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Why I Bought an iPhone Over Everything Else

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 21 2011

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.

  1. Not being on Verizon
  2. A really good camera (video and stills)
  3. Longevity of support
  4. Cutting edge apps
  5. Good battery life

Here’s why I picked the iPhone 4s over the other options for the above essentials that I had.

Not Verizon

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.

Battery Life

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.

Conclusion

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.

WebOS 2.0 Wishlist

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jul 12 2010

I have been a webOS advocate since I first installed the emulator on my computer and saw just what the software could do. WebOS has seen some much needed updates over the past year but there are still some things that I feel are lacking or even completely missing as it is today. I just wanted to put together a wishlist of features I would love to see in webOS 2.0.

Gmail integration – This is obviously something that Android does great and even Blackberry’s have great support for. WebOS however is lacking some key features when it comes to Gmail. Even if webOS simply got Gmail tagging and archiving down that would probably be good enough for my mobile needs. Gmail as it currently stands just leaves something to be desired on webOS.

Google Navigation – One of my favorite features on any modern mobile platforms is Google Maps. When using an Android phone that experience is amplified 1000% by the simple fact that if I want to search for something I can get free turn-by-turn directions to my destination. Google has already said Google Navigation will be coming to more mobile platforms, let’s just hope webOS is one of them.

Unified preferences app – It is great that you can have a whole page of the menu for preferences, but it really should all be combined in one app for device preferences. This not only includes sounds, notifications, screen brightness, and bluetooth, but it should also have things like email accounts, chat accounts etc. This way you can go one place for everything and not have to open up individual programs to find the settings for your email/chat/calendar/etc.

Customize quick menu I was informed that this is possible just the same way you can reorganize the launcher menu. I had no idea but I feel like an idiot now that I never tried it. – This can be accomplished with an easy hack, but what if I don’t want my contacts on my quick menu? I have too many contacts to scroll through anyway. In order for me to find anyone I need to call I use the universal search feature. I just don’t understand why this feature hasn’t been there all along.

On screen keyboard – I got used to the Pre’s keyboard faster than I thought I would. The keys are a little cramped but the layout is one of the best I have ever used. That being said, sliding open the Pre for all typing gets to be a hassle. The lack of voice recognition and on screen keyboard actually makes me prefer the Pixi’s form factor more than the Pre’s. If webOS had either speech recognition or on-screen keyboard the Pre’s form factor would be the clear winner.

Speech to text – I typically am not one to like voice recognition software but sometimes it comes in really handy. If I want to place a call while driving, or do a quick search in Google or IMDB, typing isn’t always the easiest way to do it. If this feature doesn’t work well it could be a disaster. But if it works about as well as speech to text in Android I will be satisfied. Also voice activation for calls and voice announcements for who is calling would be a great added bonus.

Swipe down action for cards – Swiping left and right is great, swiping up makes sense, but how about swiping down? I don’t exactly know what it could do but the option seems like it could be beneficial in some apps. The only thing that comes to mind would be on webOS printers. Swiping up gets rid of the picture/document you want to print, while swiping down prints. Maybe on phones swiping down can send information to another program like sending a picture in an email.

More Gestures – There’s lot of potential for the gesture area and while forward, backward, and scrolling makes good use in apps, there is plenty more that can be done with the gesture area. Maybe a two finger pinch brings up voice command, or two finger swipe up to open the on screen keyboard.

Video chat – Video chat is over-hyped and I am sure under used. But if HP can bring a true open standard, cross platform, and 3G usable app to webOS I think it may see a bit more use than just a check box on a spec sheet.

Macro mode for camera – This could be a software or hardware issue, in either case, it is badly needed on all webOS hardware. Apps for scanning barcodes, OCR, and augmented reality suffer from no macro mode on the camera.

Information on wallpaper/widgets – Widgets would kill the aesthetics of webOS. But not having any information available for my upcoming calendar appointments, unread emails, or messages really makes webOS inefficient for business users. If I want to check my schedule for the day I need to turn on the phone, unlock the phone, open the calendar app, and then scroll through my day. That requires a minimum of 1 button push and 2 clicks. Calendar information should be available either on the wallpaper itself (embedded text or widget) or be able to be added to the lock screen. I should be able to see what I need to be doing or working on with 1 button.

