September 17, 2010 (tech,gadgets)
The Breakup – Goodbye for now, Android
Over the last year or so, I had a great time with Android. I saw the devices get more and more powerful, saw the app store grow tremendously, to the point where I really don’t miss too much of the iPhone’s applications. I had a Droid Eris, a Nexus One, an HTC Evo, a Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S), and I still have the HTC Aria. I run the latest nightly Froyo ROM on my Aria, but I am about to give it up and go back to the iPhone.  Read on to see my reasons.

Here are the main reasons:

  • Facetime. I want it. Maureen has an iPhone 4 now, and since I am on the road so much, I want to ‘Facetime’ with my kids.

  • The Android hardware doesn’t feel solid. The only Android device that I think can compete with the iPhone in terms of build quality is the HTC Legend, machined out of a solid aluminum block. But HTC did not take that concept to their higher end devices… so we are stuck with plastic panels clicked together to form a phone shell. They just feel cheap.  My Nokia E71 could compete in this category…

  • Battery life. I have tried all the tricks in the Android book, but it is virtually impossible to get through a full day without recharging at some point in the day. I even switch to 2G/Edge to save battery power when I don’t need wireless data! I am used to getting at least a day and a half out of my old iPhone 3GS. I just don’t want to worry about being out of power in the evening.

  • Camera. The iPhone 4’s camera is just so much better than any of the Android cameras I have tried. See this article for some tests.  I tried to match the iPhone 4’s pictures with my Aria the other night at a party, and it was depressing. The iPhone’s pictures came out beautifully compared to my grainy, underexposed pictures from the HTC Aria. And I was not even using the iPhone’s flash. This is a big deal for me, since I love to take mobile pictures.

  • Speed. I often experience hang-ups and super-slow performance on the Aria.

  • Audio hardware. This seems to be true for all the Android phones I tried: whenever the audio hardware kicks in, there is a noticeable hiss. The audio output is just very noisy. iPhone sounds clear.

  • Apple TV. Our home has an Apple TV with my iTunes library synchronized to it. None of Android’s iTunes remote control apps work with the Apple TV. I miss being able to pick my tunes from my room. Also, the future releases of Apple TV will become even more enticing soon when you can stream audio and video from your iPhone directly to the Apple TV to your TV. I see this as the road warrior’s dream. You take your tiny Apple TV, plug it into the hotel HDTV and voila, you can stream your media straight from your iPhone to the hotel tv!

Things I will miss

  • Tethering. Need I say more? On Froyo, I could create a mobile hotspot for my laptop. I will miss that.

  • Touchdown email and calendar. This does a great job with Exchange. I can even view available time slots for scheduling appointments on Android! And when I decline or accept a meeting request, I can type in a reason! Novel idea. And, when declining one instance of a recurrent meeting request, it doesn’t decline the whole series.

  • Customizing my home screens. This sounds ridiculous, but it is actually tremendously satisfying arranging your 7 desktops on the phone with all sorts of widgets and shortcuts. You don’t have to launch an app to see the information, it is just visible right on your desktop. Like my calendar, my tasks, my emails, a stock quote, etc. I will miss seeing the rich desktops. The most excitement I will get on the iPhone’s screen seems to be the notification bubble next to a launcher icon.

  • Navigation. Google Maps and 3D navigation is cool. I will miss that, even though I don’t use it that often.

  • Google Sky Map. Someone, please port this to the iPhone!

  • Micro USB port. I like the fact that most Android devices are powered by a Micro USB port. It is easier to attach than the wide iPhone connector. Although, I do like getting power and sound through the single iPhone connector

  • Google Voice for international dialing. On Android, whenever I dial an international number, it automatically uses Google Voice (I set it up that way). It is great how you can customize the standard apps like the dialer to use other services. That is part of the Android design where applications register services and when the dialer wants to dial, it does not assume that it is the only dialer, but rather sends an event to the OS asking for some application to service a call. New applications can then offer up to serve that request. This concept works wonderfully when sharing pictures. From the gallery app, when you share a picture, it offers up to share through email or mms. When you install facebook, for example, and you go back to gallery and share a picture, the facebook option automatically now appears as an option, because it registered to service a ‘share picture’ request. Beautifully architected, in my mind.

Things that worked pretty well for me on Android

  • Music Player. The HTC music player does not do well with compilations. Even though the ID3 tags of the songs are correct, it would show the songs in 12 different albums and so it is impossible to play the whole album unless you make a playlist of the album. I tried the DoubleTwist player, which handles the albums correctly, but the player is dog slow. I have to say that the stock Android Froyo music player is awesome. Fast, easy to use, and it also correctly handles the ID3 tags. I use an application called TuneSync to sync with my iTunes library over WiFi.

  • RSS reading. I love using NewsRob Pro for reading RSS feeds. It synchronizes with Google Reader.

  • There are a bunch of stock apps that are pretty much the same on Android as on the iPhone: Amazon app, Angry Birds, Audible Player, Epicurious, facebook, fandango, Kindle, Opentable, Pandora, Pixelpipe, Tripit.