Converting from Android Back to the iPhone, Initial Observations

I’ve been using smartphones for a long time. I was an original owner of what I believe was the very first smart phone, the Kyocera PDQ 800 back in 2000. I had a couple of Microsoft Windows based phones after that. I waited in line down in Palo Alto with my pal Robert Scoble to get the very first iPhone when it was launched back in 2007. I then upgraded to an iPhone 3G, then an iPhone 3Gs. I skipped the iPhone 4 opting instead to give Android a run for the money. I switched to a Samsung Vibrant in 2010 and then in 2011 to a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

On Friday my new iPhone 5s arrived.

I returned to the dark side of Apple for a lot of different reasons. I hated the poor battery life on both of my previous Android phones. I hated that it felt like the only way to get updates on Android phones was to buy a new Android phone. I thought it sucked how difficult it was getting updated software and I thought Google didn’t do enough to pressure the hardware manufacturers and carriers to better support Android updates in the aftermarket.

A lot of things felt broken on my Android phones all the time. Things crashed, didn’t work, etc. People kept suggesting that I “root” my phone to fix things — but I didn’t want to root my phone. I’m not a phone geek. I just want something really good that consistently works with little effort.

On my recent trip to New York City last month, I felt like I spent the whole trip apologizing to people who couldn’t get a hold of me on my Nexus because it was constantly dead. I didn’t dare listen to music on it or it would die even faster.

It’s totally unfair to compare my new iPhone with a 2 year old Galaxy Nexus, but I’m going to do it anyways. Maybe Android’s come a long way since my Nexus, but I’m not interested in shelling out $500 to see if in fact this is the case — not after feeling like I’ve been burned twice with my last two Android phones.

I’ve only been using my new iPhone for a few days, but here are my initial observations.

1. The iPhone battery is wayyy better than my old phone. Last night I went to bed with my iPhone fully charged, but unplugged. This morning it had 98% of it’s battery life still. That was amazing to me. My Nexus would have been dead. It’s so nice having a phone that actually has a battery life.

2. The internet reception is better on this phone than my Nexus. For the last two years I’ve thought that Verizon just had really crappy internet service in the Ferry Building here in San Francisco. It turns out it was my phone! All the places in the Ferry Building where I couldn’t get Verizon LTE service on my Android, now work perfectly with Verizon LTE on my iPhone. I was so frustrated all the time when my LTE connection wouldn’t work on my old phone. I was constantly blaming Verizon when the real culprit was MY PHONE! Verizon LTE works GREAT. I just needed the right phone.

3. I didn’t care about the fingerprint technology on the new iPhone. I never locked my Nexus and didn’t think I’d lock this one — I’m one of those optimists who never thinks they will lose their phone. It turns out that the fingerprint tech is so easy that I do now lock my iPhone. I totally get that the NSA likely now has my fingerprint, but I don’t care about stuff like that.

4. It’s nice to be able to hear my music again. One of the things that I disliked about my old Nexus was the music volume. It was too low at max volume. Sometimes when you are on a train or something you want the music louder. The iPhone music can go louder and that’s nice.

5. It’s nice having my iPhone sync with my iTunes. I transferred about 7,000 of my favorite songs on it. I tried downloading doubleTwist to somehow port my iTunes to my old Nexus, but I could never get it working. I think my music library was too large for doubleTwist or something. Letting iTunes manage my music flawlessly with my iPhone is great.

6. My new iPhone just feels better. I don’t know how to describe it. It feels more responsive, more accurate, faster. It feels smoother. The Flickr and Google+ apps flow easier on it.

7. The first shocker for me was how much smaller the phone and the screen felt to me. I got over this quickly and barely notice at this point.

8. I don’t really feel like I’m missing the best Google stuff from my Nexus. I can get Google Maps on my iPhone. I can get Gmail on my iPhone. I can get Google Chrome on my iPhone. All of the best things that sort of set Google apart initially for me as an incentive to go Android feel like they are now on iPhone.

9. Setting up my new iPhone took me a lot longer than I thought it would. Some of this was my fault and some was the phone’s I think. I couldn’t activate it at first. My phone couldn’t connect to the activation server. I finally got it activated and it wouldn’t connect with my wifi at home initially (now it works fine). I had to download all of my favorite apps. It seemed to take longer to download my apps than I would have liked. I had to reset some passwords because I’m always forgetting my passwords (on Flickr now your password must include upper and lowercase letters, a number, a special character AND be at least 8 digits!) I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get my Google Calendar into my iPhone calendar. It turns out what was screwing me up was two step authentication. Once I turned that off at Google it worked.