More pages in menu – I know it is an easy hack, but the average user does not hack their phone. If webOS is going to be getting more great apps, 3 pages just won’t cut it. Consolidating preferences may help, but there needs to be more room besides scrolling down. If Palm has some good ideas about app organization (besides folders) I am all ears.

This is just some of the things I have thought of over the past couple of weeks and honestly I am super excited to hear what Palm has in store for webOS fans. How about you, what are your much desired webOS 2.0 features. Please let me know in the comments.

I’m Sorry Lifehacker, but you’re wrong

48 Comments | This entry was posted on Jun 11 2010

I was thinking the other day, you know what my site needs? More rants. That is exactly what I bring you today cause I am finally fed up with something in the technology industry. What exactly am I fed up with? Well, a lot of things, but this particular post is about the complete disregard for what I argue is the best mobile operating system available, webOS.
I understand that the iPhone is the king of the hill (well technically RIM is but they suck anyway and are only ahead because of the giant corporate following) and Android is the new buzz word, but how can so many comparisons just ignore the most intuitive, productive, and flexible platform? Honestly I really am sick of the fact that webOS is left out of most mobile device comparisons simply because the “tech industry” doesn’t use it because it isn’t cool enough to get headlines. The only thing that gets webOS into the headlines is when one of their amazing and thought provoking creators leaves Palm to work for another company. Why is this big news if webOS sucks? The truth is, webOS is fantastic and these other mobile operating systems will benefit from the talent behind webOS. But that doesn’t mean webOS is going to lose out because webOS is already ahead of all the competition.
The thing that has held webOS back is the fact that it was only on 2 phones and one of those phones had questionable build quality. But lets face it, there will be a new webOS phone in the future and I think we can all assume that Palm/HP aren’t stupid about what hardware they need to use for the next webOS phone. The thing that finally made me write this rant was lifehacker’s article comparing iPhone to Android. I mean really, I understand that both platforms just announced major updates, (iOS 4 and Android 2.2) but I think that webOS, which hasn’t seen a major update for at least 4 months, is still ahead of the game and I think it is about time that people start to recognize it.
I took the liberty to fix Lifehacker’s article to actually take into account all three competing mobile operating systems in the consumer market.

Ease of use; Winner: 2-way tie
This one we can call a tie between iOS 4 and webOS because both interfaces are just as easy to launch and run apps and both have little things that you need to get used to. Double tapping the home screen to switch apps isn’t super intuitive and neither is forward/back gestures in webOS. In either case, Android is the loser.

Openness; Winner: webOS
Obviously iOS loses here, Android is open source for its core OS and allows installing apps from outside of the marketplace but so does webOS. Where webOS takes the cake is the fact that there is no rooting of your phone to get access to parts that are supposed to be locked down. How to root the phone is FREAKING IN THE DOCUMENTATION!!! It doesn’t get any more open then that. And lets not forget the open nature of the platform to allow apps to be written in HTML, CSS, Javascript, or C/C++ if you want. Due to this wide open nature, amazing things like Preware has been made available to tweak every last “kernel” of your phone.
Google also loses by making their “default” apps (Gmail, Maps, etc.) completely closed source and even takes down anyone who tries to share them. Palm on the other hand has written every built in app according to the standards they hold their developers to and made the apps all open source so you could see exactly how they built the app. Android and webOS are both fairly open, but webOS is more open and is the winner here.

Battery Life; Winner: Bogus Category
WTF is this doing here?!? This has everything to do with hardware and almost nothing to do with software. In any case, I think we can agree that Android loses this category with almost zero battery conserving settings and complaints on almost every Android device. This is a bogus comparison when trying to compare mobile operating systems. If this were a debate between the iPhone 4, Evo 4G, and Palm Pre Plus this would be a perfectly valid comparison.

Multitasking; Winner: webOS
This is a no brainer. WebOS does multitasking better than any other mobile OS available period. Android is the only other one that even can run apps in the background but there is a reason that a task killer is the first thing every Android phone needs. And lets not even get into the difference between running apps and using approved services and fast app switching.

Software Keyboard; Winner: 2-way tie
iOS has evolved into the best software keyboard and Android actually gives you options for keyboards, I would call this a tie because if you want to use swype on Android, you can. A software keyboard is only good if you are used to its idiosyncrasies and can use it. Personally, I rarely have to get used to a hardware keyboard, but webOS doesn’t even have a proper soft keyboard option.

