Why my next phone will be an iPhone

With the iPhone 5 on the horizon, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 already here, many people are asking me what phone should be their next.  While I can’t make that decision for everyone, and while the S3 is an amazing phone, I’ll be sticking with the iPhone when I upgrade.

In Samsung’s recent advertising efforts, they make a point of stating “The Next Big Thing is Already Here”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf5-Prx19ZM

The longer list is better, right???

I agree that the Galaxy S3 comes with a formidable list of features, but the new and existing features of iOS (ones completely ignored by Samsung’s commercials) are really what make the iPhone 5 the winner to me.

1. Apps

Both Android and iOS have impressive app marketplaces.  While the Android Market (now Google Play) hasn’t been around as long as the iTunes App Store, the amount of apps it holds has grown at an increasingly fast rate.  That said, there are a handful of apps that I use on a regular basis that draw me towards iOS.

Alien Blue

Reddit in its best form

What can I say?  I love reddit.  It’s been an integral part of my career, helping me find side jobs when I first started developing, and even landed me one of my first full-time jobs out of college.  Oh yea, and it’s coined as “The Frontpage of the Internet”.  Reddit is a wonderful aggregate of information, allowing me to combine different sub-reddits to bring me hot-and-fresh info each day.  While Android has apps like BaconReader, nothing comes close to being as good as Alien Blue.  It is by far the #1 used app on my phone, and one of the biggest reasons I’ll be sticking to an iOS device as my next purchase.

iStat

Just checking up on the server

It may seem like like an app that gives you basic stats about your phone, something many free apps already do, but iStat does something more: it also displays information about remote servers.  Personally I use it to check real time stats of my Mac Mini, the one that hosts this blog!  The server component is a free download and runs on both OS X and Linux.

iNet Pro

APOS = A Piece Of Shit

iNet is a great app for doing quick network diagnostics.  I often throw up headless devices on my network, like a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino with an ethernet shield, and it’s super easy to scan and get info about each device on the network.  There are other nice bundled features, including the ability to ping servers, a Bonjour Browser, port-scanner, and Wake-on-LAN system.  All in all it’s a great network utility app and I haven’t found anything yet that can replace it’s ease, function, and elegance.

Find My iPhone

Soon to be on this list: Joe’s iPhone 5

Yes, this one is a little biased, but I felt it’s important enough to include.  Find My iPhone allows me to track all my Apple devices with ease.  It also comes in handy when a friend loses their phone, just log into their iCloud account and track down their device.  Lock it, play a tone regardless of the phone being silenced or not, or send a message.  There are many stories of people reclaiming their phones using Find My iPhone, and while I realize that Android has many apps that act similarly (Plan B, for example), nothing ties all of my devices together nicely.

2. iTunes

While iTunes is an app on iOS, I am speaking of iTunes as a music platform that spans both mobile devices and desktops.  When I purchase a song on my iPhone or iPad it is instantly downloaded/synced to my desktop, Macbook Pro, and other iOS devices.  Many people bash on iTunes, saying it’s a locked garden, but I find the opposite to be true.  In 2009, Apple switched all of its songs to being DRM free.  I am free to transfer the music to any device I like, make by Apple or otherwise.  Quick and easy audio media that syncs across all my components wirelessly is wonderful.

3. It’s only taller

The iPhone 4 feels like a perfect fit in my hand.  My middle and ring finger wrap at the first knuckle around the side of my phone, while my index finger supports it from the back.  I’ve always used my thumb to navigate, but my thumb can easily reach past the top of the screen.  With the iPhone 5 keeping the same width as the 4/4s and only increasing the height, I do have no to become used to a new grip in my hand, but still am given a screen increase upwards to display more content.  Also, by only increasing it’s height, the iPhone obtains a screen aspect ratio almost exactly equal to that of the S3.  By changing to a 1136×640 display, the iPhone 5 hits a 16:9 ratio, a very common widescreen video format. I watch a good amount of movies/TV shows on the bus, so it’ll be nice for them to not be letterboxed.

4. The Apple Eco-system

It’s nice sticking with Apple.  The Samsung commercials advertise a ton of cool features, like instant video and picture sharing.  The problem is that those features can only be used with other NFC enabled devices.  I personally don’t know many people with those sorts of devices (and only one with an S3 specifically), but I know tons of people with iOS devices. My grandma has an iPad, so we can iMessage each other for free.  It’s faster and more convenient than email, and she loves using it.  iMessage also doesn’t traverse SMS paths, so sending messages that way doesn’t count towards my SMS plan.  I also find FaceTime to be far superior than Skype, and it’s extremely simple to video call my sisters or friends with the tap of a button.

5. The New Connector

Credit CNET (http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-57514454-233/apples-lightning-connector-and-you-what-you-should-know/)

The one thing everyone seems to be complaining about, I’m rejoicing for.  The new Lightning connector is reversible and completely digital!  Like in the Samsung commercial, I’m sure most people don’t even care about that fact, and will be quite upset by the fact the iPod-Out system doesn’t work anymore, but as a computer engineer I’m happy they are moving forward with a completely digital system.  You know what else switched from an analog to a completely digital system?  Cable TV.  Sure, people hated it for a short while, but now everyone can’t get enough of their 9,001 HD channels.  And have you seen the 30-pin adapter schematic??  There are 5 ground pins!  Two are reserved and one is “?”.  That’s a terrible design, and I’m glad they have improved upon it with the digital 8-pin Lightning connector.

Like any advancement in technology, I realize this will be a hump that people hate to get over, but I look forward to seeing what sorts of things lie ahead once we get past it.  I am a little disappointed that it will fail to import my song titles when playing music in my car, but I’ll be able to happily use Bluetooth audio from here on out.  And if I absolutely need to, I can pop my original 5g iPod into the center console and use that as my music library.

