“Mayonnaise? yeah, we got that. 20 kinds….Android journey for an iOS user”

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“Mayonnaise? yeah, we got that. 20 kinds”

Walk to Café iOS and order a sandwich it comes on nicely made up for you with all the condiments and presented to you nicely on the plate. The next day you go to Café android and you order a sandwich.  The server comes back and says “You like mayonnaise on that? We got 20 types”,  and, “What kind of bread would you like? 30 different kinds of bread”, also, “oh, what about cheese?  25 different kinds. And if you prefer we will order a sandwich from the restaurant next to ours and get it for you…but no guarantees on quality”. You get the idea. This is the image that kept popping in my head as I experimented with Android after being an iOS user for a long time.

I had been an iPhone user for a long time, in fact since the very first iPhone came out. I was not unhappy with the iPhone but the 6 didn’t make me exactly want to jump out and get it. So I decided o give another platform a try. I looked up the specs for the new android phones and the best one of them was (from mostly a design viewpoint) was the HTC One M9, which is what I got from AT&T

This is a writeup of my notes and observations. For android the hardware comes from a different company (HTC in my case) and obviously android the opening system comes from Google, so I’m going to try and split my feedback accordingly.

Die, app die – Killing an app on Android is too hard. You might wonder why does that matter? There are many times that you get into a state within a app where it stuck or just becomes unresponsive.  The easiest thing to do on iOS is to double tap the home button to show your list of running apps and did you swipe to delete. On android it was just too many key clicks away. Of course, you can install an app to delete or stop running apps ..another configurable choice that should be a basic feature. 

Where is this app? There was not an easy way to search local content including apps (and surprising given that it’s Google OS). The iOS spotlight bar searches for local apps and content. I am sure that is a option somewhere in Android to display on search result content but it wasn’t obvious to me.

UX quirks – Android doesn’t delete an empty home screen when I’ve moved all the app icons off of the home screen. Not really a big deal but to me seemed like really odd UX – why does a ghost frame of the home screen hang around when all the icons are gone? This may be an instance where the homepage manager expects the opening system to do cleanup while the OS is clueless about the home pages.

Name that folder – On combining app icons into a folder, iOS tries to intelligently judge a category and name the folder. I was surprised that I missed this simple functionality. Very often simple things are what you remember from an user experience

App, don’t tell me about your problems – On my android phone at least half a dozen times the day I got a pop-up notification “Unfortunately XYZ app has stopped” why?The operating system and the app between them should be able to figure out a way to suppress this message, restart the app in the background and keep going. I know from experience that iOS apps also crash, but  that is only apparent if I go look at the crash logs. As a developer I can see what happened to my app, but as an user I never ever get a failure message. For Android this may be a case where the boundary between the operating system and the apps doesn’t add up so well for the end-users

Security – I am usually a super early adopter and trying out all kinds of new apps and features. On Android I became worried about random apps accessing my personal info either on the device or from within other apps. The OS does not silo information as tightly. I really liked a home screen manager from a Chinese company, but then realized that the app had access to all my phone call, contacts, photos, maps, geo co-ordinates and more. The same company I also read is hiring hundreds of data scientists to analyze tons of data. Hmmm…. I am not a conspiracy theory kind of person, but really made me think.

HTC/AT&T peeves

Incomplete packaging – I got a brand-new phone and it came with no headset or USB charger! So with the fancy new HTC phone, I had to use my old iPhone headset.  I tweeted @htcusa who promptly responded saying that it’s up to the carrier to send you a headset. HTC USA did send me a welcome package with a headset and USB charger, but the out-of-the-box experience wasn’t as complete.

Where is the mute button? I have gotten used to a simple slider switch on the iPhone to put the phone in silent mode. On Android this was a good four or five keystrokes away. A simpler hardware control works so much better. I don’t even have to take the phone out of my pocket to put it in silent mode.

Sleepmode or volume? HTC, putting the sleep mode button right next to the volume buttons is a really really really really really really bad idea. The texture on the buttons is different but hard to figure out

So, those are the observations. It is not meant to convince you one way or the other on which one platform is better. You are smart enough to figure out what works for you.  To me this feels very similar to the journey we went through with PC’s.  Android is the de facto windows of mobile and Apple is Apple. How this plays out over the next few years will be interesting to see.

Update: I switched back to Apple iPhone 6 recently when I moved from AT&T to T-Mobile

Copyright 2015, Manish Vaidya. Okay to repost, just ask. Don’t plagiarize

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Book Review “Game Change” : Detailed and through analysis of critical events in the Obama journey to the white house

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“Game change” is a really good book. The authors successfully provide a very detailed and thorough analysis all the events surrounding the 2008 presidential election. I thought it was particularly interesting the way the book highlighted the selection of Sarah Palin and how the McCain camp had Joe Lieberman as their candidate right up to a couple of days before the announcement and how that dynamic changed at the last minute. Detailed account of how the McCain team had to bring in Sarah Palin without a lot of background checks. It was also very interesting to learn about Obama and his rise and the way Bill and Hillary and and their camp reacted to his rise.

It’s very interesting to follow because all the figures are those we saw during the campaigns. We see their public faces and can guess what was going on behind-the-scenes. This book in some cases validates those feelings and other points provides insight into the key decisions and decision-makers that shape a presidential campaign.

I think any political junkie will enjoy this narrative a lot!

Book review – Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean by Alex von Tunzelmann

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Epic, sweeping & meticulously researched saga

Epic, sweeping & meticulously researched saga of the tumultuous 20th century history of the Caribbean islands. Alex puts in lot of hard work in writing the history for her readers. And it shows. Also I love the fact that she is able to bring out the human nature of the historical figures, instead of just making them dry caricatures. We are all human and sometimes it best to understand history within the context of the frailties and pitfalls of human nature. The sequence describing the tantrum thrown by Papa Doc when his daughter went off with her disgraced husband is an excellent example of this type of historical narrative.

My only grudge is that this is really 3 books combined in one – History of Cuba, that of Haiti & of the Dominican Republic. Although intertwined, each would have made a compelling narrative on its own. I felt towards the end not enough justice was done to telling the story of Castro & to some extent Che. At one point I got on Netflix and watched a documentary on Castro which gave me lot more information.

That doesn’t take away at all from the compelling nature of this book. It should be required reading for any student of Caribbean history. And a pleasurable, informative and fascinating read for any history buff.

The audible narrative is also pleasant and the reader captures the spirit of the book well, along with her emphasis on French pronunciations which makes it even more interesting.

Thanks Alex for another wonderful historical read (following Indian summer)

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