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Impressions of Android and the Galaxy Nexus

About a month ago I switched from my iPhone 4S to the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung. I was finally making the move from AT&T to Verizon and I couldn’t bear the idea of paying $450 once again for another 4S “upgrade”. I’d been meaning to try Android and figured now was as good a time as any. And since I wanted to run Ice Cream Sandwich that meant a Galaxy Nexus. I switched cold turkey and have been using the Nexus exclusively. Since a lot of people ask me how I like it I thought I’d post some thoughts.

 

First, the conclusion (in case you don’t want to read any further). I like the Nexus and Android and it’s definitely a workable phone. But I’m likely going to switch back to the iPhone platform when the 5 comes out this fall (but stay on Verizon for sure).

What I like about my Galaxy Nexus:

  • First off, Verizon kicks AT&T’s ass. In a month I’ve maybe had one call drop on dial. On AT&T, calls failed to connect on the first try about 40% of the time. Overall network coverage was much better, data speeds were much better and I had coverage in more places (NY, SF, Boulder, etc.) than I did with AT&T (I’ll allow here that the test wasn’t apples to apples and that differences in the hardware itself may be partially responsible).
  • Swipe to answer. Swipe right to answer. Swipe left to send to voice mail. Swipe up and you can send one of a few pre-programed text messages back (or write your own custom message). Love this feature!
  • Screen yumminess. Simply put, the screen on the Nexus is beautiful. Stunning, actually. And large.
  • Flexibility. Android as an open platform is just way more flexible than iOS. I can arrange my screen as I’d like, there are more apps for any one thing you’re looking to do, you can customize your environment as you like. And I love the way you can nest contacts and have your favorite numbers grouped together logically and available on your home screen.
  • Batteries. I’ll talk about why this is so critical below, but I do like that I can swap my battery on the Nexus. I carry 3 batteries with me at all times (including one of the extended batteries) and when I run out of juice I can just pop another one in. Sadly, this happens all too often…

What I didn’t like so much about my Galaxy Nexus:

  • Battery life. Wow, does the Nexus suck down the juice. Depending on what you’re doing, you can run down your battery in an hour (for example, tethering the phone will discharge a fully charged battery in less than 60 minutes). I mentioned that I have 3 batteries for my phone – this is because owning a Nexus is an exercise in battery management. The phone needs to be plugged in at every opportunity possible. And I’d strongly recommend getting the extended battery as well as an external charger for your batteries (so you can plug the batteries in and charge them when they’re not in your phone). There’s no way I’d recommend getting this phone unless you’re willing to take on the task of power management.
  • Bugs. There are some bugs in Ice Cream Sandwich which make it a pain to use from time to time. I’ve had my phone freeze up on me a few times. If you’re in the video camera and you let the screen go to sleep, you will have to re-boot the phone (which takes about 3 minutes) before you can use the camera or video camera again. Dialing a number directly from calendar is really kluge and usually takes me about 5 attempts. The text database on my phone get messed up and this causes all incoming texts to show up in double. Full calendar items only show up when you enter the editor in the calendar. Bunch of little things like that.
  • Are you sure? There are a lot of things that you’ll attempt to do on Android where it will ask you to confirm your selection (are you sure you want to delete that; are you sure you want to dial that number, are you sure you want to power off, etc.). I found this really annoying.
  • Facebook. The Facebook app for Android is really bad. Mine consistently loaded slowly, sometimes didn’t load at all and generally was only usable if you were willing to be extremely patient (the app doesn’t cache any data and has to reload from scratch each time, although even that doesn’t explain the remarkable latency in the app). I don’t buy phones for one app. And to be clear, it’s not like I’m addicted to Facebook – honestly, I could quit any time. But it was a bummer that this didn’t work better.
  • Soft home key. The home key on the Galaxy Nexus is a soft key. And you’d think after a month I’d stop accidentally hitting it when I was typing. But you’d be wrong. I hit it all the time and have to go back into the app I was working in. I prefer a hard home key. Or at least a soft key spaced a bit further away.
  • Size. I found the Galaxy Nexus to be a bit big for my tastes. For some things this was great, but overall, I found it hard to use with only one hand and difficult at times to navigate because of it’s size and where the various command keys ended up being laid out because of that size

So there you have the highlights and lowlights. I’m glad I ran this experiment and I’ll definitely hold on to this phone while I wait to see what the next Apple release looks like. But I’ll probably head back to iOS in the next 6 months…

Would love your thoughts here if you’ve also made the switch.

