The newest version of the Android Operating System has been codenamed Froyo (as in Frozen Yogurt).
Although I have heard of the name, I was not following very closely the development of the said OS, so I did not know what to expect. The presentation on Day 2 at Google I/O was more than impressive so I had to get my hands on it :)
After the GoogleIO presentation, I was regularly checking (Settings – About Phone – System Updates) my phone to see what kind of version I am running and whether the update was waiting for me. Unfortunately I was disappointed every time, therefore I resigned to the idea that it will update when it is pushed to my phone.
A few days later though, reports on the blogosphere started appearing of users now running on Froyo. The update started rolling out so it was a matter of time for me. Most of the reports were coming from California, so if I were to look at the geography, it would take the update quite a bit of time to reach West Virginia :)
Through my regular research on the Internet, I found a few interesting blog posts that claimed that one can update the Nexus One without waiting for the update to be rolled out. Having nothing to lose, I decided to try it on my phone and see what happens.
Below is how I upgraded my Nexus One to Froyo. I had a couple of failed attempts, loads of Googling but I finally managed to get it to work. Luckily a couple of days later an article appeared on Lifehacker which confirmed that the steps I took were the correct ones!
I connected my Nexus One to my computer using the USB cable.
The phone was detected and I mounted the SD card from the phone (bring down the notification area and select the USB connection – select mount to mount the SD card)
When I performed these steps I had to navigate to a URL on the Android website (see article on Lifehacker).
I copied the file and pasted it on my newly mounted drive which was the SD card of my Nexus One
The file is 45Mb and when the copy was completed, I unmounted the SD card from the computer initially (click the status area and select Safely remove
The update instructions below are the original work of SimonNWalker and can be referenced here.
With the update file uploaded on the Nexus One, all I had to do is shut down the device so that I can reboot it in recovery mode. The steps I took are as follows:
I clicked and held the power button until the menu appeared. I selected Power Off, confirming that I wish the phone to power off.
Once the phone powered off completely, I pressed and held the trackball button down and then pressed the power button. A new screen appeared (which, like myself, you probably have never seen before) with three androids on skateboards at the bottom and several options at the top.
I navigated using the power and the volume buttons. I selected the first option (Bootloader) using the volume buttons and pressed the power button to activate it.
A new menu appeared with the following options:
I navigated to RECOVERY and selected it
The familiar Nexus One X appeared on the screen. A few seconds later, a little android with a big exclamation mark in a triangle replaced the X.
The next step I took was to press simultaneously the power button and the volume up button.
This brought a new menu at the top.
The options available were:
Using the trackball, I navigated to the second option and pressed the trackball button down.
At this point the update started and some information was flashing on the screen for a while, where some files were patched, some deleted, new ones copied and others replaced accordingly. The whole process took roughly 5 minutes from start to finish.
Please note that these are my own observations. Some of the features here might have been present in the previous version of Android (Eclair) and I simply did not notice them. If that is the case please let me know and I will correct the post accordingly.
This is one of the updates that I just love. Froyo allows you to search a lot of content that is stored on your phone. The content includes your contacts, sms messages, applications, twitter feeds and many more. With all this power it is very easy to find the information you are looking for with the press of a few keys on the virtual keyboard (Figure 4).
Since with great power comes great responsibility, Froyo allows you to select what can be searched. Go to Settings - Search - Searchable Items and you will find the following options:
I am sure that the search extends to other applications. Your results might vary based on the apps you have installed.
When I first heard about this feature during the presentation of Froyo at Google I/O>, I was really excited.
I spend every day 3 hours on the train, where I mostly work on my notebook. Having the ability to tether my phone and work online is essential. A couple of years back when I bought my first iPhone, I managed to jailbreak it and installed iPhoneModem on it to achieve the functionality that I wanted (tethering). It wasn't fancy (after all don't expect miracles with AT&T's EDGE network) but it worked. I could get my emails reply quickly and disconnect.
When I got my Nexus One, I bought PDA Net to achieve the same result. It worked too but again in a very basic mode but it was draining the battery very fast and was running the phone very hot.
After I upgraded to Froyo, I uninstalled PDA Net and have been working with the built in functionality ever since.
To access the Tethering options, you will need to go to Settings - Wireless & Networks - Tethering & portable hotspot. The options shown on Figure 6 appear, which allow you to switch the Wi-Fi hotspot on or off. A USB tethering option also exists for those that want to keep their phone charged with the power that comes from their notebook or attached device. Once the hotspot is enabled, a blue icon appears at the top notification bar. The configuration of the hotspot is really easy and can be seen in figures 7 and 8. For those wondering why I chose the SSID of my hotspot to be one of the most infectious (Windows) viruses ever, it is exactly for that reason. Apart from the WPA2 encryption, the name itself is a deterrent for anyone that might get ideas in stealing bandwidth.
