Monday, May 14, 2012

How Did the Upgrade to my Samsung Galaxy Nexus Work?

After about 18 months of service, I have found that my mobile needs have outgrown my Motorola XT701. You can read earlier blog entries about my XT701 here. The old smart phone would take longer and longer to respond to touches, programs seemed to be spending time swapping, I had to remove some apps to free up storage space and there is no upgrade path from Android "Eclair" for the phone. So, though the lifespan of the XT701 seemed short, it seemed like time for a new phone.

Our communications needs at Ashdar Partners are minimal, we rely on Verizon FIOS for the heavy stuff. I buy off-contract phones because I've got a decent ATT plan with a grandfathered price and ATT coverage generally works for us. It is less expensive to buy a phone outright than it is to get a subsidized phone on a contract and see a subsequent increase in the monthly bill.

After some research, I settled on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The runner up was a Samsung Galaxy S II. The Galaxy Nexus seems a little more modern than the Galaxy S II. It was easier to buy a Galaxy Nexus directly from Google than find a seller on eBay. I was interested in the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. These are smart phones were just announced and have limited availability so far. I think that the are too expensive to purchase off-contract. I can get most of the value of a GSIII or a 1X by spending (roughly) half as much. I also considered a Samsung Captivate Glide, but I think that I've gotten used to the idea of having only virtual keyboards on a smart phone.

I don't think that ordering a Galaxy Nexus through Google's site could have been easier. The phone arrived as expected on Friday, but I had to let it sit until Saturday when I had more time to tinker with it. Here are the issues that I ran into while setting up my new phone:
  • Only paid-for apps are automatically downloaded and installed when you configure a new phone. I did not realize that free apps will not be automatically downloaded and reinstalled. I've seen comments from people about waiting while their old apps downloaded to their new phones and I never thought that free apps would be different than pay apps, in this respect. So, I spent an hour or so manually downloading apps and re-entering login information. This was made easier by using the list of installed apps that Google provides. I also found that the voice-recognition works pretty well and allowed me to search for apps more quickly. This "install-fest" was an opportunity to re-install a few things that I had to remove from the old phone due to storage limitations and leave off a few apps that I don't really use, so it wasn't all bad.
  • I ran into a data migration issue with aCar. The problem was compounded by chance. I had researched how to move aCar data files from an old device to a new device just a two weeks ago. However, the program was updated in the interim and the old method no longer applies and has been removed from the aCar FAQ. On-demand import/export/backup is limited to the paid version of the program. I do use aCar some and, though I'm not 100% in love with the app, I have a few records in there that are business-related and therefore tax-deductible. So, I just went ahead and bought it. (It's worth saying that aCar is much faster on my new phone and I expect to be using it more often in the future.) With my limited usage of the program, I'm not sure how long it will take for the $6 investment to pay off. After several years of smartphone ownership, this is my first purchase. I didn't realize how easy it is to buy apps. It is almost too easy to buy an app.
  • I didnt' have an account for Key Ring, which is an app that keeps track of customer loyalty cards. I guess that I never created one. The data was somewhere on my old SD card and I could have probably found it if I had looked for it. I only have six or so of these cards and it was just as easy to re-scan the cards as it was to dig up the data files. I also created an account for Key Ring.Since Android 4.0 has data usage auditing built in, I no longer need 3G Watchdog. I exported my old data and stashed it with my SugarSynced files in case that I want to see those numbers in the future.
  • I am disappointed with the "MTP" support. I'm used to just copying files onto and off of my phones via USB or by swapping the SD card into my laptop. I didn't realize how limiting MTP is and there is no SD card in a Galaxy Nexus. At first, I wasn't sure how to copy files like my aCar backup or some custom alert noises I like to use to my new phone. My first thought was SugarSync, but seemed like it would involve a lot of copying and then moving files around, meaning that it would be time-consuming. I did a little bit of research first, and I found a reference to AirDroid on Android Central. AirDroid is impressive. Install it. I don't think that you will be disappointed.
  • OneNote has disappointed me again. More on that it another post.

So far, the new phone is better than my old phone in nearly every way. The screen is bigger, has more resolution and generally looks better (pentile or not) than the old phone. Android 4.0, AKA "Ice Cream Sandwich", is much better thought out than the version on my old phone, "Eclair". Naturally, everything is faster.

The largest gripes that people seem to have with the Galaxy Nexus are the screen and the camera. It might be true that there are phones out there with better screens and cameras, but both are better on my Galaxy Nexus than my old XT701.

I don't see a problem with the screen. It is easier to read text on the new phone than the old phone, and YouTube clips seem fine.

The camera support was almost non-existent on my old XT701 and the camera on my prior phone, a Nokia E71, was buggy. The few test shots and video clips that I've taken with the Galaxy Nexus look pretty good, and I hope to expand my use of the camera in the future. The cats aren't going to take pictures of themselves...

The only negative about the smart phone is that it is bigger. It doesn't fit into the back pocket of my jeans as easily as my old one. With a bigger screen, it can't be helped and it seems that everyone wants larger and larger screens these days.
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