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An unbiased view of Android vs. iPhone

A couple of years ago, I posted An unbiased view on Macs, because I couldn’t find anything even remotely resembling an unbiased view. I looked to see if there was an unbiased view of Android vs. iPhone, and I actually found one. It’s right here: Android vs. iPhone. It’s an extensive list, from a Mac developer who also happens to have a Nexus One, of pros and cons of Android, using iPhone as an opposing reference. I quite like the list. It really doesn’t reek of fanboyism. So if you’re interested in a comprehensive list of pros and cons, that’s the link you want.

I’m presenting it in a bit of a more personal view—why the iPhone appeals to me (why I love using my wife’s iPhone), and why I still use an Android phone.

First of all, I want to say that I think arguments fangirls and fanboys have about Android and iPhone are usually stupid. They tend to be arguments about which platform is “better” or which is more popular. The problem with “better” is that it is a vague and meaningless term that doesn’t help consumers make a choice. The bottom line is that neither the iPhone nor an Android phone will be the best smartphone product for everyone‘s mobile lifestyle. iPhone will be better for some. Android will be better for some. And some will find both equally good or equally useless.

So I’m more interested in the practical. What are the kinds of things that are important to you in making a smartphone purchase?

What I like about the iPhone
I know a lot of people who have iPhones. I’ve played with my friends’ iPhones. I’ve seen strangers use them on the bus. I’ve played with them in the Apple Store. I’ve “borrowed” my wife’s iPhone periodically. Here is what I can tell:

  • iPhones are sexy. The displays look good. The casing looks sleek. Even third-party apps generally tend to look better than their Android counterparts.
  • The interface is designed with touch in mind. That makes sense, since it is a touchscreen OS. One hard button takes you to the home screen if you press it once and then to search if you press it twice. Everything else is through the touchscreen. Android has too many hard buttons (Menu, Back, Search, Home, a trackball).
    Edit (March, 2012): I now own a Galaxy Nexus, which uses soft buttons for Recent Apps, Home, and Back. By default, there is a contextual Menu button and no more dedicated Search button. It looks as if Google is trying to move more in the direction of going fully touchscreen.
  • The touchscreen is very responsive (you’ll notice in a lot of YouTube videos comparing iPhones to Android phones that the reviewer often has to swipe or tap a couple of times for it to register on the Android phone). Pinch-to-zoom is a lot faster—there is no lag.
  • Multi-tasking is not a priority. Yes, I know some people view this is as a con against the iPhone, but I view it as a pro. I agree with Steve Jobs that performance and battery life matter more than multi-tasking. I really don’t use more than one app at a time anyway.
  • Here’s another one I like that I’ve heard many iPhone users complain about—notifications. I like that they just appear and then disappear. One thing I dislike about Android is that, to get rid of notifications, I have to swipe down the notification bar and then either click on the notification or click Clear to clear it. A notification should just notify me and then go away. I don’t need it lingering and requiring a lot of extra taps and swipes to remove.
    Edit (March, 2012): Since iOS 5, iPhones now use an Android-like notification in addition to the old notification system that pops up. This, for me, has now become a con for iPhone, since it essentially has the Android problem, making the interrupting notifications redundant… but still interrupting.
  • Updates come right away to all phones whose hardware can support the latest version. Don’t get me wrong—I definitely think criticisms of so-called Android fragmentation are exaggerated. Fragmentation doesn’t have much direct effect on the end user. But there is a real sense in which consumers just like to have the latest and greatest. If a new version comes out and Google says “Hey, it’s got this cool feature and that cool feature,” and you know your phone is powerful enough (enough processor speed, enough RAM) to support the update, it can be frustrating not to be able to install the update right away, and not everyone is geeky enough to risk a voided warranty to install a rooted rom (rooted roms can also be extremely buggy). With the iPhone, you just plug your phone into your computer, and iTunes will install the newest version of iOS as soon as it’s released.
    Edit (March, 2012): Google has three items in its “Nexus” line that get vanilla Android and over-the-air updates from Google in a timely fashion—the Nexus One, the Nexus S, and the Galaxy Nexus.
  • I may be the only Linux user who thinks so, but iTunes is a nice interface, and over the years it’s just gotten snappier in performance. I love the smart playlists and syncing capabilities. When it works, it works extremely well. Of course, I also know some iPhone users (particularly ones who have tried to use their iPhones with multiple computers) who have had a lot of bad experiences with iPhones and iTunes connectivity.
  • Even with the growth of Android as a platform over the past two years, sometimes there are apps available for the iPhone that are not available for Android. One that comes to mind is Netflix streaming. The iPhone has had this many months now (almost a year). Netflix just has murmurings about it possibly coming to Android “soon” and then for only select devices.
    Edit (June, 2011): Netflix now has streaming on just a handful of Android devices.
    Edit (March, 2012): Now almost all (maybe all?) Android phones on the market can play Netflix.