Thanks to everyone online on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. who gave me input on what phone I should buy next. Rosa Golijan was especially helpful. 🙂

First Observations on the New Samsung Nexus Galaxy, AKA “The Google Phone”


Yesterday morning I waited an hour in line to purchase the new Samsung Nexus Galaxy at the San Francisco Verizon store ($299 with a 2 year contract) on its first day of official sale. For the past 24 hours or so I’ve been playing with this new highly anticipated first Ice Cream Sandwich phone and following are my observations:

1. This is the best phone I’ve ever used. Hands down this phone rocks. It’s hard to describe the feeling of using it. Overall it’s just a feel — it is very polished and the whole UI feels sleek, slick and fast. It boots up fast. The power management feels great. The screen goes off when it should. I’m not overwhelmed with messages that I have to click or warnings. I love how when you turn the screen on and off it feels like an old skool television set going on or off.

But let’s get more into specifics. The absolute number one thing about this phone for me:

2. 4G is FAST! Woah this phone is so frigging amazingly blistering fast at browsing the web. The number one reason why I decided to get this phone instead of the iPhone was 4G. I’ve used a Sprint 4G card in my laptop for about 6 months or so and was so pleased with the speed that I knew I had to have a 4G phone. If you live in a Metropolitan area that has 4G (and fortunately for me both San Francisco and Oakland have excellent 4G coverage) the internet browsing speed of this phone will blow you away. It’s pretty much just like browsing the computer at work or home. It just flies. It feels for me for the first time surfing the web on a phone has arrived. This alone is reason enough to buy this phone.


3. Unfortunately my initial 24 hours with the phone have been full of software bugs. I’m willing to put up with this though and as an early adopter (on day one) I expected that I’d see these. I’m sure these will get ironed out in time.

My first problem specifically was that yesterday morning it took me over 3 hours to figure out how to do the simple task of getting a photo of mine from the phone to Google+, something that should be super easy for the Google Phone. Apparently the version of Google+ that shipped with the phone was not the latest release, the version that shipped just didn’t work. I could not designate the person to send something to, when I tried to post a photo it would just say “sending” for 20 minutes, after multiple tries I finally got a photo to post but it was a teensy tiny version, etc.

When I uninstalled Google+ on the phone and reinstalled it from the Android Market it worked much better. I was finally able to post my photo (the top photo above this post). I took that photo with the Vignette app which worked yesterday morning.

After applying a Google Update to the phone yesterday afternoon though Vignette completely stopped working. I’ve contacted the developer and someone in mobile at Google, but even after uninstalling and reinstalling Vignette, turning the phone on and off, etc. the app simply will not take a photo. When I try I get the error “VIE encountered an error. Runtime error:java.lang. UnsupportedOperationException.” 100% of the time.

So Vignette is dead to me right now which sucks because that’s the number one photo app I like to use on Android (Although did you hear that Instagram is coming to Android!!!?). I’ve been using FX Camera instead since then which is the app I used to make the other two photos in this post.

Anybody have any good photo app recommendations?

Also Google+ just crashed on me 5 times this morning for no reason (well, for a reason, but I’m not an engineer so I don’t know why). The GREAT news was that every time it crashed, when I restarted the app it brought me right back to the place where I’d been typing. So I did not lose any data or have to retype what I’d been typing. Typing on any mobile device is a pain, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that after spending 5 minutes typing something in, it was all still right there when I restarted from my crash.

Anyways, I’m confident that these app issues will be ironed out in future updates, patches and releases — speaking of which….

4. If you are going to buy an Android phone THIS *IS* the phone to buy. Don’t be a sucker like I was with my last phone. Do not buy any Android phone except the Nexus, the Google phone. If it doesn’t say Nexus, do not buy it. Don’t be confused by some trick like it having the same Galaxy name or same Samsung name, or whatever.

If you buy any other Android phone but the Nexus, you will regret it.


Because the phone carriers/manufacturers screw you over with non-Nexus Android phones. They load them up with crapware (my last TMobile Android phone had a super loud TMobile jingle that played every time you turned the phone on or off with NO way to disable it, that was sooooo annoying, especially when you were asleep at 3am and the battery would die waking you up in the middle of the night with a TMobile jingle nightmare as the phone died). They force you to have certain websites in your favorites, don’t let you delete apps or pages from your phone from their “marketing partners” etc. Crap, crap, crap.

But worst of all, they do NOT support updates to the phones after you buy them. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy Vibrant had to quite literally SUE TMobile and Samsung to finally get them to upgrade the phone from Eclair to Froyo. Even now that crappy Samsung Galaxy Vibrant is stuck on Froyo in an Ice Cream Sandwich world (with Gingerbread and Honeycomb releases inbetween) If you buy one of these phones do not complain when they won’t give you updates. You’ve been warned. They just want you to buy a new phone every time a new release is out which is totally sucky way for them to do business.

