Running full speed through fog with eyes closed
It was all a bit of a blur, my first day with my Samsung Galaxy S3 with so much to do to set up applications that I had little time to really use the device. My first impression has to be that there is a lot more to it than there is to an iPhone. As well as having apps you also have widgets. There are some applications which can be loaded from a sidebar and there is an area where there are just applications. When you’re not used to this, it does feel awfully strange to be seeing icons for applications in numerous places. Not only that, but there is an extensive feedback section in the form of the notifications. I also added a launcher app which lets me swipe to apps by running my finger for the upper right side of the screen. Very cool!
As I said, on my first day I spent most of it loading up applications to do the things that I do with my smart phone. There were one or two applications that were already installed and I just had to provide my login credentials to get them going, Dropbox being one of those. Some of the applications that were already on the phone needed to be updated and I was happy to be able to find a setting which allows for automatic updates of apps. I have just woken up the Galaxy S3 and I see that there have been one or two applications that have updated themselves. On the other hand there was a notification also to say that there are a number of applications that still need to be updated. Tapping on that notification brought me to a screen and all I need to do is to tap on Update All, press the Accept button a few times and the updating process is underway.
My essential first to install apps on the Galaxy S3
The first app to be installed was the 1Password reader which also required me to get Dropbox started so that I could synchronise my passwords from my Apple system. It did seem to take a long time to get the synchronisation finished and it wasn’t just me being impatient. I then was able to login to my Google mail account, which was also my Google login to the device. Next I was able to set up my access to Apple email which took me two attempts, but with a little bit of Google foo, ended up being quite easy. It did take me some time to work out how to swap between the running applications, it is a press and hold down on the main button, bottom centre.
I have since worked out that the best Mail client for me is the Google app for Gmail. SO I set up a new gmail account and I am forwarding everything from everywhere else to this account and it keeps it all tidy.
It is possible to push applications out to the iPhone from Google Play from wherever. So I was doing some searching for applications on my iMac and clicking on the install button. It did take 30 to 40 minutes before the Google Play system saw the Samsung Galaxy S3 as being available for this. During this period I had numerous applications being installed on the device including Audioboo, CamScanner, Evernote, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, Snapseed, SoundCloud, WhatsApp, Wunderlist. My son had told me to try out a podcast player application called Podkicker, I tried it and I didn’t like it so I installed I paid for application called Pocket Casts, which I am quite pleased with.
Text and speech input on the Galaxy S3
There is Siri like thing called S-Voice which took me a while to find, but once I found it I had it set up fairly quickly. There was even a list of helpful suggestions on how the voice control can work. It can be used to start or switch to applications and I get a pleasant female voice giving me feedback on what is happening. I asked it to open up 1Password and it got confused with another application with a similar name, otherwise it seems quite helpful. If I say the complete app name including the word reader at the end it works fine. It is also supposed to work when you give it a voice keyword and that is not really working out for me yet. I think I may have to do some more setting up with that Galaxy S3 functionality. For now I can do the double click on the home button.
Changing to a different keyboard – Swipe
As part of my research before getting the phone I had decided upon the application/keyboard Swype for Android. Another keyboard that was suggested to me was called Swiftkey which has similar functionality for entering text. What I like about Swype is the fact that it is owned by Nuance whose product DragonDictate I use daily on my Mac for dictating all of my articles. I have also been using the Dragon Dictation application regularly on my iPhone. So while I was actually using the phone when I was out walking with the dog and doing Foursquare check ins and also for when I was writing the description for an Audioboo, I was able to dictate rather than type.
Since writing the first draft of this article I have taken advice of my son and got my hands on the application called Swift Keys and I actually like it better. It does seem to do a better job of the voice dictation for when I’m entering text and it is almost creepy hand uncanny the way that it is able to predict the words I’m going to come up with next when I am using the keyboard. When I am writing a whole sentence it is quite likely that I will only need to hit the keyboard for all five times as often it will guess the next word and save me much typing. It is possibly almost as fast to use the keyboard like this as it is for me to dictate. If it does get a word wrong, which is bound to happen sometimes, if I select the word sometimes it gives me options for other words. On occasions is served giving me options for other words it will just give me the chance to delete that word, which is okay too.
Not quite a UK keyboard
There is one thing which is quite annoying with the Swift Keys is that even though I have set it up to use the UK keyboard language option, it doesn’t let me put in the full stop using those words. I object to having to do it the American way with saying the word period.
It has not been a completely smooth ride
Three times so far I have had to enter the pin code for the phone even though the phone had not been turned off. Somehow or other the Galaxy S3 did a half a reboot so in effect was not actually working as a phone. I only saw that this had happened when I opened the case to use the phone and saw that it was looking for the PIN. This could be a little bit of a nuisance if I am expecting a call to come in and the phone capabilities have been turned off by the phone. I will be keeping an eye on this and I may have to make a visit to the shop where I bought the phone in order to get it sorted out.
Missing one or two apps that I would like
Obviously I’m not going to be able to run OmniFocus, as that is a Mac and iOS only application. That is not a huge problem though, I didn’t run OmniFocus on my iPhone anyway. At least I do have the facility to create a new OmniFocus action from the Android by sending an email to the special OmniFocus email address. This works quite well and is good enough. It is still quite handy to have some sort of GTD application on the phone and I did load up Wunderlist, but I have also loaded up others such as the very nice Any.do application. I have loaded up another one also, haven’t tried it yet as I have been too busy with everything else.
Messing about with the widgets!
When the phone came to into my sticky fingers there were one or two widgets already set up on the screens. There was a music player and a video player as well as a widget that gives the time, date and temperature, plus weather information. Then there is also the Google search widget as you might expect on an Android phone. This makes it much quicker to be able to do a Google search without having to actually open up any applications. When using this, there is also voice feedback in the form of the Siri like capabilities that is called S-Voice. I can also open up the Google application which has recently been updated to offer extra information on cards, based upon places you have been, searches that you have made and so on. Some people might think that this is a little bit weird or creepy, but it is actually quite functional and works a treat.
What’s the verdict after three days with the Galaxy S3?
Even though there are one or two things that don’t work quite as well as I would like, I have to say that I am delighted with the overall experience. It is a great looking phone with the big-screen. More importantly, the functionality that is offered, makes what I do quicker, faster and easier. I like it, in fact I think it is almost love.