Upgrade time

I’ve had to replace SIM carriers in both of my phones — a Samsung S3 and a S4 Active. The S3 is stuck at KitKat, but the S4 Active is being upgraded as I type this to Lolipop. I’m curious to see the new design and see if the lock screen notifications are improved over KitKat.


Android Repairs

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

One nice thing about the iPhone is the SIM carrier — it’s a metal frame that holds up well under repeated SIM changes. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a thin metal carrier that uses friction to press the contacts against the card. Between my card wearing out and using a SIM carrier adapter, my phone has lost connection with the SIM card.

On an iPhone? I’d probably need to replace the phone. With a Samsung? I bought a replacement SIM carrier online – $1.88, with free shipping. bought another battery with a wall charger, so I can swap batteries and not worry about charging on the road.

Chapter 12 – Android Battery Drain

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’m moving back to my iPhone for a while — while I’m loving the Android environment, I’m getting about 8 hours of idle time out of my Galaxy SIII, and that’s just not enough flexibility for me during the week.

I’ve tried Qualcomm’s Snapdragon BatteryGuru, tried removing all of the Samsung apps, turned off the motion sensors, turned the brightness down and turned the auto-brightness setting off — and still I can watch the battery icon draining. Oh, I’ve bought a new battery as well, thinking it might be a Li-ion battery going south.

Between the lack of lock-screen notifications in Kitkat and the battery issues, I’m better off with the iPhone for a while. I found a Lolipop ROM for my old Atrix 4G, I’m tempted to try it out on a rooted ROM to see if the notifications are any better in the new OS version.

Chapter 11 – I removed iTunes!

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I removed iTunes from my computer yesterday, and it was the culmination of several years of frustration. iTunes does a lot of things from updating phones to tracking podcasts, providing store access, iPhone backup and restore and AirPlay streaming to other devices. As a result, it became more complicated as time went by. There were a couple of times over the years where iTunes would break and I’d have no option but to remove it completely and start from scratch.

Apple made changes to iTunes over the years and broke third-party compatibility at least twice – I used to use EvilLyrics to import lyric info into my music (which would scroll on the display while the song played) but iTunes made an API change which left EvilLyrics broken.

At one point I had over 300 songs in a compilation folder that I’d play by selecting the folder. I accidentally told iTunes to manage my media, and iTunes faithfully took my folder with 300 songs and converted them into 300 folders with one song each! I spent quite a bit of time after that working on metadata – adding genre, album cover, and artist/compilation info.

Now that iTunes is gone, I’m back to Winamp – the first MP3 player I used under Windows, and it still  works just fine. I can select a folder to play, or use the media player feature to select by artist/genre/etc.

Copying music to an Android phone? Plug it in and drag/drop files. Couldn’t be easier.


Chapter 10 – All In With Google

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

Screenshot_2015-03-12-10-42-30The Google Play store has over a million apps available for download, and there are other Android app stores available. There’s no limiting you to one store, as with the iPhone. Trying to find the right app can be daunting.

I decided to try out all of the Google apps first to simplify things, then will compare their offerings to some of the other apps out there. My take on the app offerings are below.

Read More

Chapter 9 – Secure Android Messaging

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

Now that I’ve upgraded to a newer Android phone, I’m testing out secure messaging applications for mobile devices.

Open Whisper Systems make two products I’m trying out – TextSecure and RedPhone. They offer secure texting and voice calls, and both products are open source. I’ve replaced my messaging app wigth TextSecure and have a couple of contacts already using it.



Chapter 8 – Android OS on Modern Hardware

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’ve traded in my Motorola Atrix 4G for a Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. The Atrix 4G is a 4 year-old Android phone with an interesting design that included a dual-core CPU, fingerprint reader, a “webtop” app that let you use it docked like a desktop PC and media center, and a laptop shell that used the phone to drive a keyboard and screen in an ultrabook laptop form factor.

While I liked the form factor (smaller than an iPhone 5, although a bit thicker) and liked the flexibility of being able to load other launchers and the variety of apps available on multiple app stores. I missed a couple of applications that weren’t supported — the Atrix 4G ran Android OS 2.3, a far cry from the current state of the OS.

The Samsung is running Android 4.4.2 on modern hardware – a quad core CPU, HD display. While I still have a soft spot for the Atrix, I’m going to try this out and see how the newer OSes compare. Already in the first few hours of playing with it, a handful of apps installed that wouldn’t work on the Atrix, and while I haven’t found the VIP notification capability on iOS, I can pick separate alert tones for incoming emails from selected contacts.

Chapter 7 – Switching Gears

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’ve spent the past two weeks with a 4 year-old Motorola Atrix 4G phone instead of my almost-latest-and-greatest iPhone 5. I started using an iPhone in 2011, about the same time the Atrix was manufactured.

While the comparison was stacked in favor of the latest and greatest iPhone OS, The old AndroidOS showed promise.

