Tag Archives: iPhone

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.

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.

Belkin LiveAction Microphone

Last Christmas I was given a present of a Belkin LiveAction microphone, so I thought I’d give it the once over.

On the box it stated that it was for iPhone / iPad type devices, however it uses the standard jack plug that’s common across most devices. It worked without any problems on the two different Samsung phones I have.

It’s about 12 cm / 4.75 inches long, so not that large, but is quite big compared to the size of a phone. If plugged into the phone and you’re using the camera that facing the way the microphone is pointing, then end of the mic may come into view. (Just something to be aware of.)

Once plugged in, there is a small knob to turn that helps to secure the device to the phone. On the side there is a three position switch. Off, close-up directional, long distance ‘super-directional’. It uses a standard AAA size battery.

Over the years, phone manufacturers have spent a lot of time, money and effort in improving their internal microphones. Under standard indoor conditions I didn’t find any huge advantage to using the Belkin. Where it really did come into play was outside. Using its standard directional setting it picked up my voice quite nicely while cutting out (or at least reducing to an acceptable level) most of the other background sounds. At one time I was standing beside a busy road where the level of traffic noise was such that if I was talking to somebody standing beside me I’d have had to shout, however the Belkin picked up my speech nicely. I can see this having some potential in a gig or live event type situation where you want the sound from the stage while minimising the noise from the crowd beside you.

Using it switched to its super-directional mode it did pick up speech from quite a few metres / yards away. The quality of sound was not particularly good, however I’d rather have some sound that may be poor but I can work with that no sound at all! I can’t see myself using it in this mode very much, though I guess it’s handy to have there.

Overall I rather like it. With phone video quality improving more and more people are using this function when out and about, and under difficult conditions this Belkin does do a better job than the phone’s internal microphone. It does however still pick up wind noise, I must look out for a windshield / dead cat screen for it.

 

 

Phone size; Apple’s problem.

Phone size, Who is Apple’s target audience?

Those very first mobile phones were large brick-sized devices. They might seem a bit silly now but the size was just a reflection of the electronics of the time. However as technology developed they soon shrank down to small brick size then down to large hand held then on to pocket size items. Test messaging did not demand a particularly large screen so minimum phone size ended up very much controlled by keypad size and battery capacity.
There was then the arrival of “the Internet” on phone type devices so screens had to jump up in size to be able to present this data in a viewable format. So phones started to get a bit bigger again with this larger (colour) screen and mini QWERTY keyboards for alpha-numeric input.

In the way that early internet use on computers was dominated by the technologically literate and only later (with the arrival of broadband?) moved across to the more general population, so early phone data use was also dominated by this techno-crowd, and by its very nature, a relatively young crowd. These first internet displaying devices seemed to settle down to a screen size of 3 to 3.5 in (70 – 90 mm), a reasonable balance between physical size, screen quality and cost.

However more recently screen sizes have increased with numerous models covering the 4 inch (100 mm) range and things like the Galaxy Notes going well into the 5 inch (130mm) domain, though Apple has remained down at the smaller end of the scale, just tweaking its new iPhone up from 3.5 to 4 inches.

Is staying this small a wise move by Apple? These new larger size phones are proving quite popular, but then so is their iPhone. However by not providing something in the larger screen range I think Apple is losing out in a fast developing market – and that’s in the slightly older crowd who’s expanding their mobile phone use to include internet data; and what’s more, Apple could start (has started) losing people because of this.

Why? Once you get into middle age your eyes quite naturally lose a degree of their elascicity and it makes it harder to focus on near objects, reading becomes difficult, glasses or contact lenses become a necessity. So a small screen so easily used before becomes a burden where a larger screen makes interaction with your phone so much easier. Also with data speeds (both land line and mobile) increasing more is being expected from whatever device you are using, so trying to squash all that into a small screen is becoming problematic.

