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More Nexus 5 Impression and Camera Comparison #nexus5

The boot animation.

I have been taking the Nexus 5 with me for the last couple of days, and here are my impression so far.

1. Build

Unlike the Nexus 4, the black Nexus 5 has a soft touch plastic on its back. This makes it feel less slippery than the Nexus 4 (the Nexus 4 can slide down from a desk on its own, that’s how slippery it is). People are saying the white one is more “plasticky” though. I like the soft touch back. It makes the phone feel more durable than the glass Nexus 4. Alas, the material that Google uses actually attracts dust fairly easily. The Nexus 4 does still feel a bit more premium thanks to the glass back. It has the iPhone 4 feel, while the Nexus 5 feels more like a Lumia, well built but not as premium.

Swiping my finger on the Nexus 4 is a joy thanks to its curved glass at the edge. Alas, the Nexus 5 has a sharper edge, making it feel less “luxurious” when swiping my finger over the edge. The buttons have been changed too. It feels more solid than the Nexus 4, but the sharp edges on the buttons, especially the power button, can be jarring on the fingers compared to the Nexus 4.

The Nexus 5 is as big as the HTC One, but it has a bigger screen (4.95″ vs 4.7″ on the HTC One). It is much lighter, even lighter than the Nexus 4. The soft touch back actually makes it feel smaller than the HTC One. It feels nice on the hand, while sometimes I feel the HTC One is too big.

One huge annoyance for me? The SIM slot. The Nexus 4 uses a non-standard pin hole for its SIM slot, requiring a tinier pin to open (vs the bigger hole on the iPhone and HTC One). Well, the Nexus 5 uses yet another different pin hole. The pin included with the Nexus 4 does not work anymore, as the Nexus 5 requires a longer pin. WTF LG? WTF Google? Seriously?

2. Screen

The Nexus 4 has a pretty conservative auto-brightness. The after effect is that people has poor impression of the screen. Coupled with the prevalence of AMOLED screens, the Nexus 4’s screen looks washed out.ย Google for some reason is aggressively pushing the brightness on the Nexus 5 to combat this first impression. However, we know that more brightness equals less battery life. The Nexus 5 screen is great. It’s sharp thanks to the 1080p resolution. I do still think the HTC One to be better, mainly due to more saturation in color that make images pop.

3. KitKat

The Nexus 5 is running the latest Android, version 4.4, dubbed KitKat. Main thing I notice is that the wallpaper takes over the whole screen, meaning that there is no more black bars on the status and navigation bars. The icons on the status bar are now white in color. In the past, the wifi and signal bar icon are grey in color when connected wirelessly, and blue when the phone is connected to Google services. A small indicator would also pop up whenever there are data transmissions occurring. Those are all gone in KitKat. The icons will be just white, and there are no indicators of data transmissions. You have to go to the control center (2 finger swipe down) to see those indicators (the wireless icons will be orange if the phone is connected wirelessly but not to Google, and there are small triangles indicating data transmissions). This makes it less intuitive to troubleshoot connectivity problems.

The home screens have been rearranged. The main home screen is not the “middle” screen anymore. It is the first screen instead. Swiping to the right will actually reveal Google Now screen on the left. It is similar to iOS 6 when swiping to the right will reveal spotlight search. By default, there are only two home screens. I don’t see a direct way to add more home screens, other than dragging a widget passing the last screen on the right, then KitKat will create a new home screen.

Google Now will now respond once you unlock your phone, meaning that you don’t have to have Google Now running. Unlock the phone, and you can say “Ok Google” right away. It is similar to Motorola’s touchless control, but with the Moto X, it can respond even when it’s locked. So the implementation on the Nexus 5 feels half-baked. Even Siri can be initiated right from the lock screen without unlocking the iPhone.

The lock screen has been redesigned too. In 4.2, there is no indication that you can swipe the lock screen to the left to run the camera app, other than a brief flash of outlines on the sides of the screen when you wake up the phone. In KitKat, Google followed iOS, by providing a camera icon on the lower right corner. Following the bottom of the screen, there is an arrow pointing up in the middle, This replaces the dotted circle on 4.2 to access Google Now. Thing is, at first that up arrow makes me think that I can swipe the lock screen up to start the camera, just like the iPhone. Well, to start the camera, you have to actually swipe to the left instead. I can see new users being confused at first.

Another change in KitKat UI is the icons. They are overly large. The App drawer now only contains 4 x 5 grid instead of 5 x 5 on the Nexus 4. The icon size is so large that it feels downright silly. This also makes folders in the home screen to cover up more space that it did before. Aesthetically annoying as it makes the screen feels cramped.