Why I’m sticking with Android
I don’t get fanboyism or fangirlism. How can you think one popular product is superior to another in every single way and not acknowledge that people have different needs and preferences? How can you not even acknowledge that almost everything (if not everything) in life has both pros and cons? Well, I’m definitely an Android user, but, as you can see, there’s a lot I admire about the iPhone.

Nevertheless, I won’t be switching to an iPhone any time soon. Here are some great things about Android that keep me there:

  • I love Google Voice, and its integration into Android is seamless. Back in 2009, they tried to submit an app to the iTunes App Store, and Apple rejected it (or just simply didn’t accept it, depending on what semantic backflips you want to employ). My guess is that Google then put zero effort into the iPhone Google Voice app for the next year and a half so that by the time it was released it was just garbage (I know because my wife tried it out on her iPhone). Maybe after a few updates Google Voice for the iPhone might be usable, but even then there are some levels of integration Apple simply will not allow. With Google Voice I get free, unlimited text messaging. I can block numbers. More importantly, I have one number I can give everyone, and it can ring my Android phone when I have my phone on, or it can ring my GMail account when I’m on the computer. Voicemail transcriptions are notoriously inaccurate (almost hilariously so), but they are still better than nothing.
    Edit (March, 2012): Google has since updated to the Google Voice iPhone app, and it’s now better, but it still doesn’t match the quality of the Android app and, without jailbreaking, cannot integrate fully with the iPhone.
  • On a related note, Android has the ability (and has had this since at least Android 1.5, Cupcake) to send certain numbers straight to voicemail. So even if people call my real cell phone number (not my Google Voice one) as a wrong number, I can just add them to my “wrong number” contact, and I’ll never have to hear the phone ring again when they call. If they call my Google Voice number as a wrong number, I can add them to “wrong number,” and they’ll simply be blocked—they won’t even have the opportunity to leave me a voicemail.
  • The keys on the iPhone keyboard are easier to peck at accurately, but I still prefer the Android keyboard for a couple of reasons. To sum up quickly, it’s the visual distinction between upper- and lower-case letters, as well as the autocomplete suggestions. You can read in more detail in my The Pros and Cons of the Android Keyboard entry.
    Edit (March, 2012): the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) keyboard is the best I’ve found so far (yes, I’ve tried Swype and all the Swype-like keyboards—no thanks), because of how many auto-suggest options it presents for words as you type. Unfortunately, the stock Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) keyboard regressed a bit (only three suggestions, and you have to long-press the middle suggestion to get more suggestions). Fortunately, you can still install the Gingerbread keyboard through the Android Market (now called Google Play).
  • Occasionally we’ll rent a ZipCar and drive around some place we’re unfamiliar with. Turn-by-turn GPS navigation is really helpful during those times, and that comes with Android for free… even though the voice is a little scary. My wife and I call her the dominatrix.
  • I don’t think it matters that the iTunes App Store has more applications than the Android Market has. Most of the important ones are present in both stores. More importantly, Google can’t tell you what not to install. Even if an app is rejected by the Android Market (which is rare), you can still choose to override that and install apps outside the Android Market (you get a big warning that is a security risk, of course). Now with the new web Market, you can install apps on your device remotely using your computer. Google also allows you to install various web browsers and email clients. There are no restrictions on apps with a claim that they duplicate core functionality of Android.
    Edit (March, 2012): Apple is now allowing for other web browsers like Dolphin, Opera, and Skyfire, but you can’t set your default web browser to anything other than Safari without jailbreaking.
  • In theory, at least, Android can use Flash in its web browsers. You have to have Android 2.2 or higher, though, and your phone has to have hardware that supports it. The ability to play Flash is never a con. Even if you don’t like Flash, you don’t have to use it, and as far as I can tell it is just Flash on demand anyway (you have to manually decide to play Flash to get it to play).
    Edit (March, 2012): Adobe is going to stop developing Flash for Android in the future

So should you get an iPhone or an Android phone?
Well, I don’t know who you are, but I will tell you that the iPhone world and the Android world are very much eco-systems.

