I bought an AT&T Samsung Captivate in November 2010 and used it for almost three months. I finally gave up on Samsung and Android and returned the phone yesterday.
Some things about Android and the Captivate are great. The turn-by-turn voice navigation is very good; it even pops up a picture of the destination as you drive up. The 4” AMOLED screen is nice. The browser is fine, and voice recognition for search works well. There are lots of cool apps, most of them free.
What? You Want Email Too?
My main beef with Android is email. I use Microsoft Exchange on SBS 2008. I use folders to sort my email. (Is that so unusual?) Here are some of the things I tried.
NitroDesk saw how weak Android’s native email client is and has become a pretty popular $20 alternative. I tried it for 30 days. It is definitely more powerful than the native client, but:
- You can only view one account at a time.
- When looking at an email, there is no way to tell what folder the email is in.
- My Exchange server kept displaying MSExchange ActiveSync warning 1040 every 15-20 minutes: “The average of the most recent  heartbeat intervals used by clients is less than or equal to .”
TouchDown support is friendly and responsive but could not provide solutions to the issues. They never answered my repeated queries as to correct Exchange settings. Once I uninstalled TouchDown, the Exchange errors stopped.
Some folks seem to like k9mail, a free mail client. I couldn’t get it to work. I believe the issue is that Android 2.1 doesn’t support the StartSSL certificate used by my Exchange server. And as I blogged here, Android does not allow trusting new certificates unless you root (hack) the phone and start mucking around with system files.
I decided to try the native Android email client while waiting on Android 2.2 (which does support StartSSL). The native client does work for receiving mail on a maximum of two Exchange accounts, and it doesn’t cause errors on the Exchange server. It even has a combined inbox. But folder handling is almost non-existent and, the final straw, you cannot reply to an email from the secondary account. The reply just sits in the Outbox, never goes out. The bug report on this has so far not even been acknowledged by Google.
The Android Update Battle
Shortly after receiving the Captivate, I was able to do an over-the-air bug-fix update to Android 2.1 update1. However, Android 2.2, promised for last year, has yet to be released. According to this widely-reprinted XDA forum post the reason is political: AT&T (and all other U.S. carriers) are refusing to pay Samsung for the 2.2 update for Galaxy S phones, claiming the update should be free because Samsung gets Android for free. I don’t really care who is right here, but it’s hugely annoying if the technical update is being held up by a political standoff.
Life Is Too Short for Unsupported Software
Maybe the bigger issue is the open-source nature of Android. The only way to get support seems to be to search the Issues List on Google Code. That in itself is a pretty big barrier to getting support. And if your issue is not popular, you apparently will not get any support at all. My can’t-send-email issue, for example, only has 29 followers. Maybe not that many people use secondary Exchange accounts, or they don’t even bother with the native email client. In any case, no Android developer has taken ownership of or commented on the issue. Meanwhile other requests like adding Arabic and Esperanto have over 1000 votes and therefore garner attention. Code-by-vote is not always good when it means that basic things like inability to send email do not get noticed.
Trying Windows Phone 7
So I’ve ordered an LG Quantum running Windows Phone 7. I already know I’ll be giving up voice navigation, cut-and-paste, and Flash. I can’t believe the phone doesn’t have a native RDP client (even my Windows Mobile 2003 phone had that). It doesn’t support StartSSL, but this article says I should be able to add the certificate. It also is late on delivering its first update, but I’m hopeful that it will update since the updates are not directly controlled by the carriers. I definitely expect a better email experience, and I’m looking forward to native Word, Excel, and OneNote. Hopefully some of the other functionality will be added.
Someday Android will probably fix the basics like email and certificate support. In the meantime, it’s bye for now!