than ever to find ringtones to customize my call and text notifications. I was one of those people that liked to have different ringtones for every person I normally communicated with too, so having ringtone apps was a godsend.
Because of these apps, I had a quick and simple way to assign everyone something different. And, I could now screen calls way easier too.
The T-Mobile MyTouch is where things really took off
From a personal standpoint, the T-Mobile MyTouch is where it really all started. At the time I was employed with the carrier, so I got to see first-hand what Android was like from the beginning. When the MyTouch came out, I had to have it.
It was the first all-touchscreen Android phone. There were some new capabilities that came along with it. The biggest indicator though of how great and influential Android felt at the time was word of mouth I was giving it.
I made it my mission to extol the virtues of Google's mobile phone OS. I fondly remember showing it to my then-roommate before anyone else. Coming home, I was eager to place the device in his hands and show him how much better it was than his BlackBerry. Of course I showed him the easy-access ringtone apps.
I paraded the bigger touchscreen around like it was something out of a sci-fi film. Comparing its bigger size to the small screen of a BlackBerry Curve. Sure, the BlackBerry (back then) had wonderful keys. They were super easy to type on. But, that touchscreen. All the room for viewing emails, texts, videos and more. The BlackBerry had nothing on it.
It took no more than ten or fifteen minutes of convincing before I had successfully converted someone who was a BlackBerry die-hard to Android. This wasn't the only friend I convinced either. I had a friend who at the time worked at a different carrier, another BlackBerry die-hard.
They currently weren't offering any Android phones, but they would be soon with the DROID. The mission was clear. Show this person the brand-new Android phone. Convince him it was better than BlackBerry devices and the iPhone.
The point is, I was going out of my way to prop up Android, something I haven't really done in a long time. These days, people like what they like, and I'm certainly not trying to convince anyone to switch.
Customization is king
As mentioned above, Android has always been king of customization. Widgets, wallpapers, ringtones, homescreen launchers. At the time, Android was the only device type that was giving all of them to you on a platter. Enter the very beginning days of rooting phones and tossing on custom firmware.
This really split open Android's possibilities in a way that was previously unfathomable. It was now so much more customizable than before. It was a glorious time that just doesn't seem to feel that way anymore.
Again, this isn't to say that Android in its current state isn't exciting. It very much is. However, when it was still a new OS there were so many things that were just being introduced to mobile devices for the first time. Nowadays, new features feel like they're added little by little, and not in big waves like before.
This is a large part of why the early days of Android felt more awesome. There were larger amounts of new "firsts" and it made you want to think about all the possible stuff that could be done with these devices.
Look, Android now is fantastic. The OS just keeps getting more refined with meaningful improvements. But they still feel a little more incremental than when Android first arrived on the scene. During its first years, There were big waves of changes to the system. Smartphones in general were still new.
Now, smartphones are everywhere. Most features in the software aren't really new, just improvements over what was already there. That's great, but the wow factor is mostly gone. I say mostly because it's still there, just not with the same amount of energy as before.
All that being said, Android 10 looks promising, and I'm still eager to get it on my device.