Android Again

I guess it’s time for an Android update (see original rant); short answer – I still have an Android phone, my iPhone is sold and gone to a (hopefully) happy new owner! Long answer follows, if you’re interested …

On the downside, my Android phone continues to have poor battery life, worse than my iPhone 3GS and much worse than Josh’ iPhone 4 – but it is now useable for a full day, so I’ll just learn to charge it every day. Other than that, this phone sucks at taking pictures in dim light – it “green balances” when using it’s built-in flash! And finally, the choice of useful Apps for Android remains poor in comparison to iPhone …

On the upside, it’s VERY nice to customize the Android lock screen, and to have useable and useful access to notifications. This is my lock screen, customized with WidgetLocker:
LockScreen.png

I chose the iPhone-like unlock slider, giving lots of space to add stuff – at the top I have live counters for home and work unread email, as well as any Google Voice notifications (of course, AT&T non-visual voicemail is rubbish, so it’s necessary to use Google Voice!).
At the bottom above the unlock slider is the SiMi Clock widget, showing date and time, current weather, and battery charge.
In between are four “slide-to-action” devices that give quick access to phone features without needing to go to the main home screen and open an App – my four do “Camera”, “Camcorder”, “Phone”, and “Call Margaret”.
Really nice, and iPhone has nothing so good (maybe if you jailbreak? But not built in).
Note also all those notification icons across the top of the screen – new mail, USB active, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. Once the phone is unlocked, you can touch/slide down that bar, to access descriptive linkable information for every notification, like this:
Notifications.png

So there’s a new email notification – touch it to go to the message; there’s also USB notifications (touch to change how the phone is connected to the computer). The strange “USB debugging” is because stupidly that is currently the only way to capture screenshots on Android – yes, iPhone still wins for some things!
At the top is a left/right slideable list of recently accessed Apps. Easier to get to than double-tapping the home screen!

If you do go to the home screen, you’ll find it (on HTC at least) with nice animated time/weather, as well as icons for Apps and/or folders (like an iPhone):
HomeScreen.png

I had to purchase Folder Organizer to really make folders work well on Android – but now I can (better than iPhone) have folders within folders! So for example all my Apps are organized in one Apps folder, with sub-folders for different categories – and taking only a single icon position on the home screen …

 

There’s lots of “geeky” things about Android too – pattern-based unlock, System Panel to track phone activity, 3G tracking to monitor data usage, and of course Juice Defender configurable to extend battery life (yes, not needed on iPhone!) …

Sadly I’ve not found anything like Photogene to edit photos, and the built-in photo handling cannot for example resize a photo when emailing it! Similarly there’s nothing to edit videos. But to great benefit, Google influence means that Gmail, Google Voice, Google Reader, all work very well on Android – you can even configure Google Voice to automatically take over any international calls that you dial!

I’d wish for a longer battery life, and for Photogene, but other than that, this phone with huge display, useful lock screen, and can’t-lose-them notifications, is an improvement over todays iPhone. But if Apple could finally do something smart with notifications (and a dashboard-like lock screen configurator) on iOS 5, they would be easily ahead of Android again. Competition is good!

11 thoughts on “Android Again

  1. I do like the clock & weather on Android / HTC lock screens. I hope Apple bring something like that to iPhone along with improved notifications. It’s not in iOS 4.3 though, so I’ll keep hoping.
    The menu bar looks very crowded to me. Are they just icons, or do you have to tap on each one to bring up its function? They seem very small to hit reliably.
    I wonder about the pattern based unlock too. Doesn’t it leave a more noticeable pattern on the screen that could be seen by someone else? At least with a number PIN they would only know the digits, not the sequence.

  2. How much of the battery issue is Android and how much is HTC? You realize you aren’t running regular Android 2.2, but have HTC Sense running on top of Android, right? Take a look at the T-Mobile G2 if you want to see a pure Android OS.

  3. Gavin,
    Good point about pattern unlock – though it’s a neat option and PIN or password is available too.
    Not sure about “crowded menu bar”; if you mean the notification symbols along the top, they are just icons that change in to word messages when you slide down the top of the screen.

    James,
    I can’t say for sure but I suspect both Android and HTC are to blame for battery. HTC have put in a small battery, and by default their “social Apps” want to be used and update screens in real time without running any App.
    But Android does the same – for example the Android Facebook App wants to integrate in to contacts, replacing my pictures of people with Facebook ones, and tagging every contact with real time latest update.
    All that Facebook stuff is disabled, yet the battery still goes down fast.

  4. Ian, did you ever look into Jailbreaking your iPhone?

    You can have pretty much everything you mentioned including all kinds if info on your lock screen, revised notifications, folders in folders and a straight duplicate of the flip-style clock home screen. Plus you can have the iPhone battery life still.

  5. Don’t mean to hijack your blog, but I have an iPhone jailbreak question that maybe you or other reader can answer (Lee?)
    If you jailbreak, can you still use the iTunes store and iTunes to sync everything or once you’re outside the Apple ecosystem, do you have to stay out? I like a lot of the apps I already have and there are bound to be new ones I want, but there are some things that are only on jail broken devices that would be nice to have. Can you mix & match?
    Also, am I right in thinking that no-one has a carrier unlock for the latest iPhone 4 updates? The biggest thing I’d like to do is use a UK Pay As You Go SIM in my iPhone when I travel. When will someone force the US Carriers to unlock??

  6. Jailbreak so far does not disable iTunes function; but updating iOS will typically de-jailbreak the phone.
    Carrier unlock is apparently hard now with Apple updates. I did read of a sim adaptor device that fooled the phone, don’t know if it still exists or works …

  7. Thanks for the info Ian.
    It’s so annoying that if I’d bought an iPhone in the UK, I could use a US SIM in it, but not the other way around.
    Land of the free? Land of the corporate overlords…

  8. I found a dual-SIM adapter, but it was demo’d on European iPhone which would have been carrier unlocked anyway.
    There are plenty of websites claiming to unlock any iPhone, any OS version, but from what I’ve read it’s not the iOS version that’s the issue, it’s the baseband file and these websites are strangely silent on that…
    Next time I’ll go to Canada to buy an iPhone I think.

  9. Curiously it seems that Android phones are quite easy to unlock, putting in a code at the phone keyboard – and even that AT&T might be prepared to unlock the phone for you!

  10. I had thought that once your contract was up, they had to release the phone – you’ve paid more for it by then than if you’d bought it without a contract after all. Somehow it seems like that consumer provision has been eroded.

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