Archive for the Annoyances Category

My iPhone Gripes part II

While I’m pretty sure no one cares, here’s a new list of my gripes with the iPhone. I did one of these in 2011 when I switched from the iPhone 3GS to the Samsung Galaxy S2 (still one of my favourite phones).

Since then I’ve been through a couple more Samsung Galaxies (S3 and S4) before switching camps and trying out a Microsoft Lumia 640 running Windows Mobile 8.1 followed by Windows 10.

I was very surprised by how much I liked using Windows Phone and in particular I thought the “launcher” (i.e. the home screen, app drawer and icons/widgets) was significantly better than the Android and iOS equivalents. I liked it so much that I was seriously considering buying the new flagship Lumia 950 but then I got a new job which came with a company supplied iPhone 6S+.

While the iPhone 6S+ wasn’t quite what I’d have chosen for myself, I was still pretty pleased to get the top of the line model of one of the best smartphones on the market and I was curious to see how the iPhone and iOS had developed in the last 5 years. What I didn’t expect was that it would be so damn annoying. In no particular order:

  1. Apps seem to freeze or crash more than I’m used to, particularly when they’re trying and failing to update their data (e.g. Twitter and Scrabble).
  2. The built-in keyboard still doesn’t support swiping. “Hey”, you say, “iOS supports third party keyboards now!”. Unfortunately it doesn’t support them very well, with some parts (like search) still using the built-in keyboard, and other applications seeming to randomly switch between them. Adding insult to injury, Microsoft has released their excellent Flow keyboard for iOS – but not in New Zealand.
  3. The iPhone 6S+ has bad physical design. It’s far too slippery. The rounded edges make it hard to pick up from a flat surface. The buttons still have unpleasant sharp edges. The camera is off-centre which means that it jiggles when you try to use it on a desk. It’s the first phone I’ve ever felt obliged to get a case for to overcome the flaws in the physical design (I note that the Apple leather case is very nice and helps with a number of these gripes).
  4. Related to this is that it’s surprisingly heavy, both in absolute terms and when you compare it to other phones with similar sized screens from other vendors. Compare the iPhone 6S+ with a 5.5″ screen at 192g to the Lumia 950XL with a 5.7″ screen at 165g or the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with 5.5″ at 157g. I really notice the extra weight when reading in bed, and it makes me wish I’d got the iPhone 6S instead.
  5. I haven’t been impressed by the battery life which, in such a heavy phone, should be pretty awesome. I think it’s worse than my last couple of phones but that’s pretty subjective. Annoyingly you can’t carry a spare battery and just swap it in (a feature becoming less popular in Android and Windows phones too). There’s also still no wireless charging.
  6. At NZ$1599 for an iPhone 6S+ with 64GB, damn it’s expensive.
  7. The use of a proprietary Lightning connector for charging means that it uses a different connector from pretty well every other device we own that all use micro-USB (camera, tablet, UE Boom speaker, Kim’s phone, etc). It got even worse when Kim upgraded to a Nexus 5X with USB-C – suddenly we had three connectors to support. On the other hand, at least USB-C seems likely to be the standard of the future, the Lightning connector is always going to be an orphan for which the cables cost significantly more than the other options.
  8. As mentioned earlier, the camera is in the wrong location right up in one corner. Yes folks, it’s the return of the “finger in shot” screw-ups. How come the rest of the industry has worked out that cameras belong in the middle but Apple still seems unaware?
