Monday, December 31, 2012

Django Unchained

At some point I'd like to get back to writing about tech, but it has been a bit difficult because life has simple been busy! I've been loving life though and trying to fit in dancing and training where I can. In the meantime - look! A post:

Kunta Evolved

I watched the BET Awards earlier this year and at the end of the show Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington came on stage and introduced a montage of clips from Django Unchained and he set it up as what he wanted to be the most influential piece of Black cinema since Roots. He introduced it as "Kunta Evolved." I have to admit that I haven't actually seen the highly acclaimed Roots starring Lavaar Burton, though its power as a film is undeniable. (I'm putting it on my "movies to see" list, but I didn't want to delay this review on seeing it.)  So does it live up to such hype from Foxx himself? I think it's going to be near impossible for Tarantino to ever have an impact on pop culture like Pulp Fiction had, but I think this has got to be as close as Tarantino could get.

In case you don't know what the basic premise is (though in all their video ads and trailers they've actually done a pretty good job of explaining it),  Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a bounty hunter who comes across a bounty for three brothers that Django (Jamie Foxx) has seen and is one of a few people who would be able to identify them. Hence, he recruits Django to help him with this in exchange for a small percentage of the bounty, his freedom, and later the opportunity to rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). To make things more interesting, in true Tarantino fashion this film is a homage. It's a devoted dedication to Blaxploitation films with a nod to Spaghetti Westerns. It's a simple enough plotline that is painted with dialogue so crazy only Tarantino would have the guts to put it on the big screen, loads of suspense and emotion, and, of course, cartoonishly vicious displays of violence wrapped in a revenge story. Revenge is a common motif in Tarantino films (Kill Bill, Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds), and I think his take in this film is actually a little different - but I think expounding out that would be a spoiler so I won't. As a film, I'd probably compare it most closely to Inglourious Basterds, but with lots more blood. And I mean a lot.

The acting in this film is, as expected, phenomenal. I don't know what Tarantino puts in his cast's water, but what excites me most about seeing his work is that no performance leaves anything to be desired. I was a little disappointed that he didn't throw any no-names in here or washed up actors - they were all actors that you'd already expect to be talented. Kerry Washington is probably the least familiar to audiences, and she is radiant. Though this film lacks strong women due to the time period, I still saw the scenes with her showed inspiring courage and immense beauty, even when dressed as a slave (to be clear: I'm not saying she was beautiful because she was a slave, but that it was crazy that even when she tugged on your heart strings for her deplorable state they could never fully destroy her beauty). I don't know what to say about Christoph Waltz that I didn't say in my review of Inglourious Basterds - he's a treat whenever he's on screen. You can't help but love him as an actor and his character as a person. Even though he kills people for a living, you still have to root for him. Jamie Foxx is an often underrated actor, but given the right material he can really do something special - and I think he does here. As far as the antagonists go, you can't help but love to hate Sam Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm sure its hard as a human being to say some of the stuff they had to say in this film (especially for Samuel L Jackson), but they were such unique villains. While I did see similarities between DiCaprio here and Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, I liked how the movie almost made you forget at times what a terrible person DiCaprio is. His Southern sensibilities almost hid it away.

The set pieces and costumes in the film were really great, not much I can say here. The costumes really put you in the time period and the set pieces were nice gradients of muted plains versus elegance. I was a little disappointed that the set pieces didn't lend themselves to any exceptional cinematography. In past Tarantino films there are a number of scenes I remember specifically because of the images they conveyed that were burned into my brain, but I didn't really have much of that here.

The soundtrack is ridiculous - it's a must-buy. I'm actually listening to it right now and, per normal, it drums up in me memories from the movie. It's got Rick Ross, John Legend, 2Pac, Ennio Morricone and the standard bevy of quotable quotes from the movie. I love that there are theme songs for King and for Django - those are nice touches. Tarantino typically forms his soundtracks before he starts shooting his films, not the other way around. For a music-lover like me, this is not lost on me.

