Changing Cell Phones Again

Slightly off topic, but since I use a cell phone so much for data transfer and work, it’s important that my device works for me. This is my current thought and experience, so take it with a grain of salt.

I want to talk about my experience with Verizon and iPhone, other carriers, and T-Mobile in particular.

Back to Verizon

I switched back to Verizon this past weekend, from T-Mobile. Coverage and performance were just bad enough that I made the move back.

I had to trade in my iPhone6, but I got a new one from Verizon. I’ve had my phone 11 months, and with the $330 trade in from Verizon, I lose about $80 in cost to pay off the T-Mobile phone. I should have been able to keep my phone and use a new SIM, but carriers seem resistant to using devices from other networks on their own. No good reason, but that was the state of things for me.

I had performed a backup to iCloud before I left for the store. Once there, I had the plan I wanted selected in 5 minutes, and about 5 minutes of a little paperwork (can we call it that on an iPad?) before they turned off my old one and activated the new one. Inside of 5 minutes I had a live phone.

Since I was in a hurry, I did the restore at home. I had to update to iOS 8.4 first, since that was my old device, but once that was done, the restore started from backup and I could use my phone. As I went into music or photos, I could see everything downloading across an hour or so. When it was done, almost everything was back on my phone. Icons in the right places, all my music, even my photos taken right before the backup were there. That’s a fairly seamless upgrade.

Or almost seamless. Security isn’t transferred, so I needed to update logins for mail, spotify, twitter, etc. The hassle for me is I use Password Safe, with the Safes in Dropbox. That meant I needed to use another device to get my Dropbox password before I could access the rest of my credentials, but a small price to pay.

Two nagging issues: my Bluetooth settings were lost, so I had to reset my car, headset, Pebble, Fitbit, etc. Some of those apps don’t like losing settings and trying to reconnect. A few hassles there. Also, the Amazon app still had a few of my books listed, but they weren’t downloaded. I had to delete them and re-download to make them work.

That’s about a smooth phone transfer process as possible. Windows is getting better, but it’s not that smooth. I haven’t upgraded Android phones, so I’d be curious if that worked well.

Carrier Choices

There are five of us at the ranch. Across the five of us, we had a point this year where we had service on all four carriers in the US. My two boys have shared a Sprint plan for years. My daughter’s first phone a few years ago was a Windows 8 phone and that was only on ATT at the time, so she had them. My wife and I were on Verizon, until I moved to T-Mobile last year,.

The boys have liked Sprint, which has had good service and coverage. They get unlimited data, but no hotspot unless they are willing to pay (they aren’t, and neither am I). I was hesitant to go with Sprint, only for the potential issues internationally. They use CDMA and 4G here in the US, but I wasn’t sure how that might go overseas and decided not to experiment. Other than that, no real reason to not choose Sprint.

ATT is bad. My daughter’s coverage might have rivaled mine at the ranch for poor quality. She moved to Sprint this year, and is much happier, so I decided not to try ATT.

Verizon was decent for me a few years ago, but when they upgraded to a 4G network out in the rural area in 2013/2014, holes started to appear. It was bad enough that I got annoyed. However I found out things could get worse, so I went back. Traveling around the US, Verizon was very good, and even now I’m happy that I can make calls almost all the way home and usually all the way to the kids’ school.

We’ll see what happens in the UK. I may just purchase a SIM when I’m there, or just carry my iPhone 4GS (or take one of the kid’s old Androids) and use it there.

T-Mobile Issues

I really liked what T-Mobile did last year. They really changed the cellular industry in the US and have almost removed contracts. When I switched last week, Verizon didn’t even try to get me to use a contract. Just a monthly pay-off-your-phone charge.

I also like that T-Mobile allowed me to use my phone in Canada and the UK for no charge. I could get texts for free, which is most of the way I communicate with family. I got wi-fi calling for free, same number, no getting everyone on Skype. I also got 3G data for free, with reasonable costs for 4G data. That fit my life.

However the coverage was bad. At the ranch, I could get T-Mo in my bathroom upstairs, but not if I walked back to the bedroom. I could get it W of the barn, but not E of it. The other places I had a small, roaming carrier, which was OK. I did get voice and text while roaming, but I had big holes coming and going from the ranch, as well as on the way to the kids’ school.

I also had problems in buildings. In one school, one store, and numerous places I’ve traveled to in the US, I couldn’t get coverage inside buildings. I saw this reported, and T-Mo securing a different frequency in some cities to combat the issues. However as I’ve visited SQL Saturdays around the US, I had numerous issues.

I’ll also say that at times when I’ve switched in and out of the T-Mobile network while driving, I will have a period of time when I can’t make or receive either calls or text. That’s maddening. The final straw for me was last Thursday, leaving school, with T-Mobile LTE on my phone, being unable to send a text to reply to my son. He could text me and I’d receive it, but was unable to reply.


It’s a bit sad, because I like T-Mobile overall. The performance was amazing, getting me 35Mbps in Parker, CO. Overseas coverage was good, and I used less data as music streaming was free.

However I also used less data because it wasn’t available. Including a trip to Sioux Falls in July where I had 2G, Edge network coverage from T-Mobile. That was maddening.

Spotty Coverage

I tend to be in less populated areas for much of my travels. Not rural, but I ski, hike, travel to smaller towns in the US, and I find coverage really spotty. In Custer, SD, Verizon and T-Mobile were the best, but Verizon was by far better.

The era of ubiquitous coverage is not here. I know Google tends to expect this in their philosophical view of the world, but many of us don’t have this type of coverage. We have lots of holes and slowdowns.

In fact, I still think software needs to account for this, and I’m hoping that people learn to write for the cloud and understand that it’s not just Azure or AWS, but really any service could be interrupted and allow for that. Degrade or fail gracefully.

