Sunday, November 1, 2015

Back to iOS: my year long review of Android.

In July 2014, I had enough of iOS.  See my post from then: I've gone Android

Now, in November of 2015, I'm back with iOS and an iPhone 6 s Plus.  Here are my observations of having an Android phone.

  1. Security.  I've noticed that there are lot more discussions on viruses and malware in the Android ecosystem than you've ever heard about from Apple.  I found it awful that my text message client had to guard against 'Stagefright'.
  2. Fragmentation.  It's awful.  It's very hard to get a good experience with Android when manufacturers like Samsung roll their own applications. Take the Clock application; something so basic and simple, yet Samsung required themselves to rewrite it for TouchWiz.  What does this really mean?  Slower time to market with major updates.
  3. Application Updates. Believe it or not constant application updates are annoying.  Every night my phone would be updating to the latest version of some application.  I don't know why this is completely necessary.  However, I have to believe that the changes are necessary to keep the applications working with the changing environment including point #1.
  4. Major Updates.  Google released Android Lollipop to the manufacturers on 11/3/2014.  It wasn't until April 2015 when I got the image pushed from AT&T.  As a software developer, I know that this is good turnaround time assuming that the first time Samsung saw the code was on 11/3/2014.  Reality might be that Samsung saw developer previews as early as June 2014.  As a consumer, however, this is dog slow.  Why did it take so long?  First see point #3.  Second, don't forget that in the Android ecosystem, the carrier pushes your update to you.  I know that AT&T also included some of their applications in that image.  Finally, just before I got Android 5.0, AT&T upgraded me to Android 4.4.4.  Why was that necessary?
  5. Bloatware. I don't need another account to login to, Samsung account.  I don't need another place to store information.  That's what Googles services are for.  I don't need any of the AT&T applications that were automatically included in the version of Android I had.
  6. Customization.  How could that be such a bad thing?  Android is way better at it than iOS, but I feel as if ability to customize comes at the cost of battery life.  Example, it always seemed to me that an application that you replaced was still running in the background anyway. I used Nova Launcher instead of TouchWiz for most of my 16 month experience.  At one point, the widgets were not updating while on Nova and I finally figured out that when applications were updated, the launcher would some how restart and defer to TouchWiz to update the content in the widgets.  I fixed this by clearing out the data in application manager for TouchWiz.  It was a hard to find fix.  Finally, Android gives you the option to choose default applications for a lot of what you do.  Like Windows, this allows you to use Google Chrome over the built in Internet browser from Samsung.  The problem is that it's not a very good defaulting system.  Repetitively, I was asked what my default for this action should be.  Should Android open the link in Adobe Reader, Google Drive Reader, or Google Chrome?  You could touch Always and that should use that application permanently, but it never seemed to work seamlessly.
  7. Other Phones. A few months ago, I was looking at what would be my next Android phone.  I was dead set on a Moto X Pure Edition due to a lot of the issues mentioned above.  Supposedly, the camera was decent even though Motorola has had a poor history with their cameras.  A lot of the reviews mentioned that this is the phone to have if you want a 'pure' Android experience and a bit more than a Nexus phone.  This point proves that there is just too many choices out there.  This is where Google needs to take back Android and make it "this is the OS, you can't make it your own manufacturers!"  That way, the choice comes down to hardware.  Screen size and quality, faster processors, better cameras, faster fingerprint readers, etc. now become the choices in your Android phones.
  8. Battery. In the waning days of my experience with Android,  I had gone back to TouchWiz and turned off some of the other customizations I had because the battery would drain to 20% before 5 PM after a full charge the previous night.  One day it was drained to 20% by 12 PM.  I can't say why this was.  When I looked at the built in battery monitor, it basically said the major culprit was Android System and Android UI.  In previous reviews, it had been ESPN and Bluetooth.  How could Bluetooth consume 15-20% of your battery when it was only connected to another Bluetooth devices for less than 30 minutes earlier in the day?  I suspect some update caused Bluetooth to behave this way.  I also suspect another update fixed this.  I can't say which one though.  ESPN I uninstalled completely due to battery drain.  I didn't see a fix that I could do.  With Bluetooth, I turned it off for awhile, deleted any connections I had, etc.  This was a temporary fix.  The best battery life I got was when I reset my phone completely.  As you might expect once you start adding in all of the applications you like/need then you start to experience an abnormal battery drain.
In short, it wasn't a rosy experience.  Do I have anything good to say about Android?  Yes, it was different than what I had before. Integration with Google services is good, but I don' t really think it is 100 times better than what you get from iOS applications for Googles services.  Difference is good for awhile until that difference has issues.  Then it's just annoying and you go back to what works.