The ONE that tempted an Apple Fanboy

Yes, I admit that I am a die-hard Apple Fanboy.  Although I can survive on Linux for a while, if I have to be on Windows for more than 30-45 minutes, I get a rash, after 60 minutes difficulty in breathing and more than 90 minutes could end up in the ER. Ok, that is a little exaggerated. I just love Apple hardware because it looks very nice and Mac OS just feels more intuitive to me.  So my standard equipment was a MacBook Pro (yep, the one with Retina display, wohoo), and iPhone 5 and an iPad mini. But a while ago, someONE came along and led me into temptation. So who is this mysterious One that led me into temptation? The one and only HTC ONE, HTC’s new flagship Android phone. Initially it was meant to be a simple test device, just to see what Android is up to these days, but soon I caught myself playing with the phone more and more often and after a few days it actually replaced my iPhone 5.

So to get it out of the way, let’s start with the things I absolutely dislike. Funny enough, for those things I cannot even blame HTC. They come from Google, or better said Android.

Google Playstore

I had a few Android phones in the past and used my google app account with them. I am also more than positive that I purchased a few items in the Google Play Store. Now things are different. The Playstore is using Google’s “excellent” wallet system as the only way to purchase items. When I hit the checkout, I get a warning that my account is suspended because of suspected fraudulent activity and that I can contact Google if I believe that this is a mistake. Of course I did that, and Google’s response was:

“The wallet account belonge to a Google App domain – please contact the domain administrator to enable the wallet service” – Well, Google, I am the domain admin, I have the wallet service activated, but still you don’t let me use it. Even better, when I click the link to the terms and conditions (to check what rules I may have breached) the same message, that my wallet account has been disabled is displayed. Well done, Google! So what you are doing here is, forcing me to look for cracked versions of software because you don’t give me a legal way to obtain it. I am sure the Android developers out there really appreciate that. Oh and it is also a great incentive for developers here in Thailand to develop Android Apps since we cannot charge anything for them. Google is kind enough to only support a few countries when it comes to charging for apps on the play store.

YouTube

Everytime I want to watch a clip on YouTube, I get the message “Unsupported Video Format” It took me a while to figure out that it is also related to my Google Apps domain. Since YouTube is officially not supported in Thailand, I cannot add it as a service to my Google App account. It plays YouTube clips perfectly fine when I am not logged in at all with a Google account, but if I use my Google App account, every video becomes an unsupported format. Well, Google, can you explain why  you let me watch the clips when you have no trace of me at all, but if I let you have my email address you won’t let me watch anything?! How can a video format become unsupported when all I did was giving you a way to check what I am watching?

My wife is still using her iPhone 5 (funny thing – I am the Apple fanboy, but when it comes to phones, nothing comes between her and her iPhone) and her company is using MS Exchange as the collaboration server. Every time an event invitation arrives, she gets a nice pop-up on the screen. I used to get that with my Google App account, too, but that is not working on Android. To be fair however it needs to be said that it is no longer working on the iPhone for me either since Google discontinued the active sync feature for free accounts. After further tests with other emails, I found out that event invitations never pop up on Android – oh well, would be nice to have but can survive without it. At least I can be a little jealous of my wife and her iPhone when it comes to event invitations.

All in all, Google, I would recommend you support your platform more global (yes, believe it or not, there are countries outside the USA with people who would really love to use all of your services) something, that iOS does pretty well.

Enough bashing Google, let’s also mention something nice that I really like:

On the Mac and on iOS devices we have iTunes Match which allows to stream music via the cloud to (I think) up to 5 devices. Quite a handy feature to save memory on the iOS devices and my MacBook Pro Retina with limited SSD storage. And at only 24.95/year almost a steal.

Now comes Google. If you live in the US (or bing on Google how to find a way into making them believe you are in the US), you can upload 20,000 of your own songs (that’s 19,999 more songs than I have) for free and enjoy them via the web interfae or the Android App. Really a nice feature and free. Sometimes the streaming lags a little, but for that I won’t blame Google as it is most likely a problem with the mobile providers in Thailand. All in all it works very well and even if there are a few bumps on the road – it’s FREE, so no reason to complain.

