Are Smartphones Really Any Different?

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jeddytier4

Gordon, I completely agree with you when it comes to Android phones, but not so much most of the other platforms. In it's attempt to be open, Android has become the PC from back in the day. I remember building my first whitebox linux system using a Cyrix chip, and depending on the phone, I have felt some of the same pains lol. While changing ROMs and unlocking bootloaders is complicated at the moment, it will get easier and the phone will look more like a PC than ever. Also, as Ubuntu and Firefox get better at their respective OS's I expect at some point to be able to buy a phone and pick the OS I want, possibly even dual booting. For me, I will never do this on my main phone as I need it to work, but I will always have a collection of older ones lying around to mess with. Thanks for the article as it has made for interesting converstion!!

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vrmlbasic

"chrome browser"<- I believe that this might be the root of the problem ;)

Why I should give Google a "second chance" with a mobile browser, when they completely failed (and continue to fail) with the stock Android web browse, is a question to which I have not found a logical answer.

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Renegade Knight

What I don't get is why the Stock Android browser isn't Chrome. That said. Chrome is unusable on my phone. Way too slow. Maybe that's why they still have the stock android browser. It's at least faster even if it does split Googles development team in two. Though I do have to wonder if both teams worked on Mobile Chrome if it wouldn't be a lot better than it is.

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BadCommand

I love the third support issue down "I accidentally wet my phone it was fine but now it is black.".

Hopefully they didn't get a rash too.

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Snate

Hear, Hear!

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thematejka

Amen, Gordon.

JosephColt missed your points outright.

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PCWolf

T-Mobile is run by Pirates, just like Verizon, AT&T, & Sprint.

They charge way too much for these phones. I rather be stuck with a 2yr contract than pay $650 up front for a new phone. & Sometimes, you need a carriers OEM software to use certain features. I purchased a unlocked phone to use on T-Mobile that would not make 3-way or conference calls because it required TM's software. at least if you buy it from the carrier, you are covered by a 1yr warranty. If you buy it from Ebay, good luck!

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John Pombrio

The answer is Ting. Yes, I paid for the phones but 6 months in and they are almost all paid for by what I saved in contract costs. And there is NO overage fees, I pay for what I use. Average cost per month for two Samsung 3G phones is $28 a month with all fees, taxes, etc. Terrific plan, Sprint? Meh.

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JosephColt

That is good for you, you don't utilize a smart phone or data plan all that much. Most people don't even need a smart phone realistically or a data plan(WIFI). A basic phone or one that simply calls and texts is more than enough for 70% of people.

With a sprint unlimited plan for example there are no overages or throttling unless your doing some crazy downloading that is in the hundreds of GB's.

Contracts are not bad, companies over charging for their service is, they attach a premium(Verizon) because they hold the most power and major market share. Sprint for example has agreements with Verizon for Spring customers use their networks.

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kixofmyg0t

Why on earth would you pay that much for a phone?

Have you never heard of a Nexus?

https://play.google.com/store/devices/details/Nexus_5_16GB_White?id=nexus_5_white_16gb&hl=en

You can still get a T-Mobile prepaid plan for $30 a month. 100 minutes(really, who uses their phone to talk now?) Unlimited Text and Data.

I'm actually about to jump ship from Verizon and take my now band 4 supported DROID MAXX with me to T-Mobile.

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JosephColt

Which is 40 dollars subsidized if you have a contract.

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JosephColt

"(really, who uses their phone to talk now?)"

Millions. Just because you don't does not mean others don't also.

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PCLinuxguy

That $600+ price is by the manufacturer though. they are trying to turn a profit on the phones and are doing so quite well because of such high costs for the devices.

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Renegade Knight

Phone prices would come down if they all had to compete at retail instead of the subsidized lock in system that really doesn't do much good for consumers. We pay more for plans, have bloatware infested phones and limited choices.

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PCLinuxguy

That's what I'm saying though is that realistically these don't cost so much but they are priced for profit.

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wumpus

People upgrade expecting performance increases?