If you want the best experience from an iPhone, you should have an iTunes account and use iTunes to manage your music. It’d be nice to have a Mac with Mail and iCal as your main email client and calendar, respectively, and to use iPhoto to manage your photos. Your music, mail, address book, and photos will sync up when you plug in your iPhone.

If you want the best experience from an Android phone, you should have a Google account and use it for GMail, Contacts, Google Voice, and Calendar. You shouldn’t mind dragging and dropping music files to removable storage (even from iTunes) instead of having things automatically sync. Ideally, you should actually prefer dragging and dropping to iTunes syncing.
Edit (March, 2012): I have found an amazing pay-for app in Google Play called iSyncr. If you’re really conflicted about wanting an Android phone but “needing” iTunes, iSyncr is worth the investment.

Since I use Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu all regularly, drag-and-drop (as opposed to iTunes syncing) is ideal for me. I know that isn’t the case for everybody. And since I use three different operating systems, it’s nice to sync to “the cloud” my emails, contacts, and calendar, instead of to a single computer.

It’s certainly possible (and I know people who do it) to use an iPhone with a Windows computer and a GMail account. I just don’t think you’re getting the most out of it by doing so. Likewise, a hardcore Mac-Safari-iCal-Mail-MobileMe user who has no GMail account could use an Android phone but would also not get the most out of the phone by doing so.

I hope this has been helpful in some way. As always, use what’s best for you. There is no empirical “best” for everybody.

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Does Android “fragmentation” actually affect end users?

Ever since 2009, I’ve been hearing a lot in tech blog posts and the media about “Android fragmentation.” No actual Android user I know in real life has complained about it, though. I’ve also noticed that criticisms about so-called Android fragmentation tend to be quite vague.

From Android fragmentation is real:

For Joe Average, this created an ultra-confusing marketplace where operating system versions changed every few months. It also meant that compatibility issues were inevitable.

What compatibility issues? Examples?

From Ask Maggie: On waiting for a Verizon iPhone 5:

But one of the problems that Android has is that it’s very fragmented. Even at the smartphone level, different devices run different versions of the Android OS and that means that not every app runs every device.

What apps? Examples?

On my MyTouch 3G (the original), I’ve used just about every version of Android there is. 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2. Some rooted. Some OTA from T-Mobile. I’ve experienced no problems as an end user in terms of applications having compatibility issues. Some of the more graphics-intensive apps don’t run well on my 528 MHz processor with 192 MB of RAM, but that’s regardless of what version of Android I have—my phone just isn’t that powerful, so Angry Birds will just not run well on it. That has nothing to do with “fragmentation.”

Some people who want to make a big deal about Android fragmentation will point to an interview with one of the Angry Birds makers (Peter Veterbacka) in which he says

Android is growing, but it’s also growing complexity at the same time. Device fragmentation not the issue, but rather the fragmentation of the ecosystem. So many different shops, so many different models. The carriers messing with the experience again. Open but not really open, a very Google centric ecosystem.

but they seem to ignore that when asked directly about Android fragmentation being an issue, he says

Fragmentation on the device side is not a huge problem, but Steve is absolutely right when he says that there are more challenges for developers when working with Android. But that’s fine, developers will figure out how to work any given ecosystem and as long as it doesn’t cause physical pain, it’s ok;-) Nobody else will be able to build what Apple has built, there just isn’t that kind of market power out there.

That doesn’t mean that model is superior, it’s just important to understand that Apple is Apple and Google is Google. Different. And developers need to understand that. Different business models for different ecosystems. And wouldn’t forget about Nokia and MeeGo either, new leadership always tends to shake things up and create opportunity. And HP-Palm. And RIM. And even Microsoft. It’s a fragmented world.

