Friday, 29 August 2014

Would I use a smartwatch? (not yet)

There's a lot of interest on smart watches with September releases imminent. 
I've had the pebble which had great battery life, was compatible with iOS and android and waterproof. Also a Samsung gear- nice materials but disappointing battery life, a daft cradle to recharge, not good for outdoor use and very limited by only working with Samsung devices!!! Also, I had a Sony smart watch 2 which I preferred over the Gear (not as premium feeling but a lot more versatile and practical). However, none of the above has led to me using a smart watch beyond trying them for a few weeks. I don't currently wear a watch and to be useful I'd need any smart watch to do things a lot more conveniently than I can with an easily accessible smartphone (including 3 button hands free set). With a larger device/phablet, a smart watch could be a useful accessory (as long as it doesn't need it's own SIM card!). The current iPhone 5s with touchid is small, light, easy to access, has a built in pedometer, and easy access to audio and camera. I can see less reason for using a smart watch with an iPhone than with a phablet (so will be interesting to see the iPhone 5.5). Based on what I've seen of Cortana (compared to google and Apple's voice control) a Microsoft watch that was compatible with WP, Android and iOS would be interesting. On the android front Mororola's 360 and the new LG watch look interesting, stylish and practical than some of the previous android smart watches.

How accurate is a smartphone for knowing your location?

Answer- it varies! Depending on your phone, the network, your location and which app you're using! (at the moment in a built up area with lots of masts and wifi around as well I'm showing about +/-20m).

I recently read a posting comparing the accuracy of Ordnance Survey Map grid references on an iPhone and a G3 (on "Gavin's Gadgets"- some great articles- and photo comparisons from lots of devices).  The iPhone appeared to be way out in the article and it got me wondering because last weekend, whilst walking and comparing an HTC One, Nokia 1520 & iPhone 5s I was comparing navigation and location accuracy. I was by the coast it was pretty easy to know exactly where I was. Of the three, the Nokia 1520 and iPhone 5s gave my actual position on satellite maps most accurately. I wasn’t specifically looking at grid co-ordinates. So just now I fired up the three devices. Quickly looking at the 1520 & HTC One, the grid refs match to 8 figure accuracy. The iPhone is out noticeably (using the ViewRanger app on the iPhone and on the HTC One). Out of curiosity I downloaded ‘Coordination’ (app on iOS to give grid references). And it’s grid ref matches the HTC One and 1520. Quick conclusion- ViewRanger on iOS isn’t accurately showing my grid references- certainly compared to other iOS apps (I’ll contact the maker- though might be a setting difference between my iOS and Android version in ViewRanger). I'm in a built up area and lots of masts and wifi signals around (about +/-20m accuracy).
It got me thinking a bit more about what affects locational accuracy - and as I dug deeper I found several approaches used to determine accuracy on Smartphones- and realised there was more to this. Garmin were touting WAAS (EGNOS in Europe) with a quoted ‘5 times more accurate than GPS’- which got me thinking that  if I was out walking in the wilds something like a Garmin device would be useful alongside a phone!

A couple of interesting sites I found along the way:

UPDATE: issue with Viewranger on iOS is due to a difference in behaviour to the Android version of ViewRanger (and most map apps on iOS). Most map apps on iOS and Android (including ViewRanger on Android) default to using the grid reference system used on Ordnance Survey maps. However, ViewRanger on iOS defaults to using a different reference system. There is a settings option in ViewRanger on iOS to change the grid system to the more widely used system (at least in the Uk) and to bring it in line with the android version.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Wunderlist, one of my favourite to-do managers heads over to WP

Wunderlist is one of my favourite to-do managers on Android & iOS, syncing seamlessly over both and having a great UI that balancing ease of use and functionality A beta version of this is now available on Windows Phone 8.1. I'm using WP more and more (preferring the UI over iOS and Android). And doing a quick check the WP phone beta syncs nicely with the wunderlist app on android, iOS, MacOs and hte beta on Windows.

(I currently use 2day on WP, syncing with 2do on android & iOS via a free todoodle account. There's also the excellent 'Powertasks' on WP).