The regular messaging app is gone. Everything is handled under Hangouts. Like it or not, Google wants you to use Hangouts and join Google Plus. This consolidation of messaging apps is welcomed, but Google created another confusion. This is not exclusive to KitKat, but with the new push of Google Plus, now there are two apps to access your photos. The classic Gallery app, and the new Photos app that integrates the camera roll with Google Plus. Confusing? Yeah. I can see the classic Gallery app going away, although I really like it.

In terms of responsiveness, the Nexus 5 is fast. It is so fast that it actually make the Nexus 4 feels slow. Side by side, when opening apps and menus, there is a noticeable delay on the Nexus 4 compared to the Nexus 5. Now the Nexus 4 is by no means slow/laggy, but there is this noticeable hesitations on every screen transitions compared to the Nexus 5. Not sure if this is due to KitKat or just because of the beefier hardware of the Nexus 5, but hopefully KitKat can bring some smoothness to all Android devices.

4. Battery Life

Non-scientifically, it’s a meh. I took the Nexus 5 along with my iPhone 5 for a stroll. Both have everything on (wifi, cellular radio, GPS, etc), and same email accounts configured. I used both to take similar number of pictures. After a few hours, both are showing around 75% of battery life left. Thing is, I had the iPhone also running a location tracking app, while the Nexus 5 did not have this app running. Considering how the iPhone 5 battery is a lot smaller, this tells me that the Nexus 5 and/or Android is less efficient than the iPhone/iOS. Seems like Android does not behave well, especially when cellular signal is weak. I notice this also on the HTC One as the battery drains pretty quick when it is in low signal area. Heavy users might want to have an external battery pack handy just in case.

5. Camera

I did a comparison of the Nexus 5 camera with some other devices on the previous post. Here are some more pictures to enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

The HTC One is showing a weakness here. The Nexus 5 fares okay, while the iPhone 5 continues to provide the best balance. Throughout this post, you will see inconsistent white balance from all devices. It is also interesting to see the different FOV of each devices (the HTC One having the widest FOV).

Getting this image was an interesting experience. I actually had a hard time making the leaf in focus with the iPhone 5. I had to go very close before it focused properly. I’m guessing the iPhone has a minimum range where it initiates its macro mode focusing. The HTC One took the picture without much fuss. The Nexus 5 had trouble in its metering, resulting in a dark image although the leaf was in focus properly.

Wow, white balance all over the place. ๐Ÿ˜€ The HTC One doesn’t look good here. It seems that it had trouble in determining the white balance and overblowing the highlights. The Nexus 5 did an okay job though. I kinda like the warmer tones in this context. The Nexus 4 trailed behind, but you can probably do some post processing to make it look decent. The iPhone, again, gave the most balanced picture.

This was a tough picture to take. I wanted to focus on the lower right fruit. After numerous tries, I just couldn’t do it with the Nexus 5 and the stock camera app. Same thing with the Nexus 4, it was impossible. The iPhone also had a difficult time, but I finally got a focus, albeit resulting a dark picture due to the phone trying to compensate for the sky. The HTC One? Well, at first, I had trouble with it too. But a simple flip to macro mode, bam! It took the picture like a champ. ๐Ÿ™‚

On the Nexus 5 and Nexus 4, I tried using a camera app called Camera360. This app has multiple options, including macro mode. Although it was still a difficult process with multiple tries, I finally got something. Not great, but it’s something. The HTC One definitely took the cake this round.

These were another difficult shot, with dark and bright areas. The Nexus 5 did okay. It dropped down its shutter speed to 1/9 to help with light while keeping the ISO low. Problem is, it is susceptible to blurring due to shake (despite having optical image stabilization). Not bad, but not as sharp as the iPhone 5. The Nexus 4 had to resort to high ISO, giving noisy picture. The HTC One suffered overblown highlights, its achilles heel.

Throughout this experiment, I was really annoyed with Android stock camera app. The camera start-up on the Nexus 5 is slow. When switching from portrait to landscape or vice versa, there is a significant lag. Yes, lag, on a ย quad-core snapdragon 800 phone. There is really no excuse there. The focusing system is slow, and it wanted to keep focusing at the center. I observed it changing the focus to the center even while it was taking a picture, which can sometimes create out-of-focus picture. It’s ridiculous. The camera itself is capable on producing decent images. Google needs to really work on the software side.

The HTC One continues to be a joy to use. Startup is fast, focusing is fast, and it is the only one having a specific macro mode. Sometimes relying on auto everything is not necessarily the best way (e.g. the iPhone having issues with the leaf). Even better, its gorgeous screen makes you enjoy the pictures right away. Its weaknesses at this point are well known though, especially the overblown highlights.

