Tag Archives: Apple

iPhone 6s Plus First Impressions.

I’ve had my iPhone 6s Plus for a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d comment on my first experiences with it.

As soon as I got it (from my local 3 shop) it was straight off to Starbucks and investigate. (Come on now, you can’t seriously expect any self-respecting technology-related guy not to want to play with a new gadget like an iPhone as soon as is humanly possible.)

The first thing that struck me was the minimalist (if that’s the right word) amount of documentation that was included, and what was there was of such small print size it was almost impossible to read. Putting the SIM in and powering up the iPhone, it immediately wanted to connect through to an Apple registration centre, but not through its SIM / phone data connection but using Wi-Fi. The first efforts through Starbucks’ Wi-Fi failed miserably. It just would not connect to the registration centre. Next I tried using my Samsung Note 2 as a Wi-Fi hot-spot. That got thing a bit further forward in that it did say it was now connecting, but it just sat there and sat there and wouldn’t go any further.

So out with my lap-top (a MacBook Air, but running Windows 10), and with it tethered to the Note 2 it was off to do a bit of internet research. It appears I’m not the only one to have start-up registration problems, the solution being to connect the iPhone to a computer and then use iTunes. A little annoyed at this routine but at least this did work. However considering this was a brand new latest model iPhone straight out of the box I was surprised to see that it wanted to do a major operating system update.

Oh well, at least it’s up and running, but rather than update in Starbucks I thought I’d wait till I got home and use my broadband connection there.

This is where things got a little bit odd. On energising the iPhone at home it immediately locked onto my router Wi-Fi and started updating through that, but without asking for the router’s password! There was also confusion over PIN numbers relating to different levels of security functions – such as me entering in a 4 digit PIN but then later it wanting a 6 digit number (which I had not given it). I don’t know if it had picked up information or numbers that had been attached to my iTunes account, but it got to the stage where I said “sod this, this is leading me round in circles, let’s wipe the machine and start again”, so factory re-set time.
This time (and not going via iTunes) the set-up went as I would have expected. Passwords, PIN numbers, finger-print set-up etc. all ran smoothly. So at least by the end of the day I had, up and running, a nice shiny new device.

I am suitably impressed with it (as I would expect considering its cost!!!). I have all my essential apps loaded and am bringing on-board a range of additional ones. The fingerprint scanner has worked well and I hope more apps will adapt to using that as authentication. Setting up Apple Pay was simple enough, though the touch system has worked about 75% of the time, which means I don’t yet have the confidence to not carry around my (still using touch where appropriate) other bits of plastic.

The best feature of the iPhone – battery life. I’m so glad I went for the physically larger device (with its suitably larger battery). I can’t give an exact between charge figure as most lunchtimes I cable tether my MacBook Air through it, so each day it is getting around a 45 minute top-up. This does mean that I’m going for a good few days before I’m needing to give it a proper (usually overnight) charging session.

The worst feature – the camera, especially the camera app. The camera itself does take good pictures, however I find the physical location of the lens to be too close to the edge of the phone. This means that when taking pictures (or video) in landscape mode it’s all too easy to move your finger over the front of the lens. Or to put it another way, in portrait mode it makes the phone awkward to hold especially when trying to use the on-screen controls; I really am not impressed with this. The controls are poorly laid out, It keeps on taking multiple pictures when I don’t want it to, the whole thing I find annoying to use. If you just want to call up the camera, take a snap, and that’s that then I’m sure it’s okay. However I would like to use it a bit more creatively, but working my way through the controls is a pain and really slows everything down. There are numerous other apps out there for camera control, but each of these seems to concentrate in just one area (perhaps slow shutter / night time, or its effects-rich, or good for video…) and not suitable for ‘universal’ use. I assume over time I’ll adapt, but this is still no replacement for my Panasonic Lumix ‘point & shoot’ camera.

One other indirect side effect. As I put apps onto this 6S the Apple eco-system keeps on trying to put the same version apps onto my old iPhone 3GS. The install process starts, then grinds to a halt half way through. On the 3GS I have to then delete the app, go directly to the app store and select the app from there. The store will say that I can’t install this app because my 3GS is too old, but offer me the most recent version that was compatible with this device. That install will then naturally work without any problem. Why it can’t use the correct version to start with I don’t understand. Oh well, never mind. I can live with this.

