More Android


This post will likely be trollbait for that special flavour of Apple fanbois and their anti equivalent…

Weekend away

I spent a most enjoyable weekend away at Maker Faire in Newcastle, and I took my iPhone 4 and the San Francisco (ZTE Blade) with me (along with my old Lenovo s10e netbook). The Blade made an excellent MiFi for the trip there and back. Subjectively it was better than the Huawei MiFi that I’ve used before and the Gobi modem in my X201 tablet.

When I was out and about I found that I was mostly reaching for the Blade in preference to the iPhone. Gmail, Twitter, Google Reader, Google Maps (and Streetview) all just seemed better on the Android device – more intuitive, faster, easier. The iPhone was relegated to camera duties, and of course served its purpose as a device for corporate email. One feature on the Blade that I must call out is the predictive text when typing emails – it just works so much better than anything else I’ve experienced before (and makes the smaller touch screen work better than the larger one on the iPhone). On balance I couldn’t disagree more with some that say the Android user experience sucks.

Galaxy Tab

I got back from the weekend away to find a Samsung Galaxy Tab waiting for me at the office (a present from my US colleagues). Sadly it was an AT&T one, so it was once again time for some rooting, unlocking and firmware flashing. Things didn’t go entirely smoothly, so I needed a little patch to make things better.

Over the past week or so I’ve tried to use the Galaxy Tab in place of my laptop (mostly as I have a new corporate build laptop, which is pretty locked down – so no Twitter, personal email or videos). It’s mostly worked out pretty well. I sometimes miss multi tasking (watching videos whilst reading Twitter or Google Reader), though with small and medium sized Android devices at hand I can get along.

Speed is a feature

One of the reasons I’ve found my usual apps (Gmail, Google Reader and Twitter) so much better on the Android devices is the HSDPA support in the hardware – they just make better use of brief periods of occasional connectivity. Android also seems to do a better job of caching stuff – so Google Reader works when my train is in a tunnel in ways it didn’t before (even on my laptop). I guess the flip side is that it uses a fair bit more data, but when I can get 2Gb from Three for £5.11 it’s not bothering me too much. One of the ironies here is that my Android phone makes my iPhone better (when I use it as a hotspot and connect the iPhone by WiFi). It seems crazy that Apple don’t put proper modems in their phones (and I must say I haven’t seen bad battery life on the Blade).

Back in Apple land

The novelty has definitely worn off with my iPhone. Cut the rope – done, Angry birds – done, upgrade to iOS 4.3 – done, ripped off £5 by Vodafone just for trying out the new hotspot feature – done, sick of calls being cut off, and no data coverage – done. Only 21 months to go until I can upgrade to something else…

A few days before I got the Galaxy Tab I ordered an iPad 2, which is now waiting for me at a friend’s in the US. I got the white one (in a vain attempt to make it obvious that it’s the new model). This may have been a mistake – white borders are supposed to be bad for movies (though maybe better for ebooks?). I already wondering if I should have got a WiFi only Xoom (and the new bigger screen Galaxy Tabs look lovely).

Multitasking —> multiuser?

As more tablets and similar devices start to appear in the household I’m increasingly convinced that they should have multi user capabilities. A smartphone may be a personal device, but a tablet is a more social, shareable sort of thing. I want to be able to give these things to my wife and kids, but I don’t necessarily want them using my accounts for stuff (and they will of course want to sign into their own accounts). Of course the manufacturers want to sell more devices (one per person) but is this realistic? My bet is that Google will get this right ahead of Apple, and that it just might be the move that makes them win.

Windows all over again?

The flip side of Android is that it seems to be developing the same security issues as Windows (back in the bad old days). I’ve already had colleagues asking me why the ‘security guy’ favours Android? Part of the answer to that is I know what I’m doing, but I can see a mess developing, and I’d rather not be running a bolt on security suite on my phone/tablet. Google need to partner with (or buy) Veracode or similar to keep bad stuff out of the marketplace.

6 Responses to “More Android”

  1. I ordered a ViewSonic gTablet 10.1″ Multi-touch Tablet from Woot this week, with the intention of passing it around to the kids, for them to watch videos, play games, etc. But then I thought “I’ll also have my email, corporate Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts on it”. There isn’t any kind of multi-user support there now.

    I agree that Google would do this before Apple. But there is also an opening there for a Trend Micro or a McAfee to produce a product to lock down Android for specific users, analogous to a desktop lockdown product.

  2. 2 Tim Swan

    I’ve been eyeing up the Tab as well – although I’m thinking a 10 incher would be better for use around the house. I think Nic is more open to owning a touch operated phone, so I may hand down the Nexus S and get a Tab later in the year.

    If you like the predictive text on android, you have to try Swype – it’s still in beta, and there are the usual caveats, but overall it’s massively more efficient than peck typing on any device. . My first beta ran out earlier today, and going back to peck typing drove me mad for the 2 minutes it took to get the latest beta installed (entirely my fault it ran out, as I’d already updated the installer, just not the keyboard device itself).

    Apple won’t go multi user until they are forced by the market – it’s something that’s by design which is evident when you try using paid-for apps from multiple users on a single device. It’s *possible* to do it, but it’s obviously not something they want you to do. I don’t know if Honeycomb has a nicer interface, but I’ve not seen anything in Gingerbread that’s friendly for multi user either.

    As a comparison, most folks I know with multiple kids have multiple DS devices, identified by colour or carry case. Assuming the market is aiming for 150 quid devices, you know they’ve done it once they start selling in rainbow shades.

    • Asda are now selling the Galaxy Tab for £299, but the new 8.9″ and 10.1″ models look a lot nicer is you can wait until June (or get a WiFi Xoom from the States).

      If you want a handset for Nic then why not get a San Francisco and hang on to your Nexus S.

      I’ve been meaning to give Swype a go. I might try it on the Tab, as that doesn’t have the predictive text.

      From what I’ve seen of Honeycomb it’s a lot more multi tasking (in terms of screen use), but does nothing for multi user.

      I’ve got along quite well with every Apple device in the house running off my iTunes account (so I only have to buy the apps once), and this works fine as the kids can have their own email etc. configured per device. I hadn’t thought through the app purchase issues for multi user, but now that you point it out it’s clearly a problem.

      I guess at £99 a throw I’d be happy to get San Franciscos for the kids (if they didn’t already have iPod Touchs, which they seem to be happy with). At more like £500 for a decent tablet I don’t want to be buying them in rainbow shades.

    • Also I wrote last year about the issues around kids sharing devices and accounts –

    • It turns out that the Galaxy Tab has Swype built in:)
      Using it now and finding it good.

  1. 1 Speed is a feature for Android over Apple « The Orange View

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