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:) 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

My favourite mapping apps for 1) Windows Phone 2) iOS and 3) Android

There are lots of great mapping and navigation apps around. I use a lot of public transport (living and working in London). I also like hiking and do a bit of driving. Here are my favourite apps at the moment:

1. For Windows Phone

1a)  For public transport (in and around London):

  • 'Nokia Here Transit'- I like the layout and I've used it happily around London for mixed mode travel (train, tube, walking, bus, tram...).
  • 'London Travel': very handy for disruptions, live departure boards... and handy live tiles
  • 'Bing get me there London': nicely laid out public transport travel features

1b) For walking:

  • 'Outdoor Navigation':
    • supporting Bing, Google maps & Openmaps eg, Opencycle. Also many other maps
    • setting waypoints along your journey
    • voice navigation for walking 
    • shows your geotagged photos on the map 
    • wikipedia map layer (which I really like)
    • you can draw a route and measure it
  • 'Nokia Here Maps'  & 'Bing Maps': downloadable- using the same base info, though showing slightly different aspects)
  • 'GeoGPS': similar to Outdoor Navigation, definitely worth a look

1c) For driving:

  • 'Nokia Here'- great driving instructions (better than Google's instructions when I've compared them in {I'm in the UK})

1d) Other:

  • 'Here Explore Beta' It's great for showing different things things on the map  and subcategories of things to look at (eg under Eating & drinks-Coffee/Tea; Natural or geographical- forest, heath; shopping- electronics...) 
  • 'Google Maps'- using Google maps (Not from Google- possibly produced by some people at Stanford I think)

2. For iOS

2a) For public transport (in and around London):

  • 'City mapper': great UI & functionality
  • 'Bus checker': great for live bus times for your location, and routes
  • 'UK Train times': great for overground trains- providing platform details

2b) For walking

  • 'Apple maps': great for navigation in cities (I prefer this over Google map directions)
  • 'ViewRanger': great for hiking

2c) For driving

  • 'Apple maps'

3. For Android

3a) For public transport (in and around London):

  • 'City mapper': great UI & functionality
  • 'Bus checker': great for live bus times for your location, and routes
  • 'National Rail enquiries': great for overground trains- providing platform details

3b) For walking

  • 'Google maps': for directions in cities
  • 'ViewRanger': great for hiking

3c) For driving

  • 'Google maps'

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Is the s-pen enough to sway me to get a Note 4? (having had a Note 1,2 and 3)

I had the note 1,2 and 3 and didn't use the in built stylus much- usually it was faster to use my finger. I have a note 8 and use a stylus on that a lot- that's due to the larger screen size and the fact that I'll usually sit down and use the Note 8 for a longer period. 

I do use a stylus from time to time for writing on devices like the Note 3, gFlex, Nokia 1520..., using slide keyboards (like Swiftkey). After trying a lot of different styluses I settled on the Bamboo Duo stylus - which feels great to use and to hold; doesn't impact battery life; can write on paper  and has a jacket clip which I find useful. I preferred writing on my Note 3 with the Bamboo stylus compared to using the Samsung stylus. The other stylus that I enjoyed using for notes etc was the Evernote Jotscript (though I prefer the Bamboo Duo). The Jotscript works very well on the iPad and on the LG Flex (the curved screen making it a pleasure to hold and write on, with any stylus).

It comes down to what's important to you & how you use the device. However, the Note 4 stylus isn't enough of a benefit to make that the deciding factor for my usages. Especially when I have other styluses that I prefer to use on a device the size of the Note 4.

(Bamboo Duo stylus on Amazon)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Are eBooks better for the environment than physical books?

I recently read a post showing a cartoon about eBooks and physical books.  One comment was that eBooks are better for the environment than physical books. That was my first instinct too. However, as I thought about it, and dug a bit deeper, it’s a bit more complicated than I first thought.

The last figures I saw, were that manufacturing a kindle, and assuming 4 years of use, consumes about 168kg of CO2. That's equivalent to producing roughly 23 books.  So if you read more than 6 books a year an eBook reader should be more environmentally friendly- as long as you hold onto your eBook reader for 4 years without buying a new one.That’s based on manufacture; there’s the distribution consideration as well- given that most books are published in China and exported.

However, it’s still not as simple as that. The lithium battery in an eBook reader, such as a kindle, is a pollutant and the environmental costs of dealing with that are high (even with recycling). Also, physical books tend to last longer than 4 years.  They’re often reused, passed on, even recycled (hard to recycle an eBook). 

