Android: Two Weeks In


Well, it’s been two weeks since I officially switched to Android. I’ve been spending years (literally) reading other people’s accounts highlighting their experiences with switching from Windows Phone/mobile to Android and/or iOS (and occasionally the other way around). I figured this was my chance to finally put my initial thoughts and experiences on paper (so to speak) since I’ve been using Windows-based phones for a long time (10 years!).

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So, two weeks in, what have I learned? For the Clint Eastwood fans out there, I’ll break it down into The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

Hardware
As I mentioned in my previous post I switched to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. When I first got this phone I was really impressed with the look and feel of the device. I had been using the Lumia Icon for quite some time so the S7 Edge seemed sleeker (and lighter, albeit just slightly) than the Icon.

Back when I was rockin’ a Lumia 920 I really enjoyed Glance Background feature that let me see items on my phone’s screen even when the phone was turned off (in standby, not powered down). I could see the time, upcoming appointments, etc. The S7 Edge has a similar feature called Always On. While it doesn’t have quite all the same features as what I was used to with the Lumia 920 (e.g. you can’t see upcoming appointments with Always On) it still lets me see the time and/or calendar or a background image when the phone is turned off. Love it!

Camera
One thing I noticed right away was the speed at which the camera takes pictures. On my Icon, 920 and various other flavors of Lumias, I had grown used to a slight delay between pressing the button/icon to take a photo and the photo actually being taken. It wasn’t uncommon for my Icon to take an entire second (or more) before taking a picture. It doesn’t seem like much, and I was basically used to it. However, when I tap the icon on the S7 Edge to take a picture, it takes the picture instantly! No waiting! Weird :-)

Apps, app and more apps!
Having spent the better part of my smartphone life on Windows-based devices, I had grown accustomed to what the Windows apps store had to offer. For the most part, the apps I really (and I mean, really) wanted were there. There was the occasional exception, e.g. the Mint app. Which showed up at one point in December, 2013 only to have the app removed from the store less than two years later.

Something I’ve found myself doing in the last week or so is relying more and more on the app store for apps that I didn’t previously have access to. For example, last weekend the garage door opener broke. Rather than doing a web search across multiple stores I thought I’d take the opportunity to make use of a few apps. I searched the Google Play store for Lowe’s. Yep, it was there. I searched for The Home Depot. Yep, that one, too! I went on to also install the apps for Menard’s and Sears as well. This is something I wouldn’t have even attempted on my Windows phone because I would have assumed the majority of the apps wouldn’t have been there (and I would have been right). Yes, I realize I could search the companies’ web sites, but I wanted to see what it was like using actual apps :-)

Fingerprint Reader
Just like the latest iPhones (and, presumably, other Android devices) the S7 Edge has an integrated fingerprint reader. I am accustomed to using the fingerprint reader on my Surface Pro 4 and it works very well. It’s quick and just works. I have to say that I’m impressed at how well the fingerprint reader works on my Samsung phone. It’s quick and just works! I like that I can setup multiple fingerprints so that I can sign in with either hand or set my wife up to sign in with her fingerprint. To date, this has not been an available option on any Windows-based phone that I am aware of.

The Bad

What are all those noises?!
Having lived in the Windows mobile ecosystem for years, I have become “one” with the various sounds and vibration patterns of the phones I’ve made use of. If the phone went “ding, ding”, I knew immediately I had a text message. Depending on the vibration pattern I’d feel while the phone was in my pocket, I knew if I was receiving a call or if I was being reminded to get to my next meeting on time.

Switching to Android I now feel like I just landed on the planet Preliumtarn and I have no idea how to speak or understand the language. The various dings, tones and vibrations no longer made any sense! Every time my phone made a noise and/or vibrated I had to pick the phone up and inspect the notifications to see what just happened. Over time, I customized the various notifications to play sounds that somewhat mimicked what I was used to on my Icon but not exactly. In fact, I looked (briefly) for a Windows phone “sound pack” for Android but didn’t have any luck. So, if anyone knows of the existence of such a thing, please let me know below :-)

Button placement
Having used various Lumia phones for a few years now the button placement has been somewhat consistent. The four primary hardware buttons were always on the right side of the phone. The volume up/down at the top, the power button in the middle and the camera button at the bottom. My thumb has years of muscle memory ingrained into it to instinctively hit the appropriate button without even thinking about it. That is, until now… I still find myself having to think about what button I’m pressing. Having to use buttons on the other side of the phone to adjust the volume still does not feel natural to me. I typically find myself holding the phone with my right hand while adjusting the volume with my left hand. Definitely not natural feeling but maybe it will grow on me?

The Ugly

Well, Android!
What more is there to say? I came from a mobile OS, which has its shortcomings – primarily with its ecosystem, that was smooth, responsive and for the love of all that is cute and furry, consistent! I’m not sure if I’ve come across two apps yet in Android that put common tasks/buttons/links in the same place, with the same iconography, etc. For example: with e-mail apps, sometimes you send a message by tapping the “Send” (text) link and sometimes you tap the little paper airplane icon to send. Sometimes the commands are at the top of the screen and sometimes they’re at the bottom. Sometimes they’re hidden in a “hamburger” menu, sometimes they’re under a “MORE” (text) link and sometimes they’re under three dots stacked on top of each other. What in the world is that icon supposed to be, anyway?!

Although I applaud the number of apps available above in “The Good” this also plays into “The Ugly” because it’s difficult to download an app and feel like you already know how to use it because you have to re-learn the controls with each and every app.

While I haven’t spent much time reading up on Google’s Material Design language there might be some hope that some day Android apps will look and feel a bit more consistent than they do today. That said, if this reality ever does take shape, it’s probably safe to say that it is years away.

Lifeless Tiles
OK. Ask anyone that’s been using Windows phones for a while which feature they’d miss the most if they moved to another platform and there’s a very good chance you’ll hear something about Live Tiles. Live Tiles are awesome. Period. At a glance, you can tell if you need to open your latest e-mail to respond. You can see where your next meeting is without opening the Calendar app. You can see the context of your latest text message and so on… While you can install various (sometimes) power-sucking widgets on your Android screens, they do not (in my experience so far) have the same elegance as Live Tiles. Many of the widgets I’ve played around with so far take up an extraordinary amount of the screen real estate. I’m not saying that all widgets are bad. I’m sure that over time I’ll find one or two that I really like. I just haven’t found them yet.

To Be Continued…

Regardless of my experiences that I’ve outlined above, I’m on the Android bandwagon for the foreseeable future. Unless Verizon comes up with a decent Windows mobile device (not too likely at this point) and app authors start supporting Windows mobile by creating the apps that consumers want on their mobile devices (also not too likely at this point) I’ll be staying with Android at least until my current device is up for an upgrade (two years away!).

It will be an interesting journey with lots of challenges and lots to learn. That said, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge (even if it does frustrate me from time to time). My next challenge will be to start the conversion of one of my Windows Phone apps to Xamarin for Android. That is assuredly going to be an experience in and of itself! One thing in my favor, however, is that no matter how much I jack up the layout of my converted app, it’s sure to fit right in with the Android app ecosystem ;-)

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Android: Two Weeks In

by Jeff Bramwell time to read: 7 min
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