A new Android geek on the block
About a month has gone by since I received my Galaxy S, the flagship Android phone by Samsung.
I think its time to share my thoughts and initial impressions about it and list the first apps that have found their way onto my phone.
The Galaxy S is my first smart phone, by no means I count the Nokia E63 I received from my employer as a smart phone. That thing was slow, unusable in some cases and the Ovi app store is not only annoyingly named, but is literally a waste land, proven by the fact that the only dedicated Twitter client app costs 8£(!).
I do own an iPod Touch so have very close familiarity with a modern and powerful mobile OS: Apple’s iOS.
Putting the bitterness aside towards all my previous smart-phone-wannebe devices (and there is allot) I am very excited to own such a sophisticated and fun-to-use device.
What I love about the Galaxy S
1) Its very light, and although people say its a bit flaky and plasticy I actually like the feel of it.
2) The beautiful screen; a gorgeous high-resolution 4 inch display.
3) The market place; although not as honed as the Apple app store, the multitude of apps and games can keep me busy for days and is so much better than having nothing or the Nokia Ovi store.
4) Being able to place not only the icons I like on my home screen(s) but also widgets that can show me information without the need to go into an application – a huge improvement over the iOS.
5) The immediate connectivity with external services. It took me exactly 3.2 seconds to get all my contacts from Exchange/Facebook/Twitter/Gmail to sync and populate my phonebook.
6) The auto sync with Picasa, all of my web albums magically appeared in my Gallery immediately after entering my Google account details.
7) Much much more but I wont go into every detail.
What I dislike about the Galaxy S
1) Its laggy and at times unusably slow for short periods. There are many threads about how to make it go faster but they all include rooting the phone which is something I dont want to get into yet.
2) The Exchange Email Client is horrible. I think this has to do more with Samsung than with Android. The first atrocity is the way folders are shown. I have at least 50 folders under my inbox and as far as I know the only way they display is at the top of the screen as an alphabetically ordered, horizontal list which I have to scroll every time to get to the folder I want. No respect for my carefully structured hierarchy of folders!
Also, I can’t copy text from a received email! Which if you ask me is bordering on criminal!
3) Being a Yahoo Mail user forever I think I have no choice to switch to GMail, The embedded client in the device wont connect to Yahoo so I have to use the Yahoo Mail app which is terrible. But I actually still prefer their web interface to that of GMail… tough decision ahead…
4) No Froyo (Android 2.2) love yet but hopefully this will change soon enough.
5) Samsung puts a bunch of apps and widgets I have no intention of using. Don’t mind so much that they put them on the phone, what I do mind is not being able to uninstall them!
6) My biggest complain yet, and this isnt really specific to the Galaxy S but to Google and the Android platform, is that there is no one solution that replaces the excellent combination of iTunes on the desktop and the player on the iPod/iPhone.
All in all, the benefits and features for me outweigh the dislikes so I definitely recommend the phone to anyone looking for an Android device or simply something that isn’t the iPhone.
Android as a music/podcast player
Let me extend on my last dislike. in short, I was planning on retiring my iPod and simply use the GS for my music and podcast listening pleasure but unfortunately, no go.
There is simply no one desktop application that does what iTunes does which is mainly update my audio, video podcasts and apps and then sync them to my device.
I know so many people who complain about iTunes, especially for Windows and there is no doubt that its a bloated piece of software. The fact is though that I can open iTunes, hook my iPod to the PC, and in about 5 minutes it will download all the latest podcast episodes and sync them to the device with 2 clicks.
The only thing that comes close to this is doubleTwist but with all of their good intent, it doesnt even come close to the ease of use of iTunes. It is mind-numbingly slow and is prone to errors, which are not even really exposed to the user, things simply fail without any explanation… At least this has been my experience using it on Windows 7.
I’m hoping Google will perhaps come out with some solution to make this easier but if I look at their almost non-existing desktop tooling I seriously doubt it will happen any time soon.
What good is a smart phone without apps? Of course I immediately started downloading apps and games for my phone and here is my list of the (free) apps I think any Android (geek) user should begin with.
Tweetdeck: First and foremost, the one app I would put on my device before any else is this one. Although still in Beta and a tiny bit more difficult to install than your normal app its definitely worth it! The best Twitter client by far. I am missing some more settings to help me configure it to better suit me but it still is great.
Dolphin HD Browser: Everything you would want from a mobile browser. Tabs, pinch to zoom, add-ons. Mainly the Read it later addon led me to make this my default browser. Its a bit slow to load new pages as proven in this comparison by PCWorld.
ES File Explorer: A cool replacement for the stock file explorer. Let’s you browse files on network computers. Also has a cool implementation of a clipboard to easily copy/move files.
Dropbox: Sharing files between your computers and you’re mobile device made easy.
Nimbuzz: For some reason there’s no skype love for android so Nimbuzz lets you connect to the Skype network (and others) and use both text and voice chat over Wifi or 3G.
Units: Measurement unit comparison. The way to enter the units is a bit convoluted but this thing has any measurement unit on the planet.
Barcode Scanner: Uses the phone’s camera to scan bar codes and either find the resource online which works great for finding Marketplace apps as well as initiate a Google search. So with this thing you can always check prices online before you buy them in a store and you don’t even have to type the product name, simply scan its code!
Evernote: A very cool service that lets you store your notes in the cloud. You can then see those online (from your Google home page for instance) and on the device. A bit annoyed that to get to existing notes you have to go through the menu and I believe you have to be online to view existing notes, even if you have already viewed them on your device.
Yahoo mail: Unfortunately, the embedded email client in the GS can’t connect to the Yahoo servers, so the only way besides using the browser is to use the Yahoo app. Actually its so badly implemented that I find myself using the web interface rather than this app.
Advanced Task Killer: Very important if you want to keep tabs on what is taking up space in your phone’s precious memory. The default task manager simply doesn’t pick up everything while this app does.
WordPress: The official app from the Blogging site to manage your blog’s posts, pages, comments and stats.
doubleTwist: The music and video player from doubleTwist actually does a good job at integrating with the its desktop counterpart and plays all of the media synced from the computer. Only complaint about it is that from the Main screen of the app it’s impossible to go into the currently playing screen. To do so you have to go into another screen and only there you’ll have the link…
Of course I have installed more than just these but they’re not that interesting to write about. I’ve got the Facebook app and some weather and calendar widgets for my home screen, Google Earth, eBay, Shazam, Currency Converter, etc.
I’ve downloaded a few random games to my phone. But regrettably, finding time for gaming is something I haven’t been too good at. Here are some of the fun ones:
I’d love to hear about other exciting apps I might have missed.