Now I Feel Dumb(er than usual)


So I got my iPhone 6 on Wednesday. On Friday morning, I dropped it. It dropped onto the pavement, screen side down. The above is the result.

Well, okay, people drop stuff every day. Just my bad luck that I dropped an iPhone that was only three days old. Made somewhat worse by the fact that I managed to lose my iPhone 5s less than two months ago (though I never spent any money to replace it, knowing the iPhone 6 would be coming soon).

Here’s the painful part. When I bought the phone, I bought one of those oversized Otter cases (the Otter Commuter). It’s a case that has one case within another case and edges that extend higher than the phone screen for maximum protection.

Then on Thursday I decided that case was too chunky in my pocket and got a cheapo slim plastic case. If I’d still been using that Otter case on Friday, probably the phone would have survived the drop just fine. (And no, I don’t mean this to be an advertisement.)

No, I didn’t want to go to Mong Kok and get some cheapie repair job done. Not for the screen, which is so important. And who knows if those shops even have spare parts (original or otherwise) for the iPhone 6 yet?

So I called Apple support. I was told that I couldn’t just walk into a store with the broken phone, I needed an appointment. Then the guy on the phone couldn’t locate the Hong Kong Apple stores (because the call center isn’t in HK, naturally). He asked me for my postal code. So I told him where the stores were. And all 3 Apple stores in HK are fully booked for the next 6 days (no big surprise really), which is as far in advance as that system can show.

Apple has third party authorized service centers, so the support guy gave me the details on those. I called them first to get the story. They’re not doing replacement parts, they’re just issuing new phones. And I would have to pay HK$2,920. And wait 3 business days. Well, either that or junking the thing, so of course I’m going to go for it. (And, when you think about it, it’s a decent enough deal that I can pay roughly 40% of the original price to get a new one when I’m the one who messed up the original.)

I get to the repair place. I go to the counter and show the girl the back of my phone first. “iPhone 6!” Then I turn it around and point at the screen. Her mouth drops open. I ask, “Am I the first?” And they all laugh.

Then the girl panics. I’m guessing she’s used to dealing with yelling foreigners and has already anticipated my response when she tells me what I have to pay. So I look at her and say, “I already know.” She lets out a huge sigh of relief.

So now … waiting for the call to get the replacement. And not going to cheap out on the case for the next one.


Hong Kong iPhone Rant

Well, not really a rant. Just frustration.

If you were to go to the US Apple web site today (as I did just now), you can buy an unsubsidized iPhone 6 and wait 7 to 10 days for shipping.

If you go to the Hong Kong Apple web site today (as I did just now), you cannot buy an iPhone 6. It just says “currently unavailable.”

I tried the system for reserving one for pick-up in a store that day. Woke up at 7:50, got to my computer and just started hitting refresh. Up until 7:59, come back later. At 8 AM, a code. You have to send an SMS with that code to Apple and they send you a reservation code. You then have to input that on the web site. But I was unable to get my SMS delivered until almost 8:20 AM. 20 minutes of “not delivered/try again.” And the result was no phone.

Apple announced that they sold 10 million iPhones on opening day. It’s probably more like, took 10 million orders. Reportedly they are manufacturing 400,000 per day through their various out-sourced suppliers.

Here in Hong Kong, those people who are lucky enough to get through buy as many as they can. (You’re allowed 2 iPhone 6’s and 2 iPhone 6 Plus’s per order.) Mostly they are not buying them for themselves. They’re buying them to sell at a profit.

Word is that all of this reselling is causing Mong Kok prices to drop, but if you consider that the top of the line iPhone 6 plus was selling for up to HK$20,000 in Mong Kok (against a list price of roughly HK$8,000), a 25% drop in price still makes it too damned expensive. And with the drop in prices, there are reports that people are now hoarding them to bring to HuangQiangBei in Shenzhen to sell there. I’ve seen friends posting photos of their purchases on Facebook. Now and then I’ll leave a comment asking if they’d sell one to me and the response is invariably, “No, I want to wait a few days and see how much profit I can make.”

