Time for a new phone…

After Windows Phone’s sad death, I moved on to Android. The iPhone SE currently retails for $350, which is quite tempting for the hardware involved, but I just cannot get over my dislike of iOS. It seems so antiquated, blocky, rectilinear, imprisoned. In contrast, Android’s material UI speaks to my tastes: lighting and color, with a touch of texture (mainly in dimensional planes).

So, here we are. $130 bought me a simple Moto E4 – does everything I need, except photography – but for that I have my actual equipment (post coming up on that soon). Ideally I would’ve got a Moto G5, but only the Plus 5.5″ version is available in the US, which seems gargantuan to me. The E4 was the only 5″ phone that supported T-Mobile’s bands 2/4/12 and had decent hardware for an everyday phone. Maybe the Moto G6 will offer 5″ models in the US again next year (and let’s face it, we all know by then I will have shattered this E4’s screen). In the meantime, this will do.

DSC00414

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Bias

Bias is everywhere. We deal with it constantly in our lives, every day. It’s so ever-present that we no longer realize it is happening in front of our eyes and so it is easily institutionalized, accepted as universal reality. A quick Google search reveals what we mean when we think of bias:

bi·as [bīəs]
noun
  1. prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

As a Spaniard residing in the US for the past 8 years now, I have encountered bias on a regular basis, both internal and external. When I say internal bias I’m referring to my own assumptions and suppositions coming from one culture (mediterranean Spain) and being transplanted to a very different North American culture. Social values, gender norms, political stances, everything, and I do mean everything is very different. My first year in the US was such a big sychological clash that I didn’t know how to react, communicate, think for a good 2/3 months. I was expected to live in a culture that made little sense to me, communicate with people who I didn’t understand much of the time – and I’m not talking about my competence in the English language here; I’m referring to the ways in which people move, gesture non-verbally, manipulate vocal intonation, react to the use of precise expressions or linguistic constructions regardless of whether they are more or less formal… In short, this means I didn’t fit.

After the better part of half a year, I learned to emulate those structures that were universally accepted in the US, those behaviors that were expected of me by the regular Joes and Janes, and I started to be a logical subject in the North American cultural context. That didn’t mean I had no internal bias about much, much of what I saw and experimented. I used to think that the American lifestyle was way too capitalistic, way too consumerist and quite desensitized to much of the violence, inequality, extreme poverty and other problems that exist in western society. Eventually my Mediterranean bias, which honestly made me feel smarter and superior to some people, eroded as I better understood the American culture and how people just did many things differently than in Europe. I still hold some strong opinions – read: not bias – about how consumerist this society is, but I deem it no different than the consumerism in most of Europe at this point in history.

So, my internal bias declined over the years, especially after I met who ended up becoming my husband: my admiration for this person essentially forced a clash between bias and appreciation. How could I appreciate conduct in him that I deemed, well, illogical? This contradiction is very powerful and taught me to not just consider his background, his logic, his thought process before he behaved in X or Y way; but to identify much of the way a “regular” American thinks and reacts so I could foresee reactions to my own actions. This deeper understanding disintegrated my bias. I realized that much of what I thought normal, or correct, or expected, just didn’t work that way in his brain. Suddenly, I could see his perspective much more clearly and my bias was gone: I could see both my and his way of framing thoughts and immediately became much more open-minded (than I’d like to think I already, hopefully, was). What I thought of as bias now became a very obvious truth: it’s simply different.

When talking about external bias, the situation was very much different. This no longer implies my assuming how other cultures behave, but how others pre-suppose I act, think, behave or react. Specifically, in my case this means how Americans think this Spaniard fits in what they assume is his foreign cultural framework. I certainly do check some of the boxes that are expected: I talk really fast most of the time, I get really passionate about lots of topics in any debate, I’m certainly a bit loud and yes, I have lots of dark hair – which is annoying come shaving time. The problem, however, is in assuming that I fit in this foreign cultural framework. Clearly in 2007, freshly arrived in the US, my cultural values were predominantly Mediterranean; but after 8 years, I don’t feel Spanish anymore. That is not to say that I feel American either; what I feel is like a weird hybrid that has no clear place to call home as both Spain and the US represent that home. Both countries have become part of me, both cultures now conform my perspectives on life; so one could say that I’m, quite literally, culturally Spanish-American without being Hispanic as I’m ethnologically Caucasian.

