It’s been a almost a year since I last listed all smartphones that passed through my clumsy hands, so surely I must have some items to add to that list, you might think? Indeed! So starting off where we ended last year;
- 2014: Google Galaxy Nexus; 2nd hand replacement (a steal for only €95) with Cyanogenmod 11. Missed 4G, but loved the phone really. It just died on me within a week.
- 2014: ZTE Vec Blade 4G: no 2nd hand, 4G and not ridiculously expensive was what I was aiming for, so I bought the ZTE for just €170 and it was a very decent handset really. I sent it in for repairs under warranty mid 2015 after the power-button broke.
- 2015: Samsung Galaxy Ace2: much like the Galaxy Gio I used before a useable but underpowered small smartphone with an aging 2.x Android. But once one is used to it, there’s not a lot one cannot do with it (I typically want Firefox Mobile, WordFeud and a music player).
- 2015: back to the ZTE which was repaired perfectly, until after approx. a month it fell out of my pocket onto the ground, shattering the glass. I tried finding a shop to replace the glass, but ZTE being not that common I didn’t find one. So …
- 2015: Samsung Galaxy Core Prime VE: So I wanted a not-too-expensive big-brand phone (i.e. LG, Sony, Samsung or HTC) to have a better chance of getting it repaired outside of warranty, with 4G and a very recent Android-version (i.e. Lollipop) and that’s what the Galaxy Core Prime is about. I added a 16Gb class 10 SD-card and I bought a flip wallet case. Just to be safe I’ll go and buy a screen protector as well, because I am, as this list proves, not only spoiled but also clumsy.
I’m a spoiled, clumsy brat. Spoiled because my (previous) employer hands out yearly vouchers, which I use to buy me a new top-notch smartphone every 2-3 years. And clumsy as I all too often loose of break those expensive gadgets, forcing me to look for cheaper replacements. So here’s the breakdown of my smartphone history;
- 2009: HTC Hero: my first smartphone (although I wasn’t complaining about that 2nd hand Nokia e61i). I lost it on the train a year and a half after buying it
- 2011: Acer beTouch e110: cheap replacement for the HTC Hero, only used it for a couple of weeks before selling it because it was a horrible excuse of a smartphone.
- 2011: HTC Magic: 2nd hand replacement, it was a great little handset once it was flashed with Cyanogenmod. I sold it for my next new phone, the …
- 2011: Samsung Galaxy SII: Had a great time with that Sammy, lots of upgrades & tweaks. but I did need to have it repaired within a year of buying it, after it fell out of my pocket when getting off the train.
- 2012: Samsung Omnia 7: My first encounter with the Windows Phone Metro interface as a temporary device, while the SII was getting fixed.
- 2012: Samsung Galaxy SII: back from repairs and was very happy with it, but a year after that it broke down again.
- 2013: HTC Radar: temporary replacement for the SII, Windows Phone again.
- 2013: Samsung Galaxy S4: A brand new handset which I dropped approx. a year after buying it. Not really a huge leap forward compared to the SII, but I did love the speed improvements 4G offered.
- 2014: Samsung Galaxy Gio: temporary replacement for the broken S4. but despite the fact I got my main apps up and running (incl. Firefox Mobile), the old version of Android (2.3.6), the small screen and a serious lack of memory decided this was not a permanent replacement.
- 2014: Google Galaxy Nexus; 2nd hand replacement (bought yesterday, a steal for only €95) with Cyanogenmod 11. Early days, but I just might try not to drop it, I’m loving it already. The only thing I really miss is 4G support, because, after all, I am a spoiled brat.
I updated Firefox Mobile Beta on my Samsung Galaxy SII a couple of days ago to version 16 and out of curiosity I participated in the pissing-contest which is html5test.com. It scored a whopping 372 points, which apparently makes it the best mobile browser (for now).
More important, as it is an immediate and noticeable advantage: reader mode. Reader mode, as seen in the screenshots on the right, allows me see articles on e.g. the chaotic, non-responsive dewereldmorgen.be in a non-crowded context which is optimal for reading the article.
I also installed the latest Firefox Mobile Aurora (version 17) and I’m pretty pleased to see support for iFrame sandboxing (which would up the html5test.com score to 377) and integration with a.o. the upcoming Firefox Marketplace (which will also be core to Firefox OS).
So yeah, for me Firefox Mobile remains the best mobile browser no-one uses.
