Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) Logo Courtesy of Google
My first experiences back in 2010 of Android were always a little unpleasant, it felt unpolished especially when compared to iOS. However, I recently tried out Android 4 on a very cheap tablet, although that has since died I will write here instead about the experience of the OS. It should be noted this was a very basic tablet, a single core ARM Cortex A8 with a basic graphics processor. Thus making it about the slowest experience you can expect from anything currently on the market, however even with that limitation I was pleasantly surprised.
I was very impressed by this, even on such a basic tablet. In general it was difficult to notice much slow down when flipping between apps. Of course the tablet I used is slow by current standards, hence the time to load applications was poor but once they were up and running for the most part problems disappeared.I often had many applications opened at once and the Android architecture made using them very pleasant.
If you are unfamiliar with Android then the act of switching between tasks can at first seem a little hidden, this is especially true if you have just moved from the IPaD or iPhone. However, by clicking on the onscreen icon it is quick and easy to move between apps. You also just kill apps by swiping them away.
Navigating on the device either between applications, or the the home space or back is quick and easy to understand. Some cheap tablets provide physical buttons but newer ones rely on the three touchscreen icons.
App Store/Google Play
Now comes perhaps the weakest point of the experience. Unlike Apple which vets all applications for anything from security to usability there is no such detailed analysis of Android apps, this in theory can leave you a little concerned. Also you can side load apps, this basically means you can download them from unofficial source and install them. This is much like any other computer but opens you up to many potential problems, so only do this if you must.
Another criticism you can level at Android is that some tablets (my cheap one included) do not come with a working Google Play (app store) installed. Instead you have to rely on third party ones such as Android Pit, which can work but also frequently redirect you for some apps to the non-working Google Play store. This can be avoided as I said in another article but is a pain.This problem seems to apply across many of the cheap tablets these days so it’s worth checking out if Google Play works out of the box. This is a small niggle but does remind you that Android is not such a well integrated platform as iOS.
If you are really wanting to try out the concept of cloud computing I thoroughly recommend downloading Google Drive. Here you can store all your docs online and what’s more the Google Docs (Word processor, spreadsheet and presentation) tools are available. Simply write your documents and they are automatically saved and will sync with your Mac or PC at home without any problems. The cloud print service also lets you send your documents to any on line printer that you have permission to use. This is a very neat little feature.
Perhaps the only major downside with Android is that unlike the soon to be released Windows 8 or the current iOS platform is that the app options are not as industry based as the other two. Certainly I am sure MS will ensure superb support for it’s Office suite across all versions of it’s new OS. Apple of course also have a suite of rather nice office apps that you can use. With Android though you are sadly stuck either with Google Drive (previously Docs) which is good for basic tasks or third party tools such as Documents to Go that support MS Office. While these two solutions are ok, they come nowhere near close to offering a good alternative to Office. So if reliable Office compatibility is key for you then I’d wait for Windows 8.
The built in email client is very quick and easy to set up either for Exchange or not surprisingly Gmail can be almost painlessly set up. Sadly though the movie player does have some codecs missing so it’s a good idea to check out the alternatives, MX Player being a good one to look at.
I may be wrong but so far I have been a little disappointed in the lack of ways to synchronise such as tasks from Exchange. There are third party apps available, but if course if like me you are using mixed devices from Apple and Windows, all of which support tasks this is a bit of a let down.
Overall I can recommend Android and I say that as a long time Mac and more recently iOS user. Android has now matured enough to make it a good choice and if you add to that the many more hardware options to choose from than with Apple then I think the choice is clear.