Android Wins:

If you like a wide open ecosystem for a computer platform, Android is it. There are several app stores to choose from, and there’s no requirement to settle for one. I chose the Google Play store and the Amazon store and found an astonishing number of free and paid apps. If you make a security setting change to your phone, you can load your own apps by copying them to the system.

Android media support was simple — plug the phone into a computer via USB cable, and drag and drop media onto the phone. Ironically, having to use iTunes over the years forced me to organize my media to the point where copying the files over to an Android phone would be a workable solution.

I bought music during this experiment on Amazon, and unlike the iTunes store, the music is primarily DRM free.

Firefox for Android. I use Firefox at home and at work, and having my bookmarks and environment synchronized across home, work and my phone was helpful.

iOS wins:

Notifications — iOS’s VIP feature is a close approximation to BlackberryOS’ ability to filter what email gets forwarded to your handheld. ActiveSync is an all-or-nothing sync protocol, but with the VIP feature of iOS, you can set up stakeholders in your work life as VIPs, have their email notifications sent to the lock screen and not notify if anyone else emails. This one feature has allowed me to take my weekends back by prioritizing my off-hours contacts.

Connectors – the Lightning cable, while seemingly part of the connector conspiracy, is a nice connector. It’s small, fits either way, and feels solid. Micro-USB, while widely used, is more fragile and more difficult to connect.

Podcasts – iOS comes with a full-featured podcast client and the iTunes store is the largest collection of podcasts. I had to search for an Android podcast client, and didn’t find one that met my needs.

Next, I’m planning on moving my data and plan to a modern Android phone and compare it to its predecessor and to the new iPhone.

Episode 6 – Messaging

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

If you search for the phrase “Can’t receive picture text messages” on the web you’ll find a ton of pages – about 9,000,000, according to Google. I ran into that problem this morning — I could receive text messages, but MMS (Multimedia messaging Services) messages wouldn’t appear. I’d get a box asking me to download the message, then it would time out without downloading the text.
Some pointers suggested turning off wifi, but another suggested checking the APN (Access Point Name) settings. The phones use APN settings to tell it how to connect to the mobile network.

A look at my phone revealed a possible problem — the APN settings pointed to Cingular, a previous incarnation of AT&T wireless. Since this phone is 4 years old, it’s entirely possible that the setting are no longer valid. Another quick trip to Google turned up this page, intended for someone bringing  a phone from another carrier to AT&T. I created another APN under Wireless and Networks -> Mobile Network Settings->Access Point names, and set the new one to default. Picture messages now work.


Name ATT Phone
APN phone
Proxy Not set
Port Not set
Username Not set
Password Not set
Server Not set
MMSC http://mmsc.mobile.att.net
MMS proxy proxy.mobile.att.net
MMS port 80
MCC 310
MNC 410
Authentication Type None
APN type default,mms,supl,hipri
APN protocol IPv4
Bearer Unspecified


Episode 5 – Notifications

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

It took iOS several iterations to get notifications right. When I first moved from a Blackberry to iPhone, there were several instances where my iPhone alarm didn’t go off because I’d received a text message that was waiting acknowledgement.

iOS has configurable notifications for each application, and can include a popup, a message in the notification area or some combination of the two. Either are available when the phone is locked.

Android 2.3 has a notification bar that is available when unlocked, but you have to pull it down from the menu.

I’ve gotten spoiled being able to sit my iPhone up near my desk and use the locked screen meeting/calendar reminders to keep me on schedule. This is something I’ll look forward to testing with of the operating system, as I’ve seen screen shots that look like what I’m looking for.


Episode 4 – Gingerbread

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’m trying to do a fair comparison between my year-old iPhone 5 and an Android phone, but a disclaimer would be appropriate — my Android phone is almost 4 years old.

I didn’t want to buy a new phone to start this experiment off, so I thought I’d start with a used phone, learn the environment, see where it came from, and then look at the differences between Gingerbread and the new OS on a new phone.

Google’s “Gingerbread” OS was released in February of 2011, and is still in use on low-end phones manufactured today. While missing some of the features of newer phones, it’s still a viable release. I’ve found versions of most of the programs I use on a day to day basis, Firefox seems to do a good job rendering web pages on the phone, and there are theme add-ons to make Gingerbread look like the newer releases — or iOS if you’re so inclined.

There are some software compatibility issues with Gingerbread; I had to do a search to find OneNote 2010 and side-loaded it onto the phone; OneNote 2013 wouldn’t run on it. Dropbox wouldn’t either, but I can work around that. Snapseed, my favorite iOS photo editing app wouldn’t load, either.

Episode 3 – Sync

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

Being able to bring my contacts, calendar items, notes and tasks into my phone is what makes it a Smart Phone. Android uses ActiveSync to connect to Exchange mail servers, and the capabilities are on par with other ActiveSync clients like iPhones and the new Blackberry phones. With it, my mail is synchronized, as are my contacts, address lists and calendar items.