Then's there's the trees. Having trees growing tends to be better for the environment than not having the trees at all. However, if trees aren't being grown for paper production are the trees left to happily get on with producing O2/managing CO2? Increasing not: the land is turned over for building on or for food manufacture.

There’s also a social perspective. Currently, more people earn their livelihood through the end to end physical book process compared to eBooks (especially if people use existing multifunctional devices rather than getting specialist eBook readers, or frequent replacement of gadgets, something I’m guilty of). In theory, removing the costs of paying others, should mean that eBooks are cheaper for consumers than physical books;  leaving us to spend more money on other consumables (and a nice increase in revenue and profits for Amazon, given that most eBooks are Kindle).

However, price and convenience drives buying decisions towards eBooks.  So, for those who want to consider the environment and want price and convenience the optimal choice is probably to use a multifunctional device, rather than buying an additional eBook reader (e.g. using a tablet- assuming you have one or you want to do more than read eBooks)- and use eBook reader apps (Kindle, Kobo, Nook…). And also not replacing the device too often (4 years sounds a bit of a stretch target! Especially for tablets- though I'm finding that iPads tend to have a longer replacement cycle than some of the android tablets- if only because upgrades come around faster).

And as a further point- are physical books more effective for information distribution or enjoyment compared to eBooks?  A recent study found:

... readers using a Kindle were "significantly" worse than paperback readers at recalling when events occurred in a mystery story is part of major new Europe-wide research looking at the impact of digitisation on the reading experience.

Personally, I use a mix of  eBooks and physical books; ebook readers and tablets; Kindle, Kobo and Nook eBooks apps. I prefer reading a physical book. But it's not always as convenient as an eBook reader. I prefer reading on eBook readers (usually) compared to tablets/phones, but again eBook readers aren't always as convenient as a phone/phablet.

The original post has made me think a bit more about the impact of my decisions as well as the assumptions I make!

 (Click here for the original post)

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Backing up and restoring devices using the cloud

There's been a fair bit of publicity recently about not having 2 factor authentication when restoring a device from the cloud (specifically,  iCloud) (though at time of writing it's still unclear whether the attack was through 'guessing' the password).

Personally, I wouldn't use any cloud based DEVICE back up (Apple, HTC...). It seems to be asking for trouble (I do back up documents, photos etc which do have two factor authentication available for most cloud services). For device backup I stick with local backups for some devices. For Apple that means using iTunes backup NOT iCloud backup. (Though for some devices I just do a full factory restore from time to time and load the apps I need.  It's good spring cleaning and the documents and data I need I can get to from apps that access cloud storage (can also go into iCloud to delete backups)

There was publicity around the impact of iCloud not supporting 2 factor authentication around May last year when Apple introduced 2fa for other things (I think it was just after the google drive script flaw and a few months after the touchWiz remote takeover hack). Cloud restore of a backup should have some authentication. Obviously,  there's having a decent password (and having strong security q&a eg NOT using your real date of birth,  not providing your real mothers birth name...).  Though none of the devices I have that offer cloud back up and restore directly (including my Android devices) actually claim to support 2fa.
Cloud security is an issue and attacks will continue to increase. The increased convenience of cloud and internet connectivity comes with a few downsides/risks. 'Box' (cloud storage on android, iOS and WP) has a good reputation in the security area and being non platform specific they have a strong vested interest in covering security on different platforms.

I'd definitely recommend that people use 2 factor authentication. Whilst it doesn't cover every aspect it does cover a number of other scenarios. I know lots of people who use Evernote & OneNote for doing lots of notes. Many people use 2fa with OneNote because it's linked to their hotmail account and OneDrive account- and they use 2FA for that. However, most people I know haven't enabled 2fa on Evernote.

For important passcodes etc there's a lot to be said for physically writing them down or using a non connected device like an old Psion organiser! (And for the paranoid using a cypher). 