If you actually own and use an Android device as your primary phone, how (with specific examples) have you found so-called “fragmentation” affecting you? Which applications do not work on your version of Android that would work on another version? Why do you think people don’t make as big a deal about “Windows fragmentation” (Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista, 7) or “Mac fragmentation” (Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard)? Am I crazy for thinking Android fragmentation is a non-issue?

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The Pros and Cons of the Android Keyboard

This is a kind of follow-up piece to Lukas Mathis’s Virtual Keyboards on iPhone and Android from a year ago, comparing the virtual keyboards on the iPhone 3GS and the HTC Magic. I bought the Magic (in America called the MyTouch 3G) around that time and everything Mathis said about the keyboard was absolutely true then.

I’m now running Froyo (Android 2.2) on my MyTouch 3G, and it’s pretty neat to see how Google has improved the keyboard a bit in the past year.

On the surface, of course, it doesn’t look as though much has changed:


You’ve got the regular keyboard (same size as it was in 2.1, 2.0, 1.6, and 1.5).

One thing that has changed is the replacement of the comma with a microphone symbol, allowing you to speak in text instead of typing it. At first, I was annoyed by this change, since I often use commas in text messages or emails (and I rarely use speech-to-text). As I’ll explain later, though, Google makes up for that replacement in a different way.


You have it in all caps.

(By the way, something Mathis doesn’t mention—generally speaking, I think he has an even-handed approach to the comparison, but this is where his iPhone bias comes out—is the fact that the Android keyboard makes it visually apparent with each letter on the keyboard whether you are typing in capital or lowercase letters. On the iPhone, the letters appear uppercase even if you are typing in lowercase.) Whoops! Thanks for the correction, Mr. Mathis. I somehow missed that mention in the footnote of your post.


Then you have the caps lock.


The numbers and punctuation.


And the weird alternate symbols.


As Mathis rightly points out, the major strength of the Android keyboard is the autocomplete, as it makes multiple suggestions as you type.

I actually don’t know if this feature was in earlier versions of Android, but in 2.2 if you type im without the apostrophe, one of the first suggestions will be I’m, and if you type simply i and then put in a space afterwards (indicating it’s only one word), your I will automatically be capitalized.


What’s even better, though—and I’m pretty sure this is a recent change in Android—is how the autocomplete recognizes the limitations of the Android keyboard size-wise and makes suggestions accordingly.

The Android keyboard (at least in portrait mode) is definitely smaller than the iPhone keyboard. It is harder to press the right key unless you are concentrating really hard on a particular key or unless you have really tiny fingertips.

Here you can see an example. The g and h keys are quite close together and easy to accidentally hit if you’re trying to type the other key. So here I have begun typing the word going, but instead of hitting goi I actually typed hoi, and Android is smart enough to suggest going.

This is quite huge, actually.

When typing on a physical keyboard, the user’s focus is on the actual text that appears on the screen, not on the keyboard. There is no need to look at the keyboard. The keys don’t move, and the physical features of the keyboard ensure that her hands stay in place, too. The same is not true for virtual keyboards.

Obviously, there is still nothing to anchor your hand to, but after doing quite a bit of typing on Android 2.2, I have to say Google has gotten me quite close to the physical keyboard approach. I don’t look as much at the letters I’m typing as I look at the autocomplete. I usually start typing only one to three letters (and not even carefully) and then select the autocomplete that has the word I was intending to type.


So, yes, as I mentioned before, I was saddened by the comma disappearing from the bottom of the keyboard. Google has made up for it a little by having punctuation autocompletes for every time you finish a word. So you have the option to keep typing another word… or to put in a comma or exclamation point (or something else).


And even though autocomplete of a word will automatically put a space after the word, if you select a punctuation autocomplete right afterwards, Android will delete the space, put in the punctuation mark, and then add a space afterwards.

This kind of “smart” keyboard makes it so I can type almost about half as fast on my Android keyboard as I would on a regular keyboard (which isn’t bad for a touchscreen keyboard).

The unfortunate thing about this implementation, though, is that it isn’t at all intuitive. A lot of this new functionality I discovered by accident. Nothing in the keyboard advertises the fact that if you type a word incorrectly Android will be smart enough to guess what you were typing. Nothing indicates that Android will automatically delete extraneous spaces before inserting your requested punctuation. I actually, for quite a while, would type i, hit the ?123 button to get the apostrophe, and then hit ABC to get back to letters in order to type I’m, not realizing that if I simply typed im, Android would suggest I’m to me as an autocomplete. Very handy, extremely smart—not at all intuitive, though.