I looked at my phone this afternoon, needed to pull up some information I had saved in my Outlook notes and remembered that ActiveSync doesn’t support notes. iPhones don’t support notes via ActiveSync – there’s a feature in iTunes to sync notes.

I found a program called Tasks and Notes for Exchange, which offers notes sync as well as offering support for David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, outlined in the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

My phone is a Motorola Atrix 4G. Motorola offered a service called MotoBLUR, which appears to be a way to sync data and applications between phones and through a web site. Annoyingly, you need to create a MotoBLUR ID before logging into the phone the first time. I did so, and while the phone works just fine, the information didn’t make it across to the web service. All of the sync features sold in the marketing documents are gone from the site, and all they’re selling is device wipe features. I spent 45 minutes on chat with Motorola tech support and got the distinct impression that the application’s best days are behind it, and that Motorola has moved on.

The MusicLink service appeared to be a way to sync music from iTunes to the phone. it’s been replaced by MOTOCAST, which also appears to be down; the domain is valid but there’s nothing there. The Music app is hardcoded to look to podcast.com for content, and there’s only a handful of podcasts listed. The domain is for sale. I’m reminded of online ghost towns like Myspace and Tribe.net — the servers are plugged in and online but no one’s there.

Android phones shine when connecting to Google services, I’ll document setting up my personal accounts to sync to the phone in a later post.

Apple has a thriving store for all content and can sync all content from Outlook either directly through ActiveSync or through iTunes.

WINNER: Apple.

Episode 2 – Hardware Standards

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

The first step to getting my phone up and running was to move the SIM card from my iPhone to my Android phone. My iPhone uses a Nano-SIM, while the Android phone takes an industry standard SIM card. While the smaller size might allow Apple to make a smaller phone, it’s still the same thickness (which seems to me to be the more important dimension when designing a phone).


Luckily, there are inexpensive SIM card adapters; I bought a set on a popular internet auction site. While the correct height and width, the combination of the adapter and SIM were too thick to fit in the phone; a careful sanding with 180 grit sandpaper and thorough cleaning fixed that.

Next came headphones. Amazon makes a great ear bud headset, but the controls don’t work on an iPhone. Nor, apparently, do they work on an older Android phone. iPhone ear pod headset phone controls work, but media volume controls don’t. Non-branded headsets seem to work just fine.

The Android phone uses an industry-standard USB cable. One cable works for my MyFi wireless box, bluetooth headset, external battery and phone. One thing that frustrated me with the iPhone was its ability to reject non-certified cables and adapters. I’ve used a variety of car and wall chargers and a handful of USB cables with no complaints.

The battery on my phone may be suspect, but I don’t have enough experience with it to know if the battery is degraded. New replacement batteries are under $5 on eBay. The iPhone lacks a user-replaceable battery.

WINNER: Android.

Episode 1 – Making the Switch to Android

This is a series of blog posts documenting my switch from iPhone to Android. To read the whole exciting saga, click here.

I’ve been an iPhone user for several years. I like Apple’s application support, and I’ve learned to work around the quirks in iTunes, the quirky support for Outlook connectivity and ActiveSync, and quirks with reminders and alarms that I never had a problem when I carried a Blackberry.

Back in my Blackberry/WinAMP days, I kept my music arranged by folders and didn’t pay attention to metadata. iTunes made a mess of things and I spent the better part of a couple of years adding metadata to my music files – including album artwork, using programs to scrape lyric sites to add lyrics to songs, adding genre information, learning how to make a compilation of 300 songs by 300 artists show up as a compilation instead of 300 1 song listings…

I’ve spent a lot of time working around the Apple ecosystem, and wanted to see how Google does things with Android. I picked up an older Android phone from work and will document my findings here. I’ll need to migrate my music to my new phone, migrate personal applications to Android, come up with a photography workflow with equivalent apps to what I have on iPhone and migrate my work email, contacts, tasks and chat/IM to the new phone.

I’m using a Motorola Atrix 4G for my Android phone experiment. The phone was pretty impressive in 2011, but showing signs of age in 2015.

WCDMA 850 / 1900 / 2100
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
Weight 4.77 oz   (135 g)
Dimensions 4.64″ x 2.5″ x 0.45″   (118 x 64 x 11.4 mm)
Battery Talk: 9 hours max.   (540 minutes)
Standby: 250 hours max.   (10.4 days)
1930 mAh LiIon, Removable
Display Type: LCD (Color TFT/TFD)
Resolution: 540 x 960 pixels
4″   diagonal
Colors: 16.7 million (24-bit)
OS / Platform Android
version 2.2/2.3
Processor 1 GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 AP20H
Memory 16 GB internal storage, raw hardware
SIM card size Traditional / Mini (2FF)
FCC ID IHDP56LS1 » (Approved Jan 20, 2011)
IHDP56LS2 » (Approved May 25, 2011)