There are a number of things that I don’t mind, but at the same time it’s sometimes fun to wave my metaphorical Cranky Old Man cane at the durn kids with their newfangled doohickeys and double-you-step music.
Case in point: Apple. I don’t mind them. I own a 2009 iMac and an original iPad mini. Both are quite good at what they do, and I continue to use them. Despite that, I like to thumb my nose at the ‘Apple guy’ in the office (there’s always one) and have back-and-forths with him about why I feel Microsoft is better. As if in retaliation, my original iPad mini has been slowly inching towards obsolescence with each iOS update. Recently, I was frustrated at not being able to play the neato new Fallout Shelter game for more than a few minutes without the poor thing crashing.
While the thought of getting a new iPad has crossed my mind, the thought of dropping a few hundred bucks on another one is not a pleasant one, especially since my Windows 8 tablet has proven to be quite capable, Microsoft Office notwithstanding.
Because of its creaky performance, I have been using the iPad mini as a hotspot more than anything else as of late. I would use my cell phone as a hotspot, but Cricket Wireless has internet sharing disabled on my Lumia 530. Jerks. So I send a few bucks to Verizon, turn on the iPad’s hotspot feature, set it down, and then use my Windows laptop or tablet to get things done.
Which brings me to my next point. I am, for better or for worse, married to Microsoft Windows as well as their ecosystem. Windows 8.1, Word, OneDrive and OneNote have all served me well over the years and I have no reason to stop using them.
In spite of that, I have decided to get an iPhone for my next phone. As I am not on a contract, I can make the jump whenever it pleases me, but more practical concerns such as home and vehicle maintenance take precedence. Nevertheless, whenever I am financially ready to make the jump I will be more than happy to for the following reasons:
Apple makes pretty good hardware – My iMac and iPad have been pretty durable and dependable over the years. I’ll likely have to get a case for an iPhone, but I’m pretty careful with my phones; I’ve never cracked a single screen over the years.
Apps apps everywhere – This is the Achilles’s Heel of Windows Phone; the limited app selection wouldn’t be so bad if Microsoft would keep their own apps up to date. The iPad version of Word blows the Windows Phone one out of the water, too.
Accessories – Because I often get cheaper (or Windows) phones, cases and accessories are rare or nonexistent. Stores seem to have three sections for phone accessories: Apple, Samsung, and one with a big sign above it for everyone else that says EFF-YOU.
Microsoft is on board – The fact that I can get Microsoft Word on iOS and Android means no more Brand X Office apps.
Hotspot! – I travel, and it would be nice to be able to fall back on my phone as a hotspot instead having to carry another device to do so.
Android = suck, WinPhone = bleh, iPhone = ?–Android devices have been craptacular for me over the years and Windows Phone trips at the finish line despite its nice interface. I have never owned an iPhone so who’s to say I won’t like it?
Get rid of iPad – I still only have my iPad mini for two reasons: to use as a hotspot and for work. If I get an iPhone I can do without it completely.
Updates for all! – With Android and Windows Phone, you are at the tender mercies of your carrier for updates unless you buy an unlocked device. My Windows Phone is one update behind because of this. iPhones, on the other hand, usually get all updates.
Of course, there is some bad with the good:
Increased Cost – I am currently not on contract with Cricket Wireless and its been pretty sweet: $35 a month for 2.5GB of high speed data and unlimited minutes and texts. To get an iPhone I’ll either have to pay a few hundred for the device up front or go on a contract again. Either way that means more money.
Durability – It is out of sheer luck that my Lumia doesn’t have a cracked screen given all the times I’ve dropped it (thank you Nokia). I will definitely have to get a case to ensure my iPhone doesn’t meet an unfortunate fate. It will remain to be seen if the iPhone is ‘Eduardo-proof’
Apple EVERYWHERE? – Despite having an iMac and iPad, I am barely invested in Apple’s ecosystem. Except for backing up my iPad I don’t use iCloud for anything. That should stay the same with an iPhone…I hope.