Yesterday the Hong Kong police failed to arrest some smugglers who were loading boxes of iPhones onto a boat in Sai Kung at night. They left behind 15 boxes with 130 phones. Who knows how many they got away with?  We can certainly guess how they managed to get so many.

I’m not going to pay a premium to get one. And I’m not going to order one through a mobile company such as 3 or SmarTone as I don’t want to get stuck into another 2 year contract.

So I just have to wait. It’s just a pain waking up before 8 every morning and sitting in front of the computer only to be disappointed. Frustration grows and my desire to get one grows in proportion to my inability to get one.

Here’s a site that’s tracking availability of iPhones in local shops.  I have no idea of how accurate this information is.  C refers to the shop in Causeway Bay, I to the shop in IFC in Central, F for Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong.



Of course all of this insanity is because the iPhone 6 isn’t available legally in China yet. I almost wonder if Apple has colluded with the Chinese government to make them scarce here to take HKers’ minds off democracy.

I mean, let’s face it, there is no good news in Hong Kong these days. Here are just a few headlines from today’s paper:

  • Rafael Hui got secret $11m payment from Beijing
  • Scuffles break out as students call on CY Leung to meet for talks on political reform
  • Ex-housing boss to lead arts hub (so it won’t be an “arts hub” much longer, but who ever expected promises to be kept?)
  • Thousands join Hong Kong students’ democracy protest as classroom boycott begins (okay, a grand statement, but it won’t change a thing)
  • Ex-civil servant who poured boiling water on maid avoids jail
  • Beijing to take a more active role in Hong Kong’s affairs (so “one country two systems” didn’t make it 15 years, let alone the promised 50)
  • One in five Hong Kongers “considering emigration” as pessimism hangs over city
  • Beijing shifts from indulgence to hard line on Hong Kong

And lets not forget about how last week Hong Kong’s air pollution hit new record highs as Guangdong factories went full-speed to pump out as much product as they could before the week-long break starting next week.

So yeah, I’d rather think about getting an iPhone 6 because the real news is just too fucking depressing.

UPDATE: Yes, writing this post unjinxed me. This morning I was able to get through the reservation system and have a iPhone 6 reserved for pick up today. Last night while doing some checking around, I found that local Chinese language web sites DCFever and HKGolden have hundreds if not thousands of ads for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. While most people are asking for relatively extreme mark-ups, there are also quite a lot listed at just HK$100 or $200 above the regular list price. One sort of tip for HKGolden – if you’re trying to register there, I’m told they will actually only accept registration from certain email domains. In other words, I was unable to register using my email addresses from Gmail, Yahoo or Netvigator. One friend, who works for the local government, told me he had to use his government email to be able to successfully register there.

iThoughts on New Apple Stuff

First off, as most of you know by now, every year Apple announces new iPhones and iPads and every year I write “hmph, not that much, not going to bother” and then get the fever and rush out to buy it as soon as I can. So I’ve given up pretending to resist. I want the new iPhone 6.

The livestream of the Apple event introducing the new model was a total mess for the first 30 minutes. First of all, someone please tell Apple that it serves no one in any positive way to require that you use the Safari browser to view the livestream. It’s just spiteful, short-sighted, stupid.

Some brainiac had the idea that the live video would be on the top half of the web page and the bottom half would be an auto-refreshing live blog. Why they thought this needed to be on the same page, I can’t even begin to guess, let’s just say lazy thinking. But the result of bad Javascript code that wasn’t properly QA’ed was that every time the blog portion at the bottom of the page refreshed, the video also refreshed and went back to the beginning again.

Also there was some sort of error in the control booth so for the first 30 minutes or so, anyone who did manage to watch the livestream heard the Chinese translator, her voice mixed louder than Cook’s. I thought at first it was some geo-checking thing happening only in Hong Kong; it turned out it was global.

It’s really a shame that a company that’s been doing this for so long – and that was introducing what appears to be some really good stuff – should be set back by these avoidable errors.


So the deal in Hong Kong was that 3 PM Friday, you’d be able to go to the Apple web site and reserve up to 2 phones for delivery starting on September 19th. But the store was down until almost 3:40 PM. When it did finally open, it wasn’t working properly probably due to a large number of people hitting the site.

