Archives For smartphone

No doubt by now you’ve seen the video above – “I Forgot My Phone” – a fairly sobering take on how social interactions are being affected by the rise of smartphones. Yes, it’s a little bit embellished for “shock” value, but there’s definitely some truth to it. I meant to share it last week when I first found it via Twitter, but this article on the New York Times reminded me about it, and I thought I’d share a personal anecdote along with the video:

Being “that” guy who pulls out his phone in the middle of dinner/a date/conversation is something I’ve been wary of for a a year or two now. Even though, I’m sure I’ve still been him more than once. Possibly the majority of us (certainly those of us with smartphones) have been at some point. We pull out and check our phones constantly, often ignoring the people around us in the process – sometimes for an imagined notification. And then we wonder why our batteries never last a full day…

The last 6 weeks I’ve been forcefully trained out of the habit, and I’m kind of glad. The office I’ve worked in since the end of July is a bit of a black spot for data connections. I can get a weak GPRS (2G) connection if I’m lucky – there’s also no WiFi in the office (shocking, I know!) to use as a back-up. Most apps time out on me with anything less than HSDPA it seems, so I can no longer use my phone as a distraction while I’m in the office. Slowly but surely I’ve found this lack of checking my phone has even crept into the days I’m working at home – on these days it’s not unusual for me to finish the day on 80% battery or more!

My current disconnect from Facebook has been both strengthened by, and in turn reinforced this new habit and the idea I don’t need to be checking my notifications all the time. I’m finding that even if I do hear the tell-tale “ding” of a notification I’m less likely to rush and check it immediately. I may be imagining it, but I’m feeling a little less anxious these last few days, perhaps because I’m finally at a point I’m not anticipating when my phone is going to go off next.

If you wanted to try something similar for yourself, you can fake it by going into your phone settings and turning off 3G and/or 4G connections. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth trying for at least a few days, right?

Another thing you can try with friends as a means to reclaim your time together is any time you are together is play a variation of the “Phone Stacking Game”. See the image at the bottom of this post for the basic rules.

These days I’m checking/using my phone during the times I’m commuting, while heading to the shop on my lunch break, or otherwise as and when I feel like it while I’m on my own. It’s quite nice to own my smartphone again, rather than it owning me.

smartphone stack

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TLDR; I’ve switched from an iPhone 5 to a Google Nexus 4.

OK, so I’m behind on the times a bit. The Google Nexus 4 has been out for several months, and I’d paid it no heed. I’ve been chugging along with my bought-at-launch iPhone 5 in that time, and barely paid the Nexus any thought. I read the reviews, and concluded it was a great Android phone, but I had no wish to rush out and buy one.

Then something strange happened.

I’m not sure why, but I got disenchanted with my iPhone. I never had that with my 4S, or 3G/3GS, despite the 5 being – in every way – better than all of them. Once that feeling settled in all the little niggles started to grate1. The easily chipped and scratched aluminium casing (as gorgeous as it is to look at); the way the sharper edges of the back felt in my hand; the random network-stack drop-outs; the hoops you sometimes need to jump through to share files/data from one app to the next; the keyboard that seemed to miss random presses, and still took me longer to type on than I could on my 4S (where I could at times type whole messages without looking at the screen).

I caught myself checking out other phones in the stores. Clearly it was time for the iPhone and I to “take a break”.

I looked at Windows Phones, but decided there wasn’t enough there to make it last. Blackberry? Err, no. That left Android.

I have a history with Android. I bought the HTC Desire HD on pre-order, as it had been loudly proclaimed “King of the Hill” at the time. Before it was even in my hands its crown usurped by (I think) the Galaxy S. We had some fun times, but I could never get along with the Sense UI. I rooted and flashed the phone, trying ROM after ROM. The experience was akin to installing Linux on an early Centrino laptop (anyone who tried it, back in c.2002-2003 will know what I mean) – where a feature worked, it worked very well… but only if you could live with the unsupported stuff. In the end, as much as I enjoyed parts of Android, I ended back in the warm embrace of iPhone.

Anyway, as I was saying, Android seemed the obvious choice, but which phone? I immediately gave up any notion of trying to get a phone that would be top of the specs pile for more than a few weeks2. I also ruled out those ridiculous “Phablets” like the Galaxy Note 2. The recent HTC phones look brilliant, but they’re still packing Sense. Sony’s Xperia line look distinct, but seemed to come with another GUI skin and a load of unneeded apps. Samsung… well I’ve never had a good experience with Samsung’s phone build quality, and they have the TouchWiz skin3… lets just say I ruled them out quickly. There’s the also-rans, but I was keen to get a phone that would get at least a few regular OS updates in its time.

I think I’d initially dismissed the Nexus because there was nowhere locally I could find one to try it out. Eventually I found somewhere with a display model, but I still couldn’t test it because the security system used by the store blocked most of the screen. In the end (after a couple of weeks mulling it over) I went ahead and ordered one through the Play store anyway4. A little over 24h later and the phone arrived.

First impressions were good. The unboxing experience was nice, and the first switch-on and setup was very fast. Within a few minutes my phone was syncing all of my Google services. If you use Google apps, then the experience is very, very smooth – everything “just works”. Contacts, Calendars, GMail, Google+, Picassa, YouTube, Music… all setup with just one login during start-up. I had some data issues with contacts and calendars, due to the way I had my iPhone setup, but that’s the subject of another post.

Of all the apps I regularly used on my iPhone (a decreasing amount recently), the only one I haven’t don’t have is Everpix, but I can keep using that one on my iPad Mini. Everything else either had an Android version – even my banking apps5 – or a suitably good equivalent (Falcon Pro instead of Tweetbot, for example).

Android itself has come a long, long way since I last used it. Jelly Bean is amazingly well polished, and the experience is very smooth. Coming from an iPhone, things do take a while to adjust to. I’ve found myself missing notifications on the lock screen, and application badges as indicators of which app just beeped at me. This is something I’ll get used to I guess.

If I can get round to it I’ll post a more comprehensive look at the Nexus 4, but for now I’ve not had it long enough to form more than first impressions. What I will definitely write-up is some of the experiences of moving my data from iOS/iCloud into Android/Google.

  1. These are all anecdotal, and in no way intended to imply they are common issues, or even that they’re not “all in my head”
  2. I think by now, in the age of quad-core CPUs and multi-GB RAM that Smartphone specs are good enough for most tasks they need to do.
  3. What is it with Android OEMs and custom GUI skins?
  4. I recommend going this route. Despite the £10 delivery charge, it’s at least £150 cheaper than buying at a retail store.
  5. I wasn’t too impressed by one of them insisting I needed to install anti-virus on my mobile…
Daily Dilbert for 15th Dec 2011

Daily Dilbert for 16-12-2011:

daily Dilbert comic strip for 16th Dec 2011