I know this has been an all-out lovefest, but this is far from my favorite Tarantino film. First of all, it's just too long. I know he's a really passionate director and he wrote the script so he's naturally very attached to it, but he needs to get a better editor.  Two hours and forty-five minutes is just ridiculous. The final act went on for far too long. I'd have to watch it again to tell you exactly what I think needed to be cut, but I think Tarantino had too many ideas he was trying to convey here. I really wish he would've picked a couple and focused on those, and then just given us the rest as deleted scenes later. I also thought there was also too much violence in this film. It wasn't hyper-realistic like in a war moving, but it also wasn't humorously ridiculous violence like in Kill Bill. At times the violence was definitely a little disturbing. Even when characters you're rooting for kill people, you may sometimes cringe. It was so much so that I walked out of this film not really sure how I felt about it. I only realized how much I liked the film as a whole hours later when I was recalling it and the scenes that struck me and emotions that were stirred up in me. It's just not a super easy film to re-watch again and again compare to his other work.

So, should you run out and see it? If you can stomach buckets of blood and being reminded of how awful slaves were treated, go for it. It's a worthwhile ride to be on even with its flaws. While it may not be Tarantino's best work, it's easily one of the best (maybe the best) I've seen all year. My letter rating is an A-. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kindle Paperwhite

Yeah yeah I know, I've been bad. I haven't been writing here and you're all heartbroken. By now, I'm sure you've gotten over it with minimal tears. This blog pops up in my mind but has just fallen lower in my priority list. I'm writing this post in hopes that it will energize me into writing posts with some regularity again!

Kindle Paperwhite Review

(Disclaimer: I do work for Amazon but I do not work for the part of the company that produces hardware or software for the Kindle. I'm sure in some indirect way your purchase of a Kindle does benefit me, but I only buy into Amazon products that I like. I'm certainly not being paid to write this review - quite the contrary, I paid out of pocket for the full price of this device.)

I bought my first Kindle a couple of years ago now. It was the Kindle Keyboard (i.e. the third Kindle release) and I had gotten it because I felt like the Kindle folks had finally hit their stride (see that review). The color was immediately attractive to me, the form factor and weight overall was ideal for one handed reading, and the speed was reasonable enough to where the black flashes on the screen didn't bug me. That being said, I almost never used the keyboard, navigating the screen on the directional pad was a chore, and I needed a $60 case in order to read in dim lighting in an elegant way (the first party lighted leather case). Last winter I jumped on the Kindle Touch bandwagon (see that review) for one primary reason: the infared touch screen. The idea of not having to use that stupid d-pad was very enticing. Additionally, there was X-ray (which sideloads Wikipedia content for characters, places, and terms in books and tells you where in the book they're mentioned), a greatly improved case (the old case had a serious issue with the connection to the spine), and a page refresh that didn't require blacking out the screen each time. Of course, the case was still $60 in order to read in dim lighting and the smooth leather case attracted scratches like a magnet. All-in-all, this was an evolutionary step forward that I only took because of how much more I loved the Kindle than practically any other device I owned.

Flash forward to two and a half weeks ago when I got my Kindle Paperwhite: there's no doubt that this is superior in nearly every way to every single Kindle ever made and now is the time to jump on the e-Reader bandwagon if you've been holding out. I'm very confident that if you enjoy reading or if you're like me and enjoy reading except when it means squinting for tiny text or lugging around heavy books, you will not regret getting a Paperwhite. I'll start out talking about the new features and what I like about it before I get to some of the areas for improvement.

