It’s been roughly two months since I traded in my last BlackBerry, the Torch 9800 for a new shiny Galaxy Nexus. The PlayBook has been gone for about a week and half and replaced with an Asus Transformer TF300T.

I thought I’d write an article on my findings for others out there who are sitting on the fence if they should go Android, iPhone, or stick with RIM.

Sorry, I can’t comment on Windows phones. I still have no experience with them, other than toying around with the interface while at Best Buy or Future Shop.

The OS

I love the look and feel of Android now. At first, it was a little over-whelming. Unlike iOS and BlackBerry (BB6/7 or BB10), your home screen wasn’t just a slew of app icons that you arranged in any particular order and placed into folders.

Android gives you 5 or more home screens that you swipe back and forth through. Each of these screens don’t just have apps. Widgets come into play too. For a while I thought this was ugly and overly complicated. But once you set it up for yourself, you see what the big deal is.

How I’ve setup my Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

For me, this has been great. I’m the type of guy who loves to keep switching things up a little. My wallpaper on my computers don’t stay the same – ever. With Android, it can make everything look completely different, not just the background.

As shown in the pic above, I have quite a few icons and widgets arranged. We’ll refer to it as screen 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, from left to right.

#1 has all my games. Right off the hop, you can tell you that having games on my phone didn’t really happen. BB6 didn’t have much for free games. Nothing that overly appealed to me. Plus, the ones I did try, seemed to choke the device. Adding and removing the app was also painfully slow. I just never bothered. (I’ll speak more about the ease of adding and removing apps from Android in a bit.)

#2 has my emails in two widgets. The top is an overview of 3 email accounts, and the bottom is Gmail. Clicking on an individual email sends you right to that email. Or, if you press on the icon at the top of the widget, it will open the according email app. Slick!

#3 is actually the home screen. You start in the middle and you have to other screens on the left and another two on the right. Here I have power management at the top, a widget giving me a percentage on my batter level, the calendar showing me my appointments (which you can scroll), and Evernote‘s widget with quick buttons to making notes, etc.

#4 I have the “other” apps that I often use. Drawing, cloud storage, blogging, etc.

#5 I reserved for the “techy” apps. In this case, you can see the widget for AirDroid. An I could yap about for days, but in short, it lets me connect to any computer with an internet browser and on the same Wi-Fi network. Fast and easy when it comes to transferring music, photos, movies, and more. I love going wireless.

On my tablet, I’ve kept my setup basically the same as my phone. I love consistency, so why keep them the same? Except for the wallpaper. That one I did change.

How I’ve setup my Asus Transformer TF300T.

Aside from the general layout, the one other thing about the OS I really like over BlackBerry is the boot time. Ever do a batter pull on your BlackBerry smartphone, or even a reboot on your PlayBook? You may as well put it down, make some coffee, wait for that to finish, make your coffee, and then come back to see it just opening the home screen. It’s horrible, especially if the reboot was needed during a meeting with others who are waiting on you.

Both my phone and tablet start up from being off very, very fast. I don’t think it’s any slower than my wife’s 3rd gen iPad or iPhone 4s.

Apps

While having the BlackBerry, I would argue that having 500,000+ apps available to Android and iOS isn’t necessary.  And I still hold this feeling to some extent. For me, there’s only a few apps I felt I needed on a phone. The PlayBook, being a tablet, did leave me craving a little more.
It’s no secret Android blows RIM out of the water when it comes to the amount of apps in the store. But what caught me off guard, was the quality and how different the same app could be.

For example, lets look at one of my favourite apps, Evernote.

Evernote on BlackBerry. Yawn.
Evernote on BlackBerry PlayBook. …Really?
Evernote on Android. Now we’re talking!

On my old Torch 9800, it was slow. Very, very slow. Eventually, the app was updated and some info could be stored locally, so even if my connection was bad, I could still call up notes a little quicker. However, it didn’t seem to help much. Editing was also limited. If I wanted to update a note, I couldn’t use checkboxes to mark something off a list. I couldn’t format text either. It was awful. 

