Sunday, April 14, 2013

An iPhone Fanboy Goes Back to iPhone

My attempt to give Android a full and fair trial period has died in its infancy. I got nowhere near the 30 days that I originally planned. Ultimately, it lasted about a week. Using an underpowered phone ended up being the fatal flaw in my plan. The phone struggled to do simple tasks, like play background audio. The one game I tried to play, Where's My Water, locked up so many times it was unplayable. Multitasking was useless due to the tiny memory size.

So, you might say, "Get a better phone, and try again." Unfortunately, that isn't going to work. As I mentioned in my previous post, I do not want a phone with a giant screen, and I was unable to find a decent phone in that size. Plus, given how heavily I am invested in iOS, Android would have to be leaps and bounds better to get me to switch. I remember Steve Jobs saying back in the NeXT days that in order to get people to switch to a new product it would need to be five or ten times better. People won't switch for something that is equal or slightly better. Android is not five or ten times better. I'm not ready to say it is better at all.

Right out of the gate, Android stumbled. The Nexus S I bought arrived with Gingerbread on it. No problem. I had already read that OTA updates for the Nexus S were available all the way up to Jelly Bean 4.1.2. I did everything I could find to get the phone to update with no luck. Every time I checked for available updates, none were available. After an entire evening of searching and manual updates, I finally got the phone to 4.1.2. Apple is miles better in this area. If I had purchased a old iPhone, all I would have to do in most cases is check for an update, and after about 20-30 minutes, I'd be running the latest iOS that phone supports. The worst case scenario would be a phone running something earlier 5.0. In that case, all I have to do is connect the phone to iTunes and update via USB.

After I got the phone set up and installed replacement apps for the functions I relied on my iPhone for, I carried the Nexus S around and tethered it to my iPhon for a week. I couldn't switch out the SIM cards and make a full switch because the one Micro SIM adapter I had ended up getting used to replace my daughter's iPhone, which took a swim. I tried to stick with the Nexus S for all tasks, but the audio issues and lag kept sending me back to the iPhone. When I gave up completely and put everything back on the iPhone, it was like slipping on an old glove.

There was a lot to like about Android. The flexibility of the OS is very attractive to a hacker like me. Don't like how something works? Download a replacement. On iOS you are at Apple's mercy for most of these kinds of things.

I also fell in love with the Nexus S form factor. It is not much bigger than my 4S, but the jump in screen size from 3.5" to 4.0" is very pleasant. I really wish Apple had gone wider and longer in its jump to 4.0" with the iPhone 5. A larger screen in the same aspect ratio would have been so much better.

So, in the end, I found the flexibility in Android to be very nice, but size, comfort and investment issues will probably keep me in an iPhone for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

An iPhone Fanboy Tries Android

I haven't written here in a while, but I'm about to undertake a project that I think would be good to document as I go along. I'm going to be trying out an Android phone for at least a month in place of my iPhone 4S. This is significant because I am an iPhone fanboy. Ask anyone who knows me. I generally have nothing good to say about anything other than iOS. But it occurred to me that I should really try out Android if I am to be an objective critic. Thus, this experiment was born.

I'm not completely inexperienced with Android. For a few months shortly after it came out, I experimented with a Nook Color that was, at first, just rooted. Later, I installed CyanogenMod 7. It didn't go very well. I ran into quite a few annoyances, and eventually switched to an iPad. In retrospect, it wasn't really a fair test of Android. The Nook Color isn't the best device to show what Android can do. Especially running a pre-Honeycomb version on a tablet device.

This time around I am setting up a fair evaluation. That is, as fair an evaluation I can without spending too much money. So, I set out to find an Android phone that could run at least Jelly Bean 4.1 without breaking the bank. After some research I settled on the Samsung Google Nexus S. It can be had for about $150, has a stock upgrade to Jelly Bean, and is compatible with many custom ROMs like CyanogenMod. Another thing that makes it attractive is the 4" screen. The smaller screen is a plus for me. The vast majority of the time I'm using my phone, it's while holding it in one hand and tapping and typing with my thumb. My hands aren't very big, and I know from trying out larger phones that I can't comfortably use a 4.5"+ screen with one hand. This may cause a problem later if I end up wanting to switch, since there are no good, small Android phones anymore. But I'll cross that bridge when, and if, I come to it.

The Nexus S arrives tomorrow. Here we go. Next: Set up the phone and replace the functions that I rely upon on my iPhone with Android apps and functions.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Apple, you were so close!

