Thursday, October 25, 2012

Using An Android Phone with a Mac (Updated)

I began this adventure by searching the Net to find out if there were any options for syncing an Android-based phone with my MacBook Air running Mountain Lion. I had been using iPhones since the 3g; before that I used an ordinary cell and a Palm device for my PDA information (contacts and notes were all I cared about). I was using an iPhone 4 and had to make the decision to get a 5 or go away.

I didn't really have a problem with iPhone; my argument was with AT&T. I simply got sick of handing my money over to a company who supported every political cause I opposed - they contributed money to Romney, other teaparty politicians, and contributed heavily in the fight to end net neutrality. Verizon was no better. I wanted to join Credo Mobile, a progressive, non-profit cell company that supported causes I agreed with. But they did not support the iPhone. So, after reading reviews and testing one in the store, I had them ship the Samsung Galaxy 3S. This is not the model that Apple testified in court was so functionally identical to the iPhone as to be indistinguishable; but close enough for me. After all, if Apple says so, it must be true, right?

The Galaxy Home Screen

Galaxy home screen
Picture taken with my iPhone 4. Ironic, eh?

The first thing I learned was that there are three kinds of Android users: Windows users, Linux users, and people who did not sync to a computer at all. There was a vanishingly small number of Mac users but enough of them that I found several web sites explaining how to accomplish the syncing I wanted, along with links to applications for Mac that would accomplish what I needed.

Some told me how to simply get all my contacts into Google, which would auto-sync with the Galaxy. This part was obvious since Google developed the Android OS.

Instead I settled on a free app called SyncMate, which used my local WiFi network to accomplish the link. The instructions were clear and concise. My first sync went off without a hitch. I was finally free to sell my iPhone 4 (anyone interested?), which a cell-phone reseller told me was worth around $200 because it was in perfect shape. That will pay the purchase cost of the Galaxy 3. The monthly Credo bill is a tad lower than my AT&T bill, too.

Credo even pays me back for early ending my ATT contract, too. It wasn't much; I had only a month to go but that was a nice touch.

First of all, the Galaxy is larger than the iPhone, whose body fits inside the screen dimensions of the Galaxy. Love that extra screen space. It's also bigger than the screen of the iPhone 5. It's pretty light, though, and weighs less than my iPhone 4, especially since I always kept it wrapped in a Mophie battery case. That case carries enough juice to recharge the phone completely from 18% remaining, but it adds about 50% to the overall weight. Since it's always in my bag and not a pocket, that has not been an issue. I wish Mophie made a case for the Galaxy.

Android is different, that's for sure. It's a lot less refined than iOS, but outside of a fresh learning curve, I get along pretty well with it. Adding Apps is really easy; I just point my Mac to the Google Play site, where the Android store lives. There is a huge selection there, and I was able to get most of what I had been using on the iPhone: a Twitter client (4 to choose from); an app that links to my Nissan Leaf; the FourSquare check-in program; Starbucks POS app; the Square apps (which I use to accept Visa from clients); Red Laser, which reads QR codes; 1Password and Dropbox; and Kindle. Missing so far is iBank Mobile. iBank is the Mac app that let me get away from Quicken, and there was an iPhone version that I could use to enter info that would sync with the Mac when I got home. I will lobby them to produce an Android version, but since Quicken did not have one I never grew dependent on it.

(Recent reply from iBank: Ain't gonna happen.)

I still have a lot to learn. For instance, text messages go out from the Galaxy just fine, but replies still come in to the Mac and the iPhone. The iPhone is off of the cel network now, but is still on WiFi here. An iPhone with no service is just a heavy iPod Touch. I can even make phone calls with it when I'm home by using Skype, which I will also install on the Galaxy.

Installing Ringtones

The iPhone uses a special format for ringtones: m4r. You can't convert those to MP3 in iTunes, but I was able to locate a free utility called All2mp3 that did the job with a simple drag and drop. Find it at CNet's Download page or the publisher directly. Once they are converted, you can just put them in their proper folder inside the phone.

Mounting the Galaxy 3

It doesn't just appear on the desktop. That's only on Linux or Windows. For us, there is a free app called Android File Transfer. Download it and instructions from Android's home site. Once installed, wake up your phone, type the password if you use one, and plug in the USB cable. When you do you get this Finder-like window:

Pretty self-evident from here. Just drag your desired ringtones into the proper folder and they are loaded and ready. You can also use this app to get your pictures into and out of the phone. Put anything you want to carry with you into the Camera folder, and when you take photos the phone puts them in here. It's not as automatic as iCloud's PhotoStream, but there is also a way to set up Google's Picasa service to copy your pictures into it as you take them. I have not yet done that but I will. I have been long needing to create a photo-sharing page and this will motivate me to do it.

1 comment:

J. Michael Burke, D.C. said...

Macworld’s 4 mouse rating for Dragon Dictate 3 for Mac product apparently didn’t consider the false advertising under which the upgrade was promoted. In September I received an email from Nuance inviting me to purchase an upgrade for $99.99. The promo price was good until the end of the month. Enticed by the promise of improved performance and seduced by the relatively low upgrade cost (and because I would be out of the country for a month), I purchased and downloaded the upgrade. Today, as I prepared to use the new product, I discovered that it only works with Lion or Mountain Lion (I used the prior version on a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard) and, according to Nuance technical support, it requires the creation of a new user profile. Having devoted many hours to building my user profile in previous versions, including hundreds of technical words and phrases, I was loath to reinvest the time and effort for a purported modest improvement in performance. The deal breaker came when I read in a Macworld forum that the Bluetooth mic Nuance recommended for Dictate 2, which I had purchased, wouldn’t work with Dictate 3, so I called to ask for a refund. I also read that the new version causes system freezes. (I cannot verify the mic and system problems, and I don’t want to find out for myself!)

Nuance did not inform me of the OS limitations of this new product. Further, they did not state that it required one to create a new user profile when upgrading. (This technically makes it a new product for an “upgrade” price.) The only positive aspect of this experience is that, contrary to what I'd read, Nuance provided me with relatively good technical and customer support. However, I will be very wary of purchasing any product from them in the future.

Michael Burke