On the other hand, the Google Phone (AKA Nexus) is like a protected device. It’s cloaked in a special invisible force field by Google that allows it to get the first updates, avoid all the crapware, etc. It’s the most pure Android phone you can buy. It’s the main Android phone that people working for Google will use because they are all in on the little secret that it’s the best one. So having the Nexus is like being in a little insiders club of having the best Android phone. I bet Trey Ratcliff even already has one — he’s probably already even put a custom skin on it like his Mac.


5. Let’s get into the camera. The big debate here? Megapixels. The iPhone has 8, the Nexus has 5. Personally I couldn’t care less. I’m not using this camera to make big 44 inch prints. I mean I’m sure 8 *is* better than 5, but I’m more concerned with the optics of a camera phone and the software to edit photos than I am the megapixels. I still think the iPhone probably wins here though, My friend Michel Ventri uses his iPhone to put out the most AMAZING photos. He’s also big on Instagram. I can’t play on Instagram yet, but did I mention it’s coming to the Android?

I take my DSLR with me everywhere I go so I can rely less on a camera phone, but personally I’m completely fine with the photos that I’ve posted above. If I want to print something out big or take something more thoughtful, I’ll use my DSLR over any camera phone anyways.

The default gallery viewer does come with some nice basic editing tools beyond just cropping. You can adjust specific types of lighting (highlights/fill light/shadows) in your shots, change the basic color temperature (warmer vs. cooler) and it has some simple and basic FX type effects.

6. The Nexus is light, thin, and big. 90% of me loves this 10% of me does not love it. The screen is phenomenal to look at. It’s not just big, the resolution is so perfect. I was reading an article from the New York Times on it on the way to work this morning and it was truly a pleasureful experience on that big screen. Video especially looks amazing on it (and fast with 4G) — speaking of which, if you haven’t seen our Photo Talk Plus video interview with NASA Astronaut/Photographer Ron Garan from Wednesday night, go watch it here now!

On the other hand, I’ve got big hands (that’s what she said), and even for me I find it a bit of a reach to hit all of the buttons one handed. If there were two versions, a bigger one and an iPhone sized little mini one, I’d still buy the big one, but in your hand you will definitely notice how big it feels. If you have smallish hands this may end up being a two handed phone for you.

7. Speaking of the screen, it feels sturdy. My wife cracked the glass screen on her iPhone. When I had an iPhone I always worried about that. I had other friends who have cracked their screens too. I can’t say for sure, but the Nexus feels like if I dropped it the screen wouldn’t crack. It’s like a hard plastic more than glass (it may not be, but that’s what it feels like to me). I’m not going to drop it and try to find out, but it feels sturdier to me than the iPhone.

8. When I plugged the thing into my Mac it wasn’t recognized as a device. I’m not technical but I understand this has something to do with MTP or PTP or some other such jargon, but basically there wasn’t an easy way to get stuff (like photos and music) between your phone and Mac. Fortunately for me though the super knowledgeable Geng Gao was able to point me to this great little free app for your Mac that works perfectly for transferring files back and forth between this new phone and the Mac.

9. Music rocks on this thing. I love that I can use the Google Music player to access both the music that I put on the phone (about 1,100 songs) as well as my music in the cloud on Google Music (about 12,000 songs). There’s a little setting that you can tell the phone to only play offline songs when you don’t have a connection (or don’t want to use your connection), or you can go to the cloud and play any of your music from Google Music that you want. Are you using Google Music yet? If not you totally should be, it’s free.

10. Google Integration. Another big reason I went with this phone over the iPhone is Google integration. Google is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my online life. Google Maps, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+, etc. I love that I can easily add my own personal custom created Google Maps from my computer as a layer on the phone’s mapping software. Whenever I go shoot a city I create a map ahead of time of things I want to shoot there. To be able to easily load those pin points into my mobile phone is huge for me. Likewise Gmail works really well on the new phone. I especially like how well and fast it can search my entire mailbox to help me find messages that I need to use when I’m out and about.

11. It’s Verizon. I think I’ve sort of developed this bias against most of the cell phone providers. My experience with AT&T was that their 3G coverage on the iPhone was simply awful. I used to bitch about that on Twitter mercilessly. When I switched to TMobile I was mad because after promising us unlimited internet they started throttling me (i.e. bait and switch). Being throttled was even worse than AT&T’s crappy coverage, the phone just crawled to an unusable pace.

I do like my Sprint 4G service, so I’ve got nothing bad to say about Sprint… yet. I have heard rumors that they are going to end my unlimited service on 4G card though which will probably make me mad if/when they do that.

