Monday, November 12, 2012

What's the best mobile OS?

Haha now that's a loaded question if there ever was one isn't it? That's also a question whose answer will be extremely subjective. In fact it's impossible to answer it in a purely objective fashion. Why? Because it's primarily a matter of opinion, what will be good for one person might not be good for another and vice versa. But in today's post I will attempt to answer it as objectively as possible. The way I plan on handling this is by trying to determine for which type of person the major mobile operating system's are best for.

Android logo
Now starting us off will be the Google made, world dominating Android OS. Android has over 60% of the global market share. That is a huge number. But just because something is popular, doesn't mean it's the best, or even good, right Justin Bieber?

Functionality: Now there is no denying that Android OS is functional. In fact it could be argued it is one of the most function and feature filled operating systems currently available for mobile. Because of Android's open nature almost anything can and has been done with it. The little green robot has been put in fridges, laptops, phones, tablets, cars, homes, and even glasses! Android is extremely versatile, functional, capable, and customizable. You can write an app to do practically anything as the Android SDK is one of the most open out there, and doesn't have the same restrictions as some of the other ones. Android is also usually one of the first to have new technologies adopted to it.

Customization: Again no denying that Android is the go to OS for those who are seeking to customize their phone and make it their own. Virtually every aspect of the operating system can be changed to suit your needs and wants. Don't like the pre-installed contacts, calendar, keyboard, dialer, camera, browser app? No problem there's an alternative in the Play store for each and every one of those. Don't like the home screen? There's even a replacement for that. Android is the only mobile OS that offers such extensive customizing, going far enough to allow for system and core apps to be replaced. If you're an advanced user then the options are virtually endless, but even for the average consumer a simple search in the Play store will lead you to all the alternatives.

Hardware: Now if you like choice in hardware and design Android once again has the upper hand here. It is available on every imaginable shape, size and form. It has had dual-screens as well as phablet devices (phones bordering on tablet size) and phones with different keyboard styles. They've done candy bar, slide, flip and more. If you want a phone a certain size you can find one running Android to meet your needs. They have devices ranging to fit any budget from the cheapest buggiest phones, to the top of the line high-end flagships that make your neighbors drool in envy. Because of its versatility Android has been adopted into endless forms and devices and don't expect to see that trend end any time soon.

Software: When it comes to software Android has been described in many ways, ranging from the most horribly, disastrous, buggy software you have ever used, to intuitive, sleek, fluid, and blazing fast. It has been skinned, and re-skinned, and then skinned again, as well as enjoyed in it's stock vanilla form. It has also undergone drastic changes to it's user interface throughout the years, from the somewhat ugly geeky feel in the early 1.0-.1.6 software versions to being described as beautiful, sophisticated, and enjoyable in recent times. More so with the introduction of 4.0+. Now because it's so open which can be good, it also can be bad, which is best seen here. Because there's so many different software versions and skin overlays circulating at any time, software updates are abysmal at best, with it often being a game of guessing. This has also led to fragmentation and phones releasing with year old software or worse and even high end devices never getting major updates less than a year after release. The one exception to this has always been the Nexus line of phones which are guaranteed support and updates straight from Google, and are called a pure Google experience. However this has been slowly improving especially once Google started cracking down on updates. Historically HTC has been one of the best phone manufacturer's to keep up with major software updates as well as supporting older devices. Samsung used to be one of the worst at this however, they have certainly improved drastically in recent times.

Apps: Applications are the life blood of any mobile OS. They fail or succeed, rise or fall based primarily on this one important factor. Keeping that in mind, Android has certainly done quite well for itself. Almost catching up to Apple and their iOS app store despite their having a considerable time advantage over Android. They have hundreds of thousands of apps, a majority of which are free, more so than on iOS. However the quality is arguably not quite up to par with iOS apps. One are Android is definitely lacking, particularly in comparison to iOS is tablet optimized and tablet specific apps. While most apps will run on tablets there aren't nearly as many apps optimized to take advantage of the extra screen real estate as on the iPad, or even to take full advantage of all the features. Many of them simply feel like scaled up versions as the ones you use on your phone already. It's somewhat disappointing to say the least.

