Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The thing that surprised me the most about getting a Samsung Captivate running Android 2.1 was just how apprehensive I was about it. After a bit of introspection, I realized I was actually worried about "leaving the nest": that the new experience would not be the match for what had come before it.

I was not expecting it to be the same: Just that I would somehow lose some functionality I had come to expect or depend on from the iPhone ecosystem. Further, the iPhone 4 is a beautiful piece of work. I have held one in every death grip I could think of, and got pretty much nothing. The same can not be said of my Blackberry which drops bars when held. But it is Verizon, and I get lousy signal at my house for Verizon, even though I get 5 bars on ATT.

I really wanted a Droid X, or an EVO, but neither of those phones was available on AT&T, and unlike the many that love bashing AT&T, my experience with them has been mostly positive. With a family plan and 5 phones on it, moving to another carrier was not financially feasible, and I also will not get anything but a GSM phone, and that let out the main units I was looking at.

Enter the Samsung Captivate.

ATT now has to really nice Android based phones: The HTC Aria, and the Captivate, which is the ATT version of the Galaxy S world phone. I was sorely tempted by the Aria: I have never seen a more pocketable phone, and it just felt really nice in the hand. But I wanted a big screen: Bigger than the iPhone if possible, and on AT&T, that is the Captivate right now.

Pushed from the Nest

Oddly, it was three things that Apple did that made me make the jump:

  1. The constant cat-and-mouse games between the jailbreak community and Apple. Apple really wants to control what I put on my phone, and I really want to control that instead.
  2. Related to point 1 is Apples policies around their App store. 
    1. I don't dig censorship, and I really hated that, for example, they had not allowed Google Voice onto the phone. 
    2. The Zinio magazine app was defanged and largely useless.
    3. Then they went and bought a map company, clearly so that they could move away from Google even further. 
    4. Then there is the whole Flash thing. I am an adult: I can choose to eat my battery up with flash if I like. I totally agree that Flash has problems, but it is not for Apple to tell me how to deal with them.
  3. The iPad. With it, I have access to all the things I care about. I like the iTunes store. I like the rental system. I like being able to grab TV shows when I miss them and forgot to set the DVR. I like Audible, and the new iPad Audible apps is very very nice. But with an iPad, I do not need and iPhone to consume these things.

Even though I am a Linux guy, and Android was the premiere Linux based phone OS, I had waited, reading the trades, till appeared to me (as much as you can tell by reading) that ANdroid was more or less on feature parity with iOS4. Clearly it has always done multitasking, and such. I was more concerned around speed, stability, and size of the Android marketplace: Could I get things like Pandora there? My iPhone was ladden with apps, and I loved messing with them. I wanted that on my Android.

Another thing I have been waiting for is AMOLED screens to be feasible. The concept behind them is just too logical, and makes way more sense than LCD: Direct light generation, and no power used when a pixel is not on. The Galaxy S class of phones was the first that had the combination of size, maturity of execution, etc, to make me ready to switch. It is not the iPhone 4's retina display, but it is probably the second best display out there right now.

The camera has EV settings! I have wanted that forever on a cellCam. And it has a cool feature letting me tap on the screen for it to pick where to meter. All told, it is probably not as good an automatic camera as the iPhone 4, but it is a far better manual one.


There have been two problems of note so far:

  1. The MicroUSB charge port
  2. Syncing to my Mac
The charge port has a nifty sliding cover, but it also has the same issue as the first generation iPhone had with headphone: If your cord has a fat rubber grip near the microUSB connector, it will not easily slide in, and stay in. And there is no way to charge and talk at the same time, even with the provided MicroUSB cord. It just won't stay put.

In my MS Windowsless world, I never even thought to ask about sync to a smartphone. Everyone supports Mac these days... not. The Captivate / Galaxy S has no native way to sync to my Mac. To get media on Captivate, I have to put it into media mode, and turn on USB debugging. Then it appears to the Mac (or Linux) as a flash drive, and I can just drag content onto it. Its fast, and gives me ultimate content control, but I do miss iTunes.

Also, I would like a bigger battery option. The 1500 mAh is OK, and does better than my iPhone 3GS ever did, but that is damning with faint praise. I could not pass a charging cable with that phone, especially once it had iOS4 on it. But the 30 pin dock ecosystem is a rich place, and there is nothing like that on the Captivate. I would kill for a Mophie JuicePack. Barring that, a 2500-3000 mAh battery would be just the thing.

Probably more as this goes on: This is only day 4. But so far I do not, by and large, miss the iPhone, and I do enjoy having access to the Google world in a very high fidelity way. I set up Google Voice yesterday...


Bill Smith said...

Now if only someone would port Flash to the iPad...

Steve Carl said...

First: Sorry about the lag: I though Blogspot would let me know when there was a comment awaiting moderation. Doh.

If you Jailbreak, there is flash for the iPhone and iPad... but you probably know that.