I’m hoping this changes over time, but for now, I decided to go with the best coverage I can find for most of my work. That’s Verizon and my fingers are crossed it works as well as I used to.

Windows Phone – What Should Microsoft Do?

I’ve been intrigued by Windows Phone as a platform. I’ve never owned one, and while I considered getting one, the dearth of apps led me to an Android instead. I really tried to get down to a list of core apps that I needed, which was 12 or 15 at the time. However 3 or 4 weren’t in the Windows App Store and I decided against Windows phone.

My daughter really wanted a Windows Phone and got one a few years ago. She loved it at first and almost made it a year before she got annoyed by missing apps and moved to Android (which she loves).

I have been hoping that WP would continue to improve, not only in it’s internal quality, but also with more apps and users. I read a piece about the issues with Windows Phone (The End of Windows Phone?) and while I’m not sure I think it is dying, the author brings up some good points that I worry about.


Apps are critical. I know plenty of people think that a couple calculator apps, and a few password apps, etc. are good enough. People can choose from a few. However that’s missing the point.

People like diversity. They like choice. They like looking for apps. There are a few places I get news from that publish new and cool apps, or apps that are free for a limited time every week.

Every week I get a list of 5 or 10 apps, some new, some old. Periodically I’ll download one. Sometimes I’ll buy a paid version. The point is, I’m interacting with the app store and my phone, changing it to my liking on a regular basis.

My phone is something I’m always tweaking a bit, like my early PCs. However Microsoft seems to almost want to treat the phone like a network router. I set it up and forget about it, just using it. That’s not what’s going to grow the store.

I checked this week and there isn’t a native Starbucks app. That particular app has become somewhat a strong desire for me, so no Windows Phone for me. There are others, and I think that’s an issue.

As I’ve noted to many people before, I think the big failure from MS here is not just building more apps. Certainly it takes third parties to provide some diversity, but spending $10mm on developers as salary to build apps, and not as incentives, would be better. Paying interns to work with Starbucks and MLB and many other places to build native apps, would be a wise move.

Windows Everywhere

I had a Windows 6 phone. I was excited about the idea of Windows everywhere. Over time I realize that model doesn’t work. The whole way I work on a desktop or laptop, with it’s semi-designed interfaced (it’s more evolved) isn’t how I want to work on a tablet or phone. It just isn’t. The idea of Windows everywhere, with apps running on all platforms without being rebuilt doesn’t make sense. The buttons, flows, controls, actions, etc. on a desktop aren’t practical elsewhere.

The reverse is also true. The way I use a tablet doesn’t work on a desktop. I’d have hoped Windows 8 taught you that.

I really want my data everywhere, not my apps. Stop fighting this. Make native Office apps for iOS, Android, WP8, separate from those on Windows. Don’t try to force things to work well and be highly engineered. We saw that fail with the CORBA architectures, with OS/2, etc. You’re better off worrying about data, not apps.

The Future

Windows 10 doesn’t really excite me on the desktop, except for one thing: Copy/paste in the command prompt. That’s it. What else do I need Windows to do? A better Start menu? Please, I spend seconds a day in the start menu. Even on a laptop, it’s very few interactions. Perhaps more on a tablet, but to get me to move to a Windows Phone or tablet, I need something compelling over the iPad.  What will Windows Phone 10 do?

Cortana is interesting, but I still hesitate to speak to my devices. I’m in too many public places and it’s not an interaction I’m looking for. I’ve seen some people that use speech to text heavily, and successfully, even in louder environments. However it still feels silly, and an interruption on life for me. Perhaps if Cortana does more reminders, prediction, and analysis of my interactions on the device, I’ll try it.

The movement towards limiting switching between apps is good, especially for messaging. The quick respond on iOS hasn’t caught on for me, for some reason, and switching apps is annoying. The link to my desktop makes some sense, but if that’s going to happen, then one thing better be ready:


I make mistakes all the time. I will continue to do so, and any actions I take better have an easy, quick, and intuitive way to "undo" things.

I don’t have great hopes for Windows Phone unless the app situation is resolved. If it is, then perhaps there’s a low enough bar to just switch to try a new OS on the phones. However I’m not sure any other features you could build into a phone would overcome the app deficiency.

The Pebble

I have been a "watch" guy for most of my life. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve almost always worn a watch, usually a Timex, that lets me track time. At one point I really had the goal of being successful enough to buy a Rolex, but at some point that fell away. I decided I liked something that was lighter and more durable.

A few years ago I lost a watch, taking it off for karate and forgetting about it in my bag later. I found it months later, but in the intervening time, I tried to make do with my cell phone. I found it annoying to pull out my phone to check the time. I also found myself spending time on the phone more, when I could do something else.

I was intrigued with the idea of smart watches, and I’ve looked at a few. I backed a Kickstarter project, thinking I’d get the watch and use that with my phone. The project got delayed, I got more annoyed with my phone, and eventually I got a device that didn’t work. It needed a charge every night, and the quality was slow. The app was also flaky, crashing often.

At this point I was disappointed and still wanted a watch. It was close to Christmas, so I bought myself a Pebble watch. It was on sale, only about $60, just slightly more than the $40 I’ve paid for Ironman style digital watches.

I did look at the various Android Wear watches, and the Apple watch, but they seemed to be flaky, as well as very expensive. A watch is a tool for me, not something I wanted to spend a lot of money on. Plus, I wasn’t sure how well the integration would work and how much I’d use it, so I wanted a cheaper experiment.

