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What nextus?

February 1, 2012

Vista busy cursor How time flies. My Android phone is eligible for an upgrade on 14 February. That’s when I complete month 17 out of an 18 month contract on T-Mobile. 

Can it really only be 16 and a half months ago that I was still using a Windows Mobile phone? Yes, I mean clunky old Windows Mobile that needed a stylus, not the new Windows Phone with its Metro interface.  I can barely remember my old HTC XDA Stellar (Tytn II).  I’m sure it’s still lying around somewhere.

My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy S, running Gingerbread 2.3.3, and I’m pretty certain my next phone will be another Android device. Well I can’t see myself buying an iPhone.  I still feel as I did 16 months ago. I think the iPhone is a stunning piece of engineering, design and software+hardware integration. But it’s a bit small screen-wise, inflexible in terms of UI and lacks other features I value such as tethering and turn-by-turn Google navigation. The worst aspect of the locked-down UI is that sliding finger keyboards (as typified by “Swype“) are not permitted on iPhones.

Don’t I need Siri? After the novelty wore off I might use it on occasion when I remembered it was there.  I’ve had a play with Siri on my kids’ iPhones. It is better than anything currently on Android (closest to date is Speaktoit Assistant) but that won’t last long.

What about Windows Phone? I actually think these are fantastic phones. They are refreshingly different and have if anything gone beyond iPhone and Android by looking for a new paradigm to supersede the grid of icons. The idea of “hubs” to integrate contacts/social networking/other services does offer something new and potentially superior. I do love the look and design of the high end Nokia Lumia phones. I steered clear of Windows Phone 16 months ago because the platform was just launching and I expected teething problems. I had no wish to be an early adopter and hindsight confirms I was right to be cautious.  But what about now that Windows Phone is past the early creakiness?

No. I really want Windows Phone to muscle its way into the market and be a major player, but I don’t actually want a Windows Phone for myself right now. I feel it is a phone that will work best for people who live on social networks, who will make the most of the integrated  hub concept.  I don’t use Facebook, don’t hang on every tweet, don’t have an Xbox, don’t use Microsoft services such as Live, Skydrive and hotmail.

I’m primarily a Google services user. I want gmail, Google calendars, Google maps and turn-by-turn navigation. I use Google+ but not on my phone. And I like to tinker with my user interface. Get it all organised exactly the way I want it.  I want to use an app like Tasker to fine-tune the phone’s behaviour. I want the Swype keyboard, which knocks all others into a cocked hat. And all of that points back to Android.

My initial temptation was to go for the Galaxy Nexus. I hate manufacturers’ insistence on trying to differentiate themselves by adding skins to the OS. Ice Cream Sandwich does not need “improving” and certainly not at the cost of being beholden to manufacturers and carriers for months while they add their skins and bloatware to new releases of Android.  The Galaxy Nexus would cut through all that, and is a fine device. But Leo Laporte put me off it a bit on “Before You Buy”. Mostly because of his rant over the pentile screen although no-one else seems to have a problem with it. I have a pentile screen on my Galaxy S and it doesn’t bother me.  Leo also objected to the soft buttons replacing traditional capacitive hardware buttons.  I actually think that is key to the concept of ICS unifying tablets/phones and may only work clunkily now because many apps have yet to be optimised for the new OS.  Still, his hostility gave me pause.

My carrier, T-Mobile, don’t offer the Galaxy Nexus in the UK. I won’t switch carrier, no-one else matches the signal strength where I live. There are third party vendors offering the Galaxy Nexus on T-Mobile contracts but I’m not loving the packages on offer.

My best hope is the Samsung Galaxy S III but that may not be out till the summer.

You know what? I’m going to stick with my Galaxy S for now, and switch to a SIM-only 30-day rolling T-Mobile contract.  I can keep my physical SIM and number and cut my monthly outlay to £15 per month. When someone finally brings out a new ICS phone worth having, that’s available on T-Mobile, I’ll take out a new 18 month contract.


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