Perfect Devices: Seven Years And Counting

I’ve owned a fair number of devices over the years. Some good, some not so much, some just perfect. This article will be about devices where it all just…came together, either from circumstance or design or innovation. This isn’t a top ten list or anything like that, either.

2006: Motorola Razr

This was my first real cellphone. I appreciated that I could leave it unplugged for a few days, that it had a rudimentary web browser, and that I could sign into AIM, MSN, or Yahoo! on it. But its real “wow” moment was this:

I’d owned it for a few months already, and liked it’s multi-day battery life and other features. Then I managed to drag my boss into a lake (don’t ask) with the Razr in my….

……BACK POCKET.

Needless to say I was quite horrified at the thought of having wrecked my phone. But I managed to calm down and go home (think several hours of dripping-wet cell phone at this point), at which point I took the phone apart, which was easy enough-pop the back cover, remove the battery, and the SIM card-and wiped the parts off as best I could. I plugged it into the charger and voila!

IT STARTED CHARGING 😀

I owned that particular Razr for the better part of two years after that.

I’ve gotten a few cellphones wet since then. None of them have been this user-friendly in the face of wetness; I managed to get an iPhone 3G to dry out on its own and start working again…but that was after weeks, and that it worked at all was a surprise. It certainly wasn’t a “take it apart and dry it off” sort of affair.

2. Apple Macbook (2008)

This was about the third or fourth laptop I owned, the others being fairly regular Windows laptops from 2005-2007ish, at which point I decided I didn’t really need one and would just wait to buy another laptop during an upcoming deployment. I already owned an iPod, which I liked well enough, and used iTunes and Safari on my Windows desktop and found them quite superior to IE6 and Windows Media Player, so I decided to take the plunge and try out an Apple laptop. It wasn’t beyond my means at 999 dollars or so, and I liked the way the UI worked with Spaces and App Expose-the notion of not really having to minimize things, but simply being able to move from one Space to another with an app assigned to each was nice. I bought it in January 2008 while I was in northern Iraq; Apple shipped it to me with no hassle in about two weeks or so. I loved it almost right away; it played movies and music wonderfully well, and though I wasn’t allowed to hook a personal computer to the post Internet, I started downloading apps from our local internet cafe to a thumb drive so I could install new things to my Macbook.

Then…disaster struck. I still don’t know what exactly happened, but it started running extremely slow and glitching, like, alot. I’d pretty much written it off and decided to go back to Windows laptops, which annoyed me as I hadn’t had much of a good experience with them at the time. I turned it off for what I expected to be the final time, and left for a week on a mission. When I came back, I turned it on and…

IT JUST WORKED.

I certainly didn’t expect that to happen. My previous laptop experiences had been ‘if it isn’t working, it’s probably not going to’. It just…sort of fixed itself, I guess.

I still have that Macbook; it seemingly decided it was time to end it all and started refusing to boot a few months ago, but it occupies a place in our bookshelf. I imagine I’ll get it fixed one day and maybe use it in combination with a NAS and VLC to be a sort of cheesy HTPC.

3. iPhone 4S (after jailbreak, 2013)

I’ve owned iPhones since I came home from my third deployment in 2008. I was more or less content with the stock iPhone configuration for years and years-after all, it’s just a phone. I tried jailbreaking my old 3G once, but the process in 2009 seemed insanely complicated for not alot of potential benefit then. iOS 5 brought alot more capability to the software, and then iOS 6 brought a new Maps app. I’d pretty much stopped using the map on my iPhone in 2009 or so because it wasn’t very good, Google data or no, and switched to a Garmin GPS for pretty much everything.

In short…I was bored. Then the jailbreak evasi0n showed up, and I saw that it was extremely simple, so I decided to give it a whirl.

This is what my iPhone looks like now. Google is deeply integrated; I have the status bar set up to open both the Google app, and Google Voice Search, by tapping the left or right side; Chrome is the default browser, and Google Cloud Print is the default printing option. I can also put the phone to sleep by swiping right to left across the status bar, and a whole bag of other tricks, too. I’d been thinking of switching to a Nokia 920 or a Nexus phone this year; after jailbreaking…I’m holding onto my current phone and waiting for a jailbreak solution to arrive for iOS 7 before upgrading.

4. Google Ecosystem on iOS (ongoing)

Okay, okay, so it’s not a device. But  when six of the nine apps on my iPhone’s homescreen are either directly from Google or are an adaptation of a Google service, that’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it? I use the Google app, along with Mailbox (a gesture-focused Gmail app) G+, Chrome, Sunrise (a Google Calendar app) and Feedly, a Google Reader app, all pretty much daily. People make alot of noise about Facebook Home, but the interconnected Google ecosystem (they all share the new “open in Chrome” feature, and they can all share to Google Plus) is a vastly better service that also doesn’t turn your phone into some baying mutant.

5. Compaq Presario desktop, 2005

I didn’t own this very long-it belongs to my mom, now. But, it was my first really good computer. The specs were beefy for the time, and it ran video games pretty well after I put a 256MB Nvidia graphics card in it and hooked up some Logitech X540 speakers to it.  Never crashed, although I had endless piles of malware to deal with. It’s way, way overdue for a hardware upgrade, but I’m hoping to accomplish that this year for Christmas.

6. Asus Transformer Pad Infinity (2013)

This turned out to be an unexpected buy. I got pissed off at my mom’s dog and slammed my laptop down too hard, which killed the screen. I was intending to just buy another laptop, but as I already owned a Nexus 7 (the Transformer is why it’s not on this list, btw :p) and wished for two things:

A BIGGER SCREEN AND A TRACKPAD.

(I’ll get to why in a moment)

The Transformer had these, and at 750 bucks for the 64GB version with the keyboard dock, struck me as a total steal.

My experiences with the Nexus 7 had led to this basic conclusion:

Android is honestly an operating system for a computer that happens to run well on low-powered software. It’s incredibly flexible and versatile, and to be honest Jelly Bean reminds me quite abit of OS X-especially the way the home screens work. I had a Nook Color with a dual-boot SD card running (iirc) 2.3, and that was a mess honestly..but that was several years ago. Jelly Bean is fantastic and mostly weirdness-free; it’s far and away the best consumer version of Linux, keeping all of it’s benefits and eschewing most of its psychotic behaviour.

The next features that I wanted, then, were this:

-widescreen, 1080p or better.

-As close to stock Jelly Bean as possible.

-keyboard and trackpad, and mouse support as a possibility.

-Large disc capacity, as I like being able to play music locally with no need for streaming, and have a large library.

I considered the Nexus 10, but eliminated it as a keyboard dock for it does not seem to exist, it is only available with 32GB onboard storage, and it’s 2560×1600 screen resolution is way beyond what most current Android apps support. Also, Asus had solidly impressed me with the Nexus 7 and their generally outside-the-box approach to things, so I decided to try out the Transformer Prime Infinity, which has Jelly Bean, a widescreen, 1080p screen, 64 GBs of storage with two SD card slots, a keyboard dock (and more importantly, software specifically designed with that in mind) and a very good trackpad.

There hasn’t been a “holy cow!” against abusive conditions for the Transformer, like there were for the Macbook or Razr, and it’s not eight years old and still ticking like the Presario, but it’s a solid, well-made device that does everything I’ve asked of it with a minimum of hassle. Bravo, Asus.

That about wraps it up. Readers-feel free to share similar lists, or similar single items, or ranty tirades about Apple (it’ll help me uncircle you, so go ahead, as there’s a few hundred people wanting me to circle them back, and I’m at about max capacity now.)

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