Nobody remembers even the 2000/98-XP "upgrade" (hint, although it likely didn't have the performance issues of earlier upgrades, it still required waiting till SP2 to really work well). Back when desktop CPUs actually needed a bit of power to run the OS, Intel rejoiced whenever Microsoft sold a Windows (3.x,NT,95,98, whatever) as they knew that everybody had to replace the hardware to run the new software (the old stuff only worked well enough to convince you to buy both). Sufficiently old farts may have seen what happened when you tried to run later copies of SunOS on Sun3s (moto 68020 processors): 20 minute reboots.

Mobile CPUs are impressive, but they don't have the power of a desktop CPU. Expect the software to overpower the hardware for quite a few more cycles.

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Weo

A few years ago, I was hoping to use my smartphone as my mobile computer (tried Windows mobile, WP, Android, and iOS). I thought I would just hook up the phone to the TV and use a BT keyboard and mouse. Wow... since upgrading my phones over the years there still seems too many hoops to jump through or wires/devices to purchase to allow this in a mobile setup (for all mobile programs, not just for Netflix)... not to mention repurchasing hardware when upgrading phones. What gives? Why is it so hard or expensive to write a paper or PP presentation on an external monitor?

IMHO, in the USA (and certain other regions), it is the carriers that the smartphone companies cater to. Actual users take a back seat. An example is the rumor that Android 4.1+ has usage as a WiFi router (for carrier notification) built into the code. Carrier's ability to market or use proprietary services, devices, or plans trumps consumer demands in this subsidized smartphone market.

It is this middleman/woman that hurts the tech that end-users are clamoring for. Another example is the "new" yet obsolete smartphones coming out offering dual Simm slots... of course the carriers don't want you to use their subsidized phones with another service. It seems like the producers are negotiating with providers to create a unique pseudo-ecosystem between phone and specific carrier... mirroring a mini-Apple Universe.

BTW, my friends all have Apple phones upgraded every contract they swear by. I've tried them each time they upgrade... no thanks. Locked phones, erased info from cloud upgrades, reduced UI customizability, proprietary connections, etc... and of course I'm their tech 'go-to' guy when they have problems.

Lastly, although I love the fact that Roms are out their for phones, the reliability or bugs (these developers are usually doing this on their free time) make them often unusable in a mobile work environment. I need the services/programs on my phone to work problem free all the time. I don't want to have to reboot my phone or troubleshoot a bug in the middle of a conference call, looking up client info on the internet, or my GPS to sporadically find my location when working abroad.

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JosephColt

1. Breaking down the advantages of a smart-phone over a PC?

2. If the phone is lagging or having serious issues it's simply a piece of garbage, faulty device, or something along these lines.

3. Who cares if people go out and buy the next phone every 2 years. Contract expires, and you buy a new phone with the "latest and greatest."

4. Contracts are good, you get the phones marked down significantly, and they expire when you do need a new upgrade.

5. You can get a Samsung S4 for 150 through Amazon Wireless or a Note 3 for slightly more; and similar for other phones, which is dirt cheap every 2 years on contract.

6. Comparing and contrasting a smartphone to a desktop PC in this type of aspect is asinine.

7. If you've ever thought a smart phone(within the last 3-4 years) should generally be issue free you're completely fooling yourself. You should expect problems with these complex devices.

8. Whats a "real laugh" is your statement.

"What’s really a laugh is when people talk about how they’re glad they’re finally off the PC upgrade treadmill but then fawn over the latest eight-core phone with the 5-inch screen to replace the device they bought six months ago. What, the new GPU in the new SoC is 20 percent faster? Sign me up for another two-year contract!

If people can pay 150-250 dollars for the latest phone every 6 months(Verizon Edge) which is 20% faster processor or GPU wise that is a damn fine deal and you're a fool to think it's a joke. If you even think paying 150-250 every six months is a lot then you likely cannot afford a smart phone in the fist place."

9.Phones are usually faster and have a more features every iteration, they are not simple performance upgrades on a PC hardware wise with nothing else to offer. If it was like 2-5% for and an extra port or feature then maybe you should wait, but 20% is significant if you use your phone for games or multi - task.

10. We live in a world now of disposable hardware, if you think that is good or bad is for another time, but you need to think before posting an emotional rant like this because you suffered from a bad product.

