Happiness and Sadness

Last week was pretty big if you’re an Apple fanboy like me.

Happiness

It started off with the announcement I’ve been waiting for for several years — my hometown carrier, Sprint, will now carry the iPhone as an option. The Kansas City Star actually ran a story where my excitement about the device coming to Sprint was the lead.

To say that I’m excited is an understatement. I’ve been wanting an iPhone since the device came out, but my loyalty to my friends who work for our hometown company has outweighed that desire. Plus, since I’m a part of Sprint’s Advantage Plan, my monthly is pretty cheap. With family members also on Sprint in other cities, those free mobile-to-mobile minutes add up. Combine that with unlimited texting and data plans included (vs. a hefty increase on other carriers…I mean, SERIOUSLY, who would pay $20/month for unlimited texting?) and I haven’t been able to make the switch.

Now, I can. The iPhone 4S is scheduled to replace my crappy HTC Hero as soon as is humanly possible. I can’t wait.

Sadness

Steve Jobs - Image from Apple.com

I’m not an engineer and I rarely design things anymore and yet, Steve Jobs passing still made me really sad.

Whether you are an Apple fanboy like me or not, his impact on the world is pretty remarkable. Not only was he responsible for bring the iPhone to fruition, he:

  • revolutionized the music industry, proving that people will pay for their music if you make it easy.
  • brought joy to the lives of both kids and adults through his contributions to entertainment through his leadership at Pixar.
  • proved that small details matter when it comes to design and that people like simple things that just work.

I’m not going to go on and on about his influence in my life…frankly, I just loved his products and respected the diligence and attention to detail that he put into everything that he did. He was just a man after all. He had flaws. He wasn’t perfect. But he was an exceptional guy.

I lost my Uncle Larry to pancreatic cancer in 2006. It’s a horrible, nearly unbeatable form of the disease. It sucks. My heart goes out to his family. Instead of being sad, I’m going to try and just make something amazing. I think that’s what both Steve and my Uncle Larry would appreciate.

Things I’d rather have than an iPad

  • A non-AT&T iPhone
  • A network-based iTunes TV subscription model
  • Steve Jobs presenting as an Avatar
  • Jobs not using the word “magical” a dozen times
  • A new MacBook
  • Improvements to Mail and iCal in OS X.
  • Something a little more than what looked like an iPhone XL

I’m not trying to be a hater here. The Apple iPad is a gorgeous device. It really is. The New York Times application looks phenomenal…it will make reading on-screen a great experience, but that’s nothing new…the Kindle already did that.

I guess I just expected a little more out of this announcement. Honestly, it’s not even Apple’s fault. Outside of the invitation, Apple had not released a single piece of information about the iPad…that was all through speculation and the rumor mill on the internet. Even speculation on the name was enough to get Gruber and the other Mac-olytes in a tizzy. The hype was out of control for this device and I shouldn’t have bought into it so much, but I did. I held out hope that I’d be able to purchase an iPhone for Sprint. Yeah…not so much.

Don’t get me wrong…if someone gave me one of these, I’d take it. But I was just hoping for something a little more. Especially that first one.

That would have been AWESOME.

Crash

The 160GB hard drive on my five-year-old iMac G5 died a few days ago.

I’m not sure what happened. I’d like to blame Microsoft and I actually have some justification in doing it. For some reason, it froze in the middle of a Microsoft Office automatic update and it never recovered.

I’ve tried everything I can for free. I took it to the Apple Store on the Plaza…they couldn’t even see it. I bought a SATA to USB adapter on eBay that arrived today…it didn’t work either.

So I called a data recovery specialist. They told me that if they didn’t recover anything (which they assured me rarely happens), it would still cost me a $200 attempt fee, but if they did, it would be closer to $2,300! (They give you a range and the price is based on how much they recover – minimum $500, maximum $2,700.)

As much as I’d like to recover the data, I’m not down with dropping that much money. The only absolutely heart-breaking thing that I lost was a bunch of pictures. Fortunately, I moved many of the 10,000+ in my iPhoto library (especially the almost 2,000 from our Italy trip) to my Macbook and I’m thankful for that. 

I’ll likely discover over time more of what’s missing, but what’s disheartening is that if I’d upgraded to Leopard I could have used Time Machine to automate the backups, but unfortunately I was still running Tiger.

If there’s one bright spot regarding the crash, it’s that the computer itself will still work and I can upgrade the drive to 320GB…twice the size of its predecessor. Still, it sucks.

Not Instinct-ual

(All apologies to my friends that work at Sprint…this is a rather long post and it’s not exactly complimentary of the Instinct…)

The Samsung Instinct by SprintSprint and Samsung are really putting the full court press on with the new Samsung Instinct. They’re promoting the heck out of it and have given it a terrific price point and coupled with their $99.99 Everything plan, they’ve got a compelling reason to take a look at the phone. The press has even been complimentary of the phone, calling it a “decent iPhone competitor.”

Unfortunately, Sprint bought into the iPhone comparisons and continued to tout it as a competitor to the iPhone. This was their first mistake. If you compare the two phones solely on features, the Instinct probably comes out ahead right now. However, when you factor in the iPhone 3G coming on July 11, some of those features (like true GPS) become irrelevant.

I spent about 30 minutes playing around with the Instinct on Thursday after receiving an e-mail invitation to preview it in stores. Many things came to mind…here are my most significant thoughts:

GPS – From what I can tell, this is a great feature. I didn’t go anywhere, but the interface was nice and easy to use. Again, it’s irrelevant to compare it to the iPhone once the 3G comes out, but right now, Sprint has the edge.

