Time to think about phones again

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 9:19 PM | comments: 0

Diana dropped her phone the other night, and the screen bit the dust hard. The outer glass was fine, it was the LCD inside that broke. Of course, the timing is horrible, because we're about two months away from the end of our typical two-year contract. And don't be fooled by AT&T's early upgrade... what it really means is that you can pay full price on a phone and make payments. No thanks! I ended up getting her a Nokia 520, no-contract phone for a little under $50. The camera sucks, but it's not bad for a totally unsubsidized phone.

Diana had a Nokia Lumina 820, and it was a damn good phone. It's guts were the same as my 920, only with a lesser camera and not a high-resolution screen. We're pretty sold on Windows Phone still, at least to the extent that we've been happy with the operating system and the specific hardware we've had. The 920 has been fantastic, in part because of the great camera, arguably one of the best of any phones ever, and the high res screen.

Still, it's good to look around, so I've had my eye open. I'm really impressed with all of the Android hardware out there. The OS is getting better, but while the widgets are getting more robust, it's still a weird mix of that with the icon grid that doesn't tell you anything. The carrier reluctance to push updates quickly also is a bummer.

I was encouraged to see that Apple finally made the iPhone bigger. That was long overdue. I'm also glad to see they made a nice curved edge phone. That said, they're still making it unnecessarily tall with that extra bevel space at the top. It also reveals two OS issues. The first is the convention of putting buttons at the top, which are now out of thumb reach. The "reachability" feature is kind of a hack to address that, and it seems awkward. The other thing is that the OS has no "responsive" conventions, where stuff lays out in a natural and flowing way (like HTML or XAML), meaning they end up scaling stuff. My frustration with the iPhone is mostly that it still doesn't really tell you anything on the home screen beyond some count badges. No calendar items, no weather forecast, status from my wife.

I think it's pretty much a 90% certainty that we'll get Windows phones again. My hope is that the 830 hits AT&T soon, because that would be a suitable replacement for Diana. For me, well, it's hard to say. The HTC M8 that they just put out in a WP version is pretty amazing, but I need to see some photo samples. It's hard to beat the good Nokia cameras. There's a 925 that's aging, and the 1020 has been out for awhile. The closest replacement is the Icon or 930, depending on which carrier it's on, but neither is available on AT&T. We're staying put there, because the share plan with the corporate discount is too good to leave.

Truthfully, I don't need to really upgrade. The battery is still in pretty good shape, getting me through a long day without issue. Diana needs a new one, because that camera is terrible in the cheap no-contract unit. We do have a 4-year-old who does cute things, after all!


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