A long time ago, in a service provider far, far away, I had joined the ranks of mobile phone users, sporting a Motorola Razr V3m back when it was de rigueur for mobile types. For a time I was content, and as technology evolved I migrated my mobile phones, ever searching for the trifecta of ease of use, reliability and variety of peripherals.
Here is a representation of all the major phones I’ve owned and heavily used over the past seven years or so. Certainly a lot less than some Gear Diary members or readers out there, but a variety nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tested a number of phones; this graphic shows those I’ve actually owned (I didn’t list my HTC X7501, as I still have it but use it more as a PDA than phone). The Verizon Samsung SGH-i760 was my very first smartphone, back when I was enamored of the Windows Mobile OS. I did experiment for a time with a BlackBerry 9000, but I just didn’t want to have to go through the hassle of changing my data plan to accommodate the messaging requirements.
Back up to a year ago. Carly wrote of her switch from Android to iOS in her Farewell, Android post, and that got me thinking more and more about iOS. At the time I was rocking a Samsung Captivate, and to date had been one of the best phones I’d yet owned. The Android OS was quite intuitive for me, though very touchy. The stock ROM with TouchWiz was okay for a while, but I chafed under its quirkiness and stability problems, so I flashed a custom ROM or two on the phone and was pleased with it. There were still a few lingering stability problems, but the phone now otherwise worked exceptionally well for me. I was content in the Android camp, and I had a lot of coworkers fervently espousing the virtues of their OS and the evils of the Pompous Pomaceous Empire and their mindless drone minions. Despite the naysayers, I kept wondering, why are iPhones so ubiquitous and many facets of them emulated by other OS/phone designers? Surely there was something important in the consumer market Apple tapped into that resonated…what was it?
So…harkening back to Carly’s post, along with other posts on Gear Diary when I was but a reader caused a disturbance in my Mobile Force. I commented on her article about my misgivings, and then Dan showed his hand in replying to my post:
Dan Cohen: “(said with my best darth voice…)
Come to the darkside breley…Come to the darkside breley…”
Whaaat? The staff of Gear Diary are Sith Lords? Indeed. Want proof? Here is intercepted stock footage of a secret Facetime video of Darths Judie and Dan speaking to their newest Apple apprentice at the time, Darth Carly after she was seduced by the Dark Side of Apple and fled the Android Light Side.
Okay, okay, all melodramatic kidding and crude Photoshopping (well, GIMPing) aside, Dan, Judie and Carly have seemingly delighted in the user-friendliness and stability of the Apple ecosystem, bandying the phrase “The Dark Side” to refer to Apple. Their experiences really intrigued me, but the resurgence of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS as encapsulated in Nokia’s Lumia 900 caught my eye. At the same time, I picked up an iPad 2 and was immediately impressed with its stability and ease of use. I absolutely loved the gesture functionality. If the iPad worked that well, what must an iPhone be like, I wondered?
The die had been cast, though, and I picked up a Lumia 900, lured by the fresh OS and the lure of the potential for a Windows Phone 8 OS upgrade. I was initially very pleased with the form factor and speed of the tweaked OS on the hardware and yet…the phone began to feel too big. I’ve commented on other posts on Gear Diary about my concerns with the larger phone sizes and the difficulty of using such phones with one hand for some. The nail in the coffin was when Microsoft announced that the 900 would not receive the WP8 upgrade only about two months after the 900 was released. That rankled me, because the potential for the WP 8 upgrade was a key lure for me, and…I gave in to my…disappointment. I know, I know, you’re supposed to give in to your hate to make the Star Wars Dark Side link, but hate is a pretty strong word. I don’t think my retinas turned reddish-orange (is that what the “Retina” screen is supposed to do to Apple enthusiasts?), but I was dead set on my next course of action. I had turned to the Dark Apple Side.
Leading me down the primrose path to eeeeevil Appledom was Dan and Judie’s offer to let me try out one of Dan’s iPhone 3GS phones. It was a very generous offer, and it arrived very conveniently right before my vacation trip out west, so what better way to put a phone through its paces then to try it out on a stretch of vacation? It had a bonus feature of having a beta of iOS 6, so I was able to try out the next generation OS before it hit the market as well. I know a lot of people prefer the larger 4″+ screens of newer phones, but the iPhone 3GS’s form factor was a perfect size for me, because I prefer not to have to constantly use two hands to use my phone. The phone, even with iOS 6 beta was sufficiently snappy for me, although I found the responsiveness of the photo app to take pictures was a bit laggy on startup and I didn’t really care for the stock map app…I had to break out my Nokia Maps app on my 900 to better navigate around unfamiliar territory. I have since downloaded and used Telenav’s Scout and Navigon HD and these work very well for me. Incidentally, the iPhone 3GS was released back in 2009…and 3 years later it works surprisingly well with the latest operating system.
iTunes definitely took a bit of time for me to properly grasp how to use it to my satisfaction. Out of the box it might have been simple enough with stock settings, but I wanted to delve down into the guts of the software and see how much I could tweak to my liking, use it to put items on the phone and iPad on different PCs, namely my primary system at home and at work. I’ve got it working quite well now, so interfacing the iDevices at home and at work is largely seamless for me. As the company I work for has begun designing apps and sites that are increasingly mobile and iOS-targeted, this was another logical consideration.
Some might correctly argue that the iOS interface is stale, largely inflexible and in need of an upgrade, but then I considered how much the basic Windows 9x-7 interface was very much similar…Start button, program groups, similar desktop icon types, though you can skin the Windows OS. That aside, a very big iPhone plus for me was the HUGE amount of aftermarket items, something that prompted one of my first posts on Gear Diary ruminating on where all the nifty add-ons and such for Android phones were. This is an advantage of a consistent hardware platform, as it’s simply easier and offers a proven, consistent base for aftermarket innovators to develop around. However, let me just say I’m not trying to make this into an Android versus Apple argument. The fact of the matter is that I am comfortable jumping around different platforms and strive not to show a particular bias. Each OS I’ve encountered has its strengths and weaknesses, but for now iOS offers me a lot of pluses. I have yet to reboot my iPad because of an OS or app fault. I have yet to reboot my iPhone because it has stopped working. I know that iOS devices aren’t flawless and there are complaints aplenty about device issues from some quarters—I just haven’t experienced them myself. Anecdotal to be sure, but obviously relevant to me.
There may be some new development on the horizon that really speaks to me, but for now I am a content and productive end-user in the Apple Empire.
May whatever Mobile Force you align with be with you!