Everything works perfectly apart from AT&T's EDGE network, which is really slow. The Nexus One I have can support T-Mobile's 3G network. I haven't switched to T-Mobile yet since there was no need. I fear though that I will not be able to escape the inevitable.
On June 2nd AT&T issued press release where they showed us once again that they don't give a damn about their customers since they lie, deceive and overcharge for a mediocre (at best) service. You can read the press release and draw your own conclusions but to me it seemed once again a slap in the face.
No more unlimited data plans for new customers, yet it is not clear what will happen to existing customers such as myself. I read somewhere in the blogosphere that those plans will remain as is, but this is AT&T that we are talking about - the same company that claims that calls to 1-800 numbers are free yet they charge you minutes for it.
I have signed for the unlimited data plan, yet AT&T does not allow me to tether. Why? What difference does it make? They still offer the same crappy EDGE network whether I watch a YouTube video on my phone or on my computer. The answer is in the press release. They want more money. As phones get 'smarter' they phone companies get greedier. John Gruber offers a good analysis of the new AT&T data plans.
I do not know how this will evolve but I will definitely continue using the Wi-Fi hotspot on my train ride, whether this will be with AT&T or T-Mobile. Perhaps if I change to T-Mobile I will be able to have better coverage. AT&T in West Virginia is not the greatest carrier. Notable is a recent phone conversation that I had with my wife while I was driving (I am wearing the headsets btw) where the line dropped 9 times :(
This was something that was needed in my opinion (Figure 9). I was pressing way too many buttons to get to the phone, especially if I was not on the main screen. This little shortcut is very well received and thought of. I do not think that there is enough space for an additional 2 buttons (for the future release of Android) but you never know.
Perhaps a future version will allow you to customize those buttons.
Android development though has to be very cautious when releasing functionality. I am sure that Apple is checking everything that Android does with a microscope. With their enormous patent book near by, they will not hesitate to sue Android (or Google for that matter) for patent infringement (see Apple sues HTC).
This area can be accessed via Settings - Accounts & sync settings<.
I noticed that not only my regular GMail and Google Apps accounts appear but also YouTube as well as Twitter. I have installed the official Twitter application so I am pretty sure that this synchronization appears because of that application.
I have not tried it with Seesmic or any other twitter application, so if you have any additional information please let me know and I will modify this post accordingly.
I would also be very interested to know which other applications offer synchronization capabilities or take advantage of Android's synchronization API. If you have any other applications that synchronize on your phone, please let me know and I will include it in this post too.
When I switched from an iPhone to an Android based phone, certain things were just "not right", not because there was something wrong with them - it was how I was used to things being done. One of those areas was the email. With the iPhone I was used to a traditional listing of accounts and then once something was selected I would go into the folders and then emails. If I wanted to change accounts I would have to go back two steps and then enter the account that I wanted.
This seems a very logical approach and it is easy to get used to. Although the Android has a better email management interface, it lacked the ability to quickly switch accounts and thus not spend time tapping away going back or forth. In that area the iPhone was better. Note the was. It was not because the user will tap less times, but because you would tap the back button twice which was located in the same area of the screen at all times. For the Android you had to press the menu button and then select Accounts. This was again the same amount of steps but the iPhone approach felt more natural.
With Froyo a new button appears at the top right of your email screen which will allow you to quickly go to the account selection screen. This effectively reduces the steps by one.
Analyzing briefly my emails, I can say that on average I receive 25 emails on my personal account and 35 on my business (I chose the two accounts that I get the most traffic). So if in theory I get two emails every time I check my email, that would mean that I am checking my phone 12 - 17 times a day (assuming again that I get the batches of emails on both accounts at the same time). It would therefore be safe to assume that I check my emails 15 times a day where I need to switch from one account to another.
So the math gives us:
|Taps||Average Email Checks per Day||Week||Month||Year|
Clearly with the above I am using now half of the screen taps than I used to with Android Eclair or with the iPhone. However the this rough calculation shows how much I was tapping in the past prior to Froyo. Goodbye RSI. :)
If you are like me and use Google Apps or GMail, you are by now accustomed to the colored labels on your emails, that you don't know what you have been doing without them all this time.
With Froyo, this functionality is now available in my mobile device allowing me to visually identify emails of high interest.
