From the iPhone 4 to the Samsung Galaxy S II

I have always been accused of being late to many parties relating to phones. I only moved from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4 in September, almost a year since the iPhone 4 was launched. For those who think I owe them an explanation, well, these phones are not cheap. You do not want to rush and buy something only to realise that if you have waited a few weeks, you would have made a different choice. There is a very close relationship between rushed decisions and regret. If you are going to spend more than 50k on a phone, or anything for that matter, it is important to take time to prayerfully consider your options. I would rather any day be in a situation where I wish I had made the choice sooner than in one where I wish I had not rushed into something.

One also need not rush to be on the very bleeding edge of technology and remain perpetually the prey of manufacturers who will everyday have yet another “revolutionary” product that you will wonder how you have survived for so long without. That is why I am not changing my iPad 1 yet. But that’s a whole other story.

Having been locked and glued onto the world of Steve Jobs products for close to four years, I was getting a bit bored and just wanted to see what else is out there. I just wanted to play outside the walled garden for a while. There has been a lot of buzz around the android platform and how it is the way of the future. Having been in this world for just over a month I agree fully. I read a lot of articles about the Galaxy S II vs the iPhone 4 (even 4S) and even though I took each review with a pinch of salt, it has always convinced me that this Samsung phone was worth a second look.

I had also seen several local reviews but for some reason I was not too convinced as it seemed that they were just extolling the virtues of the Samsung without enough information or experience about the iPhone or iOS for that matter. Of course if you are coming from the kabambe or ideos, the Samsung will look like heaven. Anyway, here are my first few things I can now speak from experience about the shift from the iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Of course I decided to keep both for a while before deciding which one to keep.

1. Samsung’s Larger Screen

This may be a subtle difference but after you get used to the Samsung’s 4.3 inch display, the iPhone 4’s 3.5 inch display looks tiny. Though I think the iPhone retina display outshines the Super AMOLED Plus display on the Samsung, it feels like a small price to pay to move. The browser or should I say browsers for the Samsung since the Android world has many options is more responsive and easier to read on the Samsung. Another very small but amazing difference on the Android platform is the “back” button. It is really hard to do without this on these days.

2. Apps shmapps!

The biggest issue I have heard people raising as the reason for sticking to iOS has been the perception that there are so many apps they have gotten used to and they wouldn’t want to do without if they were to move to Android. From my experience, the majority of the apps you have on iOS have an Android equivalent. The only one I miss is Flipboard which I still have on my iPad. There is one thing that is important to note here. There are by far more Android smartphones now than iOS ones. According to this article Android is winning this battle too. iOS is restricted to Apple products while Android is now the platform of choice by very many manufacturers of smartphones worldwide. So there are actually now more smartphones running Android than iOS. iOS may also have more apps, but that gap has been reduced to about 100,000 apps and is closing fast. Android is now leading in the number of downloads already.

So in this case, the Samsung is ahead simply because it is running Android. This is going to get even better this week when the next version of Android, 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is released for the Galaxy S II.

3. Android is more customisable

I can choose to have my sms look like this today, and like something else tomorrow. I can have live wallpapers as a background for my apps. A live picture that changes depending on the time of day, dark at night and bright during the day. Even Siri is no longer a big deal as there are even so many options for Android equivalents.

4. I can change/remove my battery and add storage space

The day after I bought my Samsung, I bought an extra battery and also got a 32GB mini SD card. When you buy an iPhone, you are stuck with as much space Steve Jobs and his guys have decided you should have. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to do this for the first time in a long time.

I could talk of so many things that are easier, better on the Samsung than on the iPhone but I think you already know I am sold out on this phone. At this point I may also sneak in the fact that the Samsung has an 8 MP camera compared to the iPhone 4 5 MP one.

5. But what do I miss about my iPhone?

To be absolutely fair, there are several things I miss since I moved. I don’t miss them enough to go back, but I miss them all the same.

I miss iTunes. The iTunes ecosystem is much better than the android market. Music management is very very simple on the iTunes environment. I miss live updating smart playlists. The plus side is that the Samsung has built in FM radio which the iPhone doesn’t.

The Samsung’s battery life sucks. Of course it is easier now that I carry a spare battery and this means I can survive a busy day. There are very many apps that claim to handle battery issues of the android platform but I still think these have a long way to go. I hear Ice Cream Sandwich will deal with this but until then, I miss the iPhone’s battery life.

One of the things I thanks God for is that I still have the iPad and so I am not completely cut off from the Apple world.

Tuendelee kuongea

Iphone 4 Baby!

Last week there was no post. It was a bit of a bummer for some people I know, but I really couldn’t do a post. On Friday of that previous week, I got the iPhone 4. It was a really good deal. I only had to give the dealer my old iPhone 3GS, my Blackberry 8800, my Nokia N70, promise to work for him for 7 years, and my children work for his for another 7 years (half-day though) and I have to pick him and drop him from anywhere to anywhere for 3 years after which I give him my car twice a week for 9 years. Good deal huh? Anyway, I’m kidding, my kids would work full day.

