My Android experiment is over, back to the iPhone

3 months in and I am done in by hardware failure — I dropped the LG G2, not very much of a drop, and got a nice transverse screen crack that completely disabled touch detection. The device is basically useless. Faced with a need to upgrade, I reverted back to iOS-land and got an iphone 5s.

my net impressions on my return:

  • Again, if an Android phone is your first smartphone, you will be happy. Nice big screen, good battery life, lots of apps.
  • The iphone screen seems positively puny now and I really wish the iphone was a little bigger. and the battery is correspondingly smaller, pretty sure I will struggle with battery life again. I would be a fan of a bigger iphone.
  • however I have dropped iphones a kajillion times, and they have come away with a lot of corner dings but nothing worse. one drop of my lg and it is trash. 🙁
  • the wideopen nature of android is appealing and I really liked getting widgetized content right on the screen. however the android community is not using this wideopen nature to best effect — the oems and carriers jam all kinds of redundant garbage on the phone, and the launchers and customizing apps can leave your phone a mess, as can app installs.
  • the iphone homescreen and shell seems old and static by comparison.
  • software fit and finish on the iphone is just SO much better. better touch detection. higher typing accuracy. nicer looking dialogs. fewer clicks to do almost everything.
  • and of course the iphone retail experience at an apple store is 10000x better than buying android at retail. I was in and out of apple store in 5 minutes despite a huge crowd. I did go to the att store first to look at possibly an android replacement and despite a much smaller crowd, had to wait 20 minutes. the att staff (or customers) insist on walking through activation there, and of course the att reps also insist on explaining the fractal set of voice/data plans that att offers. the rep tried to convince me that my best option was to add a second line to my account for $30 more a month, so for just a minimum $720 2 year total commitment they would give me some device for free! That sounds great! Give me the undercoating too!

basically my advice is — if you can afford an iphone, you will probably be happier in the long run. tho the android experience is still a good experience.

By the way, I’m back to the iPhone

After 6 months or so with the “Nokia Lumia”:, I’m back to the iPhone — the iPhone 5. The Lumia was nice looking hardware, but Nokia and MSFT’s orphaning of the handset annoyed me, and the device was pretty underpowered. The iPhone feels marvelously responsive in contrast. I have to say the IOS software is still pretty boring, still a sea of icons. But it is good to be back to a phone with a rich marketplace of apps.

My overall reaction to iOS5? Confusion.

OK like the rest of the working world I spent hours yesterday trying to upgrade my iPhone4 and iPad2 to iOS5. About a dozen retries for the phone, maybe half that for the iPad, and I finally got there. Not a great experience but no harm done, just a half day of my life wasted that I will never get back, Apple.

So now what? Well my iPhone 4 seems a little zippier but I suspect that is largely due to grinding the old OS off and laying down a bright new clean install. I like the tabs in the Safari. The Newstand seems like an utter waste and sadly cannot be off hidden in an “Utter Waste” folder, thanks Apple. Notifications are cleaner. Renaming the iPod app to Music is good.

and iCloud? Well this is just confusing. Settings spewed all over the control panel — in the iCloud section, but also in the mail/contacts/calendar section, the photos section, the notes section, the store section. Much discussion online about how to make this all work with exchange and how it does or doesn’t work with outlook — for instance I’ve no idea where things are actually stored in the cloud — the photostream for instance that I have turned on, where is it, can I go see it at a URL? Or Notes — they are associated with an account now, my gmail account. So when I create a new note does it go somewhere in the cloud? Where? The only thing that my cloud control panel lists as being stored is a backup of my phone — why exactly do I want to do this, I never had this in the cloud before, why do I want it in the cloud now?

The design compromises of iCloud — storage limits, and trying to work with a bunch of existing cloud services — seem to have led to a really fractured, incomplete experience. Not all my stuff is in the cloud, what is in the cloud is spewed across many services, and I don’t really know where anything is. Yay.

UPDATE: Ok, new Notes show up in a gmail folder named Notes. Which seems strange, why would I want my notes there? And not in Google Docs or Dropbox or Evernote or … ?

My iPhone sucks at keeping me in touch with the most important people in my life

The most important elements of my life are relationships. My spouse/partner. Kids, parents, siblings. My company, co-workers, project teams, classmates. Community groups that I am part of — churches, school communities, neighborhoods, charities, etc.

