There comes a time in every tech geek’s life when they have to ask themselves a question – “What else is out there?” There was a time when every platform – iOS, Android, Blackberry, PalmOS/webOS, Symbian, etc – offered something unique to the mobile space. They offered something compelling to keep you locked into their own ecosystems, so that you wouldn’t dare stray afield. These days, that is becoming less and less of a concern. Platforms are catching up with other platforms and there is a lot more parity then there used to be. This isn’t universally the case, but the field is being narrowed down by the market. “Other” is becoming both a smaller and more inclusive category as once-popular brands fall below a threshold.
We’re here to talk about the “Others”. Fanaticism has its place in mobile technology. Communities and evangelists emerge from all the great platforms. They will stand on a platform and yell to anyone who cares to listen that theirs is the best platform and all others are simple forgeries. It’s rather akin to sports teams and their fans when it comes to the level of enthusiasm that fans have for their teams. It’s more than just an interest or a hobby. It’s a deep seated love of a platform, or team, or whatever, that those who do not love it cannot understand.
Different, but the same
There is one major difference between mobile fanaticism and sports fanaticism though. One key differentiator between the two fandoms which largely goes ignored by mobile enthusiasts. Sports teams (and their fans) always have another season. When the Cubs lose, as they inevitably do every single freakin’ year, Spring Training is right around the corner and with it another year of hope and ultimately, futility. But when a mobile platform dies, much like our leader image, it’s game over.
It’s almost like that one bad relationship. Everyone has to have that one bad relationship where things are great, and then not so great, but you convince yourself it’s great. But you’re really a stressed out mess who can only find happiness in that one special person who has a special talent for ripping your heart out repeatedly and sautéing it with garlic and just a hint of lime. Then one day, you wake up, maybe while you’re still with them, maybe not, and you literally punch yourself in the head because seriously, what in the living hell were you thinking? You stayed in that relationship for much longer than could rationally be called “healthy” and you vow to never do it again. Unless you’re Brad Pitt, because then you just adopt another kid.
I had my bad relationship. Her name was Palm and she was a doll. At first she was tentative with a cute little PDA and some movie playback capability. Then she blew my socks off with cards and Just Type, and an adoring community that surrounded us and made us better. But then she turned. Now I don’t want this to seem like Palm got bad in any way, she didn’t. She just didn’t get very good. She never lived up to her promises, nor her potential and finally, she went away. And long after she was gone, I sat by the phone and waited for her to call. But then I woke up and I asked myself, “what was I thinking?”
Now, I have a much more all-encompassing relationship with technology. I’m not a “Palm guy”, or a “Windows Phone guy”. Microsoft could decide tomorrow to shut down its mobile operations and I would just move on. Windows Phone happens to be my favorite platform, but I’m not going to live and die by the holy word of Satya. In a way I regret that. My inability/refusal to immerse myself in the love of a platform really does leave me a bit sad. I feel like less of a techie because of that lack of passion for a single platform, but at the same time, I’m more of a tech writer because I’m not limited in my view. In my time at Pocketnow I’ve written about close to a dozen mobile platforms because of my lack of focus on one platform or another. I love the technology as a whole, not the single executions of a platform. It’s like going to a museum because you love art, not specifically Georgia O’Keeffe.
But there comes a time, folks when one has to honestly ask themselves, “Why? Why do I keep on pushing with this one platform that even the OS’s parent company as seemingly abandoned. webOS, Bada, Symbian, Blackberry (they’re not coming back, people). Trust me, I understand the need and desire to hold on. I still host webOS meetups for crying out loud! But there comes a time when it’s just time to let go.
What time is the right time?
For everyone, it’s different. Without getting into a lengthy (and pointless) “Want vs. need” conversation, we can touch upon the basics. Do you need your tablet to have Netflix? No, I guess not. Do you need your phone to be able to check in to Foursquare? Not technically. As long as you have a good web browser, you’ll be able to do a lot of things. The experience may not be as good, but you can deal with that right?
I guess, as long as you’re happy with what you have, then sure, run with it. But I’m going to encourage you to experiment a little. Just, pop your SIM into another phone for a week, and see how you like it. If you’re like me, it’ll open up a whole new world. T-Mobile in the US is running a 1-week trial of iPhones and its network. Try out the iPhone and the network. Other phones and OEMs have similar trial periods. Now do some research, and ask yourself, “if my platform stopped working tomorrow, what would I go get?” Go get it and try it out. If you like it, keep it. If you don’t, at least you tried and you can carry on with more informed disdain.
There’s a place for us
Fanaticism has its place in the world, I’m not saying it doesn’t. But there is a difference between backing a horse and beating a dead one. I was never unhappy with webOS, but looking back, I wasn’t happy much in the later years either. Once I was able to move on, I could do so with my eyes open to possibilities. I could revel in what was possible instead of cursing what wasn’t.
My relationship with webOS was memorable, but ultimately it had to end. I will remember webOS with the utmost fondness and smile when I think about our time together. If you are holding on, you might want to consider doing the same. It’s important to remember here that, unlike that bad relationship, we’re talking about phones, not people. There are no broken hearts on the other end of that portrait slider. In the end, the only broken heart is yours.