Here's the notice I saw in the WP app 'Windows Phone central' - which I only just discovered has forums and commenting capabilities (ie if I wanted to I could, for WP, not bother using Google+ for communities):

Wunderlist 3 is the latest version of the service, and it's available on Android and iOS. Today we get to taste Wunderlist 3, but as a beta. Here are the new features in Wunderlist 3: •New, more intuitive design and reengineered apps make Wunderlist feel faster than ever before. •Real-time Sync instantly updates your lists, no matter where you are. •Collaborating with Wunderlist is now even easier, with a simpler way to share to-do lists. •Comments are now free to help everyone stay in the loop with family and colleagues. •Curate your favorite things to do, see and make for everyone on the web, with Public Lists. Take Wunderlist for a spin and let us know what you think! •Download Wunderlist (beta) for Windows Phone; Windows Phone 8.1 only Via: @wpscoops You can read comments and view pictures/video here at Or open the article with the WPCentral app here: wpcentral:show?article=wunderlist-now-available-windows-phone-public-beta

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A day of maps, walking along the coast: Nokia 1520, iPhone 5s & HTC One m7

thought I'd give maps on my WP, iOS and Android devices a bit of a twirl today. We were heading off to the south coast for a walk along the Seven Sisters (doesn’t need much in the way of complex map reading!). I took my Nokia 1520, iPhone 5s and HTC One m7. It wasn't a very scientific or in-depth comparison (I wanted to enjoy the walk). But it was enough for me to choose which device I'd prefer to use.

The map apps I was using today:
  • iPhone 5s: I had Google maps, Apple maps &  'Many maps' (which gives side by side access to Google maps,  Bing, Google, Nokia Here and OpenTouch maps). I also have 'OutDoors' (I forgot about the rather daft 100mb download limit when not on wifi that Apple has). To date I've been using the Google maps app on the iPhone rather than Apple's map.
  • HTC One m7: I was using Google maps (I also have the 'OutDoors' app for OS maps).
  • Nokia 1520 I had Nokia Here/Bing maps (which seem to use the same data but show different aspects) and online OS maps (the offline OS map app seems to have been removed- perhaps a licensing issue).

Part 1: Using phone directions to get out of the city to the to the Seven sisters coastal walk
  • iPhone 5s (o2) - Apple maps great. Press to where want to go and rotates responsively and accurately with clear online directions. Small hand set size of iPhone ideal for using whilst walking and the screen is readable outdoors. Touchid makes it very quick to access.
  • HTC One (Three payg) - google maps very good. Though layout not as clear as the iPhone's apple maps (which has larger text, very clear directions etc). However, bright sunlight made the HTC One nearly impossible to read and I had to stop using it eventually.
  • Nokia 1520 (Three) quick map, clear route though no voice directions walking. Quite big to hold  one handed and walk along but great screen for reading in sunlight and big- making it easier to see more of what was around.

Overall winner for me in the city: very surprisingly (to me) Apple maps on the iPhone was the winner -clearest directions and well suited for using one handed whilst walking.

Part  2: walking along the coast
  • iPhone- very good at showing accurately where I was. But a bit small for seeing what was around. And satellite images rendered more slowly than on the HTC One or 1520.
  • HTC One- let down by poor outdoor visibility- though when shaded it was fine with Google maps. Not quite as good as pinpointing my precise location accurately ( could be hardware of course).
  • Nokia 1520- great screen for reading maps- large and easy to read in bright sunlight. Very, very quick to render satellite images (possibly because I'd already downloaded the free UK maps)- quicker than google maps (on the HTC and google maps on the 1520).

Overall winner for me going for a walk along the coast today: Nokia 1520. The large screen, very visible in bright sunlight gave this the edge. The satellite maps were rendered very, very fast using Bing maps.  

(Non mapping aside: we travelled to the coast by train - the 1520 was great as an entertainment device for us due to its large screen eg for looking through the photos. Camerawise,  I liked several of the photos on the 1520. Though some of the iPhone 5s photos actually looked better. As we headed home the iphone and HTC were at about 25% battery. The 1520 battery wasn't even at 70%. Today reinforced, to me, the benefit of having a large and a small device alongside each other (if you can). Though if I was to have only 1 device for today's journey I'd have probably plumped for the Samsung s5, LG G3, Sony Z2 or Nokia 930 (each for slightly different reasons- the upcoming 5.5" iPhone 6 will be very interesting).

Friday, 22 August 2014

Which mapping app to use? (why stick with just one?)

When I use a map on the iPhone I've been using the google maps app (I haven't used Apple's maps for ages but having a quick look, it's showing me some useful info and nicely laid out too). The following link is several months old but  makes some interesting reading about the Google Apple maps debate:
I still prefer 'Nokia Here' for driving directions over Google's navigation apps- it gives me more useful directions! (I've just found an iOS app 'Many maps'  which gives me Google, Nokia Here, Bing & OpenTouch maps & navigation on my iPhone- it's interesting seeing them side by side).
(Update: ironically a friend who has had an iPhone for ages was convinced she was using Google maps. In fact she was using Apple maps -she didn't have google maps installed). A bit more brand awareness of Google maps!

