The Android Experiment, Part 1: An Introduction

Android figure eating an apple

ANDROID EATING APPLE: FLICKR, AIDAN

Most designers are self-proclaimed Apple aficionados. I definitely fit in to that category. I purchased my first Macintosh the summer before my Senior year in High School. It was a G4 Titanium Powerbook (which I still use in the kitchen for my cookbook). It came with the very first version of OS X and a matte metal case, and I was instantly a fan. I used that computer until the summer after my senior year in college, when I purchased a 24″ White Intel iMac, and a few years later got my very first iPhone 3GS. It wasn’t long before I convinced my husband to get an iPhone (he was considering Android) and trade in his Acer for a Macbook Pro. When the iPad 2 came out, my husband had to have one, and when Mercury hired me in early 2012, they gifted me with an iPad 3. Now we’re a happy, Apple family… or we were.

HTC First and iPhone 4S

Why switch?

I’d been toying with the idea of switching to an Android phone since reading Twitter Designer, Paul Stamatiou’s post, Android is better: How I fell in love with Android and how you can too.

I upgraded to the developer build of iOS 7 as soon as reports indicated that it would be fairly stable on my iPhone 4S. I was patient with it. I understood that it was a developer build and bugs were expected. Now, it’s a live product, and I’m frustrated. At least on my 4S, everything has slowed down considerably. The animations are really slow, causing me to press things that I didn’t intend to because I assumed that the first press didn’t work. I’m sure that part of this is because I’m using a slightly older device, but the performance still seems inexcusable to me.

Siri sorry message

My biggest complaint is with Siri. I use Siri for reminders, sending messages, checking the weather, and more, but since upgrading to iOS 7, I can’t get a straight answer out of her. Every time I ask her to do something, Siri replies, “I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a little while.” Often I’ll try again right away, and it will work.

Around the beginning of September, I started working on designs for a new Android app, and I realized that there was a lot that I didn’t know or understand about the Android platform. I kept a few Android devices (Samsung Galaxy Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and occasionally a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10) at my desk for reference, but it was still considerably more difficult to design for a platform that I didn’t use as my primary device. I also started to discover things about the Android OS that I really liked.

My birthday was coming up, so it seemed like the perfect time for a new phone. I made sure that all my favorite apps (Waze, Facebook, Amazon, Weather Underground) were available for Android, and started researching devices.

Choosing a phone

When choosing an iPhone, your options are pretty limited: iPhone version, storage size and color. But, when it comes to Android devices, there are a lot more options. I’m the kind of person that does a lot of research when purchasing anything new, so this was an overwhelming task.

Size

iPhone in back pocketBeing a fairly slim-framed female, having a smaller phone was important to me. My requirements: must fit in the back pocket of my skinny jeans, must be able to reach most of the screen with my thumb and must not look like I’m talking in to a tablet when I answer it.

Price

I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to commit to this “experiment”. What if I didn’t like using Android? With this in mind, I didn’t want to invest more than $200 in to a new phone.

Camera

I use my camera on my phone quite a bit, so I really wanted a decent camera. This was my most challenging feature because of my size and price requirements. I would likely have to make some concessions on photo quality.

Resolution

I’m very used to the gorgeous retina display on both my iPhone and iPad (and now my MacBook Pro), so having a crisp, beautiful display did matter to me.

On vs. Off-Contract

I’m eligible for an upgraded phone through my carrier, but because I don’t know how this experiment will end (with me becoming an Android phone user or returning to iPhone), I wasn’t sure that I wanted to “spend” my upgrade now and be stuck with whatever phone I chose for the next 2 years.

I consulted some of our Android developers, and created my short list. I watched YouTube reviews and made a comparison chart (it’s what I do) and finally was ready to make a decision.

Phone comparison chart

The Phone

I chose the HTC First. It has the same resolution and similar camera as the brand-new HTC One Mini, and it’s very similar in size to the new iPhones. Best of all, I could get it off-contract for around $150.

I decided to purchase through eBay and added about 10 HTC First phones of various colors to my watch list. A few days later, I scored a red one with original packaging for $143 including shipping. Win!

The experiment began on my birthday, October 28. My husband ordered me the essentials (a few micro-USB cables and a vent dock for my car) that I would need to make it happen.

Day Zero

HTC First unboxingThe phone arrived in excellent condition (there is always a risk involved when ordering on eBay), and powered up with a full-charge right out of the box. Another lucky break is that the First takes the same size SIM card as the iPhone 4S, so I was able to just remove the card from my iPhone and pop it in to my new Android phone.

To get the phone ready for full time use, I downloaded all of my most-used apps, and logged in on the bulk of them. I also contacted AT&T to register my new device on the network and was happy to discover that I didn’t have to change plans or pay anything to switch devices.

Now I was ready to use the HTC First as my primary phone. Stayed tuned for my thoughts as the Android experiment continues.

Read Part 2:
The Android Experiment, Part 2: Hardware, Messaging, Apps and Notifications