Oh, before I start with more details about the HTC ONE, there is actually something really terrible about it. Not really the device but the included earbuds. I already had trouble with the Samsung earbuds, they would get into my ears for a while and then just pop out. very annoying. HTC is much worse. These are the first earbuds that fit perfectly into my ear, the sound is absolutely brilliant (at least in my opinion) but…I can’t hear anything at all. I am comletely disconnected from the outside world, often feel like I am under water. Maybe it takes a bit getting used to it – from the sound itself I was pretty amazed.

Finally let’s get to the device itself. As I mentioned earlier, initially I just wanted to play a little around with the device to see what it has to offer. Soon after using it a few times, I found myself picking the device up quite frequently just to hold it, to look at it, to play around with it. A few days later I changed my iPhone Nano sim to a micro sim and that was the day the ONE took over.

The design of the HTC one is simply amazing. I agree with the general opinion of most reviewers that it is most likely the best looking phone on the market today. A slight resemblance with the iPhone 5 is not deniable, but at the same time HTC managed to also give it a unique and individual look and feel. The device is quite a bit larger than the iPhone, but for some reason it feels so much more natural in the hand. I believe it is due to the curved back. When I hold the iPhone 5, even though it is reasonably small, it feels bulky, heavy and unnatural compared to the much larger HTC One. To be fair however I have to admit that I didn’t feel that way about the iPhone before comparing it to the HTC ONE. The materials used for the body of the device feel very nice and all in all it feels very slim and stylish.

The screen, a 4.7 inch full HD screen, is amazing.The colors look brilliant and when the screen is on, the contents look almost like they are printed on the glass.

Shame on HTC that they did not yet provide the latest Android version on the HTC ONE, but the clever developers at xda-develoeprs.com already found a way to give us a preview of what Android 4.2.2 has in stock for us. My favourite custom ROM is InsertCoin, I think it has been on pretty much any Android phone I used so far.
(I started to write this post a while ago – since then JellyBean 4.2.2 has made its way officially to the HTC One via OTA – but I still stay with InsertCoin for the moment)

Some people hate Blinkfeed on Sense 5, but I must say that I like it. It gives me quick updates on the news and even from resources like Facebook and Twitter. The world as we know it would come to an end if there was not a way to get constant updates of all the people who once befriended you and that was the last time you had any contact with them. How could I go through the day without knowing that John Doe form Alaska just took a dump? Thanks to Blinkfeed (and the great update frequency of John Doe in Alaska) I get that info on my phone while he is flushing!!!

Last but not least there is Zoe. Now that is the feature that really won me over. Taking photos with ZOE takes a little longer (3 seconds for each shot) but you get a sweet reward. ZOE takes the photo and a short little video clip. So in the gallery you will find the video clip which plays automatically and makes the gallery listing look alive. Almost like watching Harry Potter’s Newspapers. Certainly not a necessary feature and does not make you snapshots better, but it is really cool and I love it. Gives the phone that little extra that makes it stand out from the crowd.

For the camera itself I cannot complain  Let’s face it, nobody is going to replace professional camera gear with a smartphone and take professional shots that way. And for a camera as a backup – or even simply as a camera to take some cool snapshots - I think any smartphone these days does a good job. I remember my first camera phone – I couldn’t even tell if it was a shot of my face or my armpit. So from those days we have come a long way. Some say the camera on the Galaxy S4 is much better, but I don’t care – Galaxy has no Zoe – and ZOE ROCKS!!! – Period!!

Coming to an end – I just realized that I don’t even know where my iPhone is at the moment. Probably left it at the office, got to check in the morning.

Now I do understand Apple’s strategy to not change anything on the UI because it is something you are familiar with and don’t want to learn every time you update the phone. I just wonder if that is the real reason or if it is more along the line of:”We don’t care about changing anything on the UI or even make amazing changes to the phone itself because we know that you silly suckers buy the phone as soon as we poop it out, so why bother??!!??”

So..when it comes to Computers, I am still an Apple Fanboy and I don’t see anything that could change that anytime soon. On mobile devices however the HTC One is the first phone that really made me switch away from the iPhone and probably keeps me on the Android Platform for a while. Hopefully Google catches up a little more and supports other countries better.