Monday, 11 August 2014

My experience of using Google services on Windows Phone

Overall, I haven't had any particular issues for my use of Google services on the 1520, and whilst some of them aren't as smooth as on android, there are non-google options that I've found that are functionally better for me;  more portable and integrate more effectively with other apps that I use.  What I use is affected by needing to work over multiple OS's. If I was living in just WP world I'd use Microsoft only; if I was living only in android I'd use Google only; and if I was living in iOS only I'd use Apple only. Of these three I've found cross platform integration easiest with Microsoft. The lack of cross platform integration is leading me away from certain google services to more versatile options. These are my experiences with the different google services that I use/have used: 

1) gMail: fine for me. There's no swiping to the left/right in WP (which I prefer on iOS compared to the android version of gMail). But the conversation layout in WP for gmail is one I prefer over even the android gmail layout (also suits my corporate email very well!).

2) Google search: No problem for me- there's a Google search app on WP (from Google). However, I'm using Bing more and more and I'm surprised at how good it is. I stopped using google now a while ago because it got in the way of what I wanted to do on android and wasn't given me the specific information I wanted. There are other android apps that gave me what I wanted.

3) Google Maps: these are available on WP. 'Nokia Here' is excellent and I was surprised at how much better driving instructions were with Nokia Here compared with Google maps/navigate for my journeys.

4) Youtube:  works fine. And there are 3rd party apps on WP that make downloading clips very easy.

5) Google+: this is the one thing where I notice more of a gap between the Android and WP experience. It works smoothly enough, for posting, reading notifications etc. However, I hadn’t found out until this evening how to reply directly to someone (as opposed to putting a comment in the stream of replies).

6) Google contacts: Not a problem for me- a while ago, in order to sync my work contacts more effectively I'd merged my contacts from hotmail into google; deleted them from hotmail; exported from Google (google.csv)and imported into hotmail- using that as the master over iOS and android; with subsequent changes in any other address book being linked. To date that seems to have worked ok. Though having a quick check it looks like if you simply select google as a WP account and select to use Google contacts it doesn't bring over all details- google and outlook appear to have slightly different contact fields. It hasn’t caused me an issue to date- I need my contact details on iOS; Android and WP (as well as in hotmail and google). 

7) Google docs: No problem for me- I use MS office on WP. And even on Android I tended to use Kingston office rather than google docs.

8) Google Drive: No problem for me. I use gDrive on WP through 3rd party apps. However, I am starting to use Onedrive more and more and I use Box mostly. I have more storage with Box than gDrive & Onedrive. And Box has better integration across the range of apps & operating systems that I use compared to gDrive. My photos are auto loaded from WP into OneDrive which is fine as I've had less issues sharing photos using OneDrive for access by relatives than I did with Google photo albums. I have some relatives who only use Microsoft; some only using iOS and some only using android.

9) Google Calendar:   I stopped using google calendar a while ago as I wanted my appointments in one place & my work calendar prevented use of external calendars (so I started putting most of my personal appointments in my corporate exchange calendar and marking them as private). I still have a few things in google calendar which come through ok  (though there's something that doesn't feel quite right if you use multiple google calendars in one google account on WP- specifically if you add a new google calendar. (I used the multiple google calendar feature a lot when it first came out but stopped after a while as it was a level of complexity that I didn’t need).

10) Google keep: I stopped using this a while ago.  It wasn't accessible on iOS easily and I need notes portability. I started using Evernote and OneNote for short as well as long notes and haven’t looked back!

11) Google tasks: I long ago abandoned google tasks as it didn’t have the functionality or integration I was after. I use 2day on WP which is my favourite to-do app, ever. And it syncs seamlessly with Android and iOS to-do apps (via a free todoodle cloud account).

12) Google music:  I use Amazon and iTunes as music from there was more portable than google music used to be (and looks like there's a WP app to access Google Play).

13) Google News: not something I ever really bothered with, preferring Flipboard for news. However, on WP I've started using Bing news which I prefer over Flipboard (it's one of the places where the 1520 's screen size and mouth watering screen come into their own).

14) Google translate: I never really used that much.  Wordlens is great on iOS and Android. And there's a decent equivalent on WP (Bing translate).

I don’t want to switch totally into just Microsoft or Google. But for anyone wanting to look a bit further I just found this:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Nokia 1520 my ideal holiday device

I recently came back from a holiday walking in the mountains. The Nokia 1520 was brilliant. Typically, I'm also using Android and iOS devices on a daily basis. However, using the 1520 as my only device  for several days has made me appreciate it more than ever and left me wanting WP UI on my android and iOS devices.

