Monday, April 11, 2011

The Android Chronicles

Inception

Good morning, fine people and welcome! I hope you are ready, as you will witness the incredible journey of a man inside his first Android device; actually scratch that, his very first smartphone! Whoaaa, duuuude! But why so late, Danny? Simple and complete answer: price tag. I seriously don't want to pay for a phone the money I could buy a netbook with. Up until now, every Android device was followed by ridiculous price tags, or reasonable price tags, but compensated by tens of euros added to the monthly plan. 


No more! As I was browsing the Internet, I thought I'd check my carrier's page and see what's new in their "Best Deal" category. And there it was, folks, the Samsung Galaxy Mini, singing its mermaid song, luring me into its "More details" page. I opened it and couldn't believe my eyes: I actually had enough fidelity points to buy it for almost no extra cash, with no extra options to buff up my bills. But what got me really hooked? Wi-Fi, GPS and, obviously, a rather recent version of Android - 2.2 or Froyo. Who cares about the ridiculously low resolution (320x240) for a 3.14 screen?  Who cares about the crappy 3ish MP camera with no flash? Who cares about the modest 600 MhZ processor? I certainly didn't! Of course, I did some research (I purpled all the "samsung galaxy mini" links through the first 4 google search pages :D) and, other than the low-res screen, everybody seemed to be pretty excited about the performance and capabilities of this entry-level smartphone. 



I ordered the phone on Thursday, April 7th, and I just missed second-day delivery so I am waiting today, April 11th, for it to be delivered at my door in about 3 or 4 hours. 

Also, with the occasion of this rare non-distro-hoppin` piece, I would like to experiment with constantly updating the article, rather than writing a new post every time I discover something worth sharing. So, expect everything from one-line to one-page additions. Thus, if you're interested, be sure to check back every once in a while. 

And, as I don't want to make my blog's homepage a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG one, I will use the jump break right after this. Be sure to click the title or "continue reading" to get access to the full material.
  
The Arrival

It's here people, it's here! Yaaaay! :D Of course, an unboxing video was necessary, so here it is:


Now, my first impressions: the box is unexpectedly tiny! Which is, of course, a good thing, ecologically speaking. :) The contents of the box was kind of disappointing: no handsfree, no leather case, not even a full manual. Well, at least I got the phone, a charger, the data cable and a 2 GB micro SD card + adapter!  :D 

The Galaxy Mini is way BIGGER than I expected, which, this time around, is WIN! It feels really, really solid in my hand and the patterned finish on its back makes for a great grip. I felt a bit uneasy when I opened the back cover, as the plastic was really bendy, but other than that, the overall sturdiness is impressive. 

Quick tour! On top: 3.5 mm jack and micro USB slot. Left side: volume keys. Bottom: microphone. Right side: microSD slot and lock button. On the front, below the screen there are three extra physical buttons. Ok, done! Now let me play with my phone and I shall return with more or less pleasant experiences. :D 
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I'm baaaaaack! The Mini is now resting in bed, receiving its well deserved first charge. I'm not worried about the battery (yet), as it shipped almost half empty and I did play a lot with the phone: GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G some games, and lots of screen-touching. :D 

But let's cut to the chase. So far, I absolutely LOVE the Mini. Let me give you a few reasons for that:
  • super snappy interface - every "touch" is registered and not once did I have to press an item twice
  • Google Services integration is simply amazing: in a few minutes I had my emails, my calendar and my contacts synced within various areas of the Mini
  • great Wi-Fi connectivity: super speeds with the "n" protocol; also, the device remembered every network I managed to connect to and joining one is now effortless
  • YouTube: need I say more? 
  • a gazillion of apps in the Android Market; I've installed Blogger, IMDb, Yahoo Messenger and some racing game that uses the accelerometer inside the phone - obviously, I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of what the market can offer
  • location-awareness - the weather widget was already configured to display the forecast for the city I live in
  •  lovely "Memo" application - this is very important for me, as my memory needs all the help it can get :D my previous phone - the Alcatel OT-800 - had a very bizarre way of arranging my notes. Now, the notes are arranged by date, the most logical way
Well, that's it for now. I've set the alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. See you then! Also, tomorrow I'll be shopping for some screen protectors. I've managed to find a leather case, but I'm not too thrilled about it. It does protect the phone very well, but it's obvious that it was not built for it.  
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 Wowee, Androiding is fun! Also battery-consuming. :D I didn't abuse the phone for long, but the battery was at 5% after 18 hours... Hmmm, I thought to myself, that's a bit too little, even for the Galaxy Mini. But, I found the problem in a little "bug": the battery indicator at the top stops showing any activity at only about 80%. So, yesterday night, when I thought it was fully charged, it actually wasn't. How did I found out? While charging, the "clock" screen - if you activate it - shows the current charge level. So there! Today will be a bit more conclusive, as the battery is full-full since 0 AM. Also, I turned off the GPS and will try not having the phone permanently receive 3G or 2G data. Other than that, I'm still getting used to (aka loving every minute of it) the HUGE difference in usability and versatility of this OS compared to my previous "dumbphones". 

