Phone, camera, music and network

There’s a lot of chatter on tech blogs comparing iPhone, S3, lumia and more. Talk about cameras and 4G and operating systems.

For me, using an S3 is a stark reminder that before my first iPhone, I carried an iPod and a phone. Doubletwist kept pausing music today and the headset controls weren’t snappy like I want them to be. Should my phone first and foremost be an iPod? Something to ponder…

When you buy a flagship phone, that’s what you should get

Let’s fire up the Samsung vs Apple debate—not about patents. I want to discuss the customer experience of buying a flagship phone.

When you buy an iPhone, you can pretty much expect you have the top product apple has on offer for about the next 12 months. You can upgrade every year or 2 to keep pace, or know you’ll have a pretty awesome phone regardless.

I expected similar from Samsung, though in hindsight this is a strange expectation. Samsung release many, many more products, and those products are going to compete with each other. The Galaxy Note 2 is an interesting comparison, for example, but these are different phones for customers who want different things.

What I didn’t expect, was for Samsung to release a better S3! But coming out this month is an S3 with 4G network support, available in black and grey. New colours are cosmetic—but why doesn’t my S3 have 4G support? To cap it off, they get the Jelly Bean update. Where’s my update!

Why is this a problem? It’s not a big deal really, but when you buy a top of the line S3, you expect to have a top of the line S3. You don’t expect to have a ‘second best’ S3 within weeks. :/

I encountered this news while looking for accessories—something that’s also easier to do over in the apple camp!

Big phone week

Two big pieces of phone news this week. Naturally everyone knows the iPhone 5 was announced but most people probably don’t know my replacement Galaxy S3 finally arrived. It vibrates!! So good.

Expect some more comparisons in coming weeks. I am looking forward to trying the camera out properly this time. I am also looking forward to the android “jelly bean” update, though I will say iOS update news is much clearer. When apple update iOS, you get the update. When google update android, you wait for Samsung to do something… Samsung’s information about upcoming OS releases is rubbish. They really need to improve there.

Meanwhile, to make comparisons more interesting I bought an iPad 2. I passed on ‘the new iPad’ because (a) it costs more, (b) it chews battery faster, (c) weighs more and (d) has a silly name. I grew up on ‘New Street’, and let me tell you that name gets old fast.

iPad 2 is doing a great job for reading comics, books and news via flipboard. All of which are nice on the S3, but the iPad screen is bigger.

This way I get to keep my iOS content: apps, tv shows and movies. I also discovered—when a friend loaned me one during a jam session—it’s great for quickly looking up bass tabs on the Internet.

So this is the plan: iPad, Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 envy. But hopefully not much of the latter! 😉

Return of the Galaxy S3

I said I had finished posting about android vs iPhone, but I was wrong!

I’m still waiting to return my faulty S3—yes, kogan support is that slow—and I’ve been using the Galaxy S3 again for the past week. I’ve got a couple of new comparisons to add for those interested.

Form factor: Samsung Galaxy S3 vs apple iPhone 4

Form factor is the physical size and shape of the phone. The Galaxy S3 is thinner, lighter, more slippery and has buttons in different locations.

Thick or thin?

The Galaxy S3 fits beautifully in jeans pockets. Being light, thin and slightly curved, it’s a very comfortable fit. It isn’t bendy, but it feels like it moves freely with you whereas other more chunky items—iPhones, wallets, 3DS, etc.—feel … unbendy. That’s a plus. However, when it comes to taking photos, I prefer the thickness of the iPhone 4 to the tapered sides of the Galaxy S3. It feels more solid, which I like. I feel steadier.

Hardware buttons

I find myself accidentally pressing buttons more often on the S3, particularly the power button on the side of the phone. I think apple were smart putting that button on the top out of the way. I also tend to bump the back button (bottom left corner, next to the home button) and it is quite sensitive. This can be frustrating, when you accidentally close apps you are trying to use! It doesn’t happen too often. On the other hand, I now find myself tapping uselessly on this spot on my iPhone which does nothing. It doesn’t help that the iPhone apps typically put ‘back’ in the top right corner of the screen. I still forget there is a dedicated menu button in the bottom left and frequently hunt through the UI for settings in apps, until I remember—‘there is a menu button!’