I was on the fence about getting iPhone before writing this blog, but now that I’ve jotted down all the ups and downs, I’m all but certain I’m going to pull the trigger on one…eventually. $35 a month for cell service is going to be really hard to give up, though!
I’ve had smartphones for quite some time, going all the way back to my T-Mobile Dash running Windows Mobile 6.0. From that ‘charming’ system I moved to Android with a Samsung Moment on Sprint, and am currently using a Motorola Photon, also on Sprint. My contract is coming up in a few months, and instead of contemplating which phone I’m going to upgrade to next, I am actually considering downgrading to a not-so-smartphone.
Why? Three reasons:
First, like many other folks, I’m trying to cut back on expenses, and the $80 a month I currently pay for my cellphone plan (and that’s with an employee discount) is a big one that I would love to reduce. I could easily get a month-to-month talk-and-text plan from Virgin Mobile that would cost half what I’m paying now while keeping me on Sprint’s network, which has been pretty good for me overall.
Second, I’m starting to wonder if Android phones have a limited shelf life: my Samsung Moment started crapping out a few months before the end of the two year contract that I purchased it under and the pattern appears to be repeating itself with my Motorola Photon. I think I’m done with Android at this point, and while I could get an iPhone or maybe even a Windows phone, I’m not sure I want to. I’ve never had the latest cell phone so being a step or two behind the times isn’t a big deal to me.
Thirdly, ever since I purchased my iPad mini back in December, I have been using my phone less and less for internet stuff. Thanks to the built-in 4G LTE modem and bigger screen I find myself reaching for it whenever I need to check my social networks or need to Google something. While it costs $20 for 1GB of data per month, that has been more than enough for me given my limited use of video and since WiFi is more pervasive now.
While this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about downgrading to a not-so-smart phone, having the iPad this time around would make living without one much easier. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a flip phone, or a phone with a physical keyboard…or maybe even one with a pull-out antenna! 😀
As my iPad mini is my first iOS device, I have had to learn it and adjust to its idiosyncrasies. Some of the new things I’m discovering are good, like the ability to swipe up with four fingers and bring up a list of currently open apps and volume/brightness controls. Of course, there are bad things to discover as well, such as the ‘locked down’ nature of the device. In particular, I was initially miffed that I could not work with files like I could on desktops or Android devices.
I like files. I know how to work with files. I like to make folders for my files and organize them and e-mail them and sort them and rename them and open them and edit them and do all kinds of fun stuff with them.
Apple does not like files.
Apple likes objects. On an abstract level, apps are objects in iOS,not files. Instead of having files scattered all about, like in Windows or Android, your stuff lives in the app that uses it. If you’re going to work with a picture, you open up Photos, select the picture you want to work with, and get to work. Music lives in iTunes, documents live in Pages, and so on and so forth. The app comes first.
iOS gets irritiating for people like me because unlike Android, where I can get an app like Astro and poke around at the underlying file system, iOS does not let you get ‘under the hood’ at all. I can’t put stuff where I want it because Apple won’t let me, and coming from a world where files rule and I can do whatever I want to with them, that is frustrating.
Case in point: I use Dropbox to store stories that I am working on. Indeed, one of the first apps I downloaded onto my iPad mini was the Dropbox app. I also got the Pages word processor because it had totally knocked my socks off on the iPad demo units. Awesome. I quickly learned that Pages does not talk to Dropbox. My file-centric brain then said: “No biggie, I’ll download a copy of my latest story via Dropbox, open it in Pages, do some editing, save my changes, then upload the newest draft back to the cloud. After all, that’s how it had worked on my Acer Iconia Tab A100.”
In response, Pages threw the finger at me and said, “NO SAVING FOR YOU. You’re going to open the file in Pages and I’ll make a copy there. Its staying there after that, too, because I don’t like Dropbox and I ain’t giving it back.” So I end up with two copies of the story floating around, one in Dropbox and one in Pages. So much for keeping things in sync.
