Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Samsung Galaxy SII and Ice Cream Sandwich

I gave up my iPhone 3GS last year for a Samsung Galaxy SII last year.  I previously described my experiences on my blog and am providing this update because I had high hopes that the new Android release (Ice Cream Sandwich - ICS) would help alleviate my main issue with with the Samsung Galaxy SII: it's horrible battery life.

After waiting months for AT&T and Samsung to make this release of Android available, it finally happened a week ago.  Although the upgrade was not available over-the-air, it was a relatively painless affair to do so via the desktop and Samsung's otherwise horrible Kies desktop software.  Other than losing all my direct-dial shortcuts and app icons from my home screens, everything seemed to have been preserved.  Has it been an improvement over the existing Android release?  I guess so - but not in huge ways.  There are still the duplicate/redundant applications (e.g. mail & gmail; AT&T Navigation & Google Navigation); some apps have different but not perceivably better layouts/menus (e.g. Google maps); many apps still don't use the standard Android "Menu" button (e.g. Words-with-Friends).

Did it improve my phone's horrendous battery life?  Not initially.  But I didn't expect it to happen on its own.  But I knew that ICS sported a new feature: the ability to "disable" some of the built-in apps.  So that's what I did.  Below is a list of the apps I disabled so far (via Settings->Applications->"All"):

  • Accuweather Weather Daemon
  • Accuweather.com
  • AT&T Navigator
  • Buddies Now
  • City ID
  • Exchange Services
  • Face Unlock
  • Home Screen Tips
  • Media Hub
  • MusicFX
  • News & Weather
  • Remote Controls
  • Social Hub (two entries??)
  • Swype
  • Talk
  • Yahoo!Finance
Some of these might be apps I installed, but most are built-in processes.  There are many other processes listed under "All", but since there's really no way of knowing which of these services are required for Android to function properly and which are optional, I had to guess.  If you know of more apps that can be deleted, please let me know and I'll add them to this list.

After disabling these apps, I also went to Settings->Accounts and sync and turned off auto-sync (on my phone the list of apps under this heading consisted of only two: Facebook and Google)...I have no idea what this menu actually does - even with it turned off, I still get notifications of mail arriving in my Google mail account - but I don't appear to be betting Facebook notifications.

After these changes, I tested the battery by no longer turning off wifi whenever I wasn't at a wifi location.  Lo and behold, my battery still lasted all day (well, it did go into the red once at 10:30pm, so it obviously still depends on where I move throughout the day)!  So I'm a bit more likely to keep my Galaxy S2 for the term of my contract (I was ready to give up on it already).

I may still eat the AT&T penalty and get the iPhone 5 when it comes out - because iOS is just more intuitive/consistent across all the applications (Apple's toolkits, style- and approval-guidelines are just more strict than Android's, I guess) and, most importantly, Apple, unlike Google, doesn't have to wait for the telecoms to make its system upgrades/improvements available to its phone customers and Apple doesn't allow those same companies to preload the phones with bloatware that can cause the slow-downs/resource drain my Galaxy obviously suffered from.  I will decide once I know how much better the iPhone 5 hardware is from the iPhone 4s.