29 Days With Android: Day 22 - A Sad Farewell?

[singlepic id=66 w=520 h=340 float=center] It's so hard to say goodbye

 

Do you believe in fate? Do you believe in signs? I personally do not abide by these philosophical notions because I like to feel that I am in control of my own life. However, sometimes, shit just happens, and you’re left with two options: Sit back, and ride out the storm until a solution presents itself, or constantly question how you got there in the first place.

To sum this up quickly, Android....I am done with you. At least for now. I will continue to follow through with my analysis of your operating system, and I will continue to enjoy the things I like, and complain about the things I hate. However, please know, it’s not entirely your fault. I just can’t stand HTC Sense. My HTC One X has bricked several times since we’ve been together. My OS randomly restarts; my SIM card deactivates; my widgets stop working; my phones performance degrades if I don’t restart you regularly; these are all unacceptable issues that cannot be forgiven. Whereas I love the One X’s design and still regard it as a solid piece of hardware, I cannot understand why HTC insists on installing it’s own ridiculous front-end,touch interface on a phone that would be amazing had it come with a stock version of Android.

I don’t want to root my phone,and install ROMS in order to get Jelly Bean 4.1 (Which is a moot point considering there is still no way for me to root my device). I don’t want to wait 6 to 18 months to get a new version of an Android OS when it hits Nexus devices in a matter of weeks. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want the bullshit bloatware, and I don’t want AT&T’s branding all over my phone.

However, it wasn’t all disappointment. I loved the larger screen the HTC One X offered me. I loved reading Flipboard articles on it’s beautiful IPS-panel display with vibrant color reproduction, and fantastic pixel density. I loved sifting through Google Reader, keeping myself up-to-date on when the hell Android Jelly Bean was going to hit the HTC One X. (Among other things). I enjoyed the Beats by Dre audio on my device. And I absolutely LOVED the Google integration on the Android operating system; the one thing I will definitely miss the most about this phone when I finally get rid of it in 7 days.

 

[singlepic id=63 w=520 h=340 float=center]

The big 3. Which one would you chose?

 

It’s a sad goodbye. What remains uncertain, however, is where I’ll end up. In terms of hardware, I still find the iPhone 5 to be a boring upgrade. True, it would meet all the necessary requirements needed for me to deem it a great smartphone. And there is no doubt Apple’s new Jesus Phone is fast as shit with it’s new A6 processor and LTE antenna, but I am also interested to see what Google announces this coming week with it’s future line of Nexus devices. I’m also extremely curious about the Lumia 920, which from what I've read and seen online, is a truly innovative smartphone, complete with wireless charging, a stronger pixel density than the iPhone 5 and the most responsive touch display the industry has seen since the first iPhone. (All will have to be verified later).

 

[singlepic id=65 w=520 h=320 float=center]

I'm very tempted to try out the Lumia 920. It's a sexy device.  

 

Regardless, it's been a fun ride and I still plan to further explore what Android has to offer since I clearly see the benefit to using Google's OS. It has a very loyal & dedicated community behind it, which leads to many tweaks and custom ROMs that allow any user to create a very unique and tailored experience. Essentially, Android can be whatever you want it to be. I admire that in an operating system. It’s why I always enjoyed jailbreaking my iPhone 4. It’s why I used a PC for years, and it’s why I built a new one just a few months ago. However, I also like it when things JUST WORK. Sometimes I like it easy.  There isn't anything wrong with either philosophy, it just comes down to whatever suits you best. In regards to my cell phone, I just need it to work 99% of the time. And I often found myself incredibly frustrated with my HTC One X because of random missing SIM card errors, various performance hiccups and the constant wondering on when the hell HTC is going to make a year-old update to the Android OS available to my phone. It’s bullshit.

I definitely see the advantages to an open ecosystem, but seriously, why the fuck do Galaxy S3 owners, and HTC One X owners get hosed if they don’t buy a Nexus device?! Some Android phones are still 2-3 iterations BEHIND on their operating systems. I understand with so many devices to worry about, updating every Android-based smartphone to the newest version of its OS may be impossible, but if your phone is less than a year old, and it still can’t get the latest version of Android, then you have every right to be upset. There is no excuse for continuing to foster a poor customer experience, and hopefully Google is working hard to address these issues.