As smart as Google has improved Android’s keyboard to be, it’s still got a ways to go. For example, as you can see in this screenshot, not every text entry box has that smart autocomplete. You can enable the Google search suggestions, but even that won’t account for misspellings. You’d have to actually search for the misspelled search, have Google say Did you mean…? and then click the proper search link.

The multi-touch still isn’t implemented the way it is on the iPhone (whereby you can hold down shift and then the letter to capitalize one letter, instead of pressing shift, letting go, and then pressing the letter). You also cannot hold down the switch-to-second-keyboard button and then drag your finger to the number or punctuation mark while basically staying on the main keyboard. And there are some times when the trackball is handy, but it’s just inelegant compared to the magnifying glass on the iPhone to get between letters.

Of course, you could argue that you will make fewer typing mistakes and have to go back edit if the autocomplete is as smart as Android’s is now. Same deal for punctuation marks (since they are now part of the autocomplete and not requiring a switch to the secondary keyboard most of the time).


Just as a random aside, if you’re not in a loud area, and you’re able to speak clearly, the speech-to-text function does work quite well most of the time (if only it could do so for Google Voice transcriptions, too, but that’s another story).

So the bottom line on the Android keyboard is that it’s really smart in a completely counterintuitive way. Once you figure out how to use it, though, it’s golden.

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You mean products fail for other reasons?

If you read recent press coverage of Google’s Nexus One, it all seems to make sense. Phones weren’t going to sell well being sold only online without a chance for people to try them in person in a brick-and-mortar store. There wasn’t an advertising campaign for it. Very few articles or blogs about the end of Nexus One seem to think there was a problem at all with the phone itself. No one says the phone wasn’t ready for consumers or that it was too difficult to use.

Yet two years ago when Asus was just starting to be successful with the Eee PC netbook (which came preinstalled with a version of Linux, which Microsoft had to stop right away by resurrecting XP for the first of many times to come), that’s what a lot of the press coverage assumed. Geez. I mean, a lack of advertising campaign or in-person models to try out in the store couldn’t have anything to do with Linux netbooks not selling. It must be that Linux is too hard to use. It must be that Linux isn’t ready for consumers. It must really be that consumers just prefer Windows when given the choice.

Well, there is some truth to that in that the Linux distro Asus chose to put on the Eee PC was essentially crippled (not at all like Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Fedora, Debian, OpenSuSE, or any of the other popular distros of the time). It wasn’t even vanilla Xandros. It was a custom Xandros that could be customized only through pasting cryptic commands in the terminal.

Nevertheless, if they’d marketed it correctly, Linux could have been a success. The problem with Linux on “the desktop” (or the laptop or netbook) is the myth of meritocracy. You don’t win by being the best. You win by marketing.

Think about it.

When the iPad was announced, critics focused on the features it didn’t have (no webcam, no Flash, no USB ports), but Apple with its clever marketing department convinced the hoards that the device was magic, so the hoards bought it. If a Linux tablet had been released without Flash, people would have just laughed and said “This is the reason Linux will never succeed—they need to realize the masses use Flash.” But Apple releases a tablet and all of a sudden people are actually saying Flash isn’t necessary. HTML5 is suddenly the wave of the future. Apps for websites are suddenly better than just going to the websites themselves.

I also see a lot of Linux poo-pooers claim Linux doesn’t have any apps, and that Windows users have certain killer apps they need, and that’s why Linux won’t succeed. Well, when Android first started, it had very few apps. In fact, for the end of 2008 and all through 2009, iPhone fanatics kept pointing out how many hundreds of thousands of apps the iTunes App Store had compared to the few thousand Android had. Well, Android now has almost 100,000 apps. If this pace continues, the iTunes App Store and Android Market will probably have the same number of apps by this time next year. The Linux desktop (as opposed to server or embedded) has been around since… the late 90s? Android has been around since 2008. The Linux desktop isn’t mainstream but Android is.

