By pickassoreborn 2 Comments
Last week I was taunted once more by another "If you haven't got an iPhone, then you haven't got..." television advert as I lounged on my couch holding the very thing they were mentioning with that horribly smug tone. I mutter under my breath. "I have got an iPhone, but I can't get that." The announcer continues with the shopping list of stuff that I can't access because two years ago I acquired a phone contract with the worst of the iPhones - the pauper iPhone. The iPhone 3G.
I was curious to see how the beautiful people lived. You know, the ones with the blemish-free faces and the catalogue-slim waistlines who nattered to their equally-ideal partners on their beds through the wonder of FaceTime, effortlessly flicking through their virtual photo albums of picture-perfect moments on the beach. At the time I had a Samsung U600 - I was fooled into getting one because Samsung featured greatly in the product placement of the Matrix movies. Somehow I thought I was Neo and I wanted a phone which flicked up in a slick way. Sadly although said phone had a cracking high-resolution camera for the time, it was rather shite at actually taking phonecalls. Games? Well, there was Tetris. Like a luddite I would trawl through mono-formatted WAP pages with crummy ol' GPRS. I remember there was a bundled shooter too, yet was tough to control due to the lack of a decent d-pad - the bane of many a mobile phone device.
After some persuasion from my girlfriend (now wife) at the time, I grabbed myself an iPhone. No 3GS units available, so I stumped up for a 3G. Surely it can't be that bad compared to the 3GS? They look the same, they're surely not that different? If only I had hindsight and a time machine. Oh, and a sledgehammer. None of this would have happened in the first place.
The wife has a 3GS and it's quite something to use that sucker compared to my 3G; faster accessing of apps, video... everything seemed to work like it should. In comparison, my 3G stuttered through the growing list of apps I was throwing on there. It would point blank refuse to access certain apps several times before it crawled back to the home screen. When it came to gaming, my iPhone 3G was obviously a world away from the humble Samsung and its lo-fi Tetris shapes. Alas, the cracks started to show soon after.
From a gaming perspective, it was pretty lousy when compared to the better versions of the iPhone my wife dangled from my reach - an update of the iOS confirmed this very fact by my exclusion from Game Center - the iPhone's answer to Xbox Live. More cracks - I couldn't install Infinity Blade, that super-shiny and sexy new game using Unreal tech which all the gaming websites were talking about. I recently grabbed the rather excellent Swords and Sworcery game, albeit one hampered by load times and a sluggish frame rate when navigating through the pixelated beauty of the moody game world. The finely-crafted soundtrack which accompanied the experience was hacked up with the repeated load times. Yep, I definitely got the worst iPhone.
I think the gaming experience accompanied by the hateful auto-correct and the fact the iOS update restricted me from even adding a fucking wallpaper to my home screen made me think of other avenues of my mobile experience - around this time Microsoft was rolling out sexy adverts of their new mobile OS and I was instantly taken by it. I think the fact it wasn't trying to be an iPhone was a plus - I hated the smug taint that comes with owning such a device. Those adverts don't help much. I don't have a perfect family to take photos of, I don't have AirPlay to magically transport those treasured ones and zeroes to a much larger screen. In short, I wanted me one of those Windows Phones.
The waiting for the chance to upgrade was painful - I restrained myself from tapping the tempting "upgrade now for £29!" button and waited until the 26th of this very month before I could upgrade online. I actually visited the virtua-store online at 12:01AM only to be told that I'd have to wait. "WHY U NO UPGRADE MY PHONE? IT'S 26TH!" I shouted. Bed beckoned and with it shiny dreams of a new mobile lifestyle. I love listening to the Sleigh Bells and those WP7 television adverts which more than hinted that "Hey, this isn't an iPhone" hooked me. The next evening after work, I grabbed myself a HTC HD7 with the fabled Windows Phone 7 OS and waited. True story - my iPhone was delivered by a midget. I thought nothing of it, just the whole process of "Yep, this must surely be a magical device". Sadly the WP7 was delivered by a balding, obviously married man who hates his job.
Rather than hunt down the pretentiously-presented USB "tool" to get my SIM out of the iPhone, I unfurled a paper clip and jammed it into the tiny hole at the top of the phone. Moments later, I had transferred it to the new phone and got it all set up. The wife looked on with interest - after all, she has had the iPhone 3GS for some time now and I think she craves a bit of a change too. She has toyed with the idea of an Android device purely on the fact that it has much more apps than the Windows Phone Marketplace. My argument was that I will be able to grab the main apps I used all the time on the iPhone anyway - Twitter, Facebook, etc. Using the HTC HD7 is a lovely, lovely experience. The thing is not only super-slick to behold, but the screen was larger than the iPhone's porthole. The phone booted up and presented me with options to login to my Windows Live ID.
First genius thing - the Windows Live ID. It hooks up to the Xbox Live part of the phone, the Hotmail part of the phone and anything else Microsoft-associated. I tweaked the tile set to be an optimistic orange and started to propogate the home screen with those apps I normally used on the iPhone; Facebook is pleasingly just as shit as the iPhone app - I'm not sure why Zuckerberg employs such terrible phone programmers, but it's disheartening. Second genius thing - and this is associated with Facebook - the People tab of the WP7 OS is ingenious in that it'll search through your Facebook friends and give you a big ol' list of contact information; the friends of mine who are foolish enough to include their mobile phone numbers are instantly accessible for inane chat. Mwhahaa!