Ultimately, I found a Microsoft Office-compatible app talkd to Dropbox direclty, so that fixed that, but its just one an example of how I have had to work around iOS because it ‘thinks different.’ Its methodology is awesome for end-users because files are icky things and people don’t like dealing with them. I think its because most folks can’t make the mental leap from objects (like documents, pictures, and music) to files. They can’t wrap their heads around the abstract concept like ‘computer people’ do.
If everything lives in the app, then they don’t have to deal with files at all. If they want to do something, they open the appropriate app, and everything is there. Instead of a list of files, they see pictures, songs, and documents, and that’s what they know.
Those of us that are more ‘computery,’ on the other hand, have a few options: muddle around iOS as best we can, jailbreak our devices, or just not bother with it altogether. Unfortunately, I think I’ve taken one step too far into the rabbit-hole, because for all that fuss, I’m still loving my iPad mini…even if it doesn’t want me to have my precious files.
Despite owning a 24-inch iMac, I’m not a terribly big fan of Apple, OS X or even iTunes. Its a fine machine, I just find OS X clunky. That iMac still runs Snow Leopard, and boots into Windows 7 these days. Indeed, I seldom find myself venturing into OS X unless I have to.
The iPad was one of the tablets I was considering when I was shopping for one earlier this year. I decided not to get one because it (indeed, all 10-inch tablets) ended up being too large to type on comfortably, and the price was more than I was willing to pay. I ended up with a Acer Iconia TAB 100, which is a pretty good device, but its relatively short battery life (5 hours) combined with a lack of charging options (AC charger or nothing) have kept it from getting extended use.
Enter the iPad mini. It almost sounds like a slam dunk: it does everything its big brother does, is smaller, has great battery life, and is less expensive. Of course, ‘less expensive’ does not mean ‘cheap.’ Nevertheless, I am contemplating one, because for all the griping I do about Apple, I must admit that there are quite a few things they do right:
They make quality stuff: My iMac is about three and a half years old and it still works as well as it did when I first got it. The iPad mini may be pricey, but then again, its not made out of plastic, either.
Their stuff works together: Since Apple makes their own hardware, OS, and software, the integration between everything is pretty seamless.
They know when to say ‘no mas’:As I mentioned before, Apple has no problem ending support for old software; it’s a habit that many companies would do well to imitate.
They actually upgrade their software: Apple is good about updating OS X and iOS fairly regularly, and those updates are available to most users. With Android devices, you are left at the tender mercies of your manufacturer, or even worse, your cell phone carrier.
Finally, as an iTunes publisher, I’m married to Apple whether I like it or not. So why not take that final step?
So, a ten inch tablet is way too big for me, an eight inch one was just a hair too big, and so a seven-inch tablet should be just right…right? After returning my Vizio tablet, I decided to see what was available in the 7-inch space. Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Nook Tablet had been announced at the time, so I was looking at full-featured tablets with GPS, Bluetooth, a micro-SD card slot and all those nerdy things nerdy nerds like me care for.
The Samsung Galaxy was nice, but it was also pretty darn pricey and running the phone version of Android. There was no way I was going to pay a premium for another ‘phone without the phone’ device. The Dell Streak 7 was very nice and was even supposed to get a Honeycomb update in the near future, but at the time I was looking, T-Mobile was the only place selling it. While I didn’t mind the thought of getting a data plan, T-Mobile data service is pretty craptacular in my hometown, which was where I would really want to have that mobile data connection. The HTC Flyer was also ridonkulously overpriced, even more so than the Galaxy. Sure, it had a stylus, but as much as I miss using a stylus, I don’t miss it that much. And as I mentioned before, the cheapo ‘e-readers with Android on them’ were a no-go with their lack of access to the Android Market and barely-responsive screens.