Seeing this, it’s easy to understand how any biases I had in prior years have been pretty much disintegrated. That’s not to say that I’m not a biased person, but I do believe – maybe innocently – that if I have any prejudice it’s subconscious, as my growing as a person as part of two cultures over most of the past decade has made it impossible to not see bias when it happens. Elements that seemed logical in Spain now seem illogical to me, conducts that seemed strange in the US now look normal, and I’m able to see both the brilliance and stupidity of both cultures. In a word, I’ve trained myself – by necessity of pure survival and adaptation due to the life path I’ve chosen – to be alert to bias of any kind, to identify it, to analyze it, to understand it and, where applicable, to try to correct or right its path when it deviates from correctness – while acknowledging that swimming against the tide is sometimes pointless and one must learn to pick battles. In fact, this predisposition is most likely what drove me to do a PhD in literature and gender theory – plenty of gender bias in that combination.

This highly reflective passage brings me to the point I originally wanted to make, but felt would benefit from the exhaustive ~1000 word context I just provided. My main point, is journalistic bias. Of course, this is ever-present in many publications with different goals, but considering the topics this site tackles, I’m focusing on tech journalism bias. I have long complained about the clear, obvious, blatant Apple bias that occurs in the tech blogosphere and how most critics just shrug it off saying that it’s not bias, Apple products are just better. My criticism has long earned me an anti-Apple badge which I resent, as it is an absolutely untrue fact: while I do prefer Microsoft’s operating system, Apple products are perfectly respectable on their own. In fact, I’m typing this on a Macbook Air from 2011 that has Windows 10 installed onto it: that’s the most perfect representation of my preferences; great hardware with great software, at least in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with Apple products per se, but there’s something very wrong when the media is dominated with bias and refuses to recognize this reality other than jokingly referring to the Apple Distortion Field.

Let’s take a reputable site like Anandtech, for instance. This excellent site, which I regularly read and greatly respect, has reviewed both the Macbook Air and the Asus UX305. The reason why I mention this laptop is because a) it is a quite shameless rip-off the MBA design and b) I just bought it in order to phase out this old MBA I’m currently typing on. As I was reading reviews, I compared MBA reviews as the Asus is pretty much a Windows based Clone – hence why I like it. There are many differences, granted, but I want to focus on that institutionalized bias mentioned earlier that goes completely unnoticed to much of the population. First, let’s look at the MBA keyboard:

MBA

Now, let’s look at the UX305 keyboard:

UX

Forget about the green keys in the Asus, it’s an addition for a specific country/language, those wouldn’t show in an English keyboard, but it’s the best picture I was able to find. Both keyboards are pretty much the same, correct? This is expected, as the Asus copies practically all aesthetic decision of the MBA. Now, let’s see what Anandtech reviewers had to say about each respective keyboard:

MBA: “The clickpad and backlit keyboard never give me any troubles either.”

UX305: “The keyboard layout is very standard, and the only thing that I dislike about the keyboard is that the power button is located on the top right corner above the backspace, and beside delete. Accidentally hitting it will power the device off of course, so it is not ideal… I think ASUS should move it, but they seem to like it there.”

OK. Let’s look at those keyboards again, now allow me to make the comparison a bit more salient:

Comparison

Both keys have the exact same placement, yet somehow, this design decision is absolutely OK on the MBA review while the reviewer considers it highly problematic in the UX305, going as far as to wonder why Asus would insist on keeping that darn button in such an “illogical” bias. Well, the explanation is easy: Asus is keeping it there because Apple is keeping it there, because they’re literally copying the whole aesthetic. Somewhat inexplicably, what isn’t a problem in the MBA becomes a sore point in the UX305. Actually, there is an explanation: bias. Bias that is blatantly obvious to somebody like me, who has been forced by life circumstances and choices to see it, try to understand it and redirect it to a healthier perspective – or plainly a more practical one – where possible. This highly reputable online publication is clearly oblivious to the pretty extreme bias they’re showing and this is because their prejudice is not voluntary or by design. Anandtech doesn’t want to rain on Asus’ parade and elevate Apple products, there are plenty of sources to do that around. Anandtech is reputable for being objective, but here we can clearly see that they fail, and they fail in this instance because they’re being swept up by the aforementioned institutionalized bias. They’re fundamentally victims of a system of prejudice that has permeated most of our society and biased to assume negative values of any PC while attaching positive ones to Apple products. Hence why the exact same button on the exact same position is inconsequential on the Apple machine but a clear, obvious big problem in the Asus machine that seems a baffling design oversight to the reviewer.