I have an iPhone 3GS, a great device. However some time ago I decided to do some upgrading but went the Samsung Galaxy S II route. I still use the 3GS, but that larger S II screen makes reading or looking at web pages a so much nicer experience. If I was to do an upgrade now (this is not long after the iPhone 5 release) top of my shortlist is the Galaxy Note II.
(By chance, while writing this I noticed a Tweet from Austin Evans (@duncan33303), a young highly technology literate guy with some good YT videos… “Just fired up Kindle for Android on the Galaxy Note II. It’s actually big enough to read comfortably.”)
To me this Note II gives a screen large enough to display maps and ‘detailed information’ nice and clearly, just large enough to have two applications running on the screen at the same time, yet is still small enough (just!) to be highly portable.

When Apple developed their iPad Mini they obviously wanted to differentiate it from the popular 7 inch tablet crowd such as the new Kindles or Nexus 7, so they’ve made it a 7.9 inch device. I personally think it’s a great device however it still leaves a big hole in their range of something pocket-size but still ‘big’. I so wish they’d made the new iPad different by going down to say 6 inch, so providing something for those who, like me, was very happy their iPhone but now wants that larger screened item.

Apple might say that they don’t care about this other market, they’re quite happy re-inventing the iPhone every now and again and catching the next group of teenagers wanting phones, but I think this is very ‘short sighted’ approach. I want a set-up where I can seamlessly go from phone to tablet to desk-top computer. If I end up moving away from the iPhones when my 3GS eventually dies a death then I’ll want my next tablet upgrade to match my phone’s system so good-bye old iPad, and of course I’ll want my desk-top to match…

 

(Austin Evans YouTube channel.)

7 Inch Tablets.

I can’t make up my mind about these new 7 inch tablets.

I like the larger screen sized phones – easier to see web pages, maps are nicer to use, more room for a virtual keyboard etc . I also like my iPad – a ‘full size screen’ device which can do much of what a lap-top can do but a lot lighter, more portable and longer battery life.
So what about those that fall between the two, the new 7 inch devices which are becoming more and more common. Too large to fit in my pocket or in a pouch on my belt so they’ve lost that portability factor. A lot smaller than an iPad so they’ve lost a lot of functionality that comes with a physically larger screen. The worst of both worlds.
Or is it a case that thought they’re not pocket size they are small enough to fit into almost any sort of bag or carrier without taking up any significant amount of space, yet big enough to provide a really useful size of screen. Also powerful enough with dual and quad core processors to do whatever’s demanded from them.

There’s one thing that must be in favour for at least for some of these devices and that’s their price. The Nexus 7 or the 7 inch Galaxy Tab2 may be smaller than the iPad but they still have a similar level of functionality, however they come in at around half the cost. This for parents thinking of providing their children with a tablet type device for school must make it much more tempting. Also for those uncertain about the whole tablet thing a price at the £160 to £180 range is far less of a risk than the £400 or £500 for an iPad. We’ve also got the much rumoured iPad mini which should be appearing soon.

If I was to be upgrading my phone now I could be tempted with a Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5 inch screen, a device still small enough (just) for me to carry around on a belt holder. As for these 7 inch tablets, at the moment I’m not too sure.

A case of wait and see.

iPhone 5

A few thoughts on the iPhone 5 (& what I would have liked).

So the iPhone 5 is out and clocked up record sales. Not surprised, quite a few people I know have been delaying their phone replacement, living with old, even faulty phones waiting for the new device to come to market.
It’s quits some phone (even allowing for the farce over the map function and some wi-fi problems) however the trouble is that there’s nothing there that really makes it stand out from the opposition.
The first iPhone had its touch screen interface which was far better than anything else then around. The 3G / GS gave us high speed Internet. The jump up to 4 gave the Retina screen, the best of its type at the time, but with this jump up to 5 – there’s nothing really special that stands out. A slightly larger screen, but still just ‘average size’. 4G, but many others have that. Maps that don’t work too well… and so on.
Here’s something that would have got my attention (not my idea but I can’t remember where I first read it), and that would be to take the baby watch size iPod Nano and integrate its functions in with the iPhone 5.

Wear the Nano as a watch (as many people do) but whenever a text or email arrived on the phone it would be displayed on the Nano. The phone rings, caller information displayed on the Nano. No more having to go digging your iPhone out from your pocket or bag only to find it’s someone you don’t want to talk to. Pictures or music on your iPhone, route them through the Nano.

