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.

If Wireless Service is Now Available on BART in the Transbay Tube, Why Can’t I Get Service?


The SF Chronicle reported yesterday that wireless service is apparently available in the Transbay Tube now between Oakland and San Francisco. From the Chronicle:

“(12-21) 21:51 PST — The latest wireless hot spot? Under the bay between San Francisco and Oakland.

That’s because four cell phone companies – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint/Nextel and Verizon – have just turned on their wireless networks in the Transbay Tube, BART announced Monday.

“The best news is that the installation and operational costs are paid by the providers – not by BART,” said James Fang, president of the BART board.

Nearly 161,000 people take the Transbay Tube each weekday. Now their cell phones and laptops won’t have to be idle during the 10-minute or so ride under the bay.

Wireless service on BART has been gradually expanding since 2004.”

So I was looking forward to checking out this new service this a.m., but of course as expected crappy AT&T and their horrible network wasn’t able to get a signal in the tube on my iPhone once.

If all goes well, I suspect I *might* be able to get an Edge signal on my 3G iPhone if I’m lucky for about 20% of the ride by 2015.

Thanks for nothing AT&T!

Update: I tried the service again this morning in the Tube and it worked pretty well. I lost my AT&T 3G signal for the last 2 minutes or so of the Tube, but most of the time I was able to use the internet pretty well in the Tube. 🙂 Thank you AT&T and BART! An update from the SF Chronicle on the service here.

Adobe Launches Free Photoshop iPhone App

Adobe Launches Free iPhone Photoshop App

Adobe Systems today announced their free Photoshop IPhone App. The app is available free of charge at the iPhone store and allows users the ability to edit and add simple effects on photos with their iPhone.

“As the digital imaging leader, Adobe is excited to bring Mobile to iPhone users,” said Doug Mack, vice president and general manager of Consumer and Hosted Solutions at Adobe. “Now, with access to powerful editing and sharing tools, iPhone users are armed with the resources to document all of life’s unexpected moments, make them look their best and then re-live those memories with friends and family.”

I played around with the app a little bit this morning and have to say that I think it’s very cool — especially for a free app. The app allows you to do some of the most basic edits with your iPhone photos including cropping, adjusting exposure and contrast, converting an image to black and white, rotating an image etc. It also has a very basic set of effects that you can apply and filters that you can add to create effects (like an image border, sketching or blurring effects, and the effect that I liked the most, an effect called “warm vintage”).

I especially liked the cropping tool of the app and found it reasonably robust (for a free mobile app) allowing you to do things like constrain crops to certain aspect ratios (a square crop for example).

You can also use the app to offload your iPhone photos to a free (2GB storage limit) account freeing up storage space on your iPhone. You can also easily access your account via the app to share show people photos from that account via the app later.

The app also allows you to email people albums of photos vs. just sending a single photo with Apple’s own email this photo feature. This feature seems helpful to me as well.

I’m not sure that this product is as comprehensive in terms of cool artistic effects as Chase Jarvis’ new iPhone app (although I still haven’t tried that app which costs $2.99 yet) but for a free app I was pretty damn impressed with Adobe’s initial iPhone product and the price is definitely right. I suspect that Adobe continues to improve it over time as well.

You can find out more info about the app here. If you have an iPhone, just go to app store and search for Photoshop and the app should pull up as a free download.