What is that?
It's a duck pond.
Why aren't there any ducks?
I don't know. There's never any ducks.
Then how do you know it's a duck pond?

Thursday, July 24


Thoughts On Android And Removable Storage

So a couple of months ago I bought a Sony Xperia Z Ultra, which you can think of as either a ridiculously large phone or a very small tablet (6.4" screen).  It's my first non-Nexus Android device and so my first Android device with removable storage.

The reason I got the Z Ultra now and not before is twofold: First, it apparently didn't sell well and Sony cut the price by about a third; and second, Sandisk have released a 128GB micro SD card, so you can now add a lot of storage to a phone relatively cheaply.

My faithful Nexus 7 stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I've been using the Z Ultra instead while I tried to fix it.  So far I've failed, and I ended up buying a new Nexus, which arrived yesterday.*  I had it shipped to my office because it's much easier, and I went in to pick it up yesterday afternoon.  (I'm taking a couple of weeks off right now.)

And I have some thoughts regarding the experience.

I use my Nexus 7 all the time.  It's my daily go-to-device for reading and checking email and notifications of various kinds.  It has - or had, we'll get to that - LTE and a 10GB data plan, which is very handy to have and saved my bacon a couple of times when wired or wifi internet access was unavailable and I needed to work.  (A power outage once, a faulty router another time.)

Smaller devices aren't big enough; even, as it turned out, the 6.4" Z Ultra.  Larger devices (I have a Nexus 10 and an iPad 3) are too heavy and clumsy for comfortable reading.  The Nexus 7 is the sweet spot.

And while there are a number of low-end 7" tablets, there are no - zero - other high-end 7" general-purpose tablets.  There's the Kindle Fire HDX, which would do for reading, but limits me to the Amazon ecosystem, which is a proper subset of the Android ecosystem, so there's no real reason to do that.  Anyway, the Amazon App store doesn't have Uniqlo Wake Up, and I can't survive without that.**

Except that the Nexus 7 is out of stock from Google (at least in Australia).  It's the device I use every day, there's no direct alternative, and it's out of stock.  Scorptec had the 32GB wifi model in stock (still do, as I write this) but not the LTE.  I'd already moved the SIM card to the Z Ultra, so I was willing to give that up, at least for now.

There's the iPad Mini and the new Galaxy Tab S, but those are both considerably larger (if not that much heavier), and more to the point, cost twice as much.  There's the Galaxy Tab Pro, but that's only available with 16GB of storage.

My Z Ultra has 16GB total storage, of which 12GB was free after purging the sample music and videos.  After installing my standard set of apps (Kairosoft, Final Fantasy, Windbell's stuff, Nova Launcher...) and a decent chunk of my Kindle library, I have just under 4GB left.  And that's with all my media files going to SD card.

Samsung devices with 16GB storage ship with about 9GB free (judging from a review of the S4).  For the device I use for reading, I want my entire Kindle library on board.  The problem there is not just that I have about over a thousand ebooks, but that I subscribe to Analog and Asimov's SF magazines, and they run 60-100MB per issue, a couple of GB total per year, and I have a couple of years of back issues.

And Amazon's Android Kindle app can't tell an SD card from a hole in the ground.

So for the device I use for reading, I have to have at least 32GB built in; no SD card is going to help.  So the Galaxy Tab Pro, which is on sale right now and looks very nice, is of little use to me.  Not enough storage to be my reading device; too big to act as a media device.  (Which is the role the Z Ultra now fills.)


Anyway, I went into my office in the city yesterday to pick up my Nexus 7, talk to some people, and do a bit of shopping.  I took my Nexus 5 with me, but not the Z Ultra, because I wasn't taking a bag or a backpack and the Z Ultra is a bit big even for the pockets in my jacket.  And I really didn't want to drop it.  It's solidly constructed but it's basically a slab of glass.  Dropping it onto the wooden floors at home would be unlikely to even leave a mark, but dropping it onto tile or concrete would be a death sentence.

