Thursday, October 20, 2011

A post about phones

I've been venting about phones on social networks for months, so I might as well make it into a full blog post, now that the Signpost has opened up to more subjects.

"Feature Phone" (non-smartphone) users have an advantage: the advantage of ignorance. You get a phone, possibly for free-with-contract. You can use it as long as it lasts; literally until the battery will no longer hold a charge, or until you run over it with your car, or the carrier pries it away from your cold dead hands. When it's time for a new phone, you go into the store, get the cheapest one, they transfer your contacts, and you have another phone. You don't really explore the full extent of what your phone can do; or if you do that, it's about "the phone I have now", and not about the platform it's running on.

iPhone users have an advantage: the advantage of consistency. "The next iPhone" comes out, and you either get it or you don't. iPhone features are predictable and build on each other, and the experience is consistent. (Please note: I'm not trying to start a platform war in this post.)

Android users have an advantage: the advantage of diversity. Each phone has its own hardware advantages/disadvantages, its own take on the operating system, and its own little quirks. But sometimes, diversity is frustrating. And here is the motivation for my post.

I've got my original Motorola Droid, the flagship Android phone for Verizon from early 2010 (ed note: the Droid actually came out in late 2009, but I got mine in Mar '10). I love it, but it is like an elderly grandparent. It's showing its age, it can't keep up with the times.
I've put it on life support (rooted it and installed some helpful apps) to compensate for its weaknesses, but there's only so much you can do.
As luck would have it, my Upgrade Eligibility date is up in a few weeks.
And there are some really exciting phones being announced. The Motorola Droid Razr, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and the HTC Rezound right around the corner.
Watching the Razr and Nexus announcement events, it's really difficult to choose between them. The Razr has more physical durability and some cool Motorola-specific features; the Nexus has a bigger screen, an NFC chip, and ships with the latest version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich). The Razr has a removable SDcard, the Nexus (probably?) doesn't. Etc etc.
I'm leaning toward the Nexus, and it will be a HUGE step up for me, but it is not my "perfect" phone.
For one thing, no physical keyboard; this seems to be an unloved feature in newer Android phones, but something I'd actually use.
There are other ways that I'm sure the Nexus isn't "perfect", but I can't verbalize all of them.

But my goal is to get a phone as soon as possible after my Upgrade Eligibility date, so that I have the best phone I can possibly have for the next 18 months. Right?

Well, maybe not.

There are rumors of "the NEXT NEXT BIG THING" coming out later next year.
Of course these rumors are always there. Of course the longer you wait, the better product you'll get. It is the way of tech.

But maybe, just maybe, the NEXT NEXT BIG THING (Quad-core processors, even-HighDefier screens, more gigabytes, whatever) is super-duper enough that it could actually -- *gasp* -- last me more than one Upgrade Cycle, without me feeling left behind in a year and a half.

In the meantime, though, I'd need to continue to limp along with my old Droid, for up to another year, and maybe even fix it up more so I don't keep treating it as low-class. And there's no guarantee of when the next advance in Android Technology will come.

Sigh, this is the dilemma of a gadget geek.


  1. You made me doubt my Bionic decision, I shouldn't read about other phones! D:

  2. I'm just really picky! The Bionic is a fine phone. If my eligibility date were a few months ago, that's what I probably would have ended up with.

  3. And the "next big phone" rumors are about the Samsung Galaxy S3, whose rumored stats are a little hard to believe. 2Ghz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a brand new screen technology... Allegedly coming out in early 2012.

  4. You nailed one of the reasons I'm in the iPhone camp! I don't have to burn cycles making a decision, or relearning much of anything, and I'm pretty much assured having a best-of-breed, or damn near it, experience year after year. (I hate learning new UIs that don't actually do anything new, just differently)

    And not to be a provacateur, but that Android diversity means the phones often compete on fairly petty stuff. It reminds me of people who used to (or maybe still do) dig hot rodding their PCs, quad core this, liquid-cooled that... me, I've treated PCs and laptops as "blackboxes" ever since I added a bit of memory to my desktop in like 2003.

    Is it easy and pleasant to use, does it have interesting and fun apps... much more important than any thing else I could ask.

  5. Absolutely, I have no problem with the iphone or with people who love it. And there are definitely things about iOS that I think are better than with Android; that's why I have an ipad.

    But I definitely personally prefer "the Google experience" over "the Apple experience" on a phone, and I'm going to stick to that for a while.

    I used to be a PalmOS nerd; I was very close to embracing WebOS instead of Android, and now I'm happy to see all the "WebOS-like" stuff that made it into Ice Cream Sandwich.

  6. Yeah, I was loving Palm from '97 to '07.
    One of the first things I noticed about iPhone was how much the home screen was like Palm's... (and how smart iPhone was to emphasize the home button by making it physical not virtual, and removing the app-specific ones)

    Of course the other thing I noticed was the lack of a Todo app! I remember seeing signage in the Apple Store showing a "Notes" sheet being used as a Todo list, which seemed silly.

    It was interesting hearing about the vitriol Jobs had against Android...

  7. I've made my decision and I'm going to get the Galaxy Nexus, as close to launch as possible.
    Even in the worst case (unless the phone is physically broken), it's a few orders of magnitude more powerful than my old Droid.
    I might have a little bit of Remorse but I'll get over it.

    I find it funny that android doesn't have a built-in local notepad app :) It's actually the programming example on their API website. But evernote (or wunderlist, or similar) fits that niche just fine.
    Also no To-Do app, but you can hook in to the Google To-Do list pretty easily.

  8. Not literally a few orders of magnitude, I hope!

    Not to flaunt the appstoreness of the iPhone, but I was surprised to check and see there is no Android client for SimpleNote, which is my favorite way of syncing notes between my iOS devices and/or any web browser (also one of the easiest way to transfer text-y data... sometimes I miss the Palm desktop client)

  9. It will certainly feel like orders of magnitude.

    The old Droid is a single-core 600mhz device (which I've overclocked to 800 when it's doing actual work) with 256 megs of RAM and 256 megs of storage space (plus a 16GB SDcard, where you can technically install apps, but that's super-slow in itself).

    The Galaxy Nexus is dual-core 1.2ghz, 1 gig of ram and 32 gigs of internal storage space (*128* times as much as I have now).

    Not to mention the other incidentals of being newer.. The newest version of Android, the higher quality screen/camera/etc, the betterness of being better... Better enough so that I don't even see any real benefit to rooting it.

    I don't have any trouble using Evernote to sync text notes.. or sometimes, ssh from the phone and vi to literally edit notes remotely :)

  10. Er, and 3G vs. 4G networking, naturally.. but that almost goes without saying (in fact, it did!)

  11. I was sort of trying to be an annoying pedant... "orders of magnitude more powerful" would be at least 100x more, maybe 1000x. I guess for storage space it hits the 100...

    (actually it doesn't matter, I was just making a joke but I think language evolves. I think "decimate" now means, roughly, "maybe 10% survived" not "10% were wiped out" like it did in ancient Rome, and similarly, "orders of magnitude" meaning "within a power of 10" isn't as useful "within a power of 2", which seems to be how it's used.)


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