iOS 7 flat design – WTF?

iOS 7 flat design is a disaster to me. Did they fire the QA / PM’s and just not rehire?

The main difference for me is not ‘getting rid of skeuomorphism’, that is just a buzzword everybody throws around, the big difference is decline in usability, because an apparent original goal ‘minimize effort to get to needed information’ has been compromised:

1. stock market display in notification area and in standard app – you can barely read the grey on red/green, what formerly was easy to see at one glance now requires a lot more focus to decipher. Much harder to use than before. I have no idea how they could get that past QA.

2. you can barely tell anymore if a phone is charging, the tiny arrow attached to it is barely visible.

3. I had to google it to find out how to get the input field for searching (swipe down in home screen) which is consistent with email search now at least, but was a pain to find out initially as well. But there is no reason why that input field should not be already shown in the sliding current apps view that you get to by double clicking your home button, thus minimizing the path to finding. The space above the app-screenshots is empty. Am I the only one to whom that is obvious?

4. double clicking home button now shows a sliding view of the icons plus screenshot of current apps instead of paging icons, which means that I now take longer and have to focus more to navigate to the specific one I had in mind. Before I could just page through and click on the fixed spot it was at. I knew exactly what icon I am looking for as that is how I started it originally, the screenshots are cute but don’t really help finding the app.

Now I have to make it flow by swiping until it shows up and then get back to it until I can hit it. A lot more mental processing and back and forth is necessary.

5. here comes the ugliest part: the drop-downs in safari web dialogs like bart.gov schedule are no longer drop downs in the page but have this ridiculously large carousel view with dark grey on medium dark grey below some weird less/greater sign next to a done-button. The text is more distorted for the lines below and above the current selection, more unreadable the more far away from currently selected item. It is incredibly hard to read, and swiping up and down does not allow for a precise selection. Then clicking on what you have selected actually does nothing, instead you have to navigate your finger over to the done-button, again an unnecessary extra step. Just a complete failure in usability.

6. inconsistencies – the first time I tried to share a contact it took me a while to figure out that I had to scroll down the actual contact to find a ‘share’ link on the bottom, I was looking for the funky share icon that is used everywhere else and would be immediately in view on the bottom without scrolling. Its there for photos, notes, maps, but its missing from calendar entries, and contacts.

Of course there are other things about iOS that I like. But none are related to look and feel. I like the flashlight app, and sharing contacts through airdrop, and the fingerprint sensor of the 5s almost makes me want to upgrade the hardware too as I can see how it would streamline use of the phone (unlocking and app installation)

Aesthetically the redesigned icon colors are not as appealing to me as before, and the flatness just looks boring. I gave it some time to get used to, but honestly, its November 7th now and I still hate it. I take this especially hard since I come from an Android background and have hoped to never have a reason again to go back to android. But this is  really pushing it.

I really hope some day a PM at Apple is reading this and claiming some of these thoughts as his own and pushes for fixing the issues, today we are on 7.0.3 and nothing has improved from the list above, and I don’t have high hopes that 7.0.4 would be any different.

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iphone5 review – verizon LTE rocks

I finally switched from Android to the apple iPhone5 with iOS6, and I am loving it. I was eyeing the iphone 4s for a while but it’s internet speed was just so ridiculously slow compared to a state of the art android phones that it was out of the question. Well that concern has been lifted with the iPhone5, I got 30Mbit down and 10Mbit upload on Verizon the other day. Of course that means I burn through my shared 6G dataplan quickly if I don’t watch it, i.e. uploading 150 birthday party photos in one swoop to facebook 🙂

Battery life is excellent, especially compared to my my HTC G2 and my wifes myTouch. This morning I intentially let the iphone run to 1% after not charging it for 1 day and 8 hours, with 8 hours talktime. A friend of mine had issues with short battery life and identified the google voice application as the culprit. I have not been using that so I am fine, even with intense facebook / email / web browsing. Maybe because at home as well as at work I am close to a wifi network, unless I want to leverage the LTE speeds for downloading or uploading large amounts of data in a short time. 

The maps problems I have not run into yet, maybe living in California makes that easier to be accurate. 

Siri is excellent, I use it all the time from dictating SMS’s while in the car to starting music, navigation, initiating FaceTime… facetime is fun, like skype but better quality and easier to get going. Also it does not use the voice network, so it does not interrupt data on the verizon network.

Video recording and picture taking is awesome, I so hated it on my G2 that by the time I got the photo app going and pressed the button to the time that the shutter action actually got executed, the subject already walked away.  Or all the mafunctioning moments.  On the iphone it’s so perfect and so immediate, that I am actually able to use it happily rather than just try and hate.  

