Almost a week with an LG G4

I’ve been pretty content with Android since switching to a Xiaomi Redmi Note late November last year. Material Design is pleasing to the eyes, so it’s still refreshing to get an Android design point of view when using apps (with the benefit of still getting familiarized with Android patterns). I still miss the iPhone camera and the latest beautiful apps that get launched on iOS first, but I feel very strongly that our team needs more design diversity so I decided to get a better Android phone. Something that’s more than a budget phone but won’t burn too huge a hole in my pocket.

In comes the LG G4, only around SGD $650 on average in Carousell, the lowest being SGD $550 in the marketplace. It got a pretty decent score on The Verge’s review, and above average reviews when I googled. Suffice it to say, I was pretty sold.

Continue readingAlmost a week with an LG G4

My Android x Windows 8 Setup

androidxwindows6-min

There’s been a lot of excitement for the upcoming Windows 10 recently, but I’m more wary of how the current ecosystem works for me and the other devices that I use. I’ve been exploring how to make Windows more than just my gaming system and for now I’m not so convinced that I should invest in Windows. The Surface looks quite pretty from the outside, and I’ve enjoyed using a Windows Phone for several months before I was forced to abandon ship due to the lack of apps. Some days I think about trying out a Windows PC/tablet so for a while I’ve been testing the waters (although I’m not ready for an expensive Surface, unless it comes for free! Keeping my eye out for more budget-friendly alternatives). How will Windows fit into my current lifestyle?

I have a company-loaned MacBook Air along with my own personal MBA so having two Macs didn’t make much sense. :P So I decided to Bootcamp Windows 8 on my personal Mac. Tweaked it a bit to have reverse (“natural”) scrolling like on Mac. If I can find alternatives for my design apps that isn’t Adobe, then I will remove my Mac partition to make more space for Windows. :P Installing Windows was also something that Guild Wars 2 has driven me to do (mainly because the Mac port of the game is too inferior to the Windows version that I can only play in low settings on Mac, whereas I could play max settings on Windows).

Windows 8/8.1 is still one of the worst OS experiences I’ve had primarily because the Desktop/Touch experience on Windows 8 is so jarring and frustrating. They forced touch design so much that the desktop+mouse experience has been severely affected, and in a very bad way (my most hated are the hidden, corner-triggered menus and the sudden desktop-to-Metro switching!). It’s like they forgot that most people use a mouse instead of touch and keyboard shortcuts. Unfortunately for me, I am using Windows 8 on a keyboard-only laptop, so I feel the terrible mouse experience keenly. Despite my anger and frustrations, I still try to explore the Windows Store part of the ecosystem (Windows apps that run on RT, if I understood it correctly) because it is new and I am curious. I also want to understand this direction Windows is going, since people will be stuck with this company for at least another decade.

I’ve been trying to integrate Windows 8 with my daily workflow/use, particularly with Android (which has been my mobile OS for the past couple of months) so I’m making a list of the apps and stuff that I use on both platforms, with a brief overview of my other daily devices.

Continue readingMy Android x Windows 8 Setup

Back to Android with a Redmi Note

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G became available on the Mi Singapore store recently and I managed to get one, yay! At S$229, it wasn’t bad (around PhP 8k). I wanted to get a bigger phone since it seems to be a trend and I want to study/understand/experience it myself. The Redmi Note seems to be a mid-range phone which performs decent enough. I’m not listing down specs because specs are only ingredients to the experience, so I’d rather talk about how I feel about using the phone.

(You may also want to read: How come the iPhone’s 1 GB RAM is touted to be able to compete with more than 2 GB RAM of Android phones?)

As a phone, it’s waaaay better than my old Alcatel (which I very rarely use for testing stuff, before it housed my PH sim after moving to SG). Let’s just say my Android experience benchmark is low enough that I really found the Redmi Note to be a huge upgrade, haha. My iPhone 5’s battery also only lasts me 4-6 hours at a time with 3G on, so trying out a new device seems like a good idea at this point in time.

Continue readingBack to Android with a Redmi Note

Lumia 520

I want to get a Windows 8 Phone. I really do. Charlie just bought the cheap Lumia 520 (it cost 7k in Greenhills) and it’s really cute (the plastic looks better than Samsung’s stupid silver borders on the S4).

