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ATPM 18.02
February 2012



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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Linus Ly,

Smart Move?

I use Macs and an iPad for all my personal computing. For mobile music listening, I have an iPod shuffle, mostly because both a 10 GB iPod and an iPod touch died on me. I got my brother and one of my sisters to go Mac, too, which means less tech support work for me. Recently, I finally made the leap to having a smartphone, and I ended up with an Android phone—to be exact, a Samsung Galaxy S. What? Why not an iPhone? It mostly came down to inertia and money.

Change is a constant in life, but there is also inertia. Changes do not always happen drastically but sometimes gradually. That is the case with me and mobile phones. Much as I love computers, the love does not translate readily to mobile phones. As a matter of fact, it was only when my wife was pregnant with our child that I got my first cell phone, some time in the late 1990s.

It took another ten years or so for me to move up to a smartphone. By then I already had an unhappy stint with AT&T, followed by many years with T-Mobile. I also have a family plan for three phones. Much as I’d love to take advice from Siri, I could not easily leave T-Mobile. I pay my bill online, so the idea of having a new user name and password to memorize, or even entered into 1Password and such, is not attractive.

It did not help that AT&T’s service continues to be deplorable, at least according to what friends tell me. I suppose I could have taken the leap to Verizon, but Verizon in general is more expensive. Ah, it usually comes down to money. With the T-Mobile deal I took, the data plan was only $10/month for 200 MB. When you don’t download audio or video, 200 MB a month is actually sufficient. I might be able to get data plans from other companies for $15/month but the $5 difference multiplied by 3 still puts the month’s extra cost at $15.

The iPhones 4S sure would be nice to have, but it costs in the hundreds of dollars, even with a two-year contract. Again, so that none of the three adults feel slighted, I would have to get three iPhones. In these uncertain economic times, with every price on most things on the rise while salary remains the same, I need to cut every corner I can.

So inertia and money are the underlying reasons for me not going with the iPhone. The many restrictions AT&T and Apple force upon the iPhone users also are turn-offs. Even with the few dumb phones I had in the past, I was able to set different songs as ringtones. Nothing to buy, no workarounds, just whatever songs I already own and have stored on the Mac. Yes, it is a pain to transfer the songs via Bluetooth, but it does not happen that often so the experience is tolerable.

With my 200 MB/month plan, there is not enough bandwidth to share with other devices. Still, should I want to, I have the ability to turn my unattractive smartphone into a hotspot to allow nearby devices access to the Internet, anywhere the T-Mobile signal is available. The ability is there in the iPhone, provided you jailbreak it. The game of cat-and-mouse some people put up with for jailbreaking just does not work for me. I want a phone that works as a phone unless I accidentally make it unworkable, not because some OS update.

I saved some money by not going with the iPhone, but is it a good user experience? No, it is probably like being at an unhappy job or flying coach. You get the regular paycheck or you get to your destination, but it is not pleasant. The phone reps pre-loaded a bunch of apps for me, and I think it may not be a good thing.

There were two versions of the Facebook app, one of which always reminds me to download the latest version. I complied only to be told again the next time it launched.


One of the Facebook versions that annoys me by prompting for download of newer version each time it starts.

I still use Plurk, a minor competitor to Twitter, and its Android app actually relies on the alternative Web browser Maxthon. The Plurk app also keeps telling me to download the latest version.

Most of the app icons look crude compared to the typical icon in iOS. Least acceptable are the T-Mobile apps MyDevice and MyAccount, as they look very unattractive. Last but not least, there is a Files app, which lets you walk the folders and see all the files in the phone, most with geeky names. The Camera app stores its files in a folder called Camera, which is inside another folder called DCIM. DCIM? Totally intuitive, no?


Yellow folders, just like on the desktop. I prefer iOS’s hiding of these desktop artifacts.

I would not be surprised if there were a text editor for Android for the geeks out there to happily edit configuration files by hand instead of through the GUI. I think this approach of bringing the desktop folder structure to the smartphone is just a disaster waiting to happen. What safeguards are there to prevent someone from deleting system files? I am not going to try that on my own phone.

Life is full of compromises. Money, ease of use, geeky functions, and features. In my case, I make do with a functioning smartphone that serves me well for e-mail and Facebook at a nominal cost. Perhaps some day I’ll come across a pile of money, or the kids will leave the nest so I can have my own phone plan and can splurge on an iPhone.

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