10 Days With Android

A week ago last Saturday I walked into a T-Mobile store in Orange, CA and walked out with my first Android phone, a Samsung Behold II. I had been thinking about making the move from my aging, but still quite usable, T-Mobile Dash for a while and it was a blog post about a trade-in offer for the Behold II that got me in the door. But after just a few days with the Behold II, I was ready to go back the the Dash or exchange for another Android phone. Why? No upgrade path and something called TouchWiz.

I spent some time with both the Samsung Behold II, the Motorola CLIQ and CLIQ XT before I made my choice. All these phones run Android 1.5 and sport the same processor as the venerable G1 but can be had for $100 or less on contract. When I picked up the Behold II it was $150 but the $75 smartphone trade-in made this what I thought was a pretty good deal. The phone felt good in the hand and the OLED screen was bright and very readable. For some reason, however, Samsung has skinned this phone with the same user interface as their feature phones. This TouchWiz interface is supposed to make things easier but for me it only made things more frustrating (and reminded me of the layers you sometimes have to dig with Windows Mobile 6.x). But the thing that had me returning the phone on day five was a show-stopper: no OS update.

I’m not sure if Samsung has made a definitive statement but it looks like the Behold II will be stuck on Android 1.5 for the duration which was enough for me. There were other issues besides TouchWiz. Battery life was terrible. The GPS only locked onto satellites outside and never in a building. The amount of available space for apps didn’t seem enough for what I wanted to install. So last week I returned that phone and exchanged it for a Motorola CLIQ XT.

The main selling point of the CLIQ XT, other than price at just $99 on contract, is the optimization of hardware and software. And it doesn’t stop with stock Android or their MOTOBLUR home screens. Unlike the Behold II with a pretty lame keyboard addition and little else, the CLIQ XT has some pretty compelling software included. QuickOffice is a welcome addition and saved me $10 but they have also included everything a social media connected person needs. Their social media client, Happenings, connects you with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more right from the home screen. And MOTOBLUR live updates all these services without going into any app. But the Swype keyboard is the most compelling addition here making this phone usable for more than just short text entry.

But all this has a downside as the battery life, without quite a bit of tweaking, is pretty bad. So I’ve turned nearly all of MOTOBLUR off to save battery, along with 3G, wifi and GPS when I’m in the house. Right now I get about 10 hours of runtime; I think I might be able to get something close to 20 hours with more optimization.

Android itself is very usable but still not nearly as polished as the iPhone OS. Yes, this is only Android 1.5 so I’m hoping many of these issues will be taken care of in the forthcoming 2.1 update. But the bottom line for me is that Android is a lot better than Windows Mobile 6.x so I’m glad I made the move. More to come after further use.

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