April 3rd, 2012     Categories: Uncategorized     Tags: , , , ,
  • Mike Thompson

    I really like all of you guys in Boulder on the AT&T vs Verizon bandwagon (You, Brad Feld, Josh Larson and more), but I would like to point out that none of you have done any statistical analysis of a non-iphone on AT&T’s network. Please note that you are making a network analysis after changing both your device and network. You are adding a lot of volatility to make such a clear conclusion on the networks.

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine

      I believe I pointed that out as well (in noting that the comparison wasn’t totally fair, since I didn’t use the same device to test both networks). That said, going from 40% of my calls not going through on the first dial and 30% of my calls dropping at some point in the call to 0% of calls failing to connect on first dial and <5% of calls dropping (probably less than 1% in fact) is pretty dramatic. Statistical analysis or not – that's worth reporting as part of my switch. Have you seen a direct network comparison done? I'd love to see the data.

  • DaveJ

    “honestly, I could quite any time.”  ha ha ha ha

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine
  • Kevin Doran

    How did you transfer all your contacts/messages (text messages, gmail obviously all on the cloud)? I’ve had Android phone (Droid and Droid 2) for 2 years, and biggest reason not to switch to iPhone is losing all contacts, apps, text messages, etc. Is it easy to get that transfered between operating systems?

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine

      With everything on my end in gmail, there’s no real issue syncing back and forth. In fact, I still run my iPhone over wifi and my contacts and calendar stay fully up to date. 

  • http://www.joshrutstein.com/ Josh Rutstein

    After my Treo died (yeah old school) I refused a smart phone because I really like my iPad and couldn’t justify both. I have an iPhone now but decided 100% against android because I wanted to plug it in and have all my iPad apps ready to go without having to figure out any sync silliness. I would hope that someone has an app that can let you find and download all the equivalent apps on the opposite platform in one fell swoop, but until that is easier, props to you for making the switch, I couldn’t stomach it. Btw I agree on Verizon Vs AT&T, the perils of bad service, unless Verizon starts to suck too, I wouldn’t switch back

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine

      The biggest downside of switching to Android is the lack of harmony in my ecosystem. That alone is enough to tip the scales back to Apple (and certainly what they’re hoping for). I have two Macs and an iPad, so my phone is the only non-Apple device that I use regularly. And it is a pain…

  • badams

    Verizon LTE is a huge battery hog.  If you go to settings->battery you can see how much it’s using. I have a Nexus on AT&T and my battery life is comparable to better than what it was on iphone.  Try just turning off LTE for a day and see the difference.  I only use 1 battery :)

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine

      hey brian. i have heard that (and turned off LTE on occasion). i’ll try it more regularly…

  • joshua forman

    I have an older Samsung Galaxy phone that I like a lot. On battery life – make sure you have animated screen turned off. And with animated screen turned off, battery life is good. I don’t have LTE either, though, so that could be it. 

    I’ll also say the one thing that I really like about Droid over iPhone (what I had before) is the swype keyboard. So much easier to write email/SMS with one hand on a little device like a phone when you have a swype keyboard.

    • http://www.sethlevine.com sethlevine

      thanks josh. where’s the setting for animated screen? i can’t find it (or google it). i’m going to do a little test by turing off LTE and see how much of a boost that gives me. i rarely need that speed and i’ve heard from several people that it really sucks down battery life…

      • joshua forman

        Hey Seth. So, there’s no way to just turn off animation on the screen – you have to change your wallpaper. To do that, when you are at your home screen, hit the menu button – the permanent key on the far left. And there is a Wallpaper option there so you can select a non-animated screen. 

        Another thing I would recommend is an app called “Launcher Pro”. With that I was able to add an icon to my “launcher row” so that a tap will call my wife and a swype of the icon will open a text conversation with her. I also have an icon for my daughter. It’s handy.