  9. The home-screen/launcher feels like it’s hardly developed since my iPhone 3GS. Yep, it’s still just a bunch of icons. There’s still no widgets or live tiles for quick display of relevant information. The design guidelines seem to encourage making icons look as like each other as possible. You can’t even arrange them spatially except between pages – gaps aren’t allowed and they always autofill the available space. As for multi-page folders, I have no idea what they were thinking with that one.
  10. The Settings app is big and sprawly and really needs a good rethink. I scrolled through five screen pages worth of top level setting items and it’s just too much.
  11. Apple – I don’t care whether you rip off the notifications and quick settings design from Microsoft or Google, just choose one and get copying. Special mention: it seems very odd that I can’t force-touch or long-press the bluetooth and wifi icons in the settings slide-up to get to the settings for those functions.
  12. I really miss the back button. Every app does it its own way and sometimes they have both “back to the calling app” and “back within this app” – naturally I always get the wrong one. Even worse some apps seem to have no back at all so once you’ve acitvated them from another, the only way to get back is to use the task switcher. I’m prepared to admit that the back button on Android and Windows Phone isn’t always perfect but I’d rather have an imperfect one than none at all.
  13. There’s even more use of popup hidden UI elements than since the last time I griped about it in 2010. E.g. in Safari you don’t get any controls unless you jiggle the page the right way. Many apps are implementing swiping left or right to reveal hidden UI elements, but they’re both hard to discover and inconsistent between apps.
  14. I assumed that with Apple having such a large market share and only one supported browser that everyone would ensure their mobile web pages worked in Safari. Apparently not.
  15. I wish I could work out the magic that would let the iPhone consistently reconnect to my phone headset whenever it’s in range.
  16. Bluetooth control options aren’t very flexible. You can’t tell the iPhone that you want to use a bluetooth UE Boom 2 speaker for music but not for phone calls or notification sounds.
  17. The Search often seems to freeze up for 5-15 seconds between entering search terms and the “Search the Web” button being displayed. It’s very odd.
  18. When the iPhone screen is off there’s no way to tell if there’s any messages or other important notifications waiting for you. There’s no notification light, nor a Windows Phone style low-power always-on Glance screen with time/date/notifications.
  19. I have tried more than once to use Siri and we just don’t understand each other. Come back Cortana!
  20. The screen rotation settings don’t seem quite right. Sometimes it triggers too easily, sometimes not easily enough. I miss the hack I had on one of my Android phones where I could enable screen rotation for some apps (e.g. video and photos) but not others.
  21. Internet connection sharing works well – but apparently it’s such a critically important function that Apple has to add a blinking bar at the top to constantly warn you that you have it enabled. Even worse, this bar doubles the height of the top bar so that some applications don’t quite display properly.
  22. The multi-tasking is pretty shocking. You can’t keep a network client connected (e.g. IRC), apps have to be left active to download data (e.g. offline maps and music), many apps are very slow at updating their notification badges, and apps don’t keep in sync with their notifications (i.e. the badge shows there is a message but when you go into the app it shows no new messages until it refreshes).
  23. You can’t replace standard apps with others if you prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps, or Chrome to Safari. Indeed, there’s a general feeling that Apple applications and services are first class citizens and Apple wants to make everyone else’s stuff just run that little bit worse.

