Apr 3 2012

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.