For me, it meant that I could reach the site, could choose what I wanted to buy (iPhone 6, space grey, 128 gig)(my wife said the gold color was unlucky for me since I’d never lost a black phone and I think the Plus is too large for my purposes) but then hitting the “select” button would just bring me back to the beginning of the process again. The phone never went into my shopping cart. Note that I was trying to do this on a MacBook and using Safari, with no luck.

Over at Twitter, I saw tweets from a lot of people having the same problem.

And yet, each time as I refreshed the page, I’d see the delivery date slipping. September 19th. Then 1 to 2 weeks. Then 3 to 4 weeks. Then “currently unavailable.” The pre-orders sold out within two hours.

One friend of mine told me she finally had success when she switched from trying to order on her PC to ordering via the iPhone Apple Store app. She has multiple iTunes accounts and ordered four phones.

The major reason for this is China. I don’t believe they’ve announced the release date for China yet – probably due to extra time needed to clear some regulatory hurdles there. So that means, once again, that everyone in China is trying to get their iPhone from Hong Kong.

The Chinese language HK newspapers published the prices that the shops in Mong Kok would pay for new iPhone 6s and 6 Pluses. The 64 gig 6 Plus, for example, they’d buy from you for HK$13,000, a hefty profit over the retail price of just over HK$7,000. Presumably they will try to sell it for up to HK$20,000, at least initially.

So not only is everyone in China trying to get one, everyone in Hong Kong is buying as many as they can, figuring if they can sell a couple of them up at Sing Tat in Mong Kok, they can make a nice sum of money.

Apple does not seem to have anticipated any of this. So while the iPhone 6 didn’t immediately sell out in the U.S. (at least insofar as I can tell from the Apple blogs I follow), in Hong Kong pre-orders were exhausted within two hours, with no word as to when the process will resume.

On the 16th, you can start to use the app to reserve phones for in-store pickup. As I recall from last year, ordering starts at 8 AM and each day orders were sold out by around 8:02 AM.

Since I don’t want to extend my mobile phone contract by another two years or pay a premium in Mong Kok, if I’m going to get one then I’ve got to buy it direct from Apple. I find that I really miss my 5s (lost in a taxi in Manila in August). The fingerprint sensor was a huge thing for me. I’m almost tempted to go and buy a used 5s – the market will probably be flooded with them very soon. When I lost the 5s, I knew it was just a month before the 6 announcement, so I was hoping I could have the new one in hand soon after that. I should have known better. I think I’ll be lucky if I can find one before November.


In case you didn’t already know this, U2 has their first new album in 5 years and Apple arranged to give it away for free to everyone who has an iTunes account. That’s roughly half a billion people. Billboard reports that Apple will be spending $100 million on the marketing of this album. No word on how much they paid to U2 for this.

The thing is, everyone who has their iDevice set to automatically download purchases found the entire U2 album installed on their device, essentially without their permission. This has pissed off a lot of people.

And that leaves the question – why U2? Sure, they have a long standing relationship with Apple. They can still sell a fair amount of records but they’re far less consequential or notable than they were 10 years ago or more. With Apple upping their music game with the Beats acquisition, one wonders why they didn’t pick something more current (as Samsung did with their huge Jay Z stunt). My guess is that this was chosen as an album least likely to be found offensive by most people. The album itself? Pretty much of a piece with their last 2 or 3 albums. If you liked those, you’ll like this. I’ve played it once so far. It’s okay only.

Apple Watch

Note that it’s Apple Watch, not iWatch. Looks like Apple is finally moving away from the “i” branding on mobile devices?

Ben Thompson has an interesting take on the introductory presentation.  He notes that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Jobs spent a fair amount of time describing the need for this kind of device before revealing the device itself. Tim Cook took a different approach, showing the Watch right away and leaping into the description.

On the one hand, it might be easy to say that this is because Apple can’t speak to what niche this is filling, that they’ve done it simply because they’ve sensed there’s a good potential market for one.

On the other hand, in true Apple fashion they appear to have put a lot more thought into how such a device would function than any of their competitors.