What should we learn from all this? Marketing matters. Being able to test a physical product out yourself matters. Dell selling badly marketed (or even anti-marketed) Ubuntu models on its website isn’t going to sell Ubuntu preinstalled in great numbers, nor are relatively obscure vendors like System76 or ZaReason without a proper store front or brand name recognition.

I would love it if all the bugs in Ubuntu (or some other popular Linux distro) could be fixed. I would love it if some more attention would be paid to ease of use or to making more applications available in the software repositories. I would love that. But that won’t fix Bug #1. If Linux wants to make a dent in the desktop/laptop/netbook world, it needs to give up the idea of being good enough and start embracing the idea of crafting, shipping, and marketing a product—yes, one people can try out in a brick-and-mortar store. In other words, what I said two years ago is still true.

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Living the Apple and Google life

Ever since Apple rejected the Google Voice application for the iPhone last year, the tech press has tried to play up a corporate rivalry between Apple and Google. Will people pick Android or iPhone? Will Apple make Bing the default search engine on the iPad? Will Google start making touchscreen tablets to “kill” the iPad? I’m sure Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs don’t get along as much as they used to, and Apple and Google certainly have experienced some overlap in terms of competing markets and target audiences. Nevertheless, for a lot of everyday consumers, the Apple/Google dynamic is more of a hybrid synthesis than a divided pledge to one or the other.

Here are a few examples:

  • Me: As some of my Ubuntu-using readers are dismayed about, I recently switched my primary operating system to Mac OS X on a Macbook Pro (still using Ubuntu on the netbook, still will keep updating Ubuntu tutorials). At the same time, I have an Android phone, and I will not be giving it up for an iPhone until Steve Jobs says (in all sincerity, not as a joke) “I love Google Voice and I think it’s the app everyone should install on the iPhone!” To make the most of my Android experience, I use GMail also, even to check my non-GMail accounts (via POP3). And, of course, I use Google as my main search engine.
  • My wife: She’s an Apple user through and through. She uses a Mac at work, and she uses a Mac at home. She has an iPhone. She uses Mail, not Thunderbird or GMail. Safari (not Chrome) is her main web browser. At the same time, she has a Nook (Android-based) e-reader, and Google is still her main search engine.
  • My pastor: Even this Apple hipster recently traded up his iPhone for an Android phone (albeit an iPhone clone), but he plans to get an iPad to keep up his “street cred.”
  • My sister-in-law: She uses a Mac Mini with iTunes and has an iPod, but she also has an Android phone and a GMail and Google Voice account.
  • My boss: She uses Google for just about everything. It’s her search engine. GMail is her email. She just got started with Google Voice the other day. She uses Picasa to organize her photos. But she’s an iPhone user.

In fact, I would say, at least among my social circle, the last example is the most typical. Yes, I know a lot of iPhone users. Before they had iPhones, they had iPods. Some of them still use iPods separately from their iPhones. But Google is the main search engine. GMail is the email. Google Voice is starting to catch on. Even if you don’t have an Android phone, there may be other Android devices (like a Nook) that you pick up. Even if you love Google, you may still have an iPhone.

Who’s going to win? Apple or Google? I say both will win. In some ways, both have already won.

P.S. I do know a couple of iPhone users interested in Google Voice. Anyone with a non-jailbroken iPhone who’s been using the two together for a while willing to share the experience of using the Google Voice mobile page in Safari? Pros and cons?

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Where are dedicated eReaders headed?

For a long time I was skeptical of the whole eReader phenomenon. I like my books. I like flipping through the pages quickly, taking one book at a time to the couch, to bed, to the bath, to the airport. Bent pages and ratty covers aren’t pretty to look at, but they still leave the book usable and lendable. Well, recently my wife got a Nook, and she is just glued to that thing. She is a voracious reader and has just been reading book after book (either for free or for purchase) on that thing day and night. Even though there are some refinements that could come to the Nook’s interface, she still loves that thing. The good thing is that Barnes & Noble actually seems committed to improving the Nook. It’s received four updates since its launch back in December, and every update has improved it considerably (usually the performance in terms of turning pages, but also some other features).

The other day, I had the opportunity to read a book on her Nook, and it was quite a pleasurable experience. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. I know she prefers clicking the hard button on the side to turn pages. I found I liked turning pages by lightly flicking to the right or left on the touchscreen (after it has dimmed—before it dims, a touch will select a menu item). Even though the Kindle gets a lot more press, the Nook looks a lot better (my wife had some random person on the bus ask her if the Nook was an Apple product) and it supports the ePub format.

