Posts Tagged ‘Galaxy’

Android vs Girlfriend

August 11, 2012

What is, probably, the most popular feature people use all the time in their mobile phones since the late 90s? SMS!

It’s so popular that nowadays millions of people can send SMS for free in a lot of countries, even with prepaid plans.

It’s those kind of features I always believed it was no secret for phone manufacturers, SMS has been around almost since the beginning of times, or, in my case, since my first mobile phone, a Nokia 8110 that you can see below still writing a SMS!

I’ve been using Android devices since 2010 and there’s one thing I believe most people will agree with: it’s the most complete mobile operating system feature-wise!

The thing is that, although Android can do pretty much everything, some of the basic stuff – like SMS – Android appears to have some trouble doing flawlessly:

  • The first time I heard someone complaining about SMS problems in Android was with a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro: apparently when running out of memory, the phone would stop some essential services and daemons including the SMS one, which meant the phone was unable to receive SMS messages with low memory available. Since this model has a really small amount of internal memory this problem occurred frequently as the user installed a couple of apps. This phone ran Android 1.6 so at the time I thought it was those kinds of youth problems early versions of any software would suffer. It may be related to this bug reported on the public Android bugtracker.
  • My first Android device in 2010 was a Samsung Galaxy 3 (GT-I5800) running Android 2.1. I had to return it in the first month because after a week or so of intensive texting it would eventually stop receiving SMS messages from the contact with who I exchanged most messages. After a factory reset it would start receiving all those pending SMS it wasn’t able to receive before, but after a couple of hundreds of exchanged SMS it would stop receiving them again! A couple of months after returning the phone I stumbled upon some internet forum threads talking about this bug, like this one.
  • The next Android device I had was the Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000). Although SMS apparently worked better compared to the Galaxy 3, I used it for more than a year and had a couple of isolated incidents, things like sending the message to the wrong contact despite having selected the correct one, or opening the wrong thread after receiving a new SMS! These bugs were eventually acknowledged by Google and fixed in a subsequent release of the OS. The Galaxy 3 bug was also present but I only noticed it once or twice, it was much less noticeable than before, so there was some improvement!
  • Since late last year there’s another really annoying bug I’ve seen more and more friends and acquaintances complaining about, not only with Samsung phones but also with other manufacturer’s devices, like Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro (running Android 2.3). Android mixes SMS: when you receive longer messages it will join a part of the new text with some part of an older random SMS, resulting in the most weirdest and non-sense texts I’ve ever read. This bug has been reported for quite some time and is still awaiting solution.

The problems, in my experience, usually arise when you text a lot with a specific contact (e.g. your wife), so you might think everything is normal because you can text all the other contacts fine but don’t receive this specific contact messages or receive everything mixed up.

This might not be a severe bug needing urgent attention but is for sure a source of headaches:

  • It’s not funny when your loved one sends you a text asking to pick her up somewhere and you just don’t show up or even answer the text because you’ve never received it in the first place: you will eventually get an angry call from the other not so happy person!
  • If the message comes through mixed with other texts you might get the (wrong) idea that the person you’re texting is either drunk or smoking weed… which may or may not be funny depending on who the other person is!

The funny thing is that, although I hear a lot of people complaining about this kind of problems with SMS in Android and despite some discussion around this on the web, the media did not wrote articles on this, despite having done so when, for instance, Windows Phone had that major problem with some specific SMS disabling the messaging service and shutting down the phone. These Android bugs might seem minor stuff compared, but I’m sure they have affected a lot more people than the Windows Phone one!

In the end, the whole Android SMS system seems to me much worst compared to other mobile platforms. I’ve never ever had a problem with SMS with other non-Android phones, so I don’t really understand how after all these years Google has yet to sort this out!

Firefox 14 lacks Android 3.x HoneyComb support

June 28, 2012

Mozilla just launched Firefox 14 for Android and I was eager to discover if the latest version was any good.

