On the occasion of his 79th birthday, I would like to dedicate this article to my father, Arthur Garvis. He is a wonderful role model who has always given me the best advice he could, and when I was smart enough to follow his wisdom it was to my benefit. While he is not entirely responsible for who I am, I could never have become the man I am without his guidance. Thank you Dad. –MDG
People mistake me for a religionist… but that is not the case. In many ways I have been quite loyal to Microsoft over the years, and with a lot of good reasons; the initial reason had to do with an incident regarding a training centre which I will not go into right now. Other than that it has been a mix of their making really good products, and they (or their agents) paying me to either work on, teach, or evangelize those products.
Shortly after my first wife left me I bought an iPod Nano. It was a decent music player, although I never quite got the hang of the controls. It didn’t matter though, because I returned it less than two weeks later – I had been invited to Redmond, Washington for my first ever visit to the Microsoft Campus, and the ignorant me did not know what I would say if Bill Gates were to walk up to me and ask why I had an Apple product.
When Windows Mobile 5 (and then 6) was the platform available for mobile users I went through a series of Windows devices, even though the Apple iPhone was all the rage. I stayed with the Microsoft platform for the simple reason that I was doing a lot of teaching for Microsoft, and more than one person hinted that it would not put me in good favour to be on their stage with someone else’s phone in my pocket. Frankly for what I did with the phone (check e-mails and make phone calls) I never had an issue with the clunky platform.
While I was not one of the earliest adopters of Windows Phone 7 I was certainly in there pretty early… and I really appreciated the massive improvements over the previous iterations of Windows Mobile. I loved my Samsung Focii (I had two Samsung Focus devices!), which lasted until I replaced them with Nokia Lumia 920s (the Windows Phone 8 device). I can honestly say that the only complaint I ever had with either of these devices was the apps… not all of them, but there were a lot of apps that were simply half-assed – it would not have been difficult for FitBit, for example, to release an app that would sync my device, rather than simply show my progress based on my having previously synchronized to a computer.
I spent so much time as ‘The Microsoft Guy’ in so many circles that my boss in Tokyo seemed embarrassed to hand me an iPhone 5, explaining that since none of the local carriers supported Windows Phone 8 the Apple was the option that he chose (over Android). I tweeted about it, and told people that I would give my honest opinion… after I had given it a fair chance.
A lot of the issues I had with the phone were the fact that I was so used to my Windows Phone platform. A lot of things simply did not work the same way, and it did take some getting used to. Honestly to this day there are some things that I am not fond of on the device, wishing they were… like my Windows Phone 8 device.
I came back to Canada at the end of the year, expecting I would be returning to Japan shortly, and needing a new cell phone anyways. I decided to go with another iPhone 5 – a used model off eBay, as I was nowhere near able to qualify for a new device from my provider. I figured if I bought another Windows Phone I would have to switch devices when I got to Japan, but the iPhone (once unlocked) would work here or there. Obviously this did not go over very well when I visited my friends at Microsoft Canada, but when I explained my reasons they (often grudgingly) accepted that I did not have much choice.
For the first time ever it was my teenaged son teaching me about the technology. He had accidentally smashed the screen on his Windows Phone, and decided to buy himself an iPhone. He asked my permission first, which I thought was ironic… he was asking if I minded him buying an Apple product, not if I minded that he spent a ridiculous amount of his hard-earned money on a phone. What was I going to say? His friends have iPhones, and so that was what he wanted.
So now that I had my own iPhone my boy would often come into my room and say things like ‘Hey Dad, did you know that if you press this button like that it does this? Most of the time I did not know, and I thought it was great that he was helping me for once. He showed me how to conserve at least some battery life by shutting down unused apps, and I admit I had no idea how to create groups until he showed me.
So what do I think? It’s been a little over three months with a Fruit Phone, and I am used to it. Here are my thoughts:
My friend Eileen needed to use the phone the other day and I handed it to her. She complained that it was far too small. I countered that her phone (a Samsung Galaxy of some sort) was absolutely huge, but the iPhone is actually a reasonable size for a device. She grumbled something incoherent and then went back to her call. The form factor, as far as I am concerned, is fine. I do miss having a ‘camera button’ like I had on the Nokia, but that would not be a deal breaker.
I am not unhappy with the device. I think the Windows Phone operating system would win over iOS, but that is countered by the fact that for the time being the apps on the iPhone are winning over the Windows platform. Having had a glimpse from both sides of the fence, I cannot help but wonder if that is because Microsoft has done its best to encourage a larger number of any apps, rather than a smaller number of great apps. Hopefully that will change, but for the time being there is no question that the vast majority of Windows Phone apps are not doing Microsoft any favours. I will also say that the vast majority of apps on the iPhone are also crap, but 1% of 5,000,000 is a lot more than 1% of 500,000.
Am I a convert? No… that would imply religion, and I do not consider technology to be about that. Am I going to become a fanboi? No… just… no. Am I ready to switch back to Windows Phone now, as I am back in Canada for the most part? I’m afraid I have too many other expenses to worry about buying another device, but if someone at Microsoft wanted to give me a Lumia 1520 I would certainly accept it… but would start putting more pressure on the app developers to develop the apps that I use (FitBit, Endomondo, MyFitnessPal, WordPress, Kobo, LinkedIn, and Starbucks) better. I don’t care about the games and frankly I don’t care for the flash. I need the functionality.
Overall it’s a good device. However if the experience has taught me anything it’s that your device is only as good as it is at doing what you need it to do. As long as it is responsive and reliable, whatever device you get should do you… as long as you do your research and make sure it is right for you. For now at least, I suppose this device is alright for me.