So overall a thumbs up for my new iPhone 6s Plus.

iPhone Upgrade

I’ve just updated my mobile phone to a new iPhone.

As much as I love my Samsung Note 2, it is getting left behind technology-wise. Finger print readers, contactless payment systems, 4G connection speeds, camera quality and so on has made my Note 2 somewhat dated – though it’s still quite a powerful machine. The obvious natural choice would be to move up to a Note 5 (though for some reason Samsung seems very slow in releasing it in the U.K.), however for one specific reason I’ve shifted across to the iPhone.

I’ve got rather fed up with the Android operating system update routine.

Google goes through its usual announcement of the next major operating system release. Naturally the phone manufacturers then announce their support for it too. We then have, sometime later, it arriving on one or two of the Nexus devices. The other manufacturers will announce which of their new phones may get it, they may release it as an update for some very recent models (while still bringing out new models still running the old version), and though the manufacturers may have released updates there is still the local carriers, your Vodafones and all that crowd, to decide if and when they will put out the update. Rumours circulate, companies say one thing, then a couple of months later say the exact opposite, networks aren’t interested…

Then there ‘s the problem with those models (like my Note 2) which are no longer front line devices, and as such no longer make money for the suppliers and manufacturers. They may or may not at some time in the near or distant future get a full or partial upgrade depending even on what region of the world you are or are not located in.

This even means that you can have a nice new shiny model but with this system and its delays you may not get your upgrade until the next upgrade cycle is already happening!

Compare this to Apple. You get operating system upgrades announced. Sometime later they’ll announce actual dates and to which models it will apply to. Then you have it released around the world at the same time. Yes, there are problems and bugs and things don’t go as planned, but then this happens with Android, Windows and everything else. However at least with Apple you know where you stand. A certain range of models will get the update, others won’t.
That’s that. (If you really want to there is the possible option of jail-breaking older devices to force an update onto them, but that’s another can of worms altogether.)

So it is because of this that I have moved (back) to Apple for my latest phone improvement. I’ll still have my Note 2 with its stylus (which I really like) as my secondary or stand-by device with a pay-as-you-go SIM in it, but right now I’m busy getting my apps sorted out and seeing what this iPhone can actually do.

Evernote thoughts

What’s happening in the world of Evernote?

Came across an interesting article in Business Insider about the ups and now downs of Evernote that highlighting their recent laying-off of staff, and I’m afraid I do agree with the overall conclusion that Evernote, unless it gives itself a big kick up the backside, has had its day.

I first started using Evernote a bit over 4 years ago and found it a really useful cloud storage cross platform note taking application with a versatile screen clipping function. However as time’s gone by Evernote seems to have stood relatively still whereas other providers have either tweaked their existing services or brought on-board newer more comprehensive applications. Google Docs has vastly improved since its conception, Microsoft has developed OneNote and its other OneDrive services, Dropbox (as well as others) can seamlessly cloud store your documents as you work on them. It was only when I read this Evernote article that I realised how little I’d been using it recently. Not any conscious decision to avoid it, but just finding other services so much nicer to use such that Evernote’s usage just naturally fell away. One problem with it is that it’s yet another application that I need to be logged in to. I use various services from both Google and Microsoft (even when I’m using my Apple products) so I have to be logged into them. It’s a bit of a pain but I accept that it’s now part of my computer related life. As they provide overlapping / greater functionality to that of Evernote I really don’t want to be logging into another application to do something I can already do.

I suspect in reality it’s been Microsoft’s recent expansion away from concentrating its services just on Windows to encompassing Apple and Android that’s changed me. That cross-platform expansion then got me looking at Google’s services in greater detail. As much as I like my MacBook and iPad I find the Apple world too restricting considering I also use Windows both at home and at work, so at the moment I am writing this (in Starbucks tethering via my phone) using Google Docs on my MacBook, which incidentally is running Windows 10.

I do hope Evernote can develop itself and compete with the other players in the field. Competition (and choice) is good, but at the moment my choice is not to use Evernote.