With each Kindle, the team has gotten better at making the onboarding experience as pain-free as possible. The Paperwhite was no exception. While I do slightly miss the fact that in the past my Kindle already had my account information on it (could be that for some unknown reason mine didn't while others did), the onscreen tutorial as soon as you switch it on is awesome. You're ready to start using it within a couple of minutes as long as you have connectivity (WiFi or 3G if you got the 3G model). One key difference on the onboarding experience this time is that they no longer make you suffer as an existing customer - getting your content on there is much easier. They've changed the UI to be more like the Amazon MP3 Player UI (and I think even the Kindle UI on non-Kindles) where you have "Cloud" section and  a "Device" section with the major improvement of a drop down for type of content (Periodical, Book, etc). So now, you just scroll through your cloud content and tap the stuff you want to transfer over to your device. Since the Kindle Touch, any personal documents you've transferred to your device through Amazon is backed up in the cloud up to a reasonably high limit (books you buy through Amazon are backed up without limit). So I had over 100 items to transfer over, but because the Paperwhite is a bit zippier than past Kindles I was able to tap all the items I cared about (probably 3/4 of my library) in under 5 minutes, and over WiFi it was short work to get them all on there (notes, bookmarks, and all). What's even better though is that you can now sync your collections, as well! Once you've downloaded the content, you can sync that metadata and it'll organize all your content within seconds into their old collections. Cool, huh?

New Way of Indexing Your Content
Enough gushing about onboarding, let's move on to the UI. I like it, I like it a lot. Instead of the boring lists of text approach of the Kindle Touch that carried over from the pedigree of Kindles lacking a touch interface, there's now more of a cover flow-like interface (see photo to left) that uses the covers of purchased books or the first page of personal documents sent via "Sent to Kindle" (otherwise just some text in a box). It fits 6 covers on a page and it totally looks more polished to have this. You still get X-ray as in Kindles past, so nothing surprising there, and you still tap 3/4 of the right side of the screen to go forward (or swipe right to left), 1/4 of left side of screen to go back (or swipe left to right), and top 1/5th of screen for menu (including the home icon). However, there are three new features that are wonderful. The first is the time left in your chapter or book. It's actually quite accurate. If you vary the pace you read at or linger too much on pages caught up in daydreams then maybe it's not so good for you, but it seems to be adaptive. So if you start reading something slowly and then speed up a bunch, it will adjust, I've noticed. I'm still not sure if it's per book or per device, but I do know that information isn't stored in the cloud or anything - that math is done on the device itself and if you were to wipe the device it'd go back to defaults. The sacrifice is that you have to hit the menu area at the top to get to the page number, but if you tap the lower left corner it cycles between time left in chapter, time left in book, and Kindle proprietary location. The second main change is the addition of more fonts - I was taken aback at how cool this is. For certain books certain fonts really pop - I'm reading The Princess Bride right now, primarily, and using Futura makes it feel so much more like a real book to me. As advertised, you can go one font size smaller than before, which I don't ever use but it's just as sharp as you'd expect even at that size. Oh, and of course the physical home button is gone. I thought I'd miss this but I surprisingly enough do not at all. The last major change is in the upper right corner of the navigation screens - you can not only change how you sort but how you filter (collections, novels, periodicals, etc), which is a small detail but very nice to have.

Getting down to the screen itself, there are some real revolutionary changes here. First of all, it's capacitive touch. I thought this would never be possible and I could be totally wrong but I haven't heard of another e-reader pulling this off. The Kindle Touch IR touch screen was fine but took some getting used to and meant that objects other than your hands like maybe a piece of cloth from your blanket falling on the screen would turn pages. Now, much like your smartphone it requires your finger specifically to turn pages (or a sausage, but if you're reading with raw meats in your hand then you're an odd duck). Secondly, the lighting technology is phenomenal. While it's true that you can't see the light coming out of one side of the device like you can on the latest generation Nook, you can see around all the edges the slightest hint of the layer of light under the screen if you turn it at the exact right angle. Plus, at the bottom you see the tiniest bit of fading under dark conditions. Other than that, it's stunning. Everyone that I've shown it to has been equally impressed. Even better: even at its lowest brightness (which you control very easily via the top menu from any context on the device you're in), it's a good bit whiter than the Kindle Touch was. You'll notice this in the below photos with my old case light on versus Paperwhite max lighting and no light on either. For the first time ever, I really at times felt like I was reading a paper back book in high definition. In the past the e-ink has always impressed and been super easy on my eyes, but the grayish brown background always made it feel like an e-reader, which wasn't a big deal to me. However, it's a very nice touch that you'll almost immediately appreciate. I like how under well-lit situations, keeping the light somewhere in the middle just improves the contrast and feels nice on my eyes, and turning it up to the max it doesn't even seem like it's backlit at all, just even prettier than before. In darker situations, I can turn it down to the lower half of the lighting spectrum and read without issue or eye irritation versus a bright white screen. I've only done this for 20 minute bouts because reading in the dark a ton isn't great for you, but if your lamp just isn't that bright, the Paperwhite has got your back. One other thing you may notice in my photos is the contrast improvement. It's subtle, but it's there. I couldn't really tell between the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch, but I totally can now. Don't get me wrong, it's not a life-changing improvement, but within an hour or so of reading on my Paperwhite I could feel in my eyes that something was just different other than the whiter background, and on super close inspection realized it was the addition of more pixels.