I’m not quite sure what to expect with Verizon yet, but people that I’ve informally talked to sort of tell me that Verizon is the best of the carriers. I heard alot of people say that their iPhones did better when they switched from AT&T to Verizon. I suppose if I had to pick a carrier based on all of this anecdotal evidence I’d pick Verizon. My plan comes with 4 GB of data. If I use more though I get charged $10/GB. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it under that limit.

Maybe someday Google will buy a carrier and free us all from all the bad carrier service/policy.

12. Battery life. So far so good, but I haven’t really tested this enough yet. I bought a second usb charger cable when I bought the phone. I keep the AC power one at work and keep it plugged in there when I’m at work and I use the 2nd one with one of the USB slots on the back of my Apple 27 inch cinema display monitor (which I love) at home.

When I was really taxing the phone (i.e. listening to Google Music from the cloud on 4G, while surfing the web and using the camera at full screen brightness — the screen is big) it did sort of feel like the battery was going down kind of fast. I did drain the battery when I first bought it, but I’m sure they don’t come with a full charge and it seemed to recharge back up to full battery pretty quickly.

I’ve heard this battery is alot better than previous Android devices and that ICS does a better job at managing the power of this phone. I’ve seen some early initial reports from others that seem to suggest the battery life on this device will do well. We’ll see I suppose, if it doesn’t I’m sure you’ll probably hear me bitching about it.

13. The headphones that came with this thing feel great to me. I’m no audiophile but I’ve been using just the standard white Apple headphones with my last phone and I like these headphones alot better.

Anyways, those are my initial thoughts and reactions on the phone. I’m super happy with it as a Christmas present to myself. 🙂

Update: Leif Sikorski suggested that my problem with Vignette would be related to the fact that I had “Force Rendering GPU” on in the developers options. I checked that (I don’t remember ever turning that on and have no idea how it got checked) and he was absolutely right. That option was checked. I unchecked it and now Vignette is working just fine for me. A good thread on the new Nexus phone on Google+ here.

Why I’ll Probably Switch Back to an iPhone From Android When the New iPhones Come Out

Rumor has it that iPhone 5 will be coming out this Summer/Fall and there’s a good chance that I’ll make the switch then from Android back to the iPhone. I’d owned every new iPhone up until iPhone 4 when I decided to make a switch to the Android operating system last Fall. I mostly made the change I think because I hated AT&T so much, but I’d also heard a lot of good things about Android and wanted to give it a try. After 9 months of Android now I think I’m ready to make the switch back. Here are the reasons why.

1. The iPhone 4 is now on Verizon and maybe iPhone5 will be on other carriers besides AT&T (whose network always sucked when I used it).

2. Updating the operating system on your Android phone is a huge pain in the ass. In order to update my Samsung Galaxy Vibrant from the Eclair operating system to the Froyo operating system (keep in mind that Google’s working on honeycomb now apparently, which is two operating updates ahead of what I just updated to), I had to go through hell to get it done. No OTA for Samsung. No iTunes for Samsung. No, I had to manually find the file somewhere on the web on a confusing website, download it to a Windows machine (yes Windows only), and update my phone through a long confusing process. And this was only *after* Samsung/TMobile were sued!

By contrast, I can trust Apple that any updates available for my iPhone will be easily available to me, making my phone better and better in the future.

3. The stupid little things matter. Apple is really, really, really good about making sure that their devices just work right. They just do what their supposed to do. They’re not wonky or contain little stupid glitches.

For example. Let’s say I’m walking to my office and I have a little battery life left. Presently my Android device automatically dims my display to an unreadable level. This is fine and I can certainly appreciate them wanting to look out for me in preserving what battery life I have left. But… since I’m 5 minutes from my office, where I know I can plug my device in again, I’d just as soon go ahead and use what little battery life I have left for a display that I can actually see. So I manually go into the settings and change the brightness slider to full strength. Then I go back to my phone and start using it again. It stays bright until I hit a web page and then it goes back to the super dim screen. That’s just dumb. My manual setting should stick. But it doesn’t.

Another example. I will plug my Android phone in to it’s charger and the screen comes on. I don’t know why. The screen doesn’t need to come on — but it does. So I hit the button to turn it off — only it won’t turn off, the screen is locked — so I have to unlock the screen, *then* push the screen off button and it goes off. Of course inexplicably the next morning the screen is back on again when I go to get my phone. Did I mention that I have screen burn on my Android phone now?

4. The battery life on this thing sucks ass. With my old iPhone I’d keep it plugged in all day at work. I’d then leave work, use it on the way home, use it at home and when I got up in the morning I always had enough charge to last me until I got to work again where I could plug it in and recharge. Not so with Android.

