Thursday, 27 December 2012

On Switching To Android

Christmas went by quickly. Looking back on the year, I often remark that I wish I'd taken more pictures, and captured more of the moments that made for a great 2012. I don't particularly make "new year resolutions" but I will resolve now and going forwards to take more pictures. In fact, I resolve to take one picture a day, every day. And to accomplish this task, I am armed with the Samsung Galaxy S3.

The first in the series is a panorama of our front room on Boxing Day
Friends in the know will recognize the significance of my move to Android. So far I have been a walking talking iAd, and in many ways still am. I love Apple. I love their design, futuristic outlook, attention to detail and super-friendly UIs. But the time has come to go Google.

Why? Working there likely has a big part to play, but moreover, I'm finding recently that I want a little more from my phone. The camera was a big part of the decision (don't take my example above as proof of it's superiority, I'm still learning and practicing!) However, the customization, Google Now, and the general speed with which Google seems to be moving, compared to Apple, pretty much made me feel it was the right time to jump ship. It may not be there right now, but I've high hopes for Android in 2013.

The experience so far has been lackluster. I am struggling to adopt to the new world, but its a challenge I'm being rewarded for. Let me boil down a couple of my highlights so far. 1. The option to choose and buy my own battery cover (I'm in leather now, with Galaxy S3 etched in). 2. The option to custom fit my own launcher, minimizing animations and effects, and gearing my device for function. 3. Significantly better keyboard, also chosen by myself from the Play store. 4. Significantly better voice control, in the form of Google Now. It's still mostly a gimmick, but some functions have become part of my daily life, including checking stocks morning and night, checking what time's Stacey is at work (her rota changes, but I can see calendar entries as they come up), setting alarms and timers on the fly quickly and easily (I turn the boiler on and tell my phone "set alarm, 40 minutes, shower is ready", or I remember I have to make a phone call later, so I tell my phone "set alarm 715 tomorrow call home".

On the other hand, I should really tell you the many things that are pissing me off. There are tiny little details that Apple have paid attention to that I never even noticed until they disappeared on this device. Let's start with the one that is probably least relevant, but the most pertinent and frustrating - the lock screen. The lock screen is slow. I've never noticed how the iPhone lock screen is impressively present, but the Galaxy screen is slow. What I mean is, if I lock the phone and try and get back in, I'm not necessarily seeing the lock screen. I will probably see the screen I was just on, and have to wait a second or two to have the lock screen come up. In the long scheme of things, this is nothing, but it is bloody annoying. The time isn't on the button either. It's always worth giving the phone a couple of seconds in case it is showing you the time from the last time the display was on - this has happened many times. Forget the days of quick checking the time on the iPhone, and pocketing it back in a flash. This one takes time.

Next, the screen is too big! I can't believe I agree with this Apple ad now. I laughed at it when it went up on YouTube. I thought to myself "They are really desperate now, trying to sell on their thumb geometry." But it's a real issue. It's things like propping your phone up with your pinky to get to the home button, or having to conduct a carefully delicate maneuver to reach the top left corner, putting your phone is a dangerous palm balance.

I'll have to round up because this was a long post, and now I want to get dressed and head outside. I've got a picture to take and the weather in Dun Laoghaire is lovely (I didn't ask Google Now, I just looked out the window #oldschool). The roundup is pretty much a 'Watch This Space'. I'm not sure yet if I'm entirely comfortable on Android. While there are definitely gems keeping me interested, such as the prospect of rooting, developing apps for it, customizing, playing Ingress, etc., I'm still missing the simplicity and genius of the iPhone 5. I keep wondering, "Would it have been worth that extra 100 bucks?" The truth is, these are very different devices, believe it or not. The Apple vs. Samsung case while fighting over the hardware design, and some elements of the software, has made it seem like these two are homogenous, but they are not. One thing I have learnt from my time on Android, however, is that there are very few I would recommend it to. At least for the time being, it's definitely a place for the savvy, and the curious. If you want easy-to-use and "magical", just stick with Apple. Since Google Maps came out with an iOS app anyway, what's the problem?