Oh, and did I mention I couldn’t even change or update a note? I could only add an appendage. Something of which I wouldn’t even find again on my computer after syncing. What was that about?
Even on the PlayBook, it was still bad. In fact, it was close to the same, except on a bigger screen.
Then I saw Evernote on an iPad. That of which, is the same for Android. H-o-l-y c-r-a-p, what a magical different. Whatever I can do on my web browser, or the Evernote program on my computer, I can do in the Android app. Glorious!
On top of the quality of apps being overall just better than BlackBerry, I found that the install time (like the boot time) is just wonderful. Adding and even removing apps from my Android devices is so simple it’s not even funny. Want to add it? Just add it. Want to remove the app? Just click, hold, and drag to “Uninstall”. Done.
What happened on the BlackBerry smartphone? You’d wait 10 minutes for it to figure out what to do, and then ask for a reboot, adding even more wasted time to your day.
To give credit where credit is due, the PlayBook was actually very good. Adding and removing was simple as a one button click within the App World app.

Keyboard

Something that held be back for a long time with BlackBerry was the keyboard. I LOVED the physical keyboard and hated the virtual ones. When I bought the Torch 9800, I got it with the mentality that it would help me get used to the new touchscreen keyboards.

It didn’t go well. I kept using the physical one no matter how often I went back to try the touch version. Same goes for iOS. On my iPod Touch, or my wife’s iPhone, it’d keep fooling around with it and trying to type on there. I felt held back. It just wasn’t right for me.

Then came along Android with their crazy large screens, and, they’re ability to use different keyboards.

Yup, simply typing on a larger screen, I found myself typing quite fast on the default Android keyboard. I was shocked, but also very happy to have found a happy alternative to my beloved QWERTY keyboard on BlackBerry.

On top of this… I later found you can change the stock keyboard. Something you won’t find on iOS, unless you jailbreak it.

My current fav. Swype.

A close second, Swift Key 3.

Two other keyboards I’ve tried that all the rave right now, are Swift Key 3, and Swype. Both are brilliant, but for me, Swype is the way to go. Just look what you can do:

I’m actually confident when I say I type faster using Swype than I ever did with a BlackBerry.

Shortcomings

Now after all this said, I do have a few things I miss about RIM. (Other than it being the Canadian company I want to see succeed.)

Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking compared to PlayBook (and eventually BB10) is not as close as you may think. Switching between apps is pretty quick and easy, even on iOS now. But I used to be able to open the YouTube app, play a song, then jump to the browser and listen to that music while I surf the web. That can’t happen on Android or iOS. One you leave an app, it stops running, period.

Fragmentation

Fragmentation is another issue that is hard to avoid in the Android realm.

BlackBerry wasn’t innocent either when it came to fragmentation amongst the devices. Some were BB5, BB6, BB7… But it wasn’t that often you’d notice a difference, or run into compatibility options with some of the apps out there. Plus, BB5 didn’t look or act that much different than BB6 or BB7.

iOS is easy. Once a new version comes out, everyone gets it on their iPhones and carries on. Eventually older models will get phased out, but overall it’s quite organized.

Android is a whole different ball part though. It took me a long while to figure out why some devices were on version 2, 3, or 4. And why some looked different than others when both are version 4. (i.e. Samsung using Touch Wiz.)

My mother has a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and loves it. However, it’s still on version 3.x (Gingerbread). Two major releases have come out since. I can’t even install Google Chrome on her tablet because it’s not compatible. Meanwhile, my phone and tablet are luckily up to date and running 4.1 (Jelly Bean). 4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich) is just starting to become the new standard. It’s all over the map and very confusing.

On top of the fragmentation amongst versions in the OS, there’s also fragmentation amongst the countries! Yup, Canada is getting the run-around, as are many other countries out there.

My friend has a Galaxy Nexus as well, and he is STILL on version 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). The only reason my phone is on 4.1 Jelly Bean is because I dared to flash the OS and make it think it’s a US model. My mother’s tablet that I mentioned is supposed to be on 4.0.4 ICS that was just released. But when I checked a few days ago, it said no updates found. …because it’s a Canadian model.

Even my tablet suffered a Canadian delay. Although I was lucky that it was only for about a week’s time.

Sound Profiles

Sound profiles is probably the biggest thing I miss from BlackBerry. Although I have to really discover a new app for Android to fix this. I used to have a sound profile on my Torch 9800 for work, home, and night. With maybe two clicks I could have it set to “Work” so the only noise it would make, would be a quiet chime for work emails. My other emails would remain silent, along with everything else like instant messages and social media updates.
For iOS, it’s either all on, or all off. And you can’t have a sound for one email account vs another. 
On my Android, I’m in the same boat for the most part. I can make GMail sound different than the Email app, but my Email app hold 3 accounts. So only one sound for all three, including my work email.

Conclusion

Overall I am extremely happy with my decision to leave RIM and go Android. Again, I do wish all the best to RIM/BlackBerry. So long as they are not bought out and remain Canadian, I’ll route for them.
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