The Ubiquity of Multiple Devices

One of the less obvious takeaways of my previous post was that I assume the availability of multiple devices for my computing needs, both creative and consumptive.  I became acutely aware of the assumption a few minutes ago, writing a post for my fireapplered.net weblog.  I was using my MacBook Pro to write the post, while using my iPad to update the Jetpack plugin on all my WordPress sites.  And my iPhone was occasionally notifying me that it was once again my turn in one of my current LetterPress games or another.

Remember when we had to share time on a university mainframe to get access to computing power?  Well, actually, I realize that probably most of you don’t remember that, but I do.  I remember how incredibly empowering it felt when I got my first computer, a truly personal computer, that sat on my desk for me to use anytime I wanted it.  And now I’ve got no less than three computers offering me their services at any given moment.

How specialized these devices have become, while they are concurrently became more general-purpose.  I have text editors and word processors on all three machines… and access to web services that serve similar purposes.  Right now, for instance, I’m using the editor baked intoWordPress to create this post, an editor that I could easily access with any of the devices currently within arms reach.  I’m using the MacBook Pro, because I grew up with computers having keyboards attached to them and that is still the way I am most comfortable entering letters.  The soft keyboard on the iPad is a wonder, and I am facile enough at using it that epublishing using only iOS devices is absolutely possible (which is what fireapplered.net is all about).  It’s also handy to be able to use the iPhone to edit posts and other text in a pinch, but no one would say it’s an ideal way to do the job.

So even though I have three devices that are all general purpose enough that it is hard to think of a type of task I can’t attack in some way on all three of them, I find myself turning to a specific device based on how I prefer to approach the task.  Rather than having a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench, I’ve got three devices that will all pound nails, turn screws, and hold bolts but do so in ways that make them fit for slightly different situations of pounding, turning, and holding.

A for instance.  All three of these machines allow me to record and edit music, in a general purpose sense.  And I have used all three for that purpose.  But I tend to use a specific device for specific circumstances.  If I suddenly find myself with a lick or lyric line in my head, I use the iPhone to capture it by humming or singing.  If I’m hanging out at the sound board for a band I know and want to capture the performance, I’ll use the iPad with a portable interface to record the stereo mix off the board.  If the band is getting together to work on a demo recording, I use the MacBook Pro and a full interface to capture multiple performances on different tracks simultaneously.

Like I say, the devices are getting both more general purpose and more specialized at the same time.  It’s a great time to be a developer.

Ihnatko, Android, and the Space Between Devices

So, Andy Ihnatko has a new column up about switching from his iPhone to an Android device… specifically, a Samsung Galaxy S III. At first, this only registered for me because, to be blunt, I’d never much cared for Ihnatko’s writing, and in a previous life, I’d basically written him off as an Apple mouthpiece that wouldn’t be able to get a gig outside of Macworld. By the time Johns Gruber and Moltz had both linked to it without apparent irony or ridicule, I was curious to go read it.

It’s just the first part of what promises to be three columns, and everyone has their preferences concerning how they use their stuff. But the first read-through left me wondering what he was talking about. His first big complaint, “When I’m typing fast, I’m accidentally triggering speech-to-text All. The. Freaking. Time.” is apparently so bad that “This is the single iOS quirk that makes me hate my iPhone.”

That’s just never happened to me. I’m not trying to say he’s wrong or that you shouldn’t believe his review, I’m just saying I have no frame of reference for it. It’s never once happened to me.

Likewise, his second reason for de-switching is the larger screen size of the Galaxy compared to the iPhone… he complains that reading a book, watching a video, or reading comics is easier on the larger screen.

I’m not feeling this one, either. I mean, all those things are the reasons I carry this iPad with me wherever I go, right? Because you just can’t do them right on a phone.

I realized that Andy and I simply use our devices different ways, and choose different sacrifices and compromises along the way. It is nice that my iPhone will let me read books or watch videos or write weblog posts if I’m stuck without other options, but none of those things are why I carry my iPhone. I have an iPad for those tasks, because I would not be happy doing them on a smaller device. I don’t even see the appeal of the iPad Mini… It’s too small and cramped to do the things I want. Hell, I’ll start the line for the MAXiPad now, the one with the magazine size 9 x 12 inch display.

Andy doesn’t have the same requirements I do for casual reading, watching videos, and reading comics, so the Galaxy works for him in a way it would not for me. I don’t require my iPhone to be a volume text entry device, so it didn’t fail me the way Andy’s failed him.

I mentioned not caring about the iPad Mini, I don’t care much about the Mac Airs for much the same reason: because of the specifics of how I use the devices, the Mini is both too big to substitute for my phone, and too small to substitute for my iPad. The Mac Air is too big to substitute for my iPad, and too small to substitute for my MacBook Pro.

I wonder if Andy ever considers ditching his iPad for a Mac Air?