Do Androids Dream of Electronic Mail?

“Emigrate or degenerate! The choice is yours!”


I finally dipped my toe into the Android pool last weekend, with mixed results.  Here are the highs, the lows and the one mind-boggling deal stopper when it comes to the Android OS.

First, the hardware.  After reading about Android tablets forever, and specifically after reading Kevin Tofel’s pants pocket defense of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, I found myself braving the unspeakable horrors of Best Buy to look at one.  I was pleased to see that Verizon offers a monthly wireless broadband service with a $100 subsidy.   A chaotic half hour later, I walked out of Best Buy with a shiny new Galaxy Tab and a month to month contract with Verizon, which gives me 3 GB of monthly bandwidth for $35.

Things started off swimmingly.


I was immediately surprised by how much I liked the smaller size of the Galaxy Tab, compared to the iPad.  It fits easily in the back pocket of my jeans.  It doesn’t really seem any smaller than the iPad when you’re using it.    It has a solid, well detailed feel, and is easy to set up and use.  In sum, it’s really pretty.

I was even more surprised by how much I like the Android OS.  With a little work, I found and installed most of my mandatory apps (Pandora, Google Reader, HeyTell, Foursquare, Evernote, Kindle, WordPress, etc.).  Most of these apps look and operate very similar to their iOS counterparts.  Sadly, there is no Words with Friends or Reeder app for Android.  I could find just about everthing else I needed, including the Newsome.Org app, which I hadn’t been able to use before.

With a little rearranging, I created a very nice Home screen, complete with a clock, weather and my most used apps.  I actually like the layout of this screen better than the one on my iPad.  I’d love to show you, but one of Android’s deficiencies is the lack of an easy way to take screenshots.

But it’s really pretty.  Trust me.

I thought the Android configuration process would be a chaotic mess based on what I’d read, but it wasn’t bad at all.  You have much more control in Android than in iOS, and so things occasionally go wrong.  But the process is enjoyable, nonetheless.

The Galaxy Tab serves as a wireless hotspot, something the iPad does not (yet) do.  This is huge for my wife and youngest daughter, who have a wi-fi only iPad and iPod, respectively.

And then, irritation and tragedy.

Just when I was thinking the Galaxy Tab might actually replace my iPad as my day to day tablet, I found something out that completely defies logic and sense: the Android OS does not play well with Google Apps.  Specifically, it is somewhere between extremely difficult and completely impossible to configure Google Sync to work with Google Apps email.


I tried over and over, deleting all of the email content multiple times.  I tried via the Account manager, and I tried via the Gmail stand alone app.  I can send email.  I can see email in folders.  What I cannot do is access my inbox and see my incoming mail.  I get a recurring, frustrating and grammatically incorrect ""Cannot connect server" message.

I thought this might be a problem on the Google Apps end, but it works perfectly with TouchDown Exchange, a $20 app.  I’d pay multiples of $20 to get this problem fixed, but what I will not do is rely on a third party app- and interface- to manage my email.  I’m used to doing email via Exchange and Google Sync, and, by golly, that’s what I want.

I was also able to configure my work email via Exchange, so this problem seems to be limited to Android and Gmail and/or Google Apps.  You would think that Gmail and Google Apps seamless integration would be the one thing you could count on with the Google owned Android, which is tirelessly marketed as a robust alternative platform.  But no.

Sure, you can configure your Google Apps email to work via IMAP.  You can also travel by horse and buggy, but it’s slow, no fun and backwards.

For now, I’m using IMAP and frowning a little every time I check my mail.  This may have been inevitable, since, unlike with iOS, you are limited to a single Exchange account.

For the most part, I am really impressed with both the Galaxy Tab and the Android OS.  For the most part.

This email thing will, however, reduce my Galaxy Tab to toy status if I can’t resolve it.

That’s too bad, because other than a glaring defect in its email app, the Galaxy Tab is a neat little tablet.  That fits in my pocket, and could fit into my mobile strategy.

5 thoughts on “Do Androids Dream of Electronic Mail?

  1. Kent – if there is a problem, it may be with the Tab’s implementation of Android. I use an HTC Desire phone/device, and I had GApps email working almost despite myself, it was so easy … so I’m a little puzzled by your experience. Hope you can work it out, because GApps was the least of my Android problems 🙂

  2. I think it is with the Samsung implementation. It works great via the third party Touchdown app. I do think the general handling of email in Android is more kludgy than on the iPad, but I’m getting used to it.

  3. Kent,

    Do you think this might be another Google Apps vs Regular Old Gmail issue with Google? I’ve had problems in the past initiating many new services on my Google Apps account. Normal old Gmail accounts frequently seem to work more seamlessly with many apps and services. I know you’ve mentioned this before on your blog. Great post title, by the way.

  4. I think that’s exactly what it is, since my non-Google work email works fine. I haven’t tried Exchange on the tablet with one of my regular old Gmail accounts, because you can only have one Exchange account in Android (which I hope they fix in the upcoming version).

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