The year was 2008.
Obama was elected President, Bill Gates retired, The Dark Knight topped charts, Bernie Mac died, and Proposition 8 didn't pass. And me, I got my first BlackBerry. Yes, one of those plastic track-ball QWERTY keyboard things of yesteryear. In my favorite color, red, of course. Yes, I was that one annoying train commuter that passionately tapped away on my keys. I'm pretty sure I saw a few of your death stares. But I didn't care. I had BBM and the fastest fingers on the East coast.
I loved my Curve. It fit my "semi-professional" personality and skyrocketed my soft skills--well, mostly my social networking skills. I captured and shared photos of my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, cliche sunsets, preferred alcoholic drinks, and gratuitous mirror self portraits (don't laugh, you know you've done it too). Yet, after all of those photos I was still never able to figure out how that small little mirror thing on the back of the phone was suppose to be useful. Maybe it was just me? Bueller? Bueller?
Despite the fact that my trackball would mysteriously stop working every now and then (and by "mysterious" I mean that part of my lunch got stuck in it) or my home screen would freeze, I was usually able to do a quick battery pull and BAM! Reboot quick fix.
I could certainly go on about how the battery life outlasted me on crazy nights at the bar, the calendar never failed to remind me about important events (most of which I probably didn't want to attend), or the extensive amount of irrelevant contact information I could enter (because I definitely need to remember Michael and Ania's anniversary date). But, the reality was that after two years having a screen size comparable to half a post-it-note, I wanted to see more of the world. And I really wanted a faster more accurate map to figure out how to get out of Central Park.
Flip the calendar to 2010.
Touch phones were becoming all the rage. iPhones and Androids were gaining heavy popularity. Everybody wanted apps. Twitter, Netflix, and the infamous Angry Birds. And we can't forget Smurf's Village. (Well, at least I can't.) But to me, apps were just the glitter glue on an amazing piece of art. I wanted an amazing OS. I wanted screen real-estate. I wanted solid industrial design that wouldn't shatter when I dropped it face down on the wicked New York City pavement. And most importantly, I wanted something to make my life better.
Unfortunately, iPhones had not yet made it to my preferred Verizon network, so switching to a beauty of an Apple product was not in the cards for me. Instead, I stood in my local Verizon store, mesmerized by the huge glossy 4 inch DroidX screens. I was taking photos of anything within range and was nothing less than amazed at how good it made old moldy carpet look. I could actually read web text and scroll to the bottom of the page without using an on-again-off-again roller ball. And, there was a map. A nice, big, beautiful Google map. I think a light from the heavens shown down and angels started singing at that very moment. Forget my QWERTY red BlackBerry, I wanted that thing!
The DroidX had me at first pixel. My food photos had made the significant jump to high quality, with a side of instagram effects, and I knew which subway line I needed to get home so I didn't end up sleeping on the street with Fred and James (the two rats my boyfriend Arun and I frequented on NYC streets). I could share my content with the entire world--or, more like my 50 twitter followers and a side of Facebook friends. I customized my home screen with a plethora of clocks, alarms, and calendar widgets--because my friends can attest to me being anal about my schedule. At one point I even installed an iPhone theme--yes, I made my Android OS look and function exactly like an iPhone and it confused the hell out of people. I called it quits a few days later when I wanted my Android back.
But, typing on a touch screen was still a bit of a hurdle after using QWERTY for a solid two years, that is, until I met the most incredible input method in the world of mobile technology….Swype. The greatest invention since the leopard print Snuggie, I could misspell almost any word and my Android would arrange my thoughts into coherent messages (except when it autocorrects your word "interview" to the word "intercourse").
The following year brought advances in my browser use. I installed Chrome on all my devices and realized my life had gotten exponentially spectacular. I jumped from browsers on my laptop to tablet to phone and access was able to access any recently visited/currently open site from any device (Are these things talking to each other?).
Within a year of purchase, my Android quickly became a lagging duck in terms of its technology and hardware. Verizon wasn't pushing out an ICS update to overwrite the dated Gingerbread OS I was running, and lots of other brands had jumped on the Android bandwagon, releasing shiny newer, faster, and more magical devices.
