Nexus 5 Logo Modification – Cost of mod? 79p

Well guys if you own a Nexus 5 you may have found your logo’s letters starting to peel. Mine did, but only on the X so far.  I thought it looked ugly and the gap was getting clogged up with pocket gunk and such so I needed a solution.  It ended up looking like this:

Nexus 5 Logo Modification

Oooh, pretty!

My father is a jeweller and engraver and has done everything from rings and watches through to trophies and medals.  He has a technique of using white engravers wax on black plinths to get the text to stand out.  We engraved some wall clocks in a similar way with blue wax and the end result was fantastic.  I couldn’t resist.

I started off with a blue and silver wax stick and filled the gaps simply by running over them and then cleaning off the excess wax using a Kleenex tissue and some Zippo lighter fluid.  I pocket tested this for a week and it was fine; nothing was coming off.

I then was walking past a Sainsbury’s aisle where I saw 5 thick crayons selling for 79p.
Great, they had all the colours plus orange for good measure!

I replaced the silver portion with the green and though the wax was harder it eventually worked fine and I tested this for a week.  Nothing came out; excellent!

Then I got the rest of the equipment back out to finish the job:

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

So, was it a success? Well, it withstood about two weeks in my pockets before some bits got scraped off, but the majority is still there.

The next step would be to reapply the crayon wax again and try coating with the wife’s clear nail polish, to avoid it scraping off again.  If this happens I will test again and report back.

I’ve had a lot of people wonder how it would look on the black Nexus and I think it would look great, but your mileage may vary with cleaning the excess off the black rubberised back.  Any reports of successes here would be excellent to see in the comments!

Does the Android world need more powerful sub-4.5″ phones?

In a word, yes.

At least that’s what GSMArena and over 6,300 people so far since yesterday, 15th April 2013, have suggested.

GSMArena Petition

The Change.org Petition highlights in the following way:

The market for high-end smartphones is disproportionally populated with slabs of gargantuan size. We feel that given the choice, a substantial number of users would prefer the latest hardware and software achievements in a more compact, mid-sized form factor.

To:
Android phone manufacturers
We are witnessing high-end smartphones getting bigger by the day. We feel you should not reserve the mid-size phones for the mid-range. We strongly urge you to rethink your mobile portfolios.We firmly stand behind the idea that high-end smartphones should not turn into mini-tablets or at least, users should have the right to enjoy the latest hardware and software achievements in a more compact, mid-sized form factor.Android smartphones manufacturers should not forget that portability is a key feature for any phone. We, the mobile phone users urge you to start making mid-size smartphones with high-end specs.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Well, certainly, even as a Note II owner, I would be inclined to agree.  One of my friends was eager to leave Apple for an Android-based device and after researching for months on end decided to opt for an iPhone 5 anyway.  The size was the problem.  He couldn’t get better specs in a phone closer to 4″ and in the Android world the hardware specs makes a bigger difference than the Apple offering let’s face it.

Don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with the Nexus 4 but then opted for a Note II because it wasn’t that big in the pocket, really, and the massive screen was just so beautiful for media consumption. Big is good in my opinion as a lot can get done on a 5.5″ screen.

So, why do I agree with this? Well I have a few reasons: Samsung Mega 5.8, Samsung Mega 6.3, Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Oppo Find 5… the list continues for phones over 4.5″ and each has it’s own charms and a great spec to match.

Find me something under 4.5″ which fits the bill?  Only China’s Small Cosmic X1 comes close and the spec isn’t quite there even as a quad core, nor does it fit into the 4.2″ size GSMArena are looking for.

So, if you’re one of those who is still looking for something to fit in your pocket and life with power to boot, go sign that petition.

Samsung UK’s attempt to dodge honouring Sudden Death Warranty Claims

Since November there have been stories of the Sudden Death Syndrome on the Samsung Galaxy SIII.

The problem is said to effect a limited number of Galaxy SIIIs. Sadly most people don’t get to use the eMMC Brickbug Check app from the Play store to check if they’re effected because, let’s face it, 9/10 users don’t know about, or expect, a manufacturing defect like this to go on without being dealt with.

This means they also don’t know that they should keep their devices regularly backed up because if it’s going to go, that’s what is going to happen.  The preventative measure is to obtain Android version 4.1.2+ for your Samsung as it is a bug specific to the 4.1.1 (and older?) firmware.  There’s over 500 pages on the XDA Developers site so it’s becoming more prominent for sure.

