“So, What Phone Should I Buy?”

Normally I try to avoid reading, much less write about, the sloppy thinking and lazy writing that passes for “tech blogging” these days, but this muddled article trying to “answer” the question “which phone should I buy” was too much.

Now, if you’re my mom, this is the part where I’d say, “well, what do you want to be able to do with it?” Twenty or thirty minutes later, we’d rough out a list of maybe two or three phones, then we’d go into carrier stores and have her try out devices while I fight off pushy reps with smooth conversation (or, failing that, fists). But when I’m having a casual conversation with a casual acquaintance, that’s often not a practical solution for either one of us. So out of sheer laziness, what’s my stock response?

“You know, honestly, just buy an iPhone.”

And mind you, I’m not proud of saying that. I’m not trying to push Apple products, and I don’t currently own an iPhone myself. Rather, it’s a very selfish piece of advice: you see, by suggesting a phone to someone, you become, on some level, “on the hook” for that individual’s post-purchase satisfaction. You’re going to hear the good and the bad. You’re going to get the late-night emails and instant messages asking what to do when Angry Birds freezes. And maybe — just maybe — this person is going to like you a little bit less if you recommend a phone they don’t like.

Why is the author not proud of saying that, and why does saying so mean he’s pushing Apple products any more than he would be pushing the products of whatever vendor makes a phone you could recommend “in good conscience.”

That’s not to say I don’t love Android… I do. The Galaxy Nexux is the best smartphone I’ve ever used (which is why it’s in my pocket as I write this). But anyone who’s used Android at length knows that it requires more care and feeding to make it great than iOS does. Spec-for-spec, Android’s raw potential is greater — but it takes more elbow grease to get it there. It’s no different from desktop operating systems for the past thirty-plus years. Different strokes for different folks.

What does “the best smartphone I’ve ever used” mean in the context of this article? Does the author mean it the way Walt Mossberg or David Pogue would mean it, namely that the author thinks most people looking for a new smartphone should buy it? It sure doesn’t sound like it, since he just said most people should buy an iPhone. I guess what he really means is that the Galaxy Nexus is the best smartphone he’s ever used for his preferences and needs, but doesn’t think it’s quite ready for primetime for most people.

The article doesn’t even really attempt to answer the question posed at the outset. Instead we’re walked through a muddle of thoughts from someone who wishes he could recommend his personally preferred phone to other people but knows he can’t because it’s not good enough.

An article like this makes a better entry in one’s personal diary, and has no place as an article in a technology publication.