My first two weeks with a Nexus 5 after a year with a Lumia 920

Two weeks ago, I purchased a Nexus 5, because I wanted to try something different after a year with a Lumia 920.

I chose the Nexus 5 mainly because I wanted to try an Android for my everyday use and because the reviews are very positive of both the phone and the Kit Kat version of this operating system.

In this post I will simply write all my thoughts, love and hate after the first two weeks of use. In addition, I am a total noob with android, so I am more than open to suggestions for apps or configurations to solve my problems.

My everyday use

Before I start with the things I found useful and useless of android, I want to explain what my everyday use is, or at least till now with my Lumia. I do not use it for gaming of any sort, but just to make calls, texts, appointments, private and company emails, reading news, social activities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and, of course, as a navigator. I also use it as a test device when developing.

In these two weeks I did not rooted the device, changed firmware or rom. I wanted to use the phone “as is” and see what it has to offer out of the box. The next couple of weeks I will start get my hands dirty with franco.kernel and maybe the purity rom and see how the uses and functionalities change.

The first Day

The day I received the phone (Nexus 5 32 GB white) I was a little disappointed. I spent 400€ for this phone and no ear buds? Really?

After turning it on, and doing the first configuration, I started moving around and get accustomed to the new interface. The first positive things I noticed were the possibility to totally crypt the device, the notification center (really cool) and the notification led. It was since my HTC diamond that I had not a phone with hardware notifications.

The notification center is really cool; you can see there are notifications in the top area of the screen and swiping down with a finger let you access to the full list. If you, instead, swipe with two fingers you access the entire quick menu like settings, toggling on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile connectivity. Really handy. With windows phone you have to use an app to create some shortcut, but you cannot access all part of the settings. Another nice touch is with the Wi-Fi icon, with two little arrows it show if there is ingoing or outgoing traffic.

Another plus is the hardware led that blink white if you have new emails or texts, blue if you have new Facebook’s alerts, and so on.

Now the bad things I found on the first day. I suppose some are because I was expecting the same functionalities of windows phone or iOS.

The biggest one is related to voice commands. I use them a lot when driving and, with windows phone, everything worked like a charm. When I receive a text, a voice warn me and ask me if I want to have it read to me, call the sender or ignore the event. If I want to call a person by saying only the name, and not the kind of number (mobile, work place or home), the phone asks me which number to dial. It even asks me which person to call If it find multiple occurrences of the name (for example when I only say “call Daniela”). You can also specify if you want voice commands active only when using Bluetooth, Bluetooth and ear buds or always on.

With Android, I was not able to find a way to replicate this behavior. If I use the call button of my ear buds, it ask me to unlock the phone. Disappointing (and it is not safe while driving if you have to grab and look at the phone to unlock it). Another thing that show me how useless voice commands are, is when you unlock the phone and tell Google to call someone. If this person have only one number, the call start (without voice feedback of the action), but if this person has more than one number a screen appear waiting for you to click the number you want it to dial (also without voice feedback).

Believing it’s impossible that Android cannot does that, especially after trying the voice recognition it sports under the hood, I started searching and posting this question on some forums (XDA is one), but with no answers. On the Google store I found an app that seems to do what I am looking for, but it is only for Motorola’s phones (here is the link).

After some experiments, I was able to have it works only for making calls using the English dictionary (I am Italian, so using it with my contacts names is useless) and with the data connection on. However, I cannot in any way use it for the other things (there is an option to allow the hot word to works also with the phone locked, but the battery dies faster).

I found than an option to use commands with Bluetooth. I do not like Bluetooth ear buds because they usually die in the middle of a conversation and I do not want to remember every time I use my car to turn on and off the Bluetooth. Anyway I tried with two different pair of Bluetooth headphone (one Jabra and one Cellular Line that works with other phones) to see if I could solve my problem and with my surprise I could only pair them. With both of them, when I press the call button, I hear a voice saying to wait and, on the display, appear a gray screen with written “initialization” and stay there forever. In addition, in this case I wrote on XDA and did some searches, but no luck until now. I am wondering how other people do. Just ignore the phone and do not use it until they reach to their destinations?

Another thing that I do not like is how it handle contacts. With windows phone, the same person with data coming from LinkedIn, twitter or Facebook is automatically aggregated in one form. You can also handle it manually. Android does not. I found 4 times the same contact just because the LinkedIn app or Skype added it and no way to tell the phone to group them under the same name.