So I rushed the phone home and in about an hour, I had managed to have everything I had on the 3GS running perfectly on my new iPhone 4. The next 48 hours we spent, learning a lot about the iPhone 4 and myself. Here are the five things I learnt.

1. The retina display, wow!

Imagine having Lasik surgery and suddenly your vision is now completely perfect. Walalala! The display on the iPhone 4 is so crisp, clear and so distinct that if this is the only change from the 3GS, it would still be worth it. No eye-strain at all. The text on a web page or sms is just unbelievably clear. A pleasure to read. For the 24 hours I had both the 3GS and the iPhone 4, I was glad that after all the data transfer was over I was the one ending up with the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 4 960 x 640 resolution with 326 ppi trumps the 3GS 480 x 320 one with 163 ppi (pixels per inch) makes the display almost better than real life! Did I mention how clear this resolution is? It is “resolutionary”. Made from the same materials used in helicopters and high-speed trains, the Retina display glass is chemically strengthened to be harder, more scratch resistant and more durable than ever. The glass also features an oil-resistant coating that helps keep the screen clean. The screen is amazingly smooth to touch and scrolling is fun.

2. The camera and video recording

Though I must admit I do not do too much photography or video recording, I was thoroughly impressed with the changes made on the iPhone 4. This now has a feature that ironically, even the poor Nokia N70 I gave up as part of the deal had. A flash with the camera. The camera is now 5 megapixels as opposed to the 3GS which had a 3 MP one without flash. The LED flash is also quite handy with some applications able to turn the phone into a very expensive flashlight. The 5x digital zoom is also a pleasant addition. With tap-to-focus you can change the perspective and focus of various parts of a picture. The phone actually has two cameras as it also has a front facing VGA camera that can enable you to take effortless self-portraits and is handy for a new feature called facetime where you can call someone else with an iPhone 4 and you can actually see each other over WiFi.

The camera is also capable of making and editing HD movies on the phone.

3. Power, performance and battery

Though most smartphones have a lot of power issues due to the large screen and many functions and features that all sap the battery, the iPhone 4 boasts the following.

Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Charging via USB to computer system or power adapter
Talk time:
up to 7 hours on 3G
up to 14 hours on 2G
Standby time: up to 300 hours

Internet use:
up to 6 hours on 3G
up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi
Video playback: up to 10 hours
Audio playback: up to 40 hours

All these are an improvement on the 3GS.

4. Need for speed

It is hard to separate the features that the iPhone spots from a hardware perspective from those that it has from a software perspective. One of the things I love about the iPhones in general is that what you can do with the gadget is not purely dependent on the hardware. A lot of functions are actually achieved from a magical connection and synergy between the software and the hardware. “There is an app for that…” is a common sentence among iPhone users. I mentioned for example that a simple app transforms the LED flash at the back of the phone into a flashlight. The faster processor and other physical hardware features like the accelerometer, the proximity sensor, the ambient light sensor and the 3-axis gyroscope all contribute to amazing apps that just add to the overall user experience in gaming and other really practical software.

5. Enter the jailbreak community

So how come there was no post last week?

One of the things that fascinates me about iPhone users is the whole concept of a jailbreak community. I am unashamedly part of that community. Apple tries to control what you can install on your iPhone. A lot of times, the explanation they use is that they would like to maintain the quality of the applications you put on your phone. They do this by ensuring that you can only install and run applications that come from its app store. This is not a small app store as it has close to 430,000 apps and this year they hit 15 billion downloads.

However, about 3,000 or so apps are turned down every week, for “failing to meet quality standards”. The developers of these applications have proceeded to have their own store from where you can install these “apple rejected” apps, themes and features. A lot of them are very good and many are free. The main problem is that for you to be able to run these apps, you would have to “jailbreak” your iPhone. This involves a lot of software acrobatics and if you don’t know what you are doing you can end up with a dead phone (a brick). Most iPhones are also locked to a specific network and so many times the jailbreak will also require a carrier-unlock.

I have been part of this community (so sue me!) and of course I decided to jailbreak my iPhone 4. Walalala! I started this about 10pm on Sunday night and got so caught up in it that I did not even notice time moving. We prayed with the boys, sent them off to sleep and I continued with this effort. In what looked like a few minutes later, the boys were awake and came to say bye before going to school. I was still at it. I blacked out at 7am when the phone finally agreed to do what I was trying to get it to do the whole night. Now that is an interesting mix of passion, mang’aa, and persistence that, given the right challenge can change the world. Ama?

What do you think?

Tuendelee kuongea

Personal technology: 5 items I’d hate to leave home without and why – Part 1

We all have that one thing that would make you want to start making your way back home if you found out, halfway to work that you have left it at home. For many it is their phones. This week I have been thinking about five items that if, for any reason, I found I no longer had even for a moment, my life would be really different from that day on. I am writing these, not in a braggy, ‘but do I say!’ kind of way, but more to reflect the extent to which technology plays a significant part in many people’s daily lives. In fact for me, each of these items has some sort of story of inspiration, learning and a testimony of God’s provision and sort of reminds me of what I call the monkey-proof plan God has in my life. Some of them I am still paying for, but nonetheless still miraculous.

