Android. Welcome to the show.

9 Apr

A few years ago, soon after the launch of Windows 10, a long time friend of mine and somebody whose opinion I respected, announced that Windows 10 was, essentially, “rubbish”.

I had been running Windows 10 beta builds for a while and had become familiar with it, noticing several changes that were (in my opinion) a step back from Windows 8.x for touchscreen devices, but also noticing lots of improvements and potential. I had grown to like what I was seeing and so was interested in his thoughts and how he had come to this conclusion. So I asked what he didn’t like about the new OS.

I forget what his reasons were (although I do remember thinking they were misinformed) because of the one thing I do remember him saying that rendered everything else virtually irrelevant.

“How long did you use it for?” I asked.

“Oh, about 5 minutes on a display machine in PC World.” was his reply.


Sorry. WHAT?!!!

I didn’t bother wasting any more time on this particular conversation with him as a big piece of me had just died.

I don’t want to make the same mistake in my notes on my move (back) to Android. After several years as a Windows Phone/Mobile user, I had grown to like the OS immensely. It seems to me that I  wouldn’t be being fair if I ignored all those years of familiarity and muscle memory that I’ve built up by rushing into a review of Android. That comfortable familiarity isn’t going to vanish overnight.

So to get started, what was bad with Windows Phone?

Well, the design was excellent, by which I mean both the UI and the internals operation (I had a stab at writing some apps for my own amusement over the years). I believe the OS could (should?) have had a great future.

I never really took to the truncation of titles and text as a design element, as opposed to wrapping or overflowing the content. To me it often made distinguishing between similar text (for example “Television Programmed – Series 01 – Episode 01” where there are multiple episodes) difficult. It was certainly distinctive at the time, and the visual flair, speed and reliability were astounding, even on low end hardware.

But over the years the soul of Windows on Phone had been diluted, possibly down to circumstance. I remember the way I could have a conversation in Windows phone 7.5 using SMS, Skype and Facebook Messenger, and the conversation could be seen all in one place as if one chat (if that was what you wanted) for example. Or how brining up the details of a contact would pull in information from their social media accounts too, for example recent Twitter and Facebook posts, etc. This kind of holistic approach was either removed or watered down in later releases of the OS (why would Facebook want you to see messages from their platform without their branding attached, for example?)

Then there was the app gap. Virtually all the apps I wanted to use were available at the time, or if not a third party solution existed, that due to the excellent Microsoft developer tools available, would frequently be better than the official apps on other platforms. But as I’ve mused in the past, you don’t know you’re missing something until you’ve had it. I knew I was blissful in my ignorance of what was out there, but I was blissful just the same.

Incidentally I think if Microsoft were to add Service Workers and a couple of other PWA features into the Windows Mobile version of IE, and allow PWAs into the store for the phone, there would be a second chance of life in the platform, but time has moved on and they say that isn’t going to happen. Anyway, I digress…

So with the end of Windows Phone becoming as official as it was ever going to get, I made the jump to Android.

New hardware is almost always fun, especially when it offers something different. To this end I didn’t go for a flagship phone, but my tentative choice of the mid range Motorola G5s Plus seems to be a decent decision.

The camera isn’t terrible but a big step down from the Lumia 950XL, but I’ll take the front mounted fingerprint sensor over the iris unlock any day. The Iris unlock worked surprisingly reliably for me, but it’s just not as convenient as tapping your finger. I don’t see how you could get around this on any mobile platform. I don’t want to point my phone at my face to use it. Of course, having both options would be best, but I still feel I’d use the fingerprint more frequently.

I’m delighted to say Android itself now seems very stable. My biggest memories from my Desire HD and Motorola Xoom (tablet) days are the frequent OS crashes. Apparently no more! Individual apps still crash, but no more than I’m used to (something that I feel got worse over time with each new Windows Phone OS reboot).

I miss my live tiles, but the hunt and peck nature of Android launchers isn’t the worst thing in the world to deal with. On that note, I use the Microsoft launcher which is good, arguably offsetting the loss of live tiles with its other functionality such as the cards available on the left page.

Apps seem to be fairly decent. Not only are there obviously lots to choose from, but I had a surprising number I paid for first time around which were still in active development.

I now have too many apps to choose from. I’ve installed loads of store and loyalty cards (for example) for places I just don’t go to anymore.

I’m also now able to connect to a greater range of hardware such as fitness trackers or smart scales, without jumping through hoops (although I have encountered an incompatibility issue on this front with one particular device on my phone).

I still miss the excellent NextGen reader, but have grown accustomed to the official Feedly reader. In fact, this illustrated my initial point perfectly. I absolutely hated the Feedly reader to begin with, it just didn’t work how I did, but the alternatives were even worse for me. Now, after using it for six months I’m comfortable with it. Sure I’ve altered my workflow to fit in with it, but being pragmatic NextGen defined that workflow in the first place, so it’s not the fault of either product.