There are three different models at two different sizes each.  Apple only announced a “starting at $349″ price. They also didn’t announce the date it would be available, only that it will be out next year. I’d say they did this to get 3rd party developers working on apps and also because it will probably put a major dent in sales for Jawbone, Fitbit and all the others currently out there. Apple also didn’t say anything about battery life – reports are that it will need to be charged daily.

All of the fitness tracking stuff – well that’s a proven market with lots of players in the space already. Forget sleep tracking if this needs to be charged daily.

The stuff with doodles and emojis, I think that’s clearly meant to be pitched at a generation that has abandoned wrist watches. Give “the kids” something cool to play with and they’ll start wearing watches again.

My initial take on the watch is why would I spend $350 or $500 for a device to wear on my wrist that in large part is only replicating the functionality of the phone that’s already in my pocket? Also, these days, you buy a watch and you know it’s going to last for 2 or 5 or 20 years. Just put it on, change the battery once a year, you’re done. You know that Apple will announce new models of this every year – do you want to upgrade your watch annually just as you do your phone?

Derek Thompson over at The Atlantic has written the most interesting piece I’ve come across so far on why the Apple watch could be a huge success. He reminds us that many analysts predicted the iPhone would be a failure. And that the Watch may be a new category of technology rather than just something that extends the current category.

Our projections of a piece of technology that’s just been invented don’t matter compared to the factors that actually drive adoption, like widely read reviews and the user experience of your colleagues, friends, and family. 

Me? I’m not going to say that I won’t get one. I’m going to wait until it comes out. I want to read the reviews, I want to see how the apps are functioning and extending its usefulness.


Hong Kong Prices for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Apple starts taking orders for the new iPhone on September 12th. You can order online starting at 3 PM that day for home/office delivery, which starts on September 19th.  Or from 3 PM September 16th you can use the Apple store app to reserve a phone for in-store pick-up starting on the 19th.

Here’s the prices for an unlocked, unsubsidized iPhone.

iPhone 6:

  • 16 gig – $5,588
  • 64 gig – $6,388
  • 128 gig – $7,188

iPhone 6 Plus

  • 16 gig – $6,388
  • 64 gig – $7,188
  • 128 gig – $8,088

I know I’m buying one of these since I lost my iPhone 5S last month. I think I will go with the “regular size” iPhone 6 – undecided if I will go for 64 or 128 gig but I suspect that 64 will be enough.

I might post some thoughts about the Apple Watch later. My initial thought is why buy something that replicates most of the functions (aside from the fitness tracking) already available from the costly device in my pocket?

Smart Watches?

Wearable tech is the big thing for 2014, or so the pundits tell us. The jury is still out.

Right now the stuff that’s doing well in the market are wrist bracelets that provide a variety of health and exercise related functions. I’ve got the Nike Fuelband, a gift from a friend, I wore it for about a month and since then it’s been gathering dust. Jawbone and other companies are doing okay in this space as well.

Of course there’s Google Glass, which right now costs US$1,500 and is only available in very small quantities to an invited audience. It will become more widely available at a more reasonable price.

And there’s smart watches. The most successful company in this space so far has been Pebble. They launched a couple of years ago via Kickstarter with a $149 watch that could link to either an iOS or an Android device via Bluetooth. The screen is a backlit eInk screen and it runs several apps. This year they’ve released the new Pebble Steel at $249. It’s a fine looking watch, at least as far as smartwatches go, and I was momentarily tempted to order one.



The thing that stopped me is that it’s $100 more for what is now two year old technology – they updated the case and the wristband but the tech inside the case is still the same.

The most disastrous smart watch launch to date has probably been the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It only pairs with Samsung devices – but considering that Samsung phones are outselling just about everything else, the potential audience is wide enough. However version one received almost universally horrible reviews and reportedly returns were running well over 30%.

Samsung has just announced version two, and interestingly enough it will no longer be an Android device.



It will use something called Tizen, a new Linux open source OS backed by Samsung and Intel. (Samsung is also expected to announce its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy 5, this week.)

