It’s not like I actively follow the news about new Android releases, hell I don’t even follow the news about Apple anymore but what I heard about Android in the last months sounded not bad at all. So I decided to test it for a few days. The newest version of Android (4.2.1) on the Galaxy Nexus. This is not going to be a big “iOS user switches to Android” post, I’m not even going into as much detail as I could to, I just want to say a few things I witnessed.
Android is kind of great. It has always been kind of great, the problem is the “kind of” part. Some ideas are truly brilliant. The system wide sharing is one of the best things ever. Just today somebody built a little app to save every article from every app to QUOTE.fm Read.
I installed Nova Launcher which replaces the custom Android homescreen with something a bit more open. You’re able to swipe your dock and disable the status bar and so on. That’s quite nice, not that I couldn’t live without it but still. In general you’re able to use your Android Homescreen exactly like you’d use your iOS homescreen: Icons of apps. Tap it to open the app. But there is more: Widgets.
Widgets basically are what you’d expect them to be: Little helpers. There is a lot of trash but I found some gems: It’s nice to have your current Wunderlist tasks on one homescreen, or your current Twitter @replies, or the weather, or your e-mail inbox. It’s basically a quick way to do something and often it’s just a shortcut to one specific function of the main app itself. Foursquare for example allows you to add locations to your homescreen, so you can tap one icon to check into your home or workplace, without having to load Foursquare and the list of places around you. Another example is Evernote which gives you quick access to specific notebooks or your recent files. As I said: Nothing you couldn’t live without but all in all it makes your life a bit more easy. Which is a good thing.
One thing that’s absolutely brilliant is the possibility to install other keyboard solutions. Swype is one of the best things ever happened to mobile typing. You’re so much faster and it actually makes fun to write something because you get the same kind of “flow” a desktop keyboard brings with it when you’re typing a long piece of text. I never experienced this flow with the iOS keyboard which is not bad, it’s just so… tiny and there is so much space for mistakes. Also: Auto correction on Android is amazing. Oh and Swype has gestures for “Select everything” and copy and paste — it’s absolutely stunning.
Sharing and typing is what Android does so much better than iOS that I indeed thought about switching to it just to experience it all the time.
Third party software and even some of the stock Android apps on the other hand are not like anything on iOS. Sure, there are apps for nearly everything substantial you want to do. Twitter has an official client for Android that looks and feels for the most part exactly like Twitter for iOS, the same for Instagram and Foursquare. But they’re clearly not “made for Android”. Instagram is buggy as hell, loses comments while you’re typing them and it lacks of all those neat and helpful swiping gestures its iOS counterpart offers. Twitter has done a good job with the app itself, but it somehow seems “foreign”. It’s an iOS app, not an Android app and that’s why it feels good and bad at the same time.
Android’s visual appearance is dark and cold. Nothing says “Welcome”, everything says “Robot”. There is not even a clear decision if apps should be white on black or black on white. The OS itself is white on black, some of the stock apps are the other way around and in general everything lacks coherency. That may not be a problem for somebody who doesn’t think about these things but you’re clearly experiencing it. Every app has a new way of navigating in it, even the stock apps don’t have one “right” way, there are several that are being switched apparently without any good reason.
There is a big difference between “Beautiful” and “Beautiful” and it’s called UX.
— Marcel Wichmann (@UARRR) January 13, 2013
Yes, your app may be beautiful if I print it out and mount it to my wall but does it feel like something I want to use all day?
— Marcel Wichmann (@UARRR) January 13, 2013
Most of the apps are hideous. I got so many recommendations for “perfect” Twitter clients and took a look at all of them and every one of them seems to be built for emotionless “users” not “people”. Even Tweetbot, which is supposed to look like a robot, feels more friendly than most of these apps did.
One thing Android actually lacks is creativity. How often do you find yourself on a page that advertises [cool app XY] that just launched and might change the world of [Whatver]? And how often is it an app for Android? Exactly. As an Android user you’re always behind. The system feels like it doesn’t want you to be there and the software takes a while until you get a downgraded Android version of it. Yes, there sure is software that launches on Android first, nope, that’s not at all common.
I’m not somebody who has to maintain a big network or goes around to hijack wi-fi networks of other people, so my phone doesn’t really need to be able to do these things. I don’t even need a file browser. I played with several of them, I even downloaded a .apk that was nothing more than an app that opened a link in the browser, that downloaded a .zip which I extracted, moved the containing images into my gallery and changed some of the icons of my apps. Yes, that’s possible with Android, no I don’t want to do that often.
The software buttons at the bottom of the device are a bad joke. The system wide back button is not bad per se, but the fact that every other app has it’s own back buttons of some sort makes that you never really know what’s going on. Sure you get used to it but it never feels “right”.
Most of the unresponsiveness I experienced may be the fault of the Galaxy Nexus. Carsten’s Nexus 4 feels much faster so I’m not going to blame Android for anything like this but I wouldn’t recommend the Galaxy Nexus. It feels cheap and feels as fast as an iPhone 3G.
The biggest problem of all is actually the sheer size of the devices. No matter if Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 4, I don’t get used to that big ass screen. It just doesn’t feel good. At first I thought it’s a matter of practice but then there were situations where I wanted to check something but then didn’t just because it’s not a pleasure to have the device in my hand.
The iPhone 5 is taller than it’s predecessors and I have to tilt it a bit to hit the button in the upper left corner, but at least I get to every other place without struggle. The Nexus displays are just a pain and I have to tilt the device to reach about one third of the display. (Please note: I’m talking about my hands. Of course it fits perfectly in yours, I know.)
I would be able to live without my iPhone, I would get around with Android and some things actually are awesome but at the moment there are several things that just aren’t tolerable.
I will keep my eye on Android and I may switch to it as soon as it feels like something you can get emotionally attached to. With those big steps Google made in the last years, there is quite a chance that this will happen sooner than later. At least there are a lot more things going on in the development of Android than in the development of iOS.
I don’t want to go into the details of my search, I just want to say: I’m very happy with my new apartment. It’s big enough and beautiful. The only downside is the tiny bathroom, but I figured I shouldn’t choose my flats based on the bathroom. The living room lacks of an armchair, but that’s just a matter of time until one stands right beside the window. Nothing is really finished, but is anything in an apartment ever finished? Right.
Here, have some pictures:
Again big thanks to everyone involved in helping me finding a new flat, making the new flat awesome and moving my old stuff into the new apartment. You’re awesome and I couldn’t have done all of this without you. <3
Remember, back in April, when I said that the concert by Lisa Hannigan was the best I’ve ever been to? Well, that changed. It’s even better when Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan play together. Yesterday evening was incredible.
And this made my week: