My week with Android

I can already hear the Android fanboys yelling.

“You weren’t using the latest Android device!” “Each Android phone is different!” “You are an Apple fanboy!”

It’s all true. But this review is real. I used a Nexus One for one week while abroad, and this is as unbiased of a review as you will get out of an Apple fanboy like me.

Many parts of Android are straight ripoffs of iOS. That’s ok. Many things are very different. But some aspects of the Android made it completely unusable as a phone. Other aspects made me want to throw it against a wall.

When the iPhone came out in 2007, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t have 3G, apps, and it was only on AT&T. But it was a perfectly functioning phone.

From my week of using a Nexus One, heavy on calls, SMS, web, and maps, here were my biggest annoyances:

  • I could never hear the ringer or feel the vibrations. So I basically missed every single call and text.
  • Notifications like missed calls were hidden away in the notifications bar. So I missed those as well unless I explicitly checked. I love hitting the power button on the iPhone and seeing missed calls/texts/notifications.
  • Battery life was horrible. Didn’t even come close to lasting a day.
  • WORST: When typing, I often hit the “Home” button which lives just below the space bar in the keyboard. Most agravating thing EVER to constantly be taken home.
  • Hated the permanent back button. There’s no context to what “back” means. Especially when it would take me to other apps and the home screen. It’s usefulness was random.
  • When I was about to depart Paris by plane, I couldn’t remember if I had already switched the phone off. So i tapped the power button. The phone proceeded to boot. Grrr. On the iPhone, you hold power to turn it on. Tapping power or home will light up the screen if the phone is already on.
  • Inability to put the phone on silent without turning it on and using the touch interface.
  • Poorly thoughtout UI. For example, this screenshot:
  • On the left we have an unlock icon and an arrow point right. So if I swipe to the right, the phone unlocks. Cool.

    On the right, there’s a speaker icon and an arrow pointing left. So if I swipe to the left, the sound turns on. WRONG. In this state, the sound is already on and swiping turns it off. Grrr.

  • Generally poor responsiveness, inaccurate geo coordinates in maps, difficulty using two fingers in maps.

It’s all about the polish

For the past 20 years, I’ve been convincing people to buy Macs. There was a point a few years ago when Windows had “matched” everything the Mac had. My argument became tough. “But it just works on a Mac.”

Android is now at the same place vs the iPhone. The feature set looks identitcal, but the level of polish and usability is nowhere close. Explaining this to someone is nearly impossible. You have to use it.

Apple will keep adding cutting edge features like Siri, but the real win is that the iPhone just works.

29 comments

  1. This matches my own experience. I’d add that any UI that relies on four global function buttons is thinking far too much about what its users might want, and not enough about the context in which they might want those things.

  2. Can’t agree more! Google has always been lacking focus, jumping form one beta product to another, in the mean time closing 10 of the rest. Android seems to went through the same approach, pushing out more and more half baked ‘features’ and brag on every product release on its creativity. I had a feeling that Google’s creativity doesn’t really have a purpose or focus, they try to be creative just for the sake of being creative. Apple on the other hand has razor focus on one thing: Making greatest product possible for the end user and being extremely thoughtful on making the experience better.Apple’s products, I always felt like have a heart in it. Google’s products never give me this kind of feeling.

  3. I’m not an Android fanboy, nor do I even own an Android phone. But you don’t need to be an Android fanboy to yell those out. It’s seriously common sense.So since Apple only gives you one latest and greatest phone, I’m not surprised that you’re assuming the rest of the phone world can be generalized by reviewing one (two-generation old, Android 2.2 running, discontinued) device as well.

  4. After working on and using various Android products from Cupcake to Honeycomb, you’ve got a common list of complaints. Capacitive buttons have always made me wonder — and now that Google has put them as soft buttons (in the new version: Ice Cream Sandwich) it may cause even more problems.Of your list, notifications may be the only point where I feel like Google’s approach is both different and (debatably) better. While iOS notifications (missed calls) are more in your face on the lock screen, Google’s central notification panel is something that Apple appears to have aped in the iOS5 — and their management of Notifications is crazy complicated and un-Apple like. After using Android for a while, I think you begin to notice the notification icons in the top and it becomes pretty natural to pull down the notification tray to have a peek into notifications from your apps. IMO it even beats the iOS red badges on apps. You pretty much nailed the rest of it.Cheers,Mike

  5. <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">I’ve played with a windows phone 7 and i love it. I would totally love to try it for a week and post my thoughts<div><br><div><div></div></div></div></body></html>

  6. thanks for sharing review – it’s interesting.My only point is that you’re mixing phone problems with Android’s. Silent ring is absolutely phone’s problem.Poorly thoughtout UI – it’s personal attitude. While most people agree that iOS has better UI, still Android has a lot of space for personal tuning. HTC, Samsung and some others make some customization to UI.

  7. Does look like a frustrating experience. How come you didn’t have your iPhone? I may have missed that in a previous post.

  8. Totally agree! Does this mean: 1) Posterous emails will become optimized for iPhone, and 2) I can leave a comment on Posterous with my iPhone without switching to full site? 🙂

  9. I have to take exception to a lot of these points. People often blindly say ‘Macs are intuitive’ or easier to use than PCs, but I’d say that’s only really the case if someone has never used any computer before. Macs are not necessarily intuitive to someone who has always used PCs. Similarly, you’re used to stuff happening certain ways on a iPhone, so of course you’d take objection to it happening differently on Android. But those problems might not be problems at all to someone who’s never used either. Your issues with: notifications (I love how they work on Android); Back button; on/off button. What you’re basically saying with these is ‘I’m used to the Apple way, and this is different’. Some of the other complaints were phone specific – that interface you showed in the pic I’ve never seen before, is it very old?

  10. Although I like the fact that I can do a lot of stuff with a Droid, I do agree with two points listed above. The horrible battery life and the "Home" button or whatever button below the space bar that keeps on interrupting while typing.

  11. I had similar complaints when I first switched from iPhone to Android. It’s all about expectations. I (and you) expected things to work a certain way, and they didn’t. That’s valid. After a year on Android, though, when I grab my wife’s iPhone to do something, I find myself frustrated by the way Apple does things. Expectations. So, this is pretty much what I would expect from someone being tossed into an environment they weren’t used to. One nit, however: "But it was a perfectly functioning phone." You were, evidently, not one of the people plagued by dropped calls. My wife and I were both victims of that. Those who were would probably describe the early releases as a great internet device, but a barely functioning phone.

  12. <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Jerome, i agree there’a always the learning curve of moving to something else. But things like hitting Home when typing, or not being able to tell if the phone is on or off… are pretty basic usability issues.<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  13. The hitting Home thing, I don’t know what version of Android that was, or how old the phone was, it’s not laid out like that on my HTC Desire keyboard, or at least it’s never something I’ve accidentally hit. Not being able to tell when the phone is off – I very rarely turn my phone off, so it’s not an issue. I’m guessing it’s probably not that common for you either…?

  14. <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Jerome: when flying you have to turn your phone off<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  15. <html><head></head><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">airplane mode is not allowed for takeoff and landing, only while in flight<div><br><div><div></div></div></div></body></html>

  16. One last point, then I’m done. I don’t think what I’d consider to be a ‘slightly better’ user experience at best, constitutes or allows the overinflated price of the iPhone. Okay, now I bow out… Oh, by the way, I still love Posterous.

  17. Couldn’t agree more about android. Though, since I slowly transitioning to my WP7 from my iPhone, I’d absolutely love to see a Posterous app for that platform.

  18. I’m sorry but you do come off as a complete fanboy (please excuse me saying so). You probably did your "review" of the Nexus One just to praise iOS more.Apple is the tits at what it does and I cannot argue with that. But with uniformity comes the walled garden experience and that specific experience was made for consumers like you.P.S.: I’m writing this on my iMac right now and I own a Nexus One and currently use a prototype Galaxy Nexus.

  19. Sachin I have no doubt that your review is unbias, but it is also incomplete. You need to have the full experience first. Think of someone wishing to buy a new phone and willing to make an effort to do it right. They could get an iPhone and know exactly how to use it out of the box, they would know it’s immediate shortcomings and have a sub-conscious acceptance of them therefore being less annoyed by them. Alternatively they could search for an Android phone with all of the feature they want (say a 4.5′ screen and expandable storage), they would then set the phone up, as I have, to meet their exact daily usage requirements. They choose the exact keyboard they like, the right widgets for them, the right ROM in advanced cases, and the iPhone gets blown out of the water FOR THAT USER. Clearly this is not applicable to our mothers, but to our children who are all going to be tech-savvier than the current and past generations of users, Android’s openness will have some serious advantages. For someone as tech-savvy as you it amazes me that you haven’t at least tried the above process. It’s like having a kid. You think you know what it means until you actually have one experience it in full, then you realise you had no idea what you were talking about.

  20. I’ve used both and will give you an agreement and a disagreement:First, my disagreement. Regarding the back button, it becomes very intuitive once you get used to it. And as for hitting it accidentally, I think you would adjust to that too. I find the keyboards on the iPhone and Android to be very different, and I’ll fat-finger either one for a week before I become reacquainted with it…Now my agreement. With this: "On the right, there’s a speaker icon and an arrow pointing left. So if I swipe to the left, the sound turns on. WRONG. In this state, the sound is already on and swiping turns it off. Grrr." This is classic Google engineer-driven design showing through. I had a similar experience with the Calendar app on my Galaxy Tab. If you set a recurring reminder, it asks you "From:", and "Until:". Any "normal person" would put the last day they want the reminder in the "Until:" field, expecting it to remind them on that day. But some Google (or perhaps Samsung?) programmer used a < instead of a <= in their code, and you only get reminders up "until" the day before. It’s unbelievable, right?Agree completely: it’s all about the polish.

  21. Sachin,What you are use to using is somewhat of a factor when discussing what you find intuitive. I use an HTC Android but think I would probably rather use a Nokia Windows phone if the apps were good enough. Obviously you have nothing to worry about if Apple are so much better.

  22. Couldnt have said it any better. Called myself switching from iPhone to a Samsung Infuse 4G. I likened it to a cute boy…who was as dumb as a box of rocks. Back on iPhone…

  23. I’m not compelling to have a check but if you want you can..I know you cant get what the iphone is but as I work to improve android..I have some tips about some of the problems you are facing with droid..if you like than its ok otherwise..its ok too..Thanx for making me aware of such problems so that I can have a look to their solution..

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