A Great Step Forward in Smartphone Technology
This article last updated: February 11, 2012
Expect periodic updates to this article
Since I started using my Galaxy Nexus, that also being my first experience on an Android phone, I compiled a long list of questions and issues. As I learn and discover solutions, reducing my friction factor along the way, I’ll be updating this article and adding more on specific apps. I haven’t discovered a way to automatically notify subscribers to this publication when an article is updated (vs. being newly published).
So if you’re interested, please check back here. I’ll label this article with the date of its last update.
Mainly About Solutions
There are a ton of online sources that dig into the technical specs for the Galaxy Nexus. This article is mainly about solutions and reducing friction factors to get the most benefit from this phone. I am not very familiar with older versions of Android, so where a function is version specific, this is about Android ICS.
Time to Change
I had been using the Blackberry Storm and Storm 2 since they came out. They were a light year improvement over the Motorola Q I had before that. I finally had a phone that I could actually use for more than a glorified phone directory. Still, the Blackberry browser is so bad that I rarely even tried to use it. And then I got my son’s old Motorola Droid X to use just as a wireless device (no Verizon account). I immediately discovered that Kindle for Android is far superior to Kindle for Blackberry. Then I started discovering a ton of very cool and very useful Android apps, comparing them against what is available for the Blackberry…and found myself longing for an Android phone.
At the same time, the iPhone 4S was also looking very attractive. The more I looked, the more tempting it became…tempered enormously by my son’s experience with Apple’s active policy of unilaterally removing any apps on your device that they don’t want on it.
But then…Samsung announced its Galaxy Nexus with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich or ICS). After research and comparisons, the Galaxy Nexus became my choice for my next smartphone. The only problem last October 2011 was that the Galaxy was not yet available in the U.S. After a number of false rumors about its release date, it finally became official on December 15th. I called in the wee hours and became one of the first to order it (well, not counting the few “Sooners” who managed to get one at stores who goofed on the release date). A couple of days later my new toy arrived. And I love it. Now to get past its imperfections…
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
To the mocking chagrin of my oldest son, I’ve always been a belt holster phone guy. The larger size of the Galaxy dissuaded me from continuing the practice. Interestingly, the Galaxy Nexus is so thin that it fits comfortably in the pocket of my slacks and it’s hardly even visible. It is a royal pain to get to it when I’m in the car wearing a seatbelt, but I shouldn’t be getting to it then anyway, right?
Battery cover: One of the things that constantly irritated me about the BB was its metal plate battery cover. Secured only at each end of the cover (a typical design), it didn’t align flush with the back surface of the phone, so I kept rubbing across the edge and it would pop off any time I dropped it, spilling out the battery. The battery cover for the Galaxy is elegance in engineering. Its textured plastic “hyper skin” is flexible and snaps into place along the full length of every side. When in place it feels like an integral part of the phone and provides a welcome texture for holding the phone. I’ve not yet dropped it, so I don’t have a report on how it handles that, though it’s only a matter of time.
Display: The Galaxy’s large (for a phone) 4.65-inch high resolution Super AMOLED display is amazingly readable. Its slightly curved screen gives it a futuristic effect. I like the lack of hardware buttons, the entire screen being configurable as needed. Add Android’s two-finger swipe to zoom in and out, together with a browser that actually works (clicking a link goes to the link), and I finally have a phone that can be used in more ways in place of my laptop.
Fast boot: Every few days I needed to reboot my Storm 2 to restore performance (in spite of having a daily scheduled battery-pull app). It takes so long to reboot a Blackberry that it was best if it happened at nap time. In great contrast I am very pleased with the performance of the Galaxy Nexus—and it reboots in about 30 seconds.
Battery life: For its speed and all that it does, I worried that battery life would be a problem. And indeed it drains significantly faster than my Storm 2. OTOH, I wasn’t able to use the Blackberry Storm 2 in all the ways I can actively use the Samsung Galaxy. It normally lasts a full day anyway, but I have USB chargers everywhere I park myself (office, bed, car). So battery life hasn’t been a problem yet. Thank you world for dumping proprietary chargers.
Android Market: I love Android Market. It is reasonbly easy to find applications of interest and get user ratings. It is very handy to install an app to the phone from the website with my laptop.
My List of Desired Solutions, Questions, and Issues
This is where I’ll mainly be updating this article—to let you know what I’ve learned and discovered (and found fixes for) to reduce friction in my life’s intersection with my smartphone.
A great source of help: http://www.droidforums.net/forum/galaxy-nexus-help. The people here are very helpful and responsive.
Issues and Questions
I have found answers to many of these questions and will add more as I update this article in addition to separate product review articles.
- Phone Design: Does the wi-fi antenna in the Galaxy Nexus have poor gain for anybody besides me?
Answer: Apparently so from reported complaints. And Samsung’s reported solution is to “fix” the software to display stronger signal strength. I ignore the visual indicators. Instead I am just making an observation that reception in some parts of my home is far weaker than on my Blackberry or laptop in the same location. Using the excellent Wi-Fi Analyzer app by farproc on either my laptop or on the Galaxy Nexus, I can see the actual wi-fi signal strength. For a given location and signal strength at that location, my BB or laptop is able to receive just fine. The Galaxy Nexus just spins, not ever able to load a Web page. If I still had access to the right equipment I could quickly create an antenna gain pattern for the GN and I suspect it would be very poor. But there are folks out there who have this equipment and could provide objective data independent of Samsung. I am confident that the result won’t be a software issue of not displaying signal strength accurately.
- Email: How to force a check for new email?
Answer: You can’t on an Android if your email account(s) is set to automatically check for mail on a timed basis.
- Email: How to set email to default to “combined” accounts view?