Never mind my initial enthusiasm about SoundCloud on Android; I uninstalled the bugger after noticing extreme battery drain, which seems linked to its background synchronization. Before uninstalling, I tried to:
- switch on “wifi only syncing”, which did not help
- disable all 4 items (left part of image) being synced, which did not help
- disable SoundCloud sync altogether, which did not seem to help either
- remove the SoundCloud-item from the list of synchronization sources, which inconveniently also logged me out of the app rendering it pretty useless
I contacted SoundCloud support, who confirmed they are working on a fix (although the release notes mentions battery drain a couple of times, guess this is not an entirely new issue). But until then I guess I’ll have to download the individual tracks from the SoundCloud website to listen to “It is what it is” on my Galaxy SII, no?
The wait is finally over, no need to go through the daily Aurora upgrade process any more; Firefox Mobile 14 beta (available in the Google Play store) is out with all the improvements that were in the Aurora builds.
The main differences with the previous (non-Aurora) versions: Firefox on Android doesn’t use XUL (the Mozilla cross platform UI toolkit) any more, but switched to native Android UI elements. This (and other less visible changes) results in faster startup time, lower memory usage and better overall performance. There’s Flash in it as well, but with ‘tap to play’ option so the impact, I’m happy to report, is pretty limited. And the start-page is pretty nifty, with “Top Sites”, “Tabs from last time” and “Tabs on other computers” on one nice screen.
I must admit I was slightly worried at first, as I couldn’t get Sync to work at all (“could not connect to server” and similar error messages), but after uninstalling Aurora, Firefox Mobile Beta can sync just fine. All in all Firefox Mobile is an even greater browser than it was before.
Every now and again you should go out of your comfort zone to get a new perspective on things. Or so they say. I love my comfort zone, it took me 43 years to build the damned thing after all, so please leave me be, will you?
But things break and in this particular case the screen of my trusty old Samsung Galaxy S2 went dark, literally. I brought the phone in for repairs and grabbed the only test-device left at work as a temporary replacement. It was a Samsung Omnia 7 with Windows Phone 7. Now look at this little droid-boy getting pushed out of his comfort zone!
I’ve been using it for 5 days now, so why not make a small list of what sucks and what’s great? Here goes:
- The browser.
It’s not I can’t live without Firefox Mobile, but boy does Mobile IE7 suck.
- No Internet connection sharing (not over USB, not over Bluetooth, not over WiFi)
- The fact that the phone doesn’t present itself as a USB storage device when I connect it over USB with my Ubuntu netbook
- The lack of an SD card slot
- I can’t login with my Live ID (my ancient Hotmail address) on my phone (but it does work in Zune), which means I can’t install applications from the Marketplace (I’m asked to call support! Seriously?)
- The fact that after installing Zune on my work PC and then waiting until I got home because Zune doesn’t do proxies, I still wasn’t able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 (which does have Internet connection sharing and a more decent browser)
- There’s no way to reliably fetch information from the Exchange servers at work. Every once in a while mail gets downloaded, but in general there’s error code 8501001D ruining my Exchange experience
What’s great? Just one bullet point actually;
Really, despite my grievances about how poorly the device integrates with the outside world, my general feeling about Windows Phone is positive, and that is because Metro really is that great! The screens are sober, with lots of space and a prominent place for content (text & typography). Applications scroll horizontally to display different views and it’s the typography that makes this pretty discoverable. The graphics effects and sound add to the great responsive “feel” of the UI. And tiles are a radical break form the icon-based approach that is typical of iOS (and Android, classic Mac OS, Windows 3.11 and …), you could compare them to widgets (as seen on Android), but without the anarchy and clutter.
So yeah, really, I ♥ Metro! I hope Google (Android), Mozilla (b2g) and Ubuntu (Unity) take clues from what is, in my view, a pretty radical break in graphical user interface design, because I would love the computing environments in my comfort zone to be more about content and less about chrome as well!
I’m on the beta-release channel for both my desktop and mobile Firefox and my desktop has been running version 11 (with SPDY) for over a week now, but there hasn’t been an update for Firefox Mobile Beta in the Android Market yet. Apparently the Mozillians are working hard to finish the complete overhaul of the front-end, which integrates with Android UI (instead of using Mozilla’s own XUL) and services (synchronization in particular).
Mozilla is doing a great job in the mobile space, with the browser, but also with WebAPI and B2G. No, I don’t think I’ll switch to Chrome Mobile any time soon.