For anyone interested on security Steve Gibson's Security Now podcast is a great listen: (and if you're already a listener you probably won't click on the link!)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Would I use a smartwatch? (not yet)

There's a lot of interest on smart watches with September releases imminent. 
I've had the pebble which had great battery life, was compatible with iOS and android and waterproof. Also a Samsung gear- nice materials but disappointing battery life, a daft cradle to recharge, not good for outdoor use and very limited by only working with Samsung devices!!! Also, I had a Sony smart watch 2 which I preferred over the Gear (not as premium feeling but a lot more versatile and practical). However, none of the above has led to me using a smart watch beyond trying them for a few weeks. I don't currently wear a watch and to be useful I'd need any smart watch to do things a lot more conveniently than I can with an easily accessible smartphone (including 3 button hands free set). With a larger device/phablet, a smart watch could be a useful accessory (as long as it doesn't need it's own SIM card!). The current iPhone 5s with touchid is small, light, easy to access, has a built in pedometer, and easy access to audio and camera. I can see less reason for using a smart watch with an iPhone than with a phablet (so will be interesting to see the iPhone 5.5). Based on what I've seen of Cortana (compared to google and Apple's voice control) a Microsoft watch that was compatible with WP, Android and iOS would be interesting. On the android front Mororola's 360 and the new LG watch look interesting, stylish and practical than some of the previous android smart watches.

How accurate is a smartphone for knowing your location?

Answer- it varies! Depending on your phone, the network, your location and which app you're using! (at the moment in a built up area with lots of masts and wifi around as well I'm showing about +/-20m).

I recently read a posting comparing the accuracy of Ordnance Survey Map grid references on an iPhone and a G3 (on "Gavin's Gadgets"- some great articles- and photo comparisons from lots of devices).  The iPhone appeared to be way out in the article and it got me wondering because last weekend, whilst walking and comparing an HTC One, Nokia 1520 & iPhone 5s I was comparing navigation and location accuracy. I was by the coast it was pretty easy to know exactly where I was. Of the three, the Nokia 1520 and iPhone 5s gave my actual position on satellite maps most accurately. I wasn’t specifically looking at grid co-ordinates. So just now I fired up the three devices. Quickly looking at the 1520 & HTC One, the grid refs match to 8 figure accuracy. The iPhone is out noticeably (using the ViewRanger app on the iPhone and on the HTC One). Out of curiosity I downloaded ‘Coordination’ (app on iOS to give grid references). And it’s grid ref matches the HTC One and 1520. Quick conclusion- ViewRanger on iOS isn’t accurately showing my grid references- certainly compared to other iOS apps (I’ll contact the maker- though might be a setting difference between my iOS and Android version in ViewRanger). I'm in a built up area and lots of masts and wifi signals around (about +/-20m accuracy).
It got me thinking a bit more about what affects locational accuracy - and as I dug deeper I found several approaches used to determine accuracy on Smartphones- and realised there was more to this. Garmin were touting WAAS (EGNOS in Europe) with a quoted ‘5 times more accurate than GPS’- which got me thinking that  if I was out walking in the wilds something like a Garmin device would be useful alongside a phone!

A couple of interesting sites I found along the way:

UPDATE: issue with Viewranger on iOS is due to a difference in behaviour to the Android version of ViewRanger (and most map apps on iOS). Most map apps on iOS and Android (including ViewRanger on Android) default to using the grid reference system used on Ordnance Survey maps. However, ViewRanger on iOS defaults to using a different reference system. There is a settings option in ViewRanger on iOS to change the grid system to the more widely used system (at least in the Uk) and to bring it in line with the android version.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Wunderlist, one of my favourite to-do managers heads over to WP

Wunderlist is one of my favourite to-do managers on Android & iOS, syncing seamlessly over both and having a great UI that balancing ease of use and functionality A beta version of this is now available on Windows Phone 8.1. I'm using WP more and more (preferring the UI over iOS and Android). And doing a quick check the WP phone beta syncs nicely with the wunderlist app on android, iOS, MacOs and hte beta on Windows.

(I currently use 2day on WP, syncing with 2do on android & iOS via a free todoodle account. There's also the excellent 'Powertasks' on WP).

Here's the notice I saw in the WP app 'Windows Phone central' - which I only just discovered has forums and commenting capabilities (ie if I wanted to I could, for WP, not bother using Google+ for communities):

Wunderlist 3 is the latest version of the service, and it's available on Android and iOS. Today we get to taste Wunderlist 3, but as a beta. Here are the new features in Wunderlist 3: •New, more intuitive design and reengineered apps make Wunderlist feel faster than ever before. •Real-time Sync instantly updates your lists, no matter where you are. •Collaborating with Wunderlist is now even easier, with a simpler way to share to-do lists. •Comments are now free to help everyone stay in the loop with family and colleagues. •Curate your favorite things to do, see and make for everyone on the web, with Public Lists. Take Wunderlist for a spin and let us know what you think! •Download Wunderlist (beta) for Windows Phone; Windows Phone 8.1 only Via: @wpscoops You can read comments and view pictures/video here at Or open the article with the WPCentral app here: wpcentral:show?article=wunderlist-now-available-windows-phone-public-beta

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A day of maps, walking along the coast: Nokia 1520, iPhone 5s & HTC One m7

thought I'd give maps on my WP, iOS and Android devices a bit of a twirl today. We were heading off to the south coast for a walk along the Seven Sisters (doesn’t need much in the way of complex map reading!). I took my Nokia 1520, iPhone 5s and HTC One m7. It wasn't a very scientific or in-depth comparison (I wanted to enjoy the walk). But it was enough for me to choose which device I'd prefer to use.