Getting Oriented

I was somewhat fascinated with the Pebble. It was about as simple a device as you’d want, and it just worked. I can’t speak for the Android experience, but I suspect it was as simple as the iPhone one. I essentially plugged it in, and when it had a little charge, I could connect it to my phone through Bluetooth using the Pebble app.

The small box the Pebble came in just had the watch and a cable. You can see the multiple contact cord (with USB) and the matching connectors on the watch. This is a magnetic connection, like some laptops use. It easily connects and disconnects.

Charging seems to be fast, as I’ll get a low battery warning and can connect it to my desktop, having it charged in a couple hours.

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The watch itself has a nice display, that’s easy to read. There are lots of watch faces you can choose. I tend to use something simple like this:

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That gives me dates and times, which I like. I also have this one, which I’ve used when I want to get away from time and work. It’s just a simple display to remind me not to worry about time. This is one I use on weekends regularly.

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You can download faces from the Pebble app store, and they mostly appear to be small and fast. I’ve loaded 4 or 5 on my watch that I can choose from. There are some really interesting ones that you can get.

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There’s an app store, and while you can download a bunch to your phone, you can only have 8 on your device. It’s easy to remove and add them, with a few taps on the phone and a short delay. I’m surprised how quickly they load, given the slow, bloated software I find elsewhere.

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Some of the apps do time, some do other things. I’ve got this Weather Channel app, that gives me time and weather wherever I am, which is nice when traveling.

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It’s a basic watch, so I needed to find a stopwatch app to use. That surprised me, but it makes sense.

I also worried about the display, but it’s easy to read during the day, and a shake of my wrist will bring up a brief backlight. That’s really handy at night when I might want to check to see if I’ve overslept in a hotel room.

45 Days Later

I initially played around with lots of watch faces. I found some neat ones, but I quickly discovered most were a bit hard to read when I was in a hurry, or driving, which is when I usually need the time. I decided that a basic display suited me better.

I’ve messed with apps, but for the most part, I want this to be a watch and a notification device. Controlling music or getting ESPN scores isn’t want I need. Those things might be handy, but as I appreciate time away from my device more and more, I want it to do less.

Battery life is great. I bought a second charging cord for traveling, and promptly forgot it on my trip to the UK in February. I had charged the device Monday morning before leaving for the airport and had the watch work until Friday morning. I’d realized I didn’t have a cord and turned off notifications sometime Wednesday, but that was still impressive. I’ve since put my cord in my laptop bag.

There isn’t a lot of notification that the battery is going down. I’ll get a 20% battery note, or a low battery, and I don’t have a lot of time (a few hours) before it just turns off. I dislike that. I need to find a battery app for the device (I’ll do that shortly).

The notifications just work. The ones that normally appear on the lock screen (texts, Word With Friends, etc.) appear on my phone. That’s super handy, especially while driving. I can see a text and decide what to do. It’s even more handy with 2FA notes from Google or WordPress. I don’t have to go find my phone. I can read things on my watch. Apps don’t have to be "pebble aware" as my Tempo calendar alerts just appear on the watch. No configuration.

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It’s water proof to the extent I’ve worn it in the shower. I wore it in the pool once, for a lap, but didn’t like it and was worried, so I pulled it off. The band is a little annoying for me, so I tend to take it off when it’s going to get wet. I may look for another band at some point.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Pebble and there isn’t really anything else I want from a watch. I don’t want color if I give up any battery. I think the bluetooth cost is minimal, and haven’t noticed issues with my phone. I think it’s a great investment, and if you want a basic smart watch that gives you time and notifications, this is it.

Six Months with the iPhone 6

A couple years ago I switched from iOS to Android, pre-ordering a Samsung Galaxy 4. I wrote about my decision and then a short term update before I moved back to my old iPhone 4S and iOS. I have a few more thoughts on what was better on Android, but in the end there were a few things that really annoyed me, specific to how I use a mobile device.

Last fall I eagerly looked forward to the iPhone 6 as my 4S was getting old, slow, and the battery was dying. I pre-ordered the 6, and switched from Verizon to T-Mobile at the same time. I decided to take a look at the past six months and my thoughts. I’ve broken this into two parts because the carrier and phone are separate.


I have mixed feelings here. I really like lots that T-Mobile has done. The freedom from contracts, the high speeds, the music streaming, the wi-fi calling, overseas data, it’s a neat company. And in some ways, they perform well. I remember sitting in Starbucks, in Parker, CO, and trying my speed test app on the phone with T-Mobile’s LTE network. I got 40Mbps down, better than I get at home!

At times, it’s amazingly fast and I appreciate that. However, at times it’s really, really bad. I live out in the country, and service is spotty near me. I can accept some of that, and certainly in the last six months I’ve seen LTE get close to me and have better service.

However I’ve been in buildings in Denver and other cities, where I have great connectivity outside, but inside a building, even a smaller two story one, I’ll see very, very poor service. Near my house the service is flaky, and T-Mobile hasn’t given me the ability to turn off data roaming near my house. Since I only get 50MB each month of roaming data, I don’t want to waste it. However I have no control, and I’ve given up. If I’m using the phone near my house, but not on wi-fi, I’ll run out of data in a few days. Even if I’m not actively browsing or searching, apps on the phone will use data.

Slightly maddening.

Overseas access has been good, and I’ve appreciated the connectivity without additional costs in the UK. Since I go 2-3 times a year, this is handy.

Wi-fi calling is spotty. At times I know my network has hiccups, but I’ll drop off  the wi-fi calling and it doesn’t come back quickly. I’ll have to drop into airplane mode and back out to get wi-fi to reconnect. The transition from wi-fi calling to cellular hasn’t been very smooth, which is disappointing.

iOS8 / iPhone 6

The phone came with iOS 8, which is an evolution, not a revolution, from iOS7. I was somewhat excited, as there are a few enhancements, but also disappointed in some ways. I’ll cover a few things I like and some I don’t.

