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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: I bought an Android phone...
The grass finally seemed greener enough that I jumped from Apple's iPhone and bought an Android device.  Specifically, a Samsung Galaxy S II, a phone that's much better than anything Apple offers in most ways.  Funny thing though, after I decided to ditch the 3Gs and get an Android phone, I couldn't remember why I wanted to.

So I did a little looking around, found a local shop selling the newest of the new Samsung models, the intense sounding Galaxy S II.  It's amazing, the screen larger than the iphone, but the phone itself is much thinner, and it's practically weightless.

It's a super-fast 1.2GHz dual-core device with a gig of RAM and like 16GB storage.  And, unlike the iphone, it has an SD card slot.  8mpix camera, front-facing VGA camera, removable battery, charges off any USB port unlike the iphone, and has 80% battery left at the end of the day where the iphone would have 30%.

The first day I had it, I sat down on the couch and mucked around.  Within minutes I was browsing the files on my computer, using the WiFi connection, and I copied some music tracks from the computer to the phone.  Without a cable.  Without special software.

I downloaded a Samsung app that allowed me to control my TV, via WiFi. 

Then I made a quick video with the camera (1080p video!  On a phone!) and streamed it wirelessly to the TV.  Without special software, without any cables.  I downloaded Opera, my webbrowser of choice, which I couldn't do on the iphone.  I downloaded apps from a source that wasn't the Android Marketplace, and unlike the iphone I didn't have to crack the thing open with scary and exotic tools called things like Blackra1n or Greenpois0n.

I watched unconverted 720p videos copied from my computer.  I played some of the OggVorbis music filles I've ripped from my own CDs, that Apple wouldn't let me play.  I played FLAC files that apple wouldn't let me play. 

Then I installed a music player my friend wrote, that emulates the soundchips from seven hundred different arcade games, something that Apple would never approve.

And I did all this without a manual, without any cables, and without installing itunes or any other loatheware. 

The idea that only Apple makes easy-to-use products is farcical.  Apple makes products that only do what apple allows you to do.  Apple sues anyone who cracks their hardware.  In America, they had to pass laws that make it OK to tinker with the Apple hardware you bought and own. 

Samsung sent four Galaxy S II phones to the crew that make a popular Android replacement operating system.  Free phones, make your alternative OS run on our hardware, please.

Oh, right.

That's why I got rid of Apple and bought an Android phone.
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Android App Store
There are several things the Android App Store does exceptionally well. 

- When you view an app, it tells you whether or not it's compatible with your device.  It's not foolproof, I downloaded a pinball game that did indeed work, but with graphic glitches and other malfunctions.  On the other hand, when an app is definitely incompatible, it lets you know.

- You can buy an app on your PC, and it'll immediately start downloading to your phone, wherever it is.  Browsing the app store with a mouse and keyboard, clicking GO and having it already installed on your phone next time you pick it up is really kind of great.

- You can actually browse the app store.  With Apple's app store, you can't browse it without using itunes, which is so fucking absurd I can't even talk about it without getting angry and swearing a lot.  Sure, you can click on links to apps and view them, but you can't search, there's no home page for the app store.  Android's positively friendly in that regard.

- You can get refunds!  Every app has a 15 minute trial period, and if you don't like it, or it doesn't work, or your phone catches fire every time you run the app, you can get a refund.  Instantly, no questions asked.  Apple's incredibly fucking backwards in this respect.

On the other hand, the one thing that's a whole lot easier on the iPhone is finding worthwhile new apps.  The Android store is big and growing fast, but the vast majority of the apps are rubbish or worse.  Apple does a fantastic job of putting the good stuff up front where you can find it, and there are many sites that do a great job of highlighting the good stuff as well.  I was never starved for quality choices with Apple.

Android's a minefield.  The selected apps on the home screen appear to be a random mix of the latest additions, and seeing home-made half-assed apps next to polished big-name titles is jarring.