In the end, the iPhone takes the best balanced pictures in most situations. Apple just know their stuff. Start up is fast, focusing is fast, and other than some issues in specific instances, it just works. However, during this experiment, I wish it had a larger screen. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you are going to take a lot of pictures, get the iPhone. You have to have a lot of patience with the Nexus 5.

6. Conclusion

Well, there you go. My quick impression of the Nexus 5. It is Google’s latest, and the only way to enjoy KitKat out of the box right now. It feels great on the hand, but I would still invest in a case. It has top notch spec, yet Google is still skimping on certain things, like the stock camera app. Despite all the drawbacks, one has to remember that this is a $350-$400 phone. It’s cheaper than even the iPhone 4S! ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s an excellent phone for the money. Hopefully my impression can help your decision, or at least make you feel better about your purchase. ๐Ÿ˜€

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2013 in android, apple, comparison, google, impression

 

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Nexus 5 Camera Test and Comparison #Nexus5

A Nexus 5 just arrived and joined the family. ๐Ÿ™‚

IMG_0456

From left to right, Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012). All we need is a 6. ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, Nexus 5 is running the latest Android OS, 4.4, aka KitKat. The logo kinda shows the obvious brand connection. Yeah, no more flinging jelly beans around.

IMG_0457

The most controversial thing about the Nexus 5 among reviewers is the camera. Well known tech bloggers are disappointed with the camera. As an armchair analyst/critic, I did another non-scientific comparison, similar to what I did previouslyย for the HTC One. The contenders were the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, iPhone 5, HTC One, and the Sony RX100 as a reference. Settings were all auto, and JPEG were resized to lower res by iPhoto. Why not upload the full size? I don’t want to waste the free space I have on WordPress. ๐Ÿ˜› Also, let’s be realistic. Most of the pictures taken with smartphones are posted on social networks that will resize them anyway. Normal people don’t pixel peep their digital photos.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. First was indoor fluorescent lighting, featuring Momotaros and Urataros.

The Nexus 4 did okay. I did have a hard time tying to get proper focus for some reason. Android’s stock camera app just sucks. The Nexus 5 is a definite improvement over the Nexus 4. White balance is better, and thanks to optical image stabilization, it can take the picture with slower shutter speed and lower ISO, resulting in lower noise compared to the Nexus 4. Image is sharper too, but it’s the same camera app. Yes, the one that has an ADHD focusing system. It loses the area you want to focus easily, and always wants to go back to the center focus. The iPhone 5 is a bit in between, being definitely better than the Nexus 4, but since it lacks optical IS, it has to find a balance between shutter speed and higher ISO. The result is still great, with decent white balance. What makes the iPhone 5 much better is the shooting experience. It focuses quickly without fuss and I was done in a snap, while I had to take time composing and focusing using either Nexus phones. The HTC One fares okay too. The taller picture is because the HTC One captures in 16:9 ratio natively. Switching to other aspect ratio will result in less resolution. Image is sharp and white balance is good. As long as you don’t pixel peep, you won’t notice that it’s only 4MP, smaller than the rest. And lastly, the RX100 obviously took the cake, with a definite blurring of the background, sharp picture, and low noise. It performed even better when I manually adjusted the white balance.

Okay, so within indoor lighting, everybody did fine, although you can already see the limitation of the Nexus 4. Next, I turned off the light, leaving ambient light coming from an adjacent room.

Okay, Nexus 4 is toast. ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s useless, period. The Nexus 5 is a huge improvement over the Nexus 4. However, again, you are dealing with the sucky stock camera app, and focus hunting is often. Noise creeps in due to higher ISO. Same thing with the iPhone 5. The Nexus 5 does have an advantage of optical image stabilization, thus using a slower shutter speed to get more light, while the iPhone 5 has to find a balance between shutter speed and ISO. In the end, the Nexus 5 still used a higher ISO than the iPhone 5, 1624 vs 1600, but you can see the image itself is a tad brighter. Again, what makes the iPhone 5 better is the shooting experience. Even at low light, it still managed to get focus quickly, and I was done in a snap. Apple just nailed the user experience down. The HTC One continues to surprise me, as it managed to get such bright image. Sure, details were lost and whatnot, but once you post that into Facebook or whatnot, your friends would prefer being able to see a less detailed something than a dark blob of darkness. Its camera app is not as snappy as the iPhone’s, but it’s more usable than Android’s stock camera app. The RX100 produced a dark image, but its noise reduction is better than the smartphones, and considering it can shoot in RAW, you can probably extract and post process a better picture in the end.