The phone itself is an iPhone. Slightly larger than the 4S, thinner, and light. It’s basically a slightly stretched version, and I haven’t noticed much. I get 5 rows of icons on the screen, which does look amazing at times. A few of my pictures, or videos I’ve shown on there look fantastic. As good as my Galaxy 4 screen. Battery life seems inconsistent. At times it runs down far too quickly, and at times it lasts. I’ve uninstalled apps at times when I’ve noticed poor battery life, but haven’t really figured out what’s happening. I have a battery case, so mostly I don’t worry about it.

iOS 8, however, took a few steps back.  The biggest thing I noticed right off was that when I get forwarded to some web pages in Twitter, Facebook, or other apps, I’ll only get a partial page load. Then I’ll get white screen halfway through an article. I know this is iOS/Safari somehow, because if it happens on all kinds of target sites, and if I reload the page in Chrome, it works fine. That’s slightly maddening.

The music app works fine, and the camera does well. It’s quick, though once in a great while it hiccups. Overall, this is a better photo/video/music device than any I’ve had, but just because it’s a bit faster and it works well. I love the slow motion video, especially capturing my kids’ sports events.

Navigation/maps are fine, though I wish I could switch defaults from Apple to Google. Not that Apple maps are bad, but I often want to get a look ahead at the route. Apple maps does not make that easy.

I love having Passbook again, and I use that extensively for airline tickets, movie tickets, and Starbucks. I also use Apple Pay at a few places, but since most don’t accept it, it’s not super handy. However being able to give my phone to my daughter to go get coffee while I get gas is very nice. It’s also super handy. It wasn’t as clean on Android, though I suspect the Starbucks app there would do fine.

The TouchID, which I thought was gimmicky, is great. I use it all the time, letting me unlock my phone while I’m walking or trying to move through a line without looking at the screen. I have a password manager that uses it as well and I love it. It’s not a great security feature, but it works well enough for me for now.

The third party keyboards don’t work. That’s one thing I am disappointed in. The responsiveness of Swype and Swiftkey aren’t’ there, and at times they freeze up, especially in messaging. It doesn’t have to happen more than a few times before I abandoned them.  I hope they fix this.

I do miss having the ability to resize icons, or move them around on the desktops. I’m slightly jealous of my wife’s LG III, as she got an amazing loader that gives her different backgrounds on different screens. It also rotates through all her "desktops" in a circle. I’d like to have my icons around the edge of the screen and see the background clearer as I like pictures.

I’m not too concerned anymore about which apps are where. Since I can pull down and search, I do that often, and rarely look through screens. That’s a feature I great appreciate.

The Future

I’d still like to see Windows Phone succeed a bit and evolve, but I also want it to get more apps and have more choice. That’s still a failing that keeps me off it.

I am tempted by Android, except that every time I hear a camera click or text pause the music on my wife’s phone, I’m glad I’m not using it. She did get a third party camera app that responds much quicker than the native one, so I suspect that real time interrupts and issues with the camera and music apps I had on Android are built in, but potentially handled with third party apps.

I may switch at some point, but for now I’m very pleased with my iPhone, despite a few glitches.

Smart Gadgets

I saw this post on what a smartwatch should look like and it got me thinking. I’ve got a Kreyos watch coming (I hope) and it fulfills some of the things I was looking for, and a few that the Pebble didn’t.

However I wonder where we’ll go with gadgets in the future. My son and I sometimes dream, trying to decide what we’d like to see built in the future. One of the main things we talk about is how we might wear things. A bracelet of some sort seems to be the consensus. Getting something larger that we can see better, but more convenient then a smart phone. Already I think the 5″ ones are a bit large and cumbersome to use. One of my complaints about the Galaxy S4 was that I couldn’t easily use it with one hand.

Glasses are an interesting idea. Google Glass has some good ideas, though I think the idea of including the camera was one that caused a lot of concern from people, and rightly so. Even though cell phone cameras haven’t caused too much of a problem, there certainly have been privacy incidents. I think I’d like the idea of getting some information in my field of vision, and I’d like to try some “smart glasses” at some point.

I found this post on gadgets out there, and most of them aren’t revolutionary and a few aren’t interesting. A USB drive in cuff links or a necklace? Doesn’t seem that interesting to me. What I’m looking for is perhaps some type of mix of gadgets that can work together.

Could I get a phone that connects with various devices that can run for a long time? Perhaps a belt buckle that provides power and also tracks movement like my Fitbit flex? It can connect to my watch as well, providing me with information from a device in a pocket. Ultimately I’m not sure what would be enhance the phone much. Any jewelry might not provide much more than notification of information through vibration, or possible light, and you’d still need a device.

Ultimately I think I’d like to have more ways to connect devices together. Easily get my phone to project on a larger monitor when it’s available, like in the kitchen or car, perhaps even using a camera there to communicate with others.

My hope is we’ll get gadgets that communicate, but with the separation of platforms and the reluctance for many to work together on common APIs, I’m not sure we’ll get there.

The Effective Cell Phone

I’ve written a bit about phones recently as I’ve experienced the switch back to iOS from Android. There are a few other posts in this series:

I wanted to stop and take a moment and think about design of cell phones for a minute. I think that Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8, and other systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. Even though I prefer iOS, I wouldn’t want that to be the only choice for everyone.

However why should the choice stop there? I think Apple has done a great job with their App Store, and while I don’t like their censorship of applications, I do appreciate their certifying and curating apps. I just wish they’re allow more applications, and more importantly, more defaults.

What does a smartphone do?