I used the phone for a bit and decided that like the Windows UI more than Android’s (Windows has been creative this way. I don’t really like the Windows 8 Desktop because they only “skinned” it, but their UI works on the mobile phones). It’s not a bad phone, I thought. It’s a phone that I would have loved to use, I thought. (If it were my pre-iPhone phone, I thought.)

The Lumia 520 is cheap but pretty, and it looks like I’d get my money’s worth (compared to the more expensive Lumia phones, which doesn’t make sense because I could spend just as much money for a Nexus 4, which probably has better specs). Plus that yellow and other bright colors. Really lovely.

I have some money to spare. My iPhone 4S has a broken wifi and bluetooth, after all, so I can’t even use it for a hotspot. I’m not looking for a phone with good camera capabilities because I just got a Lumix LX7, which was ideally the compact camera I bring with me all the time. I looked at my screen wondering if I really need my iOS apps. Since my phone’s wifi broke, I stopped using my phone for anything other than browser testing, texting, calling, and social networking.

There were already some apps that I could migrate to, should I get a Lumia temporarily until the next iPhone (and big paycheck, haha):

  • Feather Notes – for Simplenote, since I use Notational Velocity on my mac
  • DotDot – for App.net (not that I’m active there, but still)
  • Blueprints – for Tumblr
  • the default Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare apps that come with the Windows 8 phones.
  • Fiction Book Reader – for ebooks

There was one app that was missing, and I really wanted though: Path. There was no alternative on the Windows App market that I could find. I’m always on Path and without an alternative to it, I don’t see myself switching. Do I need Path? No. But I want it. I really, really want it.

My iPhone isn’t really that broken yet. So I don’t really need a new phone right now. I kind-of want to get the Lumia 520, but eh, no Path, so I’m not sure yet. I think Path is that one app Windows should maybe be paying their $100,000 to. :)

some good ideas wither under bad execution

From a recent thread on the Philippine Web Designers group on Facebook, a site was brought to my attention: http://kristn.com/

I haven’t really browsed through the entire site yet. Upon landing on the page though, I had no idea what it was. All I saw was this sunshine of images I didn’t understand and promptly went back to the Facebook thread to ask instead what it was. I was redirected to this article on theBobbery, which had a brief synopsis:

Kristn is a new Lifestyle Assistant, an exciting project by TV5/Interaksyon. What is interesting about Kristn is how the platform will recommend content to users, based on how they use and interact with the platform. Kristn is still in Beta but the crew hopes to release the mobile applications in the next weeks. And Carlo reveals that the platform will soon also have a TV show.

Sounds great on paper, yeah? But the execution was horrible, not to mention very bad branding. “Kristn” — I mistyped it the first time, and if you’re building an online brand/presence, this can be a bad set-back.

If there’s anything I learned from Startup Weekend Manila last year (2012), your product’s name is important: how it’s spelled, if it’s easy to remember, if it’s easy to type. Before launching commute.ph, we were almost going to launch it as “komyutips.com”. The domain has already been bought, branding was done, and we thought the name was a creative version of “commuting tips.”

Except let’s face it, commute.ph is more direct to the point, foreigner-friendly, and less prone to spelling mistakes. (How would you tell a person to check out komyutips anyway? Go to komyutips.com, but use a “K” not a “C”. Sounds bad.) We were told about the bad branding by our mentors there, and even if we had to shell out more money for a new domain, try to wrack my head around some kind of temporary branding for the SW Manila presentation, and redirect customers from the old Facebook fan page to the new Facebook page, we decided to go through it. With new competitors coming up, I’m glad we did.

It’s same with “Kristn” — it’s not “kristin”, or a more popular spelling of the name. If someone told me to check out “Kristn”, how would they say it? “Go to kristn.com, it’s like kristine, but without an ‘I’ or an ‘E’.” That sounds bad too. It probably kept a few people away from your site.

Then again, the homepage tells me so little about what to expect or what it’s about, and doesn’t highlight what’s great in the site: its content. One of the articles that I checked out (or the only article I checked out, for now) was: 5 Things We Learned at Google Philippines Launch because it didn’t sound like the same old “Google puts up office in Manila” news.

So as a whole, Kristn seems like it had some solid idea behind it, and as Franky mentioned on the Facebook thread:

But they have a rather cool recommendation algo and then also check-in and other novel features upcoming.