(Yes, this article is just an attempt to get everyone to tell me ways to fix all my gripes and thereby improve my iPhone experience.)

My List of iPhone Gripes

It’s the end of the iPhone era for me.

I had been pretty impressed with the US iPhones that had leaked into NZ, and I bought an iPhone 3G on the first day they were available in NZ (using my own money even!) and upgraded it to a 3GS soon after that came out.

And it was great. Apple really were the first people to get the smartphone right. It was fast, had a useful screen and the touch interface had Apple’s usual attention to detail. My iPhone and I had a lot of good times together.

But by the time the iPhone 4 was released I just wasn’t as interested. It wasn’t just the hardware, or Apple’s control-freakery or any one thing in particular, but somehow I wanted to try something else.

What did happen was a Samsung Galaxy S II running Google’s Android operating system. I’ll be writing more about that later, but first I thought I’d finally get around to publishing my list of iPhone gripes.

These are my personal gripes. I know that some of them are probably features to other people, or can be fixed with more or less ease, or will be fixed in iOS5 but it’s really too late for that for me. So, in no particular order, a bunch of things that annoyed me about the iPhone:

  1. The failure to use the lock screen to display useful information.
  2. The way the weather app icon doesn’t change to match to match the weather.
  3. That the Maps icon is an American highway map.
  4. The difficulty of finding good apps – you can find a multitude of apps but it’s very hard to tell which are any good.
  5. The “icons, icons, nothing but icons” menu system.
  6. That the iPhone 3GS had very limited message notification and ringtones. You hear that “ding-ding” sound and every iPhone user in the room wonders if the message is for them.
  7. The way that iOS4.2 added new message tones for the iPhone 4 but not for the older 3GS.
  8. The lack of buttons, particular the way that the single button is used for search, task-switching, app-closing, and screen shots (about 10% of my photos are accidental screen shots),
  9. The lack of a physical camera button. Trying to do tricky shots wth the on-screen button is hard.
  10. The multi-second delay in starting the camera.
  11. The way that Apple offered free iPhone tracking… for the iPhone 4 but not the 3G or 3GS.
  12. The volume and mute controls on the 3GS have annoyingly sharp edges – and the mute button is too easy to activate when putting it into a pocket.
  13. There’s no icon on screen to show whether mute is on or not.
  14. That the iOS4 ‘upgrade’ killed the performance of the iPhone 3G and 3GS and Apple tried to stop you downgrading again. (This was improved in later versions but the performance is still noticeably crappier than it was.)
  15. The way that the 3G doesn’t get security fixes any more after just two years. (Launched July 2008, last fix Nov 2010).
  16. Apple choosing what political views are acceptable in apps sold in the app store – and there’s no other way to get apps.
  17. The inability to cache downloaded maps on your phone.
  18. The rotation-lock option cunningly hidden in a leftward swipe of the dock-thing when in task-switching mode.
  19. That you have to install iTunes to activate the phone or copy music to it.
  20. If you switch to a new PC, iTunes tries to get you to wipe everything from your phone (this can be prevented).
  21. That you can’t use the volume controls for page turning when reading electronic books.
  22. Lack of easy auto update for applications.
  23. If you’re in one application and click a link that takes you into another (e.g. a YouTube video link in the browser), there’s no obvious way to get back to where you were in the first application.

Coming soon: my list of Android gripes. :)

Strange Data Collection Method

I was taken aback by what I found in my post box today – a letter asking me to complete a survey about my respiratory health. The Medical Research Institute tells me that (link to scan of letter (PDF)):

You have been randomly selected from the electoral roll to participate in the first phase which involves completing the questionnaire on the other side of this letter.

Personally I thought that it was illegal to use the Electoral Roll for any purpose other than elections, but it seems that there is an exception for approved scientific/health researchers.

I’d be surprised if the response rate was very high or very representative.

And no, I didn’t fill it out. Feel free to use the code and URL on the letter to go and answer it for me.

Some interesting offences

Just having a look at the Summary Offences Act to see if it was illegal to be drunk in public (apparently it’s not) and found these:

Defence for public urination

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who urinates or defecates in any public place other than a public lavatory. It is a defence in a prosecution under this section if the defendant proves that he had reasonable grounds for believing that he would not be observed.

Rewards

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who Publicly advertises a reward for the return of any property that has been stolen or lost, and in the advertisement uses any words to the effect that no questions will be asked;

Postering

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who, without the consent of the owner or occupier affixes any placard, banner, poster, or other material bearing any writing or pictorial representation to any structure, or to or from any tree;

Disturbing people

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $200 who, in any public place, unreasonably disrupts any meeting, congregation, or audience.

Peeping only happens at night

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $500 who is found by night without reasonable excuse peeping or peering into a dwellinghouse;

Rhetorical Flourish

My first computer was a 1990 i386 with 2MB of memory and an 80MB hard drive, scrounged from the offices of a local shipping company. Complete with serial mouse, IBM Model M keyboard, and 15″ color VGA monitor, it was my parents’ hope for making me into a competent writer, but it better succeeded in making me a PC gamer. This ancient machine, 17 years old, is incredibly outdated in the physical basis of every technological detail, except one: its hard disk.

This is the introductory paragraph for a rather lightweight article about hard drives. It’s also a great example of a writer saying something obviously stupid purely because it suited the rhetorical framework that they had chosen to use.

Yes, the hard drive does still take the basic form that it did 17 years ago. But when kept to the same level of required similarity, so does the memory, the CPU, the motherboard, the case, the power supply, and the keyboard. Indeed, the only two major physical design changes I can think of when it comes to the common PC is the replacement of ball mice with optical mice, and the rise of the flat-screen LCD monitor.

Don’t you just hate it when reality gets in the way of a good line?

Green Cab Followup

I wrote to Green Cabs and asked them what they thought about the “0 SMOG” license plate. This is the response I received from Callum Brown (Managing Director):

I think it is a statement about the world the driver wants to live in as opposed to an advertisement about Green Cabs..

Possibly true but I still believe that it is misleading. On the other hand, I also think it’s not worth getting upset about and I have no intention of doing anything further about it.

Lying Green Cabs

I quite like the new Green Cabs that are zipping around Wellington these days. They’re green in colour and use only the Toyota Prius, a hybrid petrol/electric car that is arguably more environmentally friendly than most other cars. Indeed, I seem to recall reading that Priuses do particularly well in stop-go city traffic where taxis spend most of their time. It all seems like a good idea for a business and I wish them well.

