6 months with the HTC One

And it was a long and arduous 6 months.  

A bit of background before I dive into some of my thoughts and experiences: 

1. I've been a rabid iOS fan since June 29th 2007 (my wife will attest, being as I had to share launch day with her birthday).  I've owned each iteration of the iPhone except the 3G and 4S.

2. I've also owned a Galaxy S3 (not as an active phone) and a Nexus 7. Both sold within 2 months of ownership.

3. I switched from AT&T (including when they were Cingular) after 12 years to T-Mobile. Which I'll touch on a bit later.

After years of use with an iPhone and a bit of an underwhelming feature set with iOS7, I felt Android was at a compelling spot, both hardware and software-wise,  to make a transition. While I really wanted the pure Google experience (as the Nexus 7 was great compared to Samsung's "touchwiz" bullshit), I also wanted flagship hardware that gave the iPhone 5 a run for its money. So I ended up with the HTC One, which was $0 down with T-Mobile. The Nexus 5 wasn't available yet, and the Play Edition HTC One was a bit more than I wanted to pay for a device I wasn't 100% sure I'd enjoy. So with this in mind, I've compiled a pros/cons list for the HTC One over the course of 6 months, from the prospective of a long-time iOS user and fanatic.


Positive

  • Vibrant and sharp screen
  • Wi-Fi calling is interesting - when it works
  • Customization with launchers is great (Nova)
  • Widgets
  • Google now (though kinda creepy)
  • Sound processing is surprisingly good - even the stereo speakers
  • Notification drawer is fantastic
  • Sharing of downloaded files is great especially in music apps
  • Multiple app stores (choice)
  • Keyboard prediction is great and there are several app choices
  • Materials feel great in the hand

Negative

  • Wonky text selection and editing.
  • Multi-button headphones don't work, ie., volume up/down.
  • No pass book. Google wallet is OK,  it doesn't appear to be geofenced.
  • IR is interesting but only good if you have a cable subscription.
  • Must use power button to activate the screen.
  • Power button quality. My device had a portion of the button slanted into the phone body.
  • USB. Only good for data transfer and charging; no audio out.
  • Camera is just OK. No physical button for shutter difficult to use single-handed.
  • No Siri. I actually miss this for sending true hands free messages.
  • App replacement is OK but apps aren't as high quality as iOS in general.
  • HTC logo on the back is just a sticker.
  • “Home” button placement – pressing “enter” on the keyboard sometimes activates the home key.
  • Lock-screen notifications are sub-par. Can't get a good idea of the notification without unlocking the device. Have to use 3rd party app, which appeared to be a battery hog.
  • Screen size is too large to use single-handed.
  • Touch accuracy is shite.
  • A single text notification in the lock screen with preview text. If you get another one from same sender, just days "2 messages"
  • Battery life. I'd be lucky to last the work day. Even with the "power save" always on (and always in the icon tray).

Obviously the negative outweighed the positive by quite a bit.  I tried to focus mostly on hardware/HTC "Skin" issues rather than core Android issues as well. But I've also had to convince myself that I'm just not a fan of Android. In the end I hated the UI and I hated even more that I had to try several theme apps to make it more aesthetically pleasing. I even purchased icon packs (which, are never ever complete– understandably, but it always sucked when those 2 apps you use all the time aren't in the theme). Plus the themes didn't mask everything and could really create some disjoined experiences.  There were just too many things "missing" that "just worked" on the iPhone. Android is fragmented and that shows in the overall experience with the HTC One. 

To say I was eager to go back to iPhone would be playing it down quite a bit. I even opted for the paltry 16GB iPhone 5S since they didn't have any 32GB in stock the day I qualified for my first "Jump". I'm paying for that now.

T-Mobile

Overall I'm pretty happy with T-Mobile. The Jump Program is pretty great and actually quite fair. Since I've been a customer, they automatically upgraded all data plans to include an extra 500MB of LTE data per month. AT&T never did anything in the 12+ years I was with them. A few points to share:

  • You cannot jump for at least 6 months when you first sign up.
  • When you jump, you get the same deals on new devices as you would a new customer. However the total device tax is paid on the day you jump/sign up, even if it is a $0 down device.
  • Coverage in NYC for LTE is acceptable. Though I have had issues indoors, such as restaurants in Brooklyn.
  • LTE is actually quite fast when you do have it. I've seen up to 16MBps down.
  • Do not buy/upgrade/deal with T-Mobile brick & mortar stores. I did have a nightmare of a jump experience that could only be fixed in-store. Apparently even corporate T-Mobile stores aren't the same as T-Mobile's phone support. I had to make several trips to the T-Mobile store to get resolution with a billing issue. Their phone support team is far superior from a customer service perspective.

