Am I an Android?
June 15, 2010 2:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of buying a Samsung I5700 Galaxy Spica as my first Android phone. I'm a Nokia user whose e71 is feeling a bit tight and so I'd like a cheap way to get my Android toes wet. I have a couple of questions though ...

I'll be buying a phone here in New Zealand that will be unlocked and probably still on 1.5 or 1.6.

If I can't upgrade to 2.1 will I find sufficient apps out there to enjoy this phone? I know my phone experience if different to your phone experience but at the very least I want to do the following:

* all the basic smartphone stuff - email, txt, MMS, internet
* bluetooth and wifi
* use the GPS to find my way around
* store encrypted notes for work - ie WPA network keys, passwords etc
* have a decent Twitter client with support for multiple accounts
* organise my music, photos and videos so that I can find what I want - Symbian is getting so old now
* find a few mind numbing games for those monthly 3-4 hour plane journeys

Yes, I know that I can "root" the phone and install custom ROMs and all that but to be honest at the moment I just want a basic fun phone. Yes, I did think about an iPhone but I struggle with the restrictions that Apple put on their devices.

So, any Samsung I5700 Galaxy Spica users out there?
posted by chairish to Technology (10 answers total)
There's supposed to be an 'official' twitter client that's coming out, but only for android 2, I think. But there should be plenty of twitter clients out there.

I have a G1. I've never looked into crypto products, but OI notepad which I actually use, apparently supports it. As far as music goes I have a cheapo MP3 player I use, since I didn't want to bring my expensive phone to the gym with me :P.

Other then that, my G1 can pretty much do everything you're looking at. I'm sure newer phones won't have any problems with it.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 AM on June 15, 2010

Avoid any devices with 1.5 on it. Most of the applications available support 1.6 and upwards. For example, you can't have the latest version of Maps (which supports location and turn by turn navigation) on anything earlier than 1.6.

1.6 will do pretty much everything you have listed. It won't be as polished at 2.1, but to be fair, Android isn't particularly polished anyway - even more so when compared to the iPhone.

I can't help you on encrypted notes or twitter. The default music client is pretty poor, look at the one developed by DoubleTwist. It's free, very slick and works with iTunes too. No idea about photos and videos but I suspect a 1.6 device won't have enough processing power to play many formats of video - but I could be wrong.

Understand your concerns about the iPhone ecosystem but you've not put anything in your requirements list which would indicate that you'd have a problem with the restrictions. There should be plenty of people looking to sell the 3G (or maybe even the 3GS) as soon as 4 is released - so you may be able to pick up a bargain.
posted by mr_silver at 3:00 AM on June 15, 2010

I don't know much about the Galaxy Spica, but I do have a Samsung Behold II, and it's turned me off from Samsung devices. They have the best display technology out there, but their customer support is pretty much zero. If they haven't said the phone's getting 2.0 or higher, it's probably not. And even if they said the phone is definitely getting it, they still might renege.

Let me know if you find anything that does encrypted notes well. That's a fantastic idea.
posted by Plutor at 5:20 AM on June 15, 2010

I'm on 1.6 and I am as happy as I can be, in absolutely no rush for the 2.1 upgrade. There are lots and lots and lots and lots of free apps. From my own experience, this is what I have:

* All the basic smartphone stuff - email, txt, MMS, internet - is totally covered.

* bluetooth and wifi - totally covered. I use an app to manage switching here and it's fine; 2.1 is supposed to provide some kind of magic I'm sure will be even more fabulous.

* use the GPS to find my way around - I have Google maps on my 1.6 Android. It works well.

* store encrypted notes for work - I went through many many notes applications to find one I like but encryption wasn't a criteria for me. However, there were apps with this option available, I just didn't use them

* have a decent Twitter client with support for multiple accounts - I'm happy with Seesmic. People turn hating on various Twitter clients into some kind of tedious sport, but honestly it's a perfectly nice client with some *interesting* behaviours.

* organise my music, photos and videos so that I can find what I want - Symbian is getting so old now - No idea. There is native support for photo and video organising and I've not needed a 3rd party app, but I'm a lite user of these features.

