Progression Though Various Smartphones Revisited

With everything that has transpired in the smartphone world, now was a good time to revisit this post from August, 2014. This was originally posted to Google+, which I no longer frequent:

My first smartphone was the iPhone 3. It had such a great coolness factor to it. I was immediately impressed. The iPhone 4 was a nice upgrade after that. But I was following the Android development quite closely and after seeing the Galaxy S3 announced, I made the switch and was glad I did, at least for a while.

Then, release after release of Android, my S3 seemed to get worse, the apps became more intrusive, and many asked for way more permissions than they should have.

I tried to uninstall the Google+ app on my Android at one point, instead of uninstalling it just reset the permissions, and then it uploaded all of my phone's data to Google's cloud. After that blunder, which I consider a breach of trust and privacy, I switched to a firefox phone, out of spite for Android and Google.

For the past few months I've been using the ZTE FirefoxOS phones, lately the Open C. It feels like a bit of a downgrade and I'm using the device less, but overall I am happy. I use it for what I need and waste less time on it. I have been playing with the FirefoxOS source code and now think they have a great project going. I have the Flame developer phone on order. Even with its great potential, the FirefoxOS is still not ready to be my primary phone long-term, though I love the chance to keep hacking away at it.

I am in the market for a new device and this time I am going to give Blackberry a go. The +BlackBerry Passport seems to be the obvious choice for something new and different. The keyboard navigation capabilities, from what I've read, will probably fit well with me. I also like the square display and I like the idea of using a Canadian product.

Long-term I see myself using something like the Ubuntu phone that was on kickstarter a while back. I am a longtime Ubuntu desktop user (Lubuntu at the moment). I like the idea of plugging my phone into a monitor and keyboard and having it switch to desktop mode.

Since posting this in 2014, I did follow it up with a post about my Oppo Find 7, which I bought in October of 2014, and I am still using it now. I never did go for the BlackBerry Passport as I intended, though I was impressed with the device.

I am still quite happy with the Oppo Find 7. It was ahead of its time when it was released. Its Android-based ColorOS operating system wasn't as detached from Google as I would have liked but otherwise OK. Its camera was second-to-none when released--it's still pretty good in comparison to what's come since.

I use my smartphone almost exclusively for the following apps/features: email, calendar, web browsing, telephone, SMS, music player, and camera. I access twitter, facebook, and other sites through the web browser and never through their apps. All notifications except calendar, sms, and phone calls are off. As of this writing, I find my needs beyond this have become less and less.

What's next for this smartphone technology?

It's hard to justify upgrading my 2-year-old Oppo Find 7. It still does what I need. I recently purchased a Sony α7 II camera, which I carry almost everywhere with me thanks to Peak Design's Capture Pro clip. So the carry-everywhere camera use-case of a smartphone has been diminished.

I would consider Apple's smartphone offering again but I no longer run an Apple Mac. My main computing platform is Linux, namely Ubuntu MATE. I run a handicapped Microsoft Windows 7 operating system inside of a VirtualBox, inside of Linux. This setup precludes the advantage of an iPhone. If it weren't for this, I would likely use an Apple iPhone, and it is what I recommend to most people who ask me about what to buy.

I am still upset with Google Android for it's previous privacy transgressions, and from what I have been reading lately, the privacy issues are worse. So I won't go there--ever.

My conclusion in 2014 was to buy an Ubuntu phone when it would have come out. This was on the heels of their successful-failure of a crowdfunding campaign. Now in 2016 there are some viable, yet limited, Ubuntu smartphones. Namely the offerings from bq and Meizu. On paper I am impressed with these but the reviews have been less than stellar.

What do I need/want in a smartphone?

I don't want to be distracted by a smartphone. I want it to complement and enhance my day-to-day activities, not take away from them. Beyond what I use a smartphone for now, there is one key feature missing: synchronizing data to my home computer, securely, from anywhere.

I don't store my personal files in the cloud. Everything gets sync'd to an Ubuntu PC at home. That's my own personal "cloud" server. But I do it through a wire (USB cable).

I can connect to my home computer from anywhere in the world through secure shell (ssh). I can remotely sync files securely (rsync). I do so regularly from my laptop. But it's a pain in the ass to do so from my smartphone. If I can't soon find an app in the F-Droid repository that does a good job of this for my current phone, I may end up writing the app myself.

So it looks like I'll make do with my current smartphone for a while longer. I wonder if others feel the same way.


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