/ BLOG / Android & Samsung Galaxy S Fun

I’ve recently acquired a new phone to replace my aging iPhone 3G: The Samsung Galaxy S (or the GT-i9000 everywhere outside of the UK [apparently]). This is my first dip into the Android world, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

In the past I had Windows Mobile devices for work, around the 5 series, and in many ways Android reminds me very much of that experience. Now hear me out before you start tracking me down and attempting to kill me: Applications vary wildly on quality and the operating system gives you a reasonable amount of flexibility at the expensive of battery life and in some instances a complexity of use.

After 2 years of almost exclusive iPhone use I’m starting to remember what the appeal was of the original iPhone, despite the somewhat draconian strangle hold Apple has over the platform. From time to time I yearn for a dictator to swoop down and with an ironfist make every useful application I’ve installed follow some sort of coherent usability and style guidelines. I long for someone to clear the piles of crap from the Application Marketplace, or at least create some clever system where they don’t bubble to the surface.

Despite this I do still love the Android platform, but it just feels like it’s not quite finished - yet. The default mail application needs some love (or better yet, to merge the changes from k9), the browser needs a little tweaking, and so on and so on. I’m not yet regretting the move to Android, and I’m not sure that I will for sometime to come, if at all. The fact that I now have a mass storage device in my pocket at all times, which is also a hackable unix box underneath is very comforting.

As for the Samsung Galaxy S, it’s a great bit of hardware on paper. In real life I feel it does need more RAM, and the battery really does need to be better. With some faffing it’s acceptable. This is in part down to some of the applications that are bundled, and in part down to the massive screen and GPS, but even with just bluetooth on in the car it really does drain more quickly than I’ve become accustomed to. If anything it’s another reminder of the Windows Mobile days of yore. The build quality is one place where I really feel like I’ve been spoiled by Apple. I’ve become very used to aluminium laptops[1] and phones that feel solid. On a favourable day I would describe the Galaxy S, as “classic phone” or “classic Samsung”, and on an unfavourable day as “cheap”. It’s a bit of a let down considering the outstanding specs on the rest of the phone.

The one thing that is the “killer app” for this phone is the inclusion of Swype as standard. Whilst not exclusive to the Galaxy S, or even Android, I can tell you that this; Swype should become the defacto standard for input. The fact that the iPhone is inflexible enough to allow modifications to this extent places the nail in Apple’s coffin as a mobile phone supplier for me.

If you’ve got any phone with Swype included in the default ROM I highly recommend that you enable it and have a play. If you’re unlucky enough not to have a compatible phone trawl the nearest city until you find someone with one so you can understand why I feel it’s so great. It may sound completely nuts, or like a gimmick, but it’s really not.

[1] Having had accidents with laptops, ranging from dropping off tables to having rackmount servers and IBM thinkcentres landing on them, only my previous Apple Macbook Pro survived to live another day. To me this makes the case for decent build quality.