If Bluetooth doesn’t cut it for you, you can always use an adapter to get it working with your older devices.

Convert!

6. Color

 

It’s available in black anodized aluminum.  ‘Nuff said.

7. I’m an iOS dev

I’m an iOS developer, it’s how I make a living.  It’s important to have devices available for testing.  While a simulator does a good job, it can only take you so far.  Having a physical device allows me to test inner-city cellular network speeds, do more advanced work with the accelerometer, touch more than two points on the screen at once, and many other things.  Without it, I really wouldn’t be able to test as many features as I can with just the simulator.

Most of all, the new iPhone is just clean.  Almost every app I use on my phone looks pretty, and while it’s nothing something I notice on a regular basis, I DO notice it when I borrow a friend’s Android phone.  The UI is a tad more responsive (as a developer, Android ListViews kill me), and I never feel like my phone is playing catch-up with me.  I appreciate the social share buttons that are easily accessible but just pulling down on the status bar at the top.  All of the complex systems come together to form an interface and user experience that is so simple you don’t even notice how much work goes into it.

Just pull down!

I can’t say everyone should have an iPhone, and there are plenty of people out there who should get an Android.  I appreciate Samsung and what they do, because competition drives innovation.  I hope the Android OS and the hardware it runs on continues to develop and grow, forcing Apple to continue to enhance their products and make the best devices they can.  A day may come where I may switch and pick up a Samsung device, but today is not that day.

Damn You DRM!

I hate DRM of all kinds, but the most frustrating recently has been Windows 7 activations.  While I don’t have a problem with product keys themselves, Window’s self-checking of changed hardware has been driving me crazy when dealing with virtual machines.  My VM software of choice is Parallels (though VMWare Fusionis also a good one), and since the hardware in my physical desktop and virtual machine differ, Windows finds a hardware change and deactivates itself.

Damn you Windows!

“OK”, you might think, “Just reactivate online, not a huge ordeal.”  That works, but only a handful of times, in my experience thrice, before online activations stop working.  Then you have to call the Microsoft activation hotline and talk to someone on the phone.  Again, not the worst thing ever, but due to the fact I use this instance of Windows both on physical hardware an inside of a VM, I have to do this whole song and dance about once a week.

Getting frustrated with this I figured something had to be done.  I knew that Windows activations were stored in files somewhere, so backing up the activations before they self-destroy should be as simple as copying a few files, right?  It is!  And it becomes even easier with Advanced Tokens Manager.

Back dat act(ivation) up!

Hardware changes will still be recognized, with with ATM I can backup the activation files relating to each hardware setup.  Once copied over onto my NAS I can restore either activation simply by running ATM again.

Safely backed up!

Goodbye Microsoft Activation Hotline!

Life is good

As I sit waking for the 50S Eastbound bus, I can’t help but feel happy. Even though I just barely missed he last one and am guaranteed at least a 15 minute wait, it’s Friday and the weekend is here so I don’t care.

Well shit, just missed the next one because I wasn’t paying attention. Oh well.

Being Frugal ain’t Cheap

Something I’ve been practicing more and more is how to spend money wisely, and in doing so I’ve learned the difference between being frugal and being cheap. I find it extremely important to get the best bang for your buck, and recently almost all of my success has come from leveraging something that so many people use on a day to day basis: the internet.

A big part of my realization of this came today when a good friend of mine, Dan, sent me a link for a discount on Borderlands 2. I’ve been wanting to purchase the game for a while, but have been holding off while in the midst of moving to my new apartment in Saint Paul. Greenman Gaming has the game for 20% off, and you receive an additional 25% off with the coupon code GMG25-1BW0K-K1A3G. Combining those two takes a $60 game and brings it down to $36.

Holy Savings Batman!

RetailMeNot has been completely invaluable, and is an awesome service that remains completely 100% free. When Erin and I recently had to stay at a hotel, we used Hotels.com to find the cheapest (but still cleanest!) hotel in the area. We found one for $80/night, and a quick search on RetailMeNot turned up a $20 rebate code, bringing our cost to less than $75/night.

It helps a lot to look around when looking to pay for something. Anything. A big money drain for many people is their cell phone bill each month. I have a minimal plan with AT&T and it costs me roughly $90/month. I’ve been looking into alternatives, and there are many cheaper alternatives. The deceiving factor is that you do not get the subsidized pricing on phones themselves, so an iPhone 4S will cost you $650. Yes, it seems like a lot, but keep in mind that you only get the $200 pricing on an iPhone when you lock in a two year contract. A $200 phone and the 24 months of AT&T’s service ends up costing $2360. Virgin Mobile’s comparable plan only costs $35/month. While the phone is pricey up front, over the span of two years you only spend $1490, saving $870.

There are plenty of other ways to save money, as long as you research and invest a little bit of time. It becomes trickier when you can only save small amounts over time, and purchases like gas always seem to be a last-minute thing, at least for me. GasBuddy quickly helps you find the cheapest gas prices in your area. I’ve seen price differences of $0.30, and if you fill up a 20 gallon tank 4 times a month, you’re saving $24 a month. It may not seem like a ton, but after a year you save $288.

And it’s mobile!

My rule of thumb when making a purchase online has always been to Google “<;WEBSITE_NAME>; coupon/discount codes”. Worst case scenario you lose 30 seconds of your day.

It’s Back!

Erin and I are finally settled into our new apartment, and after getting the internet turned back on the blog is back up and running. Brad and Danny are up here helping me move stuff in, so I have to keep this brief as we’re getting ready to head over to Alarys Bar to watch the Bears game. DAAAA BEARS!