Note: Keep in mind a PC is a personal computer, and a smart phone is exactly that, probably more personal then a desktop computer at that too.

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jeddytier4

JosephColt isn't wrong in what he says, but by being rude people are reacting to his tone instead of the content. Even though his comments really have no meaning in regards to the article, a significant amount of space has been dedicated to responses to him(including this one, I'm aware of the irony).

Mobile carriers do not currently charge a different price for off-contract versus on contract for the same services(I know that you might be able to strip your plan of certain items as you do not have a contract, but the cost of the exact same services does not change). So the only way to make the most of what you pay every month is by using the subsidies as much as possible. I know that some people hate contracts, and that is their right to buy phones somewhere else and put them on their preferred carriers. But keep in mind that since you are going to be paying the same amount as everyone else for service, you are actually spending more money. Verizon and other carriers should not be allowed to charge the subsidy to people not using, but they are so...

Verizon Edge and similar programs are a complete rip-off however. For the examples below I'm using numbers for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c(Today 12/04/2013), while there may be edge(lol) cases that are different, it looked like most of the smart phones are the same. If we bought the phone on Edge and don't upgrade every 6 months, then the "cost" of the 5s would be $651.60. While that is less than the retail cost for the phone, you still pay the same amount for service... Even if you upgraded every 6 months when eligible, the phone would cost $162.90... the current cost with a 2yr agreement is $199.99 so you would save $37.09 by upgrading that quickly. The 5c on the other hand is even worse the Edge cost of 2 years is $553.44 which is higher than the full retail price, again there doesn't appear to be a discount service wise for doing this. The "price" at the 6 month upgrade period is $138.36, since the cost of the phone is $99... I realize that on a normal plan you can only upgrade once every 2 years, but I honestly don't personally know many people that upgrade their phones every 6 months, most are on a yearly cycle, if not a little longer. And in most cases I found that you are better off buying the first one completely subsidized and the new one a year later at full retail as you can trade the one you currently have for most of it's value. Granted there are always cases where this might make sense, but the general rule on subsidies with wireless carriers is that you need to use them every time you are eligible for them to make any sense.

Sorry for the long post, but I want to make sure that everyone saw the facts through the rudeness.

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vrmlbasic

I wish my phone's software took advantage of the speed and cores that it has at its disposal. Tragically my Google camera app will not, to pick an example, allow for any other functionality when saving a panoramic shot. Processing a full panoramic shot (which has severely reduced vertical image size vs a normal picture) can take upwards of a minute.

Google wasn't even smart/kind enough to implement a "queue" where I can delay processing my panoramas until a later time as so I can take more now.

Google's software continues to lag behind the 3rd party hardware so I don't feel compelled to upgrade. It'd be like the AMD problem on the desktop, where there exists a bounty of untapped potential that never lives up to its potential because many developers are too lazy/too biased to use it.

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LakeErieWater

Wait...so you really believe that you are only paying $150-$250 for your smartphone upgrade ....you are sadly mistaken. Verizon laughs at people like you who pay $70 a month for their plan and think they are getting a great deal on a new phone every two years while being shackled down for another contact. Guess you can afford a Smartphone but you can't buy a clue.

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JosephColt

You are probably a complete moron, and just another generic fool who does not even write properly or think things through.

Let me put this as clear as I can.

No matter what you do you will pay a for a data plan if you want a smart phone. Verizon, Sprint, ATT, T-Mobile all charge these high fees to get service.

The cost of a service is irrelevant. You pay these fees anywhere with any company or you have no smart phone.

Paying 150-250 every six months instead of 600-900 for a high end smart phone if it offers reasonable performance and feature improvements is a great deal. Plus Verizon edge will let you upgrade 4 times over the course of your two year contract.

Contracts also offer services at a somewhat reasonable price. Saying contract is irrelevant as you'd be paying for a service anyway, why not just go with the contract, get cheap upgrades and lower monthly prices than if you were not on contract. This isn't to say the prices they charge are fair, not at all, but how much they charge service wise has nothing to do with the aspect of upgrading phones in the previous statement of mine.

What do you use pre - paid basic phones?

Let's see how much you're paying for your smart phone service, that's right the same as the rest of us.

You're clueless.

