What’s Bugging Me About Android

I’ve been using my Samsung Vibrant T-Mobile Android smartphone since last Saturday. Today is day 6, Friday.

Before I made the jump, I made a list of reasons to stay with my iPhone. Then I went to Kansas City and got to play with EdM’s Droid. And then, unexpectedly, my wife liked her mom’s new Samsun Vibrant and wanted one for herself. Then, most unexpectedly of all, T-Mobile was having a buy one get one free sale on smartphones when we went in to get my wife her Vibrant. So here I am.

First, a list of the non-stock replacement apps that are helping my Android phone suck less compared to my iPhone:

  1. chompSMS for text messages. The benefits over the built-in Messaging app are legion, including pop-up notifications of text messages and, best of all, a conversation view that doesn’t repeat each person’s name (even mine!) before every single message.
  2. K-9 Mail email app
  3. Andronoter to replace Simplenote (It even syncs with the Simplenote web service!)

Second, a list of simply cool apps (not substitutes for default Vibrant apps):

  1. Screeble Lite for smart device sleep handling (Thanks, Ed.)
  2. Dropbox
  3. Google Maps, especially Navigation (driving GPS)
  4. Amazon
  5. Pandora
  6. Google Voice built in so notifications are native, right up in the notification bar. This is super, especially since I redirect my voicemail to Google Voice voicemail. No need to get SMS notifications of Google Voice voicemail transcripts anymore as it’s all just baked in.

What sucks about my Vibrant (software):

  1. Fields for entering things like email addresses are too tall. Wasted space, big time.
  2. In Week view (Landscape phone orientation), I don’t see words on my appointments, just empty, colored rectangles. EdM’s Droid had words in there and I totally loved it. I expected my Android phone to have this, too. Darn.
  3. The keypad (Andoid version, not Samsung version and not Swype version) is just not as comfortable as that on my iPhone 3G S.
  4. Scrolling through contact list in Contacts app sucks. Accidentally tapping one someone’s record while scrolling is too common. I wish I could drag the top down to make a search box appear. I don’t like pushing the dedicated search hardware “button.”
  5. Camera previews the picture after taking one. I prefer iPhone’s method of letting me keep taking pictures one after another.
  6. Home page (TwLauncher) doesn’t move icons when you drop one where another is. So I have to keep one icon/shortcut spot empty on my main page if I want to move stuff around. This is just totally stupid.
  7. Home page (TwLauncher) doesn’t let me remove Dialer from its position on the bottom-left of the four-icon bottom launch bar. Stupid.
  8. Finding out how to change which SMS had a shortcut on TwLauncher’s four-icon bottom bar required some google searching and then some trial and error. Ridiculous.
  9. The default Voice Recorder app stops recording when you push the hard Sleep button on the side of the Vibrant. Seriously? Totally stupid.
  10. My BusyCal event alarms (part of the calendar records on my Mac) don’t make it to the Calendar app on the iphone. The appointments are there, just no alarms. I don’t know if this is BusyCal’s fault or gCal’s. Since my phone is a major reminder tool for me, this is most decidedly not okay.
  11. I don’t hear it vibrate when I get a text message. Come on. This is just stupid.
  12. It beeps when I turn OFF the sound. I have to turn off all keypress feedback sounds to stop this. Totally stupid.
  13. Horribly loud bootup and shutdown music from T-Mobile. Not okay — what if I’m in a meeting and need to turn my phone off?
  14. On my iPhone 3G S, I can jump to the top of a page by touching the top of the screen. No such feature built into Android.
  15. More to come, perhaps.

What still sucks about my Vibrant (hardware problems and things which might be hardware problems):

  1. Reaction to dragging is a annoyingly behind. Perfect on iPhone 3G S, subpar on Samsung Vibrant running Android 2.1.
  2. Selecting items (I notice this in Google Reader via the built-in web browser) selects a record below the one I’m trying to select/tap. I didn’t have this kind of “learning” phase on my iPhone 3G, my iPhone 3G S, my iPod touch nor my iPad. I don’ know if this is the web browser’s fault or if the fault lies someplace else.
  3. Waking the phone. Hard to find the side button, which is a bit toward the back side, not sticking right out the side. No complaints about this on iPhone.
  4. No hard button to go home. I have to remember where four buttons are to do things and the light on these hard “buttons” turns off fast. Sucks. No problem when the menus are on-screen (iPhone).

What’s good about my Vibrant hardware:

  1. Big 4“ screen (800×480). Compare with iPhone 3G S’s 3.5” screen (480×320).
  2. 3G internet speeds on T-Mobile. Compare with EDGE-only speeds with my iPhone 3G S on T-Mobile.
  3. Better camera than iPhone 3G S. (But the Vibrant’s camera app sucks.)
  4. Thin like iPhone 3G S.
  5. Light in weight.
  6. Nice rubber case for $17 from the T-Mobile store
  7. Big, bright, hi-res screen. Worth mentioning twice.

What’s good about T-Mobile, a.k.a. Why not switch to AT&T for an iPhone 4?:

  1. $10 unlimited text message family plan. That’s total, not per line.
  2. $10 internet on T-Mobile.
  3. Unlimited minutes (two lines for $89.98). Not a very big deal to me as I don’t use a lot of minutes, so maybe I should dump this.
  4. Phone was “free”. Yes, my cellular internet bill for my line went up from $10 to $25 a month and I committed to two years of service, so it wasn’t really free. But I’d also be committing to two years of service with AT&T. But I can pretend.

2 September 2010 Update: I returned my Samsung Vibrant to T-Mobile the evening of Tuesday, 31 August 2010. So it lasted me about 11 days. The things that really killed it for me in the end were

  1. I couldn’t feel it vibrating (on my desk, in its rubber sleeve) when I got a text message, even with the message vibration set to long.
  2. To check for a text message, I had to not only wake it up with the side button but unlock its screen by sliding my finger across it.
  3. Lack of a hard <Mute> button.
  4. Calendar alarms not making it from BusyCal/iCal to the device.
  5. The Calendar app taking way too many clicks for me to add a record with an alarm.
  6. The contacts app sucking.
  7. The black background with light text. Ick.
  8. The email app just making messages look ugly. Even the list of messages was ugly. I tried the built-in Email app, Gmail app and K-9 Mail. None of them came close to the polish of the email app on my iPhone 3G S. They all just felt slapped together interface-wise, though all three were some of the better Android apps I’d come across interface-wise.

I was all ready to cancel T-Mobile and go to AT&T the night I returned my Android phone. I’d run all the numbers. But T-Mobile told me my contract had seven more months on it (March 2010) so I figure I’ll wait until the next iPhone comes out (iPhone 5) in June 2011 and see at that time if it’s worth switching to AT&T to get it without overpaying for the phone, unlocking it and perhaps even suffering with EDGE internet on T-Mobile again. For now, I’m back to my iPhone and it’s like being reunited with an old friend. We don’t have to talk, we’re just naturally in tune. But, boy, it its screen small compared to the giant, gorgeous Samsung Vibrant screen!