I really think the iPhone 4 nailed the button placement. I like the separate volume up and down buttons—bonus points for using the ‘+’ button as a camera shutter. I like that these buttons are circles on the iPhone—the volume rocker feels a bit thin on the S3. Everything is thin on the S3! Back to the iPhone, the power/lock button is nicely out of the way on the top and the dedicated silent button is a treat. The home buttons are about the same. It’s unfortunate I keep clicking buttons by accident on the S3, but give me time and those habits should change.

Slippin’ and slidin’

The texture and curved back on the S3 make it prone to sliding off angled surfaces, like armrests on couches. Trying to balance it on your leg is tricky, and if you use your phone as a torch at night and want to sit it on a ledge, better make sure it’s flat. You can use an S3 as a level—if it falls on the ground, the surface was not level! (I’m just joking, I don’t use it like that and neither should you!) My iPhone 4 has a bumper on it (I can’t get decent reception without a bumper) and that has good grip! Bumpers get dirty though, so that’s a downside. Still, an iPhone with bumper is more likely to stay where you place it than a Galaxy S3. Is this an issue? Depends on where you like to sit your phone ~:)

Apps—cross platform for the win

There are great apps on both, but having switched between the 2 phones (and I will be back on my iPhone when the S3 is sent back for replacement) I can’t get enough of cross platform apps. Forget iMessage, try WhatsApp on both iOS and android. It’s really good! Steer clear of iBooks—you have plenty of choice with Kobo, Kindle and Google play books (available on both). And for note taking, evernote is impressing me. I have also switched from 1password to keepass, and storing the keepass database on dropbox means it’s always available! I haven’t found an app that is like Reminders on iPhone though… any suggestions?

I’m enjoying the doubletwist music player. I’d still prefer the headset integration on the iPhone, but I like the doubletwist app better than the iPod app. It has 2 small quirks—it won’t sync ratings back to iTunes (yet? I hope) and it displays all album art as square, so some artwork is skewed. Brilliant playlist management on the go though, nice lock screen UI, and the syncing works fine!

Interestingly, google drive gives you access to all your documents on both—but it’s read only on the iPhone, while you can edit on the S3! Win!

The verdict?

Use whichever you like! There are clear differences between the devices and operating systems, but I wouldn’t recommend either over the other. It’s got to be a personal choice. We will see how my resolve is tested if/when an iPhone 5 is released. In the meantime, I think the S3 will make a fine phone and maybe I’d like an iPad for using iOS apps! But I’ll be saving money and waiting to see what apple will announce next…

All this will also depend on: how quickly kogan get a replacement phone—with working vibrate—out to me, when iOS 6 is released, when Samsung release android 4.1 Jelly Bean for the Galaxy S3. Let the race begin!

ps: I’m less convinced about the keyboard superiority now, the go keyboard is good but not without quirks ~:)

Back to iPhone—but is it better than S3

I am returning my faulty S3—vibrate is a feature I don’t want to go without. I bought from kogan and am going to use their 14 day money back guarantee.

Why not get a replacement? It’s a personal thing. I’d rather not start out with a new gadget with double the delay (waiting for shipping again) and the feeling that I have a refurbished product instead of something new. Even though refurbs go through better quality control! 🙂

Don’t read that and think it means the iPhone is better than the S3. My wife had a faulty iPhone 4 out of the box so I think both Apple and Samsung can do better at shipping working products!

Back on the iPhone there are some things I’m glad to have back—and some things I miss.

Swipe (sweep?) to type is the most noticeable. I wonder who has patents on that. The android keyboards, particularly the go keyboard, are really good. The predictive text was better and I felt more in control. The iPhone autocorrect sometimes switches words after I have moved on and I find it harder to catch that. It feels like it has slowed down—it felt quite responsive when I first used an iPhone 3G. Now I frequently find myself going back to retype a word that got changed after I typed it. Android clearly shows predictive text results as you type and it’s easy to choose between them. Since the iPhone doesn’t always give you choices, you can find yourself tapping a lot more to get the words you want. Also, the iPhone stubbornly insists on autocorrecting my email from benjamins.boyle to Benjamin’s.Boyle and android never had that issue (it always gave me both options).