Ecosystem: Android started off quite poor in this respect, but Google quickly realized the importance of a
good healthy ecosystem to the mobile industry. Since then, boy have they grown with it. The Android Market has undergone a number of revisions throughout the years, both visually as well as the kind of content they contain. And most recently re-branding to the Play Store. The Play store is now a one stop show that offers apps, movies, books, magazines, and TV shows. And they offer a lot of them. Thousands upon thousands. They've also done a phenomenal job of integrating all their services together. If you use many Google services and want the best mobile experience on them, Android is the obvious choice hands down. Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, Books, Music, Maps, even Chrome! They all integrate seamlessly into your Android device.

What does this all mean? It means Android has come a long way since its inception. It is now a matured dominating competitor to Apple's iOS. It has taken the market by storm completely dominating it, and now offers an enjoyable experience on par or better than it's competitor's. Google has listened to the complaints and outcries of it's loyal consumers and has drastically improved it in a relatively short time. Android can now offer an amazing truly premium experience on any of its flagship devices and now even many of it's mid-range devices.

Who is it good for? Anybody who already heavily uses Google services will feel right at home with Android, and love all the seamless integration. Those who love to customize to their hearts content and make their devices truly theirs. And those who want the greatest and latest technology mobile has to offer. Those looking for a powerful robust mobile operating solution, will enjoy what Android has to offer, and those who like free apps.

Next up is the second most popular mobile operating system in the world, holding over 20% of the market share; the device/os that revolutionized what a smartphone was, and what they could do and how they worked comes iOS on iPhone and iPad. Now comparing iOS to other operating systems has always been a bit tricky because it only comes on two devices, the iPhone and the iPad. Both of which are made by Apple and both of which usually only see one new updated model annually along with the new version of iOS. I will attempt to discuss primarily the software but will need to cover the hardware at times, when I do I will refer to the iPhone 5 unless otherwise noted.

Functionality: iOS re-imagined what a smartphone was, what it could do, what it should do, and how it did it. It did this through the use of apps. When the iPhone launched in 2007 it featured the first truly touch friendly operating system ever seen on a mobile device. It was wonderful, gone were the days of needing to use a stylus to use an operating system that was never optimized for touch in the first place. They introduced the use of Apps and the rest is history.However when compared to Android the iOS SDK is more limited. iOS in itself is closed off and very protective. Only the apps Apple expressly allows ever make it to the user. And apps don't integrate themselves very well with the rest of the phone or other apps, with the exception of system apps and a handful of others. Overall this makes iOS less adaptable and probably the reason we've yet to see it in anything other than iPhone or iPad.

Customization: Apple has improved this aspect over the years allowing you to use a picture as your wallpaper on your home screen, as well as the lock screen. However that's still about the extent of the customizing you're allowed. You can move your app icons around and make folders but that's it. No system app can be replaced as Apple doesn't like duplicating functionality. So if you don't like the keyboard, or dialer, contacts or other system app, tough luck you're stuck with it.

Hardware: iOS only comes available on iPhone or iPad. Apple releases one new iPhone and iPad per year, with the exception of this year where they launched 3 iPads. They usually come in various different memory sizes, which are non expandable, and the newest version of iOS tends to launch with the newest iPhone. We are currently on iPhone 5 which in actuality is the 6th generation, as indicated by iOS 6. The iPhone features beautiful and world-class design. With everything about it saying premium. It features LTE and a larger 4" retina display for the first time. They gave a new lightning connector, an improved 8MP camera, a faster dual-core processor and the back is now carved out of aluminum. Overall it is an extremely nice premium looking and feeling device. The new iPad features a same design as previous models, adding a faster dual-core processor, retina display and LTE. The retina display is only found on the full sized model the iPad mini having a much lower resolution. The advantage to this is, you know your hardware will be supported for a couple of years at least seeing as how even the iPhone 3GS got iOS 6, albeit a stripped down version but that's more than can be said for many an Android handset. You also know when you buy an iPhone or iPad that it will be the newest model for the next year, with the exception of this year where they launched a newer 4th gen iPad 6 months after launching the new iPad. However it is, the only device that will come out for that year. This means you have no real choice in hardware for iOS. If you want the newest and greatest hardware and software you need the iPhone or iPad that year. It doesn't matter if you wanted a bigger screen or different design. That's the iPhone you have to buy and use for the next year if you want the newest Apple has to offer. However this does mean Apple will likely never make its mobile users suffer from the woes of fragmentation.

