Friday, 31 January 2014

Lg flex wins out over the note 3

After several days of using the LG flex alongside the note 3, I've found myself increasingly preferring it over the note 3. The main reasons being:
  • The smooth, organic design feels more enjoyable to hold than the note 3's rigid slab (in landscape as well as portrait mode). 
  • The larger screen makes reviewing documents easier (despite the note 3 having more dpi and richer colours). 
  • The flex's multi windows approach & screen cutting ability are more useful on the larger screen (and more versatile than the Note 3's).
  • It feels more enjoyable to write on than the Note (I use a slide keyboard).
  • The flex has better features for using the phone one handed (including the buttons on the back).

I get a sense of enjoyment using the flex that I don't using the note 3. And so I'll replace my corporate note 3 for something smaller and use the flex (which has also replaced my use of a small tablet).

The flex could be better- this fits my hand very well, but I could get used to something larger eg nexus7 size- with the curve. Under some light conditions there's a slight blueish hue (bit like the note 2); the back attracts a bit of dust (unlike the note, though the Sony z1 compact is worse, attracting dust to the back and front):  Sony waterproofing would be great in this weather (though the flex feels very tough); a sharper screen would have been great and an external speaker, HTC quality, would have rounded things off nicely.

This is an excellent phone/mini tablet, and I now appreciate the benefits of the curve which feels great in landscape and portrait. This has now become my main device!

The reaction of other people had been interesting. I had a couple of people say 'why have a curve' - until they held it and had a play. Even a Samsung rep said he liked it (but added that Samsung would be bringing out similar curves). One person wasn't very impressed (an iPhone user), but others liked the feel a lot. When I mentioned the screen resolution most people were surprised, saying they thought it looked higher resolution.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Which smart watch? If any

Over the past few months I've been using the pebble, galaxy gear and sony smart watch 2 ( the last two only since Christmas).

I enjoy using tech (and get to use quote a bit through work and mobile initiatives) and use a mixture of android and iOS devices. However, I stopped wearing watches several years ago. In the end I've decided that none of these smart watches give me enough incentive to start wearing a watch. However, if I was to wear one I'd use the pebble, and possibly (with a few enhancements) the sony watch.

The pebble

I got the pebble watch a few months back through the kickstarter project. On getting it I liked the design and feel of the watch and set about pairing it first to an iPhone 5 (which went very smoothly), then to an htc one (fairly smooth) and to a Samsung s4 (problematic). It worked best with the iPhone ( for example controlling the audio app currently being used and showing relevant info for that app- unlike android which required an audio app to be preselected and then showed information in the watch for that app, even if something else was playing). The battery life and waterproofness were great. If I wore a watch I'd use this one.

Sony smart watch 2

I wasn't expecting a lot but I was pleasantly surprised to have a mini android screen with apps, home key etc. and by and large it worked well (a few navigational inconsistencies). It's light and feels pleasant to wear. However, having to press the on button to use it is a bit fiddle, I'd have preferred an LG style double tap to turn it on. Unfortunately, whilst you can see emails etc, you can't mark them as read which means dealing with them on my phone as well. The mini USB charging cable was good (I've lots of those).

Samsung galaxy gear

This started off well, if feels nice to wear, but went downhill from there. It only pairs with Samsung devices (luckily I'd replaced my corporate s4 with a note 3). It uses a proprietary charger, which given the short battery life compared to the pebble is a nuisance. Functionality felt more limited than the sony  smart watch which at least seemed more like a more powerful android device. Hardware on the gear is good- but things like the camera inbuilt onto the watch strap seem a costly feature that personally I wouldn't see myself using. Currently this is languishing In a bag ready to go back. I was hoping for more from Samsung.

It'll be interesting to see if apple can inject some practical appeal into the smart watch concept, or LG who have taken some strides forwards in the innovation stakes (and have the double tap to turn on feature at their fingertips).

For now though I'll stick with phones and tablets. And if those aren't to hand I can always ask someone the time.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Which is the best phone? (for me)

People have different needs and constraints for their mobile devices. And the choice of apps significantly affects which one works best. I'm regularly commuting on public transport, listen to audio or read on the train/tube, need calendar, task and note taking apps at work and a few other odds and ends from time to time.

Rather than thinking about specs (dpi etc), I've had a think about what I use my devices for and which devices (and apps) have stood out for different usages:

Roughly in order of importance to me:

Email and diary management: this is important to me from a corporate and personal perspective. Using exchange for corporate email I like Samsung's conversation layout for mail (LG and windows mobile close behind- windows ability to have the selection box on the right or left is handy). For calendar I like Samsung's s-planner but overall prefer the digical app (over business calendar and several  other calendar apps).