If I don’t plug my phone in to charge both at work *and* home, I will not have a charge enough for my morning commute the next morning. I don’t think that it’s the phone or the battery that are inferior. I think it’s that the stupid operating system uses power when it shouldn’t be. When I have the phone display off in the middle of the night, there is no reason at all why the screen should come back on (but it does, like to remind me that I have low battery, doh!). The phone should hibernate similarly to how Apple’s does so that when I want to use it again the next morning I can.

5. The fact that I can’t turn off the blaring tmobile dingle sound that goes off really loudly when I turn my phone on or off is terrible. Let’s say I’m at the movie theater. And I now want to turn off my phone. Why can’t I just turn it off without that loud sound? Why won’t Android/Tmobile allow me to disable that sound altogether? Why isn’t there an app for that?

6. Speaking of apps, Android still lags here. I miss using Hipstamtic. Yeah Android has Vignette and some other photo apps, but they aren’t as good. And I’m totally missing out on the whole Instagram thing, which is iPhone only.

7. TMobile started throttling me. When I first bought the Samsung/TMobile phone TMobile wasn’t throttling me. Now they are. It’s simply unbearable. The internet is so slow, I get bitchy and go after them on Twitter constantly and it’s no good for anyone all the way around. I’m not sure if Verizon is any better, but it can’t be any worse I’m guessing.

8. The music player on Android is terrible. I want my iTunes playlists back. It’s so much easier getting my playlists on an iPhone. It wouldn’t be so bad if that’s all it was, but it’s not. The music player on the Android phone is just downright awful. The only way I can make a playlist is to do it on the phone, one by one by one.

9. Contacts are borked. Supposedly people that I put in my Google contacts will autopopulate into my Android phone contact list. Like I said… “supposedly.”

10. The whole ease of use thing sucks. I’m not a phone genius. I shouldn’t have to be. The settings on my Android phone never seem to be where they are supposed to be. Finding things is hard. Navigating the interface takes work. I’m constantly having to set some thing called USB debugging on (which so counterintuitively is under the applications menu, under development, under USB debugging) just to transfer files between my hard drive and my phone’s memory card. It’s stuff like that that I learn to do, but are just a pain. Apple seems to care more about the non-phone developer getting around the iPhone. I shouldn’t have to be an Android developer to know how the settings work or where everything is at.

Two things I’ll probably miss with my Android phone. The GMail app is really good. Also the maps are really good, the way that they interact with Google Maps. Hopefully the new iPhone has a way that I can import my custom Google Maps into the iPhone maps interface. But maybe not. If it doesn’t, this may just have to be something that I have to live with. But a plus for the iPhone is also that I can use it as a remote control for my AppleTV.

Android Vs. iPhone 7 Months Later

Seven months ago I ditched my AT&T iPhone for an Android powered Samsung Galaxy Vibrant from T-Mobile. I’d been a big and early fan of the iPhone (I spent the night in line and was actually customer #8 to buy the very first iPhone in Palo Alto back in 2007). With each new model I purchased the new phone until this switch to Android 7 months ago. After using the Android phone for a little over seven months now these are my thoughts.

Android Pros

1. I’m paying less than I paid for my iPhone. At present I pay TMobile $60 a month for 500 talk minutes (which I never come close to using) and unlimited texts and data. By contrast I’m told my wife has a very good iPhone plan from AT&T which is $85 per month for 450 talk minutes, 200 monthly text messages and unlimited data.

2. Google Maps on Android are *amazing*. With Android you can just load any Google Map that you’ve created as a layer on the phone’s default mapping software. This has been tremendously helpful for me as a photographer. I will frequently map out locations that I want to shoot in a new city on a Google Map. Being able to see these exact pin points on my phone’s mapping package (including using directions to the pins) is huge. With my iPhone there was no way to integrate a Google Map page into the phone’s mapping software. At best I could try to load the Google Maps internet page (much less helpful) and I could rarely if ever get it to load in my old iPhone.

3. T-Mobile’s service is better than AT&T’s. I get much better coverage with my Android phone than I did with my iPhone.

4. I can tether on my Android phone *AND* have an unlimited data plan. Although T-Mobile “technically” doesn’t allow tethering unless you buy a tethering plan from them, my Samsung phone tethers just fine without paying for one. I tether two ways — with a USB cable and the PDA Net Android app or wirelessly through the built in software which allows me to turn my phone into a wireless hotspot. The service on my laptop while tethered isn’t as good as a regular wifi or broadband connection, but it’s certainly useable.

