View Full Version : Considering Android

01-02-2012, 06:26 AM
Greetings officers of the court!

I know this is a touchy subject filled with near-religious fanaticism but I am seeking opinions from a community whose opinions I generally respect. Right now I have an iPhone 4 and an iPad. Before the iPhone 4 I had a 3G, so I've been using Apple's mobile devices for a fair while now. My iPad has turned into a slow piece of excrement with the advent of iOS 5.0 (particularly Safari, which now crashes if I so much as try and load Wikipedia, and plenty of apps just refuse to load unless I power cycle the device), thus I'm looking to possibly switch to an Android tablet. If that proceeds well, I might be interested in also swapping to an Android phone down the track. Apart from Apple basically turning my older-gen tablet into a useless metal curiosity, I'm also not real pleased with iTunes these days. Apple's mobile devices work exceptionally well, but I can't stand their desktop software and computers (and yeah, I've tried to like them, and iTunes is something I barely tolerate).

I have concerns though, which aren't really helped by reading up on things online. My tablet usage has fair non-specific requirements, my phone though is more specific (I have clinical guides and other stuff which I need in the field and aren't as easy to access in a web browser). I don't know anybody who has an Android device, so it's not quite so easy to get my hands on one and test it, and I don't want to buy a cheap one because first impressions make a big difference on function.

Perhaps some of you could give me your personal impressions on the following points. I'm not interested in a big dissertation on why Android or iOS rocks or sucks, just your personal impressions. Please be honest. Please!

1) How well optimised are tablet apps for Android devices? Some of the comments I've seen suggest that apps for tablets on the Android platform is largely an afterthought, and few support a proper tablet screen size. On iOS the majority of apps today support the tablet display size, which makes them a lot easier to use. Is the tablet form factor well supported or still largely ignored? Software after all makes the device.

2) How do you find the application support for Android? Are there times when you've wanted an app only to find it's iOS only? If so, how frequently? Do you get disappointed by a lack of Android support often? Looking online most of the apps (including Medscape and Micromedex which I use frequently, and even my favourite GPS app!) I use on a regular basis are supported, so I wouldn't anticipate that app choice would be an issue, but I'm curious to see if people's perceptions of app available on Android are inferior to iOS.

3) Is synchronisation a lot more trouble-free than having to use that monstrosity iTunes? Do all the manufacturers have largely a similar sync system, or is there significant variation? One of the main reasons I want to investigate the platform is due to iTunes sync being a pain in the rectum. I absolutely hate the way losing my iTunes library (say in a format) means I have to wipe the phone and setup all my apps and music from scratch, not to mention having a useless interface for transferring files (leading many apps to use their own interface).

4) For those of you who have used both iOS 5 and Android (Honeycomb or ICS), how do you think the experience compares? Particularly in general use and interface design. Mac OS X in my opinion is abysmal in the UI arena, but iOS works exceptionally well. Do the Android systems compare?

5) Recommendations for devices to consider?

Many thanks, every one of you who answers deserves a medal.

01-02-2012, 10:19 PM
1) Tablet apps for Android are pretty sparse. Like iOS you can use phone apps but the interfaces tend to be stretched out at full of white space. This might change with ICS and the Kindle Fire but at the minute it is an issue.

2) I do find iOS is better supported than Android still but outside games I never find the app selection a problem. If the specific apps you need are there then you won't have any problems with more generic ones.

3) A lot of manufacturers do have their own solutions but nearly all work with drag and drop. In terms of apps and OS updates it is all pretty much synced through the cloud. As I don't put music on my phone the only times I plug it in to a PC is when I'm using it as a pen drive or off loading back ups. I've never used the software the manufacturer provided to sync. If you do want to sync music you can pick any of the selection of 3rd party apps with the method and software that suits you best or simply just dump files on there as an external drive.

4) I've only used earlier versions of iOS and my understanding is some of Android's advantages have been caught up with (for example the way it handles notifications). One of the inherent problems with Android is the experience varies a lot between manufacturers. Personally I'd throw away all that, root and shove Cyanogen on there but whether you want to do that is another matter. On ICS it is a huge step forward for Android and has made it a lot more fluid then it was before. It isn't as elegant as iOS but I do find it speedier to use day to day though this just may reflect that I've spent more time with it and the fact I haven't used iOS5 yet.

