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My Android Adventure

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So Shelley and I, after being on prepaid phones for years and years, decided to get with the times and get us some of those new-fangled smart phones.  I had been using a hand-me-down iPhone 3GS with an a la cart data plan, and I was ready to get a phone with a nicer camera.  After poking around, I learned that I could get two phones with unlimited data and texting on T-Mobile for about $100 a month.  Sold.

Buying the phones was an ordeal, largely because Shelley was trying to port a pre-paid phone’s number within T-Mobile, which they’re not really set up to do.  It took hours. Shelley got some kind of phone with a keyboard.  She loves it.

I got a Samsung Galaxy II, mostly because of the nice 8 megapixel camera.

It worked fine for the first little bit, and I was happy that most of the apps I rely on were available for Android.  And then it started to be annoying.

  • It is constantly updating apps. When it does this, the phone slows to a crawl and apps hang or become unusable.
  • It crashes. Often.  Just yesterday, while on my run, it updated a bunch of stuff mid-run, which meant that my podcast app started failing. Then, when I got home, it turned itself off and wouldn’t respond to the press of the power button.
  • You know how when you slide to unlock on an iPhone, it just works? Not so much on this phone. It works most of the time. Sometimes it doesn’t.  And then the phone just sits there, unusable, until it decides to unlock.
  • You know those earbuds with the play/pause and volume buttons?  Only the play/pause button works on an Android phone.  You can’t adjust the volume at all using the earbuds, which is super-annoying.
  • Friday the alarm decided not to go off.
  • Because all it takes is a press of a button and a swipe anywhere on the screen to unlock the phone, it is really, really easy to unlock the phone when pulling it out of your pocket.
  • Once, the Google maps app crashed so hard that I had to reboot the phone.
  • There are hardware buttons for volume and power, but the buttons for home, back, menu, and search are all touch sensitive, which means that I’m constantly accidentally invoking them when I don’t mean to.
  • When someone sends me a link in a text message and I click on it, the phone pops up a dialog box asking me what I want to do: open the link? make a bookmark? copy the text?
  • The stock keyboard is awful, so I had to replace it.  But the new one does annoying things, too.  On an iPhone, if you delete something that is autocorrected and then retype it, the phone is smart enough to know that it shouldn’t autocorrect it again.  Not so much with this phone.  If you accidentally tap outside the keyboard, the phone becomes super-touch-responsive and makes the keyboard go away.
  • The battery doesn’t last very long, and my first experience with the battery draining completely was that the phone, apparently, does not charge unless it is powered up.
  • The phone is constantly, constantly, informing me about something.

I went to the T-Mobile store today and put my name on the priority list for an iPhone.  I’ll have to plunk down $100, and my bill will go up by $20 a month, but at this point, it’s worth it just to get away from this phone.

Written by srogers

April 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Nerd Stuff

Switching, Sort Of

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So Shelley and I have been on prepaid/paygo phones for years. We’ve been generally happy with this, since we don’t really talk on the phone much (when we made the switch, we were using a combined 7 minutes a month talk time on our family plan, for which we were paying $75 a month).

As phones have gotten smarter and services more interesting and valuable to us, we’ve slowly migrated from dumb phones to smart phones, all while staying prepaid. Shelley had an old Android phone that does most of what she needs but doesn’t have a data plan; I got my sister’s old iPhone 3gs, hooked it to an ATT prepaid plan, then hacked it to use a prepaid data plan. I had a fully functional iPhone for ~$40 a month).

But lately (largely as a function of having data plans on iPads), we’ve been wooed back into getting phones with plans.

Because we’re an Apple house, I would have loved for us to have gotten a couple of iPhones with unlimited text and data for ~$100 a month, such a plan doesn’t really seem to be available. Indeed, once you add that data plan, the iPhone seems to be ~$100 each, with no real wiggle room.

So we went to the T-Mobile store and picked up a couple of Galaxy SIIs 4G phones with unlimited data and texting and 1000 minutes of talk for roughly $100 a month, combined, once all the initial charges sort themselves out.

Is this Android phone as elegant as my iPhone? No. Am I going to have to make some sacrifices because it’s not in the Apple ecosystem? Yes. Here they are:

  • I will not be able to sync my iTunes movies and TV shows to it. But since many of those wouldn’t sync to my iPhone 3gs, this isn’t much of a loss.
  • I will have to use another podcast manager to deal with my podcasts. I’m currently using BeyondPod. It’s a little more confusing than Downcast is, but it does what I want it to.
  • I will have to find another way to share shopping lists with Shelley. We used the Reminders app on our Apple gadgets; now we’re using Shared Shopping List. I have also moved my To Do list from Reminders to Google Tasks.

That’s it, really. Most of the apps I use on a daily basis are either already available on Android or have some acceptable alternative (Reeder gives way to EasyRSS; Instapaper to Readability/Pocket). All of my music exists both in iTunes and iTunes match and on Amazon’s servers (we’re Prime users), so that’s not an issue. All my contacts are on Google.

One of the things that has been most striking about making this switch is the degree to which these phones and tablets and whatnot are really mostly just platforms on which we run apps. I’ve always sort of known this, but it’s never really struck me like it has with this switch. On a computer, we have to navigate the operating system to get to the apps we want to run; we have to deal with the file system to find the stuff we make, and so switching from Windows to a Mac or Linux can be shocking and bewildering.

But on a phone? Once every smartphone in the world ripped off the iPhone, it simply became a matter of pressing app icons on whatever hardware you have in your hand. Sure, the system settings are different—and HOLY CRAP this phone is constantly alerting me about something; it’s very Windows-y in that way, very naggy and needy—and in that, I really do miss the care and attention that Apple has devoted to the system settings. I miss the flexibility of the Apple notifications.  I honestly have no idea why it’s chirping at me most of the time, and I can’t seem to figure out how to turn those notifications off.

But really, I’m just choosing different hardware to run mostly the same apps on. And this hardware isn’t horrible. The screen is nice. The camera is 8MP, like the new iPhone. I have the option of upgradeable storage, which I really don’t care all that much about. And I like the price.

The more I think about all of this, the more I wonder if there’s actually anything Apple can do to keep the iPhone ahead of the pack. If all we’re doing is running the same (or comparable) apps on different hardware, if “syncing” is becoming increasingly irrelevant, giving way to cloud and web-based services, and if the “ecosystem” you’re in is also becoming less relevant (does Apple have any compelling reason to want to remove the DRM from movies on its store?) the only thing to compel most people to choose one handset over another is the hardware itself, any exclusive apps for that platform, whatever limited interactions the user might have with the OS, and the plan. But the hardware is increasingly similar, the apps less and less exclusive as once Apple-exclusive developers branch out, and the OS increasingly hidden.

As an Apple stockholder, it makes me nervous…

but only about the phones. Every experience I’ve ever had with an Android tablet has sucked. I love my iPad and wouldn’t consider switching. Hell, I kind of even want an iPad mini.

Written by srogers

December 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Nerd Stuff

Amazon Services

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But the key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazon’s content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. The app store is Amazon’s Android Appstore.

Click.

Written by srogers

September 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Posted in Nerd Stuff