For instance, Figure 12 shows my setup. As you can see I mark clients with a green label color and financial institutions (bills mainly) with a red color. When an email reaches my mailbox and is automatically labeled due to a relevant filter, I can easily identify its importance using this color coding.
Having this functionality on my mobile device is invaluable!
Easier navigation between emails - New < > buttons appear on the phone to get you from email to email
Another huge improvement in the navigation part as far as emails are concerned came in the screen where I read a specific email.
There are two extra buttons at the bottom of that screen which allow navigation to the previous or next message.
Another great tap saving feature!
I had some problems with this feature from time to time primarily due to my accent – a blend of Greek – English British – German and English American. After a few tries on the new system, I can say that there is improvement since it recognized now queries that it had failed in the past.
The voice search will probably never be able to detect everything that everyone is saying due to the different accents and voices of people but it is getting pretty close to perfect in my case.
One thing that I love about voice search is the voice navigation. I have purchased the car dock for my Nexus One and I use the voice navigation almost everywhere I go. Understanding that I want to go to Rockville, MD instead of Rock Creek is awesome!
This feature was missing and was probably one of the ones that were mostly requested by the users. The Update All to the installed applications.
Luckily the Android developers have heard our pleas and Froyo now features an Update All button at the bottom of the Downloads section in the Marketplace application.
Adding to this functionality, the user now has the ability to automatically update selected (or all) applications. When clicking on one of the applications to update, a checkbox appears which allows for automatic updates. If the checkbox is checked, the next time the selected application has an update, the phone will download it and install it.
There will always be a notification regarding the action in the notification area, but unless you know where the application is coming from (and you trust the source) you should keep this checked off. I know I might be getting a bit paranoid here but that is what I did.
I am not sure if this existed in Eclair but I just noticed it. When an email arrives, the trackball will start glowing briefly in regular intervals with a white color to visually notify me about the email(s) waiting for me.
If I receive a Google Voice message though, the trackball will still start glowing but this time it will be with a green color. This way I know that a text message is waiting for me.
I have sent a text message to my AT&T number and did see the trackball glowing but this time it was only white. It appears that the green trackball notification is a feature of Google Voice on Froyo or again it was always a Google Voice feature and I hadn't noticed, at which point I am getting excited for nothing :)
These ones I loved them the first time I saw them. If USB debugging is enabled (Settings - Applications - Development - USB Debugging), the minute the phone is connected to the computer using the USB cable, a new icon will appear in the notification area (Figure 15). It appears that it is an android bug of sorts :)
When the phone is connected to the computer via the USB cable, the user has the ability to use the SD card as a storage device. Once the relevant entry in the notification bar is tapped, the screen with the "Turn on USB storage" will appear. If I switch the USB storage on, the screen changes slightly.
These were two really cool (in my view) new screens that engage the user even more in exploring their device!
A new enhancement appeared in the Camera application (Figure 18).
The new menu that changes position based on the orientation of your phone (horizontal or vertical) allow for zooming, flash control, white balance control, geolocation and exposure.
The options available are:
Unfortunately these controls only appear when taking photos and not when shooting video. I am sure however that this functionality (and more) will be extended to the video capturing aspect of the camera application.
This is an area where the iPhone was far better than the Eclair and unfortunately still is with Froyo. The gap though has decreased significantly.
With Froyo I can now select text from say an email and paste it somewhere else - even a different application. The Select Text option is hidden under the More menu button and once selected, it creates a small mouse pointer. That is the start of where it will start selecting (Figure 20).
I simply point to the top left area I want to copy from and drag my finger diagonally to end up at the bottom right of the area I want to select. This will select the text in a very appealing pink color and as soon as I lift my finger from the screen it will copy the text on the keyboard (Figure 21).
The technique on the iPhone is better but not by much - as I wrote the gap has decreased significantly. On the iPhone you have a magnifying glass where you can pinpoint exactly where you want to start copying (or inserting text - same functionality).
Again unfortunately this functionality (the one with the magnifying glass for selecting text) is patented by Apple Inc. and will not be seen on an Android based phone but I am sure that the Android developers will come up with something that will give us the same if not better user experience.
The presentation on Day 2 at Google I/O included the news that Flash will be allowed and supported on Android based phones that run Froyo (or newer versions).
I have to admit, the first version of Flash that I installed (it is still in BETA) was really slow. However three versions later, I am happy to announce that it works as well as a desktop machine. I have not tried to load a heavy flash based website but my brother in law's website (www.dnm.gr) loads just fine and you can see all the information that you need to see :)
I am sure that in the coming months we will see a lot more progress in that area.