How about flash? I don’t like using flash as straight on flash just does not work in most situations. Let’s take a look.

LOL, the Nexus 4 is just useless. The Nexus 5 is much better, but again, the problem with straight on flash is the major overblown highlights. The iPhone 5 offers similar image. Okay but overblown. The HTC One, surprisingly, is very good! I don’t know if it’s due to its wider lens, but the resulting picture is not as overexposed as the others. The RX100 also has overblown highlights, but not that bad and seems like you can get a good image after some post processing. Note its depth of field advantage too. ๐Ÿ™‚

When you read/watch/listen to reviews from the tech bloggers, you probably heard about the Nexus 5 not being able to focus properly, or that it took blurry pictures. Alas, I can confirm that it is an issue. Take a look at this.

Nexus 5 out of focus

Yes, a blurry mess. The Nexus 5 thought that Momotaros’ head was in focus. Seems like this happened when I set it to either use flash or auto-flash, ie. it fired the LED flash while trying to get a focus lock, but while it seemed that it got proper focus when the flash is on, its focus was off afterwards. Worse, once it got this out-of-focus lock, it didn’t seem to want to refocus. I tried to touch different areas and move the composition to reset the auto-focus, but it seemed that it’s locked. Very annoying. If I disabled the flash, it didn’t seem to have this issue. I could be wrong though. Google has said that it’s a software issue, and I think that is correct. Yes Google, your Android stock camera app is trash. Can’t you just ask HTC or Samsung to help you? Seriously.

There you go, my personal non-scientific and completely subjective impression of the Nexus 5 camera. Is it better than the Nexus 4? Hell yeah. I can argue that it can rival the iPhone 5’s image quality. However, the shooting experience is not great. This is where the iPhone just wins. Apple just nailed everything down. It may not have fancy things like optical image stabilization, nor the super best image quality, but Apple managed to find that balance where things just work and the result is fine, so people like to shoot with their iPhones more. Meanwhile, the HTC One continues to surprise me. It performs very well, despite the naysayers bashing its 4MP camera. Sure, it has its quirks, but I find shooting with the HTC One to be more enjoyable than the Nexus 4. A high end compact like the Sony RX100 still offers more, especially when you want more control of depth of field. But then again it costs as much as an iPhone 5s. ๐Ÿ˜€

Speaking of cost, it is important to remember that the Nexus 5 costs US $349 for the 16GB model, which is less expensive than anything else here, other than the Nexus 4. Still, it’s no excuse for Google to not bother with the crappy camera app. Hopefully the promised update from Google can improve the Nexus 5. If you are buying or have bought the Nexus 5, don’t be disheartened. If you are upgrading from a Nexus 4, you are getting a much better camera. If you are already on an iPhone 5 and up or higher end Android phones, you are not missing much though, other than having the latest Android OS.

So, in short, the Nexus 5 camera can produce images that may rival the iPhone 5, but it is hindered by the crappy Android stock camera app and usability.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in android, apple, impression

 

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More Apple rumors

There have been quite a bunch of Apple rumors lately for unknown reason. I mean usually you would expect rumors when there is an upcoming Apple event (WWDC, etc), but there is really no hints of one coming up soon.

First, there is that article from WSJ about Apple cutting back on orders for iPhone 5 parts. Of course, the analysts came out from the woodwork, talking crap about weak demand. Who knows the real intention, or whether it is true or not, but one can simply go to Apple.com and see that Apple now has enough stock for the iPhone 5 to ship. I mean the phone has been on the market for almost 5 months already, and looks like Apple caught up with the demand, so obviously orders would be pared down as to not create overstock. We are talking about Tim Cook here, he knows what he is doing, better than those analysts.

Second is the revival of a cheaper iPhone rumor. Anybody that knows Apple would know that Apple is not interested in race-to-the-bottom. They skipped the netbook craze, went with the iPad and Macbook Air, and they are raking in the dough while other PC OEMs are now struggling.

Having said that, I have also been ranting about the unlocked prices of iPhones. I am not saying that Apple need to make some cheap bottom barrel iPhone, but some price cuts would be great. The cheapest iPhone right now is the 8GB iPhone 4, which sells for $450 unlocked. Compare that to the latest Nexus 4, 16GB for $349. Now, knowing what Apple has been doing in the past, and the fact that the iPhone 4 is still performing adequately under iOS6, we can see the usual shift of models when a new iPhone is announced. Ie, price drop by $100 across the board. This means the iPhone 4 will be $350. If Apple could push that down a bit more to $300, now we have the so-called “low cost” iPhone. Other than the Nexus 4, most Android phones in this price range has poorer user experience (slow hardware, old outdated OS, cheap material, etc). The iPhone 4’s industrial design alone is superior, despite the outdated internal (A4 chip). This move makes more sense, and it is what Apple has been doing in the past. To be more radical, I can see Apple updating all lineup with lightning connector.

