iAssault: Samsung & Windows Mobile v iOS7

Microsoft has jumped on the Apple iAssault bandwagon with another non-MS device buy-back program, this time targeted specifically at iPhone users.

Took this snap on Sydney’s George Street the flagship Samsung store – opened aggressively diagonally opposite the crystal Mecca of the AppleStore complex. They updated their window display the day after the iPhone 5S launch with the “iChanged” campaign:

SAMSUNG

Anyone remember the Apple campaigns targeted at desktop switching? Switch to a Mac (2002) and Get A Mac (“I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” – 2006). Get A Mac coincided with the fresh, minimalist rebranding of Apple stores with the blue shirts and symbol signage to aesthetically differentiate the product and build-in perceived value for the premium pricing.

I never needed convincing of how cool the machines looked. As a developer, my value proposition was for home use – I was sick fed up of interrupt issues et al with home PCs having spent too much time with IT Operations resolving similar issues with our custom-built  trading apps in the office. The “just works” thing was a solid case for me for core non-tech usage. A bit like a chef coming home and whacking a microwave dinner in the oven.

But back in 2000 Office compatability was pretty shoddy, hardly any mobile phones would sync with the Mac address book et al(hardwired of course – except the gloriously kitsch Sony Ericsson P800) and remote office access? Forget it sailor.

I digress. Regarding mobile – Samsung and Microsoft must have been rubbing their hands together as the “coolness” factor is clearly the most important consumer product attribute now. And Apple missed the mark big-time with the boxy iPhone 5S – yes, EVEN with 9 million units pumped out in the first weekend. It’s the longer game that counts with brand value.

Apple’s lengthy product cycles won’t permit a revolutionary “non-boxy” iPhone coming out  anytime soon. Microsoft’s Nokia acquisition gives a real opportunity to knock out an awesome device (the Lumia 1020, although essentially a different category focusing on the camera, is pretty impressive) and with the stability of pure-play Android devices, Samsung’s superior hardware is looking like the go-er.

I’m an Android, I’m a kosher non-jailbroken iOS”  –  the next set of Google ads whacked out across the international channels to join Samsung/Microsoft to encircle Apple?

#iOS7 and The Amber Gambler

Having refused to upgrade my iPhone4 to a newer model I was waiting with baited breath for iOS7… which arrived this morning in Australia and was promptly downloaded to my puny A4-chipped hardware.

I was an amber gambler. I had a meeting in the city this morning and arrived early, ensconcing myself in a café and pillaging their wi-fi to download and install the update. One install brainfart and the phone is out and that important meeting location update to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb instead is missed…

iPhone4_iOS7

… but wasn’t to be … all good! Surprisingly quick and smooth install for such a major update on such an enfeebled and emaciated bottom-spec chip. An amber gambler also for the reported issues that may accompany a major upgrade to a low spec device. We’ll see how that goes…

First impressions

First impressions are that this is an awesome update, doing exactly what it says on the tin. I think that the features in iPhone 5+ unavailable on the puny 4 are gimmicky and vastly over-rated (see below). I’d avoided the Beta versions released in the previous months, preferring to wait to hit up the gold disk today.

So what do we have?

GUI

Great sharp look across the whole user interface. Über sharp font. I was reminded what a massive upgrade the iPhone4 Retina display was having looked at a 3GS the other day. The new clear font really does the sharp display justice.

moleeeeeRegarding icons and new Apple app UX; finally a move from skeuomorphism back to crisp flat icons. Except the Contacts icon which is uninspired and bloody awful. Why does this bother me? A mate pointed it out this morning. It’s like the mole in Austin Powers. I can’t stop looking at it. I digress.

Usability

ios7.controlcenterBIG step forwards here. Search Bar available from a quick downward swipe in the middle of the screen. New Control Centre  from a swipe up from the bottom of the screen. Finally – in the control centre amongst other settings you can switch on BlueTooth in one touch from here – very handy quick fix if you’re in the car and forgot to pop in on.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 7.47.14 PMOne area they’ve got right is the multi-tasking. Great switching between apps in a carousel display, with a simple swipe up to remove an app from the carousel and close it. Actually useful in another sense in that the carousel view is dynamic – so when switching between apps and passing the email app on the carousel you can quickly check the top email to see if worth opening the app or not (couldn’t find a screenshot of this, but you get the idea).

Multi-page folders – very handy … if you’ve got a load of legacy apps on your phone you can’t quite bring yourself to delete but might use one day … chuck them all in one big themed folder rather than a few numbered ones.

