TagiOS

Choosing a Platform

Choosing a platform

Tonight I read Gnorb’s article on how he views the smartphone landscape. The problem with choosing a smartphone is no longer as simple as choosing the phone and what the phone can do for you.

With the major players producing tablets, integration into that ecosystem is something to consider. In addition, there is the possibly integration with the computer of choice sitting on your desk or on your lap.

Google Android

Android as a platform has unlimited options, choices and freedom. Android is shopping mall. It offers a variety of wares at prices all across the board and you can get exactly what you want at the price you want to pay.

Android also struggles with fragmentation and being forgotten a year after its release. When I had an Android phone my problem was there was always a bigger, better, more amazing Android phone being released the next week.

Every. Single. Week.

Apple iOS

Apple’s platform is the opposite of Android. Apple is the high-end boutique. It offers a couple of variations on a theme but overall, the quality is high and the choice is small.

Where Apple shines is control. It controls the vertical, it controls the horizontal. To use Apple products is to not just use a single product but to play in Apple’s playground and live in their world. Apple has built an experience.

Because of this totalitarian control, Apple is able to offer longer support and a consistent experience across all the devices in their playground. Apple’s control wrinkles the noses of those who feel there is not enough freedom across the platform.

Apple’s control also assures nearly no malicious applications are released to the platform and they have safe guards in place to resolve any issues that may arise.

Microsoft Windows Phone

The last Windows Phone I used was a disaster running Windows Phone 6.5 which was basically Windows XP crammed into a smartphone body. It came with a stylus and extreme frustration.

Since then, they’re built a respectable platform and have embraced Apple’s control to make the hardware and software which should help the platform. I haven’t used or had experience with any of the new phones so that’s as much as I’ll say for the platform as I don’t feel it fair to talk about a platform I’ve not used.

Decisions

So what is a consumer to do? Buy into the Apple iLifestyle? You’ll pay a hefty price but will be rewarded with multi-year support and a consistent ecosystem. You’ll also be subject to the whims of the big red fruit and their seemingly arbitrary removal of support for features in older hardware. The tight integration between the mobile and computer platform can be real benefit to those living in both. However, if you only use one or the other, there is a lot of missing value.

What about the Open Android platform? There are phone sizes, speeds and carriers for everyone. There are a vast array of tablets. There isn’t a desktop companion but they play decently with the big players. The initial price is low but quality is all over the place from excellent to appalling. The overall lack of support could mean your shiny new toy get abandoned a year later and never see another update.

Then there is Windows phone which has some real potential. Microsoft is putting together a cloud-based ecosystem and is betting big on Windows 8 which features a lot of integration and visual similarity with their Windows Phones.

My experiences

I owned an original Motorola Droid. I was very happy with it though the lack of support from Motorola was disappointing. I had to root the phone to install an Android Operating System update after Verizon claimed the phone could not support it. There was also a large gap in the availability of applications in the earlier days of Android.

Many things were iOS only and Android support was more promised than delivered on. This was before the Amazon Android store and Google’s integrated Play store. This was before Android was a household name and more the domain of nerds and Blackberry refugees.

After the Droid, I got an iPhone 4 which is the phone I still use today. The instant upgrade in camera and software quality was welcomed. At the time I had a Mac laptop so the integration between phone and computer was a welcomed change, since there was no good way to sync media to Android and DoubleTwist was just being released. Though I used the Droid as my phone and primary device, I had an iPod Touch for all my music because Android was so frustrating to use.

I had an Android in the dark days of the platform and it has come a long way since then. However, it still has many of the same issues as it did when I had the Droid. Specifically, the lack of support from carriers after purchase, lack of OS updates to hardware that can handle it, the fragmentation meaning not every phone can run every app, or run it well and the constant New Big Thing means support quickly gets forgotten for the phone you choose in weeks instead of years.

What works for you

What is comes down to is what works for you. What is the best choice for what you wan to do. Are you a writer? Are you a photographer? Are you a technologist?

What phone best fits your lifestyle and what are you going to enjoy using for the next few years since most of us can’t afford to get a new device every year.

What I have

I have the iPhone 4. My contact is up in December, though I am eligible for an upgrade now. I am looking at the iPhone 5 because while it doesn’t overwhelm me, I do get all the features that came with the iPhone 4s as well. I still like the iPhone over the Android choices because of the ecosystem I bought into starting with an iPod Touch. I feel like I know what I am going to get with Apple. Like it or not, they’re consistent and I know I will see a new operating system in a year and possibly another one after that. With Android, I don’t know if I’ll ever see an upgrade, and when the carrier loses interest, so too goes the support.

I have a Lenovo Y570 laptops running Windows 7. My plastic MacBook died years ago and I wanted to get a laptop I could play PC games on, had enough power to last me a few years and have some room for upgrades. The biggest selling point was price since I had a small amount of money to spend on a computer and a new Mac or even used Mac was out of the budget. I work in IT Support so I live in Windows and Mac OS all day so I don’t have any allegiances to one or the other. Operating Systems are tools.

