Warning: Big ranty post ahead!

So I've been looking at getting a new phone recently. This has caused me no small amount of stress.

I initially thought that the next phone I got would be a Bionic, but then I was given one to use for a demo for a couple weeks and came away fairly unimpressed. Speed was great, but the screen was pretty bad. Anyone who says Pentile screens are fine need their eyes checked. The camera was also a big letdown, as it's just as slow and clunky as everyone says. Plus it's got the usual array of Verizon bloatware that I despise and Moto skinning that I'm not a big fan of. And the bootloader is locked, but that's kind of just assumed nowadays. It's not really a BAD phone, but not one that I would pay top dollar ($300 on contract!) for.

Then, of course, the RAZR was announced and now I'm doubly glad that I didn't spring for a Bionic, because this phone looks better in just about every way and will be launching at the same price point a mere couple of months after the Bionic debut. Of course, even with it's sexy thin-ness the RAZR still has a Pentile screen, bloatware, skinning, locked bootloader, etc. So it's not really improving on much for me beyond a small spec boost.

(Note: I'm all for company pride. I would be glad to use either of these phones if Motorola would give their employees discounts on them, but they don't. And if I'm going to be paying full price for a phone, I'm going to choose based on merit not company loyalty.)

So of course the natural thing would be to look at the Galaxy Nexus, right? I mean, Android 4.0, no bloatware, big curved screen... what's not to love, right? Except I'm hearing now that it also has that dreaded Pentile screen, and there's some question about wether it will actually make it to Verizon now...

And frankly, are any of the other Android phones even worth looking at? The only one I hear consistently good things about is the Galaxy S2, but it's not on Verizon and I'm certainly not switching carriers and loosing my unlimited data because I want a particular phone. And every other phone I've seen has bad battery life, lousy specs, is stuck on an old version of Android... Come on, people! If I'm spending $200-300 for a phone, why exactly am I expected to compromise?

And then there's an even deeper problem, one that not even Ice Cream Sandwich is addressing: Android is not turning into what I was hoping it would be. To be honest when I got my current phone (Droid X), the choice was between Android and Blackberry. Laugh Yeah, not much competition there. And honestly I was very much in love with the idea of Android. Yeah, it might not be the most polished mobile OS out there, but it was OPEN! You could do anything you want with it! You could make it yours, completely and wholly! No big corporation was going to tell me how to use MY phone! Android was the rebel, sticking it to "the man".

Except... My phone was locked down tight when I got it. Yeah, if you did a lot of voodoo you could give it root access, but the bootloader is still inaccessible. You have to void your warranty if you want to remove parasites like CityID, and getting upgrades to a newer version of the OS (like ICS) is entirely up to the whims and fancies of the manufacturer. And at this point (A little over a year after I got it) so many other, newer, better phones have come out that the Motorola has no reason to give the X anything beyond a bug fix or two. And dev community for my phone is down to one or two dedicated stragglers.

And that's to say nothing of the overall software quality. The Android Market showed a lot of promise when I first got the phone, but that promise never really materialized into something meaningful. Most of the apps that we get are buggy, feature anemic versions of iOS apps that have already been out for months/years. (witness: Pandora, Netflix). Device support is all over the map, you basically have to cross your fingers and hope that the developers have your specific device to test on. And there's a lot of devs that don't bother with Android at all. It seems a lot of companies are content with just doing an iOS app, even though that covers an increasingly smaller portion of the market.

And as a developer, I don't really blame them! With iOS you only have to deal with a few well defined versions of the hardware and OS. It's easy to build and test for, and the development tools are great. Android is pretty much the polar opposite. And to add insult to injury the one big advantage that Android had over it's Apple-controlled cousin was that the market was "Completely open!"... you know, unless the carriers don't like your app. Then they can, and do, block it's use from anyone on their service.

So where exactly does Android come off as "better" through all this?

Sadly, what I bought into was the promise shown by the original Droid. What I got was the reality of a badly fragmented, carrier controlled market where your phone is not really yours, despite all of the Android loyalists claims to the contrary.

So what it really comes down to is this: I love the idea of Android, I love the company that makes Android, I love the development community that tries so very hard to make Android live up to it's full potential, and despite it's quirks I have loved my Android phone...

But I'm probably getting an iPhone 4S

It's been a fairly agonizing decision, but it's not too hard when you take a real look at what I lose and gain making the switch. I lose:

* My big screen, which is sad but not deal breaking
* The possibility of upgrading to 4G, which is more painful
* Some of the nicer Android apps like Amazon Cloud Player and Google Maps
* Widgets (I do love my widgets)

And I gain:

* A much bigger, better supported marketplace
* OS upgrades the day they are released (This is HUGE!)
* A higher quality screen
* Better integration with my iMac and Macbook
* A larger range of accessories built specifically for the phone
* The assurance that my phone will still be getting updates 2 years later
* A more responsive UI
* A more stable OS (no more battery pulls!)
* A better camera
* A world phone (Poland was painful without a working phone)
* A better development platform

Oh, and the fact that Verizon is not allowed to TOUCH the phone. No logos, not bloatware, no skins, no market shenanigans. This is pretty much feature #1 for me right now.

And honestly I think it's really quite sad that I've been driven to this, because I'm exactly the type of guy who Android should appeal to the most. But the carriers and manufacturers are doing a very good job of crushing the soul out of the platform. It's actually quite ironic that in many ways you have more freedom with iOS devices than you do Android these days. I'll still watch Android with considerable interest going forward, as I think it still has a lot of potential, but I'll most likely be reading about it on a retina display.
Shared publiclyView activity