Thursday, 6 February 2014

Moto G: the great leap to Android

I have a habit on keeping mobile phones for a while, with each one lasting me an average of just under four years. My last phone was a hand me down too. Seeing the broken power button and all of the numbers rubbed off on my ancient Nokia, my friends Kren and Dave took pity on me and sent their old iPhone 3GS in my direction.

I'm in the lucky position to be wiring up a new house within the next year. I haven't decided exactly what the set up will be, but I have thoughts of wifi thermostats and wireless music systems. I see a phone or tablet as the controller for whatever system I install. Will iOs or Android or Android be the best platform?

Before I could work out what I wanted, the headphone jack and then more crucially the power button, broke on my 3GS. A phone without a power button is a surprisingly annoying to live with. It was only four and a half years old!

Knowing I wasn't going to decide on the home tech set up any time soon, I made a purely cost based decision and picked up a Moto G for £150. It was time for an Android experiment.

I've been using the new phone for just under a week now. Here are some first impressions.

The Good
Coming from a four year old handset the Moto G feels lightening quick. While apps were sluggish on my old phone everything feels super speedy. The screen is lots better too. I expect I would have seen this uplift with any new phone rather than the Moto G being particularly special.

On the Android OS side of things I'm liking:
- The GMail app works a lot better for me than the email app on iOS. Being able to add labels and marking messages as unread just seem to work a lot better. I can also easily view more than the 50 most recent emails.

- I like the flashing LED which tells me I've got a new email or test message. It's like the Blackberry I had seven years ago and I like it.

- The notifications in the top left of the home screen is a really functional way to know if I have a new email / sms / tweet or instagram and then I can access it with a couple of swipes. The iPhone had the whole pull down from the top of the screen thing too, but I never found it very useful.

- Having widgets on the home screen so I can see the first line of an email or text message without having to unlock my phone is great.

- A bit of a fear of moving to Android was how my iTunes music would interact with my new phone. I download the Google Music Player onto my Mac and it uploaded all of my music free of charge and is now available on my phone.

Overall I'm really happy with the phone, but there are a few things which niggle. I'm sure I might be able to work round them in time and none are bigger enough to make me want to go back.

- I listen to podcasts more than I do music. It's disappointing that Android doesn't have a native podcast app. I've installed AntennaPod which seems reasonable. I need to do a bit more testing to see if all the podcasts are available outside of iTunes and if auto-downloads work.

- I liked having all my photos synced to my old phone and, even though I upload to Picassa/Google+ they don't seem to sync to my handset despite what settings I try. Checking a few forums I think this might be a 'feature' of the version of Android Motorola installs as it works on stock Android / Nexus handsets. Probably my biggest bug bear to date.

- The iPhones have a great little button which you can flick to turn the phone onto vibrate. I used it a lot when I go into meetings and want to discretely set my phone to silent. You have to use the menus to turn the phone onto vibrate which is a bit annoying.

- The bad side of Google Music is that it wants you to have all your music in the cloud. So far I've only found a way to 'pin' single albums at a time as available offline on the phone. Hopefully I'll find out a way to save more albums at the same time.

When I got a MacBook a few years ago I was a bit hesitant at being locked into the Apple ecosystem and therefore never fully jumped into the iCloud keeping my emails, contacts and calendars elsewhere. That undoubtedly helped in the transition. The phone was quite fiddly to set up as I got used to a new ecosystem. Everything seems possible, it just takes a bit more work to get it the way you like it.

There are no regrets so far.

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