Now, some will criticize these reviews were written by two different authors. I’d argue that is a moot point, as the website is viewed as one single publication and thus represents the view of them as a journalistic entity. In fact, it’s not a phenomenon only appreciable in the writing, it’s in the whole presentation of the product. This is how the MBA review shows the laptop’s keyboard (since they don’t talk about it because it’s fine, we can only see it in product pictures):

MBA key

Great, right? A regular, simple, professional product picture taken in a well lit environment. Now check how the UX305 keyboard is showcased in its review:

UX key

Huh. Well, I guess Asus wasn’t worthy of a) good lighting, b) a decent full frame or at least APSC camera like the MBA was. This is neither a professional or an acceptable picture for a product review in a site such as Anandtech. The picture is so bad, in fact, that whoever took it didn’t even bother to align the shot to not show a weirdly diagonal view of the keyboard, nor did they correct the very obvious lens distortion that makes the keyboard look bent/curved. Maybe they thought that cheap texture on the bottom made it look better…? But then again, who cares, right? It’s just a PC, it’s not worthy of the time and respect given to the greatness of the MBA.

This bias is so strong that the simple visual representation of the product reviewed is showing the authors’ conception of the device. The MBA is wonderful, the Asus is cheap. Read the reviews, and you’ll see that both reviews conclude that these are both, in fact, great products that you should consider buying. The institutionalized, subconscious bias that permeates both reviews, though, tells a different story: buy the slick MBA, consider the Asus, I guess, if you don’t mind cheap bent horrible laptops with power buttons that are great on Apple products but transform into the root of all evil in PCs.

There will be no judgment from me on this issue, as there is little point on evaluating the bias. The only thing I can do is point it out, make it obvious to others. I do this not just with tech – although it’s become an easy process in the past few years – I do this at work, with students, in real life, about politics, gender, you name it. As I said before, bias is everywhere. If you don’t realize it, you play into and perpetuate it. If you recognize it and don’t fight back, you play into and perpetuate it, but have and added responsibility towards equality that you have failed at. If you see, identify, understand, publicize and deconstruct it by showing others its flawed logic, then we’re on the right path to a better society. My specific example might be about a laptop, and I myself wouldn’t have noticed it had I not been in the very specific situation I was, but it applies to so much more in life, and we should strive to change such bias to a more open, objective and fair view of life.

Looking for a new phone…

I’ve had 4 phones in the past 4 years:

– Samsung Focus in 2011, which was my gateway to try Windows Phone.
– Nexus 4 in late 2012, which was my gateway to try Android 4 (and I gave the Focus to my mom as her 1st smartphone).
– Lumia 620 in mid-2013, after I decided I hated Android and missed Windows Phone.
– Lumia 920 in early 2014 after I gave the 620 to my mom (who desperately needed to ditch WP7 and move on to WP8).

The first three phones were always temporary. I was trying systems, seeing what I liked (I had had an iPod Touch with iOS 4 before the Focus so I knew that system well already) and what I did not. With the occasional fall, my usually not-too-useless hands did a good job at not dropping these puppies too much. They all survived well, with some nicks in the back or sides but mostly fine. And then I decided to get serious with Windows Phone and buy a 920. It had a great camera, great screen, 1GB RAM, fast CPU… I was excited. The happiness has lasted for 6 months in which I enjoyed WP8, the creation of the Dev Preview program and finally the incredible quality jump that is WP8.1 with Cortana and Cyan firmware. I was certain I was going to keep using this phone for 1-2 years, easily, since I knew it would be upgradeable to WP9 when Threshold becomes official in Spring 2015. And then… it happened.