Within the limits of its small screen have it as an iPhone remote controller. Now that would have got my attention.

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.

Apple thoughts

Apple Thoughts post iPhone 4S.

It’s now a few days since the new iPhone 4S was announces by Apple, so a few ‘Apple thoughts’. A variety of improvements compared to the iPhone 4 but in the same case, and I assume, because they have retained the case, calling it the 4S rather than 5.
However lots of unhappiness at no iPhone 5, but how much of this unhappiness is hidden vanity. I want to show off that I’m rich (I have more money than sense), that I’ve got the latest new toy and you haven’t, that I’m cool and you aren’t. However by retaining the old case there’s no easy way of differentiating between the old and the new. Those who go for the new phone because of say the better camera and / or longer battery life will be getting a great new device (functionality over form). Those who wanted something new to pose with will be disappointed.
On the other hand Apple is not just a company producing new and exciting electronics, but a company of innovating design, a company whose products turn heads and grab attention. Have they missed something here by putting new wine into old skins. I suspect not.
Those who want the new features will get it, the Apple ‘must have’ fanboi crowd will, of course, go for it, the vanity crowd will have to wait (though of course they can always pretend their old 4 is actually a 4S).
What it does do is give Apple a huge amount of free publicity as speculation continues about an iPhone 5. Will there be one at the turn of the year, or not till the spring conference; will it have the features that were predicted for the 4S but not included, or will it be something totally new. By not drawing a line under all this speculation they have ensured countless more column-inches in the press that would have cost them a fortune had they had to pay for that amount of publicity.

On the subject of Apple hardware, I do use it but I’ve never been impressed with the early /first versions. My first Apple device was a G3 iBook to replace a Sony lap-top, however the Sony outlived it’s replacement and this experience put me off Apple for some time. It was only when I came across a ‘mature’ MacBook that I started seriously using Macs again. I really did not like the original iPad, but am very happy with my iPad 2. The first iPhone totally underwhelmed me, but when the 3GS came out I soon got (still use) one. The first MacBook Air I thought was a joke. Maybe thin but far too large, underpowered, and lacking in ports. The current ones with their i5 / i7 processors are awesome machines.

I guess there is one thing with all this Apple stuff, you can never really predict what they are going to do next, and when things do come out, quite how people will react to them.

What do I want from a mobile phone?

Well, what do I want from a mobile phone?! The least important thing is it as a speech communication device, the most important thing is it as a data communication device.

I do have an iPhone 3GS and I’m happy enough with it, however it does have its limitations. (One thing that has started to happen recently is that its battery life has fallen off. I don’t know if it’s because it’s now nearly 2 years old, or because of Apple updates, or both, but it is irritating.) Something I would find useful would be to have a device that could be used as a Wi-Fi hot spot, and I was actually on my way down to the shops to get a stand-alone MiFi dongle when by chance I bumped into a friend and mentioned this to him. He showed me his HTC Desire and said that the newer Android phones had that Wi-Fi service built in.

Being reasonably happy with my 3GS I’d not kept track of what had been coming out new onto the mobile phone market recently, so was quite surprised at how nice his Android phone was. (My only real experience of this family of phones had been with an early Google phone, and that had NOT impressed me!) This chance meeting got me into doing a bit of research into what else was around, and was impressed with what I saw. Although I have various Apple products I am not an Apple FanBoy, but I had assumed that my next phone would probably be whatever comes out to replace the iPhone 4. However it may well be time to switch across to Android.

So what do I want.

A 4.3 inch screen – big enough to be useful but still keeping the device pocket-size.
Dual core processor – I don’t want to spend a lot of money on something like a single core machine that’s just about to become ‘old generation technology’.
Front and rear cameras – I do like to make the occasional YouTube vlog using my phone, and a front facing camera would make that sooo much easier.
Wi-Fi hot spot facilities – the easiest way for me to have mobile internet for my lap tops and other devices.

So at the moment I’m just waiting for the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II phones to hit the phone companies, and then we’ll see how things go.