When the analysts are talking about “low-cost” iPhone, they are talking about $200 phone unsubsidized. The Android experience at this price range is just bad, mostly phones with really really old hardware (~2008 era, first gen snapdragon). There is a new contender though, Nokia’s Lumia 620. It is not sold in the US, but it is available from import stores for less than $300. Counting how much import stores jack up the original MSRP, one can think the actual price would probably be closer to the $200 range. What’s special about the Lumia 620? Well, it runs the latest Windows Phone 8 (compared to the competing Android phones where some are still running Gingerbread in this price range), and it has dual-core Krait, the latest chipset. It may not have super duper 1080p screen, but its WVGA 3.8″ screen with Nokia’s “ClearBlack” is decent, considering the price range. So now the rumors are running wild about a plastic iPhone. Many refers back to the 3G/3GS style.

Although personally I still believe Apple would not do this (probably just do a price cut on the iPhone 4), it is more fun to speculate, no? ๐Ÿ˜€

To see how a “low-cost” iPhone would be, easiest way is to see the iPod Touch lineup, as Apple does have a $200 iPod Touch. Currently though, that iPod Touch runs the A4 chip with paltry 256MB RAM and poorer quality retina screen. However, clearly Apple can afford to sell an A5 equipped new iPod Touch, complete with a same screen as the iPhone 5, for $299. That would be a good starting point to speculate.

First, internal hardware. Although A4 is probably cheaper, and as shown with the iPhone 4, with enough RAM, it can still perform well, I would go with the A5. Apple loves the A5, putting it in the new iPod Touch and the iPad mini. Plus they can probably make those for cheap now. With the A5, comes the benefit of Siri, which imo what Apple would/should want to push at this point. The iPhone 4 doesn’t have Siri.

Screen wise, it would be the same as iPhone 4/4S retina screen. For body, although it’s tempting to bring back the 3G/3GS plastic, we know Jony Ive won’t like that. I’m guessing it would have the new design similar to the iPad mini/new iPod Touch. Apple doesn’t seem to have a problem putting LTE radio on the iPad mini using the design.

So, it’s pretty much a smaller screen iPod Touch with a phone in it. But then what about the 4S? What I can see Apple do is pretty much getting rid both the 4 and 4S (both still sporting the old 30-pin dock connector) with the new model with lightning connector. A complete makeover so all the lineup uses the lightning connector. Price? Again, Apple is about healthy profit margin. I doubt they would ever do a $200 unsubsidized iPhone unless the margin is good. Heck, they are still selling the old A4-based iPod Touch because they can’t price the newer one to $199. So this “cheaper” iPhone will be at the current iPhone 4 price point, with the iPhone 5 taking over the 4S slot and the next iPhone as the new top of the line (A7 powered, same design as the current iPhone 5 with improved materials so it won’t self-scuff inside its box).

So let’s recap. My speculation would be no more iPhone 4 nor 4S. The low end will be the iPhone using the latest iPad mini/iPod Touch design cues with 3.5″ retina screen (same screen as the 4/4S), A5 powered, 512MB RAM, same cameras as the current iPod Touch, lightning connector, starting with 8GB at $399 ($400 with a marketing spin) unsubsidized, and 16GB at $450. Next up will be the the current iPhone 5 at 16GB for $550, then the new iPhone at 16GB for $650, and so on. If Apple want to be a bit more aggressive, they can start the new iPhone at 32GB for $650.

But, I think Apple will stick to the usual pattern like I mentioned at first, iPhone 4 dropping down in price to $350, 16GB iPhone 4S taking over the $450 spot, current 16GB iPhone 5 at the $550 spot, and the new iPhone at $650 and up.

See, I can be an analyst too. ๐Ÿ˜› The difference is I don’t get paid making ridiculous speculations.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in apple, rumor

 

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My Annoyance with Apple

I love Apple. I love Apple products. They have great design, beautiful, functional, and have details and aesthetics that are commonly absent on other consumer electronics products. However, I am getting more and more frustrated with Apple’s recent products and their decisions to take control from the user. The main product I am going to talk about is the iPhone, mainly the iPhone 5.

