Android – three weeks later

I am using now an Android-phone for three weeks and have now a clearer opinion than in my post from two weeks ago.

Even though I run into some problems with Android which are very annoying, I am still all in all happy with my Moto X. The phone feels great in the hand, has some very interesting features, apps are very good, I still like the customizability etc. I still do not look back at having an iPhone.

The good

If you are into encrypting all the stuff™ Android is probably your way to go on a mobile device. Thanks to The Guardian Project and some other stuff, encrypting mails etc is not that hard.

For mail I use APG with K-91 which delivers a very good GPG-experience. Far better than anything on iOS and actually even better than most of the stuff, I’ve seen on desktop operating systems.

For chatting/texting I use several apps. One is Threema because I used it already with several people on iOS and it is there far more reliable than Jabber-based solutions. In addition I use ChatSecure as a Jabber- and Hangouts-client2 because it allows OTR. If you are coming from iOS then you are in for a surprise. ChatSecure on Android looks and works far better than on iOS. For SMS I use TextSecure but I think I know only one other user of it, so no encrypted SMS so far. But at lest there is the possibility for it.

As a browser I use the mobile Firefox with https everywhere and some proxy-plug in I cannot remember right now to interface with Orbot if I want to. What is Orbot? Orbot is a Tor-client on Android and it can run in the background. And when apps have settings for a proxy, you can let them work together even though, you did not root your device. Thus I can easily start Tor if I want to and when using it for example with ChatSecure it will try to use an hidden tor service3 for the jabber-server you are connecting to.

I even had already an encrypted phone call with RedPhone.

The whole crypto-stuff is so easy, that I used more encrypted communication in the last couple of weeks than in several years before. After all most of my communication nowadays works through my smartphone.

I tried now also multiple keyboards and found several good ones. It is nice to try them but trying out keyboards is always a risk as well, since they can read everything you type. But it is nice to have an alternative, and there are some pretty great ones.

I also tried out some launchers and I am actually still in a phase of trying stuff out. Right now I have Terrain Home installed which is nice. The one with the best theming-capabilities and nicest themes but not working for the way I use my smartphone was Themer which I can really recommend to try out for seeing what can be possible. And for most of the time I used Nova Launcher.

The twitter-client I am using is pretty good. Looks good, works well. No Tweetbot 3 but close in my opinion.

There is a Dropbox-client which allows syncing directly with folders of the internal storages called Dropsync and this is pretty cool. Far better than having Dropbox-integration in each app. And if you don’t like Dropbox you can use Bittorrent-Sync. And since 1Password allows for syncing via a local folder, you can sync 1Password outside of Dropbox over the air with BT sync.

Last but not least a comment about Active Display. This is a feature which is only available on the Moto X and it is awesome. You take your phone out of your pocket and you get to see the current time and if there is a notification of an app in a minimalistic style. And only the white pixels are lightened, everything else of the display is switched off. When tapping the notification button, you see on top the current notification and can swipe up to it, to open the app. On the bottom you see the last couple of notifications and can swipe down to unlock the phone. Swiping right dismisses the notification. It works and looks great, saves battery and somehow I think that this is the way notifications should work. But well, as soon as I go the step to a custom rom because updates do not come out any more I probably loose this great feature. I know that there are now alternatives but they do not switch off the black parts of the display afaik.

I think I touched now all the good stuff, maybe there is more4 but that’s what comes to my mind.

The mediocre

Quantus Tasks didn’t work out for me so far. Thus I switched to todo.txt and use SimpleTask which is better than the official todo.txt-client and there is even a cloudless version available. For reminders I am using Bzzz because it has a persistent notification for easily adding reminders.

I found a client with natural language input for calendar events which is called Quick Add. It works good for English but I didn’t try German yet. It is not as good as Fantastical in terms of design and language parsing but it works.

The bad

I have a phone that is pretty much stock Android and is getting updates to the newest version of Android (4.4.3) in several countries. For whatever reason Motorola decided that Europe shouldn’t get the update yet. I have no idea why. They only write in their blogpost about the US but actually they mention the US only for the Moto G. And their link to the software upgrade page doesn’t tell me anything about when the update will be available in Germany, only that it isn’t available. As if I wouldn’t know that already. And for fun: Motorola just updated the boot-loader-animation today to a worldcup-related theme. Seriously? These are real priorities.

But why is it only in the bad-section? Well, core apps like Google Play are nowadays not part of the OS, so Google updates them outside of the Android-update cycle. It would be nice, if Apple would do that for all the apps on the iPhone as well.

Still when there are security holes, it could take some time until they are fixed. Still the problem is not that ugly to me. I know people with iOS-devices who didn’t update to latest dot-releases because their device doesn’t have sufficient space right now and they don’t know what to delete.

One last bad thing: There are some ok-ish apps for learning Kanji but they are far from fun and design compared to iKanji Touch. At least AnkiDroid looks better than Anki on iOS but it is a little bit worse when using it.

The ugly

Let’s start with the literally ugly: Emojis. The font that is used for emojis is just plain ugly. I hope the designer at Google who is responsible for these crappy looking emojis is wearing sackcloth and ashes for these fugly icons.

Next up: no system-wide undo for text-fields. There is an app5 that will help you out getting deleted text back and there is a third-party-keyboard that has an undo-functionality. Luckily the keyboard is pretty good and it might replace SwiftKey for me.
But seriously, no system-wide undo for text-fields? It reminds me a bit on the situation when everybody laughed about iOS that it has no copy+paste.

And then there is the problem of space for apps I constantly run into the last days. It seems that Android-devices have several partitions. One for apps, one for all the other data. I have still a gigabyte of data on my device available and get all the time the notification that there is not sufficient space to install some updates. So I have to delete apps, I do not really use to update apps, even so there is more than sufficient space. The genius at Google who had that idea, should get hit hard with a newspaper on his or her head. Maybe someone could tell me a good reason in the comments why this partitioning still exists. Maybe there was a reason in the past, but I do not see one nowadays.

Update: Apparently the problem with the partitioning for apps is vendor-specific. The Nexus-devices do not have the problem but devices from a lot of vendors. It seems that they think that for working seemlessly with SD-cards it is necessary to have those partitions. With HTC-devices you usually get 1GB of space for apps and it doesn’t matter how much space your device has. And the partition map problem sits deep enough that installing a custom ROM doesn’t help. According to the infos I have so far it might be possible to change the partition map when using custom ROMs but whether unified storage is possible like with the Nexus-devices is possible, I do not know.

Update 2: I might even have unified storage and the problems I am encountering are of a different nature. I am just not understanding it and will have to have another look at it :/

  1. Just install APG before K-9, otherwise you will have to re-install K-9

  2. As long as Hangouts supports XMPP for IM

  3. I hope I use here the right terminology

  4. the better AppStore comes to mind but I already wrote about that in my last post which is linked above

  5. not tested

By nielsk

I am a sysadmin with a background in Japanese Science and economics. Thus my topics are computers, Japan and economics. My favorite past times are pen&paper-role playing games and old video games.

With a couple of friends I also podcast about retro video games in German: Retrozirkel

5 replies on “Android – three weeks later”

CyanogenMod 10 and 11 both use WhisperSync for SMS by default which is 100% compatible with TextSecure. Anyone who has CM installed only needs to exchange their keys with you.

But for that I actually would need to know people who use CM 10 or 11 and use SMS to communicate with them.

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