I prefer selecting text on iPhone and find copy and paste easier, but on the whole I miss the android typing experience. The wider screen helped too.

It’s good to have my headset fully functional again, but if the doubletwist app was available for iOS I would give it a go. I liked that airsync could sync with any computer at any time (works good with iTunes home sharing on my laptop and PC). It’s a shame iOS will only sync with one computer (or am I doing it wrong?)

Miss the bigger screen for readings books and comics but will survive.

App switching is definitely simpler on iPhone. Task manager works ok on android, but using task manager instead of the home screens is daft. The home screens are beautiful and with widgets easily better than iOS—but resetting apps by launching from shortcuts is wrong. The task manager launches apps better, but is nowhere near as nice as home screens. Take your pick there—I’m interested to see how both improve in this space. iOS 6 doesn’t seem to have widgets so I think android might be better—if they improve switching between apps using shortcuts (maybe there is a way to improve this that I did not discover).

Nice to use iMessage again—since my wife uses an iPhone too.

Not sure if my next phone will be an iPhone 5 or android. Interested in both! Shame the google nexus phone is not available in Australia.

I would like an android device, but not sure what. The nexus 7 tablet sounded good, but a poor fit for me I think. Wifi only limits it to home use and I don’t need another device at home. Also disappointing that services like google music are not available outside the US, and yet we are expected to pay $50 more. Georestrictions and regional price gouging are lame.

For now this will wind up my posts on iPhone and android. Happy shopping!

Samsung S3 vs iPhone 4—5 day smackdown!

I got a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone this week. I’ve already posted my first impressions. How am I faring with the switch after another 3 days?

Progress

After my first day I was struggling with music syncing, headsets and learning Android—particularly the keyboard. I have made some progress.

Music syncing—sorted!

I gave up on syncing with iTunes via cable, or trying to drag and drop files—there are heaps of songs in my library, I don’t want them all on my phone all the time (I use smart playlists to mix up the music a little each time I sync). But full props to doubletwist for being exactly what people like me want. I ended up picking up airsync for wifi syncing too. And the syncing is beautiful. Playlists come through, ratings (I use ’em) come through, artwork comes through. It even auto syncs when I plug it in, and doubletwist detects when I change a playlist in iTunes.

Headsets and music controls

I ditched the headset. I tried it. I don’t like feeling like I have earplugs in. I am using the iPhone headset and it is mostly OK. A couple of gripes remain. The volume buttons don’t work. I can use the buttons on the phone, but headset buttons would be better. Play/pause, skip (double click) and skip back (triple click) work most of the time. Sometimes they don’t work. I think it depends which app is active. This is still a bit confusing.

This is not as good as the iPhone. I used to plug headphones in and slip it in my pocket and then start the music from the headset. Having to make sure I have the right app running is confusing. Likewise, sometimes I can’t turn the music off without unlocking the S3 and getting into an app.

On a positive note, the S3 has FM radio and it works great! I haven’t listened to radio in years so this is pretty cool 🙂

Music playback

I’m using the doubletwist player and it works very well. It has a ‘play next in queue’ option which I’ve always wanted in the iPod app! That’s a win. And my iPhone has been skipping and distorting on some tracks—that hasn’t happened on android. Music playback is awesome, just the headset controls aren’t quite so good. But I can live with this ~:)

Typing

The keyboard situation is much improved. The predictive text is still good. I installed and switched to the go keyboard and it’s a nice improvement. Double space adds a full stop again! It also supports swipe/sweep to type. I’m not going to explain it here, but it’s awesome. (Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work in search boxes, regular tapping in there.) Go keyboard ftw!

Hardware functions

There’s still no hardware button for silent, but if you hold down power (about 2 seconds) you get a quick menu that has sound, vibrate, silent and flight mode options (along with power off and restart). Good menu, now that I know where it is!

