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Awful adventures with Android

So, Misun decided to switch her phone out for a 5S instead of a 5C, but there was a 2-3 week wait for them, so I figured I'd use my own upgrade to pick up an Android phone and that would leave my 4S available for her to use until her 5S arrived. After lots and lots of research, it appeared that a Samsung Galaxy 4S should be a solid option and they were on sale, so I picked one up. The next morning I was pretty sure it would be going back.

The machine comes with all these neat-o, almost magical features — like eye tracking, the ability to detect fingers that are not actually touching the surface of the huge, vibrant display… They seem to work OK, but I can't really be sure because they are inconsistently applied throughout the experience. Since Samsung loaded up the device with so much of their own software, it is tough to tell which items are actually a standard part of Android and which ones are just the non-standard crap Samsung put on there. Therefore, the fact that the hover stuff doesn't always seem to work may just be because most apps don't have any idea that it exists or how to use it? I don't know. In fact, it seems that the device comes pre-installed with multiple competing versions of the same time of software. For example, I have a GMail app installed as well as an email app, and it seems that my Exchange (work) email goes to the latter while everything else goes to the former. I miss the unified Mail app and Inbox of iOS! Also, I'm pretty sure there's three different music apps, a Samsung store in addition to the Google Play store, an AT&T messaging app plus a more generic one, multiple navigation apps, Google Now as well as S Voice… as someone new to the OS, I have no idea which one to use for what and often find myself using subtly different versions every time — leading to an inconsistent experience. Plus, different apps seem to launch others as plugins that subsequently don't show up in the app switcher, so I have no way to recognize (or get back to) wherever I was. On iOS, in addition to the fact that the standard apps are really quite good, they don't overlap in functionality so if I don't like something, I know to look for an alternative. Also, I don't have to try out each different app to see if I want to delete it or not. Of course, it goes without say that I have yet to find a podcasting app that meets my needs.

On the other hand, although the display is huge and gorgeous, I find myself frequently tempted to simply snap the thing in half. This is not only out of frustration with its failings, but largely it's because, as I hold it in my hand, I'm pretty sure that I could do it with very little effort. It's got a wonderfully flimsy feel to it — especially now that I'm so used to the glass and metal brick that is the iPhone.

But there's more! I've had the phone for less than a week and Misun and I've already had numerous apps crash on us (she's been trying it out as well). Plus, although the processor is supposed to be better, it definitely feels slower and jumpier than my iPhone. This means that I'll try to do something, think it hasn't registered and try again — then I wind up having taken an extra action and pushed way ahead of where I should be. The universal back button is kinda' nice in these situations, but I always forget about it and would need to get used to its availability for it to become truly useful.

I feel like I've stepped back in time to the times when you'd buy a PC with all sorts of crap pre-installed that you'd have to spend a day or so getting rid of. I'm also feeling old because some of these comments sound reminiscent of those I often hear from my mom about any sort of technology. The big difference is that I don't feel inept as a result because I am quite confident that it's them that have screwed up the design (rather than me being too stupid to use it or something).

So, it's going back today. In spite of all this, Misun has decided that she wants one of these instead of the iPhone she was planning to get — everyone's got different needs, I guess.

Relatedly, I don't see anything compelling in the 5S and plan to keep my 4S until the next round of hardware updates — unless it dies. It is clear to me that Apple belongs on top with respect to the rest of the field of junk that's out there, but they are starting to get bloated and silly (what's that about swiping from the middle of the screen to search? How does that make sense?) — the most recent update is mostly just visual and little of it makes my life any easier (the one exception that comes to mind is the control center — and that's partly because of the flashlight feature).

I'm also amused by the fact that I'm actually find myself very seriously considering the new Microsoft Surface. We budgeted for a new computer for me because mine is quite dated at this point (about 7yrs old) and I've been doing a lot of research (including borrowing the previous version of the Surface for a bit). I really like the ability to use it as either a viable laptop or a tablet. It wasn't super-stable (crashed more than once while I had it) and Windows 8 needs greater acceptance (i.e. developer acceptance and application adaptation) before it reaches its potential, but I can see a lot of potential there. It's probably not for everyone, but I am really liking it in spite of its problems. I've really got to hand it to Microsoft Research on this one.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Oct. 27th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
I think if your going to go android then a vanilla nexus is your best bet, samsung software Is notoriously sloppy and it frustrated me that they have the current lead over say htc. That said I turned my back on android because of the inconsistencies as well, I think if they all kept to stock of let you dual boot it would come on leaps and bounds. This is your UK cousin in law btw 😉
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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