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Still looking for "the One" Android phone

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by omnius, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    I've just passed my 1 year anniversary of using Android and don't really have any major complaints. But I do have quite a few minor ones, and I'd like to find out from all of you if there are any phones on the horizon that will have what I'm looking for.

    spoiler warning: some of my opinions about specific manufacturers will most likely irritate thin skinned / sensitive people. If you're one of those people, feel free to click off of this thread at this point.

    Hardware: No real complaints here, the CPU's, display, and sound quality of Android phones is generally current with competing phones

    OS: In this regard, I have a one big gripe. UI Lag. I've toyed with iPhones, BB, and WP7 and I can safely say that all of them are zippier than ICS is currently. In fact, WP7 running on a single core experiences less UI lag and better battery life than what I've seen on ICS devices. The biggest criticism I've read from reviewers is that Android seems to need multiple cores to keep up with other phone OS's running on single cores. This is not news to sites like the Verge, Engadget, Cnet etc. but UI Lag is definitely the elephant in the room most avoided topic on Android-centric fansites, and you're going to see that proven here with some of the responses I get to this paragraph. That's fine, but if you're going to take exception to this, then find me an ICS phone that clearly outpaces the Lumia 900. The 900 uses a single core CPU and 512 RAM but most reviews show it's faster and more responsive than the Galaxy Nexus sporting dual cores and double the RAM.

    Of all of the major smartphone OS's currently on the market, Android 4.0 is in last place for being fast and responsive out-of-the-box without getting into rooting and flashing custom ROMs. I've lost count how many times I've seen a request for help with battery life or device lag answered with "well if you root it..."
    I also find the flippant claims of "if you don't want to root, you shouldn't buy an Android" to be one of the most unintelligent and ridiculous things I've ever heard uttered.

    Upgrades: My other major beef. Android OS upgrades are too slow to come out. They have to be tailored not only to whichever manufacturer is making that android phone, but also the carrier as well. To make matters worse, the manufacturers don't even make the same hardware of the exact same phone for each carrier. It's a fragmentation nightmare that caused my first Android phone to constantly take anywhere from 6-9 months to get updates to android versions that are already out. 6-9 months is nearly as long as quite a few people keep their phone these days. Unacceptable. Added to that frustration are bug fix and maintenance upgrades to each android version that take forever to come out, or even never for some phones.

    Construction materials:
    Lumia 900 running WP7: Sleek matte and solid polycarbonate
    Blackberry: Also has phones that use solid construction materials
    iPhone 4s: ditto. Uses a solid aluminum unibody instead of cheap thin plastics. Downside is the glass content that while making it "feel" more professionally made, also increases fragility when dropped.

    Android: Pretty much all of them are cheap thin plastics. Samsung are brutal for this for the price they charge. The only one I've seen so far that's comparable is the RAZR's diamond-cut aluminum and Kevlar. But then you still have to take the bloatware and upgrade delays along with it.

    What I would like to see on an Android Phone:

    -Build materials comparable to the RAZR

    -UI speed and responsiveness on the same level as other OS's when used on the same hardware, out of the box, without requiring rooting. Proven in the field by non-partisan tech journals, not by personal anecdotes.

    -Fast and timely OS upgrades that keep up with the most recent android versions by a maximum of 2 months of release

    Does that Android phone exist? Will it ever?
     

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  2. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    OS and Upgrades - actually the problem of the UI lag, different hardware per carrier and all that is only a US problem. UI lag cannot be addressed by manufacturers too much since carriers customize the firmware get sent to your phones. basically the Android you get is not exactly manufacturer approved. Outside of the united states, we don't usually contend with updates from the carrier, especially since I usually buy my phone straight from the Samsung Concept stores.
     
  3. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    I'm in Canada, that's not true.

    This bears no relation to the UI lag I referred to.
     
  4. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    Ok, lets make that North America.



    Yes it does. Its the same reason why two computers with the exact same hardware does not run as fast as each other. There are different stuff in each phone, and the carriers add their own stuff and edit Android to conform to their liking.

    I've hand experience with this since the Nokia days when Android did not yet exist. Nokia rolls out excellent firmware, the carriers turn it to shit, then people manually flash vanilla Nokia firmware and all the lag, crashes and such disappear.

    As long as you are on a carrier branded device, its the carrier you must go after for any software issues, not the manufacturer.
     
  5. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    Your info is still wrong on two major counts:

    I've spoken to several Bell Canada reps about this. All of the updates to my phone come directly from the manufacturer OTA and not from Bell. They've also informed me that the only software in my phone that comes from Bell is what is on it out of the box. After that, they have nothing to do with it.

