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Archive for the ‘Mobility’ Category

The first thing that struck me after lifting the phone out of the box was how heavy it was. My Samsung S3 (the sole victim of a fatal hit-and-run incident recently) was much lighter.

It feels substantial, solid and it definitely won’t bend in your pocket! I wouldn’t want to drop it though. The brushed metal edging makes it look classy, but at the same time a tad rigid, and I can’t help thinking some of cheaper models with plastic surrounds might survive a fall better. I’ve been looking around for a good case – something that won’t spoil the phone’s good looks or make it look like an encyclopaedia in my pocket.

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After three weeks the phone and I are getting on really well. I was more than slightly prepared to hate it after having had Android phones for the past 5 years. I don’t miss my S3 and have few things to quibble about. Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons as I see them…

Pros

  • The screen clarity is amazing. Text and graphics are razor sharp and orange-effect theme is attractive to the eye.
  • The camera is mind-blowing. I can’t believe a phone can have a 20MP camera built-in!  I’m possibly the world’s worst photographer, but I’ve even managed to take some attractive looking pics (check out the photo of Breaker Bay, Wellington below).

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  • The processor has plenty of grunt. Apps load quickly and you don’t seem to spend time waiting for things to load. The exception is if the app is waiting for content to be downloaded from the web or for location information to sync.
  • Windows tiles, metro (or whatever you want to call it) work really very well on the phone. I’ve pretty much got everything I need accessible from the 3 tile columns above the page fold.
  • In-call sound quality is excellent. This wasn’t always the case with my S3.
  • The built-in speaker is awesome. I like to listen to web-radio or podcasts if I can’t sleep at night. The sound quality from the tiny speaker is really very good – rounded and not at tinny like you might expect.

Cons

  • I miss the notification lights on the S3. It was helpful to simply glance at the phone occasionally to see if I’d missed a call or a SMS. Not so with the 930 where I have to unlock the screen to look at my notifications.
  • No Cortana in New Zealand. I’m not sure how much I’d actually use Cortana, but I’d like to have the option of using it to find out where to find a decent Islay single malt locally for under $75. I’m slightly peeved one of the most touted features of Windows Phone 8.1 isn’t available to me. And, yes, I know there are ways to get Cortana to work by setting everything to US/English, but this breaks other things (such as BBC iPlayer).
  • The touch screen is not quite as responsive as the S3. I find I have to tap the screen a little harder.  Not a biggie - I’m getting used to it.

A lot of people bang on about the paucity of Apps available for Windows Phone. I use only about half a dozen well-known Apps and they’re all available from the store, so it’s not been an issue for me.

All-in-all I’m a happy camper. Even more satisfying is that I didn’t pay a fortune for it. It cost me NZD640 with shipping (via a parallel importer). That’s around about the same as a Samsung Galaxy S5 and about NZD350 cheaper than an iPhone 6.

 

Let me start out by saying that I am not an Apple-hater. Nor do I have an irrational fear of their products [incredibly, there is a word for a fear of apples: Malusdomesticaphobia]. Generally, I find Apple’s products to be stylish and simple to use. So why would I find myself suffused with a feeling of schadenfreude upon learning of the bend problem (hashtag #bendgate) with the iPhone 6 Plus?  After some soul-searching I came to conclusion that my problem has less to do with Apple than the those who slavishly support the company and everything it churns out. In terms of blind faith and unswerving devotion, most religious cults would gladly trade disciples with Apple.

However this unquestioning devotion has come to pass it is clearly good for business. As a work colleague suggested, Apple could produce a plain cardboard cube and, following the requisite glitzy launch, fans would be camping out all night outside iStores ready to snap them up at $100 a pop.

The zealotry doesn’t stop there as is evidenced in recent Apple-related forums discussing bendgate. If anyone has the temerity to suggest that the bend is a fundamental product flaw they are quickly slapped down.  Here are some examples:

 

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It is interesting and revealing that after the social media storm yesterday surrounding bendgate Apple has yet to comment.  I suspect the execs are too busy roasting the Test Manager’s testicles over an open flame. To a certain extent they don’t actually need to comment. After all, their Apple fan-base is doing a sterling job of defending the indefensible.

The bottom line is that Apple has released a premium product with a fundamental flaw. The right thing to do of course would be to start by issuing an immediate statement indicating that they fully understand the concerns. Then within a couple of days they should issue a statement being clear about how they will address the flaw. If, on the other hand, they attempt to sweep the whole business under the carpet they won’t lose the die-hard fans, but they will certainly lose the middle ground. That way madness (or at least Blackberry) lies.

Samsung, LG, Microsoft and others will be lapping this up, while at the same time furiously flogging their product development and test teams to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

Bendgate is a story with legs. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

There has been a lot of discussion around the poor quality of the recently released Apple maps app. To be fair, Apple has taken a disproportionate amount of flak for this, given that the majority of their apps tend to reasonably solid when released. The whole maps affair seems to have overshadowed negative reaction to the new “Lightning” cable that comes with the iPhone 5. The new cable marks a move away from the standard 30 pin connector that has been around for nearly a decade. Apple justifies the change in connector on the basis that the new, slimmer format of the iPhone 5 will not support the old one. I may be up there with the Mayans in terms of the reliability of my predictions, but I believe the new cable marks the beginning of the end for the iPhone’s dominance of the smart phone market for two main reasons.

Firstly, an adapter is required to allow legacy peripheral devices to connect to the new cable. Instead of providing this free, Apple has the temerity to charge its customers USD29 for the adapter. Given that most Apple lovers probably have upwards of 5 devices that use the old 30 pin connector the cost could easily start to add up.

Secondly (and for me this is the more insidious element in Apple’s evil masterplan), the cable itself is completely proprietary. What’s wrong with USB? I’ve seen some arguments that suggest Apple devices need a proprietary cable to support the transfer of multi-media content at high speeds. I don’t buy this given that other smart devices appear to be doing pretty much the same thing with USB. Wikipedia tells me that the new USB 3.0 specification supports transmission speeds of up to 5GB/s. Call me cynical, but I wouldn’t have thought the interface would represent the bottleneck on an iPhone at that speed. Still not convinced? Take a look at the list of seven companies involved in the development of the original USB specification (clue: Apple is not one of them).

“Lightning” strikes me a simply another way for Apple to fleece its loyal customer base. If people continue to buy iPhones I think it will be in spite of the new cable. During the 90s and early 00s I always had a Nokia phone. Nokia had a spectacularly annoying habit of changing their proprietary connector cables and chargers with each new model they released. It drove me mad and as soon as the competition caught up and started making phones to a comparable (often better) standard I made the switch to something else.

The iPhone no longer has the pre-eminence in the smart phone marketplace it once had. Samsung and other Android-based devices are making strong inroad into Apple’s market share. Microsoft’s pairing with Nokia is going to prove popular with long-suffering fans of Windows mobile operating systems. Die-hard Apple fans will no doubt continue to buy iPhones, but I think they will start to lose the middle ground. For me, I now see that the Emperor is in fact simply butt-naked. I’m off to buy a Samsung.