  •  Map reading & navigation: the 1520 screen was fantastic for reading. It's the best screen I've come across for reading in bright sunlight (and luckily we had a fair bit of sun). I was using Nokia Here maps and google maps on it (and a screen shot of the main walk route (a photo of the map section) as my lock screen. The screen was big enough to make it practical for reading in the mountains as well.
  • Photos: I enjoy taking photos on the 1520. It takes better photos than I've been used to on a smart phone and the large screen, visible in bright sunlight, makes it ideal for showing photos to people. (And Nokia beamer is a great way to 'impose' photos on others:). I also had more of a look at 500px. There are some stunning photos in there and they look mouth watering on the 1520 (I have 500px on android as well but never got drawn into it. It was the WP live tile that initially drew my attention to 500px and then I was hooked).
  • Reading ebooks: for reading ebooks in the evening & on the plane the 1520 was perfect. The screen is gorgeous. And I like the way I can have tiles for specific books- it makes it easier for me to focus on the books I want to read
  • To-dos, notes etc: I used the excellent "2day" app to tidy up and structure my to-dos. And using OneNote and Evernote to do notes on various things (2day is my favourite to-do app, on any operating system. I've used a lot of different to-do apps and finally settled on 2day on WP.  It syncs over the cloud with lots of to-do apps on iOS and Android (I use 2do on those).
  • Weather: the Bing weather app was excellent and very accurate for where we were.
  • Battery life: excellent, got me through each day without breaking into a sweat
  • Games: for myself and family members. Games work incredibly well on the 1520 and all the titles we wanted are on WP (fifa 2014, civilisation, ragdoll, temple run, fruit ninja, pocket rally, P&Z, bejewelled, riddles games {which my daughter had great fun using with other children- the large screen and loud cheering sounds helping making it a social gaming device})
  • Audio: nice loud speaker for listening to audio books (I had a Sony Bluetooth speaker as well but rarely used it). Also happily listening to podcasts (I'd prefer to have pocket casts to sync listening over multiple OS's but there are decent alternatives on WP. Music is very good too ( I'd like to be able to edit playlists on WP rather than on a PC/Mac, but I can live with that). {update - with 8.1 I can now create and edit playlists on the 1520}
  • Email and office: I did a couple of emails with gmail and hotmail (I prefer the WP layout for email). I also had to edit a few documents- MS office on the 1520 works very well (I had some docs on gDrive which  I needed to get to, which worked fine on WP). Again the larger screen was ideal for document editing.  (MS could make it easier to attached files to emails, not just photos).
  • Social media: fine for various social media services (including google+ though I still haven’t found how to do a direct reply as easily as with android. But fine for postings, adding comments etc). {update: gPlus allows direct replies but asks for a code each time you open it if you;re using 2 factor authentication. I'm just using google+ through the browser now which is fine for me}
  • Additional thoughts:
    • Search: I hadn’t really used Bing much in the past , sticking with Google. However, whilst I have a google search app on the 1520, I've ended up using Bing more and more and I'm quite surprised at how good an alternative it is to google search.
    • Size: despite it's larger size, the 1520 fitted perfectly into my walking trousers
    • News: I avoided the news (rarely good news), but did have a peek at a few things and I like Microsoft's news app a lot (I prefer it over flipboard)
    • Translation: my German isn’t great but Bing translate was a pretty good alternative to wordlens for  translating menus - strudel, sachertorte…:)
    • And coming back to the UK I was pleasantly surprised to find that 8.1 has arrived (just downloaded, will play later). And also I just found there's a windows phone app on the Mac for syncing content with  WP device (normally I don’t bother linking phones and computers- I download directly, but I wanted to get some things from iTunes onto the 1520).
  • WP compared to iOS and Android:  Since coming back I've had a quick use of some of my android and iOS devices and they leave me feeling a bit underwhelmed after the live tiles interface on the stunning 1520 screen. Android appeals to the geek in me, and I do tinker with it (perhaps too much). iOS has more of the apps I need (still) and the UI doesn't get in the way of me getting to those apps. However, WP is fresh; it allows me to organise things in a way that is a more coherent UI for doing what I want to do (I prefer live tiles over widgets), and an unobtrusive approach for showing me new content. I was thinking about a g3 as my next phone. I don’t need another phone yet. However, I'm seriously looking at getting a cheap Nokia 1020.
{Update: since coming back from holiday I've also found the 1520 has an inbuilt pedometer which Bing health & fitness tracks. I could have seen how many steps I'd done, not that it matters- a few thousand steps going up or down the side of a mountain is a bit different to walking on the flat!}