Which Cloud System

Which cloud system for my day to day use?

I’ve been running Windows 10 since they first released their developers preview versions and have generally liked it. Microsoft also has its Onedrive, desktop and web-based Office stuff, all that sort of thing… so I thought I’d give the integrated Microsoft cloud world a try. So services like Dropbox (and Evernote) for backups, and linking / synchronising my desktop Outlook, documents, and all the other associated services I use together through my Microsoft account.

Like it or not, it did work quite well. Whether Word on the desktop or Word through a browser, Excel, or Calendar in Outlook, everything did seem to integrate in a sensible fashion.

However my love affair with Windows 10 now seems to be wearing a bit thin. It’s one thing for Google, as a service, to be monitoring your activity, but having the whole operating system reporting back to its controller everything you are doing, programs you have installed, even what you say… then there are other irritations like the way Onedrive now works its selective sync, or even a small change in your computer hardware and Windows 10 deactivates itself as it thinks it’s a new machine – and reactivating it can be a real pain. (I’ll be curious to see what happens when Microsoft brings out their Enterprise version of Win 10, I don’t think much of commerce and industry will want an outside organisation to be monitoring what their employees are doing!)

So on my Win 10 installs I worked my way through as many of the (numerous) privacy settings that I can find and sorted them out, and for the time being have switched back to the Big Brother of Google for my calendar, word processing and other cloud based activities.

I will give Google one thing – I do find their cloud services more integrated compared to Microsoft, even though I think Word is a far better word processor than Google’s document editor (likewise for Excel), however Google’s various different services seem to flow together in a far smoother way.

I have no particular loyalty to any one system, I use Apple products, Microsoft ones, Android, a Blackberry Z10 is my main mobile to laptop tethering / hotspot device. In the past I’ve played with Linux and BSD. They are all just devices and services there to do a job. So maybe I’ll stay with Windows 10, perhaps move back to an earlier version, or return to Apple; a little uncertain at the moment. Just have to see how things develop, especially looking to Microsoft’s new Surface Pro and / or Apple’s next Mac Mini update. After all both of these will be able to ‘cloud out’ for services and storage to whoever I choose. Though I think at the moment, regardless of operating system, Google is winning my cloud war.

BlackBerry Z10

I’ve never taken BlackBerry that seriously.

It’s main feature has been based around (secure) messaging, and the amount of messaging I do (secure or otherwise) is quite minimal. For me my mobile phones are primarily used as portable computing type gadgets, with an emphasis placed on internet-related stuff. (If my phone rings I totally freak out – using it for calls is its least used function.)

However it’s been this ‘internet-related’ bit that that got me looking at them. I wanted a fast 4G connection device suitable for lap-top and tablet tethering, but already having a really nice smartphone I didn’t want to spend large sums of money replacing that when the only gain would be 4G, so I was looking for a budget-end device to compliment this high-end phone.

This is where the BlackBerry Z10 came in. The cheapest 4G devices I could see were a couple of Nokia phones, but they had rather poor screens and would only tether as a Wi-Fi hotspot. I wanted this feature but I also wanted to be able to tether via a USB connection and these would not do that.

The next cheapest I could see was in the Carphonewarehouse chain which was selling the BlackBerry Z10 (unlocked) at a very competitive price. I did my research, read various reviews (which generally rated the phone quite highly, but at its original price rather over-priced) and then went ahead and got one.

From the moment I switched it on I was impressed. A really nice screen (1280 x 768 at 356 ppi, compared to the latest iPhone 5s at 1136 x 640 and 326 ppi) and gives crisp text and great colours. An operating system that I found quicker to learn and more intuitive that either iOS, Android or WP8, and with its ability to run most Android apps as well as native BlackBerry ones, no lack of app functionality. The browser is probably the best phone browser I’ve come across in a mobile phone, opening up difficult web pages faster and more completely than any other. Scrolling across screens is smooth and fast, apps open up quickly, the microSD card slot lets you add additional memory; it’s just a really nice device to use!

If I was going to ask for one improvement, then that would be battery life. It does give me a full day’s use but it would have been nice to be able to squeeze two days out of it. Naturally it will do my Wi-Fi and USB tethering. (It should tether through Bluetooth too, though I’ve never bothered with that.)

