Trying New Things Is A Good Thing
July 26, 2012 Leave a comment
One of the things geeks get asked all the time for is a recommendation on some piece of technology. Whether it’s a new phone, TV or laptop, we’re always going to be asked by our friends and family on what to get. Over the last three years when asked about smartphones, I’ve replied with one unwavering answer (if you were on AT&T): the iPhone. It was hands down the best phone they had and the best phone on the market. Up until a year ago, I couldn’t say the same thing for Verizon customers. I would tell them to go into a store and try different devices out. I said this because 1. I had no idea what the latest and greatest thing was on their network and 2. they didn’t have the iPhone. This changed and I said (barring being a T-Mobile customer), get an iPhone and you won’t regret it. No one that I’ve recommended it to has.
I realized around this time last year that I had an empty recommendation. I could not say equivocally that the iPhone was the best on the block if I hadn’t actually used the other devices. I started a “Put My Money Where My Mouth Is Challenge”. Don’t knock a mobile OS until you try it. So I ordered an LG Thrive, a prepaid Android device on the AT&T network that ran a stock version of Android 2.2 (Froyo). It was around the same size as my iPhone and didn’t break the bank to buy out of pocket. I had it for 2 weeks. It was an OK device, but left me wondering why anyone would want Android. In comparison to Apple, the apps looked cheaper and were designed poorly. The hardware buttons didn’t match what I believed the function was supposed to do. I generally was not happy with the performance of the device. Animations stuttered and overall OS performance felt sluggish at best. It didn’t help that Apple announced iOS 5 that fixed almost all of my issues with their OS. Needless to say I sold the Thrive for what I paid and I loaded the iOS 5 beta on my device.
Earlier this year I had heard a lot of talk involving Windows Phone 7. I heard a lot of good things and felt like I needed to try it out. I picked up a Samsung Focus on eBay for a small fee. The device arrived to me with a cracked screen. I had it for 3 days. I tried really hard to push past the cracked screen, but couldn’t. From what little I saw of the OS, I liked it. Microsoft was bridging the gap between Android’s openness and Apple’s closed loop. Microsoft had Apple like restrictions on applications and device specifications, but was open to a number of manufacturers and screen sizes. Apps that had been developed for the OS fit with the overall design of the OS itself. I really liked what I saw. I ended up shipping that device back for a refund and picked back up my iPhone.
Fast forward to late June. Google’s I/O conference. They demonstrated Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and Project Butter. Gone were the stutters. The OS even looked better. I started to get excited for Android. Something to finally compete with iOS. Google also quietly put the unlocked Galaxy Nexus on their website for a quite fair price. I had been running the iOS 6 beta but didn’t really feel like Apple had made any headroom since iOS 5. I picked up a Galaxy Nexus, which was able to be upgraded to Jelly Bean when it arrived. What a difference a year (and much better hardware) makes. Project Butter makes Android iOS-level smooth. The back button still confuses me. Sometimes that takes you out of the application, sometimes it takes you back a page in the browser. I still use the home button to change applications instead of the app switching menu. Old habits are hard to break. The camera is OK, but the iPhone’s is better. Overall hardware quality goes to the iPhone as well. The battery cover is a chintzy piece of plastic. There isn’t any expandable storage (16 GB internal though). That suits me just fine though, as I utilize cloud services like Spotify, Google Music/Drive, and Box for file storage and music. All but one app I had on my iPhone has an Android version or an app with similar functionality was available. The only one that wasn’t was LogMeIn, an app I use to connect to my home machine.
I now have an issue. I can’t just recommend the iPhone blindly. It’s still my default recommendation, but Android is making a very strong case to be considered. My biggest concern is still update availability. When Google announces Android 5, when will the device get the new features and functions? I know my Galaxy Nexus will, but that’s because I bought it directly from Google. Galaxy Nexus owners on Verizon will have a much different experience (see the version 4.0.4 saga).
Will I go back to the iPhone? I don’t know. At least I know what the other side of the grass is like.