After Nokia made its fateful decision to discontinue Symbian, not to evolve Meego and instead focus on a proprietary and closed operating system I've been looking elsewhere for the past two years for my next smartphone. Two years have come and gone and my N8 has served me well. But all good things have to come to an end eventually and when the phone's camera recently quit I decided it was time to move on. Hello Android! This is a summary of the first chapter of what is likely to be a love/hate relationship for quite some time to come and I'm working very hard on giving this a good ending.
The Bad Things – In Brief
About a year ago I ran a post titled "At Least 9 Things I Want To Change For My Next Android Phone". Unfortunately all but one, the smaller display, have still not happened. Multitasking remains uninspiring to this day compared to Symbian as even in Android 4.1 the web browser and my ebook readers keep exiting once put into the background for a while. Also, there's still no usable offline car navigation that works globally, no native SMS remote lock, few models with a usable camera, no Xenon flash, no time and date on the display while the screen is switched off, etc. etc. Yes, I miss Symbian dearly but buying another Symbian based device for my primary use seemed to be a dead end as well.
A Dual Strategy to Ease the Pain
So I decided on a dual strategy: A Symbian based Nokia 808 Pureview for my camera and offline maps and global car navigation option when necessary and a Samsung Galaxy S-III Mini as my primary device for day to day use.
The Good Things – In More Detail
So while there are all those shortcomings mentioned above and more, there are a number of advantages as well about which I am actually quite happy. First and foremost there's the calendar and address book synchronization with my Owncloud server at home that works just perfectly. Without that I would seriously consider going back to Symbian once more. In other words, that's the killer feature for me!
In the also run category is the Kindle App. "What!?" you might think now in case you've read this blog for a while now, how come he's into such an app with so many privacy leaks? Well, nobody's perfect and I'm restricting myself to get the ebook versions of only those books I don't want to physically own anyway. Should they be gone one day, well, let them be gone. In the meantime I enjoy being able to read a book on the smartphone while on the move, on the tablet at home and sometimes on the PC screen as well. I'm shuddering a bit at the thought that I implicitly tell Amazon a lot about my reading behavior by letting the apps synchronize with the central server but I like to think it is only an exception to my general rule that I like my privacy and that my data is my own. To make up for it at least a little bit I use the open source FB reader and Project Gutenberg for the classics.
On the browser front I have switched from Opera Mini to Opera Mobile. The browsers pretty much look and feel the same with the advantage of Opera Mobile not doing server side compression and hence protecting my privacy a bit more. Also, I prefer it over Google's browser as no personal information is leaking to Silicon Valley that way and because I much prefer Opera Mobile's zoom and text reflow feature at any zoom level over Google's implementation. Try it and you will see what I mean. And for those cases when I really need network side compression, i.e. when network coverage is weak or prices abroad are high I've installed Opera Mini as well. Works like a charm.
But that's pretty much my list of things that I perceive are better than on Symbian. Obviously I also use email on the smartphone and have opted for K-9 mail, again to get a bit of additional independence from Google. I am still considering a bit going back to Profimail that also exists on Android now as I perceive K-9 mail as inferior to Profimail that I have used for many years now. But that's not decided yet, the lure of open source is a strong counter weight to it being somewhat less user friendly.
Then there's the camera in the Galaxy Mini which obviously comes nowhere close to the N8's capabilities. I still hope it will prove to be enough for everyday situations and that the 808 is at close hand when a good lens is needed. Google maps is good for finding local stuff but navigation comes nowhere close to Nokia maps navigation on Symbian. More about that in a separate post.
On the alarm clock functionality is a bit of a mixed bag. The alarm clock itself was much easier to handle on the Symbian side but after a couple of weeks of using the Samsung alarm clock application I think I have gotten the hang of it. On the pro side I like the stopwatch and countdown timer functionality that was not natively available on Symbian.
And finally there's a podcasting app that works for me, just too bad there's no FM transmitter so I have to search for a different solution to listen to podcasts in the car. Still working on that. This is slightly offset by the the "DB navigator" app, giving me train time tables and status in real time, much superior to the web based version I've been using on Symbian.
I wished that having taken up something new would have meant that everything has gotten better. Unfortunately it's not the case. Symbian's dead end on the one hand and killer functionality like Owncloud integration on the other hand will probably make my stay with Android for the time being. Not that I am truly happy about it but I am not too sad either. So I keep hoping that Android will get some more of those 9 things I listed a year ago and that one day I can give up my dual device strategy and have good imaging capabilities and offline car navigation together with all the other cool features in a single device. To be continued…