If I think about what a smartphone, I am looking for it to have these functions:

  • Make and receive phone calls
  • Manage voice mails
  • Manage contacts
  • Handle text messages
  • Browse the web
  • Get email
  • Work with my calendars
  • handle navigation
  • provide keyboard for input
  • provide voice to text services

I’m sure there are other things. For example, being able to connect with various other platforms (twitter/facebook, etc) from within any application. Maybe I am concerned about text to speech capabilities, or more. When I look back at Android, I appreciated the variety of keyboards that were available. Like most people, I quickly settled on one (Swype), but I did try out the Swiftkey and KeyPal keyboards.

Why doesn’t that make sense for all of the functions above? Perhaps I want a different dialer that somehow presents data differently, or makes phone calls in a different way. I’m imaging that I might want to route some calls through a service like Skype or Google Voice and some through cellular. I would love the ability to replace the default dialer with some other dialer, just as I could replace keyboards on Swype.

Many of us have a favorite browser, but it’s not the default on your platform, you may find some links opening in another browser. I should be able to set the core default programs for functions on my platform, as I choose them. I don’t expect that any dialer, or calendar, or other service is allowed. There are core functions that need to be met, and I’d accept that the platform provider, or maybe store, would certify applications as working on the OS, but after that, I ought to be able to replace the default programs that can be run.

Android is much more open about this than iOS or WP8 in many ways, and I’m not sure if everything above can be replaced. I know I could replace the dialer with Skype instead of cellular, but I’m not sure if all these functions can be replaced. If they can, then kudos to Android.

I also know that some applications are available for all of these functions, or most of them, but I thought there were places I couldn’t set something as the default. I’m not ready to go back to Android and experiment now, but for sure I wish I had the ability to get automatic, default functionality from the phone in the way I want it.

Ultimately Apple isn’t making money, or loyalty, on their dialer, or calendar. They make money on the platform, so build the amazing platform, but let other people provide more customizations, as you do now in app stores. Just allow consumers to make those defaults if they choose to.

Android is better than iOS

Not in many ways, and certainly not in enough for me to stick with Android over iOS, but here are a few things I do think.

If you’re slightly lost, I’ve written on Android v iOS after moving to a G4, my move back to iOS, and why I left. The other posts in this series are:

It’s been a couple weeks that I’ve been back on iOS. It’s an adjustment, partially because it’s iOS7, and partially that things work differently. I made a few notes of the places where I find myself wishing that iOS had adopted a few things from Android.


The number one complaint I’ve had with iOS is the keyboard. Actually, I bet my wife would consider iOS again if the keyboard was replaceable. The iOS keyboard isn’t a great format, it isn’t customizable, and there’s no Swype. I could forgive the former, but the latter is handy, especially when you’re working one-handed, which I often am. I’m not sure if Apple will get Swype/SwiftKey/etc ever, but that ought to be a priority.

I will say that as I’ve moved to Chrome on iOS, I do appreciate the app showing the “:”, “.”, “-“, “.com” buttons above the keyboard. I wish that more apps might consider adding the “@” and “#” buttons to their keyboards. I use those often.

Update: I noticed the Echofon Twitter app does this.


The back button, which was annoying and inconsistent at times in Android, was still useful. Often I find that I need to change a setting, or I click a link over to some other app and want to return to the previous application.

For example, I hit maps, enter an address, and it tells me I don’t have Location Services on (because that kills my battery). I click settings to turn on LS, and then I need to double click home and pick the previous application. I find myself looking for a back button. The same thing occurs if an email opens a browser link.

As much as the soft back button was a pain in Android, not having one is slightly a pain in iOS. Not a huge one, but it feels like an ommission.


I don’t use the GPS or Location Services often, mostly because it seems that iOS 7 has a battery drain issue with this. I have to say that having the ability in Android to turn this on/off from the notification window was really, really handy. While I have wi-fi, bluetooth, etc. in iOS, I don’t have GPS.

Android wins here.


I had a new Android, the Galaxy S4. The screen was amazing, and large. After a day with the S4, I thought the device was big. After a month, I never noticed it. In fact, when I looked at other phones, their screens were small. Going back to the iPhone 4S I was surprised, and still am, by how small the screen is. I’ve looked at a few other old phones I have and the iPhone has a larger screen, but after having the S4, I miss the larger screen. If the iPhone 6 does a wider screen, even if it’s the same height as the 5 series, I’ll upgrade ASAP. I would like a larger screen.

There are so many Android choices here with my kids having LG and HTC devices, that I feel a little left behind. Even my daughter’s 8X with WP8 is larger and nicer.

I know this isn’t an Android OS thing, but the choice and variety of the platform make it a reason I like Android more.


I don’t know if this is an iPhone issue, an iOS7 issue, or Android is better, but networking seems flakier. Both wi-fi and cellular find some gaps/pauses in how the device works. Coverage was better on Android for me, but that was newer hardware and the cellular radios are always improving. It isn’t horrible, but a few times a week it’s noticeable. I wish I hadn’t upgraded from iOS 6 to 7 as I’d like to know what the issue here is.

That’s It

I haven’t anything else that stands out. I wrote about a few of the reasons I switched and they’re still valid. Music is world class (including iTunes), the camera just works quicker and better. App quality is better overall, and I don’t have crashes. The lock screen runs fast, and I can search the phone instantly.

I have learned in iOS 7 I need to kill some apps at times, and that means the Task Manager and booting a few to protect my battery life at times, but I had to do that on Android.

Overall, I’m glad I switched back, though I do wish I had newer/faster/larger hardware running the OS.