Let’s start with pricing. Apple has been pricing their flagship iPhone to start at $649 unlocked since the iPhone 4. Same thing today with the iPhone 5 16GB, $649. Now this would be okay if the market remained static for the last 2 years. But fact is the market is not static, and the way technology progresses is to be better and cheaper. Let’s focus on the iPhone 5, 16GB, priced at $649. Now you would think “Oh come on, it’s an iPhone. Don’t compare it to the iPad.” Yeah, I AM going to compare it to the iPad, where the 16GB LTE iPad 4 with the large retina display is CHEAPER ($629) than the 16GB iPhone 5. You can argue about miniaturization, but let’s face it, $649 price point of the iPhone 5 is overly inflated at this point. Why does this annoy me? Because Apple actually provides good value for the money on their other products. The Macbook Air is a great example, where it is better quality than most Windows ultrabooks, yet without too much premium. I can say the same thing for the iMac and the Mac mini. If you look at the margins of the iPhone, it’s huge. The iPhone is now Apple’s main cash cow.

Now, I can tolerate that if everything else is fine with the product. Heck, I bought my iPhone 4 unsubsidized. But look around various forums, even the ones on Mac-focused sites, and you will find that the iPhone 5 has a serious build quality issue out of the box. Scratches, scuffs, even now bendgate (where some users finding that their iPhone 5 are bent) stories are continually shared by people. Some fans are spinning this as wear and tear. Sorry, but I’m not going to accept that a $649 device can be scuffed so easily. I have the Nexus One, well used, but it still looks pristine. Same thing with my other phones, Xperia Arc, the Galaxy Nexus, and even the iPhone 4, which is my daily driver. All still look great. I’m not going to pay $649 for a phone that can get scuffs right before I even open the box. That’s ridiculous.

Next major annoyance is the way Apple restrict the cellular wireless settings on iOS. On any other phones (eg. Android), when you switch carriers, you can simply update the APN settings on the phone to get going. Not on the iPhone. The APN settings for certain carriers (eg. AT&T) are locked out from the user, EVEN ON AN UNLOCKED IPHONE!! Why? For example, I use my factory unlocked iPhone 4 on straight Talk. On Android, I can simply add Straight Talk’s APN settings myself to get data to work. Not on the iPhone. By default, data won’t work, and since the Straight Talk SIM I have is for AT&T tower, the settings are not accessible. WHY? This is supremely stupid. It is basically Apple bowing down to AT&T, and screwing users on AT&T MVNOs. There are workarounds. Somebody made a website specifically to change the iPhone’s APN. Yeah, isn’t it ridiculous? You have to rely on a third party website to set-up your phone, something that is not an issue on ANY OTHER phones out there. Oh, and you think by going to that website, everything’s fine, right? NO! You still don’t have access to MMS. Yeah, Apple is BLOCKING you from enabling the feature of their own product. Makes no sense at all. To actually enable MMS, you have to either jailbreak your iPhone, or do a SIM swap. I did the later and finally got MMS working on my iPhone 4. Again, if you have an Android phone, all you need to do is update the settings straight, and you’re done without having to deal with these ridiculous workarounds.

Oh, and Apple doesn’t stop there. To make it even more difficult, the iPhone 5 uses a nano SIM. Yeah, the micro SIM is not small enough, and just when other manufactures start using micro SIM (ie. Nexus 4, Nokia Lumias), Apple just went ahead making their phone “special” by using the nano SIM. You may not think it’s a big deal, but considering only the major carriers carry nano SIM (the only MVNO that carries a nano SIM is Red Pocket at this time), it just makes your life more difficult to simple use your own freaking expensive phone. Yeah, cut your own SIM? Good luck. This is basically Apple telling you to stick with its partner carriers, where Apple themselves are getting a percentage of your monthly payments. The fact that the nano SIM is still fairly rare makes the SIM swap trick above even more difficult. Why of why Apple. Why do you make it so hard for people to use your own products?

To add an even more confusion, that LTE iPhone 5 you buy may not work with LTE where you are. Yeah, Apple makes two versions of the iPhone 5. Based on Apple’s own website, the two versions of the iPhone 5 are one for AT&T/Canadian LTE, and one for CDMA/international LTE. In the past, to get a universal “world” phone, you get a GSM (most of the time it means AT&T) version of the phone. Not with the iPhone 5. The CDMA version actually supports more LTE bands that many carriers outside the US uses. The GSM/AT&T version only supports LTE on AT&T and Canadian carriers. So much for choice! Worse, if you buy the unlocked iPhone 5 in the US, it’s highly likely that you will get the AT&T version instead of the international version that everybody else around the world got, limiting your choice if you travel (ironically, none of the so-called tech “journalists” tried to verify this with Apple). Luckily Verizon is selling their iPhone 5 unlocked (unlike AT&T). This is a reason why I hate LTE. I’ll take penta-band HSDPA anytime.

