Android: The cool, the bad and the ugly


About two weeks ago I picked up a Galaxy Nexus from Verizon. It’s my first Android phone, and runs version 4.0 of Android, also called “Ice Cream Sandwich.” If, like me, you’re coming to Android from an iPhone background, you’ll find that there are few cool things you might appreciate, and a few things that are quite different with regard to Android and the Nexus.
1. The Google Factor. 
I knew that Android offers much tighter integration with Google services than does the iPhone. But as a heavy Google Docs user (I manage three different accounts) I was still pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to view and edit files, as well as access my Gmail and Google Calendar accounts. If you’re heavily invested in the Googleplex, Android is the place to be.

2. Face unlock. 

When you turn on the phone, Android scans your face and compares it to a stored image to automatically unlock your phone. It’s a cool feature to show your friends who have iPhones. It is, however, more fun than it is practical. It takes a few seconds to identify you, and in that time you could probably type in a four-digit unlock code. In addition, it may not recognize you if it’s scanning your face from a different angle, if you cut your hair, or if light conditions are poor. And if you are planning to set up your phone to access your work email and other resources, you may not be able to use it at all. Computerworld policies force the use of a passcode over face recognition, which is considered less secure.

3. Google Voice Actions. 

Ok, it’s not as sexy as Siri, and it’s been around since 2010, but this feature is still cool. Accuracy, always a problem with voice recognition, is quite good on Android.

Not so Cool

1. OS updates are slow to roll out. iPhone users who want to take advantage of cool features such as 3D maps in the latest version of iOS will be able to download the OS update as soon as it’s released, but with Android phones both the carriers and smartphone makers are the gatekeepers, and they usually delay getting those updates out to you. On the Android platform, unless you buy a Samsung Galaxy Nexus you’ll probably have to wait for several months. The reason: Google’s Nexus is the only phone that runs a pure, unmodified version of Google’s Android OS. Other smart phone models customize the operating system at a low level and modify the user interface. How long does it take them to catch up? That’s been a point of contention. Consider: The Nexus runs Ice Cream Sandwich, while the Motorola Razr Maxx and most other phones are still running Android variations based on version 2.3. Android 4.0 was released last year. Even the Galaxy Nexus can take time to receive an update. Although the phone can accept it, carriers are the roadblock and don’t always release updates in a timely manner. But JR Raphael, who writes theAndroid Power blog, says updates to a Galaxy Nexus will still be faster than with phones that have a modified version of the OS.

2. Standard iPhone voice mail feature costs extra. 

According to Verizon Wireless, a voice mail feature that comes standard with the iPhone must be purchased as a value-added service if you buy an Android phone.Specifically, the iPhone automatically downloads and stores your voice mail messages so you can play them back at your leisure. But Android users who want the same feature must sign up for Verizon’s Visual Voice Mail service and shell out an extra $2.99 per month. How annoying is that? And while the Google Voice app can be set up to provide this service for your mobile number, Verizon says it doesn’t support enabling Google Voice to download messages from its voicemail system.@VZWsupport confirmed that Google Voice is not supported, as did the staff at my local Verizon Wireless store. When I tweeted as to why Android users must pay $3 per month for a service that iPhone users get for free I received this response: “Different products and different operating systems.”This must be a recent development, as other people I know have the same Galaxy Nexus phone and they were able to set up Google Voice as their primary voice mail client with no problems. But I have seen similar complaints in forums online. The good news is that I did eventually get Google Voice to work on my Nexus. But it was far from the kind of seamless experience you’d have with the iPhone. So if you go Android with Verizon you’ll either have do the *86 thing to dial in and listen to your voice messages, pay up for Visual Voice Mail or play around with Google Voice, the Google Voice app for Android, and your phone app settings until you can get the darned thing to work.I can’t tell you how to do this because I uninstalled Google Voice and reinstalled it several times, each time with a different result. I got it to work eventually, but it took some tinkering around. For the record, here are the steps I followed.Log into your Google Voice accountGo to settings, add your mobile number and select “Activate Google Voice Mail on this phone.”From your mobile phone dial *71 plus your mobile phone number and press SEND. Hang up at the beep.Install Google Voice for Android on the phone, launch and run through the application settings. You may see “Your network carrier is currently not supported for automatic voicemail configuration.” Click the “configure” button and continue on. You’ll be taken to the phone dialer app’s configuration screen.Click the Voice Mail Settings option and choose “Google Voice” instead of “My carrier” in the pop-up dialog.This process worked the first time. Then I uninstalled Google Voice, reset everything back to the defaults and tried again. This time the process hung up in the dialer settings screen while “accessing voicemail settings.” After more dubbing around with the phone dialer, Google Voice app and Google Voice service settings it finally started working. But if there’s a consistent approach that works I didn’t find it.

3. It’s cheaper to replace a broken iPhone than an Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone. 

If you break your iPhone, any Apple store will swap it out for a refurbished unit for a flat fee of $150. With any Samsung phone, you’ll have to pay the repair cost or buy a replacement at full retail — $645 — unless you pony up for the optional insurance. Premiums are $7 per month ($84/year) plus a $100 deductible per claim. Bottom line: If you don’t want to take the risk of breakage or loss, you’ll need to add another $168 to your total cost for that two-year contract

Comment: Everything has a good and bad side. So, we just have to be thankful and accept it.

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