However, I do have a problem in that one of the Green Taxis has the license plate “0 SMOG”. While Toyota Priuses produce less emissions than most other cars, they still rely on a petrol engine and they still pump out various emissions, some of which contribute to smog.

I think we can safely assume that the presence of the plate is trying to imply that the taxi in question produces no smog rather than it just being a political exhortation. So, does this mean that the taxi driver is guilty of false advertising?

P.S. I hate it when manufacturers choose product names that are hard to refer to in the plural. I eventually ended up with Priuses because it sounded the best.

Some time ago I subscribed to eMusic.com for a number of reasons. Firstly, no matter how much I like my old favourites I crave the novelty of listening to music I haven’t heard before.

Secondly, I have completely and utterly lost the habit of buying CDs and I’d hardly know what to do with one once I got it. Thirdly, I can’t really be bothered with the hassle of finding and downloading music illegally. (RIP Oink, I miss you and your universal catalogue of well-ripped and properly tagged music.)

Fourthly, and in some ways most importantly to me when it came to actually signing up and paying money, eMusic did it right. The music you download from them is unencumbered moderately high-quality MP3s. No silly Apple or Microsoft enabled controls on what you could do with it or where you could listen to it.

I enjoyed using the service and got some good music to listen to (we’ll ignore the album of death-metal I downloaded by accident). But last year it didn’t seem worth it to me any more as I had no income and no decent internet connection, so I let my subscription lapse.

But eMusic is cunning and every so often they’d send me a little reminder email, “Come back! We has musics! Join us!” And then they got even more enticing and offered me 75 bonus downloads if I signed up again – so I did.

But there’s a new twist on the old service. eMusic’s catalogue was always a bit patchy and it was often a case of finding something good to download rather than going there with a particular artist or album in mind. But now it’s got even harder as:

We’re sorry. This album is unavailable for download in your country (New Zealand) at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Even worse, eMusic is sending me titillating emails that are promoting the very albums that I’m not allowed to download!

Yes, the music industry is back to its old tricks of trying to impose their will on their customers, saying that they’d rather not take our money so that their “product/marketing geniuses” can continue to play their consumer segmentation games.

I thought they’d learnt, that the invisible hand of the marketplace had given them a good slapping around and that they had resolved to not be so stupid any more. Apparently I was wrong and we’re going to have to go through another round of watching the music industry indulge in self-destructive behaviour. Maybe one day they’ll finally get it and they’ll actually make it easy for me to give them money in exchange for music.

Unconscionable

Vodafone charges $60/month for a mobile data plan with 1GB of traffic. However, if you use data without having a plan (as any modern phone can) they charge $11.25/MB. Therefore 1GB of traffic will cost you approximately $11,000.

That’s the same 1GB of traffic for either $60 or $11,000.

I do not believe that there is any possible justification for such a huge discrepancy in these prices. It’s merely Vodafone acting in a rapacious manner in an attempt to maximise profits extracted from those who don’t fully understand what they’re doing with their shiny new phones.

Guy Fawkes

Once again another Guy Fawkes where the squawks of the fearful and timid are louder and more annoying than the booms and shrieks of the fireworks. Once again we have to put up with ever more restrictions, stern warnings from politicians and the whining of the Fire Service. I unashamedly support the Guy Fawkes celebrations and the fireworks that go with them.

  • I like the beauty of a roman candle shooting into the night.
  • I enjoy the community aspect as people flock to the big public displays or have a few friends around to the back yard BBQ/party.
  • I like the anarchic feeling as people indulge in the pseudo-dangerous activity of playing with decorative explosives.
  • I appreciate the absurdity of celebrating something so irrelevant to our modern lives (neither the Catholics nor Protestants seem like much of a threat to our society).

Some might argue that fireworks are dangerous and can cause people to be hurt. While this is undoubtedly true, I think it’s important to note that the number of injuries is generally low (and probably lower than other mass activities) and most are very minor. We don’t need the safety nazis interfering, for our own good, with another pleasure enjoyed by the mass of New Zealanders.

Last night Kim and I went for a walk. It was a still clear night and the sight of the fireworks sparkling in the sky against the lights of the city was quite beautiful. Parties were everywhere and people were having a good time. I thought it was wonderful.