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iPhone to Android.

 

I’ve been an iPhone user for the last four years, having had both an iPhone 3Gs and 4S after several years as a BlackBerry user. All of those phones were company issued, but with my most recent job change, I had to purchase a phone and decided to give Android a spin around the block.

I’m sort of married to AT&T at the moment as both my son and wife’s phones are with them. AT&T’s current flagship Android phones are the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the HTC One X. The specifications of the two devices are very similar with the SIII edging out the One X with more RAM, a removable battery and the ability to add a MicroSD card. Ultimately though, I settled on the One X as it was $100 cheaper, felt better constructed, I liked HTC’s interface and it was $100 cheaper.

I was initially put off by how large the phone is, but after a few hours of use, it feels just fine. By comparison, the iPhone’s screen now feels positively tiny. The One X is quite a bit more slim than the iPhone which makes up for the added dimensions elsewhere. It also feels much lighter.

Design wise, the One X is sleek. There are no physical buttons on the face, only the touch screen and three touch “buttons” at the bottom. The lack of the iPhone’s physical home button was initially hard to adjust to, but I no longer miss it. The only odd physical feature of the One X is the bulge on the back that houses the camera lens. I worried about scratching the lens when sitting the phone down, adding a case made me feel much better.

For most of us, the usefulness of a smartphone comes down to the availability of the apps that we use. I’ve had little or no problem finding what I need to accomplish the same tasks on Android that I did on the iPhone. Many applications that I use, like Evernote, DropBox, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc. have versions made specifically for Android. For those that don’t have a direct counterpart, I was able to find suitable substitutes with relative ease. The Android app market has recently been bundled with Google’s music, movie and book sales sites under the Google Play name. Google does not adhere to the same ultra tight controls that Apple does when it comes to app developers, so there’s definitely some garbage apps out there. Make sure that you read reviews before you buy!

The ability to customize your experience is vast with Android. Don’t like the look of the SMS (texting) app? Download a different one. Don’t like the mail app? Same thing.

One feature that I enjoy with Android is the use of Widgets. Widgets are applications that are always running on the desktop of the phone. They can display live information like weather, your Twitter feed or Facebook timeline. Be careful though, running too many can sap your battery quickly!

I am a bit disappointed in the battery life on the One X. I ended up purchasing JuiceDefender to help manage battery usage. It does this by turning your radios off while the screen is off in order to save battery life. When the screen turns itself off, the app turns wifi, bluetooth and mobile data off. You can still receive phone calls and texts and the app will turn data on at set intervals to check for email and other internet based communications.

One thing that Apple has done well that Android hasn’t quite nailed yet is the way that they manage music. Much of the technology in iPhones is shared with the iPod products, and it’s hard to deny that iPods dominate the music player market. Syncing music to and from an Android phone and playing that music is a bit clumsier and less refined than with an iOS device. It’s not horrible, just not as intuitive.

All in all, I feel that it comes down to personal taste. By controlling both the hardware and software, Apple has always been known for products that just work and that’s true with the iPhone, it works and works well. That reliability sometimes comes at the cost of limiting what can be done with the device. Android is far more open and customizable, but that can carry the price of being a bit unpredictable. Apple can be slow to introduce the latest features like LTE, Near Field Communications (NFC), etc. while the flagship Android phones usually have more up to date hardware goodies.

I’m happy with my decision to switch. I still have iOS devices to play with, so this won’t be my last post about Apple.

 

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iTunes Un-Match-ed

I received several iTunes gift cards for Christmas this year, which I always love to receive. I decided to spend some of them to pay for a year of iTunes Match. The main idea behind iTunes Match is that once you sign up and match or upload your music, you can access it from any computer or device that’s authorized for your iTunes account. Once you sign up and activate it on a computer that contains your iTunes library, iTunes analyzes all of your music.

If it can find the same song in iTunes, you now have access to a high quality 256 bit AAC copy of it through iCloud (I talked about bit rate in an earlier post). If it can’t find a match, it uploads the song from your computer to iCloud. Depending on how much music you have, this can take several hours to complete. You can now access those songs from any computer or iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) that is set up to access your iTunes account. As a nice side-effect, you can download all of those high quality songs back to your computer, replacing the possibly inferior ones that you’ve collected over the years. Oh, and they’re DRM free!

I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 songs in my library. Some of those songs were purchased right from iTunes, some were ripped from my CD collection and some were acquired from other sources. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to my music, so most everything in my library was ripped at a decent bit-rate and it’s all well organized and properly tagged. I have some older stuff that may not be quite as high quality and I have some skips on some of the tracks that I ripped from CD, so I was looking forward to replacing them with nice clean iTunes fresh copies.

Pretty cool huh? It would be if it was that easy!

I have some fairly eclectic tastes and I know that I have music that’s not even available from iTunes, so I didn’t expect all of my music to be matched. I did however expect that most of it would be. After the initial run, I had around 1,100 songs that couldn’t be matched. That seemed like a high number to me, it’s over 1/8th of my entire collection! I started looking at what didn’t match.

Some of the stuff that I expected not to match didn’t, surprisingly some did (like The Dead Milkmen and Attractive Eighties Women). A large portion of the unmatched songs were fairly mainstream and are available for sale in iTunes. What’s more annoying than that, many of the songs were parts of albums that iTunes managed to match! For example, the Beastie Boys album The Mix-Up (which I ripped from a CD purchased from a local shop), matched all but two songs which showed as “Uploaded” instead of “Matched”. The more I looked, the more albums I found with similar results.

I can live with an artist or album not matching, but it really bugs me to have one or two songs from an album be the CD rips and the rest are iTunes sourced files. This may seem trivial or picky to you, but it’s just how I am and I’m sure that I’m not alone.

I hit the search engines to try to find some help. I found several posts pointing out that if the song in your library was a few seconds too long or short, it may not match. They suggested using an editor to chop off or pad a few seconds on the track, then try to match it again. Every file I tried this with didn’t get any better results.

A few folks suggested converting from MP3 to AAC, so I tried that with no success. Some suggested deleting one album at a time, re-importing and then re-matching, still no luck.

As of right now, I’m giving up for a bit. I may try to re-rip from my CDs, or I may just wait until Apple comes up with a better way to match tracks.

I really dig the idea of iTunes Match. Having access on all of my iDevices is great. Knowing that my music is backed up in a massive Apple Data-center somewhere is comforting. Having nice clean copies of my music is very cool, but they’ve still got a few kinks to work out.

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