What to do after the iPhone 3G

My iPhone is failing. The iOS4 update transformed my pixie-infused shinymagic joystudio into a crash-prone epically-slow notworkybox, and I am cross. Happily, my contract is up, and cash4phones reckon they’ll pay £157 for my 3G, which will happily cover whatever replacement I like1. But I don’t know what to like.

The obvious replacement is the iPhone4. It’s undeniably a lovely thing, but I’m not terribly inclined towards a phone which might, in 2 years, degrade to the point of uselessness because Apple don’t care / want me to upgrade. That said, the iPhone4 camera is gorgeous – and this is no small feature for me. And the phone is (right now) stupid fast. And the screen is great. And I’m already invested in the app store. And I actually quite like the iTunes integration, despite the myriad flaws. But, there’s Android.

I used an Android phone recently and it was lovely – all the cool stuff I’m missing out on suddenly seemed very important. Google satnav, proper-not-crippled-by-Apple-for-no-apparent-reason Google LatitudeSwype keyboard inputs; being able to customise most of the phone. But it’s much buggier than iOS, by all accounts, and the current cameras (and hardware generally) are a generation behind the iPhone. Sure I can wait for the next awesomephone that’s always just around the corner, but you can always do that.

I would have happily moved to an iPhone4 had Apple not treated their 3G customers so shoddily. Hmph. Will pop into a phone store and have a play with everything on offer, or maybe just get an iPad and a massive retro handset.

  1. this seems a little good to be true, and I’m concerned someone somewhere poor is getting ripped off – anyone know? []

Eucalyptus

I just bought Eucalyptus – the new e-reader application for the iPhone. At £6 it’s the most I’ve paid for an app1, but I’m hoping it’ll be worthwhile – it downloads its books directly from Project Gutenberg, the heroic volunteer-created database of thousands of public-domain texts. I already have all the Sherlock Holmes stories, Alice in Wonderland, the complete works of Byron2, On the Origin of Species, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, some early Bertrand Russell and even a Kurt Vonnegut short story3 to keep me going on the next train journey.

First impressions are good: the app works well. The text is easy to read, and appears almost instantly – the latter is particularly important, as I find delays on e-readers maddening. Flicking across the screen produces a fast, non-annoying and aesthetically pleasing page-turning animation (it even takes note of where you grab the ‘paper’, if you look carefully), while the text-size can be increased/decreased with a standard iPhone pinch/expand. It seems to save the last-read-page correctly, for multiple books, and if you were reading a book when the app closed, it goes straight back into it – there’s no need to mess around in menus. It also appears to save an image of the last read page, which it then displays while the application loads in the background, so startup is very snappy indeed. That’s pretty thoughtful. Downloading books is easy, with a built-in search as well as ipod-like browsing of the library, and the ‘processing’ of each file happens smoothly in the background. And it generates book covers around the iconic Penguin design, which is a nice touch.

On the down-side I downloaded a bunch of books and tried to read one while all the others were still processing, and the app crashed. This doesn’t mean much, as iPhone crashes can be related to all sorts of things, but I’m hoping it won’t be common. I’m also a little worried about battery life: the iPhone’s battery isn’t all that hot, and it’ll be interesting to see whether extended reading periods with the backlight on are a drain.

Of course, I haven’t actually tried reading anything on it yet. But I’m nevertheless quite chuffed with Eucalyptus. £6 seemed a lot at first, but I’ve been wanting an e-reader for years, and if the app Just Works like it seems to, I should finally get through plenty of I’ve-always-wanted-to-read-those classics. Excellent.

  1. I even balked at £3.50 for Myst (Myst! On a phone! Myst!) []
  2. finally in a decent format []
  3. thanks to @bengarvey []

Tuesday braindump

The New York Times has a surprisingly clear essay on why jokes are hard to remember:

Really great jokes, on the other hand, punch the lights out of do re mi. They work not by conforming to pattern recognition routines but by subverting them. “Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another,” said Robert Provine, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.” “What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember.”

People sometimes ask why I despise the tabloids so much. Here’s the reason: the front page of the Scottish Sunday Express this weekend exposed the shocking behaviour of the now-18-year-old survivors of the Dunblane massacre. It’s an utterly despicable piece of journalism, and Andrew lays into it appropriately:

They, or at least some of them, are drinking and fighting and having sex and then posting about it on social networking sites. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me, and it’s actually good to see that the shooting hasn’t totally wrecked their abilities to live normal lives. But the Express seems to think that that’s somehow Not On. No, these people are Dunblane Survivors, and that means they have to spend their every waking second Honouring The Memory Of Their Fallen Classmates. If they do anything else, like have fun or something, they’re Shaming Their Fallen Classmates.

The Sci-Fi channel is aiming to shake its ‘geeky image’, by changing its name to ‘SyFy’. Apparently they a) only have the 1980’s definition of ‘geek’ and b) have no concept of the people who watch their shows. Patronising cretins:

During its fourth-quarter earnings call, parent General Electric said Sci Fi racked up a double-digit increase in operating earnings despite the beginnings of the recession.

