Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why I love my Android, but bought my wife an iPhone anyway

Yes, I'm one of those crazy blokes that was up at 3AM (well, 1AM in my timezone) to pre-order an iPhone as soon as it came out on Verizon. But not for me, for my wife. Her old feature phone was dying and she had made certain wistful comments about how nice a smartphone would be, so when given the chance I jumped at it. It arrived yesterday, and so far she seems to be in love. Yay!

There was a funny moment when I gave it to her though, one that caught me off guard. After an initial moment of shock and excitement (it was a surprise) she turned to me and said: "But wait, why didn't you get one for you?"

I laughed in her face.

It was a totally involuntary reaction, and I felt bad for it, but in all honesty the idea of getting an iPhone for myself seemed a little absurd. I absolutely love my Droid X, and wouldn't trade it for anything Apple has to offer. At the same time, I would never buy my wife an Android phone (or at the very least not any of the ones Verizon offers at this point). I feel it's worth examining the reasons why:

  • I don't want to give my wife a phone crammed with bloatware. I don't want to try and explain why that stupid Verizon bookmark will never go away, or why VZ Navigator is stuck there, even though she'll never use it.
  • I don't want to ever be concerned about wether or not she's going to get the latest software and OS updates. I don't want to tell her that the cool new feature that they just announced may not be coming to her phone at all because the manufacturer is too lazy to update it.
  • I don't want her to deal with a buggy, bloated skin. I don't want to have to explain why my phone looks and acts different than her phone which looks and acts different than her parents phone, even though they're all on the same OS.
  • I don't want to EVER tell her that she needs to pull her battery to get her phone to respond again. I've needed to do that weekly in the past with my Droid X (before I started using custom ROMS).
  • I don't want her to worry about wether or not an app in the store will actually work on her phone. I don't want her to pay for something only to have it crash and burn when she tries to run it, because it was developed on Phone X and she has Phone Y.
  • Basically: I don't want to give her a phone that needs maintenance, by me or anyone else. It's a freaking PHONE! If she has to keep running to her geeky husband just to keep it running, it has failed in the most fundamental way possible.
Say what you want about walled gardens and draconian policy, you have to admit that Apple puts the rest of the mobile world to shame when it comes to making a smartphone that just plain works. There's a lot to be said for that, and I honestly believe that that is the core reason why they still sell like mad.

Of course, on the flipside there's MY phone, which comes with an entirely different set of qualifications:
  • I don't want to ask permission (much less pay) for the "privilege" of running a program that I built on my phone.
  • I don't want to be told that I can't run something just because I didn't get it through their "official channels." If I find a cool project online, who are you to tell me I can or can't try it?
  • I don't want to ship my phone off for a week because my battery died.
  • I don't want to pay through the nose just to get more storage.
  • I don't want to have to use some proprietary cable when I have several perfectly good micro USB cables lying around.
  • I don't want to be forced to use a particular music, email, browser, or messaging app just because the phone maker doesn't like competition.
  • I don't want to lose my widgets! Holy crap, how do you people live without them?
  • Basically: I view my phone as a small computer, and I want to treat it as such! I don't mind a bit of tweaking and fiddling in order to have more control over my device.
Of course, these two viewpoints (Absolute stability vs. absolute control) are somewhat opposing ideals, but it is certainly nice that there's enough choices out there to satisfy both parties. Granted, I think both sides could certainly be improved by trying to meet somewhere in the middle: There's no good reason why Apple can't free up their platform a little more, and there's no excuse for me ever needing to pop my battery because my OS locked up! Until we hit that point, though, it's a bit sad to say that the iPhone really is the only sane option for users that want a reliable device without dealing with a lot of crap from the carrier and manufacturer.

Android still has a long way to go in that regard.

A few other random notes before I go, after observing my wife with her phone:
  • No matter how much I try to delude myself into believing that my phone has a snappy UI, that illusion disappears the moment I interact with any iOS device. It's so much more responsive that it makes me want to cry. This is important, Google! Fix it!!!
  • It's unfortunate that many of the Android apps out there are mere shadows of their iOS counterparts. (Pandora comes to mind immediately.) Many Android apps look like amateur knockoffs in comparison, even when developed by the same company! And that's not even considering the multitude of apps that have no Android equivalent! (Netflix! I'm looking at you!)
  • It's completely baffling that Apple would do something as clumsy as sticking an actual temperature (73 deg) on the weather app icon and not make it update! The first big question my wife had about the phone was "Why isn't the temperature right?" It took me several minutes of googling to discover that the value shown is static. Same goes for the clock. Seriously?!?
  • I didn't realize how much difference two features really make in how I use my phone: The notification bar, and the app drawer. The fact that I can get notifications about anything on my phone in a spot that I can easily see (AND easily ignore) from pretty much anywhere is something I totally took for granted. Likewise, the ability to keep infrequently used apps hidden away in the app drawer while reserving my homescreens for the things I use all the time is absolutely invaluable.