Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Blackberry Priv- day 2 impressions

Following on from my day 1 impressions:

Day 2 impressions pretty much the same as day 1. Love the feel of the device and the keyboard is superb (onscreen and physical). It has more character than a lot of slabs. But the audio experience is a major issue for me.

For editing documents this is unbeatable for a smartphone. The whole screen for editing! A quick double tap and I have cursor control. And press the SYM key on the physical keyboard and you get the symbols onscreen (though it should show the secondary symbol screen with !  £ ?  numbers etc by default,  not the other symbol screen).

Being able to assign short cuts to long presses of the physical keys is great. For example press e to add an event. Press t to add a task...

Also realised that to unlock it you can slide the keyboard down (turns the screen on) and then press the space bar to get to the unlock screen (not sure why couldn't just get to the unlock screen by slidding down).

But audio quality and the positioning of the headphone socket make this a real pain for me. A missed opportunity by not having the headphone socket in the middle of the bottom rather than in the way whilst I'm typing.

It's a brilliant device with great character, but a flaw that impacts my usage. 

(And as if to emphasise the point swiftkey seems even less accurate than usual and I realise how frustrating it is to always correct what's been typed!). 

Blackberry Priv- my first few hours

My first few hours with the Priv. In summary, the keyboard on the Priv is brilliant. The Priv feels lovely to pick up. It has an understated quality, just enough to show it means business. I just wish the audio was better. I’ll try again in the morning!

What I liked most
  • Lovely crisp screen 
  • Using the Priv when the physical keyboard is down. It feels better balanced, and has so much more space without an onscreen keyboard in the way. Plus I can use the physical keyboard to scroll up and down.
  • The physical and onscreen keyboards for typing. Great for longer documents like writing a word document.
  • The curves on the side of the screen make it a pleasure to pick up and to swipe across.
  • The touches that BB have put onto android are minimal but inspired like in the settings, recent apps...
  • It’s great having google now swipe up again (disappeared in marshmallow).

What I liked least:
  • Audio quality on the external speaker and on earphones is poor. (On earphones I needed to use Poweramp rather than Google Music to bear listening to it).
  • The headphone socket is on the bottom right of the keyboard. Any wired earphone I use gets in the way of me typing on the physical keyboard. 
  • The corners dig a bit into my palm. Something I'm sure I'll get used to!

My thoughts across the first few hours of using the Priv

The more smileys the better!

