Jim Cloudman

Back on the Applesauce

September 10, 2016 Permalink

My tech gadgetry history has been a big, sloppy mess this past year. My experience with watches has been particularly fraught:

  • Bought a Moto 360 (1st gen), returned it immediately because it was crap.
  • Bought a Samsung Gear S2, the bands & the development environment I was working in both fell apart rather spectacularly.
  • Bought a Moto 360 (2nd gen), returned that one immediately because it was also crap.
  • Bought a Huawei watch, used it for months until I decided I hated charging watches, and gave up on all "traditional" smartwatches (if something that's only been around for 2 years can even have traditions).
  • Bought a Withings Activité and now it's one of my favorite possessions.

As you might have guessed from the above, I've been using an Android phone for the past year. I couldn't argue with the price of the plans, and Google's Project Fi is a really impressive network around here. However, my circumstances changed and I switched networks, and found myself going back to iOS. Those same circumstances provided the opportunity to get a new notebook, having sold my XPS 13 last year.

So now my laptop and phone are Apple gear, and I hope that I don't end up switching them anytime soon. As such, I put a good deal of thought into my needs for both, and I came up with a couple odd answers. Instead of getting a MacBook Pro and preordering an iPhone 7 like you might expect, I have bought a 12-inch MacBook and the iPhone SE.

The MacBook has plenty of detractors. One port? A super shallow keyboard? A trackpad that doesn't actually click? Am I mad? Maybe, but let's leave that aside. Crucially, none of these things matter for my use, which is as a secondary, portable computer.

I only need to charge it and plug in a mouse, and Bluetooth works fine for the latter. I actually somewhat like the keyboard, probably because my style of typing is mostly slamming my fingers into the keys. The trackpad I'm not a huge fan of, but it's good enough. For these compromises, I get a very small laptop with a beautiful screen. For what I use it for, it's solid.

The iPhone SE I just got yesterday, taking advantage of the most recent price cut on the 64GB model. I'm going from a Nexus 6P, which is iPhone 6 Plus sized. Going from a phablet to a 4-inch screen is a shock... but you get used to that after a day or two. Having a swipey keyboard like GBoard helps a lot with typing, and reducing the text size helps with information density.

The biggest issue is that some apps, mostly newer ones, were not really designed to be shrunk down to the old 4-inch screen size. I've yet to find an app that didn't work, but there are several apps where the buttons and UI chrome take up too much of the view. I also had issues hitting the handy 1Password shortcut buttons on login screens. For the most part, though, I've found it to be a refreshing change to have a phone that I can actually hold and use in one hand, and I still prefer the iPhone 5 design to the current 6/7 generation. The Leica-like look and feel somehow feels more substantial than any of the more modern iOS offerings, and in a sea of iPhones 6/7 and Android copies, the SE and 5-series phones remain unique.

iOS 10 also resolves many of the things I liked Android for. The notification dropdown and the widget pane are now two different swipes, and it makes using both much more enjoyable. HomeKit is awesome for controlling the Hue lights in my apartment, and Night Shift has been long overdue.

Maybe in a year I'll have sold these for whatever new shiny thing catches my eye, but at the moment these tiny gadgets are growing on me.