Entries in phones (2)

Wednesday
Aug212013

From iOS to Android With the HTC One

From iOS to Android with the HTC One

 

Too long. Way too long. That was all I could think as I was heading off to get a new phone. I was long overdue to renew my contract and recently I had grown frustrated seeing all my friends show off their new mobiles with giant screens while I sat squinting at the 3.5 inch screen of my iPhone 4S. But as I walked up to my local phone retailer, I broke out in a cold sweat and I quite couldn’t figure out why. I had done my research, compared and contrasted the current lineup of top phones: the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Even considering news of the Google Moto X didn’t sway my mind,  and I am willing to bet the “new” phone from Apple in September is just an iPhone 5 refresh instead of a new 6. Since the release of the 3G, Apple has been working on a two year cycle, meaning their new device won’t have the larger screen size I’m looking for. At the earliest, the iPhone 6 won’t be out until Q2 2014, and I can wait to cross that bridge when the time comes.  So why did I still feel so hesitant about my new phone?

It all comes down to perceived loss and the heavy psychological conditioning these walled garden marketplaces have on the consumer. I’ve bought a grand total of 4 songs, 2 ebooks and one movie on iTunes, but the idea of not being able to access them is what had me so vexed. The reality is that they’re really not gone at all, but when they are more difficult to access it’s hard to convince yourself of that. Coupled with the sense of home you get after using certain procedures and software so long, it takes a little courage to make the jump regardless of which way you leap.

 

One legitimate concern about marketplace variances is that iOS still takes a priority as far a developer importance goes. It has been documented that iPhone users on average tend to spend a little more money in their app store, and despite Android having a larger marketshare there is often a delay between iOS app debuts and their Android counterparts. From simple authenticators to successful games like Spaceteam, they all suffer from a second tier priority assignment. Even huge titles like the just released Plants vs Zombies 2 from Popcap are released first on iOS with the Android version lagging behind. After a quick pause for personal grief counseling I marched ahead even more determined to find my perfect phone.

After just 15 seconds handling each phone I knew the HTC One was what I wanted. You can do all the research you want about pixel density and contrast levels, but until you see the screen in person you can’t really appreciate the gorgeous 4.7 inch 1080p screen with 468 PPI, higher than the S4’s 441 and the iPhone’s 326. Then there is the feeling of density and solidity combined with the seamless construction and brushed aluminum that really tipped the scale when compared to the plastic-backed almost flimsy construction of the S4. I like to think that in an alternate world where Apple had continued with the more rounded design philosophy of the iPhone 3G and then added the brushed metal of the later models, they would have reached a design very similar to the One. The end result is a phone that feels remarkably solid and is luxurious to both look at and hold.

There are also more features on the One that make me wonder why other manufacturers don’t have them. Things like front facing speakers and true stereo sound provide a richer audio experience, even before considering the Beats audio. Sound is directed at your ears instead of away or to the sides like many other phones. Then there is the trickery with the antenna, thin plastic bands running across the back and sides, delivering what is for all intents and purposes an all-metal phone without the reception issues that plagued the original iPhone 4. Additionally HTC had the insight to buck the mega pixel arms race for better lowlight camera performance while also being the first phone to include 802.11 ac wifi. I’m not saying the phone is perfect, and I’ll get to those points in a bit, but it is clear a lot of effort and time when into making strong choices for the phone, and HTC has really raised the bar for flagship models across the industry.

 

There remain a few downsides to the One such as the slightly worse battery life, a trade-off for the screen size, and a slower recharge time. This is where the strength of Apple’s proprietary connector comes into play. Even though  Mini USB is more widely used, I find it’s easier to scrounge up a spare iPhone connector and the throughput of the included Mini USB cord just can’t match Apple’s connection., when charged from either an outlet or USB. Battery life when watching movies was especially concerning as it can vary wildly depending on the file and player. I tested a 480p episode of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and was alarmed to find that after the 1 hour 29 minute runtime, I had gone from 93% to 46%, even with volume and brightness set at three quarters. I may be in the minority, but I would gladly trade a few millimeters of thickness for a little more substantial battery life.

 

Another demerit which may be more of an annoyance coming from a previous iPhone owner, is the inability to unlock the phone without stretching for the physical button located on the top edge of the device. With a screen this large it's a little cumbersome, made even more frustrating when after a little digging I discovered that there is a small unused capacitive touch enabled space under the HTC logo. Use of that space is only possible through a kernel update but is really something that should be available to every user without that kind of hassle.

 

This latest version of HTC Sense is relatively unobtrusive, but I wish I had been able to purchase the new HTC One that came loaded with stock Android. I must also say while Blinkfeed might have seemed like a good idea, it doesn’t quite hit the mark and I end up ignoring anything on that page, especially since it doesn’t seem like it can be removed. I am also hoping that updates come more frequently, because while Android 4.2 has already rolled out on certain international versions of the One, US customers are still using 4.1.1.

 

 

I’ve been living with my HTC One for the better part of a month now, and aside from battery life issues it hasn’t gone wrong once. It may be part of the learning curve for a new phone, but I must admit that I’ve had the phone die from lack of charge twice in 2 weeks compared to maybe once in an entire year with the iPhone. In every other facet, the HTC One has completely surpassed the lofty expectations that I had set. As my interaction with the One and Android become more fluent, I am kicking myself for being so reluctant to make the switch. HTC has made one of most compelling smartphone platforms since the original iPhone. Now the envy has switched from me onto my friends as they all seem to simultaneously be reevaluating their horse in the never ending smartphone arms race.

Tuesday
Jul232013

The Ubuntu Edge

 

The latest in crowd sourcing news come from Ubuntu developers Canonical with what may be the most ambitious goal to date. Off the success of the Ubuntu for phones, Canonical is seeking $32 million in crowd sourced funds to develop a new smartphone call the Ubuntu Edge with the ability to dual boot Ubuntu and Android with enough power to possibly replace many PCs.

 

In just over a day they have already funded 5000 phone pre-sales to the tune of $3 million raised on Indiegogo with 30 days left to go. Canonical cites the issue of not having a test bed for bleeding edge consumer electronics as their reason for turning to crowd sourcing to fund their new phone. With lofty expectations and an impressive feature list including things like a sapphire crystal display, 128 GB storage and 4 GB of RAM, you have to wonder if $32 million will even be enough? This is before you even get to logistical issues of how users will be able to use their phone as a PC and still answer calls at the same time.

 

This isn’t the first time a phone has tried to be a PC replacement. Most recently there has been the Asus Padphone, the Fujitsu Lifebook concept or further back the Motorola Atrix, which allowed users creative ways to dock their phone to a display for a facsimile of a desktop experience. Canonical hasn’t even mentioned the production of a dock with seems like a necessity for use as a traditional PC. Connecting a display, mouse and keyboard and any other externals every time you sit down at your desk seems like more trouble than it’s worth, no matter how powerful the hardware is.

 

There is no doubt the Edge’s spec sheet hits the sweet spot high end smart phone performance, but for a company’s first step into hardware production, getting this device out in time will be a Herculean task, not to mention the reaming $28 or so million dollars they still need to raise.

 

An $830 donation can be your voucher to get an Edge when it releases, and you can find out more on their Indiegogo page here.

 

EDIT: For those of you who missed the Day 1 $675 backer level, Canonical has added more level ranging from $725 to the original $830 level

 

EDIT 2: Mark Shuttleworth, found of Canonical is doing an AMA on reddit answering more questions about the Edge and their future plans