Tag Archive: ketai

Nov 17

WTF, Ymobile?

Picture 9I changed carriers at the beginning of the summer, moving from DoCoMo to Ymobile. I had been planning on stretching out my phone for another year, but it was on its last legs of usefulness. And then, Ymobile was having a promotion and I happened to stumble across it. Even after paying 30,000 yen for a new phone (a Nexus 6—I fucking love it) and ~16,000 yen to get released from my auto-renewed DoCoMo contract, I calculated that I’d save 99,000 yen or so over the next two years. Good deal.

One of the things that came with the deal: 3 data-only uSIM cards that I could request and use. I got the first one back in August and gave my old phone to my mother-in-law with the SIM in it so that she could use LINE (her phone doesn’t have internet). Last week, I decided to get the other two uSIMs I’m entitled to so that I don’t need to do it in a pinch later. My mother is visiting early next year, and it would be nice for her to have a working device. Also, my backup phone needs a SIM.

So, I went to the local Ymobile shop on Friday, since I was out in that area. One thing that’s nice about Ymobile is that I don’t have to take a number and wait 90 minutes to see someone like I did with DoCoMo. The downside is that the clerks are less knowledgeable about anything beyond their most basic offerings, so doing something like getting my uSIMs can take longer than it should. There is also no one in the shop for them to escalate questions to.

After some initial confusion, my clerk walked me through the registration process for the SIMs, and I signed for them on the screen of his tablet. He hit the submit button and… rejected. Weird, since I’d already done this process a few months ago for the first uSIM. He excused himself for a moment to pick up a flip-phone and call someone. He managed to get someone on the line, spoke for a couple of minutes and hung up.

Apparently, they wouldn’t tell him why I couldn’t have my cards. Not couldn’t mind you. Wouldn’t. At least that’s my interpretation of it. The wording he used was, roughly translated, something like: “They won’t teach me, so I can’t teach you why you can’t have them.” (The Japanese word for teach is frequently used in the context of telling information. For instance, people “teach” their phone numbers to each other. So that particular wording isn’t as weird as it looks.) But he used “おしえません” (“didn’t teach”) as opposed to something ending with “できません” or some variation thereof (can’t do), and he did it repeatedly. My Japanese is not great so I checked by confirming: “You can’t tell me because they didn’t tell you.” and he agreed. Well, I could be wrong. The upshot in either case: I couldn’t get my SIMs and no one would tell me why.

Worse, the clerks couldn’t even tell me what my next step should be. I asked if I could come back in three days, and maybe they’d have it sorted by then. “Not likely,” was the answer I got. One of the other clerks pointed out a couple of times that maybe I should switch to AU or another company that had more support for foreigners. I pointed out that a) changing providers would cost me money, since I had a contract with Ymobile, and b) I have already paid for the uSIM cards, and their own material (right there on the desk; I was pointing to it) entitled me to those uSIMS. I asked if they had a supervisor, department head, or other boss we could escalate the matter to. Apparently, the only point of contact they had was the number my clerk had already called.

Then the other clerk suggested I come back in December. I asked why that would change things, and they couldn’t answer me. I also pointed out again that these SIMs were paid for (and were sitting right in front of me) and while I was willing to wait a couple of days for them to figure something out, waiting two weeks for something I paid for five months ago was a bit ridiculous. Throughout all this, I was as polite as possible. Aware that I’m not very good at hiding my irritation, I made a point of apologizing to the clerks and explaining that I was wasn’t annoyed with them, but with the system that allowed something like this to happen.

So, in the end, after spending 90+ minutes in the shop, I had to leave empty handed.

Next course of action is to phone the customer service line… or rather get someone to help me call the customer service line, since my Japanese falls completely to pieces on the phone (especially since I can’t easily use the phone to look up words I don’t understand while I’m talking on it).

Still happy with my phone, but seriously annoyed with Ymobile’s ridiculous customer service.

Jul 01

Phone Restore Nightmare

So I recently had my Galaxy Note serviced, as you may recall. I got it back today with the USB port all fixed up and a clean factory wipe.Picture 5-Edit-2

I’d been really careful before I took it in: I’d done a nandroid backup, and as a pro user of Titanium Backup, I’d also backed up all my apps, data, and system settings.

 

My first mistake was that Titanium Backup, by default, saves its backups to the SD card, which, in a modern phone like the Galaxy Note, means the internal SD card. The one that gets wiped when you do a factory reset. Luckily, I’d had it backing up all my data to dropbox. However, I didn’t realize this, and so my first restore attempt ended up being screwed by the fact that /titanium_backup directory I was restoring from was the one from my HTC Magic.

Whoops.

Reboot, wipe, start again.

 

The second attempt was to restore the nandroid backup I took the day before I took the phone into the shop. It died at restoring data, leaving the phone with most of the apps installed, but very crashy.

Reboot, wipe, (reflash root), start again.

 

For the third attempt, I went for using the Titanium Backup feature that restores from the nandroid backup. It jammed at 4% complete.

Fourth attempt: copied the backup of the backup from dropbox (where TB was thankfully saving them for me every night). Jammed at 0%.

Maybe because I hadn’t…

Reboot, wipe, start again

 

Fifth attempt: before booting up again, I made an attempt to install ONLY the data part of the nandroid backup. Failed again.

Reboot, wipe, start again

 

Sixth attempt: Titanium Backup restore. This time restoring missing apps first, then system data.

Okay, this worked, I think. I’ve had to tweak a few things. My launcher was restored, but the lock screen was still the default, as were my security settings. Also, some DoCoMo apps that I froze or uninstalled are still on the phone, and I’m having to remove them by trial and error again.

 

Lesson learned: do a double nandroid backup and a CRC file check or something to make sure it’s not corrupted.

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 …