The Lure of the Sirens: Phone Widgets

trs-80From the age of around 10, I fell in love with computers.

More specifically, I fell in love with the TRS-80. Which may give some indication of my age, and the length of my love affair with computers and gadgets.

dick-smith-wizzardMy first “computer” was a Dick Smith Wizzard at around 12 years old.

I would fiddle, and file, change settings, and PEEK and POKE, and RUN and CLEAR.

I had the patience of a saint when it came to waiting for things to run, and loading programs from cassettes.

I then upgraded to an Apple II+ compatible called the Atex 2000. It was awesome. It looked like an IBM PC with a separate keyboard, but had the guts of an Apple.

Basically I would change things all the time, slowly finessing my computer environment to get things just the way I liked them.

Then I got my first IBM Clone with Windows 3.1. So many settings to fiddle and adjust. So much time and energy invested in computer exploration.

CGA, EGA, VGA! Things just got better and better. So many options!

Windows ME, XP, Vista!

And then came the mobile phones. Nokia after Nokia.

Monophonic ringtones, polyphonic ringtones, real tones, true tones!

I moved excitedly to Windows Mobile 2003 devices. ActiveSync and all kinds of new things!

palm-treo-750I continued to do adjust and explore moving on up to the various settings on my Palm Treo 750 Smartphone with its cutting edge Windows Mobile 6.0.

And then I heard about Widgets.

I couldn’t wait to get hold of my Samsung Omnia i900 so I could have widgets. Widgets seemed like the perfect front screen of a smartphone. Everything at a glance, just the way you wanted it.

But the Samsung Omnia was a very average phone. So was my subsequent HTC Touch Diamond. But at least it had a better looking clock.

Widgets it seemed, were not all they were cracked up to be.

At this point, everything changed. My wife bought an iPhone 3G.

Where had this been all my life? It was so easy to use. You could use your fingers. No stupid stylus to click on the tiny “x” in the corner. Everything worked.

So I got myself an iPhone 3GS. Wow.

I got it running pretty much perfect. And everything just worked.

Then I got an iPhone 4. Woah! Glass and metal magic!

Apple_iPhone_4SThen an iPhone 4S. Yes. Bluetooth LE.

I had started staying up late, or waking up early to hear about the latest iOS updates from Steve Jobs. Every release just got better and better with more and more cool stuff.

But it was around the time of the update for iOS 5 that I started getting itchy feet. I had heard about these “iPhone killers” and I started to read about them. They were interesting, but not interesting enough to give up the Apple ecosystem.

But there was this nagging feeling again: Widgets.

My iPhone was lacking widgets, and with each iOS release there was speculation of widgets. But they never arrived.

With the release of iOS 6 and no widgets, I was feeling that I was missing out.

I had recently purchased an iPhone 5, which was a thing of beauty, but the same old front widgetless screen just seemed old to me.

Even Andy Ihnatko had moved from iOS to Android.

So I did my research, and finally jumped ship.

I wanted a flagship Android phone, but not one of those plastic Samsung bloated Galaxy things. Yes Samsung, I still remember the Omnia.

I gave my iPhone 5 to my wife and I bought a shiny new HTC One (M7).

black-htc-one-m7What a lovely phone the HTC One was. And a lovely big screen with all that real estate. It felt good in my hands.

I had now entered Freedomville. Population: Me and all the other Android users.

None of this being told by Apple what I can and can’t do. I can do anything I want. I can install anything I want.

I started to fiddle with Widgets. Look at these wonderful widgets. You could even buy and install more widgets! I had so many widgets I could see the weather temperature in four different font sizes and styles, all at once!

Look at my aquarium backdrop… now look at the lightning strikes on my moving backdrop!

For a while, it was nice to fiddle. Even though not everything worked exactly as expected.

Then I realised my flagship Android device didn’t have the latest version of Android. My research had also suggested that all the strange issues I was having would be fixed with the upgrade of my Android operating system to 4.2.2.

Ok. I’ll just install the latest version. Wait, what, no update available? I knew it was out there, but why couldn’t I get it?

Oh I see, HTC hadn’t approved the release of the latest version of Android for the HTC One. That’s strange, but I kinda get it.

Each day I read blogs and speculations about when it would be released until finally it was. I hit the button. Hang on, there was still no update available.

Oh, apparently Telstra (my telco carrier) had not approved the release of the latest version of Android for the HTC One. The more I read about it, it seemed like there was just one bloke dedicated to testing the upgrades to all the phones, and he was begging for everyone to give him a break.

Meanwhile, I was finding that some of the exciting things I had installed on my freedom device were not playing well together. It started reminding me of the old days of the Wild West of Windows computing. You’d install a funky new screen saver only to find ads popping up unexpectedly, or something else stopping working. This never happened on my iPhones.

Every day I was solving a new problem or being completely lost in the settings of my Android operating system.

And sadly, the widgets were no longer making me happy. In fact, they became annoying as none of them did exactly what I wanted. Everything was a compromise. There was too much choice and too many options and nothing worked 100% as expected.

And don’t even get me started on the lack of decent email apps for anyone who is not primarily a Gmail user. And yes, I tried just about every single one (free and paid).

Even the big screen started annoying me, as I couldn’t do as much with a single hand. Damn you stubby thumbs!

Then it dawned on me. I’m getting too old for this sh*t.

A few weeks later I sold my HTC One on eBay and went back to my iPhone 4S.

There was something calming about it. Something nice. It was like being home again.

My iPhone was a nice cozy blanket.

Everything just worked as I remembered.  I didn’t have to fiddle any settings.

I didn’t miss the widgets one little bit.

Interestingly enough, with the release of iOS 7, just about everything I need to know is now sitting nicely on my screen when I unlock my device.

And there is not an annoying widget in sight.