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PCLinuxguy

You do realize that your $150 - $200 is merely the up front cost and that you actually are paying the full $600+ for the phone (and services) with each monthly payment right?
While it is a nice cheap Up Front cost, you're still paying full price for it within your contract so you're not really saving money/getting a deal.
That's just like saying you bought a $800 PC on your credit card and paid nothing up front so it was like getting it for free, and then paying monthly on the card to pay off the computer. End of the day, you're still paying full price for it, even if it's not up front.

I do agree that a contract isn't a bad thing, as it binds them not just you to certain agreements (such as device replacements etc).

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JosephColt

You ARE paying only 150-250 for a phone. I can buy a brand new phone for 150, and no more. The cost of my service is static for example, and there are no charges for a new phone upgrade.

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PCLinuxguy

No.. no you're not.. If the off-contract version of your phone runs, let's say $600, and you pay the Subsidized Cost of $200 at the time of signing on for the contract, you still owe $400 on the device, not including your service plan in the contract. Over the 24 month span of the contract you pay for the device + service/data (leaving out taxes for this example), meaning that a $40 a month service plan should not cost you more than $40 a month, but guess what, it does, because in that cost you are paying a fraction of the remaining cost on the device until it becomes paid for when the contract ends at the 2 year period agreed upon in the contract.

There is no way a carrier (or OEM) will just eat that kind of loss on devices (not paying more than $100 for a $500+ phone). Heck, even T-mobile explains how this all works on their site: You buy the device and you buy the plan. if you cancel the plan You Still Have To Pay The Remaining Cost Of The Device. Which means the $100 up front cost on a $400 phone means you still owe $300 for the phone and the carrier will get it one way or the other.

Do you really not know how this works, or just trying to troll?

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JosephColt

No, you DO NOT pay for the cost of the phone on the plan.

If I bought a phone and registered it on my Verizon plan or sprint plan after signing up for a contract without getting a phone through them I would STILL be paying the same contract wise.

Verizon is only more expensive on their plan because they charge a premium(rip people off) because they offer a MUCH better service, and are quite powerful overall in this market. Sprint has good service and charges a fair deal for voice/text/data.

There are no charges after paying 150 for an S4 on Amazon for example. The service costs will be the same regardless.

Subsidization is irrelevant as if there was no subsidization service plans would still cost this much. Service plans are simply more expensive because of market power of the large companies. Also if you cancelled a contract and bought your own phone you'd still be paying a contract cancellation fee.

Point is even if you bought your own phones service plans or there was no subsidization plans would cost the same still. Contracts are the best if you want a smart phone, and better phones if you utilize them frequently.

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Renegade Knight

I think you are missing a bit info in your analysis.

If you buy a subsidzed phone and get a 2 year contract. You are 100% right that after 2 years the contract price doesn't change.

As you know Verizon and the others make a profit. At BEST (for the consumer) the 2 year subsidy and contract break is break even. More likely it's profitable since they allow you up upgrade again.

After the two years when we have paid off the subsidy and the contract price doesn't change the profit goes up for the carrier.

The reality is that since the contract price covers the phone subsidy they are overcharging after the contract is up.
It's why carriers like Ting are cheaper. They aren't charging you for the subsidy.

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PCLinuxguy

I may look into Ting.

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PCLinuxguy

despite doing the research and checking with a wireless carrier or two (on my part to back up my claims -Verizon and T-Mobile-), I'd like to know where you get your information from that backs up the whole 'you can buy a new smartphone for $5 even though it's a $700 phone and you never pay the rest of the cost of the phone' stuff.

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JosephColt

Uhm... I got a Samsung S4 for 150 on Amazon Wireless for example...that's it, no more charges on my bills through Verizon(same old static contract bill), simply subsidized; same goes for Sprint.

Contracts give you phones around 25% of their retail cost with upgrades.

