Ugh. Bots particularly like artificially inflating my stats when I use popular terms, so I’m not quite looking forward to the results of this post.
So I’ve had my new phone about a month, and I’ve gotten to know most of its features fairly well, I think, so I figure it’s time to give a little review.
Some history: this is (technically) my fourth smartphone. A few years ago, I got a Palm Centro. Its battery decided that I could live with a 6-hour charge somewhere around the time my brother upgraded his iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4, so I got the hand-me-down. In December, rain killed the iPhone and I ended up with a Palm Treo. Last month, the lady at the kiosk in Azrieli conned me into upgrading my phone to something that, for example, reads Hebrew, and I ended up with a Galaxy S.
Now, there are a lot of iOS vs. Android reviews out there, which is partially why I’m semi-including Palm in this comparison. It’s also to clearly illustrate certain particular points. Mostly that, hands-down, the iPhone worked better than the Galaxy. In about every conceivable manner.
Now, this review is going to be a bit harsh, but that’s really only because the Galaxy has sort of been billed as an iPhone killer. More specifically, there are billboards all along my street that proclaim it a “Smarter Phone” or a “Genuisphone” or a “Really Really Really Really Really Smart Phone.” And every time I see one of those signs, I want to spraypaint “with a limp” underneath. I should be clear, comparing the 3GS to the Galaxy isn’t like comparing a car to a scooter. They’re on the same basic level and do the same basic things. Comparing either one to one of my Palms would be car-to-scooter. This is more comparing, say, a Mercedes S-class to a Ford Focus. Or maybe to a Daewoo. Basically, even if there’s a workaround for certain problems, I still mark off points unless the workaround is incredibly simple. If this is really supposed to be such an amazing phone I shouldn’t be put through the inconvenience, even if it’s a one-time inconvenience.
Okay, let’s be fair and start out with the list of things that the Galaxy S does better than the iPhone 3GS.
- It’s smaller and lighter
Yeah, that’s about it. I mean, technically the camera is “better” in that it’s 5 megapixels to the iPhone’s 3, but that’s negated by poorer focus, and a much longer delay time after the photo is taken. And even the “smaller and lighter” aspect comes with its own drawbacks: the thing just feels entirely more breakable than I’m comfortable with in a phone. With the iPhone, while I had a case, I was confident that I didn’t absolutely *need* it. With the Galaxy, I’m afraid that if I take it out of its case it will crack in my pocket.
Okay, that’s physical, but what about the actual running of it? First thing I noticed, which confused the hell out of me, is that Android, or at least this version of Android, has two home screens. There’s the familiar-looking “Menu” screen that’s just a 4×4 grid of program icons (plus a row of four home keys), and then there’s… well, the familiar looking “Home” screen that’s just a 4×4 grid of program icons plus a row of four home keys.
Some deeper exploration showed me that one of these screens is where all of your programs are supposed to be stored, and the other is where your programs are supposed to be used. But there’s no purpose in separating them. If I don’t use a program, it shouldn’t be on my phone. The “Home” screen just serves as an extra step before I can get to my programs, unless I just move them all there, in which case there is absolutely no difference between the two screens. And both of them are missing any sort of grouping or sub-folder option.
Oh right, another thing: although a small part of this is the provider adding their stupid crap afterward than the phone itself, there is a *lot* of stupid crap that came with the Galaxy which I cannot delete. Forty-five apps. That’s almost 3 screens of apps, most of which I will never use, which cannot be deleted from my phone without cracking it (note: this is considered an inconvenience). This includes programs with such minimal functionality that I need to download a duplicate program anyway. I don’t know what “AllShare” is, I don’t know what “Layar” is, I don’t know what “CommuniTake Remote” is. Why can’t I delete these? And why do I need a devoted app to “Google Search” when the device comes with an internet browser? And why can’t I delete the nearly-broken browser once I’ve downloaded Opera? And what’s the point of requiring me to have both an “email” app and a “gmail” app? One really should be a subset of the other.
In fact, while every “default” app that came with the iPhone felt polished, I can come up with at least one moderate-to-major problem with every “default” app on the Galaxy.
This handset is also slower in running apps. I’ve had the thing freeze up on me a couple times, and I’ve only had it a month. I’ve got one game that’s a 60-second quiz. My score is based more on how much delay there is between me pressing the answer and the handset realizing it’s been pressed than anything else. And typing can be borderline ridiculous. Sometimes just navigating my contacts list slows it down.
The wifi scanner is slower than the iPhone’s, and it logs every network you’ve ever connected to, which means you may be on the other side of the country from a particular network, but it will still be at the top of your available network list. Even if you’re in range of another network. Because sometimes the scanner just decides that it doesn’t want to update you on what’s in range until you turn the wifi off and on again.
Multi-tasking is useless. I can have three different programs open at the same time, but I can’t enter any of them without resetting them. And sometimes they just decide to close when I don’t ask them to, and other times they just decide to stay open when I was pretty sure I closed them. If I pause the music player and the screen turns off, the music player turns off too. If I get a call in the middle of watching a movie, I have to go back after the call and scan to the place I was at before. This is one of the things that I honestly thought would be an improved experience on this phone, but it really isn’t.
And here’s where I might anger some people. Android’s biggest selling point is also its biggest drawback: it’s open. There’s no program I need on my computer to sync the phone, no protocol. I use the phone like an external hard drive. But then I have to do all the organization manually. And while, for example, Palm Desktop was a clunky program that didn’t do what I wanted half the time, I liked iTunes, and never had any major problems with the program. And while I’m generally not a fan of superfluous or mandatory programs, it’s usually because they’re not good. A program that does what you want is much preferable to me over no program at all, but no program is preferable to something broken.
But, in the end, the Galaxy *can* do all of the same stuff as the iPhone can. As opposed to the Palm, which barely supported multimedia. Heck, there were times when the Palm barely supported phone calls. It’s like the Galaxy is somewhere between the two: it has all the upsides of the iPhone, but comes with all the downsides I experienced with the Palm. I wouldn’t have any of these complaints if I hadn’t previously had an iPhone. Like I said, I’m being a bit harsh here specifically because the Galaxy has billed itself as a better phone. You can’t say that and then bring nothing new to the table, instead only duplicating what already exists in the market, but somewhat worse. The thing is a decent phone. But it’s only a decent phone, not a great one.
I don’t know if my next phone will be a smartphone or if I’ll go back to plain old dumb phones. If I do get another smartphone, though, it’s probably going to be whichever iPhone was current the year before. For now, and for the foreseeable future, I’ll be using this Genius Phone. With a limp.