The Grass always looks Greener on the Other Side – a look at Android

The grass always looks green on the other side – until you cross to the other side, that is.

I have treated myself to experience devices on a number of mobile platforms, including Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm, Maemo and Android. My background from the word go was Symbian.

All over the world, there is a huge crowd crying out for the newer, shinier mobile operating systems, iOS and Android being the most demanded. However, before you make that switch, here is more food for thought. I am one to always recommend that you think of your unique needs and situations before investing your hard-earned money in anything. It just makes sense.

I have been using the Android-powered Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro for a few months now, and while I love the device and the OS, there are some issues that just keep grating my nerves. This does not make the Mini pro a bad device or Android a useless OS. No; this is just so you know.

The following are weaknesses of Android-powered devices in general that I have faced the more I use the Mini Pro:

  1. Not-so-good to poor battery life, depending on the device
  2. Heavy data consumption
  3. Poor non-Gmail email experience

Note that before arriving at the above conclusions, I had also scoured the internet to see if these were common issues with Android. Generally speaking, I have found them so.

Not-so-good to poor battery life, depending on the device
This is so well documented that I do not need to say much about it here, so I’ll just skip.

Heavy data consumption
Android OS seems to have been designed to connect to the internet for everything. Setting up any Android device requires an internet connection and a Gmail account. Thereafter, it doesn’t get better. Unless you do not need PUSH email and so turn off auto-sync, your droid stays continually connected to your Google mail, contacts and calendars – and guzzles your data while at it.

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Not only that, automatic app updates require that connection as well. Unless you are willing to turn background data off and lose auto mail/contacts/calendars sync and access to the Market, you are going to be burning lots of data.

I used to get by with a 100Mb data plan on my smartphones. There were many months in which I did not exhaust my data allocation. My troubles started with the Maemo-powered N900 and now Android-powered X10 Mini Pro.

With the Mini Pro, for example, I had subscribed to a 150Mb plan from Glo on the 20th of September. By the 5th of october, it was all gone! I re-subscribed on the 6th. Ten days later, it was gone. Then I re-subscribed on the 16th. Today, the 25th, I have been told that I have 29Mb left, along with a renewal/cancellation notice.

That’s N3,000 (450Mb) for on-phone data in about the space of a month! This is not happening, I have been thinking to myself.

Note that I have PC internet both at home and at work, and I am not tethering with my device. This is on-phone usage.

Poor non-Gmail email experience
This may sound unbelievable to those who had thought that email was a strength of android, but I am having email problems that have remained unsolved. Gmail works fine. You see, Gmail, not email in general, is a strength of Android.

I have tried setting up other non-Gmail accounts e.g. my business mail, and failed every single time. I keep getting a server settings error, though all settings I enter are correct. This same email account that won’t work on my Mini Pro works on other platforms and other mail clients.

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The internet is littered with people who have all kinds of email issues with Android. Even on v2.1, email is described as buggy in a number of places.

The Grass always looks Greener on the Other Side - a look at Android 1

Till this minute, all that I have on my X10 Mini Pro is my Google-based email.

If I may mention, the only mobile OSes on which I have had no issues with email are Windows Mobile and Palm. Apart from BlackBerry which I never got to use for long enough to be able to tell, the others that I have used have been found wanting in one way or the other with regards email.

Well, there you are. If battery life and email are really important to you, and you are looking to keep your monthly mobile internet bills as low as can be, perhaps you need to re-think getting on the Android groove. Just saying.

Just don’t forget – very often, the grass looks green on the other side. Till you get there.

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

13 thoughts on “The Grass always looks Greener on the Other Side – a look at Android

  • October 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm
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    androids: power inefficiency. data consumption. gmail.

    for me, i never willingly spend money on anything unless there is no cheaper or free alternative.

    as regards the excessive data consumption on androids, that ALONE is enough reason for me to NOT touch it with a long poLe.

    to now add insult to injury, power does not last. i am then forced to carry about a charger, or an extra battery(for models with userreplaceable batteries batteries)

    the power issue must have something to do with some inefficiency in the power management system, and not because of the _connected nature of androids. i say this because blackberries are like that too, but do not guzzle battery juice so ravenously!

    it would take more than a flashy or intuitive user interface to lure me to such an impractical (in Nigeria) os.

    never really did understand this emai lissue. i use push email apps (emoze/seven), and they work for me _ for all my non proprietary email addresses.

    until bros andy addresses the data and power gluttony, i will stick to my old & trusted Symbian platform!…

  • October 25, 2010 at 7:40 pm
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    This article is just down to earth and states the fact as it is. However I have some comments and questions that I believe is worth considering before one can make one’s judgment.

    First of all, I would like to know if you considered Android on other Android manufacturers’ handset like HTC or Samsung for instance. Perhaps it is the implementation of Android OS by Sony Ericsson that is causing the over-data gluttony of the SE device you so reviewed. Even if this is not the case, what about higher versions of Android like 2.2? Perhaps this problem may have been sorted out then. And another question is if you noticed these shortcomings of the Android on that marvelous Samsung galaxy S phone that I so spied during the Mobility Nigeria Smartphone show (I regret missing it!!)?

