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Tech Savvy: Doing an Apple about-face

The Galaxy 8, left, is larger than the iPhone 7 Plus. Washington Post photo by Hayley Tsukayama1 / 2
Spenser Bickett2 / 2

The Apple iPhone X arrives in stores Nov. 3, but I won't be one of the people complaining about low supplies for Apple's new flagship smartphone.

I upgraded from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 6 three years ago and I've been due for an upgrade for the past year. Usually, as soon as my upgrade date arrives, I rush to get my hands on the coolest new phone I can get. But for the past year, I haven't felt the rush.

I don't feel the need to upgrade my phone for a few reasons. First, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 look very similar to my iPhone 6, so I haven't felt the need to take advantage of a new design, like when I went from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 6.

Second, I know I'm not the first one to air this grievance, but it really annoys me that Apple got rid of the headphone jack starting with the iPhone 7. More companies will keep doing this, like Google with its recently announced Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones. I'm going to have to eventually give in and get Bluetooth headphones for this reason, but I want to hold out as long as possible.

Third, the iPhone X, the iPhone with the actual new design, starts at $999 for the 64GB model. Sure, the edge-to-edge screen is pretty cool, but I don't think it's worth $1,000 after taxes. Also, what you hear about reporters and compensation is true, so I definitely don't have $1,000 to spend on a new smartphone.

Another change leading me to consider other non-Apple smartphones is my girlfriend, who recently switched from an iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy S8. She was less enamored with Apple than I was and now that she's switched, she's not looking back. I had always been worried about losing my contacts, music, photos and more if I switched brands, but she said it was easy. It looks like this is something Samsung and other manufacturers include on their websites, to help people navigate the switch from one brand to another.

After seeing the Galaxy S8 in person, I've been blown away by how nice the screen is. The front of the phone has very minimal bezels and rounded screen edges, which makes for an immersive screen. Simply put, the bezel is the part on the front of the phone that isn't screen space. For the iPhone X, Apple tried to completely eliminate the bezels and almost succeeded, leaving only a small notch on the top of the phone screen. Also, the Galaxy S8 still has a headphone jack.

Which watch?

In a past Tech Savvy column, I talked about getting my first fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge HR, which I'm still using. I've had it for a year and I want to upgrade to something with more robust features. Most importantly, I want a wearable with GPS, so I can track runs without bringing my phone with me.

For a while, I had been looking at the Apple Watch Series 2, which includes GPS tracking the Apple Watch Series 1 was missing. It's a great smartwatch and looks like it's going to be the top-selling smartwatch for the foreseeable future.

But now that I'm thinking about ditching my iPhone, I've been looking at other smartwatch options. I've noticed when I gather in the starting corral prior to the start of a race, I don't see a lot of Apple Watches on the wrists of fellow runners.

Garmin is one of the most popular brands among runners and triathletes when it comes to GPS running watches. The company offers a variety of watches with tons of features at different price points, so there's something for every runner, whether you're gearing up for your first 5K or a seasoned marathoner.

Depending on the watch you choose, Garmin offers a ton of different data to analyze your run. This is an area where Fitbit is lacking by only providing time, distance and mile split times. Some of the watches even incorporate GLONASS, which is essentially Russian GPS, to provide consistent tracking when a GPS signal is hard to find.

Tapping tablets

The size of my personal Apple device ecosystem includes an iPad, which I've had for about three years. I wasn't sure how much I would use it before I got it, but it quickly replaced my Macbook, which I started using less and less.

I mostly use my iPad to stream TV shows and movies through various apps and read ebooks. I use it to read articles on the internet and comic books through the Marvel app. It still works pretty well, but has started lagging a bit. I can tell it's going to become more and more outdated, due to the fact it won't update to iOS 11.

I'm in no rush to upgrade my iPad, because it still works fine and there's other things I use more. But I see I'll need to upgrade it at some point, and I'm not sure I'll get another iPad. I definitely don't need an iPad Pro, so the regular iPad will do just fine. The only thing is, a new 32GB iPad is still $329. I usually watch the refurbished section of Apple's website to see if there's any good deals, but it looks like a new iPad is going to cost at least $300, if not more.

I haven't looked into this realm as much as I have smartphones or wearables, but after some quick research, the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet seems like a serviceable option for a tablet. The Kindle Fire HD10 with 32GB of storage starts at $150, more than half the price of a new iPad. Sure, it's not as nice as an iPad, but if does what I want it to do, I'd be open to getting one. Amazon is slowly swallowing up all facets of everyday life anyways, so I may as well jump on board. Soon, I'll be able to yell "buy more toilet paper" at my Kindle Fire and some rolls will show up at my door within hours.

Switching allegiances

There's a reason why companies count on brand loyalty to keep customers coming back for more products. There are tons of reasons why people stick with certain brands, but I think comfort plays a large role. Why go through the stress of looking at other products if you're happy with the brand you have?

I think my brand loyalty to Apple was less about the features of the company's products and more the comfort of using them. Once I started using Mac OS and iOS, I thought I became too comfortable to switch to a different operating system. I also wasn't sure about moving all my photos, music and more to a new operating system and learning the ins and outs of a new platform.

But all it takes is a little research to see there are good tech products from Apple's competitors, and some companies offer features Apple hasn't caught on to yet. Garmin's running watches offer features not included in the Apple Watch and the Galaxy S8 still thankfully offers a headphone jack.

You may think once you commit to a certain tech brand it'll be too hard to switch allegiances, but it's simpler than you might think. You may think you're committed for life when you buy an iPhone, but trust me, it is possible to switch.

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

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