Attachment issues
September 9, 2014 3:36 AM   Subscribe

I hate my new android cellphone. Please help me work out how not to hate it so much. I am coming off a multi-year iPhone habit and everything just feels like the biggest pain in the ass. Teach me how to stop worrying and learn to love the 'droid.

I need apps. Lots of apps probably. I am considering dumping google-apps, so I would love some suggestions for alternatives there. I think I like widgets, but I am not sure...
My first trauma was not being able to turn off notifications at night or find a sleep timer in the clock. I have heard of Tasker, is that something that would help me with that? I absolutely need a new browser. Also, is it possible to have keyboards work differently? Or be shaped differently or soemthing? Becasue I am having a terrible time typing. I enjoy games too.
Are there other tips (non-app-related) that can help me prefer the droid?

Having already spent assloads on apps I am kinda leaning towards free only, ideally even FOSS stuff if it's good. I specifically don't want resource hogs as the battery life is marginal for my usage as the moment as is. So, tell me what you love, but more importantly, please tell me why you love it. That is the missing link mefi can provide!

I am running a Fairphone, on Android 4.2.2. It's rooted and I think it might have some sort of front-end on top of the android? Is that a thing? Are there better front-ends then? I use a Samsung at work that I hate less.

I know there have been "app roundups" previously, but it really is an area that changes with time, so I think it's cool we go again?
posted by Iteki to Technology (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Don't worry, us Android folks can't stand using iPhones either! Here are a few irreplaceable apps:

For time or area based profiles, use Llama. It's simpler to use than Tasker. If you prefer time-based notifications "be silent for 15 minutes/8 hours", take a look at Shush! It will prompt you when you put the phone on silent.

You can get Firefox for Android.

Swype is a good keyboard. You can split it into two if you like.

For everything else: Android is different. Go with it, don't try and make it an iPhone. Oh and I recommend against moving away from Google services. An iPhone without Apple services sucks too.
posted by devnull at 4:25 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Regarding the notifications at night thing, your solution is Llama. Also does location based things. So for example I use it to silence my phone when I'm at school or at work, and to turn my WiFi on and off as I enter and leave various areas.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:27 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't help you on the Google apps because I think they are pretty good. What is it you don't like about them?

For notifications, look at Do Not Disturb which will do everything the iOS version does plus a bit more (and then a lot more if you pay a small amount of money). I especially like the fact that I can have different sleep and wake-up times depending on whether it's a weekday or weekend.

Regarding the sleep timer on the clock, I've got a S3 running Cyanogen and both it and the previous Samsung stock had a timer in the clock app (look at the tabs along the top). You may need to look at an app if yours doesn't have that.

For a browser, Chrome works well. Or Firefox if you want to sync it with your desktop.

For a keyboard, try Google Keyboard. I prefer it over Swiftkey (as I don't like the layout when you enter numbers) and it's free whereas Swype you have to pay for.

Coming from iOS like you did I find that the trade off of Android is that you get a great amount of additional flexibility but you have to put up with a fair few rough edges. I solved some of those problems reflashing my S3 with CyanogenMod, but it's not quite perfect as some times the camera doesn't work and Google Now crashes more often than before.
posted by mr_silver at 4:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

My first trauma was not being able to turn off notifications at night

Timeriffic is a good app for scheduling changing volume, turning wifi on/off, etc. I have it turn volume off during work days, wifi off in the morning and on in the evening (also work days), and low volume over night.

Swiftkey is great because it not only predicts your current word, but your next one too. It can speed up typing tremendously once it's learnt your style.

find a sleep timer in the clock.

Not sure what you mean by "sleep timer"? Do you mean the snooze function on alarms?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:40 AM on September 9, 2014

In settings go to active display and you can set when the phone stops giving you notifications at night.

I switched from an iPhone to a MotoX back in December. I had about two weeks of concerned regret because I didn't know what I was doing. But you know what? You are not a dumb person. It's just a phone. You'll learn it and get used to it.

Now whenever I pick up my old iPhone to get a picture of my dog when he was a puppy or something I basically recoil with horror. My android is like night and day a better phone.

