Nexus Beans – a week with the Galaxy Nexus and Jelly Bean

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My first thoughts on the Galaxy Nexus, within a day of its use was captured as a google+ post. I will include the whole text at the end of this post.

This post is written on Day 6. I stopped using my iPhone 4S for the past 6 days, completely transferring over to Galaxy Nexus as my only mobile device. I used it in Seattle, and also during my recent travel to SFO.

## The Good
As I mentioned earlier, Jelly Bean has brought the Android platform to a fantastic place in terms of responsiveness and fluidity. Wrt Google apps like GMail, Maps etc. and the android stock apps of Email, Calendar etc, there is a sense of speed. Furthermore, with no skeumorphism to handle, it felt like a modern, super responsive, smartphone.

### The share menu
This is the secret power in Android 4.1! I cannot believe that more people are not amazed by this. This is an extremely well implemented concept of “services” in the OS X parlance.

You can send a picture to any of the applications registered to handle pictures using it. You can send any piece of text from anywhere to your note taking application. You can send URL from anywhere to Instapaper for future reading.

I hear Microsoft has implemented this concept in the form of “contracts” and I am eager to see how applications will make use of it.

To me, this is the most frustrating piece of interaction in iOS. I want to be able to share information from anywhere to anywhere and not have to context switch to a particular app and then figure out ways to import data into the context.

### Chrome
Enough said. Fast, clean and just awesome!

### Default apps
You can set default apps for actions. You can set Chrome as the default browser. You can set Google Voice as your default dialer. You can set Whatsapp as your default texting handler. This is very powerful. This, at least in theory, and mostly in practice, makes the phone extremely personalized to what you want to do and you are not worried about maintaining multiple apps.

### Google search integration
Blew me away. Siri is fantastic. However, Siri is mostly a demo thing for me. In fact, I demo it to my friends to talk about how Siri and I have still not understood each other well. Siri gets my query right about 50% of the time and let’s just say, I have really gotten to know the spinning purple wheel. It looks fantastic, but it’s not found much use in my real life.

Google’s search is
1. Fast: I was blown away at the speed at which queries were processed (both typed and voice) and the results were shown. In fact, I’d say for anyone who actually uses voice search a lot, don’t even bother with Siri. You’d save tons more time and get much more accurate results with Google’s voice implementation.
2. Pro choice: Don’t want to talk to your phone in public? – Type it in. Google’s search improvements work whether you type the query in or talk to it. As a result, you still get the device optimized query results.
3. Interesting: Google Now is fascinating. It was very useful as I moved around the city in SFO and had meetings all over the place. It picked up that I was taking taxis to move around and would notify me of the right time to start out to arrive on time, had the weather for the current place always, kept me notified of interesting places around my hotel that I should check out and some of them were good. I can see multiple places where this could totally enhance the experience. One word of advice – Google needs to play well here with other context and location relevant services and this would totally rock the world for Android users.

### The keyboard
For people who know me, this would come as a total surprise. Until Jelly Bean (including ICS), I always dinged Android on its software keyboard implementation. It was years behind the iOS counterpart wrt sensitivity. I constantly mistyped in Android vs. iOS. In fact, before Jelly Bean, I considered Microsoft to have implemented the ultimate software keyboard in Windows Phone 7.5.

In ICS, Swiftkey was a great replacement keyboard. Yet, it never felt organically smooth.

The Jelly Bean keyboard is by far the best implementation of any mobile software keyboard. It completely blows iOS away in its implementation. Provides meaningful settings for power users (who still wants keys popping up with typing?) and is phenomenally accurate. Typing on the Galaxy Nexus was a fun as typing on the original iPhone. Fantastic job Google! Kudos!

### App parity
Between Amazon Android App store and Google Play, I pretty much got all the apps that I needed, either free or at a really great deal and they worked decently well. There were a few apps that crashed in Jelly Bean. However, even through the week, they would be updated to supported 4.1 and the crashes stopped.

## The Ugly
Here are some of my personal reasons as to why I decided to return the Galaxy Nexus.

### Battery life
The biggest ding. I was constantly charging it wherever I can, whenever I can. Maybe, I just use the mobile phone a lot more than typical Android users or they are able to keep it charged more often, I was reaching out for my charging cable at least twice a day or risk running out of battery.