Software: iOS has always been described as a fast, fluid, and beautiful operating system. "It just works." However it has also been repeatedly called boring, bland, old, uninspiring, and unoriginal. The reason being in the 6 operating system revisions there have been since it's release the UI has never once been changed. Sure it's been tweaked and improved, like adding folders, and the notification shade (which had been on Android since the beginning) but never anything major or even notable. In fact it was so bland that for the first couple of years you couldn't change the wallpaper behind your apps on the home screen, it was just a black space. However it does tend to work very well with few if any bugs. They added limited multi-tasking which functions more like task switching, however it helps control the impact on performance and battery life. One thing that this provides iOS, which Android is desperately lacking is a uniform and consistent experience. If you pick up an iOS device you know what you're getting, what you're signing up for, and what to expect for the next year or so. The same can't be said for Android where you never know what your experience will be like when picking up a new device.

Apps: iOS takes the lead here in both quantity, and quality. The appstore will likely reach a billion apps before the Play store does however, not by much. Where iOS does lead is in the quality of the apps particularly games. It's a reason mobile game developers tend to develop for iOS first and release there first. However, this also means there's more apps you have to buy on iOS than on Android. In fact the same game or app that's free on Android might be $.99 or more on iOS. While this is negligible for most it does add to the total cost of ownership for an iOS device. iOS is also destroying the competition when it comes to tablet specific and tablet optimized applications.

Ecosystem: Nobody understands ecosystem better than Apple. They have done a brilliant job incorporating iOS into their already existing ecosystem. If you own a majority of Apple products, then the iPhone is the device for you. iOS syncs through the iTunes store which is where all your songs, movies, books, apps, magazines, and TV shows go. You buy any of those on your iPhone or Mac, or PC and it can be synced across your account. Have an Apple tv? Brilliant you can easily stream your content from iPhone or iPad or Mac to your television. All your music and photos on iTunes? Great syncing them will be a breeze. Apple knew how to build an ecosystem, and better yet they knew how to integrate iOS seamlessly into it. Nobody has Apple beat in terms of ecosystem. Though they better keep an eye out as their competition is definitely not taking it lying down.

What does this all mean? It means buying a device running iOS is an investment. And a fairly safe one at that. You know your device will get major timely updates for the next 2 years minimum, and you know for the most part it will just work and how you need it to. You also know you're getting a consistent experience across all your iOS devices, even if that experience is a boring, simplistic seemingly outdated one. There's something to be said about consistency.

Who is it good for? Anybody who already owns Apple products or is invested in iTunes. iOS offers the best integration experience for syncing content between iTunes. Anybody who doesn't want to put time into figuring out their device, or really worrying about how to use it. People who care about security, Apple's strict app vetting process, and closed OS makes it much more secure than Android and it's open solutions. Older folks who have trouble learning how to use new technology. It doesn't require much to know how to press on the picture for what you need. Anyone looking for a consistent experience across their iOS devices even when they upgrade to a new one.

Thanks for reading, comment below to let me know what you thought, also stay tuned for a probable part two where I'll likely try to cover Windows Phone and Blackberry OS.

Also technorati verification code: 6GQCNQ4RARH8

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Phone?