Just give it some time.
posted by phunniemee at 5:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Once you adapt to Swype, typing on any other touchscreen will seem like living in the stone age.
posted by Twain Device at 6:01 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

I had the same problem, and I eventually solved it by switching back to the iPhone. I'm not a dumb person, but I didn't learn or get used to it. I mean, I could have coped with it if all iPhones had vanished from the earth, sure. But with Android I had to think about every little thing I wanted to do; it never got as easy as the iPhone had been. My brainwaves have apparently hardened in the shape of an Apple.

There were two things that drove me nuttier than anything else:

1) The lack of badges on icons - for instance, you couldn't look at your phone and see you had missed calls from the red badge on the icon, and you couldn't look at your email icon and see the number of emails on the icon.

2) The fact that it cost both me and my friends money any time I texted them. I'd grown used to iMessage on iPhone, and all my friends had, too.

During my time of suffering, I found this kind of thing most useful: How to get iOS-style badge app icons... I found that it worked...sort of. I did get badges on my phone and email. But the numbers on the badges did not relate in any way to the number of items I'd actually missed. For instance, my Gmail icon routinely told me I had 1533 unread emails, when in fact I had two or three, and my phone icon said 5 pretty much permanently. It is entirely possible I just wasn't a good enough tinkerer to figure out the three programs I had to install in order to make those things happen; you might have better luck.

I never managed to solve the texting problem. There's WhatsApp, though, which comes very close. It's free texting, and it technically works on both Android and iPhone. But that's only if you can get your iPhone friends to actually adopt it, and my success with that was hit-or-miss.

The main thing that helped me survive was learning to use the notifications bar. That's how Android does it; that's why it doesn't have badges on mail and suchlike. Swipe down the bar at the top and it will tell you all the things you missed; touch the item you missed and it will open the item for you. I think if I could have gotten used to that, I would have been all right.

Other things to keep in mind to help you love your Android - some things on it work better. I really liked the Gmail app on my Galaxy4 - it looked better and just functioned better than on the iPhone. Once I figured out Google Play, I enjoyed that, too. (But figuring it out was hellish; it made no sense to me at all for the longest time, and I couldn't find anything online to tell me how to make it work.)

In my experience, Android is for tinkerers, and iPhone is for people who just want things to work out of the box. No shame on either side. I just happen to be one of the latter.

What I really, desperately wanted was an iPhone the size and shape of a Samsung Galaxy 4. The Galaxy 4 screen was a thing of beauty, and it's one of the only things I miss about switching back to iPhone. The other thing I missed was Swype, which did indeed make other phone keyboards seem like living in the stone age.

Which is why I will be haunting the Apple live countdown today! All my problems solved.
posted by kythuen at 6:22 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Swype is available as a free app, as well as a paid one. I use the free app and it works great except for not recognizing swear words. It is so far and away a better keyboard than anything else, that I just type out swears now.

I use SleepTime to keep track of how long I'm sleeping, sleep patters, and provide an alarm in the morning. It crashes occasionally, but I just go back into it and it is fine. There's probably something better out there, but it works well enough.

On preview:

I'm on a Samsung Galaxy SII (yes, it is like 3 years old), some of my apps do have badges (facebook is the most notable). But I am used to the status bar for new emails and things. I use Google Hangouts (formerly Chat) for communicating with friends. I'm on an unlimited texting plan now, so I synced it up with SMS, but you can also do it separately from SMS, FWIW.
posted by jeoc at 6:32 AM on September 9, 2014

Best answer: It sounds to me like you are specifically trying to avoid Google and Apple because of their unethical business practices. If so, as with other aspects of life, doing the right thing is often not easy or convenient.

For open source apps on Android, you can use F-droid (you may need to enable "unknown sources" in the security settings tab to install the apk). Some of the apps I personally use from there include agit (a git client, get it?), connectbot (ssh client), Muzei (beautiful background setting app, plus the APOD plugin for it), K-9 (nice email client, a fork of the original google open source one), and probably some others I can't remember.

