Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taking Your Questions (Shout-out to Turkey)

I was checking the stats for my blog and was surprised to find that I must have at least a few readers in Turkey. So I salute you Turkey readers! Thanks for reading! Hopefully, I can expand into Bulgaria soon. Very happy to have 3,500 pageviews! Hope to reach 5,000 by the end of the year. (UPDATE: I'm over 4,800 on November 22nd.)

I wanted to use this particular post to solicit questions from you. Anything is fair game. Technology, education, philosophy, politics, religion....ANYTHING. Ask away.

You can submit your questions by commenting on this post, or you can e-mail them to me at

You can also send suggestions for future topics I should tackle on my blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top 4 iPhone Alternatives

Blackberries never intrigued me. Why pay for a data plan just to get e-mail and SLOW internet on a small screen? I was fine with my laptop and a simple phone to make calls. I had a flip phone for a long time. Then my students started showing me their iPhones, and like the lady in Napoleon Dynamite who lusted after Uncle Rico's model ship, I said, "I want that."So about four years ago I purchased my first iPhone. I remember walking out of the store and not being able to take my eyes off of it. It was the closest thing to my first day with an Atari 2600.

Imagine Uncle Rico is my student, the boat is an iPhone, and I am the woman.

iPhone 3 - my first smartphone
So I purchased an iPhone 3 and fell in love. Two years passed, and the iPhone 4 was a no-brainer. In my mind, nothing on the market in 2010 compared. The 4 served me well so as soon as I heard the iPhone 5 was being released, I put my name on the waiting list.

While waiting for my iPhone 5, I began doing research into other phones. I didn't expect to discover anything that would tempt me to stray from Apple, but I did. There are several new phones that intrigue me. They offer larger screens, more customization, microSD card slots, and other features not found on an iPhone.

iPhone 4 - my most recent phone

iPhone 5 - an amazing phone
Apple puts all of their eggs in one basket. They make one phone, and they make it well. They had such a head start that nobody could touch the iPhone for years. Now the game has changed. While the iPhone remains an incredible choice, it is no longer the clear choice for everyone seeking a premium smartphone.

It's not that you can go wrong with an iPhone. It's just that there are options out there for you now, and you should explore them all before you commit the next two years to an iPhone. After hours and hours of research I am offering you my top 4 iPhone alternatives. Like the iPhone 5, these phones come with an 8MP camera and a front-facing camera. They all offer incredible speed and plethora of great apps. Deciding which one is right for you depends on which specs you value the most, including price.

So here it goes.

#4 - Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx - Motorola makes solid phones. This one has a 4.3 inch display and is one of the thinnest phones on the market. It comes with 16GB of storage with a microSD card slot expandable to 32GB and a 1.2 GHz dual core processor. The biggest draw for the Razr is its battery life with talk time up to 21.5 hours or standby time of up to approximately 15.8 days. To put that in comparison, the iPhone 5 numbers are 8 hours of talk time or 9.4 days on standby. This phone is a great choice if battery life is of primary concern to you, but in term of specs, size, and capabilities it pales a bit in comparison to the next three phones.

#3 - HTC One X - This is an incredible phone. I held the phone side by side with a Galaxy S3 and the 4.7 inch display is stunning. It seemed brighter and crisper than the S3. The problem for me was that my provider only carried the 16GB model and HTC did not include a microSD slot. I've also heard that the phone comes with about 25% of that 16GB used up with bloatware. Many tech savvy folks purchase Android phones and root them to eliminate this pre-loaded software and give them more control over the OS and the phone itself, but doing this voids the warranty and can cause issues if you don't know what you are doing. If storage is not an issue for you, this might be your phone. Besides the crisp display, the phone comes with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and Beats Audio. It also is a great choice for the cost-conscious buyer. My provider offers it for $99 with a 2-year contract. It's an amazing phone at that price.

#2 - Samsung Galaxy S3 - The Galaxy S3 is widely considered the best Android phone on the planet right now. My wife has an S2, and I was am not overly impressed with it, but the S3 is a huge step forward for Samsung. The 4.8 inch display makes the iPhone 5's screen look tiny. My only complaint is that the display is not as bright as the One X or iPhone. NFC (Google Near field communication), a microSD card slot (expandable to 64GB), a removable battery (dope), and several neat features and applications set this apart from the iPhone. The latest version of Android (Jelly Bean) will be coming soon to this 1.5 GHz dual-core device. An overview video of Jelly Bean is included below. I've used it on my tablet and LOVE IT. Does that make the S3 a better phone than the iPhone 5? It depends on who you ask. What is clear is that Samsung has made a phone capable of turning iPhone devotees' heads, as it did mine. The gap has officially closed. This S3 varies in price. My local provider sells the 16GB model for $199 with a 2-year contract.

Want to see what Jelly Bean is like?

#1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - This will be my next phone. It will be released sometime this fall and will likely cost around $299 with a 2-year contract. I was intrigued by the first Note, but I was in the middle of a 2-year contract when it came out. The Note 2 is a "phablet," a cross between a phone and a tablet. The smallest tablets are about 7 inches. The largest phones are about 4 - 4.8 inches. At 5.5 inches, this falls in between. It is probably too large for some people and will look odd when using it as a phone, but I've never minded looking odd. I am all about function over form. This device is still beautiful though. It looks like a larger Galaxy S3. Another thing that sets it apart is that it comes with an "s pen" for taking notes, drawing, and a host of other very cool capabilities. The 1.6 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM should make this a very powerful device. As with the S3, the Note 2 has a microSD card slot so that you can expand up to an additional 64GB. The Note 2 will come with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) already loaded. One of the cooler features of this update is the inclusion of Google Now (mentioned in the video above). The new Google Search works almost as well as Siri. One of the main reasons I was set on getting an iPhone was because I wanted to experiment with Siri. When I tried out Google Search on Jelly Bean, I felt like I would not be missing Siri too much. I suppose the biggest drawback is that this will likely be a device that requires 2 hands on many occasions. If that bothers you, go with the S3.

The iPhone 5 is one of the greatest pieces of technology on the planet. If a smaller, HIGHLY intuitive, beautiful phone with plenty of power is what you seek, there is nothing better. Apple will eventually fix its maps issue, and while the screen is smaller, it is truly a marvel in terms of clarity. It is also currently the fastest phone in America, out of the box, according to the benchmark tests I've seen. The iPhone starts at $199 for the 16GB model with a 2-year contract. The 32GB is is $299, and the 64GB is $399. If you love the way Apple products work, you are sure to love this offering as well.

For me, it is time for something bigger. Spend ten minutes with a Samsung and your iPhone just seems unacceptably small. I have to admit that part of the Samsung lure for me is that I get to learn a whole new operating system. I get to experiment with widgets and other neat Android features that I have been missing as an Apple user. While I may eventually wish I had opted for the iPhone, I am confident Apple will still be making phones two years from now. If the Note 2 isn't everything I believe it will be,  I'll either sell it or wait impatiently for the iPhone 6.