Seems that a lot of my posts are about smartphones. It's hard to ignore the industry given how prevalent the devices have become in our daily lives. It's also hard to ignore the ongoing battle between Apple and Samsung. And as much as I'd like to make Apple out as the bad guy, I can't deny that Samsung is flinging some poo as well. Here's the thing... I don't care about those lawsuits, and neither should you. Why? Nothing that results from them will benefit you, the consumer, in any way, shape, or form. I'm tired of talking about it, and I'm tired of reading about it, so I'm just going to drop the topic now.
So I've had my Galaxy Nexus for a couple months now, and I'm quite happy with it. Sure it's not top-end specs anymore, but those quad core phones don't do anything for you besides enlarge your e-peen. And drain your battery faster. There's no practical difference in performance for the daily tasks I use Android for. I still think the LCD on the HTC Evo LTE is better than the AMOLED screen on my Nexus, but it's still a very nice display.
Jelly Bean is also quite nice, and just as buttery smooth as the project's namesake. T-Mobile has also been pleasantly surprising with very speedy service. At home I have full bars most of the time and can pull down 10 megabits in speed tests. At work it's a bit hit or miss once I go inside a building, but not completely unusable. Definitely not as fast as at home, though. Really I can't argue for $30/month. It's not quite as good as the plan I had on my iPhone 4S for the three weeks I spent in the UK (15 pounds/month for unlimited data, 3000 minutes/texts), but pretty amazing by U.S. standards.
Speaking of the iPhone, I upgraded the 4S to iOS 6 last night. And promptly yawned. Major version increments in iOS usually mean big new features. With iOS 4 we finally got multitasking, and with iOS 5 we got Siri and notifications. With iOS 6 we got a new maps app with turn by turn navigation. It really feels like iOS 5.2. Sure there's a lot of tweaks and small new things, but it doesn't add up to a major version in my book. Turning wifi on or off from the home screen is still a three step affair requiring the settings app.
Oh, and am I the only one that thinks the iPhone 5 looks like a Photoshop gone bad? What the hell was Apple thinking when they came up with that aspect ratio? Short of scrolling lists, there's nothing I can think of that is made better by adding pixels to one dimension of the screen and not the other. It really boggles my mind. Yes, Apple, you want to be different. But different is not always better.
Anyway... if you want a good phone without a contract, get a Galaxy Nexus. You won't regret it. It's a steal for $350 from Google. T-Mobile's your best bet if you have good coverage with them (luckily I do), though there's also Straight Talk if AT&T's network will serve you better (though be warned, they're a bit thuggish with their hidden data caps). If you're on Sprint, my recommendation of the HTC Evo LTE over the Galaxy S III still stands.
Maybe it's insensitive, but I had hopes that Apple might head in a better direction after Steve Jobs passed on. It's been no secret that Jobs had a pathological hatred for Android. He felt that Android had stolen literally everything from iOS. Maybe it did, but saying iOS didn't steal a good deal of elements from software that came before it is outright lie. Innovation, by its very nature, is built on what came before. Steve Jobs' definition of innovation seemed to include the line "as long as it doesn't build on what Apple has made."
Unfortunately, it looks like Jobs left enough of his special kool-aid to last a while longer.
The recent ruling over Samsung is exhibit A. There is literally nothing in this lawsuit that benefits consumers. Apple stifles innovation by putting fear into hardware and software developers while continuing to prove just how broken the U.S. patent system is. Oh, and they get to add another billion to what I can only assume is a Scrooge McDuck-like vault of cash (a hundred billion and counting). It's nauseating. It makes me want to punch Tim Cook in the face, especially after that gloating memo he tossed out for all to see.
I admit, I owned an iPhone 4S for a while. It wasn't bad, but it was somewhat underwhelming. I knew at the time that I didn't like Apple, but I could hold my nose while using the 4S without too much trouble. After this, though... the stench is just too overwhelming. It stinks of selfishness and greed. I was actually somewhat interested in the new mini iPads, but there's just no way I can in good conscious buy an Apple product anymore.
There was a time when Apple was the plucky upstart to Microsoft's behemoth. Buying an Apple product was cool. How things have changed. Apple now gets SWAT teams to raid people's apartments when a prototype iPhone is suspected to be there. They toss their corporate weight around with lawsuits like the malevolent beast that they are. Don't even get me started on "beating a dead horse" metaphors with their Kodak suit. Apple claimed once to be purely about innovation. Now that seems to come with a clause that reads "as long as it's only our innovation."
I am absolutely done with Apple. No more hardware, no more software, no more purchases on iTunes. The bile spewing forth from that company is just too much to ignore anymore. I've owned iPods, iPhones, and even a few Macs over the years. Apple products have generally been solid. It's just a shame that their upper management is quite possibly the largest group of flaming assholes in the industry.
