To Droid And Back Again

For anyone who knows me, I’m been an avid Apple user since 2000 AD.  I originally got into the iMac’s and the G4 computers because of music software, and as Jobs got back into the company and started revolutionizing the world with innovative products, naturally I was hooked.  I was around for the development of its ecosystem, from iTunes to the 1st generation iPod to the newest iPads.  My anti-apple friends consider me the quintessential Apple user, so why at the release of the iPhone 5s did I feel compelled to ditch my iPhone for a droid? And why after NOT EVEN 10 months did I need to retreat back to my iPhone? Here’s the story from me, a slightly technological layperson who values form, function and user experience over marketing and image.

I owned an iPhone 5 and was able to get my hands on the developer version of iOS7 months before it was released to the public.  Honestly it wasn’t that difficult to find the download and a detailed tutorial on how to install it on my phone with out a developer’s login.  At that time, I was just bored and restless with the iPhone.  I know I know, it’s only a phone, it works, WHO CARES, there are more important things to life –  but I enjoy design, I enjoy art, I enjoy apps, I enjoy exploring new things technological (to an extent), and I also enjoy discovering new changes and innovation.  I want to stress that my phone excitement is all about curiosity, not the feeling of temporary gratification from a new possession.  My phone doesn’t define me nor is it a status symbol.  Anyway… I was due for a phone upgrade, and as I explored iOS7, I anxiously awaited the announcement of the iPhone 5s.  I of course expected a slightly faster version of the 5 like all of the predecessors, but MAYBE there would be something new.  There wasn’t really.  All good, whatever.  I decided to “shake things up a bit” in my life and switch over to the dark side, see what everyone else was talking about, learn a new system, give myself fully over to google and see what it had to offer.  I was pumped to check out droid.

After some research, I decided to go with the Samsung S4.  I found with most of the droid phones you were making a sacrifice SOMEWHERE – either the processor was slow but the camera was awesome, or the hardware was great but the OS was behind etc… anyway, the S4 seemed most balanced so I went for it.  The UI just looks meh.  Not beautiful, not streamlined, but it didn’t matter because I could configure ANYTHING I could think of.  Right off the bat, this was a phone for FUNCTION, not for frills.  I could change anything I wanted from 3 or more angles.  It was more complicated than the iPhone for sure, but I learned it quickly.  There were countless freedoms available to me that the iPhone just didn’t offer.  A couple are: downloading attachments from emails and being able to move them around the phone FROM THE PHONE – this was great for a music producer like myself being able to build playlists without having to plug my phone into my laptop.  Downloading different file types from the internet – hey I’m driving in my friends car and someone released a free .zip of their new album?  No prob! I can download it, unzip it, and listen immediately.  If I needed to do something, ANYTHING, there was an app for it.  It didn’t limit me in any way.    It gave me many options for media purchase, media playback or readers, maps, anything.  Options from verizon, samsung, and google already came installed on the phone.  The on screen widgets were really cool, and I couldn’t wait to explore the many camera innovations!  All was well.  I broke the news to my anti-Apple friends, and they all applauded me for being the first of a what they predicted a mass migration away from iPhones and Apple in the absence of Steve Jobs.  So why did I eventually go back to an iPhone?  Because SHIT JUST DIDN’T WORK!!!!!