System-Wide Search; Winner: 3-way tie
They all have it, they all work about the same with the same oddities and features. It is a tie. But just for the record, Android and webOS did it first.

Notification System; Winner: webOS
Once again iOS is the clear loser here, and while I liked the idea of Android’s curtain at first it just plain sucks after using it for a few months. I can’t clear a single notification without clearing all of the notifications and I can’t have extended controls in a notification. I know it is possible, but in all the apps I have installed, I have never seen actual controls inside the notification, just an icon that always stays there and opens the app when pressed.

Voice-to-text; Winner: Android
This works really well 80% of the time in Android and is the clear winner without a doubt. The bad thing is, I only use it 5% of the time I am inputting any text. So it is great 4% of the time I input text but really wouldn’t be a missed function and I still would prefer a proper physical keyboard.

Syncing; Winner: 2-way tie
Who the hell wants to plug their phone into their computer anyway? iOS loses here because you need iTunes for updates and setup. Android is great as long as you use Gmail and have a Google account. WebOS creates an account for you and stores all of your settings AND apps installed. So with webOS, if you break/lose your phone, you can log in with your Palm account and not only do all your settings from every service (sans Facebook) come back, but the apps you had installed come too.

Non-Google Syncing; Winner: webOS
Ever heard of Synergy? You probably haven’t, but it wins. Gmail, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Exchange are all there, out of the box. There is not contest here.

Tethering; Winner: webOS
iOS is just now putting this feature in but because it has the typical Apple restrictions, (no teather in to the iPad, really?) and Android still costs money on any carrier that will allow it, webOS wins because it is available on the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus and is completely free on Verizon. Yes I know if you root your Android phone you can do it for free, guess what, you can do the same thing in iOS and webOS so no one cares. Heck, Windows Mobile 6.1 had this feature and it worked great and was always free, doesn’t mean WM is any good.

Release/Update Consistancy; Winner: Bogus Category
HUH?!? really? What does this have to do with how good a mobile OS is? because you know you will get an update every year? Is Windows better because you get patches every first Tuesday of the month? Or the fact that a new and improved Windows will come out every 3-5 years? NO it makes it worse. This shouldn’t even be on this list.

Customizable; Winner: 2-way tie
If we are talking about user customizations, Android wins hands down. Widgets are great, icons can be placed almost anywhere, and you can set anything you want as a background image. But if we want to talk about the underlying OS, that is a win for webOS. Just go look up Preware and kernel patches and then come back and see why I picked this as a tie for Android and webOS. Oh and I agree, webOS needs to allow more home/lock screen customizations. Widgets sure would be nice but not at the cost of slowing my phone down like it does in Android.

Apps; Winner: 2-way tie
WebOS cannot complete here. Both Android and iOS have >50,000 apps and at that point it just doesn’t matter. There will probably be an app for just about everything. I would actually call this one a slight win for Android just because you can still install apps outside of the marketplace and the web store they have announced should be a huge success. Oh ya, and that whole Apple approval process is a joke.

Web Browsing; Winner: 3-way tie
They are all based on webKit so what does it matter. Some will scroll faster than others and some have better resolutions, but that all depends on the phone and doesn’t matter for rendering. Android and webOS may have slight wins over iOS because they have embraced Adobe flash but once again, that is a phone specific thing because the device has to be up-to-snuff for playing flash content. A three way tie.

Gaming; Winner: 2-way tie
Android doesn’t even have a language that enables the rich games that iOS and webOS allow. And besides the quantity, webOS has every bit of the quality as iOS so it is a tie.

Music Player; Winner: 2-way tie
Android’s built in music player is terrible, iOS’ is as good as any iPod’s (which doesn’t really say much), and webOS’ is just OK. The fact that webOS’ player is open source makes the player really stand out from the crowd when you install simple things like lyrics, and wikipedia searches straight from the player. I know there are better 3rd party players on all the platforms but that is not what we are comparing here. So it is a tie between stock iOS and stock webOS.

Free Turn-by-Turn Navigation; Winner: Android
This is a killer feature, but lets be honest, this will probably come to iOS and webOS simply because Google can sell more ads if it exists on all the platforms. For right now though, it is a win for Android.