But then, unlike Apple, I can view apps from any app store I want.  Samsung's got a small one for their customers.  Amazon has one.  I can download apps direct from the developer, if I feel like it.  If along with my freedom of choice I have to accept a little bit of crap with the good stuff, I'm OK with that.  If being able to do whatever I want means I have to take a little care in downloading and running apps, I'm OK with that too.

Apple makes it easy, whether you like it or not.  I prefer to have freedom.
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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On the topic of the Android Market...

If I log in to the Android Market on the PC, a game is $0.95.  If I access it on the phone, it's $0.94.  When I click BUY, it's $0.99.

Thought I must admit, it's nice that it takes the exchange rate into account, Apple's app store was charging AUD$1.19 for USD$0.99 apps when the Australian dollar was weak, but now that it's stronger than the USD, we're still being charged $1.19.  For a USD$3.99 game, that's $4.99 AUD.  Fuck you, Apple.  Google may be confused, but you're ripping me off.

Google doesn't try really hard to take my money though.  There's no way in the world I can complete a purchase on the PC, but buying apps on the phone is a breeze.  It's a bit schizophrenic, but then most relationships have at least one crazy half.  ;)
BLEARGH
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User title: 21st century digital boy
Member since Sep 2007 · 17 posts · Location: Cambridge, UK
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The compatibility warning does not happen on all versions of the Android Market either. I'm running 2.2 here (CyanogenMod), and I get nothing. Quite the opposite - unless an app has been explicitly tagged as compatible with my device and firmware it doesn't even show up in search results. In the wake of one device and two firmware upgrades this has cost me one of the better games I've bought, while another one was gone after I got the new phone and came back when I hacked it. I guess it just comes with having a highly fragmented platform - Apple have the advantage of having control over hardware revisions and firmware versions here.

Genuinely, the only word that comes to my mind when describing the Android marketplace is "clusterfuck". At the best of times you'll have everything drowning in a sea of shitty bootleg Disney image puzzle apps with their material pulled off Google Images (ironically).

Literally the only two good things I can say about it from my experience is "you can look at it via a web browser" and "you can get refunds". It's been getting better, but it's still pretty bad particularly if you're stuck on an even slightly older version of Android because your phone's manufacturer or network provider won't roll out updates.

Mind, I do love my phone. XBMC remote control app? Hells to the YEAH. No way would that get certified on Apple's store, particularly since people hack iOS devices in order to run XBMC on them. ;)
"Hell is a pretty rotten place. Not only is it damn hot, but its inhabitants also have a rather deranged sense of humour." (R. Karsmakers)
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I've started testing some alternative apps, and have been surprised by some of the neat tools I've found.

For browsing, I've switched to Dolphin from Opera Mobile.  Dolphin basically renders the same, but has a UI that's fresh and intuitive, unlike Opera who seem to have forgotten to polish the browser while chasing a multiplatform codebase.  Every once in a while I dabble with the Miren browser, which has nice widgets and a built-in RSS reader, but is still a bit buggy.

For music, I've purchased PowerAMP Pro, the only music player that lets me ignore the system-managed music library and sort my shit by folders.  I prefer to do it this way anyway, but my phone has a habit of not refreshing the library properly (like, not removing deleted files or updating new tracks) so PowerAMP is a no-brainer.  I also tried Player Pro but it relied solely on the OS library, and I tried the rather cool Jukefox which happily added album art to all my songs, but still relied on the useless library and crashed a lot. 

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/PowerAmp-2.jpg]
the PowerAMP Widget is handy.

Games on Android are not really very good as a rule, but I've found a few I really enjoy.  Refraction is a realy fun lasers-and-prisms-and-mirrors game that is just mind-bending enough to be fun.  Stellar Escape is a canabalt-style game with excellent art and animation and controls.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/Refraction.png]
Refraction can get very tricky.

Finally, I've tried a handful of Twitter clients, and am currently using Twicca.  It's not perfect, especially in the notifications: it doesn't tell me how many updates there are for example, but it's far and away better than the rubbish official client.  I dabbled a little with Twipple, my client of choice on the iphone, but it's not quite the same.  Ultimately, I prefer Twicca's interface over my previous favourite Twidroyd which had a lot of options but just wasn't very enjoyable.  Twicca also has a stack of plugins, and it allows you to colour-code the tweets you view.  Friends, other people, news, etc.  It's quite pleasing.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/TwitterClients.jpg]
Twidroid on the left, Twicca on the right.

