Going Multi-platform Mobile

When Apple initially released the iPhone back in 2007, our family jumped on the iPhone bandwagon. The iPhone could do just about anything we needed the device to do: check email, make phone calls, send text messages, and surf the Internet on a relatively fast (for the time) 2G or 3G network. The industry had come a long way since the Palm Pilot!

Fast-forward a couple of years down the road with the kids a little bit older and now it was time to think about giving our 11-year old a cell phone mainly for communicating, but with perhaps a side benefit of entertainment in the form of games and YouTube videos. The kids had been ensconced in technology from a young age – Wii, Xbox, Leapfrog, Nintendo DS. So a cell phone would be a natural fit for kids from generation “T” (for Technology!).

In fact, our older son had always been fascinated with electronic “appliances” – washing machines, dish washers, laptop computers, and his favorite of all, the vacuum cleaner. This young boy was so mesmerized by vacuum cleaners, that he once surrounded our Hoover with alms as if making an offering to the vacuum gods. The bestowal included some high-end sandals Mom had bought for him, a stuffed animal, and a paper plate of food!

We were pretty well invested in Apple when it came time to provide him with a phone. We used my wife’s upgrade through our wireless provider to get her an iPhone 4 and we gave her iPhone 3G to my 11-year old son. Since I had committed to a two-year contract with my wireless provider, I continued using my iPhone 3G even as far more advanced phones hit the market.

My older son was so interested in computer technology that he had become the family’s IT administrator for anything related to our mobile phones. When Mom or Dad ran into an issue with their iPhones, he was certain to be able to address the issue, which was often pilot error. So he had quickly learned how to use the devices, but also how to manage them with iTunes, how to properly back up the data, and plenty of more things that Apple and our wireless provider would prefer that customers “do not try at home”.

When it was time for son #2 to get a phone and my upgrade was available, we had to make some bigger decisions about which types of mobile devices to buy. Apple was no longer the only game in town. Blackberry was still around, but Android had earned significant market share and Microsoft had improved its Windows Phone platform to the point where the new Nokia smartphone was the phone to beat for camera aficionados.

The $64 million question was do we stay with all-Apple ecosystem (get further tied into Apple!), switch to a different platform that might be less costly, like Android, or do something completely different and go multi-platform?

I had been reading a lot about all of the latest devices and had heard good things about new Nokia devices for Windows Phone. Mom wasn’t likely to want to switch to something other than an Apple device, but our older son was more interested in tinkering. He’d already jail-broken his old iPhone 3G, added Windows to his OS X install on his MacBook Air to make it a dual-boot device, and had created several Linux and Windows virtual machines with Virtual Box (to name a few). The Android platform sounded like it would be right up his alley.

Picking a single platform and ecosystem (and putting all of our mobile eggs in one basket) could certainly simplify our lives quite a bit. We could all use the same phone charges, purchase apps from the same app store, and manage it all with the same tool.

In order to feed our older son’s thirst for mobile “appliances”, though, we decided to go the more risky multi-platform route – iPhone 4’s, an HTC One X Android device, and a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows phone! I use the term “risky” because it’s often difficult to manage one computing platform vs. several; however, it was the right thing to do in the interest of furthering our son’s self- (but fast-) paced technology education.

We’ve been using this mixed-platform configuration for quite some time now. Our older son has taken his passion for mobile technology much farther than I ever imagined, having owned 3 different Android phones in the past 18 months. In addition, he’s maintained his knowledge of iPhones, and is also very knowledgeable about Windows Phone. He also maintains a YouTube channel with videos on a range of technology subjects, but especially things mobile.

In a future blog post, we’ll take a closer look at where each platform shines and where they don’t quite measure up.