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Mobile Woes #1

4 Mar

As expected Microsoft failed to announce a new flagship phone at the recent Mobile World Congress, leaving the Lumia 930 (announced in April 2014) as their flagship device. Apparently they are waiting until the release of Windows 10 before releasing a new phone.

Yet at the same time they have released the mid-level Lumia 640 and 640 XL, with the promise that these devices will be upgradable to Windows 10.

To me, this makes a nonsense of holding off releasing a flagship now, especially since many who purchased the only reasonable selling Windows Phone flagship device, the Lumia 920, will be up for renewal. The 920 was released a little under 2 ½ years ago, most contracts are 24 months, so this would have been a perfect time for a new flagship.

Then there’s the other issue. I’ve been trying to hunt down the other high end Windows Phone, the Lumia 1520, but according to suppliers it has been discontinued. Really? Of your two high end phones you no longer make one of them?

So what to do?

I will probably wait until the new models arrive as I want a high end phone on the Windows ecosystem for personal reasons, but I fear I’m the exception.

When I started working at my current client I was surprised at the number of Windows Phones in the office. That is visibly changing though as I witness one colleague after another switching to Apple or Android devices, and I can’t say I blame them.

All is not lost, yet, but Microsoft definitely seem to be making life harder for themselves, and the loyal users. I’m sure they have their reasons, but it’s almost enough to make me look elsewhere. If I’m honest, if it wasn’t for my desire to be involved writing cross platform Windows 10 applications I would have jumped ship myself by now.

Don’t get me wrong, the new 640 and especially the 640 XL look like excellent devices for the price. I’m seriously considering upgrading my partner’s Lumia 920 with the 640 XL as it’s all she, or indeed 90% of the public would require. But it’s not the flagship device many of us are crying out for.

I do hope Microsoft get this situation sorted before too many people lose patience, but unfortunately I’m doubtful this will happen.

Phone Updates

15 Apr

Microsoft, quite rightly, came in for a lot of flak when it was revealed that users of Windows Phone 7.x devices would not be able to upgrade their devices to Windows Phone 8. I was affected by this, but wasn’t as annoyed by some as I only had a few months remaining on my contract before I was able to upgrade my phone, and besides I’d been through this type of pain before having owned an Android device.

It seems that Android users will regularly receive no new manufacturer implemented updates after a short space of time, typically I’d guess within a year. Sure these phones can be unlocked (often without jumping through too many hoops) and a custom ROM applied on the device. Many of these custom ROMs are of outstanding quality and implement features not found on the manufacturer equivalent… but they are ultimately unofficial. For many this is of no consequence, however it was always something I was a little uneasy with.

Yesterday I downloaded the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview to my aging Nokia Lumia 920 (I’ve had this device 14 months, the phone itself was released about 18 months ago I’d guess) without any issues, and it all seems to be running without issue. In doing so I wondered to myself how many Android devices launched around the same time are still receiving official manufacturer updates now. Not too many I’d guess.

The Windows Phone 8.1 update will be available for all Windows Phone 8 hardware with the exception of one carrier specific variant in the US (Lumia 810?), however even users of this will be able to update via the developer programme if they want (the restriction has been imposed by the carrier that released this model apparently).

It’s not all good though. The updates will trickle out to non-developers only as the update passes approval on each device from each carrier. This seems a little crazy to me, and something Apple should be applauded for by bypassing this restriction. Still, at least there is a way to get the update early, so that’s something I guess.

Now I just wonder how long my current phone will be supported for with further updates? By virtue of the fact that the OS is getting increasingly lightweight and running on ever less powerful hardware, I’m hopeful updates will continue for quite some time yet.

What a difference a week makes!

21 Nov

Something strange happened to my Lumia 920 yesterday. When I took it out of my pocket it appeared to have crashed in a way I had never previously seen before, displaying just a lightening bolt next to a cog wheel, similar to the cog that is displayed during an update.

Initially concerned I managed to reset the phone (by holding the down volume button and power button simultaneously) and everything seemed to spring back to life without issue.