5. I was able to purchase the phone without any service plan. I can quit at any time and owe no penalties.

6. The gmail integration is pretty good. Search especially is strong. I can easily find any email that I’m looking for.

7. I get a lot of cool apps. The Twitter app is pretty good. I’ve got the Facebook and Yelp apps. The Android Market seems to be pretty rich in terms of the apps that I like and am looking for. I probably use the Vignette camera app the most of any of the camera apps.

8. The Gallery function is really slick. I like how it keeps my photos segregated by camera type that took them and also allows me seamless integration with Google’s Picasa.

Android Cons

1. There are some apps that are not on the phone that I want. I miss Hipstamatic from my iPhone. I feel like I’m totally shut out of the current Instagram craze that’s going on because it’s an iPhone only app. I’ve tried picplz on the Android as an alternative, but it doesn’t seem to have near the engagement from other users as I’ve seen from my friends using Instagram on their iPhones. I also can’t use my Android phone as a remote control for my AppleTVs like my wife can.

2. Music on the Android sucks. I don’t really like the music player. It doesn’t sync at all with my iTunes. I tried double Twist, but it just didn’t work. Getting music on it is just dragging and dropping the mp3 files with no sort of playlists or organization etc. via iTunes.

3. Once you buy the phone you are *totally on your own* for upgrade support. The upgrade support from Samsung/TMobile has been *horrific.* They made us wait and wait and wait and wait to get the Froyo update and when they finally let us have it, the only way to upgrade my phone was to go through a complicated upgrade process that required me using a Windows based PC (as a Mac guy that sucked). Literally a class action lawsuit was filed to twist the arms of TMobile and Samsung to finally make them release this update. By contrast, updating your iPhone to the latest and greatest system upgrades is as easy as hooking it up to your iTunes and Apple never makes you jump through the hoops like TMobile and Samsung do.

4. Unlimited really isn’t unlimited data on T-Mobile. I was disappointed after signing up and using T-Mobile to get this text message from them. Throttling me because I’m a heavy user seems chump on their part. I understand that unlimited *never* really means unlimited, but I guess I feel like it should.

5. The battery life on my Android phone is a little bit better with the Froyo update, but still not as good as my iPhone was (and I hear iPhone 4 is even better). I could go a full day with my iphone from sun up to the next morning and still have battery life left. With my iphone if I don’t charge it at home at night it’s going to be dead for my commute to work the next morning.

6. The Android phone just seems quirky and buggy all the time. For example. At night I’ll turn the screen off and connect it to my usb port on mac so that it can charge while I’m sleeping. But in the morning when I get up the screen is back on full blaze. I’ll try to push the button to turn the screen back off but it won’t let me press that button unless I first swipe the phone screen to unlock it and then press the button. It shouldn’t be coming on at all when I press the button to turn it off at night, but it does without me touching it in any way and then it’s hard to get back off.

Or I’ll be low on battery and it will dim the screen to a super low level that is hardly even usable. If I go into the settings and bring the screen display back up to full strength, as soon as I try to load a web page it goes completely dim again to where I can’t see it. While I can appreciate their efforts to save my battery, if I’m walking 5 minutes to my office where I can recharge it, I’d rather go ahead and use what little battery I have left on a screen that I can actually see than try to conserve battery life at that point.

There are other quirks as well, but overall the phone just doesn’t feel as user friendly as an iPhone.

All in all, I’m glad I made the switch from the Apple iPhone to the Android powered Samsung Galaxy. I’m a heavy tetherer and really enjoy having my own network to use whenever I want/need it. It’s cheaper. The maps make travelling as a photographer way easier. But it does have it’s tradeoffs as well.

So T-Mobile, When You Said Froyo Was “Coming Soon” for the Galaxy Last Dec. 2nd Did You Mean in Dog Years or Human Years?

Update: Apparently there is an actual update at this point, but you can only update doing a manual Kies update on your phone and only with a PC. I’m not sure why T-Mobile won’t push this out as an OTA upgrade or at least let us use a Mac. Trying to get the update software installed on a work PC as I don’t own a personal Windows machine anymore and our household has gone 100% Mac.

There is a comment in the comments section blaming Samsung for trying to charge T-Mobile for the upgrade, but Michael Gartenberg sent me a tweet over on twitter saying that this has been debunked by Samsung a while ago and that they don’t charge carriers for upgrades. This still leaves me scratching my head wondering who is to blame for such crappy customer service, Samsung or TMobile.

Update #2: I’m now running Froyo on my Samsung Galaxy Vibrant. It was a royal PITA. I made the mistake of following the link above which had me download Kies 2. Turns out Kies 2 won’t recognize this phone. So instead I had to download Kies Mini (which did recognize my phone). I had to do this all on a PC as there is no Mac version. Kies mini after three tries finally recognized my device and I was able to update it. An awful lot of trouble and work, but I am actually running Froyo now.

