Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricanes and Smartphones

Let me start off by saying that I am, at heart, an Apple guy. In my household, we have three Macs., four iPhones and two iPods. Recently though, I came into possession of an Android powered phone. The device in question is an HTC Inspire. It isn't the latest or greatest of the Android offerings available by any reasonable standard. The Inspire relies on a single core processor (where multi core chips are standard today), it runs an old version of the Android OS, Gingerbread, and its battery life Is nothing to write home about. Despite these shortcomings, I decided to play around with the Inspire in the hope that I would get the basic feel for the Android experience. With this in mind, I purchased an inexpensive SIM card adaptor, moved the mini SIM from my 4s to the Inspire and was off and running.

At the outset, it is impossible as an iPhone user to not be impressed by the Inspire's screen. It is huge by Apple standards and both bright and clear. Web browsing, email, ebooks and anything that involves reading text beyond a few sentences is significantly easier on the eye with this big screen.

The Inspire came bundled with a number of useful apps that included Facebook, a camera and camcorder, Google's excellent maps, the Android equivalent of the iTunes app store-Google Play and many other programs as well. I spent some time loading some of my favorite apps in their Android versions and quickly began to feel at home. It didn't take long for me to have Facebook, gmail, Angry Birds and other apps running on the Inspire.

Web browsing and email on the Inspire work in much the same way as they do on the iPhone except that you are free to attach anything you want to your emails and there are many more browser choices. Thats one of the bigger differences between the Apple and Google approaches that I noticed. Apple keeps things very simple by making choices ( such as what can be attached to an email) for you. Google, by contrast, gives you access to the file system through a desktop style file manager. The choice is yours as to what files you want.

One of the distinct downsides to this particular Android device that I immediately encountered was battery life. Initially, I would estimate that it had about half of an iPhone's battery life. This was, obviously, a huge downside that almost became a deal breaker in my eyes. Rather than admit defeat on the battery front though, I downloaded a free app called Juice Defender. This app, essentially an Android power management controller, made it easy to configure the Inspire to give me some semblance of reasonable battery life. It's still no iPhone but it is much better in the battery department.

The reason for the hurricanes in this article's title is that I spent two days cooped up in my house while hurricane Sandy made a mess of NYC. I had this time to use the smartphone of my choice to interact with friends and coworkers. I assumed from the outset that I would be reaching for my trusty iPhone over and over again. But, to my surprise, it was the inspire that I found myself using the most. The reason, simply, was that beautiful screen. Reading emails/articles, playing games and surfing the web was just more enjoyable to me with more screen real estate. Were it not for the game , Matching with Friends, which isn't yet out for Android, I probably wouldn't have touched my 4s at all.

I'm still not likely to switch from my iPhone to this particular droid phone permanently, the short battery life is hard to get around, but I do see the attraction now. When my current contract is up in a few months, I am going to have to take a serious look at the latest Android offerings. There is a lot of good stuff here


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