Friday, 1 April 2011

Midlife Crisis

Home Screen CloseupI cannot stress this point enough: if you are the owner of an iPhone 3GS, do not upgrade its operating system to the latest 4.3 version!
I discussed this point about a week ago (here) but it needs emphasizing. Since the upgrade, the battery that would have lasted me 3-4 days under the 4.2.1 version of iOS now lasts me just a bit more than a day. It even loses about 25% of its power at night, when I leave it on airplane mode and shut down all open applications. Yes, you read it right: it loses a quarter of its power by just doing nothing for about 8 hours.
To be fair, I should have seen this coming. Exactly a year ago I have “upgraded” my wife’s iPod Touch from iOS3 to iOS4 to get the exact same result: the upgrade’s main feature was turning the battery from something that lasted about a month between charges into something that last about a couple of days.
We therefore have ourselves a trend: about a year and a half after Apple releases a product it offers a free “upgrade” that renders it useless just in time for you to buy their newly released product. When I look at the street and see how many people use iPhones it becomes obvious to me that as much as I detest Apple for acting this way I have to admit they are doing their shareholders the best of service. But let’s not get into the ethics of our market driven economy, shall we…
For now, let me close of with this three point advice:
  1. Do not buy Apple products.
  2. If you do happen to be the owner of an iPhone 3GS, do not update its operating system anymore.
  3. If you do happen to be the owner of an iPhone 4, print this post and keep it locked in a vault till early 2012. Then, when Apple releases its latest iOS upgrade, read this post again to recall why you should not update your device.

Image by hummingcrow, Creative Commons license


Sarah said...

I am still in the land of Nokia where I have to go to a website to pick up the pictures people send me so think it may now be time to venture into the world of smart phones.

I take it from your posts I should avoid the iPhone and get an android instead???

Moshe Reuveni said...

I don't believe it: I wrote you a lengthy and detailed answer, only to receive a Google message telling me "an error has occurred" and watch my answer disappear.
Sorry, but you'll have to wait a bit longer...

Moshe Reuveni said...

Ok, here we go again:

There is no objective truth when it comes to smartphone preferences. It all depends on your own preferences.
Obviously, the vast majority of iPhone owners are happy with Apple, happy enough to re-buy their latest products; I'm an exception to the rule, and I advise you take that in mind.
Here are some aspects you should consider.

If you like the iTunes concept, where everything to do with the management of your phone is done via iTunes and only via iTunes, then Apple has the advantage.
Me, I consider the tie down to iTunes more like imprisonment. I hate iTunes: it's heavy, it's crude, it doesn't run on Linux, it's a major security hazard, and merely installing it slows a PC down significantly.

The philosophy is further demonstrated when it comes to choosing your phone. With an iPhone there is one model to choose from (and, for the record, it's a pretty refined phone). With Android you have yourself a headache: which one should you choose? The cheap? The one that plays PlayStation games? The one with Motorola add-ons?
Indeed, Apple's single united front seems much simpler and easy. But... since when do we hate choice? Is it that hard to activate our brains in order to choose the model we deem most suitable to us?
I consider choice to be the Android platform's advantage over the simplicity of the iPhone.

The next question is apps. How much do you care for them?
I have tons of apps on my iPhone, and to be honest I find the majority of them are nothing more than a replacement for a "favorite" on my browser. The really important apps (e.g., contacts, calendar) are available on all platforms; indeed, if Gmail is your primary email and Google Calendar is your primary calendar then the Android platform has the advantage.
The better apps are those that take your physical location into account and make good use of it (rather than just use it to abuse your privacy), but there aren't that many of those and many if not most are available on both platforms. That said, there is an advantage to owning iPhones in Australia: apps that make ANZ web banking easy or train browsing easy are available for the iPhone only.
Personally, I have an ideology problem with what apps represent: they don't only provide an easy portal to some functionality, they also segregate you from other functionality. This goes well with Apple's ideology for trying to make you pay for things that you had for free before and for letting you do only the things they want you to do, but I'm against it. I love the freedom of an unlimited browser.

Another thing to think about: There are other platforms out there, too. Nokia's smartphones are a joke, but Windows Mobile 7 is not too bad; it is, however, as far as I can tell an inferior Apple. I can't see why people would choose to buy one.
...That said, a friend from work got one for $10 a month. Can't blame him there: it's still a browser enabled phone.

If I were to buy a new mobile phone today, I would almost certainly choose an unlocked plain vanilla Android (bought over eBay or something similar). In today's terms that would be the Google/Samsung Nexus S.
Into that phone I would stick a SIM from Amaysim. I'm already using them and they're great; I don't see a point in having the privilege of owning a two year plan that holds me captive while milking my money.

