Posts Tagged ‘Mobile technology’

Five months now since I unexpectedly ended up going the iPhone route (on price, of all things) and I thought I’d set out some thoughts in what using it has been like. Not a review – there are far too many of those around for me to have to do one – but just some points on my actual experience.

What I expected

Hey, Apple, please admit that your notifications are way behind the competition. I have seen Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry and even Bada implement systems that don’t make grind everything to a halt and then disappear completely if I choose not to address them immediately. And, while you’re about it, can I see something a little more useful than a pretty picture with the time in my lockscreen? Jailbroken iPhones can do it, why can’t you?

Here’s an example of how defunct the notifications are. In Windows Mobile and Symbian S60, if I wanted to have email notifications automatically switched off at night, I just had to go into the available setting and set the hours when mail should not be fetched. On iOS, I have to download a separate app (Boxcar), set the inbuilt mail app to fetch only manually, go back to the app and set the notification hours there. It works as well, but it’s tedious to set up.

Not having universal access to the file system is also an irritant, but I’ll admit not everyone wants to use their device as a mini PC like I do, so this probably isn’t a common bugbear.

I do like the fact that stuff on the phone generally just works. I’ve always said that Apple took the iPhone and aimed to do what 90% of people wan to do 90% of the time, 100% well and they’ve lived up to this. Almost all the things I want to do with phone calls, emails, messages, photos and music is easy, effective and reliable and I appreciate not having to tinker with the device to get things right.

What has surprised me

The hardware. Really, Apple has done a good thing here, with the vaunted Retina Display being the centerpiece for me. I would really struggle to go back to a lower resolution. The look and feel of the device is great and the my shallow materialism is appeased every time I pick it up. Oh, and the much talked about “death grip”, causing the phone to drop signal when held in a certain way, has in practice been a complete and utter non-issue.

The apps. I knew these would be good, but the depth and the breadth of their increase over the last two years is really impressive. You can literally find one to do anything and many are really well thought out and easy to use. This is a real advantage for Apple at the moment and is going to be a mighty weapon in retaining customers as they become more and more invested in the ecosystem. And…

The power of the ecosystem itself. People are easily impressed by the phone and, as one person gets it, so their friends and family want one too. It’s easy to all be using one system that interacts so well with itself and already I’m seeing four or five of my family getting iPhones. What have I done? What have I done??

So using the iPhone has been something I’ve enjoyed more than I thought I would, which is great. Whether or not I’ll bored enough to change in 18 months’ time depends on where the competition is and what sort of OS upgrades Apple has implemented.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Ralston Rd,Port Elizabeth,South Africa

After a dry patch of, oh, months (a big deal for me), my patience has been rewarded with the arrival of several new tech items. This includes a couple of new phones so, yes, you’re going to hear all about them.

The first of these actually went to my wife, and all credit to her for putting up with my lengthy deliberations over what it should be. Knowing her basic needs and wants around the phone – touchscreen, GPS, decent camera, good messaging – I ended up going for the Samsung Wave, which promised to be good value at R239 on an MTN 200 package.

The phone has some very decent specs (if you care, sadly I do): an 800×480 Super AMOLED screen, 1Ghz processor, 5MP camera with 720p video recording, bundled 8GB card and all the usual radios like 3G, wifi, Bluetooth, GPS etc. It uses a new OS called Bada which Samsung has developed in-house and, though it does make the phone a smartphone, it’s intended to power more midrange devices than superphones.

I have to say, I’ve been pretty impressed with the phone. Its out of the box functionality is comprehensive and effective: it does pretty much everything the average midrange user would want with suitable eye candy and a minimum of hiccups. The screen is really fantastic, with brilliant contrast and deep, rich colours. It’s not as pin sharp as the iPhone 4 (more on that in another post, heh heh) but is quite clear enough for most and can be seen just fine in direct sunlight. The audio quality is also very impressive and the handset makes a good case for being a replacement media player. The camera produces some unexpectedly good results and the video recording is a top notch experience. And battery life deserves a special mention: it’s excellent considering the hardware it’s driving and could easily last the average user 2-3 days.