How long the phone lasts before needing recharging: I need a phone that lasts me through the day so I can charge it over night. There are some phones that have struggled consistently to do this (xperia Z, S4...) and a couple that I don't get worried about (G2, HTC One, Note 3, G-flex). I prefer to have a mini usb charger than carry a spare battery as I can usually find a pc to hook into and I don't want to bother with a battery than is unique to one device.

Audio: I listen to podcasts, audio books, the iplayer and music quite a bit. Audio quality on head phones is very important to me and I like a decent external speaker. The best in class is without doubt the HTC One. NB for podcasts Pocketcasts is my clear winner app as it syncs so well over multiple devices and has a clean, functional user interface. (Also, on the G2 using the poweramp app increases the music audio volume).

Managing to-do's: having tried LOTS of task apps (, jorte, astrid...) I've settled on 'business tasks' - it's ability to show tasks for specific categories on widgets, and syncing ability over multiple devices gives it the edge. The most practical phone for task management for my is a close run thing between the g2 (I can use it one handed) and the note 3 (handy when I have two hands free). The overall winner device wise is the G2.

Feel of the phone in the hand: People have personal preferences (and hand sizes!). The phones that have stood out to me when I hold them: the HTC One, the G2 (those buttons on the back are brilliant), the iphone 5 (so light!) and the Nexus 5 (how plastic cases should be done- similar to the nexus 7 2013 edition) and the g flex (bit large but the curved back makes it sit nicely in my hand and the buttons on the back help a lot). In contrast the Note 3 isn't quite the right size (needs to be bigger as it needs 2 handed usage- plus I'm not that keen on the Samsung home button or the menu & back buttons that only light up when you press them). 
BEST FOR ME: G2, HTC One and Nexus 5

Note taking: evernote and google keep are my main note taking apps for long and short notes respectively. I've enjoyed the evernote experience on most devices- but the ones standing out are the g flex, note 3, HTC One, G2 and iphone 5. So for note taking, because I need one and two handed usage I'll go for the G2. A decent keyboard is important for note taking (and more). This depends on the keyboard and how easy it is to hold the phone. The most comfortable combination for me is the g2 with swype (I prefer slightly over swiftkey. Samsung and LG have their own decent keyboards, with a dedicated number row- of the two the LG is better for me because you don't have to press a 'sym' key to get to the symbols).

Web browsing: my preferred browser is Dolphin (fast, great for full screen, reflow, linking with other apps and a huge range of add ons). A close second is the HTC One's inbuilt browser which handles reflow better than any other phone I've used and has a couple if interesting, and useful lab features). My preferred device for web browsing is the g2- again it's large screen and one handed use giving it the edge over larger devices like the g flex and note 3.

Checking train, tube, bus times and navigation: for London citymapper is 'the' go to travel app for public transport (and is now on android as well as ios), rail planner live is fine for mainline. I need a device I can take out and look at easily and the winner is the G2- one handed use and size (and it always has battery life at the end of the day). The iphone size and better ui for travel apps gave it an edge over many devices and the Xperia Z's ability to use in the rain also a great feature. The G2's brightness outdoors also gives it an edge over other phones.

Social media: using facebook, linkedin, blogger (now), twitter... this goes to the g2 for the best all rounder since it has a large screen I can use one handed.

Reading: I use Kindle, Kobo and Nook apps.  The HTC One has the sharpest display for reading but the g2 pips it because of the larger screen and volume buttons on the back which make page turns easier).

Watching video: mostly youtube, and when I've got two hands available to use- the note 3 is the richest experience but it could do with a better speaker. The g flex is very good for for video but the colours & sharpness are better on the note 3.

Taking photos- G2: I like the HTC One's Zoe mode which is great for unpredictable moving shots. but the phone I've found most useful for taking photos is the g2. In part it's the 'dedicated' camera button on the back, in part the size of this phone means I tend to carry it around most places. I don't need the best quality, professional style photos- my photos get emailed or stored in the cloud for viewing online. So most camera phones are 'good enough'- the ones that get special mention for quality though are the g2 and the iphone 5 (the best all rounder for point and click in almost any situation). The note 3 is very good in light conditions (not quite so good in lower light)- but it's overall size makes it uncomfortable to use on the spur of the moment.

I looked at the category winners afterwards and I was very surprised at how many categories the G2 was the winner. Now if only it had the HTC One's audio quality, the Xperia's waterproofing and the lightness of the iphone 5! (a stylus would be a nice to have, but not essential).

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Lg g flex or note 3?

I've been using the lg g flex for a couple of days, having previously been using a note 3 (and still issuing it).