Of course the 800 pound gorilla in the room is still Apple, which is expected to announce their own watch at some point this year. It seems like anyone who has Photoshop is working overtime to create images of what the iWatch might look like.

apple-iwatch-features apple-iwatch-rumor iwatchCUT_2497756b

I have both an iPhone 5s and a Samsung Galaxy S4. I still prefer my iPhone by a wide margin. That’s the one I use all day long. The Samsung mostly sits in my pocket, only getting pulled out for business related use and left plugged in at home on the weekends.

So I will wait and see what Apple comes out with. The way I figure it, I don’t need all the apps I’ve already got on my phone on a smaller screen on my wrist that I probaby won’t be able to read without glasses. But the extra notification of incoming calls and texts would be useful. I keep my phone on silent most of the time and very often won’t notice it go off even though it’s in my pants pocket as I’m walking down the street.

The wrist watch is another business that has probably been disrupted by smart phones. The luxury watch business is doing fine, and probably always will. But a lot of people around the world who will never buy a Rolex are asking why they should wear something around their wrist when there’s already a clock on the phone that’s always in their pocket (or in their hands).

For now, I’m sticking with my Casio G Shock.

New Apple Stuffs

First off, I should mention that one month after release, it’s still very difficult to get the iPhone 5S in Hong Kong – especially if you want the gold one. I “registered my interest” with my mobile carrier back on September 17th for a gold 64 gig model and am still waiting. Just checked the Apple HK web site and it says 2-3 weeks for the black or white models, the gold one is unavailable and you can’t even place a pre-order for it.

(Why do I want one? The fingerprint sensor and better camera would be useful for me, worth the upgrade if I’m doing it contract/subsidized. I feel no desire to run over to Sin Tat and buy a grey market one.)

As for yesterday’s Apple news, in case you haven’t read it yet elsewhere, new iPads and MacBooks.

The “big” iPad is now called the iPad Air, because the size has shrunk down a bit and it weighs 1/3rd less. Inside, there’s the same A7 CPU that the iPhone 5S has. People were expecting it to also share the fingerprint thing but that didn’t happen. The pundits I read have all been going ga-ga over this and I’m at a loss to understand why. This is innovation? A little bit smaller, a little bit faster – but nothing really new to speak of. Maybe once I actually hold one in my hands I’ll have a better idea but basically I was glad that I didn’t stay up late to watch the live-blogging of the event.

The iPad Mini got the same A7 sensor and now boasts “retina display,” a bigger upgrade from the previous model. For my tired eyes, I prefer the larger iPad. The size and weight are not a problem for me.

The MacBook Pro got Intel’s latest Haswell processor – better battery life. So that’s the innovation there – shoving in a processor made by another company. The 13 inch retina display model also lost a bit of weight. My 15 inch retina display MBP is a couple of years old now and it’s tempting to trade that in for the latest 13 inch model. Aside from my own MBP, I managed to convince my employer to replace the crappy Dell that was sitting on my desk when I started with a 13 inch (non-retina display) MBP and I’m happier for it.

I guess the real innovation from Apple is that the latest OS upgrade, Mavericks, is free. And on the mobile side, Apple’s iWorks suite is now also free with new devices.  I’ve upgraded my work machine but won’t get to my home one till the weekend.

It’s iPhone Madness Time Again!

Friday was the release date for the new iPhone 5c and 5s. And while it’s simultaneously available in the mainland, that hasn’t stopped people from coming across the border to try to buy them here. Why? The SCMP says:

“But it’s better than buying one on the mainland because the quality of Apple products sold in Hong Kong is better.”

Xiao Xuan from Beijing agreed: “Hong Kong products are made to the British standard.”

Heh? Exsqueeze me?

The SCMP also says that iPhones cost $1,000 more on the mainland due to “exchange rate differences.” I would have thought it’s because foreign goods have VAT in China but not in Hong Kong. Or maybe not.

Either way, I’m on the fence about getting a new one. I haven’t decided how much the faster CPU, better camera and fingerprint sensor would mean to me. For the hell of it, I did “register my interest” with my mobile provider, and once they notify me they have stock, I’ll take a look at the subsidized plan offerings and consider it. I don’t think I’m going to shell out HK$7,188 for an unsubsidized 64 gig model.

