Why I Might Drop the iPhone 5 for the Galaxy Note II, and you should too.
I’ve been wrestling with how theiPhone 5 is since I got it. I paid full whack – just shy of $700 – for it, off-contract, just to be part of the sameApple iClub I’ve been in since the first one came out and everybody thought a Smartphone was a dumb idea. And I didn’t like it. I really wanted to. I told people it was awesome, that the LTE was finally there and made me so happy. I told everyone the Maps were great, and then I was in a parking lot half a mile from where I was meant to be. It was cold. It was rainy. I picked up the phone to ask the restaurant where I was, and had to repeat myself eight times to even get an idea of where I was.
After however many days it’s been since September, I’ve found the device infuriating. I forgave a lot of the iPhone 4S – it was, after all, over a year old, and the iPhone 5 would solve these problems. But I found it inconsistent, unfriendly to even the most casual business user. Searching for an email I’d sent only fifteen minutes previously was impossible. My calendar synced maybe once in eight tries. Phone calls were almost always met with a chorus of “Wuh-haaaat” and snickering at my accent.
All in all, Apple has fallen behind the curve. After trying the Galaxy Note II for two weeks, it’s clear that Android Jellybean (4.1) has managed to pull ahead. And the second iteration of the Note – a device I’ve made fun of since before it even made it to the shelves – is a far better phone, semantically and as a competitive computer.
The term Phablet, though the worst possible term in technology, accurately describes the weight of the phone – a 5.55 inch screen, just shy of a tablet, just shy of a phone. At first it feels almost cudgel-like – a ridiculous device, one that you could never imagine using over the svelte curves of the iPhone 5. Then you spend a little more time with it, you start actually trying to do things on it, and it becomes quite another thing entirely. If you’ve ever struggled penning a semi-to-long note on the iPhone 4S or 5, you’ll know it’s not pleasant. The Samsung combination of the stylus and their Swype-esque keyboard (or your finger) makes writing a big email a lot more pleasant and accurate than poking the awkward fringes of the slim iPhone 5.
Weirdly-enough, the stylus didn’t outplay the iPhone 5 for any reason connected to actual drawing. With my terrible handwriting, I’d never appreciate being able to use a pen and a pad over a phone, but the stylus itself makes for speedy typing of an email or pecking out a password. It works in place of a finger if you’re cradling the phone in your hand and just want touse it – it feels weirdly comforting and direct, unlike the slightly unwieldiness of my hand. Reader beware: I might just have strange hands.
Finally, 4.1 (4.1.1, according to the device) of Android has come a long way in the useful little touches department. If you’re on the phone and pull down your notifications, you’re able to hit speaker, hang up, load another app (or two), and assign shortcuts based on the S Pen itself (the horrible name for Samsung’s stylus). The keyboard even has numbers on the same page as the letters – which sounds like a peculiar accolade, but when you’re attempting to hammer out a password of 42 to 72 letters and numbers (I’m very secure.), it’s a godsend.
It just feels thoughtfully built and designed, and for the first time the overall skin that a manufacturer has added feels like a bonus versus a curse from way back on Android 2.0. That, and the thing actually has a good processor on it – the Note II swishes along at a happy pace, even with my haphazard indecision of what app I need at any given minute. Google‘s (obvious) integration with all things Android seals the coffin – where the iPhone has only just got a halfway-decent Gmail client, Android still, and I’d guess always will, has the best.
Overall, Apple has somehow lost their way in the design- for-use department. Where I would naturally want to use my iPhone to do something simple – y’know, like send a text, find my way somewhere, or make a phonecall – things feel like they’re constantly getting in the way. I can’t guide myself to a state highway on Maps. People can’t hear me when I make calls. My phone gets so hot it is uncomfortable to use (Much like the Samsung Galaxy III does, mind). My texts sometimes just don’t send via iMessage. These are all complaints that plagued the iPhone 4S too – the Maps problem was prevalent in the Beta of 6.0.
All in all, and in the most weird, ironic manner, iOS 6 feels like a tablet operating system squeezed onto a phone. When I have the real estate of swiping across a 7.9″ or 9.7″ tablet and the time to do so, iOS feels relaxed and perfect for it. When I need to get something done, iOS feels like it’s in the way.
Apple needs to inject some life into its aged OS. Even with the addition of Google Maps and GMail, they’re still playing second-fiddle to a company that seems to have worked out mobile better – though not more profitably – than they have.