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A Comparison – Revisited

Posted on October 2nd, 2012

Some time ago, I wrote a comparison comparing what became the Galaxy Nexus and the iPhone 4S. I ended up getting the Galaxy Nexus because I trusted Google and was already in its (open) ecosystem. There came a point in time when I had a Chromebook, an Android tablet, and an Android phone.

But, no longer.

As of a bit over a week ago, I have abandoned Android. Perhaps it was always looking on as my iPhone-toting friends were snapping beautiful pictures with the amazing camera the iPhone packs. Or maybe it was the hulking size of the Galaxy Nexus getting to me. Perhaps, still, it was the fact that some of the basic Android services I used were riddled with bugs; for example, Google Music tried to download my entire music library every time I was at home and connected to Wi-Fi. Not cool.

I recently got an iPhone from work (a meager 3GS) and decided to give it a shot: I installed some of the applications that I had been using on my Galaxy Nexus and used the iPhone on occasion. I didn’t hate it. In fact, despite being almost three years old, it didn’t feel that terrible compared to the Galaxy Nexus. I was floored. And so the gears started to spin in my head: is it time to rejoin the Apple army?

With the iPhone 5 coming out, I started to contemplate what my next move should be. I was currently enjoying a no-contract, effectively unlimited plan from T-Mobile at a very attractive price. I enjoyed being able to swap out SIM cards whenever I traveled to Canada and be uninhibited by carrier overhead. Do I potentially throw both of these away just to get back into the simple, clean, safe, and sanitized world Apple has created? Here were my options as I saw them:

  • Do nothing. Stay with Android and T-Mobile. Cheap but an unpleasant experience.
  • Buy an AT&T iPhone 5 off-contract. This will get me the LTE frequency support in the US and Canada, and the ability to swap in a new card without any hassles. Take advantage of employee pricing. Potentially spotty coverage but an improved network.
  • Buy an AT&T iPhone 5 on-contract. Same benefits as above but keep $450 to sacrifice some flexibility.
  • Buy a Verizon iPhone 5 on-contract. Superior LTE in the US and the ability to unlock the phone for international usage after two months. Better employee pricing than AT&T. Overall, cheaper than AT&T (surprisingly!).

I deliberated up until the last minute and decided to preorder an unlocked AT&T phone when they opened up at 3 am on September 14. I was out pretty late the night before and elected to just stay up to order the phone, only to discover that I couldn’t actually buy an unsubsidized phone from AT&T. I was crushed. And tired.

In the following week, I was told about Verizon’s international unlock policy and figured that’s basically what I needed anyway. Then I could switch to a better carrier with a bigger employee discount. Booyah! Verizon = smaller up-front cost + lower monthly cost + a better carrier. How could I lose? Excited for this prospect, and knowing that I needed to get one pretty soon in order to have the phone unlocked by the time I was home for Christmas, I decided to line up for launch day. Yep, crazy pants, I know.

I figured that I should go to a store around Grand Central because it wasn’t a particularly residential area, and it was close to my office in case something terrible happened where I could just end up going to work early. Plus, Grand Central doesn’t open until 5:30 am so I thought that lines would be shorter than, say, the 5th Avenue flagship store. I woke up around 4:20 am and was at Grand Central by around 5 am. As I came out of the subway, I saw around a dozen or so people inside the station, waiting for the barricades to come down. Not bad, I thought. That was until I rounded the corner through the door and saw another 75 or so people lining up on 42nd Street.

Then, a genius idea came to me. I knew that there was a Verizon store around the corner from Grand Central so I walked towards there to take a peek. There were three people in line. I was shocked. Was something wrong? Were they not getting phones and were these people screwing themselves over? Surely not. Carrier stores always get phones. I spent a few minutes deliberating if there was any downside to going to the carrier store (where I would probably be in and out within 15 minutes) as opposed to lining up outside Grand Central (where I’d probably be for hours). Finding none, I joined the three outside Verizon.

We chatted and laughed at how silly we were for lining up. A couple of the guys were older and the two younger guys spent some time explaining some of the new features and some of the things that can be done with iPhones. (You know, things like iTunes Match and Spotify.) Then it became how long it’d be before #5 showed up, which means how much additional sleep I could have had without any loss whatsoever. The answer was almost two hours.

Maybe people didn’t know about the store or maybe people just flocked to the nearby Apple store without thinking, but the line outside Verizon was never significant. Even as 8 am approached, there was never more than 40 people in line. (I bet the first guy in line, who was there since 2:30 am, felt especially silly.) One running gag we ran was to tell the nth person in line that there were actually only (n-1) phones available. That made us feel only slightly better about ourselves.

As predicted, though, I was out of the store by around 8:15 am. New iPhone in hand, I arrived to work early and had the task of transferring things over before porting my existing number to Verizon. One of the things that I didn’t want to leave on Android was all of my text messages. It’s funny now that I think about it because, despite the number of times people want to break out of the jail that is iOS, I had to go through great lengths to break into that jail and get those messages over. Thanks to some good ol’ programming know-how, I eventually busted in and got it all up and running.

Now that I’ve had the phone for a bit over a week, I can say that some of the sentiments I had in the original comparison stand. Gmail on Android is untouchable. Maps on Android is untouchable (especially considering the current furor over Apple Maps). iTunes + iPhone is untouchable. But I don’t have any regrets. But I do wish that there was a better mobile platform out there where I wouldn’t need to make such compromises. I know, first world problems.

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