    This data problem you noted (if it is congruent to all Android manufacturers) appears to be due to a poor implementation of multi-tasking on the Android OS. Android is still a maturing OS and perhaps these shortcomings may be improved on in the next iterations of the OS!? iOS does not have this problem, because the multi-tasking is controlled by the OS with snippets to how far an app can scavenge for data or background relevance in the multi-tasking scheme! SO it isn’t a case with the iphone.

    I am still eagerly expecting my won Symbian touch screen phone, so I could review it and compare it with the iOS. Symbian is a well matured OS only lacking in a sleek UI, and as such should not have this data gobbling frenzy of the Android OS!

  • October 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm
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    Afewgoodmen,

    I can assure you that data-guzzling is something that cuts across all Android devices, regardless of firmware versions. Just go read reviews and analyses online.

    The only way to curb it is to disable Background Data and/or Auto-sync in settings.

    Symbian certainly does not guzzle data Android-style.

  • October 26, 2010 at 1:22 am
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    I beg to differ on this issue. Android is the in thing all over the world (at least fOr now) and there must be good reasons for that. It is a developing OS, so the best is yet to come. The issue of non gmail email problem, I believe will soon be a thing of the past. We all know android phones are internet hungry. That’s the design and for a good reason. The issue of power/data guzzling is a spill over from its internet dependence and the big screen the phones come with. Who amongst us would not love to get his hands on a device with a 4.2 inch capacitive super amoled screen? My people say he who want the head or legs of the tortoise has to buy the whole tostoise includind the unwanted parts. That’s the same situation. You can’t get good wide screen without some power drain. But an sure this will improve somewhat with time.
    I feel the problem is not with the androids but with our networks. Let them drop data costs to what obtains in developed worlds and let them be consistent, then we wouldn’t be talking about data hungers of androids. Rather, we would be using the phones more because by then, we would not be draining our bank accounts to pay for data usage.

  • October 26, 2010 at 8:15 am
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    To start with all the new OS (iOS,Android,WP7) eat up alot of data for you to actually enjoy them. And you cant blame the devices, they want us to be always connected.

    Apple sure did some homework on battery life but the huge screens and processors in Android has not helped batteries at all and Nokia on the other hand says battery is one of the reasons why they have not made a 1ghz phone.

    On the email experience i still strongly believe that it would have been better if you use Android 2.2.

    In conclusion, if i were to be living in US or Uk, where Data or Power is not a problem i wont bother about this, but for Nigeria, men, Symbian remains my primary device.

  • October 26, 2010 at 9:11 am
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    Each day, I’m happier that I purchased the Sansung Wave with its badaOS rather than the Samsung Galaxy S with its Eclair.

    Still, all these 1GHz & large touchscreens & advanced graphics & excessive data consumption in these new generation of phones were haunting my battery life. For the first week, I was charging the Wave TWICE a day. I had to retrieve my good old Nokia Symbian phone to handle some of mobile tasks.

    I still desire a good Droid, though. And I’m eyeing that new Motorola Droid that Yomi brought to our attention some weeks ago. But tha rate of change of android OS seems too rapid & unstable for me.

  • October 26, 2010 at 9:44 am
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    Yomi, how possible is it to install Java apps on a droid?

    At gsmarena.com, most droids are listed as supporting Java only via 3rd party application. What does this mean?

  • October 26, 2010 at 10:59 am
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    IaM seriously impressed by the short android review coming from an experienced user.Atleast, it was not aimed at stopping anyone from buying android devices but only pointed out its short comings to assist us in making our decision.The choice is now ours to make in the face of the various OSes abound.

  • October 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm
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    What I truly feel is the cause of this Android data scavenging problem is that the OS is still young and maturing. Another thing is that the implementation of multi-tasking is very poorly executed in Android. That is why all application are given a free for all gobbling of data.

    Too much freedom in anything is always bad. That is why I prefer the particular implementation of multi-tasking in iOS!

  • October 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm
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    I doubt that Android’s data guzzling has to do with multi-tasking. Symbian and Windows Mobile, for example, has greater multi-tasking prowress than Android, yet they don’t guzzle data the way Android does.

    I am leaning more on the angle of how permissions are set, among other possibilities. But I seriously don’t consider multi-tasking the problem.

  • October 27, 2010 at 3:15 pm
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    @ YOmi.
    While I still feel that the multi-tasking is poorly implemented is that, if there was no multi-tasking in the first instance, there would be no background downloading or data guzzling! And if the multi-tasking was properly done, then this would have been taken care of ab in itio. You should be able to set limits, control, and push messaging settings centrally from your android settings if this aspect was well taken care of! AS I said, Android is still developing. Future firmwares should take care of that!

    This is quite well thought of in iOS. So in the iphone, you don’t have those de-merits!

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