And finally (again) I've discovered a few wallpapers I really enjoy.  Thunderstorm is exactly that, while Starfield is ...  well, exactly that.  Light Grid makes magical slidey shapes on your desktop in all kinds of neat customisable patterns (many restricted to the Pro version).  The same developer makes a version that does the same thing with your photos.  My current favourite is the unbelievably good looking Spring Zen with its 3D falling sakura blossoms and birds nest and butterflies and ...  It's just gorgeous. 

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/SpringZen.jpg]
This pic doesn't do it justice..
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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One day recently I noticed that my apps were coarsely grouped by colour.  It happened accidentally, at first I wondered why so many Android apps were orange.  THen most of the next page's apps were blue... 

And so that's how they're grouped now.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/colourcoded.jpg]
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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So very much has changed since I started writing this.  My Galaxy S2 is still my best friend in the world, I use it constantly.  It's how I stay connected.  Here are the apps I use most currently:

Twicca for Twitter.  It allows me to colour-code everything: friends in orange, news sites in blue, games in red, etc etc.   It's very, very fast, much faster than my second-choice app, Tweetcaster.  The latter is probably a more traditional Twitter app, and allows multiple accounts.  I use it for my secondary twitter accounts.

For Facebook, of course I use the authentic Facebook app, but also Friendcaster which is better, faster, better, and also shows much different results in your feed than facebook.  For one thing, it doesn't hide the people you unsubscribed from.  It also doesn't seem to hide updates that Facebook itself doesn't reveal on account of their spooky algorithms that claim to only bring you things you want to see.  Basically, it acts like a secondary view of Facebook: the same, with extra stuff!  I switch back and forth between the two about 2:1 in favour of the original Facebook app.  I like it so much I paid for it.  But it's one of those instances where nothing's perfect so I keep two apps handy.

It's still QuickPic for viewing pictures, and I still say PowerAmp is the best music player.  My current live wallpaper is the gorgeous Clock Tower.  I use Endomondo for tracking my bike rides. 

Evernote is my rock-solid note taking app, syncs with the PC automatically.  I use it for writing notes on my insane neighbors just in case they eventually kill each other and I can say look I have notes!

Jorte is still the best calendar.  I use Missed Call Reminder to beep or otherwise let me know I have missed calls or messages. 

For Photography, I have a handful of apps I use regularly.  Picsay Pro for adding word balloons and other fun things.  The similarly named but completely different PicsPlay Pro for so many photo tweaks and adjustments it feels like the feature list comes from a full-on desktop app.  Pixlr-o-matic which is still so great I can't believe it's free (you pay for it on iOS).

Swiftkey is the best keyboard.  I use Sweet Dreams to shut my phone up at 10pm and get noisy again at 6am.  Pretty excellent little tool.  Pixel Clock is my clock widget of choice.

As for games, the current rotation includes Beach Buggy Blitz, Pinball Arcade, Orbital, Bit Trip Beat, Train Conductor 2, Stellar Escape

Opera is my web browser, I almost never use Dolphin anymore, but I still have it around for those rare instances.
And finally, the launcher I'm still using and loving, is Apex Launcher 'cause it's fast and awesome.
BLEARGH
This post was edited on 2012-11-20, 18:02 by NFG.
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Member since May 2011 · 2472 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I've switched to Falcon Pro for twitter.  The inline previews and gorgeous tablet view make the difference.  I think I still prefer twicca for its customization, colour-coding the people I follow is aces.

For photography, I recommend Snapseed, it has a ton of great features and is dead easy to use.  Nice and powerful.  And free!

Zen Pinball is amazing on a tablet, if you've got the CPU grunt to keep up with it (it's super awesome on the quad-core Note 10.1).
BLEARGH
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