New phone

Volume 2, Issue 17; 24 May 2018

Putting the “i” back in my mobile phone.

Engineers tirelessly build phones with the tiniest bezel physics will allow so they'll look nice in the store before we put them into bulky cases so we can drop them on the pavement

Chris Martin ‏

I had been complaining about my Nexus 6 for months. After 3+ years, its brand of planned obsolescence had started to kick in. The phone was slow, it would reboot periodically for no good reason, the camera was unreliable, the battery life was measured in a small single digit number of hours.

But I hate buying phones so I was dragging my feet on a replacement. Trying to pick a new phone is almost has hard as trying to pick a new laptop (which, alas, I have now resigned myself to as well, in the near term term rather than the medium term).

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was standing at a bus stop in San Francisco checking to see what bus I needed when the phone, with 53% charge, just turned itself off. Annoying and unreliable was careening towards actually dangerous (not that getting on the wrong bus in San Francisco is actually likely to be dangerous, but you can see my point, I hope).

And the following morning, my boss called and the phone was so sluggish I literally Yes, I mean “literally” in the actual, literal sense. couldn’t answer the call before it went to voicemail.

I’d been hemming and hawing about switching back to the Apple ecosystem. I’ve been happy with Android. I like the fact that the device is more open. But I really like the fact that Apple took a strong stance in favor of user privacy. And I like the fact that they aren’t primarily an advertising company. And I have a swanky new iPad Pro with the pencil that I really like. And, since a friend of mine could get me an employee friends-and-family discount, I asked him to have one sent to the local Apple store.

My iPhone X was ready in time for lunch.

I’ve been using Android for years, but also recently an iPad, so it wasn’t a total shock. There are differences, but they aren’t dramatic. The last iPhone I had was an iPhone 3 circa a decade ago. I don’t miss the home button. Lack of a consistent back button is sometimes frustrating, but the OS is maintaining some kind of stack and there’s usually a “back to previous” app link in the upper left corner when I want one.

I had looked at various iPhone models in the store a few times but failed to notice that the iPhone X is quite a bit smaller than the iPhone 8 Plus (which is comparable to the Nexus 6). It’s tiny. Well, it’s not really tiny, but it’s a good deal smaller and it sure felt tiny when I got it. It still does, but I’ve gotten used to it. Mostly, anyway.

I have absolutely no interest in biometric locking, so I can’t tell you anything about the facial recognition features. Or Siri as I don’t want to be carrying around a hot mic either.

Integration with Google Voice is really clunky. But I guess that’s not surprising. I really like Google Voice though, so I’m just going to put up with it.

The battery lasts all day and all night. Maybe not if I’m using it hard, but it lasts long enough that I’m beginning to get over the anxiety of making sure I have a battery pack with me at all times.

Connecting my Android phone to Exchange for work email and calendaring gave the IT administrator significant control over my phone. I’m very pleased to find that Apple doesn’t do that shit.

The camera is very nice. I’m not quite sure how I feel about HEIC. I’m using it, on the assumption that it offers better fidelity than JPEG images, but it sure is inconvenient given the dearth of viewers and converters for Linux at the moment. I think the “live photos” feature is silly at best and a distracting nuiscance at worst.

Integration in the Apple ecosystem is really nice. Push a button to send a photo to another device, even someone else’s. Open up the iPad and it can use my phone for tethered internet without first navigating through settings on the phone to turn on the hot spot. Things like that.

Integration with other ecosystems isn’t so nice. And the fact that you can’t integrate anything else into it is also not so nice. (My iPhone to DropBox to AWS to to to Twitter posting workflow would make Rube Goldberg proud.)

But so far, I’m pleased. And I’m not thinking about the watch at all. Not me. No sir.