This has just been such an unexpectedly pleasant experience its got me re-thinking quite what I expect from a mobile phone or tablet type device. I suspected that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 system will become over the next year or so far more popular, and where a few weeks ago I really could not have cared as to BlackBerry’s future, now I hope they do manage to get their problems sorted and give Microsoft a good run for their money at the alternative to the iOS / Android duopoly.

Some YouTube Z10 thoughts.

MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

One or two people recently have been talking to me about buying either a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro.

Both I think are pretty awesome devices, I have an 11″ MacBook Air and think it’s great. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it including using Final Cut and Premiere Pro for video editing. Okay, it’s certainly not my first choice of editing devices, the rendering times are not that fast, but for a quick on-the-move video creation it can do the business (and if it can do that then it can do most things).

The Air is nearly half the weight of the Pro and its power charger is also lighter which makes it a very portable package. The Pro with its extra weight and thickness can pack a far more powerful processor, memory and allows for a larger range of hard drives. Pro options also allow for a proper dedicated graphics processing card which would make it a far more games (or video editing) friendly machine. The Pro is quite a bit more expensive.

So for me it boils down to this. Is this laptop going to be solely used as a laptop in that you do have an alternative desktop machine to use at home (or work), or is this laptop also going to be used as a desktop substitute?

If just as a laptop then I’d go Air and take advantage of its lightness and portability. If it was also going to be used as my main desktop machine too, then I’d go Pro.

What I do find interesting is that when the Air first came out it was seen as a premium product, something a bit different and priced well above the basic MacBook range of laptops. Now its their ‘budget model’. Amazing how things change.

YouTube video about it.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for a couple of months now, and I must admit I like it more than I expected.

As much as I also like my iPhone 3GS, towards the end of last year it started to physically fall to bits, my contract was fast approaching renewal time, and it was also approaching Apple announcement time for the new iPhone.

However as we’ll as looking forward to seeing what this new iPhone was going to be like, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 had also got my attention. Something a bit new and different, but was very uncertain about its size. Then we had the new iPhone announcement and I was not overly impressed with it. A slightly bigger screen, a bit more powerful, more a collection of minor updates than anything new and exciting, so gave the Note 2 another look.

It was not an easy decision to actually go for it. A great deal of time was spent in phone shops handling the original Note and then the Note 2 once it arrived on the high street, but I eventually got fed up with all this messing around and went for it.

For me two things really stand out.

Firstly, the obvious one, size. Is it really too big for routine use? However within an hour of getting it out of its box I had acclimatised to it, it really was that quick. No longer did I see it as large but other devices now felt so small and dinky. Despite its size it fits into the hand quite nicely (unlike something like the iPad Mini where you’re having to stretch your hand around to hold it).

For those who like to do things one-handed, lots of tasks can still be performed that way. The virtual keyboard is within reach of your thumb, however you can bias it for left or right handed use if you prefer. Have all your commonly used icons located on the lower half of the screen and there’s very few times you have to really stretch or go two handed if you don’t want to.

However I much prefer using it two-handed (this has applied to all the phones I’ve had). I guess I’m an intrinsic two-handed user, I always found it so much more comfortable doing it that way. One hand for holding securely, the other for fast use.

The other thing that makes this phone stand out is its stylus. Hold the stylus with your hand positioned anywhere near the centre of the screen and with very little finger movement everything is within reach. The stylus is great for making note type jottings and the its handwriting recognition is far better than I expected. I’ve used various other devices with this feature over the years and up till now it always turned into a case of once the novelty wore off then that function fell into disuse, but the Note 2’s system works amazingly well. I’ve even just used a finger to write on the screen and that’s been good enough for the system to work with. The stylus is also pressure sensitive, so for those who like drawing and that sort of thing there’s potential for great fun there.

Going back to its size, it will fit into a typical back pocket, but over the years (regardless of size or type of phone) I’ve never been one for carrying phones around like that. Too easy to lose or damage. This, like all my earlier ones, happily lives in a pouch on my trouser belt. This also gets round the problem of remembering where you last put it; jacket pocket, hold-all, bag, on the table… I’ve never yet forgotten where my trousers are!