So, those who know me know that I'm not the kind of person to keep one phone very long. The longest amount of time I've ever kept a smartphone was 6 months. That seems to be my limit, around that point I start going nuts. I'm already decided on getting the Nexus 4 and hopefully that will hold me over until the next 6 months pass. But today's post isn't about me, it's about you dear reader. How long do you keep your phones? And why do you keep them for that length? The reason I upgrade every 6 months is because I love mobile technology and particularly having the newest and greatest phone. But I was recently in a discussion with a number of people who have very old phones, and not just old for the mobile industry but 2+ years. They've told me they have an upgrade waiting but just haven't felt the need to change. I initially tried to convert them over to the smartphone world, but they knew all that the newest smartphones were capable of. They had seen it all before they were just genuinely content with their phones. Some of them weren't very old in their 20's, and I eventually stopped trying to persuade them after seeing how happy they were with their phones. So tell me reader's do you upgrade every 2 years and sign a new contract? Are you absolutely against contracts and buy full retail? Do you upgrade whenever you want? Or are you like what seems to be the minority, who can upgrade but don't want to? Do you have an old phone with an upgrade waiting, but just haven't seen the need to upgrade? Do you plan on changing soon, or will you hold onto your current phone until it completely dies on you? Or are you waiting to see if you get a new phone for the Christmas? Comment below and let me know, I'm curious.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tablet Holiday Shopping Guide (Part 2)

Kindle Fire HD
Another great entry into the 7" market and the ones who started the demand for them is the Amazon Kindle Fire. Now they introduced an HD version for the same price point of the original. The new Kindle Fire HD sports a 7" 1280 x 800 display, Dolby audio speakers, dual Wi-Fi antenna for faster speeds, and a dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor. Now the device runs a heavily modified version of Android 2.3 to the point that it's not recognizable as an Android tablet. This however, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Amazon replaces all of Google's services with their own, the most obvious difference being it doesn't come with the Play Store instead having the Amazon app store. If you have an Amazon Prime account already and have previously used their app store this shouldn't be a problem. In fact their Prime integration is phenomenal allowing access to the entire instant streaming collection as well as the Prime e-book library. Their app store also has most of the big name apps for example, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now what does this all mean? This is first and foremost a content consumption device. Don't expect to do a lot of work on this thing, but do plan to watch videos, read books, listen to music, browse the web, and play games on it. It's well suited to the task and should handle all your media well. The speakers on it are quite impressive. Who is this for? Anyone who's just looking to handle media and lots of it. But anyone with an Amazon Prime account or who actively uses their app store will benefit the most from the device. Amazon has done a good job on integrating their services. The best part is the 16GB version starts at $199 and $249 for 32GB. However, at these prices ads and offers will appear on your lock screen. You can either spend $15 extra for an ad free experience at checkout or later on as an additional purchase through the device. Either way hard to beat the price.

iPad Mini
Apple also released their own competitor for the 7" market in the form of their iPad Mini. It features a 7.9" 1024 x 768 display making it the lowest resolution 7" tablet discussed here. It's powered by an older A5 dual-core processor and has a Face time HD 1.2MP camera, and a 5MP iSight camera on the back capable of 1080p HD recording. It also has the new lightning connector requiring you to buy the $29 adapter to use your old accessories with it. It ships with iOS 6 and will be able to run all your standard iPad apps scaled down to size. Now what does this mean? It means it's intended more for the on the go media consumption, but should handle most tasks you throw at it. However Apple priced it at a premium over its competitors, starting at $329 for the 16Gb, $429 for the 32GB, and $529 for the 64GB versions. An LTE version is also available on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T for an additional $130, thus bringing the starting price for 16GB with LTE to $459. The significant price difference between its competitors makes this a difficult product to recommend. So who is this for? People who are already invested in iOS 6 and the Apple ecosystem. If they already own an Apple product, use iTunes, or own an iPhone, and are looking for a 7" tablet this will be the product for them. Also those searching for a simpler easy to use interface will benefit from iOS.