It is interesting that my most personal electronic item, my iPhone, does not really provide much support for these relationships. The top level apps are generic actions that work equally well with all my contacts e –mail, texting, calls, scheduling. There is little support for or focus on the most important relationships in my life.

* Why, when I start to compose an email and type “Liz” in the address book, does the mail app suggest all the “Liz”s I have ever known with equal importance, including people I haven’t contacted in 8 years? Why doesn’t my phone know that I mean the Liz in my immediate family?
* Why do I have to click as many times to send a text to my spouse as I do to send a text to a co-worker? Shouldn’t it be super quick to send a text to my spouse?
* Why is it 1000x easier to share my calendar with my co-workers than with my spouse? Part of this is an Exchange back-end problem, but…
* There are 100 apps to try to keep track of where your potentially cheating spouse is, but why are there so few good ones focusing on the positive scenarios? (Glympse:”” is a good positive tracker, a recent Ignition investment)
* The best way to see my children’s latest photos is to navigate to their facebook page — why aren’t these as easy to see as my photos?

And so on. It ought to be extra-easy to communicate with the closest people in my life — but it is no easier than communicating with some distant friend or business associate. It is easier to play a game on my phone that to communicate with my family.

Android and Windows Phone have much better support than the iPhone, enough to make me consider switching some days. Just being able to pin a contact to my home screen as I can with Android would be a nice first step.

I’d really like an app on my first iPhone page that is my spouse/partner app:

* A thumbnail of him/her
* A count of important items I need to respond to — email, texts, vmails
* quick buttons to call, text, email him/her
* his/her current mood — each of us can quickly set this and it transmits to the other’s phone immediately
* what’s on their/our calendar today and this week
* their photostream from facebook, twitter, their phone, etc
* the latest messages we’ve exchanged
* countdown to birthdays, anniversaries
* where they are right now (ie Glympse functionality)
* honeydo lists — things she/he needs me to do
* and so on. The app probably needs to be very customizable as every relationship is different.

And I’d like something similar, not quite as much info, for my kids, my parents. And maybe key friends or coworkers. Right now, my phone is a distraction from my personal life, rather than a tool that helps me to improve my personal life. For this most personal of technologies, that just seems wrong.

Recent software of note: Blogsy, Issue Bucket, Portal2, Office365, iPhoneTracker, …

* “iPhoneTracker”: Cool toy to see where you’ve been and feed your feelings of paranoia.
* “Portal 2”: Of course.
* “Qwiki”: I was kind of excited about this, but I can’t make my own Qwikis? Excitement way down.
* “Acorn”: Haven’t bit yet but I’d love something less obtuse than Photoshop.
* “Blogsy”: Seems like a brilliant WordPress front end.
* “Issue Bucket”: Nice little frontend to bitbucket.
* “You Gotta See This”: Stupid little stylized panorama camera app for the iphone. Fun.
* Office365 beta. The individual apps (word, xl, ppt) are nice and well done. The portal gluing them all together with email and calendar is strange and confusing — two URLs, yet another ID different than my existing ID used at all msft sites, an insistence on downloading software. Chalk it up to beta.

What’s on the first screen of my iphone — year-end 2010

I’ve made a number of changes on the first page of my iphone since “last survey”:

Firstly, the bottom row: Mail, Messages, Safari, and Calvetica in place of the Apple Calendar app. Calvetica doesn’t offer a lot more features but has a pleasing look. I’m not sure I will stick with it but worth a try. But I use all these apps constantly so they all deserve bottom row status.

The rest of the first page then, a set of communications apps:

* The Apple Phone app for voice and voicemail.
* The GroupMe app for group texting. Actually I have been bouncing this position between GroupMe for group texting and Google Voice for wifi texting. And I still have the Messages app in the bottom row. I would really love one app that did texting, group texting, and on either wifi or carrier networks.

A set of cloud apps:

* Evernote. For text and increasingly for photos. In fact I have pretty much relegated the standard iPad camera app to the dustbin, by using Evernote for photos, they are dumped into the cloud immediately. Handy.
* Dropbox. For docs that don’t fit well into Evernote — spreadsheets, etc.
* WordPress. For managing the blog.

