iPhone 5 review!

I took the plunge and bought an iPhone 5 (Black, 16GB) in December. The other contender I had in mind was the Nokia Lumia 920. Its weight was a big deterrent though. And as much as I wanted to move to the latest from Microsoft's new phone operating system, it simply is not available here in India. Here is a short review of my experience with the iPhone 5 so far.

Cost & Micro-SIM

At $700 (~Rs 38,000), and the rupee at an all time low to the dollar, this is an expensive phone to buy outright. Plus, Apple is selling it at an even higher price point through its retailers here in India, for Rs. 45,500. I got mine shipped through a friend, and it took some 3 days to reach from the US. Best shipping time ever, as it was carried in a pocket.

The other thing of note is the nano sim card. With airtel launching the iphone, my company facility folks were able to get me one in three days. Thank god for their help, as Airtel has no relationship centres nearby. The two nearest to my house do not exist, and hunting for them was a futile and time wasting exercise.

Design & Hardware

Apple has outdone itself when it comes to the hardware. The new iPhone 5 is sleek and looks like a million bucks. It defines the new sexy. The edges are finely crafted and the aluminium back looks amazing. The other thing that surprises you as soon as you hold it is the weight. For this big a device, you assume it to be heavy, but it feels almost weightless.

Worth it for the hardware alone. While the main structure of iOS has not changed much, it feels snappier than my iPod Touch and iPad 3. The screen is gorgeous, and does not feel like it is on a diet and shrunk from the super duper sized phone displays we see from Samsung etc. I did feel some awkwardness while reaching the top corners single handedly. This was maybe due to my heavy use of the iPod touch, which is a perfect fit at 3.7 inches. The display is one of the brightest and sharpest available today. It is very good outdoors and down right gorgeous inside.

Camera

The camera is vastly improved. Here is a sample of my first few clicks. The pictures are sharp and well lit. Auto focus is fast too and the camera is a good replacement for a point and shoot. This helps you capture the interesting and the beautiful from everyday life.

    

Wifi, GPS, Battery

I had an issue with the Wifi, but a little tinkering fixed it. I had to move to the G band on my router. Searching the Apple support forums was depressing as most people suggested for a replacement, which in my case would have meant anywhere between a month to six. Thankfully, the issue got sorted with a restart, but the reception is weaker than my iPod Touch. That can be said about the cellular network reception as well. While my Samsung Windows Phone never reported any network loss in my office (or maybe chose not to), I frequently see a network lost message.

Battery life is good for a phone this size. Charging is surprisingly fast, something that is yet to be seen in other devices. Since I do not own any accessories for the 30-pin connector, the new lightning port did not post any connectivity issues for me. Duel sided nature of the lightning connector is a huge blessing.

Radios are as expected. GPS and WiFi lock fast and do not drain the battery life. I chose to leave them on all times as the convenience outweighs the hassle of switching them off and on again. This was unthinkable with the WP7.

iOS6, Apps, iTunes, Maps, Siri & Facetime

The apps remain a strong point of the Apple ecosystem. I have a few loaded already, but maybe that's for another post some day.

Siri is supercool but has trouble with my accent for any real world use. The poor data connections do not help either.  I was successful in setting up some reminders, finding match schedules for my favorite football team, and send some texts, but nothing more. Siri still has difficulty pronouncing my name and the other integrations do not work in India, yet.

With iTunes music launch, things are looking good for this part of the world.

  

No maps in Apple maps. Thankfully, Google maps are now available on iOS.

Minor Cribs & Suggestions

The ringtones shipped could be improved. Apple maps is useless in India. But thats how I found out Waze. With Google maps now available, this is not an issue anymore.

Keyboard is good enough, as it was in the last century. It needs a new lease of life. Response is fast and accurate, but somehow I feel other options like swype keyboard maybe worth looking into.