I use the phone mainly for data related stuff; it’s constantly monitoring various e-mail accounts, messaging, web browsing and general internet use. Also as an ‘office assistant’ for calendar and appointments, occasionally as a wi-fi hot spot, it’s not often used for voice or as a music device. I’m getting a comfortable two days (occasionally three) between recharges, though I do leave wi-fi and 3G switched off except when I need them.
I’ve found the current Android operating system (4.1) fast and snappy. As someone who also has an iPhone and an iPad, iOS now seems so clunky to use it’s becoming irritating, where this Android version seems to have the edge over it.

I have no special loyalty to Apple or to Android (or to any other operating system), they’re just systems and devices for getting jobs done. So when given the choice a couple of months ago of going either iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy Note 2 I went for the Note 2 and have no regrets.
I’ll be quite happy one day to go back to Apple, but if they want me back they’ll have to do something quite remarkable.

Mac or Windows – its upgrade time.

It’s almost decision time, but will it be Mac or will it be windows?

My original move to using a Mac was relatively indirect. I, like many people, had started my video editing with Windows MovieMaker. However soon upgraded to a basic budget priced editing package which did me for nearly a year. I could see it had a potential greater than what I was using it for, but there was very little support and virtually no tutorials around for it.

So time for something new. I hunted around on the web to find sites with good general video editing tutorials. Came across the IzzyVideo site where there was some excellent Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Express examples. FCP 7 was both a bit of an overkill for my uses plus too expensive, however the education price of Express was within my budget. Next, what did Express run on; OS X. This coincided with a need for replacement hardware anyway, but as I couldn’t afford a new Mac I ended up with a second-hand MacBook. So began my Apple adventure. I’ve ended up with a 3GS iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and with an external monitor and keyboard attached, the MacBook used as a desktop machine.

However the MacBook is now seriously showing its age. One reason for using it as a desktop machine is that its battery is screwed. It has trouble running some programs and others won’t install because of its outdated graphics, its processor is constantly being hammered to death (cooling fan often freaking out!) and it’s got it’s fill of RAM but needs more.

Add to that my 3GS, as good as it is, is also showing its age. It’s battery still gives OK life however there are cracks creeping up its back cover, the On/Off button is missing, many new iOS features and more and more Apps coming out will not run on it… You get the idea.

So it’s decision time. Stay with Apple or move on? Apple does make some excellent products, but they are very overpriced (even after education discount). Are they worth the price premium?

The thing is Apple appears to be losing its innovative edge; at one time it was the undisputed leader in design an innovation, but now seems to be playing catch-up.
Going back a few years, the first iPod revolutionised the portable music scene (and helped to pull the company back from a very poor financial situation), the first iPhone showed what a difference a good interface can make, the iPad opened up the world of the tablet. The MacBook Air showed how to make a really nice portable laptop, iMacs had their own unique design.

However so many recent product releases have just been incremental rather than trend-setting. Android now more than competes with its smoothness of system operation. Many other screens give a better viewing experience that a Retina display. In numbers, Google’s Play store competes with Apple’s App store and is catching up in quality and range of Apps, Google’s Now voice search more than competes with Siri. A year or so ago Apple would never have released something like its Maps App in such a poor state of dysfunction.

My phone contract renewal time coincided with the Apple autumn announcement season, so I had been waiting with the proverbial bated breath to see what was coming up, and as a result I’m now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

There were two ‘final things’ that made me not stay iPhone. First, I had hoped the iPhone 5 would have been something exciting and new, not just a slightly stretched screen and updated processor. Second, iCloud. Over the last year I’ve moved from just being an internet user to that of using the cloud for more and more for my data storage and services, and iCloud just does not do it for me. Google was born in the cloud and inherently seems to do this sort of thing so much better than Apple.

This leaves me thinking about what may happen early next year when I look towards a computer upgrade.

The new iMacs look very tempting, but at a price. However I find myself using Adobe’s CS6 photo products more and more, so for video moving across to CS6 or even Avid’s Media Composer (both Adobe and Avid are cross-platform and both have competitive education prices) would give me the option to stay Mac, but not the absolute need which staying with FCP X would require.