And that’s my initial point. I miss Windows Mobile, but I’m OK on Android now after giving it a fair chance, and me time to adjust.

Would I go back to Windows Mobile if it came back from the dead with a strong catalogue of apps? Possibly, but I’d be acutely aware of what I’d be giving up now that Android has matured into something more stable.


Android. So how’s it going?

3 Nov

It’s been over a month since I made the switch from Windows Phone to Android as my main daily driver, so how’s it going?

I’ll write a full review of my thoughts soon, but overall quite well. I never took my eye entirely of Android so there’s very little surprising going on, but as my main phone it’s mostly been a good experience with a few distractions. That’s only fair to expect, any platform switch is going to experience some hiccups.

Surprisingly, my main frustration has been trying to find a decent alternative to the brilliant NextGen Reader, an RSS app that uses Feedly as its backend. If I ever get that one sorted things would be much easier.

Anyhow, I’ll report back soon with a more in depth progress report.

I’ve got a new phone, and it’s made me sad.

25 Sep

So, it’s finally done. The new phone, a Lenovo Moto G5S Plus has arrived and I’m currently setting it up.

New technology and toys always make us happy (at least for a short while), and while I’m pleased to have it, what the move over to Android represents that makes me sad.

That is the fact Windows Phone is now in maintenance mode, but it could have been so different.

The Windows Mobile OS offered so much and delivered on most of it. But incompetence at Microsoft in marketing the devices, dis-interest and arrogance towards the consumer market (especially outside of the United States) by Microsoft, and a general mocking but consumers who’d never even used the phones to any extent lead to poor take-up by the public. This, in turn, meant companies had little incentive to invest in writing apps for the platform, so in turn, developers had little incentive to learn or target the OS themselves.

This, in turn, meant companies had little incentive to invest in writing apps for the platform, so in turn, developers had little incentive to learn or target the OS themselves. So without the array of apps offered by competitors, who would choose a Windows based device?

Now I’ve had my hand forced and had to move back to Android on my phone. I’ve always had plenty of Android-based devices around the house, most notably several tablets, but nothing phone based since my Desire HD.

Ironically, it’s been my Lumia 950 phone itself that’s made me move now rather than later. Stability has been terrible on the 950 of late (possibly something hardware related since even a device recovery didn’t help much). It’s ironic because I move away from Android 5 years ago due to the reliability issues I was having on several devices.

So at least now I’ll be able to load a few of the Apps I’ve been finding myself missing due to their absence in the Windows Store.

Why the G5S Plus though?

Well, you’d think I’d go for a top end phone, but I thought about what I actually use it for and came to the realisation that I’d do OK with this one for £259, rather than something from OnePlus/Samsung/Google for somewhere between £650 to £1000.

I don’t play games very often. I’d like to do VR, but can wait until my next refresh for that. The screen is bigger than some of the higher end choices out there without being silly. It’s a capable device for a decent price.

But it is a step back in several areas, for example:

  • The camera isn’t anywhere near as good as the still impressive L950 camera (although I’ve been finding night shots particularly disappointing of late, even with a clean lens).
  • No wireless charging. After 5 years of carrying Qi capable phones (welcome to the party Apple) I’m going back to solely wired charging. It won’t make much difference day to day, but grabbing the phone to do something and not worrying about wires, especially from bed, will be missed.
  • No compass. Sounds like a small thing, and may well be if general GPS duties are not affected, but this one has me a little worried.
  • No NFC. Now that’s a real shame, especially with the presence on Android Pay on the OS. I guess I’ll just have to get a FitBit Ionic 😉
  • I’ll miss the OLED screen (again, welcome to the party Apple), but the reduced resolution will be fine I’m sure. I’ve never been a fan of screens of such a high DPI that nobody can tell the difference between them… apart from battery life.
  • It’s Android. That gets me lots of apps, but what I consider an inferior OS.

However the phone is scheduled to get upgraded to Oreo, so hopefully the OS will get better.

Of course, I’ll end up installing several Microsoft Apps due to the way my life is now organised, but I’ll be spending more money with Google that would have been destined for Microsoft. I won’t make a lot of difference to their bottom line but add in the millions of other users that have or are making the switch, and it surely can’t be seen as a good thing for the company.

Oh well.

Anyhow, I’ve got a phone to continue setting up. No doubt I’ll let you know how I get on…

Watch Out!

13 Sep

With the market for wearables being currently much smaller than anyone expected, I admire Apple for sticking with it.

Microsoft didn’t, and yet again abandoned a promising product line in the band, rather than investing in it.

I wonder what Satya’s master plan is?

Probably just cloud everywhere.

Not a bad plan I suppose, but ask Apple how it feels having the vast majority of your income come from one product.

You’d think Microsoft would already be wise to this having stood by to watch Windows become less relevant as the world moved on to the mobile platforms they largely overlooked.

Band was only ever going to be a bit player, but it could have been another piece of the services puzzle to pull people in.

Possibly a bit like Apple is doing with their watch.