Sarah said...

Thanks for that info. I really don't have huge needs (phone, photos and ability to access the net) and as I am coming from the stone age anything these smart phones can do looks impressive. I also want a phone that works reliably doesn't have "iPhone moments" where they just randomly shut down etc.

Have just read a review of the Nexus and it does look good will have to go and have a play of one and see how it compares with M's iPhone.

Sarah said...

Actually I've forgotten the most important thing I do which is texting. I do this more than anything else to talk with friends. I am not yet used to using the screen as a keyboard so I wouldn't want one that is hyper sensitive to touch but I guess you would get used to that and not type the wrong letters once you found the pressure points.

I was looking at the HTC desire as it has a physical button that allows you to scroll rather than using the touch screen all the time which allowed more precision but all the stuff again would not be a problem I guess once you became proficient in using the touch screen. God I sound like a 60 year old techno-phobe! It's a brave new mobile world out there.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Some comments:

1. Texting:
I'm probably the last to comment there, sending about two a month. I have an ideological problem given the way cell companies charge more than the moon per character sent and given free alternatives like email and Twitter. That said- the old Nokias' ability to estimate what you're texting is far superior to the iPhone's interface (and, for that matter, all the smartphones requiring you to click on the screen in order to type). On the other hand, the bulk that comes with a proper keyboard that is never really clicky enough to be nice to use is even worse.

2. HTC:
I had two HTC phones in my history and both made me very miserable. I mentioned it here:
It would take something special to make me buy an HTC again, especially given the warranty service experience I had with them.
What I do know about their current lineup is that several people at work talk about their personal experience with the Desire HD's severe battery issues. These require them to charge their phones several times a day.

3. iPhone moments:
You will have them with any smartphone, just the same as you will have them with any PC. On the other hand you'll have them more often on Windows and less with Mac/Linux, so there could be differences there (and Android is based on the Linux kernel).
All I can say is that the iPhone is the most reliable smartphone I ever experienced.

4. Nexus S:
There are two main reasons why this would be my phone of choice. The first is that it's built by Samsung who seems to be doing a good job (unlike HTC). The second, and more important, is that it's a plain vanilla Android with nothing added on top by the manufacturer.
This is important for future upgrades: it would means you'd have an easy time upgrading and won't have to rely on the manufacturer deciding to be nice. As the case of the Nexus One proves, the Android community knows how to take care of itself there.

5. Photos:
Photos are a pain on the iPhone. You have to sync them via iTunes, and it's probably iTunes' weakest feature. On Android the phone is just another hard drive for you to copy to/from.

6. Technophobia:
I can't comment there, but I will say this - the iPhone has transformed my life by enabling me to instantly check the web['s non Flash content] at will. With all due respect, SMSs pale in comparison.

Sarah said...

The battery issues is important to me. I am not keen on having to remember to charge the phone every single day. Obviously back in the stone age I might only have to do it once a week.

Again something you would get used to and I imagine every smart phone due to the nature of what they do will need more regular charging so another thing to add to the list of just get over it!

Moshe Reuveni said...

You're right in all accounts. Smartphones do consume more battery power, but you get used to it because you get used to living with a smartphone: a tool that provides you an all around experience (music, Internet) rather than just a tool for making calls.
Still, a strong battery is a bonus. Battery life was immediately identified as my iPhone 3GS weak spot, and I took measures: I turned the GPS off (it’s mostly used by applications to infringe my privacy anyway, although it could often be genuinely useful); I dimmed the screen; I switched push notifications off; and I always close apps all the way, not just go back to the home screen. Those measures are also good for preventing nasty bill surprises, but never mind that now. Turning 3G off makes a huge difference – more than doubles battery life under my profile of use – but defies the entire point of having an Internet able phone (unless you're home and within wifi range).
The result of my measures is that while most iPhone users will tell you they charge their phone every day, I averaged every three days. That also means my battery will stay strong longer. And then Apple came with their 4.3 release and ruined it for me…
As for what you should know, the iPhone 4 has a significantly stronger battery than mine. With Androids, batteries vary: you should look at the specs for battery power and also read reviews. The HTC Desire HD, for example, seem to have a screen that’s too big and too good for its own good.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Another note worth making to someone who comes from the world of the atomic war resistant Nokia: do not expect your smartphone to last you long. They're usually ties to two year plans, but they also usually don't make it to the end of that period: they either break, become unusable, or you want the latest model instead.