Paperwhite Max Brightness vs. Kindle Touch with Lighted Case

Up Close with Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Touch (no light added)

A recurring issue for me in the past was the case - so how does this one stack up? This is the first Kindle case where I'd give a five star rating. It's outstanding and a great value at $40. I loved that they brought back the textured leather - it doesn't scratch up and it grips so much better in my hands. The magnetic clasp is an inspired touch. It may have been inspired by Apple, but I'll take it. It's the perfect balance between the Kindle Keyboard strap and the Kindle Touch free-balling look. When held in funky positions or dropped it doesn't fly open, but it takes very little exertion to get it open. The best part for dorks out there like me is the auto on/off thing. I thought it was just a gimmick when I heard about it, but having used it for a couple of weeks now I'm just blown away by how much it enhances my experience. I can literally read a little bit while waiting on an elevator for a second because it turns on so quickly and I love that I can shut it without being worried about hitting the physical home button the Kindle Touch had or even the IR screen itself because I know there is no physical button and that it'll turn off immediately. I like that the inside of the front cover has a nice texture to it that looks really polished and that the side, top, and bottom are a little rubbery to absorb shock better. Just as before, the Paperwhite fits so snug that you'll never have to worry about it falling out of the case or getting damaged because of how solid the shell is.

So as I alluded to earlier, I do have a couple of minor gripes. I'm bummed that they did away with the swipe up and swipe down gestures. Formerly, these gestures let you skip chapters and I loved it. I'm probably going to write in to the Kindle folks and beg them to bring back this feature. I don't know why it went away. Speaking of cut features,  why can't I toggle WiFi on/off from the top menu? I have to go to settings now to switch airplane mode on/off. That makes it harder to conserve battery life because of the added work so I'll probably sync less often. One other lost feature: text-to-speech. They cut the speakers and headphone jack out very quietly (coincidentally), so you'll have to opt for the cheap Kindle model if you're visually impaired, which probably makes more sense. I'm not a fan of the black color. My favorite Kindle color is still the graphite from the Kindle Keyboard. It's nice that the back is more rubbery than the smooth Kindle Touch back, but the bezel being black means that it retains your hand grease more easily (the screen itself doesn't seem to, mainly just the bezel). The fact that the home screen has a bottom row dedicated to recommendations and hot titles is kind of cool, but I wish it was opt-out. I'd prefer to use the screen real estate for more collections. Plus, it doesn’t even exclude books I've already bought, which is disappointing; hopefully that'll get fixed later. Speaking of ads, the ad-supported device only saves you $20 and requires a swipe-to-unlock (because of the new case, I'm guessing). I think going ad-supported is silly now because of this - it was a lot more sensible in past Kindles.  One last gripe: the Paperwhite still isn't lighter. I'm guessing they compromised here in favor of the battery life. With the case on, it actually does feel a little easier to hold in one hand than the Kindle Touch, but still not quite as nice as the Kindle Keyboard.