More Thoughts on my Samsung Galaxy S Android Phone vs. the iPhone

Puppy Love

Last week I bought a new Samsung Galaxy S Android phone and changed my phone service from my iPhone 3Gs on AT&T to T Mobile. I had some initial frustrations around getting the Galaxy to work the way I wanted it to and wanted to do an update after using the phone for a week. This isn’t meant to be a review, just random thoughts from your average user.

1. T Mobile’s service is *much* better than AT&T’s in the Bay Area. My main reason for switching was because I was so tired of AT&T’s lousy service. It’s refreshing to pretty much be able to connect to a high speed internet connection 100% of the time. Web pages load faster, it’s more reliable. I couldn’t believe it when it even started working in the BART tunnel between West Oakland and MacArthur, someplace my iPhone has never worked once and where wireless service technically is not even supposed to be available. Goodbye crappy AT&T.

Also in general, this phone is *much* faster than the iPhone. It’s amazing how fast it can scroll through an internet page. The browser is lightspeed ahead of the Safari browser on my iPhone. I love this.

2. The phone has things that still don’t work. I can’t figure out how to view my favorite contacts. I can’t add contacts to groups. It seems like some of these are known issues. I’m surprised that finished software would still have these sorts of major bugs in it.

3. Connecting the phone to my MacBook Pro is a *nightmare* and not at all intuitive. Here are the steps I have to take. 1. Go to the main settings menu. 2. Go to the applications submenu. 3. Go to the Development submenu. 4. Select USB debugging. 5. Select my notifications bar at the top of my phone. 6. Pull this bar down. 7. Click on the Ongoing “USB Connected.” 8. Click on Mount. I then get two drives that show up on my Mac. Both are called “No Name.” One just has two folders: movies and music. The other has a bunch more of the phone files. This process is not at all intuitive.

You can blame Samsung for this bad connectivity if you are an Apple fan boy. If you are an anti-Apple fan boy feel free to instead blame Apple. Either way it’s a chore.

4. I like the display on the Galaxy better than the display on my iPhone, unless I’m outside in the sun. The Galaxy has a beautiful vibrant display and I love the way it looks. It’s big and bold and bright. But trying to look at the display outside in the sun is almost impossible. My iPhone looked a lot better in the sunlight. Not sure why this is.

5. I miss the autocorrect feature on the iPhone. I’m pretty clumsy when it comes to typing on a phone. I make a lot of errors. Apple seemed to do a pretty good job at getting what I was going for when I’d type San Franncisvo instead of San Francisco and auto correcting things. I think I have auto correction turned on with my Galaxy, but if I do it doesn’t do a very good job. I make a lot of errors and it doesn’t seem to catch them at all. On the plus side though, the new “swype” technology is really cool and I suspect I’ll get used to that and like it even more over time. With swyping you simply move from one letter to the next without lifting your finger until you have the entire word. Then the Galaxy guesses what the word is and I’ve found that it’s really good at guessing correctly. You select the word from possible choices and it inserts it.

I still can’t help thinking about that little fox Swyper though on those Dora the Explorer shows that my kids used to watch when they were little when I hear swyping though. Swyper, no swyping.

6. Google Maps on this phone rock! So much better than the iPhone. I can literally pull up all of the Google Maps that I’ve created online and get them on this phone. The key here is using “layers” (again not the most intuitive way to figure this out). When you are in maps you click on the settings bar and then select “layers.” You then click on “more layers.” And then you click on “my maps.” Then the phone gives you all of your Google Maps that you have created and you can just select the city or map or whatever that you want and it imports it right in. Then you can select any of your pins and the maps app can give you direct driving, public transportation, biking, or walking directions to that location.

I could never get my Google Maps into the mapping program on my iPhone and this is a key reason why I want a smart phone. To be able to use my Google Maps when I’m out shooting and exploring new cities.

7. I miss Hipstamatic. I loved that app on my iPhone. I loved all the funky preprogramed vintage film feels that they’d create. I loved how I could shake the phone to randomize it. The best app I’ve been able to find for the Android platform so far to kinda/sorta approximate Hipstamatic is Vignette. The photo above of my son William and my brother’s puppy was processed with that app. With Vignette you sort of do the post processing manually after you’ve shot the image instead of using pre-built combinations. I hope Hipstamatic releases an Android version of their software soon.

8. Music is a bit more work with the Galaxy S than the iPhone/iTunes combination, but not that much more difficult. There is a free program called doubletwist which feels pretty much like an exact iTunes clone. You can import the music that you want from your iTunes library into doubletwist and then sync that music to your phone with that program.

I think I like the headphones that came with my iPhone a little better than the ones that came with my Galaxy, but I can actually use either in the device. Of course you can buy whatever headphones you want for whatever phone that you want so this is of little consideration.