“News” apps:

* Echofon for Twitter stream access. I’ve tried the official Twitter app and it is fine, but I am used to Echofon.
* Byline for RSS feeds. I’ve been using this for a longtime, there may be better choices, but I am comfortable with.
* NPR for general news. Echofon and Byline both just feed me topics I have self-selected, I need a source of news that informs me more broadly, the NPR app is about right for me.

Reference apps:

* Stocks and Maps. I’ve tried to find upgrades to the Stocks app but there is nothing great that I have found. I’d like something that tied to my Yahoo finance portfolio data.
* Weather HD. I am toying with apps that replace the Apple Weather app. Weather HD looks nice but otherwise is no more functional. I really want something like the WX for Ipad app.

Utilities: Settings, Calculator, Clock. Don’t love any of these but need regular access to them, and not worth the trouble to go find upgrades (tho the Apple Clock alarm issues this year have been annoying).

And finally, a folder of Travel apps: TripIt, KAYAK, Southwest, Flight Update, Urbanspoon, OneBusAway, Yelp. The first four get solid use.

Apps that don’t quite make the first page:

* App Store.
* Google Voice, previously mentioned
* A sports app — ESPN Scorecenter or Yahoo Sportacular. I like the Yahoo app.
* Facebook and LinkedIn. I rarely use these anymore. Just don’t get any distinguishing vale.
* Kindle and I rarely read Kindle books on the iPhone. More frequently I shop at Amazon.
* Goodreads. Growing in use.
* US Bank mobile banking app.
* Starbucks Mobile Card app.
* Wolfram Alpha. Very episodic use.
* Redfin and Zillow. Also very episodic.

What’s on the first screen of my iPhone — August 2010

It’s been 8-9 months since I last surveyed what I’m using on my iPhone.

On the first screen,

* the bottom bar is still Mail/Messages/Calendar/Safari, I use each of these apps countless times during the day. Calendar is probably the least deserving. The ios4 Mail app is a tremendous improvement over prior versions, thanks to the merging of my 4 inboxes into 1.
* the stock Weather/Stocks/Maps/Camera/Calculator/Clock/Phone apps are all there. I don’t love any of these, they all have problems. Why do I have to enter cities in Weather and Clock? Why can’t Stocks show portfolio information? The Maps app hasn’t changed in forever, why can’t it import map settings from my laptop (ChromeToPhone sounds awesome). I have tried to find other stock apps but they all kind of blow.
* the Settings app remains on the first page mostly so I can force Wifi on/off and force 3g on/off as i transition between various locations. Why isn’t the settings app just a folder now?
* Echofon for twitter use and Byline for RSS readings make the first page. I am sure there are other fine choices in these spaces but these work well for me.
* Evernote is on the first page and I am a total convert. I use this for all kinds of info, every day. And I am now trying to use it for my todo list management, tho the inability to enter todo items on the iphone sucks, hence my current trial of…
* Egretlist. Which basically exposes all todo items in Evernote. The UI is horrendous — garish, amateurish. But functional.
* Lose it! for calorie tracking tho my usage has fallen off (and my waist line shows it!)
* 2 Across for NYTimes crosswards. There are newer and more uptodate alternatives but this one is solid.
* and finally a Travel folder with TripIt, KAYAK, Southwest, Flight update as the key elements. Yelp, Urbanspoon, Topo Maps, Google Earth, OneBusAway, Point Inside, Zagat, Trip Journal also take spots in there tho I am not committed to any of them.

With football season approaching, some score app will fight back to the top screen — the ESPN sportscenter app or one of the other competitors, I will have to try them all. The ESPN app is fine tho it sometimes grinds to a halt on busy days.

On secondary screens, the other apps that get some use — Facebook, the App Store,, Starbucks Mobile Card, tideApp, Goodreads, Soundhound.

The iPad

Well of course I will buy one because I am a geek. That said I am unconvinced.

* I still have to carry my iPhone around because I need to make calls. Actually the iPad could free me to switch to a better phone/carrier without having to lose my apps…
* I still have to carry my MacBook around. I use real software, Aperture and MatLab and Mathematica and Photoshop and Word. With big datasets, complicated docs, etc. The limited iPad apps don’t cut it.
* So am I really going to carry around another largish device? Hmm.
* I do carry the Kindle2 around but it is a lot smaller and I get 2-3 weeks of battery life. That is the beauty of a point device.