Surface with Windows RT
And last but not least are the slew of Microsoft RT tablets coming to market particularly the Microsoft made Surface tablet. Now it runs Windows RT which is a tablet specific version of Windows and won't be able to run standard programs only those coming through the new Microsoft Store. It's priced to compete with the iPad coming in at $499 for the 32GB flavor. Now when you first see it, it's quite impressive and everything about the device screams premium. It features a 10.6" 1366 x 768 HD display, a built in kickstand around back, the body is a VaporMg casing making it durable yet light. It offers up a microSDXC card slot for up to an additional 64GB of storage. It has a full USB port, and dual Wi-Fi antennas. It has front and back facing camera's both of which are capable of filming in 720p HD. It's powered by a dual-core NVIDIA processor along with 2GB of RAM. What does this all mean? It's a premium device with a premium price. It looks and feels great and runs buttery smooth. However, because it runs Windows RT it is restricted to apps and can't run full desktop programs. It does come pre-loaded with a full version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013. Which is made all the more useful by the optional touch covers which transform from screen covers into full blown keyboards with track pads. I have to admit that the keyboard works much better than I thought it would. However if you absolutely need a full version of Windows 8 Pro you're better off waiting for the Surface Pro. Who is this for? People who mainly want to use apps and have a great mobile touch friendly interface but need to do some serious work occasionally. Students will also make great use of this device with the included Office software. however the Touch cover which brings this together and makes it productive will run you an additional $119, which may deter some consumers. Overall Microsoft has done a good job creating a mobile touch optimized OS that is also useful for working on. The touch cover is truly phenomenal and adds much value to the device.

Well I hope you all enjoyed my little guide and find it a little easier to get the right tablet for the right person. Have fun shopping!

P.S it would mean a lot to me if you checked out this person's blog here. She's awesome and writes about life and cool stuff. You'll also possibly get a cookie too! 
*disclaimer* cookie may be poisonous and fictitious. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tablet Holiday Shopping Guide (Part 1)

As I've mentioned before in a previous post competition is a good thing. It leads to choice among consumers, and choice usually means lower prices all around. The holiday season tends to be one of the busiest times in the mobile industry. Manufacturer's all around are looking to release their products in time to be picked up as a Christmas present. This year is shaping up to be one of the busiest seasons ever. Today I'm looking to try and make the tech shopping process easier. Tablets have become a very popular gift, and while they initially carried a hefty price point in recent months they've dropped down in price. So now you've got all these new shiny well priced tablets to pick from, and it can be overwhelming; especially when you want to be sure to get the best possible tablet for the person you're shopping for.

First up I'll discuss the world's most popular tablet the iPad. Last month Apple came out with their 4th generation iPad with retina display. It features a gorgeous 9.7" 2048 x 1536 resolution display. It runs the newest iOS 6, and features a dual-core A6X processor with quad-core graphics processing. Now what does this all mean? That it should run buttery smooth and be great for content consumption. Now the downside to this is it's pricing. The 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB cost $499, $599, and $699 respectively. The LTE enabled versions cost $130 more for the same storage. LTE is available on Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. Now who is this good for? Someone who already owns an iPhone, or iPod touch will benefit a little more from this as they'll be able to use all their same apps across their devices. Also someone who isn't very tech savvy or is looking for a very simple operating system will be able to pick it up relatively quick. Someone who is also looking for top quality mobile games will also be pleased with the iPad.

Transformer Pad Infinity
Next up is the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity. Now this device can easily go toe to toe with the iPad and is generally one of the best Android tablets to date. It features a 10.1" 1920 x 1200 Super IPS+ display. It's hard to describe how beautiful the display looks in person, and although it's a slightly lower resolution than the iPad it's negligible. The design itself says premium with a metallic spun finish on the back. They also made it incredibly bright capable of outside viewing with ease. It's powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor with a 12-core graphics processor, and 1GB of RAM. It runs Android 4.0 (ICS) with a promise to upgrade to Jellybean (4.1) and considering ASUS' track record of timely updates it shouldn't be too far. Now what does this all mean? It means that this thing will blow through whatever you throw at it. It will be great for content consumption with that gorgeous display, and then throw in the optional dock, and you turn it into a notebook and you've got a toy for work and play. Now it starts at $499 for the 32GB version providing you with twice the storage as the iPad for the same price. Now the optional dock will run you $149 but it adds extra battery power, a full keyboard, multi-touch track pad, full USB port, and an SD card slot. Who is it good for? Those who already own an Android device so their apps will carry over. Also anyone looking for a slick device to consume content on but also get some work done. Those who like to carry around their media will also benefit as it provides twice the storage for the same price as an iPad along with expandable storage via the SD card slot. People who love customization will also enjoy this device as Android is unparalleled in terms of customization.

