Mobile World Congress may have ended a month ago but am only now getting ‘closure’ on the event. The reason – I’ve just been reunited with my iPhone that I thought had been stolen at the event. What happened, in case you were interested, is that I had placed my iPhone in one of the many charging lockers around the venue only to find that it wasn’t there when I returned. I couldn’t believe it. The locker was locked when I left it – but when I returned, to my amazement the phone wasn’t there.
A search using the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature did not help – as I had put the device in ‘Airplane mode’ before placing it in the locker in order for it to charge quicker. (A handy tip for you there – as long as you don’t need to try and locate your phone shortly after).
The incident rather put a damper of the show and I returned home rather forlornly.
Happy days then when I got an email from staff at the venue saying that my phone had been found! While I was pleased, I was very confused by what had happened. Where had it gone? Had I done something stupid and simply looked in the wrong locker? As such, I decided I would keep it to myself and not tell anyone what happened. Apart from my colleagues. And my friends. And family. And this blog post.
After two weeks of some frustrating failed courier pickups later the phone was sent back to me safe and sound by regular post.
What came of the experience is that for nearly three weeks I had to borrow a phone, kindly lent to me by a friend. It was a two-year old HTC One X. This was noteworthy as it would be the first time that I would be using an Android phone for any length of time since I reviewed the second Android phone ever released, in a previous job.
In those days Android and the iPhone were still light-years apart – can you believe that there was no multi-touch on Android, but these days it’s Android that’s ahead in terms of feature.
Initial impressions using the phone were good. Compared to last time I used it there’s an Android app for nearly everything – though my favourite iOS Podcast app Downcast isn’t there and the interface for BeyondPod, the Android equivalent had me scratching my head somewhat.
But widgets! That’s a feature that I really enjoyed that isn’t present in iOS. You can place a small version of your app on the phone ‘desktop’ – so you can, for example, play or pause a podcast with one tap, or see live train timetable information, without having to launch the app, and then search within in it. It’s great.
However, once past the widgets the experience soon palled. The phone felt very plastickly, apps were slow to respond, while the touch screen seem oversensitive.
The biggest issue though, was network speed. This was a 3G phone, and while I expected things to be less speedy compared to 4G I was surprised by how unresponsive everything felt. As Joni Mitchell once sang that: “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
What once seemed easy – checking Facebook or Twitter, downloading a podcast, or just reading a web page now was an almost painful experience. Apps didn’t seem to respond, and the spinning download circle was permanently on screen, either when checking web pages or waiting for the bike hire app to update with some useful information.
Speed tests revealed that despite the ‘H’ insisting I was in an HSDPA area most of the time I was getting less than half a meg of speed. Combined with the high latency inherent in 3G it all made for a frankly poor experience. Rubbish.
However all was finally restored to normal yesterday when I finally was reunited with my iPhone. It was something of process getting it back to working order – charging it up, backing it up, watching it automatically erase when it went online, restoring it from a backup, and then physically cutting down my replacement combi-SIM to an iPhone 5 friendly nano SIM – with all the attendant will it work drama that this entails. That was a fun evening.
Now I have it back to working order, it really struck home that 4G really does enable smartphones to live up to their billing as smart devices and I really appreciated being able to do the things I had taken for granted.
I’m now back at my desk streaming hi-res FLAC music files from my NAS box at home, something that would be completely impossible with standard 3G. But while that might be an extreme use, even for more conventional use 3G simply doesn’t cut it. Yes you can use smartphones at speed on Wi-Fi, but real mobility and freedom comes from being able to able to use the power in your device when and wherever you are.
4G then is now no longer to my mind a next-gen technology– it simply enables you to use your phone as it should be.
Now, where my 5G?