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.
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.
A couple months back I picked up an Evo Shift 4G on Sprint after my tablet only experiment turned out to be rather impractical. But that's for another post. This is about Sprint's one and only Android landscape slider from HTC.
The phone isn't the greatest looker, but it's hardly ugly. I quite like the dark navy color Sprint and/or HTC settled on. It's fairly hefty, but that mostly seems to be because it's built to HTC's usual high level of quality. The keyboard is quite good, quite a bit better than the Touch Pro I had with Alltel/Verizon a couple years ago. The screen is sufficiently bright and crisp, but it won't give my Galaxy Tab any competition. Battery life handily beats my previous phone, the HTC Hero, though it will still go down quite fast if I'm heavily using it or if I'm in an area with a heavily saturated network. With normal use I can easily get through a day with more than half my battery left.
One fairly unique thing that happened with the Shift is that I tried Cyanogen on it, and wound up going back to the stock ROM. HTC has learned quite a lot about Android since the Hero. Sense is snappy, Android moves with no hesitation, and it's quite stable. The 800 MHz CPU may not be one of the latest or greatest, but it's more than enough to handle Android 2.2 with Sense on top. This is the first phone that doesn't give me the urge to install a custom ROM.
Other items of note... the back-lit keyboard is very nice in dark rooms, and stays off in bright light to save battery power. The slider is not spring loaded, which may take some getting used to, but it has the distinct advantage of being completely silent. The screen turns off and on based on if you have your ear up to the phone, which is a very useful feature. Lastly, as the name implies, this is a WiMax device, though I don't have the service in my area so I can't comment on how well it works.
Overall I'm quite happy with the Shift. I missed the keyboard on my Touch Pro when I had the Hero, and the Hero's screen was always just a tad too small for my liking. The Shift strikes a happy balance between both devices. Okay HTC... now where is our Gingerbread update?