If every you venture onto tech forums, you can’t help but notice that there seems to be an ongoing, and never ending, Apple v Android v The Rest flame war that rages between fanboys, and fangirls, of the competing eco systems. I wouldn’t describe myself as a fanboy. I like Apple products. But I wouldn’t buy one at the moment. They are, whatever else anyone might say, over priced. And they aren’t ‘better’. The volume advantage in the Apple appstore doesn’t count for tuppence. I couldn’t possibly use 1,000 apps, let alone 100,000 or a million. The Apple appstore does have two advantages that do count however.
The first is that new apps do tend to hit the Apple marketplace quicker. Flickr’s new app still isn’t out on Android yet, and neither is the BBC’s iPlayer app with download abilities. Why not? Well the reason kinda leads me into the second advantage. Whilst Android is fragmented across a huge number of different hardware devices, meaning some apps need tweaking for different handsets, the Apple eco system feeds just a single piece of hardware. Ok, there’s the iPhone and iPod Touch. But they are for all intent identical.
That also means that when there is an OS update, Android users often have to wait for their handset manufacturers and carriers to develop and deploy it. The case in point. My beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. There have been devices rocking Android’s latest incarnation, Jelly Bean, since last July. I’ve had to sit and wait for nigh on eight months for it to finally release for the Galaxy S2 in the UK. But last weekend, after months of rumours and delays, I got a Google sized dose of Jelly Bean.
Was it worth the wait? It was certainly a bit of a wait for the download to finish. More than 300 mbs, which seems to have impacted somewhat on the phones available storage. But it’s not a problem. I have a 32gb SD card installed to supplement my storage needs. The installation went through fine though. Restart. And? Looked pretty much the same, truth be told. But now with Google Now, the much vaunted new product that keeps you up to date with all things local.
I tried to install the widget, but was left with a greyed out bar suggesting that I ‘get Google Now’. I thought I had got Google Now. It turns out you need to set it up first, and to do that, you need to find a slightly obscure and bland blue Google app. You can see it in the left hand image, on the right hand side beneath the weather app. What do I get from Google Now? So far, I’m sorry to say, not a lot. A weather app. And when I’m out a map showing me how to get home. It’s early days though. I suspect it will burst to life when I hit London in a couple of weekend, and I have more than just a few trees and fields in my local area. Let’s hope so.
I mentioned that the OS looks pretty much the same. It does. But it is a little tidier. A little easier on the eye in places. Pull down the Notification bar, and there’s a row of settings along the top. As there used to be. But swipe, and you get a few more. The My Files folder is the biggest improvement, making navigation a little easier, especially if you’re just trying to get to the external SD card. And the Display Brightness setting is suddenly ever so prominent. That turns out to be important.
One thing I noticed missing on reboot was the Task Manager. I have, or had, an icon on the front of my phone, for killing apps and preserving battery life. It turns out that you now have to hold down the Home button. As before, it brings up a list of open apps, but it now has a bar along the bottom. The left hand icon opens up the Task Manager. The middle icon opens up Google Now – they’re clearly pushing that as ‘the way forward’. And the last icon just closes all open apps.
There is a downside to the Jelly Bean update for the Galaxy S2. A downside that makes ease of access to the Display Brightness and Task Manager important. Battery life. Or lack of it. I noticed shockingly rapid battery drain straight away, and a search of the internet tells me I’m not the only one. Far from it. I pity anyone on the standard 1800mh battery – even my extended 2000mh battery fails to get through a day of even light-ish use. Not even close to a day, in fact. With moderate use, my battery is pretty much done shortly after lunch.
Setting default apps is easy, as you’d expect. But the reminder screen (middle image above) is slightly annoying. I get it. I know how to reset default settings. Stop flashing up every darned time. One welcome update though is to Samsung’s Swype keyboard. This alone makes it worth trading in an iPhone for a Sammy. No tapping, just swyping. It works incredibly well. I wouldn’t go back to tapping. No sir. That’s so 1980′s. One issue I’ve always had , though, is when I’ve reset the phone and wiped the dictionary. If you swype in something it doesn’t recognise, it’ll guess, and often guess badly.
This affects me more than most. I tend to send several emails signed Gay rather than Gary before I remember. And if I go for my whole name? Well that’s just gayness all the way. My many gay friends will know I have nothing against gays, nor gayness, for that matter. But I’m sure you can see how it’s a bit irritating! But with the Jelly Bean update comes a new Swype feature that saves your dictionary using your Google account. Brilliant!
My Jelly Bean verdict? Very much evolutionary rather than revolutionary. As most up dates are. But some of the new features are very welcome. Google Now has potential, even if I’m yet to see the fruits of Googles labour. But the battery drain is a serious issue. I do hope there’s a new update to resolve that soon.