Android dreams of a Windows sheep (2 of 2)

In part 1 of this post, I discussed what I like about Android, what I didn’t like, and my experience with Google’s Project Fi. This post will conclude my initial impressions of Android, listing some general disappointments, and what I missed most from Windows and from iOS.

A quick update on Project Fi, since my wife took the Nexus with Fi to Europe for a week: It was fantastic. Speeds were good in London and Paris, everything worked well. (I’d guess that while Fi uses second-tier carriers in the US, in Europe you get top-tier carriers. Just a guess.)

Disappointments

Google’s abandonment of Miracast in favor of proprietary solutions is disappointing and troubling.

Whatever happened to Google being the champion of open data and standards?

Google is an advertising company. Their interest in us as individuals is driven by their need to qualify, quantify and monetize our online interactions. If a service doesn’t make money (Google Reader), it’s gone. If a service can be modified to collect a nickel (Google Shopping/Froogle), it will be.

By far the biggest disappointment to me on the Android platform was Google dropping the Miracast standard in favor of its own proprietary devices. This is a problem with the Nexus (and Pixel), but not with Samsung devices; they still support Miracast, even on the new S8.

This is a problem for two reasons. First, Miracast is a standard available to many vendors. You can buy a MC dongle on Amazon, and it will work with a Samsung phone or a Windows PC. I have a Sony pico projector that works great with the S6.

The second problem has to do with the nature of how Chromecast devices connect. Miracast is a point-to-point connection, so it doesn’t require that you get your adapter on Wifi, since your phone or PC will just connect directly to the adapter. Chromecast, however, makes use of your local network. It is closed and welded shut.

As someone who plans to stay on the PC and make use of other Microsoft technology, I’d like Miracast support.

What I missed most from Windows

The Microsoft experience on Windows is, unsurprisingly, better than it is on Android. Microsoft should make a single app that brokers authentication for all other Microsoft apps and websites. This seems to have improved over my time using Android, perhaps driven by using the Microsoft Authenticator app.

Where did my movies and TV app go?

Given how cool Live Tiles are on Windows 10 and Windows phones, I’m surprised Microsoft hasn’t made Android widgets for its app that act like Live Tiles.

As with iOS, I’m very surprised that one of the main Windows apps for content–Movies & TV–isn’t available on Android. This has led to me getting most of my paid movies now from Vudu, which has the best experience across Android, PCs, and Xbox platforms. That should not be the case.

Continuum is one of the best features of Windows Mobile, but Android and iOS are following fast with similar functions to enable desktop-like experiences. (The setup above–Lumia 950XL, MS folding keyboard and Surface mouse–is almost exactly my travel kit. Add a Miracast adapter or pico projector and we’re there.)

Continuum … continues … to be the experience I missed the most from Windows mobile. Yes, Android has some very early capabilities in this area, particularly with Samsung Dex, etc., but it’s not the same.

What I missed most from iOS

Both Android and iOS have dozens of times more store apps than Windows Mobile currently does, but iOS has more and better apps than Android. There are some wildly creative apps (such as H__R) that are iOS exclusives. To be sure, there are some exclusives to Android, too (and even some exclusives to Windows Mobile for that matter), but iOS has an edge here, particularly in some of the creative apps. That’s no reason to buy a phone, necessarily, when those apps will run on an iPod Touch or iPad, and might do better on those systems. But it’s a difference that should be noted.

It’s very hard to beat Apple on hardware in general. The way their phones today are designed and built is unsurpassed. Their proprietary cables and whatnot undermine the otherwise top-shelf value of their hardware, and their obsession with aesthetics over design also undermines the value of their hardware.

Adjustments I made

I recommend readers follow the /r/microsoftandroid group on Reddit for ongoing conversations and for recommendations on making the most of the Android experience and Microsoft ecosystem.

I chose Microsoft’s Arrow launcher, and added full integration with OneDrive (for automatic photo and video uploads to OneDrive), Skype for messaging, etc. I used Facebook Messenger more than Skype since it was better integrated; hopefully Microsoft will figure out what it really wants to do with Skype.

The OneDrive integration worked flawless and quickly. As part of that integration, I also turned off all the uploads from Google Photos, using only the Gallery app.

You can turn off Google Now (or whatever they’re calling their robotic assistant these days), and you can have a long home-press trigger Cortana (but not the mic). There’s no way, currently to get “Hey Cortana” hands-free mode to work. That being said, Cortana works well enough, and it’s great to have a easy path to “add milk to my shopping list,” without Google.

I used the Outlook app, incorporating contacts and calendar, instead of the built-in apps on Google, although I could also have configured those to run against Microsoft services directly.

Half a phone?

At the top of part one of this post I mentioned one-and-a-half phones. Here’s what happened.

Following my iPhone 6+ test, I gave that phone to my wife for her to try out. I also told her about the Nexus I was using and about Project Fi, particularly about how it handles international service.

She’s had a trip to Europe coming up, and I suggested she take the Nexus (with Fi) for that trip. Instead (or in addition), she just decided to abandon her iPhone review and start using the Nexus right away. even. though. I. was. using. it. Good thing I had a backup in the Galaxy 6.

More to come…

My bumpy ride with Google; security & privacy round-up; the Lumia 950Xl and 640XL; and THE AGONIZING CHOICE (OR NOT?).

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