  1. :)) I Love the feel of the Priv out of the box. 
  2. :)) Blackberry pop-up keyboard is great.
  3. :( One less signal bar than on other devices.
  4. :)) Blackberry onscreen keyboard is excellent. I find it a lot more accurate than swiftkey (which I use a lot).
  5. :) Looks pretty much like stock android
  6. :((( Corners are digging into my palm
  7. :))) Feels premium
  8. :))) Side swipe for menu feels good with the curved screen.
  9. :) Has hdmi plug in.
  10. :) Some useful options under settings/advanced interactions eg 'hold to stay awake',  'flip to save power'.
  11. :)) It's great to have the swipe up on the home button to launch Google now! (this feature went on marshmallow). In fact bb have gone better, you can swipe any of the soft keys on the bottom to launch Google now.
  12. :))) I love being able to swipe across the soft keyboard to delete what I've typed.
  13. :) Quick indoor check of the camera,  it seems fine for my needs.
  14. :) On/off button is on the left of the screen. All of 15 seconds to get used to that.
  15. :( The phone seems to be slipping down out of my hand.
  16. :))) Screen looks nice: clear and sharp.
  17. :((( Audio on the external speaker is poor (quality and volume) compared to the devices I've used eg m8, any iPhone, 1520, n6... Maybe it takes a while for the speakers to settle (I've had this on other smartphones).
  18. :(( Video doesn't seem as punchy as some that I've seen.
  19. :(( It feels heavier/denser than I was expecting.
  20. :) When opening the app draw you can scroll from left to right to see apps,  then widgets then shortcuts. And vertically to see options under each of those. This is brilliantly simple. Why can't every other android phone do this!!
  21. :)) Wow!! some great shortcuts like add event, open dial pad (which is a lot faster in bringing up the dial pad than pressing the phone icon on my nexus 6- much faster!
  22. :) Long press on the screen gives the usual wallpaper &  widgets. It also gives the option to get different icon packs. Excellent idea!
  23. :) I'm getting more used to the corners digging into my palm. It's a bit like some lumias.
  24. :( It's a little bit heavy for one handed typing.
  25. Ok,  I'm about to open the physical keyboard!
  26. :) Physical Keyboard is more plasticky than the Passport. But easier to press.
  27. :))) Physical keys are accurate and comfortable if a little bit constrained after my n6. Perhaps could have been slightly wider.
  28. :(( Supporting the phone with my little finger curled underneath felt a bit heavy.
  29. :)) I prefer the feel of the phone with the keyboard down,  even just interacting with the screen without using the physical keyboard.
  30. :((( Just noticed the headphone socket is on the bottom right. That's a shame. If it was on the bottom left my little finger could have curled round it to hold the phone comfortably. Though it's fine if I'm holding the phone in my left hand (I use both hands). With the physical keyboard down it would have been better to have the socket in the middle so it didn't get in the way of typing on the keyboard.
  31. :)) Had a break and came back. Corners starting to feel fine (my palms and way I hold the device are adapting to a new phone).
  32. :) Just pressed the recent apps button- brilliant the way it's displaying mini images for the apps,  with the most recent larger at the bottom. Much,  much prefer this to how this is displayed on my n6!
  33. :) On screen keyboard is nice in landscape. And again swiping right to left deletes a word. Works better than fleksy for me.
  34. :) Turned off the phone and put it in my pocket. Fits nicely despite the square corners.
  35. :) Pulling the keyboard turns on the display. Nice:)
  36. :)) With the physical keyboard down I feel like I'm ready for business, ready to get things done
  37. :)) Supports fast charging 2- same as the nexus 6, z3ct... very handy given I've got the relevant fast charge plugs!
  38. Stuck in an sd card from my Sony and it came up with a message 'exFAT media driver required to use your media card' Downloaded from the Playstore- card works fine.
  39. :)))) Comparing how much screen space I have typing with the Priv and the physical keyboard compared to my n6 with its onscreen keyboard. I've got nearly double the screen estate with the Priv.
  40. :))) Using the physical keyboard to scroll down on an pages is great.
  41. :(((( Audio on earphones is weak,  thin and too sharp using Google music. With poweramp I can correct it, mostly.
  42. :))) It charges quickly on a fast charge plug!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Blackberry Passport 2 weeks on

The passport has grown on me enormously over the past 2 weeks.

On the plus side:

  • Text entry and editing is a pleasure (more so for lots of short to medium length items than for very long items). 
    • Using a physical keyboard is accurate and fast (helped because I don't need to do corrections that I need to do with wordflow on android and iOS from time to time). 
    • The physical keyboard also helps prevent the screen from getting smudged. 
    • And moving the cursor to a position within text is so much easier than with many other devices. It was a while before I realised that you double tap the keyboard to toggle the mouse mode which allows you to swipe on the keyboard to move the cursor around.
    • Word prediction is excellent (I haven't mastered 'swipe up on the keyboard' to select a word).
  • Integrated handling of email, calendar, calls, notes and managing to-dos is great (the blackberry hub). 
    • Email/texts: it’s great how I can see and manage these in one place (Blackberry Hub) or in separately. Functionality and the keybaord is great.
    • Tasks/to-dos (reminders): managing to-dos is very effective, helped by the software and the physical keyboard. I was suprised to find that things were syncing between the Passport and iPhone/iPad (groupings of tasks and tasks). A result of having set up hotmail as an account on my iOS devices and blackberry using Hotmail to sync my tasks. 
    • Notes: I’m bowled over by how well integrated Evernote is in the blackberry- appearing not just under an Evernote tab, but when I go into the ‘Reminders’ section under the second tab ‘Notes’. 
  • Navigation is great:
    • You can set the physical keys so that a long press launches an app or carries out a shortcut (e.g. B for browser, T for task…).
    • There are several handy gestures
      • Swipe up and to the right to get to the mail/text hub
      • Two finger swipe down to get to quick settings (which is well laid out, and versatile eg you can include torch on/off).
      • The ‘home’ screen shows open apps - something I find very useful for navigation (as well as closing apps)
    • I love how from the home screen you can type on the physical keyboard and it’ll find what youre after (e.g. type N then F to get to the NFC setting).
  • Music quality and navigation in the music player is very, very good. 
    • I prefer listening to music on this to the iPhone 5s & even (much to my surprise) the htc m8. 
    • The pause button on the side is very handy.
    • The layout in the music app, with recent.
  • With amazon apps and snap I've got access to the android apps I need (some like Google+ won't work but I can use browser access which works fine for me).
  • Battery life has been great.
  • The screen shape works very well
    • great for browsing and text entry (the sharpness of the display helps)
    • the phone fits pretty well into my trouser, jacket and coat pockets (better than my 1520 which is longer)
    • I was also surprised that I enjoyed reading ebooks on this. 
    • The square shape works quite well for taking out the device and spinning it aroundto do things (sounds a bit weird but it means it can be controlled one handed for somethings (e.g. music), even though the keyboard needs 2 hands).
  • Some nice touches like when turn it on a red light goes on when it's been pressed enough
  • The 26 keys on the physical keyboard gives a few more password combination possibilities than using a 4 digit pin code but seems just as easy with a physical keyboard. Though, I've started using picture passwords for the first time and they seem more secure in that even if someone is watching what you are doing they won't easily guess the combination, and makes a nice change.
Areas that I'd like to be better
  • Some apps from amazon/snap take a few seconds to start up eg 
    • Audible (loaded through Amazon app store). It’s less of an issue for me as I listen to Audible books on the iPhone 5S - though Audible performance is better on the Passport than on Windows Phone. 
    • OneNote. Though Evernote is great {indent text seems to be missing}. I’m using Evernote more and more again.
  • The screen size isn't good for video junkies. The display quality is fine - just not very big.
  • I'd have liked to have had a fourth physical row with numbers and a long press for common symbols, though the on screen approach works well enough.
  • If anything I'd prefer this to be wider (about 2cm wider). This would make typing even easier (which can feel a bit constrained at times especially after a lengthy period of typing). It would also make the Passport more video friendly.
  • It would be even better with a Nokia style glance screen.
  • Some Google apps won;t work (like Google+ I’m starting to get a bit put off by Google+’s lack of cross platform working. It would be great if Evernote kicked off a Social Media platform orientated aroud topics & communities).

