Android pisses me off

If you want smart phone then you are limited to Android or iOS. Other options just do not count. iOS philosophy and devices which run it are not something I want to own/use so I am left with Android.

My first Android device was Nokia N900 with Froyo (Android 2.2) based NITdroid. When I saw “K9 mail” on it I knew that Maemo goes to trash (it’s mail client “Modest” worked only in landscape and used font size for visually impaired people). So few weeks later I bought Nexus S. Then Nexus 4. Next was Samsung Galaxy S4 which I won in some contest. Then moved to Nexus 5, LG G3, and now use ZTE Axon 7. Had/have few tablets as well: first some Tegra2 based one with Honeycomb (sold quickly), Archos G9, Nexus 7 (2012) and finally Lenovo S8.

For most of time I tried to run latest possible Android on my devices. Of course non-vendor one cause Android world cares about device for a year (or year and half in best case) and then ignores it. I stopped caring are there any updates to my devices. Sure, they are full of security holes etc but sorry I am not planning to spend few hundred euros every year to replace three phones and tablet.

With Android Oreo (not present for any of my devices) Google announced ‘Project TrelloTreble’ which should fix some of that. I suppose that in 2020 year 40-50% of new devices may support it. With old versions of Android anyway because binary blobs will be too old to keep up with newer releases.

Switching device is the other thing. Doing backups, restoring backups, (re)configuring applications etc. Last time I did factory reset on one of phones it took 2 hours before Google Play Store finished installing applications. Including those I removed half year earlier. Of course forget about text messages or call history. WTF Google?

Backups are fun anyway. Official way is “hope that Google keeps backups of your app settings in a cloud”. Most of apps to do sensible backup require root. Which usually require factory reset to be done first. Or all they do is provide other UI for ‘adb backup’ command (which does some backup and then decides to do nothing for any random amount of time).

ADB itself is a joke. Sure, it can be used to send files over USB connection but it looks like it’s authors live in 90s and all they have is USB 1.1 host controller in their PCs. I can not find other excuse for its speed of 3 MB/s (yes, THREE megabytes per second). Again: WTF?

My current plan is to use my Axon 7 with Nougat for about a year (or two) until it finally die or meet with ground one time too many. And still be pissed off any time related with backups (changing devices in family or sending them for repair).

Bought Archos 80 G9 Turbo tablet

During last Linaro Connect I bought myself an Android tablet. After checking what is on market decided to buy Archos 80 G9 Turbo. According to Amazon product page it had to have 1.5GHz OMAP4460 cpu and 1GB of memory. But it did not…

Marketing droids from Archos company should be … and … then … and again … — after that … or … and finally … (put any ways of doing deadly harm into … and repeat any amount of times). Why? There is no such thing as “Archos 80 G9 Turbo” — nevermind that I have one of them on my desk. So far there are at least three models with this name:

  • OMAP4430 1.2GHz 512MB ram
  • OMAP4460 1.5GHz 512MB ram
  • OMAP4460 1.5GHz 1GB ram

You can easily buy first model. Best Buy has it, Adorama has it, J&R has it, Amazon sells it. Second model was expected to land on shelves in December 2011. According to XDA developers forum few of them were even sold as people have them. Last model is listed on Amazon (but first one is what you get) and according to one sources it will be released in March 2012, other says that there will not be such thing. Marketing mess is lightest description which I can write without swearing.

So I got first one. First though was “WTF?!?!!?!?!?!!!” as I got slowest option. Even started returning procedure but as all US shops had only this version I gave up and decided that even with this technical specification it is better tablet then I had before (which was Hannspad SN10T1). Fast cpu, 4:3 screen with 1024×768 resolution, quite good build quality, video output.

Tablet runs Android 3.2 ‘honeycomb’ and does it nicely. Upgrade to 4.0 ‘ice cream sandwich’ was announced to be done in this month. So from software perspective it is done properly. I had some problems with rooting procedure from XDA developers but once you do it in order (and take files from other thread to get 3.2.80 firmware) device will work just fine. Have to admit that system layout on device looks overcomplicated (175MB squashfs as / for example) but it works. Anyway I am waiting for developer firmware (I was told that they will be available ‘soon’ (for any definition of ‘soon’)).

During first days of using I noticed that some applications refuse to work properly on XGA screen, some are resized/rescaled but problems usually are with games or poorly written apps (like Facebook one). But it is visible that keeping Honeycomb under stone (aka ‘closed source’) resulted in many applications not ready to be used on tablets. Even Google+ looks like it does on a phone…

I am slowly moving to use Archos as a morning news device (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Google Reader) — it is perfect for it. Reading webpages in landscape or portrait modes is pleasure as device is easy to hold and screen is wide enough in any of them (which was my main complain with Hannspad).

Had to order miniHDMI -> HDMI adapter (normal size connector would even fit but it is too big for this form factor) cause they do not add it in a box. When it will arrive I will check how good movies are played after connecting to 42″ plasma capable of 1080p. OMAP4 cpu should decode any video at this resolution without problems but I wonder how device deals with 4:3 internal screen and 16:9 external one. Would be nice to watch Youtube videos fullscreen.

