Is Now a Good Time to Try Android?

Is Now a Good Time to Try Android?I’ve recently made the switch back to Android from iOS thanks in part to a stunning demonstration of Android Jelly Bean that took place at Google I/O. This change meant more than just being on a new mobile OS to me. It meant freeing myself from a cycle of two-year contracts and heavy usage fees at the hands of my current carrier. It also meant not being tied to a single company for my digital life — a company that has a firm grip on virtually every program I use during my day-to-day life. Should I put all my eggs into one basket and trust this business with my mobile, tablet, and desktop experience?

The decision to return to Android was a difficult one for me. I’ve been burned by Android’s choppy and poorly optimized experience before. I locked myself into a phone that looked great on paper but failed to deliver on promises made to keep up with the latest OS updates. What makes today different from two years ago?

My answer came in the form of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Both of these operating systems are miles beyond Gingerbread and Double Doozie or whatever desserts Android has been called previously. Frankly, it’s about time that Google got it right.

So is now a good time to try Android? I’ll take you through my experience, and let you decide that one for yourself.

What I’m Using Right Now

I currently own a number of devices that I use on a day-to-day basis. My MacBook Pro and HP Desktop PC running Windows 7 are my two workhorses. One handles everything from email to communication while the other is my production machine used to edit and render video. These two machines are night and day when it comes to desktop experiences. OS X and Windows are each powerful in their own right.

I have two tablets: the iPad 2, which I use to play games and consume video media while out an about, and a Sony Tablet S running Android 4.0 ICS. When I first purchased the Sony Tablet 2, I was disappointed. The operating system was choppy and laggy, things didn’t work the way I wanted them to, and the whole experience was a mess. After the update to Android 4.0 however, things took a turn for the best. Today, the Sony Tablet S is perhaps my preferred tablet for browsing and media consumption. It’s docked on my coffee table and it stays with me while I’m enjoying a show with my wife. I don’t use it for email or anything work-related, which is another reason I might like it so much.

Frankly, that update to ICS was the best thing that could have ever happened to the Android tablet. Finally, the operating system had cohesion and an elegance to it that makes things work. I’m not going to say Android was a terrible OS before this update, but it’s hard to argue just how much has improved.

For my phone, I’m actually using two right now thanks to T-Mobile allowing me to try out the Samsung Galaxy S III. The Samsung Galaxy S III is running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and it does so very well. Despite not having the benefits of Project Butter and Google Now, Samsung has packed enough power in this small phone to run ICS in a way no other phone I’ve seen yet can. It’s smooth, reliable, and extremely elegant. Frankly, I’ve been nothing short of impressed by it.

I even handed it to my wife to use for a couple of days to see what an average user thinks about Android after having been on an iPhone for as long as she has. Needless to say, I’ll have to fight her for it when it comes time to ship this thing back to T-Mobile.

The other phone is a Galaxy Nexus I purchased directly from Google. Yes, I sold my iPhone 4 to pay for a phone that comes with no contract or preferred carrier. The Galaxy Nexus (also a Samsung-manufactured device) is the first smartphone to receive the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update. After having been on Jelly Bean for a couple of days, I can’t help but feel that Google has actually managed to step out ahead of Apple in terms of user experience. Google Now is an incredible tool for folks who want their phones to work for them — not the other way around. Unlike Siri, it volunteers information to you as you walk around town. This is a big deal, and I truly believe it could be the much-needed next step in mobile computing.

Is Now a Good Time to Pick Up an Android Device?

While Android Jelly Bean isn’t yet available for the majority of smartphones out there right now, there are some manufacturers that have committed their devices to the update. I’d say, honestly, if you can get your hands on a Samsung Galaxy S III or an HTC One X running ICS, you’re in for a great overall experience.

Apple has done great things with iOS, and the platform continues to evolve into something with broader user appeal. To me, it would appear as though the scales of innovation are tipping in Google’s direction at this point with Android’s vast feature list and open structure. Yes, it is still rough around the edges and, yes, there could be more done to secure the platform, but at the end of the day, user experience is what matters most in the mobile world. After having used ICS and Jelly Bean for some time now, it’s quickly becoming clear that Google is finally starting to grasp user experience, and it will be difficult for Apple to steal that thunder.