I had been having a little trouble with my iPhone 3GS. The software was fine, it was running iOS4.0 (jailbroken and unlocked). It used to be an AT&T locked iPhone, so to use it in the UK, I had to keep it unlocked. The hardware was fine too, save the headphone minijack. If I was walking and listening to something (which I’ve been doing a lot, lately) one channel would often cut out. It was bothersome, but nothing I couldn’t live with for a bit. Then on a telephone interview or two (with me using the included iPhone earphones/mic), interviewers mentioned they couldn’t hear me very well. I didn’t quite put two-and-two together until I spent the entire day repeating everything I said on the phone one Friday two weeks ago, when I was working with a consultant to rewrite my CV.
That did it for me. Realising that possible work opportunities depended on recruiters and employers being able to hear and understand me on the phone, I started looking for a new phone. With the release on Windows Phone 7 around the corner, I stopped in at an O2 store to check out the phone in action. They had the HTC HD7 on display which I could play with.
The hardware: The phone looks and feels really nice. It has a solidity to it that I’ve come to expect for HTC devices. The 4.3 inch screen is a beauty, but just a little to large for me.
The software: This was my first time playing with Windows Phone 7, and I must say, I’m impressed. The UI has a fluidity to it that trumps anything else I’ve used. One of the key things I look for in the UI/OS is how long a first time user takes to figure things out. And as a first time user, I was very comfortable navigating in and out of the various apps in under 5 minutes. I was pleasantly impressed by Internet Explorer on the phone (I was really dreading it, after being used to Safari on the iPhone). Cricinfo.com loaded flawlessly.
The things holding me back from getting a WP7 device is that I couldn’t get one unlocked or “sim-free” yet. Also if I purchased the devices contract-free in the UK, they are still locked to the career. Other things holding me back are the lack of copy & paste, a native Mac client for syncing, and the relative lack of multi-tasking for third party apps. Some of this has been fixed already and others I’m certain will be fixed very soon. Also I don’t yet own an XBOX 360, so I’m not tied to the Microsoft platform in anyway.
I also looked at several Android phones (unlocked of course). The phones that I was considering were the HTC Desire, Desire Z, Desire HD (all £400 and above) or the Wildfire (around £200). My rationale here was that I would probably want the iPhone 5 when it arrived in the middle of 2011, so a temporary Android device would let me get a taste of the platform.
But given my lack of a job, I wasn’t about to plonk down some serious cash on a phone yet. So I listed my iPhone on London Craigslist, which isn’t very popular here, one morning for £250. And lo, I got a serious offer that evening. I wasn’t quite ready to sell, since I had listed it just to see if any fish took the bair. But as Reva said, if I’m being offered £250, from a serious buyer, I should take it. It would only be harder to sell later on. I sold it that night, and reverted to using my ageing Sony Ericsson w880i while I scoured the Internet and high-street stores for an Android device I wanted.
What complicated matters even more was rumours of a “Nexus Two” to be released shortly. I figured if I was getting a phone to experience the platform, it should be able to update to the latest OS as soon as possible, à la Nexus One. I waited a few days and the tech blogs didn’t really heat up with the possibility of the Nexus Two with Gingerbread anytime soon. If I could buy a Nexus One for around £300, that would be perfect, I thought to myself. Randomly one morning, I looked on Gumtree (UK’s Criagslist) for a Nexus One in decent shape. I found a very friendly lady selling a brand new, still in the box, Nexus one and she was willing to part with it for £300.
So for only £50 pounds more than I sold the iPhone for, I’m currently rocking a Nexus One running Froyo. Not bad, eh? Yes, the model itself is more than a year old, but it is likely to be one of the first phones to get new upgrades of the OS. This was my top criteria for any Android model I got, anyway. Given that the Galaxy S devices are still running 2.1 (Eclair) when 2.3 (Gingerbread) is around the corner, is pathetic.
So I’ve been enjoying this phone for about a week now, and it certainly fails the earlier test I mentioned (a novice to the platform being able to use it in under 5 minutes). But I love the configurability. I’ve not rooted it, and I don’t plan to at the moment. I’ve got most of the apps I normally use for free from the Android Market, including a few games to keep me occupied. I like that I don’t need a computer to get it up and running, or really to do anything on it, including downloading podcasts and music. The phone came with Android 2.1 installed, and I spent a day or two pinging the servers to get the OTA update without luck. Finally, I manually updated it to 2.2 I hope 2.3 isn’t such an issue, but I’m not sure if this has to do with the fact that the Froyo rollout for Nexus One is over or that I’m running it on Orange. Additionally, I had to manually set the Orange APN for the UK to get 3G service (something I didn’t have to do with the unlocked iPhone). The screen is not great, but the camera is better than the 3GS. The keyboard is definitely a downer, but I like the audio input, which actually works very well in a quiet environment. And I still can’t figure out how to get Swype on it. Battery life seems decent, but I’ve not put it through any heavy usage yet. I’ve also been killing of background tasks fairly often. And the real bummer? The native GMail client doesn’t support copy/paste from a non-editable text field.
Overall, one week into using the device I’m happy. I plan to keep using this till next Summer at which time I may upgrade to the new iPhone if it is compelling enough.
Update: And here we go, the Nexus S has been spotted. No release date tho. It does look like a front facing camera in that picture. http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/11/this-is-the-nexus-s/