16 June 2010

Making the change: Switching from Symbian to Android

Having been a long-time Symbian user (E70, E90, N97 - spot the QWERTY keyboard theme), I had a heavy investment in Symbian and apps that I was used to and had paid for. 

However, I was also a heavy Google user (with a Google Apps account, and a significant investment in Gmail, Google Reader and Google Calendar, with a sprinkling of Picassa, Google docs, and a bit of Google Blogger thrown in for good measure), so it seemed reasonable that an Android phone would suit me well.  In fact, when I got my N97, the G1 was available ... but at the time, Android and the marketplace just didn't have the tools I needed on my phone for day-to-day use.  As well as getting used for the occasional phone call and text message, my smartphone also needed to be my podcatcher and player, occasional music player, camera, notepad, reference library for snippets of useful information, eBook reader, and a whole bunch of other things that Android and the G1 just couldn't do at the time.

A year on, things have changed ... a lot.  I've really been holding out for a full Google Experience phone (i.e. one that will get updates directly from Google) with a QWERTY keyboard.  And besides, I still have another year of a Vodafone contract left to run.  However, with no sign of said mythical device on the horizon, and following a Twitter tip-off from Steve Litchfield, I decided the time had come to jump ship and try Android anyway.  I bought a Motorola DEXT - a QWERTY slider Android phone available at a sensible price on an Orange PAYG contract.  Within a day I had unlocked it for use with my Vodafone SIM card.  It took me a little longer to find out how to configure it to use Vodafone's data network, but since then it's been working a treat.

The practicalities

Calendar was always going to be easy.  I'd been using the paid version of GooSync for years to keep a dozen or more Google Calendars in sync with my phone (and HandyCalendar on the phone itself).  Swim has finally come to 5th edition, so it was all automated.  So, nothing at all to do here except tell my Android phone my email address and which calendars I wanted to sync (which was basically all of them).  

Contacts would be more tricky.  Although I'd previously been able to keep my E90 in sync, based on Steve and Tim's experiences with syncing between Symbian and Google contacts (as discussed in the Phones Show Chat) - and some of my own too, I'd given up on attempting to keep my N97 and Google contacts in sync at all.  So, I took a brute force approach, and used PC Suite to hook up the phone to the PC.  From there I exported all my phone's contacts, tweaked the columns to match Google contacts requirements, and imported to Google.  Then I used Google's duplicate detection and merging to tidy up.  The only issue that left me with was a bunch of contacts (visible on the phone, but not in Gmail contacts) that are shown as numbers, rather than names.  (They're contacts for businesses that only have a business name, not a person's, which have no doubt been lurking undetected on a succession of phones for some years.  Of course, as I presumably never missed them, I could probably just delete them and have done with it, but I can't help feeling I want to do a quick bit of spreadsheet wizardry sometime to make use of them.)

Podcasting was my next target.  Listen wouldn't work at the time (although it's been fixed now) because my main email address is for a Google Apps account, and Listen uses a vanilla Gmail account to access Google Reader and there was a bug affecting users in that situation. I kept it installed, waiting for a fix, but went looking for something else in the meantime. Having tried a few alternative podcatchers and players, I eventually settled on ACast as my podcatcher for the time-being.  It has an OPML importer, so I just needed to export from the Symbian Podcasting app and import into ACast.  It also has hooks into Google Reader, so could act as a stepping stone to get my feeds into Listen too.

The major sticking point was a replacement for HandySafe Pro.  There were plenty of apps in the MarketPlace that would store encrypted passwords, but none that would import HandySafe Pro's only output format of XML, and only a few that would sync with some sort of Desktop version.  More on that in a separate post.

Data was easy.  I just needed a bigger MicroSD card.  I copied the data from the N97's mass storage and from my older (smaller) MicroSD card to the new card, removed the Symbian system folders, and put the card in the DEXT.  Job done.

Next came the ongoing fun of finding Apps I want to install on Android.  


Unknown said...

Did you look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab ?

As an old Nokia qwerty fan (E90) I made the jump, and don't miss physical keys at all. Granted, I also got the keyboard-cum-docking point for heavy desk use.

Also, it is a bit big to carry around, although it is slim enough to slip into an inside coat pocket. I use a bluetooth device for phonecall when out-and-about.

Julie said...


A long overdue reply!! I have considered the Galaxy Tab, but think I'll probably wait for a dual core Honeycomb tablet (or maybe go the cheap route, such as a hackable Nook colour). There is also the little issue of struggling to justify the expense of a table at all, of course!

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 (http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=gHh4q7I8dvWJzhdV) and its keyboard dock looks potentially interesting too, although I still have to see it in the flesh to decide whether a 10" tablet would be too big/heavy/unwieldy for comfortable keyboard-free use (e.g. for eBook reading). The keyboard dock does make it a potential netbook replacement and tablet all in one go though.