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The HTC One smartphone. Courtesy image
Oh My Tech!: Breaking up with Android not hard to do

By Vince Horiuchi

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Oct 10 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:35 pm

I have a horrifying confession to make — I had a torrid five-month affair. I’m so ashamed.

But she was oh so sexy, even if she wasn’t the smartest around. Yet I’ve gone back to my true love, and I will never stray again.

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I’m going back to my iPhone.

OK, let’s get all the groans out of the way for that haphazard metaphor. But frankly, I was originally feeling like I was betraying someone when I dumped my iPhone 5 this spring for the sleek and gorgeous HTC One Android phone. After all, I was immediately attracted to the phone’s design and functions. I wanted a much bigger screen than the iPhone’s puny 4-inch screen, and I loved the HTC One’s spectacular stereo speakers.

But then I turned the HTC One on and started using it. After five-and-a-half months playing with my first Android smartphone, I came to some important realizations about what’s important in using a mobile phone. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.

Operating system » If I had to narrow my lesson to one pithy phrase, it would be: "It’s about the software, stupid."

When making a decision on which format to go with — either the iPhone, an Android phone or a Windows Phone — most of us shop for a new smartphone based on either how it looks or what kind of hardware features it has. Like I said, I wanted the HTC One for its beautiful, bigger screen and its speakers. But the beauty of a phone — like people — is only skin deep.

It really should be based on the software, or more to the point, the operating system.

What I learned is that the Android operating system, which is on scores of different mobile devices from the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One to the Nexus 7 tablet and more, is incredibly buggy because IT IS on so many different devices.

Android is an open-source operating system developed by Google. That means that it can be used by any manufacturer and freely modified for each handset. And boy is it modified.

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Samsung will modify Android with its own tweaks. Then each of the carriers — AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile — will modify it some more. By the end, Android on an HTC One phone will be significantly different from Android on a Samsung Galaxy S4.

That also means the software will be a lot more buggy than, say, an iPhone, which only has one operating system for one phone.

My HTC One had a variety of problems. I couldn’t make a phone call a third of the time. Sometimes when I made a call the caller could not hear me when I could hear them. And I had to reboot the phone at least once a day to make sure it worked.

Apps » With more than 1 million apps available on the Google Play Store for Android, you would think the selection of apps would not be an issue anymore compared to the iTunes App Store. It still is.

There are a host of apps I want that are still not available for Android that are for iOS, from TV apps for Fox and CBS to great games such as "Infinity Blade III" and "Plants vs. Zombies 2" (which apparently is coming to Android later this year).

If they do eventually come to Android, it is always after an iOS version first. App developers know that to sell a mobile app, they must first make it for the iPhone and iPad, then for Android, and finally for Windows Phone if they make it for that format at all. I have rarely — if ever — seen a worthy app I wanted that was made exclusively for Android.

Even if there is an Android version of a mobile app you want, it doesn’t mean it will run on your Android-based phone. Because Android is such a fractured operating system that runs on so many different phones, it’s difficult for developers to get their app to run on every single one of them. While trying to download an Android app for my HTC One, there were far too many times where I would get a message saying the app wasn’t compatible with my phone.

Finally, I’ve found that many apps that are available for all three formats usually run better on the iPhone. The app for the Slingbox TV set top box, for example, looks awful on the HTC One while it looks great on iOS. The video on the HBO Go app is more clear and detailed on the iPhone then on an Android phone. A game I liked, "Zombiewood," always crashed on my Android phone while it ran flawlessly on my iPad.

Remote control » The place I use the phone’s music player the most is in my car. That means I need good hands-free control for my phone. Here, the iPhone is so much better than an Android phone.

I can ask Siri, the iPhone’s voice assistant, to call a business by saying for example: "Call The Salt Lake Tribune." Siri will look up the phone number and automatically begin dialing without me having to look or push a button on my phone once. But when using Google Voice, the voice assistant for Android, it will just tell you the phone number but not dial. I have to really enunciate the name of someone in my contacts to make a phone call with Android. But on the iPhone, I can speak the name in a normal tone. I can send a text to someone with my iPhone strictly with my voice without having to press a button. Not so with my HTC One.

Finally, I have more control over my music with the iPhone. I can skip songs or restart a song with a couple of button presses on the headset remote. I have yet been able to find a pair of headphones for Android that allows me to do that. I can also tell Siri to play a particular album or song without an additional button press on the phone. Google Voice cannot.

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