This is my next: choosing a phone to augment my life
I own a Windows Phone. It's a HTC HD7; and for the past two years it has served me well. In 5 days, I will choose its successor.
At that time, I will choose a piece of technology which will go everywhere with me; connect me to my friends and family, record milestones in my life and act as an extension of my very self; augmenting my knowledge, memory and ability to communicate.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DECISION
image via uncrate.com
I have had my HD7 since April 2011, and in the time I've been carrying that phone in my pocket; I have got engaged, then married, had a honeymoon in the Caribbean, become a dad and watched my son start to grow up. I've been at 5 birthdays, 6 weddings, 3 stag weekends, and the usual family holidays. My trusty old HD7 has been there every step of the way; taking photos and videos, sending them to Twitter, Flickr and Facebook; and to family and friends around the world. It has connected me to people through text, email, IM, social networks and good 'ol websites. My life has been a veritable Google Chrome advertisement.
Since the most financially viable option is a 24 month contract, it looks like I'll have my next phone for the same period of time. During the next two years, I can only guess what's going to happen; I'll see my son take his first steps and say his first words, I'll be at more birthdays, weddings and family gatherings, and I could even go on another holiday (not likely). One thing's for certain though; I'll have a phone in my pocket the whole time. I'll have a gadget on me which I'll use to record and share the best bits of it all, and I want it to be the best gadget, for me, for the next 24 months.
How will I decide what to live with ‘till 2015? Let's start with the operating system.
BREAK WITH WINDOWS?
I've lived with Windows Phone 7 for two years and I'm not ashamed to say I love it (deal with it). I love its cleanliness and simplicity, and the fact that it's different; it still feels new to me. Windows Phone 8 still ticks all these boxes, and includes more functionality; but it also retains some shortcomings from 7. One of my biggest gripes about Windows Phone is aimed at both Microsoft and Google. I'm a Gmail user; I migrated from Hotmail a number of years ago and it's served me well on the web. On my Windows Phone however the experience is lacklustre at best. There's little attempt from Microsoft to cater for Google products and the experience is made worse by Google, who make no effort to support Windows Phone. I feel like a child whose parents are going through a divorce and neither of them want custody; I'm the one losing out here, by trying to hurt each other you're only hurting me!
You've been waiting for it since the opening line; my second niggle: apps. I'm not a big ‘app guy' but it's frustrating when my electricity supplier or my bank only offer apps for iOS and Android. Is it reason enough for me to abandon Windows Phone? No. Could the right hardware tempt me away? Yes. My WP8 contenders are the HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920.
TAKE A BITE OF THE APPLE?
iOS, Hmm. I have an iPad and my wife has an iPhone 4S, but I don't want an iPhone 5. Its hardware appeals to me; metallic, monolithic, smooth and sexy; the software on the other hand doesn't. iOS, to me, feels a little stagnant; it was revolutionary when the iPhone launched, but on the surface it hasn't changed much since then. Yes, functionality has radically improved, but the interface and its aesthetic haven't. I believe in the next 18-24 months, Apple will refresh iOS, but I can't deal right now. The iPhone 5 is a very good phone, but it's not for me.
image via www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk
I've traditionally looked upon Android as a messy clone of iOS, but recently I think it's cleaned up its act and pulled ahead in terms of usability and functionality. Google Now sounds more innovative than Siri, and some of the software from the manufacturers seems genuinely useful.
I have to admit at this point, that I haven't spent very much time using TouchWiz, Sense or any of the other skins, but if I've taken anything away from Vergecasts, I get the impression I would use an android phone despite it having a manufacturer skin, not because of it. Google's aesthetic has really improved over the last few years and as a casual observer, it seems the improvements have leaked into their phone OS.
Another reason I've hated on Android in the past was for hardware. The most visible Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S series, have an an uninspiring design and look a little plasticy; the Nexus 4 from LG doesn't look dissimilar. Taking hardware sexiness into account, my choices for Android are the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One.
THE 'OTHER' 3RD PLACE
What about BlackBerry 10? Although I like Windows Phone, I don't want to leave it, only to repeat the early adopter experience on another platform; so no.
The decision comes down to four phones and two operating systems, Windows Phone 8 vs. Android. Setting aside the obvious differences in interface, functionality and ecosystem, I can make this decision on one factor: hardware.
I would like a WP8 device, but seriously, both phones are almost six months old. Six months doesn't sound like much, but hardware design and specs are ageing at an accelerating pace (the iPhone seems to age more slowly, why is that?). If Nokia and HTC released their offerings half a year apart, then I may have better WP8 options right now.
With WP8 out, the decision is clear: I want an HTC One. The Xperia Z could have been an winner if it weren't out-classed by the One; but the Galaxy S4 was never an option for me. I don't know how Samsung gets away with it's unimaginative industrial design; sure they've packed a lot of gimmicks and even a few features into the software, but is that the best hardware they can create? I think not, and hope it shows in sales (though I expect to be disappointed).
Between the four phones I've mentioned, I think the HTC One will age the best; remember I have to look at this thing every day for the next two years (I think you've got it now). I hope the change of OS will also help the phone feel newer for longer, which can't be a bad thing. What is a bad thing however, is I'm effectively losing all my paid apps. I haven't many, but still. I fully expect to miss Windows Phone, I can't wait to see what Microsoft does with WP8 in the next 24 months and who knows, maybe I'll have another Windows Phone in 2015.
Right now however, it looks my new life augmenting constant companion and window to the world will be the HTC One. I'll use it every day to check Twitter, Facebook and The Verge, I will clutter up the Internet with incessant ramblings about buying smart phones and sometimes pencils. I will laugh at podcasts, GIFs and memes, and welcome Paul Miller back to the Internet. I will still have it when my son is two, and I will use it to take photos on my 30th birthday.
Or whatever, it's only a phone.
TL;DR Mobile phones are more than just gadgets to us, they are an integral part of our lives, and I want an HTC One because it's shiny and new.