Last week the IT-team spoiled me with a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, just to give Android a try and immerse myself into the world of the little green robot… As soon as I came home, I turned on the device and started exploring this new piece of technology as I was eager to learn a few new things. I must confess that Google tempted me with the whole Android experience after watching the Google i/o 2013 keynote, so with lots of yearning for this new, open and connected platform in my hands, what could go wrong, right? Hmm…
Android is supposed to be an open platform, right? Well, why can’t I do stuff without a Google account? True, developers can get the source code and start tweaking it according to their wishes, but I’m not a developer. I don’t want to poke stuff around, look for update X of thing Y converting file Z to whatever?! I’m not interested in all that. Just give me a device that works and does what I want it to do. Without connecting myself to the Google Universe this thing was quite an empty box. I want to point out, that I have no problem with connecting to a service provider, but Android being “open” just got a whole new ring to it.
This is a big one for me. What’s with all these Samsung apps cluttering my screen?! I thought that when you buy an Android device, you actually buy an Android device, not this extra layer of Samsung-ness all over the place… Deleting these apps from my home screen was priority number one. Instead, I downloaded my Google services and logged in. Better!
As a result of this software layering mayhem, apps are not necessarily working on all devices running Android. This is strange for someone who is used to just download the app on an iPad and expecting it to work on any iPad. Another downside of Google’s so-called openness. If app X works on a Samsung, but doesn’t on an Asus, this will have devastating consequences in a classroom environment.
After browsing the Android Play Store, I found some of the big brands (Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Pinterest,…) the usual suspects that are actually available on every platform out there. Next up was an office-suite, these are easy to find as well, not complaining here. But then I came around to finding some “replacement” apps for the iLife suite (iPhoto – iMovie – Garageband) which can be extremely useful in education. This was a lot harder. Snapseed is one we all know to be great but finding a decent video editor and audio recorder proved challenging. One app even automatically uploaded content to my public (!) G+ folder. Not funny, Google!
I also noticed that the number of apps available is steadily growing in the Play Store, but apps not always working on every device is a huge blunder. Secondly a lot of apps do some things but not all the things I’m looking for.
I found working with the Samsung device not as pleasant as I thought it could be. This widescreen device is to high (in portrait mode) or not high enough (in landscape mode). I’m very aware that this is probably due to the fact that I’m used to the iPad’s dimensions, although I did feel this way since the very first Android machines came out. Also, and more importantly, I found the Samsung slow and not catchy enough to my taste. Loading pages in a browser or even in a PDF stammered a bit too much. Actually, some pages from a PDF I exported from Dropbox to Adobe Reader were blank!? Just gone, no matter how long I waited or the fact that I tried exporting them a couple of times again, seemed to work. They just wouldn’t load. The camera seemed to function properly and was satisfactory in image quality for classroom use.
Mostly due to the fact that apps are not universal within the Android world, I’m quite hesitant of the Android OS. I’m not the kind of guy that likes to worry about these things in front of students, and something tells me a lot of teachers don’t either…
The fact that the device wasn’t smooth enough to my taste, made working with the Samsung a bit frustrating. Waiting for it to catch up is something that I do not expect in a device that is supposed to make my life easier.
To me, a non-developer, the Android system is a bit to chaotic. I could almost taste the coder-feel to the platform, probably intentional, because Google wants you to thinker with the device. I like my more controlled, but also seamless user experience.
I feel exactly like Tim Cook said in his D11 interview: “It is at the intersection of hardware, software and services that Apple’s magic lies”. To me that magic is really there and I like to work in that space.
So is this review of my Android experience final and will I forever turn my back on all things Google? Of course not, I think Android still needs some work and eventually Google will get there, but for the moment, I can get the most out of my time on a device with an apple on the back.