Tuesday, April 24, 2012

iPhone Adventures

I finally moved my wife Suzi out of the phone stone ages.  She was sporting a Samsung Intensity II phone for the last 2 years.  Her primary complaint over smart phones was that she literally HATED touchscreens.  I tried many times to get her to play around with my Android phone but she never could quite the hang of it.  I knew that when it came time to update her phone that we would be going with the iPhone.

The iPhone is approachable by just about anyone.  I would venture to guess that if you put an iPhone and an Android side by side and turned them on to their respective ready modes that the majority of people would gravitate towards the Apple product.  Why?  I do not know.  What I do know, and this is from experience, the Android platform can be quite frustrating.  Yes, you can spend some time setting it up to look like the iPhone and act like an iPhone but in the end, it is not an iPhone.  The platform is getting better but I believe it is for more of a power user.

Even the iPhone takes some getting used to.  Understanding what all the applications are for and getting around the user interface are not entirely intuitive but they can be quickly learned.  My largest stumbling blocks with setting things up for her came in two flavors.

1.  Getting her Email to properly sync across her pc based outlook and phone
2.  Understanding Home Sharing so we could share purchased apps

Email turned out to be a pretty large hassle and took several hours to rectify.  Suffice to say that using the IMAP protocol over POP3 is the way to go.  With Suzi only ever checking email on her PC Based Outlook client I had originally set her up to use POP3.  There were PST files stored locally on her hard drive so when she checked email the messages were downloaded off the server but not deleted.  Outlook was smart enough to know if a message was already stored locally so it was never an issue.  Setting up email on the iphone though meant that in her case, her inbox was flooded with over 800 messages while her local inbox had exactly 9! 

In order to change her over to IMAP I had to create a new mailbox on her outlook client then manually move the messages over from the POP3 account to the IMAP account that she wanted to keep.  This was very time consuming as she's been using the same email address for years.  Basically everything has to be uploaded to the server.  Since I recently switched over Gmail as my email provider for schoonsplace.com it was good that they provide 8 GB of storage for email, this was not something I had thought of before leaving Host Monster for email services as they were virtually unlimited for space.  I had some availability issues with them though so I switched over to Gmail.

Once I got everything switched over the mail has the proper behavior now.  Messages will be visible in both inboxes but if you delete from one it is deleted from the other.  Essentially the clients are reading everything off the server so it just works.  About the only downsides I see are speed and space.  The actual send/receive process does take longer and as I mentioned above I now have the 8GB limit.  It's not a huge deal though as the send/receive is maybe 1 second longer and she's only using 1/8th of the limit so I suspect we'll be fine.  I can always help her to copy large emails over to the local PST files on her laptop if she wants to keep them or just get her into the habit of downloading attachment emails and then deleting them.

Home sharing was another animal altogether.  I must admit that I should have done my homework on this one upfront because I think I made a couple of rookie mistakes.  One was that I used the same email address on her iPhone that I use for our iPad 2.  This is not necessary as with home sharing as long as you are on the WiFI network you have access to the other email address's library.  The only thing you lose is the ability to actually install apps from the phone itself that were purchased using the other library's login.  It was a bit confusing at first but in the end it all seems to work well.  The other issue I ran into was when the PC that I use for itunes synching blanks the monitor (doesn't go to sleep just shuts off the monitor) for some reason the home sharing stops working.  I can still see the library but I can't actually transfer any content.  Not sure if this is the way it was intended or a bug.

I will also mention that we just went with an iPhone 4.  I know the 5 is coming soon and the S has Siri but really, for a person going to their first smart phone the iPhone 4 is plenty of power.  If she becomes a power user then we can look at upgrading her in the next cycle with Verizon.  By then I can only imagine the phones that will be available.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Which smart phone to choose?

So these days every 22 months or so I start to get excited about phone again.  I wish I had written down somewhere all of the mobile phones I've owned over the years.  My first mobile phone was actually a bag phone and I remember making a call from some beach down in Florida back to my office.  It wasn't even really a necessary call, it was a bragging call.  "Hey Boss, how's it going?  Guess where I am".  Anyway, I'm sure it costs me at least a few dollars to make that call and I'm even more sure I looked like a total geek dragging that black bag around with me everywhere as if I HAD to be always connected.  We've come a long ways since then for sure.  I've had my share of flip phones that were the ancestors to today's smart phones.  They included calculators and calendars and contact lists but didn't have the ability to side-load apps from anywhere easy.