So I am not really sure what the iPad does for me. But I am sure I will try.

All the “Amazon is dead” talk I find misguided. A, if you are a heavy book reader, the iPad is not superior — battery life, library size, readability are all Kindle advantages. B, Amazon is not stupid, you can read Kindle books on the iPad. C, the Amazon store may not be as cute as Apple’s book thing but it is way more functional. Amazon will be fine even if the Kindle hardware fades away.

What’s on the first screen of my iPhone

Been 3 months since I last talked about what apps I’m using, there have been some changes.

The bottom row remains Mail, Messages, Calendar, Safari. I use all these many many times a day, almost hourly. Calendar is the least used but I still need it all the time.

First screen: the default Apple apps that have a home here are Weather, Maps, Camera, Calculator, Settings, Clock, Phone, Stocks.

  • I use Phone a lot but wonder if it needs a spot since I can get there through double-click of the button, but for now it remains.
  • Stocks is the other that is least used, I just don’t check Stocks all that often, it may be the next to get shoved off the page.
  • Weather I use a lot and I have like 20 cities stored. I’ve considered some of the paid options but I like the simplicity of Apple’s app.
  • Maps I use daily. Have started to use the bookmark feature a lot. It is not a perfect app, I wish I could see my custom maps I’ve created at Google Maps.
  • Calculator I use frequently since I am taking courses. However it may get pushed off in favor of something better soon…
  • Camera gets used weekly for throwaway pics — parking spot at airport, etc. I don’t care about all the fancy photo apps since I use a real camera for photos I care about.
  • Settings continues to have a homepage spot just so I can turn wifi on/off. There has to be a better app for this.
  • Clock — I use the alarm when travelling and the timer for cooking.

Non-Apple apps on the first page:

  • Echofon, my current Twitter app. Solid. Used every couple hours
  • Byline, RSS reader. I used to just use the mobile google reader site which is pretty good, but this is better.
  • WordPress for blog posting. Sadly my post frequency is way down but still need it.
  • Tripit for travel details. I love Tripit.
  • 2 Across for the NYTimes crossword (subscription required). I usually skip monday/tuesday puzzles since they are fairly routine but enjoy the later puzzles. I generally finish tho my times are not competitive with real crossworders at all.
  • Todo, synced with RememberTheMilk. Love todo lists. Is this the best app? Maybe not but I flipped to it some time ago and remain happy. It has like a jillion more features than I use.
  • Lose It! to track daily calorie usage. Been working to drop a little weight this fall, and this app helps. If I track my calories I can usually control my portions.
  • ESPN Scorecenter. Particularly on football Saturdays. I got cranky this week because the ESPN data feed seemed to be a half hour or more behind, grr. So I looked at CBS Sports,, Fox Sports, ScoreMobile, and Sportacular. For the most part these all miss the mark, they are just a rendering of the web property into an app. This is useless. The ESPN app lets me pick my teams and sports and focuses just on the scores of those entities, that is what I want. So for now, it remains the king.

Things that recently lost their front page status:

  • Facebook. OK I like the fact that old friends can find me. But the constant nattering about Mafia Wars, Farmville, all the surveys and crap that Facebook Inc wants me to do — this is all a waste of my brain. And damned if I can figure out how to tell Facebook to quit nattering at me about all this crap. Twitter has a much higher signal-to-noise ratio for me.

Things that want to get to the front page:

  • some note taking app. I am trying out aNote right now. Not blowing me away. But I do keep little snippets of notes and would like something here…
  • iMathlab. A MATLAB lite app. For some classes of quick calculations this BLOWs the calculator away. The first version was buggy but getting better.
  • AccuDial. OK this isn’t really right yet. But a dialer app that a) dials conf calls correctly, b) syncs with cal, and c) is remotely configurable by folks at my office (perhaps thru cal sync) would be most desirable.

Apps that I am playing with but not sure what will happen to them:

  • LaTeX Help. Doing way too much math formatting these days.
  • Ego. Needs more drivers — Facebook for instance.
  • Gist. Interesting but doesn’t really help me yet.
  • foursquare. Not really getting into it.
  • Bento. I want to like it but I always end up finding databases requiring too much overhead.

