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October 2009
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Android/Hero pet peeves

I’ve taken the plunge and bought an [ HTC Hero] phone. Overall I’m very happy, it’s great having the internet in your pocket – browsing, email, calendar syncing, GPS navigation etc. There are some niggles I have – some minor, some more problematic.

The worst by far is “loss of service” – often I find the phone has lost the mobile network (if I walk downstairs the signal is quite poor). This wouldn’t be a problem except that it seems to have great difficulty reconnecting. Last night we had an excellent curry at the [ Cinnamon Tree] where there was no signal. This morning my phone was still saying “no service” and also hadn’t rejoined my wi-fi. Tom’s Hero phone was okay though (even though he also uses Orange).

When you phone someone, the screen switches off immediately. When using an IVR system, this means I have to press “menu” to turn the screen on, then press the “keyboard” icon to get the keypad up, then press “menu”, “loudspeaker” to turn that on. I’d rather the keypad was there automatically and with an icon for “speaker” there too. Then I’d just need to tap the “speaker on” button.

When the other person answers, the phone vibrates which is a minor annoyance, but is more than a little unexpected – I almost dropped the phone the first time! I have “vibrate on incoming calls” set but when I phone someone I can hear when they’ve answered it – I don’t need the phone to wobble. (Unless I’ve managed to dial them accidentally I suppose).

The notification list is good, however I’d like to have a faster way to respond to it. If I see that there is a missed call, I want to be able to unlock the phone and immediately phone that person. Similarly if there is a text message I want to be able to read it with just one tap. At the moment I either need to select “messages” and then select the message, or flick down the notification panel and click on the message.

Large lists (e.g. the phonebook) takes _ages_ to scroll through – there is a speedbar at the side, but I find I often overshoot and swear a bit whilst scrolling. It’s not _bad_, just not quite as spot on as it needs to be in my opinion. A tricky one this, I’m not sure how the iPhone for example compares. I think there is still a bit of a delay/sensitivity issue here – every ms counts. One thing the iPhone is certainly better for is the way that you can scroll off the end of lists (and hence see an inch or so of whitespace before it snaps back to the end). This is a nice visual feedback indicator that you have indeed reached the end of the list.

The calendar app has a nice “Agenda” view, however I can’t make it the default view – so each time I open the app (by clicking on the date) I see a whole month with days marked with little triangles. I then have to hit menu/Agenda to see this more useful view which lists the next few items you have coming up.

I’d like a way to allow applications to automatically turn GPS (in particular) on and off – at the moment they prompt me and take me to the settings page (and even worse I have to remember to turn them back _off_ later). I’ve put a GPS on/off toggle on my homescreen but it seems pretty daft that I’ve felt the need to do that. Furthermore I know I’m not alone in that!

I wish the notification LED was used a bit more (it’s just used for battery status) – it’s far easier to notice than the glowing trackball for new messages etc. Perhaps being able to tweak which notifications affect the trackball and which affect the LED would be best?

Finally, the phone usage isn’t as intuitive as it should be. Whether you need to tap, double tap, hold, or press the “menu” key is often different in the various sections – at least it seems that way to me.

I do like the multiple screens, “folders” seem like they will be useful and I’m glad they’ve implemented them – a hierarchal approach could well be easier/faster than using multiple screens.

The phone is pretty configurable to work the way you want it to which I think is important. It’s nice to have “intuitive” behaviour, however I really do appreciate “advanced” settings which allow me to tweak the phone to suit the way _I_ like – such as the notification settings mentioned above. The “locale” application for example is great – I can tell the phone to be silent 12am-7am and also to turn the ringer volume up when I’m at home.


Comment from Fishter
Time: Saturday 10 October, 2009, 21:29

What’s the exact name of application that you mention? I’ve searched the Market for “locales” but nowt comes up like you described…

Throw me a bone!

Comment from adrian
Time: Sunday 11 October, 2009, 08:07

Ah, sorry – small typo – it’s called Locale (not Locales) – I’ve updated the article.