Android Annoyances

I wrote last week that I had switched back from Android to iOS, but I didn’t list out specific gripes or issues I had. This post looks at some of my complaints with Android, and specifically the S4. I’ve also included a few things that I think I’ll miss, or currently miss, with iOS. There are a few other posts in this series as well:

Note: this isn’t an Android v iOS bash or rant. Both are great OSes and are functional. I suspect Windows Phone 8 would work as well. These are specific items that apply to the way I use the phone and may or may not apply to anyone reading this.


On one hand I like the idea of a “back” button that moves to the previous function. When I need to switch to “Settings” or another app, I find it slightly annoying in iOS to double click to get the task list and go back to the previous app. However, as I compare this with Android, I find that it isn’t horrible, since sometimes the “back” button didn’t quite work for me.

The biggest issue I had with the button was potentially S4 related. The button is in the lower right of the device, as a sensitive area on the glass. I found myself hitting it often with my palm as I was using the phone one handed. This was a big issue for me as I often use the device one handed. Walking through an airport with luggage. Pushing a grocery cart, etc. This was one of the items that grated on my nerves a lot. If the back button were an actual button, like the lock/volume buttons, I think this would have worked much better. I think moving away from a real button to a sensor was a mistake, especially as phones grow in size.


One of the things I expected Android to excel at was seach. In iOS5/6, I could swipe left from the home screen and search for apps. Once I got beyond 2 screens of apps, this was incredibly handy for me. When I went to Android, there was a widget on the front page for search, but it launched into Google’s search or Google Now, which was slow. Especially if I was in an area with poor connectivity.

I need search to search my phone first, and foremost, and fast. I was disappointed with this.  As I went to other launchers, I was without widgets at times. Overall, it become a habit to go to all apps, which were in alphabetical order, and look for what I wanted. A small gripe, but one that annoyed me.

App Quality

I don’t know what to say here, other than I found application quality to be lower on average in Android than iOS. I think this is the open v curated way that marketplaces are run, but I had regular crashes from apps of all types, including the ones from big companies I used on iOS and Android. It’s not horrible, but just lower.

I found myself using the task manager to kill apps way more often on Android than I did in iOS. That still is true after a couple weeks back on the iPhone. I also found that installing some apps would drain and kill my battery. I hadn’t seen that issue on iOS before, though coming back to iOS7 on a 4S had that issue if I enabled Siri.

This is similar to why I didn’t go to a Windows Phone. I have concerns about quality and quantity of apps.


This was one of the big things with me. First, I love music, and I love taking pictures. The number one use of a smartphone for me is taking pictures/video when I’m out and about. My wife may not love some of the shots I get, but they are memories for me. However taking pictures means sometimes I need to capture a quick shot. In iOS, with my phone locked, I could easily swipe up, get the camera running, and take a snapshot.

While I was listening to music.

In Android, Samsung has a heavy overlay on the OS. I can get a camera icon on the lock screen, but only if I don’t have a passcode or other lock.

What-the-fricking-franking-heck were they thinking? I lock my phone so random people don’t pick it up and scroll through info. I know it’s not high security, and I don’t intend it, but I do like casual security. However, this meant that I couldn’t have the camera easily available without unlocking the phone. When I’m working one handed, and want a quick photo, I can’t get it.

I did find an app that got me the camera from a lock screen, but it was slow. I’m not sure why it’s so slow to launch the camera on Android when the hardware is obviously way more powerful than my iPhone, but it is. And when I take a picture, all music and other operation stops.

Music stops when I take a picture.

It’s only for a split second, but it’s annoying and seriously, Samsung? Your developers are morons if they think things need to work like that.

This one thing almost made me throw the phone a few times. The fact this works like this is enough to make me swear off Samsung devices and contributed mightily to me not even considering a Note tablet.

Lock Screen

Speaking of the lock screen, in iOS, I could set a 4 character passcode and it would unlock the device after entering 4 characters. In Android, the same setup causes me to unlock after 5 characters. I had to hit OK. That one extra character, way below the keypad (to me), was annoying on a daily basis. Especially when I was in a hurry, like at an airline counter. And if it didn’t unlock, it was apparent from the small text that I had messed up. In iOS, I got a vibration.

Perhaps I didn’t configure things well, but this was annoying. I know it’s less secure, but I don’t care. I thought Android was supposed to let me do things my way? Perhaps it can, but for sure Samsung made it hard. In their effort to make it easy to use the phone, they hid things. Things my wife likes and uses on her GIII, and I was hoping to use.


Minor Things

Other comments on things that affected my use of the phone on Android v iOS. None of these if big or a deal breaker, but they were additional gripes.

Google Now

I thought Google Now would be great, and a few times it was, but I also found it didn’t mine my data well. Unless I specifically set appointments for my hotels and flights, I couldn’t get quick directions of help. Plus I found it on iOS, so no great win here for Android.


I didn’t think much of Passbook when it was announced for iOS. Until I got it integrated with my airline tickets. Then I thought it was the bomb and loved it. Quick access, without strange unlocking, to my tickets. I was disappointed this didn’t work well in Android. Yes, I know there are apps for this. I tried a few, but I couldn’t get the pbk files generated from United or other vendors. Ultimately the lack of integration and uptake on Android annoyed me. Not a ton, but I have 35-40 airline tickets a year, so it’s enough to bug me.


I never found a good music player. I tried 4 or 5, and none were great. None let me go easily from a song to the album for the song. They didn’t seem to remember where I was. Playlist setup was a pain. Overall, I just didn’t like the music experience, along with the constant “are you sure you want music this loud” dialog when I raised the volume.

Add that to the

App Store

Say what you want about the Apple process and App Store, but it’s smooth. It’s integrated, and it works well. The Play store and the Amazon stores felt close, but somewhat unrefined compared to the App Store and iTunes. It’s tough to give you specifics here, but overall it just felt smoother the Apple way.

