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Diving into Android, a journey of rediscovery

As those of you who may have followed this blog for a while probably know, every few years or so, I generally switch my primary mobile operating system between iOS and Android. I’ve done this for a few reasons, first because I feel it’s important that I keep up with how each operating system is evolving and second, … OK there really isn’t a second, I’m just a geek at heart and it gives me an excuse to play with the other operating system.

While I am not planning on actually switching from iOS to Android this time, there are a few reasons, beyond the geek thing, which have caused me to want to dive into Android again and better understand how that platform has evolved from an accessibility experience perspective. First, it’s been a few years and both operating systems have evolved quite a bit in that time. Many of the issues that caused me to switch back from Android to iOS have been addressed and I’m really curious to see what the newer experience is like. The second and more important reason though is that Android devices exist at just about every possible price point and I still don’t feel that this is truly the case with iOS. Don’t get me wrong, iOS devices are fantastic, but for many, they are still very unaffordable and with the cost of everything increasing, this becomes an even bigger challenge for many people with disabilities. This point was recently emphasized during a conversation I recently had. IN short, I was talking to someone about all the amazing things we can do with mobile devices and her comment was that she felt very shut out, shut out because iOS devices, even used devices, were beyond her family’s budget. The conversation quickly turned toward Android, but when she started asking about the capabilities of lower priced devices, I found that I really didn’t have any answers for her. Obviously so-called budget devices are not going to be the fastest and aren’t going to have the latest and greatest features, but can they work well enough to help someone not feel so “shut out”? The more I looked into this, the more I started realizing that yes, yes they probably can, but without getting my hands on such a device, it would be difficult to really understand what that experience might be like.

I’m starting my Android rediscovery journey with a Nokia X100 budget phone. As of this writing, the X100 is available from T-Mobile for a cash price of $252, however as with most devices purchased from a carrier, this price can be decreased with various offers such as adding a new line of service. I’ll cover my first impressions of the device in another post, but while this device certainly doesn’t sport all the latest and greatest features, I’m really impressed with just how many capabilities it does have, especially at this price point.

As always whenever I blog about something, my hope is that this will evolve into a conversation, a conversation that fosters learning and understanding. If I get something wrong, feel free to jump in and let me know. If I do something and you think you know of a better way, jump in and let me know that too.

I’m excited to see where this Android rediscovery journey will take me, and I thank you for coming along.

16 replies on “Diving into Android, a journey of rediscovery”

Hi Steve, very interested in following your journey with this adventure. I have a pixel 5 here that I use on a semi regular basis, however whenever I start typing on the Google keyboard I feel the difference in how sluggish Android can be at least with the typing experience. In our 100th episode, we actually bring this up! For users who’ve always used Android, I don’t think this would be an issue but my primary mobile device has been iOS for the last 12 years and every time I try Android I struggle with the typing experience. It is very intriguing what the accessibility team is doing with the Google accessibility suite and there are third party options for screen readers on Android including comantary though I don’t have as much experience as I should with this particular tool. Looking forward to following along with your adventures.

Typing is definitely an interesting experience on Android and I agree that it seems to be a lot more sluggish than it is on iOS. That said, I wonder if the sluggishness will improve as I become more familiar with the keyboard? I’m finding that a lot of that sluggishness has to do with my trying to find the correct letters and when I am able to place my finger on a letter directly, that sluggishness is reduced. I’m also really loving the TalkBack Braille keyboard, that’s a huge game-changer for me. And of course there’s the speech recognition which for me, works far better than iOS dictation. Anyway, definitely going to see how, or if the typing experience changes over time.

I switched several years ago to a Pixel 3 and recently got a pixel 6 (before that had an iPhone 8) I like Google’s intigration across platforms, especially since lookout serves as a solid replacement for Seeing AI. The on-screen fingerprint reader is substantially worse than the pixel 3 or iPhone se20 but at this point android, especially in a google phone offers some great features. I’m interested to see how things play out with a non-google manufactured handset though.

Thanks so much for commenting. I’m really impressed that based on what I’ve discovered thus far, Nokia seems to be sticking pretty close to native Android. There’s a few additional apps and such, but nothing too horrible. I haven’t written about this yet, but since my last post, I’ve also managed to get a Pixel 6. This is great as I can compare the Nokia against the Pixel as I go along. So far though, excepting the Pixel-specific functions like call screening, I can do most of the same things, the same way, on both devices. Sure, the Pixel 6 is more responsive, but I assumed that would be the case. I also absolutely love Lookout. When Lookout was first released, I was actually using Android, but at that time, it was only available for the Pixel and so I never got to experience it. So glad it’s available beyond the Pixel now, it’s an incredible app.