Again, this is simply a rundown of my experience. Not everyone who decides to make “The Switch” has a bad venture. In fact, my experience with Android wasn't necessarily awful, just rather disappointing. It’s important to note, however, my experience could have been dramatically different had I been able to root my phone; or purchased the Galaxy S3; or purchased a Nexus device, etc. There are a number of different paths I could have taken, and this series of blog posts only chronicles my experience with the HTC One X. I will always keep an open mind, and I LOVE trying out new hardware and operating systems. It’s the beauty of competition; we have choices, and I encourage others to experiment and explore what else is out there.

 

[singlepic id=64 w=520 h=320 float=center]

Farewell for now, but we shall meet again, Android. 

 

In the meantime, I am thinking of picking up a Nexus 7 in order to experiment with Android in what I feel is the BEST way to experience it: as a stock OS. I’ll continue to update my blog as I “enjoy” my last week with the HTC One X, and who knows....perhaps HTC will announce a Jelly Bean update in the next 7 days, and it will change my life. Stranger things have happened.

Till next time....

 

-T

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.

THE RUNDOWN:

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.

baybridge

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.

nexus

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.

nosimcard

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....

29 Days With Android: Day 8 - My First Week With ICS

[singlepic id=57 w=520 h=391 float=center]  

Week 1 in the bag and I won’t lie: even I didn't think I’d make it this far along on the Android platform. I’ve been a Mac guy for so long now, the very thought of switching to anything else terrifies me. But, something interesting happened: I slowed down. I gathered my thoughts. And I dissected them one by one. Why did I initially want the iPhone 5? Why did I initially want the Retina Macbook Pro? Why is Alessandra Ambrosio so fucking hot? All 3 have the same answer: They are sexy devices.

But did I really need them? (Alessandra aside). I wrote a blog post earlier this year about Apple’s brilliant marketing tactics. No company on this planet makes you feel the NEED to buy their products better than Apple. And if you need further proof of just how talented Steve Jobs was at selling “his” gadgets, check out the video below:

Perhaps Apple needs to find new words to describe their products, but you have to admit, Apple has perfected the art of giving keynotes. Whether that’s because they pack the room full of fanboys & Apple employees, or simply make quality shit, no one can deny the buzz that centers around the unveiling of a new Apple product. Many companies have tried to replicate Apple’s success and most, if not all them, have failed.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m starting to feel differently than I did 4 years ago when I purchased my first iPhone. Yes, I  most definitely would have purchased the iPhone 5 had it been readily available for me to buy on launch day. However, I was late to the party when attempting to pre-order the device online, giving me 3-4 weeks to mull over my decision. This was the exact same way I felt before purchasing Apple’s new Retina Display Macbook Pro. Was I really about to drop $3k dollars on a laptop?  After thinking it over for 2 weeks, I finally came to my senses, and spent $1600 on a new, custom built PC with a gorgeous 24 inch monitor, which spec wise, beats the shit out of the three-thousand dollar laptop I was about to purchase from Apple.

Don’t confuse me for a hater. I think the new Retina Display MacBook Pro is gorgeous, and incredibly powerful, but you have to admit, the price is a little ridiculous. So while waiting for my iPhone 5 to ship (3-4 weeks), I had time to examine what the iPhone 5 really was: Just a new iPhone. Yes, it had LTE, a bigger screen, a faster processor,  sexy looks, and a stellar camera.  And YES, this could be the phone I ultimately end up with, but it wasn’t anything we haven’t already seen on older Android devices. It wasn’t revolutionary. Nor did I expect it to be. Perhaps we have hit that point where smartphones will simply evolve through various iterations  instead of revolutionize. Regardless, it was time to give Android a shot. So I cancelled my iPhone 5 pre-order, and got myself the HTC One X.

After a full week with the device, I wanted to break this update  into two sections: Hardware and software, and how I’ve adapted to both.

 

[singlepic id=54 w=520 h=391 float=center]

 

The Hardware:

I really do like the HTC One X. As I’ve previously stated, the extra screen real estate is fantastic. Using applications like Facebook, Twitter, and Flipboard are a breeze on the One X,  and it truly makes for an overall better experience when compared to my old iPhone 4. (Especially using Flipboard) Infact, I find myself using my iPad much less now that I have a cell phone with a 4.7 inch display. Reading web articles through Google Reader and Chrome is much easier, and I’m finally using my cell phone for something I would often reserve specifically for my iPad: watching video. I never watched a ton of video on my iPhone 4 because I felt the screen was too small. Not a problem on the One X.