I’ll also say the level of permissions the apps need is a nice touch, but I don’t need to acknowledge this for every app. First, I don’t get choices on which items to allow or not allow, so the information is useless to me. Second, the list doesn’t really affect my decision to use the app or not because I don’t know how the rights are used. That’s a software problem overall, not an Android one, but the rights essentially become a silly extra step.


Yep, I’m happier. The hardware is slow, relatively, and I’m getting used to that. The screen is small, and way worse quality than the G4. I’m not usually a screen guy, but the G4 screen impressed me often. I miss that.

However many of the things I do with the phone run smoother.  There are a few things I’ll write about that don’t work as well, mainly email and calendaring, and a few things Android did much better (keyboard), but I’m happy.

In fact, I’m tempted to spring for an iPhone 5 or even 5S. Not sure I can justify the cost, but I’d like faster hardware, just running iOS.

Back to iOS from Android

I pre-ordered a Samsung Galaxy S4 last spring, after listening to my wife talk about how much happier she was with an S3 than an iPhone 4. There were a few things I thought Android was doing better for smartphones and after spending some time in the store with various devices, I went with an S4.

I had a bit of a learning curve, but the phone worked pretty well for me. After spending a bit of time with the S4, I wrote about some impressions of Android v iOS. These were based on the way I use the phone, and how the two mobile OSes worked for me. I dove in wholeheartedly, abandoning my iPhone 4S to a desk drawer and only using the S4. I didn’t even use my iPad much.

However a few things were annoying me about Android. I’ll write about those, but it came to me one day as I was packing up my iPad to trade it in. Target was giving me $200 (an amazing deal) and my plan was to upgrade to a Nexus 7 or other small Android tablet. I primarily use the tablet while cooking for recipies or entertainment.  As I played with a few of them in various stores, I realized that I missed the ease and smooth operation of iOS. I decided to trade up for an iPad Mini instead of an Android and realized that I like iOS better.

The original fine print I’d gotten from my carrier noted that I couldn’t switch devices on my account for 6 months with the S4, but the day after 6 months were up, I brought my fully charged iPhone 4S into a store and switched it back as the active device on my account.

There was definitely an adjustment as I had to change the way I did a few things. After a couple weeks back on iOS, I still look for the “back” button at times, it’s a bit slower for some tasks, and the screen feels much smaller. Overall, however, I’m happier with the iOS device.

I’m not implying that iOS is better than Android. That’s a highly subjective choice, but given the way I use my phone  (and tablet), I prefer iOS.

These thoughts continue with these posts:

iOS v Android–A Short Term Update

I ordered my first new new phone this year. I’ve never purchased a new, unreleased model of a cell phone before. I’ve gotten some nice phones, but always 6-12 months after other people have had a chance to use, review, and complain about them. However my wife’s Galaxy S3 was nice enough that I was willing to consider changing from an iPhone (4S) to Android.

I went to the store and tested a Note 2 and a Galaxy S4, comparing them with the iPhone 5. I liked the S4 enough in some initial toying around in the store after probably 45 minutes across a few trips. I decided to give it a try. I had a lot of friends with the Note 2 that liked the device, but the size worried me slightly since I’m traveling regularly. The S4 seemed like a nice upgrade from the 4S and large enough to use.

I pre-ordered the phone from Verizon, before it was available, and it arrived a day earlier than I expected it. As with many modern devices, it was fairly intuitive to get turned on, powered up, and switched onto my service. Verizon has made this part really easy.

Within a couple days I realized that battery life was an issue. I’ve had a Mophie case on the iPhone and that’s allowed me to last through long conference days. I wasn’t getting through days at home (though I was close) with the standard battery. I ordered a 5200mWA battery replacement for the S4, which was cheap and arrived in a few days. It’s thicker than the original battery, but it came with a new back that fit nicely on the device. Not only does the device now last all days, usually with > 20% battery after long days, but it also fits nicely in the same holster that carried my 4S/Mophie case.

It took me a few days to get used to Android, though much of the setup is similar and as easy as the iPhone. Google Play works as well as the App Store, though it responds much quicker. Background downloads, updates, and notifications are better.

However overall I have a mixed reaction to the device. I’ll talk about things I like and things I don’t, and give my impressions. I’m not trying to be objective here, or give you deep technical differences. I really don’t care about those. I care about how the phone works as a multi-use device for work and personal life.

Note that in my past Smartphone experience, I’ve had a Sidekick, a blackberry (original, very briefly), a Windows 6 device, an Android 1.5/1.6 G1, iPhones 3, 3S, 4, 4S, and now this device. My wife has had a G1, G3, iPhone, and newer (non touch) Blackberries I’ve used. I used iOS 4, 5, 6 on devices.


Screen – The screen on the S4 is amazing. It’s way beyond the 4S and G3. No contest. Even for a guy that doesn’t think HD is always worth the money and has no interest in 4K for media, this screen is amazing. At times I’m in awe of it. Blows away any monitor, TV, or laptop I’ve had away, including the brand new Lenovo T430 I have.

Notifications – I’ve been jealous of my wife’s notifications bar and window for some time. It’s just way better than the iOS stuff. I use it all the time, and it makes it easy to find what’s been happening on my device. I especially love the ability to get to Bluetooth, GPS, etc. at the top. I turn those on/off all the time.

Keyboard – Swype is amazing. I have tried a few keyboards, but I love the Swype one and it makes it much easier to “type” one handed. If iOS had this I might never have even considered another phone. It’s freaking amazing how well it works and how fast I can compose things. It’s better for short messages than long notes, but it works really, really well.

