Friday, December 9, 2011

You always have to consider the source

This is not really an opposing view.  I own an iPhone 4, a first-gen Samsung Focus, and a Samsung Galaxy S II.  I recently read Charlie Kindel's post on the Galaxy and thought it would be good to offer an "alternative" viewpoint.  I'm certainly not an Android fanboy. I carried an iPhone 4 for nearly 1.5 years and have been trying so hard to like my Focus.  To be honest I haven't even decided if I'm going to keep the Galaxy or go back to my iPhone.  With that said, he's my counterpoints. [As with all devices, different phones can have different characteristics so my experience doesn't always equal your experience.]

Battery Life

Charlie writes that battery life was unacceptable on his Galaxy.  I had completely the opposite experience.  My first gen Focus was always near dead when I went to bed at night whereas my Galaxy has terrific battery life.  I run with wifi on all the time and GPS on nearly all the time.  I charge it every night and it comes off the charger at 7am.  I usually have between 30-40% battery left when I go to bed around 10.  Now,it is possible to install certain apps that kill battery life.  I installed a Craigslist app that sucked the life out of my phone.  That's when I installed Advanced Task Killer.  That took care of those issues.

Task Manager

Yes, the freeze drying multitasking of iOS and WP7 does solve the issues of rogue apps killing battery life but true multi-tasking is also very cool in many cases and after using the phone for nearly 3 weeks, I have absolutely no issues with ATK running in the background.  Every so often a graphic appears on the screen listing how many apps it killed.

Email client being slow

Charlie points out that his email clients were very slow.  It's possible that Charlie has much more email than I do.  I have a very large corporate email box (uses IMAP and not Exchange) and my GMail account has 1796 emails in the inbox (I know, I know). My email clients are very snappy.  However, I can't help but discuss the positives of email on Android.  On Android I can set emails from certain senders to always show inline images.  I can set my email client to notify me with sound during the day but to not notify with sound at night when presumably I'm sleeping.  Android also has linked inboxes just like WP7.  I also have a choice of email clients.

Home Screen Flexibility

Here Charlie almost sounds like an Apple fan boy explaining to his readers that they don't really need the flexibility.  Of course I assume he finds an nearly endlessly scrolling list of apps on WP7 better.  Hmm.  Yes, the Live Tiles on WP7 is interesting (so long as you can actually find apps that do live tiles. Looking at your Facebook).  But with Android you don't have to use widgets.  You can if you want, but don't have to.  If you want all your games on screen 1, all your utilities on screen 2, all your media apps on screen 3, you can do that.  That's the point, it's up to you.  With WP7 you *might* be able to find an app to create folders for your apps but really it just lumps all the apps into a single list.  Nice.

Cohesion in UI

Charlie claims there is no cohesion in the UI.  Well, that's simply an opinion. Is the UI on Android as nice as iOS? Nope.  I would say it's not as good in some places as WP7.  But it's entirely subjective how important that is to you.  It is clearly very important to Charlie.

Apps Crashing Phone

I'm certainly not going to doubt that Charlie saw what he saw.  I haven't installed the apps that he did because I have had no crashes.  Now I've never seen a WP7 app crash the phone but I regularly see the apps crash.  Netflix, Flixter, several others.  You start them, they come up, boom and they are gone.  Now that isn't Microsoft's fault but it does speak to overall app quality which does reflect on the platform.

Email and Calendar Info on Lock Screen

Charlie talks about having email and calendar info on lock screen.  That is a nice touch.  Of course, what he didn't tell you is that there are several lock screen replacements that do exactly that for Android.  Oh wait!  You can replace the lock screen on Android?  Yup!  You want an iPhone slider?  Done!  You want a round wheel that you have to spin to unlock?  Yup, got that too!  You want to draw some pattern to unlock?  No problem! You want any of that on WP7?  No, the users don't really need that.  Yeah...

Notification Pulldown

Charlie really likes the notification pulldown in Android and he's right to like it.  I really enjoy coming back to my WP7 phone (yes I carried my Focus for several weeks) and not seeing anything on my tiles and missing something important.  It's real fun to see on my tile that I have 4 unread emails, click it to go to the mail app, read one of the mails and then get distracted only to come back and find that the live tile shows nothing new.  I guess I have to remember that I had 3 more unread mails to read.