So, let’s recap. For $649, you get a 16GB iPhone 5 that can get scuffs before you even open the box, that uses the uncommon nano SIM, and Apple makes you do workarounds to simply access the APN settings on your own phone. Meanwhile, Google is selling a 16GB unlocked penta-band HSDPA Nexus 4 for $349. Seems like an easy choice. The only thing is I have invested heavily in the iOS ecosystem and accessories. In the end, I would still be sticking with iOS. My iPhone 4 is still doing its best. At this rate though, I would be more likely to get the iPhone 4S instead of the 5. Sure, the A6 processor is fast, but the 4S still uses a micro SIM and still has the 30-pin dock connector (instead of the lightning connector used on the iPhone 5).

Or, I would just get the iPhone 5 anyway in the end. It’s futile. I am so dependent on the ecosystem that I cannot just use Android as my main phone. >_<

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in apple, iPhone, rant

 

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Apple September 12th Event Overview

The September 12th Apple event keynote video is available on Apple’s website and via iTunes.

Alright, time to put in my 2 cents on the recent September 12th Apple event. The keynote had the usual pattern, with Tim Cook starting off with stats. The interesting part is, Phil Schiller immediately started with the announcement of the iPhone 5. Usually, Apple kept the best for last, eg. they would announce iOS, new iTunes, etc, and then do the finale with the star product. It’s really interesting, as if the iPhone 5 was not really as revolutionary as Apple wanted it to. Regardless, the crowds loved it. Oh, and Al Gore was in the audience too.

So, let’s get right to it. Everything about the iPhone 5 were pretty much known already from the various leaks and rumors. It’s exactly what the leaked photos showed. The surprise was the insides. I predicted that it would have the A5X chip, as that was the chip used in the “new” iPad. Well, Apple took a leapfrog and actually used a new chip, the A6. This is the first time Apple used a newer chip on the iPhone first before the iPad. The A4 started with the 1st gen iPad before going to the iPhone 4. Same thing with the A5, started with the iPad 2 before going to the iPhone 4S. iPhone 5 with Apple’s custom A6 is actually a big surprise. Apple advertised it as twice as fast as the A5.

Other than that, everything else is as expected. 4″ retina screen. Being a master in marketing, Apple said the 4″ elongated screen is “designed” for 1 hand operation. They do have a point, as many of the larger Android devices are not that easy to handle with 1 hand. Another thing is the camera. Nokia one-upped Apple on this one with the optical image stabilization of the Lumia 920. Imo optical stabilization is huge and a step forward for camera on mobile phones. Apple on the other hand was bragging about the sapphire crystal lens cover they used on the iPhone 5, supposedly made the lens to be scratch resistant. Whoop dee doo. No sapphire crystals can save your pictures when they’re blurry from shakes. New feature is panorama. Well, my Galaxy Nexus and Xperia Arc can do that already. We’ll see how good the software Apple has to handle blurriness and stitching.

Also as expected, Apple added LTE on the iPhone 5. Alas, this created a confusion on the different versions of the iPhone 5, unlike the iPhone 4S. With the iPhone 4S, there’s only one version where CDMA and GSM are combined. With LTE, there are at least 3 versions of the iPhone 5 per Apple’s own website. There’s AT&T/Canada version, Verizon/KDDI version (that includes CDMA), and everybody-else’s version. Even worse, seems like international LTE compatibility is limited if you bought the carrier-specific version. I’m going to assume the 3rd version is the unlocked version, thus not allowing you to have LTE with either AT&T nor Verizon. US wireless mafia at their finest, and Apple just kow-towing to them again.

Another marketing point that Apple pointed out is how lighter the iPhone 5 is compared to the “heavier” iPhone 4S. Without cases, my iPhone 4 is fairly light already. The tech bloggers are saying the iPhone 5 is significantly lighter. Another new feature, wideband audio, something that no US carriers would support. Yup, lovely US wireless mafia are only interested in charging you more money than actually improving their services, like oh, I don’t know, phone call audio quality.

Then there’s the smaller dock connector called lightning. Yup, re-buy all your accessories people, unless you want to give Apple $30 for a single ugly adapter. Not liking this. But at least it supports 5GHz wifi n now.

I’m going to skip the iOS6 stuff as most already know this during WWDC.