Selecting Text – Hands down, this crushes iOS. If I select the wrong spot, I can move the pointer easily. iOS could learn here. I still double tap to paste, and if the text is at the beginning or paragraphs, I sometimes can’t get to the top, but overall it’s great.

Widgets – Having larger widgets, and not just icons, on screens, is great. I don’t have a lot of needs, and I’ve found lots of junk widgets, but I have a few I like. I hope iOS adopts this.

Wi-Fi on/off – Dirt simple, and in notifications, I can turn it on very easy with one press.

Navigation – True GPS, and the turn-by-turn directions are amazing. They warn me of changes, and the display shows me what’s next (turn, merge, etc.) AND shows me what’s after that. In unfamiliar cities, this is very pleasing.

Google Now – Not perfect, maybe not great, but neat. If I drop appointments for things like hotels, it gives me one click navigation. Weather’s handy, sports scores, it’s a nice service. Saves me time.

Voice – Better than Siri. I don’t use it a lot, but it works better for me.

Speaker – I debated where this goes. The speaker is better, but it’s on the bottom, so I need a surface or cupped hand to hear it at times. Mixed emotions, but overall it’s a much better speaker.


Touch response – My wife swears it’s good, but for someone that has enjoyed the crisp, immediate response of iOS, it’s not there. It’s good, it’s nothing like older models, including my G1, but it’s still behind the iOS/iDevice integration. My wife thinks Android might be multi-tasking at times, but that’s annoying to me. Sometimes things are slow to select, or they’re hard to select with my fingers, or there’s a delay that causes me to do something else and I get messed up in my phone interactions. After months, I’m still bugged by this.

Back Button – The “back” button on Android is handy. However on the S4 it’s a soft button. And it’s in the lower right. I can’t tell you how many times my palm has come close enough to this to trigger it. This is especially true when I’m doing things one handed. It’s not constant, but it happens enough to annoy me. This should be a hard button, IMHO.

Camera – The camera works great, but a few things. One, it doesn’t remember the last mode I selected. Two, when I take pictures, the music stops briefly. A couple annoyances with the way it works, but those are rare, so they’re not worth complaining about. (if you must know, I don’t always know when a picture is taken, the camcorder seems to have a weird delay in starting and I sometimes don’t realize it has/hasn’t started, taps don’t seem as crisp as in iOS).

Music – The built in music app is crap, but when I loaded all my iOS music (unconverted) onto the SD card, it played it. However the performance, the display, the integration with the OS aren’t great. I’ll also note that I use Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, and they have inconsistent integration with the OS. when I open the lock screen, sometimes I can pause/forward music, most times I can’t. That always worked in iOS. For me, this is a major fail since it can be slow to turn off or pause music. In addition, sometimes when I yank headphones or kill my headset to get music off (like at airport security), it starts playing from the speaker. Maddening.

Lock Screen – This has been one of the most annoying things. A smartphone needs a security lock. If for no other reason than to prevent a friend from posting something stupid on Twitter/FB, texting, etc. If I enable this, then I lose the ability to get quick access to my camera. I’ve tried a few third party locks, but they are slow to open for the camera. I like taking pictures, and speed matters here. The quick flick up of iOS to take a picture and quick launch worked great. This feels like a generation or two step backwards. This might be the most annoying thing to me.

App Quality – I’ve probably only installed 20 apps on this phone. There were the 12 or so that I really cared about, and 3 were the reason WP8 didn’t make my list. Most of the apps I’ve installed were copies of apps I had on iOS.

Quality is worse. I can’t quite explain it, but I think coding is worse, as I have regular crashes of apps. The S4 itself might be to blame as it’s restarted itself in an abend 4 or 5 times since I’ve had it. That never happened on iOS. I probably rebooted with a power off, the 4S once every 4 or 5 months. It just worked and rarely did apps crash.

I find navigation (in menus) weird in some apps, I find behaviors strange and annoying, and overall quality seems worse. It’s not horrible, and I may have a crash every couple or three days, but they’re annoying.

As a few examples, Bejeweled crashes every other day, the Kindle app once a week or so. Evernote at times. However the Twitter app sometimes lets me quickly press and get a reply/retweet list, sometimes it doesn’t (see touch response above). If I select a note in Evernote, I can’t press on the note to edit. I need to pick the edit button, then press on the note. I know that’s an Evernote decision, but it affects me, on Android and not on iOS. Things like that are examples of strangeness. Spotify behaves well, but operates in ways that aren’t intuitive for me and I need to think about things. That’s not what I want in a smartphone.

Screen Rotations – A minor thing, but an annoying part of iOS was that I’ve get 4 or 5 screens of apps and I had to scroll through them to find things. I started searching, but that felt slow as well. My wife’s G3 has 4 or 5 screens, but if you keep flicking to one side, it goes through all of them, rotating from the last to the first, as in a circle of screens. iOS didn’t do this, with a linear layout of screens, and the S4 is like that. Annoying. Going from screen 1 to screen 5 is annoying, both on the S4 and in iOS.

The Future

The things the S4 does well, it does really, really well. The things I dislike are little annoyances, but they add up to constant minor irritation for me. I’d trade some of the great things to get rid of the annoyances.

I’ve decided I’m going to give the S4 to my wife when my 6 month commitment is up. She’s still drooling over it and I don’t have enough of a reason to keep it. In the short term my expectation is that I’ll try the G3 and if I don’t like it, go back to the iPhone 4S.

However, I am looking at what Apple does with iOS7 and any device updates later this year, and I’m keeping an eye on the Windows Phone devices. I’m tempted to buy a used WP8 device and give that a try. I like the interface from limited experience and the new direction (iOS/Android feel similar) intrigues me.