New discoveries—the good and bad

Did you know a ‘Galaxy S3’ is actually a ‘Samsung GT-I9300’? This is shown in the Play Store and recorded in web stats (I had wondered what those I9xxxx entries were!), but generally I prefer product names to this throwback to model numbers. I thought an S3 was a model number… GT-I9300 feels like a component instead of a product. It’s a UX thing ~:)

I’m not sure about the plastic. It is nice and light. I think it might be picking up extra fingerprint grease. Maybe it’s the weather.

iMessage is still active on my iPhone—when it’s on wifi with an Internet connection. If my contacts send me messages from their iPhones, they get delivered by iMessage and I don’t see them on the s3 because no SMS is sent. That could get confusing!

I fixed up some ringtones, big improvement.

‘Multi-tasking’ is quite different. You can’t just open an app and have it remember what you were doing, it almost always starts from the beginning again. I only found today you can switch between running apps after holding the home button down (for 2 seconds).

Where is vibrate? I can’t get the S3 to vibrate at all! I think vibrate might be broken on my phone. Even in the settings where you can make your own vibration patterns, the phone never vibrates.

If you use a passcode to unlock the phone (I do), you can’t get into the camera in a hurry. You can get in on the iPhone without unlocking the phone. This is a shame. It kind of makes sense from a security perspective (random people can pick up iPhones and take photos!) but I wish there was a setting for it.

802.11n wireless support. That works on my router so it’s cool the S3 has it!

I wonder what else I don’t know…

Sadly every time I go to read articles about android, I find dodgy sites that ask me to do surveys or just don’t answer my question. The web seems to be full of linkbait and spam around android howto articles. I wish google would fix up their search results rankings. They make android. They make google search. I’m a customer of both and the experience here is pretty poor…

Samsung S3 ’droid—first impressions

My Samsung Galaxy SIII arrived yesterday. Last night I took the SIM from my iPhone 4 and popped it into the S3 and fired ‘er up.

The good

  • Love the large screen!
  • It is sooo light! The iPhone feels heavy by comparison.
  • Widgets! I have only just discovered these, and I’ve never been a fan on desktops but I think I like them on the phone! Especially for social media snacking 🙂
  • Almost all my iPhone apps exist on google play store and most are free (on both stores)
  • A lot of my content carried over! Cloud syncing for the win! Google apps synced (Gmail, Reader, Calendar), books (Kobo, Kindle and Google) all synced, comics (Comixology) synced
  • Comics looks awesome on the larger screen
  • Integrated stores! Apps that opted-out of Apple’s fees and removed their stores are no longer hamstrung. Kobo and Kindle in particular!
  • Nice account integration: google, twitter, facebook, dropbox
  • Dropbox is a nice addition—with 50GB more space (for 2 years) for S3 owners

There’s a lot to like!

The bad

  • iPhone headset controls sorta don’t work—play/pause works, but volume control doesn’t
  • No hardware button for silent mode—I miss it
  • Different keyboard. Augh, re-learning how to type with thumbs. Actually, the predictive text is quite good (but a mental shift). Why no auto full-stop when I double space though?
  • Clueless about android. How do I learn it?
  • Can’t spend iTunes credit—are there gift cards for google play? Do they frequently go on special? Because I never pay full price on iTunes with a 20% off gift card! 🙂

After 4 years with iOS, it’s the little things I miss. But this was a good reason for switching to ’droid, to learn something different. After one day I just feel awkward but it’s not a fair comparison.

The ugly

  • In-ear headphones—not for me thanks!
  • Unregonised device on OS X Mountain Lion. C’mon—Apple, Google, Samsung—play nice!
  • There’s no music on my phone—because I can’t get the phone to show up as a drive on OSX (see above). I dislike this!
  • iBooks… gone! I only had one iBook though.
  • Can’t watch video bought on iTunes. Game of Thrones would look so good too! MacBook it is 🙂

I really need to sort out the music and headset asap.

Other than that, keeping content in the cloud is important. The real cloud—the web—not apple’s locked in DRM video and iBooks. I really wanted to make the switch before I invested in too much content and regretted it.

The verdict?

Play more!

I haven’t ported all my apps over yet. And haven’t explored all the new apps either. More to come…