The Android 2.2 (Froyo) is a huge step forward. It provides users with a lot of functionality that transforms a phone to a multifunction communication device. The only thing that we are missing now is proper coverage from the national carriers (AT&T this one is for you) and without having to sell our first born children to pay for the monthly bills (AT&T this one is for you too).
Happy 4th of July! It came with the update for Froyo (officially now) on my cellphone. I am now running the FFR91 build (and so does my wife).
References: Leaving the iPhone by Matt Cutts, Android Equivalency Table and Good Things: Ubuntu and Android by Alex Payne. I am pretty sure that there are other reviews and how-to's on the Internet, outlining that one of the above (or none) is the killer of the other. I am just posting what I did to switch effortlessly.
Of the applications currently installed on my iPhone, some are really very essential (i.e. email, web, podcast manager etc.) and some I can easily live without (Sportacular). Below is a list of the applications that I have listed in importance order and their counterparts in Android.
|Severity||iPhone App||Nexus One App|
|H||Calendar||Calendar (built in - syncs automatically with the account you log in)|
|H||Google Voice||Google Voice (integrates with the Nexus One so you call using your Voice number)|
|H||GV Mobile||Google Voice|
|H||iPhoneModem||PDANet ($30) or if you root your Nexus One other applications. PDANet requires Bluetooth or the USB cable, the others can hook up a WiFi connection|
|H||iPod||Listen (by Google)|
|H||Mail (built in - allows for IMAP, Exchange, POP - it also syncs easily Google based email)|
|H||Phone||Phone (built in - can be replaced by Google Voice)|
|H||Solebon||Solitaire (not as advanced as the paid Solebon but it will do)|
|H||Stanza||Apparently Panda Reader is out but I could not find it. I gave up on this since I mostly work on the notebook and not longer read books on my mobile device|
|H||WunderRadio||Streamfurious - not as good as WunderRadio but it has the stations I listen to|
|M||CardStar||Key Ring Reward Cards|
|M||Clock||Clock - does not have countdown or stopwatch|
|M||Cycorder||Camera (built in)|
|M||Google Earth||Google Earth|
|M||Lattitude||Lattitude (a lot of privacy warnings - even an email - to ensure that you want to switch it on)|
|M||RedLaser||Goggles, Barcode Scanner|
|M||VNC||Remote VNC Lite|
|L||Messages||Messages (built in - integrates with Google Voice)|
|L||Notes||Evernote, like a billion other note apps some of which sync to Google Docs or other similar services, Tomdroid|
|L||Pregnancy||A lot of applications, Pregnancy Assistant one that comes close to Pregnancy for the iPhone - either way I won't need this after May (I think :))|
|L||Skype||Fring, I also use Skype Go so no problem for me there|
|L||Voice Memos||Google Voice|
|L||Weather||Weather on the top bar of one of the screens, News and Weather application|
I knew I wanted to buy the Nexus One the minute it was presented to the world :) There were however a lot of factors to take into account, the applications that I had and what their replacements will be (see table above), whether it would work reliably with AT&T's network or whether I would have to switch to T-Mobile etc.
I have been following closely web posts regarding experiences with the Nexus One and I must admit, it was one of the main factors that helped me make the decision to switch. The icing on the cake was Matt Cutts's post regarding the same issue: Leaving the iPhone. I decided that I would get the phone and if it works satisfactory on AT& T I will stay with them, otherwise I will switch to T-Mobile.
I discussed the issue with the boss (my wife who else :)) and the purchase was approved. As a matter of fact she was disappointed when I told her that I am going to order it because she had plans to buy it for me for my birthday in April. My eagerness to get the new phone spoiled the surprise but we both agreed that I got my birthday present two months in advance :)
The purchase was really trouble free. I also purchased the dock and the really nice surprise is that Google offers free overnight FedEx to your location. It came in handy since I really wanted the phone there and then!
The phone arrived while I was at work. When I came back home, two really nice boxes were waiting for me. As you can see the packaging is really nice and the Google colors appear subtly on it.
The packaging is simply awesome. Great ergonomics which easily match the ones of the iPhone. The Nexus One was wrapped in a plastic protective wrap, while in the package there was a protective sleeve, the USB cable, the headset and the charger. The packaging for the Nexus One Dock was equally good and it contained the dock and its charger.
Abiding to the instructions, I opened the phone, inserted the battery and plugged it in so that I will get a full charge prior to doing anything else.
As soon as I put the battery in, the phone booted up. Really slick graphics!
While the Nexus One was charging, I inspected my iPhone once more and synced it to my computer so that I do not lose any data. Once the phone was fully charged, I removed the battery and inserted the AT& T card in it. The network was identified immediately and I was able to log in using my Google Apps account! :) After a few steps of setting up the phone was ready for use.