After about a month and a half, the frustrations set in.  The phone was slow.  I found myself looking for tool kits and clock speed boosters to make my experience just acceptable for a top-of-the-line phone.  Sure, it’s great that I COULD speed up my processor clock, but why the FUCK did I have to in the first place?!?  I do a lot of multitasking and the OS was just slow on the draw.  When I was in time pressed situations focusing on work matters I found myself waiting for screens to load, and reaction time was super slow.  There were simple things that were supposed to work and just didn’t.  A couple examples were: caller ID.  Why when someone who is stored in my contacts called me, they would not show up on caller ID?  This didn’t happen often, but happened enough.  This is a simple function that should work flawlessly every time.  I think it’s like, the 3rd priority of a cellphone, after being able to make calls, and being able to store contacts.  Also, music files that I’ve played many times in music player would randomly stop playing citing a “file error” and couldn’t be read.  WTF?!?!?  Imagine my horror sitting in an AnR meeting trying to play songs and my phone wouldn’t comply.  That actually happened.  Thanks for embarrassing me in front of my friends, droid phone.  Apps would randomly not work.  Apps would crash ALL THE TIME.  GOOGLE APPS!!!  The biggest google apps on my google phone (I’m talking Gmail and Maps) would frequently crash.  The google ecosystem itself was far from reliable.  This was exemplified when Spencer and I loaded a large group of tracks onto google drive to share with managers, writers, AnR’s, and artists.  We thought it would be great that people could stream everything, but download only what they choose.  For most people, those files wouldn’t stream despite our prep tests and cautious troubleshooting.  Oops. Bluetooth connections were very janky.  Connections to my car or friends’  jam box would frequently be lost, and the phones ability to prioritize what, where, and when to play media (music player vs. spottily vs. a podcast etc) was confusing.  Oh, and the camera… THAT FUCKING CAMERA.  No matter how still I held the phone the pictures came out blurry.  It would never capture the moment when I pressed the trigger.  The many megapixels sounded cool, but the default file sizes were so huge that I couldn’t practically share pictures.  When I tried making the resolution small enough to do so, they were small and looked shitty.  I could never dial in the right presets.  It was worse for video.  I was completely freaked when the first minute and a half video I took of my son was over 100 MB.  WTF?!?  In order to bring the file size low enough to share with friends and family via email I had to sacrifice the quality.  Then the volume buttons on the side of the phone broke – for no rhyme or reason the volume would either jump to the highest or lowest setting.  This would happen on runs and bike rides.  It would happen even if nothing was touching the buttons.  Among many things I’m a mix engineer, and that was very unsafe and dangerous.  Eventually when I started doing more blogging from my phone, I couldn’t effectively jump from app to app and move things around like I needed in order to keep a continuing flow of creativity.  That’s when I said screw it and found a used iPhone 5 on eBay.

****Note – a common fear of the open philosophy of droid phones that I’ve always heard about were horribly created apps that could possibly carry viruses, and that the app stores are a shit show.  While I can easily deduce this to be true, I myself never experienced anything so bad worth writing about.

Praise the Lord it was good to be back.  I had missed that iPhone experience which was controlled, slick, fast, and catered to my needs perfectly.  The transitions between apps and screens were smooth and promoted an ease of use that was lost on my S4.  Overall, I can sum up my experience like this: most people spend a lot of time on their phones for business, pleasure, or otherwise.  While apple phones create a polished, streamlined, beautiful environment to make using a phone fun and easy, it sets very cautious parameters for the users.  Technological innovation at high levels can’t happen here.  It will happen on a droid phone, where everything is free and open.  That freedom though comes with with a price, and that price is the chaos one experiences while living in the wild wild west of tech innovation.  For me personally, I don’t need those freedoms if it’s just gonna fuck my shit up.  While we may think it’s unruly and quite presumptuous for Apple to think: “hey, we’re going to make things this way and ONLY this way because whether the user knows it or not, the user will WANT it this way,” but guess what, they pretty much nailed it.  I don’t want anyone telling me how I want my shit, I want to decide that for myself, but ya know what, Apple saved me a lot of trouble by making some key decisions for me.  So while I can complain how they ruined iTunes, or how their Maps app just blows, in the end they got a lot of stuff right for me and for other people.  I didn’t necessarily realize this fully until I fully experienced droid for myself.  So thanks droid, I owe ya.  It might be great to have all the freedoms, but it might not be BEST, and at the end of the day, I just want to product that will work right, work smart, and help me achieve my goals.  And with that, does anyone wanna buy an S4?