And the screen is fantastic too, colors are true, unlike the Samsung S3 that I had toyed with before the iphone5 came out – I am surprised that not more people seem to care, but when I tried it in the t-mobile store, photo and video on the S3 had way wrong colors, even watching a movie on netflix would be affected. I guess the specs are great but the color representation makes it look broken to my eyes.

And the apps are just awesome, and they are the same I am having on my ipad already, without extra effort they just got synced on and work. 

Airplay of my music to the living-room stereo while making breakfast in the kitchen is another highlight of how I enjoy it. 

 

So what do I not like? 

Email notification does not seem as immediate as I am used to from Android. I miss swype as a keyboard method, but not as much as I thought I would, since the predictive correction method is actually highly effective on the iPhone). I slightly but not really miss USB mounting the phone SD card as a usb drive. Since I use itunes on a macbook I am actually happy about the ease with which I get to carry my recent music with me via syncing rather than having to manage files or deal with the offline/online google music stuff.

Really trying hard to think here, but I guess one downside to the great games and apps is that my kids constantly ask for it 🙂

Review Nexus One (N1) comparison to G1 android phone

What I like better on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

+ faster cpu and more RAM make web browser and switching between apps much more responsive. However, once you do your day to day things you will notice that some of the apps depend on remote resources and those will be as slow as the network, i.e. Where, so more CPU+RAM is NOT a cure-all for performance. It is now easier to open lots (15+) of web pages in the browser and leave them open in the background.
+ reading files (i.e. importing images from the phone) from SD now is 12MB/s instead of 5MB/s. Writing is the same 5MB/s.
+ battery life twice as long (not measured)
+ flash on camera actually works, it is finally possible to take pictures while clubbing. However whitebalance is expecting flash, so if you take without flash then the colors look off. As usual having more megapixel does not improve the picture quality which depends largely on other factors (light sensitiveness, sharpness, color truthfulnes)
+ android 2 features like facebook / contacts integration is nice
+ can take backside off and battery-out much easier than on G1
+ normal audiojack, but thats not only a plus, see below

What I don’t like on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

– some apps are not ready for it, i.e. commodore 64 emulators who would direclty benefit from faster cpu only use a small portion of the screen as their framebuffer size is hardcoded. (tested two of them). Moxier Mail (enterprise quality exchange email) just force-closes while authenticating and is not useable.
– no hardware keyboard. While the onscreen keyboard does work somewhat nice it still is a major drawback when trying to type larger amounts of text or while doing other things… it just consumes more percent of your attention to correctly enter text.
– voice dictation not a real substitute yet, integration into keyboard only available in some apps? Sometimes loses connection to servers while waiting to upload data for interpretation and aborts, does not work offline. Quality varies, between garbage and suprising accuracy.
– no hardware keys for phone pickup/hangup. You now actually have to navigate through the touchscreen keyboard to hangup a call when you navigated to say the contacts to look up or take down a new phonenumber.
– oversaturated colors
– new screen technology (better viewing angles) does not have as natural colors?
When comparing photos displayed on g1 and on n1 then the g1 ones look a bit desaturated and the ones on the n1 looks overly saturated in a bad way. Maybe I have a bad engineering sample, but if it is representative then I am less excited about it then everybody else.
– connector for charging now no longer standard micro USB, means you forget the special cable and you are out, but at least when you forget your special usb2audio cable you can now use it without the in-line microphone and accept/hangup/skipsong button from HTC.

Overall I am less excited than I thought I would be and will probably hang on to my G1 until I get something drastically better.

G1 android phone app ShopSavvy saves me money

I was shopping for wireless pci cards at best buys and narrowed it down to a netgear marked $59. Out of curiosity I scanned it with shopsavvy and it listed several local alternatives starting at $35 at walmart. After clicking on that it offered to call the store or get directions.

Wow if this happens more often I will save the cost of the phone in no time…

I wonder if once this is more common stores will cover barcodes for products on the shelves, but I guess then we can just type in model numbers…

PS: posted from my G1 with wptogo application 🙂

My first day with the Google Android G1 phone – yeah I did it!

It’s not as if I had not given it plenty of thought 🙂 I even owned the first generation iphone for about a week before dropping back to my treo 680 – and if having full enterprise email access (via goodlink service) would not cost me $240/year in fees on top of the wireless internet plans on the 680, I might even still be ok with that.

So finally after hesitating for almost a year, I jumped ship, knowing that I won’t have my enterprise calendar/email for a while longer but at least have a decent internet phone, I bought it through costco to get the extra bluetooth piece and car-charger for almost the same price, and I am happy and very impressed !

