Affection

I’m thinking a lot lately about what draws a person to a particular device. As you might know, I’ve been trying a gazillion different different phones, in some possibly futile attempt to settle into the “perfect” device, or in other words, the thing I’ll stick with for about a year as opposed to a month or so.
Not too long ago, I was convinced that, despite its drawbacks, the Nexus 5 was my one true love. But I was convinced I needed something with better specs. After a few million switcheroos, I landed on a Galaxy Note 4. It’s by many accounts the Best Phone Available, but it’s nonetheless failed to win my heart in the same way the by-all-measures inferior Nexus 5 did. But why?

Think about that brand new MacBook, the one I know I can’t make use of due to its single port and low-end processor. It’s not winning on points, but by the looks of it, it’s going to hook folks on an emotional level.

A couple years ago, I was trying to decide between the 15-inch MacBook Pro (pre-Retina) and the 11-inch MacBook Air. These computers could not have been more different, and based on the idea that the 15 was “better,” I agonizingly went with that. But I was pulled, oh was I pulled to the 11. I mean, it was just so damned adorable. I returned the 15 and went with the 11, and I was delighted. It was capable of less, its screen was scrunched and wee, and yet I had a palpable emotional attachment to it. I hugged it! I’m certain the SSD was a huge factor there, but it was also just something about its size and, well, cuteness.

The same happened when I first switched to Macs with my first 12-inch Powerbook in 2004. I could have gotten yet another Windows laptop for far less money and with more power or screen real estate, but the Powerbook wooed me with something intangible. I was drawn to it all the time that I owned it. I think the iPod halo effect had something to do with it, because I had a similarly fluttery heart for my 3-button 2003 iPod. Obviously the iPod brought me the wondrous ability to carry my music collection everywhere in a svelte little cigarette-pack-size object (that glowed!), but I think it was more than that.

All things are not equal here. Often there is more value and utility to be gotten out of one device that doesn’t tug at one’s heart strings than the one that does. I’m typing this on a 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina, and it’s definitely the right machine for the work I do. But I don’t feel much for it other than satisfaction from its usefulness.

The 2013 Moto G was on some flash sale at Best Buy for $25 today. It’s Verizon-only, and I don’t have Verizon, but I grabbed one anyway. It seems, I dunno, cute.

Whither the iPad? Oh, It’s Way Over There, Never Mind, I’ll Just Use My Phone.

IMG_0004Would it be a big deal to be sans tablet? Despite my 2015 tech-setup pronouncement the other day, I’m stuck on the idea that my phone, a 5.5″ phablet, covers most of a tablet’s territory, and I really hate having objects that are both expensive and redundant. Admittedly, this is the first-est of all first-world problems, but it’s a genuine question for those of us working out what tech devices we’re going to invest our money in, and live our very full electronic lives through.
I’ve already gushed about my LG G3, how it’s the right balance of ergonomics and display size, and how I find it a genuine delight to use. The problem is that I prefer using it for most of what I’d use an iPad for, primarily reading (be it blogs, books, or tweets). There are a handful of games that are better experienced on a much bigger screen (Monument Valley comes to mind), and browsing a website is easier on a tablet, but not so much so that I find myself seeking out the iPad when the phone’s already in hand.

Often, when I consider busting out the iPad for my lean-back (or “choose-to”) activities, like reading books, browsing RSS, or playing a game, I think, Why bother? It’s all the way over there, and my phone is right here. Whee! I love this phone!

Conversely, when inspiration strikes and I want to get some writing done and blow the Internet’s mind with my incredible depth of thought*, the easiest thing to do is grab the iPad and start tup-tup-tupping on its screen. But then I run into all the usual pains-in-the-ass that come with word processing and publishing on a tablet, where text selection and editing is harder (and ironically easier on the G3, which has a built in clip-tray for easy access to your clipboard history), multi-tasking is burdensome, and formatting posts (whether in a Markdown editor, WordPress’s app, a third party blogging app, or in the WordPress web interface) is unreliable and frustrating. There is less net-frustration by just popping open my Mac. The iPad is great for on-the-go writing in some ways, with its small profile and great battery, but again, not so great that it’s not almost as easy to just bring the MacBook, and maybe a charger too if I know I’ll be working for more than a few hours.