5) Your plan of going tablet first probably isn't a good one. I doubt you'll get a great experience just yet due to the lack of apps designed for that form factor. However the best bet at the minute is probably the Transformer Prime. As always with Andorid there are a million and one pretenders to the throne on the way though. As for phones the Galaxy Nexus is way ahead beacuse of ICS but by the time you will probably be considering a phone a whole new wave will be out and things will be very different.

02-02-2012, 01:27 AM
I own, use and develop for Android devices - I've used iOS and I don't dislike it, but I can tell you why I prefer Android.

Android lets me do what I want with my devices - rather than what Jobs and Co decide is acceptable. I can develop for Android without having to buy an Apple Computer and using a variety of existing free tools (in an open and reusable language and not Apple's proprietary tools and language).

There's a much wider range of devices on offer - from sub-100 handsets to 3D devices with multicore processors and NFC! This is a double-edged sword tho - there not being a 'best' device for anyone, really.

Android Tablets aren't much cop however (in fact I'd go on to say there's not one worth it's cost). Developers took to the iPad with huge enthusiasm and produced some genuinely clever stuff but most Android apps are aimed at phones and - at best - 'scaled up a bit'. I don't actually see this changing anytime soon either - the tablets on offer remain 'poor' and 'overpriced' IMO

End of the day, iOS is better for tablets - and better for people who don't want to tinker and want all the cool, smooth and flashy things it offers.

Meanwhile Android is better for smartphones and those who like to tinker and don't like to be told what's good for them by a fruitarian too-stupid to have surgery for cancer ;0

02-02-2012, 07:44 AM
5) This should help: http://geekaphone.com/compare-phones
I recommend Samsung Galaxy SII, best phone on the market, hands down. They will announce SIII this year, though.

02-02-2012, 10:20 AM
Thanks for the comments guys, still considering. The comments about the lackluster efforts in the tablet sector on Android pretty much echo what I've been seeing online. iOS and the developer support for the tablet form factor is remarkably good, something I'm just not seeing in the Android tablet sector. I was definitely looking at the Transform Prime, but although it looks neat if the software for it only makes half an attempt at using the form factor, it's pretty useless. I can already hook up a keyboard to my iPad!

Any other takers? Also it'd be worth watching to see what Windows 8 does on tablets too I guess.

02-02-2012, 01:08 PM
I am a stalwart Android fan, but I have to say, why change your whole ecosystem when your stuff already works with the one you are using?

just buy a new iPad.

If you buy an Android tablet and phone and you use sync features, you will still have to use the crap that the manufacturers develop for each individual product.

for example, get a Galaxy S2 and a Transformer, and you will have to sync each with Samsungs crappy KIES software and whatever Asus's equivalent is for the tablet.

I have myself the S2 and I love it as a phone and multimedia device. Its great. But only if you want to be involved in the nitty-gritty of Android use like rooting and ROMs. Otherwise, you just wont get the best out of it.

The same goes for a tablet. I have a HTC Flyer which i got on a great deal, and I've rooted it and installed custom firmware, and without doing that I wouldnt have a particularly enjoyable to use tablet, but I do now.

I don't think that Android is worth considering for enterprise and business use just yet, but when Ice Cream Sandwich is the sole focus of developers that will change.

02-02-2012, 04:49 PM
Android lets me do what I want with my devices - rather than what Jobs and Co decide is acceptable.

I'd also go with this as to why android works for me. I realize that it's not for everyone, because it can sometimes take a bit of tinkering to get everything working, but the freedom is well worth it in my opinion.

I've been using the phone for the past year or so and it's been absolutely wonderful and I just got an android tablet within the last month. I've found a few things that I dislike about the tablet, but I think those are things that are just inherent weaknesses of tablets, rather than with the OS.

02-02-2012, 07:10 PM
5) This should help: http://geekaphone.com/compare-phones
I recommend Samsung Galaxy SII, best phone on the market, hands down.

But that's not N900 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N900). :)

Anyway, at the moment largest problem you might find with Android is that the support from manufacturers may be lackluster, A lot of phones are stuck with the Android version they were released under, which you may find problematic. Also, even with the advent of Android 4.0 the tablets aren't really there yet.

Personally, I'll be waiting for WeTab before buying any tablet at all. Maemo/MeeGo, originating from full-blown Linux, offers the ultimate freedom to do things, even gaining root access to my current phone was a simple installation of one packet.

02-02-2012, 07:31 PM
I don't have and haven't ever owned an iOS device, though my son has an iPod and is forced to use iTunes to get 75% functionality. I was baffled to find out that he could purchase apps and music directly on his iPod but that there was no built-in way to synchronize that stuff back to iTunes on our PC. I had to go out and find a third-party program to do what should be 100% possible from the program that Apple requires users to use, iTunes. For that and several other reasons, I can see why you are looking at Android and it is one of the top five reasons I stick with Android.