Of course, these days a phone’s hardware performance is only half the story. With smartphones being by far the fastest growing segment in the industry, everyone wants to know what kind of apps they can put on their phone. Well, this is an area where the phone might fall short for some. Though the phone has all the basic functionality one might need (even, in South Africa, free turn by turn navigation), the Samsung App Store has fewer than 1,000 apps as opposed to the 100,000 plus in the Android Store and the 225,000 plus in the Apple Store. There are some fantastic quality games available but you are going to come up short when looking for advanced productivity apps, for one example. Added to this is the fact that the system is pretty locked down by Samsung, so all in all this is not a phone for someone who likes to spend hours customizing and tinkering with their device: it’s more like it’s been positioned somewhere between a feature phone and a smartphone.

If you can live with these limitations, the Wave will probably make you very happy. My poor long-suffering wife, who is subjected to new technology at every turn and who was dragged from the Windows Mobile she was eventually comfortable with, is very happy with the device and finds more reasons to like it every day. Consisting she is probably the perfect demographic for the Wave, you’d have to say it represents a job well done.

-Posted from my iPhone

That time of the month again, publishing a new post on my How Can We Help You blog. This time, I managed to sneak cellphones and technology into it! Aah, I love convergence…

hcwhylogoHave a peek if you want to ditch your little black finances book and move into the 21st century.

So I updated to the new 3.0 operating system on my iPod Touch and thought I’d note how it went.

As a Windows Mobile user, I’ve updated the operating systems on my devices many, many times. While not a particularly risky procedure if carefully done, it is quite labour intensive. First one needs to download the new OS file and then install it; this means that your entire device is wiped clean, so you generally then have to reinstall all your apps and data from scratch. The process (excluding the time taken to download the file) generally takes a couple of hours at least.

Things couldn’t have been more different this time round. I started the download of the file – a huge 260mb file as opposed to the 60mb files I was accustomed to – as soon as it was available, but traffic issues made it crash the first couple of times. Or maybe it was that I was trying to hijack my wife’s computer session! Anyway, eventually I gave up and left it to download overnight, figuring I’d continue the process in the morning.

When I got to the computer the next day, my iPod was lying there synced as if nothing had happened – but when I checked, the upgrade was complete. There was nothing that I had to do, nothing. The OS had been upgraded and all apps reinstalled with all data intact, no hint of problems in sight. For a seasoned WM user, not having to go through a laborious upgrade process was pretty special.

Has the $9.99 been worth it? Undoubtedly. For me, just the addition of Bluetooth has been worth it because I can pair my phone and iPod to the same device and have both available at once. Sigh, have to take all those calls in the car again. In true Apple fashion the implementation is lacking – no AVCRP (remote control) – but that gives then something to push out in the next upgrade. Other things like the system wide copy and paste and increased availability of landscape mode make the device a lot more practical as a PDA but also make you realize they should really have been there from the beginning. Lastly, many of the apps I’ve installed have been updated to take advantage of 3.0 (Docs to Go, for example) and they’ve also become more useful as a consequence – another happy surprise.

All in all, apart from the size of the download which is only a concern in this bandwidth backward country, this was a good upgrading experience. Just as well, because Apple’s crippling policies suggest there may be several more to come.

— Post From My iPod

No comments from the peanut gallery, thank you!

103314_iphone-400The OS 3.0 update for the iPod Touch is here, at last. I happily paid the $9.95 fee (cheaper than getting an iPhone anyway) and am eagerly downloading as I write. Well, along with 20 million other people it seems: iTunes tells me it’s going to take 4 hours to do it…

Guess I’m not the only one excited about the potential of this update – further news to come much, much later then.

As much as I have enjoyed my iPod Touch (just ask my family), I’ve also found a few things to be really irritating. The most frustrating thing is that they don’t really seem to be limitations on the hardware, because there are indications of workarounds, but rather on Apple’s obsession with locking things down and having them done only their way (image from here).

apple-worm2

The first, and greatest, of these frustrations relates to connectivity. The Touch can connect to computers via wifi or USB cable – Bluetooth exists but is locked out for now (come on OS 3.0!) – but the actual connection is not as simple or useful as you’d think. The “default” connection to iTunes is nowhere nearly as useful as Windows Mobile and Activesync, and that’s saying a lot because Activesync is pretty limited itself. The iTunes connection is fine for transferring songs or movies or applications, or even doing a backup, but that’s about it. Want to copy the notes you’ve made? Nope. Want to transfer files? Nope. Want to use it to synchronise with other apps? Nope. All of these things are standard for WM and make the process of trying to convert your use from one device to another very frustrating.