For games, you can use Humble Bundle. Lots of games, and you can direct some (or even all) of the money you pay for them to charity.
posted by Poldo at 6:43 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I switched from iPhone to an HTC One at the beginning of the year, and I kind of don't understand why Android has this hard-to-use reputation. I found it super easy to use right out of the box, and Google Play is an honest to God joy to use after the hellish shitshow that was iTunes or the App Store or whatever they call it. The latest Android update (I want to call it Kit Kat? Either way, I'm running 4.4.2) was amazing. I keep on unearthing cool little things it does.

When I made the switch I relied heavily on Lifehacker's Android Packs to figure out which apps I use. I basically never text - all my friends use WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, to my great chagrin, picks up any slack from there. Actually, lemme grab my phone and just list out what I use:

Photo stuff
- VSCO Cam + Instagram because I'm on that train
- I live out of Dropbox so I downloaded Carousel but I can't remember ever opening it,

- I use Sleep As Android to track sleep, more out of habit than anything else. I like the gentle alarm. It seems... fine
- MyWOD because I do CrossFit though it is a VERY VERY FLAWED app
- Runkeeper because of course.

- Most of my music comes through Soundcloud so I use their app. I see from you're profile that you're in Sweden so I'll wildly assume you use Spotify.
- Pocket Casts for podcasts
- Audible because I listen to podcasts a lot and am susceptible to advertising


- Google Keep for notes
- Google Calendar as a calendar
- Tripit so I don't forget my flights
- Evernote because I am sucked in to their ecosystem

Then a few utilities of little note and apps that only make sense where I am (Buienradar, my bank's app etc). Oh, and Twilight to kill the blue light in the evening so I actually sleep at night. I am deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem, and I also still use Dropbox, and I rely on Evernote, so if you have (understandable!) concerns with these services this might not apply to you. Notifications as a rule irritate me so I turn them off for almost every app.

I'm not sure if this wall of text helps at all. Good luck with wrestling that thing to the ground!
posted by nerdfish at 7:17 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're only hating it because it's new. You'll get used to it soon and go with the flow.

In my Android's 'Settings' > 'Sound' you have an option to set a quiet time. That might be sufficient for your needs. If not, try Timeriffic (free from the play store) I use it for night time and also 50% ringer and notifications volume at work. Loads of other settings too.

For widgets - I only use smooth calendar to display upcoming events from my google calendar.

Don’t have all your icons on the home screen like Apple’s messy solution, use androids folders to get rid of the clutter (I have two folders, ‘Apps’ and ‘Utilities’).

For a browser, try opera mini classic - you can put on the mobile data turbo feature that compresses images before they arrive at your phone - they arrive quicker and keep your mobile data usage down.
posted by guy72277 at 7:30 AM on September 9, 2014

I'm in your same boat (for the past year), and I'm counting down days before I can get back on the Apple side. But, here are some things that I've found acceptable:

For calendar, the stock Google calendar app is effing terrible. I use Sol Calendar. It's soo much better. Almost good enough that I might miss it.

For podcasts, well, podcasting on Android is a joke. The only passable app I've found is Podcast Addict. YMMV, though, as I've found it a little buggy on my Moto G. However, it's the only free solution I've found that offers offline listening (necessary as I listen on the metro/subway) and has a UI that doesn't look like butt.

Swiftkey is now free, and it's not the worst keyboard in the world. I know what you mean about that stock Google keyboard.
posted by General Malaise at 8:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's possible some of the problem is the launcher (the front-end) you're using. If your phone is rooted, there are a bunch of other ones you may be able to try that might improve your experience quite a bit. I'd look into that, using the term "launcher." Nova Launcher is much-discussed. I use the Google Now Launcher, which is stripped down and simple and a lot less memory overhead than the TouchWiz one from Samsung that came with my phone.

You might find it worthwhile to spend time at It's mostly asshole-free, and though it's a little too full of "look at the new phone models!!!!!" from sock puppets and the kind of people who dwell in a buy-return in 30 days-repeat cycle, it still has plenty of conversational threads and is the main way I find new Android apps now.

I would not recommend dumping Google Apps. I don't know what your reasons are, but if they're not gold-plated and bullet-proof, stick with Google. For just one example, Google Maps Navigation gives you out-loud turn-by-turn navigation. It's unbeatable.

For a better keyboard, choose Swype or Swiftkey. Turn off autocorrect! Both have lots of keyboard skins and some different layouts, and both learn your typing habits, and can scan the contents of various accounts to get word inventories to improve the chance it will suggest the right word. I find Swype to be a little better.

