If you have read any of my other posts, you’ll know I’m an Apple kool-aid drinker. Card carrying and proud.
Recently, I ran across a new phone service called Solavei. It’s an interesting service, based on the T-Mobile network. It’s only $49 monthly for unlimited voice, text and data. Plus, if you sign up other people, Solavei pays you back. There’s a very real chance to have a completely free phone service and even make some money back on top. You can read more about it here.
But I digress. Solavei is still integrating iPhones into the service. They work, but not at full capacity. Consequently, I thought I’d give an Android phone a try. My son has a Galaxy SII Skyrocket and I’ve been watching him play with it. Then, my father-in-law upgraded to a Motorola Droid Razr M and I helped him set it up. These two events combined whetted my appetite to try the dark side. I bought a Skyrocket like my son’s phone.
The rest of this little article is about what a die-hard iPhone guy thinks of the Android operating system. If you want to skip on elsewhere, the short version is that I like it. If an iPhone is a 9 on a 10-point scale, I’d give Android a 7.759.
Want more info. Okay.
I bought the Skyrocket as a locked AT&T phone. The previous owner had no idea how to unlock it before he sold it. It’s pretty easy to do, but I imagine he didn’t want to spend the time or money to get it done. That’s okay, it made it cheaper on eBay. No one likes to buy a locked phone. I had it unlocked within 10 minutes after I turned it on by using cellunlocker.net. It only costs $25 and worked immediately (once I had the unlock code).
One of the things I like about it is probably not so much a function of Android as it is the phone itself. The Skyrocket is about 30% bigger than the iPhone and it makes a huge difference. I love the extra space and larger fonts. These eyes are getting old.
When I cranked up the phone, the first thing I checked was the version of Android installed. I found it was running Gingerbread, so I upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich immediately. For my level of use, it didn’t make a ton of difference. At least I think it didn’t. I didn’t get too deeply into Gingerbread, so I’m actually not sure if I’m using features that are ICS specific.
Screens and Pages
The first hurdle was simply figuring out how to navigate and what app did what. It has the same swipe functionality as iPhone, although where the iPhone stops when you reach the last page, Android will wrap and keep going. I like that a lot.
The layout of the apps is very similar to iOS, so I felt comfortable immediately. One positive difference is the availability of widgets on the screen. In my case, I have a weather widget that takes up about 40% of one page. It gives me instant info and no need to open a weather app. I also have a widget for time and date on one page, about 20% of the screen.
The bottom row of apps is static, no matter how much you swipe, just like the iPhone. On my setup, these four buttons are Phone, Email, Web and Apps. That brings up another positive difference. The Apps button opens up a completely new set of pages that hold every app you have installed. If you wish to move some of those to your main pages, simply press and hold, then drag… just as you would an iPhone. I like that functionality. I’ve learned that of all the apps on my iPhone, 20% might get used consistently. But they are ALL there, even if they are stuck in a folder. On the Android, I only pull out the stuff that I use often. The rest stay hidden away for when I might need them.
The similarities between the two systems is remarkable. I guess that’s why the lawsuits are flying back and forth between Apple and Samsung. You have the same syncing capabilities as you would with an iPhone, only with Android everything is synced through Google instead of Apple. No differences otherwise. That’s actually good for me since I use Gmail almost exclusively.
Voice Recognition and Power Handling
Android’s version of Siri is, I believe, much better. I am constantly getting wrong transcription from Siri, and sometimes it’s not even available. Android has yet to make a mistake with my dictation, even with long passages.
The one thing I have not really liked is Android’s handling of app termination. I have a widget on one window that tells me how many apps are open and draining power in the background. I have to open up that window and shut them down. So far, it’s not been a problem. None of my processing power has been affected. I tend to shut them down anyway just because I’m anal about it. I expect it handles power distribution just as well as an iPhone does, but iPhone hides it whereas Android sticks it out there for you to see. And if I see it, I must press the button. Must.
Apps and the App Store
One of the things I heard often about Android was its lack of apps. I think that must have been an issue in the past, but it seems to have been dealt with. I quickly was able to install Linked In, TweetCast, Chrome, Flipboard, Netflix, SpeedTest, Angry Bird Star Wars, Agent Dash, Plague Inc, Bad Piggie, YouTube and Evernote. Facebook came pre-installed. Everything else I’ve thought I might need, I’ve found in Google Play, which is Android’s version of the App Store. All the other usual suspects were also pre-installed, such as Google Maps, Photo Gallery, Gmail, Music Player, Contacts, Calendar, etc.
One function I really like is the quick settings widget on one of my pages. I can easily turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Sync. No need to pull up a menu. That same widget also gives me immediate access to brightness settings, screen timeout, general settings and power saving tips.
All in all, if I had to make the switch from an iPhone to an Android phone, I think I could do so comfortably without any loss of functionality. I hate to say that, but it’s true.
Fortunately, I don’t have to make that decision for a while. AT&T has me comfortably locked in for another year or so.
What phone do you use? Which side of the fence do you fall? Hater? Kool-aid drinker. Let me know your experience with Android. I’m still learning.