Armored Phone: Part 1

My new Android phone arrived around suppertime on Saturday. Jaeger thinks it looks like its wearing armor so I decided to call it Devi in honor of Devi Morris from The Paradox Trilogy1. As expected, it’s quite thick so the first thing I tested was making sure it would fit comfortably in my jean pockets. It fit great so I went ahead and turned it on.

Android is not iOS. I know this is stating the obvious. However, Google and Apple have fundamentally different approaches to software. iOS believes in the one perfect right way. Android was designed for people who like options and don’t mind tinkering. I’ve used Android phones before, and use many Google products, so I didn’t expect any major challenges. I was mistaken.

Unihertz was remarkably restrained in the apps it preloaded onto the phone. I think it’s the most bare bones phone install I’ve seen. Overall, this is a good thing. However, it left me with some initial app gaps. I decided to prioritize finding apps by looking at what was on the first page on my old iPhone. Weather was the first app I looked for. The number of choices were bewildering and I took way too long finding something I liked.

By this point, night was fast approaching and I realized I needed to get my phone setup for the night. This meant two things: 1) Verifying that Smart Audiobook Player still existed in the Play store and still worked the way I expected and 2) setting up Do Not Disturb for the night. Fortunately, Smart Audiobook Player worked flawlessly. I downloaded the app, swapped the MicroSD card from my old Samsung phone into Devi2, and everything just worked. This was a huge relief.

My next step was to configure Do Not Disturb/Bedtime mode. This turned out to be substantially more complicated than I expected. Bedtime is controlled in the “Digital Wellbeing & parental controls” section which isn’t too hard to find with a bit of Googling. I quickly learned that iOS’ version is vastly superior. Among other things, Android doesn’t appear to let me have different sleep schedules based on the day of the week. I sighed, and set it for my regular weekday schedule. Then, I went to the Clock app to figure out what that meant for my Wake Up alarm. I definitely didn’t want to be woken up at 7:00 am on Sunday. Except, the Clock didn’t show any Wake Up alarms. That functionality didn’t seem to exist in the Clock app even though various web pages assured me it did. I eventually decided that I must be seeing an older version of Google’s Clock app but I couldn’t figure out how to update it. I searched in the Google Play store and found another version of Google Clock, downloaded it, and saw the bedtime option3. It appeared that I could set the wake up alarm to just M-F. It’s a little different than I was use to but I figured I’d get use to it.

Then, we discovered that Do Not Disturb wasn’t allowing audio notification for my Starred Contacts. In Android, rather than picking specific people, you add a Star to all contacts who should be allowed to message or call you while Do Not Disturb is one. This I dutiful did but the phone was still blocking audio notification when it was in Do Not Disturb mode for Jaeger’s messages. Fortunately, we learned that he could call me and the phone call would come through. I tried all sorts of settings but couldn’t get it to work so I finally gave up for the night.

Smart Audiobook Player worked beautifully through the night. The only slight hiccup was at one point I accidentally turned on the phone flashlight and I had to open up the phone and maunally turn it off.

Sunday I was suppose to pay bills and clean house. One of the first things I did Sunday was download the Dumpling app which I use to order groceries. To my relief, my preferred shopper and previously bought lists transferred fine. Then, I downloaded Libby so I’d have something to listen to while cleaning house. All of this went fine.

I started out by paying bills and it took longer than I expected because, among other things, I realized I had skipped sending Jaeger the August finance report so needed to do August and September at the same time. I also used the time to install all my authentication apps4. Sometime while I was paying bills Jaeger went to our local Pottery Planet to upgrade the pots for some of our household plants. He texted me a picture of a strawberry pot except on my side I received a “Message expired or not available”. Regular SMS was coming through fine but all pictures were being blocked for some reason. Interestingly, I could send both SMS and MMS and Jaeger was able to receive pictures from me.

My first thought was it had something to do with Verizon. You see, according to the internet, if I took this phone to a Verizon store and tried to activate it, it would fail. However, numerous reviews assured me that because I already had a SIM card from my iPhone, I could just transfer it to this phone and everything would work fine. Indeed, when I popped in my SIM card Saturday, everything had seemed to work fine. In fact, I didn’t even get the typical text warning from Verizon that my SIM had changed phones.

I spent more than an hour on the MMS problem, both poking around in my phone settings and searching the internet, and eventually learned that it was a widespread problem back in 2021 and the fix is to use a messaging app other than Google Messages. I was dubious but decided it was worth a shot. The first app I tried was Signal, as I felt fairly comfortable using it. However, for unknown reasons, I couldn’t get it to work as a regular text message app. I gave up fairly quickly and found another one, Textra, and tried again. I was successful in setting up Textra as my text app and was a bit surprised to confirm that it had no problem receiving MMS. I thought that maybe the Do Not Disturb problem had also been solved but, alas, no. Emergency contacts still couldn’t text me while I was in Do Not Disturb mode.

It was late afternoon by this point so I decided not to clean house after all and instead focused on getting the majority of my must-have apps installed and configured. I also took the time to figure out how I had accidentally triggered the flashlight in the middle of the night. It turns out the red button on the left is a shortcut key and its set to turn the flashlight on by a long press of the button. I liked the general idea but changed the flashlight to be two quick presses of the button instead on the assumption that would be less likely to do accidentally in the middle of the night.

The Atom L appears to be designed for a rugged outdoorsy type of person. Based on the reviews, I have some doubts of its ruggedness, but that’s still the aesthetic it’s going for. While this phone is surprisingly free of weird pre-loaded apps, it did come with a “Toolbox” folder that included various things such as: Noise test, Compass, UnderWaterCamera, Protractor, etc. It also included a Remote app that is designed to replace AV remotes. I amused myself by setting it up with our TV, Blu ray player, and receiver. Though, I have yet to find an app that I like as a replacement for the Apple TV remote on iOS.

.One of the last things I did Sunday was verify that the phone worked with my car so everything would be ready for driving the kids to school in the morning. This part was amazingly easy. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had to fiddle with my iPhones a bit to make them connect correctly to the car. Android Auto seamlessly set everything up and it just worked which made me very happy. That said, I prefer the Apple CarPlay interface to Android Auto. One of the things I really miss, which doesn’t seem to be available, was the split screen option which let me see both maps and whatever app I was listening to at the same time. I also dislike that Android aggressively will not let me type into the screen, even when I’m sitting in my driveway, and instead requires me to say everything. However, these are design choices that I’ll probably get use to eventually.

  1. Devi is rather obsessed with her armor named Lady Gray.
  2. My Samsung phone was my first modern smart phone. When I bought it, I wasn’t convinced I needed a new-fangled device so went with a phone that only had 8 GB internal storage but did have a MicroSD card. Turns out most apps won’t play nicely with external storage but, fortunately for me, Smart Audiobook Player deals with it fine and so I keep all my audiobooks on a MicroSD card.
  3. However, it wouldn’t let me delete the original Google Clock.
  4. I do appreciate 2FA but I wish there was either more standardization or cross compatibility. Four apps dedicated to logging in seems excessive to me.