Later in the day I was texting my partner Hayley, but the messages were not appearing. Stranger still, when I subsequently used messenger from a PC my own messages were appearing as new messages on the live tile.

Restarting the phone several times did not help.

Texting a friend (who I had not texted for over a week) did work however. Curious.

I was at a loss, perhaps something was wrong with the contact entry for Hayley?

Having a little time to wait for the train home just a few moments ago, I decided to see if there were any suggestions for this issue on the web. Sure enough my search returned others who have had the same issue.

It turns out that I don’t know what day it is.

It seems that on resetting the phone I had set the phone’s date to be a week earlier than the actual date! As a result the messages were coming in with the wrong timestamp, the phone was seeing messages sent/received after the date, and I assume was putting the new messages into, what it thought, was the correct chronological order, hence why the friend I texted had his message in the correct location.

Everything is fine now I’ve set the date properly, but it does demonstrate how the simplest of mistakes can result in the strangest of effects.

Breaking up isn’t that hard to do…

23 Aug

Google, you suck. 

Google supposedly has a motto of “Do no evil”, but as I write they continue to block the YouTube app for Windows Phone for the oddest of manufactured reasons: They want it written in HTML 5. 

Even Google itself doesn’t have a decent HTML 5 version of a YouTube app. None. Not on iOS or Android. If they had, this would be a non-issue. 

Even third party iOS developers have openly stated that the HTML 5 APIs for YouTube are sub par. 

But Google wants an HTML 5 app to ensure users get the best experience. 

Microsoft and Google worked together on this and both came to the conclusion that it was going to take a long, long time and would probably be below par compared to native apps. 

So while they are working on it Microsoft re-released their native app, which displays adverts as previously requested by Google. It should be noted the Google apps themselves do not do this… 

But it is not written in HTML 5, so Google have blocked it claiming it breaks their terms, which they are apparently enforcing as they want “the best experience for users”. 

So apparently. according to this thinking by Google, no access is better than an app that’s equal (some say better) than that which is being offered on other platforms is it? 

This is a silly fight between Microsoft and Google, and for once it is Google who are harming consumers. Of course, they are well within their rights to do this, it’s their product after all. But in this case I’m one of the consumers being affected. 

Then we have the recent issue where Google considers itself above uk privacy laws and the fact that Gmail users should not expect privacy!  

We should get one thing straight, Google is not a search company, and hasn’t been for some time. Google is an advertising company. It uses your private information to target advertising to you which allows it to offer a premium service to advertisers, and it is also able to sell on the information it has on you. 

Google is a massive business and it has to make money somehow. This is the primary means to do it. That is fair enough, just be aware of how they get their income and consider this when chosing your providers. 

Remember, if the service is free to use, you are the product. 

Conversely, Microsoft makes the vast majority of its money from selling software and services (their advertising arm is one of their billion dollar businesses, but this mostly comes via adverts in apps, and they openly declare the only reason they read your emails is to reduce spam). 

So it really comes down to if you are happy with the business practices of a particular company. 

For me, Google has blown it. I don’t care how much they know about me, but I don’t feel comfortable with the methods they choose to get this information. But if you’re happy with them, good luck to you. 

So much has changed since I wrote Google Quite Possibly Owns my Soul – Part 1 and Google Quite Possibly Owns my Soul – Part 2 just over two and a half years ago. 

Now, I think their actions stink. 

So what can I do? 

Well, I already mistrust Google enough that I’ve moved away from their services as my primary email provider for example. But with this action I’m looking into using Vimeo going forward (there’s things I don’t like about this service, but I’ll give it a go and see how I get on) 

Additionally, this old tech blog is hosted on BlogSpot, as owned by Google. If you’re reading this post you can see I have transferred this over to Wordpress (who already host my personal blog). I’ll live the other blog posts as there are some comments, etc. that I don’t know how to migrate. 

As an aside, I own a couple of Android tablets and an old Android phone. I will continue to use these occasionally as I already have paid apps for them and they are good devices, but they are by no means my primary devices and will become even less important from here on in. I shall be thinking very hard before purchasing any more apps for them. For the same reason I can’t close my Google account, but that gets little use these days anyway. 

Yep, time to move on.