Unfortunately, unlike what’s written in the system requirements webpage, Firefox 14 is in fact not available for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.2 as you can see in the picture below.

This might be related to what some people call “the Android fragmentation”, but it’s really unfortunate that a less than one year old Android tablet is not able to run the latest software like Google’s own Chrome browser…

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 SunSpider Browser Benchmark

June 15, 2012

Recently I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, last year’s Samsung flagship tablet that runs Android HoneyComb (3.2).

This device was, probably, the main iPad 2 competitor, so I was curious about how it performed. I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmark on several different browsers I found on the Play Store.

One of the browsers I was most curious to try was the Google Chrome browser that recently got an Android version but unfortunately it only runs on the latest 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) version of Android so it was a no-go.

Nevertheless I tried several other browser as you can see below:

The stock Android HoneyComb web browser scored 2304.4 ms, so this can be seen as a base line for the other third-party browsers.

Dolphin browser (version 8.2.1) completed the benchmark test in 2439.7 ms, which is a little worst than the stock browser regarding javascript performance.

Mozilla’s Firefox, version 10.0.5, performed surprisingly good, running the test in 1883.4 ms, result that almost competes with the iPad 2 Safari result (that was around 1800 ms)!

The Firefox Beta, currently available at the Play store in version 14.0, performed worst than the stable v10 version, completing the benchmark in 1983.4 ms.

Opera Mobile, currently at version 12.0, ran it in 2094.7 ms which, compared to Firefox, is not brilliant although better than the Android 3.2 stock browser.

Finally, Skyfire 4.1.0 ran it in 2276.2 ms which is about the same as the stock browser, so, not a result to be particularly proud of.

Although packing a Tegra 2 SoC and more RAM, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not beat the theoretically less powerful iPad 2, that’s still the king of my SunSpider tests on tablets, with a result as low as 1744.0 ms achieved with iOS 5.0.1.

Samsung Galaxy S will not be updated to Android ICS

December 24, 2011

I’ve just read that Samsung officially confirmed it won’t update their 2010 flagship Android smartphone to the latest version of Android that was announced by Google a couple of months ago.

Although the i9000 was announced in March, it was first released in June of 2010 but only in a limited number of markets. For instance, in the country where I currently live in, Vodafone only launched it in late October of the same year.

This means a lot of people bought this phone, often attached to a 24-month contract, in late 2010, being currently within the first year of ownership.

Since Samsung will not continue to provide further support, most of these people will have to wait another year with a flagship phone running an older version of Android until they can renew their contracts and get another phone (probably not from Samsung again!).

This goes against the 18-month update commitment Google said they were trying to push along with their partners and makes me wonder if it’s really worth to buy an expensive high-end Samsung Android device, given their poor track record of updates.

On the other hand I do really understand why Samsung made this decision: their core business is to sell new smartphones!

Samsung probably guessed that most of the, let’s say 15 million, Galaxy S customers don’t really care or know what version of Android they are currently running, and the few that do really care about this are probably savvy enough to visit the XDA forum and sort this out unofficially with the community.

As I recently wrote, I sold my Galaxy S for a bunch of other reasons some weeks ago. If there was any doubt remaining in my head about if selling it was the right thing to do, after reading this disappointing news, I’m really glad now that I did, since this would be the ultimate “nail in the coffin”.

Merry Christmas!

Final thoughts on Samsung’s Galaxy S

December 2, 2011

As you might have noticed, I’ve been using (since mid-2010) Samsung’s 2010 flagship, the i9000 Galaxy S.

I bought it carrier-locked to Vodafone for €420. In the European country I currently live in, it’s almost the minimum wage!

Besides all the marketing efforts Samsung put behind it (especially at the European airports!), the phone was €250 cheaper than the iPhone 4, packing almost the same (or better) hardware:

– The 1GHz Hummingbird SoC, co-developed by Samsung with Intrinsity (later acquired by Apple) is similar to Apple’s A4 chip

– It has 512 MB of RAM (as the iPhone 4/4S)

– The SGX540 is better than iPhone’s SGX535

– The Super AMOLED 4″ display is bigger and offers deep black levels

Spec-sheet wise, this was the super-smartphone I was waiting for to replace my old Symbian-powered Nokia.