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LakeErieWater

You ever heard of an unlocked phone before? You can sign up for service without a contract and switch carriers if needed. For example, I pay $30 a month for my t mobile unlimited data plan that I can cancel at anytime. That is besides the point however, I'm merely pointing out that you are clueless if you think you are only paying 150-250 when you pay for it and more with the cost of your plan, for most that concept is fairly straightforward. Verizon & AT&T love customers like you who really believe they are getting greats deals when they are Locked into an overpriced contract. If you like that and think it's a fair system, good for you, not everyone agrees. If you are buying a top tier phone every 6 months, you don't care about cost, which is fine, but don't think you are fooling anyone into believing that its a good deal for only $150-250...wow.

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Peanut Fox

I've got a smartphone on a prepaid T-mobile plan for 30 dollars a month. Unlimited text and data (First 5GB at full LTE speed and then throttled to 250Kb/s) and 100 talk minutes. Perfect for me. The phone is a Sony Xperia Z1. There's lots of other options out there for prepaid if you're looking.

Although according to you my plan doesn't exist and therefore neither does my phone :(

To me Edge is a raw deal, but if you're the type of person who has to upgrade their phone often maybe it's what you need. Better than Edge is when Verizon had a 1yr contract you could sign up for. You only paid an extra 50 bucks for the phone.

Contract pricing without the 22% discount for me was close to 80 bucks a month on the cheapest plan even without text. It's why I started looking at alternatives.

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JosephColt

You need to realize the costs over a 24 month period is actually about the same if you're buying an expensive smartphone that runs about 600-800.

You're paying for an inferior plan too, if you barely use the phone I guess it's alright.

I can get 15mbps to 25mbps unthrottled over sprints unlimited. Plus if you upgrade your phone every 6 month you can sell off your old one on ebay to pay that months bill.

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Peanut Fox

I'm seeing 18Mb/s downloads on LTE, and a little less when I'm in an HSPA+ area. So I'm okay with the speed. I've never been interested in Sprint as a smartphone provider as their device selection isn't as good as the other options. Having a truly unlimited 4g data plan like I did with my grandfathered Verizon plan would be nice, but I'm always pretty close to wifi. Even if I decide to ignore using wifi for the month, because of how I use my device I don't ever come close to my cap.

As far as it costing about the same I disagree. With my current plan of $30 dollars a month coupled with an expensive $650 dollar device there is a savings of $630 over a 2 year period. If you're getting a cheaper Nexus device it's much more. Even if you get the contract phone for free, it still doesn't match up in this case. Funny thing is that the break even point for me is 9 months. Meaning I could spend $650 on a new phone every 9 months and it would be similar in cost to a 2 year contracted upgrade cycle ($20 more). That setup makes Verizon's EDGE look like the suck.

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JosephColt

1370 with the service of yours and phone for two years, it's a little more for going with Sprint for example to get better service for two years, and upgrades with the option to sell the old device.

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davelray

But the downside to the contract is most of the carriers require you to take a data plan while on contract. Off contract, no data plan requirement. And if you live in an area where wifi hot spots are everywhere, or you need the other functions of a smart phone with no need for constant internet access, then not being forced to pay for a data plan will save you a significant amount of money. This is why seeing phones like the Nexus 4 and, now, the Nexus 5 come out for decent prices and no need to sign a contract will make sense for a lot of people. And I can guarantee I'm paying less over time if not up front by going with a contract free phone and not picking up the data plan than you will be paying on a contract and forced to have to pay for a data plan whether you need it or not. Not to mention the other problems with a contract like the early termination fee, or if you change your plan it restarts the time on the contract without the benefit of getting a newer phone and pushing that upgrade to a newer phone further off.

I don't think you should be calling LakeErieWater a moron just because he has a different opinion from you. There are people out there that do not like contracts, JosephColt.

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PCLinuxguy

Very true as well.

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Engelsstaub

I currently pay $40 per month for way more minutes than I can use and "unlimited" text and web with an iPhone. I hate contracts. I would be easily paying twice what I do now on some contract. I honestly don't care if my next phone is another iPhone, Samsung, Nexus, whatever...as long as it's off-contract and I can get it at a discount.

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John Pombrio

Ting. Some very good discounted phones, no contract, no throttling, pay for what you use. this months bill will be $3.00 for 4G data for two phones as almost all of the MB come through from WiFi.

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AFDozerman

What is it with Android? I've had a galaxy note and an LG... something (it was 3D). I honestly turned back to Blackberry because Android had so many problems.

