Updated: October 5, 2020
By and large, phone operating system upgrades aren't that interesting, because most of the time, the difference between what you had and what you now have isn't massive. Cool from the user perspective, as your workflow doesn't get ruined. Occasionally though, the changes can be rather big - case in point, going from Android 9 to 10, which includes new privacy controls, extra personalization, and new looks.
Even as the Internet is all a-chatter about Android 11, me One Zoom finally got an update to version 10. Well, sounds like it's time to do some work. Ideally, I would be doing this experiment on my Moto G6 device, but it seems this ever so slightly older phone is not eligible for this kind of upgrade, so no love there. You did get a glimpse of Android 10 in my Nokia 1.3 review, but now, I want to see what happens on what I'd call my main smartphone, so to speak. Let's do it.
No fuss. Relatively simple and rather fast. Overall, it took about 25 minutes. Now, I have to say: ALL of my settings were correctly preserved. No settings was changing to some default value. There are some new settings that need changing, but that's fine. The applications were also correctly ported.
The new Android 10 looks are - similar to what I've shown in the Nokia review - more plasticky, a bit more cartoonish, with larger, more abstract shapes. Not too bad, but it feels less precise and mature. On the plus some, some obvious visual papercuts have been resolved.
I noticed a bunch of recommendations for various new features - you now have extra gestures, dark mode (boring), you can personalize fonts, and a few other details. Nothing that I would deem important or significant, but hey, the mobile usage has never been important or significant to me.
Now, I've always declined and removed every single suggestion ever raised. I reduced the amount of notifications that my phone gives. So why would the system still insist on presenting its features to me? Don't want. The whole AI thing where it guesses what one needs or does is so overrated.
Here, you can tweak your Android to look more like what you have in mind. Personally, I found no reason to change the defaults, as they are fairly consistent and pretty. I mean, not as pretty as the tiles in Windows Phone, but then, nothing will match that. Bigger fonts is a nice thing.
Among the different things that cater to personal uniqueness, you get random things like Bedtime mode and Focus mode. As to the first, you can just manually turn Do Not Disturb. Secondly, you don't need to use the phone at bedtime. I know this is a strange concept for many people, but it's possible. Finally, Grayscale. This seems to be the new version of night light nonsense.
Focus mode - again, I look at this from a completely different angle. I want to focus ALL THE TIME - I have a brain, I want to use it. If and when I want to relax, then I might allow "distracting" apps and notifications. But this thing assumes a level of silly interactiveness that is simply ... annoying. If anything, if the operating system can schedule time periods where apps are not allowed to interfere - why not simply block apps that interfere to begin with, or not use them at all? Why allow so many notifications, why use software that has no value or purpose? Why not offer a Distract mode instead?
I noticed a green button (pill or whatever it's called) next to the three buttons in the navigation bar. This supposedly introduces and/or allows quick access to new gestures. In a nutshell, you can configure your Android navigation - one, two, three buttons, whatever. And all of these are essentially unnecessary. The three button one works fine, and is the fastest when it comes to amount of taps, shakes, moves, whatnot. Obviously. Now, though, the green button impairs the usage of the back button, because it sits too close to it, and it cannot be removed, so you might end up touching it accidentally. The neverending quest of reducing efficiency and giving low-IQ chimps something to be happy about.
New permissions model
Something quite useful - more visibility into what your apps can do. If only there was a toggle to disable their foreground network, too, well. Anyway, Android now lets you set additional permissions, and it also exposes, out of the box, several other applications that were previously labeled as system.
However, it's far from perfect still. For example, Location - why do so many system apps need access? Why is CQATest listed, and what does it do exactly? Now, speaking of location, annoyingly, you cannot fully disable access to some of the apps/features "while in use" like Bluetooth. You can disable Bluetooth as a remedy, but why not have a separate toggle for location? Why does a pair of headphones paired [sic] to the phone would have anything to do with location?
Physical Activity is another one - why does Google Music need access? Or Moto and Moto Widget? For that matter, why would any of these, except maybe Maps, need access to anyone's physical activity? This is not some tinfoil hat accusation, this is a simple question of trying to understand why such permissions are given in the first place where there's no obvious use case to begin with.
So I guess it's time for a few more privacy tweaks for me, then. It's amazing how much new stuff there is. Always more and more things to turn off. And I wouldn't really mind these that much if the actual results got cardinally better over time. But that's not the case. BTW, you may like to know we will talk about the Gboard app in a separate article very soon, too.
