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One Less iPhone Purchased: Day One With The Nexus

By - December 01, 2012

I finally did it – I slipped the sim from my failing iPhone 4 into a shiny new Google Nexus last night.

And damn, the thing just worked. And it’s So. Much. Better.

But….there are things I wish it had. I figure I’ll take notes here, so folks can both learn from my experience, as well as tell me what an idiot I am help me out.

Here are the things I really like:

- Much better screen, faster, etc. There are tons of reviews that go over all of this, so I’ll not belabor the point. This is a way better device in tons of ways than the iPhone 4. And my son has a iPhone 5, and it’s bigger, and frankly looks nicer as well.

- All my stuff from Google automatically just…works on the phone. I logged in via my main Gmail account, and all my cloud-based stuff with Google showed up. All my photos on Picasa, all my contacts via Gmail (I’ve been using Gmail as a way to bypass Apple’s terrible contact “solution,” all the apps I had already downloaded when I set up my Nexus 7 tablet a while ago. It was very, very slick, and it makes me both trust the service, and want to feed it more of my data. While I am wary of having my data on any one provider, as I have written before, Google’s commitment to “data liberation,” which is enforceable via the FTC, gives me far more comfort than Apple’s closed world. And, as far as I can tell from my family’s experience with Apple’s approach to the cloud…well, Apple is terrible at it.

- The camera is ridiculously better than anything I’ve ever had.

- Most of the apps are clean and work very well. Google search is really, really good in voice mode. Google Calendar works seamlessly as well. Twitter is elegant. Etc.

Now, here’s the thing I really, really don’t get about the Nexus 4: Why on earth, when I plug it into my computer, doesn’t Google Play come up, so I can manage my phone from my Mac?

I know, that’s how the iPhone works, but it’s a very good way to manage the device, and I don’t understand why Google wouldn’t take the same approach. Google Play is turning into a pretty good App Store, and I’d prefer to use it on a bigger screen (the PC web) as I manage all my Android apps.

Anyone have a good reason for why Google hasn’t pulled the switch on that?

I’m running into any number of minor irritations with the phone – there are a few apps I use a lot from the iPhone that I have to figure out how to connect to my new Android world, but I am sure I’ll get there.

In short, I think this phone is for real. It’s gotten me off the iPhone, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

So what apps should I use? What are your favorites? Any tips and tricks?

UPDATE: Thanks for reminding me about wireless updates, no need to plug into a computer. And thanks for all the tips, keep them coming. One irritation I have found in the following day or so of use is the way Android handles text manipulation. I don’t find it easy to insert the cursor where I want to, for example. I’m sure I’ll figure it out…

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  • http://twitter.com/kevinmarks Kevin Marks

    if you go to google play on the web, it knows what apps all your google gadgets have, and lets you install over the net without plugging it in (same is true for Play Music – leave that running on the Mac that had your iTunes music on, and it’ll sync it all).

    If you want a USB management experience, DoubleTwist is pretty good, and will also let you send audio to Apple AirPlay endpoints.

    OpenGarden is very handy for sharing connectivity between the nexus phone and the nexus 7 and any other androids you have around.

    RadarNow is great for ‘where is it raining right now’ in SF this week.

    And try SwiftKey 3 keyboard. It trains itself on your own writing, so it only autocorrects to things you’re likely to say.

    • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

      Seconding DoubleTwist, but not so sure about SwiftKey – with the swipable 4.2 keyboard, I just don’t see the need for it now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/luismnabreu Luis Abreu

        But it’s optional. you can still use it in the traditional way and its predictions are really good…

  • Mike

    You will regret your nexuss purchase just like my brother. He tried to switch and now he has an iPhone 5. Said it froze up all the time.

    • johnbattelle

      I certainly hope that doesn’t happen!

  • JT

    Why do you want to plug it in? You can do all the management of the device “in the cloud”… music, apps (install and uninstall), documents (Drive), etc.

    • johnbattelle

      Rookie move. I understand that now.

  • Carlo Piana

    Yeah, many have said it earlier, but it’s just plain nonsense to have to plug your phone to manage it, since you can do it OTA equally well, and you’re not bound to have a single OS, you can do it wherever you want just provided that you logged in with the same Google account. And if you don’t like the Google Play app store, you can install Amazon’s, or, if you care about licensing and freedom as I do, you can use F-Droid, which only offers Free as in Freedom apps.

    What I don’t like of the new Nexus is that there is no easy way to change the battery. Which is what I will probably do with my Galaxy Nexus to have more stamina. But overall the phone seems a very good choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Lee/100002113292931 John Lee

    Try Airdroid ;)

  • george

    Seriously…you wrote an article about Android splintering and then you sign up for it. I don’t buy into Google’s data liberation, they play by their own rules; remember, they are under investigation for what – manipulating search results for personal gain?
    2013 Prediction: You’ll switch back to an iPhone.

    • johnbattelle

      It shows how much I don’t want to be beholden to Apple.

      • george

        Touché…good one!

