My first Android device: The Nexus 7

Hell has frozen over: I’ve got an Android device. The primary motivation for getting it is to test out Automattic’s applications, websites, and services. So far, my early impressions are really positive. But there have been plenty of hiccups along the way. For example, it took me a good two minutes to figure out how to turn the thing on. I swear, that power button is hidden on purpose. It’s too far down from the top of the device, and wraps too far behind the curvature of the side. Once I finally figured out how to turn it on, and setup my Wi-Fi password and Google account, I started to play. That didn’t last long however; About two minutes into using the tablet it prompted me to install an update. So I tapped yes and watched it restart a handful of times, wondering if I was ever going to be able to use it. When the update finished, I was surprised to find that I had to reenter my Wi-Fi info and Google credentials.

Its still really early, I’d like to just provide some high-level thoughts in a few of the things I miss from iOS. I’ll be spending a lot of time with the device over the coming weeks to get intimately familiar with android. I think it’s important as a UI designer to become familiar with as many different devices and operating systems as I can.

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High level thoughts:

  • Swype, a fancy way of “typing” by drawing lines between the letters in the word is by far the fastest and most accurate way of typing.
  • Speech to text is a close second, and puts Siri to shame.
  • The regular touch to type experience is actually kinda terrible when compared to the iPad.
  • Selecting text is far superior to iOS’s gimmicky loupe zoom tool.
  • The screen is very nice, and while not as nice as the iPad’s retina display, is a very close second.
  • It’s only been a few hours, so it’s hard to judge the Android OS, but my early impressions are favorable. However, stability in this short time has proven to be less than ideal; is been less than 24 hours and this thing has crashed half-a-dozen times
  • The back button thing mystifies me. Sometimes it takes me back a level in the current app; Sometimes it takes me back to a different app; Sometimes it takes me to the home screen. Is there a method to this madness?
  • Home screen widgets can be really cool (inbox and keep are great), but most of them are useless, gimmicky, and terribly designed. Even the well designed ones seem to suffer from a lack of update; stale info makes them useless. And why are the Twitter and Facebook widgets so small?
  • The notification tray is nice to use, but visually stands out from the rest of the interface. Same goes for the controls panel.
  • I wish I could launch more from the”swipe up on the home icon” trick. I’m not sure Google Now will ever be useful for someone who rarely leaves their house, like me.
  • Having the home screen button be a touch screen icon directly under the keyboard is a recipe for disaster. While typing, I’ve hit the home button a number of times, taking me out of whatever I was doing.
  • Navigating inside and between apps is confusing. Sometimes the navigation controls are at the top, and sometimes you have to use the global controls at the bottom – often within the same app. For example, the Play store let’s you tap screenshots to view them at full size, but the only way to exit the full screen view is to tap the mysterious back button. Yet elsewhere in the app there is a back button at the top left of the screen. Another example is swipe gestures; Sometimes swiping left and right changes the view, and sometimes it opens a sidebar. Confusing. I’ve never felt confused with navigation in iOS 7.

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Things I miss from iOS:

  • Taping the top of the screen to scroll to the top.
  • The (new in iOS 7) global back swipe gesture.
  • All of the multi finger gestures for switching between apps and the home screen.
  • The physical home button.
  • A power connector that can’t be plugged in wrong.
  • Better lock screen pass code options. (Why do I have to tap a button after typing my pass code?)
  • The App Store. The Google Play store is really terrible.

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