The People tab also does the same for my Hotmail contacts, though I've had that Hotmail account for well over a decade, so I had a huge list of defunct e-mail addresses and, interestingly enough, "do_not_reply" addresses which I had to weed through in order to make my contacts list a bit more manageable. You can add to these contacts by adding more fields for information as well as pin specific contacts to the home screen. It's a shame (unless you can do this and I don't know yet how to) that you can't group contacts into Family members, workmates, etc.
Other revelations began to dawn on me besides the fact apps now behaved a lot better than on the 3G - imagine the joy of realising I could uninstall that Stocks and Shares app which no normal person actually uses. The iPhone wouldn't let me delete that app, nope. I could drag it all the way to the end of the app pages, but I'd still know it would be lurking somewhere. Zune Pass is a lovely thing to behold - the all-you-can-stream music service - and the Zune software - once you can decipher the navigation - is a lot more stable and less of an arse than crummy old iTunes - the grandad of the music scene, its crusty old bones riddled with 10-year-old code and a suspicious tendancy to work better on a Mac. Hey, everything works better on a Mac, right? I was very impressed with the syncing of the phone too - slick and super-quick. In comparison, iTunes plods along as it deletes practically everything on your phone before putting it back on there again.
My first forays into Xbox Live were interesting - I snagged the free Minesweeper game which is perfectly fine and does its job nicely. There's text ads to support the free-ness of the game, but I'm not that fussed. It's free. Free is good. The achievement notificaiton popped up at the top of the screen and it suddenly felt like I was in a familar setting. The selection of games wasn't stellar, but wasn't at all as bad as some ill-informed (possibly iPhone-owning) people would lead you to believe. The casual classics - Bejeweled Blitz, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and Fruit Ninja are all present and correct. After a recommendation, I checked out Fable Coin Toss and was wowed by the crisp and detailed visuals - I'd get that on the iPhone 3G but with a frame rate crunch to accompany it. The non-Xbox Live gaming tiles had a very tacky sense of MSPaint about them - non-shiny, non-polished icons aren't very appealing or give me any sense of confidence when I see them on my super-sexy new screen. The marketplace is obviously in its infancy, it'll be good to see it grow.
There are some niggles already - heck, I think every mobile device isn't 100% perfect. I had some trouble downloading titles from the Marketplace - the free Flowers game threw up an error about updating my phone through Zune, even though it was already updated. A quick internet solution later and it appears I had to buy the title through Zune on my PC first. The same PC-wanting weirdness also occurred when I tried to grab Puzzle Quest 2. My current gripe involves podcasts on the WP7 - it makes the process of obtaining and listening to them rather difficult. I assumed you could drop any mp3 podcasts into the Zune podcast folder and it would update them, although this only occurred with the Major Nelson podcast I grabbed, not the SModcast podcast. When I tried to "subscribe" (and I use the term loosely) to the SModcast podcast, I was greeted with an error message to say that the "feed was too big".
I've recently found out that the way to do it is to - gah - download a podcast app unimaginatively-called "PODCASTS!" and listen to podcasts that way; you can't stream podcasts through the Zune part of the phone. Oh, and the "PODCASTS!" app has a pro version - yep, you have to pay to store more than one podcast to play. It removes the ads too. I look at this oversight and realise why Zune failed - don't make a competitor to the iPhone which makes it a complete chore to listen to podcasts. It looks like I'll be buying the pro version if only to stave off the future ballache of syncing up mp3s to Zune.
After a few days though, I'm happy I have broken off from the Apple Motherbrain. I wasn't really totally part of it anyway considering the sub-par variant of the iPhone I was stuck with for two whole years. Maybe every smug television advert pushed me closer to the edge. Maybe it's a defiance thing associated with the whole "Mac vs PC" nonsense which was brought upon us by Macintosh themselves. There are things about the iPhone I will miss, but there's a lot of things I won't ever miss about it. iTunes is, and always will be, the greatest offender. The dirty old man of the Apple family in a well-worn armchair, pissing himself at intermittent intervals and gleefully knowing that sooner or later, those sexy iPhone cheerleaders will have to sit on his lap and talk to him.
The iPhone, I've figured out through some pretty pointless Twitter exchanges with iPhone-owning smug fuckers, is the Manchester United of smart phones. It's the smartphone which will always get the results and the smartphone which everyone seems to use because everyone else uses it. I fancied a change from the thing and the iPhiles shake their fingers at me and tut like I've committed the ultimate sin. Why would I want to leave the warm embrace of Helvetica and curved corners in favour of the One Microsoft Way? Simply put - I fancied a change. Also my interest in UI from both a recreational and professional aspect means I need to check out all kinds of interfaces and I thought it would be a great chance to see how the competition are handling interface design and interaction.
It almost makes me feel like I have to apologise for a somehow incorrect choice.