The Perfect Cell Phone (for Me) Doesn't Exist. Or... Why I Finally Broke Down and Bought an iPhone
I hate Apple.
I don’t like the company. I don’t like their business practices (for the most part), and I’m not a real big fan of their UI/UX/interface design either. At home, I run everything on Linux, with the exception of a Windows desktop I use for gaming. I like knowing what my systems are doing, and being able to get into the guts of things to fix them if needed. I prefer to run as many things open source as I can.
Needless to say, I find the restrictive, locked down, walled garden of Apple’s unappealing. So why the hell am I buying an iPhone?!?!?!?
To those reading, you’re probably thinking well Android is open source, why not stick with that? Let me take you on a short tour through my smartphone history.
My first smartphone was the Motorola Atrix 4G from Bell Canada that I got in 2011. It was a great little phone, except I soon realized how broken the Android ecosystem was when it came to OS device updates.
In order for an Android phone to receive an OS update, a few things had to happen:
- Google had to release a new version of Android
- The manufacturer (Motorola in this case) of the phone then decided whether or not they would take Google’s release and modify it to work with the phone (Atrix 4G)
- Finally, the carrier (Bell Canada) had to decide if they wanted to take the update
from the manufacturer, and release it to phones
- Sometimes they chose to not release an update because they also had to make modifications in order for it to work with their version of the device
- Other times it’s probable that they didn’t release OS updates in an effort to push customers towards newer phones in order to get the newer Android version
Things are a little different today when it comes to Android OS updates, but surprisingly not that much. The Android ecosystem is still fragmented, and it’s still a shot in the dark on receiving updates for an extended period of time.
So my Atrix was released in March 2011 and came with Android 2.2. It only received one OS update to Android 2.3.4 from Bell in August/September 2011. Android 2.3.6 was later released by Motorola, but only available to AT&T customers in the US. Motorola also said that they would release Android 4.0 for the Atrix 4G, but later went back on that promise, to much consumer outrage.
So to recap, I had a phone that was less than 6 months old, that was fully capable of supporting newer OS versions hardware wise, but I was stuck on 2.3.4 because Motorola and/or Bell Canada did not want to spend resources on releasing a newer OS.
My next phone was a Blackberry Z10 that I got on release day (February 5th, 2013). This phone ran the new Blackberry 10 OS from Blackberry. While I admit the platform is anything but open source, it was (and still is if I’m being honest) my favorite mobile device OS. It was a gesture based interface, that at the time was ridiculed by Apple fans as “being too complicated to use.” Fast forward to Apple’s release of the iPhone X last year (which uses gestures for navigation for those who are unfamilar), and those same Apple fans start saying (as per usual) that Apple is “so innovative and gestures are the best thing ever!”
If you want to have a look at the some of the features of Blackberry 10, have a look at the video below. Keep in mind that this was 2013, the first release of a brand new OS (version 10.1), and it got far better with every OS update.
Speaking of OS updates, my original Z10 from release day 2013 (that I still have by the way), still received the latest OS update (10.3.3.3216) in April of this year. That’s from an OS that was on life support from the day it was launched, and known dead since 2015, yet in the past three years I received more OS updates (with significant feature additions and not just security fixes) on the “dead” OS than on the Atrix or the DTEK60 (below) combined.
Over the years I had a Z10, Q10, and Z30. These are all devices I still own, and the only reason why I bought the different devices was because I liked switching between the different form factors, not because there was anything wrong with the phones.
Due to lack of third-party apps and lack of consumer acceptance, Blackberry 10 is now a dead platform. Seeing the writing on the wall, Blackberry released a new handset running a modified version of Android in October 2015, called the Blackberry Priv. What made it different was the hardening of the Android OS, and most importantly the promise of regular (i.e. monthly) security updates.
I never owned a Blackberry Priv, but Blackberry continued to release handsets using Android. In October 2016, the Blackberry DTEK60 was released running Android 6.0.1. I purchased one in March 2017. For the first year things were great, but fast forward to now and my phone is barely functional.
Those monthly security updates were sporadic at best, the last one I received was August 2018 after not receiving one since June, and there’s every indication that the August update will be the last. As for OS updates, it shipped with Android 6.0.1 and that was it.
I get about 2 hours of solid battery life now and every day something else weird happens with the phone. Sometimes it will freeze completely and I have to do a hard reset. Sometimes touch input still works but I can’t actually tap on anything to get it to open, and I have to do a hard reset. I’ve performed a factory reset weeks ago but that didn’t seem to make any difference.
So… looks like I need a new phone. I already have the Librem5 from Purism on order, but that’s not expectant to ship until April 2019 at the earliest. Even then, being the first version of an open platform based on Linux (Purism PureOS), means it might not even be usable as a daily phone on day 1. So I’m going to need something to get me through until that phone arrives and is usable.
So, any phone that I get will need to receive regular updates to address security issues. This is a condition for two reasons:
- On a matter of principle, I need all my devices to run up to date patched software
- This is more of a perception thing, but since I work directly in IT Security, I can’t very well explain to people the importance of patching while at the same time using a phone that might receive very few or no security patches
But Why Apple?
Well, essentially, here are my choices:
- I could spend $200-$300 on a cheap Android device, never get updates and hope that it will last until I get my Librem5 and it is usable
- I could spend more money (around $500-$700) and get a new Blackberry (the Key2) but I’m done with Blackberry for barely providing security updates for two years on the Priv and the DTEK50 or DTEK60
- I could spend even more money ($800 plus) and get a really nice Android phone (like a Samsung S8/S9) that might still be spotty on updates, or get a Google Pixel which is still only guaranteed to receive updates for 24 months from the date of release
- I could get a used iPhone 7 or 8 for $400-$600 dollars, and even though it would be a 2 or 3 year old device, I’d still get OS updates from Apple for another 2-3 years at least. Apple has also been one of the better companies on device security and privacy lately
- I could even just buy a new iPhone 8 to get me through until my Librem5 arrives and then I could sell it for $500+ or just keep it around, as it’s probably not a bad idea for me to have an iOS device around anyway for the various security testing I do
So it seems Apple is the best of the worst in our world of few choices. Competition is a good thing people, but yet Apple and Android fans alike keep wanting their own favourite platform to survive and any others to disappear.
I was waiting until the Black Friday sale to see what, if any, promotions Apple might have on the iPhone 8. I was prepared to purchase outright from Apple ($819), but then I checked the current promotions on Koodo’s (my current carrier) website.
I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves…
To summarize the above:
- Brand new Gold iPhone 8 64GB: $360
- Retail Price: $845
- Offer discount: -$335
- Tab amount: -$360
- Upfront payment: $150
- Discount ($25 over 6 months): -$150
- Total: $360
- Unlimited everything with 4GB of data: $45 per month
Uhhh yeah. No real decision to make here.
Besides, just look how pretty it is. I’m a sucker for shiny things.
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