The Acer ICONIA TAB A100 was the first 7-inch device to come with the ‘Honeycomb’ version of Android out-of-the-box. This is important because Honeycomb is written specifically for tablets and should not have that the ‘phone without the phone’ feeling the Vizio did.
The A100 has a 7-inch widescreen that is nice to look at but gets washed out in sunlight like most mobile screens. The Gorilla Glass that sits atop the screen is also highly reflective (as you can tell by the photos) which can be a little distracting. I also found the touchscreen to be just a hair on the overly sensitive side when I was typing, but that may just be the keyboard software, my fat fingers, or more than likely, a little bit of both. It is multi-touch, though, so I can zoom and out with ease.
The power button and headphone jack are on the top right of the device, pretty standard stuff there. The volume control, rotation lock switch and a MicroSD card slot are on the right side. The A100 provided an okay amount of audio, nothing earth-shattering, but then again I’ve learned to not expect decent audio out of anything smaller than a 13-inch laptop. The bottom of the device has a host of ports: Micro-HDMI, microUSB, a docking connector and a charging port. A 5MP outward facing camera with LED flash and 2MP front facing camera are also present, and a capacitative Home button lies just underneath the screen. The cameras take okay pictures, certainly ones that are good enough for throwing onto the web. At a half-inch thick and weighing in at .92 pounds, the A100 feels comfortable in my hands with its rounded corners and sides. The casing is plastic and a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.
Battery life is about 4-5 hours, depending on Wi-Fi and GPS usage, of course. After being able to use the Vizio tablet for almost an entire workday (9 hours), having to recharge the A100 barely after my lunch break is a bit of a letdown. Unfortunately, the A100 cannot be charged via its USB port; the included AC adapter is your only charging option, well, that or a $100 dock. The lack of charging options only serves to make its limited battery life a bigger limitation than it should be. If the A100 could be charged via USB, I could use nearly any charger, but as it stands, there is no official Acer mobile charger available for purchase as of this writing, so I either have to find a wall socket or run out of juice.
Under the hood is the same 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU that powers most of the other first-gen Honeycomb tablets, 1GB of memory, and 8 or 16 GB of storage, which can be supplemented via a microSD card. The A100 is fairly responsive, and doesn’t feel underpowered or sluggish.
Honeycomb is a different animal than the phone versions of Android. The first thing I noticed about it was the bar that ran across the bottom of the screen, it makes it look and feel more like a PC desktop. Honeycomb places Home and Back buttons on the bottom left of the screen, so physical buttons are not needed on Honeycomb devices at all. A new third button brings up the last ten open apps, which comes in handy, and if you are using a phone-based app, a fourth menu button appears that takes the place of the physical “menu” button found on Android phones. Aside from the Home button just below the screen there are no physical navigation buttons to be found.
On the top left of the Home screen are a Google search button and a voice search button. The upper right corner has an Apps button that gives access to all apps and a plus sign that allows the user to add widgets and apps to the Home screen or change the wallpaper.
Having been accustomed to using Gingerbread on my phone, it took me a little doing to get accustomed to getting around Honeycomb, but once I did, I appreciated the way it worked. I do miss having physical buttons, though, the bar on the bottom of the screen that holds the soft buttons never really goes away, which I found annoying when viewing pictures or videos.
Overall, though, Honeycomb is a step forward for Android and it is quite nice once you get the hang of it, which doesn’t take too long.
The A100 has access to the Android market, and unlike the Vizio, I was able to download all of the apps I needed. Some of them were optimized for tablet use, but some appeared to be phone apps that were scaled up to fill the device’s screen. They didn’t look too bad, but the amount of empty spaces in such apps is pretty hard to ignore. I have to say that while I’m not a big fan of playing games on my phone because of the inaccuracy of my big fingers, doing so on the A100 was quite nice thanks to the increased screen size.