Now we’ll never know, apart from watching Apple continue to innovate and iterate with their Watch.

Haven’t we seen this happen before?

Time to Look Again at FireFox?

1 Sep

Eons ago all we had was the Mosaic we browser (not strictly true, but that was the big one).

No matter, Netscape came to the rescue with many of the Mosaic team on board, added the blink tag, and started charging for essentially the same thing.

Somewhere along the line Microsoft woke up to the internet and started knocking out their own Internet Explorer for free, eventually bundling it with the OS and taking 95% market share.

A lot of people took issue with this, and it formed the core of the anti-trust lawsuit that shaped Microsoft to this day.

I was suspicious of Microsoft abusing their powers back then, but I could see the logic in using the same rendering engine in the browser for the OS itself, I quite liked IE3 (the proprietary extensions and lack of standards didn’t concern me back then), and Netscape was large and wasn’t yet free.

After a while my Main browser became IE. It worked well for me. Netscape faded away.

Somewhere later along the line Netscape transformed into FireFox in an attempt to right some of the wrongs that Netscape had come to be known for (primarily bloat) and to claw back some of the gains made by Internet Explorer which would see it reach 95% market share.

It worked to a large extent. FireFox was more standards compliant, lighter and faster than IE, and gradually millions of people started to switch.

But as time went on FireFox also started to suffer from bloat. Microsoft had all but lost interest with IE failing to make any significant updates for years. And then there was Chrome.

Google launched its own web browser that was sleek and the world started to take notice. Chrome was to eventually take the crown from a neglected IE, and a struggling FireFox.

Microsoft tried to fight back with later versions of IE, and subsequently Edge (which has become my primary browser, with Chrome always on standby), while FireFox and others like Opera carved out more of a niche market and held onto their respective diehards.

But now it appears the Mozilla Foundation has been hard at work reworking FireFox to correct its ills and prepare it for a bright new future. But with the likes of Edge and Chrome providing a very good gateway to the internet, is there still a place for FireFox on my desktop.

I have some good memories of FireFox being a good browser, and am interested in taking a look out of curiosity, but I’m not sure this is enough to spur me into action.

Has anyone out there used the new release? I’d be interested to know what you think.

If I do give it a try, I’ll be sure to let you all know what I think.

It’s Started…

3 Aug

So I made the first step towards moving back to Android. I ordered a Moto G5 Plus for my partner (one day before the G5S variants were announced, typically) to replace her two year old Lumia 640XL.

I managed to find an online store selling them for £50 less than anywhere else, but I’m not going to tell you the store name as it’s been a few days now and the order is still in “processing” status (so I’m beginning to get a little bit concerned about the site being just a scam).

For years I sold family members on Windows Phone/Mobile as I still genuinely believe that for non tech savy people it’s the simplest mobile OS out there. But Hayley was increasingly asking about apps that didn’t exist on the platform. These same apps are not going to magically appear even if the C-Shell variant of Windows ever appears either. And what with Microsoft yet again seemingly abandoning the platform, using an alternative is now regrettably a no-brainer.

Good work Redmond.

So now I find myself going into the Google play store and seeing what’s new, checking what I already have in my library, and what I can spend my money on.

That’s money that Microsoft won’t get to see…

The loss of my beloved OS will be a bitter pill to swallow initially, and I mourn the loss of the one app running everywhere future, but I’m actually starting to look forward to the change in some ways.

Right now I wonder if I’ll ever find a reason to go back to a Mobile Microsoft solution.

Perhaps if they really do have something magical up their sleeve. But right now I very much doubt it.

Time Gentlemen, Please…

28 Jul

Windows Phone/Mobile is dead.

This time it’s for real.

Now it’s only the die hard fan boys remaining, as we wait for each new security and bug fix to arrive.

Windows 10 Mobile itself will be supported for several more years to come, and with devices like the HP Elite X3 it has to be, but as far as new features go, for all intents and purposes, that time has passed. I am aware of only one new feature in the Mobile Fall Creators update.

Microsoft has moved on, and now it’s become undeniable that I have to do the same.

I’m not happy about this. Windows Phone had a tiny usage share inside the U.S. In many places in the rest of the world however, usage hit or was close to double figure percentage.

I’ve always been able to survive with the lack of apps, but recently there’s been time after time where something I need just isn’t available. On top of everything else, that has now turned into one time too many.

It appears that Microsoft will follow yet another reboot to their mobile strategy with the release of full desktop based on C Shell at some point (I thought Windows 10 had already more or less achieved this already), but at this point I’m beyond caring. The apps I’m missing aren’t in the full Windows Store, so they won’t be on the mobile devices either, by the very definition of the platform.

Perhaps if one day the apps arrive, I’ll take another look, but I only have a limited amount of money, so making the switch each time becomes increasingly hard to justify.

I love the Windows Mobile OS and don’t relish the thought of moving back to Android, but this time my hand has been forced.

And once I’m in, I’ll be all in.