The map apps I was using today:
  • iPhone 5s: I had Google maps, Apple maps &  'Many maps' (which gives side by side access to Google maps,  Bing, Google, Nokia Here and OpenTouch maps). I also have 'OutDoors' (I forgot about the rather daft 100mb download limit when not on wifi that Apple has). To date I've been using the Google maps app on the iPhone rather than Apple's map.
  • HTC One m7: I was using Google maps (I also have the 'OutDoors' app for OS maps).
  • Nokia 1520 I had Nokia Here/Bing maps (which seem to use the same data but show different aspects) and online OS maps (the offline OS map app seems to have been removed- perhaps a licensing issue).

Part 1: Using phone directions to get out of the city to the to the Seven sisters coastal walk
  • iPhone 5s (o2) - Apple maps great. Press to where want to go and rotates responsively and accurately with clear online directions. Small hand set size of iPhone ideal for using whilst walking and the screen is readable outdoors. Touchid makes it very quick to access.
  • HTC One (Three payg) - google maps very good. Though layout not as clear as the iPhone's apple maps (which has larger text, very clear directions etc). However, bright sunlight made the HTC One nearly impossible to read and I had to stop using it eventually.
  • Nokia 1520 (Three) quick map, clear route though no voice directions walking. Quite big to hold  one handed and walk along but great screen for reading in sunlight and big- making it easier to see more of what was around.

Overall winner for me in the city: very surprisingly (to me) Apple maps on the iPhone was the winner -clearest directions and well suited for using one handed whilst walking.

Part  2: walking along the coast
  • iPhone- very good at showing accurately where I was. But a bit small for seeing what was around. And satellite images rendered more slowly than on the HTC One or 1520.
  • HTC One- let down by poor outdoor visibility- though when shaded it was fine with Google maps. Not quite as good as pinpointing my precise location accurately ( could be hardware of course).
  • Nokia 1520- great screen for reading maps- large and easy to read in bright sunlight. Very, very quick to render satellite images (possibly because I'd already downloaded the free UK maps)- quicker than google maps (on the HTC and google maps on the 1520).

Overall winner for me going for a walk along the coast today: Nokia 1520. The large screen, very visible in bright sunlight gave this the edge. The satellite maps were rendered very, very fast using Bing maps.  

(Non mapping aside: we travelled to the coast by train - the 1520 was great as an entertainment device for us due to its large screen eg for looking through the photos. Camerawise,  I liked several of the photos on the 1520. Though some of the iPhone 5s photos actually looked better. As we headed home the iphone and HTC were at about 25% battery. The 1520 battery wasn't even at 70%. Today reinforced, to me, the benefit of having a large and a small device alongside each other (if you can). Though if I was to have only 1 device for today's journey I'd have probably plumped for the Samsung s5, LG G3, Sony Z2 or Nokia 930 (each for slightly different reasons- the upcoming 5.5" iPhone 6 will be very interesting).

Friday, 22 August 2014

Which mapping app to use? (why stick with just one?)

When I use a map on the iPhone I've been using the google maps app (I haven't used Apple's maps for ages but having a quick look, it's showing me some useful info and nicely laid out too). The following link is several months old but  makes some interesting reading about the Google Apple maps debate:
I still prefer 'Nokia Here' for driving directions over Google's navigation apps- it gives me more useful directions! (I've just found an iOS app 'Many maps'  which gives me Google, Nokia Here, Bing & OpenTouch maps & navigation on my iPhone- it's interesting seeing them side by side).
(Update: ironically a friend who has had an iPhone for ages was convinced she was using Google maps. In fact she was using Apple maps -she didn't have google maps installed). A bit more brand awareness of Google maps!