It’s possible within most apps to connect via wifi and use files on your PC that way, but it involves jumping through far too many hoops. You have to set up a peer to peer wireless network (how many people even know what this is?) and get the computer and Touch to see each other and then transfer files that way, but wireless issues and firewall issues often come into play. Even then, other apps can’t see the files you’ve transferred – the dreaded sandbox approach, which may enhance stability but is severely limiting. What makes me want to pull my hair out is that it’s technically possible to do all this over USB (found one app that does it), it’s just a case of Apple not allowing it. For a company hell bent on making the device as easy to use as possible, this is a glaring exception to the experience. Perhaps it’s easier on a Mac but, hey, I do represent the other 90% of the computing world

The second frustration has to do with the applications themselves. Again, they’re easy to use and work well most of the time, but are actually often limited in their capabilities compare to WM counterparts – the diary, for example, has no week view. While I know built in WM apps have limitations, third party apps overcome this but the policy is obviously different at Apple: one of my favourite diary programs, Pocket Informant, is woefully limited on the Touch compared to WM because Apple won’t let it have access to the built in diary to synchronise information. The music player on the Touch (and, from what I can see, third party apps) can’t compare to something like Pocket Player for WM, which will let me make playlists that play without gaps in the music. Finance apps are pretty, but don’t compare in functionality to SPB Finance. The list goes on and on – can’t save attachments, can’t download files…

And lastly, if I’m really going to use it as a PDA replacement, why can’t I change the home screen to display something other than shortcuts? Having all the information I need in one easy to see screen when I turn the device on is hugely practical and convenient. But, no, the story is the same as elsewhere: you get what you get and you don’t fiddle with it.

That said, I have high hopes for version 3.0 of the software, due out on the 17th. A good friend’s clever comment (thanks, Don!) was that it should be like getting a brain transplant for my beautiful model; even if it doesn’t go quite that far I am hoping for a move from standard to higher grade and an ease in many of the frustrations. We’ll see soon enough and it will at least give me more distractions from limitations. Otherwise the hunt for the perfect all in one will continue…

So I’ve been using the iPod Touch for a couple of months now and though I’d give an update on the experience.

ipod-touch-2g_1

If I had to choose an analogy for the experience, it would be that of going on a date with a beautiful model who dances fantastically only to find after a couple of hours that…well, she’s a beautiful model who dances fantastically. Try to get into conversations about financial affairs or astronomy and you’ll not only get frustrated but you’ll start to forget what she did well in the first place. So with the iPod: you need to focus on what it does best and not try to stray too far out of that area.

Let’s start with what Apple has done well. First thing has to be the hardware. The device is sleek, light and a joy to handle. The capacitive touch screen is fluid and incredibly responsive – tapping on the screens of my Windows Mobile devices is profoundly unsatisfying after this. The display is very well done considering it’s got half the pixels of a VGA device and the 3.5” size means that it’s very usable in all situations, even viewing movies: I watched the entire Lord of the Rings series on the iPod and found it enjoyable rather than tiring. If only I could get my HTC devices to play movies this smoothly! Audio playback is also very good, as it should be considering that it will be for many the main feature. I don’t have many other players to compare it to but it is noticeably (if not hugely) better than the N78 I listened to a lot before. Crisper, more accurate and detailed sound and better stereo crosstalk. Yep, Apple definitely got the hardware right on this one.

The second thing they did right was to make the built in applications very easy to use. Most of them are very intuitive and one is able to use the device with only a very small learning curve. Even technophobes who have handled it curiously have been able to get things up and running almost instantly. The applications also render things very well – the email comes out beautifully, HTML being rendered perfectly, so much so that it’s now my preferred device for my personal mail. This philosophy is carried over into the apps available on the App Store (and boy, are there a lot of those) so that the whole Touch experience is very consistent. And, last but not least, Apple has done a good thing with the keyboard: the keys are large, responsive and easy to use and the corrective text feature, which fixes your mistakes as you go, means I can type faster on this than any other software QWERTY keyboard I’ve used.

