MeFi Galaxy S3 - is there a way for it not to suck?
March 19, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I love my Galaxy S3, it serves me well. Except I have never been able to find a decent browser for text entry. While this curbing of impulse is probably wise, it makes MeFi well-nigh uninteractable. Which is probably a good brake sometimes, but frustrating at others. Are there any mobile solutions (android galaxy S3)that make MeFi a little more user-friendly? I realize some amount of this is googleable, but I figure some of you smart guys and gals have already duped this out. Thank you.
posted by umberto to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is the issue with text entry the keyboard or the browser text fields?
Either way, I have an OK time with Swiftkey (predicts next word which means a lot less individual letter presses) and Chrome.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2014

The answer I found, for both iOS and Android, is a Bluetooth keyboard. For making Metafilter comments and posts, manually entering tags (oh like I'm supposed to be satisfied with those buttons?) is way too frustrating with an onscreen keyboard.
posted by JHarris at 2:48 PM on March 19, 2014

Also, depending on the capabilities of your device, you might be able to use an adapter to connect a USB keyboard, or even a mouse if you need one. Android is surprisingly supportive of USB devices.
posted by JHarris at 2:50 PM on March 19, 2014

I installed the Google keyboard and Chrome and have been happy with the way text is entered.

The Google keyboard is pretty good to start with, but gets better as it learns what you type.
posted by mr_silver at 5:25 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also am a bit confused; is your issue with your browser or your keyboard? If the latter, I too really like SwiftKey. I've been through a lot of keyboards, and even at $4 it's far and away my favorite. (It has a 30-day trial version so you can decide for yourself if it's worth buying.) I normally don't like predictive text stuff, but SwiftKey does such a good job with it that for once I feel like it's actually more of a help than a hindrance. (I still turn most of it off, but what's left is quite useful.)

It's also super well laid-out with nice big keys that are easy to type on, and if you turn the long-press time down (I keep it at about 250ms) and the arrow keys on (thank god for arrow keys, as navigating a block of tiny text by finger can be a royal pain) it's really quite nice. Very usable, much moreso than anything else I've tried -- and I've tried a lot of different options. The one thing it lacks is an en-dash, but you can't have everything.

As far as browsers, I've tried various options there as well but not found any major differences as far as text input capabilities. I use Firefox these days, because it seems to render things well in general (Chrome has this totally inexcusable bug where it won't render italic sans-serif text, a slight problem for MeFi as you might imagine) and I've found the add-ons to be a useful capability. As far as text input though, I've never noticed any browsers to be significantly different from any others.
posted by Scientist at 5:42 PM on March 19, 2014

Actually, i am pretty good at text entry and, as people have suggested, learning swype-skilz helps a lot. Entering things is not the problem. The problem I have is that any small action, for instance turning the phone sideways, getting a call, GPS updating, etc. causes the page to default to the beginning/top, a real pain if it's a 500+ comment thread and you've typed a two-paragraph train-of-thought into the text box at the two-miles-distant bottom of the page. Suddenly, cause your phone rang, or you dipped your arm below the horizon or something, you have to scroll for five minutes to get back to the bottom and half the time the text box is now empty, denuded of the dubious insights that no one wanted to hear. Is there a mobile-friendly app or url that I am missing?
posted by umberto at 8:04 PM on March 19, 2014

For whatever it's worth, I use the Dolphin Mobile browser on my phone, and I don't have the problem you mention--even after calls, etc, half-typed comments are still there, and my page on the place is maintained. I haven't tried many other browsers, as I found Dolphin early on and have been very happy with it, but if you've not tried Dolphin, I recommend it.
posted by MeghanC at 9:14 PM on March 19, 2014

I used Dolphin to post this. But thank you, it's good to know my experience may be non-norm. Again, Thx.
posted by umberto at 9:24 PM on March 19, 2014

I use the stock browser (on a galaxy s2) and don't have the problem with losing my place. In fact, if I use the back button it returns me to the same part of the page. Not sure about text, since I don't start typing stuff and then walk away as often. I also sometimes use Chrome and I don't think I have the problem there either, although I can't remember for sure. Maybe you've disabled a setting? This sounds really annoying, I sympathize.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:06 PM on March 19, 2014

To word things a different way, it sounds like when you're switching back to your browser from another app, the browser has not kept the contents in memory. Instead, it has remembered which URLs you previously had open and reloaded them from scratch. Hence, you have lost your relative place on the page and any comments you have had in text boxes.

Have you tried other browsers besides the Dolphin browser? Does this occur when you manually choose to switch between your browser and another app? Perhaps it's a matter of having too many URLs open at once? It might also be helpful to know what version of Android you're running.

To add to what others have said, I do not see the behavior you're seeing, when I get a call or manually switch between apps. However, when I kill my browser (Chrome) and start it again, I do see what you're describing.
posted by comradechu at 12:14 AM on March 20, 2014

I generally use Android's text-to-speech function to "write" comments on my phone. I also use the Chrome mobile browser.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:02 AM on March 20, 2014

I use Chrome as my browser and SwiftKey as my keyboard and I don't experience the problem you describe. Maybe give Chrome a try?
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 4:36 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recognize the problem you're talking about, at least as far as losing my place when switching between horizontal and vertical screen orientations.

