Android Frustrations

When I moved from my iPhone 3G to a Droid X, I expected some rough edges. It didn't take a discerning eye to figure out that Android 2.x was less polished than iOS. To a certain extent I embraced it. I tried custom launchers and eventually custom ROMs and every configuration seemed slightly less than stable, always requiring just a little too much effort and was filled with too many inconveniences. That was the price for living on the edge, the price for customizing a phone exactly how I wanted it. I lived with it, and the expectation of additional hassle was one I had accepted. I enjoyed my Droid. It was quirky, but that gave it character.

Along came Android 4 and the Galaxy Nexus and something changed. I thought Android had finally matured. I thought that ICS, with it's attractive holo theme and new Roboto font, Android had turned over a new leaf. It had finally caught up to iOS, or at least had gotten close enough not to matter. I was sold on the idea that Android had grown up, and as long as I kept those nasty skins away, everything would be great. For a while, it mostly was. Certainly there were some bumps along the way, but compared to my old Droid X the Nexus was the pinnacle of stability and speed.

Android 4.1 seemed to cement that belief, with it's buttery smooth operation and forward looking features. This was now supposed to be an OS that was as smooth as iOS, but more powerful, more forward looking. I kept my Nexus pure, running only official ROMs and staving off every geek instinct in me to tinker with it. I ventured over to XDA and checked out Cyanogen mod every once in a while, but I'd inoculate myself by reading through some help threads, vicariously experiencing other's frustrations with their modded devices.

My phone's purity has ultimately not saved it. As more time passes and more bug fixes are released, my phone isn't getting more stable. Quite the opposite. I now seem to encounter regular issues that are precisely of the kind that I expected to escape by using an untouched Nexus phone. My battery status gets 'stuck', reporting an erroneous level for hours before I notice it, and is only unstuck by a reboot. My phone likes to turn itself off and randomly reboot. Sometimes when I try to wake my phone, it decides to power off or reboot instead. When I do reboot, it doesn't always actually turn back on, often hanging with the word "Google" frozen on its' screen, screaming the name I should be cursing. Battery life is erratic even with minimal usage, sometimes lasting a healthy 12 hours, others lasting an unacceptable 4 (BetterBatteryStats has yet to reveal a consistent culprit). The headphone jack and the USB port occasionally have a few days where they decide not to work, and right before I go to trade it in, they start working again. The Samsung made extended battery cover never seems to fit perfectly, making my phone creak like an old door and leaving it prone to ejecting the battery with the slightest provocation.

These frustrations mount in between periods of perfect performance. Yesterday my phone was as erratic as my X was, and today it is working perfectly. When it does work, I really enjoy it. I've spent time with iOS 6 on an iPhone 5 and I really do prefer Android 4.1 in terms of general usability. I prefer having a back button, I love Google Now, and I like the multitasking better. I like widgets and gmail and Google maps. I like integrated Google voice and Google Music. I just prefer android as a platform, yet as I type this I have a chrome window open investigating my options to get a hold of an iPhone or a Windows 8 device.

I spent about a week recently using an iPhone 5 as my primary device. The experience wasn't exactly a revelation; I have an iPad 3 and use iOS pretty much every day, but it was hassle free. I got all my services up and running in no time flat and that was it. Apple Maps isn't nearly as good as Google's, but even that doesn't induce quite the same kind of frustration that my Galaxy Nexus has. My phone does a lot for me and my biggest concern is that it works when I need it. Right now I'm likely to end up carrying two devices. I'll make an iPhone 5 my primary phone, and I'll get a Nexus 4 as well. This seems like a stupid solution in many ways, but until I can get a Google phone that is as frustration free as an iPhone, or an iPhone that doesn't compromise my investment in a Google ecosystem, it might be the only way to make me happy.