Thursday, 12 May 2016

iPhone SE - welcome back!

My iPhone 6 took a swim a couple of weeks ago. A short swim in the sea with a waterproof bag that wasn't. I reverted to my Android spare (a 1st generation Moto G), which was sufficient but slow. I contemplated a faster Android. The thing is, as the article here shows, they all have massive screens. As I've said before they are a poor compromise for me: too small to be a proper reading/viewing device (so I have a paperback-sized iPad mini), and too large to be a handy phone.

I remember thinking, on the recent launch of the iPhone SE, that it was a smart move. The iPhone 5 was the nicest phone I have ever used: comfortable to hold, with hand clasped right around it, and easy to use, with thumb capable of touching all 4 corners of the 4" screen without spraining or dislocating. The SE is an update: all the newest chips and sensors in the old body, and 25% cheaper than an equivalent iPhone 6. Best of both worlds, in principle, but faced with the real prospect of replacing my phone, would I actually buy it?

The latest Android phones have overtaken Apple's renowned user experience, at least in terms of sheer features. There are gadgets and slidey expandable bits, and it's all quite intuitive in Material Design: the subtle shading guides you on what can be pressed and slid. App design is a bit more haphazard, but that's the price of freedom from Apple app store stringencies (and their 30% tax). Very impressive but maybe a bit over-complicated, I thought, as I read the reviews from my iPad.

Then there's the Android phone hardware. You get a lot of bang for your buck, these days. Widescreen TV resolutions on small inches of screen, zillion megapixel cameras, SD card expansions, fast charging USB 3 ports, octo-core processors with gigahertz of speed. There's a lot of variety, a lot of power consumption and big batteries behind those big screens... just to run as smoothly as an iPhone. Perhaps that's the real reason the screens are so big: a selling point to offset the bigger battery needed to power all those cores?

I was in Atlanta on a biz trip, so thought I'd pop into an Apple store to try an iPhone SE. Failing that, I'd pop over to Best Buy and try some Androids.

Picking up the SE surprised me with the emotional connection it evoked. It felt like a favourite pair of shoes or jeans. Comforting and familiar. Super snappy to use too, unlike my old iPhone 4, which has slowed with age.

I've had it a week now and am thoroughly delighted. Except for one thing: having used my Pebble watch with the Android I now see how restrictive Apple is with their API for non-Apple watches. Guys, it doesn't make me want to buy an Apple watch, it just hobbles an otherwise perfect phone. Easy fix. Now to order that waterproof case...

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

iPad as PC replacement. Really?

With the release of the iPad Pro 9.7", Apple are finally trying to convince us that the iPad can replace our laptops. Is this because of some great leap in features or functionality? Or are they responding to an increasingly convincing threat from Microsoft's Surface range?