29 Days With Android: Day 15 - Half Way There...

[singlepic id=62 w=520 h=360 float=center] (Twas a rough week for me and Android.....)


So perhaps I was setting myself up for disappointment, however I never expected it to happen so soon: HTC Sense is pissing me off. At least that’s where I THINK the issue lies. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, and give the HTC One X the boot, but I am finding it incredibly difficult to put my faith behind Android when there are so many skinned versions of the OS on so many different handsets. Regardless, let’s get down to what everyone cares about: how my second week with Android is faring, and will I be able to make it 2 more weeks before pulling out my hair.


I reached some important milestones this week as this marked the first time I traveled outside of Austin with the HTC One X. I was interested to see how my phone would perform while traveling, and while walking about the city of San Francisco. Having lived in the Bay Area for over 6 years, I definitely understand the importance of having a phone that can last on a full charge all day long, while supplying me with key functions and features that one would expect from a smartphone: Music, maps, directions, texting, phone calls, and photos. I also wanted to see if there were any limitations to using the One X at the airport and while flying. The results varied.


The Good:

Starting my day on a full charge, I hit up Austin Bergstrom International Airport and immediately experienced some great advantages to using an Android smartphone. As a longtime customer of AT&T, my disdain for the company has slowly grown over the last 4 years to the point where I am starting to think the cell carrier couldn’t give two shits about their customers or install base. Whereas I still have my unlimited data plan on AT&T’s fast LTE network, I still can’t enjoy the benefits of tethering my device to my MacBook Air or using my HTC One X as a mobile hotspot.

Since the free WiFi in Austin’s airport is about as fast as fat kid rushing to hit the gym, the ability to use my phone’s LTE antenna to email and browse the web would have been ideal. However, since I refuse to pay AT&T the extra $20 per month to tether my phone, I downloaded the FoxFi App instead, which gives me this feature for free, and throws the proverbial “FUCK YOU” into the face of AT&T. Definitely a plus for Android owners, which DOES NOT require you to root your device. I had a similar app on my jailbroken iPhone 4 that I purchased through Cydia, but that app cost me $20, and of course, required me to jailbreak my phone. Being able to do this on Android for free, without the headache of rooting was a definite plus.

Speeds through the mobile hotspot were much faster than the airport’s free WiFi, and my overall browsing experience was generally a positive one. I had downloaded some podcasts on my HTC One X to help speed me along the 3.5 hour flight to San Francisco, but ironically, I hardly used the One X while flying. I browsed through some cached music on Spotify, and read a few articles I saved via Google Chrome to Phone,  but I spent most my time reading Steve Job’s autobiography on my iPad. Go figure. However, it was nice to know getting music on and off my device was a breeze, and I could definitely see myself dumping a large portion of my music library on the HTC One X + when it releases later this year. I also have to mention the great picture quality of the HTC One X, and the way images look on it's gorgeous 4.7 inch display. Very sharp, and photo-like.


The Bad:

However, once I landed in SF, and began using my phone in the city, things took a turn for the worse.

The key complaint I keep coming back to when using the HTC One X is the battery. At 1800 milliamp hours, I feel the battery is insufficient for someone who needs to use the One X for an entire day without the ability to recharge. Since there is no replaceable battery in the device, I find myself shit out of luck when my phone starts dying. And trust me, after walking around San Francisco for hours, taking pictures, surfing the web, and navigating my way around numerous protests and farmers markets, the One X is quick to show off its weaknesses. This isn’t really a knock against Android, but rather on the hardware itself.

In fact, my problem isn’t really with Android at all. It’s with HTC Sense, and how it manages applications, power, and performance. My girlfriend has a Galaxy Nexus, and not once did her phone slow down, stall, or lock up over the weekend. The HTC One X, however, decided it would have random moments of network hiccups, and missing SIM card warnings all throughout my stint in the Bay Area. On several occasions I had to restart the device just get make a phone call or send a text message. I found these issues painfully frustrating, especially since I find Android to be a very useful and robust operating system.


I think the One X is a solid device. I just wish it came without HTC Sense, but rather with a true vanilla version of Android. I could conjecture that a new Jelly Bean 4.1 update or the new One X+ would resolve the issues mentioned above, but it’s not certain. Sense simply seems to bog down the phones performance. Even after I installed Nova Launcher to help give me the illusion of a true Android experience, HTC Sense’s presence was never entirely absent. Like a bad case of herpes, you know it’s there.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on Sense. And perhaps I should use these final two weeks to research solutions to my problems, and tweak some settings that may increase battery life. But working this hard to get my phone to behave the way I want it is not my idea of fun. Part of the appeal to Apple’s iPhone is that it’s easy to use and “customize”. (I use that last term loosely). Still, I haven’t been able to root the HTC One X, nor install Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, so my hope is that in the coming weeks, I’ll truly be able to experience what the One X has to offer once an update is available. (Or a ROM, whatever comes first). Regardless, I am beginning to understand the benefits of purchasing a Nexus device. No bullshit artificial skin, no bloatware. I pray Google is able to resolve these issues, and do away with things like TouchWiz and Sense. I know companies like Samsung, and HTC will stubbornly express their disapproval of a stock Android experience on their hardware, but if OEMs truly care about the customer experience, they will do away with front end touch interfaces.

Nevertheless, I am on to week 3. Wish me luck....