    The vast Majority of UI lag on my phone came from Motoblur apps and UI, not from a "Bell PVR" app and the "Bell Self-Serve" app. I've rooted my phone and frozen all of the Motoblur stuff. Then I froze numerous non-essential Google processes. I probably froze about 20 items or so. All were either pure Android, or Manufacturer specific. The only carrier related item I froze was a single Bell app called Bell PVR. That's it.

    I'm using stock 2.3.6 with no custom ROM. The UI lag is now vastly improved. But look at the steps I had to take to get there. I hardly call that snappy out of the box performance. And none of it had anything to do with the carrier (Bell) Your info, on Canadian devices it least, is wrong. I've never used a device on any other carrier outside of Canada so I can't comment on what you know about those. I can however comment on what I do know, which is that all my my UI lag was caused by unnecessary things in the OS, and manufacturer bloat. Which brings us right back to the original point I made in the OP.
     
  6. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    Since you never mentioned carrier, I had to assume you were on one of the larger networks that do change their firmware. As for speaking to reps, I've also had encounters with several carrier reps where they have no idea about the fact that their companies edit the firmware, even if the manufacturer for a fact attested to this happening.

    As for UI lag on a Motorola, well you can probably realize why they aren't the best selling Android and why many says Blur is trash.

    Oh I forgot to mention, if you want fast updates, get a Nexus device.

    EDIT: On a side note, a Nexus device will solve some of your problems:

    1. It does not have a carrier skin like Blur or Touchwiz that runs on top of Android. Basically its running stock Android UI.

    2. It gets fast updates.
     
  7. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    Perhaps.. I'm curious though how fast ICS would run if it were put on a 1.4 single core device, in comparison to Mango 7.5 or iOS 5 on the same hardware
     
  8. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    It runs ok on a Nexus S (single core 1Ghz). Note that while pure ICS on Nexus S runs fine, Samsung claims that ICS skinned with TouchWiz cannot be run smoothly by the hardware of a Galaxy S, which is basically equivalent to a Nexus S.
     
  9. rui-no-onna

    rui-no-onna Android Enthusiast
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    I have an LG Quantum running WP7.5 with 1GHz CPU/512MB RAM and the UI is definitely smoother than either ICS or Gingerbread on a Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray with 1GHz Snapdragon CPU/512MB RAM. The Quantum also runs smoother than the Samsung Nexus S 1GHz Hummingbird/512MB RAM on stock Gingerbread. Compared to the iPhone 4 1GHz Apple A4/512MB, the Quantum feels just as fluid (perhaps even a tiny smidgen smoother).

    So true. There are plenty of folks running custom ICS ROMs on their Galaxy S and getting better performance than Froyo/GB + TouchWiz.
     
  10. xmr405o

    xmr405o Android Expert
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    To answer your last question-

    I don't think there will be that "one" Android phone to rule them all. :) Android has never been about "one" phone even though there's the Nexus device. The Nexus is just another choice for consumers. Android has always been about choice based on an individual's specific wants and/or needs. I'm a person who appreciates that because everyone is different.

    As for the UI lag on ICS, there is some but to me it isn't severe. My definition of severe lag is stuttering, very slow transitions to the app drawer, and of course freezing. None of my devices including my Ipad 2, my laptop and my phones are free from the occasional lag but it doesn't bother me because the lag isn't severe....but that's me. I'm sure you have had a different experience.

    One thing I really really really agree with you on is the build quality. IMO, after the D1, Android phones have gone down hill with build quality. Manufacturers put all their time on their software and inner hardware and totally go el cheapo on the outside of the phone. I'm glad most are using gorilla glass now but that took a long time before that happened. I hope once the Processor spec wars are over, manufacturers start paying more attention to the outside of the device. (fingers crossed)
     
  11. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    I've never owned a Nexus so I'm curious, was it always handed over to a manufacturer for construction like the current Samsung Galaxy Nexus? If so, who made the previous ones?
     
  12. xmr405o

    xmr405o Android Expert
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    HTC made the first Nexus and Samsung has had the past two versions.
     
  13. APSoft

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    Which UI lag exactly do you mean? It greatly depends on the software. The main app you see and use most of all is the launcher, and yes, the stock Android launcher is not the best. But I've been using another launcher (LauncherPro since I found it), and never had any lags at least on my home screens or in the app list. It also depends on the amount of stuff running in background. Mobile operators tend to add a lot of their bloatware crap to Android phones. That makes the system slower and eats battery. I got MyTouch 4G from T-Mobile, and despite good hardware it was slow and the battery life was mediocre because of a bunch of useless stuff running in the background. Yes, I had to root it to get rid of those resource-gobbling hogs, but in the result, the phone became faster, got more free memory, and lasted longer on a charge.

    That's why I prefer the Nexus line - these phones have only bare minimum of the software, and you can add only what you really need, and have more control even without rooting. My Nexus S with single-core 1GHz CPU is pretty snappy - I don't feel it to be slow. Actually even the older Nexus One wasn't too bad.