Price is the same, $199 for 16GB iPhone 5 under 2-yr contract. $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB. Considering now that Apple is selling the unlocked 16GB 4S for $549, this tells me unlocked prices are not changed. Boo. Galaxy Nexus 16GB unlocked is just $349. I’m guessing the price of the iPhone 5 goes for the sapphire crystal… /s
Oh, and even more bullshit, US won’t get the unlocked version right away, while other countries will. Complete bullshit. Another proof that Apple has no more backbone, kow-towing to the US wireless mafia. I mean really, what company willing to delay selling their stuff to the customers in its own country? Mind boggling. Alas, it’s the same with Google. The unlocked Galaxy Nexus wasn’t available until much later after the Verizon version. BOOO!

iPhone 5, the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone… HUH? Yup, that’s Apple’s marketing tag line for the iPhone 5. It kinda makes sense, but it sounds silly.

Okay, the next part of the keynote was iTunes and new iPods. This actually seems to be the main focus of the event. New version of iTunes coming in October. Apple can claim whatever they want on how they revolutionize the music industry, but all I know is I still cannot have the same selections in iTunes US as iTunes Japan.

New iPod nano, 7th gen. Looks like a mini Lumia with a home button. Unlike the rumors, it doesn’t have wifi, only bluetooth. 2.5″ screen with multi-touch. Video playback is back. No, it’s not iOS, which is silly. Seems like a no brainer at this point to shove iOS into the nano. At least it comes in multiple colors. 16GB for $149. Since Apple has literally no competition in this market, I guess they can do whatever they want. Oh, of course it has the new lightning connector. The tag line? Completely renanoed. Huh?

The biggest thing in this event imo is the new iPod Touch. Last year, the iPod Touch didn’t get any updates at all, only a white color. Now Apple updated it to the A5. Yup, the A5, not the A5X nor the A6, which imo is silly as Apple is trying to market this as their portable gaming player. The good things are, it has the same 4″ screen (and yup, now it has oleophobic coating too!), and anodized aluminum back (HUGE yay! No more scratch-tastic back). Another huge update is the camera, where the iPod Touch finally has a real camera. 5MP iSight camera (presumably the iPhone 4’s sensor with the sapphire crystal lens cover). The Facetime camera is 720p now, matching the iPhone 5. Same thing with support for 5GHz wifi n.

Oh, and it has Siri. Wait, Siri for the iPod Touch, but not my iPad 2? WTF Apple?
At least the new iPod Touch now finally comes in colors. $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB. The old is still being sold, 16GB (first time) for $199 and 32GB for $249. Expensive? Well, again, Apple has virtually no competition here. The tagline for the new Touch? Engineered for maximum funness. Who made these taglines?

Oh, iPod Touch loop… Apple’s wrist strap for the iPod Touch. Can’t wait for cute straps being made by 3rd parties.

Why did I say that the new iPod Touch is big? Well, not only Apple is targeting this as a portable gaming player, now Apple is targeting this towards point-n-shoot cameras with the proper camera. The wrist strap should be a clue. You wouldn’t believe how many people, mostly teens, using the older iPod Touch as a camera, despite the crap-tastic excuse of a camera. This is Apple’s target.

Lastly, new earbuds, called ear pods. Only Apple can make a documentary video about earbuds, starring Jony Ive. Doesn’t look comfortable for some reason. Included with everything introduced at the event (iPhone 5, new nano, and new iPod Touch). Apple claimed it sounds as good as other earbuds costing hundreds of dollars. I’ll stick with the in-ear.

Oh, the old shuffle is still there, 2GB for $49, no change. The iPod classic still hangs around too, refusing to die. Oh, and no iPad mini.
How was my prediction? I nailed the shuffle, missed the iOS on the nano, nailed most of the price points (except no 8GB nano, and the older Touch on the $199 price point).

So, not as grand as some of previous Apple keynotes, mostly because we saw the iPhone 5 already from the leaks. The new iPods are okay, but Apple could’ve done better, pushing things further. But I guess since there’s no competition, trickling updates is the way to go.

Having plenty of iDevices already, I don’t know if I’m going to get any. The iPhone 5 pricing irks me, especially with US carriers charging an arm and a leg just to have basic smartphone service. The new iPod Touch is interesting, but I don’t see a point if I have an iPhone. I barely use any of my iPods. For apps and games, I rather use my iPad. An iPad mini would interest me more.

As a closing note, I wish Apple can grow back their backbone. Tell the carriers to shut it. Offer unlocked iPhones right off the gate with competitive prices. I mean come on, it’s obvious the US carriers are stifling innovation from the get go, from MMS, tethering, Facetime via wireless, and now LTE, by making the service so expensive and draconian bandwidth caps. Apple, Google, Microsoft, wake up. Your cloud strategy on mobile are fruitless with carriers stifling everything you do. I wish Apple, Google, and Microsoft would work together against the wireless mafia instead of bickering with each other.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in apple, Keynote

 

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