Monday, 11 August 2014

My experience of using Google services on Windows Phone

Overall, I haven't had any particular issues for my use of Google services on the 1520, and whilst some of them aren't as smooth as on android, there are non-google options that I've found that are functionally better for me;  more portable and integrate more effectively with other apps that I use.  What I use is affected by needing to work over multiple OS's. If I was living in just WP world I'd use Microsoft only; if I was living only in android I'd use Google only; and if I was living in iOS only I'd use Apple only. Of these three I've found cross platform integration easiest with Microsoft. The lack of cross platform integration is leading me away from certain google services to more versatile options. These are my experiences with the different google services that I use/have used: 

1) gMail: fine for me. There's no swiping to the left/right in WP (which I prefer on iOS compared to the android version of gMail). But the conversation layout in WP for gmail is one I prefer over even the android gmail layout (also suits my corporate email very well!).

2) Google search: No problem for me- there's a Google search app on WP (from Google). However, I'm using Bing more and more and I'm surprised at how good it is. I stopped using google now a while ago because it got in the way of what I wanted to do on android and wasn't given me the specific information I wanted. There are other android apps that gave me what I wanted.

3) Google Maps: these are available on WP. 'Nokia Here' is excellent and I was surprised at how much better driving instructions were with Nokia Here compared with Google maps/navigate for my journeys.

4) Youtube:  works fine. And there are 3rd party apps on WP that make downloading clips very easy.

5) Google+: this is the one thing where I notice more of a gap between the Android and WP experience. It works smoothly enough, for posting, reading notifications etc. However, I hadn’t found out until this evening how to reply directly to someone (as opposed to putting a comment in the stream of replies).

6) Google contacts: Not a problem for me- a while ago, in order to sync my work contacts more effectively I'd merged my contacts from hotmail into google; deleted them from hotmail; exported from Google (google.csv)and imported into hotmail- using that as the master over iOS and android; with subsequent changes in any other address book being linked. To date that seems to have worked ok. Though having a quick check it looks like if you simply select google as a WP account and select to use Google contacts it doesn't bring over all details- google and outlook appear to have slightly different contact fields. It hasn’t caused me an issue to date- I need my contact details on iOS; Android and WP (as well as in hotmail and google). 

7) Google docs: No problem for me- I use MS office on WP. And even on Android I tended to use Kingston office rather than google docs.

8) Google Drive: No problem for me. I use gDrive on WP through 3rd party apps. However, I am starting to use Onedrive more and more and I use Box mostly. I have more storage with Box than gDrive & Onedrive. And Box has better integration across the range of apps & operating systems that I use compared to gDrive. My photos are auto loaded from WP into OneDrive which is fine as I've had less issues sharing photos using OneDrive for access by relatives than I did with Google photo albums. I have some relatives who only use Microsoft; some only using iOS and some only using android.

9) Google Calendar:   I stopped using google calendar a while ago as I wanted my appointments in one place & my work calendar prevented use of external calendars (so I started putting most of my personal appointments in my corporate exchange calendar and marking them as private). I still have a few things in google calendar which come through ok  (though there's something that doesn't feel quite right if you use multiple google calendars in one google account on WP- specifically if you add a new google calendar. (I used the multiple google calendar feature a lot when it first came out but stopped after a while as it was a level of complexity that I didn’t need).

10) Google keep: I stopped using this a while ago.  It wasn't accessible on iOS easily and I need notes portability. I started using Evernote and OneNote for short as well as long notes and haven’t looked back!

11) Google tasks: I long ago abandoned google tasks as it didn’t have the functionality or integration I was after. I use 2day on WP which is my favourite to-do app, ever. And it syncs seamlessly with Android and iOS to-do apps (via a free todoodle cloud account).

12) Google music:  I use Amazon and iTunes as music from there was more portable than google music used to be (and looks like there's a WP app to access Google Play).

13) Google News: not something I ever really bothered with, preferring Flipboard for news. However, on WP I've started using Bing news which I prefer over Flipboard (it's one of the places where the 1520 's screen size and mouth watering screen come into their own).

14) Google translate: I never really used that much.  Wordlens is great on iOS and Android. And there's a decent equivalent on WP (Bing translate).

I don’t want to switch totally into just Microsoft or Google. But for anyone wanting to look a bit further I just found this:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Nokia 1520 my ideal holiday device

I recently came back from a holiday walking in the mountains. The Nokia 1520 was brilliant. Typically, I'm also using Android and iOS devices on a daily basis. However, using the 1520 as my only device  for several days has made me appreciate it more than ever and left me wanting WP UI on my android and iOS devices.

