So finally, you have decided to buy an Android powered smartphone after much deliberation. It’s wise but not the best choice; at least our experience of last six months of using Android 1.5 Firmware device says so. So we at Telecomblogs, today decided to take a closer look at your investments of roughly more than $400 on a device, which is touted as next big wave in Smartphone Industry. The question is: Is it really worthwhile?
Stats apart and let’s keep those Android device reviewers away too. I have some biased opinion for device reviewers’ genre, partly because most of them review things on site and post things in hurry on their respective blogs. So may be because of that these reviews are hardly complete and satisfying. Earlier, in last Oct when I decided to jump on HTC Hero, a Qualcomm MSM 528MHz processor & Android 1.5 firmware powered device, I had little idea of what it takes to buy and absorb an Android device completely. The reason I chose Android device (HTC Hero) was:
- It was based on Open Source Firmware (Linux tweaked OS)
- Android Market
- HTC Hardware & Google Applications handiness like Google Maps, Gmail, Reader etc
- Didn’t want to stick to Apple or even Microsoft’s s closed door Mobile Applications Strategy.
- Partly to reviews & HTC Consumer Choice awards to Android device .
- In built Flash (Even iPhone doesn’t have it), multitasking ability & multi-touch.
This list may go on. The point is, I was influenced by some key external factors and completely ignored my own purpose of buying the device. Even, I completely ignored the limitations of buying such devices. And now after using the device for quite long time, I feel, I must share my experience of what it meant by buying an Android device with you all.
Many of you might be aware of those said items in list above. Particularly, Android Market is quite attractive choice with more than 30K applications in kitty to download (Most of them are free of cost). And as devices are getting smarter with applications, buying android device seems to be logical choice too. But there are certain inherent imitations to Android (1.5/1.6) devices which needs a closer look before you buy it. Particularly, if you are aware of multitasking ability of mobile OS then Android is quite limited. Let me go one by one:
- Running multiple applications on Android is quite pain (partly due to OS limitations) and it often slows down the device, making experience very sluggish. I often quoted it in other words: You can’t close/exit a running application on Android. Let’s say you are browsing and in half way through you want listen music or read a .pdf file. You press back/home key (as there is no exit option) and open .pdf file to read, in false illusion that browser has been closed. That’s not the case. The moment you press back/home key, the application like browsing in our case starts running in background (Linux is culprit in this case) and Acrobat reader runs in foreground. And if you keep on dwindling from apps to apps, you end up slowing you mobile to an extent where you have to restart it often. (Remedy is to install Advanced Task Killer and kill applications running in background from time to time). So don’t be surprised if anyone using Android device complained you about device sluggishness. Be prepared for it.
- Battery consumption is the most critical aspect of Smartphone usage. Will you buy a Smartphone which needs to be recharged daily at least once? And as I said, device reviewers often neglect this most critical aspect of device usage (Haven’t you ignore them?). HTC Hero is powered by Li-ion batteries with 1350 mAh capacity. But if you are social networking freak or keep on posting things all the time on twitter or facbook, then mind you, Android Smartphones aren’t a good choice to make. In my observations, I have to recharge my HTC phone once a day to keep it going and always have to carry charging unit with me. That’s something painful and many of us would like to avoid charging mess, particularly during train journeys or even people having long conversations on phone should keep this in mind. The rule here is; more you use more you drain and more you end up charging. And as I said in my first point, multiple applications running in background drains phone battery a lot.
- My take on Android market is different. I use it quite often but here it gets messy. Finding an application in market isn’t easy. More over, finding a better application is even tougher. Even if you find it, there’s no guarantee that user ratings are worthwhile to take note of. Many times they are misleading. My first few applications I choose to download were real pain. Once you download and start using apps, you need to keep them updated all the time to save your energy from bugs fixes. And if you aren’t following some of those Android freaks on twitter, then you will have real hard time using Market. It takes time to get acquainted to market and if you aren’t dig deep kind of person or really enthu about all these things, buying Android device for you will be waste of time. In fact, Market is the start attraction of Android, and if you get on early with it, better you will exploit the device capabilities.
- Bluetooth doesn’t work well with HTC Hero (Due to some Android OS Error) or at least I am still not in position to get on with it. Perhaps, reviewers didn’t pay attention to this one more critical aspect and when I first came across this Bluetooth bug, I had real hard time finding a solution for it. So if you are dreaming of file transfer from Android device to your laptop via Bluetooth, it’s not going to be easy.
- Finally when I talked about Market, let me share one more aspect of application usage. So despite all these limitations, you get on well with market and using number of applications. Now, you are finding space crunch on your device, so you decide to uninstall few applications. Wait! That’s not easy! In fact, I tried to uninstall number of apps, but couldn’t come across a simple way out to do it. Then what? Your phone will end up having many unused apps (icons too) which will give you hard time to cope with memory space. And more over, Android Forum offers little help in that.
I use 5-6 applications daily and stopped installing new apps for some time now. So the catch of 30k applications in market is false and once you start using Android phone, you will realize this fact. It’s good from device manufacture’s point of view, but in my experience, no user will need more than 5-10 apps on an avg on daily basis.
One another aspect I didn’t touch is cost of Android devices and recovery of investment (As per my knowledge cheapest Android device in Indian market comes at cost of 17K Indian rupees with no best of touch experience). Buying an Android device is investment and unlike our western counterparts, where we use devices for quite long time, you should keep check on your pocket. Word of caution: keep an eye on your needs and then decide. Don’t fall prey to advertisements and don’t put too much strain on your pocket too. Let prices of Android devices fall a bit, but always choose something based on your need, instead of rushing to satisfy your gadget adrenaline.
(Above Android Images are courtesy of Laihaiu and Astanush from Flickr.)