Saturday, October 06, 2012

Future Mobile Phone Upgrade?

I’m in the process of planning for a mobile phone upgrade, maybe by the end of the year.

Currently I have a Samsung Mythic SGH-a897 on AT&T carrier. The standard 2-year contract has long since ended.

It is a “smart-phone” but I don’t carry a data-plan with it and only chose it because I am a frequent texter and the haptic virtual keyboard far outshined all the other available models with a full keyboard (virtual and actual) offering.  It still runs great and the battery usually lasts two or three days of talk-time, always-on standby, and my texting.  The camera is adequate, but not nearly a replacement for a digital camera which is why my Canon S95 is almost always EDC now. Not once have I missed not having a data plan or being able to tether it to my home WiFi. Nor do/can I really carry music files on it. Sure I’ve tried, but it really didn’t seem to work too well. So I also have a little iPod shuffle (clip model) with me as well for tunage.

I could continue to happily roll along this way for the next few years, however there has been a sea change around the Valca home and extended family.

  • Both parental units now have iPhone 4’s.
  • Both Alvis and Lavie now have iPhone 4’s.
  • Bro has an iPhone 4s.

Providing tech-support (of sorts) for these devices has made me a bit more aware of the extended benefits of smart phones so it seems it’s time for me to move forward.

So…I guess that means I’m getting an iPhone 5. Right?

Probably not.

At work, a daily occurrence is the often heated discussion between the iPhone tech holders versus the Android phone holders; which is better, who rooted what, what latest confectionary OS has been downloaded and on what platform (and who is still waiting), etc.  Constantly.

And I’m tired of it.

In fact, it reminds me of the OS platform debates that the phone-platform wars supplanted; Windows vs. Apple vs. Linux.

I can see why the iPhone crowd is so passionate. I often borrow Lavie’s iPhone in bed and use it to look up the cable/TV schedule in Safari…or maybe a quick Wikipedia peek to scratch a mental itch. When I do use it the interface is very easy and intuitive to use. And the hardware is very polished (design wise) and just makes sense.

And I can also see the wide and expansive range of apps available on both the Android and iPhone platforms. Sure is lots of handy things there.

And being able to have one device for above average quick-picture snaps and carry a good collection of digital music and videos would be really, really nice.

But despite having regularly used the iPhone platforms, and dabbled with Android phones/apps, there is a good chance that I might take the path less traveled and plunk down for a Windows 8 Phone.

Funny thing is, not once, never-ever, at-all, have I actually seen one of these mythical “Windows Phones” out in the wild. They have only been seen my be in the cell-phone petting zoos. None of my family have one, none of my circle of friends, not even the chance-met stranger. Considering the very-small market-share Windows Phones are reported to hold, I guess that isn’t surprising.

So since I’ve not been able to get first-hand feedback from a real-world person I’ve had to read the Net and reviews and on-line feedback on the current Windows 7 Phone. Oh yeah, and watch Bones use one on TV.  Not having access to a real-world Windows Phone is the biggest concern that is holding me back a bit and preventing me from becoming a Windows 8 Phone “evangelist” among the Apple/Droid crowd I rub-shoulders with.

Online feedback usually falls along three lines;

  1. The UI is really nice and refreshingly different.
  2. The (Windows 7 Phone) hardware isn’t quite up to the task; it’s adequate, but could be better for the OS demands.
  3. There just aren’t nearly as many Apps for the Windows Phone platform as iPhone or Android. Get a Windows Phone and you might starve to App death.

The first one appeals to me. Unlike the tiles under Windows 8 OS, active tiles and the blocking layout really appeal to me here on a phone device. I get it. Logical, orderly, strong & solid. The design really fits me.

The new Windows 8 Phone hardware and OS seem to be fully developed now and should resolve performance issues and expectations held under the second point.

The third item really doesn’t bother me. Can I surf the net? Can I listen to music, or videos, or connect to my email account?  Does it take good digital photos? SkyDrive support? Can I still text? Yes? I’m covered. And I continue to pop-in and check out the Windows Phone Marketplace.

So what hardware offerings and I considering?

Current leader: Samsung ATIV S

What I like about this model:

  • The case design just rocks. While not steampunk, there is an air of industrial design to it. I particularly like the brushed aluminum back plate and the sliver of perforated grill on the back. There is something mechanical about the design. The front looks very similar (though wider and taller) to my Samsung Mystic in fact. The edges are rounded, but not too funky. It has a pretty square top-view and the bottom is more curvy and reminds me of retro Italian sport-car design from the sixties.
  • Hardware specs are nice: 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8 MP camera (and front-facing camera as well), 16/32GB storage, and MicroSD slot support.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 4.8” HD display.
  • 3.5mm earjack.
  • Looks like it will fit in my current Samsung holster.
  • Want.
  • Price? Still an unknown.

In Second Place: HTC Windows Phone 8X

From what I know, HTC is one of the top-tier manufacturers of Android phones. So they have clearly been in the business for a while and can deliver great hardware.

Thoughts about  HTC Windows Phone(s)

  • HTC is a mobile smartphone platform leader. HTC’s got back.
  • I’m not as crazy about the case styling. I could accept the 8X model case, larger, more uniform, if I were to get it in black. The 8S being both smaller, and with that crazy Dairy Queen cone “dip” styling at the bottom leaves me unimpressed.
  • 8X display is 4.3” HD, just a bit less than the ATIV.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 3.5mm earjack.

Hardware-wise the 8X seems a close match for the ATIV, but the styling leaves me uncomfortable.

In Close Third: Nokia Lumina 920/82

Initial impressions about Nokia Windows Phone(s)

  • Sigh…I do like the “bold” color styling of the Nokia’s just a bit more than the HTC. Barely. But then the roundy horizontal cross section loses my interest.
  • The way the screen glass rounds to the device is interesting.
  • Is that inductive (cordless) charging I see? Hmm.
  • 8.7 MP camera…largest of all contenders.
  • 4.5” HD screen.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 3.5mm earjack.
  • Camera/video handling seems to be the major point to stand out this device from the rest.
  • Turn-by-Turn voice navigation with Nokia Maps app.

Additional Viewpoints

And then there are the rumors and rumblings of a Microsoft-hardware released product down the road…

Would I consider a Microsoft-provided Windows Phone? Sure..if the hardware matched and the price was competitive.  Will that possibility keep me from picking up a Windows 8 phone before the end of the year…certainly not…unless it was 100% confirmed that Jonas Daehnert’s outstanding MS phone design got picked up by Redmond.

A few basic How-To’s

Now I need to work some numbers with AT&T to see if their "AT&T Shared Data” plan would provide a better value once a third smartphone/data sucker is added or if our current method of have a shared Family call plan with unlimited texting package for everyone + individual data plans for each phone would be cheaper.

Will keep you posted on any new Windows 8 phone goings-on and how my considerations are running.

And if any GSD followers are actually using a Windows 7 phone and would like to leave their own thoughts on “real-world” usage to counterpoint the iPhone/Droid fans, they would be appreciated.


Claus V.

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