Bad Name

He says 'Samsung Galaxy S II from AT&T' is the worst name ever.  Really?  He's really reaching here.  How does that compare to 'Samsung Focus Flash from AT&T'.  By my count it's exactly the same number of letters.  Of course, the second is _so_ much better.  Like I said you have to consider the source.

Calendar Defaulting and Pin Contact To Home Screen

Well, it is the "default". Change it if you want.  I agree with Charlie that it would be nice to be able to pin a contact to the home screen.

Tilt To Zoom

Since you can dismiss the instructions after you see them once it's very hard to call them a problem.  And he is right that it is very slick.

Buttons (and Camera button)

I actually prefer the single mechanical button of iPhone.  It's very easy for me to pick up my iPhone 4 with one hand, wake it and unlock it with my thumb, and begin to use it.  With the Galaxy (and the Focus for that matter), it's much harder.  The wake button is up near the top of the phone on the right.  With the phones being bigger it's hard to "one-hand" it.    Charlie says that the search button is inconsistent in some cases and he's right about that.  However, there were many times I heard my Focus declaring from my pocket that it couldn't hear what I was saying.  With the Focus it was very important that you put the phone to sleep before putting it in your pocket.  That has never happened with my Galaxy.  The menu button is nice because it provides a very consistent place to get settings for where you are at.  It helps to keep the UI from being cluttered.  Yes there are different approaches like swiping to a screen to your right or having small dots in the lower right that bring up a menu.  They all work reasonably well.

Charlie misses his physical camera button from WP7 and I agree that is nice.  That's one of the reasons I flashed a custom ROM to my phone.  Most of the custom ROMS now use one of the volume buttons as a camera button.  Works just like the iPhone with iOS5!

Navigation

Charlie says that navigation on the Galaxy is as good as or better than WP7?  Please.  WP7 tap-n-turn navigation is a joke.  I haven't tried out the $4.99 app for navigation but the built-in one requires you to tap the phone screen to hear where you are or your next turn. Really?  That's broken.  Yes, it was a licensing issue.  Yes, I expect that the next major release will fix it.  I tried to use it. Really I did. My Galaxy did a perfect job wherever I went.  My Focus was very silent unless I kept tapping it.  Oh, and on my Galaxy I was streaming Pandora in the background and my daughter was reading a book and texting a friend in the foreground.  Does the WP7 nav app talk to you if you tap the screen and its' in the background? I didn't check that.

Apps

I don't know WP7 for Apps.  They are coming.  In fact, I have several app ideas I want to work on (I told you I was interested in the platform succeeding).  However, there is a difference between a platform you want to succeed and one you want to use every day.  With Android I can make it do almost anything.  Even my Cisco VPN at work.  No problem.  It's darling when people say on WP7 they don't need an Amazon Cloud player app because they have Zune.  Folks, Zune is $10-$15 per month and my Amazon Cloud player on my Galaxy streams my own music for free.

Now, I've touched on most every point Charlie made.  Here's some points he didn't make.

Storage expansion

The current crop of WP7 devices generally come with 16GB of storage with no option to expand.  My Galaxy came with the same 16GB on board but then I popped in a 32GB class 10 microsd card for a total of 48GB storage.  Hmm, an iPhone with that much space would cost me nearly $400 and you can't even get it with WP7. Ouch!

No Need For A Computer

Everything is done over the air.  Everything.  I can even download and burn a new ROM without ever connecting to a computer.

Voice Control and Dictation

Both phones have speech to text capabilities except with Android it's part of the keyboard.  With WP7 it's clearly something the app dev can enable but it's not part of the keyboard.  This means that with Android everywhere you can enter text you can speak it. With WP7 that is not the case.

Skype and Swype (sorry had to do that)

Both are available on Android but neither is available on WP7.  Enuf said.

NFC, 1080P recording, dual core CPU, Gyro sensor

Just a few of the things that WP7 phones do not have.  Well, a few of them might have a gyro but most do not.

I guess I've written enough.  I didn't work on WP7 or work for Microsoft so my write up here is truly unbiased.  I own and have used all 3 devices. WP7 is a good first start and when WP8 hits it may very well be ready for prime time.  Having Charlie review an Android device would be like having Steve Jobs (RIP, Steve) review Android.  I can pretty much guess what he would say.   :)

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