Now so far these have all been some pricey and high-end devices. But the days of needing to drop a few hundred dollars for a good performing tablet are over. So now for some of the best budget friendly tablets.

Nexus 7
Starting us off is the ASUS made Nexus 7. Now this device was made as a response to the sudden demand for a cheaper but still powerful small and portable tablet created by Amazon's Kindle Fire devices. The tablet features a 7" 1280 x 800 display and while it might seem low to some because it's only 7 inches it looks beautiful. Under the hood it's powered by a Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Now where it really sets itself apart is in the pricing, for the 16GB version it starts at $199, $249 for 32GB, and $299 to add HSPA+ (unlocked.) Now this is a pretty hard package to beat especially when you add in NFC, Android 4.1, and a 1.2MP front facing camera. Also keep in mind since it's a nexus device it will be supported by Google in the long term and with timely software updates. So what does this all mean? That the tablet will run smoothly and breeze through most tasks, it'll also be great for consuming content on the go. So who should get this? Anyone really, it's portable high powered and will be well supported. It's especially well suited to anyone who just wants to browse the web, watch HD video, or play some cool games on the go.

Continue to Part 2 here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mobile News Quickie Roundup

Starting us off on this little mobile news recap is T-Mobile who today provided us with an update on their 1900MHz refarming process. They announced this morning that they had finished refarming their HSPA+ network in three more cities. Those cities being Houston, Texas, Washington D.C, and Baltimore, Maryland.  The network restructuring in these areas will allow unlocked devices supporting the 1900MHz band to now access the faster HSPA+ network. This includes the iPhone, most international devices, and a good chunk of unlocked AT&T phones. And all devices should see improved network performance in general including enhanced voice and data coverage. Specifically T-Mobile says these areas should see the improvements:

  • Houston: Cypress, Jersey Village, Humble, Kingwood, and The Woodlands.
  • Washington D.C.: Alexandria, VA; Arlington, VA; Chevy Chase, MD; Falls Church, VA; Laurel, MD; McLean, VA; and Silver Spring, MD.
  • Baltimore: Glen Burnie and Towson, MD.
They also remind us that they will be continuing their work in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Seattle, and New York City. With this the total number of markets upgraded comes up to 5 with Kansas City, and Las Vegas. They expect to upgrade more markets by end of the year.
Next up in the news comes Sprint, who today announced that they will be purchasing US Cellular spectrum, and customers in the mid-west for $480 million. The areas affected by the sale will include Chicago, St. Louis, Central Illinois, and three other mid-west markets. The sale will affect 580,000 Us Cellular customers or about 10% of their total customer base. Sprint says they plan to use their purchased spectrum to further along their Network Vision plans in the mentioned markets. For those who are unaware of what Network Vision is, it's Sprints plan to improve their networks in various metropolitan markets, improving 3G speeds, voice network, and bring LTE to various markets over the next couple of years. The deal is expected to close sometime mid 2013 and Sprint will announce more details once that date is closer.
Rounding out our news quickie is AT&T who today announced their $14 billion investment plan Project Velocity IP (VIP). Through the end of 2014 AT&T plans on investing $8 billion into their wireless network and $6 billion into their wire line broadband network. They also announced they expect to cover over 300 million customers with LTE by the end of 2014. They also remind us that they've already acquired spectrum from over 40 deals (some of which are still awaiting approval) this year and have plans to get more. 

Overall lots of announcements going on today and the three networks showing an increased commitment to improving their networks.