The Small Details I Like About Android

Me writing another review of Android and the Nexus 4 helps no one. You likely don’t want to or need to read another review of a handset that has been out for a few months. Knowing the demographics of my readership, this post likely is of little interest to you as a card carrying member of the iOS brethren.

So, why write it?

Apple users are always quick to point out how the company sweats the small details that “surprise and delight” their users. Things that you don’t think of, but in the end seem totally obvious.

As I have been using the Nexus 4 as my primary phone the past few weeks, I have discovered a whole new set of surprising and delightful traits in Android that I would absolutely love for Cupertino to get out their photocopiers for.

Do I think they will? Probably not. Most of these things are admittedly kinda nerdy and not necessarily tailored towards the mainstream market that Apple pundits seem to be convinced the company only caters to.

So, without further ado a completely random list of little details and niceties I have found in Android:

  • Swiping away notifications rather than aiming for a tiny “x”? Yes, please!
  • The lock screen is customizable. I installed DashClock which gives me not only the time, but the number of unread texts and Facebook messages I have, the current temperature and a variety of other customizable options. My lock screen is now way more useful.
  • I have a widget on my home screen that just lets me quickly toggle the WiFi and Bluetooth radios instead of finding the Settings app and drilling down to do the same thing.
  • Swiping down in the notification center, there is button that will expose buttons to toggle the radios or enter Airplane mode. Way quicker.
  • The vertical application switcher with a more visual preview of my app rather than just a small app icon is more useful.
  • In the Google Maps app there is an “Update Route” button that lets me change directions if I happen to make a wrong turn or am not paying much attention and get sidetracked.
  • When I save a new article to Pocket from any device, it immediately syncs to Pocket on my Nexus 4. No syncing on launch. It’s always up-to-date.
  • Scenario: you get a new iMessage from someone. You don’t have time to respond to it right now, but you don’t wanna send a read receipt so you have to ignore it. Launching the Messages app will instantly take you to that unread message though, so you can’t open Messages until you get a second message from someone else. The Android Messaging app does not immediately go to the first unread message. Instead it will stay in whatever view you were last in. A little less smart, but more useful for me.
  • Avatars in text messages make things more personal. The iPad has this and I wish the iPhone would steal it too.
  • Android will automatically prune messages so that it isn’t an always growing memory hog. In my case I have it set to only keep the last 500 messages per text conversation.
  • The Android equivalent of a tab bar is swipeable. For instance, if you open the Phone app you can swipe left to right to switch between the dialer, call history and your contacts.
  • I can browse the Play store in a real actual Web browser and install apps directly from it. Bonus points for not having to store copies of my apps in iTunes or an equivalent app on my Mac.
  • When I press the power button to turn off the screen, the effect is like turning off an old fashioned TV like grandma used to have. How skeuomorphic!

I could write an equivalent post about the little things that annoy me about Android, but you can do a quick Google search and find a few dozen articles that already cover that.

How long do I plan to use Android full-time? I can’t say for sure. I am excited to see what Apple has to offer with the iPhone 5S/6/Millenium Edition and iOS 7, but right now I’m enjoying this greener grass.

About Justin

Justin Williams is the Crew Chief of Second Gear, makers of Glassboard. He writes about consumer technology, running a bootstrapped software business, and more from Denver, Colorado.

Follow @justin on Twitter or get new articles via @carpeaqua.