Now, I have read online customers of various countries having problems getting Samsung to play ball with honouring this clearly obvious manufacturing defect under warranty if you happen to have a cracked screen.  The web has brought to my attention people who have had a broken screen for four months so the damage was totally unrelated, but I have personally met with an individual currently being refused the mainboard repair under warranty because of a small crack on the glass at the front of her SIII.  Now, I say glass not screen, because the phone worked fine for 7 months+ after the glass cracked in a tiny spot in the corner, not even near the LCD.  The buttons worked, the LCD was unaffected, the touchscreen was not affected at all.

The size of the crack blamed for mainboard failure

Really though?

Yet here we go, Samsung UK said the following first:

One of our engineers has tested your phone and they have found that it is no
longer covered by the manufacturer warranty because it has been subjected to
physical damage. The following part(s) will be required to repair your
handset back to working order:
GH82-06521A-A/S ASSY-PBA MAIN(COMM)GT_I9300/GH97-13630A-MEA FRONT-OCTA LCD
(SVC)_GT-I9300,BTU,CO; METALLIC BLUE/

The cost of the repair to your handset inclusive of parts, labour and
postage will be 248.77 GBP.

If you agree for the repair to continue on your handset then please contact
the following department to make a payment 02000011455.

What? £250 almost, charging for two parts, one being the mainboard (which isn’t her problem, clearly) and the other being a perfectly fine LCD (just because it happens to be attached to a slightly damaged piece of glass).

Come on Samsung, she’s not stupid.  After consulting with me she heads back to Samsung to get further help.

Their next reply after a back and forth communication and chasing the Service Centre and Customer Services constantly?

One of our engineers has tested your phone and they have found that it is no
longer covered by the manufacturer warranty because it has been subjected to
physical damage. The following part(s) will be required to repair your
handset back to working order:
GH82-06521A-A/S ASSY-PBA MAIN(COMM)GT_I9300/
The cost of the repair to your handset inclusive of parts, labour and

postage will be 167.33 GBP.

If you agree for the repair to continue on your handset then please contact
the following department to make a payment 02000011455.
Woah, so wait Samsung.  You’re charging for the mainboard replacement here at nearly £170 and nothing for the LCD? This means two things:
  • You are agreeing this can be fixed without replacing the LCD as it is an unrelated defect, not driven by the physical damage on the glass.
  • You are charging her for a mainboard replacement which is a manufacturing defect and should be covered under the warranty, irrespective of the glass state.

Let’s face it Samsung.  You know it’s a manufacturing defect, you’ve acknowledged it and offered preventative solutions, but you want to charge her for this.  The crack in the glass didn’t cause the fault after 7 months.  How could it?  Sure, if there had been liquid crystal all over the mainboard it could be blamed, but unless you’re planning on sabotage whilst the phone is still at the service centre, I know this wasn’t the case.

Now the latest they have claimed so far on the phone, not in writing, is the following points:

  • The warranty is not void for the mainboard due to physical damage (Johnny at Samsung UK Customer Services)
  • They will not repair the mainboard under warranty unless the screen damage is paid for first as it is one of their “rules” in the service centre (I heard that as, “money making scams” when told it)
  • The screen repairs cost between £30 and £200 (the individual in this case was quoted £130, which makes no sense as it’s literally a piece of glass that’s broken not the LCD itself and in all honesty she doesn’t need this done!)

So, I can’t imagine there is any motivation behind them saying no to fixing the mainboard under warranty except to ruin the life and bank balance of someone trying to work three jobs whilst studying just so they can make a little extra money.

I owned a Galaxy SII, I own a Galaxy Note II and I’m really considering if this is the right way to go now.  Perhaps the Apple customer service element was right all along.  Perhaps Samsung shouldn’t just be afraid about its cheap plastics but how it treats its customers.

It’s not that RSS is dead Jim, it’s that it will never be the same…

Google Reader - Sad Times!

There are mixed opinions to the news of Google Reader’s demise from the eternally distraught who have taken a furious stance on this action, through to those who don’t care either way.  Another reaction is, it will be sad to see Reader go, but the world is not at an end, RSS is very much alive still.

