Article Tags: Personal

  1. Three iPhone 4s, three different faults. That’s where I stand now. Reception issues, “No Sim” errors, and now the yellow screen blotches.

    Do I go back for a fourth kicking? Is three strikes enough?

    Surely it should be. This should be easy, right? They can’t make these phones without faults, why line up for that? Cool, screw ‘em then, let’s go get a Google Phone.

    You can argue that science of antennas and screen adhesives as much as you like, but it’s not about that. It’s not that easy.

    My kids have grown up around the iPhone. It’s regularly handed to them in pubs or restaurants. My son (5) was bought an iPod Touch for his birthday. He reads stories on it, plays games on it, listens to Johnny Cash on it (Tennessee Stud, thanks for asking).

    Today, I took him to the hospital for a hearing test. He took his iPod Touch, I took my iPhone. We played multiplayer FingerFoos while we waited to be seen. It was beautiful man, you should have been there.

    I recorded the whole expedition on the iPhone in the best 720p video I’ve seen from a mobile phone. I edited it together in a couple of minutes when we got back. Then his Mum could see how he got on at the hospital. It’s the most mundane, trivial little thing, but to him it was amazing that he could capture all this and play it back for everyone. He was proud to show the final cut off to his family when he got home.

    I could do this on other phones. My son could have a Nintendo DS or a PSP or something.

    My other son is 2. He’s attached to the iPad. He likes to play with the piano apps, and at bed time he watches Little Bella. The other night he had some sort of nightmare, and couldn’t get settled in his room. He was screaming and wouldn’t go back to sleep. He watched iPlayer-streamed CBeebies using the iPad. Within minutes he was calm, settled. He slept fine after that. iPad is a part of his vocabulary already.

    The whole time I used the Nexus One, neither kid was interested. There are no kids stories, no apps that appeal to them. It didn’t feel like something any of us could get emotionally attached to. Perhaps that’s a good thing, healthier.

    Apple’s secret sauce is that attachment. That ridiculous, irrational, unnecessary attachment. Whether it’s the iPad, the iPhone, your MacBook, iPod it doesn’t matter: it’s not just another phone, or another laptop, or another MP3 player. It’s yours.

    I heard a girl in the Apple store saying how gutted she was that she’d lost her iPod Nano. It’s not even an expensive piece of equipment, but she was visibly, emotionally affected by its loss. That doesn’t make any sense, but it’s the same situation I have here with my family and these shiny little toys that Apple make for us to play with.

    FaceTime taps into that emotional irrationality, it’s a good example of the technological tricks used to keep you on their platform.

    So I’m left with a decision again. Ditch this platform, or line up for another kicking…

  2. I get up at 3am, drive through the quiet streets into Leicester town centre to park up and head to the Apple Store. There’s a queue of about 12 people. I join the queue. That good old queueing spirit is present and correct. We laugh, we joke, we wait hours for the store to open.

    There are lots of iPad owners in the queue. Quite a few MacBooks. The earliest arrived at 9pm the night before.

    We are allowed into the shopping centre. Apple staff split us into a preorder queue and an “everyone else” queue.

    The preorder queue is given priority. Despite the 9pm arrivals, that have queued overnight, the first person into the store was turned up at 7, some 10 hours after the first arrival.

    Lots of preorder queue people go in. No “everyone else” people. After an hour, we’ve not moved.

    Apple staff explain that they have to deal with the preorders first. We explain that the preorder queue is only getting bigger, and that we’ll never get into the store if they insist on keeping that up.

    Eventually they admit that things are not working.

    Finally things start moving. Apple staff say Vodafone is playing up. Despite a 7am opening, they’re not accepting orders until 10am.

    I enter the store at just before 9am.

    I’m invited to play with the phone. A salesman tries to talk me through the new features. He’s pleasant enough, but I don’t want a sales pitch. I’ve been here since 4am. Just sell me the damned phone already. It becomes rapidly apparent that, tech nerdy geek type that I am, I know way more about the device than he does.

    A customer adviser starts to process my order:

    Him: You need a new sim.

    Me: O2 have already given me a microsim, look.

    Him: That doesn’t matter, you need a new sim. That one won’t work. This might take a few hours to activate.

    Me: It’s a microsim, of course it’ll work.

    Him: I have to key the new sim number here.

    Me: It says on screen that that’s not required.

    Him: It won’t work if I don’t fill it in. I’ve tried it.

    Me: Try it again.

    It works.