Though the larger screen size is nice, I find the HTC One X challenging to use with only one hand. This wasn’t a giant turn-off for me simply because my fingers are short and fat, making texting with one hand nearly impossible on ANY device. But, whether I’m surfing the web or exiting out of applications, I almost always have to use two hands to operate the One X because my fingers cannot reach certain areas of the phone, depending on how I am holding it. This wasn't a problem on  my old phone, however I also used two hands to text and run other applications when using my iPhone 4, thus using two hands isn't necessarily a deal breaker for me.

In terms of the phone’s design, and feel, the HTC One X is a solidly built device that easily fits into my pocket and is easy to hold. Though substantially larger than my iPhone 4, I don’t really notice the difference while carrying the One X as I go throughout my daily routine. My only true gripe is that it renders all of my old iPhone 4 accessories useless. Then again, so would the iPhone 5.

Finally, to sum up hardware, I have to talk about LTE and screen size, and how it affects battery life. Since the HTC One X sports a sharp 4.7 inch display with blazing fast LTE, my cell phone usage has dramatically increased. I watch more video, send more tweets, update Facebook more often, surf the web, read articles, listen to Pandora, Spotify, podcasts, etc.  This kills my battery life. I have to constantly be aware of how often I am using my phone, and for what purpose or I could find myself with a dead battery around the middle of the afternoon. This isn’t to say my usage or battery life on other devices would be dramatically better, however at 1800 milliamp hours, the One X’s irreplaceable battery is smaller than many of its competitors.

 

The Software:

[singlepic id=52 w=520 h=340 float=center]

 

Let me get this out of the way first: I do not like HTC Sense. I do not like any GUI layover on Android. Bloatware is bad enough, but HTC Sense seems to negatively affect the One X’s performance. I am starting to think to get the best Android experience, I have but two options: Root my phone, and install a true vanilla-version of Android OS, or purchase a Nexus device. The Galaxy Nexus is not available on AT&T with LTE, and the new Nexus phone has yet to be announced (although rumors suggest several new Nexus devices will be launching later this year). I just don’t understand why OEM’s insist on embedding their own GUI skins on top of Android. It often bogs down the phone, and usually prolongs the time it takes to receive OTA updates when a new version of Android releases. It’s the one thing I loved about the iPhone: No horrendous bloatware, and immediate updates to iOS when a new version is released.

I attempted to root my phone and install Jelly Bean (Android 4.1), however since my phone was manufactured quite recently, there was still no unlock available for me at the time this article was written. Perhaps that will change shortly, but even if I successfully root my device, and install a base version of Android, many HTC One X users have reported that certain features on the phone stop working as a result of stripping Sense from the OS. Mainly the video camera.

This does not mean I hate Android. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Android has evolved into a great mobile platform, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know my new operating system. Here is the best way I can describe my switch from iOS to Android: It’s like breaking up with a beautiful girl you’ve been dating for years after things got bland and boring. You immediately run out and  find someone new who is also attractive, but way more exciting. She has new & unique features, is a total mystery, and definitely keeps things interesting.   The only problem is you’re not entirely sure if she’s exciting because she is NEW, or because she truly blows your mind. You constantly battle back & forth in your head if you should return to the woman who, despite the occasional hiccup, always treated you right, or if you should stick it out with this new broad who, although exciting, is a total enigma.

I don’t want this to equate to playing it safe versus living dangerously, because both iOS and Android are great operating systems. However, I feel with iOS, what you see is what you get, and with Android, it’s up to you to make it what you want it to be. Right now, I want to root my phone, and experience Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but I can’t. HTC claims OTA Jelly Bean updates are headed to the One X “soon”, but soon could mean 3 months from now. I only have 21 days.

However, even with HTC Sense holding my phone hostage, I did discover some great features in Android. The app market is not a ghost town like many Android haters would have you believe. In some instances, Google Play, and other app stores can offer you a wider variety of programs. There is no heavy curation centered around Android, which could be good or bad, depending on how you look at things, but so far, most of the apps I used on my iPhone 4 can also be found on Android.

