I’m a long time BlackBerry user and recently switched to Android. My trackball died, the phone was scratched up, and BB did not offer with my carrier some of the love I wanted, so I looked for an alternative. First let me say I am disappointed that BB has been slow to keep up with a worthy alternative. Second, let me say that I miss my BB. It is the perfect communication device for phone and email. If only I could get some of the Android love inside of a BB phone. Let me rant just a little about my recent experience with a state of the art Android phone. In summary, here’s what I love and hate with my new Samsung Galaxy S:
- Web browser: There were many sites on my BB that just did not work. With Android, these sites, even heavy Ajax ones, work perfectly. And the option that allows you to zoom on the text sections of a site and have the text wrap is beauty. And, I can now browse while on the phone. Love it.
- Market apps: The app store has many free or cheap, very useful apps. I especially like options like wifi teathering from Barnacle, watching Hulu.com on the Skyfire browser and CBS shows on TV.com. These are awesome pieces of software. Some are just good time killers like Gem Miner and Paper Toss. And the ability to tweak just about everything including loading different keyboards, music players, etc are critical. Because many of the pre-loaded base applications are so sub par, the phone would be unusable without these apps.
- Keyboard: I thought I would miss physical keys. Maybe some, but not as much as I expected. I still cannot decide if Swipe or prediction keyboards are faster. The phone came with Swipe. Currently, I’m using a prediction keyboard from Swiftkey that seems a bit more mistake proof – entry is slower, but I don’t have to start over as often.
- Speed: 3G and wifi seem faster. Web is fast. I’m watching streaming videos and listening to streaming radio like it’s DSL. Nice.
- Screen: Size is a beauty and touch sensitivity is great. Resolution is really good but I think my BB, though smaller, may have been higher resolution. I’d like to see a touch better res on the Galaxy without more drain on the battery.
- Setup: This should be as easy as entering my gmail email and password, but no. It took 2 full days of trial and error to get email and calendar and contacts all synced up. My business and personal email accounts are both through gmail, so you would think this is simple with Android. No. I needed client software to sync my Outlook to Google and it doesn’t work if my desk computer is not on. Google supplies a calendar sync client, but not a contact sync. Duplicates were generated when I loaded contacts from Outlook – hundreds of them. And, apparently, I need to load them again if I make changes. Come on! I’m still not sure I have the best email setup. I could not get a good sync using the phone’s native email app. It reloaded emails most times I opened it causing long delays in viewing them. So, I’m using the Google gmail application. While messages arrive faster, I cannot get a common inbox, emails don’t show on the opening screen and the navigation is a cluggy. Also, no way to sync with Linked-In. Only Facebook, MySpace and Twitter – how’s that decided and why not make it open for all? Limitations in the pre-package software meant more time looking for apps to fill gaps on the calendar, phone dialer and others. This has to get better.
- Calendar: Why don’t events let me click on contents to dial into conference calls or view web pages? No copy either. Seems so obvious, but you can’t get to any text – it’s like looking at a picture of the event invite. If anyone knows an app that fixes this, please share. And the week calendar doesn’t show separation in many time blocks that are open. When I try to see what is scheduled in a block on the weekly calendar, there is no text and there’s no section to display text if an event block is selected. It just takes me to the event detail. So dumb. And I can only sync with my personal gmail calendar. There is no option on my work domain gmail to sync calendar, only email and contacts. I had to sync from Outlook to my personal calendar, then give it access to my work calendar. So now, all my events show twice. What’s with that?
- Dialing: Looking up a contact to dial a number is impossibly difficult. Why doesn’t the dial pad give a full QWERTY keyboard and assume that I might be looking up a contact. Instead, I have to press the contact icon then the search. Even then, for some reason (I think it searches only first names,) it doesn’t always find a match. When it does, there are two or three more clicks to dial a number.
- Battery Life: This is the main reason I sent back my G1 a couple years ago. While the Samsung is improved, I struggle to get through a day with a few phone calls and light browsing. I may use the screen more, but the battery is drained pretty fast. My BB almost never required a mid-day charge. This phone almost never doesn’t. I can’t leave the house without a charger.
- Physical keys: I’m talking here about device control keys. I miss having a single button to go to my messages and one to mute/unmute. On Android: activate screen, unlock screen, drag down phone controls, press mute. Even the most common tasks are 3 or more steps away. Just give me two physical buttons I can set up to do what I want with a single press.
- PodCasts: There are applications that sync with iTunes and play lists. So it’s third party, but I’m OK with that. Truth is with internet radio, I don’t need my own library that often. But, I’m a heavy podcast listener. Why can’t the player or any application on this phone remember how much of each podcast I’ve already heard and start there? Hapi Podcast comes close, but does not quite deliver. Just give me this one feature and I’ll be happy. I’d pay extra.
- The App Store: There are lots of apps there, but there are lots not there. Why doesn’t Zynga develop for Android? What about Veggie Samuri – there’s some fruit knock-off instead. Where can you find a good office suite? How hard can it be to create a version for multiple OS. Getting on the Android store is much easier – you’d think developing for them would be a priority.
- Carrier OS Limitations: Why in an open system do I need to root the phone to use it how I want. Keep it open source. Allow me to change the bottom bar. Let me remove pre-loaded apps that I don’t want. Maybe warn me if I’m being dumb, but don’t make it impossible. A lot of investment has happened to allow device makers and carriers to have an inexpensive, open OS. Stop using open software like it is proprietary to your offering.
In the end, ease of use is still lacking in Android after what, almost 3 years of development. My wife has an iPhone and it seems to have done a better job at reconciling my hate issues. I’m hoping BlackBerry 6 will address my needs and finally get a device to my carrier – though their app store is less likely to ever catch up with iPhone or Android. Google develops Android, so they just need to focus on simplifying the user experience – especially, the setup. I hope Android 2.2 fixes many of these issues if it ever does come. If not, my life with an Android may be an expensive, short-lived experiment.