I have to admit that, since making the switch to an Android phone well over a year ago now, I’ve felt a little bit at times like I might be missing out somehow on what was going on in the Apple world. I still use a Mac for everything else, but I have always loved the simplicity of the iOS interface. I adjusted pretty well to Android-land – there’s definitely a different pathway and flow in that world – but I always wondered what I might be missing.
My wife got a new iPhone 4S pretty much as soon as it came out. We’ve messed around with Siri and both come to the conclusion that she’s really more of a pain in the ass than it is worth most of the time. All in all, I found out that maybe I hadn’t fallen all that far behind the tech curve, if at all.
So, here I am getting ready for an extended trip through Europe, and so I go digging to figure out what sort of phone I’m going to be able to use. Android is pretty much out – I need a GSM phone that I can stick a cheap pay ahead or pay-as-you-go SIM card into. After poking around a little more and seeing what would be involved in hacking my wife’s phone, I opted to grab up an old iPhone myself and get it squared away for the trip.
I ended up trying all the different combinations of tools and methods to jailbreak and unlock this old iPhone 3G – somewhat because I kept screwing things up and partially to see what those tools were all about. At any rate, it all worked pretty well; and I now have a jailbroken phone on iOS 4.2.1, unlocked and ready to receive a new sim card on the Orange network or whatever I pick up in France or Spain next month.
But then I’m on to getting other apps set up for a couple other essentials like reading and listening to music. I now remember why I was starting to get a bit frustrated with iPhone when I made the switch long ago now. I don’t mind paying for software that works, but I hate like hell being locked into anything. I guess it’s my overall rebellious nature that flat doesn’t like to be told what to do or how to do things by anyone.
On the music front, I really don’t mind using iTunes. It is still a pretty good way for me to organize music at home, and the whole pipe it around the house deal through different speaker sharing arrangements is still pretty cool. But I’ve also gotten used to Google Music and getting what I want from a pretty extensive library anywhere I travel without having to take it all with me. (I refuse to pay for the iTunes cloud thing.) It’s pretty darn hard to get an iPhone app that really works with Google Music – I know, competing outfits and all. I have gotten spoiled with the standard “Play Music” app for Android and its caching features, and there just isn’t anything that works like that for iPhone. I guess it’s off to building and syncing playlists from iTunes before we head off.
The eBook reader side of things has really been confounding. I started building out my own library using Calibre some time ago and CalibreOPDS to build out a catalog that I host with my eBook collection on a secure personal web site. I use Moon+ Reader on my Android, and what an application that is! It’s one of the very few apps I’ve been happy to pay for; not because the pro version has any features I really want, but just because it seemed like the right thing to do – along with donating to the Calibre project.
The developers working on those two projects are doing an absolutely bang up job. The recent addition of a Moon+ feature to save reading position in a little snipped in a Dropbox fills the one last hole I was looking for in moving away from getting everything through the Kindle Reader. I can now go back and forth between my DroidX phone and a Samsung Galaxy Tab with ease, never losing my place in whatever books I’m reading. A little creativity with utilities like SiteSucker and eCub and some occasional Python scripting has allowed me to build a pretty extensive personal library of all manner of open and free materials into ePubs that I can pick up whenever I want from my personal library.
Then I get to trying to recreate that same functionality in this iPhone. Wow, has that been a chore! There are any number of eReader apps for iPhone. Most of them seem to do the little teaser deal with, “Here, you can try some limited stuff for free, but we’ll charge you to see the good stuff.” I don’t even have the chance to evaluate whether or not they will really work before I shell out a couple bucks. There really isn’t all that much that will let me configure a different online catalog than the standard free stuff and a couple pay stores.
I finally settled on Apple’s iBooks app since it will receive and add ePub formatted books from other apps and email. There’s a way to send books from Calibre through iTunes to iBooks, but that doesn’t let me pick up a new book from wherever I happen to be online. I added the eBook Search app from the guys that have some other paid reader apps like Megareader. It’s full of adds, including a truly annoying speed bump on trying to download a book from my library – showing me movie trailers of all things. What a pain! I may have to shell out the $0.99 just to get rid of that nag.
The iBooks reader is certainly lacking in a lot of the niceties to which I’ve grown accustomed in Moon+. There’s just not a whole lot that can be done to tailor the reading experience or nice features like swiping down the left side of the screen to dim it down when I wake up late at night and don’t want to wake up my wife reading in bed. The iBooks reading experience isn’t all that bad, though, and I guess I can stand it for the several weeks I’ll need to while hiking the Camino de Santiago.
So, the bottom line is that I certainly don’t see the competition and differentiation between the two big competing “pad” formats and software platforms – Android and iPhone – changing all that soon. There are probably pluses here somewhere for the iPhone platform – I guess some folks probably want to not have to think all that hard about using the dang thing. Maybe us Android-philics just need a little more control and don’t mind having a few more buttons to push.
Maybe all of this is more stuff I need to think about and examine in myself while on pilgrimage in northern Spain next month. Do I get too wrapped up in wanting things to be my way and just so? What do I pour my energy into trying to control in my life that ends up being a waste because I can’t really control it anyway? Why can’t I decide that good enough is good enough and move on to something more important? How often do I spend time in the minutia of things that aren’t all that important instead of developing and practicing the discipline to work on the things that are more important and necessary for my wellbeing?