Here are some of the few online services I consider worth paying for…
I have been using this service since I first got my XBOX 360 in 2006. I was at first very sceptical about paying to play games online, after all I’ve paid for the game so shouldn’t the online play be included in the price? Having seen other free alternatives however (Steam on the PC, and of course the PlayStation network) XBOX Live seems a more cohesive service. Starting games is simple, as is inviting friends to voice chat. A nice way to waste some time on a Sunday afternoon.
£4.99 / month (I got an annual pass for about £27, look for special offers)
Audiobooks are a great way to “read” while you’re doing other things, in the gym, in the car, doing boring household chores, or sometimes just when falling asleep. The monthly subscription gives me a book each month (which when some of them are over 30 hours long, will easily last that long) and is genuinely a good way to get more reading time in. There’s an Android app, and books will play on the Kindle too.
£6.99 / month
DropBox is a neat online backup service. While Windows Live Mesh is technically superior, you can’t get more than 5GB of storage as you can with DropBox. Therefore I use it, and it’s very useful to have all your documents available wherever you are. If only the software would make is easier to sync existing folders (currently it’s a longwinded process involving symbolic links) I wouldn’t feel the need to be looking for alternatives all the time. Still, it’s a good price and the features they do have are very useful.
$9.99 USD / month
I am still on my free trial of Spotify, after having initially been sceptical about “renting” music rather than owning it. Being able to try out albums is great, and now they have offline access for mobile phones it’s actually not a bad product. I have discovered a lot of new music using sites such as BBCify, which I would never have done without Spotify. It’s a shame not al of the music labels have signed up, that is misguided in my opinion. The desktop client it a bit clunky – a classic case of “design by committee” but the underlying functionality is worth the money.
£9.99 / month
Having been using the phone over a month now (nearly 2), I have a good idea of what I think of it and how it compares to the iPhone.
The user experience is no where near as good as the iPhone. A good example of this is when I enter the contacts app and press the Search key. The search field does not automatically get focus so I have to tap at the top of the screen (having just pressed the search key right at the bottom), and then move back down again to begin typing. It feels awkward and unpolished. Then there’s the bundled apps. Like a new laptop, the phone was bundled with lots of OEM crapware, it seems HTC want me to use their Twitter client and there’s no way to delete it (or even remove the icon). What is it with hardware manufactures being wannabe software companies? Just like those pointless Wifi utilities or Launcher bars the likes of Acer and HP used to bundle in with their laptops (HP even made their own Media Centre, the Me Too Edition). Anyway, it’s a small annoyance but the abundance of so many icons is sure to confuse a lot of people.
The battery life is abysmal. It will last a day if you don’t use it much, but if you do use it frequently then you’ll need to take a charger around with you. The iPhone wasn’t great, but the battery would always last a day and have plenty left over. On the other hand, this is the price you pay for having a much more powerful device in your pocket, one that actually can multitask (The iPhone currently just pretend to, save for a few limited tasks) and once you get used to that, I think it would be hard to go back to a single-task based system. Being able to have the phone download new podcasts automatically every night, update Google Reader on schedule is a breath of fresh air for anyone who used to do that 5 years ago on their Symbian or PocketPC based phone – and then (like me) switched to the iPhone when it was the big thing. There are numerous ways to improve battery life, the best is to turn off background data – which kind of defeats the point of having such a phone, but it’s nice to know you could i theory get a couple of days out of it if needed, great if you ever go camping at a festival (although the camera sucks the battery a lot too).
For all it’s UX faults, I prefer Android. You want Wifi Music Sync? There’s an app for that. Free SatNav? There’s an app for that. Tethering over Wifi? There’s an app for that. Want to download the latest albums? Guess what, you can do that too. In fact, there’s an app for almost anything there is on the iPhone, and the Android version is nearly always less restricted and cheaper. The exception here is games, but I’ve still found a number quality gems, just less of the big names. So I can’t say I miss iOS much, except for the eye-candy. Maybe iOS 5 will sway me next time.
A highly recommended phone.
Console games still do of course, but how long for?