First notable impressions (I already read all the reviews beforehand and knew what to expect for the most part, won’t mention those things here)

1. I could mount the phones storage through usb on my linux system and just copy over the images and mp3’s that I wanted to take with me. Take that, apple/iphone! Yes I own the content that I import, not you. And I will plug in a larger micro-SD card as soon as I got it from tigerdirect.

There was however a weird thing that the partition on the storage only showed up once I selected ‘mount though usb’ on the G1 phone side, but once I had googled that tidbit of information it worked like a charm, and Fedora 9 mounted it for me automatically.

2. application marketplace

Holy moly more than I care to know about.  So I used search to find what I was most interested in and had heard about, and tried out some of the featured apps as well. I did not see any for-pay apps yet.

Interesting that before installing you are asked to read multiple pages of license stuff that all is very uninteresting for a user. I wonder if that can even be legally binding if they hide something in there that actually matters – most of it talks about rights to copying software, how does that relate to a phone user downloading it through the marketplace that the company provides it through is beyond me.

Also interesting that before installing it tells you what the application requests to get control over, i.e. your address book, your wifi connection, your gps location, for-pay services like SMS…  and just like with Windows XP AntiVirus/AntiSpyware systems you have to OK all those things anyways to get it to work. But at least you are warned 🙂

With all those services asking for a signup I am surprised that we don’t have automatic fill-in of first-name last-name into the signup forms…

Here are the 8 apps  I installed on my first try:

– ShopSavvy (not ShopSawy 🙂 )- point your camera at a bar-code and it tries to identify the item, get you prices and locations. At first I was real impressed, I tried it with a book and it found it right away, quoted me three different prices and locations to buy it at, and with two clicks I got my gps telling me how to get there from where I currently was. Very cool. It also quoted a cheaper online price, did not pursue that.

So I thought, yeah this is as cool as I read about it before. My wife came home and I tried to impress her: I tried it with two vegetable cans and it could not grasp the barcode – probably since it was round? I tried a cereal box and it read the barcode then said it found nothing. Mhm, so maybe not that much stuff in the database yet…

– pacman – looks like the original. You can use the accelerator method to navigate it, which means instead of pressing keys you tilt your phone – almost like a wee control 🙂

– bonsai blast – nice color game, not tried to really play it yet

– imap weather – does what it needs to do plus more. Fails to find my location sometimes and then crashes. Not impressed.

– Wertago – ‘where to go’ nightlife guide application, kind of like yelp but yet-another-social-network-thing. I did not bother to create the account but found the crowd kind of wierd… however this is probably the kind of thing that is going to be really useful once there are more reviews in it.

– Meridian Video Player – I hoped to be able to play my eve online trailers (mov/wmv), but it did not work. Oh well.

– cab4me light – finds phone numbers of local cab companies. Nice…

– imeem mobile –  an internet radio station but tailored to your taste. Wow, just typed in Metallica in the search and now get all those metal songs from all those bands. Nice, have not listened to Manowar in a while…

3. Access to wireless

It was really simple to setup (select wifi station from list identified, enter WEP code, done) but I was surprised that web browsing still seems as slow as over edge/g3. Mhm…

4. what am I going to miss form my treo 680

– real good keyboard – the g1 is not terrible but far from being as good.

– uploading pictures straight to facebook off of the sd card ejected from my digital camera – the workarounds could be getting a microsd in sd adapter and take pictures to that (supposedly much slower than sd though) or even better to get a wifi enabled sd-card (eyefi) – then I would no longer need to eject the card.

– faster/earlier rendering of my most frequented websites in the web-browser.

– superefficient email/contacts when paying the $240/year goodlink fees. but not gonna anyways.

– reasonable low resolution video

5. What I am not going to miss from my treo 680

– call dropping or going on hold right after accepting the call when I fumble the ringing phone out of the pocket

– always out of battery when I needed it the most – lets see how the G1 fares on that 🙂

– real bad (i.e. unusable) mp3 player, harsh electric interference noise when it transmitted data and playing music at the same time

– low resolution photo camera

canceling my landline, just need DSL+skype and mobile phones…

Background

Recently we have been paying between $40 and $100 for our landline to AT&T even though we barely use it. The reason is that AT&T charges $10 for the landline plus some fees and then on top of that just for being able to place long distance calls for $20 plus high (i.e. 50 cents per minute) charges for long distance calls, which means its much more expensive to call within the US than it is calling around the globe to germany.

And on top of that we are paying $60 for comcast cable and internet, which is the price already after negotiating them down temporarily on a promotion-rate. Honestly we don’t really watch TV and just have that since comcast does not offer a cheaper cable internet service without the basic tv service. On top of that we have our mobile phone plan with t-mobile ($35 for the plan plus $10 per additional phone plus $20 if you want the unlimited wireless internet on the phone as well). With three phones one of which has the unlimited internet plan we pay about $85 max per month. Because of my work I also still have an AT&T wireless plan which just recently AT&T took the liberty of increasing the cost for their already expensive unlimited internet by $20, totaling also almost $100 .So our total cost for communication lies somewhere between $300 and $400.

