12 Hours on the New Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone, Early Thoughts on the Switch from the iPhone to Android

I bought the new Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone from T Mobile yesterday.

I think the thing is that the mac and iphone are designed for each other. Hours and hours and hours and hours go into making sure that these two devices work together flawlessly. There is only one phone and there is only one mac. Well, not literally, but you get the idea. In a closed environment things can be tested and retested and retested and retested to make sure that the devices stand up to Apple’s litmus test of “just works.”

So that out of the box and afterwards the consumer has a positive experience with the product without having to resort to hacks or workarounds or the what not.

Android by contrast can be used by any device on any computer. So individual combinations thus probably don’t get the testing that they should. My phone should be recognized out of the box by my Mac. Except that it wasn’t. If it had been an iphone it would have been. So I resorted to a hack (turning on USB debugging, something not at all intuitive) in order to get it to work. (Thanks Brian Rose)! Still there it didn’t work quite right. It showed up as two devices instead of one. It showed storage of 1.86GB when there really was more. I had to manually turn USB sharing off after the sync in order to get my music to actually play.

My initial experience with other areas of android as well are that it seems to crash more than the iPhone. Things are harder to figure out. Why can’t I add a contact to a group on the phone? It has contacts. It has groups. Shouldn’t you be able to simply add someone to a group? Why can you fave a contact but then not generate a list of those favorited contacts on the phone?

The device costs as much as an iPhone (at least I think it does, I payed $550 or so for it without a contract for a 16GB phone) but it’s not intuitive at all and far more difficult to use, at least so far for me.

If someone is really tech savvy they might prefer Android. I suspect that I can do far more with this phone in the long run than I can with an iPhone. But it’s like a Windows PC in a lot of ways. Yeah, you’re not beholden to Apple as to what can work on it, but you just spent 5 hours trying to burn a DVD because the driver for the off brand internal 3rd party DVD burner that you’re using from Malaysia inside your PC doesn’t want to work with Windows 7, at least the version of Windows 7 that you’re using.

Positives for Android

1. It’s not AT&T and it feels really, really, good to stick it to AT&T by leaving them after they’ve provided such a crappy network over the past several years. I’m sure they are happy to see me go. I was tweeting about once every 48 hours about how bad they sucked when the iPhone would choke over and over and over and over again on their craptastic network.

2. It’s faster.

3. It’s Google.

Negatives for Android

1. It’s buggy as hell.

2. It lacks apps like Hipstamatic that are important to me. It has alternatives which look promising (I bought vignette last night), but it’s not Hipstamatic.

3. The battery life is probably worse than my iPhone, but I haven’t really had enough experience with this yet. I’m just going by word of mouth here.

One interesting contrast. When I walked into the T Mobile store yesterday to buy my Galaxy S (at about 4pm on a Thursday afternoon), the Embarcadero 1 Store was quite literally empty. I mean there was not a single other customer in the store when I showed up. In fact, in the entire 30 minutes or so that I was there buying it, not a single other customer even walked into the store. It was actually really nice. I was helped right away. The service woman there was very friendly and seemed very happy to have a customer. It was quiet. Not at all rushed. She was playing with the Galaxy phone herself when I showed up there. I asked to see one and she handed me the one that she’d been playing with. So easy.

I suppose how busy a store is might anecdotally be looked at as a measure of popularity for a given product.

The Apple store by contrast is chaos. iPhones are out of stock. You can’t get anyone to help you without an appointment even if you want to buy something. If something breaks later (like my headphones not working), you can’t simply go into the store and have them swap them out as the phone is still under warranty. You have to schedule an appointment either 2 days later or at some other store 50 miles away for tomorrow afternoon to have a tech look at your headphones that probably cost Apple 89 cents a pair to swap them out for you.

If you show up 10 minutes early to the store and the doors are unlocked they’ll make you wait outside in 40 degree weather with two little girls while their employees stand around idly just behind the thick warm glass (probably laughing at you inside) in the warm unlocked store just staring at the poor sucker without an “appointment” and his daughters sitting on the concrete out in the cold in front of the store.

Apple treats people like crap. And there literally is no recourse. Except I guess maybe buying a competitor’s product instead the next time like I just did. Google seems to care more. I’m much more impressed with them as a company. I’m much more impressed with the people that work there that seem passionate about making a better phone and a better world more broadly speaking. I’m much more impressed that they are trying as hard as they can to make the best experience for me even if it might fall short for me initially. I’m impressed that they want to do the right thing for the user. These sorts of things should and do count.

I’ll update this post with more thoughts on the switch in a week.

Updates: A couple of other things while working with this phone today.

1. It boggles my mind that the phone can’t natively take screen shots. There are cumbersome ways to make this work, but not without “rooting” your Android phone. Something that doesn’t seem very easy to do with my Samsung.

2. Tethering is really cool and it’s free on T-Mobile. You have to buy an app called PDANet to do it easily. You get 21 days to use the app for free and then it costs $19. I was able to access the web and upload photos to flickr at perfectly acceptable speeds while tethered. It will be nice not having to pay for hotel wifi in the future for the limited amount that I need it while on the road.

3. The problems with not being able to add contacts to Groups seems to be affecting other users of the Samsung Galaxy as well.

