Avid readers (hah) will recall that a while back I jumped ship from iOS to Android when I upgraded my phone. My long-in-the-tooth (relatively speaking, anyway) iPhone 4S was replaced by an HTC One M8, a phone which had received some positive reviews from people I knew and trusted, so I decided to take a chance and give it a shot. It was a good time to do so, since I’d been becoming increasingly disillusioned with many of the apps available on smartphones generally, and as such I wasn’t feeling particularly “invested” in the iOS ecosystem — in other words, there weren’t very many apps that I felt particularly attached to.
So, a little down the line, how am I finding it now the inevitable “honeymoon period” is over?
Well, I’m still really liking it, and the one peeve I had with it — the fact it seemed somewhat prone to random restarts and reboots while I was in the middle of doing things — appears to have worked itself out, and hasn’t happened for a long time now. (Watch it start doing it again now I’ve written this.)
As I noted in my earlier posts, I’m not a hugely adventurous smartphone user these days. There are relatively few things I actually want to do with my phone, but most of them are beyond what a simple feature phone offers — or, in the case of facilities that feature phones do offer, smartphones inevitably do them all somewhat better.
Here’s the limit of what I use my phone for: Email. Texting. Phone calls (only when there is no other option). Calendar. Music and podcasts. Google Hangouts. Twitter. Web browsing. Very occasionally Facebook and Google+, though I don’t use either network very much any more. And, if there is nothing else to do during an extended visit to the toilet, playing a simple, toilet-friendly game like Threes.
That’s about it. There’s probably more I could do with it but I don’t really feel the need to right now, since the stock apps and the few additional ones I’ve installed cover most of the things that I want to do with it on a daily basis. I can communicate with it, I can browse the Web with it, I can take snapshots with the camera if necessary and I can read information on a screen that’s noticeably bigger than that offered by Apple’s iOS devices.
I’ve been particularly impressed by Google Play Music, which provides a number of helpful services, chief among which is something similar to Apple’s iTunes Match service, only it actually, you know, works. For those unfamiliar, iTunes Match (and Google Play Music) is a facility whereby you can upload tracks from your personal music library or “match” existing songs with iTunes/Google’s online libraries, then stream or download them to any compatible device. In effect, this allows you to take your entire music library with you wherever you go, rather than being limited by the storage space available on your phone — though the streaming side of things is, of course, dependent on you having a good wireless Internet connection either via the mobile phone networks or Wi-Fi.
Where Google Play Music differs from iTunes Match is that it’s a lot clearer in presenting its information. With iTunes Match, it was almost impossible to tell which songs you had downloaded to your phone — and consequently available when no Internet connection was around — and which would require streaming. Attempting to download songs often resulted in failure for no apparent reason — and with Apple’s phobia of error messages, there was no way of discovering what was causing the problem. Google Play Music, meanwhile, while having a somewhat clunky interface in a few places — it’d be great to have just a plain list of albums, playlists, songs and that sort of thing rather than the overly graphical, space-wasting interface it has — but at least presents this sort of information clearly. It’s obvious when you’ve downloaded something or if you’d be streaming it when you clicked Play, and, importantly, it’s easy to remove things from your phone once you’ve downloaded them — something which iTunes Match made seemingly impossible to do manually for some inexplicable reason.
So that’s been great, and the other apps I’ve been using regularly all seem to work pretty well, too. All in all I’m sure I’m using this phone to a fraction of its full potential, but it’s doing everything I want it to and it’s doing it well, with my only real criticism of the device as a whole being that the volume control buttons are in a stupid place and are much too easy to press accidentally while simply holding it normally.