The frustrating state of mobile in 2012

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I care deeply about technology. Perhaps too deeply. More and more I find myself pessimistically looking ahead to the future of computing.

Server-side, things are pretty good. Linux is an entrenched option now, with Windows and Solaris remaining competitive but not necessarily better or worse for most tasks. LAMP is and looks to be remaining the dominant software stack. So far so good.

Then we get to desktop computing. Here, things could be better or worse. Windows and Mac are dominant, of course, but again Linux is at least competitive for most common use cases. It is reasonably well supported, and is very easy to use these days.

On to mobile. Here is where things get much worse very quickly. What are the major platforms standing: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. Of these, Android is Open on paper but is ruled with an iron fist by Google. Given their business model and security track record, to say nothing of the usability of Android, it quickly becomes an unappealing option, at least for me. On paper, I love Android. It’s Linux-based, has a bevy of apps, open and commercial, is available from multiple hardware vendors in a slew of form-factors, it all sounds great. However, I find the OS painfully inefficient to use, most of the apps to be of very poor quality, and the entire experience to lack cohesion and, I’ll say it, taste. Using Android still feels like using Windows 3.1 to me and Google’s app store feels like a trip to Walmart or Canadian Tire as opposed to a small specialty store. Yes, it can do everything, but it sucks at all of it.

Next we have iOS. Apple is clearly the leader in profitability and mind share. They have a great product. However, if you don’t like the control, hardware, or approach of the company, you have no choice or options. For me, I find certain aspects of iOS to be incredibly frustrating and arbitrary. The lack of a real file system annoys me. That I can’t easily manipulate music and photos from multiple sources leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I understand why things are the way they are in iOS, I just don’t like it. On the hardware front, I very much prefer a hardware keyboard and find the iPhone awkward in the hand.

Next we have poor, beleaguered BlackBerry. Their OS is uncompetitive, the hardware is lackluster, and the company seems rudderless and lost. On top of this, the OS is as closed as it gets, though at least they allow software from multiple stores. Their QNX-based BlackBerry 10 OS is due out later this year, but what it will look like, how well it will be supported, and what hardware will run it are all major unknowns. Meanwhile, they have lost a critical year to their competitors and detractors. BlackBerry is an incredibly tarnished brand, with major third-party support dropping away just months before the release of their new OS. By the time it hits the market, even if the hardware and software are great, there may be few users and developers left for the platform, for RIM, things are dire, indeed.

Finally, we have Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. It has been out for two years now and has gained very little traction in the market, despite glowing reviews of the software and some decent hardware to go with it. The OS is beautiful and a dream to use but is lacking apps and functionality. Like webOS before it, it shows great promise but can’t seem to catch up with Android and iOS in terms of functionality, app support, and ecosystem. For me personally, I quite like the OS, even if using an OS from Microsoft leaves a bad taste in my mouth. However, the lack of universal search and the fairly terrible mobile Internet Explorer make it an unappealing option for me.

And that’s where mobile stands. For the moment, my day-to-day phone is a BlackBerry Torch 9810. It works well, has a decent browser, and teams up effortlessly with my BlackBerry PlayBook. However, it isn’t all roses. The app selection is pretty bad and is getting worse, as the platform isn’t being developed further, so third-party developers are pulling support. The Podcast program is good but not great, so too the RSS program. I occasionally swap SIMs with a Sony Xperia Pro running Android and an LG C900 running Windows Phone 7, but I don’t usually make it through the day before something about one of these two devices annoys me enough to revert to the BlackBerry. I would say that I haven’t been really happy with my smartphone sic e the iPhone 3GS or the Pre 3 that worked well briefly before the headset speaker stopped working.

It’s a frustrating state of affairs for me. I put too much tout and effort into my computing environment, and a smartphone now sits at the core of this environment. At the moment, regardless of my options, it is an unpleasant core.

GoSaBe Blog - Apr 21, 2012 | GoSaBe News