Looking back the last few months I notice every post has been about family and parenthood. Time to redress the balance a little and add some geek friendly contents.
After Christmas I indulged myself with a new phone. When I got the HTC Hero I'd deliberately skipped the first generation of Android phones to give a chance for the hardware to mature. I also made the rash promise it would be my last phone for some time. As it happens I think 2.5 years is a fairly good innings for a piece of technology where the innovation cycle is measured in months. I still have the Hero but now it's not my main phone I can afford to be a bit more experimental with the software I put on it.
There were a couple of changes to my approach to choosing a new phone this cycle. The first was I brought it outright off-contract. Although I suspect I could get it slightly cheaper overall through a phone contract there are some non-financial downsides to the contract approach. The first is the operator takes the view that the phone belongs to them so they can install (and prevent you removing) what they like. The recent Carrier IQ controversy should certainly act as a salient reminder that the mobile phone companies do not have your interests closest to their hearts. The second is lack of flexibility. Although thanks to Ofcom we have number portability most people are only able to take advantage of it at contract break points. The operators know this and off course do their very best to keep you tied in to their deals. Now I'm off contract I'm currently paying £10/month for unlimited data and all the calls/texts I use. They have to work doubly hard to keep me as a customer as I can jump ship at any point. That flexibility is more than worth the up-front cost of paying for the phone in full.
As far as choice there was only really one in the frame. Much as I like Android and it's open-source nature it does suffer from a problem due to that openness. Although it's heartening to see manufacturers are starting to relent and cease the practice of locking boot-loaders to prevent 3rd party firmware there are still problems in their support. They tend to stop updating the firmware shortly after they stop manufacturing the phone. Some manufacturers also have a hard time meeting their GPL obligations which makes open source support for the hardware a lot harder. As a result I decided to wait for the next in the Google Nexus series which ships with the latest release of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.
Initial impressions of the new phone are good. The phone is a little bigger than the Hero but pretty much 100% screen with more than a few hints of Star Trek data pad ;-). The Super AMOLED display looks very clear and crisp with both photos and video. The phone is very nippy thanks to the accelerated 3D hardware and duel core processor. The camera is certainly an improvement on the Hero and with the LED flash is close to achieving the quality I was used to on my old Sony K750. The A-GPS also acquires location a lot faster than the Hero. In fact a lot of things I thought were app problems have cleared up when presented with faster hardware. All in all I'm very happy with the Galaxy Nexus and think it easily stacks up against any iPhone you might want to compare it with.