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Well, of course. The phones I really didn’t care about that much, the cheapo ones that I didn’t really make much effort to protect because I could just get new ones from Amazon immediately, those survived perfectly. The one I was intending to keep for 2 years? That’s when I’ve lost my “virgin” status in phone cracking. What’s hilarious is the way it happened: while my cheaper phones fell out of my hands and into the ground and lived to tell the tale, I innocently left my 920 on a bathroom’s sink surface. Well, apparently that darn thing wasn’t as perfectly perpendicular against the ground as it seemed, and exactly 20 seconds after I let the phone rest, I heard a SMACK! I had no idea what the noise was, what could’ve caused it, until I saw the phone, screen down, laying on the bathroom’s tiled floor. That’s impossible, I thought, I left it securely on that flat surface, it couldn’t have slipped unless a ghost pushed it. I lifted the poor 920 and there it was: a glorious mega-crack extending through the upper left corner. Upon further examination, I realized that this crack was exacerbated by a previous tiny, microscopic nick caused by a light drop months ago. This tiny nick evidently created a weak spot and when the phone smashed onto the ground that weak point surrendered to the forces imposed by gravity, originating the huge crack that expanded through the upper left area of the screen.

Incredulous, I inspected the bathroom surface I had left the 920 on: no water to facilitate phone-suicide, but upon lowering my eye-point I noticed the damn thing was indeed not fully flat. It had just the slightest curvature to it towards the edges, precipitating my 920 early demise. I cursed bathroom designers everywhere and after my initial denial and anger phases, bargaining kicked in to accept the loss and I raced to acceptance (I skipped depression because, let’s face it, it’s just a phone and I have a life, so this isn’t such a huge deal. Huge enough to make me write a blog post about it to entertain myself, though). I can’t avoid the thought that, had this phone not been a unibody design, it would have survived without a hitch: non-unibody frames tend to “shatter” upon impact, opening up the case and separating the case, battery and the rest of the phone. Much, I repeat, much of the impact energy is released on this separation process, minimizing damage to all three components. Unibody designs don’t have this advantage: on the contrary, the impact energy travels from the shock point through the body frame and cannot be released anywhere, thus exacerbating the pressure on the body’s materials and releasing un-suppressed energy in the only way it can: by breaking material for energy to be let out. Hence the huge crack in my 920, facilitated by the tiniest nick that created a weak point. Had this been my 620, it would have shattered in 3, I would have put all three parts together again and voila, ready to go without a scratch.

This is why I tend to prefer non-unibody phones. Besides, there is the matter of price: a 620 would cost about a third of a 920. However, there are other extras: the 920’s camera is brilliantly excellent and I’m now spoiled as I’ve gotten used to having a great camera in my pocket at all times with which I can instantly share through LTE. The 620 had no such great camera nor LTE (the latter I can live without, though).

So, now, I’m faced with a choice: upgrade sooner than I had planned or keep using the cracked 920 – it is completely, perfectly functional, after all, but the cracked area is quite annoying as it obscures a good %15 of the screen. There are now three considerations: price, camera and construction. Queue the announcements of the 730 and 830 just 3 weeks ago and the decision making process gets quite muddy:

920: Expensive. LTE. Great camera.                                        VS      Unibody. Thick, heavy, old. No health tracking.

635: Cheap. Non-unibody. Health tracking. LTE.                       VS      Bad camera. No front camera. No ambient light sensor. Low-res screen.

735: Semi-unibody. AMOLED screen. LTE. Decent camera.        VS      Price? Health tracking?

830: Health tracking. LTE. Great camera.                                 VS     Unibody. Price? Health tracking?

So, the decision seems to be centered around the 635 and the 735 as they have the least compromises. The 635 is quite hampered in the camera and sensor departments… but the thing is literally $99. With no contract. That’s no money, at all.  The 735 has a high-res AMOLED screen which pretty much guarantees it’ll be beautiful to look at with great color and deep blacks. It has 2 decent cameras, front and back. LTE. The only question is, how much will it cost? If it releases at around $250 this would be a no brainer as an unlocked device. If released through Tmobile as no-contract, $200 is the max I’d pay (keep in mind the 635 is going for 99 as no-contract so it’s hard to justify more than $100 price difference). Any more than that and we have a problem: if the 735 gets closer to $300, then a) this is unjustifiably expensive for a mid-low range device using a mere Snapdragon 400 and b) at that price, the 635 becomes 1/3 of the price and one has to seriously evaluate if the shortcomings are such a big deal for the ridiculous $99 price.

So, that’s the quandary I find myself in right now. Not wanting to upgrade but not wanting to use a cracked phone, not being able to decide on what would be an appropriate upgrade path. Anybody cares to weigh in? I even made mockups for both phones to see how they’d look (seems like I’ve settled on the orange models). Which one do you like best?

