Sunday, June 2, 2013

From iPhone to phablet: The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

I made the right choice.  Using the Samsung SCH-1605, also known as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, also known as "that ridiculously huge phone," has changed the role that the phone has in my life.  I enjoy the technical parsimony expressed as a device that I can use as a VOIP terminal, an alarm clock, an Internet terminal, a technical and religious reference library, a music library, a music store, a video library, a video store, a video player for 1080i HD TV, a speaker phone, a camera, an audio recorder, a video recorder, a GPS, a task-list organizer, a location-based reminder system, a digital drawing tablet, and a guitar tuner.  Oh, and it makes phone calls.

Having it has essentially caused me to stop using my Kindle Fire, just as getting my MacBook Air caused me to stop using my iPad.  This is what I like to do with devices.  I would rather use a device that is a slight compromise, such as reading on a slightly smaller screen, when doing so allows me to eliminate another device altogether.  The Android Kindle app doesn't work as well as the OS-integrated system on the Kindle Fire, but it's good enough.  The screen is a bit smaller than I like, but it's a different thing altogether than reading on the iPhone 4.  It's big enough.  As you might can surmise, I use my tablet for reading a lot.  I read a lot.  It's important.

While it is technically true that the iPhone does all these things, doing so requires very tight integration with iTMS (the iTunes Music Service), Mac OSX-based computers, and subsequent engagement in the Apple MacOSX world for media purchase and management.  That used to be more okay with me than it is now.  I am wary of Apple now that Steve Jobs is dead.  They seem to me to be more like Hewlett-Packard and less like Google with their new leadership.  I can't imagine that insights as unique and counter-intuitive as "the customer doesn't know what they want" are being flung around the current boardroom.

Samsung is dedicated to their vision of quality and meeting customer demand.  That's a dangerous road, lots of companies stumble in head-long pursuit of sales and ruin themselves.  Samsung hasn't done that, in my view, yet.  I'm hoping they have some leadership with a larger vision than stock dividends and sales margins. I have a Samsung TV and Microwave, too.  I recommend them both.

Using Android invites tight integration with Google for media management, but it doesn't require it.  The APIs are open, you can do other things, or nothing.  I personally trust Google enough to engage it with my media management and purchases.  I've been giving the company money in one form or another for years, they have never surprised me.  They do what they say they will do, I never find that I missed some important detail in some small print later.  When changes impact me, they are in large print and I have to click check-boxes and provide my password to indicate affirmatively that I noticed the changes and declined getting further information about them to agree.  That's what I want.

I can buy applications and media content for the device from either Amazon or Google.  It is easy to manage my own content that I have converted to a suitable format.  It's very much like any other computer in that sense.  There's about 70GB of space, I can put what I want where I want it.  It's not some black box that I toss items into and use some other filter to view later.  It's a computer.  I have it set-up in a way that makes sense to me.

This is also the "weakness" of Android in some people's eyes, and I fully grant the view respect.  This is where the discussion of "quality" in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance becomes so relevant.

I have two friends, both of whom I have tremendous respect for as technical professionals.  I active seek their advice in their areas of expertise.  They are in separate industries, in separate roles.  They both regard my preference for Android as politically/dogmatically motivated.  They will both say "I want my phone to work.  It's not my hobby."

True dat.  I'm still working on getting the my new phone set-up the way I want it.  I will probably be tinkering with it constantly for the life of the device.  I didn't do that with the iPhone.  Once I had it set-up, I didn't change it for years.  But, I put it down and picked up my Kindle when I wanted to read, and I used my MacBook Air when I wanted to watch video content.  Now I do all that with the same device, and I tinker with it constantly.  Sometimes, it is not intuitive and I lose patience with it for a moment.  That almost never happened on the iPhone.

To put it succinctly for those who have not read the book, the discussion about quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance used two motorcycles as objects.  The author rode a bike which required constant attention and tinkering, but this attention to the bike cause him to experience a sense of connection with his life that he muses he might have otherwise missed.  His companion rode an expensive BMW that went to the shop when something went wrong.  His companion just wanted his bike to work.  He thought he had the better bike, the author thought he had the better bike. One of the reasons the story is so powerful is that these views are never neatly reconciled in the narrative.  Without stating so, the author thus reveals (to me, anyway) that these views can't be reconciled.  They're views, both illusory, both Truth.  Truth is illusion.

One has to get involved with their iPhone for a while to get it personalized.  The stock configuration is okay, but those who don't go beyond it are not as well-served by the device.  The stock deployment of Android is pretty, but not very substantial as a user interface.  Exploiting the full power of Android requires a near-hacker level of commitment to trouble-shooting and tweaking, but the potential is there for this nirvana of technical parsimony I have experienced.

When I have my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 with me, I am in possession of the only device I really need to pull all my technical levers personally (I need a computer for work).   When I had my iPhone with me, I had a way to stay connected, but if I really wanted to do anything other than communicate, listen to music or take pictures I needed another device.  For me, that makes this the better phone.

I can't tell you whether or not the iPhone is better for you.  I had a high school football coach first use this example (which later became almost cliche'), and it lives in my life 40 years later:
"'s like Ham and Eggs, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed."
The iPhone user benefits from involvement with their phone, the Android user benefits more from commitment.