I considered iPhone for awhile, but my wife has one, and after using it a bit, I couldn't stand it for several reasons, the worst being the keyboard. With as much as I communicate through text, I either need a physical keyboard or swipe.

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AFDozerman

What is it with Android? I've had a galaxy note and an LG... something (it was 3D). I honestly turned back to Blackberry because Android had so many problems.

I considered iPhone for awhile, but my wife has one, and after using it a bit, I couldn't stand it for several reasons, the worst being the keyboard. With as much as I communicate through text, I either need a physical keyboard or swipe.

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devin3627

i used to like android and the slowness got so bad, i went to iphone. when i answered my phone, it woud take 4 seconds to load. this is after cleaning up all the tasks. its as if the new os update was slowing it down so i'd buy a new phone. i was a fail who thought an OS update increased performance when it does the complete opposite.

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devin3627

i used to like android and the slowness got so bad, i went to iphone. when i answered my phone, it woud take 4 seconds to load. this is after cleaning up all the tasks. its as if the new os update was slowing it down so i'd buy a new phone. i was a fail who thought an OS update increased performance when it does the complete opposite.

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Slugbait

What's even worse is that Google doesn't do comprehensive testing, most recently resulting in pulling the 4.3 update the other day. Egg, meet face. I feel for those early adopters who installed as soon as it was available.

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PCLinuxguy

It's solely Google's problem. They offer the basic vanilla Android OS to the OEMS. The OEMs then do their tweaks and themes, etc to make it their own (much like their own Android OS rather than a re-skin) and release it to certain devices in their lineup. If it didn't pan out then it's the OEM that's to blame for not doing their jobs of making sure everything worked before pushing it down to their devices.

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Slugbait

It's not smartphones, it's mobile devices.

I received a Galaxy Tab 10.1 for Christmas two years ago, pre-installed with Honeycomb. The day after Christmas, Samsung finally answered the long-asked question: will it be upgradeable to ICS, which had already been released?

No. Their UI consumes too much memory, so there isn't enough room for an OTA upgrade.

That set off a sh*t-storm. Samsung got their act together, and released 4.0.4...nine months later.

Unfortunately I experienced about a 30% drop in performance with ICS. On the positive side, wi-fi reconnect reliability coming out of standby went from 20% to 90%...disabling and re-enabling wi-fi to reconnect is only needed once or twice a day now. The default browser didn't improve, it kept crashing...as did Firefox and Dolphin. But Chrome is considerably more stable. I gave up on Calendar sync a long time ago, Google just doesn't play nice with others (as many people will attest). After screen lock, the device allows apps to continue draining the battery (iOS is so much better about that).

It was a nice gift, I still use it every day, but it will be my first and last Android device.

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Paper Jam

What's sad about this is that this experience is what drives people away from Android. The vanilla OS is smooth, feature rich, and easy to use, at least from my perspective. But with so many OEMs and so much fragmentation, it's really no wonder so many people have negative experiences. Kit Kat on my 2012 Nexus 7 is great. But more people have Samsung phones than any other Android device, and Touchwiz is a resource hog with multiple reduncies for settings and features that it really is the opposite of iOS. It can't "just work". Other OEM skins are varying in their amounts of bloat, but even the ones that are close to vanilla get loaded with bloat in the form of crappy apps from the carriers. These are Apple's biggest advantages.

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PCLinuxguy

Agreed 100%. That's why I prefer Nexus devices, as I get the AOSP that I want on a really good piece of hardware. If I had to use something other than a nexus, I'd flash it with CyanogenMod to get that AOSP-like experience.

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jason2393

Unfortunately, just working is what I look for with my non-primary devices (now an iPad Mini and an iPod Touch). I don't care about 1,000,000,000 apps being available, or being able to customize anything. I care about being able to turn it on, browse the web, check e-mail, and chat with friends. If it can't do that in a smooth and intuitive way, it's failed, regardless of the extras.

I had a Transformer Prime before I won the iPad Mini. I wouldn't have bought the Mini, but once I used it, I never touched the Prime again. The Mini occasionally annoys me, but it never disappoints or frustrates me like the Prime did on a daily basis. I already have my laptop for that.