Monday, May 13, 2013

So I have switched to Android, and I am sold

Well, I switched but not entirely. I still have my IPad which I love and use a lot. And my trusty IPod Touch still sits on my nightstand, in its dock. But I recently bought an Android phone (Sony Xperia Ray) and I absolutely love it.

Physically, the phone itself is great. Personally, I think its silly to walk around with a large brick in your hand that can't easily be carried in a pocket or belt case. So all of those phones with 4 or 5 inch screens make no sense to me. Nowadays, who doesn't have access to a regular PC anyway? I still want a smartphone, but web access is only for occasional on-the-go use, and a smaller screen does not bother me. The Ray's 3.3" screen is just right. Perfect for email, typing short messages, running Waze, and occasional news check on the web. I have an old horizontal belt case that holds it perfectly. I got a silicone protector off of Ebay for $2.

Even though the android version is not the latest (it runs 2.3.4), it is every bit as intuitive and easy to use as IOS. In fact, the standard Android back and menu button makes learning to use any app easier than with IOS. And, most of all, the fact that almost every aspect of the phone is customizable (either with settings or with separate apps), without the need to "root" ("jailbreak"), makes it a joy to use. Want to change the dialer or keyboard? No problem. I love the swiping gestures for typing. It makes the small keyboard screen easy to use. Screen widgets are integrated into Android and give a tremendous advantage over IOS devices. Want a quick shortcut for turning off your Bluetooth, or a Google search? How about turning on a wi-fi hotspot? Live weather and clock widgets are also included, and many more can be downloaded. Just by tapping an icon on your home screen, these functions become far more convenient than having to navigate through layers of settings menus. Just about any function or setting can set up as a widget or shortcut. For the hackers out there, "rooting" Android provides yet more flexibility (although it voids the phone warranty), and gives you the ability to install entirely new firmwares, which are freely available. There is a slight disadvantage in that because there are different variations of android available for hundreds of different phones, there is occasional incompatibility. But the sheer breadth of available software more than compensates for this shortcoming.

The integration with Google services is seamless, so its easy to sync contacts, calendars and email. Importing old contacts from my old Nokia posed little difficulty. Using the Play store (android market) is a pleasure--its available from any PC (no Itunes!), and any app you request is instantly downloaded to your device.

Everything just works. Of course, nobody can beat Apple on the variety and quality of media in the Itunes Store, and admittedly this is a big selling point. But my phone is still primarily a phone, with occasional use for other functions. I don't buy albums or movies to watch on my phone. I do love podcasts, and there are lots of podcast apps (many free) in the Android market.

Finally, my Android phone was much less expensive than an IPhone. Intense competition and innovation keeps the prices down. I bought my unlocked Sony from an independent dealer for about 1100 NIS, whereas an IPhone would cost 3 times that.