7 days living with... Android

I wouldn't say I was an Apple fanboy per se, for starters I use a desktop PC (quad core Intel and the gubbins) for most of my work and home computer-related shenanigans, a Toshiba netbook when working abroad, and have a 15-inch Toshiba laptop in case of emergencies. There's not a sniff of Steve Jobs lurking around my IT bubble.

However, I have been an iPod evangelist in a music sense since upgrading to a first gen (gold) Mini from a Diamond Rio 500 MP3 player. The latter stored one album at a time, the former 100s. It was a no brainer decision, and one clearly made for practical reasons rather than brand loyalty.

So, it was natural that when my Nokia N95's second battery gave up the ghost - a common complaint on an otherwise excellent handset - and I wanted to plump for a smartphone with MP3-playing prowess, I decided to upgrade two devices at once. And, as all of my music was already catalogued on iTunes, an iPhone (3GS) beckoned.

It was only then that I thought, ooo... I've bought two Apple products in a row, but hardly obsessive behaviour.

Then, over the following year, I had bought and acquired so many apps, and had my iTunes set up so specifically, it made sense to stick to the brand when itching for a faster, sleeker experience - enter the iPhone 4.

But, as a comic book lover and massive film fan, there was always a yearning for bigger screen real estate and buying an iPad, therefore, made perfect sense - iPad 2 less so, but you'll read more on that later.

So, I actually own just two Apple devices which I use regularly, which is hardly fanboy-like behaviour. But, as I do love them both so much, giving them up for a single Android smartphone seems like the idea of a crazy man... And for a week?

 

Monday

Choosing the handset that's going to replace my iPhone 4, and give Android a chance of taking over from iOS in my life, was never going to be easy. But, if anything shows Google's OS off at its best, it's the HTC Desire HD, so that's what I've opted for.

I've also just realised that the O2 SIM card housed in my iPhone 4 is, in fact, a mini SIM card, and will not be able to be transferred without an adapter. I don't have one, so, instead, install a Three mobile PAYG SIM with £30 on it - more than enough for calls, texts and data for a week. Obviously, I won't have my contacts and numbers to hand, but I barely call anybody anyway, and I have remembered to leave a message on my iPhone's answer service with my new number before the experiment started.

A quick browse of the HTC's software information states that it is pre-loaded with Android version 2.2, and after searching for an update to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), I come to the conclusion that it's still not out, even though it was promised for early April. Of course, plugging an iPhone into iTunes would let me know about firmware upgrades automatically. I've wasted about 20 minutes, so that's my first disappointing comparison.

The second comes when I arrive at TeamSports, an electric go-kart track and raceway, for a tech journo tournament run by PC Tools. I get out my swanky new Desire HD to take a pic with its massive screen and find out that it doesn't store photos onto its (meagre) internal memory, and that I don't have a microSD card.

Thankfully, somebody else was there to take pictures on the night. With their iPhone...

 

Tuesday

Didn't use the phone at all today. Not once.

Nobody called me, and had nobody to call. I used a Skype connection, with a hired number for my work phone number, and was in all day, so didn't need the mobile at all.

Really missed the iPad though. Even though there are plenty of comic book reading applications available on Android Market - including a version of my iOS favourite, Comic Reader Mobi (which is available from comicreader.mobi for $14.99) - the continuing lack of a microSD card means that I can't transfer my scanned comic files to the handset.

And anyway, as big as its 4.3-inch screen is, I bought an iPad to read comics at almost 1:1 size, and am not keen to go back to squinting my way through Ultimate Spider-Man.

Rules are rules, though, so I end up reading an actual book instead. Made of paper, and that...

 

Wednesday

If ever there was a day to resent this stupid experiment and, therefore, Android itself, it was today.

To be honest, I'm now starting to get used to the operating system and HTC's Sense UI and, in fact, even starting to like it over the stark iOS in comparison. Friend Stream, for example, is a brilliant way to keep up with my Twitter (@RikHenderson) and Facebook accounts in a way that cuts out the faff.

While email set up (especially with Google Mail, naturally) is much simpler.

However, I am ready to lob the HTC Desire HD out of the window as, after almost a month of waiting for delivery after its launch date, my 64GB Wi-Fi white iPad 2 turns up. It sits there tantalisingly in its cellophane wrapping, and I grumble as I realise that I can't open or touch it.

Damn your eyes editor Stuart Miles and your Android Week shenanigans.

My emails take on a rather dark tone today. Many are sponsored, in a Sesame Street-like way, by the letters F and U, and the number 2.

 

Thursday

Yay! I no longer have iPad 2 envy as, although there are some things that I am clearly going to miss out on this week by not having a tablet device to use, I'm finding compensatory solace in the fact that I've only just discovered that I can play emulators and, therefore, ROMs of retro games.