Checking the HK Apple online store now, I see that the 5c (basically the same as the 5 but now wrapped in plastic instead of metal) is “available to ship in 1 to 3 business days.”

For the iPhone 5s, it says “available to ship – October.” That’s if you want the grey one or the black one. If you want the gold one, it says “available to ship – currently unavailable.” So pretty clearly this is the one that people are lusting for.

While I think the gold color looks quite nice, the front face of the phone remains white and most people will buy cases for their phone, covering up the gold rear and sides. So what’s the point?

Incidentally, I did upgrade my various devices to iOS 7 this week. After all the media brouhaha, I’m finding far more things I don’t like about it than things I do.

New iPhones Coming

And all the predictions were pretty much correct. The “budget” iPhone 5c seems to be basically the 5 (without a 64 gig option) in 5 colors – making me think of the iMac in 1998. The big news here is that in the US, with a 2 year contract, the 16 gig model is $99 and the 32 gig is $199. Hong Kong pre-orders start on September 13th, priced at $4,688 and $5,588 – no contract, unlocked. (Someone has already commented on Twitter that the snazzy cases Apple will be selling for the 5c appear to have been designed by Crocs.)

The new iPhone 5s upgrades the CPU to a 64 bit chip, adds an extra chip for more motion-aware stuff, a new camera with a larger sensor and a bunch of new features, a fingerprint scanner and claims of greatly improved battery life. Available in 3 colors. 16 gig, 32 gig, 64 gig. Orders in Hong Kong start on September 20th and the price for no contract, unlocked is $5,588, $6,388 and $7,188.

Both will be simultaneously available in China, so barring price differential (the mainland has tax on imported goods, HK doesn’t), perhaps we won’t see the same insanity at the HK Apple stores as we’ve seen in the past.

iOS 7 will be available to download free on September 20th 18th.

As for me, on the one hand I was hoping for more while on the other I was thinking, there’s really nothing else left. The “s” model is an incremental upgrade and I suppose any real innovation will wait for the iPhone 6.  I’ve never had any cause to complain about the speed on my iPhone 5 but then again, I’m not much of a gamer. The fingerprint scanner strikes me as something that would be nice to have but far from essential.

Right now I’m not seeing any major reason to upgrade my iPhone 5. I suppose it might make sense for someone who has the 4s.

Tech Tip: Freeing Up Space on Your Hard Drive

Note that my desktop PC runs 64-bit Windows 7.  This tip may or may not be useful for people running Macs.

My C: drive is a solid state drive.  The suckers are expensive compared to traditional drives and come in much smaller sizes.  Mine is 224 gigabytes.

I’ve got things set up so that only programs go on that drive.  I’ve moved my Documents folder over to my E: drive so when I’m saving files, by default they’ll go there instead of on C.  Some programs save data to the C:/Users/xxx folder without asking, and with many you don’t have the option to choose another drive. Lazy programming, I call it.

Anyway, I noticed today that my C: drive was running out of space. I do have a lot of programs installed but even so, I didn’t think I possibly have 210 gigs worth of programs sitting there.  I searched through the drive manually (I know there are programs to help with this but I don’t have any).

What did I find?  The back-ups for all of my various iOS devices were eating up more than 80 gigabytes of the 224 gig drive.  And that was including back-ups for devices I had long since sold off.  iTunes doesn’t know you’ve sold something off and no longer need the back-up; you have to manually delete the back-up yourself.

You’ll find the folder in YourName/AppData/Roaming/Apple Computer/MobileSync. iTunes won’t let you move the back-up to another drive and the individual backup folders have “helpful” names like b0d32fecd8d1fb3c8c4efb152f1dc243a2f27798.  At least they have timestamps on them, so I figured I could safely delete the old ones.

I have 4 active iOS devices – my gf and I each have an iPhone and an iPad.  Fortunately iTunes doesn’t back up everything – that would have destroyed my hard disk.  Even so, the back-up for my 128 gig iPad (which has about 80 gigs of stuff on it at the moment) takes up 20 gigs.  On the other hand, the back-up of my gf’s 64 gig iPhone took just 600 meg.