A couple of last notes: the jury is still out for me on battery life. It's doing pretty well overall, but after decent usage for a week and some change the battery is at maybe 70%. So I don't think it'll hold up to the two months I was promised (even with WiFi off), but I think it'll easily meet at least the month that my old Kindle had even with the lighted screen, and I'm perfectly satisfied with that. It's slightly zippier overall than the Kindle Touch. Page turns are a little faster and the black screen flashes are so quick that you really barely even notice them. Web browsing is a little better, too, but still nothing to write home about.

Ok, I think I've said enough here - as a whole, I hope I've given you a pretty good idea of what the Kindle Paperwhite is like. If you own a Kindle 1 or 2, you need to upgrade to this. Even if you have the Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Touch, I'd say this is a nice upgrade but probably more valuable for the Kindle Keyboard users. Personally, I don't at all regret my upgrade from the Kindle Touch. I really feel like it was much more sensible than my upgrade from the Kindle Keyboard. Book lovers unite - you finally have a device truly worthy of your affection.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Avengers, Assemble!

I'm a little bummed that I haven't had time to blog in a while, but I decide to make some time tonight to at least put up a quick review about a little movie that came out last week called The Avengers.

In case you've lived in a cave for a while, Marvel had this almost absurd plan that they were going to make individual films about each of the superheroes that are part of the team in the Marvel Universe known as Avengers who assemble in the comic book world when there's a really big threat. They were created in response to DC's Justice League and had a rotating cast of heroes/heroines, but the movie sticks with the most popular ones. The only members to not get their own films were Black Widow and Hawkeye, though they received cameos in Iron Man and Thor, respectively. The premise of this film is that Thor's brother, Loki, is trying to enslave humanity with the help of an alien army that enters the planet via a portal created by an extremely powerful cube called the Tesseract. Naturally, the Avengers reluctantly assemble to stop the threat.

I decided to see the movie at midnight on opening night, which was actually a lot more comfortable than I imagined it'd be, and I was shocked that this movie wasn't awful. Joss Whedon being on board made it seem pretty likely that it'd be a great film, but to take so many larger-than-life characters that bring a lot of backstory baggage from their own movies and put them together just seemed exceedingly difficult. Especially considering that these were the same actors (except for Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Bruce Banner) from each superhero's own film - there was no guarantee that they'd work well together. This movie worked on many levels though, and I think the main reason is the fact that this movie didn't take itself too seriously. In modern superhero films, these's a pretty clear dichotomy between films that really strive to exist in a grounded, real world (like The Dark Knight or Chronicle) and those that fully embrace the comic world without going overboard (like X-Men or Spider-Man). The Avengers falls in the latter category, and I think we should all be glad for that because it manages to appeal to the comic book fans with lots of subtle, inside jokes while still being accessible to mainstream audiences and building a storyline that everyone can get on board with. It doesn't try to adhere too strictly to the comics aside from the characters themselves, but rather it's a very creative take on what happens when you throw all these different elements together.

If you're expecting a groundbreaking film here, you're going to be disappointed. At its core, it follows a very standard formula. I don't see anything wrong with that though - it executes on this formula very well with the added benefit that there's no need for a prolonged backstory on the characters. It doesn't bother re-hashing what's happened in previous movies except very briefly giving you just enough so that you can still follow along. Sure, it slightly penalizes the people who haven't see the previous four films, but not nearly enough to keep you from seeing this one. I didn't see Thor or Captain America: The First Avenger and yet I didn't feel lost at all. In effect, it was refreshing that the movie could move at such a brisk pace keeping the audience really engaged with loads of humor and fight scenarios that geeks normally have to put a lot of brain power into daydreaming about. The humor really is pretty impressive - subtle, dry, and timed very well.

The acting is as solid as you'd expect. Nick Fury is Sam Jackson, so it makes sense that he'd do the character justice and obviously plays a much bigger role in this film than any of the previous ones. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with Scarlett Johansson - I think the screenplay didn't really give us a clear picture of Black Widow. There were bits and pieces, and it was probably somewhat intentional that she be a bit of a mystique, but I don't think Johansson helped - the character just seemed a bit flat. She's still gorgeous though. The rest of the cast knocks it out of the park, especially Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr (for the third Tony Stark movie in a row - he's on fire). I didn't think I'd be happy with re-casting Edward Norton because I love him as an actor, but when you see Ruffalo it's clear that he should've been Bruce Banner all along.