You maybe asking – did you disable location services within apps, and other such battery saving tips? I tried them all. In vain.

In fact, I would NOT be returning the phone, if it at least met my 4S battery life. I’d venture to say that even at the cost of thickness of the phone, I wish Samsung and Google had decided to put a better battery for the Galaxy Nexus. =|

### Location
I am not sure what the cause was, but most of the times, Galaxy Nexus was trying to get a fix on my current location and failed miserably to get a GPS signal. Because I had WiFi on, it helped to locate my surroundings and that was good enough for Yelp, foursquare et al. However, when it came to Navigation, it sucked.

Compare this to an iPhone 4/4S where within seconds I get a pinpoint on my location. Apple’s doing something really right here. Good job!

### Maps
Was a bit wonky. Could be partly because of a poor location fix. However, upon using it for walking directions within the city, it was a case of frustration. Android needs to fix this for normal people. Unlike me, they wouldn’t care to check why it does not work. They would get frustrated and leave poor reviews.

### iMessage or lack of it.
This was my personal big realization. SMS works and it’s ok. Messages with iMessage integration is truly awesome. I had to switch to whatsapp and Facebook messenger to get the delivery notifications.

### My favorite apps
A few of my most used favorite apps were poorly done in Android. For example, Path – I love the fluidity of the UI of Path in iOS. I am guessing this is an update issue and hopefully should be fixed soon. But, boy, when that fly out animation sucked when I tapped the “+” button, a little part of me was sorely disappointed.

## Conclusion
More battery life, and a little more app love from developers and I can completely switch to a nexus device. However, for now, I will be returning the Galaxy Nexus back to Google. It’s not that I cannot get used to the phone. However, I don’t want to spend money on a device and then change my expectations for the device.

That said, I really felt like I owned a smartphone with the Galaxy Nexus. It took me back to the days where Gautam and I would spend hours talking about how to get the PC to ooze out the best performance by tweaking this and twiddling that. And I enjoyed that experience of it.

In a way, it is disheartening. I will be moving back to my iPhone 4S. It feels tiny compared to the Galaxy Nexus and I will miss the screen size. However, I’ve been on the phone the whole day, using it for multiple things and the battery has still not given out.

I will be on the lookout for a better nexus device from Google.

July 8 – Day 1: Thoughts on Galaxy Nexus and Jelly Bean

After some waiting, Google delivered the first Android phone that I have ever bought yesterday. The Galaxy Nexus came pre-installed with ICS 4.0.4. However, there was an OTA waiting to change the really garish experience of a janky Android to a buttery smooth snacky update.

A couple thoughts over Day 1 of usage –

Jelly Bean is smooth. I mean, really smooth. Like iOS smooth, smooth. I thought 3rd party apps would also benefit from Project Butter, and they do. However, major custom UI apps like Path etc. still have some laggy animations.

The Android keyboard has come a long way. In fact, I’d venture to say that the current keyboard is better than the iPhone keyboard and might just be slightly better than the Windows phone keyboard.

Just with these two improvements, Android is in a tight race with iOS devices, from a pure software perspective.

Build Quality: Galaxy Nexus feels cheap compared to the iPhone 4S.

The screen: (please insert appropriate #twss whenever I talk about inches and sizes).
I have a love/hate relationship with the bigger screen. The experience is certainly better. But, it makes the phone way bigger in size. This is despite a near tiny bezel around the edges. That said, I get why people like bigger screen sizes.

Battery: Holy crap! iPhone blows the Galaxy Nexus away wrt battery life. I thought OLED devices have a much less battery drain. It could also be because of the puny battery that Samsung provides. I don’t care to swap out batteries. I want longer battery life. This is going to be the bane of android users. =|

Final words (for this post): I am using the Galaxy Nexus as my only phone device over the next 13 days, when I will make a call to keep it / return it. The hope is to capture as much of the usage and pattern as possible to make a rational decision.

=)

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3 thoughts on “Nexus Beans – a week with the Galaxy Nexus and Jelly Bean

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