I now have just 4 back-up folders there, one for each device, each device newly backed up in the past hour.  The total file size has gone down from over 80 gigs to 33; more than 45 gigs of space freed up.

I could “archive” these to another drive and then “restore” them if and when needed.  But then every time I go to sync, (which I do almost daily) iTunes will think there’s no backup at all and do a new one and the deleting/archive process takes a little bit of time. I’ve recovered enough space on my C: drive for now, so I’ll let them remain. I’ve got 65 gig free now – also because the last time I created a new Lightroom catalog I wasn’t paying attention and that ended up on my C drive, but that was easy enough to fix.

So anyway, if you’ve ever sold off an iPhone or iPad, find the backup folder and see how much space you can recover this way.

Thinking About a New Phone

My new job has brought with it a torrent of email. I’ve only been there two weeks and I’m getting between 150 and 200 per day.  Yes, most of this is via distribution lists, but I still need to look at a lot of it. In addition, I’ve set up a second Skype account for business use only.  And since the company reimburses one’s phone bill, I’ve come to the decision that I will get a second phone for business.  However, I’m not going to go out and buy a phone per se, I’ll do one of those “free with contract” deals, one of those things where they reimburse the cost of the phone back to you over the life of the contract.

Since I already have an iPhone and don’t want to have 2 identical phones, I’ll be dipping my toes back into the Android waters.  I’d had a Samsung Galaxy S2 for a short time – one reason I didn’t like it was the cheap-feeling plastic back.  And at the time I didn’t like having to juggle between multiple Android stores plus the iTunes store for my iPad.  But this time out the second phone will be primarily used for phone calls, email, Skype and documents.  I’m assuming that any games I play or media I consume can remain on my iPhone.

There are three hot Android phones right now, though only one is actually on the market as of this writing.  That’s the Sony Xperia Z.  And yeah, that’s one I can get for $0 with a Smartone contract.

The Sony is being touted as the best smart phone Sony has ever made, and it probably is. It’s main selling point seems to be that it is waterproof – use it in the shower (!) or at least don’t worry if you drop it in the toilet. It comes with all of the stuff one expects in a smart phone these days, along with a beautiful case.  It has a 5 inch screen but some of the reviews I’ve read noted that you have to look at the screen straight on, it looks a bit odd from an angle. Some reviews have also noted software bugs and some finickiness when trying to sync it with a Mac.

Then there’s Samsung’s Galaxy S4, which will be released in Hong Kong before the end of April. Will it be free with contract? Or will there be such a long line to get it that one would have to pay thousands and wait months?  I don’t know. I see that it still has the same crappy plastic back. But it possibly has the best hardware inside and also has Samsung’s nice enhancements to the basic Android interface.  One commercial has been touting a Samsung specific translation program – in the ad a woman speaks into it in English, presses a button and it speaks Chinese to her Shanghai taxi driver. When he answers her she presses again and it speaks the English translation. Does it work well? Is a translation app enough of a differentiator?  I’m not sure.

There is a third contender and that’s the HTC One, also coming out this month in Hong Kong. Before Apple released the iPhone, HTC was possibly the global leader in smart phones, with only Blackberry as serious competition. Then the iPhone came out and HTC has been a perennial also-ran.  The HTC One is their attempt to get back into the game. David Pogue, in the NY Times, says it’s the most beautiful phone he’s ever seen.  The screen resolution, at 468 ppi, is the highest available (this month anyway). The camera sensor isn’t being measured in mega-pixels, it has 4 ultra-pixels (I’m sure that’s a marketing gimmick).

However, unlike the Sony or the Samsung, there’s no memory card slot. And the one review I’ve read on it takes a little issue with HTC’s enhancements to Android.  But, as David Pogue writes, “Wow, is this phone packed. It’s ridiculously fast. Its camera, screen and speakers take first place in smartphones. And hey — did I mention how beautiful it is?”

So right now for me it’s a tie between the Samsung S4 and the HTC One – depending on the availability of both once they are released as well as my ability to get one for free (with contract). I’ll only consider the Sony if I can’t get my hands on either of those for “free” by this time next month – which is when I think the amount of emails and calls I’ll be getting will be seriously ramping up.