Hello, Android

It's been almost three weeks since i made the switch to Android. After few years with iPad and iPhone, and the direction they're going with iOS7, it's time for me to try something new. Beyond anything "it just works" and much personal customization down to the core. This post announcing i am now a happy Android user.

The Google Play Edition

I started to grow on Android after i saw an article on Prismatic about Google Play Edition (GPE) of Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Eventhough i didn't really interested with anything outside of iOS ecosystem, but i knew a bit of few things like heavily stock UI modification and bloatwares by manufacturers. And don't get me start with hilarious marketing ads to promote their products. I think, what they really ended up doing was taking away pure Android experience from the consumers and fill it with bloatwares and features that ended up being practically useless.

Sure enough, as an open platform, you could always replace stock rom with third-party like CyanogenMod (CM), which is offering almost stock experience with some really useful enhancements. By officially making two best Android smartphones available without those chunky UIs and bloatwares, they delivered much consistent experience for the consumers who prefer stock Android without having to purchase the Nexus or do it themselves.

Now if i'm going to live with Android, it must be a Nexus or GPE. Unfortunately, i dislike Nexus design so much nor i couldn't justify to purchase the HTC One as my first Android phone. After few days of extensive research, i decided to purchase a One X, the last year flagship and first quad core phone from HTC.

Enter HTC One X. Switching isn't easy, that's why only geeks do.

I ended up making my own rom based on this repo after spending some time with CyanogenMod CM10.1 stable and 10.2 nightly. Stock Android Open Source Project (AOSP) rom has way less features than CM, but that's how Android was meant to be.

Being an open source means you can pretty much do anything with Android.

It took me 6 hours to compile the rom with premade kernel. But it is worth the trouble and gave you the confidence that you can build your own rom (or phone) someday. I didn't do more than replacing few APKs like stock browser with Chrome and stock email with Gmail and few tweaks here and there. Perhaps someday when time permit, i can start tinkering much deeper on hardware level.

Migrating from iOS

Thanks to my habit of not trusting cloud too much, i keep almost everything at my disposal. Things like contacts were stored in Address Book app, which i can import with Android's People app easily. iCloud? I don't use that. I did local backups and syncing over wifi with my iTunes. iMessage and Facetime? I'm on free sms plan and Skype will do the job. As i use Gmail for my email and calendar, there are really nothing to worry about moving away from iOS.

I guess i am too emotionally attached with iOS.

Zite as Prismatic replacement.

Beside from missing my favorite apps on iOS like Mailbox and Prismatic, i miss the syncing function so much. Having iTunes and iPhoto to manage my music and pictures make it really easy to keep my devices in sync without having to do it myself. Nevertheless, i'll figure out what to do about it as time roll on.

Living with Android.

Stock AOSP 4.2.2. Simple, clean and fast.

It didn't take long for me to getting around Android system. Having a physical capacitive keys makes the device more intuitive and easy. I can pretty much do anything and back to where i was. Without having to figure out where the menu option was, i'd just invoke it with a menu button. Lost? One tap at the home button and you're back to the homescreen. Due to the larger form-factor, you might struggle to use it with one hand, but once you've master around the system and you'll find that's really nothing worry about.

Unlike CM Rom, where you can customize almost everything since it comes with its own launcher (Trebuchet), stock AOSP didn't allow you to do that without third-party apps. I won't be able to limits the homescreen or put shortcuts to toggle things like Wi-fi or Bluetooth in Notification Drawer. But nevertheless, i didn't miss any of that features and i could always replace stock launcher with Trebuchet in case i need a better launcher.

A tap away from world's best search engine.

Its just a matter of single tap - and where you're going to tap actually to start searching from stuff on your phone or worldwide. You can search by typing the query, or if you're fancy to search using voice, tapping on microphone icon will invoke the method. And as usual, you can control your results to include from another apps as well. For example, i can search my tweets from Twitter app or notes from Evernote.

Although stock Calendar app didn't come with beautiful UI and icon, Agenda view really makes viewing events easier by swiping up and down. Having it sync with Google, i could always set any event right from my Macbook or web browser and it will appear on my phone and notify me accordingly for the next event.

I ended up having two Calendar app by installing one from Google just because it has much nicer icon. Oppss.

