Going Android with the Huawei Ascend G7

huawei_ascendg7This post is about an Android perspective from the the point-of-view of a long time iPhone user. I’ve been an Apple tech-enthusiast for most of my life and have had an iPhone in my pocket for a good 5-6 years. However I have now acquired a Huawei Ascend G7 phone with Android “KitKit” on it, + the Huawei interface extensions. Huawei are gradually making a name for themselves for producing phones with a premium feel and near-top-range features, for a good price. The Ascend G7 is selling for around £200 in the UK but, in spec and feel, is only a smidgen below the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 which are up at £500+. Apple is making an awful lot of money from phones so clearly there is a cheaper way – this could be it.

Plus it was the right time to move – my current iPhone 4 is working perfectly well, is fast and has a nice screen, but Apple has decided to cut me out of getting the newest software – iOS 8 – and apps are starting to appear that require this version, e.g. Trails, which looks awesome.

N.B. I’ve actually had the phone for a couple of months, but I wrote the below around 48 hours after getting the new phone.

48 Hours into Android

Things I Miss

So, there’s quite a lot I miss from iPhone. This is to be expected, but here goes:

  • Universal “jump to top” gesture. This is what I miss most, oddly. Particularly when reading long webpages, but for other apps too, e.g. Feedly and my mail app. Many apps have a way of doing this but it’s slightly different in each.
  • Web Apps are self-contained rather than being just browser views, so if you want to change to a separate website, you have to go to the browser proper rather than accesssing a URL bar there and then.
  • Combined view for multiple email accounts. This does exist, but only for the inbox, and I can’t move emails to folders, in this view. Solution is to use a better email client than the built-in one.
  • Unread notification numbers attached to app icons. They do exist for the Phone, Mail and Messaging apps but not for, for example, Twitter or Facebook. This inconsistency is really annoying!
  • The clock in the centre at the top, not on the right. I guess I had just got used to it on the right.
  • The phone is less comfortable to hold when reading with one hand, as it’s wider and thinner. I’ve partially fixed this issue by getting a case.
  • Some of the big apps, e.g. Twitter, have a surprisingly different feature set and look-and-feel between iOS and Android. I was expecting the transition to be more seamless.
  • Some apps (e.g. BBC News player) don’t respect the rotation-off setting.
  • Being able to switch the sound completely off – even to the point of no vibration – is worrying. What if I make my alarms completely silent?
  • I initially missed the physical “Home” button, I can live with the virtual one, although it would be nice if it stayed in the same place and was always visible.
  • Intuitive copy-and-paste of text. Text selection tools are clunky, particularly has different apps have different interfaces for copy/paste.
  • In a similar vein, same apps don’t allow me to see where a URL is pointing to, before clicking on it.
  • In-browser display of PDFs and other content.

The Good Bits

Now that that list is out of the way, here’s what I really like:

  • Google Now voice detection has no problem understanding my (rather English sounding) accent and almost always gets it right. It’s a shame however that often it just forward to a regular Google web search.
  • The camera is pretty nice. Initially it seemed to have problems with focusing but that seems to work better now and the quality of the images coming out are generally pretty good. The multi-focus feature, in particular, is a good way to almost guarantee focus.
  • Having files are great. Finally I can see what’s on my phone in an organised way.
  • The battery is good, particularly as I’d anecdotally heard this was Android’s Achilles Heel. It’s happily last more than a day.
  • Bluetooth transfer of media to other nearby phones. Although it’s still not as easy as it should be.
  • Almost every app I liked on my iPhone is also available for Android too.
  • Android is Not Perfect

    On a general (non-iPhone-user) basis, here’s a list of gripes about the phone and about Android:

    • Notification panel. Notifications get truncated and there’s no way to reveal their full text in most case – touching goes to the app concerned which may (or may not) reveal what the notification said.
    • Lots of bundled games which are severely limited (e.g they quit after 3 minutes. That’s not long enough to get hooked on a game!)
    • Apps lurk in the background using a lot of resource. This can be cleared down manually with phone manager but it’s a pain to remember to do this.
    • Google Maps app kept crashing when doing directions. This was fixable by updating to the latest version. It’s odd though that this updating of core apps like Google Maps didn’t get done automatically.
    • Some poorly designed icons clash with the theme icon containers. Facebook Messenger has so far been the worst for this.
    • Pre-installed which seem to do quite similar things. E.g. Settings and Google Settings. Google Now, Voice Search and Voice Dialler. Browser and Chrome. (Why not just Chrome?)
    • The “updater” app doesn’t update apps (see above) but (I think) just the operating system code. Instead, Google Play does the updating. Multiple apps for similar functionality…
    • I haven’t found Process Viewer yet.

    Overall – Android is pretty good, but suprisingly buggy and unintuitive, which is odd considering how much effot has gone into engineering it and how many people now use it. I’ve listed a lot of quirks above. However, looking at the bigger picture, they are nothing I can’t live with and really, considering how die-hard I was as an iPhone user, the transition was pretty painless.

    As a phone, the Ascent G7 is really nice, it feels every bit as good as an iPhone, and is really available at a bargain. Huawei are taking the time to create a high quality product without the silly pricing. In a market full of naff, cheap phones, or hugely expensive market leaders, this is refreshing. I should have switched earlier…

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