I’m a long time smartphone user (since 2005) and have been a vocal webOS advocate since it was announced back in 2009. I’ve used Windows Mobile 2003, 5, and 6, webOS 1-3, Android 1.6-2.2 and now iOS 5. I have tested many other mobile operating systems (i.e. BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Phone) but I have always made my decisions based on my needs at the time. I don’t want to get into a mobile OS holy war in this article, but I thought I’d share my take on the iPhone 4s and why I picked it over the other worthy options.
What I needed
A lot of phones can do all the basic functions. Good browser, email, apps, etc. but when I really considered what was most important to me right now it boiled down to these 5 things.
- Not being on Verizon
- A really good camera (video and stills)
- Longevity of support
- Cutting edge apps
- Good battery life
Here’s why I picked the iPhone 4s over the other options for the above essentials that I had.
This really comes down to the fact that I have been with Verizon since 2005 and the new house I bought gets horrible Verizon signal. My last apartment wasn’t ideal Verizon real estate either. I have had multiple friends come over with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile and all have better signal than any Verizon phone. And let me tell you, dropping calls on the nations most reliable network is just as annoying as dropping calls on the nations most hated network.
Plus Verizon was making moves that I didn’t want to be a part of (selling customer information), and they didn’t have any compelling plans that made me want to stay. My new 2 line family plan on AT&T is cheaper than my single phone line on Verizon was. If I had gone with Sprint or T-Mobile it would have been even less.
A Really Good Camera
I have a 4 year old Cannon point and shoot camera that I have used as my sole still and video recorder. It did great for what I needed it for but my need for an even better camera (especially video) is about to become exponentially greater on or around mid-December. Sure most smartphone camera’s are just fine when taking pictures, but I don’t want something that’s “just fine” I want something that will make carrying a second camera obsolete and save me money. I had briefly debated getting a micro 3/4 camera and a phone with a crappy camera but the age old saying “the best camera is the one you have with you” kept playing in my mind like a broken record.
The best smartphone cameras in the past year have been the Samsung Galaxy line, Nokia, and Apple. When looking at reason three for my smartphone requirements, both Samsung and Nokia are out of the running.
Longevity of Support
Why should I care if I get a phone that is supported for 2+ years? Because being on an outdated phone sucks. Windows Mobile was the worst for longevity of support. Once a phone came out to market the only chance you would ever get updated to a new version of the OS was if there were a critical flaw or gaping security vulnerability in your phone. Instead you had to turn to the ROM community to build you something that would be updated and keep your phone functional until your 2 year contract was up, or your had to learn how to cook up one of your own ROMs in the kitchen and try a new recipe every week until you found something that didn’t taste like frozen poop.
Could you survive on the OS that came on the phone when it was new? Probably not. The original mobile operating system was so full of bugs and bloatware that after a few months of use you had to restart every other day just to send or receive phone calls. Today is a far cry from what Windows Mobile used to be (well, except for Android) but webOS has no future (*tear*) and Nokia with Meego is dead. Windows Phone 7 is just getting started but it’s still a little unclear where it will be in two years. That left me with Android and iOS.
From my experience iOS has been crap in versions 1-3. Version 4 just started to show some promise and 5 was the first version I was willing to try full time. Once I get a stable jailbrake I think I could actually live with this operating system. Some of the fundamentals of the OS (jumping back and forth between the home screen, and needing to load specific apps for certain actions) are so dated it’s scary. And the textures! BLAH! Could it be any worse looking? I don’t like where iOS is going but I like where they are right now for at least the next year (maybe two).
Android on the other hand I hate where they are right now. They can’t make up their mind how they want to manage their platform and up until Ice Cream Sandwich they didn’t seem to have a clear goal of where they wanted to go. I think they know that and will probably be somewhere really cool in about a year and a half.
If the Galaxy Nexus weren’t exclusive to Verizon it probably would have been my next phone and I would have just lived with not-as-good pictures and charging my phone all the time.
My biggest problem with iOS is the fact that I don’t have any other Apple computers and don’t care about their ecosystem. On the other hand, I use Google’s ecosystem daily and can’t wait until they merge Chrome OS with Android (A la splashtop). My dream phone (webOS excluded) would be a 4″ Google Nexus device with Chrome OS splashtop and a good 11″ laptop dock. I think it will happen, but not for another 6-8 months, and it’ll need 12 months to mature.
Cutting Edge Apps
I write about technology part time. No I don’t make my living off of it but between writing about how to do things in mobile and people asking me about what phone they should get it makes having a non-mainstream OS a little bit hard. Heck, having never used an iPhone full time before was probably one of the main reasons I didn’t recommend it to many people. But the fact that I had an Android phone full time for a while also made me not recommend Android. It was too complicated and buggy for my dad to use. Although that didn’t stop him from getting one and making me root it and load a custom ROM anyway.
When it comes down to my ability to write about and recommend new technology, I have to be able to use it too. Even if I got the latest Android phone, there was no guarantee that the app I wanted would run on it because the app store isn’t unified like it is on Windows Phone, webOS, or iOS. While Android does have a lot of cool apps and it is more open than iOS, if I had picked the wrong phone, I might as well have stayed on webOS.
If the best camera is the one you have with you, then the best camera you have with you is the one that can hold a charge. I have been in too many situation with a dead camera battery (my past phones included). The iPhone has been notorious for having good battery life and I can easily go a full day (6am – 10pm) with wifi, 3g, and bluetooth on. I don’t even bring a charger to work anymore because it is that reliable for me. This kind of battery life is one of the main reasons I don’t care about LTE right now. Call me in a year when they unify the chips and don’t have laptop sized batteries just so you can run > 6 hours. By that time LTE will be so saturated that it still may not be worth it.
All this to say, while Android figures out what it wants to do long term, and while webOS continues to die a slow meaningless death. I’ll sit back and watch where they go, including WP7+, and wait on a stable OS that knows where it’s at. Even if I don’t care for how some things work or the ecosystem I’m a part of, at least I have what I need right now. Your needs are probably different than mine, and you should pick for yourself what is most important to you before you listen to someone else’s holy mobile doctrine.