The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts tagged with android

Fucking pick one

Paul Stamatiou has been getting a lot of attention about his article “Android Is Better”. And beyond the obvious flamebait (which seems to be working quite well), he makes a couple of points that I agree with:

  • Most people probably use more Google services (for good or bad) than Apple services, and will find the Android experience better integrated if they tried it.
  • Notifications on Android are a million times more useful and productive than on iOS.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize your phone to your specific workflows.
  • The back button and intents make it a lot easier to work between apps.

These are actually the main points that made me switch to Android a couple years ago, along with a bigger screen.

Some points however I disagree:

  • Google Now is not “magical”. It’s downright creepy and makes your device slow.
  • I don’t find Android’s UI inherently better or more elegant than iOS’, or vice-versa. I’m used to both either way.
  • You still find a lot more polished and refined apps on iOS, which is not to say they are more useful or functional, as people often mix up the two (if anything, Android’s ugly apps actually do more things). But since I’m not an app-whore – I must have only a dozen non-stock apps on my phone and they’re almost all cross-platform – I frankly don’t care. The only app I miss is Sparrow, but that bird is flying away.

Marco Arment has written a nice commentary on the story, where he first criticizes Stamatiou’s use of absolute statements (emphasis his):

Paul’s headline is his thesis, conclusion, and call to action: Android is better, and everyone should try it and will likely convert like he did. But after reading the article, I’m more convinced than ever that the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS.

That sentence contains two huge qualifiers: the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS. I’ve learned to write and think with a broader view, since it’s less insular and more accurately reflects reality. (The world is a big place.)

While reading Paul’s article, I was often struck by how differently he and I use the same technology.

His article exudes a narrow tech-world view by having no such qualifiers.

That’s fine, and as a guy who has always chosen his tech (hardware and software) based on specific needs, and not on generic opinions and reviews, I can’t agree more. I often say that if I ask a question like “what is the best X?”, and someone answers “it’s Y!” without even asking for more details about my situation first, I’m probably not going to listen to that person, quietly labeling him as fanboy or short-sighted in my mental notebook.

I wish Marco would talk to his online buddies about this, actually. For example, MG Siegler, once wrote:

I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.

Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.

Maybe he just doesn’t read reviews like I do. I just want a reliable opinion of what a product does well, and what it doesn’t. And then I’m going to decide which one is the best, based on what I need. But apparently, Siegler wants somebody to tell him which one is the best.

And then there’s John Gruber. I’m pretty happy with my Nexus 7, myself, but apparently “most people […] agree it was a turd”. In comparison, his first-generation iPad “works just as well as the day [he] bought it”. But oh, wait:

Update: A lot of pushback from readers on my claim above, arguing that their first-gen iPads have been rendered slow and unstable by iOS 5 (the last OS to support the hardware). My son uses mine for iBooks, watching movies, and playing games. Mileage clearly varies with other apps. (And yes, the App Store app in particular is a bit crashy.)

So yeah, mileage clearly varies on the iPad, but not the Nexus 7. And funny enough, my iPhone 3G was also rendered slow and unstable by iOS 4, the last OS to support the hardware. If I was paranoid, I would think Apple likes to leave users with a broken device to force them to upgrade, but hey, your mileage may vary, maybe your iPhone 3G is doing great.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s got different requirements, budgets and usage patterns. One thing that often gets overlooked by Apple fans, for instance, is that in some countries (like here in Canada) you can’t get an iPhone unless you spend a minimum of $40-ish/month on a data plan. If you want a cheaper plan like me (I use a 500Mb plan which lets me do everything I want except streaming music/video), you have no choice but to go with another OS.

As far as I’m concerned, my iPad and my Nexus 7 get along fine in my backpack, and they must know I love them just the same – just for different things.


From Archos to Amazon

As you probably already know, Amazon’s tablet, the Kindle Fire, was announced a few days ago. Priced at a pretty amazing $199, its purpose is more focused than your general usage tablet like the iPad or the Xoom: it’s specifically designed for consuming content like books, music and video (preferably through Amazon’s own services, of course). Although it will probably be possible to install some other apps (through Amazon’s AppStore) to do some email and chatting and gaming and what have you, it will probably be more limited than on those bigger tablets, and will likely be only advertised as the last bullet point on the list of specs, if at all.

Now you know what else was priced around $200 and was useful mostly for consuming content like books, music and video? Yep. The Archos 70 I got last year for $249 (I got it on a discount, it was normally at $279).

Oh sure, Archos may not have been advertising their product like that. They may have advertised it along the lines of:

The most awesome Android tablet ever! Do everything you want! Web browsing! Videos and music! Email!! Games!!! Video chat!!!! This is so awesome we’re running out of exclamation marks!!!!!

So Awesome

Being a long time Archos user, I’m used to their bullshit and I know how to read through it. It usually translates to:

It’s rubbish at everything, especially anything web-related, but it can read any fucking video format in the universe, doesn’t come with any bullshit iTunes-like sync program, and is so much cheaper than the competition.

And as I stated last time, that was just perfect: I only wanted a good portable media player, and maybe a nicer way to read my Instapaper clips. But, of course, everytime somebody saw my small cheap looking tablet, there was a good chance the discussion would go like this:

  • “What’s that?”
  • “My Archos 70. Android tablet. I use it mainly as a portable media player, though.”
  • “Why didn’t you get an iPad?”
  • “Too big. Not enough codec support. Too expensive.”
  • “Yeah but you can do so much more with it!”
  • “Don’t care.”
  • “Come on! Apple is so awesome! The iPad is so shiny!”
  • “Yeah, whatever.”

Well it looks like Amazon found a lot of people like me out there because the Kindle Fire’s product story is exactly what I was looking for a year ago. Well… apart for that one small detail about data freedom, because I’m not sure exactly how easy it will be to get your own content onto the device, without necessarily going through Amazon (especially since most of their content is not even available outside of the U.S. anyway).

At least I’m very happy to see someone try to move the market into a slightly new direction instead of spitting out confusing all-purpose Android tablets like everyone else.