The action sequences are grand and well done - with very minor exceptions that I won't get into so as to not spoil the film at all. The production quality is as top notch as you'd expect, and I was especially impressed by the sound editing. Maybe it was just the theater I was at, but the seats would literally rumble at the appropriate times and more so than any movie I've seen in a while I thought it was quite an immersive experience, despite being in a packed auditorium where every single geeky thing got lots of applause and/or laughter.

My score for this movie would probably be an A-. I loved it, would highly recommend, and would definitely see it again (it survives the test of me still reminiscing about the movie 3 days later), but there's nothing especially extraordinary about it. It's just a super fun action film that's well worth the ride if you're willing to tolerate being in an entirely geek driven universe and can suspend disbelief on a few things (e.g. there were definitely some anachronisms with Captain America).

P.S. There are not one but two post-credits bonus scenes. So don't let the janitor kick you out - stay in your seat until you see the second bonus scene. I only saw one, myself, because I didn't know there were two.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Goodbye Pre, Hello Galaxy (S2)!

Yeah, it's been a while. I'm not even going to try to make any excuses, life has just been busy. However, I did get a new phone! So I thought I'd write a little something about that experience. Anyone who's known me for the past couple of years knows that I've been a pretty unapologetic fan of webOS and the Palm Pre. My cell phone history is shorter than I'm sure most people my age - I went from a non-color Sanyo clamshell, to a color Smasung clamshell, to a slightly better LG clamshell, to a Palm Treo 650 (2007), to a Palm Pre (2009), and finally a Samsung Galaxy S2. For someone who loves technology so much, you'd think I'd be a little more eager with my gadgets, but I'm nothing if not a passionate person, and I act on that passion. So unless you can get me really passionate about your next big thing, I'm too pragmatic to jump ship. Once I got the Pre, I finally felt like I had a phone that matched my lifestyle. It multitasked (much like I do), it had a qwerty keyboard (that I could get up to 40 WPM on), and the UI was simple and elegant. Back then, Android was pretty ugly, Blackberry was starting to decline, and the iPhone was still an unstoppable juggernaut. The tide has really turned now. Palm has gone under, Blackberry has one foot in the grave, the iPhone is as commonplace as a clamshell phone was about 5 years ago, and Android is finally a major player in the race (sorry Microsoft, Windows Phones still haven't gotten much traction despite an excellent redesign). I'd actually posit something pretty, controversial: Android has overtaken the iPhone.

Let's pull back a bit though so I can talk a little bit about my decision to leave the Pre and why I chose the Galaxy S2. The funniest thing turned me from a webOS fan to a deserter: HP replaced Google Maps with Bing Maps. It seems pretty minor, right? I had endured Palm being bought out, I endured the lack of developer support, I endured the fact that using the headphone jack would totally hork the phone's audio, I endured having to trade in my phone about 4 times due to hardware issues, and I had endured practically total abandonment from HP, but I was annoyed beyond repair that they'd take an app that I actually liked overall and forced me to use an app that just didn't work as well and I had no choice in the matter. Soon after that, I noticed that my battery life was getting much worse as were speeds in general on my device. I stopped overclocking to deal with battery life, but now it was too slow. I hated to say it, but I was going to have to give up on phones with physical keyboards. Much like a Joss Whedon television show, they've been going extinct. Cut down in their prime (ok, maybe not, but I still liked them).