Lumia 635

Lumia 635

Lumia 735

Lumia 735

Thinking Windows 9

It’s March 23rd today and we now only have a bit more than 10 days for Build 2014, in which Microsoft will be unveiling some “vision” for Windows 9. As has been mentioned before, that will imply some further fusion between the Modern environment and the traditional desktop. Many have taken the opportunity to shout to the winds about the predictable return of the Start menu to fuel their hatred of the Start screen and by all accounts, a merger of both environments into a more cohesive whole does seem like the most likely path for the company to follow.

Now, the problem with people commenting on this line of thought is that they are expecting something along the lines of this:

mockupStartMenuOld

Yeah, OK. A) It’s never going to happen because B) that would look horribly disconnected from the flatter aesthetic that Microsoft has taken – with the rest of the world following very clearly. Now that we’ve established that, we can accept that Modern (formerly “Metro“) is the UI framework that will be used in the future. When you think about it, the fatal flaw of Windows 8.0 was that it was a beta product. Yes, millions bought it, yet it was an unfinished mess of an OS to ship that happened because something, anything needed to head out to market. In hindsight, it may have been much better to wait it out 1 year until 8.1 and release that as the .0 version: negative reactions would have most definitely been more subdued as the OS would have been more polished and respectful of touch and keyboard-mouse first users. 8.1 did much needed good to this new Modern environment but because of this focus it kept ignoring traditional desktop users, hence why 8.x adoption is still low around Vista-era levels. Now all hopes are clinging on 9.0 to retell the tale of 7.0’s success while fueling the uncomfortable coincidental reality that validates a figurative good-release/bad-release/good-release cadence within Microsoft.

Now, how does a further synergized desktop/Modern world look? For starters, it shows launched apps combined whether they are win32 or WinRT and it allows for the taskbar to bleed into the Modern world as a vestige of times past. When I first saw this I thought it was the most hideous thing ever done. Alas, this is still the case, yet once I used 8.1 Update 1 I came to realize the taskbar is only there when I mouse to the lower end of the screen. Even then, if I’m in a Modern app, priority is given to whatever menu that app may have, and only upon further going down does the taskbar show up (and immediately disappear when the mouse is taken away from it). Now, seeing this in action, this change is much less obtrusive than I originally envisioned. Yes, it does occlude whatever Modern app tools may lie below the taskbar, but if I’m making the effort to get to the taskbar I’m not looking at those Modern controls, thus, no usability is hindered. This is a positive direction to fuse desktop and Modern and I expect 9.0 to bring further cohesion to the Frankenstein that 8.x is.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to that start menu. It’s happening, mainly because old people keep complaining about it not being there and how hard it is to get used to all these new changes. Never mind they are able to pick up an iPad, which has nothing to do with OS X, and understand immediately how to use it, proving that they are adaptable creatures. No, the problem here is that they see a product called Windows and have certain expectations from it, which when changed into a Modern environment, throws them back into a field of negativity. But I digress. Without getting into why the Start screen is clearly a superior way to organize/find/initiate apps, let’s have a look at how I expect things to go in 9.0. As a reference, my current Start screen:

It is quite easy to imagine how a Start menu would work in the desktop while still respecting the UI design principles stipulated in the Modern framework. Use the same flat aesthetic, keep the Start menu tiles live just like in the Start screen and make this menu just as capable of personalization as the Start screen: you have a winner. Lighter users that use less apps could have a very unobtrusive Start menu that gives them all the app links they need while not occluding anything from view:

In my case, I would expect my Start menu to look along these lines:

Of course, the Start menu should be extendable to whatever one has picked in the Start screen, and the dimensions should not be limited to a certain specific screen space like pre-8.0 Start menus: remember, 9.x should be as focused on touch as it is on keyboard-mouse, so we can’t expect users to touch on tiny arrows to go up and down, or move through lists that frankly make no organizational sense in 2014. There is no reason why this menu can’t grow throughout the screen as more tiles are added while not occluding any tile from view:

