keskiviikkona, lokakuuta 10, 2012

Life with Android, part 3

Yesterday I made my Samsung Galaxy Ace much faster and improved the battery life by 50%: I uninstalled all apps I do not use several times per day and Facebook. I now have much more free memory, the phone feels much faster, the battery lasts longer and it does not run as warm as it did.

I really have to unlearn the habit I got with iPhone: I used to install apps that seemed interesting and then I might try them out later. I also had apps I had only used two or three times but thought they might be sometimes useful. That's not something you can do with an Android phone. It teaches you to live lean.

Today I learned it is a bad idea to take a call while listening to a podcast. When I had an iPhone and was listening to a podcast or music, a phone call would interrupt listening but it would automatically resume when the call ended. Not so with Android. The podcast app froze when the call ended. Android did eventually pop up a dialog telling me the app had become unresponsive and offered to force quit it. I did. But the phone was unusable after that. I tried to make a call but the screen went blank and I got a dialog telling me was not responding. I tried to restart the phone. It would not turn off.

I have also learned listening to music takes around 50% of cpu. If I press the Home button to exit the music app and try to do something else, the music playback starts breaking up. It's like I was back in mid-1990s when my poor old 486 PC could barely play mp3 files, but only if I didn't do anything else at the same time.

I can only think the Android phones decode music using the main cpu. My old iPhone 3GS never missed a beat even when I did something else while listening to music. Maybe iPhones have dedicated hardware for mp3/aac decoding?

perjantaina, lokakuuta 05, 2012

Life with Android, part 2

Every installed app consumes memory: Today I got a notification saying a text message could not be received because the phone memory was full. I began investigating and I think I now understand what is going on: I had been installing a few podcast applications and every one of the applications was running, consuming memory.

It seems every installed app leaves around a process, often two or more that just sit there using memory and a little bit of CPU. On a desktop computer that isn't so bad because modern operating systems can push unused memory to the disk and make it seem the computer has more memory than it really has. But this doesn't work on phones. There is only a limited amount of memory and when it's out, it really is out.

It took me quite a while and the use of some memory cleaning utility programs to clean up a few megabytes. (There actually is a market for utility apps that kill other apps!)

This means it is not possible to install many applications on an Android phone. Soon the memory will run out and then you need to uninstall something to make room for new apps, even if you had lots of space on your 32 GB microSD memory card.

In my opinion this is quite a remarkable difference to Apple's iOS, which powers iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. When the user presses the home button, the app that was running is stopped. If the app was in the middle of doing something important, the app can ask the operating system to allow it to run for maximum of 10 more minutes. Then the app will be killed. The app is really gone. It will not consume memory, CPU or any other resources.

This makes it possible to install many more apps on an iOS device than an Android device with comparable memory simply because Apple engineers found out the apps that are not used do not have to be running.

And still one Android device vendor claims: "Android has true multitasking, not just task-switching." If this is the cost of multitasking, I'd rather have task-switching.

P.S. If I'm reading a web page on the Android phone and hit the home button, make a couple of calls and then go back to the web browser, why is it the browser shows the page from the top, not where I stopped reading? This must be some form of multitasking I wasn't familiar with...

keskiviikkona, lokakuuta 03, 2012

Life with Android, part 1

I've been curious how the other people like their phones. I mean, of course, the people who use Android instead of the one true phone, the iPhone.

My teenage daughter has been torturing a Samsung Galaxy Ace for a year now and I suggested to her we could exchange phones for a limited period of time. She said yes, a bit too eagerly. I suspect I will have a difficult time getting the iPhone 4S back.

(I was told her friends at school said your dad must have lost a few marbles to do something so stupid as trade an iPhone for a crappy Android.)

Here are some observations from the last two days:

Battery: The battery lasts a day, barely. And I got a new, fresh battery for it. I have 3G, wifi, gps and bluetooth turned on, but I had them on in the iPhone too and it lasted almost two days with a single charge.

Unresponsive UI: Often you tap a button on the screen or the back button on the bezel and nothing happens. Thinking you missed the button you tap it again and then it suddenly wakes up and reads your tap twice. This could be due to the 800 MHz single-core CPU being too slow, but it never happened with my old iPhone 3GS, which also had an 800 MHz CPU.

Cannot be used as a clock replacement: When the power/lock button is pressed, the screen wakes up but the time is shown in very tiny numbers at the top-right corner of the screen. I think I will start wearing a watch.

Cannot be used as a music player: I copied files from my iTunes media folder to the /Music directory of the SD card. The built-in music player and couple of 3rd party ones I've tried do not understand the metadata of the .m4a files. Only the few music files that are in .mp3 show properly. The unrecognizable files are all lumped together under "Unknown artist". When tapped on, they do play, but it makes it difficult to find the song you are looking for.

I haven't yet found a good way to copy playlists. Software called doubleTwist starts reading the playlists from iTunes but did not finish even though I allowed it 24 hours to do its job. (I have about a dozen playlists, so the task should not be an enormous one.)

Software called TuneSync copies playlists and music over wifi and requires running a server on the Mac. It seems to work, but the free version only syncs 20 tracks. The full version is a bit expensive to my taste. (But I might go with that if nothing else works.)

A2DP profile on Bluetooth is not always used: I have a earpiece from Jabra that supports A2DP (stereo quality sound) but sometimes the phone chooses to communicate with phone quality protocol. This never happened with the iPhone.

Weather app thinks I'm in Hyvinkää. Every time I launch the built-in Weather app, it shows me the weather in Hyvinkää, Finland. That's about 50 km from my real location.

The Navigator is really good: I had never had a chance to use a turn-by-turn navigator app on a phone but I had plenty of experience on using the Maps app in iPhone while driving. Not fun. Usually my wife operates the iPhone on the car trips and she often gets lost. The Navigator app on the Android gave us clear, audible instructions that allowed the driver (me) to concentrate on the traffic and not play IT support.

I'll keep you posted on further developments.