Hello, Android

I recently switched from an Apple iPhone 5S to a Google Nexus 5. Here is my experience for better or worse…

Android KitKat 4.4

Initial Concerns:

  1. The default calendar app always showed “31st” as the date in Android, while in iOS it dynamically changed.
  2. There are no notification icons on individual apps in Android, meaning that if I swipe away the notification an app gives me about a new email, I have no visual reminder that my email client still has an unread message.
  3. I can’t seem to “Tap-to-Scroll” to the top of the page anywhere in Android; contacts, really long blog posts, settings, etc.
  4. The Cut/Copy/Paste options are icons only in Android, so unless you know what they represent it can be confusing initially.
  5. If you set up an Exchange account on Android that requires a PIN lock with a minimum of 4 characters, when you unlock your device and type in your PIN, you must then also press the Enter key to unlock your device, while in iOS it unlocks immediately after you finish typing in your PIN.
  6. The icons for apps in Android are not uniform in any sense of the word. While it varies from developer to developer, looking at the default YouTube icon next to the default Google Voice icon is… odd at best. If you then throw the Google Play Books icon next to them, it makes them both look super tiny.
  7. When you open the Camera app in Android, there’s no text explaining what the icons do and there’s no apparent way to access previously taken photos without going into the Photos app (of which there are two installed by default for some reason, Galleries and Google+ Photos).
  8. Because the Power button is on one side of the device and the Volume button is on the opposite side in nearly the same position, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the Power button while at the same also turning down the volume. While this is a Google Nexus 5 hardware design decision, it does not make it any less annoying.
  9. Another hardware concern: You simply can’t use this Android phone with one hand. Some apps make you tap the four corners of the screen to accomplish certain tasks (I’m looking at you, Blue Mail), which can frustrate and make using the device more aggravating than necessary.
  10. My biggest concern: When in an active phone call, if you go back to the homescreen or another app, the Phone call is NOT listed in the Recent Apps view. Nor is there a banner allowing easy “one-tap” access to return to the call, like we see in iOS. Why?

App Notifications

Screenshot_2014-01-27-10-57-55~01

Here are my solutions to the above concerns:

  1. This can be solved using widgets but after a few days I decided that I really didn’t care if the icon dynamically updated or not.
  2. This was solved with the help of two apps, Nova Launcher and Missed It!
    • Nova Launcher allowed me to solve this concern and concern #6 by supporting “Icon Packs” which sometimes contain over 1,000 uniform app icons.
    • Missed It! will read the notifications various apps send to your Notification Bar and will add a small icon to the app that shows how many notifications are currently in the Notification Bar for that app. This works great most of the time but for email (I use Gmail) I found a little trick that is immensely useful. Here’s how it works:
      • Set up a Missed It! notification for your “Gmail Account” and choose “Inbox” as the label to monitor.
      • Go into Nova Launcher settings and long press Volume Down until you see a notification that “Labs” has been enabled.
      • Go into the Labs menu and scroll to the very bottom and click the “Gmail Unread Count” option.
      • Finally, choose the App you would like the Gmail notification icon to appear on (CloudMagic, for example).
      • Voila, you’re done and have essentially replicated how notifications work on iOS by default.
  3. This is not easily solvable and I have yet to find a solid solution. The technical reason is discussed here.
  4. Turns out you can tap and HOLD to make text appear beneath the icons. Also, trial and error helped.
  5. This was surprisingly easy to circumvent, not by rooting or jailbreaking, but instead by installing an app called MailWise. One of their flaunted features is the ability to bypass Microsoft Exchange Security. I installed the app, set up my Exchange account, synced my contacts and calendars and was all set. The setup was extremely easy and I don’t have to use a PIN to unlock my phone anymore. Problem solved (at least for me).
  6. This was solved using Nova Launcher and a really nice icon pack I found called Click UI. The icon pack updates all the icons automatically, but Nova Launcher gives you the additional ability to choose from any icon in a list of 1,000. It’s also very easy to change the name of an icon to anything you’d like (e.g., “Google Keep” to “Notes”).
  7. This took me over a week to accidentally discover:
    • You can swipe right-to-left to see previously taken photos one at a time from the Camera app, then by tapping the icon on the top left, you’re taken to the Google+ Photos app with a grid-view of everything.
  8. This concern will only be solved by muscle memory. Personally, I think it’s a poor design choice, but that could be because I’m so used to having the power button on the top of my iPhone devices.
  9. This concern also is not easily solved. I can’t make my hands bigger or my fingers longer, and I have really large hands. One interesting side-effect of using the Google Nexus 5 for a few weeks is when I do go back and pick up my iPhone 5S, my first thought it, “aww… look at how small it is!” (for better or worse).
  10. I have not yet found an easy solution to get back to the phone call. You can pull down the notification bar and scan to find the On-going call and tap to return, or you can click the Phone app icon again, which should return me to the call, but instead takes me a screen that asks if I want to add someone else to the call. No thanks, just want to get back to my keypad. Annoying to say the least.

Screenshot_2014-01-27-10-59-23~01

Final Thoughts:

  1. The customizability of Android through the use of Apps like Nova Launcher and Lux far exceeds anything you could find on iOS.
  2. The ability to purchase an app in the Google Play store, test it out for 15 minutes, then return it for a full refund if you aren’t satisfied RIGHT ON YOUR DEVICE is also something Apple needs to investigate. It’s super useful and I’ve used it multiple times when looking for the perfect Star Gazing app (which I have still yet to find after being spoiled by Sky Guide on iOS). Rating apps in the Google Play store is also much easier (and more prominently located) than in the iOS App Store.
  3. I really miss the Tap-to-Scroll to the top function on iOS. I hope Google gets their act together in regards to the SDK as discussed in this article.
  4. Google needs to put the clamp down on App Submissions so they have uniform icons and allow more options to the end-user when installing apps that require access to 15 different device API’s. For example, why would an off-line game need access to my GPS location and Contacts? In iOS, those options must each be explicitly approved the first time the app attempts to access that specific API. It’s definitely a privacy concern.
  5. Browsers are actually browsers in Android, not just reskins of Apple Safari. For example, in Google Chrome for Android, I can enable a setting that allows me to override the “No-Zoom” feature that some websites have set which prevent you from double-tapping to zoom.
  6. uTorrent just works on Android.
  7. I enjoy the look of the stock Android Keyboard, but I miss the awesomeness of the iOS auto-correct engine. I’ve tried SwiftKey, but don’t like any of the skins. The Swype functionality built into both keyboards is quite useful and I find myself typing by swiping most days.
  8. Finally, iOS needs widgets on the homescreen. Immediately
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2 thoughts on “Hello, Android

  1. Welcome to Android! I’ll try to come back for more comments, help, etc, but for now I’ll just say:
    1) SwiftKey changed the way I view typing on my phone, and the Neon theme blew my mind :). I can certainly give you a tutorial on how to use SwiftKey most effectively :).
    2) Granular app permissions are in the pipeline, unsure when they’re going to hit, but I know it’s soon.

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