Tag Archives: review

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.

Rode smartLav

sadly disappointed with my Rode smartLav mic.

I had always associated Rode with quality, I’ve used their products before and always been very happy with them. However I find myself sadly disappointed with the quality of my recently purchased  Rode SmartLav lavalier microphone. They advertise it as “a professional-grade wearable microphone” but I found it far from that.

The first thing I noticed was a physical problem, the foam cover / windshield was not properly attached to its frame. That got sorted by fully removing the cover and then the application of some superglue to re-attach it.

The microphone did come with a tie-clip which does quite a good job of holding the device and keeping the cable secure. The microphone itself is quite small, somewhat thicker than a toothpick, a lot thinner than a pencil. Assuming you could route the cable out of sight then it could go totally unnoticed if attached to the side of a monitor or to one side of a desk. Its omnidirectional pick-up pattern means it does not have to be pointing at the speaker in order to pick up speech.

The device is advertised as a smartphone device, I did try plugging it into my Zoom H1 recorder and also my video camera but (as expected) it didn’t work with either. I’ve tried it with three different phones. Using a Nokia Lumia 520 it gave an audio file that sounded a bit wooly with a loss of upper end frequencies. Using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 gave a very tinny sound with loss at both the lower and upper frequencies. My iPhone gave the best overall sound in terms of frequency response however I still class it as ‘poor’ and far from the ‘professional-grade’ that Rode claim. There was also a noticeable background hiss all the way through and an intermittent crackle just to add to the distraction.

The one area where it did perform better than other microphones I’ve used is outside in that it picked up less wind noise than most. This does not, however, compensate for its overall poor quality of performance.

Sorry Rode, the phrase “could do better” springs to mind.

Link to my YouTube test of 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.

Cinema super-hero watching

Found myself down in the cinema a fair bit recently watching a few super-heros such as Avengers Assemble, The Amazing Spider-man, and also Ice Age: Continental Drift.
Enjoyed them all, but…when I say enjoy, I did enjoy them, but only ’enjoy’, not ’wow that was amazing’. All this got me wondering what’s going on with the big film studios these days.

This Ice Age is now the 4th in the series. I really liked the interplay between Sid, Manny, and Diego in the original. Now there are so many other characters (and sub-plots) demanding your attention that the original sparkle has been lost in a sea of indifference.

Another reinvention of Spider-man (I assume the numerous sub-plots were left open to enable plenty of sequel opportunities). However I’m not too sure how really different this version was compared to the start of the previous series (except perhaps for the college students who looked far more mid-20s than late teenage guys).

A pulling together of Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Capt. America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye into the Avengers. I thought a chance for some amazing interplay between these characters, but it seemed more a case of throw in as many impressive special effects as you can even if they’re not very original (how many times can New York get trashed in how many different films), and just let the plot look after itself without too much thought required.

As mentioned at the start (and despite my other comments) I enjoyed watching these films, but is it just me in that I do find myself getting a bit tired of the big film studios relying too much on the re-hashing of existing franchise and going for known safe numbers rather exciting us with something new. (We made money with this before so let’s just re-do it again and we’ll make even more money.)

Then I read that the film studios are splashing out over $200 million on making some of these action films, or around $2,000,000 per screen minute. That’s one hell of a lot, and considering the cost of a cinema ticket, I really expect more for that sort of outlay than just another repeat.