I have a Galaxy S phone and my wife has a Kindle Fire. I agree with pretty much all of the responses above, but I will add that I don't know how much the Kindle Fire will change the Android Market for table apps since the Fire is locked into the Amazon Store unless you root it. It's not particularly great hardware-wise, so once you root it you have yet another not-exactly-fantastic tablet.

On both Android devices, we simply plug it into a PC with a MicroUSB cable (no special cables or adapters required and it seems that nearly everything non-Apple is going the MicroUSB route) and the PC recognizes it as a USB storage device. We drag and drop media files from the PC's hard drive to the device's drive letter, typically into a Music, Video, or whatever folder, and when it's done copying, you disconnect it like any USB device and you're done. The devices' medial players immediately see the new media and it's all ready to play. I haven't bothered with any form of syncing software whatsoever, so I can't comment on the ease or difficulty of using them, but the drag and drop method is so simple to use I didn't even realize that there was such software for Android devices. I suppose it could come in handy for backing up play lists and such, but mine are pretty simple so I don't see the need.

Also, I think pretty much all Android phones have MicroSD slots, but I know that the iPhone and iPad do not and neither does the Kindle Fire for some reason. With Android tablets, you'll want to verify this but it's fairly common. This is another big reason I prefer Android devices, but to each their own.

Edit: Like Kaira- said, Android updates are far from universal. I'm on Verizon Wireless and bought my Galaxy S right about the time that Gingerbread came out (IIRC), but my phone was on Eclair (2.0 or 2.1) because it was already an older phone. It took Verizon several months before the Froyo (2.2) update was available for it (people who bought it new waited more than a year after it was released), but a short time later Gingerbread (2.3) was available for it. My phone is running 2.3.5 now and I there are no updates available. I have no idea if there will be further updates, but being an older phone, I kind of doubt it will ever get to Honeycomb (3.0) without rooting it.

Some wireless companies were much faster with updates to their version of this phone and some are still behind, so your preferred carrier could make a big difference in getting Android updates.

02-02-2012, 08:27 PM
On both Android devices, we simply plug it into a PC with a MicroUSB cable (no special cables or adapters required and it seems that nearly everything non-Apple is going the MicroUSB route)

I received my tablet (Asus Transformer) as a gift only to find that it has NO usb connections on the tablet itself. It has an sd card slot, but the power/data port is a proprietary plug similar to apple's. Just something to check out before buying.

02-02-2012, 08:31 PM
I've tried both and prefer the Android. The apple stuff has more polish and shine and the iOS stuff can be pretty cool, but it's expensive to upgrade. Android tablets, on the other hand, can be purchased dirt-cheap if you know where to look and have almost identical functionality. The Dolphin browser for android is especially nice, with gesture-based controls and a slick, tabbed interface a la Chrome. It also runs flash, which is nice.

But all of this is moot. Linux for ARM-based systems is already out and that's the route I'll be taking as soon as I can compile a build that will run on the unopened tablet I purchased for less than 1/3 of the normal list price.

02-02-2012, 10:06 PM
Just to be awkward.. Have you looked at the Windows 8 Nokia lumia?

03-02-2012, 12:26 AM
Once again thanks guys. To be honest I don't have crippling problems with iTunes, but it's frustrating for two reasons. Firstly it breaks the UI conventions established in Windows (something Apple insist people play along with on OS X), making it a pain to use. Secondly the sync interface is just too inflexible at times (particularly with backups)... but apart from moving media files, it sounds like I'm stuck with the sync tools manufacturers give you, which might be worse than iTunes.

As for the ecosystem thing: the iDevices generally work better with a Mac ecosystem. I did try switching to a Mac, which only made me appreciate Windows more. Seriously, the Finder can't sort folders first by default? Just about everybody else does it that way! I figured I'd check people's opinion and usage of Android devices before I decided to look at a swap, but so far it seems like there's no clear advantage (perhaps a step backwards in the tablet sector) to moving to Android.

Android tablets, on the other hand, can be purchased dirt-cheap if you know where to look and have almost identical functionality.
I've seen those, but by all accounts they're not particularly good. Cheap Android tablets seem to have a habit of running older versions of the OS and being pretty slow, which isn't a good introduction to the platform. I was just going to get a super cheap one for a test drive, but I don't think it's a fair test if they're fairly weak.