I request Apple to provide a mechanism to skip songs while enjoying a morning/evening walk. Apple needs to provide some more user functions for the locked mode, apart from easy access to the Camera. This could be based on the current app running in the foreground. Music interaction and app notifications can be improved too. Plus, inter-app interactions do not exist. Apple should fix this. And perhaps freshen up the homescreen a bit?

By the way, I did a Facetime call on 3G. How cool is that?

In the end, I was a little sad at letting the Windows Phone 7 go. But the iPhone 5 is easily the best phone sized phone out there. Highly recommended.

That's it! Tune in later for a few recommendations on the apps I am using on the iPhone. Happy Valentines day!

Links - October 2012

I had been on a business trip (details later) earlier this month. With gazillion flight segments and a new time zone everyday, I take this as an opportunity to catch up on movies & music. Long flights provide an excellent chance to watch a few movies and tv shows, even though the experience of watching these on the tiny economy class screens leaves a lot to be desired. This time I watched Dark Shadows, Snow White & the Huntsman and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Also saw The Last Samurai & Ronin for the millionth time. Of the new lot, I liked Dark Shadows the most, and absolutely loved the song Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues. Here is a quote from the movie Dark Shadows :

Barnabas Collins: Josette... Victoria Winters: My name is Victoria Winters. But you can call me Vicky. Barnabas Collins: Enchanted. But I shall call you Victoria, a name so wonderful I could not stand to lose a syllable of it.

My search for new music peaks around my travels. I need to keep this steady throughout. Maybe I will get some help here as it looks like more of these trips are coming in the next few months. Here are top three new songs I discovered in this trip :-

David Guetta - Titanium featuring Sia The Moody Blues - Nights in White Satin Malukah - Skyrim The Dragonborn Comes

I am absolutely mesmerized by Sia's & Malukah's voice. And Nights in White Satin is a beautiful song. :))

I will write about my trip in detail soon, and also share a few clicks I took using my mobile. Till then, here is an excellent quote from George Carlin, apt for the full moon night tonight.

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

 

The new iPad!

The new iPad I bought the new iPad (White, Wifi, 16GB) a couple of months ago. The primary argument against an iPad till now was this perception that it's nothing more than an oversized iPod or iPhone.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Today, the iPad has become my primary go-to device. The screen is gorgeous. Performance is snappy & fluid. Touch on the iPad's large screen is responsive and intuitive. I use it for Browsing, Games, Reading, Music and connecting with my friends and family. In short, gratification is instantaneous.

Till now, I was the single user for all my gadgets. Nobody in my family found them interesting. New laptop? Kindle? iPod Touch? XBOX? Nope. Not interested. But the iPad is changing this. A quick peek at email. Pick up the iPad. Listen to a song or play a game to kill a few minutes. iPad. Google this or that. iPad again. Everybody in my family leans towards the iPad first. And many times a need for a second one arises. :))

Nothing beats the iPad for the fantastic browsing experience it offers. Browsing is fast and rendering is world-class. The retina display is awesome. I use Flipboard for news and articles on tech, design, photos etc. I fear for my Google Reader usage. Flipboard has my undivided attention for atleast 30 minutes per day. Every day. Add Kindle apps and the excellent iBooks, and reading was never this much fun. For eBooks however, I still prefer my Kindle.

Going through email and checking social networks is a breeze. With wireless sync, music is always up to date. Skype, Facetime and iMessage provide a fantastic and fast experience while communicating with friends and family.

The App Store is the place for great, high quality apps. Believe me. Games like Cut the Rope, Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, Temple Run, NFS and Infinity Blade have made everybody in my family an amateur gamer.

Battery life is excellent. Charging is super fast and non-linear. The iPad feels comfortable to hold, and is sturdy enough. On-screen keyboard is usable. I rarely use the rear camera for pictures, but it does provide decent picture quality.  Once in a while, I do stumble upon a website using flash, but this happens less frequently than I initially feared.

All in all, iPad is a fantastic device and the best tablet out there. Highly recommended!

Windows Phone 8!

Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 event was a pleasant surprise. As a Windows Phone user, I am very satisfied with the way things are shaping up for this (not so) new phone OS. iOS 6, for me, was an underwhelming attempt by Apple. WP8 announcement packs in a lot and will help break the boring duopoly of iOS & Android in the smartphone marketplace.

Announcing Windows Phone 8

A quick recap of what is new and coming this fall :-

  1. A new start screen
  2. Better hardware choices, with support for three screen resolutions, dual-core & quad-core (planned) and microSD card.
  3. Internet Explorer 10
  4. Shared core with Windows 8, with easier porting and more interesting apps and games coming through.
  5. Nokia Maps, with offline caching and turn-by-turn navigation
  6. NFC/Wallet feature and In-App purchases
  7. Enterprise features including Encryption, Secure Boot, Device Management and App Deployment
  8. Full VoIP support

All of this sounds great. This release will strengthen WP8's pitch as a viable alternative to iOS & Android. We can expect a few more interesting features once the devices start shipping.

However, this did not please a lot of existing WP7 customers.

WP7 customers were distraught that WP8 won't be coming to their "barely days old" devices. And frankly, Microsoft could have done a better job on this. All the Software features should have been brought to the existing devices. A price correction is another way to sell existing, but now old and incompatible devices and software.

Apple customers face a similar problem every October. But instead of getting angry and upset, Apple customers support and queue in for the new hardware and software features. Google, on the other hand, announces a new version, which trickles down to a percent of existing devices in 6-12 months timeframe, and most of the time never.

Microsoft should take a leaf out of Apple's book, rather than following its PC legacy of announcing a product and following up with an actual release 3-4 months afterwards. The Phone industry is not similar to the PC industry, where the major distribution was through PC manufacturers. Here are a couple of things Microsoft can do better next time :-

  1. Fix an approximate announcement schedule, so customers know it is that time of the year again.
  2. Work with Nokia and release a new lead device, along with the OS announcement.

A new OS is a "once in two years" phenomenon. Microsoft has a couple of years to figure things out for WP9. Every new OS version should accompany a new phone announcement for Microsoft to gain a substantial traction in the market.

AWS + Wordpress!

This site is now powered by Amazon Web Services, running Wordpress!  

What started as a curious exploration, resulted in me moving sidoza.com hosting from Yola.com to Amazon Web Services + Wordpress!

I remember reading somewhere that Amazon Web Services now powers around 1% of the whole world wide web (that is four w's, somehow). The article left me curious and I wanted to figure out AWS. And in the process, I decided it was high time to move my website from Yola's restrictive hosting and blogging environment to Wordpress, with which I am in love since almost half a decade now.

It is not a difficult process at all. Granted, at one stage I was back to my (very old) developer self, installing PHP, configuring Apache, installing Wordpress. And there was a time when I was not exactly sure of what I was doing (logging in using SSH, running commands like 'sudo', 'yum' etc. etc.)

Here is how I transferred sidoza.com from Yola to AWS :

  1. Sign up for AWS
  2. Get an EBS backed 64-bit Wordpress Linux image up and running. There is more than enough material available from Amazon to help you on this.
  3. SSH to the linux instance, install PHP, MySQL. Wordpress and Apache were already installed, if I remember correctly.
  4. Configure Wordpress and plugins. I chose TwentyEleven as my theme (for now).
  5. Migrate existing blog posts from Yola.com to Wordpress using RSS Importer plugin.
  6. Get a (free) IP for your instance and update the 'A' record with the domain registrar to point to AWS.

Thats it! It took me a while, and I have not migrated a lot of pages from my old site to this one. But I am happy with the outcome, and plan to build this website. And finally, it feels good to be back on my favorite blogging platform. Yola.com had become too constrained and restrictive to me.

One important point to note : There is no direct migration tool from Yola to Wordpress, but trust me, RSS Importer works fine. All you need to do is fix the image paths in your blog posts, something that was not a big deal to me since I had only 22 of these to migrate. If you have more, I am sure there is a code snippet somewhere, that allows you to change image paths in blog posts using regex or something.

Welcome to the all new sidoza.com!