The passport is a great device if you do a fair bit of text entry on the move. It reminds me very much of my old psion organiser. It's now replaced my 1520 during the working week - which is saying a lot!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Why I took the iPhone 6 plus back (and why I’ll consider the next iPhone!)

I’ve been using an iPhone 5s and Nokia 1520 as my two main devices (with an android tablet). It works very well as a combination but the 5s is only 16gb and there are ongoing issues with apps on Windows Phone (specifically poor MS office functionality compared to iOS, reduced functionality with Wunderlist on the WP version, issues with Audible, a better range of apps on iOS and android, some apps I use that are only on iOS and could do with a larger screen…).

I tried several larger android devices but none of them hit the spot (including the Note 4, where the positioning of the capacitive buttons continue to disappoint me). The HTC m8 and Sony z3 are the best for my needs of the android devices I considered. However, when I thought about it, having the iPhone 6 plus as my larger device and something like the Sony z4 compact seemed like the ideal choice. Touchid is a winning feature for my needs (as well as apps I use that aren’t on android). So, I parted with my cash and got the iPhone 6 plus. 

The iPhone 6 plus is a beautiful bit of hardware. Using it for a few days I found it more enjoyable as a phablet than the Note 4 which I had ahad for a few days. Reading ebooks was a pleasure and audio and the camera were great. However, I missed the larger size and character of my Nokia 1520 and realised that I also missed the size of the iPhone 5s, which is great for quick, one handed use; helped by its size, touchid, the swipe up settings panel (including torch), the swipe down notifications with pedometer etc, and its low weight (112g).

So, after a few days I decided that I preferred using my Nokia 1520 and iPhone 5s rather than just using the iPhone 6 plus.  It’s a bit too big from one perspective and a bit too small from another perspective (as are most 5.5” phones for me).

I took the iphone 6 plus to the store. Not the slightest hassle with returning it for a refund. Polite, helpful etc (unlike some experiences I’ve had with other manufacturers and outlets!). 

For now, I’m happy with what I have: iPhone 5s and Nokia 1520. I’ll wait to see what the Sony z4’s are like (Compact, standard and ultra). The feature that would help sway me most would be a much improved audio quality (rather than carrying a dedicated audio player around). And some of the issues with WP might be ironed out over time.