I don’t have one of the new iPod classics, but I’m hearing from people that do that it will now automatically play the next podcast in the list when one is finished. This is great! Unfortunately, the iPod can only order podcasts from newest to oldest, so you can only listen continuously in reverse order. This make the new feature useless.

Not that it matters because I’m sure that this new feature will never be introduced to pre-classic iPods, since Apple tends to completely abandon previous generations with regard to feature updates. Even Microsoft manages to do the right thing in this regard.

Friday, September 21, 2007

iTunes podcast support improved, but not quite there

After taking Apple to task about podcast support in iTunes in my last post, I feel it’s time for an update. Apple has made some improvements, but it still has a way to go.

First, Apple now looks at the “play count” of a track rather than if it has been “played.” As I mentioned previously, if you listen to one second of a track, iTunes considers it “played,” but it will not increment the “play count” until you play the track to the end. While not perfect, this makes things much easier. If I pause listening to podcast episode in the middle, I know it won’t be removed on my next sync because the play count will still be zero. When I’ve played it to the end, the play count will be set to one and will it be removed on the next sync. This can be a bit annoying for podcasts that put significant fluff at the end. (TWiT, I’m looking at you, although the last episode ended with a much shorter version of the ending theme. I can only hope that continues.) In that case you can scroll to within a few seconds of the end and let it play out.

I continue to be frustrated by what the iPod does at the end of an audio podcast episode. It bounces you all the way back to the main menu. To play the next episode you have to drill all the way down to where you were. It would be tolerable if it would just go back to the list of episodes, like it already does for video podcasts. Why don’t they behave the same, Apple?!?

Finally, they still haven’t fixed the sorting issues I mentioned, but I’ve gotten so used to it, I almost don’t care anymore.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Podcast listening with iTunes

It’s time to revive this dormant blog with a discussion (rant?) on how podcasts work with iTunes. Since I listen to podcasts on an iPod, iTunes is the only viable podcatcher for me. No other software will seamlessly make the tracks “bookmarkable,” that is, able to remember my position in the track if I take a break from listening to it, and integrate with the built-in podcast handling on the iPod. That said, iTunes has some serious deficiencies in this area.

The first problem is how iTunes handles copying podcasts to the iPod. You have several options for how iTunes copies episodes to the iPod. The method that should work best for me is to have iTunes keep only the episodes that I haven’t listened to on the iPod. So, I just need to sync occasionally and check my iPod for new episodes. Once I’ve listened to and episode, it will be removed from my iPod the next time I sync. That would be great if only it worked that way. The problem is that the iPod considers an episode played it I have listened to one second of it. So, if I happen to be in the middle of listening to an episode of a podcast when I sync, which is likely since I subscribe to several podcasts that are an hour long, the episode it removed from the iPod. To make matters worse, the “bookmark” is erased, so when I put the episode back on my iPod so I can finish it, I have to manually find where I left off. This flaw has existed since the very beginning of podcast support on the iPod, but many updates later, there is still no fix. A tenable workaround for this was to have iTunes only copy checked episodes. Then, I could uncheck the episode when I had finished it, and it would be removed. But this feature is gone in iTunes 7. Why, Apple, why?

Once I get the episodes I want on the iPod, new frustrations present themselves. Some of my subscribed podcasts, such as The Daily Giz Wiz and The Podcast About Nothing, are short (10 minutes or less) and frequent. (3 to 5 episodes a week) I will frequently save up several episodes and listen to them all at once. It would be nice if I could just select the oldest episode, play it, and when it was done, it would be begin playing the next episode. This seems obvious to me, but, inexplicably, there is no way to get the iPod to do this. When it finishes playing a podcast episode, it stops and jumps back the the main menu. To get around this, I keep a playlist and dump the episodes into that, so I can play several in a row without having to fidget with my iPod.

Another thing that I find annoying is that iTunes makes little distinction between audio and video podcasts. This is annoying for those of us with iPods that are not video-capable. I do subscribe to some video podcasts so I can watch them on my PC, but I have to wade though all the other podcasts to find them.

A final, minor annoyance is how iTunes handles sorting of podcasts. The podcasts are always listed in alphabetical order. Clicking on a column only changes what order episodes are listed in within the podcast listing. It would be nice if you could click on the date column, and the podcasts that have the newest episodes would bubble to the top. Again, this seems obvious to me, but for some reason, that’s not how it works.

People have been complaining about these deficiencies for some time. I can only hope that adding my voice will help get Apple’s attention.