Samsung Galaxy S II, The best Android Smartphone ever?

Whenever i hear such a claim, on any product for that matter, i always wonder what is the context of the “best”. You see unless the product excels in all departments, i.e. it is the purrrrr -fect product in comparison to its competitors (see there is still a context) it can’t be the best.

Take the category of smartphone as an example. I would rate HTC for its famed Sense experience, which help to ramp up a newbie experience with Android (and Windows Mobile previously). On the other hand I see SonyEricsson being in the leader in its camera functionality having used its Xperia Arc and compared it with all the Galaxy S series. That said, HTC Sense is getting too complicated as the company tries to be sophisticated for its products to be ‘smart’. But I have digressed.

So when I read reports that raved the new Samsung Galaxy S II as the best Android smartphone to date I thought it is a bold statement. Don’t get me wrong as I think it is yet another fine product by the Korean company but that statement needs to be contextualized. Continue reading

Desire over HD2

I have always have the desire to learn about (mobile) life beyond Windows Mobile,  after having owned numerous Windows Mobile devices for the past 5 years. Then came iPhone, in 2008. But despite its edge cutting user experience and its hundreds of thousands of (useless) applications, it didn’t wow me over. I admit I’m not a big fan of Apple, but that has nothing to do with me not joining the fruity camp. I think it’s a great mobile product to start with, and had redefined the usability of mobile devices. It forces telco to sell data plan as a mainstream service. There’s many good things about the consumer focused phone, but just not enough to replace the likes of my trusty Xperia, Touch HD and subsequently HD2 as a productivity phone.


Then few months ago, I had a taste of Android on my Touch HD, albeit booted from Windows Mobile using haret (just think of it as a PC that can dual boot between Windows and Linux). I thought Android was an unpolished product then, with a great potential to woo over die hard Windows Mobile users.

In the past 6 months, many Android based phones had launched, but they were either too small for my fat fingers, or did not look appealing to me. Most importantly, until Android 2.1 (or Eclair) was released, there was no good way to integrate Android with Exchange Server backend.

Last month, a couple of new Android Eclair phones were launched, and one of them caught my attention. The phone “Desire” is so aptly named. Sporting a screen of 3.7″ size, running HTC sense and most importantly has support for Exchange Server integration,  it looks like a good phone to replace my HD2, which had been on steriod for the past few months.

So when Yeez decides to renew her telco contract, I shamelessly offer her my professional service to set up her HTC Desire, and in the process, for her to experience the steroid boosted HD2 and for me to test-play her HTC Desire for the next few weeks. 

But it took me 2 weeks before I could lay my hands on the desirable phone, as the phone was out of stock island-wide since day 1 due to its overwhelming demand and conservative supplies from HTC (as I understood HTC allocated only 100 units to each telco on day one of its release). Fast forward to yesterday, upon first powered up,  I was first greeted by the familiar shell interface, HTC Sense, which has been around in other HTC Android and Windows Mobile phones. The Android version of the HTC Sense supports a wide variety of widgets, and I believed it is based on Android App Widgets framework. This is a big contrast to the Windows Mobile version of HTC Sense, which has been developed from ground up, based on Lua scripting language. Ok, it sounds little too techie here, but bottomline, you should be able to customise the Android version of HTC sense with other non HTC-sense widgets easily. In the Windows Mobile camp, you would need skilled developers to custom build additional “home tabs” which will only run on HTC-sense powered Windows Mobile devices. That said, I am alittle annoyed with the fact that I can only have 7 “widget screens”, even though I could work around that “limitation” by choosing different “Scene” (each scene has its own set of home widget screens configured).

Installation of third party applications into HTC Desire, like any other Android phones (and iPhone if I’ve to be politically correct), is seamless through Android Market.  I installed a few applications, including big installation packages such as NDrive.  There are some installed applications such as SMS widget counter, File explorer,  Bluetooth transfer app, etc which I deemed basic and should be part of the Android base system. Or maybe I have been spoilt by Windows Mobile for the last few years. On the otherhand,  there are good applications such as Tapatalk which I had been hoping for during  the Windows Mobile  days, and I reckon the lack of “easy to use” UI SDK as the main reason why developers are slow in porting their applications to Windows Mobile.

Applications aside, setting up HTC Desire was a breeze, in particular setting up Exchange Server account for my push mail needs. In a few minutes, all my company mails, calendars and contacts were downloaded to the phone. While the PIM features in Desire (or Android phones for that matter) is not as extensive as that in Windows Mobile, it’s  more than adequate for one to connect to workplace, e.g. scheduling a meeting with a list of  invitees,  setting out of office,looking up company’s global address book, etc. And because I had setup my HD2 favorite people previously, the Desire’s favorite widget screen shows the same list of favorite contacts after synchronising with the exchange server. Neat!

Now here comes my biggest gripe(s),  to date. I always pin-secured my phones, and its no different for HTC desire. The problem with HTC Desire, and possibly for any other Android phones, is that if I choose to have numeric pin, I would still face a full qwerty keyboard to enter the pin when I try to slide unlock the phone. It may sounds like nitpicking, but just imagine you have to tap 8 key codes quickly every time you turn on the phone to make a call or do a quick read of new messages. It didn’t help that Android phones (or at least for HTC Desire) seem to have only one single power management mode; regardless of whether the phone is on external power source or battery, or whether the phone is idle or running some active services.

Apart from these gripes, there are other small nags such as occasional screen lags, inability to have full access to application configurations (probably require rooting). Still, I think it has been a refreshing experience, and is the smart phone that is capable of replacing my HD2. This is even more so with the next version of Android, Froyo,  rumoured to be available for HTC Desire in a couple of weeks time, and reportedly to be 5 times as fast as Eclair. Of course, since its made by HTC, one can easily head over to xda-developers to satisfy ones desire for the dark side.