Changing my religion? Well, not really…

On September 12, 2007, I bought my first iPhone. At the time, I described the move as “inevitable”. Over the next few years I upgraded, first to the iPhone 3G and then to the iPhone 4. And I loved them all.
But a couple of weeks ago, I switched. One year to the day after getting my iPhone 4, I visited my local AT&T store and bought a Samsung Infuse 4G. And since I did this, many people have asked me the same two questions: “Why?” and “What’s it like?”
First, why. In a word, curiosity. I wanted to see what things were like outside Apple’s walled garden; to experience the chaos of competition in handset design, carrier features, and application delivery channels. I had used an Android G1 while traveling in China, and I’d found it intriguing and quite capable. I was fascinated by the attempts by Samsung, HTC, and Motorola to push the technical boundaries in such areas as screen technology, multicore CPUs, 4G wireless, batteries, and cameras.
I might have been more reluctant to make the move except for the fact that I wasn’t going to be giving up the iOS world entirely. I still have my iPad, so I can still run almost all of the apps that I had become used to. And where it counts I’m as much of an Apple fanboy as ever: I still live my life on a MacBook Air and an iMac, running MacOS X Lion (and testing iCloud). My work machine is a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. So in a sense this represents addition rather than substitution.
One other point: unlike my heavily-hacked G1, I decided not to unlock the Infuse. I wanted to be able to use it for corporate email without violating company security policies…
So what’s it like?

  • It’s big. 5.15 x 2.77 x 0.36 inches. It works for me, but several people have said that it’s too big to fit comfortably in the hand.
  • The screen is big and gorgeous, though it washes out badly in sunlight.
  • It’s noticeably less stable than the iPhone. I’ve had to reboot it at least once a week.
  • There are several stupid “features”, mostly due to Samsung. When you put it in the charger cradle, it automatically beeps and starts a fancy cradle app with lots of colourfulwidgets. You can turn off the screen, which reduces the distraction. However when the battery finishes charging, the phone beeps and turns on the display, with a message to remind you to unplug the charger. This is intensely annoying at, say, 2AM. And that’s about the time that recharging finishes, because…
  • … battery life sucks. That is to say, I can just about get through a full day on a charge as long as I don’t do much with the phone. However, since I use it for reading personal and work email, and for managing my calendar, I usually find that the charge icon is orange by the end of the afternoon. I’ve reluctantly bought an extra charging cradle for use at work…
  • It’s chatty. Lots of notifications all the time; lots of background processing going on.
  • Some of the major apps are horribly intrusive. The Facebook app seems to take over various media types, preventing me from playing music or videos. UNINSTALL. Skype wouldn’t just restrict itself to handling explicit requests; instead it tries to take over regular telephone functions, like dialing from my contacts. (This “feature” interacts horribly with my car’s BlueTooth phone feature.) UNINSTALL.
  • Integration with MS Exchange Email and Calendaring at work is better than the iPhone. I’m using the built-in software; I didn’t bother to explore any add-on email clients.
  • When I can get 4G coverage from AT&T, this sucker is fast. Very nice. And it’s a slightly better telephone than the iPhone 4.

More anon.