One area that I think the iPod/iPhone series of devices – herein referred to as an iDevice – has got very right is that they all have a standard “dock” interface. This interface has been taken up by stereo manufacturers, car manufacturers and even clock manufacturers. You can plug your iDevice into any one of these things and play music (or other media) through the car stereo, your home stereo, or even wake up to it with your alarm clock.
Another benefit is that the control goes both ways. For example, instead of having to reach for your iDevice while driving to skip to the next song, you just press the ‘next’ button on the car stereo, and it tells the iDevice to move to the next song. It’s seamless, clean and allows you to control your music in whatever way seems most natural at the time.
This is an area where (so far) the Android devices fail. While most of the Android devices have a standard connector (micro-USB), it’s not in a standard place on each phone. This lack of physical conformity means that each device would have to have it’s own “dock” to allow it to connect to other devices. I doubt any stereo manufacturers would bother creating an “android dock” while this is the case.
You could make the point that it doesn’t need a dock, that is a physical ‘slot’ into which you can plug it, as a simple cable will do the same job. I think that misses the “ease of use” that is necessary for these things to be adopted. Being able to just slide an iDevice into a slot, and knowing that the connections will happen properly without fiddling is a bonus to consumers.
Physical issues aside, I’m not aware of any standard that allows the same level of control or information flow between an Android device and whatever it’s connected to via the micro-USB port. I’m very happy to be corrected.
What I’m getting at here, is that one of the next steps in Android evolution should be to specify a standard physical dock and associated software API that means that other hardware manufacturers might at least be tempted to add an Android connection as well as/instead of the iDevice connection.
I can dream.