In my last post, "iPhoneless", I talked about trading in my personal iPhone 3GS for a Samsung Captivate. Since then I have traded in my BMC provided Blackberry Storm (1st generation) for... wait for it... an iPhone 4.
Bye Bye Blackberry... Storm that is
I have written here several times of my problems with Blackberries. I know there are those who love the chicklet keys, and go so far to call them "real" keyboards. I am not one of those people, and prefer the virtual keyboard, especially on a small form factor computer. Full disclosure: I am typing this on my brand new-for-Xmas keyboard/dock on my iPad. I like the virtual keyboard on the iPad just fine, but I am admittedly faster on this little jewel.
The keypad was far from my only problem with the BB Storm though. It was a wretched virtual keyboard, though the upgrade to OS5 made that somewhat better. The push=to=click screen was always a horrible idea though, and nothing about any OS was going to change that.
The web browser was/is garbage and even with Opera installed, it was still suboptimal, because there were some many things, like downloads, that required the BB Browser.
There was how slow it was (made somewhat better by OS5).
There was the OS itself, which always felt like a patchwork, even after the OS5 upgrade. I hear OS6 fixed a lot of this, but the 1st gen Storm will never know that. It's last OS version is 5, in part because the Storm does not have enough memory for 6, although the slow processor is also probably a factor.
The Torch is a Storm with a faster processor, a chicklet slide out keypad, and OS 6, therefore a better web browser. I played with one at the AT&T store but it still is not a nice as my first generation iPhone was. At least for me. I know others love love love the BB's. I do not miss mine even a little.
Best of Two Worlds
I will never have every possible smartphone there is in order to know which one might be the ultimate best one. WebOS has real possibilities for example, now that HP owns it. Having the Captivate and the iPhone 4 is a unique opportunity to compare the two leaders of the USA field though. Note that, unlike my personal iPhone, this one is BMC's, so it is the stock OS 4.1, and is not jailbroken. I can not upgrade it to 4.2 even, because the software that hooks it into our Exchange server over the Internet is not ready for 4.2. From everything I have read, 4.2 was no big deal for the iPhone anyway: It was mostly about bringing multitasking and folders to the iPad.
Much has been said about the beauty of the iPhones 300 dpi display. All of the good stuff is true. It is a pretty screen, and it works even in fairly bright light. The Amoled display on the Captivate is also amazing, especially while watching video: For some reason it almost looks 3D. It is also a battery drainer of the first order. I have started to be very careful to not use color backgrounds in things like email or IM as that saves power. Not enough though.
I actually prefer the Amoled display most of the time, in part because it is 4 inches rather than 3.7, and that extra little bit helps with my older eyes and fat fingers. In bright light, it is useless however.
Both the iPhone and the Captivate have 5 megapixel cameras, and here is proof positive that there is more to a digital camera than megapixels. the iPhone camera is better in low light, bright light... any kind of light, than the Samsung. The Samsung does have EV compensation though, so I guess it wins in backlight, or other situations where the meter has to be over-ridden to get the shot. The iPhoto app is also much better for organizing pictures, and this I do not get. Google owns Picasa: Where is Picasa for Android?
I have dissed the BB's keypad, and BB keyboards in general, so I guess I should note which keyboard I like better between the IPhone and the Samsung. The Samsung.. mostly. The Captivate comes with Swype, and that is an amazing way to enter text on a small keyboard. Just trace along the letters, never lifting your finger, and most of the time it figures out the words correctly. People that are good at Swype can apparently do 50 words per minute.
There are rumors that Swype is being developed for the iPhone, but I have a hard time seeing Apple approving it as an app. If they did this would be a toss-up.
There is nothing wrong with the virtual keypad of the iPhone: Beside the Swype keypad the Captivate has the stock Android one, and a Samsung one. Either of those is not quite as good as the Apple, mostly because the spacing and layout combined with the way the letters pop up as you type them. Those things together maker it a little easier than the non-Swype keyboards on the Captivate.
Speeds and Feeds
The iPhone is supposed to be about 800 Mhz, and the Captivate about 1 Ghz. Both ARM based processors. I can't tell the difference. Both clip along well. Both load and render web pages at about the same speed.
Radio / 3G / Voice
In a recent trip to New York, famed home of lousy AT&T reception (or so they say: my BB was never any better there and it was Verizon) the two phones worked about the same. Not scientific, but when one phone was out of range, so was the other. Occasionally the Captivate would have a bar when the iPhone had none. Most of the time they were in range. Most of the time they worked, although there was a pub I went to a fair amount where both were incommunicado.
I like the sound of the earpiece a little better on the Samsung, but the iPhone is way better at canceling out the ambient noises I am surrounded by, making it better for the person on the other end of the line. Meh. No difference.
Both sync up to my Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece without issues.
I did not lump this in with the radio because there is a difference here. The iPhone pretty much kicks the Captivate's tush. It finds access points, and more easily stays connected to them. Its range is longer from the same access point, and it remembers passwords better.
Battery and Battery life
Another iPhone win, but mostly because the iPhone ecosystem is larger. I have a Mophie JuicePack on the iPhone, meaning it has an extra 1500 mAh battery at all times. There are no Mophie juice packs for the Captivate, and there is no aftermarket battery at this writing that is larger than the stock 1500 mAh unit. Do any serious screen time work on the Captivate, and that battery drains at an alarming rate. Since I like the Samsung display better, that means the Captivate is always drained more deeply than the iPhone. It can not pass a MicroUSB power cord.