* find a few mind numbing games for those monthly 3-4 hour plane journeys - yeah loads. I play Simon and Jewels.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:55 AM on June 15, 2010

While I don't have a Galaxy Spica I do have a Motorola DEXT, which is currently at version 1.5. Although I agree with mr_silver in saying that the apps I've seen in the Android Market seem to support 1.6 and up it's important to note that over 25% of Android phones still run 1.5 (see Google's platform statistics page). Moreover, from a programmer's perspective (I also code Android apps) there is very few substantial differences between 1.5 and 1.6 (see 1.6's new features page). Hence, any app developer working on high quality, worthwhile apps are quite likely to support 1.5 and up (I certainly do).

In 1.5, everything you mentioned works - email, SMS, MMS, Internet, wi-fi, Bluetooth (although you can't perform file transfers in 1.5 AFAIK), GPS (without, as mr_silver stated, turn-by-turn directions), Twitter clients, and music organisation. As for encrypted notes, I highly recommend purchasing Notes Everything; it just works and supports AES-128 encrypted notes.
posted by asymptotic at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2010

I do have a Galaxy Spica (replacing a stolen iPhone) and I really really like it. When in a few months I will have to renew my phone contract and I could in theory get the new iPhone - i'll stick with my Samsung.

Android is more "fun" than iphone OS. One example: every night at 1130 the phone turns itself on, turns the wifi on, checks for updates on the podcast i am listening to, downloads, goes back to sleep. There's no way an iPhone could do that.

Games, you have. Smartphone things, you have. When they say it's like an iPhone but unpolished - that's exactly what it is. With the difference that it's much more geeky: if you want to personalize it, there's much more you can do.

I am on 1.6, i checked the reviews online of android 2 and i don't find any reason compelling enough to do the switch.

Next idea? The Dell Streak
posted by madeinitaly at 8:05 AM on June 15, 2010

Get an HTC Desire which will be updating to 2.2 soon
posted by A189Nut at 9:14 AM on June 15, 2010

I recommend using whatever phones you are interested in in person. Compare them side by side if you can.

I have both an iPhone 3GS and a Motorola DROID (2.1) and Android just is not as polished or easy to use as iPhone OS.

Things like:
- list scrolling
- pinching to zoom
- cut / copy / paste is not everywhere and it's a bit funky
- you can't "micro move" the text insertion point like you can on the iphone
- there are some funky image behaviors in the web browser that I have encountered. the image will seem to jump between two sizes. this has only happened a few times
- the organization of the "app drawer" leaves much to be desired. Every app on your phone is just displayed in an alphabetized list
- As far as I know, Android app updates can only be done one at a time.
- The audio player is not as nice.

The whole "integration with google" thing seems like a wash. I have my iPhone set up to use google mobile sync as an exchange account so I get mail, contacts, and calendar. If I used Picassa much, I suppose that I would like that integration.

I haven't found the restrictions that Apple has to be all that onerous from an end-user perspective.

I have also found that the overall quality of the Android app store is less than the iPhone app store. And the Android store makes it more difficult to find stuff. Beyond the "top X" items in a few different categories, the only mechanism is search.

There are some cool things that Android can do that iPhone currently can't. Since iOS 4 is coming out in a few days, I am including that in available features:
- have background tasks that can monitor and do things automatically, like reconfigure the phone settings based on time or location
- widgets, although I find that they are often too bloated and don't give very much info
- replace certain parts of the software, like the keyboard (swype is cool) or the dialer (I don't have phone service on the DROID; I use sipdroid to make calls over wifi).
- built in GPS navigation is cool
- I'd much rather buy music from the Amazon store than the iTunes store, however I really like the podcast integration w/ iTunes.

I expect that Android will improve a lot in the coming year and I look forward to re-evaluating it at that time and perhaps it will replace my iPhone. If you want to be able to hack your phone, Android is clearly the better choice for you.
posted by reddot at 9:27 AM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers. When I said I don't like Apple's restrictions - it's a philosphical thing based on the way that there is no room for movement. Don't get me wrong - I work in the Mac environment at least 25% of my week.

I'm looking at the Samsung because it's a cheap foray into the Android world - approx $NZ400 compared to much higher prices for HTC devices.
posted by chairish at 11:56 AM on June 15, 2010

The Froyo List

* Getting it before the end of the year: Nexus One, Droid, Droid Incredible, EVO 4G, myTouch, myTouch Slide, Desire
* Maybe getting it: Devour, Droid Eris, Backflip
* Nope: G1, Behold II
posted by Plutor at 8:13 AM on June 16, 2010

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