24 hours with Android

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

It seems like I do this every year like clockwork. The weather starts to get colder, we start buying presents for each other, and I start using Android again. Last year it was the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge1 and before that was the HTC One M8 and Moto X, and before that it was the original Galaxy phone, the T-Mobile Vibrant.

I speak sometimes about about how this blog is intended to be be about questioning your own beliefs and understanding the entire tech landscape better than is demanded by many other of the big news sites out there. I'm an Apple fan, but I'm not an Apple fanboy. My options of the tech world are built on experience, not biases.

Which brings us to the end of 2016 where I have once again set my iPhone 7 Plus aside (which is still a stellar phone), and stick my SIM card in an Android. Despite sounding very future-sexy, the reality is a little more benign. I'm now rocking a Moto G4, Lenovo's newest mid range smartphone. I chose this phone for a few reasons:

  • $199 was the right price (the $650 Pixel would have been ideal, but whoa)
  • The specs are good enough, not to be my forever phone, but good enough
  • Lenovo has basically no skin on Android and it will be updated to Android Nougat very soon

This is a mid-range phone, so nothing I write about in the future will be about performance. I know it will not be as fast as my iPhone. It costs 1/4 the price so it shouldn't. I also won't make comments on the camera. Again, I know that it's not great, although it's pretty decent for a $200 phone. All notes about Android will be entirely about the software, not how this particular hardware impacts the performance of that software.

I've had the phone for 24 hours and don't have a ton to say yet. I'm not a newbie to Android, so I'm not in a wonderful world of discovery right now, I'm more getting my workflows in place. I've got Action Launcher installed as my default launcher until Nougat hits this device, and I'm currently trying to find good apps to replace the excellent apps I had on iOS:

  • Tweetbot
  • Spark (email)
  • Ulysses
  • Narwhal (reddit)
  • WeatherLine
  • Scanbot
  • Drafts

On the plus side, I do have some great iOS standouts like:

  • 1Password
  • Dark Sky
  • Pocket Casts
  • Apple Music
  • Todoist

2 things that have popped out to me in the first day, though. First is that for all the talk of its flexibility, automation does not seem to be as much of a thing on Android. Apps like Workflow, Launch Center Pro, and Drafts simply don't seem to exist. Tasker exists and allows for a different sort of workflow, but it's not really something I find useful. It sounds crazy to say, but I feel like app extensions in iOS allow for more interaction between apps than I'm currently seeing on Android. This is something I'll definitely dive deeper into because I want to find the power of Android, it's just not obvious what it is off the bat.

The other thing is that notifications are far worse than iOS 10's rich notifications. Notifications are very utilitarian and don't give you a ton of way to act on something straight from the notification itself.Gmail lets you archive messages and Todoist lets you mark tasks complete or snooze them for later, but these are the exceptions, not the rule. Most notifications are plain text and don't offer any interaction at all.

Comparing the notifications I got from the MLB app during the playoffs where I could watch full highlights from the notification itself on the lock screen, to the plain text notifications for everything I'm seeing on Android are really boring.

I'm looking forward to jumping more into this world and seeing what it offers. I'm even more excited to get Nougat in the coming month or so. This is going to be a little weird, but I hope you stay tuned for this adventure because it's going to be nothing if not fun.

  1. Again, I can't thank Samsung enough for the opportunity, although I never heard back from them this year, so I don't think they loved the review I wrote.