reviews

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!

A few weeks with Pebble

After nearly a year wait, I finally received my Pebble smart watch late April. I was an early backer of the now-famous Kickstarter project and had originally chosen to pay extra for a unique color version, specifically white. To make a long story short, the white Pebble as of this writing still hasn't even hit production, so I had opted for the tried-and-true black version.

Quick Summary

I love it. I wish it did a bit more and the ID was a bit more sleek, but overall I'm very happy.

This is Cool

 Watchfaces. To my knowledge, no other watch offers community made watch faces. There are a ton of choices, all free (at this time) and some really great faces to be had.

click to embiggen / all watchfaces taken from and available at MyPebbleFaces.com

Music Control.  The feature I was most looking forward to was actually the music/iPod controls. Now I can glance at my wrist to see what's playing or to play/pause. This actually worked very well for controlling tracks while my iPhone was sending music via Airplay to my stereo. Hopefully I'll have a small Airplay/Bluetooth speaker to use in the bathroom while I shower.

Text/Email Notifications. While you can actually have a whole slew of notifications enabled, I quickly found I didn't want my wrist buzzing all the time (and while I'm trying to sleep– more on that later). But it is fantastic to get text and email notifications. 

Caller ID & Answer/Reject Calls.  Glance down to see who's calling and bitch click. 'Nuff said.

E-Paper screen. Fantastic in all lighting conditions. Think of your Kindle, the contrast is great and makes this watch a fantastic, well, watch. Bonus? I've been getting 6 days of battery life. Pretty great. So those are 2 reasons why there is not a color screen.

Other Great Bonuses: 

  • Battery Life. 6 days so far.
  • User-replaceable watch straps (already did mine and backed another Kickstarter)
  • Waterproof– wear it in the shower or go swimming. Yup.

Not So Cool

The Industrial Design. I can't complain a whole lot, its mostly aesthetics I'm not happy with. It's bulky and function was definitely chosen over form.

The USB charger. Related to the above, but using a proprietary connector to charge isn't handy. I found out the hard way when I lost mine. As of this writing, the charger is not available separately so I had to reach out personally to Pebble for a replacement. They are sending me a replacement (Thanks!).

This is Odd

Limited Notifications on iOS. Definitely not Pebble's fault, but at this time only mail, sms and caller ID are "supported". You can use a workaround to receive just about any other notification, but it isn't permanent.  We might see improvement with iOS7.

Final Thoughts

When I lost my USB charger for my Pebble, I quickly found out how much I missed it. I was really upset– I missed a few phone calls and looked at my empty wrist several times. Sure it isn't perfect, but was it worth my backing support of $120 and I very much love my Pebble. 

 

New Headphones: Harman Kardon CL

I listen to music nearly all day at work. It's actually something I love most about my job. For about 3 weeks now I've been using my new Harman Kardon CL on-ear headphones. And I'm in love.

Harman-Kardon-CL.jpg

Th CLs aren't cheap. They'll run you $199 at The Apple Store (one of the few authorized retailers), but if you listen or enjoy music as much as I do, they're worth every penny. They also feel the quality if the price- metal headband, comfy memory foam ear pads and 2 sizes of headbands that form to your dome.

I've never really owned a nice set of headphones before, and if $200 headphones aren't worth blinking at, then you may know different. For me, the sound on these are amazing. I now want to ensure I'm listening to quality audio files so I can hear those nuances I've never heard previously. The CLs aren't bass heavy, but you'll get a fantastic low end. The highs are crisp, and everything in between sounds great to me– again, purely based on my previous experience.  Sound isolation, even for on-ear headphones are really great, thanks to the memory foam.

My only complaint here is that I wouldn't take them with me on my commute. The just feel like indoor headphones and I wouldn't want them to accidentally get dinged or rained on. So they stay at the office. However, If I take a plane, I'd most definitely bring these along.

Overall? If you got about $200, don't have Bowers & Wilkins P5s (though, they compete with the P3s) or some other fancy high-end headphones, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you'll want to thank me. You may do so in the comments.

$167.99 $179.99

Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

I wanted an iPad Mini. I really did. Obviously since I'm in that Apple ecosystem, it would make sense. I even had an iPad and some great apps to go with it. But when it came down to it, the screen (or lack thereof) was a huge letdown.  While I can guess as to why the iPad Mini didn't get the high ppi "retina" display (cost, battery), I think it was a big mis-step for those of us who are already used to the retina quality displays.

This brings me to my alternate purchase: Google's Nexus 7. I had wanted to explore

Kindle Paperwhite

$119.00

I upgraded from a Kindle Touch to the Kindle Paperwhite. A fantastic e-reader. Check out my review on gdgt.

One thing  I typically am asked (being an Apple Junkie) is why would I buy a Kindle? My main reasons are:

  • I actually like that it is a single-purpose device. It does one thing, and does it extremely well.
  • I read on the subway. So if it gets jacked, I'm only out about $100, as opposed to $600 for my iPad. Plus, who jacks Kindles?
  • Its much lighter and more pocketable than an iPad.

I also have to give the Kindle some due credit: I'm reading books again.  I hadn't read anything since college. I didn't miss it, but now that I am reading again, I absolutely realize what I had been missing. If you're wondering, here's what I'm currently reading:

If you decide to purchase the Kindle Paperwhite or George Martin's A Feast for Crows, click on the buy links above, and I'll get a little kick-back from Amazon.

Have any questions about the Kindle Paperwhite? Post up in the comments and I'd be happy to answer!