What will happen with dedicated eReaders, though? My guess is, unfortunately, they will remain a relatively niche product. I don’t think there is a huge percentage of the populace who reads a novel a day. I think most people read only a little bit at a time. So the eye strain issue of a backlit screen is moot. I don’t agree with people who say “Lots of people stare at backlit screens at work all the time and don’t have eye strain.” I actually know quite a lot of people who do have eye strain from staring at laptop screens. In any case, a lot of laptop users at work are using their laptops to do various small tasks instead of just staring at it reading one long manuscript. And, really, that is how most people will be reading eBooks—a few pages at a time on an iPhone, an Android phone, or an iPad or other touchscreen tablet.

The bright colors and touchscreen appeal will definitely beat out the pragmatic eInk technology on dedicated eReaders… at least for most people. I think my wife can read sometimes two or three novels a day. For her, eInk makes a lot of sense. I don’t read nearly as much as she does, but I think eInk may make sense for me, too.

Tell you what, though—if they can make an eInk screen that is in full color and touchscreen enabled, that would kick some serious electronic book butt.

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Apple App Store like MPAA?

After reading Apple’s FCC Response Infuriates Google Voice App Developer, I’m getting deja vu. Kirby Dick, you listening? (This Film Is Not Yet Rated).

I guess with films people can at least view your movie without having to jailbreak their iPhones—though good luck trying to recup your production costs with an NC-17 or unrated movie…

If I were a phone app developer, I’d just go with Android. Even if Google rejects your app, people can still install it without having to root their phones.

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The iPhone 3G experience

I’m very glad my wife waited a year to get the second-generation iPhone. It has been quite difficult to actually get one, though. For a while, I thought it was some ploy by Apple to generate more demand and hype by pretending to have a limited supply and thus make the iPhones appear harder to get than they really are. After all, that worked for the Wii, except that Nintendo couldn’t get its act together even a year after demand for the Wii had swelled.

The long lines were a big put-off, and I kept thinking, “Why is there such a long line? Don’t they just sell whatever stock they have and then just tell people they’re sold out?” This thought came to me especially when I called one Apple store to ask if they had iPhones in stock, and they said, “Yes, we have them, but there’s a line, and it’s about a four- to five-hour wait right now.” Excuse me? Four- to five-hour wait? Who would do that? That’s crazy! I waited in line for three hours for the Uffizi in Firenze, but that’s because my friend who was studying there at the time said the Uffizi was the only tourist trap worth going to.

Well, today, my wife finally got her iPhone. She went to the Apple store downtown, and they said they didn’t have it. Then I suggested she try the new Apple store in the Marina, and she got there just as a truck full of iPhones was pulling up to the store. A line immediately formed in front of the store, and she was about the fourth in line. What was this line for? Why did the process take so long? Well, first they had to individually “pre-screen” each customer to make sure they had an AT&T account (yes, we’re in America, and AT&T is the only provider you can use with the iPhone) or knew the appropriate account information to switch from another provider. Then they had to take each customer and set up an account and activate the phone specifically for that account. In other words, it was all this AT&T business that made the lines so long. The entire process of waiting to be pre-screened, being pre-screened, getting the iPhone set up, and purchasing the iPhone took about an hour and a half… for one customer (my wife, in this case). Talk about inefficiency. But, hey, at least AT&T knows Apple isn’t selling iPhones to people who will just unlock it and use it with another provider. No, you’re locked into their two-year contract. They have their claws in you.

That said, the iPhone’s pretty slick. I wish they had a Linux-based (and pay-as-you-go) phone that was this slick. The only things I don’t like about it (user experience-wise) are

  • You can’t easily remove apps you don’t care for.
  • You can’t easily install random apps, and a lot of the specifically-made-for-iPhone apps cost money.
  • A lot of the menu items do not have a back button to return to the main menu. I prefer a back button to pressing the main menu button.

So, buying experience—lame. Actual user experience—pretty cool. I think my wife will have a lot of fun with it. I’m happy with my crappy Virgin Mobile phone, though. I don’t need all that fancy stuff. I just want to make phone calls and occasionally check when the next bus is coming.