    So what? What exactly is that important in the upgrades? IMHO starting from about version 2.2 Android system has been pretty mature and very usable. It's all about software again. The OS itself is just a foundation. The apps are what makes the phone good. And the apps for Android are evolving, but the best thing is you can install almost any of them on the older OS, and get basically the same experience as on the newer system.

    I had Gingerbread on my Nexus S until recently, and was happy enough not to look for the ways to install ICS (though it was possible). Then the official ICS update finally arrived. OK, I installed it. Yes, the UI in some places seemed a bit snappier, the browser is probably a bit faster, but the main change I noticed was another color scheme and different look in the Settings. I continue using the same apps, the same fast launcher, and cannot say I was missing this upgrade so much.

    That's why Android is good - you have a choice! Maybe I was lucky, or maybe it's just my bias to HTC devices, but most of my Android phones had pretty solid and stylish construction. My first Android phone Nexus One had machined aluminum body with a scratch-resistant Teflon coating, and grippy "soft-touch" plastic. Similar for the Sensation and MyTouch 4G - metal, glass and soft-touch plastic in strategic places. The new HTC One S has aircraft-grade aluminum body either anodized or treated with micro arc oxidation.
    So the idea is: you don't have to buy a phone with plastic body if you don't like it - there are other alternatives out there!
     
  14. omnius

    omnius Android Enthusiast
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    You may be quick to apologize for unacceptably long upgrade delays, but I don't think it's so easily dismissed. Enhanced voice to speech, enhanced contact management, built in screenshots, improved browser, the multitasking icon (ok I admit pressing the home button already does this in 2.3).

    How about the improved camera functions and gallery? Improved email. Improved calender, resizable widgets.

    4.x brings a lot of goodies, frankly the thing that confuses me the most is how quick those who have it are to dismiss those who don't but want it.
     
  15. APSoft

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    Well, probably I just don't use most of that stuff, or rather use 3rd-party apps, so I just continue using them, and don't see many changes. But it just proves, it's possible to live without frequent upgrades. I've been always considering myself as a power-user. And in fact I am: I use a lot of apps, customize each and every system to my needs, even write my own apps if cannot find those I like.

    [Below I'll simplify the quotation just to save space]

    > Enhanced voice to speech
    I haven't noticed any improvement. Tried to use voice-activated calls several times - it never got me right!

    > enhanced contact management
    Hmm... What exactly has improved? I actually find the new People app more confusing, and it uses the screen less efficiently.

    > built in screenshots
    Absolutely useless feature to me. I was actually surprised when found a dedicated screenshot button on tablet's toolbar.

    > improved browser
    Maybe. But I've almost never used the stock browser. Only its rendering engine inside of much more usable UI of Dolphin Browser. So almost nothing changed for me. Yes, it's probably rendering pages faster, and probably some of them more correctly, but I haven't noticed much difference yet.

    > the multitasking icon (ok I admit pressing the home button already does this in 2.3).
    Exactly! It was already there. And actually I didn't use it too often, though the function itself is useful, agree. (BTW, I remember using it more often in the old days of Windows Mobile)

    > How about the improved camera functions and gallery?
    What has improved there? Yes, I see some changes in the UI, but what dramatically changed in the functionality?
    The internal phone camera still cannot replace a dedicated camera, which has better lense, bigger sensor, zoom, pre-focus, better controls. The phone can just to take a documentary shot of something, but older Camera app could do the same.
    The old Gallery could display photos basically the same way, just with different UI.

    > Improved email.
    Oh! Gmail is probably the only major change, which is really noticeable for me! But even this is not that critical. It doesn't really matter - will I use a button or a swipe to move to the next email.

    > Improved calender
    It is still far behind many other calendar apps available on the Market. I continue using those, so not change for me.

    > resizable widgets.
    Yeah, they are finally available in stock launcher.
    Though I had them on 2.1 with LauncherPro. :)

    I agree, ICS is a really good upgrade, but my point is - it's not something you cannot live without. Most of the improvements are (and were) available in form of 3rd party applications (many of which are free!), and could be installed to any 2.x system. For someone who uses only stock apps the upgrade might be really important, but for those who already had a better launcher, better browser, better calendar, etc - the update to the corresponding stock apps does not matter at all.

    By the way, there is ICS upgrade available for HTC Sensation, but I explicitly selected not to install it. I just don't see a point. The phone is working fine, it's used by my wife, and she's happy with whatever is there at the moment. She has a bunch of apps as well, which will not change with the upgrade (actually I'm worried about the opposite - some might stop working, as not all are compatible with ICS yet), so I expect only a lot of confusion and questions from her with the upgrade.
     

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