Playing games is fun. Fieldrunners finally does not need scrolling, Great Little War Game is also better than on my Nexus S. From “racing” games so far I tried Asphalt6 (available at XDA developers forum), Shine Runner and Reckless Getaway — all run and look cute but accelerometr based steering is not comfortable with tablet size. Also games like Mahjongg or Solitaire are possible (I consider such games unplayable on phone).

Battery life is better than on my Nexus S. Partially because lack of GSM and bigger battery, but I think that due to power management done better.

I will not tell how good it is when it comes to read e-books because I have Kindle for it already.

Back to hardware. There is USB socket for optional 3G stick. Plugged dongle from wireless keyboard/trackball combo there — not recognized due to not be USB 2.0 device. Plugged thumbdrive and got it recognized (first time I got some kernel oops and no access to storage, had to reboot tablet). Did not tried other devices.

There is just one speaker at back of device. Definitelly too small and lonely. Nokia N800 which was released 5 years ago had stereo speakers… So for gaming I strongly suggest headphones.

Ugly thing is that when you push back of case with left hand fingers screen will react to it — looks like something is pushing screen. It does not look professional…

Ending summary: so far I am satisfied. Maybe one day will try one of those crazy builds like Ubuntu ;D

Want to buy Android tablet (again)

During my trip to Linaro Connect 2012q1 I want to buy Android tablet for myself. But this time I decided to spend more time on choosing one to not end with crap like Hannspree Hannspad which I bought half year ago.

Also situation on market changed. There are cheap tablets worth checking but there are also cheap crappy ones. So let me list what I checked so far.

Kindle Fire Nook Tablet Archos 80 G9 Classic Archos 80 G9 Turbo
price (USD) 199 249 259 299
RAM size 512MB 1GB 512MB 512MB 1
resolution 1024×600 1024×600 1024×768 1024×768
screen size 7″ 7″ 8″ 8″
internal storage 8GB 16GB 2 8GB 16GB
external storage none microSD microSD microSD
CPU OMAP4430 1GHz OMAP4430 1GHz OMAP4430 1GHz OMAP4460 1.5GHz 3
stock Android version 2.3 customized 2.3 customized 3.2 (4.0 in February) 3.2 (4.0 in February)
community Android version 4.0 4.0 not checked not checked
locked bootloader no yes (hacked) no no
USB Host no no yes yes
HDMI output no no yes yes

As you see my requirements are more or less simple:

  • dual core cpu (arm7)
  • 512MB ram (1GB preferred)
  • 1024×600 (or higher) resolution
  • 7-8″ screen size (I had 10″ and it was too big)
  • price below 300USD

During CES many vendors presented new tablets but I think that most of them will be released in Q2 or later. ASUS MeMo 370T looks nice for 250USD but it is not on market.

And I do not want 3G module in tablet — my phone has over 10GB of data limit to use for next months and so far I was not able to consume 1GB per month 🙂

Have I missed some devices? If yes then please share information in comments. Just remember that I do not want any of those NotionAdam/Viewsonic/Hannspad ones.

  1. rumours says 1GB in newer Turbo model 

  2. 13GB /data/ so it is hard to put own data over USB 

  3. if you are lucky and find them in store — OMAP4430 1.2GHz otherwise 

My opinion about Hannspree Hannspad SN10T1

During Linaro Connect Q3.11 I had occasion to play with few Android tablets. Andy Green pointed me to Hannspree Hannspad at Ebuyer UK (as he has one at home) which looked as nice deal so I bought one. It arrived two days later so I was able to play with it during conference.

Tablet was quite fast and nicely responding but… screen was disaster 🙁 Problems with touch screen, very poor angle views made using it very uncomfortable for browsing web or watching videos. Later I found out that there are two versions of Hannspad tablet: 1633 (which I got) and 1653 (with usable, bright display).

I was able to play with Froyo (was installed by default with some crappy tools), Gingerbread (community build of Cyanogenmod) and also with Honeycomb which is what I used for most of time. The fun of hacking Hannspad is that there are no kernel sources released by vendor so most of custom ‘ROMs’ are made for Viewsonic GTablet. Effect is that soft touch buttons does not work, volume buttons are reversed and some other issues exists while device is usable. But thanks to ab73 from SlateDroid forum most of them was solved and even more — Search button was found below Back one 🙂

Today I sold it. Was it worth buying? Definitely no, but it was good opportunity to check do I need such device. For day to day use rather no, but it was nice tool to browse web from couch or checking social networks. And Freerunners HD were flying 😉

But I plan to buy next tablet one day. Something with more square screen would be nice as I mostly used it in portrait mode to browse web and screen was too narrow for it. Who knows — maybe Amazon Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble Nook Color 2 (which was expected to be released in September too). 7″ sounds better then 10″ due to size. But for sure nothing less then 1024×600 resolution (1024×768 or 1024×1024 would be perfect).