Games come and go. Current things I am trialing:

  • Word Spin. Boggle-ish.
  • Missile Command
  • Fling
  • DoodleJump
  • Puzzloop
  • Cribbage
  • Civ Rev (tho I actually haven’t used it yet)
  • Shanghai
  • Flight Control
  • Bebot

There are a whole bag of travel apps I keep around that get occasional use: Urbanspoon, ZAGAT, Yelp, KAYAK, Flight Update, Topo Maps. Hugely useful at times. And a bunch of useful but not frequently used apps — Starmap, Zillow, GuitarToolkit, Clinometer,, Air sharing, Air Contacts, WiFiFoFum, MiGhtyDocs, m.UW, LinkedIn, Pandora, Shazam, SMugMug.

Apps still on the phone but I never use: Google Earth, Whole Foods, Remote, Drinks Free, Wine Guide, EBay, Offender Locator, Healthmap, Kindle, NikeID. Just haven’t bothered to delete. They all seemed like a good idea at the time. Kind of like that Flock of Seagulls song — seemed like a good thing to download at the time.

My iPhone app config — August 2009

Rich discusses the apps he likes. Some good ideas here, and I’ve made a few changes as well since I last talked about apps. Here is what I am using right now:

* Bottom Row: Mail, Messages, Calendar, Safari. Mail, Messages, Safari get heavy heavy use. Calendar less so but still need it at hand all the time.
* First Page:
** Weather, Stocks, Maps, Camera, Calculator, Settings, Clock, Phone from Apple. Stocks sees the least use, I wonder if I should kick it down a page. Or maybe I should replace it with a better portfolio report app. Calculator doesn’t see much use in summer here but will earn its spot this fall. Settings is only there for me to turn airplane mode on/off and wifi on/off — is there something simpler to do this?
** Twitterfon and Facebook. Recently replaced Tweetie with Twitterfon, just looks a little fresher. Tweetdeck seems like overkill on the iPhone.
** Tripit. Love Tripit. May even kick up to the paid pro version.
** 2 Across for my NYT crossword fix.
** WordPress for blogging.
** Appigo Todo for todo lists, integrated with RTM on the backend.
** Shazam for identifying music. I am doing this less and less tho (still listening to music a ton), so it may get pushed off.
** ESPN Scorecenter. This one has not earned its spot yet but I am thinking it will during NCAA Football season and I have it configured and ready to go. If it gets score updates as quickly as the website it will be a winner.
* 2nd page or later apps that still see some use:
** of course. Though it doesn’t seem as easy to find kindle items in the app as it is on the website
** Flight Update for checking on inbound family members.
** Kayak.
** MiGhtyDocs for accessing google docs.
** Urbanspoon.
** Air Sharing and Air Contacts. Not used that often but lifesavers every once in a while.
** WeFiFoFum. Not essential but a nicer way to see wifi nets around you.
** Smugshot for dealing with smugmug
** Starmap because every once in while I haul the telescope out, mostly to look at planets
* Stuff I am trialing:
** Pogoplug. Don’t know yet if It will stick
** CardStar. Trying based on Rich’s reco
* And finally, casual games:
** DoodleJump. Stupidly entertaining
** ParaPanic. Ditto
** Robot Master. Annoying, how do people get those high scores?

Recent app trials

* Scanaroo. The idea of something to manage all my cards is cool — one place to see account numbers, 1800 customer service numbers, etc etc etc. But this isn’t it. The shortcoming is the dependency on the iphone camera. If it worked more like snaptell (use the photo to ID the card in a dbase and get all the detailed info and image from a dbase) it would be better.
* Statplot. Interesting idea, charts for sports junkies. Not a lot of community around my teams yet but will be fun to watch
* Microsites. If 140 chars is good enough for a message, why should a website need much more? I guess. Ultimately I don’t know what I’d use this for.
* TuneWiki. Rich loves it, I am not sure I get it yet.
* Linear Programming using Google Spreadsheets. Is this really what is keeping people tied to Excel?
* Notepad++ and plugins. Not sure I will stick with, the app is busy
* SuperUser. This could turn out to be super helpful

Contrasting Quarters — Apple, MSFT

Apple’s quarter (NYTimes): “We’re making our most innovative products ever and our customers are responding”…”unexpectedly strong sales of Macintosh computers and a surge in iPhone purchases pushed Apple’s profit up 15 percent in the third quarter”…”PC shipments for the industry fell 3 to 5 percent over the last three months. But Apple said it sold 2.6 million Macs in the quarter, up about 18 percent from the 2.2 million it sold in the previous quarter”…”overall gross profit margin grew to 36.3 percent, from 34.8 percent in the year-ago quarter”…”Revenue rose to $8.34 billion, from $7.46 billion last year”.