Writing a status or posting a photo on more than one social network is a pain; I have to open one app for each one and post the status update or upload the photo n-times. From windows phone you got one upload and the ability to choose to which network post directly inside the OS (but it miss G+ in the list of networks). I found a couple apps for this purpose but they are not integrated into the functionalities of the phone, like from the camera to post directly after taking a shot.

The last thing that scared me a bit are the authorizations the apps want when you install them. I ended up not installing many apps I wanted to try just because I did not feel right allowing them all what they ask. For example, I was looking for a flashlight app and some of them asked for access to contacts, GPS, phone id, storage and camera. The first thing I though was that it was too suspicious and ended up not installing many apps. However, I suppose the one to blame is the lazy developer that ask for everything “just to be sure” than the platform itself. That is why there are so many antivirus on the play store. After some digging I found out about App Ops and I am a little disappointed to have to void the warranty and root the device (I know I can relock, but it is still a beta and can break apps, or so Google say) to allow me to do what should be there since at least a couple two major release.

The other days

In the following days, I found more things related to everyday use. The first one is the lock screen, totally useless, until you install a third-party app to try to behave like windows phone. At least what I expect from the lock screen is to be able, with a single glance to see the upcoming appointment, unread email, missing texts and other apps notifications. DashClock, created by an engineer at Google, a widget for the lock screen that do what I was looking for. The bad thing is that when you press the button to turn on the display, you see immediately the keyboard to insert the pin, so the information are all compressed in the top part of the screen. It would be nice to have it occupy the entire screen by default and not to have to swipe down to hide the keyboard. Here are two screenshots of what I mean (taken form the app page)

dashclock1 dashclock2

Another little thing I found annoying is that you cannot set a background picture for the lock screen and a different one for the home screen. I saw some apps that replace the lock screen on the play store, and I guess I should try them, but using a third app that could potentially compromise the security, for a wallpaper is a big no-no for me. So I will stick with default, thoroughly tested, one for the time being.

Another functionality that I find really cool is the notifications of the alarms. They are shown as a notification starting from an hour before they will end. So you can disable that specific alarm without having to stop and remember to reactivate them at a later time. It happened to me a gazillion times to turning off a planned alarm and forget to reactivate it later.

The possibility to remotely install an app on your phone works very well, from your pc, you choose an app from the play store, press install and five seconds later your phone starts to download and install that app. With windows phone I was never able to do the same thing. The only one that really worked for me was to send an email with the link of the app and open the link from the phone.

The voice recognition is really awesome, fast and precise, but until you have to take the phone in your hands before using it, will remain useless for me.

Another little thing that is better on Android is that you cannot change the volume while your phone is locked. With windows phone I can and, sometimes, you accidentally mute the phone by pressing the volume buttons while in your pocket. The one thing I do not get it from Android, Windows phone and iOS, is why, with the phone locked, I can turn it off. In my opinion, I should first unlock it.

One other thing I find very annoying of Android is with the calendars. I have nine calendars and four of them are read-only. When you create a new appointment it show you also the read-only ones and if you do not pay attention you end up creating an appointment on the Facebook calendar. After you save it, you see it in the calendar, but if you close and reopen it, it is obviously gone. Like windows phone it should filter out the read-only one and remember the last calendar used for ease of use.

Last two things I find better on Android than on WP8 are Skype and the keyboard. Skype works as it should, while on Windows phone is already a miracle if someone write you and a toast notification appear. It is very random; sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The keyboard with the swipe option turned on is amazing. It still cannot recognize some of my most used words as the first probable combination (if I try to write “ciao”, it end up with “chiuso” every time), but I guess it only need some good training.

For now that is all I found. For my use, android seems like a nice platform for playing and messing around, but for the real everyday use (at least mine) at the moment I still prefer what my Lumia has to offer. The voice commands truly works and I cannot think of migrating to anything that do not equal or surpass WP8 in this, I am too much dependent on it while driving. Moreover, as a plus, the Nokia offline navigator is free.

What I like best of Android is the ability to change everything inside Android, with the risks that freedom bring. I will stick with my Nexus for at least another month and see how I can improving it by changing the kernel and trying some custom rom that seems to include some functionalities that I am missing. While for the Bluetooth headphones, I should be able to try a couple others before starting to think that my phone is somewhat broken. If you have some suggestions for solving the “problems” I am facing please get in touch with me.