  •  Map reading & navigation: the 1520 screen was fantastic for reading. It's the best screen I've come across for reading in bright sunlight (and luckily we had a fair bit of sun). I was using Nokia Here maps and google maps on it (and a screen shot of the main walk route (a photo of the map section) as my lock screen. The screen was big enough to make it practical for reading in the mountains as well.
  • Photos: I enjoy taking photos on the 1520. It takes better photos than I've been used to on a smart phone and the large screen, visible in bright sunlight, makes it ideal for showing photos to people. (And Nokia beamer is a great way to 'impose' photos on others:). I also had more of a look at 500px. There are some stunning photos in there and they look mouth watering on the 1520 (I have 500px on android as well but never got drawn into it. It was the WP live tile that initially drew my attention to 500px and then I was hooked).
  • Reading ebooks: for reading ebooks in the evening & on the plane the 1520 was perfect. The screen is gorgeous. And I like the way I can have tiles for specific books- it makes it easier for me to focus on the books I want to read
  • To-dos, notes etc: I used the excellent "2day" app to tidy up and structure my to-dos. And using OneNote and Evernote to do notes on various things (2day is my favourite to-do app, on any operating system. I've used a lot of different to-do apps and finally settled on 2day on WP.  It syncs over the cloud with lots of to-do apps on iOS and Android (I use 2do on those).
  • Weather: the Bing weather app was excellent and very accurate for where we were.
  • Battery life: excellent, got me through each day without breaking into a sweat
  • Games: for myself and family members. Games work incredibly well on the 1520 and all the titles we wanted are on WP (fifa 2014, civilisation, ragdoll, temple run, fruit ninja, pocket rally, P&Z, bejewelled, riddles games {which my daughter had great fun using with other children- the large screen and loud cheering sounds helping making it a social gaming device})
  • Audio: nice loud speaker for listening to audio books (I had a Sony Bluetooth speaker as well but rarely used it). Also happily listening to podcasts (I'd prefer to have pocket casts to sync listening over multiple OS's but there are decent alternatives on WP. Music is very good too ( I'd like to be able to edit playlists on WP rather than on a PC/Mac, but I can live with that). {update - with 8.1 I can now create and edit playlists on the 1520}
  • Email and office: I did a couple of emails with gmail and hotmail (I prefer the WP layout for email). I also had to edit a few documents- MS office on the 1520 works very well (I had some docs on gDrive which  I needed to get to, which worked fine on WP). Again the larger screen was ideal for document editing.  (MS could make it easier to attached files to emails, not just photos).
  • Social media: fine for various social media services (including google+ though I still haven’t found how to do a direct reply as easily as with android. But fine for postings, adding comments etc). {update: gPlus allows direct replies but asks for a code each time you open it if you;re using 2 factor authentication. I'm just using google+ through the browser now which is fine for me}
  • Additional thoughts:
    • Search: I hadn’t really used Bing much in the past , sticking with Google. However, whilst I have a google search app on the 1520, I've ended up using Bing more and more and I'm quite surprised at how good an alternative it is to google search.
    • Size: despite it's larger size, the 1520 fitted perfectly into my walking trousers
    • News: I avoided the news (rarely good news), but did have a peek at a few things and I like Microsoft's news app a lot (I prefer it over flipboard)
    • Translation: my German isn’t great but Bing translate was a pretty good alternative to wordlens for  translating menus - strudel, sachertorte…:)
    • And coming back to the UK I was pleasantly surprised to find that 8.1 has arrived (just downloaded, will play later). And also I just found there's a windows phone app on the Mac for syncing content with  WP device (normally I don’t bother linking phones and computers- I download directly, but I wanted to get some things from iTunes onto the 1520).
  • WP compared to iOS and Android:  Since coming back I've had a quick use of some of my android and iOS devices and they leave me feeling a bit underwhelmed after the live tiles interface on the stunning 1520 screen. Android appeals to the geek in me, and I do tinker with it (perhaps too much). iOS has more of the apps I need (still) and the UI doesn't get in the way of me getting to those apps. However, WP is fresh; it allows me to organise things in a way that is a more coherent UI for doing what I want to do (I prefer live tiles over widgets), and an unobtrusive approach for showing me new content. I was thinking about a g3 as my next phone. I don’t need another phone yet. However, I'm seriously looking at getting a cheap Nokia 1020.
{Update: since coming back from holiday I've also found the 1520 has an inbuilt pedometer which Bing health & fitness tracks. I could have seen how many steps I'd done, not that it matters- a few thousand steps going up or down the side of a mountain is a bit different to walking on the flat!}

Thursday, 17 July 2014

goodbye iPhone 5s- hello HTC One M7 (again)

My iPhone 5s has eventually gone to its intended home (my wife).  For the short term I've switched my corporate sim card into an old h&c one m7 (which I got when it first came out- and which I loved).  My initial impressions going back to the HTC One M7 after the iPhone are mixed. 