I just started a similar journey except I started with a Samsung device, not the expensive one. The a350 at $350 on sale from Amazon. My interest was in the new gestures that have come in to talk back. The problem with a lot of less expensive devices is that they don’t have all the new top back gestures and they don’t get many security updates. Samsung is promising lots of security updates and they do have the new gestures. I doubt your Motorola does, which should make it a nonstarter for anyone. Once you run out of updates, you have to buy a new phone. So spending 250 now and then 252 years from now isn’t as good of a deal is just laying out the money for a rock solid SE that will last for for years and have the the che device will have well android has certainly improved, I’m not keeping the Samsung phone. It’s just clunky. It’s a nice device, but and I agree that some of this is muscle memory, there’s just too many extra steps you have to do. And it’s still somewhat sluggish compared to my old iPhone XR. So for now, i’m finding a new home for my Samsung and sticking with iOS. Yes, the top end devices are more expensive. And if you’re really strapped for cash, even the iPhone SE might be too much. But it’s financially stupid to buy a device that will cost you a couple of hundred or 300 bucks and have to go get a new one two years from now because the one you bought isn’t getting any more updates. Plus, if those cheap devices don’t have all of the new gestures, you’re screwing yourself to an old unfortunate android experience that nobody wants except for the die Hards who always loved it.
Sent from my iPhone
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Definitely some interesting points. One thing that has shifted my thinking a little bit though is that I’m currently using an iPhone 12 Mini, however, the battery is failing and I haven’t even had it two years yet. Apple Care, which I also paid for, won’t cover a replacement because the battery hasn’t lost enough capacity. You mention that you’re using an XR, so presumably you have not run into this situation, or you’ve gotten the battery replaced. Given the price I paid for the mini, plus the Apple Care, I could easily have bought multiple Nokias, or a slightly higher-end device, like a Pixel or Samsung, if I wanted something more responsive. I realize that a lot of this depends on usage patterns though and so I’m really not sure how to do the math on this, I suspect it may just come down to what works out best for each individual. As far as responsiveness in general, I haven’t used enough budget Android devices to really understand how responsiveness plays out in real life scenarios. If we look at price though, the only thing we might be able to compare might be the Pixel 6 or 6A to the iPhone SE2. We could maybe compare something like the XR to the Pixel 4 or 5, but as neither device is still offered as new, at least as far as I know, it might be challenging for people to get them. Since my experience is limited, I’m wondering which TalkBack gestures your Samsung didn’t support, if any? TalkBack has definitely come a long way since the last time I used it, but of course this assumes the device is capable of handling those updated versions.

If you’re going to go for a lower-budget phone, you can’t, in my opinion, do much better than Motorola. I was borrowing one from a friend for a while, and would have kept it except that it didn’t have NFC, which is essential for me as a diabetic using the Freestyle Libre. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

I have to say, much as I love the Nokia, I love the form-factors of the various Motorola phones I’ve seen at Best Buy, or at T-Mobile. I’d love to play with one sometime, but would definitely want an NFC chip.

Steve, this is something I explore about every other year. I think there are many different motivations for switching operating systems. My main motivation was that I felt that Android is able to offer something that iOS didn’t, either a functionality, or lacking bugs at certain times I was not willing to live with. The outcome each time was that iOS still had either an app, or a feature I could not live with, though ti was less and less over the years, last I remember it was only a good GPS solution, I was not able to make the switch. Working with technologies, I have the good fortune of having both devices at hand, but I think this should not be a requirement. Regarding the price point, however, I would argue that these days if you are willing to work with an older device, iOS and Android are about equal. During the early years of the iPhones, I always felt that the quality of my life improved when I bought the new shiny iPhone. However, in the last 3-5 years, I always had buyers remorse. If you are a screen reader user, there is only so much speed can add to the quality. Yes, there are new features, like the lidar scanner, but let’s face it, until iOS 16, nothing really took good advantage of it. Today I feel that I could be equally productive with a phone which is 3 years old. It is about the same with Android, I currently own a Pixel 4, and it gives me everything I need. I think my approach will be to switch phones every few years, will get an older device. I find that it is much more important for the sake of accessibility that I am able to run the latest operating system.

I used to always buy the new and shiny iPhone, just figured newer meant faster and better. I don’t know if I’m just getting older or something, but I’m no longer staying up until 2:00 AM just to pre-order the newest phone. I think in some ways, this has helped me to look more at what I’m trying to do and less at what I might theoretically do if only I had the latest and greatest device. You mention LIDAR and that’s a great example. I would love LIDAR, but that alone didn’t make it worth getting the 12 or 13 Pro and so I’m still using a 12 Mini, doing all the same things I would likely be doing had I paid more for the LIDAR functionality which I may or may not have actually used. Apple Watch is similar, I was all excited about the blood oxygen sensor and so I upgraded. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked at those sensor readings, and the apps I was using on my former watch behave exactly the same way as they do on the newer one. OK maybe a tiny tiny performance boost, but not enough of one to really have justified my purchase. I really like the way you point out the importance of being able to run the latest OS, I think that’s definitely more important than having the latest device.

Good luck, I’ll be following this topic with interest. I have a Pixel 3 that I use as my work phone. I actually like Android more than I thought I would, but one major caveat is that it is not as responsive as iOS. I’m curious about cell plans in the States. Here in Canada, you can get high-end phones for $0 down. If you’re patient and wait for a sale, you won’t have to pay too much extra on your monthly bill. I got my son’s iPhone 12 this way. They charged me $10 extra per month instead of the usual 30.

We have similar plans here in the states where you can pay $0 down and the rest over 24 or even 30 months. These plans are available through the carriers, but Google and Apple also allow customers to buy direct and take advantage of similar plans, the advantage being that the phones are then not locked. As far as responsiveness, it’s interesting that this is the theme that seems to be coming up in the comments.

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