Last Tuesday my Palm Pre smartphone experienced a hardware failure; that is, it literally fell apart. The timing could hardly be worse as I was expecting an urgent phone call. As I raced to the Sprint store to get a new phone, I remembered every smartphone advert I have seen in the last year and weighed whether to take advantage of my upgrade eligibility, or take a loaner until a replacement Pre could be ordered. I uncertainly decided it was time to experience the "new hotness" that is Android and let go of the "old and busted" that is my heavily abused, and newly bifurcated, old Palm handset.
I decided to go with the HTC EVO Shift 4G.
As I got back to my desk with a shiny new phone, I set about making it mine. First things first, I connected it to my Google account and patiently waited as it dutifully synced my contacts and email. Seeing the new mail icon in the notifications area was enough to teach me where the notifications area is, and I trailed through it to view my email. Later, I tried to return to my email, but since it was now read, it was now not a notification. The only reasonable thing to do here was open the Mail app, right? Wrong. All I got was the option to add a mail account. After some frustration with not being able to get to the email I had already viewed on this device I found the Gmail app. Apparently HTC mail is not the same app as Gmail, and more to the point, HTC thinks that users of a Google phone, who must have a Google account to use many of its features (like the marketplace) are unlikely to want to actually check their Gmail. After some experimentation I figured out how to move the two application icons to better suit my preference, rendering this just a minor user experience fail on HTC's part.
On my way to work the next day, I attempted to re-enact my typical routine of listening to streaming media. This is usually something like TWiT, which is basically talk radio for tech-geeks. This just refused to work, though. I managed, at best, to hear about ten seconds of sound before it would cut out again. Frustrated, I drove to work in silence and thought "maybe it's just the data connection, I'll try it on the wifi". I have yet to get this to work. My Pre did this out-of-the-box; my droid doesn't.
I have voice dialing!!! Finally something to make up for my early frustration! I was excited to finally have this enviable feature that my Pre still lacked nearly two years later; until I used it. Apparently the voice recognition on my HTC EVO Shift cannot discern between "Martinez", "Schneider", "Bettis", "Little", "Stephens", or "Voss"; no matter how clearly I try to enunciate. Having a voice dialer that does not work is worse than not having one at all. At least the Pre didn't pretend to have voice dialing.
I'm playing Doodle Jump and all is well. I get a message and switch out to read it. How do I switch back? I reopen and see my option to resume. All is well. Was it backgrounded, or did it save my place?
I'm playing Angry Birds and all is well. I get a message and switch out to read it. How do I switch back? I reopen and wait (and wait) for Angry Birds to load. I guess it wasn't backgrounded. How could I know?
I guess Android doesn't do genuine (user experienceable) multitasking?
I install Winamp in an attempt to resolve my streaming media frustration. I manage to listen to a shoutcast station, but my (TWiT) tech-geek fix isn't shoutcast, and Winamp doesn't play m3u files. That's fine, I'm sure there's another app for that. I hit the home button to go check the marketplace and notice Winamp is still running (still playing and present in the notifications area). That's good, I guess Android multi-tasks afterall... on some things? How can I check what is still running, and what is gone? From the home screen:
All Apps > Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > Running.
My Pre made it clear which apps were running, which were gone, and how to make apps go away. Unless drilling down five menus deep is "clear", my droid doesn't.
On Tuesday I connected to facebook to sync my contacts. Today I decided to browse my newsfeed, and it asked me to login. Have I just been spoiled by Palm? The Facebook app on my Palm knew who I was because I already told it when I synced my contacts. The facebook app on my droid doesn't.
I can't swipe to delete.
I go to Duke's for lunch. They have a no-phone policy. Even the cops that eat there turn off their radios. I go to set my phone on vibrate. There is no switch. I have to unlock my phone (with password. If you're not using a password on your smartphone, start) to turn off the ringer. HTC, what were you thinking? My Pre had a switch, my HTC EVO Shift android doesn't.
I've managed to fix my Pre, and it powers up! It's off the Sprint network, but it's on my wifi, it checks my email for me, lets me know I have a gChat message, and plays my streaming media. When I left the house, I brought my mobile hotspot and my "old and busted" Pre so I could listen to some tech banter. It worked.
Today I went to the Sprint store for a refund and a warranty-replacement Pre. This Palm smartphone is nearly two years old, yet the user experience still maintains a lead in the market. It's just too bad those innovations didn't get the market penetration they deserved. I hope someone will catch up soon.
While I was talking to the staffer working on my replacement, I learned that one of the sales-guys there had left his Pre for an EVO, then switched back. Just like me.
I know there are many people satisfied with their android based phones. All I can speak to is my experience with one HTC android phone; but it was not what I had hoped for. Maybe android has more apps in its marketplace; maybe android has more developers working on its platform and applications. What matters to me, though, is out-of-the-box user experience. WebOS contains innovations in user interfaces that provide me a great user experience, my android doesn't.