torstai 21. huhtikuuta 2011

Androids!

Helsinki preface


Had such a delight of a day. It was about visiting the City, meaning our dear Helsinki (daughter of the - some sea, anyway!) This city and heart of Finland is about 1 hour drive from home. There's an old saying that when it's been more than one month since your last visit to Helsinki, you actually think for awhile that it's a big city! Ok, cutting the jokes - do pay a visit to the city. Only in September through December it's a bit ugly, usually something between ordinary water and snow coming down from the skies, but it never seems to last. Then, as if the Wizard of Oz had waved a wand, Helsinki gets properly frosted over and January to March are cool and beautiful.

Today, in addition to seeing people, actually opening my mouth and talking to some (no worries, I didn't interrupt st-ran-gers!) I was bashing in definitely good karma with my new white ZTE Blade Android phone. It's just sooooo good. I love it! My A seems to love me back, because she took a couple of pictures -- right out from my pocket, without me knowing that! I just discovered the evidence, a zipper jacket, strange point of view, looking into the sky, not focusing on (I think) particularly anything.

I've been a long time phone freak, and the last time this kind of rush with new wild technology happens was - ironically - with the competitor camp, Nokia's e71. Androids are a breed of their own. Everything happens so smoothly. It's almost as if you weren't using a mobile, but a good desktop computer. Software installation is easy, removal is easy and fast; you get about 45000 apps for free, and they can actually be found simply by jacking into a directory called Android Market. The Market itself is an app just as any other (is this power-wielding the kind of recursive joke that every true geek-prone phone has to have? :-)

Because I promised (myself, mostly) to give a review of the Chinese ZTE Blade smartphone within 2 weeks of its purchase, I've gonna puke out a full report here. You can also find this on my other ( Jukkasoft ) blog, which is.. well, will be concentrated more on Finnish original articles on technology, while Psiic blog will be fast, furious, and oh-so eNglish.

The phone has been an absolute delight and definitely worth the low cost (189 eur, as of April 2011, from Elisa). Blade is a full-fledged smartphone, with easy-to-use features – excluding the text messaging: SMS practicality is not the best of Android. I almost managed to get slapped in the face by transmitting mumbojumbo in text to my girlfriend. The phone manipulates the words in search for better ones, according to its twisted sense of the world. This feature is called XT9 (something like extended text message entry method) and may be good to be turned off. Try and find out! Cheek insurance not included.

The phone has a touch screen, and in addition to that 3 physical buttons situated below the screen; in the right edge it has + and – for volume adjustment. There’s three ways to interact with the screen: touching, long press, and sliding your finger across the screen. Touching is for selecting things, long press shows you context-sensitive menus and options. Sliding is for gaming and some obscure applications like the visual screensaver; it’s actually fun idea: instead of a PIN number, the phone unlocks when the correct jigsaw is entered.

The screen is bright and big. Interestingly I found out that more screen real estate makes really a significant difference in the navigability of the phone: you don’t feel so claustrophobic with this one. I have to give Android full points for navigation in general; menu choices are logical and I’ve found all that I need to change very easily. Menus very rarely slow down; sometimes if you've just launched a app that uses a lot of resources and try to access menus, you can see a slight slowdown in response, but it's actually not a big deal.

If you do however enter a very bright, sunshiny place, the phone's screen is left second place against Sun. This is somewhat annoying during spring and summertime. Enter that cozy bar, or get inside, where every nerd belongs, anyway! So far though I've yet to see a phone that could compete Sun...

Google’s personal information management is very easily integrated. Basically you create one account on the phone, which has your username and password, and after that it’s a delight to use every Google service. You have Gmail, documents, etc. Works like charm. The Android supports more than one Google accounts, if you need that.

Installing new software couldn’t come easier. The Android Market is the name for centralized Android software. Tap a program, “OK” the license, and it’s installed on your phone in a couple of seconds. If you have big downloads, you can get it done faster in a fast WiFi (instead of your phone’s data connection, 3G or 4G). 45000 free apps, plus another 40000+ for an average price of 4 eur (cheaper in USA).

Now, looking at the impact that software installation has, it is significant. When I used Nokia’s symbian platform, I was tearing my pants with every installation. Just today I witnessed the pain of a Symbian 5th gen. user; software installation tends to boil down to mindless, tens or hundreds of pages FAQ reading per application. And it's not really about the meat - it's about all the auxiliary stuff, which should in fact be totally hidden from end users. Ie. people are not interested in technicalities, they want action.

When I did installations of applications on Symbian, it was sometimes as much as 15 dialogues worth of waiting, accepting… Really unnecessary stuff. Android has done a great work in this. If Nokia is to get on with competition, one of the most acute improvement sites is all its end-user issues, from ease of installation to web presence. Google’s got a big edge here.

I haven’t had so much time doing tests with software, but do try Ninja Kaka. And ‘Tap Tap 4′ is fun There’s plenty of nerdy utilities available, one of my favorites being SunDroid free. HAMsters can find ‘HamSatDroid’ also interesting.

The Android 2.2 OS is very stable operating system. I got it hanging only once during 2 weeks, and that was partially thanks to a half-baked WLAN offered by a burger joint near me. This wifi had only IP to offer, but no valid gateway. So, Android’s IP stack didn’t find this very much of fun, and I had to zap with ‘droid. That is, a ON/OFF reboot. Normally, you can find handy information about the allocated space for software, as well as how many kilobytes it’s taking in current running session. This turns into valuable information if you happen to be close to running out of space.