My mobile phone history is varied. I think I can list it in order:
- Ericsson A1018s
- Nokia 5146
- Nokia 3210
- Nokia 3310
- Nokia 8310
- LG U8120 and Sony Ericsson W850i (I was on two contracts at this time I believe with 3 and T-Mobile UK)
- Nokia N70
- Nokia N95 8GB
- BlackBerry Bold 9700
- Samsung Galaxy S2
All of these phones had their pros and cons. The 5146 was a brick, which meant it was the only weapon you could carry legally at all times. It dropped a number of times and did not break. It probably would have taken a bullet for me.
The LG U8120 and N95 both impressed me by continuing to work after taking a significant amount of water to the internals. I’ve been a bit more careful since!
The 8310? Well, just look how pretty and tiny it is!
My PC case from ye olden times copied this design:
I used the N70 when I started getting into Apps. Symbian offered a degree of flexibility rarely seen before. I could finally install third party applications which enabled me to do things such as play Doom II! Oh joy of joys!
This meant I wanted my next phone to be a Symbian phone, of course. The next model would surely be faster with massive upgrades to the OS!
Turns out this was not the case. Whilst the N95 8GB looked good, had more built-in storage than people were used to then, and ran an updated Symbian, it didn’t really do too much… magically.
One thing I have heard about iPhone owners trying other OSes is that they miss the magic iPhone brings. This is an effect of the phone just working and the entire experience being slick.
I want that. I like it when things work. It i’s why I went to BlackBerry from Symbian. BlackBerry just worked. At first. God forbid I try putting more than a few apps on it though!
As a messaging tool the BlackBerry was the best, and still is. As a way of thinking, some of the things on my BlackBerry just made sense! Especially from OS 5 onwards where there was a much more aesthetically pleasing interface put in place.
So, why did I move to Android? Apps, browsing, memory, lack of daily battery pulls, camera, screen… The list goes on.
Apps had little room to install on the BlackBerry (I have 10 times more in a few months of owning an Android than I ever had at the peak of my usage of the BlackBerry). They ran slow and any you had to pay for, you paid a fair whack for.
BlackBerry users would say that I’m being unfair, but this was my personal experience, even when keeping up with firmware updates. I ended up having to get leaked updates and manually get to the latest firmware as it reached its bitter end.
Of course, I miss things about the BlackBerry and I will tell you now about how I moved to Android, and which apps helped ease the pain.
BlackBerry Bold’s keyboard is fantastic, if a little tiny. I don’t have big fingers, but I love tactile feedback. I type better on regular PC keyboards with my eyes closed than open. It’s true, I’m typing this now with my eyes closed. The BlackBerry’s keyboard enabled me to do that quite often and replicate my desktop PC experience when messaging.
I detest touch screens for typing, but dammit, if I’m gonna game on a massive screen it’s a compromise I have to make.
So how do I ease the pain?
SwiftKey X – I paid for this after using the beta. It is definitely worth it in my opinion. I tried Swype, 8pen and more.
Nothing else hits the spot for me. It’s all in the predictions and corrections. It helps you type when you’ve had a few too many drinks, or are just feeling lazy. I’ve typed sentences without looking at the screen before. Often, if it has learnt well, it will not let you down.
I wrote the name of my father’s business once in the input of a message I was sending to a prospective customer. I had typed the address only once before, a few months prior. It came up with the address every time I pressed space, revealing more and more. I was suitably impressed. It learns from your Gmail, Twitter, SMS and mire – only if you want it to. I can almost guarantee if I didn’t have this app, I would have broken my phone out of sheer frustration.
In trying to write “potentially” I typed “Oitebfuakg” but it still knew which word I wanted to write. Lucky guess?
I tried typing “keyboard” and that was the number one suggestion. Even though I actually typed “Ketbisfd”. Yeah, I’m happy with this keyboard.
At the moment, I’m using Alarm Droid. I liked the flexibility of the alarms on BlackBerry devices over the TouchWiz/Android default. I’ve heard about loads of alarm apps, and all suggestions are welcome, but Alarm Droid is working for me.
