Tag Archive: iPhone

Dec 30

IPHONE VS. ANDROID–PART III: Stores and Accounts

Both phones essentially require you to have an account in order to properly operate the devices. In this post, I compare the iTunes account and store to the Google account and market. I’ve managed to successfully buy an app from each store, and it is a fairly different experience.

 

iPhone: This is where I lose patience with the iPhone: endless accepting and re-accepting of terms, confusion over which country I’m in, endless inputting of my password, etc. The Apple Store is famous for being safe and well-organized. This is true. It’s also a fucking morass of red tape.

For some reason, when my wife wiped her old iPhone (the one that is now mine, in case you haven’t been following this epic), it got set to Canada as its region. Not sure why. During the setup screen, I never set language. Anyway, when the time came that I actually wanted to try to BUY an app, it turned out that I couldn’t put in my Japanese address. Strangely, I could do so on the Apple website, but then when I checked the account on my phone, it was always mangled somehow.

Finally, after searching several support forums, I realized that I had to switch the store location on my phone. So I did that, put in my Japanese billing address and credit card info, and proceeded to try to buy an app.

Nope.

Tried to download a free one (as I had many times up until this point).

 

Nope.

The message? That my apple ID was only valid in the Japanese App Store. But I’d set my store location to Japan, right? Okay, maybe things didn’t set right. I killed the App Store task and restarted. Nope. Rebooted the phone and tried again. Nope.

Another arduous search (during which I had to agree to more Apple terms of service to access their user support forums—where users support each other), and I finally figured out that I had to log out of my account and then log back in. Why? I have no fucking idea. This is iOS 5.01.; they’ve had plenty of time to iron this kind of crap out by now.

Absolute frustration.

 

Oh yeah, and NOW all the reviews are in Japanese.

 

HTC Magic: This is one of the few areas that the HTC Magic wins, hands down. The Android Market just works. It lets you download whatever. It lets you pay for stuff without waving 15 screens of agreements in your face, and without really giving a shit what region you’re in. Once your phone is hacked and you’ve got root access, your provider can’t stop you from downloading and using whatever software you like (and, of course, you can sideload applications as well). In fact, Cyanogenmod 5.8 firmware has USB/Bluetooth tether built right in. Of course, you can do some of these things with a jailbroken iPhone too… I’ll bet it doesn’t even ask for your password as much. But, like I said in my first post, this comparison isn’t fair.

The only downside is the speed and stability, and again, that’s because I’m pushing this device to do far more than it was designed to do.

 

Android phones also require that you have an account. In this case, it’s a Google account, which I already had since I run my entire life off of Google. For some reason, using that account felt better and less intrusive than setting up the iTunes account. (By the way: number of times I have to input my password to the Google Market? 0, once the phone is authenticated. I had to redo it once when I set up 2-step authentication.)

Dec 26

iPhone Vs. Android–PART II: Cameras

Camera

 

Both: Both cameras on both phones suffer from similar problems.

    1. They are cheap and crappy
    2. No screen-side camera for video calling
    3. They are both sluggish
    4. They both suck and have fucked-up colours and blurring in anything other than perfect lighting conditions
    5. Neither of them have a flash and they both REALLY FUCKING NEED ONE (see #4)

SelfPortraitFirstiPhone: The iPhone slightly nudges out the HTC Magic in this contest. The camera software is a little more responsive, but more importantly, you can lock the auto-focus by touching the screen on the area you want the camera to focus. Oh, and it’s somewhat better in low light. This isn’t the place to mention it particularly, but Instagram is the killer app for the iPhone’s camera. The Android alternatives just can’t compete, either on community or performance.

 

 

 

 

ohanabiHTC Magic: I think of this camera being absolutely worse, but when I compare the best of the photos taken with this with the best of the iPhone photos, they’re pretty much on par. I favour the iPhone slightly in this contest because of the focusing issue (although, even with auto-focus locking, there is almost always blur) but mostly because of Instagram’s ability to make the photos look half decent. (The software I use for the Android is called picplz, and it’s good, as you can see on the left, but it is sloowwwwwww on the Magic.)