I walked into my friendly neighborhood Sprint store (the one on Union seriously is pretty friendly) in November to browse what they had and the only phones that piqued my interest were the Motorola Photon 4G, the iPhone, and the Samsung Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch (clearly they were high when they decided on that name). Pretty much all the other phones sucked. There was one Android candybar phone with a keyboard that was ok, but not thrilling. The iPhone was at the bottom of my list for a couple of simple reasons: I really dislike the UI and the keyboard. The Android UI may not have been intuitive at first when I played with it, but I liked what I saw online of Ice Cream Sandwich and I was blown away by the keyboard for the Photon 4G and the Galaxy S2. Swype is the coolest thing since sliced bread. I was aware of it before and thought it was gimmicky, but when I played with it in the store it worked immediately for me - I was shocked how intuitive it was. I could type on par with a physical keyboard, and the phones are big enough that turning it to landscape mode gives you a usable keyboard with two thumbs. I gave an edge to the Galaxy S2 because it was a little thinner and the screen seemed a little prettier than the Photon 4G, and comparing speeds to the iPhone I was sure that the Galaxy S2 was on par. I was hoping to wait a bit longer before jumping ship, but the Pre speeds were really getting to me and I lost my Zune HD at the end of December so I had no mp3 player. In the end, I decided on the Galaxy S2 3 weeks ago because Motorola announced that the Photon 4G would not see Ice Cream Sandwich but leaked ROMs confirmed that Samsung was working on it for the Galaxy S2.

So how was the switch from webOS to Android? I have to admit, a little rocky. I was happy as soon as I had the Galaxy S2 in my hot little hands because the screen was so impressive, the phone was running at speeds I didn't realize were possible on phones, and it was so thin that I could keep it in my pocket rather than getting a hip holster. The webOS UI took me maybe 30 minutes to figure out everything for - Android took me a few days to really sort out. The learning curve is pretty steep. As much as I love the Swype keyboard, you do have to learn some of the tricks to be really proficient at it. The stock launcher (even with TouchWiz) is meh - you get a lot more usability out of something like GO Launcher EX. That was only the tip of the iceberg of tips and tricks to using Android. Whereas webOS just worked right out of the box, Android Gingerbread only worked at a very nominal experience. The synergy that I came to love on webOS wasn't available on Android - I had to hand manage merging duplicate contacts. App backup was all on me to deal with, as well. Most of all, it took me a few days to get used to not multi-tasking. What's funny is that I can operate faster because of the fact that I can context switch even faster on this hardware versus the Pre hardware, especially by holding the home button to get to recently used apps. What I learned through it all was one key thing: Android is really only for people who are tinkerers or technologists. If you want something that just works, you really don't want Android. I've come to really enjoy it and it provides an awesomely customizable experience, but I'm shocked at how many normal people are using it. I'm sure a lot of them aren't happy with it either and that's where the iPhone succeeds.

People I know who have gone from Android to the iPhone have really hated it and it's because the experience is so curated. There's no swype, there's no JuiceDefender (this thing seriously doubles my battery life - it's ridiculous), no Dolphin Browser HD, no widgets, no lock screen customizations, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, Android has pretty much everything on the iPhone, and then some - the upcoming version even has more attractive multi-tasking, face recognition unlock, NFC support, and a few other fun things that you previously needed apps for (like panoramic pictures and lock screen customization). I should adjust my statement earlier: Android has overtaken the iPhone in technology. I think the iPhone rightfully should have more market share because it's such a simpler experience. You don't have a fragmented platform where certain things only work on certain phones - there's a few iPhones and it's pretty clear which features are new and not available for older models. It's kind of interesting that we're now pretty much in a two party system when it comes to phones and I think both platforms are great competition for one another - 5 years ago I would've said that cell phones really haven't been going anywhere but now I can say that I think we're really going to continue to see a lot of innovation.

Personally, I'm glad to be on the Android bandwagon. I've been able to use it for podcasts and music effectively (unlike the Pre), the browser is surprisingly usable, the games are surprisingly engaging, and there's so many fun productivity apps (like depositing checks and HeyTell and many more). I hope to see Samsung (who I think has really been doing the best job of producing high quality phones across all carriers) and Google continue to deliver high quality products continue to raise the bar set by Apple.