Tuesday, February 19, 2013

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.

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