Learning a new OS
Okay, so in yesterday’s post I explained about losing my iPhone 5s and needing a replacement for the weeks before the new iPhones come out. I began with the iPhone 3s, then got the 4s, and—until Wednesday of this week—the 5s. (insert sad face here). I could have gotten a cheap basic phone, but decided to go with AT&T’s Avail 2 Android Smartphone. Here’s a good review link.
I immediately used the Google Play Store (similar to Apple’s App Store) to download anything that wasn’t already installed on the phone. I can’t remember which items were already there, but I configured: Kindle reader, Facebook, Evernote, Audible, and Chrome browser. I set up the email app with my email accounts.
Then I began reading posts on Apple’s forum about syncing Calendar events and Contacts. It’s too bad there is such technical polarization between the Apple and Google worlds. They could make this a whole lot easier if they wanted to. Some forum posters said syncing couldn’t be done, but another person said he’d been using Smoothsync successfully. I purchased the two Smoothsync for iCloud apps developed by Marten Gajda (one for Calendar, one for Contacts – about $5 total), and also downloaded two free “JB Workaroud” apps—by the same developer—which evidently solve some problems with the Android Jelly Bean OS.
Once installed, I launched Smoothsync for iCloud Calendar and gave it my Apple/iCloud login and password. Then the same for Smoothsync for iCloud Contacts. The apps sync directly with iCloud, not the Mac, so there is no cable-to-Mac connection required. All my Calendar events soon showed up, including a new invitation for a dinner. The only thing I have to remember is when creating an event on the phone, the calendar defaults to my Google Calendar, which I don’t use, and which doesn’t show up on my Mac and iPad. I have to change the calendar before saving the new event (it can’t be changed after).
While Calendar seems to be working, Contacts are a little weird. I have 637 contacts in my Mac’s Address Book, but 874 on the phone. Some of the extra contacts appear to be coming from my Gmail contacts, and others seem to be from my email history on Gmail—people I’ve mailed to, but not added to my Contacts. Not sure, but so far not a big deal. I have what I need—and more!
I haven’t yet figured out how to transfer music from iTunes onto my Android phone. iTunes is at least partially proprietary, and it doesn’t play well with Android. Still, if I wanted to badly enough, I could get most of my music transferred. Since my main goal is to survive until the next iPhone release, I’m not sure I’ll bother. After all, that’s why Marten Gajda named two of his apps “…workaround.” Syncing an Android (developed by Google) phone to the Apple universe is a series of kluges. They work…sort of. It would be far better to use only Google for contacts, calendar, photos, music, etc., and be out of the Apple world entirely.
Another thought: If I change my Apple ID/Account password, I’ll have to re-login with these syncing apps. No need to do that on an iPhone. A little thing, but something that allows me to keep working instead of fiddling.
As for the phone hardware part of this, the review touches on a lot of things, and it comes down pretty heavy on the inadequacies. However, I’m not planning to live with this phone for months or years; if I was, I’d have bought a more expensive and powerful model. Personally, I find the phone slow. Apps take up to 15-20 seconds to launch sometimes, and any background process such as an app update slows everything to a crawl for a bit. Email downloads of the latest messages take the longest, and Facebook sometimes never opens at all.
The camera is a barely adequate 2 megapixel model (the salesman told me it was a 5 megapixel) with video. A practice shot in my garage under good overhead lighting showed a lot of graininess and lack of detail on closeup. See below. I’ll have to think twice whether I’ll use this. Probably will dig out my point-and-shoot Canon instead to document the progress on my old Ford. Also, connecting the phone to the Mac with the USB cable produces an disk error message, and doesn’t give you the option to treat the phone as a camera so you can just transfer the photos. I’m sure there is a way to do this—perhaps with additional software—but I simply emailed the photos to myself and opened them on the Mac.
Bottom line: If you need an emergency fill-in for your lost iPhone, this inexpensive smartphone might meet your temporary need; it certainly will do for me. But I wouldn’t want to live with this long term. The box included a pretty good manual, wall charger with separate cable (USB to micro USB), and the SIM card if the phone is used for the no-contract, pay-as-you-go plans. It would help if you’re at all familiar with Android phones, but I had never used one and, with the manual and a quick search on Google’s android central.com, I did fine. If you run into trouble, just ask any twelve year old for help.
PS: Yes, this is a photo of my 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup in my garage. It’s been in our family since about 1939, and is in the final stages of restoration.