Picking up the g flex is a joy.  It's curved body and rounded corners, combined with an on/off button on the back make this so much more comfortable to hold than the note 3, despite the g flex having a bigger screen (and LG have improved on the g2 back buttons by having a texture on the volume keys so you know automatically where you are, though I found my finger naturally finds th, if I had to buye right position on the back). The note 3 now seems flat with a niggling shuffle needed to turn it on and use volume keys.

The g flex could have been more. The screen resolution is very good, and it's gloriously bright. However, the note 3's screen has more detail and depth. A resolution like the g2's would have made the g flex an out right winner for me. Reading on the curved screen took me a day or so before I got used to it (makes me realise how much we read from flat surfaces, and how that affects reading style).  I like using the note 3's stylus on a slide keyboard, but using the slide keyboard on the g flex feels so much more natural due to the curvature.
Audio on earphones is very good, similar to the note 3 (though better, deeper external speaker). Video is more immersive on the g flex, though the colour and depth on the note 3 is brilliant, let down by the note 3's audio.

I haven't used the g flex camera much, yet. Though it doesn't have the g2's optical image stabilisation and at first glance the note 3 photos are more opulent.

The note 3 is a safer bet than the g flex. But a few days after using the g flex its ergonomic design makes it something I want to hold and use.  Hats off to LG for innovation- if only they'd gone for ultra hd and included image stabilisation.

I've got the note 3 from work, so I'll be hanging on to it. But if the g flex had been from work it would have been a harder choice as to which to keep. And if the g flex had higher screen resolution it would have been an easy choice.

(Just played asphalt 8 on the g flex and note 3, same car, same course. The colours and scenery look rich and detailed on the note 3, and it's nice enjoying the scenery. On the flex g, the scenery isn't quite a rich or detailed, but the experience of driving is much more immersive. The curve and the feel of the flex making a big difference. I might hang onto the flex!).

Some additional thoughts:
-using the g flex on a flat surface to read is great, the curve tilts the text up making it easier to read

-when the phones are on a flat surface, it's easier to write on the note with a stylus than the g flex.

-There are many more features on the flex to make one handed use easier eg

*the soft control keys (home, back etc) on the g flex can be swiped to the left or right to make then reachable one handed

*  you can put a fourth button on the soft control keys bar to bring down the notifications panel (on the note you have to reach to the top of the screen and swipe down, unless you use nova)

*you can make the pin entry panel on the lock screen smaller on the flex (the note only allows pattern entry to be made smaller, and since our corporate policies enforce pin entry it means I can't unlock the note one handed (unless I avoid the numbers 1,4,7)).

*On the flex, under settings, you can swipe from left to right to move from sound to display etc (on the note you have to press the icons on the top of the screen)

*the note does have one unique feature in the one handed stakes, however it's implemented poorly: with the right settings, if you swipe quickly to one side and then back the active screen shrinks and can be resized. However, it's fiddly, usually taking a couple of attempts. And worse, it's not persistent- if you turn the phone off and then on again the screen goes back to full size, undermining the possibility of bring able to take out the phone and use one handed. This is something that Samsung could surely fix easily.

-you can choose which apps the soft key bar should not be displayed in, so that you can get use of the full screen eg for evernote, games...

-the 'dedicated' memo button on the flex is very handy (press the up vol key for a sec or two) 

So, if it was my money which would I go for? They cost the same on eBay; the note has a sharper display; the note is smaller and has a stylus (which I would use more on a tablet)- so overall, if I had to buy one or the other I'd go for the flex- it's a more enjoyable experience than the note.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Which note taking app

I need to be able to take quick, short observations; longer notes with basic formatting (indentation, bullets, underline) and lists of things.  I need the longer notes to be accessible and editable across multiple devices. 

After trying several notes apps I've settled on the following:

-for short observations that are ephemeral (like a diary), I've ended up using the notes app on an old ipod (great keyboard for one handed use, and it's great for music, has a very long battery life and it's very thin meaning it fits almost unnoticed into any pocket). The other app that I used for a while was somnote (also works across multiple devices).

- for longer notes evernote is perfect. It has sufficient formatting options and works brilliantly across Android, ios (pad and ipod) and Windows pc (somnotes is a contender for this category but somehow evernote seems simpler yet more versatile).

- for lists of things (shopping lists etc) Google keep is ideal.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Note 3 reprise?