Despite how painfully slow my Android was towards the end of his life--having to continuously delete photos (no not those kind of photos) and apps (I did have to delete Arun's Sexy Roulette app--wasn't too sad to see that go)--I crossed the finish line of my 2 year contract.
Fast forward to 2012
How the battle played out.
I had just spent the past year and a half working as a UI/UX designer at a mobile firm, and while I had the pleasure of working on 60+ mobile applications, I had continuously been mocked for owning the oldest dinosaur device in the cave. Apparently everyone thought Project Manager Asma's shattered iPhone was still a better option than my Android device (never mind the stitches she probably needed after answering my last call).
Needless to say, I had no shortage of opinions on which device I should get.
Arun, my iOS/Android/Windows Phone/BlackBerry developer boyfriend, had recently purchased the Nokia Lumia 920 and confessed his undying devotion to the recently revamped Windows Phone OS. I guess anyone who drops $600 to purchase an off contract phone has a darn good reason to love (aka: justify) what they just spent a small fortune on.
Arun's pocket change bought him the best camera a mobile device could offer--to which my heart skipped a beat or three (for the camera, obviously). And I could not deny that the hardware had seriously taken a jump from boring conservative to seductive. At that point, I couldn't tell which I was more attracted to--my boyfriend or the device. The interactions were well executed, experiences optimized for personal pleasure, and the UI modernized for the designer in all of us. Now, never mind the low count on apps in the marketplace. As long as they had snapchat…oh, wait…
Then there was counter-culture biz analyst Moca, also known as the self-proclaimed iPhone5-til-death-do-us-part iOS lover (yeah, a mouthful of poppycock). As much as I liked to disagree with every word that fell out of his mouth, I had to agree with him just this once. Yes, Apple's new iPhone5 was the biggest and bad-assiest iPhone released to date. The iPhone5 was seamlessly integrated into the Apple ecosystem, displayed stunning pixel-perfect UI on its retina display, packed in a processor that was so fast it should've been doomed illegal, and not to mention the actual device itself--I was drooling design love. And we can't forget the app store. What you say? There's an app for that? Well, apparently, there was no app to help me choose a mobile phone. But, Moca still made me keep the iPhone5 as a heavyweight contender.
Across the hall from Moca, in the developer cave, sat some of the smartest people I have ever known. I'm pretty sure I out-yeared quite a few of them, but what are years anyway? Android design guidelines commander in chief, Chaitanya, never failed at making sure I followed all of Google's UX rules. (Just an FYI Chaitanya: rules are meant to be broken.) Some days I purposely made awful UX decisions just to add fuel to his fire. But, in the few instances when Chaitanya wasn't making me sport a UX dunce cap, he would offer up bite-size insights (and by bite-size I mean 20 minute rants) on why Android would always supersede Apple in the marketplace. After a few glasses of Pinot Grigio, I don't think I could disagree with a word that fell out of his mouth. (I couldn't tell if it was the wine or his thoughts I agreed with.) But, those heated bar debates brought to light some key items that I did end up embracing about the Android platform. I loved the idea of NFC (near field communication, kids). While I don't think people have quite yet harnessed its potential, it's definitely going to be huge, some day. And helloooooo expandable storage! No more deleting MBs to make my system process my actions faster. Um, yes, please? Wait, Chaitanya, did you say "multi-tasking"? Two things...at once? Someone help me up, I think I just fainted.
For weeks I had been meticulously analyzing my phone prospects. Samsung Galaxy Note2? iPhone5? Windows HTC 8x? Pros. Cons. Future expansion for the platforms. Innovative technologies. UI. UX. Hardware. And in the end, despite the fact that the other 5 members of my immediate family opted for the iPhone5, I decided to jump ship and chose a device I truly believed I would still love and cherish 2 years from now. I ordered up a shiny new Windows Phone HTC 8X. No, it wasn't an easy decision (especially when I get left out of all of the FaceTime conversations--thanks guys), but after a month of heavy usage, I am confident that I made the right decision, for me.