I plugged in the dock and set the phone up on it so that it charges prior to turning in. A nice surprise was the again subtle green digital clock that appeared on the phone while it is docked. I always wanted to have a nice clock on my bed stand - now I got it :)
I started the day with the attitude of Forget the iPhone and start anew. It was difficult, I must admit, but I think I managed quite well. The more I was using the Nexus One the more I liked it. I installed all the applications that I wanted (see table above) and set up the screens with the relevant application icons, trying to resemble what I had on the iPhone so that I won't spend much time looking for application icons.
I set up Google Voice and that was one thing that really impressed me. The task was completed in a matter of minutes and now everyone will receive calls from my Google Voice number and not from my AT& T number. I no longer have to go to GV Mobile or the web based application to search for a contact and then call using Google Voice. Big plus here for Nexus One over the iPhone.
Another pleasant surprise came a bit later when my wife and I had to go to a car dealer to view some cars (minivan here we come). I had the instructions and I had added the address of the car dealer in the event in Google Calendar. Usually I would use Google Maps and calculate the mileage that I travel with what Google Maps says and before I reach the next milestone I look at the map again. This time I saw a 'Navigate' link in the menu that appeared and for the fun of it I chose it. I was in turn greeted with a female voice telling me exactly where to go. As I am really notorious for getting lost, the female voice proceeded to tell me to make a U-turn to get back on track :) Really slick and accurate! Big plus again for the Nexus One over the iPhone.
The notifications for the emails (I set up all my email accounts) are equally good for both phones. The Nexus One has a very slight advantage here in my opinion, since the notification area pulls up all the notifications that you have - from installed applications, text messages, missed phone calls, new emails etc. On the iPhone you get notifications on a per application basis so you need to be on the screen that lists the application that you received a notification for. Plus again for the Nexus One over the iPhone.
Website rendering is where the Nexus One gets another plus. I think it is hardware since I am using the same AT&T network but the sites load noticeably faster on the Nexus One over the iPhone. This is normal browsing in the house so the location is pretty much the same. Big plus again for the Nexus One over the iPhone.
Email management is where the iPhone is better. If I have say 4 emails to read and I click on one of them, I have to click the menu and then the 'Newer' button to get to the next email that I have not read. On the iPhone you have an up and a down arrow that allows you to navigate a lot easier. Also on the iPhone there is a logical hierarchy of accounts and folders, so you go back to change to a different account. Although this is a lot more work than it should, it seems a lot more logical than the approach the Nexus One has. With the Nexus One all you have to do is click the menu button and click Accounts to quickly access another account. It is a lot less clicks and I guess it would have made perfect sense should I had just come from a flip phone and never knew the iPhone. Still personal preference goes with the iPhone implementation, despite the fact that I am getting used to the new way of doing things :) Big plus for the iPhone over the Nexus One.
Multitasking - multiple application notifications. This one has been the most discussed thing on the Internet regarding the iPhone (and now the iPad). You cannot run multiple applications at the same time. I just received a notification that I have a new email and someone replied to one of my tweets. The Nexus One notification bar showed both notifications and I read both messages in no time. On the iPhone though I had to keep the TweetDeck application on so that I can get the notification OR the Mail application on so that I can get the email. Huge plus for the Nexus One over the iPhone.
There are other areas that I could discuss here but they are mostly focused on personal preferences on how things are done or should be done.
Overall I am really glad that I made the switch. The screen and camera are amazing, the phone is really responsive and apart from a couple of times that I didn't know how to do something and I had to Google it, I am using it as if I had it for a long time. I have no restrictions, I don't have to jailbreak the device so that I can get some applications that Apple deemed that they ruin the user experience (according to their reply to the FCC regarding Google Voice), my data is synchronized with the cloud and I can get it out of there at will. I can even develop my own application and install it if I wish to. This is something that the iPhone does not provide and notable is the fact that I had to retype all my store cards that I used Cardscan for in the Key Card scanner and there is no way for me to get the data that FuelGauge has stored in it and potentially transfer it to aCar.
I would say that the iPhone would suit someone that is not that tech savvy and is not impressed by the technical abilities of the phone, rather is focused on the amount of applications that exist for that phone (iPhone is superior there). The Nexus One though raised the bar way high and it will take a long time for the iPhone to even come close to it. Once the Apple introduces the ability to allow multiple applications to run at the same time, provide the liberty to get your data out of it if you wish to, stop trying to police people by restricting applications, then the gap would have been bridged but until then... in my humble opinion the Nexus One is king!