Android – It’s growing on me.
I’ll put my hand up straight away; I have never owned an Android phone, until recently.
My first smartphone was an HTC Touch HD, running Windows Mobile 6.1, and then 6.5 with the HTC Touch UI interface on top. It was slow, clunky but it was like a mini PC, and I loved it. To be fair, compared to today’s devices it was shocking, but with the HTC skin, it was perhaps the most Android phone before Android was commercially released.
From there I went to Windows Phone 7 and then 7.X and then it sort of, well, fell over. Truth be told it got slow, Microsoft dropped support for it, and it was annoying as hell. At times it wouldn’t turn on, others it would just brick for hours. I was waiting to get a Windows Phone 8 device but I was not due for an upgrade for about 8 months, and couldn’t afford a new phone unlocked (circa £540 Lumia 1020) …..and then Google put the price of the Nexus 4 down to £199.00.
With no phone, a bit of cash, and some freelance work coming for Android devices, I convinced myself (and my other half) that this was the way to go, and whilst I find the form factor incredible (its uncannily like the HTC Touch HD actually), I wasn’t overly enamoured by the operating system which was running Jelly Bean at the time.
To me, Android has always seemed, messy. I didn’t like the way that the contacts application didn’t merge all my contacts, a real chore as for some contacts I had over 7 entries. (Work email, fax, home, mobile etc…). I also wasn’t a huge fan of the text messaging app, and I missed the Microsoft apps which I had become so accustomed. OneNote, SkyDrive, Outlook, Office etc… and overall, the integration of all these into the OS of Windows Phone. After spending a few months with the Nexus 4, I only ever used it for freelance work, and went back to my unreliable Windows Phone.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that there were significant upgrades to its services on the Android platform, and with the release of Kit Kat, (Android 4.4) I thought I’d give the Nexus another go, and I fell in love.
What Changed my Mind?
Honestly, the main attraction was the form factor of the device. For me the HTC Touch HD looked futuristic and well, slick. As the Nexus 4 has pretty much the same form factor, I was instantly happy with the feel of the device in my hand.
I love technology (well duh!) and getting hands on with a brand new OS is nice, and so I forced my Nexus to update to 4.4 and, I really liked it. I’m not sure what it is that I liked, but it felt smoother, more organised. It maybe that I didn’t like the widgets option at the end of the apps grid in previous iterations, or the new Kit Kat launcher (got that from a custom Rom), and I think that was the turning point.
I have never been a fan of the iOS platform, purely because I like to tinker, which is why I was a big Windows Phone supporter and continue to be a Windows Desktop fan. Apple has really locked down the iOS platform, and for good reason, they have kept it simple, and because of that, they have sold billions of devices, but that’s not for me.
I loved Windows Phone because it was new, and there were lots of updates, plus I was heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, but alas, Windows Phone is going the way of Apple where the OS is becoming more and more locked down. Whilst it’s nice for the every man, ‘power users’ of Windows PC’s will be driven away by the lack of apps (it’s got to be said) and the similarities in the lock down to the iPhone.
The fact that I could force my phone to update from Google’s servers, rather than wait for the update to be officially released for my model of phone, shows what can be done with Android, how it can be modified, and I’m just scratching the surface.
The other game changer for me was the speed in which the apps opened and closed on Android, that and the killings tasks in task switcher was so much smoother than Windows Phone. Oh and let’s not forget about notification centre, that’s just crazy awesome.
OK, so now I have compared and disparaged Windows Phone (for which I genuinely feel guilty, I love MS products, I’m almost a fan boy in fact, but sometimes a guy needs to face facts), let’s move to a more Android-centric stuff.
The Google Eco-System
Your Google log in, will be your log in for all of the Google products, and if you set up Chrome Google Chrome correctly, you’ll never really have to log in to site again, (this is of course at your own risk should you lose your phone, but finding the right balance is down to the user). I personally enable chrome to remember my email address for most sites, with the exception of banking, and billing sites.
With your Google ID logged in to your phone, maps, YouTube, Google+ , Music and many more apps are automatically signed in. It really makes switching between apps and services, smooth and interactive. Your bookmarks for Chrome are saved cross platform too, which is an excellent idea. The ability to access mobile bookmarks, or desktop books from the phone is really handy, you can also see what tabs are currently open on your desktop.
There are many out there that are paranoid by Google’s exploits and activities, and whilst I’m not one of them, I do understand their concern.
Google have unparalleled access to data, peoples habits, bank details so, so much more. In fact much of this powers Google now. Microsoft is the chief proponent of Google’s ‘shady’ activities, so much so they launched their ‘Scroogled’ campaign.
Yes it’s true that Google do use algorithms to scan your email for content, and by doing so, then provide relevant ad’s when searching your own email account, in addition to providing ad’s whilst you scan the internet.
No it’s not ideal, but look at the flip side. At least ads are generally relevant to you, rather than getting random stuff. It’s unlikely that we will be able to move away from an ad based eco-system any time soon, so make the best of it being relevant.
I think that if anyone is looking to use Android as a mobile OS, be prepared to let them into your lives, they’ll use every scrap of data they can get, but if you are aware of it, you can limit what data is used for what services. I still use my Hotmail account as my default account; I prefer the setup, the layout, and the lack of data mining.
At heart, I’m still a Windows fan boy, but until Microsoft improve Windows Phone, both the snappiness of the OS, add a notification centre, and change the hardware all of which may come with Windows Phone 8.1 (Nokia’s hardware is lovely, but I like the plain black thin slabs, I still think they’re futuristic looking), I’ll likely be staying with Android, but only as a phone OS. I have a Surface RT, and a Desktop that runs Windows 8.1, and I’m very happy with both, but Android as a mobile platform is for the moment the better option for me, but I’ll continue to keep an eye on everything, after all, there’s always Ubuntu/Sailfish/Firefox… right?