Nevertheless, there was always a sneaking suspicion that the name was holding the network back.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

qwghlm has a thoughtful piece on the reasons Twitter has taken off a few years after the rise of blogging, and why 140-character-brevity isn’t indicative of short attention spans:

Watchmen (and the other examples Johnson cites and expounds upon inEverything Bad Is Good For You) show that when consuming media, depth and brevity are not totally irreconcilable; you can concentrate on something difficult and concrete as well as enjoying content 140 characters at a time. And yet Twitter often gets demonised as a posterboy for the inanity of Web 2.0. Perhaps that’s no surprise, with its chief characteristics of brevity and ephemerality, the exact opposite of how we have consumed media in the past. Given that “value” of old media was often measured on its length (writers being paid by the word) or durability (all those books and records on your shelves), what’s produced in new media is often characterised as comparatively worthless, particularly by those who cut their teeth in the old media.

Finally, the iPhone 3.0 software was announced today. Lots of cool stuff: picture-messaging, cut-and-paste, control of bluetooth devices (great if you have one of those house-controlling boxes) and turn-by-turn navigation, meaning I can finally leave the sat-nav at home. It’s seems to be just me left disappointed by the lack of video recording (maybe I’ve missed something). After seeing the Nokia N95’s impressively high-quality recording of Thriller last week, I was really hoping it’d come to the iPhone. Hopefully they’re leaving that for a hardware announcement this summer…

iPhone on the way…maybe

Over the weekend I decided to stop wittering about iPhones and actually see if I could afford one. So I ran the figures and found it’d be an extra £10/month, which I’m willing to pay for unlimited 3G internet access1. So on Monday I ordered one through the O2 website, then rang Orange to get a PAC so I could transfer my number. Orange kept me on hold for two minutes, stopped trying to talk me out of it as soon as I said ‘iPhone’, and sent the PAC via text within five seconds of disconnecting. I like Orange. I’m not so keen on O2.

A few years ago I tried moving to them, but we fell out after they sent the wrong phone and didn’t believe I’d posted it back (I had proof). They caved after three months, but the difficulties of communicating with their customer services put me off for a long time. But O2 have the exclusive iPhone contract, so what are you going to do – I just hoped they’d improved in the last few years. Then, six hours after placing my order, they emailed to say I needed to call and verify my identity and address, but not that day as they closed at half four. So I called their 0870 number this morning, and after being on hold for half an hour read out my passport number(?!) and credit card details they already had2, and all was fine. They then emailed to say they were out of iPhones until later this week. Fine. Whatever. But then I got a DHL tracking number, so there’s clearly something on the way.

It’ll be quite funny if it’s the wrong phone. I remain optimistic, though.

  1. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the hypothetical-but-awesome ‘when my 4-year-old iPod dies’ factor, as the moment I added that everything became insanely good value []
  2. I googled to check the email was legit, and found a lot of bloggers who’d wondered the same thing and spent hours trying to find out []

I have a new iPhone justification

In a pinch, you can use one to light a portrait. Come on.

The same link talks about a similar lighting setup in Collateral – a film involving a lot of driving around Los Angeles. Rather than spend a fortune setting up external lights in every location, they decided to just use the existing streetlights etc.. The problem is, streetlights / building lights aren’t nearly as powerful as the usual film lighting equipment, so they had to use extremely sensitive film. This left the interiors of the cars almost black, however, and there’s not a lot of room in a car for fancy lighting setups. So they stuck bright, flat-panel screens to the roof / other hidden parts of the car. Clever.

At some point in the last year I turned into a total lighting geek. I keep having to remind myself mid-conversation that not everyone finds it as interesting as me.

iPhone Rationalisations

Help me out here. I can’t afford an iPhone, but – unsurprisingly – I really really want one. So I’m rationalising my way around the expense. Here’s what I have so far:

  1. My iPod is 3.5yrs old and keeps freezing. I’ll need a new one soonish, and they’re very expensive. An iPhone would solve this issue.
  2. iPhones are only available on O2. O2 offer £7.34/month broadband to their customers. That’s £10 less than my current home broadband. Now, as my current mobile phone contract is £20/month, and an iPhone is £30/month, that means it’s paid for already. Sorted.
  3. Quidco will pay me £45 if I get my contract through them.
  4. An iPhone would be lighter than my current phone + iPod combo, and would give me more jacket space.
  5. The lighter, thinner iPhone would improve the line of my coat, thereby making me more attractive to women.

I think we can all agree #5 is the best rationalisation ever. You can’t say I’m not trying.

Gadgetlust

There is no obvious solution to my iPod and mobile phone simultaneously indicating they’re on the way out1. None.

Actually, one look at the O2 tariffs suggests there really isn’t. £269 for the iPhone, then £35/month for 200mins/200texts/unlimited data? I think not. Given that my phone and iPod have together cost me £10/month all year, I can’t even consider something like that. I’ll wait for the gPhone.

  1. whacking the former on the table, as per Ed’s suggestion, has actually done the trick for now []

Apple iPhone (alternative title: geek porn)

Apple iPhone Front Right side of Apple iPhone

I’ve never been much of an Apple junkie, but I have to admit that’s really quite the thing: a combined phone, widescreen iPod and web browser, with wifi, a 2MP camera and all controlled by a touch-screen interface (many more details here). It looks like they’ve gone all-out with the GUI, judging by the demonstrations – the texting one is particularly interesting. It doesn’t come out in the UK until the 4th quarter of this year. By which time, I can’t help but realise, my 4th generation iPod will be 2.5 years old. I can just get a second mortgage or something.