Key Takeaways

  1. After 7 years with iOS and Apple hardware, it's easy to quickly see Android devices' flaws. Sometimes small, but they all add up quickly.
  2. If you're going to get an Android, you might as well get a Nexus (or "Silver") device for the pure Google experience. Even more importantly, Nexus devices are nearly guaranteed OS updates as soon as Google makes them available. OS updates are important as they typically add functionality to your device.
  3. Apple Appstore apps, in most cases, offer a superior UI/UX. Even the Gmail app for iPhone is better than on Android. What's up with that?
  4. Android's highest quality hardware, the HTC One (and closest to an "Apple-like" design) still doesn't offer the build quality found in Apple devices.
  5. One of my favorite "features" on Android was the shared file system. This was especially handy for choosing the best music app without having to download all new files for the specific app (something Apple does not offer). For the curious, I settled on Double Twist.
  6. 6 Months with an Android is painful after 7 years with an iPhone.
  7. T-Mobile is a great alternative to the deathstar and the giant checkmark (and you'll likely save money).

The new HTC One M8 is out now and largely looks decent. But I'm sure it has the same issues mentioned above. Have an experience you want to share (even the opposite of mine) or have any questions? Comment below!

iPad Mini with Retina Display

Finally. The device I've been waiting for.  Unfortunately it looks like I'll be waiting a bit longer. I've said it before, the iPad Mini is my favorite Apple device and that the only thing lacking was simply the retina display. 

While quite a few folks might opt in for the lighter, thinner, full-sized iPad Air, the 7.9" screen is the perfect tablet size for me. Easily held in one hand yet still offering a good amount of screen real estate to make reading and productivity a joy. 

The iPad Mini is even better than what was envisioned with the Star Trek PADD .

On the iPhone 5S & 5C

iPhone 5S

This year's iPhone is an "S" model. Exactly in line with every other "S" model the iPhone has seen– an iterative improvement on last year's iPhone. But just because it's iterative, doesn't mean its not innovative. Sure it doesn't look different, but why does the phone casing/design have to change to make it innovative? Surely the 5S is innovative as well.

So just like the 4S and the 3GS, I'd wager for most folks with last year's iPhone 5 may not find an upgrade appealing enough, myself included. And that's OK- I'm pretty sure Apple is fine with their customers on a 2-year upgrade cycle anyway. It matches most carrier contracts. Those that can afford to upgrade each year are going to do it anyway because, if you have the money, why not get the best phone possible?  I have absolutely no doubt that the iPhone 5S will be the best phone on the market (until next year's iPhone).

The iPhone 5C

Yeah, it lives up to the possible monikers for the C- Color, Cheap, Consumer, plastiC. My bet is that the target audiences for this phone are:

  • Your Mom
  • Your Kid Sister
  • First-time iPhone buyers

Sure there are others that will buy, but if you're not stoked about the 5C colors, this phone isn't meant for you. Its essentially an iPhone 5, which is still a great phone even for phones just coming to market. 

So I do have a confession. I made a couple of big changes before today: I'm on an HTC One with T-Mobile. I was finally ready for a complete change. I'll post more on this change later, but the short of it is that, even after using iOS7 for several weeks now, I needed a change.

Quickly, why T-Mobile? Jump. I can trade this sucker up in 6 months if I'm miserable.

While I decided to move to Android for at least 6 months, the iPhone is still absolutely the best phone and OS available. In true Apple form, it just works and it works amazingly well.  The iPhone 5S and 5C are absolutely my recommended phones. Hands down.

 

Kavinsky - Outrun

I was going to post about Random Access Memories, but I'm sure some of you are already sick of it– briefly, I love it. While this post isn't about Daft Punk, it is in the same vein. 

Kavinsky's Outrun is also an awesome electronic masterpiece. It screams 80s and embodies the Ferarri Testerosa. It could also be a soundtrack to a sweet 80s film like The Wraith. Most likely this album will be famous for the track "Nightcall" which was featured in the movie Drive (a must see).

At any rate, download this album straight away. You'll have it on repeat for a few weeks, and then again in a few months.  As of this post, Amazon has the full album for just 6 bucks.