Just to be awkward.. Have you looked at the Windows 8 Nokia lumia?
Heh, I was waiting for that. I am watching Windows 8 carefully, however I'm not 100% convinced that Win8 will be the One OS to Rule Them All in the tablet sector. Win8 has taken significant steps in the right direction (though it's still a bit too close to Windows 7 Phone's interface, and W7P isn't worth mentioning), but Android/iOS were designed specifically for mobile devices, while I'm worried that Win8 will bring too much desktop baggage, which isn't good for a tablet. Of course I hope it works exceptionally well on ARM/x86-64 tablets, but it's still very much an unknown quantity at this stage.

04-02-2012, 10:56 PM
The N900 is great, even to this day (the FM transmitter being a favourite of mine). Unfortunately the USB port is rather bad. I just sent mine in for the forth time (for varying reasons including the USB port). Maemo however is absolutely delicious. It is somewhat dated though and there are a lack of apps in the sense Android and iOS have (Alien Dalvik where are you?! (MWC hopefully)). As for the WeTab; the hardware doesn't look that good.

I'd recommend the N9.

05-02-2012, 05:09 PM
The only Android tablet I'd recommend - and it's a 'with some reservations' recommendation - is the Advent Vega (exclusive to PC World/Currys in the UK).

Out of the box it's a nasty cheap Android 2.1/2.2 device with no Google support and, as such, is as disappointing as that sounds. It does have a dual-core processor, enough internal memory and a capacitive touchscreen tho and we can build on that.

With 45 mins of work, you can flash it to run Vegacomb (community-made 3.0+ Honeycomb ROM) a- t which point it's on-par with almost any Android tablet (but cheaper!)

They're 199.97 in-store only with stock popping up in various stores at various times. They sometimes pop-up as refurbs on the Currys/PCW websites too or even in their eBay Outlet (159.99 or cheaper when they're available like that).

So what's the catch??

The screen isn't fantastic - it's blacks are more dark greys and it's viewing angle is tight (can be a problem if you want to watch something in-bed or with the tablet in a stand) or if you want to show it to someone next to you.

The casing is a bit cheap and the touchscreen has a rep for being less accurate near the edges - I've used one a fair bit tho and I really, really didn't notice that at all.

So if you fancy an Android tablet, it's a bit of a billy-bargain if you're willing to hack it around a bit - it certainly makes every other Android tablet I've tried seem poor value for money (let's be honest - most are iPad money and you'd have an iPad every time).

05-02-2012, 05:19 PM
There are no tablets worth buying atm and likely won't be for another 18 months.

05-02-2012, 05:26 PM
Asus Transformer Prime is a great device. Recommend it.

05-02-2012, 10:16 PM
There are no tablets worth buying atm and likely won't be for another 18 months.

I'm not sure where such a random amount of time comes from really - the problem right now is such that there's no way to put a guess on when things will (or even if they will) improve.

The issues are

Android 3.0 (Honeycomb, intended only for Tablets) is a bit of a dogs breakfast and I think most people are hoping Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich, intended for Tablets AND Phones) will sort that out.

The Tablets out there already aren't cheap and they aren't really being pushed in the way the iPad is. The Transformer, which everyone raves about, is overpriced and underspecced - it's just better than the even more overpriced/underspecced opposition from Motorola, Sony, Samsung etc.

Developers have simply not taken to Android Tablets the way iOS developers took to the iPad. VERY few apps have tablet-specific editions and there are almost no Apps which are specifically aimed at tablets.

I think the last one is because of the first 2 AND the first 2 are because of the last, at the same time - that means everything needs to advance in-step.

05-02-2012, 10:34 PM
I'm not sure where such a random amount of time comes from really

802.11ac + Windows 8 + refresh to correct flaws in first series of products rushed to market for Christmas '12. Silvermont should also be on the market by then allowing use of tablets as desktop replacements.

09-03-2012, 04:18 AM
I have used 5 different tablets ! 2 windows,1 iPad, 2 android.
tablet are not your usual computer, they are totally different.. windows in a tablet is a bad idea so is buying some cheap tablets. kindle fire is for 200, which they are at loss.. kindle fire is only 7" no expandble nd is thick(btw not even a volume rocker, no physical buttons at all) they couldn't make cheaper than best android tablet (http://www.espow.com/wholesale-computers-networking-tablets.html), without sacrificing any quality (they have no profit selling it). what's the point of buying a $100 tablet when you can do some stuff. not every tablet is created equal.. different resolution screens.