Jack of all trades and a master of some

Getting to know Android (Part 1/1)

For a while now I’ve been thinking about trying out Android. I mean, for real. I’ve been an iOS user from the start but lately I grew a little tired of all the quirks. All first world problems, I know. But problems still, if you have to endure them at least a few times a day.

I have a couple of friends who’d all rather have an arm chopped off instead of giving Android a real chance, and I get most (but not all) of the reasons they have for iOS and against Android. What I don’t get anymore is the unquestioned willingness to pay an awful lot of money for a properly spec’d iPhone. For a few years I was fine with it aswell. But the situation has changed by now and I have to keep an eye on spendings for at least a few more years. Which is a whole other story in itself. Maybe I’ll talk about that at some point in the future.

I digress … I always looked at Android as an awesome idea for a mobile operating system. No doubt it has many strengths over iOS and ultimately the huge market penetration can’t be a total bubble, can it? So a few days ago, opportunity arose and an acquaintance of mine offered me to borrow his Motorola Moto G (2nd gen, 2014) for a while.

It is certainly not the “properly spec’d” kind of phone I’d imagine using throughout the day. But it provides a chance to finally get a look at the OS. If I end up liking it, wanting more, I’d still have to get my own phone and therefore can make a more hardware-centric choice. All I know from recent digging, high performance Android devices that fit my requirement profile seem to be priced at about half of what the same iOS device would cost me.1 At the most! Considering more reasonable options maybe just a third. But if that’s gonna happen, remains to be seen.

Now for a quick disclaimer: I am not trying to bash on either iOS nor Android just for the sakes of bashing. But I will not be beating around the bush to get my point across. At some time in the future someone might read this ramblings and think “that sucker just got it all wrong”. Go ahead, try to correct me. Still, my observations and opinions are my own. If you don’t like them, troll go away. This post is not about religious wars on platforms. It’s about me.2

And by the way: this is a process. When this post goes live, it won’t be finished and concluded all the way. I plan on using the Moto G at least for a few months before a final verdict. But I’ll update this post whenever necessary.

Anyhow, let’s dig in.

The transition from iOS to Android was basically nonexistent. Just throwing myself into cold water. My iPhone 5 went out of juice in the early evening of Monday, January 25th, so I decided this is as good a time as any. I threw it into a drawer, unpacked the Moto G and hacked away.

From all I’ve read in the past3, I had no plan on using the stock image on the Moto G. I really dig the approach of Cyanogenmod and therefore I spent the first few hours reading up on the stuff, and eventually installing CM 12.1 on the unlocked phone. The biggest point I was trying to achieve by using a custom ROM was getting rid of all the Google apps.4 The most bearable thing for me is the pico version of the Open GApps, i.e. Play Store and its services only. I know shipping unwanted Apps from the iOS side of things. Keep Gmail, Maps, BloatXyz off my phone. If I end up needing them afterwards I can still download them.

So here I am an iPhone user of many years with a clean phone. Next step: attaching the cords that are my digitally managed life. I keep all my contacts and calendars digitally, of course. And since I have been Apple-exclusive until now, I always went with iCloud. Not very privacy friendly but probably better than others. Since I still have a Mac and the possibility of migrating back to iOS after this shindig, I decided against moving to a selfhosted solution and instead invested a few bucks on the Play Store in some Apps that handle synchronization with iCloud servers. I know iCloud infrastructure basically glorified DAV servers. But I like myself some Klickibunti5 every now and then.

Next up is email, and with that: the first conundrum, and the story of today’s introductory posting. I have an exchange account for work (which I prefer being run via IMAP and staying unsynchronized most of the time, since this is my private phone and if people at work expect quick responses via email 247, they should be paying for the phone), and an MiaB-based server for private stuff, run via IMAP.

As I go about configuring my private account I expected to find in the account settings an option for activating S/MIME signing and encryption. You know, like one would expect it from a stock mail app being deployed on millions of devices that are used in corporate structures. You know, like iOS does. You know, like even the retarded poor stepbrother of a mobile OS Windows Phone does!

Turns out: can’t be done on Android. You have to install a third-party email client to get it to work, and then you are stuck with … well a third-party email client, which is a slap in the face by itself. They are all ugly and not even by a long shot respecting/using Android’s interface guidelines / material design.

At this point, about two hours in, I am already infuriated. I am okay with apps not providing GPG support. That protocols is practically dead anyway. But S/MIME? Guys, that stuff is in Outlook for ef’s sake. Even if I had been using Android with Gmail installed—not even that does it.

So … tough times for a privacy enthusiast on Android. To be honest it makes me more sad than angry, since I really do want to give it a shot! I don’t want to have my prejudices strengthened that years of iOS indoctrination have taught me. I want to see a new world. An open world. A proper one. No unwalled garden, where you really just want to flee because the flowers are all dead or crippled.

And I’ll keep on trying. And I’ll keep you posted. Because there is good things about Android. Like widgets on the home screen. Seriously Apple, how the fuck are you not copying that with your boring useless all-icons springboard?! But we’ll get to that.

  • I assume my baseline to be a current model iPhone with a decent amount of memory, i.e. iPhone 6s 64GB. 
  • Am I not a terrific person? 
  • I guess nobody is without bias 
  • I know, there is still rooting the device, yadda yadda. But I always liked a clean slate when trying something new. 
  • A german netizens term for something being reduced to simple interactions; optimizing something for “the newbie consumer”.