A few of my friends seem quite surprised I switched from iPhone to an Android powered Nexus One a few weeks ago. I got one via Vodafone here in the Uk. Here’s some stuff I learnt during the switch, just in case you were thinking of doing the same. The headline, in case you can’t bear to read anymore is I’m not regretting it.
When my old contract ran out about 2 months ago on my iPhone 3G, I held back on renewing specifically to wait for iPhone 4. I’d seen the Apple keynote and was as excited as everyone else. But I had also seen the Google IO keynote for the 2.2 version of Android, code name Froyo. They showed a pretty impressive demo, and in some respects looked like they were ahead of Apple. Here’s a couple of features that really wet my appetite:
I realise I rely quite heavily on notifications, especially in this more Real-Time era. The current notifications system on the iPhone is pretty poor. I’d love to see stats on who currently chooses to receive push notifications and even more, who pushes them. The new local notifications in IOS4 is interesting, a bit Growl like. The problem is the ‘a bit’. I personally want notifications to alert me of something, and then sit in the corner where I can see them. On the iPhone you get an alert, and then you have to make a decision on what to do then and there because the dialog box blocks the screen until you do. Android have a much nicer model. There’s global notifications, and then custom ones per app to override. Notifications get fired, and then sit in the status bar, waiting for you to do something about them. It is a more complex UI than the Apple version, but I don’t mind that. It will also be interesting to see what Android do with their over the air notification/messaging.
I was fortunate enough to get NetShare before is was taken from the App Store. It proved really useful on my train journeys on the way to work. Problem was it made my phone get pretty hot, and was a pain in the arse to set up every time so I stopped using it. That and the fact it could be deleted by Apple at any time. Froyo on the other hand has WIFI HotSpot. This is awesome. Click to make a hotspot, add credentials, and then bingo, you see it in your WIFI networks list, then connect to it like any other network. That and seven other friends can connect too.
Before I mention the things that may well be specific to just me, the other big thing that made me switch was cost. Currently, between me and the wife, we have 2 Apple laptops, 4 iPods, 1 Airport and 1 Apple Tv. As well as that hardware, I have a mobileMe subscription, and an iPhone developers account. I think it’s fair to say I’ve given Steve enough money for the time being. The idea of shelling out the ever increasing cost of a new iPhone plus the lengthy contract, was the straw that … etc etc.
My N1 cost me £80 and Fonebank gave me £180 for my old 3G, so I saved a chunk of cash from the get-go. I won’t be renewing my mobileMe account even though the robot [at] me email address is quite cool, and I don’t think I’m going to renew the developer account either. I have two apps in the app store, and whilst they have paid for my developer account, they have definitely not paid me for the amount of time I put into them. And whilst people seem to like the apps, I just can’t justify sapping any more of my own precious private time when there is no financial reward, there’s too much other cool stuff to learn about. So with that account gone, I won’t be tempted to tinker on the train. I will though still be able to keep my iPhone dev hand in through my job.
Finally, the reason I switched that is specific to me. I’ve had an iPhone since the first release ( I upgraded to a 3G, but not to a 3GS ), and whilst iOS has got better and more feature full, it still looks and feels the same. Sure it’s quicker, the phone has a shiny new screen and behaves like a WII remote, but to me it still essentially behaves like the first iPhone I bought a couple of years ago. Now some people will love this fact, but as someone who loves technology, and likes new stuff to fill my brain with, iPhone 4 is not giving me anything more than I had before. Android on the other hand is completely new to me, and lets me tinker.
So like I said, I’ve had it a few weeks now. The first thing I did when I got the phone, was to take off the Vodafone approved version of Android it was running. Froyo came and went but my phone never got the upgrade notification. I’m not even sure if they have updated it yet! Vodafone say they need to look over the code, and make some tweaks. Yeah, but no thanks. So I followed this great tutorial about upgrading a Vodafone N1 to Froyo. It all worked as stated, and even auto-updated to the very latest version once I had installed everything. Note though that it will unlock the bootloader which I guess screws your warranty. I think I may try out Cyanogenmod too, now they have a Froyo version.
Froyo really does run like a rocket, and certainly adds a great deal of polish to the Android OS. Here’s what I like and what could be better. I’m not really comparing against the iPhone here, as I know some things you get on that too since iPhone 4.
- The speed. 2.2 is noticeable faster than 2.1
- The screen. Remember I had a 3G
- Notifications. Vastly superior to Apples.
- Wireless hotspot.
- Speech recognition. Godsmackingly awesome. Makes up for the shit keyboard. Opens up a whole new world.
- Integration with my email/calendar etc. I use Google to handle this websites email, so it jolly well should be good.
- The Exchange support for work email and calendar
- Browsing the web. The big screen and rocket ship browser mean I have been doing this more than ever before on a mobile device.
- Flash plugin support! I’ll choose thankyou.
- Background tasks. You need to be selective though.
- The camera, with video
- The maps and satnav apps are very cool.
- Phew! You can still get Drop7
Could do better:
- The Keyboard. Whilst not horrible, it’s still not as good as the iPhones.
- The market store. Really hard to find the good stuff between all the crap.
- Music Player. Whether I like it or not iTunes has me. I have been using DoubleTwist, but it’s not a patch on the real thing.
Oh and the one they all talk about, the Battery. I actually don’t think this is as bad as people are making out. The battery with all the same things turned on as my old iPhone lasts just the same. If you turn off 3g and keep the screen dim, the battery appears to be very good. Again, just like my old iPhone.
In summary then, I really like my Nexus One and am genuinely happy that I switched. While it does not always have the Apple polish and UX, it has other stuff to make up for it, and it is still a lot of fun to use. Go on, give it a try.