    I leave with a phone after checking the screen for yellow blotches. There are none. It’s lovely.

    I come home. I try to make a call. If I hold the phone in my left hand, the call drops. I try this four times. It happens every single time. I’m not doing anything special. I’m holding it like every other phone I’ve ever held in my left hand.

    I call Apple’s store. After fifteen minutes in a queue, I get a ringing tone for 5 minutes. There is no answer.

    I call the techincal support line. I get a very foreign sounding lady who asks me what me problem is with. “Oooh, an iPhone 4, my first”, she gleefully exclaims.

    Me: My first too, yeah, and it doesn’t work.

    Her: Oh, what seems to be the problem?

    Me: When I hold it in my left hand the signal drops.

    Her: Excuse me? Really sir? Me: Yes. Her: So if you use it in your right hand is it ok? Me: No really, there are videos on YouTube and everything, if I hold it in my left hand with pressure over the join at the bottom it drops the call. Me: Look, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously. I want someone to sort this. Her: Of course, let me book you an appointment….you can have Tuesday next week (today is Thursday). Me: No good. I queued for this at 3am, I want someone to look today. Her: OK, here’s the store number, call them. So I go back into store. Security stop me from entering, I explain, calmly that I want to see someone about the iPhone I bought this morning. I wait for someone to come and ask me what’s up. Eventually I get in. The “Genius” looks at the phone, watches me perform the amazing signal disappearing act, then proceeds to ask someone to give me a new one. He logs a support call so they can keep track of the issue, he says. So they can report it Apple HQ, he says. He has no interest in seeing any youtube videos or websites. “I’m not putting a link to MacRumors in a support call” he says. Customer advisor swaps the phone. I keep asking if I can try it. He ignores me. I ask again. Eventually I try it, it does the same thing. At which point he tells me there’s nothing he can do. He’s not prepared to open any more boxes, they don’t have enough stock. I can have a refund, that’s it. I ask to speak to a manager, who, I must say was excellent. When he asked to see the fault, the phone refused to drop the signal altogether. It reduced a little, but didn’t drop off entirely. Feeling like something of an idiot, I offer to return home and try it out, on the strict promise that I’ll be back if it does it again. He gives me his email address, insists he’ll get me another one in, and we’ll try to get to the bottom of it. Again, he has no interest in seeing YouTube videos or web links. He suggests that maybe I’m “holding it wrong” or that there’s “something inside I’m covering up”. Sure enough I come home, try to make a call, and the phone does the same thing. I’ll add my YouTube video the list once I’ve managed to capture it on film. I’m going to try getting hold of a bumper or case to see if that helps, but I fail to see why I should use it in a case just so I can make calls. Part of me thinks I’d use a case anyway, so am I fussing over nothing. Part of me really likes the phone, part of me is thoroughly sick of it already. I’ve emailed the store manager, explained the situation, and we’ll see if I get a response. I have 14 days to cancel the whole deal, I believe, so the clock is ticking. (While writing this I’ve had a reply from the Apple Store manager. He’s reserved a bumper at my request, and will happily replace or refund if the bumper doesn’t resolve the issue. I shouldn’t have to use a bumper, but I need to decide if the phone’s positive features outweigh the need to bumper it. And see if anyone sheds any light on why this is happening in the next few days).
  3. Not sure how many people fit into the Android + iPad demographic, but I thought I’d post this in the hope that someone thinks its useful, or neat.

    It’s also a good example of what’s possible on Android versus the iPhone, as there’s no way given the current state of iOS 4 you could achieve this using an iPhone iPad pair. It’s definitely something Apple should consider implementing though - shared messaging and notifications across all your iOS apps would be pretty cool. Especially if the Apple TV ends up with an iOS powered update.

    I came across an Android app called Remote Notifier which can be used to send notifications from your phone to the Growl notification process running on a PC (Mac only at the moment I think, but Windows is coming). You just have to install a notifier app on your desktop, and configure the app on your phone, and it will broadcast notifications when it’s on Wifi (or Bluetooth). Then your Mac wil pop up a Growl message passing on whatever the phone’s said.

    The next step is to configure the Boxcar plugin for Growl, which will send any Growl notifications from your desktop to your iPad (or iPod Touch, or iPhone). This is quite handy for downloaded complete notifications and such anyway, even without the Android notifier component.

    Given the impressive battery life on the iPad, and the convenience of browsing on it when you’re in front of the TV or in bed, not having your phone by your side is a reasonable scenario. With this setup you’ll know if anyone sends an SMS or tries to call you. You’ll even know if your battery is running down.