I must admit, RSS is very much alive, and there are alternatives picking up the pieces Google will be leaving behind, but, after using a couple touted as the closest replacements, I can’t help but feel current fans are going to miss Reader more than people think.

I have given others a try as mentioned and the general consensus has been towards Feedly so I decided to give it a fair try.  Indeed I also tried The Old Reader which is a social reader built around the old Google Reader idea of sharing.  None of them will be satisfactory for me to replace Reader, but I thought it fair to explain why they don’t quite work for me.

The Old Reader

Firstly, in terms of feel this is the closest to Google Reader.  Whilst Feedly is a lot more polished with a magazine feel, this is a slightly slicker Reader experience based on the days of Google Reader before the launch of Google+.

If it’s all the same to you, I must say, aside from the pain of reorganising 357 feeds in to the order I’m used to, there are limitations to The Old Reader which take away from its promise of behaving just like Google Reader:

  • According to The Old Reader none of my current feeds have posts before mid-February 2013.  I revisit my comic archives and other articles are searched for within my feeds in reader quite regularly.  This doesn’t help.
  • Sporadically updated feeds have older entries parsed, but again a limited amount.
  • The search is awfully slow.  Not sure if a demand issue at the moment or inherent issue with the site.
  • The interface is clean but on some screens I can’t see the separation between articles as clearly (minor issue)
  • Sharing is, as far as I can tell, a one-click process to share with other members of The Old Reader – makes sense as they’re building their own social reading experience, but other sharing options (save for connecting to Facebook) are limited.

Overall it’s not a bad solution and probably the one I would stick to if only it would give me access to my older items.  With Google Reader keep scrolling, more feed items will load and you can carry on reading them, here we don’t get that.  The Old Reader is simple and does most of the job, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

Oh, and occasionally, quite possibly due to recent high demand, you do get this:

The Old Reader Error

Feedly

This is an elegantly presented solution which serves as a good middle-ground between a magazine-style news aggregation tool like Flipboard, but with conventional list views possible, as well as a pretty powerful search function.  I tried this on Firefox on my work PC, but upon going to install this on Chrome at home, this rang alarm bells:

Feedly on Chrome - Accesses everything!

Er… No thanks!

Access my data on all websites? No thanks.  This is the start of why I can’t use Feedly to replace Reader. More reasons? Well:

  • Feedly is available only as (intrusive) add-ons or apps for phones created by Feedly themselves.  Reader was available as an API for some (fantastic) third party apps
  • Reader is available on any browser at any time, synced and ready without the need for addons.  Feedly isn’t available the same way, though The Old Reader is so bonus points there for our previous contender!
  • Feedly’s app, for Android at least, feels a bit too simplified compared to the aspirations of it’s web add-ons. It also falls short of a swift headline crunching app. Third party Reader widgets (for now!) and Currents as an app alone do the job better
  • Feedly’s widget is okay, but doesn’t always pull off the most interesting stories like Appy Geek tends to for my tech needs. Oh, and it does have a tendency to crash.

For most, Feedly will do. Sharing to various networks gives it one over The Old Reader, and it has it’s current Google Reader integration, so mark something read there, it’s synced with Reader.  Great for a transition, but I fear relying on it too much will end in further heartbreak for those who decide it is their replacement.  I don’t expect it to be around forever.  If Google Reader can die, nothing is safe anymore.

There’s a hole still going to be left when Reader goes, no matter what they naysayers proclaim.  Nothing works quite so well and I can only see three potential options for Google in the face of this:

  1. Keep Reader going. It’s fine as it is and no-one will need additional support or tweaking.  It doesn’t need to be a project that drains resources beyond what it does data-wise.  No human resources needed here.  This is the option that makes the most sense to me and many others
  2. Shut Reader down, give Currents a web-presence and allow full import of Reader feeds seamlessly.  Google are clearly still very much interested in the news, and as an app goes Currents is fantastic for news, but could there be potential to integrate this to give it a little more of a Reader flexibility with Currents polish? Maybe.  The widget still needs work
  3. Shut Reader down, do nothing.  Be hated by those that loved Reader, and hope they forgive and forget. If you’re feeling generous give Reader to someone who gives a damn and will happily keep it going.

