Computers still necessary

Lily Choi | The Oswegonian
Lily Choi | The Oswegonian

About a week and a half ago, I was in my room chatting with my roommate one minute and cursing at the blinking folder icon on what should have been my MacBook Pro’s boot screen.

Now, if I had a PC, this wouldn’t be much of an issue; I’d just have to buy a new cable and install it myself (or have someone else do it for me). Alas, because this was another quality Apple product, I had no choice but to schedule an appointment at the Apple Store in Destiny USA the following Monday, which meant I had no choice but to spend the better part of a week with only an iPod touch, smartphone and tablet (a Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Tab 3 7.0, respectively) to serve my daily computing needs.

As infuriating as the situation was, I saw it as an opportunity to work more closely with my Galaxy Tab 3, a Christmas gift that had been gathering dust until recently. If recent goings-on in the world of mobile smart devices is any indication, there will likely come a time in the not-too-distant future in which tablets and smartphones replace laptops and desktops as the primary consumer-grade computing devices of choice, and as such it’s good to be prepared. My situation was as good a time as any to test how far mobile technology has come.

I realized pretty early on that one of the primary reasons why I barely used the Tab 3 in the past had to do with it being the odd man out as an Android tablet running alongside an Apple laptop and iPod. Let’s face it: One of the factors of Apple’s success is the way in which iOS and Mac OS X play nicely with each other in a wide variety of contexts (which, with the release of iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite, have improved significantly). This kind of device synergy isn’t as common among Android devices, as there are too many devices on the market to account for.

Hardware-wise, my 2-year-old Galaxy S3 and one-and-a-half-year-old Tab 3 are still fairly middle-of-the-road, which is impressive given the pace of rapid iteration in consumer electronics. Both can run Android 4.4.2 rather smoothly, which can’t exactly be said of iOS 8 and my fifth-generation iPod touch. Nevertheless, the Tab 3 suffers from a severe lack of storage space, as 8GB is far too small for the growing size of modern apps, and its 7-inch screen is too small for my purposes. Also, the innards of both the S3 and Tab 3 are starting to show their age, with most smart device processors leaving them in the dust performance-wise.

But alas, a platform lives and dies by its available apps, and although the Android operating system is more powerful and far more customizable than iOS, fewer apps have Android functionality due to the deep market penetration of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, thereby encouraging app developers to focus primarily on iOS at first and port the app to Android in the future. Also, while Google Play is far more organized than the App Store, too much of an emphasis is placed on superfluous apps that one has to wade through a swamp of garbage in order to find the apps that are actually useful. I have yet to find any word-processing app that compares to Pages on Mac OS X and iOS, much less a free one. Indeed, while not everyone may need word processing software on a tablet, I have a Bluetooth keyboard and case for a very good reason; after all, typing with an on-screen keyboard that lacks haptic feedback is lame. Also, the selection of quality mobile games on Android is abysmal, which is a big deal for a budding game designer like me. After all, I never got to experience the awesomeness of Spaceteam because the Android version came out about a year after its initial iOS release, which just happened to be months after people stopped caring about Spaceteam.

In the long run, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re not quite at the point where a tablet-only setup is sufficient for most people. Smartphones and tablets are useful secondary devices, which is fine for now, but until devices with a greater storage capacity, larger screens and general hardware specifications become more affordable, I’ll happily stick to writing the column on my MacBook Pro and saving the Android devices for email and Temple Run.