9. You can’t take a screen shot with the Galaxy, at least the basic user can’t out of the box. This is surprising to me. I’d think that this would be sort of Smartphone 101 basics. Maybe in the next version of Android (Froyo, which is coming to the Galaxy S in September) this will be available natively. You can do something called “rooting” your phone, which as I understand it is like jailbreaking an iPhone, and then use developer tools to take screenshots, but this is not something that I want to do and not something that would appear easy for an every day casual user to do.

10. The Picasa integration with this phone is fantastic. It is seamless. You can access your Picasa photos on Google very easily as galleries and it feels more like they are actually on the phone than you are connecting to the web to see them. Google has done a really super job with this integration. I love how you can pull directly from your Picasa galleries to pull artwork to use for your screen background. The Picasa/Android integration is so much more elegant and beautiful than anything I’ve seen come from Flickr yet. The Flickr mobile experience is awful in my opinion. This Picasa integration on my Galaxy makes me want to use Picasa a lot more.

11. Tethering this phone is awesome. I can hook the phone up via USB to my MacBook Pro and use it’s connection to browse the internet on my laptop. Unlimited and for free. It’s not as fast as wifi or my uVerse network at home, but it definitely will suffice in a pinch. I probably won’t use this feature alot, but it will be very nice to have when I need it. Right now I’m using a 21 day trial for an app called PDAnet which makes this super easy to do. The app costs $19 to buy after the trial, but from what I understand, much easier native teethering ability will be coming out with the next version of Android, Froyo (which again, I’ll get from TMobile next month).

12. The battery life on the iPhone was better. But since I can keep the phone connected and charging via USB to my computer this helps keep a charge up. I can also use the same cable with the cigarette lighter charger that I was using for my iPhone. I think I’ll be able to manage the battery life. I like that the Galaxy gives me an analysis of what is using my battery life. AT present it breaks down as follows for me. 78% display, 10% Android system, 7% Android OS, 5% cell standby, 2% dialer.

13. I am now paying $60 a month for phone service (without a contract) that includes 500 talk minutes per month and unlimited texting and internet.

By contrast, my wife (who is still on an iPhone) is paying $75 a month for a comparable plan except that she only gets 450 minutes and is limited to 200 texts per month. So I am getting just a little bit more from T-Mobile for $15 per month less on a much superior network.

Better service, lower cost. Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

14. Almost all of the above workarounds, etc. that I figured out for this phone came from Google Buzz, one of the best social networks around. You can follow me on Google Buzz here.

Thanks to everyone there who has given me advice on how to use my new Galaxy over the past week. Google Buzz has a tech savvy community that is very enthusiastic about the Android platform, smart phones and technology in general. Even more impressive, many of the people who gave me advice and help over this last week are Google employees. Certainly I’m an active higher profile Buzz user, but I’ve been super impressed at the personal interest that Google employees take in passionately resolving technology issues around Google products.

The “community” around the Android platform is by no means limited to Google staff, many other developers, and just geeks in general have been just as helpful, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company whose employees are so willing to engage their customers.

Earlier this week a Google employee, Adewale Oshineye, posted an interesting quote on buzz that struck a chord with me which I’ve reposted below. The Google culture seems to empower their employees to act as tech support, evangelists, etc. however and whenever they wish. This is refreshing to see. There is an enthusiasm for Google Products that I’ve seen from the employees that I’ve followed on Buzz.

Customer service is so easy and still so hard. All it takes is genuine interest in the customer and in your own company. And some simple protocol, like saying hello in order to get the communications channel open with the customer and asking in the end, if he has been satisfied.

But half of customer service people ‘just work here’. They are not genuinely interested neither in the individual customer or in their own company success. Something wrong with incentives? You are not paid for serving well?

Update #1: Thanks to Sumyunguy who in the comments below was able to point me to a convoluted but possible way to take screenshots of my Galaxy without rooting it. I followed these instructions from the link he provided and found I was indeed able to take a screenshot (now you can see how colorful my Galaxy desktop is). This is nice to know. A lot of work just to get a screenshot but nice to know that it can be done. 🙂

Update #2: Thanks to Brian Hall and Brian Criscoulo over at Mark/Space. I was able to use their software The Missing Sync for Android to sync all my contacts from my Mac Address book over to my Galaxy contact list — and over wifi, which was super slick. I can now add these contacts to groups which solves my problem up there at point #2.

It looks like this software will also help me manage a lot more of the synchronization between my MBP and my new phone as well including my music, files, videos, photos and lots of other computer based media. But I’m going to figure that part out later. Pretty awesome stuff. 🙂

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.