In any case, this video tells the pain of losing an important tool in a way I could never do, and also analyses some of the other options very well…  IN SONG! :o

Thank you…

This is a post to someone who doesn’t want any birthday wishes on her birthday today.  She has forbidden Facebook posts, birthday messages and any form of celebration.  Therefore I won’t mention her name, just that she’s related to me.

She can be a right royal pain in the arse, but she’s also proven to be an ally to me in battles I wouldn’t have been able to fight alone and a great help to my parents and her friends.  As stubborn as we both are, we have our share of fights and as much love as there is between us we get over them to focus on more important things.

She has been welcoming to my fiancé who appreciates her greatly for that, and I’m over the moon that they get on so well.  She has been and continues to be a rock in the planning of my impending marriage and anyone who has let her out of their lives has sincerely, without reservation, been at a great loss.  Never ever underestimate this one people.  Here is someone who is loyal, caring and trustworthy and will go to the ends of the Earth for those she deems deserving of her time.

Her talent has shone in her endeavours, and I’m dying to see her get the biggest break of her life so she can reap her rewards.  Our family home is a showcase for the talent, as is her implementation of the vision of other individuals in their own businesses.  Big things are coming for her, if she stays motivated and keeps her spirits positive.

So, no message saying happy birthday, but instead a thank you to her and her continued, welcomed presence in my life and the lives of all we know.

Oh, and a few pictures to make her smile :)

1268524692-9235-0

Baby-Giraffe-Impala-Deer-852438

sheldon

Daryl says happy birthday!

Okay, fine, one Happy Birthday message :p

Nexus 4 and Android 4.2 – the Usability Perspective

Well well people, after a splendid introduction to Android for the past 18 months from my trusty, and bruised, beaten and bewildered Samsung Galaxy SII, here I am with my second Android phone – the LG Nexus 4.

I wrote about my transition from BlackBerry to Android previously, and some things this phone brings makes life with Android even easier, and some things a little harder.

Everywhere you go you see a review from a technical point of view, but often they omit some key things about other user experiences with Sense and TouchWiz and, sometimes more importantly, third party launchers such as Nova Launcher Prime and GO Launcher EX.  This is where I’m going to add a little, including, inevitably, the issues I have with the phone.

Firstly, I will start off with the same thing that all of them start off with.  This is a gorgeous piece of hardware that feels solid and looks beautiful.  There’s been a lot of press about how the glass back looks and it’s lived up to it.  Understated compared to the pictures but nonetheless, it adds something unique to the phone:

Nexus Back and Camera

Nexus Back and Camera

Whilst we’re on the subject of the back of the phone it’s nice to have the camera flush in the back after the raised affair of the Galaxy SII.  The small ring around the flash doesn’t make any difference and the phone sits nice and flat on a normal surface.  Smooooth!

The Nexus logo makes a great change from the Google logo on previous Nexus phones and adds to the Nexus branding being pushed here.

Along the edges is a rubberised edge.  This has been hailed by some reviewers as cheap.  I hail it as “stopping the ownership of this phone being expensive” – it’s needed.  Without it the slick surfaces would result in many more falls.  It’s tactile, it keeps the phone in your hands nicely and makes it infinitely more usable.  Even the visible screws along the bottom have been criticised.  Not only did I fail to notice them at first, when I do look at them, they speak out to the inner geek.  They say “shh, you can open me if you really want to”.

Grip is important

Grip is important

The muted chrome bezel and curved edges of the glass set it off nicely.  It really looks far more impressive than the Galaxy SII ever did, even though I loved the look of the Samsung when I first got it.  The design itself has inspiration from the Galaxy Nexus, which my father has and I still love.  It works, and it doesn’t make a song and dance about it.

So, holding it is great right? Well, 90% of the time.  There are times when the slightly smaller form factor of the 4.2″ Galaxy SII are missed.  It fit in my hands a little better, but those with bigger hands will have no problems.  Those with smaller hands may find two handed operation easier in more cases.  It’s a small gripe I have which is mainly done away with when typing with the new Android 4.2 Keyboard which has Swype-esque gesture typing, but with SwiftKey-esque predictions.  I will go on to why I am sticking with SwifKey over the stock keyboard a little later.