Oh, my screen protectors arrived at the post office today! Once I grab them, I'll be less stressed about scratching the screen and play more curling! But, somewhere in the Samsung manual, they recommend using the screen directly, with no extra "layers". I doubt that I'll notice any difference, but if I do, I'll let you know.

I didn't mention anything about the call quality. One word: excellent. Again, I don't have much to compare it to, but the voices come out crystal clear. The speaker also does a great job. A, and thanks to the "proximity" sensor, the screen automatically turns off when you hold it close to your ear and beautifully fades back in when lowering it, giving access to the menu while still talking. 
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Gooooooood morning! Yesterday was a big day for my Mini! It got its first (and hopefully last) fall. Fortunately, it landed on something soft and got away with absolutely no scratches or dents. Yaaay! 
Onto happier news! I got the screen protector, applied it and managed to only leave 1 tiny bubble behind! The touch screen works perfectly through the extra "skin", so no more worries. 

The battery acted much better throughout the day and, when I plugged it in at bedtime, it was at ~40%. 

I've also installed a few more apps: Opera Mini, Glow Hockey, the Yahoo Mail Client, tunein Radio and a really great flashlight. The default Internet browser in Android is great, but it's no match to Opera. I didn't play too much with tunein, but I found a couple of killer features: use any radio station (internet or local) as an alarm and schedule a sleep timer, so you'll fall asleep and wake up with your favorite station, without having to leave it on all night long.

While charging the phone, you have the option to leave the screen permanently lit, but, as you probably know, opening your eyes during the night and looking at a brightly lit display is not that pleasant, so a button in the top right corner of the sleep screen turns down the luminosity at the minimum. The effect is really great! During the day it doesn't look like much, but at night, it turns the Mini into the perfect nightstand device. 


That's it for now, I shall return later with a fresh video!

First Crash :( 

I guess it was bound to happen, but I didn't expect it so soon. :D When I pressed the wake button to unlock the phone... nothing! Pressed again... nothing! Pressed the side key... nothing! So, I did a hard reset and everything is back to normal now. :) 

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Here's the video I promised. Sorry it ended so abruptly, but I forgot to delete some older videos and the memory card filled up sooner than I expected. 

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O wow, I can pin contacts on the homescreen! Isn't that just peachy? Click it and select the action you want - Call, email, SMS even IM. Extremely useful, even though I just love to swoooosh my finger across the phonebook. 

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The Failing Wi-Fi

It has now been the second time when the Wi-Fi stopped functioning. Trying to reconnect yields an error. The only solution for me is too reboot the phone. I am one of the lucky ones, as I've heard stories of people having too reset their phones to the factory settings. Yikes! On the other hand, others fixed their problem by clearing the RAM. I haven't tried that yet, but next time the Wi-Fi fails, I shall! 

Still, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Samsung Galaxy Mini to anyone who wants to see for themselves how fun, helpful and complete an Android device can be, without forking the big bucks. I, for one, am completely satisfied with my purchase.

6 comments:

  1. The suspense is killing you!

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  2. I'm maybe going to buy this phone, what do you think about it, what are you're reviews

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  3. Ok, here's a quick rundown.

    Pros: Android 2.3, GPS (with turn-by-turn navigation provided by Google), Wi-Fi, responsive touch screen, CHEAP!

    Cons: kinda low screen resolution, the processor can feel slow at times, sucky camera, low internal storage space and the battery will only last you a day if you use background data with wi-fi or 3G.

    Conclusion: If you can't afford anything higher-end, I don't need to think twice before I recommend the Galaxy Mini to anyone, especially to those coming from a non-smartphone past. :)

    ReplyDelete