I've been on the Verizon network now for probably at least 10 years.  My current hand set is the HTC Incredible.  I've had my share of problems with it but my most recent factory refresh seems to have made most of those go away.  I purchased the Incredible almost sight unseen on a recommendation from a friend.  Being a tech geek this was a bit odd for me as I usually do my own due diligence for the tech I buy.  Most certainly for something I'll carry with me everywhere I go for two years.  So this time, it had to be different.  I should mention that I've also dabbled in the Apple world but never with the iPhone.  I own both a 1st generation iPod Touch and an iPad 2.  I have enjoyed both devices although the iPod Touch is now mostly a paperweight.  The iPad 2 however, is the jewel of the family gadgets.  Between myself and the 6 year old it's gotten quite a bit of usage and I'm heavily invested in applications.  This alone is enough to make me consider an iPhone for this contract cycle.

So what's making me not want to pull the trigger?  With Android, I know I will have flexibility.  With Android, I know I will be able to make my home screens look and feel the way I want to.  I am a big widget fan, Of my 7 screens in HTC Sense only 2 of them don't contain widgets.  I have widgets for google search, for volume control, for YouTube, for Slacker Radio,  for device control and my Twitter feed.  They are all useful and make my phone that much better and easy to use without having to launch into apps all the time just to figure out what is going on.  With the iPhone, I haven't seen widgets, about the closest thing I can find is shortcuts but these really only take you the settings area where you still perform the action.  One of my favorite widgets on Android is the Instant Camera, with it on my home screen one press and I hold the camera up, it shoots up to the 3 shots then uploads them to Dropbox, pretty cool huh?

So where does that leave me the iPhone.  Siri and the retina display?  Ok, let me back up a second, I haven't even really said what phones I am looking at.  I have narrowed my choices down to the iPhone 4S 32GB and the Motorola Droid Razor Maxx.  The Samsung Nexus was in the running but the reports on battery left left a bad taste in my mouth.  I had already purchased a larger battery for my incredible just a month or so after buying it and the battery life is still not great on it.  With the Maxx's battery I can do everything longer than either the iPhone 4S or the Nexus according to this propaganda sheet .  Seriously, FOURTEEN hours of web surfing, I don't even think I could do 4 on my Incredible, and that's only 3G.  Anyway, if battery power is my number one concern then that may seal the deal.  Let's look at the list of features in order of want

1.  Battery Life
2.  Camera Shutter Speed/Quality
3.  Apps Selection
4.  Screen Visibility Outdoors
5.  Screen Size

Battery life, the Maxx wins hands down in this category.  With regard to camera, most sites give it to the 4S over the Maxx, but, the Maxx has a flash.  I use this feature constantly and one of the really cool features of my current Incredible is being able to use the flash as an effective flash light, I have done this many, many times and even have an on/off widget on my home screen for the flash light.  With apps selection comes a tough decision.  I haven't spent nearly as much money on apps for the android platform as I have with the IOS.  With all of these apps, the moment I bring the 4S into the house I can sync all these apps over to it that are compatible.  This would be a tremendous cost saver BUT I already have all the apps I need on my Incredible, they will also port to the new Maxx if I choose that phone.  I think this one is a wash really.  People seem torn on screen visibility in direct sunlight and to be honest, I work in a cube so this one could be argued as a moot point.  Finally, screen size, as I get older I find myself holding the phone farther away to read it and additional real estate would be welcome.  The Maxx wins in this category.

So, I think what it boils down to here is I just want the Maxx.  I honestly feel like i'm just settling if I go with the iPhone 4S.  I will be purchasing the iPhone for my wife though as she needs the ease of use.  Me, I think I just want to continue with the Android platform.  I did consider the Windows Phone but I am just afraid for lack of support there.  The newest Nokia handsets are looking good on that platform and people really seem to like them but I am too used to Android to go that route just now.

Maybe next time Microsoft.  Now, to figure out where I'll get the best deal.  Seems Best Buy had a $50 gift card thing going on a few months back that I signed up for which will bring the price down to an easier to digest $250.  I will be sure to post more insights into the phone once I pick it up hopefully this weekend or next.  Thanks for reading.