On to the guts and glory and the key difference between how this phone manages storage from a practicality point of view, compared to the SII: It’s better.
No SD card to worry about, no external storage.  All “App Storage” is part of the main 16GB you get.  Whilst that limits the phone somewhat, it’s already proving to be more useful than the SII was in real-world usage.  How? Well observe the following on a 16GB SII:

  • 1.97GB Internal Storage
  • 11.5GB USB Storage
  • XXGB SD card (I used a 32GB card and it does not alleviate the pains of storing a multitude of apps by a long shot)

Loads of storage right? Well, no.  The 1.97GB Internal Storage is what is reserved for installing Apps.  App Data can exist in the USB Storage or SD card portion, and apps themselves can be installed on the SD card (unless they contain widgets, in which case they have to be installed in the Internal Storage portion.  It all sounds so confusing and probably is to the average user.  It’s a complicated balance and you’ll find the phones often crashing and overheating and you’ll notice that you’ve used up all your space with camera images, WhatsApp images, videos, podcasts etc. It’s a nightmare.  You can’t be a heavy user in this style of phone storage management for a very long time.

What really works for me is the Pure Google Android experience.  Quicker than anything else I have ever used, slick and to the point.  Simple and powerful, usable and intuitive.  You’ve read many reviews on this elsewhere and I agree: Jelly Bean 4.2 is sublime.

There are things I miss about the SII’s own notifications drawer (screen rotation toggle missing is frustrating for example) and some intricacies of the contacts management/usage (swipe the name right to call left to text message was always nice), plus for toggling Wi-Fi, GPS etc it is a few more clicks than the simple “On/Off” always available from Samsung.  Other than that, it works.  Brilliantly.

The camera is also a bit weak compared to the Samsung offerings out now (sister’s SIII smashes the Nexus 4) but the features are good (Photosphere is brilliant) and implemented with some thoughts to usability.

HALT:  Two weeks into using this phone on the Three network I cancelled my contract and sent back my beloved Nexus 4.  This blog post took a back seat, and I could no longer make too fair a judgement on the long term usability.

Battery life was so-so, still requiring a mid-day charge to see it through to bedtime, but would make it home in the evening most days with moderate usage.  Aside from that and the limited storage, the Nexus 4 was the best phone I have ever owned and indeed used.

So why the change? Well, upon deciding to leave EE, I was offered a too-good-to-refuse deal for their 4G service (and getting 31Mbps download and 23Mbps upload on 4G made it worth it).  I wouldn’t pay the full £56 a month, but the amount I am paying is worth it for the 8GB cap limit I get.

As a bonus, the worry I had about Three is in our flat, was that the signal was poor (ground floor) but with EE this isn’t a problem.  Same with my parents’ house.  My dad suffers from Three’s poor signal in-house, but when he gets signal it’s great (mainly outdoors).

With EE I obtained the Samsung Galaxy Note II, which is the phone my next post will be about.  The original plan was to keep the Note II until the Nexus 4 became available again from Google for £279.  Selling the Note II for upwards of £350 would have been the icing on the cake.  However, I couldn’t do it.  The Nexus 4 was, and is, still the best phone I have ever used from a software point of view, with build quality to boot.  There are reasons I stuck with the Note II though, which I will go into more detail next time.  These are those which addressed the few concerns I had with the Nexus 4 and then some.  Briefly:

  • Note II’s removable battery is a bonus but the true battery bonus here is the sheer life of the battery.  3,100mAh will see me through 17 hours leaving me with anything from 10 to 20-odd percent with moderate-to-heavy usage.  Never could I do that on the Nexus 4 or SII.
  • The screen real estate of the Note II is mind-boggling.  And amazing how easily you get used to the 5.5″ AMOLED with it’s vibrant colours.  It’s the best display I’ve seen so far but not as good in terms of feel as the Nexus 4 (more fingerprints and not as slick to run a finger over).  Scratches easier too I’ve found!
  • Storage.  16GB App and generic storage + I have a 32GB SD Card for it. Sold.
  • 4G LTE – didn’t think it would be a big deal and make much difference, but it really really is and does.
  • The camera is leagues ahead in terms of quality.  Sorry Nexus 4.
  • I have the notifications style I like back with some massive improvements over the ICS on my SII (namely direct access to Settings, Jelly Bean enhanced notifications, more toggles and a brightness toggle built in – SII had this before ICS)

Samsung Galaxy Note II

So, watch this space for my perspective on the Note II – the second best phone I have ever used or owned, yet, still somehow the one I find easier to live with than the marginally more impressive Nexus 4.