Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why I switched back from a Google Nexus 4 to my iPhone

I have been used to the iPhone. I have been used to 'closed'. I have been used to the Apple eco-system. I have been used to one way of doing things. I have been used to clean, clutter-free interfaces which are very intuitive to use.

I found all this taken away from me when I switched to the Google Nexus 4.

Take copy-paste, for example. When I selected some text, I got some icons on the top which, I figured, could be used to copy the text. When I went to another app to paste the text, I couldn't get it to paste. I tapped and held for a few seconds, clicked the three vertical dots on the top right, did this and that and a couple of other things that I thought would do it. No luck. I typed out the text.

This brings me to consistency. Any user interface should be consistent. On Android, for going back, you use the back icon on the bottom left sometimes and at other times, you use the back arrow on the top left. So, most of the time, you are wondering whether to use one or the other. You pick one. Its usually the other. Why can't you just stick to one of them?

The three vertical dots. Its like a right click I think. The only trouble - its sometimes on top and sometimes at the bottom.

The placement of the lock and the volume buttons was another thing that got to me. Every time I tried to lock the phone, I would either increase or decrease the volume of the phone!

Google Now and controlling stuff with your voice was cool. However it was not smooth. I somehow doubt the utility of these things. How many people have you actually seen use Siri or Google Voice search on a regular basis? You use it to show off to someone. Not to really search for some information you really need. Not to really fix a meeting. At least not now. These tools are much less than perfect to be used smoothly. Honestly. Even Siri. And by the way, Google Now is available as an iOS app.

The so-called freedom Android offered was also scary at times. A friend showed me an app on his Samsung Galaxy something. It was kind-of cool. I don't remember what it does now though. I asked him what it was called. He told me. I told him I would get that from the Play Store as well. He said it was not available on the Play Store. He said he would email me the file and I could just install it.

Oh... My... God....

You could install an app, just like that?

What if it had some horrible code that stole my credit card information and robbed me of my billions of dollars? What if it took secret pictures of me and posted it on my FB wall? What if it tweeted that I was a huge fan of Rahul Gandhi? What, in God's name, would I do? How would I show my face to the rest of the world the next morning?

No, please give me Apple's closed garden any day!

I admit that Apple has been slow on innovation lately. Yes, after Steve Jobs passed. Maybe coincidence. But it has been slow on innovation.

However, what they have already done is, AT LEAST FOR ME, AT LEAST FOR NOW, really great! I don't think I would switch to any other phone for years.

Switching back to the one below!

So, I have now completely switched back to my iPhone. My Nexus 4 was available for sale. This morning, my friend Venkata Subhash Tummala picked it up. Pretty fast. There must be something about it. True. But I just don't get it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

My not so smooth ride with the Nexus 4

When I got my Google Nexus 4, I was very happy. Like a child who gets a new toy, I excitedly opened the packing and immediately starting setting up stuff. I made sure I got all my contacts from my iPhone over. I setup my email and all the other accounts. I started getting a few apps as well - things I would obviously need - Facebook, Twitter, Evernote etc.

One thing that struck me immediately was that it was difficult for me to find my way around the phone. The whole thing was confusing. There were apps and widgets and you could have both on the same screen. Then you had a screen where you had all your apps and there was a tab for Widgets. The widgets tab had multiple widgets for each application. I was not used to so much stuff. My iPhone kept things very clean.

Then I had my first brush with frustration. I thought I should change the desktop picture. The default one was a little weird. I went to the Settings and chose the image I wanted. Then came trouble. Over the image were two overlapping rectangular boxes with handles. I could tell that it was allowing me to crop the image. But I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why there were two overlapping boxes. Try as much as I could, I did not manage to get the image I wanted as my background. It would either be much too zoomed out or would have the wrong part of the picture as the Desktop.

I then checked online about this and found that people had recommended an app to do this easily. I got the app and Voila! I could set my image as desired as the Desktop.

It was then that I realized how things worked in this world. Nothing much came by default. You figured out what you wanted and got an app for that. There would be an app for almost every imaginable need.

The overall experience with the phone, however, was clunky, to be honest. For example, you are supposed to be able to access the Settings by swiping with two fingers down. Many times, I would swipe with two fingers but it would assume a one-finger swipe and this would show the notifications screen. Many such publicized gestures did not work all the time. I would need to do the gesture 2-3 times before they would work.

The default way music and pictures were stored and accessed was also very clunky. To play music, I had to select a playlist and then "add to a queue". I was like, "Play the damn thing NOW!"

One big problem I have with the Nexus 4 is its width. I cannot hold it comfortably in one hand and use it. This is important for me when I get on to dialysis and am about to get off dialysis as well. Since only one hand is available, I don't have the luxury of using two hands to operate the phone. This makes it very difficult to use the Nexus 4 at these times. But again, this is only me!

One thing I absolutely loved about phone was the swipe keyboard. This was fantastic and made typing a breeze. Another thing which I discovered was Google Now. This was a fancy little app that was fun to play with. If it becomes more reliable and consistent, it could really be much more useful.

It could be possible that I have gone just too used to the iPhone and the entire Apple eco-system to take change easily. I know people who swear by the Nexus 4, many of them previous iPhone lovers. So, I guess this is a very personal thing. A lot could also depend on the things you use your phone for. I am not a very advanced user. I use the phone for basic stuff. Phone calls, text messages, few apps. That's it. For my usage patterns and circumstances, one phone could be better. For another person, another phone could be better. To each, they say, his own!

(Tomorrow: Why I switched back from a Google Nexus 4 to my iPhone)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why I switched from my iPhone to a Google Nexus 4

For those who know me, this came as a real shock. "I never thought you would do this!", said one. "Don't do this, Kamal. You'll hurt Steve upstairs!", said another. Some called me "traitor".

I have been an Apple user ever since 2000 when we started Effigent. Obul Kambham got me hooked. I have used only Macs since then and become irritable when I have to use a Windows or Linux computer. Obul gifted me my first iPhone a few months after it was released. I was thrilled. I have been using only Macs, iPhones and iPads all these years. I got myself an iPhone 4 (my phone until I committed treason) around March 2011.

There was nothing wrong with my iPhone except for two little things. Sometimes, when I got a call, even if I swiped to answer, nothing would happen. The phone would continue ringing. I figured out some time back that if I pressed the volume buttons and then tried again, it worked. The other problem I had was after a call, despite tapping the End Call button, the call wouldn't end. I would have to do something else, return to the call and then end it.

Apart from this, there was one big problem I had with Apple with regard to the iPhone. Nothing new. Apart from becoming longer, thinner and getting better screens, there was nothing really 'different'. This from a company that took pride in "Think(ing) different!"

I wanted something 'new'. Something that was not the same old phone. Then Jayadeep, a dear friend who is a firm believer in (and contributor to) open source and all that jazz started talking about the Google Nexus 4. He said some very good things about it. He also got one. The best part about it was you could get it for around 20K in the US and the phones were all factory unlocked!

I also happened to read this article on Gizmodo. I was convinced. I went onto the Google Play Store and ordered one. My brother Prasan, a self-confessed Apple fan happened to be visiting the US and he picked it up for me.

So, there I was, a huge Apple fan, switching to the Google Nexus 4 after all these years of using only Apple products. At least I proved the folks who accused me of being biased wrong.

(Tomorrow: My not so smooth ride with the Nexus 4)