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Switching, Sort Of

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So Shelley and I have been on prepaid/paygo phones for years. We’ve been generally happy with this, since we don’t really talk on the phone much (when we made the switch, we were using a combined 7 minutes a month talk time on our family plan, for which we were paying $75 a month).

As phones have gotten smarter and services more interesting and valuable to us, we’ve slowly migrated from dumb phones to smart phones, all while staying prepaid. Shelley had an old Android phone that does most of what she needs but doesn’t have a data plan; I got my sister’s old iPhone 3gs, hooked it to an ATT prepaid plan, then hacked it to use a prepaid data plan. I had a fully functional iPhone for ~$40 a month).

But lately (largely as a function of having data plans on iPads), we’ve been wooed back into getting phones with plans.

Because we’re an Apple house, I would have loved for us to have gotten a couple of iPhones with unlimited text and data for ~$100 a month, such a plan doesn’t really seem to be available. Indeed, once you add that data plan, the iPhone seems to be ~$100 each, with no real wiggle room.

So we went to the T-Mobile store and picked up a couple of Galaxy SIIs 4G phones with unlimited data and texting and 1000 minutes of talk for roughly $100 a month, combined, once all the initial charges sort themselves out.

Is this Android phone as elegant as my iPhone? No. Am I going to have to make some sacrifices because it’s not in the Apple ecosystem? Yes. Here they are:

  • I will not be able to sync my iTunes movies and TV shows to it. But since many of those wouldn’t sync to my iPhone 3gs, this isn’t much of a loss.
  • I will have to use another podcast manager to deal with my podcasts. I’m currently using BeyondPod. It’s a little more confusing than Downcast is, but it does what I want it to.
  • I will have to find another way to share shopping lists with Shelley. We used the Reminders app on our Apple gadgets; now we’re using Shared Shopping List. I have also moved my To Do list from Reminders to Google Tasks.

That’s it, really. Most of the apps I use on a daily basis are either already available on Android or have some acceptable alternative (Reeder gives way to EasyRSS; Instapaper to Readability/Pocket). All of my music exists both in iTunes and iTunes match and on Amazon’s servers (we’re Prime users), so that’s not an issue. All my contacts are on Google.

One of the things that has been most striking about making this switch is the degree to which these phones and tablets and whatnot are really mostly just platforms on which we run apps. I’ve always sort of known this, but it’s never really struck me like it has with this switch. On a computer, we have to navigate the operating system to get to the apps we want to run; we have to deal with the file system to find the stuff we make, and so switching from Windows to a Mac or Linux can be shocking and bewildering.

But on a phone? Once every smartphone in the world ripped off the iPhone, it simply became a matter of pressing app icons on whatever hardware you have in your hand. Sure, the system settings are different—and HOLY CRAP this phone is constantly alerting me about something; it’s very Windows-y in that way, very naggy and needy—and in that, I really do miss the care and attention that Apple has devoted to the system settings. I miss the flexibility of the Apple notifications.  I honestly have no idea why it’s chirping at me most of the time, and I can’t seem to figure out how to turn those notifications off.

But really, I’m just choosing different hardware to run mostly the same apps on. And this hardware isn’t horrible. The screen is nice. The camera is 8MP, like the new iPhone. I have the option of upgradeable storage, which I really don’t care all that much about. And I like the price.

The more I think about all of this, the more I wonder if there’s actually anything Apple can do to keep the iPhone ahead of the pack. If all we’re doing is running the same (or comparable) apps on different hardware, if “syncing” is becoming increasingly irrelevant, giving way to cloud and web-based services, and if the “ecosystem” you’re in is also becoming less relevant (does Apple have any compelling reason to want to remove the DRM from movies on its store?) the only thing to compel most people to choose one handset over another is the hardware itself, any exclusive apps for that platform, whatever limited interactions the user might have with the OS, and the plan. But the hardware is increasingly similar, the apps less and less exclusive as once Apple-exclusive developers branch out, and the OS increasingly hidden.

As an Apple stockholder, it makes me nervous…

but only about the phones. Every experience I’ve ever had with an Android tablet has sucked. I love my iPad and wouldn’t consider switching. Hell, I kind of even want an iPad mini.


Written by srogers

December 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Nerd Stuff

One Response

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  1. Birgit has a smart phone. I find the thing bewildering. I can’t do much of anything with it because of that stupid touch screen. She’s not much better with it, although she has managed to successfully use the internet to find an address to a store once (maybe she does other things with it, but I’m just sayin’). My point is wtf iz aps, lol? The concept escapes me.

    I remind you, without needing to, that I was pretty quick to jump on the computer, lappy, and cell phone bandwagons and remain a vigorous internetter. And I WANT to want these new things.


    December 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

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