Trinest Talks: Android and the Galaxy

Posted on September 23, 2017 in Talks

In my small tightknit group everyone had a Windows Phone, it was perfect and probably the most Windows Phones per capita. However, it worked so well because everyone could see the benefits of the phone and didn’t need every single application. The primary focus of a phone, SMS and camera was what pushed these sales with applications a second thought. It was a different time and one which if an app for Facebook or a banking application existed it was all that was needed.

As years went on through the Windows Phone 7, 8 and 10 era however the group dropped off to iPhone or Android. It wasn’t that the hardware was better, as Windows Phone devices were top quality, it was something else- applications which slowly became more involved in people’s lives on the phone which swayed people to the competition. Microsoft dropped the ball so many times they couldn’t restore faith in the ecosystem to both developers and consumers. A major shame, which after buying a Lumia 950 all those years ago as my last Windows Phone I had to conclude when its battery and other issues started becoming present that I needed to look to the competition for a phone which would work.

Like buying a car there is a never a good time to buy, there is always a better model around the corner and sales change almost daily when it comes to looking to purchase a phone. I haven’t purchased a sim plan with a phone for a long time due to the increasing prices and long contract times, instead opting to purchase outright devices. So, with that in mind the first thing which crossed my mind was “fuck phones are expensive” when looking at Android and iPhone to pick a device I wanted. I purchased my phone a few months back now, and then the competition for what I wanted was quite different to what it is now. The biggest thing I didn’t want to lose was wireless charging, a staple in the Windows Phone era limited my choices in phones, I also wanted a high mid-range to flagship device as well.

So, with that in mind after looking at a variety of phones I looked deeper into Android devices before deciding on the phone I purchased, the Samsung Galaxy S8+. Outside of the fact it devoured my savings, I had reservations about purchasing a Samsung phone because of the whole Samsung Note battery issue saga. So much so I looked at many obscure brands trying to find something which would meet my needs, but at the end of the day I was impatient and wanted something I could go to the store and pickup that day, and Samsung was the only company that provided that.

I was lucky enough to pick a blue device which was bundled with the launch promotion of the charging pad attached. Softening the blow of the price a little to the point I purchased the device and then rushed to work only to open it up at my desk to marvel at the screen. It truly is hardware wise what I would expect from a 2017 phone.

However, hardware is redundant when it comes down to experiences with the biggest change I was to face, moving from Windows Phone to Android for the first time. Something which I found like Kodi the out of the box experience of an Android device especially a Samsung is one which needs heavy customization to get useable.

If you name a launcher, I probably tried it. In the end I settled on the Evie launcher. One which I found simplified the home screen and icon list to an acceptable level. However, I was not done with customization and in the end found an icon pack which turned on the icons white. Normally I don’t like heavy theming software however in this instance I felt it necessary.

The problem arises when I encounter the most anti-consumer functionality of any Samsung device which is riddled through the software in the newest line up. This ‘feature’ is called Bixby. This smart assistant is so dumb it doesn’t realise how annoying it is. Hardware button? Check. Software integration so deep it burns? Check. It wouldn’t be as bad if software wise you could turn it off, or map the button to something else. However, to do this it requires a third-party application which the tricks developers use to close it often is stopped by Samsung forcing them to create a new method. It just makes no sense why this can’t be switched with Google Now or turned off and map the hardware button to a camera or something.

Looking back to my last paragraph as I have been sitting on this article for some time, some people might be confused as Samsung has ruined my rant. However, I still can rant about how useless the button is now. For those not in the know- Samsung finally allowed the button to the disabled from inside Bixby itself. Which means the traditional ways third parties I mentioned before no longer work (though the app I use has a registry hack for a while now, but I’m not going to do that). So now I have a button which doesn’t open Bixby (which is good because the app loading with the combination of disabling it on the other application has decreased the times it randomly loads- my next point on the hyper sensitivity of the devices screen).

Which is a fair and balanced opinion because I admit that most likely deeply buried in the confusing maze of the Android system settings is most likely an option to make it less sensitive. However, the only thing I find when searching is one for the home button itself. Something which I have never had a problem, especially ironic considering it is part of the screen?

In places I allow my phone to be unlocked such as home or the office, I found myself pulling my phone out of my pocket and seeing it opening random things especially what lies on my home screen. Which is quite minimal, and yet it still finds a way.

Though the most annoying times have been when I am out and about only to find sometimes before I disabled it from the lock screen (still on the number pad but issues fair less now) it randomly calling emergency services. Otherwise the camera would load so I would have to disable its button on the lock screen as well.

At the end of the day, even if these issues can be fixed, it is along the lines of why I hate Kodi. A product shouldn’t need extensive out of the box setup until you are happy with it. Though I admit I haven’t used Kodi in quite some time because of this, so once again- might just be blowing steam.

In the end though a positive that I am getting used to lots of the nuances Android does. However, despite that the material design Google uses isn’t as fleshed out as Windows Phones Metro (or whatever its called this week) design was called.

I’ve been using Microsoft products for a long time now, and other products I’ve been exposed to because of the nature of my job. However, I have always found Microsoft makes the best products, however their line up is always riddled with self-sabotage. When the Zune came out it was an amazing dedicated music player. I even somewhere have a Zune HD lying around. Xbox was also a great gaming brand and hardware wise the console has been top notch in the Xbox One era, but the generic western focused games have destroyed the brand when compared with the competition which has games for everyone reaching more genres. The Surface range itself isn’t as focused or cheap as it should be causing limited sales on the more desirable products in the range.

Which is a shame, however if the Surface Phone ever exists I will switch back. It might be a pipe dream lost from the Windows Phone 10 era, or one which die hard Windows Phone enthusiasts grasp to as a last hope. But it is something I still believe in.