I went ahead and replaced my Nokia Lumia 1020 with an LG G3. I selected the G3 over a Samsung or Sony device for a couple of reasons, one being stronger recommendations and some of the reviews I read, but also because AT&T was offering a G Watch at half-price if you bought a G3. And given the Samsung Galaxy S5 is more expensive than the G3, I basically got the G3 and G Watch for just a few dollars more than the S5 alone. AT&T may (the signage had disappeared) also have had a deal on a Gear purchased with the S5, but it was for a Tizen-based watch and I wanted Android Wear. So, after 72 hours how do I feel about my choice?
Well to start with, Android is Windows. I mean, I joked back in the early days that Android was Windows 3.1. Ok, its more like Windows XP. In all ways, good and bad. The UI with frequently used apps on the “desktop” and then there is “All Programs”? Check. The OEM model leading to a broad variety of hardware? Check. The UI that is customized by every hardware vendor and every device is laden with crapware? Check. The unbelievable breadth of applications coming out of the ecosystem? Check. The complete randomness of app quality and UI consistency coming out of the ecosystem? Check. The OS vendor leaving what its competitors have cleanly integrated into the platform to third-parties, resulting in more powerful but poorer quality solutions? Check.
As an example of that last point take Windows Phone 8.1’s Quiet Hours and Inner Circle features. I’ve been using it for months and it works perfectly. Now, try to do the same thing on Android 4.4.2 (KitKat). It has a Quiet Mode, but no ability to schedule when that should be turned on or off or a provision for designated family and friends to break through it. Getting alarms during quiet mode requires that you know to go into the settings in the Clock app and enable alarms breaking through. Not very functional or user-friendly.
But of course we have third parties to the rescue and there are a variety of apps that do everything from give you a simple widget to toggle quiet mode on/off to complex scheduling of when to turn it on or off and creation of multiple groups to whom you can allow breaking through. The latter gives you a much more powerful capability than Windows Phone’s built-in feature, except…. If you read the reviews of these third-party apps they all appear to have reliability issues. The scariest one, because no amount of testing on your part will let you trust it not to happen, is that at some unknown point in the future the breakthrough capability will stop working. No doubt when some critical phone call or text comes through. Scary!
Otherwise it’s just a computer. Or phone. Or whatever. No I don’t particularly care for Android’s UI, I think both Windows Phone and iOS are better phone user interfaces. They certainly are better for 90% of users out there. But does this really matter? How many people will argue that the Mac had a better UI than Windows during most of their lifespans to date? Most, including many who were on the Windows team! Yet Windows won.
But the apps I want are all available and I’m having a blast no longer feeling like the cobbler’s kid with no shoes. And that is also the main reason Windows won in the PC era.
But actually the surprise here for me was the G Watch. I’d told friends that I was holding off on my next phone until later this year when I could see what the best smart watches were and which ecosystems they worked with. I was hoping I’d get to compare, at least, Google Wear devices, a reported iWatch, and reported Microsoft smartband. And then I’d go with the phone that could support the watch. My Total Connect 2.0 problem accelerated the phone decision and the G Watch deal accelerated my initial smartwatch decision.
I like the G Watch. I’m amazed at how useful the small screen actually is. Do I wish I could do even more? Sure. Am I disappointed? Not at all. The G Watch has cut the frequency I need to pull the phone out of my pocket by at least 60%. For example, I don’t pull the phone out of my pocket to check email until I see notification on the phone that something important has come in. Or my favorite, touch the watch and say “Remind me to…” rather than fishing out the phone to do that. I was thrilled with my Lumia 1020 and Cortana making that scenario work, but being able to do it through an interface that is always a fraction of second from being ready is amazing. And having the reminders always there at a glance is equally amazing. There is more to the G Watch and to Android Wear, and this isn’t a review. I’m just saying the device is not only useful, but something I’m actually willing to wear.
And now to do something I almost never do, give Google credit. For a V1.0 product they’ve done a great job on Android Wear. I thought it would take Apple to make a smart watch capable of going mainstream, and they may yet leapfrog Google, but Google certainly got there first with a decent platform. With this good a first pass the OEMs are going to be pumping out devices. The LG G Watch isn’t a bad attempt at all, but others (such as Motorola) have more fashionable devices coming.
I’m sticking with the Microsoft ecosystem. Fortunately Microsoft has OneDrive, Outlook.com, Xbox Music, and other apps for Android. Oddly the Play Store won’t offer me OneNote or Office Mobile because it thinks they aren’t compatible with the G3. It isn’t known if this is an actual application problem, or a problem in the metadata that Microsoft supplied to the Play Store. And most speculation is that the problem is with the G3’s unusual QHD screen. Whatever, I hope that this gets solved soon as I do depend on OneNote.
Google of course did coax me out of my attempt to totally avoid its ecosystem, and so I do now have a Google Account. And that includes Gmail, although I plan to use it for a very narrow set of things. Of course using Google Now means I’m sharing a lot of information with Google. And I can certainly see myself drawn a bit more into Google’s world over time.
There isn’t much else to report at this point. I’m really liking being able to run all the apps I’ve always wanted, but I do miss Windows Phone. Hopefully in another year or two the app gap will truly have closed enough that I can go back. But I’m not holding my breath.