For less than an iMac I can get a similarly specified non-Apple machine, either Adobe or Avid software, and have money to spare for extras like external back-ups. So, as much as I like Macs it’s far from certain that I’ll stay Mac for my computing.

(One final thing, I’ve been surprised at how quickly Macs age. I have a 10 year old Windows laptop which is still in regular productive use. Ten years ago means G3 powered iBooks. I wonder how many of them are still as useful?)

Windows 8 future potential

 Windows 8, how’s it going to go.

Very shortly Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 will be out; what’s going to happen?
I assume on the computer side of things, as new machines arrive with Windows 8 pre-installed the operating system will naturally spread through the user world. Microsoft has already ended its mainstream support for both XP and Vista, and XP’s extended support will end in the not too distant future, so corporations still hanging on to XP are going to have to upgrade soon.
Microsoft has already announced that its service pack support for 7 will end next year, so again, more reasons for looking towards 8.

What about the phones and tablets, will it break into the Android / Apple duopoly.
One thing that could give it an advantage is that it’s relatively free from the legal arguments going on between the Android and Apple communities. This could make it very tempting for the business world that does *not* like getting involved in other people’s legal wrangles. At the moment they don’t have much choice, Blackberry seems in terminal decline which really just leaves them looking towards the two arguing ‘big boys’.

So if Microsoft can come along and provide a user system with some quality phones and tablets (devices announced by Nokia, HTC and Samsung seem to be getting some good press) that will seamlessly integrate in with their desktop machines and without these Apple / Android uncertainties, then I could see business being quite tempted. Combine this business use with those individuals who want to give it a try and this should provide a more than big enough user base to get developers interested.

So I would not be too surprised if in a couple of years time it had sorted itself out to be something like 40% Android, 40% Apple and 20% Windows 8, and (unless they can do something quite amazing really quickly) RIM / Blackberry seriously struggling.

One thing to remember; before the iPhone came along, in places like the USA those earlier Windows Mobile based phones had about 40% of the market, so if they’ve done it before then there’s a fair chance they can do it again.

What next for the iPhone size. Big, small, or indifferent?

At the time of writing this Google has just announced the Nexus 7, and this has got me thinking about the iPhone and its future size.

Over the last few years there’s been a vast range of smartphones around the 3 to 4 inch screen size. Currently HTC have their Desire phones including 3.7” and 4.3” models. Motorola, Nokia, Sony, all have devices around the 4.3” size. The Samsung Galaxys go from 4” to 4.8” and their Note comes in at 5.3”.
Moving up the scale to the tablets, there’s the Kindle Fire at 7” and the Galaxy Tabs going from 7” to 10.1”. There’s the Motorola Xoom also 10.1” Within the last 6 months Acer, Asus and Toshiba have all brought out 10.1” devices, and now we have this new Google Nexus 7 at 7”.

But what about Apple. We have various iPhones at 3.5” and the iPad at 9.7”, both running an operating system which was amazing when it first came out, but now (even with updates) is looking a bit dated.

Time for something new from Apple? An updated iPhone (iPhone 5) at 4.3” plus a totally new device to catch the mid-size market. Maybe target the mid-size with a 5” iPhone leaving the 4S for those wanting to stay small. Perhaps ignore this mid-range and just do the new iPhone at 4”.

I currently use a Samsung Galaxy S2 (4.3”) and an iPhone 3GS (3.5”). I’ve had a play with Galaxy S3 at 4.8” and am quite happy with that size. I’ve also played (if only briefly) with the Note at 5.3” but find that just too big. So I’d be really happy if the new iPhone came out at 4.5” to 4.8”.  (Anything less than 4.5” and they’ll have to do something quite amazing with iOS to get my attention.)

Apple being Apple, they’ll do their own thing their own way and in their own time. Plus what ever they bring out the dedicated Apple fanboys will buy. I personally have no particular loyalty to any one system, so if the next Apple device appeals to me then I’ll probably give it a spin. If not, then I’m not too worried. Also there is the unknown factor of Microsoft and how will Windows 8 be received – will their desktop system efficiently scale across to portable devices.

Interesting times ahead for the summer.