I've encountered it at least occasionally in every browser I've tried (Samsung Default, Chrome, UC Browser, Dolphin, Puffin, Firefox...) but I've never had it happen on a regular basis that I can recall and if my memory serves (it happens rarely enough that I don't have a strong memory for the pattern) it generally happens when I'm reading, not when I'm writing. What seems to happen is that the browser renders a slightly different amount of screen space in each orientation, which on a long page like a MeFi thread adds up to a significantly different place within the webpage. For some reason it only happens occasionally, presumably when something (I've no idea what) prevents the browser from directly storing its place on the page. It doesn't seem to happen when I'm inside a text box, I would imagine because the cursor anchors the browser to that spot on the page, so my bug is probably not exactly the same as yours but I recognize the general phenomenon.

Every Android is a bit different, of course; depending on what apps you have in the background, what version of Android you're running, what version of the browser you're running, your system settings, any modifications you've made to the shell, etcetera etcetera things are always a little bit different from phone to phone and not always in obvious ways. I could certainly believe that there was something non-obvious and probably difficult to track down happening in your phone which was causing the problem to be so much worse for you.

It's certainly not a noticeable issue in Firefox, for me. I'm running the latest stable version of it, on a Galaxy Note 3 (a phone that is quite similar to your Galaxy S3), with a couple of add-ons (adblock, no google analytics, gestures). I also am running Nova Launcher rather than Samsung's app launcher, have Ultimate Rotation Control installed (more on that in a moment), and am on JellyBeans ROM rather than Samsung's own (although I've spent plenty of time in the default ROM too and not noticed a difference in this bug there). As previously mentioned I'm using the SwiftKey keyboard; I have noticed that some keyboards are not as good about dealing with text boxes on the web as others (the otherwise-excellent A.I. Type Keyboard is a particular offender) but SwiftKey handles it fine.

If I were you I would give Firefox for Android a try. I like it quite a bit; the interface is nice, it seems fast (though my phone has more powerful hardware than yours, so ymmv), it's stable, and it supports add-ons (including Flash, if you're rooted or on a custom ROM). It renders sites very well and I've not noticed it causing me any problems on MeFi, which I access from my phone with great regularity (my previous answer was typed from my phone, in fact). The risk in giving it a try is quite low – it's free, and you can just uninstall it if you don't like it – so I'd give it a shot if I were you. I'm not a FireFox partisan (I use Chrome on my desktop) but in my experience and for my purposes it's the best Android browser and seems to be free of your bug at least on my system.

Also, I would try out Ultimate Rotation Control and see how you like it. If your text entry problem is often occurring after rotating the screen, you could set it (in the Per-App Settings section of the app) to lock FireFox into your preferred orientation; that is to say, you could force it to always display vertically or always horizontally, while retaining manual control in case you needed to rotate it to view a page more effectively. I don't use it for that purpose but it's an app that I'd never be without, if only because it also allows you to force apps (including the home screen – it irritates me to no end that the home screen is normally locked in a vertical orientation) to rotate when they otherwise would not do so. It comes as a 7-day trial, with the license for permanent use costing I believe $2. The 7-day trial should be plenty long enough for you to decide whether it's worth purchasing.

Finally, if your problem persists across different browsers and Ultimate Rotation Control doesn't do the job for you, you might try a factory reset. Instructions for doing so can be found all over the web, and if you're in stock mode right now it shouldn't be too hard to do. Just google "samsung galaxy S3 [your carrier] factory reset", try to find a recently-updated and reputable-looking site (ideally one published by Samsung or your carrier; I've had shall-we-say "mixed results" with Android tutorials published on YouTube and Android user forums) and follow the instructions carefully. It should then not take too long to reinstall all your apps from the Play Store (since Google Play helpfully stores a list of all the apps you've downloaded and purchased in the past) and put your settings back the way you like them. A bit of a pain, but not too bad – and it might just straighten out whatever weird little kink is causing your bug, especially if you take care not to reinstall any apps that you don't actually use but which may have been installed on your phone in its previous incarnation.

Good luck, and let us know if (and how) you manage to resolve your problem! I'm curious to see how this turns out, and it would be good to know for future reference.
posted by Scientist at 5:26 AM on March 20, 2014

Thanks to all of you. I had originally thought this an android problem, or maybe a MeFi problem, since I mostly experienced this trying to comment there, but I now think it is an individual phone problem. I just don't really comment anywhere else, I guess, so I noticed it here. Firefox works marginally better, but I still need to force stop with annoying frequency to get it to respond.

The problem I have is that --on MeFi, f'rinstance-- the text box is larger than the screen and any attempt to jump back/place the cursor back for corrections/editing/to read what I have already written leads to it jumping to the top, which is a drag if 50+ 75+ 100+ comments have been made. I still have the problem, across multiple browsers (thx for the recommendations!) so I guess it's incorrectable. Thank you as always, hive mind.
posted by umberto at 12:49 PM on March 27, 2014

Argh, I'm so stupid --

Amazon's App Store gave away a number of paid apps for free last weekend. If I had thought about it, I could have tipped you off and you could have gotten Swype for free and tried it.
posted by JHarris at 4:44 PM on March 27, 2014

Are you sure you're browsing the mobile version of MeFi? The text box being larger than the screen sounds like you might be using the desktop version...
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2014

I have settled on Firefox and just having to force stop periodically. Thanks for the advice. Perhaps my old as hell S3 just can't quite deal. But I appreciate the suggestions.
posted by umberto at 6:27 PM on May 1, 2014

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