There were a few things hardware-related the spec-sheet did not mention I’ve only discovered after some time:

– The SIM-card hold mechanism (or the lack of it!) was not very good. The phone was losing the SIM-card all the time in the first weeks and I initially thought it was the SIM-card fault. I asked Vodafone for a new SIM-card and with this one things got much better. The problem was not completely solved, as I had this problem again with the new one, although much less frequently.

– The battery was not completely still inside the phone. When I grabbed the phone I often felt the battery moving inside, but I did not care about this very much since the battery never actually lost contact (unlike the SIM) with the phone.

– The back cover, made of cheap plastic, did not provide a premium quality that a flagship phone is supposed to have. It was prone to scratches, which over time made the phone look used prematurely.

– The Super AMOLED screen has awesome deep blacks but after about 6 or 8 months of usage there was some burn-in, especially at the top where the notification bar with the clock is. I believe this was one of the reasons led Samsung to change the notification bar color from grey to black.

– Antenna performance was definitely not great: at my place’s basement, where any old Nokia could get 1 or 2 bars my Samsung frequently lost connectivity to the network and even when there was connectivity, making a phone call was almost impossible. Same thing happened at my University’s library.

So, there were a few issues with the phone’s hardware, that revealed it not as high-quality as I thought initially it was.

When I bought the phone, Android 2.2 Froyo was already in the wild, but the Galaxy S was still running Android 2.1 Eclair. It didn’t take long till I find some annoying problems with the phone’s software:

– Android was noticeably slow and the performance was underwhelming (Quadrant score was around 700 or 800 points, slower than it’s main competitor, the HTC Desire)

– It wasn’t able to get a lock with the GPS satellites (maybe this was also a bit related to the antenna performance)

– There was some overheating after playing some games

– Animations were not smooth, such as the Vodafone logo when starting up and shutting down

I looked for the issues on the web and apparently they were pretty much common knowledge among the owners, but there was Android 2.2 coming and this update was supposed to fix everything for everyone. So, instead of returning the phone within the first 15 days, I just kept the phone waiting for the promised update.

This belief was my mistake as I found out later! In fact, Samsung took a long time (several months) after the launch to release Android 2.2, postponed the update several times, and when finally released it, Vodafone took some extra time to release it to their own branded-handsets. I’ve lived without Skype or Flash for a long time, as both required the Galaxy S to have Android 2.2. It’s worth mentioning that my previous phone, a Nokia with Symbian S60v5, ran both Skype and Flash Lite, so Android, at this point, was some sort of a regression.

By the end of 2010 the update was eventually available! After some weeks, even after factory resetting the phone, I concluded that, beside now having Flash and Skype, everything else was still the same: the lag was really noticeable, Quadrant score was just around 150 points up from the previous version, GPS would lose the satellite fix all the time (making it impossible to use in the car) and then there was the overall stability: instead of getting better, it seemed even worse, with games such as Angry Birds crashing the phone entirely as you can see below.

When it crashed like this, I had to pull the battery off or press the power button for a very long period of time until the phone restarted by itself. Another problem was that, despite the performance improvements of Android 2.2, the phone slowed down as time passed by. Eventually the phone would be so slow and lag so much the only solution would be to factory reset it again, lose all the progress and data of the apps and games and start all over again, since there is no official way of backing up the data without rooting the OS.

My new hope by then was to believe that the future Android 2.3 Gingerbread would make a miracle. It wasn’t until the summer that the Gingerbread update was finally released by Vodafone and I updated the phone and reset it… again!

In the first week I truly believed the miracle have been made: the phone was now blazing fast, GPS seemed ok, Quadrant score made a huge jump, almost doubling the original Android 2.1 score!

I finally had this amazing phone I was expecting to get when I bought it one year before!