(Update: Here in January of 2011, while looking for any news of a 2.2 update, I found aftermarket batteries finally appearing for the Captivate. Mine will be getting a 3200 mAh unit in the near future. It makes the phone look like a humpback whale rather than a thin slab, but with basically twice the runtime, and a bigger case so it is easier to hold on to, it is a no-brainer for me. Hard part will be finding a new belt-case for it. yes, I look like Batman with all this crap hanging from my belt. Better than carrying it in my pocket and risking microwave radiation in the nether regions though.)
The whole concept of the removable battery being better than the iPhone sealed in tight unit is laughable when one has a Mophie Juicepack. I do not have to plug in to A/C to switch out a battery for example. And the Mophie makes the iPhone into a MicroUSB connector, the same as the Captivate, so I only need one cable type: Nice.
The iPhone beats the Captivate to a bloody pulp here, and it is the fault of the Captivate not having a 3000 mAh optional battery. Really: I don't care if it is thicker: The Juicepack is hardly slimming. Smartphones eat batteries. Need. Bigger. Battery.
I keep finding I have muted the Captivate, and I still don't know how I did it exactly. It happens all the time, and it is the ergonomics of the volume control buttons somehow. The Mophie does a great job protecting the volume controls of the iPhone, so there is no issue there.
On the other hand, I love the search, home and back buttons of the Captivate, and even more that those buttons on the Captivate are virtual, not mechanical. That is the hardest thing about switching back and forth between the two phones: I am always looking for those buttons on the iPhone.
The iPhone may have more apps in the app store, but with Apples censorship, they are not all that I want. Fewer apps, but more apps than I am interested in maps to the Captivate having a better app store. For example, until recently, Google Voice was not in the iPhone app store. It is now of course, but that was months I had it on the Captivate and not the iPhone.
The rest of the Google suite: Maps and Navigation for example are still not iPhone options, and while the iPhone has a maps app, and it is even based off Googles, it is nowhere near as up-to-date. Navigation requires something like Tom-Tom on the iPhone. And while I play few games, the Angry Birds on the Captivate is ad supported, therefore free.
The cost of the better app store is that there is a ton of junk in the Google Market. Easy to filter through though.
The one app I really want on the Captivate that is not there is the SyFy "Blastr": formerly SYFY Wire. Not sure why they have not done a version of that, but I can read it on the iPad and the iPhone, so it is not horrible that it is not there.
I have five browsers on my Captivate. The built in one is OK, but Dolphin and Opera and Opera Mini and Firefox are all so very nice too... IPhone has Safari. Serviceable and better than the BB browser by so very far. Not Android good though.
Captivate was supposed to get Froyo months ago, but so far it has not appeared. Looking through the forums is appears that this is sort of a Samsung tradition, and there are those wondering if it will ever appear. I have 2.1 Update 1 on mine, and it gets new versions of the apps pushed to it on a near daily basis. Almost annoyingly often: Every time I see the message that I have new software I run and check and no: No 2.2 for you.
I am hoping to see a faster, more responsive OS, and actual Flash: the bane of the Apple existence. But so far I have been denied, and it is starting to get frustrating.
If I jailbroke my iPhone, I would also find the iOS drop schedule full of grief, but from the other direction: How often new versions of iOS show up, and at times only closing jailbreaks. Right now, as I write this, the only jailbreak out for the current 4.2.1 requires the phone to be tethered every time it is booted. How to be sure that no one ever upgrades!
I like the iOS multitasking and folders, but of course I have all those things on the Captivate too. They do not work exactly the same, and I had to add the folders to the Captivate via Marketplace and Fabio Collini's "Apps Organizer" and "Folder Organizer" apps.
The pull down status tray is something I use all the time on the Captivate. The only way to have that on the iPhone is via jailbreak and the SBSettings app.. something denied me because the iPhone is not jailbroken.
iOS is like ... Windows in a way. It is easy, it works, it is updated often and not always for nefarious reasons. I would have no issue recommending it to a non-computer-technical person. For me, it is constraining. The editorial position of Apple is grievous. They are acting like Microsoft back in their heydays, and in the worst possible version of that. The vision that Apple has is clearly superior in many ways, but it is not the only vision, and locking out others who have ideas too is just not working for me.
Further, while the iPhone is easy, Android is not hard. If someone was not planning on making their Android based phone into an MP3 player as well, and they were non-computer-technical, android is also an easy recommendation. If music is involved, Nothing I have found in the Marketplace is as easy as the iPod / iTunes duo to use. Double Twist comes close, and even adds the wireless sync capability long missing from the iPhone. But it is not as easy to manage as the iPhone, and is much slower at syncing, wired or not wired.
The iPhone is a perfect work phone. Its mail client is easy to use and much nicer than the one in the Storm. Ditto the Calendar. I was always late to meeting because the screen presentation of a calendar on the BB was just stupid. The iPhone is locked down and locked out and all those things, so I don't have to worry about things like the policies that Apple has that I do not like.
It is interesting to have the two competing phones and see where one is better than the other, but if I had to chose another personal phone, it would still be something Android based. Maybe with a 4.3 inch screen next time... and from a vendor that is better about keeping their OS up to date like Motorola or HTC. I love the Samsung's screen though, and they are the only ones doing Amoled right now.
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