There and Back Again; an iOS Tale



Well, I’m a big boy now, and I have a real job. For the last three years or so, my trusty Motorola Droid 2 has been by my side, providing me with my first smartphone experience; assuming you don’t include the 8gb iPod touch I used for a few months before getting a Zune HD. But now that I am no longer a student, and because my work is essentially making me get one, I will soon be upgrading to an iPhone 5. Since both devices are on Verizon, I thought this would serve as an excellent comparative analysis of the state of an upgrader in 2012.

First, let’s talk about where I have been:

Feature phones- I held onto feature phones for as long as I could. Not because I was afraid of smartphones or anything, but because they were (And still are) expensive. hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, plus exorbitant data fees and other add-ons that I couldn’t afford as an undergrad and graduate student. Besides, with sweet little numbers like this Kyocera SE47 (man, it had Tetris for DAYZ)

26067_pdi_medium

Or the Samsung Juke
… who needed a smartphone. In all seriousness, though, at the time I was more than happy with my feature phones. I wasn't a texter, I had a laptop, and everywhere I went, there was wireless, and nothing I received via email or facebook (when it eventually hit phones) was all that important that it couldn’t wait for me to jack in.

Then came law school.

Suddenly, there were all kinds of emails and texts I would receive that required relatively quick responses. From study groups to lunch invites, class notes to facebook requests, I needed to be more connected. At about the same time, I received an iPod touch, 8gb. While it wasn’t my first media player, it was my first truly multimedia one. The iPod Nano (2nd gen) that I had owned a few years back had soured me to Apple products. So I was not going in with high expectations. iTunes had been buggy, crash-prone and generally bad. The Nano had scratched faster and easier than any other product I had ever owned, and the sound was mediocre at best. And it lacked a radio. I owned the Nano for exactly 29 days, because I returned it on the 30th.

The things I disliked about the iPod Nano continued in the Touch. iTunes on Windows is, generally speaking, not a good experience compared to on OSX, and is not nearly as good as many other music apps out there. I also came into it around the same time other providers were offering subscription based solutions, and paying $.99 a song didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
I also first met iOS on that Touch, and really didn’t like it. I don’t do grids of icons, and that’s all iOS really is at the home screen level. I recognize it works, and there are a lot of people that DO like it; I’m just not one of them.

33750785-2-300-dt4_medium

A few months later I picked up a MS Zune HD 16gb, and have not looked back since. The Zune Music player was much better than iTunes, the subscription was awesome, and at the end of the day, i really felt that the sound quality out of the Zune was the best I’d heard. I still pay the $150/yr for the annual plan, and back when they cancelled the product, I picked up a Zune HD 32gb.

Back to phones.

So when I got to law school and needed a smartphone, iOS was out of the question after my iPod experiences. Blackberries were boring considering my recently acquired interest in apps, and WP6 was aging even then. Android was everything those weren’t. With android, I wasn’t relegated to ONLY a grid of icons. Widgets solved my need for easily accessible calendar, email and other information and I was immediately interested in the Google connection, given my YEARS of Gmail and Chrome usage at that point.

1_medium

Conviently, that Christmas my 1 year old Samsung flip phone died a watery, clothes-washer death and Big Red was nice enough to start me on a new contract with a brand spanking new Droid 2 ($100) and 150MB of data ($15/mo). That phone has been through a lot in that span of time. I’ve dropped it countless times resulting in all kinds of scrapes, scratch-marks, gouges and dents alongs its edges and back. The slide-hinge went from firm to lose to firm again (thanks to an ill-conceived meeting with some pineapple juice from a fruit cup), and the battery has been replaced twice now (for only $4 total, thanks to a fire sale on amazon).

The software experience has been nearly as rough. At first, the poor thing had been saddled with Android 2.2. I consider this to be the first real iteration of Android to matter. It was the one that finally got all of the basics down, bringing it to functional parity with iOS (in terms of multitouch, and all the other things we take for granted). There’s a reason it’s used on so many non-Google-sanctioned android tablets and phones to this day. 2.2 wasn’t bad, but it was basic and I had it for quite a while: The Droid 2 has a locked bootloader. It took a while, but eventually we D2 owners got root access, and several alternate roms came out over time. They too were simply ok, but much better than stock 2.2. (My favorite was LibertyROM, fwiw). Stock updates have been, to say the least, few and far between, about a year ago, we received gingerbread via OTA update.

It brought some nice touches, including some capabilities that didn’t come to Android until later, like individually dealing with notifications from the notification tray as opposed to clearing them all or opening each app. There were issues too, including an ongoing plague of random reboots and wifi connection problems.

It was Moto Blur after all.

But through it all, it has been a GREAT phone. They keyboard is a solid representative of the physical QWERTY species, and the screen has held up remarkably well (in quality and in terms of its condition thanks to a Zagg shield). When I didn’t use the physical keyboard, SWYPE came stock on this thing and I love it. The speed was never great and some apps just will never run, but I never found myself tapping my foot waiting for an app to load. Sound quality was top notch (as expected from a Moto handset), and the stock Google App experience was nearly perfect.

Iphone-5_medium


Today, a new day dawns. Or maybe an old day dawns anew. Something deep involving days dawning. Anyway, I will soon receive my new shiny iPhone 5, and will once again be the owner/operator of an iOS device. I have some lingering doubts about how I will feel about this new device. I KNOW that this is not the same as my Nano or Touch, but can you blame me for being a bit reserved? It’s appearance is really not that different from that touch, and the differences that do exist (though many) speak the same language, seem familiar despite being new. The OS looks exactly the same, though now I can use my own background. The grid of icons looms large, remembering those days of hunting through them for apps and clumsily arranging them into "folders." (Go, Icons! Do that jiggle dance!) The lack of widgets is also in mind, not unlike the feeling you get just before getting an inoculation at the DR.’s office. Losing them will hurt, I know, but it has to be done. I am interested to see how the new iOS notification tray/center band-aids this issue.
At least there is no glass/glossed aluminum back that will serve as an ugly scratch magnet.

And of course, I can hope that iTunes is a better-written and maintained app than it was a few years back. Oh, and one hopes that when I say I DON’T want Safari, it doesn’t install it anyway.

Anyway, in the coming weeks, as I play with my new toy, I will update my posts with new information and impressions as I go. But before it gets here (hopefully this/next week) I wanted to drop a line here, and ask the Verge community for some advice, particularly in regards to apps.

Right now, my Android Apps of choice are:
Gmail
Google Calendar
Google Maps/NAvigation
Pulse Newsreader*
Opera *
Gtask
Words w/Friends*
Zombies, Run! *
gmote
Google Finance
Mint*
Swype
(and of Course, the verge App)
Verizon data monitor


While I know the apps marked with an asterisk have iOS versions, can anyone help me find analogues to the ones that don’t? Any apps I should look out for (stay away, or must haves)

Anyone else made such a switch and can offer some advice? Especially any issues I should look out for in regards to iTunes? (My laptop and desktop are Win7 64-bit systems).

Also, if you have any questions, or things you want me to try/look out for/return with specific feedback on, please let me know!

P.S.- I want you to go and check out the product pages for the Droid 2 and the iPhone 5. How weird is it that the physical dimensions are so SIMILAR!?