Google Apps Integration; Winner: Android
This is like saying iOS has the best iTunes integration. OF COURSE ANDROID IS INTEGRATED WITH GOOGLE APPS. If Android did not have the best app for Gmail I think we would all be very worried. This is one of those arguments that fluffs Androids numbers IMO, but I will leave it in just for the sake of argument. Every mobile OS will integrate with their own offerings, the problem is, Apple and Palm don’t have email or web app offerings. This is more a win for Google and less of a win for Android.

Google Voice; Winner: 2-way tie
Yes this is a cool feature, I have it (and have had it since it was Grand Central) but I never use it because it is iffy and I don’t think the service is quite there yet. In any case, both Android and webOS have native apps for Google Voice and iOS is stuck using a web page. Android integrates deeper into the system, but all of the basic features/settings can be set on either platform so it is a tie.It has come to my attention that webOS no longer has a native GV dialer since some of the recent webOS API changes. I was unaware that a recent update broke this compatibility. In any case, it is somewhat of a bogus category seeing as accounts are still invite only and I am sure only 1-2% of people who have GV even use it for their daily calls.

So what is that total again? This time taking out the stupid frivolous comparisons.
iOS = 7
Android = 10
webOS = 13

Do I own a iPhone, Android phone, or Palm device? No. I have a 4 year old Windows Mobile device (HTC Vogue) running Android 2.1. I have use plenty of iPhones and have convinced quite a few people to buy webOS devices. I just needed to let the few people who read this site know webOS is the best mobile operating system currently available on the market. I just hope other technology sites can finally recognize how great webOS is, and maybe stop focusing on flaws with a phone that came out when the original iPhone was still big news.

Making of webOS (r)evolution commercial

0 Comments | This entry was posted on May 17 2010

I know what you are thinking, “how did my wife create that amazing (r)evolution commercial?”



I would like to take a couple minutes to share with everyone how she made it, and what software I used to help her edit it.
First of all here was the setup.



She started with a piece of poster board paper taped to our kitchen floor. Then added a microphone boom with a mini tripod zip tied to the end of the boom. This allowed her to take pictures from the same height every time and also gave a little flexibility in moving the camera around. Finally she added two small halogen lights to either side of the paper to light the “stage”. When taking pictures she took a picture of the whole piece of paper every time and we used software to edit the photos later.

For the commercial she needed 3 full size webOS cards and 6 smaller phones. She started with making the phones.



The phones were made so well it was almost painful to do this to them. The animation was made by crumpling the phones and then playing the animation backward in the commercial.



The cards were pretty easy to make. The hardest part was the animation of the media player. To animate the media player we had to cut slivers off of each album art and then tape them back together one piece at a time. It was time consuming but we were very pleased with the result. The calendar was intentionally longer than the other cards to compensate for when it would be folded.



Once all of the pictures were taken we needed to figure out how to manage 1000+ pictures to make a 1 minute commercial. To start we split up the pictures into folders labeled for each scene and numbered them in order 01_dynatac, 02_nokia, etc. We then used Phatch to trim off edges of each picture and essentially “zoom” into each picture to the size we wanted. Once the pictures were trimmed M├ętomorphose renamed all the pictures in sequence and then Stopmotion stitched all the pictures together into one video file. To add music and narration to the commercial I used Audacity to record the script she wrote for me and then OpenShot and PiTiVi to match up the audio and video and then export to a finished file. We could have just used one video editor, but OpenShot had a weird white frame at the end of the video so we tried PiTiVi and didn’t have a problem.
We hope you all enjoy the video and I just wanted to take the time to show a little behind the scenes for everything that went into making it. If you listen to mintCast you will know how impressed I was with this finished product, and the fact that it was made entirely with free and opensource software.
If you get a chance, head over to webOS Roundup and vote for the commercial.

My webOS commercial

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 02 2010

If you have ever talked to me about mobile phones and mobile operating systems you will know I am a big fan of webOS. I have never owned a webOS device but have convinced many friends to get them and would love to get one assuming the hardware gets an update. I came across webOSroundup because they are putting on a “PalmSpot Video contest” and decided after hearing the Engadget podcast bicker and moan about Palm’s horrible ads I would try my hand at creating an ad for the contest.
Just a preface for this video, I am not a video editor, film director, or obviously a music composer. This was also my first time ever using Final Cut. Let me know what you think about the video in the comments.

Also please share the video with everyone you know and watch the video over and over again between April 19th and May 3rd because the finalists are chosen by how many views the videos have during that period of time.