Guide Me, O Phone Gods

It’s been about a year and a half since I switched from Windows Phone 7 to Android. I was happy with Windows Phone, but I felt like I was missing out on a big part of the smartphone experience: the apps. WP7 was so new that there weren’t a lot of apps. The biggest and most popular apps generally came out for iOS first, followed by Android, and then, sometimes, they’d make their way into the Windows Phone store. I switched to Android, and I felt like I was joining the rest of the world in terms of apps.

In addition to the apps, it was the ability to “unlock” features like mobile hotspot by installing custom ROMs that drew me to Android. The free mobile hotspot is the main reason I’m considering sticking with Android, too. I know that other carriers give you free mobile hotspot with a metered data plan, but I’m sticking with Sprint’s unlimited data for the foreseeable future.

Upon making my switch, I had been running a very stable, very good Gingerbread ROM, and I ran it for over a year. It started to feel stale, and I upgraded to Jelly Bean. I love the updated look and feel of JB, but I’ve had unreliable GPS, poor battery life, and other assorted problems as I’ve hopped from ROM to ROM in search of stability. It’s a tough spot to be in. On one hand, I’m free to upgrade as quickly and frequently as I like. On the other hand, there are always defects, and the quality is ultimately at the mercy of the development community for my specific phone. My phone’s not getting any younger, either, so that community that I depend on is shrinking each day. Getting back to a stock ROM isn’t an option. The phone–a Galaxy SII–is too old, so there won’t be any updates coming from Sprint, and I can’t go back to Gingerbread or even Ice Cream Sandwich after getting a taste of Jelly Bean. And there’s no way I’m going to exchange my mobile hotspot for a bunch of Sprint bloat.

Windows Phone and iPhone are looking like better and better options. I’ve been really happy with my Surface, and I liked my Windows Phone 7. But will I again be dissatisfied with the amount of apps available to me? My wife has an iPhone, and it always seems to “just work.” There aren’t a lot of people that I know who don’t like their iPhones, but what if iPhone has peaked? Is joining in the post-Jobs era a bad move?

My friend that originally convinced me to move to Android tells me that I just need a new phone, and maybe that’s the case. And, to his credit, I’d be pretty happy if everything always worked on my Jelly Bean phone. If I stick with Android, I’ll probably keep it stock–I’m just not interested in keeping up with custom ROMs and the defects that come with them. I’m worried that I’ll be happy out of the gate but grow frustrated with the lack of updates over time.

I’ve still got a few more months before I’m eligible for a new phone, so I have time to sort it out. I’m confused, vulnerable, and directionless. Maybe I’ll just get a BlackBerry.

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