So, Nexus 5, headphones, off I go.  I want to download a podcast episode to listen to while I'm out.  My Nexus 5 only has a 3G plan, because I originally had a Nexus 4 which didn't have LTE, and I never bothered upgrading.  And it's worked well enough in the past, not blazing fast, but good enough.

But not this time.  I'll spare you the details, but I was out and about for four hours, and in that time I managed to download 91% of a single 17MB podcast episode.  I don't know what was going on with iiNet's mobile network in northern Sydney yesterday, but it was not good.

I tried streaming an episode from TWIT, and I got about one second of audio every minute.

And here's the thing: I didn't have much to listen to on my Nexus 5 because it ran out of room and I went through purging everything.  And the cloud completely and utterly failed me.  It was in fact worse than useless, because trying to download drained 80% of my battery in four hours.

So, here's my thoughts on all this, in point form:
  • Google, get your supply chain sorted, or get out.  I know it's called the Play store, but you can't play at being a hardware provider.

  • Google, again, fix removable storage on Android.  My device is out of space, I add 64GB, it's still out of space.  This is simple incompetence.

  • Google, you say that SD cards provide a bad user experience.  I'll tell you what a bad user experience is: Having a device with no content and a flat battery because you don't have an SD card to store your content.

  • iiNet, what the fuck?  Over a period of several hours, from Hornsby to the Sydney CBD and back by a different route, I never got more than a couple of KB per second.  That's useless.

  • Sony and Samsung, stop selling flagship devices with 16GB of storage and pretending you're doing the world a favour.  The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 cost $400; an extra 16GB of flash storage that would triple the available space retails for $8.  Yes, you can make the device three times as useful for 2% more.

  • Sony and Samsung again, what the hell is it with having to choose between 32GB of storage or LTE support?  Both the Z2 Tablet and the Tab S do this.  Why do you think that wanting mobile internet access means that I also want inadequate storage?

    At least Google and Nvidia got this one right.

  • Sony, this one is just for you.  You replaced the perfectly functional clock widget provided in stock Android with something that doesn't tell the time.  Your clock widget is not a clock.  And since it's a system app, it's impossible to change it back.  That's a special kind of stupid, that is.

  • Amazon, even with Samsung, Sony, and Google being doody-heads on the subject of storage, you can still fix your app.  Hell, your Audible app works just fine with SD cards, even on Android 4.4.  (Even if it freaks out when you upgrade from 4.3 to 4.4 and the rules change, it still works.)

    Just do the same thing for the Kindle app and we're golden.

  • Tor books - why are the margins on Max Gladstone's Full Fathom Five so damn huge?  It's an ebook, if I want huge margins I can make them that way.  What I can't do is make them narrower than you've set them.  And on a smaller device with a 16:9 screen - like, say, an Xperia Z Ultra - the book is basically unreadable.

  • The publisher of Analog and Asimov's SF magazines - why are your magazines 60MB+ each?  F&SF and Lightspeed are only around 1MB.  I mean, I can see that you provide a pre-formatted version as well as a readable version in the same file, but still what the heck are you doing with a magazine that's 98% text that takes 60MB?  The Three Musketeers on Kindle - about 800 pages worth - is under 1MB.

  • Scorptec and Startrack Couriers - thumbs up, keep doing what you do.
The really irritating thing in all this is that it's only a problem because everyone involved is relentlessly screwing things up.  Samsung and Sony's bloatware and crappy storage capacities wouldn't matter if Google fixed Android's removable storage support or Amazon fixed the Kindle app.  The problems with Android and the Kindle app wouldn't matter if Samsung or Sony put enough storage in their devices.  And the limitations of the Kindle app wouldn't matter if Google or Samsung or Sony were doing their jobs.

On the bright side, Poodle Hat is finally on Google Play Music All Access.

* I ordered it online from Scorptec Tuesday afternoon, after checking local stores and Google Play and finding none in stock anywhere.  Scorptec are in Melbourne; it arrived on my desk in Sydney around 9:30 Wednesday morning.

** It's the only alarm app I've found that doesn't give me a migraine.  It sings you the weather report to music by Yoko Kanno.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:55 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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