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  1. I almost bought this exact phone this week. I liked that Tmobile lets you pay for the phone and then get cheaper service per month. Over the long run this should save a lot more than paying the higher rate once a contract expires. One thing that you didn’t mention is the video capabilities on the phone. You can do some pretty could come in handy if you are traveling. Also no mention of the quality of the camera on the phone? I know that you won’t give up the DSLR, but sometimes it’s convenient to snap a quick pic. Are we looking at low res photos or something better? Not sure that it’s fair to blame Android for Apple’s problems. If you didn’t have a Mac, I bet you wouldn’t have had these problems. I bet that there is a lot that Apple could do to make their computers more interoperable with competitors products, but I guess that’s not really in their nature. One simple solution though would be to drop Mac entirely and come back to the PC. Hope you enjoy your new phone

  2. Nick P says:

    Of course you’ll find it harder to use initially. Its a completely different interface and because it can be configured far more than an iPhone it will probably take you a while longer to master it. Your muscle memory will be attuned to iPhone swipes and key placement so no matter how easy or not it is to use out of the box, writing a review after just 12 hours seems a little redundant.

    I also agree with the comment above about blaming Apple (who have buggy USB support anyway) rather than Android (becuase your phone wasn’t recognised)

    Another app I’d recommend is Swype. Still in beta so its a bit complicated to install (go to their site and follow the instructions) but trust me, if you txt or use the keyboard much after a few days adjustment your typing speed will be much faster!

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Nick, good points. My thoughts might be very different after using it a week, month, etc.

    This isn’t really a review. Just sort of random initial observations.

  4. Robby says:

    Welcome to android! 🙂

    I second Nick P’s suggestion of checking out Swype. I think it’s the one program on my phone that I can’t live without.

  5. I’ve been using the Nexus One since it came out and I agree with you on all these issues. The Android platform is a good platform, but as you observed — it’s still a buggy platform. I’m hoping it’s just a matter of time that this gets resolved.

    I’m curious —

    a) Is this phone unlocked?
    b) Does it have Android 2.2?
    c) If so, can you tether wirelessly?

  6. Nick says:

    Nice post Thomas 🙂

    I’ll be reading with interest how you get on with Android, as Iphone 4 and iOS4 are pretty tired and lack any real inovation IMO – although the one thing that puts me off Android devices is the apparent fragmentation of devices v OS.

  7. Luke says:

    Hi Thomas,

    I switched from iPhone to an HTC EVO 4G on Sprint about two weeks ago.

    I agree that the learning curve is far steeper on Android. I do miss some of the “just works” stuff that Apple provided, but I love not dealing with AT&T’s glacial network and am learning to love the flexibility and power of Android. I haven’t had any problems with crashing.

    For music, I am using DoubleTwist. It integrates well with iTunes and Android. Vignette is a cool photo app. You might also consider an app called “Power Strip” that allows you to call up a menu bar and easily multi-task across several apps and widgets. Google it..it’s pretty cool.

    Good luck!

  8. Rob-L says:

    The T-Mobile was (and still is) my first “smart” phone. It took awhile to get used to. I’d imagine that coming from an iPhone there may be some un-learning to do before you get used to it.

    As far as the empty store, that makes sense to me. T-mobile stores are almost as common as Starbucks. Versus Apple stores that are fewer and far between. Fewer stores = bigger crowds. And let’s face it, the iPhone is still a lot more popular than Android phones.

  9. Farrell says:

    I thought about switching to Android this time around almost exclusively because of the weak AT&T network. I played with the various Android phones a bit, but in the end decided to stick with the iPhone and upgraded to the iPhone 4.

    The main reasons I stayed with iPhone were the ones you mention, as well as the importance of the iPod function since I do a bunch of podcasting. I also didn’t want the PC-like need to tinker with settings and such that you describe. I always hated that, which is why I switched to Macs.

    Of course, the AT&T network isn’t as bad here as I’ve heard it is in your part of the country. Also, I got the 3G Microcell for my office, so I have 5 bars here.

    Best of luck with the Galaxy, though. I almost went that way, and will look at it again when upgrade time comes again…

  10. Dude, don’t buy the tethering app! I think you’re getting Android 2.2 next week/month! I use my Nexus One as a mobile hotspot all the time nowadays. Just last week our Comcrap ‘net went down at home. Right when I was almost done acquiring a British TV show. No problem, Transmission just waited for me to swap to the Nexus One’s instant hotspot.

    …all a part of Froyo, Android 2.2.

  11. Rob-L says:

    Hey Thomas, you can probably just jailbreak your iPhone and use it on the T-Mobile network? A guy I work with does that with an old second generation iPhone.

  12. Thomas Hawk says:

    Ah, Trevor, that’s interesting. So are you on Froyo now? I get that in Sept. Is tethering super easy in Froyo?

  13. Florian says:

    http://www.subsonic.org has a brilliant free android app and you can stream all your music from your computer! I love it!

  14. David says:

    A fascinating and interesting article. But I’m surprised and perplexed by your view on Apple’s customer service. You wrote:

    “Apple treats people like crap. And there literally is no recourse. Except I guess maybe buying a competitor’s product instead the next time like I just did. Google seems to care more. I’m much more impressed with them as a company.”

    Where do you go for Android phone support? How do you get Google Tech Support? Where’s the Google Store to talk to a Googler live about their products?

    I’ve talked with Apple Tech Support on the phone and they’re easy to reach and have quickly escalated calls to get them fixed. I’ve gotten great sales and tech support at the Apple Store. And they beat the stuffing out of “tech” support at AT&T and Verizon stores.

  15. sandeep says:

    In the Android world smartphones are getting stronger with each new development in android software, and the Samsung Galaxy S is the new breed of Android smarthphone looks set to be a keen competitor.