This seems like an evolution that would satisfy heavy desktop users’ main complaint: they hate the Start screen because it launches them into a fullscreen experience that breaks their flow. This design would allow these people to access all the apps they have without ever leaving the desktop and losing whatever they’re doing from view. Of course, this assumes that by 9.0 we’ll be able to launch Modern apps in windows inside the desktop, which seems like the best compromise, otherwise, launching a fullscreen app basically negates the benefit from having a Start menu that doesn’t occlude anything else. While thinking of this design I was tempted to add a search box to the menu and decided it does not need one, since search would work just like it does in pre-8.x versions and the Start screen: hit the Windows key and start typing. However, there’s many people who again need to be educated and in a transition towards a Modern world will need visual cues, so adding a search box just like the one that was added to the Windows Store wouldn’t be the end of the world:

Even better, if wanted, this Start menu could still be organized in groups resembling the Start screen organization, though I would assume it wouldn’t be designed to show as many tiles as the Start screen otherwise it would occupy much of the desktop space and thus defeat the purpose of having a Start menu:

mockupStartMenuGroups

There, quite unobtrusive yet still helpful for those who require visual cues. The one last “problem” we would have to fix is when we get the Start menu and when we get the Start screen. This, again, is easily fixed: If a user clicks or touches the Start button with a mouse or finger, launch the Start menu. If a user clicks or touches the Windows logo on the charms bar or uses the hardware button on a tablet, launch the Start screen. 2 identities, desktop and Modern, accessible in similar ways yet always consistent with what’s expected from the user: desktop traits are linked to desktop use and thus the Start menu while Modern traits are linked to the Modern use and thus to the Start screen. Easy peasy!

So, those are some of my thoughts when thinking about Windows 9. This, however, is nowhere near enough: it’s just the main vocal point that will be argued to exasperation in blogs and forums during the next year. I expect Microsoft to converge far, far more by Windows 9 and bringing x86/ARM/WP8 systems together is not enough. There needs to be one store. It has to be possible to buy one app once and use it in any desktop/laptop/tablet/phone signed into the same Microsoft account. Desktop and Modern need to fuse much further; from two completely independent entities into a more cohesive unit that operates as a whole but has two moods if you will, a productive mood (think desktop) and a consumption mood (think Modern) that still act, react, look and feel like one. Desktop and Modern need to be melded into one whole environment for different uses and achieving precisely this goal is what will mark 9.0’s success.

At least, Microsoft is not boring anymore – it’s easily the most exciting company right now as they figure out who they are and who they want to be. Now let’s wait and see what “vision” Microsoft reveals on Build.

My phone history – updated

Well, it happened again.

As happy as I am with my Lumia 620, the truth is that my mom’s Samsung Focus WP7 is now about 4 years old and she is completely outdated. While she likes the phone, WP7 development has been virtually abandoned as WP8 is completely based on actual Windows 8 and not Windows CE (which is not really Windows at all) like WP7 was. So, in preparation for her next birthday, I’ll be giving her my like-new 620 so she can leave the past behind and come back to present modernity. Of course, most likely she’ll half-joke half-complain that I’m giving her a used phone that I no longer want (which is untrue) while not realizing this will be the most expensive and high quality phone she has ever owned, but oh well… such is my destiny and I’m used to it. At least she will stop complaining that Whatsapp/Skype and other apps don’t work properly (obvious, since they haven’t received updates on WP7 since the beginning of time…).

Anyway, I was waiting for MWC2014 in Barcelona this end of February to see what WP8.1 devices Nokia/Microsoft release, most likely quadcores with 2gb RAM. I was on the fence about what I would upgrade to, the new devices or just last year’s 920 since it has that fantastic Pureview camera. If I were limited to be with one carrier, I’d get the 1020 with its 41mp camera and not look back, but since I travel back and forth to Europe, I need to be able to swap microSIM cards, which means I need unlocked devices. Which are WAY more expensive than locked ones. Since what’ll be announced at MWC won’t be 64-bit SOCs – those won’t be coming until the fall – I figured it wouldn’t really matter what I decided to buy. Coincidentally, as I was doing this process in my head, WPCentral released this article about 920s being available on eBay, unlocked, for a miserly $200. I couldn’t order one fast enough, this is a crazy good deal. Last year’s phone, sure, but also last year’s flagship phone, which means it’ll still be supported pretty much for the next year or maybe two. Even when it gets to the cutoff for future OS updates, its camera will still laugh at 95% of what the market offers. So there you go, 920 is on its way towards me from California, refurbished (so basically new, while technically not exactly “new”, yet legally has to be sold at as-used price). Queue the obligatory update to my phone history for the annals of history:
My%20phone%20history

