all of a sudden: it's just a phone

Sunday morning was the first real winter morning with lots of white snow and the sun shining from a clear blue sky. The breakfast table was set and two beautiful children were are already enjoying it, the thick Sunday paper was waiting for me, my favorite radio channel was playing, and the fireplace was lit for the complete feeling of the perfect morning.

My husband went to plug his phone to the charger and at the same time took a glimpse of what's on, and I wasn't slow to take the chance to check my phone too.

"Hey you two, why don't you put those away?”, says the five year old.

What are we doing, always and all the time on the phone?

I keep inheriting phones from my husband, and he seems to be waiting for me to write a post about them. So here we go.

During the past year I have been using LG LG-E900 with Windows Phone 7.5 for maybe six months and a Samsung Nexus S with Android 4 (and 2.3) for a few months. Observations concern both the physical phone and the operating system. Observations regarding Nexus S are mainly about Android 4 (ICS).

The Windows Phone is easy to hold and handle. For some reason the Samsung seems to always be slipping out of my hands or ending up the wrong way when I'm looking for the power button. Also having the volume buttons on the opposite side to the power button is tricky. When switching off the phone with my thumb my forefinger at the same time adjusts the ring tone, and while doing that it won’t let me switch off the screen. Somewhat annoying.

Am I missing something using the Windows Phone?
When starting to use the Windows Phone I spent the first weeks wondering what I was missing since everything seemed to be right there on the first menu. The phone, the messages, my three Gmail accounts that I need to check a billion times a day, and links to the websites I need to check as often: Facebook, stats of my blog and Google Reader for the blogs that I'm following. I use Facebook with the web browser since the application, and also the People tile, never shows who is liking posts, only how many likes there are.

One thing I started liking, and miss on Nexus S I'm using now, is the way pictures I have taken light up my day by appearing here and there on the phone for example on the Pictures tile. Another thing that was convenient on Windows Phone that even before opening the lock I would see icons showing whether I had any new messages, missed phone calls, new e-mails and so on.

Quite handy on the first screen was also having a button for my husband where I could see his latest posts on Twitter or Facebook and call or text him easily. This button also shows a picture of him, a feature I learned to like only after his employer offered him to have his picture taken by a professional photographer.

The web browser and several tabs are easy to use and I could leave for example bus timetables or some other web page open until I needed them. One feature that was lost in Mango update was a star on the browser that took me directly to my favorites, now one more tap is needed to open favorites.

It's been a few months since I moved on from this phone but I can't remember having any severe problems with the touch screen. Zooming was easy and the typing went quite fluently, too.

In all the Windows Phone is really easy to use. I even think I have described it to someone as a granny phone. Even in the settings menu I can't find anything that sounds impossible for me to do or understand.

The messy and hard to type Android
As the Nexus S was ready to be inherited I had to try it out. After having used the simple Windows Phone, I still after some months have trouble understanding the handiest way to tap around on this Android phone. Already the side-slide to unlock the phone seems to fail almost every time. Zooming is not at all as easy and the content on some web pages seems to have harder to fit the screen, so I find myself turning over the phone to landscape for more enjoyable reading. Sometimes the buttons I need are within the screen, but sometimes I have to use the menu-button below the screen to get more options. Every now and then the phone is getting some update packages but I don't always understand what they are.

On the main screen I have icons for the same e-mails and webpages as on the Windows Phone, so getting my daily checking done is easy.

On the Android I use the Facebook application. It's all right and shows me who likes what. But it is slow. On the same Sunday morning I had a new friend request and while the application was loading the information about who it was I had the time to think of all the people I know that aren't my Facebook friends yet. In a way this was a nice moment, but I prefer getting my messages open instantly. Another annoying feature of the Facebook application is that when I open it, it will take me to where I left it last time, sometimes in a notification, sometimes way down in my news feed, sometimes in a friend’s profile that I last visited. Why would I not like the Facebook application to refresh itself and show me what is on top in my news feed every time I open it?

Typing on this Android phone is a pain. I keep missing the buttons and when typing fast, and autofill using the wrong language, the weirdest messages get sent. Correcting typos takes more time than trying to retype the whole message. Also the microphone button must have a strange location on the keyboard since when trying to type and correct, I must be hitting it and the phone suddenly tells me it is listening to me. I haven't dared to speak my message to the phone, but what do I know, maybe I would get my message in Finnish or Swedish transcribed perfectly.

Using the web browser is mostly easy, but the logic of using tabs is not quite clear to me. I have tried to leave some pages open, but when I return they are not always there.

I don't think I have become friends with this phone yet, it just seems messy in many ways.

Being social and smart
I would blog from my phone but posting pictures is tricky and the typing too slow. I have tried a couple of times but there are problems posting the picture, turning and resizing it, problems activating the text box, moving the cursor, typing and so on. Not worth the effort.

Though few of the pictures on my blog have been taken with the phones, I would still prefer the quality of a real pocket camera. The cameras on both phones take fair enough pictures for Facebook but taking them results in loads of bad pictures that need to be deleted at some point. The camera on the LG is nicely available with its own button on the side of the phone, the Windows Phone auto-fix saves many dark pictures, and the zoom is handy for cropping pictures. The camera on the Nexus S seems to take clearer and sharper pictures, and has a quite handy crop. The Android organizes the photos backwards, I don't understand why. Posting photos on Facebook from both phones is easy. Using the Windows Phone I reported daily on installing a floor, with the Android I did the same thing hourly while I was putting up some wallpaper. Facebook was cheering.

I don't really use the phone for games, calendar, notes or other gadgets, but I have gotten lost using the map applications on both phones.

I recently installed Sports Tracker on the Android and tried it out on a walk. The result didn't really match what I experienced with my own senses. The tracker application displayed my speed, distance and calories while I myself was thinking moonlight, peace and quiet. I doubt the results on yoga or figure skating would be any more thrilling to share with others.

So, what are these phones good for? I think, I think I’m being social and keeping in touch, but what I mostly do is check on others, read my mail, like posts and occacionally comment something short.

Also at home the phone has replaced much of my computer time, but it seems to have a price. Since the typing is so slow I don’t have the patience to contribute. Earlier, when I had to go to a computer, I would every time write e-mails and participate in discussions. Be social. With a smartphone I get the illusion of doing the same thing, but I don’t. I’m not so convinced these smartphones make me that smart.

What did the kid say? “Put those away.” Should I? And become contributing and social twice a day rather than being a passive liker every time I get a chance?

My SIM card is still in the Android. Should I move it back to the Windows Phone? Or back to my old phone without all this smartness? Okay. Forget the last one, but just give me a good keyboard.

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