I also have a 1st Generation iPad which I did not buy. It was a Christmas present a few years ago. It is also easily my most-used device and my go to reading and chill out device and the device I am itching to upgrade the most.

I have a Google CR-48 Chromebook I was lucky enough to receive for free when Google first announced the new project. I use it from time to time and while I love Chrome on all my devices, the Chrome OS is not enough to be an everyday use platform. At least not for me. The CR-48 is a decent machine albeit under-powered and with a terrible track pad. I like the keyboard and the lightness. I wrote this post tonight on it because it was sitting next to my bed and within reach.

This is what I use and what I like. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone but it works for me. And that’s all that is really important.

Apps I Love – CloudScrob

Ever since iTunes learned how to sync music over wifi, my scrobbles have suffered. While I can now sync music without having to plug into the computer, there was no way to sync my played music back to Last.fm.
Save your Scrobbles.

I’ve tried a couple things but they didn’t work very well and wouldn’t pick up the plays correctly. Then I found CloudScrob.

The application is very simple to use. All you need to do is enter your username and password for Last.fm. Then open the app, it will find your recent plays and send them to the site.

There is nothing else to it. You don’t need to jailbreak your phone. You can notify Twitter when you scrobble your songs and it even works with iCloud and iTunes Match. When you’re offline it will store the scrobbles for later and send them when you’re connected again.

CloudScrob is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch for $.99.

iOS Multitasking Misconception

Recently, I was having problems with the Home button on my iPhone. I took it to the local Genius Bar to get the unit replaced since it did not seem to be a software issue.

The genius there told me I had too many apps running in the background and that can cause the button’s response to lag. Which I knew was false and I told him so. I had this phone for nearly a year and has never manually closed any applications unless they were acting up. It took some explaining (and the phone continuing to act up even after he quit all those running applications) but I got my replacement.

Fraser Speirs recently wrote a great article about why there is no need to manage applications on the iPhone or iPad.

Let me be as clear as I can be: the iOS multitasking bar does not contain “a list of all running apps”. It contains “a list of recently used apps”. The user never has to manage background tasks on iOS.
Fraser Speirs

Read the quote and read it again. There is no need to close all those “running” apps on your iPhone or iPad. They are not running at all. They are identical to the “Recently Used” applications list in Windows. They are not running. They are not using precious battery power nor are they taxing the device’s processor or memory.

If you’re technically inclined read the entire article for a great explanation of how background processing works in iOS. If you aren’t then read no further.

To review: The only time you ever need to forcibaly quit an appication is when it is misbehaving.

All those apps you see in the multitasking bar are not running. They have recently been used and closed when you switched away from them.

Most applications will close within 5 seconds of switching away from them. Some applications can run for 10 minutes in the background to complete a task. ((Such as podcast downloaders, news apps updating new issues and things like this.))

The only exceptions to these rules are,

Five classes of apps – audio, GPS, VOIP, Newsstand and accessory apps – and some built-in apps such as Mail may run indefinitely in the background until they complete their task.

These applications can run in the background so you can listen to audio, nagivate, chat, download subscribed content and use specific accessories.

The entire article is a good read if you’re interested at all and is easy to understand even if you’re not an iPhone developer.

Software shouldn’t require instruction

Over at Practical Opacity, J. Eddie Smith writes,

If iOS proves anything it’s that software doesn’t necessarily require instruction.

I could not agree more with him about the ease of iOS devices. I work in a large media company and everyday more of our journalists and writers are moving from Blackberries to iPhones and Android devices. This is in addition to the piles of iPads being purchased and used by everyone from the top down.

There is one major difference between those who buy iPhones/iPads and those who opt for Android devices. After adding company email to the device, I never see the iOS users again.

For the Android users, I am consistently stopped in the hallway or emailed about some minor problem or question. It does not matter if the user is young or old, male or female, savvy or not. The questions always begin with, “How do I…?”

The iOS users do not need helping learning how to use the device. Even adding an exchange-hosted email address to the device is a simple PDF I wrote that is emailed to them.

The Android users inevitably need help adding their company email to the phone. They always have questions about how to do something or how to use the device.

This is frustrating because each Android device is just different enough to be utterly confusing to use. Whether it be the MotoBlur or the HTC Sense or some other abomination, it is a confusing mess.

When I had an Android phone, I used the original Motorola Droid. I chose this phone primarily because it was a “Google Experience” phone which meant it was a standard Android OS without any third-party OS tacked atop it.

If every Android phone looked the same or at least similar, they would be far easier to support and explain to their respective owners.

I would address Android tablets but I’ve yet to come across one. The IT department even ordered a Blackberry Playbook for evaluation. The company recently purchased about a dozen Google TVs for conferences rooms and other offices. However, I’ve yet to see a single Android tablet come through the front door.

This is pretty damning for Android. As a company that lives and breathes on the web and has iOS apps for its flagship publications, Android doesn’t even warrant a single mention or presence.