This 920 should last me at least 2 years, great phone, flagship specs, best-in-class camera (let’s face it, that was my main draw, photography), support for at least 1/2 years. Other than discovering an unknown love for all things matte, this situation also made me think that I/people in general buy phones at a much faster rate than before. My 1st phone lasted 3 years, 2nd phone another 3, same with the 3rd phone… had the 4th for 1 year, 5th for 1/2 year, 6th for 1/2 year… though the last 2 don’t really count as I hated the Android OS and the 620 will be handed to my mom, those are exceptions (if mom didn’t need a new phone I’d happily keep using the 620). I don’t think we can blame this on consumerism as some do, although it’s certainly a factor in this accelerating trend.

I’d say the main factor is that technology is getting much better much faster. My Alcatel, the brick that vanquished my fears of being mugged at night because it essentially constituted a weapon, lasted so long because screens didn’t get any better for a while. Sure, the Nokia 3310 was a welcome upgrade but the increase in resolution wasn’t THAT big a deal, the main thing with that one was the lighter package. The 6500 was even smaller and had a color screen, but note how that more noticeable change took about 10 years to occur. From then on, technology has improved at a much faster pace. The Samsung Focus had a brilliant AMOLED screen but lacked in resolution. 2 years later the Nexus 4 had a great HD screen. 1 year later the Lumia 620 was the upgrade to WP8 that I wanted since the unlocked 920 was crazy expensive. I’m positive the WP8.1 devices in MWC2014 will absolutely trump and laugh at my 920, but the trick here is that the 920 is already beefy enough to withstand an upgrade to WP9 if that happens next year. Yet, as you see, everything is getting so much better so much faster, which is welcome news, but we need to try to calm down with the purchasing rate/pace. If the 920 supports WP9 as I fully expect it to (other 512MB RAM Lumias I’m much more doubtful about…) and it doesn’t die (meaning I drop and break it), I expect to be using this device for a long, long time, 2 years minimum, 3 years probable, 4 years unlikely but possible (by then we might have flexible 2K resolution AMOLED IGZO panels and, as Steve Jobs used to say, you don’t even know how much you really want them yet).

To conclude, here’s a couple shots of my new best buddy to help me traverse the treacherous waters of life:

DSC09784

DSC09765

My laptop history – updated

I’ve broken my track record of one laptop per year. No, I did not lengthen the cycle, I shortened it. This is not the plan going forward – I hope! I was not planning on getting anything new, I was waiting for the Microsoft Surface 2 to be released and eventually come down in price. The Surface is a great device for somebody like me: an academic professional whose job mainly consists on MS Office work that is used for teaching/grading. All the fun stuff I do in this device is Hulu/Netflix, that’s about it, because let’s be honest: there is no respectable gaming mobile device. Gaming is done in the desktop, period. Everything else is a joke.

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So I sold my Asus VivoTab RT and got myself not a Surface 2, but the original Surface since it is no longer outrageously overpriced at $600 and got the tablet plus the tactile touch-cover, all for $340 factory refurbished from eBay. Great deal – and I already have friends who want to buy it from me next year because, let’s face it, I’m obviously going to buy a new hybrid when that time comes. The Tegra 3 ARM SoC CPU works like a charm, it’s not the fastest around but it’s fast enough (which is why the Surface 2 isn’t attractive to me, because Tegra 4 doesn’t have that noticeable an improvement in performance to warrant spending the extra cash). Apps will load in 2/3 seconds instead of the 1 second it would take on Surface 2 or the latest iPad Air: I really can live waiting 3 seconds for an app to load, it’s really not a problem (#firstworldproblems). I use Surface to teach all my classes with pictures, PDFs and PowerPoints just like I did with the VivoTab, but now I look much cooler doing it :D. Surface feels great, is sturdy, has a beautiful screen and is an overall fantastic device, specially since the Windows 8.1 update. I’m looking forward to replacing this one next year with the sure-to-come Surface 3 (which will be based on Tegra 5 that will use a 64bit ARM v8 instruction set paired with a Kepler GPU architecture, now that  is what I’m talking about) but for now, the Surface 1 is a fantastic little machine for work and play to complete the latest iteration of my laptop history (I might have to rethink the title of this evolution, since these are no longer laptops, but hybrids).

My laptop history