Answer: I was delighted to see that I didn’t lose the ability when I switched to Android to view my email from all of my accounts at once. Unfortunately, the “combined view” setting on the Android is not sticky.
- Apps: Android market: cannot update apps now; error (-101)
Answer: The solutions reported by others did not work for me. My Google account is associated with two email addresses. When I changed Android Market settings / Accounts to have the account’s primary email address selected, it started working again. I still don’t know why it stopped working.
- Feature: How to immediately silence an incoming call and send the caller to voicemail?
Answer: The easy solution doesn’t work on an Android. I kept trying to press the answer button to answer a call and the end call button to silence it and send the call to vmail. Nope, Android requires a swipe. Swipe the ring icon to the answer icon on the right to answer a call, to the left icon to silence the call, or up to select a quick response to text to the caller and silence the call.
- Apps (Kindle): Why does Kindle sometimes fail to open the book I’m reading? I have to go into “Recent Apps” and force stop Kindle. When I then go into Kindle again it loads the book ok.
Answer: I have uninstalled Kindle and reinstalled. I also deregistered my device and registered it again. Also, with the help of a very knowlegeable and patient Kindle support specialist, Katie L., I downloaded updated versions of my books for which an update was available. So now to find out if this freeze behavior still continues…
- Apps (Kindle): Why does Kindle keep trying to sync (and fail) even though I have Whispersync disabled in my Amazon account?
Answer: This can happen if the wireless signal to the device is weak. In my case, it appears that the reason is that I goofed. In my Amazon.com account I deregistered the devices I wasn’t using and kept the one I was…or so I thought. It turned out I had renamed the wrong device and was still trying to sync to one that had been turned off. So now to find out if correcting this issue fixes this problem…
- Apps (Kindle): While reading a book in bed, in a dark room, with device brightness set to minimum, something happens and the device goes to full bright.
Answer: Katie at Kindle support advised me to turn off automatic brightness control as a test to see if this behavior stops. If so, it would still be a bug in either Kindle or the device, but I will then have brightness controls in the Kindle’s display settings (so at least I can turn down the brightness before getting a tan in my bed). Now to find out if this changes anything. The bug could be in Profile Scheduler which is what I use to turn down the display brightness at night on an automatic schedule.
- Support: Where to find a complete user manual for this Verizon phone?
Answer: Go to the support page for your device, right? True, but only if you’re not signed in(as of Jan 2012). No, that doesn’t make sense to me either.
- Apps: What is the best solution for scheduling profile changes?
Answer: “Profile Scheduler” by Wetpalm. My review will be published here soon.
- Apps: How to fix an address that is wrong in the GPS maps?
- Feature: How long are email messages stored?
Answer: Verizon support said there must be a bug in the mail app because it’s only keeping the last day’s mail for them, too.
- Feature: Why does “speech to text” sometimes stop working, failing to process?
- Feature: The Galaxy Nexus has a front facing camera. So what app is needed to use it for video chats? I normally use Live Messenger for video chats, so I was hoping this would be an option for this phone. Nope.
- Feature: How to copy my music to the phone—just use the normal file transfer process? To which folder? Which app is best to listen to my music?
- Feature: One must the press power button to wake the display. Awkward.
Answer: None yet. I tried the only solution I could find, “Tap Tap App” does not work reliably except when I don’t want it to…when the phone is in my pocket.
- Feature: How to check voicemail via a button vs. manually dialing *86?
Answer: Press and hold “1″ on the dialer.
- Feature: How to include your voicemail pin in the voicemail dialing sequence?
Answer: Open the dialer and click the settings button (three dots). Go into Voicemail Settings and select Voicemail number. Edit the number to dial (*86) to be “*86,XXXX#” where the X’s are your pin. Add additional commas if more delay is needed before dialing the pin. To enter the special characters press the *# key and it will display special symbol choices.
- Feature: How to know when there is new email, voicemail, alerts, etc.?
Answer: In addition to the audible alert if that is activated, a white light will flash at the bottom of the phone. Touch the top of the screen in the header area and swipe down. This will display your notifications.
- Sync to Outlook: How to sync contacts and calendar (without requiring Outlook on the PC to be closed)?
Answer: “CompanionLink Professional” and “DejaOffice” from CompanionLink Software. My review will be published here soon.
- Security: How to locate the phone when it’s missing? Remotely wipe its contents?
Answer: “Lookout” from Lookout, Inc. Virus protection is also available. My review will be published here soon.
- Feature: How to remove all contacts in preparation for a fresh sync?
Answer: Settings => Apps => All => Contacts. In the Storage section select “Clear Data”.
- Backup: How to regularly backup the phone to the cloud with all of its settings and apps?
Answer: I’m still looking for an ideal solution. Verizon’s “VZ Backup Assistant” and your Google mail account can backup contacts and apps, but they are not a complete solution.
- Feature: How to get speed dial?
Answer: Android Contacts lets you mark favorites (highlight the star at the top of a contact) which then show up in the favorites section of the dialer (press the person icon in the three icons at the top of the dialer). It’s not the old press and hold a number from the dial pad, but you don’t have to remember who goes with which number either. I just wish Favorites could be displayed as smaller buttons or a list to avoid swiping to find a “speed” dial.
- Security: How best to protect confidential information on my phone?
Answer: “mSecure” from mSeven Software. My review will be published here soon.
- Apps: My Favorite Android Apps
February 11, 2012: I have been using my Galaxy Nexus now for two months and I love it. It is certainly the best smartphone I’ve ever had but, more than that, it is a device that is truly useful in many aspects of my life. I finally have a browser that is actually worth using. And apps that make a difference. To that end I am writing a follow-up article that will highlight great apps that I have discovered.
Copyright 2012 FrictionFactor.com