My day-to-day phone still is an iPhone 4S, netlocked thanks to Deutsche Telekom. So I was in need for another phone for my recent trip to the US and Canada. From my collection auf test devices I picked the Nexus 4 with the latest Android OS. We are now on the road for more than a week and, while cruising around Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway, it’s time to write a short review.
Before leaving I ordered an AT&T SIM and a voucher from travelSIMple which I activated while still in Germany. I went off the plane in Chicago and had data instant on. That’s really great. What’s not so great is the size of the phone. It’s both taller and wider than my iPhone and that sucks. There are tasks on Android where you have to reach the upper left corner on the phone and I always have to change the position of the phone in my hand or I use my other hand.
It happens all the time to me that I hit the wrong button when I want to unlock the phone. When you draw the phone from your pocket you can’t tell where is up and down as there is no real home button. And putting the unlock button on the side doesn’t make that in any way easier.
What I miss most is to scroll up all the way by a simple press on the title bar. But I guess, there’s an app for that, as I also had to install an app to prevent the display from rotating. You’re kiddin’ me, right?
What also works on a good-luck-basis is locking the phone, especially when you use the standard slide unlock. I happend more than once that my phone was unlocked and doing weired things while sitting in my pocket. I switched to a pin code and it never happend again. Still ridiculous.
What’s really great is the spell correction. It happens to me quite often on the iPhone that I select a correction on error. You have to delete everything then. On Android when this happens and you hit backspace it reverts to the word it corrected from. I love this as I love the abbility to pick from three different suggestions. However, sometimes hitting space does exactly nothing and you come up with concatenated words that shouldn’t. I think this is related to the spell correction but I wasn’t able to figure this out yet
I have a very limited set of apps on the phone, only those I really need while on vacation.
This includes K9 Mail for my regular email. This is a great app, supports multiple accounts, colors for the accounts and is a full-fledged IMAP client. Missing a swipe-to-delete gesture in list view, however.
I use the GMail client that ships with the phone and this one is so much worse than the current iPhone client. Makes me wonder what Googles primary platform really is. You can’t batch delete mail by tapping a checkbox in list view, you can only archive on swipe but not delete and assigning labels drives my crazy every time as it is an unnecessary multi-step process.
The built in Maps app is, compared to the GMail app, so much better. I use it for navigaton, it has a real small data usage footprint and good directions. I’m somewhat confused with the multiple search input fields that return different result views and I haven’t figured out yet how to start a navigation from my current location once I delete the current location entry.
Quite funny is the voice on navigation. The phone is set to German as it’s primary language and the navigation tries to pronounce all street names in German. There’s room for improvement…
I love the Foursquare widget on the home screen. I check in quite more often than I do on my iPhone. Otherwise this app is not much different from the iPhone app.
I’m a hardcore user of Panic’s Prompt on the iPhone. I did a lot of research and finally installed ConnectBot. Well, it’s not yet competitve but as far as I can tell it’s the best you can get.
- There is now way to import keys, you have to generate a key on the device and then introduce the public key to your server. This means some work when you have more than two servers (as I do). And even then connection with keys isn’t the default, so connection takes some time as password based has to fail first.
- You can’t rename bookmarks. I have quite a few connections to the same server with numeric usernames. You just can’t tell them apart when you can’t give the bookmark a name. I had to set up subdomains to do so.
- You can’t read anything on the prompt by default. You have to reset the terminal to a given size. And you have to do this every time. Pinch gestures don’t work.
- No arrow keys. If you want to do execute the same command again you have to type !! every time.
As mentioned above I got an AT&T SIM from travelSIMple before leaving. The internet coverage is quite amazing, even in not so densly populated areas, buying extra data is easy, tethering works out of the box and like a charme. In brief, im quite happy with AT&T.
On the other hand, Rogers sucks. Big time. I go with the claim ‘Where I am is internet’ so I couldn’t risk to be without while in Canada, even if it’s only for four days (things somewhat change when you are self employed). I got a Rogers SIM, also from travelSIMple, but you can’t activate it from abroad.
This is because you need either a canadian credit card (which I don’t have) or a voucher. Unfortunately you can’t buy vouchers before, because they are only valid for 30 days and expire afterwards without any refund. This is ridiculous and I’m happy to live in Germany where those things won’t happen. Next problem: These vouchers are pretty hard to get. I tried right after the border where you can get fishing and hunting permits, but no Rogers vouchers. I tried on a truck stop to no avail. Finally, I got lucky at a Walmart.
Nontheless, network coverage by Rogers is pretty good. I had no activated SIM around the north shore of Lake Superior, so AT&T dropped to Rogers roaming. I had coverage almost on the whole Trans-Canada Highway 17, however, as I was on roaming and not interested in getting bankrupt, I can’t tell if and who good data coverage would have been.