The other phones I’ll look at will be the LG gflex 2 (I had the first 6” gflex and it was a pleasure to hold and use- the curve made it a lot more comfortable to hold than many smaller phones). But most likely, if the Sony z4’s don't  hit the spot then the 5s will be replaced (when it goes to my wife) by the iPhone 6s.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have and to try out a large number of smartphones: windows mobile, Symbian, Android (lots!), iOS, blackberry, Windows Phone…It got me thinking about the enjoyment and longevity of the various devices I’ve had. And looking back, I’ve never been disappointed by an Apple product that I’ve had. They’ve more than done the job I needed, been a pleasure to use and lasted the longest, by a very long way. I’ve enjoyed several android devices (HTC One and LG G Flex standing out especially) and with Windows Phone the one device that has stood out head and shoulders above the rest for me is the Nokia 1520- which also has a lot more character than various android and iOS devices I’ve used. 

If I just based my decision on my next smartphone on reliability, ability to do the job and longevity then the obvious candidate is another iPhone.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Reflections on why I'm seeing so much anti-Apple material on Google+

Recently, the amount of anti-Apple posts in my Google+ stream seems to have reached epic proportions. One community that is supposed to be about funny posts in general has become ridiculous. One or two posts were fine;  it then started getting boring and now a deluge of anti-Apple posts that drown out the humorous posts in a sea of repetition.

Clearly, the timing of IFA and the release of new iPhones has an impact. But it made me curious about what motivates people to behave like this. And why so much anti Apple? I’m using Android, iOS & WP and in communities for all of these and I don’t see anything like the same level of attack aimed at Android or WP. 

There are several reasons that sprang to mind about why someone might want to ridicule the buying decisions that someone else makes:

1) Apple has been the main smartphone player for sometime. It's always easier to have a go at the main figure. Though Samsung now sells more handsets than Apple so clearly there is something more going on than people having a go at the company selling the most handsets. 

2) The world of Android and Apple are different, though interrelated. Android has a faster rate of change, many manufacturers and Google’s increasing hold of user content. Apple provides a degree of stability for its customers, a focus on user experience and product quality. However, by itself this would not be sufficient to get supporters of one having a go at the supporters of the other.

3) The behaviour of some suppliers has an effect on some people’s behaviour. Samsung for example, through the use of negative marketing, has set an example for what some see as reasonable behaviour. Obviously it has a number of benefits for Samsung (though it also has a secondary effect on the organisation using negative marketing approaches). When Samsung was fined for paying people to post positive comments about their products and negative comments about competitors (including HTC) it drew a new line on what could be considered marketing tactics. And, again fuelled animosity. 

4) The relationship between Apple & Samsung (and Google) is interesting. From when Samsung was a supplier to Apple; the court case on ‘the Samsung manual on how to copy an iPhone’ ; the numerous court battles as Samsung copied Apple for a period and then got into the stride of its own identity and innovation cycles (court cases that have potential benefits for both sides). Ideas are relatively easy to copy- from any direction- and as a consumer I like having the benefit of features in whatever I buy at the best price and quality I can get. However, I do understand the desire to protect patents, limit copying etc  and Apple are very diligent in protecting these (as are others, but those tend to get less publicity). And in some markets copying is seen as less of an issue than in others.

5) Corporate culture makes a huge difference, though no company is ‘ perfect’ - it’s made up of people, departments etc each with their own objectives. The Chairman of Samsung helped dramatically improve the success of Samsung (and play a part in Korea’s success). However, he was found guilty of financial irregularities and sentenced to prison. He was pardoned by the Korean President (to help with the Winter Olympics bid) and returned to Samsung. This sort of behaviour at the top level of any organisation, especially when condoned, can have a major impact on corporate culture and what is seen as acceptable.

6) Samsung is one of several Android suppliers, the one that has the most to gain by targeting Apple (sensible marketing strategy). However, when people who like Apple respond to negative comments by attacking Android in general, it draws in other people.With the increasing competition, especially at the cheaper end (at the moment), from Chinese manufacturers, Samsung has a vested interest in aiming upstream, where Apple has sat.

7) Google+ inevitably has more android users than Apple users, though clearly Apple bashing isn’t something that most people go in for. Google+ is a key competitive & strategic tool for Google.  For example, not releasing a Google+ app on WP introduces a barrier for people wanting to use WP. (I’ve recently realised that for WP there are other conversations going on outside of Google+ that are interesting for people using WP devices. However, Microsoft could do with providing a free version of Yammer outside of the corporate world. And Apple will loose out by not having an equivalent. Though ideally, I’d prefer to use a social media tool that’s not from an OS provider).