Once you think about it you wonder how you got there.

In the light of our current economy we are trying to consolidate that. Our current model is that we are going to cancel the landline and the wireless service with AT&T, cancel comcast cable+internet, and instead sign up to AT&T basic DSL for $25/month ($4 of that are for having DSL without having an active landline). Most phonecalls we do within our mobile phone plan, which we will leave as it is for now. Then another component to be able to call germany without a landline nor using mobile phones will be to use Skype.

Skype cost structure highly confusing

Skype is interesting as it allows free calls between skype computers, which means potentially most of our phonecalls to my parents could be free. In addition it apparantly has reasonable rates for calling international landlines in the two cents per minute range. However their pricing model is at the very least confusing. I still have to figure it out completely.

There are three to four components that I would want:

1. a skype account that allows me to make free phonecalls to other skype accounts. Done and tested, works well.

Cost: Free after internet (cant live without internet anyways, so not really additional cost for me)

2. having an account that can be charged when calling landlines – I think its called SkypeOut. They allowed me to test it with me normal skype account for 10 minutes and I was able to call my parents in germany and have a reasonable conversation with only minor quality issues.

Cost: tbd, there are connection fees of 4 cents, plus per minute fees (pay as you go) or monthly flat rate fees ($10/month international)

3. having a phonenumber that any landline can call – I think its called SkypeIn

Cost: tbd, again connection fees plus per minute fees plus a monthly fee for getting that phonenumber.

4. Luxury version would be to own a wifi or wimax phone with skype on it, i.e. the Nokia internet tablet with wimax once it comes out, that would be awesome… there already are other existing phones from NetGear as well advertised on skypes website…

Cost: $150 for the netgear phone, around $450 for the nokia internet tablet?

So the total cost summary for the Skype portion is still highly unclear to me. Once I finish my research and interpretation of all the stuff on their website I will put it into a nice table format. Feel free to comment already with additional input and ideas.

Note that I am aware that there is no 911 service on skype currently, not sure if that will have to change sooner or later or if they stay exempt. The mobile phone service typically is less reliable in terms of 911 service than the land line was, but I am not ready to pay $30 extra just for that feature…

Note also that I don’t believe I will be willing to pay an arm and a leg for apple+AT&Ts iPhone 3G service, for all the reasons I wrote down in my previous posting about why I returned my iPhone.

Finally I returned my iphone

I finally pulled the plug on it, went back to the apple store and returned my iphone. They wanted to charge me a 10% restocking fee, but with a little insisting they waved that. Now I am back to a Treo 680 and happy:

1. no more waiting for webpages – yes the treo also only has Edge, but instead of waiting several minutes for my newspage like tagesschau.de or heise.de on the iphone I get to see the first part of it after a few seconds while it is still loading the rest.

2. goodlink email and calendar integration syncs in realtime automatically

3. no more trusted computing bullshit keeping me from using my data the way I want it

4. a real keyboard, not that terrible touchscreen keyboard.

5. cut and paste

Get this, the iphone has 8G of memory built-in, and no slot for an SD card. No big deal with 8G internal memory I thought, but it really implies that you cannot move storage between your phone and you computer. Should not matter because of WIFI? Well it does, because apple enforces a trusted computing framework on you that basically prevents all the cool stuff that would be possible:

1. they don’t allow you to save images or other files from the webbrowser or email to that 8G of storage.
2. they dont allow you to even listen to an mp3 thats linked on a webpage, i.e. amazon.com music store previews – it only works for  apples music store. Surprise!
3. they don’t allow you to access any files on your phone, not even your own, except gated by an itunes application, connected with USB only. Your wifi connection is rendered useless for anything except again apple itunes store and webbrowsing. So in consequence you have to have either a macos-x or a windows-xp machine in order to even put your photos and music onto the device.
4. if your computer with the itunes application and library crashes, and you have to find a replacement, guess what, the freshly installed itunes will not allow you to get your photos and/or music off of your phone, instead it says ‘this was not created with this itunes, do you want me to erase the device?’ Erase MY PHOTOS? WTF!

Thats when I decided to return it.

Note that while there is only an itunes application for macosx and windows-xp from apple, there are linux-applications (gtkpod, banshee) that allow to connect to regular ipods and import/export files that way, but apple prevented that so far in the iphone.

I guess I will be having a treo for a while until the google android or an openmobile phone comes out that does not put you into a trusted computing box but is designed with freedom in mind instead.