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I gave away my iPhone for a Galaxy S4

My escape from the walled garden is complete.

I have used a jailbroken iPhone as my primary cellphone for a long time. I think since the iPhone 3G, if I am not mistaken. While my tablet runs Android and I run Windows and Linux on my computers, I have been a solid iPhone user. Truthfully, I wasn't planning on switching off the iPhone anytime soon, either. I have been waiting for the iPhone 5s to come out and assumed I would upgrade to that, as I skipped the iPhone 5. That all changed last Friday, though, when I unexpectedly escaped Apple's walled garden and bought a Samsung Galaxy S4.

How did this sudden turn of events take place? Well, it started last Wednesday when my wife dropped her iPhone in the dog's water dish. While it was only in the water a moment, it was ruined. It wouldn't take a charge, the speaker would not work, and the volume control was done too. We tried all the usual methods to dry it out. We used a blow dryer, rice, hot air and cold air; nothing worked. Finally, Friday my wife said she couldn't do her job without a phone and we needed to get a new one.

I met her at the AT&T store. She was upgrade-eligible and we looked at her choices. The Windows 8 phones were nice but didn't do it for her. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One (my older son bought a One earlier this month) I thought looked spectacular. But my wife is not a techie and said the idea of learning a new phone system was not something she wanted to do. That left us with the iPhone 5. I could not see buying the 5 and locking into a two-year contract for a phone that was going to be replaced in a few months. I was thinking about how to stretch her phone out until the 5s comes out.

That is when the AT&T rep, Sasha Romanoff, had an idea. If I liked any of the other phones, I could get one of them and my wife could take my iPhone 4s. While the idea of getting my hands on a new phone had me tingling, I was concerned about one thing. My hotspot capability with my jailbroken iPhone. I asked Sasha about personal hotspots. She told me that with our new family mobile share plan, hotspot was included. Wow, I didn't have to jailbreak to do it anymore. Well, that took the last obstacle down for me. Now to pick which phone I wanted.

It really was between the HTC and S4. They are both great phones. Nice screens, great sound. The HTC phone came with 32GB of storage. The Samsung base model only had 16GB. But since you could put a microSD card in, that was not a big deal for me. Since my son had the One already, I was somewhat familiar with it. I decided that I would go in a different direction and give the Samsung a try. So I picked the 16GB model in white. Sasha had my old phone switched over to my wife's number, and in no time I had my phone.

Once we got home it was a bit of a rush. I had to factory reset my old iPhone and then restore a backup of my wife's phone to it. That was easy. Now to the Samsung. It is slick and pretty, no doubt about it. It also has lots of bells and whistles. So many things to play with. I was reminded of my first Japanese car after owning American cars all my life. It was a Honda Accord and it seemed like there were so many bells and whistles compared to my old Ford and Oldsmobile cars.

Having run Android on my tablet I knew some of the must-have apps. But the Samsung has an ecosystem all its own. I did some searching on Google to find out what were the top Galaxy apps. I actually read the quickstart guide.

That night I headed over to Best Buy and picked up a 64GB microSD card for only $49.99. Now, on-board storage was not a problem. One thing I was pretty amazed at was the keyboard. It looked so small, I thought my fat fingers would never be able to type on it. But the Swift Key technology that Samsung uses in the Galaxy S4 works like a charm. I found it easier to use and more accurate than the iPhone keyboard.

The speakers on the phone are spectacular. I love playing music on this phone. One problem, though, was trying to download music from Google music to the phone. You can choose to keep on device, but good luck trying to find those files to use for a ringtone or anything. But this isn't Apple's walled garden. I was able to find an app that downloaded the Google Music to my regular music folder on the phone. With all of the storage on board, I downloaded 25GB of music. This way, listening to music does not use up my bandwidth.

My phone also came with a bunch of AT&T apps. Most of them truthfully are not worth the space, but one I do like is the AT&T Road Control. When my phone is going over 25MPH in the car it can filter out messages, phone calls and notifications. It can send a message to the person trying to contact you to inform them that you are busy driving. It takes away the temptation of texting or talking while driving. For me, this is a killer app.

Other things I like about the phone are the Android Widgets. I have set up about four screens, and each one is anchored by a widget taking up about a third of the page. One is the weather widget, another is the NY Times widget (it seems you get a free NY Times subscription from Samsung with the phone), another is the Flipboard widget, and finally I am using the Samsung Hub widget. I don't know how long I will use the Samsung Hub, though, as I don't find myself using it that much at all.

I like the voice control, the S Voice, which is like Siri, and air control that shows what a message says if you hover over it. The camera is 13 megapixels and takes outstanding pictures. Lots of editing options without downloading a separate app, too.

I haven't really had it long enough to complain about battery life yet. I will have to see how that goes. The display is big and beautiful. It has taken me two or three days, but I understand all of the features now and have the phone set up the way I like it. 

I have to say that I think this phone is far superior to the iPhone. There is just so much more you can do with it. Apple better start pushing the envelope if it doesn;t want to get left behind. Both my son's HTC One and this S4 make the iPhone look old and slow.

Of course, this is assuming you use your phone for more than just phone calls. I often wonder if all of these extra features and capabilities are just window dressing to hide the fact that the quality of most cellphone calls still stink.

In the meantime, I have climbed over the wall and escaped that walled garden. I am loving life outside in the free world. I can't imagine what Apple will have to do to get me back.

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