Well, I finally did what many people thought I would do a couple years ago. I got an iPhone. Why? Well, we’ll get to that, but first, I want to share just how struck I’ve been with my personal progression on the desk/laptop computing arena is mirrored by my mobile progression.
My computing story started in ernest on the C64 after a short time on the Vic20. It was certainly the king of the ring when it came out and for what an elementary kid back then knew or cared about computers, it was certainly doing enough. But it was eclipsed by MSDOS based machines for many reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. All I knew was it wasn’t possible to get the things that I wanted to get done (games) on the C64 and increasingly things were happening on MSDOS computers.
I stayed on MSDOS/Windows for many years, learning all manner of things about how to get things done in spite of limitations and upping my geek cred as I went along. This was the case until my B.Ed., when I had to “get things done” on the computer. These things included multi media projects as well as surf and turf. At the time I was anti-Mac, and had a serious bias against the platform. But then as I started to use it and understand that I didn’t have to work around limitations (only OS9 bombs), MacOS started to grow on me. So when it came time to get my first machine with completely my own money, it was a Mac. That was over 10 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. Now I get my things done and don’t worry about managing my technology, only my work. Though, I am thankful for my time in Win/DOS land as it gave me enough of a background to understand issues when they do pop up on the Mac. The timeline for this adventure… I’d say about 25 years.
So how does this match up to my mobile experience? Well, my first smartphone was a Nokia S60 device that could do some cool things, including use the mobile GMail app to get email (within the then massive 5MB data bucket). I still remember the look that a clerk gave me when I used my screen to show her a confirmation email. That was quickly eclipsed by my Blackberry experience. But after learning the basics of what a smartphone could do, I noticed it just wasn’t keeping up to the upstart iPhone and the mythical Android. RIM, the parent of the Blackberry was also seeming to loose it’s way as it tried to be both a consumer and business device, looking at the hardware more than the experience. I then had an opportunity to jump to Android as I had an opportunity to take advantage of a low entry cost into the system. On Android, I certainly learned lots about mobile computing, understanding all manner of limitations and finding work arounds (sound familiar?). Android is (and was for me) certainly very useable, but with more time spent trying to manage all manner of elements to stay up to date, it began to feel like a chore. All the while through this experience, the mobile Apple platforms have been in my life – iPods and the iPad. As regular readers know, I haven’t been very generous with the iOS plaform for various reasons, but in this year of change, I no longer wanted to have to deal with the little things, but rather focus on the experience and getting things done. This is something that after some testing on the iPad, I was sure that the iPhone would be able to deliver and after only a few days on the iPhone, I can say that I am happy to be here and I don’ think I’ll be jumping ship for quite a while. Apple has focused on the experience, and for the vast majority of people who aren’t so geeky as to have custom setups for XYZ system, the iOS platform makes everyone feel empowered. But for those of us who are a bit geeky, a couple of workarounds are not a big deal. For me, the only workaround that I’ve had to do is for contacts/calendar and mail… sounds like a deal breaker right? Not really.
Since I use Gmail and Google Apps for all my mail/contact/calendars, I could have used the Gmail or Exchange setups to make things work just as Apple believes it should. But I needed, scratch that, I’m addicted to the way that Android was able to use Gmail in the same way that the web interface does, so I needed a fix and it is amazingly easy.
Some quick Googling showed that iOS supports comma separated “From” addresses. While you can’t insert the commas when you setup the account, it is certainly easy enough to edit the account after it has been saved the first time and use copy and paste (now the most elegant solution to the problem I’ve seen) to add the linked accounts with my GMail to the address field. I can now send mail the same way that I was able to on Android. Apparently this works only on IMAP mail accounts, so I’ve lost some of the push elements for mail, but that isn’t a deal breaker now. I use the Exchange setup to pull over my contacts (2 way sync) and I use CalDAV to pull in my calendars (also 2 way sync). With these minor hacks, I’m up and running on my iPhone the same way I was on Android, but with several advantages. The first being true freedom from carrier based updates (with the potential exception of mobile hotspot in iOS 4.3), the second being using the dominant developer platform and finally, not having to worry about the umpteen varieties of hardware and software combinations that are out there. Much like like on the Mac. The interesting part here? This progression has been over barely 5 years.