What I like about the m7 
  • Larger screen 
  • External speaker quality 
  • Access to TouchDown which is reasonable for corporate email (Android version only) 
  • The iPhone, being relatively thin, sometimes got stuck at the wrong angle in my trouser suit pockets.
  • I use  Nova on android and there are some things about the android UI that I prefer to iOS. Though I'm surprised at how little I missed widgets on the iPhone- most of what I needed was readily accessible though other means.

What I'm less keen on with the m7 (roughy in order of irritation)
  • I'd forgotten how poor the m7 is for reading in bright sunlight. The iPhone is much better (and the Nokia 1520 even better!) 
  • The m7 gets hot (not helped by the hot weather. The iPhone seems to stay remarkably cool in comparison).
  • For some of the locations I'm at,  the m7 is noticeably worse at getting a signal compared to using the same sim card in the iPhone 5s:(( 
  • Not having touchId for quick access is a real pain.  Corporate security policies allow touchId or a 4 digit (with a relatively short period before this has to be re entered) 
  • The iPhone 5s has an excellent built in pedometer that doesn't seem to affect battery life. I've found pedometer apps for the m7 but they need to be turned on/off and they noticeably use up battery. I was surprised at how much I looked at the iPhone pedometer once I realised it was there!  
  • Not having the swipe up to get to the quick & effective iPhone control panel is a pain. 
  • The volume up/down on my three button hands free sets don't work on the m7. 
  • The m7 is noticeably heavier (no chance of even thinking about putting in a shirt pocket- not something I frequently did with the iPhone, but occasionally).
  • The m7 has a great external speaker but if you forget to turn it to silent when you turn it off it's very loud when you turn it on (I found an app once to turn it off, but didn't like the permissions it was asking for).
  • OneNote on Android isn't as good as OneNote on iOS (though I prefer Evernote on android to the iPhone (due to the way Evernote have decided that on the iPhone you have to press a button to get to bullet/indent/numbering, and then it's dark text on a dark background).
  • The M7 gives an irritating message when I turn up the volume in audible when the phone is first turned on- asking me to confirm if I want to deafen myself. This is new in kitkat for the m7 and not something I've seen in my other android kitkat devices.

Conclusion? I'd be very tempted by the iPhone 6 (either size). 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Using the Samsung note 8

I've been using the note 8 for a few days now.  It needs a better screen,  much better battery life and needs to run cooler.  On the plus side the stylus is great on a screen this size and its smartphone ability is handy. However,  though I'm enjoying using this with the stylus, there are better tablets already available, or wait for a new Samsung note 8.
  • The stylus works much better on the Note 8 that the smaller Note 3; in part due to the larger screen,  but also because of the larger stylus.
  • It can act as a smartphone: able to take a phone sim card, to use the simcards's data,  voice or sms
  • Screen resolution is OK,  as long as you're not comparing it to anything like the LG g pad 8.3, or any retina iPad
  • Battery life is poor (and it isn't good at holding onto its charge when not being user
  • It gets hot (and worse, it gets hot where you hold the tablet if using it in portrait and if you're right handed)
  • If you use almost any other decent device, the relatively poor resolution becomes very,  very apparent.
  • As a tablet it's expensive (though if you're using it as a phone then it's not so bad)
  • Freezes every so often (about once a day).  Seems to be when switching from landscape to portrait. 
  • The back is slippery. That doesn't help with holding it
  • The number of apps that can work in split screen mode is limited. And the lack of LG's mini windows doesn't help productivity
  • The screen is a bit of a smudge magnet
  • Would be nice if it had the standard Google buttons in the standard layout, or at least had configurable buttons
  • It starts to feel uncomfortable after a while if holding one handed. In part this is the weight,  but also the width (the Note 8 is noticeably wider than the LG gPad 8.3, despite the latter having a larger display).
  • It doesn't help that the Note gets hot,  nor the buttons on the bottom which mean you can't easy hold it in the bottom rather than the side without pressing something).