Tasker can do all sorts of stuff depending on contexts like time of day, location, what apps are currently in the foreground, what WiFi hotspots you're near, and a whole lot more. However, it's stupidly complicated in the "what were they thinking?" kind of way and for most people is overkill. I only use it still because it keeps working. If it ever dies, I'll switch to something simpler. I use Tasker to turn off my ringer at work, to unlock the phone at work and home, to launch apps in the middle of the night so they'll be updated (podcasts, crossword program Shortyz, etc.), and to turn off lots of power-hungry features when the batter gets below 30%.

I use DoggCatcher for podcasts, but you might also check out Pocket Casts.

I use Light Flow to control my LED, vibrate, and sound notifications. It allows per-app control for an incredible amount of stuff. Change the color of LEDs, the brightness, the flashing frequency, and a whole bunch of stuff for vibrating, too, and includes a way to turn everything off at certain times of day.

Greenify can make apps that you rarely use "sleep" in order to stop them from using processor cycles. For me, most of the Amazon apps are like this. I want them on the phone, but I only use them a couple of times a month, so there's no need for them to be using 2-5% of my battery.

I use the Chrome browser because it syncs with my desktop.

Not sure how video apps work on your phone, but for me that's one of the awesome things about this little device. Netflix, of course, but also Amazon Prime Video was just released (download that app and then it will prompt you to download the Prime player when needed). I also use Plex, which interfaces with my Plex server, and Live Media Player, which collates a lot of dubiously-sourced and legitimate video streams from around the Internet, many from real broadcasters whose acronyms you would recognize. I use it to watch French television. It is not allowed in the Google Play store because of the rights issues involved with the video streams it shares.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:26 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Came to mention Showbox, which from a movie-and-TV perspective is unbeatable. Prey for remote wipe in case of loss or theft, OSMand+ for offline maps, Blue Light Filter and QEdit.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:22 PM on September 9, 2014

For internet, CM Browser helped my friend transition from iphones. The homepage is clean and simple (and customizable).
posted by ana scoot at 9:25 PM on September 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for these so far, am looking into almost all of it, have marked some of the answers I've found especially useful due to the detail given, will be googling some of the others as I move along. I am not particularly averse to complicated stuff, I have some programming experience, etc.

The varient keyboards both sound great due to support of simultaneous multilingual texting :)
Am not seeing much concensus regarding browsers, is it just a case of "install a buttload of them and see what I prefer"? Should I reformat my phone after all this experimentation or is it pretty good at cleaning itself up?

Many thanks also for the term "launcher", having the right words is going to help me out quite a bit.

One of my main concerns is how to pick between apps and know what is relatively established/secure etc. I find the permissions requests a bit stressful (I realise the iPhone gave the same permissions but never asked) as I feel it's up to me to make good choices! Is Prey the accepted standard in loss/theft formatting or one of a bunch?
posted by Iteki at 12:46 AM on September 10, 2014

Turn off notifications at night - already answered above.
Sleep Timer in the Clock - assuming you need snooze type functionality, then Timely is the way to go.
Browser - i use the Chrome Beta and love it, but if you're dead set on moving away from Google, then this Javelin browser is beautiful and well worth a look.
Keyboards - are customisable up the wazoo. Most often mentioned will be swiftkey (my preference) and Swype. They are massively popular for a reason.
Front-Ends - what you're looking for here is "launcher". You can put any type launcher you want on your phone, and customise it like crazy. In my opinion, Nova is far and away the best launcher out there, and it is the very first thing i will add to a new phone.
You mention that you are rooted. You should install ad-block immediately. If you really want crazy levels of settings, you could install the xposed framework and make all sorts of changes.
posted by kev23f at 1:42 AM on September 10, 2014

If you do multilingual texting and can deal with a step learning curve, consider MessagEase as a keyboard. It is VERY different, but has a built-in "combo" key to combine, say, n+~, or e+`, or all kinds of other accented characters. Plus, dictionaries for many languages (14 besides English) and a game to get you used to it. Also has text-expansion macros (so useful).
posted by timepiece at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2014

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