VICE and Frodo C64, two Commodore 64 emulators, have given me a lot of entertainment today. Obviously, they needed to be complimented with some games, but just about everything you can remember from the golden era of gaming is available to download from c64.com. And for free.

Both emulators have some compatibility issues with some of the games, and the controls don't suit all titles (as often your thumb is hiding some important onscreen action), but they provide a whole day's worth of trips down memory lane.

Thanks to the more totalitarian rules of Apple, emulators for the iPhone (or iPad) only come in the guise of all-in-one apps, such as ZX Spectrum Elite Collection by Elite Systems. It's great, but you're limited to the games that are on offer through in-app purchases, and can't upload your own ROMs.

I'm very happy; the 4GB microSD card I bought for around £4 from Amazon was well worth it.

 

Friday

While I haven't used the Desire HD that much (in comparison to other people, perhaps), I am still incredibly pleased to report that today is the first day that I've had to charge it since Monday. My iPhone 4 would've needed at least one other dalliance with a power socket before now.

I'm a little worried though, because today is also the first day since Monday when I have to take it out onto the busy streets of London, and we all know how that ended last time.

However, first things first, it's my turn to write an App of the Day and it's hard to choose as, a) it really has to be something that I know and have played for a while, and b) it can't be one of the emulators as I can't, for the life of me, figure out how to take screenshots on an Android device.

So I plump for Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD. Not only have I played it extensively on other formats (iPhone and iPad), I just so happen to have some screenshots on file too. Job's a good-un (well, Page's a good'un).

It turns out to be a great choice, as it really shows off the 4.3-inch screen on the Desire HD, and proves that the game is just a nippy and involved as its iOS equivalents.

If there's a downside, it's that Android is playing catch-up with the amount of Gameloft titles available at present. In fact, the entire gamut of games available is much smaller than on the iPhone, and it shows, unfavourably, when you switch from one to the other. 

 

Saturday

Out shopping. All day.

My wife is expecting a baby in just a couple of weeks' time, so the entire day has been dominated by baby monitors and knitted sausage dogs rather than mobile phone operating systems.

I did, however, navigate us to Babies R Us using Google Maps on the Desire HD, which is a far better version of the software than is present on the iPhone. And Skype is much better on Android than on iOS, so have used the handset today to voice call my in-laws, which was much more stable an experience than I have ever had on my iPhone 4. Maybe that's partly to do with Three's 3G network in preference to O2's?

I also recorded some HD video (720p) in order to show them the bedding and prospective colour scheme of the nursery.

Oh, and Britain's Got Talent has started on ITV, so have downloaded the app.

It's not all been good today.

 

Sunday

The last day of my imposed iOS exile and I must admit that I'm now itching to get my hands on my iPad 2. It's an unfair comparison, but the single Android device can not replace both an iPhone 4 and iPad, bigger screen or no.

For starters, Arsenal versus Liverpool was on earlier, and as an avid fan of LFC living in London, it's not often I get to go to the match itself. Today should've been different as it was at The Emirates, but I couldn't get a ticket, so the next best thing for me is to follow a live Twitter feed while the game's on the telly.

And although Friend Stream came in handy, it's a much more pleasant experience on a tablet.

Additionally, my mates all tend to text me during the match (especially as they're not Liverpool fans), and I forgot to let them know my new number. I'll no doubt be inundated with abusive messages when I finally go back to my iPhone. It's certainly not long to go...

 

Conclusions

I've got to admit, although there are some things I really like about Android, including the integration of social networking functionality on Sense UI, I wouldn't change. Living with a HTC Desire HD for a week hasn't turned my eye from my iPhone (or iPad).

But, that's not because it's a worse operating system... It's not.

Android is different, but comparatively impressive. And, I can see exactly why some are as evangelical about it as others are about Apple's iOS.

No, the reason I wouldn't change from iOS to Android overnight is simple: my music, contacts, photos, apps, podcasts, and such, are all neatly controlled by iTunes and a doddle to install and sync. Therefore, such a switch is mightily difficult!

The same would be true if I was to switch to Android from any other type of smartphone or handset. It's not so much a switch from an iPhone that prevents me from adopting Android, it's a switch from my iPhone.

I really like the HTC Desire HD (although it should've had the 2.3 update by now), and if I was to start out afresh it would be a very likely candidate, but it can't run any of the 100-plus applications I've bought and dowloaded.

And yeah, that makes me a prisoner to Apple's upgrade scheme, but I tell you what, I'm more than happy to be so.

If that changes, however, I'll happily give Mr Android a call.



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