Where the iPad truly excels over other devices is things like comic book reading, casual video watching (stand the thing up in its case and hit play), and drawing on apps like Paper. Well, I still don’t really read comic books much, if not never, so that’s not such a big thing. I don’t watch much casual video, either, and when I do, I probably already have the TV to myself (because the wife has gone to bed and Gilmore Girls is no longer playing), and can even cast much of what might be playing on my phone over to the TV via the Roku. And there’s always the MacBook.

There’s no real solution to the drawing thing, unless I move from Paper to, well, paper. That seems to work for my kids, but who am I kidding.

So it seems like a clear case, doesn’t it, when you lay it all out? Sell the iPad and spend that money on something more useful like food, heat, or rent. (Hahahahahahahahaha)

But then remember that since 2008 I had been an iOS-only guy, which means a significant amount of money has been invested in iOS software over the years. Having no iPad would mean having no iOS device at all, and all of those apps would be useless. All those $5 games! Those $10 artisanal productivity apps! I once bought a $10 Pinboard app, and I don’t even use Pinboard anymore, in large part because it wasn’t tablet-friendly enough!!!

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Here we get into the whole sunk-cost fallacy (thanks, Matt), which I am particularly prone to falling for. I was one of the dummies who, in 2009, stood in line for a million years for the iPhone 3G when all of Apple’s systems crashed on launch day, and what would have been a couple of hours in the early morning turned into over 7 hours in the sweltering midday sun. But I’ve already been here for 3 hours, I can’t leave now! And it was for the iPhone 3G! The 3G! Not even one of the good ones!

Anyway, it’s not always clear to me that the sunk-cost fallacy is a fallacy at all. I mean, I did spend that money, I did invest that time and effort into familiarity and relative expertise with the system. And the iPad is not devoid of utility by any stretch of the imagination. I just need to give enough of a damn to use it.

But of course, needing to manufacture damn-giving is the exact opposite of my whole Theory of Tablets. They have be the device you want to use, that you choose to use even though you needn’t, in order to make sense. Otherwise, they’re just too-big phones or too-underpowered PCs.

It would be strange just on principle to not have a tablet, seeing as how zealously I’ve touted the iPad’s wonders in the past. And I can imagine myself with no trouble at all completely reversing myself within a day or so. I contain multitudes. Perhaps I’ll experiment with a tablet-free life, and simply put the iPad away for a couple of weeks, and see if I notice its absence. And of course, I would write about my experience here, because I know you really, really care.

Or, maybe I could buy a Chromebook.

*This never happens

My Tech Setup Going into 2015

I’ve spent much of the final months of 2014 settling myself technologically. This, as you can imagine, is a Big Deal for someone as fussy about their tech as I am. As I’ve recounted on this site, I lost interest in being an iPhone user, and found myself irresistibly attracted to the beautiful cacophony coming from the Android space. Through a convoluted system of sells, trades, and deal-hunts, I experimented with several premium Android handsets, and at several points thought I had found The One (including the literal OnePlus One). I even had what I thought was a damned Rob Reiner-directed romantic comedy when I tried, abandoned, and then reunited with the Nexus 5. But there was to be one more part to that story.
Before all of this, I also looked to consolidate my devices, and reevaluate what I was really using them for. Earlier in the year, I swapped my iPad Air for an iPad mini 2, since at the time I was primarily using the iPad for reading. This also prompted me to sell my Kindle Paperwhite, because it was more or less redundant.

The times have changed. Here’s the new setup going into 2015, and I expect it to stick for a while. “A while,” for me, of course, could mean a few weeks. But it’s looking good for now.

Laptop: 2013 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

Acquired early in the year, it’s my first new computer in a few years. It’s got the power, portability, and easy-on-the-eyes display that’s poised to last the next few years with aplomb. And I finally have a machine I can run the latest Civ on.

Phone: LG G3.

visual6_visual1I tried this one on a lark, and it was a fine lark. Thin, light, and fast in performance. Its camera and battery life are not mind-blowing, but both very good and superior to the Nexus 5.

And most of all, that display. Now, many tech pundits keep telling us that “quad-HD” displays on smartphones are overkill, unnecessary drains on CPU power and battery life. 1080p is more than sufficient, they say.

Do not listen to these people.