Unfortunately this great performance did not last for long and soon I was feeling the old lag back again, the GPS was not that good after all (although improved, the precision was much worse compared to a friend’s Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo), the performance was decreasing (Quadrant Score was scoring lower results as time passed by), the stability was hitting all time lows (both games and popular apps such as Facebook often force closed as you can see below) and then there was a new bug I already wrote about in another blog post: the Android OS battery drain bug!

Another thing that really annoyed me was the browser! Samsung made a few changes ruining it even more:

– In Eclair the browser supported up to 8 tabs, but in Froyo and Gingerbread it is limited to 4 tabs!

– Samsung removed the + and – button that allows you to zoom in and out without using the pinch to zoom gesture

– Unlike other Android competitors, the browser did not fit the text automatically to the screen when zooming in, you needed an extra double tap after pinching to zoom

– Browser performance is far from good, the SunSpider score is not impressive at all and there was a problem with the kinetic scroll I mentioned in a previous blog post

– Stability was never something to brag about, and in my opinion it got worst in the latest Gingerbread updates

– There was some rendering issues with some websites (e.g.: lists that did not appear), as you can see below

– I suspect the browser had frequent memory leaks, and since only about 300 of the 512 MB of RAM were actually available to Android I believe this was one of the reasons Samsung limited the browser to 4 tabs from Froyo onwards.

It’s amazing how the most expensive and sophisticated phone I’ve ever bought turned out to be the worst I’ve ever had!!!

After I’ve searched for a while there was a recurring answer to all my problems: surrender and enjoy the dark side of custom ROM’s, such as Cyanogenmod 7!

The community had come up with some of their own-made firmwares that improved noticeably the performance of the phone but in most of these custom ROMs there’s always a few drawbacks:

– First of all, you lose the manufacturer’s warranty (which is a big deal to me!)

– Battery life is apparently even worse compared to the official Samsung firmware

– I would also lose the ability to make standard UMTS/3G video calls

– The camera performance would decrease, since 720p HD video recording was not possible or not entirely smooth

– Some features at some point were not yet developed (such as FM Radio)

So, even though this kind of custom ROMs actually solved some performance-related issues, I would not get as many features as in a Samsung ROM.

The community also came up with some “lagfix” apps that, as far as I know, change the original Samsung filesytem to a faster one, which solved, at least temporarily, the lag problem but required rooting the OS.

My personal belief is that a manufacturer should be responsible for supporting their own products, especially one such as the Galaxy S that sold millions of units and was the company’s flagship phone in 2010.

I really respect how great (and big) the Galaxy S community is and their continuous efforts to solve for free what Samsung is being paid by the customers to solve, but in the end what I really want is a brand to take full responsibility for the things they have put out in the market!

I’m writing my final thoughts on this because recently I’ve met someone that was looking to buy a used smartphone and the Galaxy S was fortunately one of the models he was interested in: this sounded to me as a sign it was time to let my phone go and I didn’t miss the opportunity to sell it: problem solved!

Thoughts on Android 2.3.5 for the Galaxy S

November 24, 2011

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using for some time now the Android 2.3.5 update for the Samsung Galaxy S and it deserves some comments.

Good news first:

– The previously reported Android OS battery drain bug is apparently gone! This just means the phone does not drain the battery all by itself in a dozen hours or so, which was a huge problem. The Android OS process is now at a more reasonable 6% share of the overall battery consumption.

– The browser scroll now works properly as in any other smartphone in the market

Unfortunately, there’s a few problems with this firmware:

– As I said in the previous blog post, the TouchWiz launcher crashes randomly.

– The phone process is also crashing a lot, especially soon after the end of a phone call, as you can see in the picture below.

– The browser may now present a correct scroll behavior but the stability is worst than before, which is not good because the browser was never the most stable app in Android.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it did compensate the lack of stability with improved performance, but running the SunSpider javascript benchmark returned a result of 6505.1 ms which is a regression compared against the 6305.4 ms scored by Android 2.3.3.