Interface – With the way they’ve advertised it, I expected the interface to be comparable to OS X on the iPhone. Not so much. It was pretty clunky and not terribly responsive. Not only that, but since the touchscreen on the Instinct is pressure-sensitive rather than heat-sensitive like the iPhones, I found that I had to push pretty hard on the screen in order to get it to do what I wanted. As someone who has played with the iPhone as well, this is a big disappointment.

Web browsing – This was probably my biggest disappointment with the Instinct. One thing that’s great about the iPhone is that it will adjust portrait-to-landscape just by turning the screen. All applications work both ways (with the exception of the included YouTube app, I think), including browsing. On the Instinct, you can only browse (and type) in landscape mode. Couple that with Mobile Safari’s ability to zoom and its far superior navigation capabilities, the iPhone wins this one hands down.

The Samsung Instinct by Sprint

Form factor – This one’s a wash. They are about the same size and they feel the same in your hand.

Keyboard – This is kind of a duplicate complaint, but the pressure-screen makes typing kind of a chore. Not only that, but the iPhone has auto-correct built in while the Instinct only suggests misspelled words. The typography of the Instinct is far inferior to the iPhone’s (to be expected) as is the color saturation, making the Instinct’s screen a lot harder to read.

Lack of sync – I’m not sure why I should be surprised with this. As someone who has made the choice to live better in a Windows-less world, it’s difficult for me to find a phone that will synchronize with my Macbook. Windows Mobile-based phones OBVIOUSLY won’t do the trick, so I’ve got very few options – Blackberries (ew), Palm-based devices (I like the Centro, but HATE the typography) or iPhones. Everything else just kind of sucks. The amazing thing to me about the Instinct was that it doesn’t even sync with Windows. That makes no sense to me. Synchronization is one of the key reasons to have an advanced phone like an iPhone or a Blackberry. The fact that the Instinct doesn’t even sync with Windows is a HUGE failure by Sprint’s project planners. Sure, you can view your mail on there, but if it doesn’t synchronize, what benefit is there?

Bells and whistles – There’s no doubt that Sprint made a lot of effort in making sure that the Instinct was packed with features. That gives them the ability to point to lists like this and say, “SEE, our phone has more features.” The problem is that with a lack of a good platform, the Instinct’s features don’t feel cohesive and they are all difficult to find (the technician at the Sprint store on the Sprint campus spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to add an e-mail account). I’ll admit, the Live TV function is cool (although I can’t for the life of me find where the list of channels is) and the addition of Visual Voicemail is great. But with the opening of the iPhone App Store, the applications built for the iPhone will all be vetted by Apple’s developer standards and are going to be sweet. The applications I saw for the Instinct fell far short of anything on the iPhone.

Summary

I really wanted to like the Instinct. I really did. But there were so many places where it was so far inferior to the iPhone that it was laughable. Even the Sprint employee that was checking out the Instinct said that it “didn’t hold a candle to his iPhone.” That’s just sad.

Even sadder was that when I asked one of the people in the Sprint store (REPEAT: this is the Sprint store on the Sprint campus) why I shouldn’t just leave Sprint and go get an iPhone, his response was, “Well, if you’re on the Employee Friends plan, that’s why.” And it’s true, but not for the reasons he thinks. The Friends part is the important thing to me. As many problems as I have with Sprint (small by comparison to my problems with Comcast), I won’t leave their network because I’m a loyal person who wants to support a local company that employs about half a dozen of my friends. The cheaper plan is nice, but the friendships are more important. I just wish that the company wouldn’t rely on my friendships for my loyalty and instead provide me with great phones and great service.

The Instinct’s failure is not entirely Sprint’s fault though. The media who touted the phone as “a viable iPhone competitor” really sealed its fate. Sprint would have been better off to not believe the hype and just sell the phone for what it is – a touch-screen phone with media features. They should not have tried to go head-to-head with the iPhone for a lot of reasons, but they certainly got some great press out of the deal. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t live up to the hype. There are some neat features for sure, but if you want to compare it to the iPhone, well…you just shouldn’t. Compete with Blackberry or Palm…don’t compete with Apple. For an example, see the Microsoft Zune. Microsoft has TONS more money than Sprint and they still can’t compete in the MP3 market.

For me, I’ve been waiting for this phone to come out before using my hardware upgrade that Sprint offers every 18 months. I’ll probably now use it to get a Centro because it at least will synchronize with my Macbook. I wish that I liked the Instinct because there are some great features there…I just felt like using it was too much of a chore.

A new charitable cause…

Steve Jobs presents the new Apple iPhone 3G

As someone who has been a loyal Sprint user for many years, I have been really looking forward to the release of the Samsung Instinct, a phone that many are calling one of the first decent competitors to the iPhone. When the iPhone first came out, I was jealous, but it was way too expensive to even consider. Tack that onto the fact that I am a member of Sprint’s Friends and Family plan, which makes things all the more inexpensive.

I’d go as far to say that I was excited for the release of the Instinct…

Until today.

Today, my favorite company in the world released the second-generation of their industry-changing device. There are haters that don’t want to admit Apple’s greatness, but those people are kidding themselves. This is a phone that has sold 6 million units in ONE YEAR.

To put that into perspective…even though it was released mid-way through the year, the iPhone was the 2nd most popular smartphone in the U.S. (3rd globally) and outsold all Windows Mobile devices combined.

The iPhone 3G isn’t really a massive update overall. However, the fact that it is adding 3G wireless connectivity and dropping its price by half (the 8GB iPhone went from $399 to $199), combined with the best operating system a phone has ever seen…well…needless to say, I’m reconsidering whether or not I want to stick with Sprint.

So here’s what I’m proposing…those of you that helped me raise money to buy a dairy cow back in January…I’m giving you another opportunity to give.

If you donate enough money for me to buy an iPhone, I’ll give up red meat for the rest of the year.

You read that right…I’ll give up red meat through the holidays if you help me buy an iPhone.