Sunday, 9 August 2009

HTC Magic as a default phone - final day

It's been a while since last update, as I wasn't able to write new posts recently. My Android & me experiment has officially ended today, and I switched back to Nokia E71. However, to be honest, I haven't done that without a hesitation. HTC Magic has something magic, something that don't let the user off easily. Anyway, I've been still using Magic as a default phone over past few days and I have few points to note before concluding my experiment.

HTC Magic (and Android OS generally) is hugely internet-oriented device. And in fact, general internet usage is pretty pleasing experience with Magic. For Google applications heavy users - it's even better. Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts integration with Android is just great. Also sharing pictures straight to Picasa albums is very nice. I would expect to see more Google services natively integrated with Android in future releases (like already mentioned Google Tasks), also to see existing applications improved further. I've discussed rather disappointing Calendar application earlier, but also Google Mail would benefit from few tweaks and bugfixes. Actually, I found a web version of GMail optimised for Android browser somewhat better than the native application built into Android OS.

Android's web browser is another piece of software that is great generally, but definitely has some room for improvement. It's great in rendering websites, it does it rather quickly and in the way that you would expect from a regular browser like Firefox on big computer. Navigating through single page is also simple and intuitive, large chunks of text are automatically fitted to the screen width, and generally browsing experience with Magic is pretty good.

As usually, the evil lies in details. There is a one, not-so-tiny-actually detail, which massively undermines the user experience of multi-window web browsing. When I open a new page in separate browser window, view its contents and then close that window to get back to previous window, the content of that previous window gets... reloaded from scratch, taking time, bandwidth and my sanity. That feature (yes, it's not a bug, it's a feature, which I'll explain in a second) doesn't let me pre-load few pages to read later on while on the Underground without any GSM/WiFi signal, whatsoever. The secret of this feature lies in Android's memory management system. Whenever Android finds that amount of free RAM hits lower limit, it decides to kill off applications or even single activities (ie. a single screen of an application) that are running in the background, and aren't displayed directly to the user. I wonder how Google is going to resolve this issue - if ever - in future releases of Android, as at the moment this is a really really huge drawback, as for an internet-oriented device.

But yes, apart from that Android's browser generally provides pretty pleasing web browsing experience, and I personally like to use it to browse the web.

It's not only Google apps or internal web browser that create an impression of Magic as internet-centric device. It's also all about 3rd party applications, like Twitter clients that are nicely using system notification area to deliver latest tweets - for example.

Internet connectivity in Android is pretty-much seamless, it always uses the best available connection and WiFi has precedence over GPRS/3G, which obviously is good. Speaking of GPRS/3G, I have noticed that connection is stable and efficient, and Magic seems to deal much better with areas of poor coverage than Nokia E71. The only thing that gets me a little, is connection settings dialog - there's no way to set things up automatically and requires to search for relevant settings on operator websites for manual set-up.

Applications and Android Market - something missing in your Android-based device? Check the Market, there is pretty good chance someone has already filled the gap with his/her application, most likely - for free. And the Market is still growing! Honestly, the easiness of adding, removing, rating or commenting 3rd party apps available in the Market is simply fantastic. I have fallen in love with potential of Android Market from the first sight (although it also could be improved a little :), and I wish it was working the same on my Nokia E71 - trying to compare Nokia Ovi Store with Android Market is... hmm, pointless.

Camera, oh yes, I forgot to mention that one. Unfortunately no good news on this front. I was never treating phone camera too seriously, but I really liked easy-to-use E71's camera to make quick snaps of things from time to time, and it was really good at this. Ironically, I found camera in Magic somewhat less friendly to use. Gallery didn't let me choose more than one photo at once and then send it in bulk via email. Not nice, unfortunately.

Well, my experiment came to the end and all-in-all using Magic for a week was very enjoyable experience. On one hand, it was annoying me with the lack of real keyboard (unfortunately, discovery of Polish dictionary didn't make things much better, I wasn't very impressed with quality of suggestions while typing), imperfect PIM features or poor battery, but on the other I was stunned with its internet-centric features, seamless Google integration, its looks, its ease of use, its great apps, its many tiny bits that were surprising me all the time (example: a very long SMS is automagically converted to MMS, nice?) and its... magic.

For time being, I'm getting back together with good old Nokia E71 and will use Magic as internet tablet, but once an Android device with full qwerty keyboard gets released at some point in the future, Nokia will definitely get in trouble. :)

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