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27 May 12 My 30 Day Android Challenge…Day 26


Today marks the 27th day of my Android challenge and with three days left, attempts to really integrate Android into my life have risen to another level. At this point I’m neck-deep in wading through the wonders and disappointments of the Android platform. Most notable is my sudden commitment to finding the perfect launcher/lock-screen combination which has taken up far too much of my time.

Before I get into that, I want to once again continue my praise for Swiftkey and its recent notification that I’ve saved 10,000 keystrokes. Whether or not that number is 100% right is really irrelevant to me — I know for a fact it has saved me keystrokes. The real number of saved keystrokes while interesting, doesn’t make me love the app more or less, I just love it. I swear I’m not being paid to promote this app, but I do have to wonder how this challenge would be turning out without Swiftkey, an app I’m not entirely sure I can ever give up.

Moving on and echoing my earlier reports, I’m still in love with default app switching and have settled on Firefox Beta as my browser of choice on Gingerbread and Chrome Beta on Ice Cream Sandwich. I’ve been back on the HTC One S for the last week and I’ll likely continue with it for a few more days as I complete the challenge.

The addition of Comcast’s Xfinity app in the past 48 hours has also made my Android experience more on par with that of my iPhone. I know prospect of watching a lengthy television show on a smaller screen isn’t appealing to everyone, but choice is choice and I’d rather have the option of doing so than not at all. At the very least it lessens the game between apps that I both want and need on my iPhone and have been unable to get on my Android device.

One thing that I did want to discuss in this post briefly since I’m going to make it short as my last report will come in the next couple of days is that of customization. One of the greatest assets of the Android platform is your ability to completely customize the device. In my eyes, that’s both a blessing and a curse. The iPhone 4S I have is unlocked, purchased unlocked directly from Apple so I had no need to jailbreak it prior to unlocking. That wasn’t the case with the iPhone 4 I sold before purchasing my 4S. When jailbroken, I spent hours endlessly customizing the icons, wallpapers, lock-screens, widgets and all the fun little tweaks one can have while jailbroken. While you don’t need to jailbreak your Android device to customize, (unless you want custom ROM’s, then you have to root), customizing the device is equally frustrating for me.

First, let me clarify my definition of the word frustrating, it’s not frustrating in the sense that I’m angered or upset, I’m frustrated because I can take up so much time looking for the perfect set-up. I’m frustrated because I’m never happy with one particular look. I’ve customized my icons, lock-screen, wallpaper, and widgets almost every day I’ve had a device in my hand the last 27 days. Perhaps I’m just obsessive with trying to find that “one” look that will keep me happy, or maybe I’m just hard to please. Either way, customizing my Android device has taken up far more time than I would care to admit.

So again, when I say the word “frustrated,” you’ll have to ignore the first definition that pops in your mind and recognize I’m frustrated because the options are so plentiful, so refreshing that it’s causing me to get — frustrated. First world problems right?

In any event, my challenge is almost over and while I know many of you are emailing, tweeting and wondering if I’ll stick with Android, do a 30 day Windows Challenge or go running back to my iPhone, check out the final report in the next few days and you’ll find out all the answers!

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18 May 12 Android browser beta battle: Chrome vs Firefox

It wasn’t all that long ago that Mozilla and Google started making web browsers that, in their own ways, completely changed the way we interact with websites. The goal for both companies was pretty simple — get people away from Internet Explorer and make a better web. Since then, Mozilla and Google have been consistently leap-frogging each other in terms of the best browsing experience. The fastest load times, the most features, and interaction between computers have all been mini battlefields that these two companies have fought on. Now, they are taking the fight to mobile, in an attempt to bring a faster, smarter web to our phones and tablets.

Now, both Google and Mozilla have released beta versions of their incredibly powerful, PC-class browsers to Android. Which is the better beta though?

Most browsers are tested side-by-side using what are generally accepted to be the best benchmarks for determining performance levels. There are so many different things that happen in a browser — especially a modern one — that there’s not really any one definitive test. So, both of these browsers were given Sunspider 9.1, Acid3, and HTML5 benchmarks to see how well they held up against one another. All of the tests were performed on a Verizon Wireless Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Chrome beta vs Firefox beta

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Sunspider 9.1 is a Javascript test designed to provide results that best reflect real world usage. The benchmark tests everything from 3D capabilities to code decompression, even cryptography tests. It is widely considered to be the best test for determining how well a browser will handle regular daily browsing. While the overall score for both of these web browsers is very close, you can see specific areas in which Chrome and Firefox demonstrate strengths and weaknesses. For example, Firefox takes significantly longer than Chrome in tests like 3D raytracing, but id well over 100ms faster than Chrome in code decompression. As a result, basic websites will load noticeably faster on Firefox than on Chrome, but Chrome will handle more complex tasks and animations better.

Firefox vs Chrome for Android

The Acid3 test measures how well a browser follows the standards for the web that have been assembled by the W3C. This is a simple visual test that will plainly show whether or not a browser is complying with these standards. As you can pretty plainly see, Firefox is just shy of being entirely W3C compliant, while Chrome maintains the same 100% compliance seen in the desktop version of the browser.

One percent isn’t a huge difference at all, but in the instance demonstrates that websites that are built to W3C standards might not look exactly like they should on Firefox.

Firefox vs Chrome for Android beta

The HTML5 test is purely designed to test a browsers ability to adhere to the new technologies and standards that currently make up the HTML5 specification. This test isn’t really a demonstration of performance or compliance, but a demonstration of how the browser will handle some basic HTML5 tasks. Since the HTML5 specification is still incomplete, this test isn’t quite as relevant as the other two, but it gives you a good idea of which company is planning for the future. Unsurprisingly, both Firefox  beta and Chrome for Android performed pretty well, though Chrome managed to wind up just a bit above Firefox.

Benchmarks are a lot of fun, but what about the real world? At the end of the day, both of these browsers deliver a superior browsing experience, and they both have critical strengths and weaknesses. Firefox beta loads most websites much faster than Chrome beta, but Chrome is able to deliver things like search results much faster. Additionally, the Firefox Beta is available on far more devices at the moment that Chrome, which is still limited to Android 4.0. Much like my home computer, I see myself having both installed for awhile, switching back and forth as I try to decide which browser I like better.

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