Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why My Love Affair with Android is Over

Credit: http://whatphone.com.au/
There is a point in your life where for some unknown reason middle-aged men become open to accept something new and exciting.  Perhaps a mid-life crisis includes a convertible, motorcycle or boat.  However, in my case, it involved a new love affair with arguably the finest smartphone that android has to offer, the HTC One.

The temptation to cheat on my comfortable iOS was overpowering.  After years on the un-innovating iOS platform, surely the grass HAD to be greener when using android. Others were singing her praises.  She was bright, quick and quite pleasing, particularly when she drops down deep into your front pants pocket.

About two weeks ago I could not stop myself and I broke down and started having an affair with the HTC One the day she became available on Verizon’s network.  I’d been watching her for months and could not wait to get my hands on her. 

Oh did she look and feel great in my hands!  I knew she was young and immature compared to my iOS, however, I figured I could get used to her quirks and find the right buttons to push with a little practice and patience.   I took great pleasure in exploring everything about her, but I soon learned she lacked the stamina to keep up.

I figured there had be a way to get her to last as long as I needed.  I tried and tried to find the right combination of pushes and pulls to keep her going, but it was wasted effort as she would collapse way too early to satisfy me.

Last night I came to grips with what I had done and wiped my new fling before apologizing to my ole iOS while reactivating her.  My ole standard was, and will continue to be the best thing in my life.  And to show how much she cares about me, she is getting some new upgrades later this month, which she promises I’ll enjoy.  I can’t wait!

What I learned

The HTC One on android is a stunningly amazing piece of hardware.  The 1080 HD screen is awe-inspiring.  The processor is fast as is the 4g network connection. The battery charges very quickly, which is good because if I kept it I would be topping it off constantly.

Finding your way around the OS was easy and intuitive.  There are plenty of options for customizing your notifications and adjusting basic settings easily.  All my required apps performed well, although they lacked some serious features.

Where I started to have trouble was realizing the HTC One truly does not run stock android.  It actually runs a version of their own software called “Sense” on top of, or in lieu the stock android apps.  The Galaxy S4, also has an overlay called “TouchWiz”.

I believe I would have been much happier with android had I been able to “unlock” the boot loader on the phone and load a stock version of android on it.  In other words, had I been an AT&T customer, I would have opted for the “Google edition” of the device, and not the manufacturers version.  I have the Google Edition of the Nexus 10 tablet and find it to be just fine for my needs.

I am convinced that had I been able to uninstall or disable the bloat-ware loaded by HTC and Verizon I would have been far more satisfied with the device.  However, within 24 hours of making the device available, Verizon made it impossible to “root” the device.  I am appalled that Verizon took the direction it did, especially considering how android has always been known as being “open.” Shame on you Verizon!

Some of the things that make the “Sense” version of the apps inferior include:

Contacts- Adding a contact from the phone or messaging app only adds contacts to the device, not your default contacts location (i.e. Google).  Furthermore, there is no way to simply re-assign a contact from the phone to Google contacts.  Searching online the best workaround was to remember to “manually” add these people to your contacts after copying the phone number from the app.  Totally unacceptable.

Mail- The “sense” mail app is horrible.  There is no way to swipe to delete a message and no way to turn on viewing pictures in emails for a particular sender, let alone for all emails.  You cannot change the “reply to” address when sending messages.  What also drove me crazy is the new message indicator is only for messages I have not seen, it does not reflect the total number of unread messages.  In other words, once I open the mail app, the counter resets…   I tried several 3rd party mail apps, but none were able to open all my accounts (exchange 2012, gmail, yahoo & Hotmail)

Calendar- The calendar app was perhaps the best of the “sense” apps, but still lacking.  For example, there is no was to change the account on an appointment.  So if I want to move an entry from one account to the other it cannot be done.  Also, in exchange, when I accepted a meeting request, the app did not clear the originating email…

Camera- The camera is supposed to be great in low light, however I found it to be lacking.  For example, it would not take a decent picture of a fireworks display.  It was either overexposed or out of focus.  Also, when the camera is enabled the battery drain is intense.  Disabling the GPS helps, but that’s not really a good way to manage a device.  The Zoe feature from “Sense” where it take a 3 second video is a joke. (as it the “Sense” blink feed.

Keyboard- I really liked the “Swiftkey” keyboard app for the device.  It predicted well and allowed for swiping words.  I really liked it, until I found it would not run if I disabled the Amazon app store (Which is a huge battery hog!)  What should the app store have to be enabled in order to use an app?  Can anyone say DUH!

Battery- I could not believe how quickly the battery drained on the device considering it is twice the capacity of the iPhone's battery on paper.  I monitored it very closely via a spreadsheet so I could see which activities had the biggest draw on the battery.  I never thought about my battery drain on the now 2-year-old iPhone.  Very occasionally, perhaps once a month, I’d get a warning I was down to 20% left.   However, on the HTC I was constantly running low.  After about a week I began monitoring the average burn rate per hour on a spreadsheet and found it to be 5.6% per hour, or an average of running less than 18 hours between charges.  That may appear adequate, but on 4 of the days I had the phone it completely drained and shut off.  (I cannot remember the last time my iPhone died)  On the other days I turned off as much of the features as I could getting it down to as low as 3.8% burn one day… but after a day or two I have to re-enable those battery hog features…  The problem is that the last 20% of the battery goes unexpectedly quick, which skews the numbers.  For example, the last 20% of drain took less than 2 hours on more than one occasion…  I am convinced I’m over analyzing the battery life.  I know I was hammering on the device for the time I had it, but its life was unimpressive compared to my old iPhone.  But let’s say the battery was equal to that of my 2-year-old iPhone, what’s going to happen to its capacity 2 years from now when a full charge is 85% of the original life?

In conclusion, as gorgeous as the physical hardware is, it is not enough to overcome the combination of the less than stellar battery life and inferior core apps.  Had Verizon not blocked the ability to root the device I may have come to a different conclusion…

I really wanted to switch to the HTC One on android.  But now I’m even more dedicated to Apple and Mac.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed they don’t make me regret my renewed loyalty by messing up too much with iOS 7 in a few weeks!

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