Just like the looks you’d get if you walked into a room with that beautiful model on your arm, I’ve got more than my fair share of attention when others have seen the Touch. It’s certainly an attractive device with a lot going for it, but that’s not the whole story – more on that next time…

The dark side beckons

Posted: April 3, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Right. Enough about this political stuff, let’s talk about what’s really important in life: technology! And, more specifically, mobile technology. As I mentioned a little while back, a competition I entered had an Apple iPhone and several iPods on offer as prizes. I didn’t snare the iPhone but was quite pleased at the prospect of an iPod (probably a Shuffle) to add to my collection. Much to my delight, the iPod turned out to be not a Shuffle but a Touch, and a 32GB model at that! Basically, it’s an iPhone without the phone module.

 32gb-touch

Oh my word, this is a sleek little device. The box came with the unit itself, a USB cable for charging and synchronising with iTunes, a cleaning cloth (that large screen is a real fingerprint magnet) and the standard Apple earphones – which were promptly put in a box for backup purposes only. A decent set of headphones is the best investment you can make in your portable media players and Apple’s set doesn’t really qualify.

 I’ll write up more in depth thoughts after using it for a couple of weeks, but first impressions are certainly great. You can say all you want, as I have, that Apple has perfected the looks of the device and user interface but you don’t really appreciate how true that is until you actually get to play with one of these. Not only does it work beautifully from a hardware perspective (that capacitive touchscreen is great) but it just…looks…so…good. I love the fact that I’ll be able to use wifi to access the web and that I’ll be able to install most iPhone applications on the device; already the Facebook application is miles ahead of anything on Widows Mobile and I look forward to seeing what else is available.

So the dark side beckons as the evil empire of the fruit extends its tentacles a little further. I kind of know already that there are aspects that will leave me very frustrated, but the user experience is so seductive that at this point I don’t really care. Like the beautiful blond you know is trouble but you can’t help pursuing anyway. The only problem at this point? Yes, it really makes me want to get an iPhone…

How about replacing all these…

phonebook

…with this (not necessarily the specific phone)?

nokia-n78

The company responsible for publishing the Yellow Pages, White Pages and other Telkom directory information, Telkom Directory Services, has changed its name to Trudon (why I do not know) and launched a website designed specifically for mobile devices, Trudon Mobile. The website offers access to all the listings in the White Pages and Yellow Pages – type in the name, search and you’re good to go; in addition, because it displays the details electronically, you only need to click on the number and it will dial it from your cellphone. Apple iPhone users rejoice – no need to copy and paste!

In addition to hosting all the directory listings (yep,no more having to fetch the latest publications all the time), the site also gives access to information on news, sport, weather and (a personal favourite) a mobile version of Wikipedia! All that information at your fingertips – what an astonishing thought. Also, because the site is optimised for mobile use, it loads quickly and isn’t too heavy in terms of data usage. Lack of graphics means that it isn’t the prettiest site around, but that doesn’t detract from its usefulness.

I’m a fan of anything that will lessen paper loads and that frustrating hunt for physical information when you really need it and Trudon Mobile certainly does that. It definitely qualifies as a seriously useful site: check it out on your cellphone http://www.trudonmobile.co.za.

Since I switched back to using a WM phone – the Eten M800 – I’ve resorted to using my Nokia N78 as a media player due to the limitations of the business orientated Eten, which has a very mediocre music quality. This has meant using the HBH-DS980 bluetooth headphones a lot more due to its ability to connect to more than one device at a time. I pair it with the N78 (sim-less) for music purposes and then  with the M800 for phone purposes.

sonyericsson-hbh-ds980

I’m happy to report, as a brief update, that the arrangement works really well. The music from the N78 comes through clearly and the remote controls on the headset allow me to skip through my music tracks and adjust volume as I like, all without affecting the connection to the M800. When a call comes through on my phone, the music playback from the N78 is paused to allow me to have the conversation; once I am finished, the music automatically starts again. Very, very convenient – it’s almost like having one device doing everything through the headset. I can even browse through my address book from the M800 while the music is playing and call the contacts accordingly.

As an added note (heh, heh), the music quality has also improved a fair bit since I put larger ear buds on the headset (swiped them from my CX300 set). A good seal definitely makes all the difference with in-ear headphones, as I now get a decent level of bass and a fuller sound overall.

All in all, I’ve only got happier with this headset.