    Let me know if you find this useful. It’s certainly food for thought when you consider the flexibility of Android powered devices versus iOS ones.

  4. A few things have happened in the last 6 days. Some good, some bad.

    Let’s do the bad first.

    I tried to buy an app from Android’s Market (note: not market place, not app store, just market). And I couldn’t.

    It turns out that if you’re using a Google Apps account (mail, calendar, contacts), and a Google account (reader, picasa, etc) with identical email addresses (so they’re both me@mydomain.com) you can snooker yourself and end up not being able to buy apps. Ouch. There’s a way around it involving creating new google accounts, changing email addresses and the like, but that’s a lot of hoop jumping if I’m not staying on Android.

    Then I discovered that the same problem applies to Picasa. Android automatically works out if your account has Picasa linked to it, and shows you all the Picasa functionality in the Gallery app. Not so if you’ve snookered yourself.

    The camera isn’t particularly great either. It takes a decent enough photo, for sure, but it just doesn’t react very quickly. Trying to take photos of two small children isn’t easy with something as sluggish as the Nexus One’s camera app. The iPhone at least works its magic in ways which we can only try to understand, but it’s little things like that which really make the difference.

    And then there are the good things.

    Things like Google Navigation, which is damned impressive for a freebie. Things like SMS Popup that allow you to transform the way the phone responds to incoming text messages. Twicca, which might actually be my favourite ever Twitter app. And the best, top most good thing that’s happened over the last few days, at least for Android, is that I’m actually starting to contemplate a long term future with an Android device.

    And that’s just about the biggest compliment I can make to the platform. This Nexus One, running FroYo (2.2) that I thought I’d probably hate and that would cause me spend the last 11 days pining for my iPhone has totally transformed my view of the OS. It’s now, in no uncertain terms, viable. More than that, it presents a clear and present danger to Apple’s dominance.

    (and I mean dominance in a metaphorical sense: Apple are seen as the ones to beat in the smartphone arena. They set this ball rolling, they were ahead of the curve. Now, not so much.)

    So what’s my next move? I have three options:

    1) Get myself an HTC Desire. It looks like the custom rom scene is starting to gather momentum, so it shouldn’t be too long before the community have a fully operational FroYo rom for the Desire. It’s a nice piece of hardware. This would also free up funds to by an iPad.

    2) Get myself a Dell Streak. This has sort of snuck onto my list in the last few days. Originally I thought it didn’t feature a phone, but it turns out it does. It’s not a tablet, Dell are barking up totally the wrong tree in my opinion by marketing it as such, but it’s a fascinating sounding bit of kit. Questions are: will it make you look like a tit if you use it as a phone (it has a 5 inch screen)? What’s the battery life like? Why are the shipping it with Android 1.6? And when will it get an update? Oh, and my favourite: will anyone actually buy it if all of the above are negative? This too would free up funds to by an iPad, as I can get the Streak as an upgrade on my current tariff. But would I need the Streak AND an iPad?

    3) Go with the next iPhone, as originally planned. A few days ago this was a sure thing. Nothing else entered into it. Now, I’m not so sure. I have to see what Apple do on Monday. If they simply release the hardware we’ve seen leaked, running the same OS4 I’ve already used on my 3GS, then do we have a compelling update? Things like the better shutter speed, potential 720p video recording, and increased durability all tick boxes, and there’s no way I could hand a Desire or Streak to one of my children to keep them amused. This option would rule out the iPad purchase - it’s likely that the iPhone update would set me back most of what I’ve raised from the 3GS sale.

    But the freedom you’re offered by Android, in fact the sense of power you get from leaping between apps, downloading files, and generally doing anything you like on the handset is addictive. It’s why I can’t write Android off just yet.

    A few days ago I’d decided that in six months time I’d almost certainly get an Android device. I was going to wait until after the next update, let the release cycle slow down a bit, and then get myself whatever the current device was assuming Apple continued on their present course. Now I’m not so sure. Many people I’ve spoken to use their iPhone less now they have an iPad, so is an Android handset plus iPad the ultimate combo?

    We shall see.

    I’ll be posting my thoughts on the WWDC keynote over at Blogomatic3000 on Monday night, and I’ll report back here once I’ve made my decision. I’m hoping to have a play with the Dell Streak tomorrow, so I may post some thoughts on that too.