  • It can take an sd card (not a benefit for me due to corporate security restrictions)
  • Touchwiz on this is further from Android than most manufacturer's skins.  Luckily there's Nova launcher. (There's also more bloatware to disable on this than previous tablets I've had).
  • The speaker has volume but clarity is poor compared to most tablets &  phablets that I've used

Friday, 20 June 2014

1520— it's also a great games machine

I've played games on various phones and phablets (smash hits, temple run, more cerebral games...). However,  I've usually reached for my tablet if I want or play games.  Last night I played fifa 2014 on the Nokia 1520  (a subconscious reaction to England going out of the world cup perhaps). It was an excellent experience (the 1520) and every game I've tried on it has been enjoyable; better than any other phablet,  and better in some ways than tablets I've used. The 1520 has a gorgeous screen:  it feels great to the touch,  colours are natural and have depth,  and there's no sign of pixels. The external speaker of the 1520 is very good (the HTC one max being one of the few phablets to better it), and the 1520 feels great in the hand and the size works well for using two thumbs.
I'm surprised at how many decent games are free. And Windows phone has a longer 'before you buy' than Android or ios.
The gflex is still more practical. It's lighter and I can easily use it one handed... But there is something special about the 1520-which is more towards the tablet end of the phablet spectrum.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Parallel's is a great app for running Windows on a mac, and more

After years as a windows pc user I decided to give the macbook pro a go. I've been blown away by the hardware quality. And MacOs is easy to use and integrated. However, there are some apps that I need to run on Windows. So I installed parallels on the mac. I can now run Windows on my mac. And the experience is better than on any of my previous pcs! I gave parallels a go on my ipad and it works very well indeed.

Parallels Access remote access app jumps from iPad to iPhone, gains Finder-like functionality

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Monitoring mobile phone usage

Using the break free app. It also shows you the top 5 apps used in a day. (number one for me Evernote -  1.53hrs)- handy for deciding to rearrange home screens.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Nokia 1520 - early impressions of this gorgeous device

The Nokia 1520 is one of the most mouth watering devices that I've used. However,  is it practical to use? I've spent a few days just using it and my conclusion so far is that for me, it's brilliant as a weekend phone,  and as a tablet in the evenings. For the working day the gflex is still the most practical,  comfortable device for my needs (especially when used alongside an iPhone 5s). However, I still get a certain 'wow' and feeling of luxuriance that I don't with any other phone or tablet. Part of that is helped by the vivid and fresh windows phone ui.

-it feels lovely to hold (could be a bit wide for some. It's noticeably wider than the gflex,  though both are 6").
-the display is lovely. Indoors and outdoors (the flex is difficult to read in bright sunlight, unlike the 1520- especially using the increased contrast setting).
-the camera is great for fiddling with and takes very good photos (if a bit slower than the iPhone 5s and requiring more set up than the iPhone). I'm getting better and better at taking decent photos with this. And the large,  gorgeous screen that is fine in bright sunlight makes it great for showing photos to people.
-The windows phone ui makes a refreshing change after so long with Android & ios. I like the ability to set up live tiles for specific podcast subscriptions, and see how many unplayed episodes there are.
-kids corner: this is one of the better implementations of kids account. I've just specified which games, music albums, video clips and apps my daughter can access.
-audio is very good on earphones. The external speaker isn't the best but it's pretty decent, and I like it especially for vocal (bbc iplayer,  audible,  podcasts...).
- Nokia car navigation (Nokia here) is NOTICABLY better than using Google maps to give directions. Trying it over the same route I was surprised at just how much better Nokia is than Google maps. It could do with pausing other audio when giving directions though (not just reducing the other app's volume).
-I'm enjoying Nokia radio. I've found more new music that I like with this than using similar apps on ios and Android.

-the squared corners make it less pocket friendly than the gflex.
-most apps I need are on Windows phone, or on their way. It's not as seamless a Google app experience as android or ios but it's good enough for me.  And some apps that I use are better on WP than Android or ios.
-I haven't yet managed to get a lower case ' i ' to automatically change to upper case (good reason for not using I too much!)
-the buttons on my hands free sets don't work (yet). The 3 buttons sets work fully on ios,  and partially on Android. I'll look for a decent one that works fully on Windows phone.

Misc notes
-it's heavier than the gflex but the weight is manageable.
-audio and call quality were fine. Though the gflex is clearer.
-using the same sim card on the flex and in the Nokia, the flex seemed to have more success in finding a signal.
-battery life of the 1520 is decent, though not as good as the gflex.
-not all of the apps I want are on Windows phone (eg citymapper). However, most are there or there are usable alternatives. 

Did I say how gorgeous a device this is?