This is a small issue some may think, but deadly important on a daily basis – how many times have you snoozed too much, inadvertently switching off your alarm? This helps me minimise such issues. Groovy!
On a side note, I find Lightning Bug is a fantastic app that helps you get to sleep. However, ambient sounds are not for everyone.
People do tend to say “BBM is overrated, it’s just another IM application”. I used to think that, until I owned a BlackBerry. But it was so much more. When groups came into play, with shared task lists, shared appointments and more, it was genuinely very useful. Not to mention that BBM Messages had read receipts which some alternatives don’t.
What’s this, did I hear you say “Alternatives to BBM”?! On Android there are also plenty of IM Apps.
The most common for me to use are WhatsApp and Viber (the latter for more free phone calls). Of the two though, I use WhatsApp more. I use WhatsApp more than GTalk. Don’t get me wrong, they do IM quite well (aside from read receipts and having to use a phone number as opposed to a unique PIN), but the ecosystem surrounding them doesn’t do what BBM did.
With BBM I could share calendars and task lists with my girlfriend (now fiancé!) pretty seamlessly. It helped us organise our lives very well. Now I use WhatsApp or GTalk to keep in touch with her, I use the built-in Calendar app independent of this to sync with her BlackBerry’s calendar, which she has now shifted to Google Calendar. It doesn’t seem to make for seamless integration to her BlackBerry, that is, she can’t see my calendar, but it seems to be a solution for now. I may be missing something, but it is frustrating to be able to see multiple entries in my calendar, and her not being able to see any of mine.
But, I digress. It works, just not quite as elegantly as the BlackBerry solutions were becoming.
Profiles and notifications:
This is a result of years of mobile phones which have enabled me to have a profile, with a name, easily selectable with preset levels, sounds and customisable vibration and LED notifications. Firstly, let me get out of the way, the LED notifications missing is an issue related to the Samsung Galaxy S2 rather than Android – it doesn’t have a notification LED, and even though the HTC equivalents do, they’re not amazingly customisable.
Here is where NoLED comes in. This uses the Samsung’s AMOLED display to show the icons of which app has notifications as they come in. Sure, it works fine on all screens, but on an AMOLED display, power is only comsumed by the pixels that are lit up. This means the areas which are still black use no power. You can also customise if you want different coloured dots or icons and even the size of the icons.
So, profiles? Well, I just decided to give up on choosing different ring tones for different occassions, and other such fancy things, but there are ways around it. Initially, I used Audio Manager and it’s widget to update and monitor my sound settings. Simply adjusting volume controls and enabling and disabling vibrate as I saw fit. In addition, I downloaded QuickProfiles which you can use to switch volumes for ringers, notifications, media, alarms and more. On top of this you can use it to change your wallpaper, switch on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc. Pretty nifty.
Well, in addition to these apps, some others make life a little easier when using this phone:
- Display Brightness – enables me to use a slider on the left of my display to adjust brightness on the fly.
- Tiny Flashlight + LED – awesome flashlight app with a widget switch.
- Go Launcher EX – For some TouchWiz or Sense are all well and good. Me? I prefer a little customization. Go Launcher EX (Now using the awesome Core theme) is pretty, has a lot of features to tweak it how you like it, has frequent updates and it’s own Widget and Theme ecosystem.
- Evernote – just superb for taking notes, with a nice widget to boot. Pity you have to pay a subscription instead of a one time payment in order to get PIN-locked notes
- GMail – A standard app, bundled with Android phones. Just essential. You will never beat BlackBerry’s PUSH email technology. It’s the best , bar none. But GMail makes using email a lot easier. Are there any better alternatives to the official app? All suggestions welcome!
So, what makes your life easier? Have you just come to Android from another OS and need a little help adjusting?
This long ramble of a post was more than I thought I would write. I’ve cut myself short because I have over 320 apps installed and this could take a while.
If you need a hand or have further suggestions, drop some comments – I’d love to engage with you all.