Dec 302011

2011 was a crazy year for cell phone technology, I began the year with a HTC Aria running Android. I had replaced my iPhone 3GS with this on release of the iPhone 4. The Apple ‘walled garden’ finally pushing me back to Android.

The Aria briefly had a cousin in tow. I got a Samsung galaxy tab which I utterly adored. Unfortunately this was trashed and I replaced it with a nook color which is a hacker delight.

The Aria gave way to another HTC, this time a large screen Inspire. Which within a couple of weeks gave way to a Samsung Infuse with an even larger screen. The size of the screen matters as you get older.

All of these android devices gained custom roms. Wherever possible I use CyanogenMod ROMs as they are fast, minimalist and close to the standard Android experience than it is possible to find elsewhere.

My major gripe with Android is that the combination of carrier and manufacturer customization often make the android experience worse than the standard.

The Android OS is utterly fantastic. The standard UI is brilliant, the deep integration with google services rocks harder than Mötorhead in their prime. The variety of devices and screen sizes pander to everyone. Virtually any combination of carrier, screen size and speed is available.

But the ‘added value’ crap software that Samsung and HTC add not only detracts from the experience. It causes a degree of confusion and in the case of Sense, actually makes the OS look terrible. Sure it is great to some to get ‘media center’, because they do not realize that Google Music is there, but the reality is that the add-ons generally detract.

Take Samsung’s ‘Touchwiz’ interface. This is an entire launcher replacement that actually looks pretty neat. Until you realize that there are serious restrictions to it – there is no way to change the default messaging client from the SMS application to one you prefer – like maybe chomp, or Google Voice etc. You are also stuck with Samsung’s standard quick launch icons rather than being able to decide which ones to use.

HTC’s sense is a whole order worse, the contact screen, dialer, widgets and application integration are terrible.

With either of these devices, you almost have to change the supplied launcher with perhaps LauncherPro, just to be able to use the phone in an fashion other than the prescribed manufacturer specific way.

Which leads me question why the phone that I am typing this post on is an Apple iPhone 4.

Simply because it is better, in standard form, than virtually anything except maybe a Google Nexus device.

Apple have got this right with iOS. They understand that if they control the user experience they can make the device incredibly easy and pleasant to use, everything works in a logical way, the applications all follow the same UI principals and they just plain work.

My objection to the walled garden though stands.

I loathe being trapped in that, admittedly beautiful walled garden. The lack if deep Google integration is off putting, I miss the auto-upload of photos to picasa, I miss google music too, but it is nice to have ooTunes back.

I am sticking with the iPhone for a while, but long term ?

I think that a Galaxy Note running ICS is the answer. But this is not even officially available in the US and imports are around the $600 mark !

So for the moment I a using a rather lovely (hardware at least) iPhone 4.

I suspect that this time next year I will have upgraded several more times……

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