Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Great Gadget Debate

It’s no secret that we live in a high tech society. It’s impossible to go anywhere these days without seeing an abundance of people with their gaze firmly planted on the incandescent glow of a LCD screen of one kind or another, be it a laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. I am just as guilty; I don’t even read “real” books anymore but choose instead to use ebooks (honestly, I think it’s been well over a year since I picked up a print copy of a novel); my Android smartphone is always close at hand and is used to read news feeds and the occasional few pages of a novel whenever I’ve forgotten my Nook; and I recently bought a laptop so I could sit anywhere in my house I want to surf the internet or write and of course still have access to a computer whenever I go out of town.

With so many choices in the marketplace these days, not to mention the seemingly constant announcement of things to come*, making the decision as to what gadget to invest in can start to become muddled. My perspective, for the most part, is that the decision is mostly subjective - you find the platform that works best for you and go with it whether that be Android, iOS, or Windows Phones/RT. My best friend, for example, recently switched from Android to iPhone, and an old college buddy of mine raves about Windows Phone (despite his being the biggest Microsoft hater I knew back in the 90s). Me? I still like my Android; I’ve had two and my next smartphone will likely also be Android (seriously considering either the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Galaxy Note II).

There’s an App For That

One of the big deciding factors is the selection of apps available from the respective stores. I’m not necessarily referring to total numbers here - lot’s of people like to used the volume of apps in in the iTunes App Store compared to what is now called Google Play, for example, to claim the iPhone’s superiority, but having hundreds of thousands of apps versus only, maybe, tens of thousands doesn't impress me; I can’t and won’t use all of them, and having too many choices can be just as bad as not having enough. Google Play (formerly known as Android Market), of course, has caught up and has just as many apps as iTunes these days.

At this stage of the game, I have a set of apps I use regularly enough that their continued availability, or even a suitable equivalent, is what matters most. Which is why I’m much more likely to stay with Android as my platform of choice. Windows Phone is quite intriguing especially since I recently made the move to Windows 8 for my primary computer OS, but the apps I need just aren’t yet available on WP, or if they are, aren’t yet as developed. As far as iPhone, there are pretty much the same or suitably equivalent apps for the most part, but I’m just not a fan of Apple’s proprietary nature or, more importantly, the lack of choice when it comes to devices.

Phones, Tablets and “Phablets”

Cellphone, Smartphone, Mobile Device, Tablet, Pocket Computer, “Phablet” - whatever. I’m not here to argue about which nomenclature is “correct” when referring to the various devices folks carry around these days. Can I make a phone call with it? Then it’s a phone. Can I use it to surf the internet? Then it’s a computer. Can I carry it around in a pocket, or backpack? Then it’s also a mobile device. “Smartphone” is the common terminology for a device that is both a phone and a miniature computer, while some argue that it should just be called a “mobile device” or “pocket computer”. The next gadget I’m considering, the Samsung Galaxy Note II, has been saddled with the nickname “phablet” due to still being a phone while the other features are more tablet like than other smartphones. Again, whatever - call it what you want, as long as it does what I need it to do, I don’t care what it’s name is.

Speaking of “doing what I need it to do”, this brings up my reason for considering (as I’ve mentioned a couple of times already) the Samsung Galaxy Note II as my next Android device. I currently have a HTC Droid Incredible 2 as well as a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Both have served me well, but lately their abilities to do what I want has become a bit more lacking. Trying to surf websites on the Incredible is limiting due to the screen size, while trying to do so on the Nook is limiting because it’s not really a tablet. Now, I could get a less expensive smartphone and a different tablet, but why should I spend a grand or more on two devices when I can spend $200-$300 on a single device that can fit the bill as both a phone and a tablet while also being more portable than a traditional tablet? Sure, with a 5.5-inch screen it’s rather large for “phone” and rather smallish for a tablet, but for my purposes it’s a happy medium; large enough to read a book or surf a web page, but not so large that I can’t fit it in a pocket.

Whatever you call it, whatever I choose, one thing's for sure when it comes to picking a new tech gadget, though - in a couple of months, something better will come out and the device I just dropped a few hundred dollars on will be half the price ;-)

~ JC

* Samsung, for example, is due to release the most recent version of its “Galaxy” line of Android based smartphones soon - the Galaxy S IV
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