Day to day usage
All good. Everything was fine. Coincidentally, I noticed fresh improvements in Firefox 79. I mentioned Collections on the home screen being annoying - well, you can remove those now. Plus you can also have a list of recent sites shown, in addition to top sites. Nice, solid changes. Good. VLC continued where I last paused in the middle of a playlist, middle of a song. Jolly. From this perspective, 'twas a seamless upgrade.
Well, I did encounter several after upgrading to Android 10. I am not sure if they are caused by the upgrade, or if it's a matter of unfortunate timing. Application issues: The application update to Google Duo stalled then sorted itself out eventually. Secondly, after deleting a bunch of photos from Google Photos, I ended up with gray squares all over the place. A remedy for this shall come in the form of a mini-tutorial soon.
Network issues: Both the Wireless and mobile antennas seem affected. My phone has lower reception overall since the upgrade. Previously, in specific house locations where it would have full Wireless signal, it now only registers about 80%. Similarly, there are a few spots where the reception drops to zero - whereas before, there were no such issues, and things worked fine (albeit with low signal). This is quite annoying. But then, on Moto G6, a full system upgrade back in the day had also screwed up the Wireless connectivity - I used to be able to connect quickly to access points, now the network scan takes a while to complete, even for known access points. So the network borking seems like a consistent feature.
Furthermore, my phone also won't connect to several hotspots - basically, it connects/disconnects right away. Not sure what's so special about these, or why they don't seem to cooperate with One Zoom (Moto G6 has no issues), but this is not a new problem, BUT it hasn't been fixed by the Android 10 upgrade.
Another problem that persists - not fixed by the new version - is the stupid AI shot nonsense in the camera application. While I have everything turned off in the settings, the camera STILL insists on giving me these half-cropped, half-offset AI shots that are always, 100% of the time, completely useless in every sense.
I am also being annoyed by the stupid Gestures thing. You hear a sound, like a new message, but it turns out, it's not a message, it's a notification about using their new whatever. Gestures. I wanted to get rid of these gestures notifications forever, only to discover that no, nope, not possible! And earlier, there was that whole "distractions" and "focus mode" nonsense. Oh the irony.
Now, after about a week, there was a ping, and I had another Gestures message. But after I dismissed it, the green thing disappeared. So far, I've not been annoyed yet again. Well, perhaps the "AI" figured that since I've turned off gestures completely, and I'm not really responding to prompts, maybe it's best not to keep suggesting stuff that is not interesting. Or maybe clicking 'Not now' three times does the magic. Either way, my OCD demons can rest. BTW, the camera activation gesture is the only thing that makes sense, but then, nothing is as elegant as the dedicated physical camera button that my Lumia 950 had - still has.
You get a spellcheck now - some people may find this useful - I find this unnecessary.
Now, before the upgrade, I managed about 7-9 days between charges, with roughly 2-3 hours active screen time. So yes, it's mostly idle standby time, but with mobile data and Wi-Fi turned on all the time. If you think this is nonsense, try turning unnecessary features off and see what you get. My liberal guess is you will double your overall battery time by disabling the various sensors, features and apps that just drain juice for no good reason.
After the upgrade, the battery life seems largely unaffected. Similar usage, similar conditions. Perhaps there's a 5% degradation, which can be explained by the change in the overall signal strength, especially for the Wireless antenna. But all in all, still more than excellent results. We're talking a full week, with some 30% of battery juice left. This translates into about 9 days comfortable usage for me. Good.
So, the upgrade thing went well. The post-upgrade experience is okay, but a bit meh. Not decidedly better across the board, and somewhat worse in several areas. The network signal drop is the biggest problem. Kind of ruins the whole thing really, if you think about it. But then, in the world of "modern and "agile", breaking things is the most desirable outcome, it seems.
Overall, Android 10 works fine, but it doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the user. Well, the mobile world is also approaching the saturation point, just like the desktop did a few years back. Things are about to get boring for the touch-loving people. All in all, I'd say, One Zoom + Android 10 isn't a bad combo, but it's not like I have any choice. So if you're wondering what will happen once your upgrade happens, or you're just curious to see how other people are faring, my story is an answer to that question. On the plus side, you will retain a largely unchanged experience, your settings won't be touched, you have a bit more control, but you may suffer from a somewhat degraded network performance and extra gestures annoyances. There. Bon voyage.