I also discovered the Amazon Appstore, which, I have to say, is awesome for two reasons: First off, they give away a free paid app every day. While it is often a game of some kind, every now and then it’ll be something nicer, like a Microsoft Office app or a drawing program. The second and more important reason is that it keeps track of your downloads and synchronizes your apps across multiple Android devices. This means that when I download an app onto my phone the appstore is smart enough to ask me if I also want it on my tablet and vice versa. For the life of me, I don’t know why the Android Market can’t do this, but hopefully Google Play will take care of that.
The Acer Iconia TAB A100 is a good tablet with one flaw that may be fatal for some users. Plastic nonwithstanding, the hardware feels good, and as is often the case with mobile devices, the screen is a bit reflective and not-quite-so-good in sunlight. Micro-USB and HDMI ports are nice to have, though I haven’t really done much with them. The same also applies to the micro-SD card slot; even though I have an 8GB card installed, I use it mainly for storing media. The device’s internal 8GB has been sufficient, though I should mention that I am a pretty light app user.
Honeycomb is a step up for Android, it feels like an actual desktop environment as opposed to a ‘giant phone.’ It would be nice to not have those soft buttons following me around nearly everywhere I go, but that’s a minor quibble. An upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich (the next version of Android) is forthcoming, so I’ll have to wait and see how that pans out.
The A100’s Achille’s heel is its limited battery life. I’ll go as far as to say it prevents it from being a really great tablet. The 4-5 hour uptime is not even enough to even last a full workday, and the lack of additional charging options makes it feel even more limited. A mobile charging option or at least the ability to charge via USB are sorely lacking. Thus, while I have been very satisified with how well my A100 works, the fun is often cut short by being constantly tied to AC outlets, which significantly reduces the device’s portability.
While the Acer Iconia TAB A100 is a good device overall and I love the 7-inch form factor, this particular device limited by its relatively short battery life. I would call it a good ‘home tablet;’ something nice to have around the house for those moments when you want to look something up quickly, take to bed with you, or take on a trip to the coffee shop. Road warriors and those who intended to use it for extended periods of time should be leery of its lack of charging options.
That said, with the next wave of Android tablets hitting stores, you can definitely find one for much cheaper now than its original retail price of $329. Heck, its going for $249 at the Acer Store. It isn’t a bad device, and I am certainly enjoying mine…I just wish it had a bigger gas tank.
I give the Acer Iconia TAB A100 just barely four out of five AC Chargers.
As I work on my Acer Iconia TAB A100 review and read the headlines coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I keep hearing about why Android tablets haven’t quite caught on. I keep hearing the same arguments: Android is fragmented, Android tablets are all the same, blah blah blah. What I don’t hear anyone talking about is how overpriced some of these Android tablets are.
Any tablet that costs $499 or more is not going to sell unless it is an iPad. Period.
The iPad is the ‘gold standard’ in tablets right now, and the least expensive one costs $499. If a competing product cannot be as good as an iPad then it has to cost less, or else that person will just buy an iPad. Android is nice, but it is not as easy to use as iOS.
Keep in mind that I am referring to the average person when I make these statements. Nerds such as myself are willing to live with a learning curve and some obfuscation. We like figuring things out, we’re just funny that way. The average person isn’t as patient, though, they want to turn a device on and be able to do things from the get-go. That is why iOS is as successful as it is. Granted, there is a lot that you can’t do with it, which is frustrating to nerds like myself, but the majority of people tend to not care about stuff like HDMI ports and memory card slots.
I think Amazon did two smart things with the Kindle Fire: first, they sold it for cheaper than the iPad, but more importantly, they didn’t make an iPad. The Fire is significantly smaller than an iPad, and doesn’t look like one when you start it up. Sure, if you’re a nerd you can argue about how yes, its really Android under the hood and does mostly the same things as an iPad and all that, but to the average person it is different.
Sadly, the bargain prices for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are going to make it harder for other 7-inch tablets to gain any traction unless they drop in price as well, so it may not necessarily be a good thing for Android in general. Then again, the functionality they leave out is fairly significant, so it may not necessarily be a bad thing, either.