I’ve finally gotten the chance to get one of those newfangled Android phones.

I’ve recently “bought” a Samsung Galaxy Android phone (the older i7500, not the newer i9000 “S”) model. It’s a seriously serious upgrade from my old Nokia 6120 Classic, and as I broke the 6120’s screen and reverted back to my trusty old Nokia 6070 (which I couldn’t even get to run the GMail app), I was quite a happy camper switching to a modern phone.

The whole idea of Android has always been very appealing to me - Nokia’s software has been declining in quality, and while Motorola and Samsung have always made excellent hardware, they could never get the knack of good software. Google has. Problem solved, right?

The Android software is miles ahead of anything I’ve ever seen, including iPhone. I now have connectivity everywhere, and apps to sync all of my favorite things - GMail and Google Calendar are included, GTasks is great for tasks, Paperdroid is great for Read It Later, NewsRob is great for Google Reader. The Facebook and Twidroyd applications are also quite nice, and the convenience has me using those networks more. I even have nifty stuff like Transdroid, a Transmission web client which is actually very good at adding torrents while I’m away, so they’re done by the time I get home. I get my reading done with Aldiko and ACV (for comics). Even Israeli sites have some good applications up, such as YNet and Dapei Zahav have a nice Android app, though not as nice as their iPhone ones. And of course, there’s the wonderful Waze, which is the most Israeli solution to the road congestion problem I’ve ever seen. I’ve even had the chance to do some on-foot navigation with Google Maps, which is also handy.

The phone itself has a beautiful AMOLED screen, great audio quality (comes with quite a good set of headphones as well), and looks sleek. The touchscreen is responsive enough (though not anywhere near new Android devices nor the iPhone/iPod touch), and it even comes with a free extra 8GB SD card, for a total of 16GB.

And now, to rant.

Battery life isn’t what is should be - the phone is awesome, I want to use it, and it can barely get through the day - especially if I’m doing heavy stuff like Waze (GPS + Data + screen is always on + voice), but even if I’m just surfing casually. The unlock button is located inconveniently on the bottom part of the right side, just above the camera button. The home button is located between the Back and Send buttons, meaning it’s very easy to hit by accident; it’s not even labeled. The CPU isn’t always fast enough to keep everything completely smooth, and while this is generally acceptable, it gets rather irksome in odd places: If you turn on screen auto-rotation (which uses more battery power), rotation takes a while and might be accidental. However, there is no manual screen rotation option as far as I can tell.

As a music player (relating to my previous post), the device works well enough - but I couldn’t, for the life of me, get Hebrew support in ID3 tags (no matter what the encoding is), and only a limited subset of ID3 tag versions is supported, and everything works much better with Ogg files.

The flaws I’ve mentioned are relatively minor and nitpicky - for Waze, you can use the car charger (which comes with the phone, thankfully). The buttons are OK after some getting used to (and installing the excellent AnySoftKeyboard), and operation is generally smooth. However, there is a major issue I can’t wrap my head around - the shipped firmware is 1.5 cupcake, and there are absolutely zero updates available from Samsung. There is a semi-official leaked 1.6 update which, as I’ve heard, is quite buggy. An awesome guy called drakaz has been working on a Froyo (2.2) port for the Galaxy, which I really should check out, but Samsung’s behavior on this topic is inexcusable in my opinion.

All-in-all, however, I’m happy with my phone. It’s a joy to use, and the price is hard to beat - free with my phone plan, provided I can rake up a bill of 150₪ (which I can, with some help from the 70₪ 1GB data plan, which comes in quite handy). My next phone will, however, probably not be a Samsung.