But enough of that rant.
In other news, I'm now using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on T-Mobile, and I'm quite happy with it. It does everything the iPhone didn't and then some. Quite a good bargain too seeing as it sells for about half of what an unlocked 4S goes for. I'll do a review on the GNex in another post.
Right. What I said about smaller being better? I still stand behind that, but bigger isn't quite as bad as I thought at that point. It wasn't exactly a fair analysis because I had never owned one of the Android beasts. Now I do, and it's really not so bad.
So as I said, I bought an Evo 4G LTE. That's Sprint's take on the HTC One X. Unlike the One X in GSM flavor, it's rocking a dual core 1.5 GHz Krait chip. Seems the Tegra 3 isn't quite compatible with
CDMA LTE yet. The lack of two cores really doesn't seem to be that big a deal. I find the Evo to be quite sufficiently quick.
As to Sprint's very different take on the One X's design... meh. I don't know why people make such a big deal of how a phone looks. You're going to put it in a case that covers up that design anyway. Likewise, mine is in an Otterbox Defender series case.
Of course, the biggest highlight is this thing's screen. It's as stunning as a Super LCD rocking 1280x720 in a 4.7" display should be. That's nearly the same resolution as the average 15" laptop (Apple's new Macbook Pro not withstanding).
This being an HTC device, Sense 4.0 is very much present. It doesn't feel nearly as intrusive as it has in the past though. It does a much better job letting you get things done and then gets out of your way. Serious effort seems to have gone into making Sense far better optimized than it has been in the past.
The Evo is also one of the few devices running Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). I could spend an entire post talking about ICS, but I'll say it in short. ICS is the best version of Android so far, period. Not by any small margin either. It's a dramatic upgrade over Gingerbread (2.3), with a laundry list of new and improved features. Google needs ICS on more devices, stat. The crazy thing is they're about to release Jelly Bean (4.1). I'm drifting off-subject now... back to the Evo.
As to the size... well, it's big. There's no denying that. When I first switched over from the 4S to the Evo, it was a bit of a shock. A couple weeks in now, it doesn't feel quite as big as it did. I'm really appreciating the extra screen real estate for typing out messages. It also makes browsing the web a bit less squint inducing. It still fits in a pocket quite nicely, though you will notice it being there a bit more.
So... best device on Sprint right now? Easily. Why not the Galaxy S III you ask? Two primary reasons. One: the AMOLED screen isn't quite as good as the Evo's Super LCD. Two: Samsung's habit of using proprietary connectors. HTC uses the mini USB standard. In day to day use the Evo is easier to live with. In the very common scenario that you happen to be without your charger, with the Evo you can borrow one from a wide array of other devices. With the S III, you're just out of luck.
I don't normally give free advertising to retailers, but in this case I have to. Best Buy is currently selling the Evo with a $50 gift card. If you buy in the store, they let you use it on the phone. Sprint's flagship phone and a One X variant for $150? It's a no brainer, and you can't do better on any network. Yes, there's still the nagging issue of Sprint's slow 3G, but they're turning on LTE next month and should have a lot of major markets covered by the beginning of next year. [update 7/14: the deal appears to be over now]
On Sprint? Ready for an upgrade? This is the phone you want. The debate is harder if you're not on Sprint, as not every carrier has a One X variant. Verizon is notably lacking, as is T-Mobile. That just leaves AT&T, which I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy. You could pick up a One X unlocked, which gets you the blazing fast quad core Tegra 3, but that's an expensive proposition. Especially when Google's got the Galaxy Nexus going for $349 straight up with no contract. Sure it's not a Tegra 3, but it matches the One X and S III on nearly every other spec.
That didn't last very long. Now before you jump to any conclusions that I'm just an Android fan bashing on Apple and iOS, let me just say for the record that I like my iPhone.
Yes, you read that right. I like how smooth the UI is. I like how stable most of the apps generally are. I like the battery life, along with the quality feel of the hardware and the small size. I like the pixel-dense display. Here and now, it's a great device and quite competitive with what Google and Microsoft have to offer (RIM still remains to be seen).
So why did I go back to Android if I liked iOS and the iPhone so much, you ask? Simply put, I caved to the ecosystem war.
I've never been deeply tied to Apple's walled garden. However, I use Google.com, Gmail, Google Reader, Drive (formerly Google Docs), Google+, and many other Google services all quite extensively. These services, while accessible on iOS, just aren't as convenient as they are on Android.
I know; no duh, right? It's no secret that Google and Apple have no love lost between each other, and Google definitely isn't putting a lot of effort into supporting iOS. When it gets down to it, Android offers better methods to access the stuff I use every day.
I'm sure if I were more deeply invested in Apple's ecosystem, it'd be a very different story. I held the line as long as I could, trying not to tie myself to any one system, but I lost that battle.