 

[singlepic id=55 w=520 h=318 float=center]

 

And then there is SwiftKey, which has got to be the best keyboard application ever written. Writing emails and texting contacts on my HTC One X is leaps and bounds better than anything iOS has offered. The Google integration is fantastic, and I really enjoy playing around with widgets and other UI customizations.  Voice dictation is easily on par with iOS if not better, the Google Maps & Navigation app is amazing, and Android’s notification center gives me quick and easy access to everything from Airplane Mode to Bluetooth. I have yet to test the new Google Now and voice assistant features in Jelly Bean 4.1 but from what I've seen in various demos, it’s amazing.

 

WEEK 1 Conclusion:

I will continue to follow through with my month-long experiment using Android, and happily so. Do I miss iOS? Of course. Apple has a much better Phone App than Android, and the overall look and feel of iOS is much cleaner. The iPhone camera and app is also better than the One X equivalent  and I miss iMessaging hundreds of free text messages to my countless friends still using the iPhone. Still,  Android is growing on me. I just need to experience the OS the right way. My plan is to either root my phone, and install Android 4.1 ASAP, or possibly experiment with a new device, such as the Galaxy S3 or the Galaxy Nexus. (Although TouchWiz is arguably worse than HTC Sense). Google’s OS fragmentation has really turned me off, yet I know Google  is working hard to resolve these issues, and streamline the updating process. But for now I shall continue to explore what Android has to offer, so if you have any tips or pointers, please feel free to send them my way.

Till another day....

T.

29 Days With Android - Day 3: My First Disappointment

[singlepic id=45 w=520 h=393 float=center]  

One of the many things you’ll find Apple lovers (and haters) complaining about  is how often Apple iterates on its devices. After what I learned today, I think Apple fans and iPhone lovers should be thankful. Life can be much harsher for Android fanatics.

Consider this: Apple is almost guaranteed to release an updated version of the iPhone every single year. This is comes as no surprise, and has been Apple’s status quo ever since the iPhone was introduced back in 2007. And still, you’ll find people bitching about it. Some Apple fans, some Apple haters. But is this practice really that foreign to us? Should we be surprised? The answer is NO, we should not. Car companies have been doing this for over half a century, and no one bitches about 2012 Honda Accord when the 2011 model has been out for just 9 months.

So today, I learn from the various colleagues in the tech indusry that HTC is releasing an upgraded version of the One X later this year,  taking a page from Apple, and unimaginatively calling their new device the One X+. Keep in mind, the One X was released in April of THIS year. Now, just 6 months later, we’ll have the One X+, sporting a better battery, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, 64 GB of storeage, and a faster processor. Awesome.

I’ll be honest. I think of myself as someone who follows tech closely,  and I’ve been aware of the rumors hovering over the release of the One X+. I expected it to be announced soon, but by “soon”, I figured sometime early next year. Turns out “soon” is now October, with the U.S. & AT&T receiving the phone sometime this winter.

So as someone who has voluntarily decided to publish his experiences with Android and the HTC One X online for the world to see, here are the tweets I received this morning, after I awoke around 7:30 am, tired and hungover from drinking too much wine, while watching another shitty episode of How I Met Your Mother:

 

[singlepic id=46 w=520 h=95 float=center]

[singlepic id=47 w=520 h=95 float=center]

[singlepic id=48 w=520 h=95 float=center]

[singlepic id=50 w=520 h=95 float=center]

 

To put it bluntly, YES, I should have probably waited a bit before making  the decision to purchase the HTC One X, but NEVER AGAIN DO I WANT TO HEAR APPLE FANS BITCH ABOUT A YEARLY UPDATE TO THE IPHONE. I am not as upset as I may appear to be. AT&T has a very generous return policy, and I have every intention of returning my HTC One X at the end of this month, no matter what OS I decide to stick it out with. But I have to sympathize with Android owners simply because of the mere fact Android cell phone manufacturers take no time at all to upgrade or introduce new and improved mobile devices.

I’m still impressed by the HTC One X, and I still plan to discover what the phone has to offer, along with learning its strengths and weaknesses, but I will say this: When you have a dozen different cell phone manufactures releasing new gear like clockwork, It has to be frustrating for Android owners.

Then again, this is technology as we know it. Things are outdated the minute they are released. So perhaps I have unrealistic expectations. (As does everyone). And perhaps this is why people are so quick to jump on Apple for making a giant spectacle when they decide to play “catch up” with everyone else, and release a new product, I get it. But at least you know it’s coming ONCE a year. Regardless, I take full responsibility for my failure to do proper research.............on to another day......and I’m out of booze. Till next time....

-T