  5. So much for a post a day eh?

    Here I am: day 5 of using a Nexus One instead of an iPhone 3GS. Despite feeling genuine emotion while boxing up my 3GS for sale, I don’t think I’ve really missed it. Much.

    I’ve been taking notes in Evernote as things occur to me, so for the sake of brevity I’m just going to throw down a list:

    RSS Readers - this was the first thing I went in search of an the Market, and the only thing I’m still not happy with. The state of RSS reader apps on Android is pretty poor. I’ve got NewsRob installed now, but compared to the best of the iPhone (Reeder and MobileRSS, and maybe NetNewsWire) it’s a poor relation. I’m using the web app now, which is probably the best interface to Google Reader on Android, but I really miss Reeder.

    Instapaper - My Instapaper workflow is dead in the water on Android. I used to skim in Reeder, send longer articles to Instapaper, then read them later in the day. No more.

    Multi Tasking - first big Woah moment. I didn’t think true multitasking would be a big deal, but when you can actually use it, it changes your opinion. Hopping between apps with no lag, and no care about them retaining their state is a great feeling.

    Google Navigation - surprisingly capable sat nav app. And also: multitasking! Simple things, like replying to an SMS while sat nav continues to run, really do make me smile.

    Mail client - I haven’t tried with anything other than Gmail, because I hitched my horse to that particular email product many moons ago, but it’s a far better fit on Android than the iPhone. And seeing as Apple are so often at loggerheads with Google these days, I can’t see the iPhone client becoming a better fit any time soon.

    Typing - initially I thought it was horrible. Now I’m not so sure. Word prediction is a great feature, and you rarely have to type more than 4 characters. It’s a totally different approach to the iPhone, but each is probably valid. My Nexus One has some random screen uncalibration fit which throws key presses off, so that doesn’t help. But I’m learning to live with that.

    Install via Email - Woah #2: I sent myself an install package over email, and the email app gave me a big “install” button right then and there. Of course, there’s a security implication here, but if you’re stupid enough to arbitrarily install emailed files you deserve what’s coming.

    Notifications - are amazing. This is less of a “woah” and more of an ongoing “ooh, aah, lovely”. Above all other things, this is Android’s best UI feature for me. Apple take note: releasing the iPhone HD with the same old crappy notification system will be a huge mistake.

    Signal strength - is better than the 3GS. People have moaned about the Nexus One’s signal, but it holds a call better than my iPhone, using the same network, and driving the same route.

    File downloads - Woah #3: download a file, and simply tap it in the filesystem to launch it.

    Network file copy - Woah #4: film my son’s sports day, come home, kick off a file copy to network attached storage while I make a copy of tea, watch videos on a big screen. Awesome.

    Oleophobic screen - Or rather the lack. The Nexus One’s screen gets pretty funky after a while. It’s also pretty much impossible to use in direct sunlight.

    Battery life - or again, the lack of it. Days 2 and 3 with my Nexus One resulted in the device not being alive when I got home, which is something my iPhone’s never done. This was actually very inconvenient on day 3 as there were people I needed to get in touch with. I actually used a pay phone for the first time in roughly 15 years.

    I’m done. Sorry for the gratuitous list action there, but it seems the best way to get my thoughts down quickly. And that’s what these posts are supposed to be about, right?

    I’ll say this: today, with the iPad being launched, I’m incredibly tempted to take the cash from the sale of my 3GS and grab myself an iPad, then sign up for a new contract with Orange and get an HTC Desire. The reason for this is simple: the things Android does well, are phone related activities, the things I primarily want to do out of the house. The things I miss about the iPhone are things that would typically take place in the comfort of my own home, and this I can probably achieve better with an iPad anyway. There’s a disconnect between the two platforms that I’m sure may be bridged over time, with a few well thought out apps and some Android and Apple savvy developers.

    That would be madness though, wouldn’t it? A smidgen over a week from the announcement of the next iPhone, it would be insane to lock myself into a new contract for 18 months. If the next iPhone offers some of the things I’m expecting (iPad level battery life, increased durability, 720p video recording) then I’m going to have a tough decision on my hands. Add to that Apple’s stellar customer support (I’ve never been anything other than stunned by how accommodating they’ve been in my local Apple Store) and each device probably has an equal number of pros and cons.

    And that’s saying something isn’t it? A year ago I was saying Android was a toy, that it wouldn’t ever be taken seriously. And now, here I am, taking it very seriously. Well played Google. Your move Apple.

    See you in a few days.