8) There are some people who like to vent steam; try and provoke a reaction; behave in quite a different manner online compared to how they might behave if you met them face to face. There is also an element of team support- like at a football (soccer) match where people get into the swing of chanting for their team, irrespective of who is playing well (whilst some people look on more interested in who is playing the better game). And there’s a lot of emotional & personal investment in a phone (more so for some people), and some people feel the need to justify their own decisions by having a go at the decisions that others make (a bit bizarre if you stand back- for example I don’t see buyers of BMW attacking buyers of Mercedes or vice versa- though it’s in less of their interests to encourage attacks on the other party). 

Which ever way you look at it having more competition is better for the consumer. If Apple or Android suddenly disappeared the customers of the ones left would look forward to less innovation and improvements, not more.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

My 'new' iPhone (sort of)- do I really need a NEW iPhone?

I recently decided to get a case for my iPhone 5s (wanting something a bit more rugged and that I'm happy using in the rain). So I ordered a Lifeproof Nuud case (makes the phone shock proof from up to 2m, waterproof to 2m, isn't that big, doesn't put something over the screen, is easy to get headphones on/off and still allows touchID to work (and runs the iOS apps that I still can't get on android or WP).

Wow- this feels like a totally new device. It still fits comfortably in my hand and now I have no qualms about dropping it or using it in the rain. Yes the bare iPhone is slim and slips into any pocket. But I like this rugged new iPhone: touchID works perfectly, and everything else (like swiping up the settings for quick access to wifi, bluetooth,  torch...). The only downside is trying to take the case off (external speaker sounds a bit more echo'y than before).

I did consider the iPhone 6+ but will wait to try it myself. Though perhaps I don't now need a new phablet.  I have my Nokia 1520- which has a stunning screen, great battery life, character and is an enjoyable experience every time I use it- more than any other phablet I've used (including the Note 3, gFlex, HTC One Max, Xperia Z Ultra...). I'll try out the Samsung Note 4 as well and there is the upcoming gFlex 2. (The first gFlex was the most practical phablet I've used, certainly for one handed usage- and apart from being more comfortable and practical than my Note 3, also gave me about 40% extra battery life).

If I didn't already have a phablet the other device I'd consider would be the LG G3 - preferably with WP which is definitely growing on me (going back to my android devices is leaving me flat in comparison. And iOS, well that's not an OS that really tries to get between the user and the app).

So, it looks like I've saved myself a lot of money- perhaps it's time to buy a dishwasher.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Gravity, a disappearing sun, big G (not google)...

There was a recent post about an article in Gizmodo outlining what might happen if the Sun suddenly disappeared. 

Fortunately, it's not going to happen (or least very unlikely!). The article's last comment is rather funny 'it would be interesting to live through' - I doubt if living through would be an option. An interesting thought experiment though, especially around the nature of gravity. 

I always pictured the gravity of the sun as being a bit like having a heavy ball on a sheet of rubber ('fabric of space time":). The weight causes things to sink in towards the sun, unless of course there are things preventing that (eg due to other objects in space having enough of an impact to prevent that, having their own dimples in this rubber sheet, & the speed of an object moving around the sun's dimple being sufficient to avoid it falling inexorably to the bottom of the dimple caused by the sun's weight. 

Whilst it's a simple analogy it does have the advantage of being easy to picture. And if the sun is removed, the question then is how quickly the sheet looses its dimple rather than a question about how fast light travels (though looking at it one way you could see how they could relate). 

A potential issue with my initial thought around having a rubber sheet is that take off a heavy ball and the sheet will have some vibrations (which isn't unrealistic) and could fling other objects affected by the sun's dimple in all sorts of directions eg one way and then the other! Perhaps into the dimple of something else, though of course that dimple could also be impacted by the vibrations (best not to think about what holds the object to the rubber sheet:).

I was listening to a podcast about big G, the universal constant used for calculating the gravitational force between two objects (not to be confused by little g, the local gravitational constant, like at different places on the earth's surface). Big G is sometimes called the Mount Everest of physics because it's proving so difficult to measure accurately (only about 0.05% level of certainty- massive in physics terms). It got me thinking about the analogy of a rubber sheet. You can see how g, local gravity is affected by the mass of the object causing the dimple (as well as by the object falling into the dimple, which creates its own dimple though here the analogy is tricky to maintain). However, picturing the curvature of the dimple you can see how that's going to increase the closer the object gets to the middle of the dimple (as well as getting steeper depending on the mass of the two objects). The bit that gets more interesting though is the stretchiness of the fabric- how far that stretchiness is fixed, how far it varies depending on the mass of what's causing the dimples and how far does it varies at different points on the rubber sheet.

The wonders of analogies- and their limitations!

Back to mobile devices:)