Since my iPhone 4S was getting very long in the tooth, and the latest crop of iPhones really didn’t excite me, I decided (once again) to try jumping ship to Android.
For the record, I’ve tried switching from the iPhone to other platforms several times now. When my first iPhone’s screen was shattered, I tried Blackberry. That lasted less than a month. I received a Nexus One at an OSCON several years ago and tried switching to that – while it was OK, it just wasn’t quite “there” in terms of application parity and ease of use.
Recently I tried switching to a Nexus 4 after having received a Nexus 7 tablet and finding that the most recent Android was pretty damn nifty and the apps (at least those that I use) had more or less caught up. That would have been successful, except that the Nexus 4 camera was horrible.
So – the most recent attempt, I decided to jump ship to Android and switch carriers away from AT&T. First, let me say that I find shopping for an Android phone to be a bit on the painful side. There seem to be approximately 45,000 different models of Android phones, and for every really nifty feature each phone has, it usually has at least one major flaw that means it’s not quite right. Say what you will about Apple, but they don’t overwhelm people with choices.
I wound up getting the Samsung Galaxy S4 on T-Mobile. I feel like T-Mobile has a bit of bait-and-switch going on with their pricing, since what they advertise for the phone’s price is really the down payment, not the actual price of the phone. (T-Mobile’s lower monthly cost is because they’re not subsidizing the phone, they’re selling it to you on installments.) If I had known more about their pricing, I would have bought the Google edition of the phone outright and then gotten T-Mobile service.
The Phone and Android Experience
Android has improved a lot over the years. It has some nice touches that iOS doesn’t have, or at least didn’t until the iOS 7 release. (Haven’t tried that yet.) But it still has some inconsistencies that set my teeth on edge, though how much of those are stock Android, and how much are the carrier changes, is unclear. It still takes far too long to find some settings. IIRC, changing one of the top status bar items meant digging into “display”, for example. And uninstalling apps should be as simple as clicking an app and deleting it.
I have been able to find most of the apps I used on the iPhone and get those sorted without too much trouble. Some apps are basically identical, some are a bit different in bewildering ways. RunKeeper, for example, is laid out differently and it was much less intuitive finding out how to enter a workout manually.
It’d be nice if I could find a general purpose music player that syncs well with a Linux desktop music player. Right now I’m using Amazon MP3, and it’s OK – but I find (oddly) that a few of the albums I’ve downloaded from Amazon MP3 have incorrect album art and/or are tagged weirdly. (It has “Rio” tagged as disc 0 and disc 1, and so has split the album in two. Same with “Sand in the Vaseline” by the Talking Heads.)
Battery life is pretty good, and I like the fact I can replace the battery. I plan on buying a larger battery with an expansion case shortly.
The headphones that come with it are decent – nothing to write home about, but not crappy either.
I like the fact I was able to change the launcher, and have grabbed Nova Launcher and customized things a bit. Oddly, they had configured the S4 to have only 4 icons per row, where as (I think) stock Android has 5. Also, the Samsung launcher had a wee bug that was driving me nuts where it wrapped the title of one application by one letter, leaving an orphan dangling under the icon. Yes, that really bugged me.
Bonus points for having a widget so I can turn on the camera light as a flashlight. Minus several points for the widget being fugly, just light grey text on a darker grey square. Bleah.
Several beers to the first person who can tell me how to change the theme for the messaging application. It’s just so hideous.
Loving the swipe typing on the phone, except when I need to “type” a word that’s not in the phone’s dictionary. Then it feels like a major step backwards having to plonk down each letter.
Also loving the fact that the keyboard has number keys at the top instead of having to switch back and forth just to type in any passwords that have numbers and letters.
The blocking mode is useful. Can someone tell me how the **** to turn off the annoying notification that it’s on, though? I know it’s on, I set it. Now kindly stop taking up real estate on my notification bar/notification area. Especially when it’s not actually active. (I have it set from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
Long story short: I don’t regret switching, and I actually think I will be sticking with Android this time – at least until Apple or another vendor comes out with something compelling enough to switch again. (But never Windows Phone. Sorry Microsoft, but no. Not ever.)