        • http://www.theageoftheplatform.com/ Phil Simon

          It’s hard not to be at least a little beholden these days to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

    • http://profiles.google.com/jamespakele James Pakele

      Remember they are also monitored by the FTC… they can’t “play by their own rules”… Also, if you have any evidence of anything bad happening from Google having anyones data I’d be open to listening, but for the many many years they’ve had my data, not one thing bad has happened, and, as a matter of fact, I don’t know anyone who has had something bad happen from the data stored on Google’s servers.

  • http://www.microsourcing.com/ MicroSourcing

    One advantage of Google phones like this one is that they sync your data so that just about everything is accessible from one device. Checking emails and other files on the cloud is easy.

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  • Ted Edmondson

    How did you go with the actual migration of stuff. I have to say I dived into Android for my work phone (Samsung Galaxy SIII) and absolutely hated it, so went out and got an iPhone 5, which I absolutely adore. However, as a gadget geek I’m always looking to try new stuff at the bleeding edge, and would quite like to try stock Android that hasn’t been absolutely ruined by Samsung.
    However, I have a lot invested in the Apple ecosystem. Music isn’t an issue, as it’s DRM free (although getting it out of iTunes and onto an Android phone might be interesting), but books, films and TV shows, which I’ve spent a lot of money on over the years, are a different matter.
    If I could get those off my iPhone and onto an Android (or possibly even WP8) then I might consider it. Until then, I’m locked in to Apple. Not that that bothers me particularly as it’s generally a good experience for me, but that’s not to say it won’t be an issue in the future.

    • johnbattelle

      Well, I still have an iPad, so I can get to the few things I did buy from iTunes that way. And it’s on my Mac as well. I never did buy much from iTunes because I never liked the approach Apple took to content. Then again, I do wish I could just take all my music and load it onto the Google phone. Probably I can, but i noticed Google Play does not recognize Amazon MP4a files. Typical Internet Big Five bullshit.

      • pseudozach

        for music I use google play music, just downloaded the PC sync tool, point to the folder and it syncs to the cloud. once it uploads/matches your content in the cloud you can pin whichever ones you want to make available offline on the app.

        • johnbattelle

          Thank you for the tip!

        • johnbattelle

          Thank you for the tip!

        • http://profiles.google.com/jamespakele James Pakele

          I believe it will import straight from iTunes as well…

          Also, build playlists, because you can pin music by playlists, for example an exercise playlist that you can pin if you’re going to the gym, etc…

      • http://www.bluecoastrecords.com/ Cookie Marenco

        We’re involved in high resolution music distribution. We’ve been using JRiver Media player to replace iTunes. It’s only available for PC right now, but is far superior in our opinion. If you’re listening to music from a computer based system, it will act as a remote controller from your phone (Android). We use the Samsung phone and it works great. You can avoid your iPad. :) When/if you get involved in super resolution audio, you can choose the DAC output.

        Earlier this year I bought an iPhone and am not impressed. My GM got the Samsung and I saw the ease of Google integration. I’ve had phone envy ever since. I might try the Nexus after your glowing reports.

  • zato

    Professional anti-Apple propagandist/ditcher John Battelle ditches another Apple product, this time, a “failing iPhone 4″ for a Nexus-4.

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  • Mathieu

    “Why on earth, when I plug it into my computer, doesn’t Google Play come up, so I can manage my phone from my Mac?”
    You don’t need to plug your Android device to a computer to manage it from the Google Play website ;)

    The only 2 reasons to plug an Android device to a computer is to charge it and to develop apps

  • http://profiles.google.com/levykm kevin levy

    An alternative to inserting the cursor is to select a word by simply touching and holding it for a little more than a second.

    Recommended apps: Fleya (it’s mesermerizing), Google Sky (blew the pants off my grandparents who live in the country and love to look at the stars), Circle Battery Widget (clean and simple), Simple Calendar Widget (clean and simple), Tip Calc by ASHWIN KAMATH (allows you to calc splits for those who ordered drinks and those who didn’t), Splashtop Remote (along with a program for your PC, allows you to control your PC from anywhere), Tesla Flashlight Widget, and most importantly Swype Beta Keyboard(a 3rd party app, that requires a few more steps (clearly stated and easily followed) to install, but is the reason to use an Android over iOS.)

  • Murray McMaster

    Snapseed for Android is finally available. Best photo editor available for mobile.

  • dang1

    welcome to Android!

  • Jill Watson

    Thanks for your sharing your insights and thoughts. This entry reinforces my experience, too, as a user and fan of several types of devices and o/s’s who’s been put off by Apple’s less-than-stellar cloud environment.
    Re: keyboard, I follow others in recommending Swiftkey 3 — the best and most intuitive keyboard I’ve ever used on any mobile device or platform (e.g., everything from BlackBerry to iPad to Samsung/Android). Swiftkey has also just introduced a “flow” version in Beta, which I’m hoping will combine the speed of Swype (or better yet, Touchpal) with the accuracy of Swiftkey.

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