AT&T finally got around to issuing an upgrade to Android KitKat for their Samsung Galaxy S4s running Jelly Bean two weeks ago. Against my better judgment and after waiting about a week, I decided that maybe it could help with the well-documented issues I have had with my phone. So after downloading the near 750MB download, installing and then downloading another 400+MB second upgrade, my phone is now running KitKat. Unfortunately, it is worse than ever.
After a few aborted downloads, the actual installation of the upgrade went pretty smoothly. When my phone first booted up, it seemed OK. However, my first indication that something was wrong was that all of my app icons and gadgets were gone. Maybe gone is not the right word. They were still on the phone, I just had to set them up in the display again. There were only a handful of apps that I actually needed to reinstall. Though I couldn't get the look back to exactly what I had before, it was close enough that, if that was the only issue with the upgrade, it would have been fine.
My next surprise came when I went to look up a contact. I have had trouble with my contacts since I have this phone; loading them often chokes my machine. This time, what contacts I had showed up, but there were no pictures next to the names. On top of this, if a contact had entries in Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, for instance, I had separate contacts for each. Prior to the upgrade, these contacts were unified into one entry. Dealing with 3000+ contacts, this made for a very messy situation. Also some of my favorites and other contacts were flat-out missing. I'm not sure how they got wiped out in the upgrade, but they did. I tried re-syncing with the sources and that really didn't fix things.
After suffering for almost a week, a solution presented itself courtesy of Full Contact. Full Contact is currently in beta and is one of my friend Brad Feld's Foundry Group portfolio investments. They want to give you the elusive unified address book. I ran all of my contact groups through Full Contact, let it do its magic and then re-synced with my Google account, which then re-synced with my phone. I got rid of the multiple entries per person for the most part. The phone still chokes when I bring up contacts, but that was going on long before the upgrade, so I just chalk it up to my phone not being able to handle the load.
The next issue I noticed was that the phone would freeze up, requiring a hard reboot. It was starting to feel like a Windows 95 machine! At the most inopportune times, my phone would freeze. Swiping, pushing, holding buttons would not do a thing. My only choice was to hold the power button down long enough to reboot it. I occasionally encountered that issue before the upgrade, but it is worse now.
Next to manifest itself was the screen goes black issue. When I would try to pull down from the top of the screen to see my notifications, the screen would just go black. After a few seconds, it would return to my home screen. Not sure what causes this, but it is still happening.
The latest gremlin is my lock screen app. I had used TripAdvisor, which would have a nice rotating gallery of places around the world as my lock screen background. Somehow this got turned off and I only get the stock Samsung hot air balloon. I am so disgusted with the other issues with my phone that I have not even tried to fix this one. It is just not worth it.
I happened by the AT&T store the other day to get a new SIM card for my son's phone. I told the rep about the issues I was having with my phone since the upgrade. He shook his head and told me that he has heard some issues before. He told me the good news is that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be out soon (like I would every buy one of these again). I told him great, when am I eligible to upgrade? He informed that I still have about 16 months to go on this contract. Since AT&T has moved to their Next (as in, "next sucker please step up to the counter") pricing plans, they will not be accelerating upgrade eligibility unless you move to Next and pay AT&T a monthly fee of $25 for the privilege to upgrade.
So the worst phone I have ever owned is now worse still. I am stuck paying for this lemon for the next 16 months, unless some phone carrier out there wants to rescue me from Galaxy prison.