MSFT’s quarter (NYTimes): “has been humbled, both by the recession and by problems of its own making”…”Year-over-year revenue and full-year sales of Microsoft’s flagship Windows software dropped for the first time”…”29 percent drop in net income”…”17 percent drop in quarterly revenue”…”warned that people should not expect a major bounce-back in technology spending when the economy recovers.”

Hmm. Apparently the economic downturn is worse among PC buyers than among non-PC buyers.

My current iPhone app setup — what am I missing?

On the first page, apps I use every day, multiple times:

* Some of the default Apple apps — Mail, Text, Calendar, Safari (all on the bottom row); Weather, Stocks, Maps, Camera, Calculator (a recent promotion back to the first page, the landscape mode scientific calculator is handy now that I am taking courses at UW again), Settings (purely to switch radio on/off for flights), Clock (for alarm and cooking timing), Phone.
* Facebook, Tweetie, Todo (synched with rememberthemilk for todo list management), Tripit (awesome for quick access to trip details — flight status, checkin codes, etc), WordPress for blogging, OK Amazon is probably going to fall off soon, I don’t do that much ordering while on the iphone.
* 2 Across for nytimes crosswords, and Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars is fun tho the math in the game is kind of whack.

On the second page — apps that i need regular access to, or apps that I am trying out:

* App Store, Shazam (tagging music that I hear on the radio/etc), SmugShot (for access to my photos), MiGhtyDocs (google docs access)
* Kayak and Flight Update tho they are declining is use thanks to the Tripit app
* Pandora tho also declining in use as I am getting new music via other mechanisms
* Trying out: Yelp, Air Sharing, SimpleMindX, FS5 Hockey, FriendCast, fring.

On the third page — apps I keep around because I have to or because I need them occasionally:

* Apple default apps Notes, Contacts, Photos, iTunes, iPod, YouTube. Can’t delete them, they have to go somewhere
* Urbanspoon, GuitarToolkit — great apps but I don’t currently use that often. I tend to use google maps for finding restaurants instead of urban spoon
* Wine Guide, Starmap, Drinks Free, Clinometer, Remote, Google Earth, RTM, Snaptell. All interesting but I rarely find a reason to use. RTM is just not as good as the Todo app

On the fourth page — games that I liked at one point but that are basically ignored now:

* Tetris, Trism, Bejeweled 2. I’ll still play bejeweled every once in a while
* Vector Tanks, iShoot.
* Pb Dreams, Flick Bowling, Monkey Ball, XOFootball.
* Edge, touchPhysics, Koi Pond, Topple, Rolando, newtonica2. All cute.
* Black and White. Pretty poor Othello game.
* Dr. Awesome. Awesome actually.

Stuff I want but do not need — New Year's Edition

* Hardcore Computer — fully submerged computer. So you can reboot more quickly and reliably.
* HighSpeedPC — on second thought, screw the case, who needs it.
* Innovative snow shovels — might need again in another 20 years.
* Magnetic iPhone camera lenses — cool idea. For the 3 pictures a month I take with my iphone.
* Lighted Garden Nozzle — I have no idea why but it is cool.
* Map Quilts — awesome, love maps.

Rogue for iPhone: nerdgasm

CrunchGear » Archive » Rogue for iPhone: nerdgasm. Installed.

Late 1982, I am killing myself chasing two degrees at CMU. In the mornings I was at the business school, classmates all wearing power suits and reading the WSJ and the Financial Times during breaks. Afternoons spent in the EE department with classic geeks.

After midnight in some lab deep in the bowels of the EE department, debugging some realtime ASM code for speech processing, and this lank-haired guy next to me asks “Hey, do you know how to kill a 12th-level necromancer?”

That was my intro to Rogue.