The one reason I’d sometimes choose the HTC Magic’s camera over the iPhone? The hacked firmware doesn’t make a shutter noise. I don’t necessarily want everyone in the restaurant knowing I’m photographing my pizza. Oh wait… one more reason: the HTC Magic is a lot easier to hold when shooting a self-portrait. Maybe the smaller size helps.

Dec 19

iPhone Vs Android–Part I: UI

**NOTE: This is by no means exhaustive. Much more has been written on this, but I’m obviously writing about those aspects of the UI that are important to me. I’m also mixing in performance issues as well. And a titch of hardware. So fucking sue me. (It should be noted as well that the UIs are very similar, so I’m not covering things that I feel are either identical or equivalent.)

User Interface

iphone_home_screen

iPhone: Wow. Suddenly I understand why all my friends who have iPhones are endlessly tweeting. YOU CAN ACTUALLY TYPE ON THE iPHONE! It’s not perfect, but it’s far more responsive and easier to use than the Android keyboard (even pre-hacking). (Even Japanese support is built-in.) The larger screen definitely helps. I find it fiddly for go-back-and-fix work, though. It’s much worse at letting you drop the cursor in the middle of the word.

The UI is almost always responsive (although it does choke at weird times; times when I don’t have a lot of apps running), and it is reasonably intuitive, although annoying. I am not a fan of having pages and pages of icons as my default display. And yes, I know you can collapse them, but that really defeats the utility. So, yeah, let’s just say that I’m not a big fan of a homescreen that looks like an old man’s Windows desktop.

It’s an interesting choice to put the settings for each app under a universal “settings” button. I’m not sure yet whether I like or hate the idea. I will say it’s a bit weird when you’re in an application and you want to change settings to have to back out to the homescreen first.

 

Something that’s nice though, and this isn’t really a UI thing, but a Process Management thing, which is not going to get its own section so I’ll mention it here: the double tap to manage the iPhone’s running applications is a nice touch. To do the same thing on the Android is a pain in the cojones and usually involves installing an application (and I’ve never found any of them very satisfying).

 

HTC Magic: Typing. Ugh. I dread having to type on my Android phone. It was not great originally, but now that my HTC Magic is androidhomescreenconstantly choking on the large dick of Cyanogenmod 5.8, typing is usually an ordeal, especially while listening to music via Subsonic (more on music in another part). Also because I switched to a 3rd party firmware, I also wound up having to install a 3rd-party Japanese input method (Simeji), which may be superior to the Magic’s DoCoMo firmware input method, but I wouldn’t know because it is resource intensive and really drags on the Magic. If I dread typing on the Magic in English, I dread typing in Japanese even more. It’s something that I avoid at all costs. Oh, and fuck you Google Maps for making me have to type in kanji addresses (while we’re on the subject).

 

I will say, however, that the placement of the period and comma on the same screen as the alphabetic characters is a much better idea than the iPhone’s strategy of requiring the user to hit the button for numbers and special characters every time he or she wants to use a comma. Now I know why my iPhone using friends are so miserly with their punctuation. It should be noted as well that now that I’m using the Magic only as an internet access point for the iPhone and not running any other heavy-duty apps on it, typing is actually quite decent… though still not quite as pleasant as on the iPhone, mainly because of the difference in screen size (more on that later, too) and my fat fingers.

 

I mentioned with the iPhone that cursor placement is problematic. The Magic’s solution to that is the mini-trackball it inherited from its older brother the HTC Dream (a.k.a. the G1, the first Android phone). The trackball is a pain in the ass most of the time (I’ll get to that when I talk about hardware), but it is simply unbeatable for getting the cursor to the letter in the middle of the word that you need to fix. I also find that cursor placement is the one area that the Magic’s touchscreen beats the iPhone for accuracy.

 

The homescreen on the Android is much nicer than the iPhone’s. The sea of icons is absent and in its place is 3 screens (more or fewer screens can be set) of my beautiful wallpaper and just a few of the most crucial icons, buttons, and widgets. A touch of a button brings up the entire list of installed apps if I want it, but most of the time I only use the old favourites. The advantage here is, of course, not just aesthetic, but utilitarian: you can have widgets that give you important info like weather and calendar, and also functional buttons controlling things like silent mode, wifi, bluetooth, and GPS status, whether or not the machine is syncing accounts, and screen brightness.