The G3’s display is excellent, and its ultra-high resolution (538 ppi vs. the Nexus 5’s 445 vs. iPhone 6’s 326) makes it wonderful for viewing many things, but mostly for reading text. I admit that it’s as impossible to consciously detect pixels on a 1080p display (such as on the Nexus 5’s excellent display) as it is on the G3’s, but at a deeper level of perception, I’m aware of it. I can’t quantify it, but my body is definitely responding to the difference, even if I can’t specifically make out the difference is pixel visibility.

Plus, the LG G3 allows me to be the “phablet guy” I recently lamented I’d never be able to be, thanks to my wee little hands. The G3 is so well designed as a piece of hardware, that’s it’s essentially as easy for me to use one-handed as the Nexus 5 was. (As Marques Brownlee puts it, “DAT BEZEL.”) This is despite having a 5.5″ screen, the same as the OnePlus One that I couldn’t make work for me. The buttons being on the back of the G3 rather than the sides makes a big freaking difference. If the HTC One M8 had done the same, it might not have been such a dud for me.

The G3’s display size and resolution combine to make it perfect for one particular use-case: It’s just about the best “Kindle” I’ve ever used. It does not feel like reading off a smartphone, nor does it feel like you’re trying to palm a tablet. As a reading device, I’ve never used anything better, save for the benefits of having an e-ink display on a dedicated e-reader.

Add to this the fact that the G3 is fast and fluid, it’s a huge winner for me. I’m delighted with it. My only complaint is that the AT&T variant still doesn’t have Lollipop, and I’m too chicken to flash something onto it myself. But it hardly matters.

Tablet: iPad Air (1st Generation).

I’m going back to the original Air, though with more storage than I had before. Now that I’m a phablet guy, having a “mini” tablet became almost immediately ridiculous. This isn’t to say the difference between the two devices isn’t meaningful, but not meaningful enough. Like the Kindle before it, the iPad mini 2 has become redundant.

I’m replacing it with a used iPad Air (and not an Air 2 because there are almost none yet that are used, and I’m not made of money goddamn it) to return to my former iPad use-case: All the things you want to do on a computing device as opposed to what you have to. There’s still no better way to browse the web, watch video, or play games than on a full-sized iPad, and I am also betting that one of the reasons I’ve written less lately is because the tablet in my lap has not been large enough to invite off-the-cuff, in-the-moment jotting of ideas. I’m hoping that going back to regular-sized iPad will grease some creative wheels.

Now, there will be more overlap between the G3 and the iPad than there ever was when I was an iPhone user. The G3 straddles my invented line between “have to” and “want to,” as I really enjoy using it. But all the better.

Let’s see if I can settle down now, stop putting so much time and effort into getting the perfect tools, and start building something with them instead.

I Swear I Don’t Understand Microsoft’s Marketing

Microsoft has a new ad campaign for their tablet-laptop hybrid the Surface Pro 3, which compares the device directly to the 13″ MacBook Air. Here’s one of the ads.

Now, of course I get that it wants to show that the Surface is comparable to the MacBook in tech specs so that folks don’t presume it’s an underpowered netbook piece of crap, fine. I won’t get into all of the device’s now well-documented problems and shortcomings. You gotta compare your product favorably to the competition. Fine.

But what’s with the music? It’s not lighthearted, nor is it empowering, it’s just menacing. It tells me that this product is somehow for the combative, or that it’s being pushed as more “macho.” Which is ridiculous. Who wants a computer that seems threatening?

This reminds me of when they first introduced the Surface concept a few years back, and look at this. It’s like they want to scare you with it:

Or when the Motorola Droid was a thing, and to stand out against the iPhone played up this scary, dystopian, hyper-industrial cyborg angle, as though the Droid would leap out of your hand if it was in proximity of an iPhone and try and kill it. Whee!

Contrast that to when Apple introduced the MacBook Air for the first time. Steve Jobs slipped the damn thing out of a manila envelope and grinned. He didn’t then slit someone’s throat with it.

Why do Microsoft and other tech companies want to make their consumer product, ostensibly to be purchased by regular folks, seam so, well, mean? I understand that these are often aimed at a male demographic, but as a male who buys tech gadgets, I don’t want to feel intimidated that my device is going to take my lunch money and stuff me in my locker.

I don’t care for Samsung’s marketing, being too glitzy and smarmy, but at least they want you to like their product as opposed to fear it.