07-22-2013 09:54 PM
Having gone to the “dark” side (Android) and back this month, I thought I would briefly share my experiences and pro’s/con’s for any long-term Blackberry users who are tempted by the Android hype...
I have been a Blackberry addict since 2006, having owned a Pearl, 8800, Curve, Bold, and 9360. I’m primarily a business user, I’m on the road a fair amount of time, I occasionally like to check Twitter/FB from my phone, and I use apps for LinkedIn, WebEx, and BB Travel.
Recently, my Blackberry was damaged, and I thought that since I needed a new phone, I would check out what Android was all about. I have a Chromebook and use Google apps for business, so it seemed like it would be a natural fit. It wasn’t... not because Android is bad, but it’s different in peculiar ways and doesn’t work for all of us. Here are my observations:
Phone: Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate, Android Gingerbread 2.3
Simply put, the Android interface is gorgeous. The Samsung screen is sharp (AMOLED), the colors vivid, and the icon layout is very nice - and customizable, to boot. It was awful in sunlight, but looked great in the office. The application library is, of course, immense, and the GUI on Google’s native apps looks fantastic. The large screen is great for displaying WebEx presentations, as well as viewing email and attachments.
The problem is that for someone who uses their phone as a business communication device, it doesn’t work.
The standard email client included on the Samsung Galaxy series does not support push email, and while switching to a native Gmail application seemed to solve the problem initially, but soon quit working and I was left to manually refresh messages in order to receive anything. The standard calendar application syncs beautifully to Google Calendars, but you are not able to accept to appointment requests or add them to the calendar. Again, I switched to the native Google Calendars app, but encountered a similar situation wherein you cannot open or respond to meeting requests generated in Microsoft Outlook from the phone.
Threaded SMS messaging worked fine on the Galaxy, though the call quality and drop rate was significantly worse than my Blackberry Bold 9000 on the same network.
The Galaxy lacks any sort of LED notification light (at least my model did; I understand that the new model does have an indicator), though with the lack of push email it didn’t really matter as there was nothing for which the phone would need to notify me. Once unlocked, one sees which notifications are waiting by swiping down from the top bar, displaying a screen of missed calls, voicemails, and messages.
I started a thread questioning some of these basic incapacities over on an Android support site and received some interesting responses. It was from there that I was directed to try the native Gmail and Google Calendar applications, though I found it humorous that several responders could not fathom why I would need to accept a calendar appointment while on the go! (Don’t get me started...)
Lastly was the data-sucking power of the Android applications. After the first couple of days, I realized that unless you manually disable it, many applications constantly access data in the background to run updates and send/receive other information. In the course of my first five days, I exceeded the amount of data that I would typically use on my Blackberry in a month! Not only did this act as an unnecessary succubus on my capped data plan, but also prematurely drained the battery.
As someone who needs a real business communication tool, I’m returning the Galaxy and going back to my old 9000. Here’s my short list of must-have’s that, so far, only my Blackberry has been able to deliver upon:
1. Push email. Even if the Gmail app had worked as advertised, it forced me to transfer my work email to Gmail through POP3. The Blackberry inbox just works... whatever email I want to work with arrives in real-time and syncs as advertised with no “workarounds”.
2. Real calendar... with the ability to send and receive calendar appointments. The Blackberry calendar syncs equally well with Google, and I can actually accept and respond to client appointment requests. So simple. So necessary.
3. Ability to see notifications easily. Turn on the Blackberry... right on the home screen is the missed call indicator, email indicator, Twitter, etc. Plus, the blinking light tells me if I even need to check.
4. Travel. Blackberry Travel sets such a ridiculously high standard that it’s tough for other travel apps to compete. To its credit, Android does have Worldmate and Kayak available and they work well, but without the total integration that BB Travel offers.
In the end, while I could see why Android appeals to a wide audience of casual users, I just couldn’t see it as a viable business tool. The apps, while plentiful, are often buggy. The general attitude that I witnessed in the Android user community was that the objective = customizing your device using the deep application base and open architecture. Over time, this may lead to an ultimately powerful device. However, at present, I was unimpressed by Android’s inability to perform the basic communication functions that my three-year-old Blackberry handles with ease. I was also rather unimpressed with the Gingerbread menu structure for customization. Perhaps this has been addressed in 4.0 / Ice Cream Sandwich, but I never got that far, as the basic functionality that I require just wasn’t there.
For someone who isn’t relying on real-time email, creates their own calendar entries (vs. receiving requests), and wants an app for everything, I can see Android being a powerful draw. For those of us who demand professional capabilities, I just haven’t seen a better out-of-the-box solution than our trusty Blackberries.