Apps

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 7.44.09 PMAlso loving the new vertical tab carousel in Safari with a quick slide to the left to close a tab. I see they’ve brought the private browsing option to the fore in Safari now for those “colourful” websites accessed via the Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 7.52.04 PMcompany phone.

Calendar – not so much. Looks crisp but a lot of screen real estate is wasted with the week band at the top of the screen with it’s iOS7 wider spacing. Now you could argue that I should break the cobwebs on the Scottish sporran and invest in a 5+ with more screen real estate but who am I to break stereotype here?

Thrifty ScotiTunes looks great – back to earlier more usable versions of iTunes. Loving the tiled album browser view. Everything’s a lot more … image-intensive. From the animated equaliser graphic for currently playing track to the band album cover displayed on virtually every playlist.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 8.00.59 PMPhone – loving the contact images displayed everywhere continuing with the “more graphical” theme.  Fuctionality-wise, when the phone is locked and you receive an incoming call you can choose to ignore and remind yourself of the call an hour or so later, or send a text message back from a number of pre-stored messages such as “on my way”, “ring you back”. Great wee feature.

Very simply … I also like the well-spaced circular number buttons on the dialing screen of the phone app too! It’s the little things…. so I forgive Jonathan Ives on one of his pretentious white-backgrounded HD rants. Had a bit of a transformation himself that lad.

ives

What don’t we have in iPhone4 version of iOS7?

  • Airdrop file sharing – meh
  • Siriproblems with Scottish accents anyway as mentioned previously
  • 3D Flyover/Turn by Turn map navagation – meh
  • Live camera filters – major meh – use Instagram or apply in camera app after snap
  • Airplay Mirroring – more meh

As to the the cosmetic…

Missing the “look at my phone, look at my phone!” features that any half-decent Samsung is going to slap down big time anyway.

So on the iPhone4 no…

  • parallax tilt effect – meh
  • live wallpapers – in a word crap. I remember about 2 years ago being blown away by a Samsung Galaxy’s breaking waves on the seaside wallpaper never mind a few wee bubbles bouncing about.
  • Translucent effect throughout OS – granted this would pretty it up a bit and reinforce the feel of the “layers” design but again a “meh” that doesn’t justify the outlay. The iPhone4 step-change GUI improvement is good enough.

Performance

I have a concern over speed with iOS7 on iPhone4. There’s a lot more animation from the the unlock “icons bouncing to middle of screen”, multi-tasking, app selection “genie” opening … and app opening seems to take longer on iOS7 now.

The control panel crashed on me twice in half an hour. This is a bit of a “watch this space”.

So in all….

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 7.54.09 PMAs I began – an awesome update! Loving the new GUI right down to the circular phone dialing buttons (it’s a phone too now I think about it 😉  ).

Everything feels fresher and more cleanly designed. The phone itself feels a hell of a lot more usable with the main apps and settings features a lot slicker and much more speedily accessable.

A big thumbs up Apple! Now …. let’s surprise the market Bernanke-style and knock out the iPhone6 Glasses next week….

Apple launch: Upgrade iPhone4 to iPhone5S? And some whimsical tidbits.

Well, I watched the keynote launching the iPhone5S and other accoutrements and reviewed the tech specs from here in Australia. What’s Tim Cook’s catchphrase going to be now that we have “gorjus” no more? Anyhow – re. iPhone 5S purchase … it’s a no from this tight fisted rational consumer. Need a real kick in the backside (forced incompatability) or to be massively impressed by ground-breaking new direction to invest. And that wasn’t the case. And here’s why.

What we wanted ... v what we got (again) but in pimped up gold

What we wanted concept art … v what we got (again) but in pimped up gold

As mentioned, I dig my current iPhone4 in my Book Book case/wallet. Great setup with a practical case.  I see Apple are punting their new case with the iPhone5S – jeez their copy guys are good at writing the ads – they should all work in Australian restaurants inventing delicious descriptions for the Sydney-style tiny piles of food on the BIG WHITE PLATE for 40 sheets (you know what I’m talking about Sydneysiders). They’d make a killing taking a cut of the increased sales.

I always go top-of-the-range for the upgrade investment in a phone. 64Gb to sync most of my massive iTunes library. Granted this could go on  the cloud via iTunes Match. However, recently I drove 6 hours south of Sydney to go skiing, setting off at an excruciating 3am. I would be slightly disappointed if the Manowar power metal song I was listening to to keep me awake suddenly cut out due to poor network coverage. And it’s going to chew up my data allowance on my network carrier big-time.