Location-based text ads from Digi. (CM 10.1)

You can actually interact with an app right from Notification Drawer. I found its real handy to reply text messages or emails right from the Drawer. And if you're flooding with notifications, a simple tap will dismiss all notifications in bulk. Unfortunately, as incoming notification didn't do anything than making a sound, you'll have to resort using third-party app for further enhancements or rely on led blinking, which is may not available on every Android devices. And once you dismissed all those notifications, you can't track it back without opening the app, unlike on iOS where there's a number on app's icon to show much notification you have.

Apple did bring same kind of interaction to the table with iOS7's Notification Center. Previous Notification Center didn't do much than showing a bunch of notification lists and quick Tweet/Post to Facebook, but unfortunately the latter didn't make it to iOS7.

Chrome's syncing feature is a killer.

I get rid of stock browser in favor of Google Chrome. Syncing feature is a must, and i can open up any tab on my Macbook, go out for a drink and continue browsing the same tab right on my phone. While i'm not really fan of Gmail app, i can't find any better alternative like Mailbox for iOS. I tried Boomerang but didn't really favor it.

And don't forget you can set third-party app as default action instead of using stock ones.

Stock AOSP camera.

Unfortunately, due to lacked of Sense framework in AOSP rom, you can't utilize dedicated image processing chip in One X with stock camera app. On the other side, i don't need any better UI than this. Less function to set means more shooting. Its worth mentioning that Sense ROM comes with plenty to presets that makes shooting experience much better and higher quality output compared to what AOSP can offer.

I am impressed with how fast it took for camera to launch and ready to start taking photos. It takes more than a few seconds to process but still fast enough for continuous shooting without having to rely on Burst Mode.

Duke highway. (Taken with One X's AOSP camera)

Muar river. (Taken with One X's AOSP camera)

As image quality speaks for themselves, i find the result to be mediore. But that could be subjective since i'm using AOSP rom without any proprietary libraries from manufacturer. As far as i'm aware of, GPE devices still retain all optimization from respective manufacturer.

So much for the Beats Audio.

Like most HTC phones after 2011, One X comes with Beats Audio integration. However, Beats Audio didn't do any magic than just an audio profile to improved bass production and its only enable with headphone/earphone attached. AOSP rom did not have this feature by default since its a proprietary asset but GPE of HTC One has it as well standard Sense. If you're looking for better alternative, DSPManager gives you much better tuning without 3.5mm output limitation. Else, you can always flash audio mods to bring back Beats' to the table.

I was amazed with the built-in speaker performance given by its slim form-factor profile. Not only its loud and clear, but sounding better than any mobile phones i've ever used. I can play music video clip at the open view restaurant and still clear enough for me and my friend to hear the music without having to kicking it to full volume. Speaker mode doesn't get any better than this. I can really talk to someone without having to rely on earphones, especially while driving. It just blew me away.

However, Android need a better stock music app. Its just horrible. CyanogenMod did a better job with Apollo and i can't get Google Play Music app to install because of unsupported country. Blergh

Conclusion.

I'll try to sum it in few words possible without too much bias like fanboy always did. Just because i bought a device, doesn't mean its perfect and the rest i didn't buy were totally piece of shit. No its not.

i bought what works best for me. And for now, its Android.

I can customize more personally with Android than other platform. But that's not something that i would like to do everyday. Its a phone and i'd still want it to keep working as a phone. If you want the best experience possible out of box, look no further for iOS. It's great and there are possibilities that i might going back to iOS someday. And don't be afraid with rumors about iTunes and App Store, see it for yourself. Its worth to mention i spent the first four hours with One X to get it right before i can really use it.

If you enjoy having a bigger screen, better camera and easy to mount-as-flash-drive transfer, then Android gets your answered. That's what most people compared between Android and iOS. I won't be talking about apps or variety of specs here, there are really nothing to mention about that. Having better specs only make apps perform fast, not better.

Live a better life without portable charger.

I know there are some people that might be asking about battery life on Android. I managed to get amazing battery life out of this device without using any third-party power saver. If you're wondering why you're having bad battery life, its probably because of those bloatwares installed by manufacturer. Get rid of it. Go for stock. You'll have more fun using Android.

Cheers.

Posted October 23, 2013

Tweet this