So I'm back with Android on a shiny new HTC Evo 4G LTE on Sprint. So far I really like the device, and the 4.7" screen doesn't make it as unwieldy as I thought it would be. I've only had it a couple days, so I'm not going to write a review just yet. That will be for another post.
You win, Google. I'm keeping my eye on you, but for now you've won in my corner.
Bigger isn't always better. It's really a matter of personal preference and how you use that size. What was I talking about? No, not that. Get your mind out of that filthy gutter. I'm talking about smartphones. Specifically, the trend of high-end Android devices getting bigger and bigger screens (I'm looking at you Galaxy Nexus).
I've had my iPhone 4S for over two months now, and I've discovered one of the primary reasons I like it; it's unobtrusive. It's diminutive size compared to the current top-tier Android behemoths is striking when you put it next to one. In daily use it becomes even more obvious. It goes in pockets without issues. It sits on my desk without getting in the way. It's not challenged to fit in any pocket inside my backpack.
That's the reason I'm sticking with the iPhone right now in a nutshell. As I said in a previous post, iOS is mature enough now to compete on the same level with Android, but the advantages and disadvantages of both cancel each other out in my experience.
So where's the top-tier hardware running Android 4.0 and a 3.5" to 4" screen? There's a demographic out there looking for these devices, and the only device offering that (sans Android) is coming from Apple. Is anyone paying attention? Samsung? HTC? LG? Sony? Bueller?
Yeah, you read that headline right. I got myself an iPhone 4S on Sprint. And quite honestly... I like it.
Now don't get any crazy ideas. This doesn't mean I'm suddenly an Apple fanatic. Quite the opposite in fact. I've made many disparaging remarks about Apple in the past, and I don't take any of those back. Apple as a company is still an evil entity.
The iPhone, however, I think is finally at the point where it can legitimately claim to be competitive with the rest of the market. It's not playing catchup anymore, and you're not really sacrificing anything by choosing it over an Android device.
One of my biggest issues with iOS up until version 5 was notification popups. Especially when they came in chains. So Apple implemented Android's notification tray. Problem solved. It works in a very similar fashion to its Android counterpart, and that's not a bad thing. It's arguably the best way to do it.
Multitasking was one of my other big problems, which got addressed back in iOS 4. Sure it's not quite true multitasking, but in most ways that matter it gets the job done. While the bulk of the app gets frozen, some small part of it keeps running and pushes notifications. I haven't had the phone for long, but it hasn't given me any problems in that regard.
There was a time when you had to be a serious Apple fanboy to want to use an iPhone. Now I'd call it a real choice. It's actually not about the fruit factor anymore, it's just a really good device. Apple, on the other hand, still has some work to do to redeem itself. Get to that, Mr. Cook.
I know, it's not officially dead yet, but it might as well be. Some would even say that webOS died within weeks of its release. The sad part is that it never really had a chance to show the masses what it was capable of.
I bought a Palm Pre second hand off of craigslist a while back. The price was good, and the hardware only had a few cosmetic issues, so I jumped on it. I was suitably impressed by the OS. It had all the slick visual flair of iOS, but with most of the functionality of Android. I still think the notification system was hands down one of the best ever implemented on a smartphone. Multitasking was handled through the sublimely simple "deck of cards" system. There were a few bugs at launch, but Palm worked rapidly to fix them. It still holds up well against Android and iOS today, despite being relatively stagnant in the feature department.
The hardware was a different story, though. The original Pre was a delicate thing. The screen on mine doesn't really ever seem to be fully locked when closed. The slider is pretty bad on the scale of various sliders I've used. The screen cover seems to be a fairly flimsy plastic. It had a pretty sordid reputation for problems. The battery life was also quite bad by smartphone standards. The only good thing it had going for it was the fact that it was pretty snappy performance-wise.
I think Palm's biggest problem was a lack of choice. They seemed to think that everyone loves portrait oriented keyboards, because that's all they ever made (excluding the Palm Pad, which has no keyboard). No slab devices, no candy bars, no landscape sliders. The Pixi was hardly the answer to Palm's problem, as it was basically just a slower version of the Pre with a smaller screen and no slider. I had hope that they would see this problem and fix it, but when they announced the Pre 3, a device that might as well be identical to the original Pre, I knew they were doomed.
HP's buyout seemed to be exactly what Palm needed. It was no secret Palm was out of money. It's also no secret that HP has quite a lot of money. The only product of this marriage was the Palm Pad and the Veer. The Palm Pad was too expensive and too buggy, and the Veer was basically just a shrunken Pre. HP obviously didn't know what to do with Palm, and most of the people that made webOS great had moved on to other companies.
So here we are, with a great OS about to die a slow death to corporate mismanagement and many bad decisions. Maybe it forced Android and iOS to get better, but that is the most that can be said of the end of Palm's legacy.