1. Our car

I generally do not bond with cars the way I used to. I used to. But I don’t anymore. I don’t know whether it is about ageing or just that when you have a family, some things take a more corporate or group ownership. Maybe it is because of how when you are shopping for a car, you think about all members of the family, I don’t know. So we have this car that I call ‘our’ car that I feel I own a quarter of. We have not always been a one-car family but this time it is a conscious, agreed-on decision. There are several things we feel that would be more important to spend money on if we get it than another car. We also have seen the effect having two cars can have on a relationship. I’m not saying this happens with all couples, but for us, having two cars seemed to make us grow apart. We have also come to really cherish the time we spend alone together alone going to and from work. Having said that, I still spend more time in the car than anyone else in our family does. I like it because it is practical and gets the job done. Very well.

In the beginning, when we got the car last year, I felt kidogo self conscious since the Toyota IST is generally a ‘ladies’ car. I even once caught myself lying to some client that I had decided to come see them using my wife’s car. I also used to explain to people that it is the red ones that should be called a ‘ladies’ car. That the black one is more manly. Add to the fact that it is a 1500cc version with disc brakes all round while most are 1300cc with drum brakes behind. Or that it is not close to the Vitz or Probox that Kenyans enjoy bashing in social networks. These days it does not bug me at all. I once followed a conversation on twitter where some guys I follow were discussing

@A: So, are you still driving the Vitz I saw you with?
@B: No, I upgraded to the Merc C class
@A: Wow, congrats, so what did you do with the Vitz? Or is it now your keyholder?…
@B: Lol, no, I gave it to my sis.

Note, he said gave, not sold, gave. Aiii. Poor Vitz, it is bashed by people who jav (matatu passengers) and those who drive the Footsubishi (pedestrians)

2. My phones

Until about a month ago, I used to carry three phones. Yeah I know. Jang’o alert. To put them in order starting with the only one I would go back home for, i have the iPhone 3GS, a Blackberry 8800 which has now been retired and a Samsung SGH-D880 which being a twin-sim has taken over the blackberry’s sim card. I confessed before, I am a gadget freak. These three are the phones I have stayed with longest since I started using cellphones. At the risk of sounding like an apple fan-boy, I believe that apple have the best products in the market. The degree to which you can personalise an iPhone is out of this world. The apple app store has close to 300,000 apps. The iTunes store is unbelievable in terms of the kind of stuff you can find there. Many of the apps are free, a term I love the sound of. There are so many that are practical, terribly addictive and a lot of fun. I have built a great music collection using iTunes and ‘bought’ very, very many free apps. After almost two years I have not spent a single cent on an app and it doesn’t look like that is going to change soon. Using iTunes you can completely manage whatever goes into your phone from apps, songs, videos, books, pictures, podcasts and lots more. Syncing contacts and calendars is a breeze and every time you do, iTunes makes a backup of current content which you can restore should you need to. So what do I carry on my iPhone?

My oh my, where to begin? First off, the touch screen on the iPhone is the best there is. I think the closest the competition comes is with the Samsung Galaxy S II with it’s super AMOLED screen. Many have touted the Galaxy S II to be the iPhone killer but I think the jury is still out on that one. I have had the privilege of seeing the iPhone 4 as well and it’s retina display is quite something. A friend once quipped that when you switch from the 3GS to the iPhone 4, it’s like you have just had LASIK surgery. I agree.
So, on my phone I carry 1819 audio items grouped in playlists that include the audio bible, current audiobooks like Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people. By current I mean the ones I am currently reading or re-reading, 398 songs that I have not listened to in six months (this is a smart playlist that updates itself with every sync), podcasts that include 1 year daily audio bible, 1 year daily audio bible for kids, Jon Courson’s searchlight, Saddleback church, Mars Hill, TED talks, and several others. With all these on my phone, and having hooked up a RCA to jack cable at the back of our car stereo, you can see that Maina Kageni and King’ang’i in the morning have no chance. Ok even Hope FM struggles to keep our attention on the way to work. I usually put the music I have to play in a random way though my wife hates it when I do that. She does not enjoy it when one moment we are singing along to Don Moen’s Shout to the Lord and then suddenly Kasupu by Zulukrew follows or a hit from Kanye West’s Late Registration. I smile quietly when interesting coincidences happen like when Michael W. Smith’s “Breathe” is followed by “Vuta Pumzi”, or when after Rihanna has asked Onana so many times what her name is, a group of sweet kids follow singing “Jesus, name above all names”.

I carry so many apps like an iPhone version of wordpress which allows me to do fancy things like approve/reply to comments on this blog and look at statistics of hits, an app called Gas Cubby which I use to record all expenses of fuel on the car, a ton of time-killing games that I enjoy with my kids, IM+ for chatting on yahoo, gtalk and msn.

Basically, I cannot leave this phone at home and try to make it through the day without it.

Next week, the other three, well, more like two and a half.

What are your first two ‘can’t-leave-home-without’ items?

Tuendelee kuongea.

PS: Sorry today’s post is late. I am in Kampala and needed to find an alternative to spending Kshs. 75 per MB for roaming Internet courtesy of Safaricom.