 

Of course, with the underpowered HTC Magic, I removed all but the most necessary widgets, as they do serve to slow the phone to a crawl.

 

Can you tell I wrote these on the fly from no notes? No? Maybe you should read on…

 

Next: Part II – Cameras

Dec 18

iPhone vs Android–PRELUDE

PRELUDE

So, as some of you know, I inherited my wife’s old iPhone 3G when she recently took the free softbank upgrade to a 4s or whatever the hell the new one’s called. My own phone is an old HTC Magic that DoCoMo resolutely refused to give me some kind of upgrade deal on recently when I signed on for two years of service. Fuckers!android_vs_iphone_wallpaper-1280x1024

 

I mentioned on G+ that I would be using both of them for the next week and comparing them. Since they are the same generation of phone (they were on sale in Japan at the same time), it would be a fair comparison, right?

 

Well, my friend Tommi argued that the Android phones at that time were effectively one generation behind the iPhone 3G in terms of blah blah blah whatever. What he says is true, and my testing kind of bears that out.

 

I say testing, but it’s not really scientific. I chose the Android device for reasons that most users wouldn’t (hackability being one of the key motivators), even if the iPhone blew me away, I would probably make the same choice again if given the opportunity by some Apple-phile time traveller. But, as a non-iPhone user, I wanted to actually try to use the phone on a day-to-day basis and see if it really lived up to the hype.

 

Okay, first off, here are some ways that the comparison isn’t really fair:

 

  • My HTC Magic is running a 3rd Party firmware: Cyanogenmod 5.8, which is a version of Android 2.1 or 2.2, I think. If I hadn’t installed that, I would still be running the stock DoCoMo firmware with Android 1.6.
    • Advantage: I have functionality with this phone that DoCoMo would probably like to string me up for, and that the iPhone has no chance of replicating.
    • Disadvantage: The HTC Magic is WAAAYYYY underpowered for the firmware and for all the stuff I’m asking it to run. So it’s slow. Way fucking slow.
  • The iPhone doesn’t have a SIM in it. So no cell service. Everything I do with it is over WiFi. Ironically, I can test it outside the house, but only if I tether it to the HTC Magic using one of those apps that DoCoMo probably would rather I not use.

 

More coming in Part I …

May 31

A Saturday Morning with Sumitomo Fudosan

Sumitomo is the fourth (I think it’s the fourth) renovations company that we’ve shown the Kamiooka Tea House to.

Frankly, we weren’t expecting much, because Honda-san, the rep, had been phoning non-stop, but seemed incapable of using email.  When my wife finally got hold of him a week and a half ago by phone, she arranged an appointment for Saturday, May 29, and asked him to confirm by email.

 

When he hadn’t confirmed by mid-week, she sent an email saying that we would cancel unless we heard from him.  He faxed us that day, and solved part of the mystery.  Sumitomo’s IT department are apparently a bunch of idiots because the Sumitomo employees can receive email fine, but are having trouble sending.  Our new method of communicating with Honda-san is that we send an email, and he replies by fax.

 

Jesus, if I worked there, I’d probably create a Gmail account simply so I could communicate with my clients effectively.

 

In any case, when we met him we were pleasantly surprised: he seemed intelligent, experienced, and confident.  Like all the renovation companies except CONCEPT, he didn’t really understand what we were after, and wanted to make everything NEW NEW NEW!  Although he’s the only one who understood my idea of extending the balcony without my having to explain it: “Ah!  You want to sit out there and drink tea!”

 

Of all the renovation companies so far, Sumitomo was the one that seemed to know the most about earthquake renovations and also home maintenance.  He explained to us that due to the heavy Japanese tile roof (pictured below), we would have to probably put plates on the outside of the house in order to satisfy the requirements of Yokohama city’s earthquake certification authority.

Honda-san also took a look at the foundations and agreed that they likely needed to be reinforced.  He also discovered a cross beam that had been nibbled by termites.  The termites aren’t active right now, but the damage isn’t extensive, so it’s possible that there was a problem that has already been dealt with or the termites abandoned the site on their own.  We won’t know until summer, which is the season they become active.