Unfortunately, with their homepage so badly designed, and a name that doesn’t quite stand out like Rappler does, I feel apprehensive about this site fading completely in the background. None of my friends share articles from this site, or tweet things from this site, and that’s very telling.

I still want to check out some of the content though, but I have to try to see if it works on any of my readers first.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 wasn’t at all impressive

The New Galaxy Note (the one with the S Pen) was available for testing at Eastwood Mall today and it was really NOT as impressive as the ads seem to make it.

I assume that since it’s the demo device, it didn’t have that many files and it was already loading pretty slow for smooth multi-tasking. Even the S-Pen wasn’t that quick to respond  to the strokes of my hand when I was trying to write on the S-Note app.

The quick impression I had after trying it for a few minutes: I doubt how well it will work in the long run (more apps downloaded / more stuff running, etc.) especially when its apps don’t seem to doesn’t respond as fast as those on my iPad. First impressions are big impressions and it’s definitely not something I’d recommend anyone to buy right now.

I’d believe the shortcomings listed in this review by The Verge based on how it was equally disappointing during those few minutes that I tried it. :(

On consumerism and tech waste

Before getting my own iPad, I saw how my boyfriend’s brother in-law used his for everything. They played podcasts at work with it, podcasts in the car, for drawings on SketchBook, among other things. And his was an iPad 2, which meant it seems like the device was worth the investment because of its quality and until now he hasn’t updated to the newer iPad. He had a PowerBook for around seven years before he replaced it with his 17″ MacBook Pro and it felt such an amazing feat for me (when I was thinking my beat-up 15″ MBP was too old after four years).

I got an iPad on June this year, mostly because I really needed to get used to the tablet experience for a freelance job. I’ve been enjoying it and learning a lot. Rumor has it that there’s going to be updated/newer iPads this year or next year and I’m not entirely jumping the upgrade boat unless I really need it.

Honestly, I’ve considered selling my current iPhone 4S to upgrade to iPhone 5 (let’s face it, the changes they made to the phone — even just the huge difference in weight — I thought was a pretty good perk upgrade, aside from the fact that I can convince myself that I needed the new phone as part of my job). The truth is? I don’t need to, really. Not when my contract isn’t over for another year and my own phone, as heavy as it is, is perfectly fine. I can study all the mobile UI that I want with a phone one generation (which sounds far older than what it means) behind. I’m just being convinced that I needed the best and the newest when whatever I have right now works for me just fine.

I see a lot of people jumping this upgrade-regardless-of-need bandwagon though. People have already sold their 4S phones for an iPhone 5 and more will jump that boat — for a range of reasons, and I won’t judge them. I just realize that I don’t really want to be part of that bandwagon unless I have valid reasons aside from aesthetic wants. Our generation’s consumer attitude is fairly scary. Coming from a university with privileged students, I have seen a lot of them own tech things that they don’t really need (i.e. MacBook Pro’s that they would mostly write papers and fill spreadsheets vs. multimedia work that maximizes the higher-end specs). I myself have sold some old phones to be replaced with the new but I always, always wonder what happens to the hundred, thousand other old phones that have been sold in Greenhills or second-hand somewhere, and where the older devices go, and the devices older than that. What happens to all these tech — waste, as I would think of it — when a number of people I know (and more in the richer countries) discard (or resell) devices less than a year old for sparkly, new ones?

How many people think of how this wave of consumerism and our demand for cheaper, premium technology affects laborers in China? Or how it affects our way of living, and how we budget our own expenses? I don’t want to be the type of person who lives in excess just because I can. I think there is a humbling lesson to be learned if I can live with what I actually need and not just with what I think I need.

If anything, that means I can splurge more on my travels. :P

Synching my Foursquare with Google Calendar

I’ve only recently been using Foursquare mainly because I wanted to keep my own personal log of what I’ve been doing or where I’ve been going every day. It’s not very easy to get an overview of it with the app, so using an IFTTT recipe, I managed to sync it with one of my Google Calendars and viola! An instant overview of everything!

Seriously, it’s just so awesome (at least for me). I don’t really use Foursquare to let all my friends know where I am; the bigger motivation is this log and there’s so many what-if-I-need-this-info scenarios in my head that makes this useful. 

As a side-note, since I log all the restaurants I go to, I end up getting an idea of how bad (or good) my diet is for that month/week. :P