It’s not “accepting” what Apple gives; it’s knowing your customers

I actually love the new iPhone 4S, then again I didn’t expect the “iPhone 5” everyone seemed to be in a loop for. Spec wise it’s more than capable for a phone and will do everything I need to do. Android is tooooooooooooo far away from making a phone “that just works” and this is a problem. And here’s why:

My daily phone is a Motorola Defy (long story short – I needed a new phone and didn’t have cash saved up for a new phone so it was the cheapest option at the time) and the hardware is amazing: I CAN SUBMERGE MY PHONE FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES WITHOUT ANY DAMAGE. But that’s never been Moto’s problem has it; nope it’s that god awful Motoblur. The Google GMail app allows you to link multiple email accounts – which is great, Motoblur doesn’t allow you to link them that way and insists on using their mail client. Did I mention it has failed every single time it was ABSOLUTELY necessary for me to get my mail?

I got my fiance a Samsung Galaxy S (Vibrant) and it is one of the best (if not the best) Android experiences on the market. It’s not a powerhouse phone by any stretch and it wasn’t when it was first announced. What the Galaxy S does very well is ape Apple’s UI as best it can on Android. Sorry but it does and that’s why it’s the best experience on Android. What’s wrong with it? Well when you get right down to it the apps and the app store. In her words, “why does it all look like malware from Windows XP?”

Our niece has a myTouch 3G Slide which is a horrible phone, unintuitive would be a compliment. Both the Slide and my Defy were running Android 2.1 for the same period of time but the phones’ settings menu were so different (things like software info and update were not under the same or similar submenus between phones). It’s recent update to 2.2 doesn’t allow her to use the phone as a hotspot, even though that was one of the biggest features in 2.2. My Defy running 2.2 does and it’s pretty front and center in my app tray.

I’ve had the opportunity to use an HTC Sensation 4G and though it looks good, I hate the overly plastic-y, cheap feeling of the screen. If I’m typing on the screen I can feel the screen bend ever so slightly; that’s not good. I’m not a fan of Sense but the Sensation has made it so that it’s not as noticeable, so kudos for that. But the cheap build quality keeps me from taking HTC too seriously. After all, I’m the type not to subsidize my phone purchases so I’m never expecting a $200 purchase, I’m looking at a $500+ purchase – it better feel like a $500 piece of kit.

I should add that 2.3 is a step in the right direction but still, they need to polish it to the point where it won’t seem alien to a consumer. Sorry geeks, we’re not just consumers so our opinion doesn’t count in the way you think it should.

All 4 phones make it a pain in the ass to add accounts even if they are hosted by gmail. It took about 5-10 minutes to set up multiple accounts properly on my Defy – I still can’t rely on email being pushed at regular intervals. My experience with iOS devices (2 iPod Touches and 1 iPad) was quick, painless, and I didn’t have to worry about setting up server information for 4 accounts – type in address, type in password, literally 3 minutes later 4 accounts getting email like they should.

The 3 phones running the same version of the OS and the limitations set by the carrier (all 3 are on T-Mobile) present not fragmentation (though it’s definitely there) but rather mobile OS schizophrenia; you really don’t know what to expect. Sure, Ice Cream Sandwich is going to come out and make things wonderful with rainbows and unicorns and a unified OS, but that won’t address the fact that they’re going to kill off support for their legacy phones of 6 months to a year (or two for those in contract hell) in hopes people will buy a new phone that’s part of their supported list. Skins and various other forms of bloatware that are added by manufacturers and carriers will still be found in Android and that’s a shame. Skinning of Android handsets is not making them unique, it’s making them an eyesore (you modders are not exempt either).

Rooting, in practice, isn’t really an option. Sure, we can root an Android device but let’s face facts, would you let the less than tech savvy people in your life try it on their own? Of course not. Also, rooting comes with it’s own sets of problems. My Defy for one had problems with the GPS radio when I first rooted to CM7, although the dev community has already patched this up, I still had problems with SMS (yes, people still use that). Constantly having to find a fix for a minor problem or finding a new ROM with my language for menus is not fixing a problem, it’s creating an entirely new one, one that can be easily be avoided if there was uniformity across devices.

As Chris mentioned, Apple managed to give the iPhone a much needed spec bump and fixed the issues that matter most to consumers. Superfluous geez and other marketing buzz words (including things like ‘Retina Display’) or the visibility of your brand do not make a great device; it’s all about how it disappears into your life. The iPhone 4S can use the same accessories already available for the iPhone 4, the new features do not alienate what  a user has become accustomed to or alienate those that will not upgrade to an iPhone4S, and is now available to even more people. Once you set it up for the first time you start using it and that’s it. You don’t miss it until its gone.

My only issue with the iPhone 4S is that it won’t be available to me, a T-Mobile subscriber. I can rant about this some other time, but that’s it. Well there’s always next year I suppose.

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