 

Personally, I’m surprised that more Japanese houses don’t have termites.  Virtually all of the buildings built 20 or more years ago have wooden support struts sitting on or in blocks of concrete that are only 10 – 20 centimetres from the earth.  (Yes, Japanese wooden houses sit on top of the ground, above the concrete foundations in order to maintain airflow under the building and prevent rot in the humid climate.)  We’d counted on having to deal with termites, so the only surprise here is that no one else noticed that damaged beam.

 

Other things no one else had mentioned: the wood on the outside of the windows needs to be painted before it rots off (he suggested we do it ourselves to save money), and the iron platform and struts holding up the garden should likewise be painted to prevent rusting.

 

All in all, his ideas about the interior design were not so amazing, but he knew a lot about structural items and more than any of the other companies about PROCEDURES.  He told us that it would likely take six months to do all the work if we wanted earthquake certification and Eco Points.

 

A word on Eco Points: in April, the government of Japan instituted Eco Points to try to encourage homeowners to renovate instead of knocking down and rebuilding.  If you do certain types of renovations that are considered to have an ‘ecological’ benefit, like, say, replacing single-pane windows with double-glazing, then you get points back that you can use as money to buy other materials (for example: insulation).

 

We’d been asking all the companies that came through if we could replace the current windows with double glazing and then use the resultant points to do the floor insulation we’d planned.  They’d all seemed to think it was possible, but Honda-san told us that a) the points are not necessarily given out immediately, and b) the government will only give out 100,000,000 Eco Points for 2010 and may not renew the program in 2011.

 

He suggested it would be unlikely to work, and advised simply replacing the window frames on the larger downstairs windows for the moment.

 

Honda-san also noticed the drain from the upstairs plumbing running out the northwest corner of the house and pointed out that it was too long a run for the toilet drain.  I’m not sure what complications that could cause down the line, but it’s good to know.

 

By the time he left, my wife and I were very impressed.  Despite not having the creative flair of CONCEPT, Sumitomo Fudosan seemed to have lots of experience dealing with the structural elements of renovating an old house as well as the procedural elements of the same.   We were sitting in the Sobaya around the corner from the house discussing the possibility of splitting the job in two (interior design to CONCEPT, structural work to Sumitomo).  That was before my wife turned her iPhone on and started reading Sumitomo’s reviews on various renovation forums.

 

Wow.  The internet was chock-a-block full of complaints.  Not of the original renovations themselves, but apparently Sumitomo was absolute shit at after care.  There were reports of Sumitomo reps simply not returning phone calls or any form of communication; court cases; refusal to do warranteed repair work… you name it.

 

That really worried me.  There are great advantages to dealing with a big company, especially in Japan: they can frequently get cheaper materials, they have lots of experience with the paperwork involved, and tend to behave much more professionally.  We chose a big company (Mitsui Re-House) as our agent, and are very happy with them.

 

However, the drawbacks to dealing with a big company become apparent when you read reviews like the ones we saw online:

  • The sales rep will make promises in order to make the sale (to fill his quota).  The rep’s job is to make the client happy enough to sign on the dotted line.  That’s how he/she is rewarded.
  • Sumitomo will lock in their estimate/quotation, so whoever is project managing the build has the job of doing the work for as big a profit margin as possible.  The project manager’s job is to do the work as cheaply as possible.  That’s how he/she is rewarded.
  • If something goes wrong afterwards, it is not in the company’s interest to do any further work, even if the work is guaranteed.
  • Lawyers in Japan are very expensive, and damages paid from lawsuits are paltry, compared to North America.  A large company knows that it is not in the consumer’s interest to sue them.

So if a large company seems to be getting bad reviews from former clients (especially if, in this case, the proportion seems MUCH higher than other similarly-sized companies get), it probably makes sense to avoid them.

 

This was disappointing.

 

We’ll still let Sumitomo go to the house and do their inspection (they do a much more thorough house check, since their quotation is locked in) and put in their quotation, but we will approach them with extreme caution now.  (I’ll probably even ask my wife to talk to Honda-san about the company’s terrible reputation.)