Apparently stock browser javascript performance optimization is not a priority for Samsung, neither is improving the stability of the official firmwares they release for the Galaxy S.

Manufacturer’s custom UIs for Android

November 20, 2011

Since a couple of weeks ago all the attentions turned into the new Android 4.0 release, called Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new Samsung flagship model, the Galaxy Nexus, but some may have noticed that Samsung is apparently rolling out for some European i9000 Galaxy S handsets the Android 2.3.5 firmware update, available through Samsung’s Kies software.

While it is great to watch Samsung still providing support for last year’s flagship model, it’s quite disappointing to realize that this phone, one and a half year after being released, is still plagued with some issues.

One of the problems is that the custom TouchWiz UI was never really rock-solid stable. Even after installing the latest Android 2.3.5, the TouchWiz launcher occasionally crashes as you can see below.

It’s not as bad as in Android 2.1 or 2.2 when I had to pull the battery off the phone because it crashed completely, specially after playing a game such as Angry Birds for more than 15 minutes, but I believe there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

I really do not understand what’s the point in not using Google’s Android standard launcher and spend time, money and resources working on a custom UI like TouchWiz, offering a less good user experience, decreased stability and increased memory consumption.

The only Android manufacturer custom UI that seems to offer some benefits in the UX department, in my opinion, is HTC’s Sense UI although the memory consumption is probably even higher than in Samsung’s TouhWiz, but maybe that’s why HTC’s are very generous in the amount of memory they usually pack inside their phones.

Android browser kinetic scroll bug

October 31, 2011

One of the reasons why I started using other Android browsers was because of the kinetic scroll bug the Gingerbread update brought to my Vodafone branded Samsung Galaxy S.

As you can see in the video below, since the Android 2.3.3 update, the stock browser has a different kinetic scroll behavior. Instead of slowing down smoothly, the scroll now stops suddenly after a brief moment since the start of the scrolling, which I find annoying as hell…

Opera Mobile 11.5 SunSpider benchmark

October 28, 2011

Since I’ve been disappointed with the overall performance of the Android stock web browser, I started using some of it’s competitors in order to discover if they were any better.

Lately I’ve been using the Norwegian Opera Mobile which was recently updated to version 11.5. It has some cool features like Opera Turbo, that can be configured to only be activated when you’re not using WiFi, and allows you to save some bandwidth by compressing the web-pages, passing them through Opera own proxy servers, which is nice if you have limited traffic in your data plan.

The SunSpider javascript benchmark is also significantly faster on Opera Mobile, especially if you compare it to the Android stock browser. In my Samsung Galaxy S it ran in just 3080.9 ms, which is about half of the time the stock browser took to complete the same test (6305.4 ms).

There is, however, “a price to pay” for this great performance: (lack of) stability!

As you can see above, sometimes Opera Mobile crashes, which is kind of a common thing for me with Android devices, but not acceptable anyway.

If Opera improves this, I believe this is one of the best browsers currently available for Android!

Other SunSpider 0.9.1 results

October 19, 2011

Recently I had the opportunity to run the SunSpider javascript benchmark in some devices with different operating systems, so here are below the results I’ve got.

Samsung Galaxy S – Android 2.3.3: 6305.4 ms

HTC Desire S – Android 2.3.3: 7611.9 ms

HTC 7 Trophy – Windows Phone 7.5: 9590.7 ms

Apparently all this three devices are considerably slower then the A5-powered iPad 2, but none of them is powered by a dual-core processor as the Apple device is, so I was expecting this difference.

Another important fact is that the Windows Phone HTC device is powered by a 1st generation SnapDragon clocked at 1 GHz while the Android HTC device is powered by a 2nd generation SnapDragon clocked at the same speed, so that might be one of the reasons why the WP7.5 device was slower than the Android one.

The Galaxy S was faster than the SnapDragon-powered HTC, but I don’t know if that’s only because of the Samsung Hummingbird SoC or if there is some optimizations Samsung did at the firmware level to enable this faster performance.