Over the past few days I've carried on using the note 3, and it's growing in me. The note 3 screen is gorgeous to look at,  helped by its size (though I'd have preferred a mega size note). Touching the screen gives a slight buzz, making it slightly uncomfortable (even with haptic feedback turned off). As a result I'm using the stylus more, especially for writing using a slide keyboard. 
The note is cumbersome to use one handed -the g2 is much more practical and has a great screen. But if I have the option to use two hands for a while (eg writing longer articles like use) i use thenote andthe stylus (a longer, less fiddly stylus would be good).
Outdoors, I can read the note's screen in sunlight. It's not as good as the g2 but a huge improvement over the s4.
Audio on the note 3 is decent, thigh a bit dry compared to the g2 and well behind the HTC one.
Photos on the note 3 are great - better outdoors than the HTC one.  There's not a lot to choose between the g2 and note 3 cameras, they're both very good (the g2's optical image stabilisation and  'dedicated' camera button (press volume button down for a few secs when the display is off) mean I find the g2 camera more practical).
Battery life is great, not as good as the LG G2 but very good.
The split screen mode is great, and whilst LG's mini windows is more versatile in many ways, I do like Samsung's ability to create your own pairs of apps to have in the side bar (NB there's a 'floating apps' app from the play store-means most android phones can have multiple windows- not just Samsung and LG).
I'm using the note 3 more and more, largely due to the size and stylus for writing.  It'll be interesting to compare this to the lg g flex.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Good basic phone for arthritis- Doro PhoneEasy 612

Ended up getting a doro 612 for my mother who suffers from arthritis, and some loss of hearing and vision. For £40 sim free this looks good. A reasonably attractive clam shell design ensures it's turned off when put away, the keys are large, volume is loud and clear, screen good for reading and menu easy to use. It has a long standby and a basic camera. The emergency and quick contact buttons are excellent. And it comes with a dock to slide the phone into, rather than having to fiddle with micro USB cables. She doesn't want internet so that's handy as this has no internet connectivity. She doesn't use headphones so the non std headphone socket isn't an issue, though it has Bluetooth. 

She has previously tried an iPhone, various android phones (configured with big buttons) and a Nokia 520. The issue has been keyboard size, swiping left to right and the need for frequent charging. 

Proof will be in the using, though I suspect this form factor with the ability to look up bus and train times will be what she wants (though she hasn't used these previously when installed). Now that many bus stops have NFC to look up the  next bus details, NFC could be handy too. 

Note 3 a few days on, rating 7/10

Not keen on the note 3- it needs two hands most of the time, in which case I may as well go for a larger device (I preferred the Samsung mega over the note 3). There are some efforts to try to improve one handed use, like the ability to reduce the active screen size, so the active display, for example, can be the same size as an HTC mini. However, getting to this mode is fiddly (swift swipe to one side and then the other- an icon on the bottom to get to this mode would be better). Even in full screen mode Samsung could do a lot more to make it easier to reach buttons such as switch settings with one hand. And, I need to juggle the phone in my hand to get to the on/off and volume buttons. similar to the slight juggle that the HTC one's top mounted on/off switch requires. LG's approach of the buttons on the back and button in the bottom row to bring down the notification bar is considerably easier and faster. The note 3 is too small for me for using the stylus, and taking it out to use takes longer than using a finger. I'd use a stylus on a tablet or larger phablet like the Mega (shame Samsung haven't got a 6.3 note).

When I'm commuting I need the ability to use the phone one handed. I use my phone a lot for note taking e.g. in meetings. And I've found that the LG G2 is considerably more practical for my usages (especially since I will use a larger tablet or laptop for more intensive content creation and review, where I need a large screen).

The note 3's plus points for me are its lightness and screen size, but these are outweighed by the discomfort of using it compared to the g2 which has a decent screen size, and the note 3's overall tacky feel.

So for my usages, my overall rating of the note 3 is 6.5/10.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Note 3- initial thoughts:a bit disappointing

 I got a note 3 to try (swapped it for the s4). First reaction is that this is disappointing compared to the g2- the note 3 physical size being the main issue.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Lg g2 a few days in‏

The g2 has replaced my trusty HTC one!! 
This g2 is one of the best phones I've used in years. 
-the size and screen are brilliant. The best compromise for size and one handed use for me. Changing the system font to Serif makes text pin sharp- ideal for browsing and reading (and the volume keys in the back for scrolling are easier to use than any other device I've used.
- I love the key positioning on the back. Unbelievably more practical  than on the side! 
-battery life is amazing. I got home with 60% still available. HTC would typically be 35% and the s4 about 20% at this stage.
-When the phone is off you press the up volume for a couple of seconds to get the camera, down volume for doing a note, amazingly handy!
-I thought I'd need the 32gb version (I might still) but so far have stayed within the limits of the 16gb version (available new for £345 SIM free)
-audio is very good on decent head phones (external speaker is a bit quiet but using the power amp app resolves that)
-camera is very good