So for a 64Gb iPhone 5S outright buy here in Australia we’re talking $1129. From what I can see the main points are:

Better Camera: I believe in fit-for-purpose. I’ve a solid Panasonic Lumix FT3 camera which apart from being waterproof et al, the GPS altimeter having literally saved my bahookie on a Scottish mountain in a storm, takes awesome photos. Awesome hi-res photos (and you should see the specs of the latest generation FT5).

blade-runner-esper-photoAnd as we build our SquiloByte-sized digital back-catalogue of images over time, and as we are sitting in our nursing home of the future with our 5D room projectors reviewing our auto-indexed life’s media collection, our old eyes will need the highest-res images that were available at the time. I reckon a whole generation of snaps on lower-res and lower-shoot quality mobile devices will give us later regrets with our digital archive. Especially when we’re trying to zoom in on the Blade Runner snake woman.

Speed – mobile device move up to 64-bit: A7 chip and LTE network. But to be honest with my iPhone4 A4 chip, I really haven’t found any major issues or frustrations with this short of bad network coverage, and that’s not going to be fixed by buying this phone. What I am a little concerned about here is if we’re going to see the same glitches moving from Mac PowerPC to Intel chips in 2006 with the stovepipe “Rosetta” Universal solution. You’d hope we’d be good with the same chip brand, but the best laid schemes o’ mice and men…

Motion Sensor: taking Big Brother to the next level … measuring user movement, in the background learning your commuting routes to suggest directions direct from your Notification Centre … feeding up to your Facebook perhaps to target those banner ads even further? Perhaps integrated with Facebook voice-ads:

bb“Hey John – I note that you’re a single guy who likes the personal pages of several adult entertainers, you’ve checked in to several bars tonight and it’s now 2am and your motion sensor detects an erratic movement pattern. Since you’re in the area, here’s some ads for some completely legal licensed “massage” parlours in order of how far from your current location”

A slight extrapolation perhaps (!) but watch this sorry space, and check your Terms & Conditions!

Free iWork Apple bespoke productivity apps: I find these to be a) fidgety and pretty useless on a mobile device and b) not as good as MS Office (well, perhaps KeyNote is pretty good). I reckon that Apple is desperate to increase the usage of their iWork suite which has had poor uptake and this is the final push before a possible retirement in the future. I still maintain that one of the best and most useful apps that was pulled was iWeb site design tool – awesome. I had to move on to WordPress but it’s not the same (without coding). Now iWeb would have been a good cloud iWork app for a mobile device…

Fingerprint ID sensor … first generation of this. This is actually pretty impressive, and highly useful (unlocking your darn phone when you’re of course definitely not using it mounted on your dashboard whilst driving, honest) but let’s watch and view how this pans out for app adoption. Might even prompt a revival of the Mafia and Yakuza. Much easier to whip off a finger than to interrogate people for passwords which as I’m sure we all know are difficult to extract under panicked duress 3a01f18f46ffa78a32607f084669a4b4when you’re torturing someone.

Champagne gold colour – this is perhaps the MUST have feature. If you’re the kind of classy dude who values your grillz big-time.

So the above points don’t sell me.

More fundamentally I want to see some blue ocean market-shaking kick-arse radical redesign from Apple (I loathe the words “game-changer” and “killer app” – we’re really due a new buzzword).

The basic iPhone design hasn’t changed since the original iPhone in 2007 (which I confess I queued around the block for from 3am primarily since I was flying to the UK the following day and I knew the device was just the dab to keep a 2 year old occupied!).

mac-pro-towerThe boxy style phone just isn’t cutting it for me now when you look at other Android hardware alternatives with their huge crisp screens and more comfortable “handfeel”. If Microsoft gets it right with the Nokia deal, and introduces a truly integrated groovy device into the MS ecosystem they’ve a good chance of aggressively attacking the market.

For me Apple needs to get over the “if it ain’t broke” attitude and Jonathan Ive grow some cahunas and re-invent the iPhone styling, something radical along the lines of what they did with the Mac Pro “tube” desktop. As Schiller quipped “Apple can’t innovate my ass”.  Keep wearing those tight jeans till the next iPhone body redesign Big Phil.

The biggest factor for me is the availability of iOS7 – which my iPhone4 can be upgraded to. Aside from hardware, this is the radical UI change that reinvigorates the device experience. Lack of compatability would have been the serious carrot on a stick to drive me to upgrade (together with the phone trade-in offer from Apple to sweeten the deal – as they know fine well).

As to Siri, missing from my iPhone4… well, they need to get Billy Connolly into the labs at Infinite Loop for some voice sampling – still has major issues with my native Scottish accent as the Russians will attest to!