Nougat surprise

I just updated my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to the latest Android Nougat OS.

So far, I hate it. The name is appropriate because it reminds me of those awful old-fashioned candies only old people eat.

Nougat = Yuck.

Let’s begin with the Contacts/Call app settings. It took away Favorites and stuffed it in with the Contacts list. Favorites went from being nice and orderly — each Favorite easily accessible in a grid pattern, launched with just a touch — and has been reduced to an ordinary listview and is now part of the Contact List, which means now you have to do a lot more scrolling to find a contact, favorite or otherwise. How is that an improvement?

The Photos Gallery has also changed. Albums were laid out in a nice easy to see grid pattern, each grid square represented an album with a thumbnail of the the latest picture. Now it’s changed to a list. More scrolling. Obviously some programmer likes list view versus grid view.

They changed how Folders open. They used to open as a well-defined box superimposed above the rest of the screen. Now when you open a folder, it becomes the main screen, which just causes visual confusion.  Am I on the main screen or what? And now if you have more than  9 apps in a folder, the others are gone. Well, it seems that way until you realize the others reside on a second page inside that folder. Again, confusing. Before, you could see you had more apps inside the folder because they’d peek out at the bottom of the open folder. I’m surprised they didn’t change the Folders  to list view as well.

Another change concerning Folders, you launch an app from the folder, then when you finish and close with the phone’s back arrow, you find yourself back on that same Folder. Before, the Folder would close when the app was launched. This is one feature I’m ambivalent about. Do I like it or not? Only time will tell. I guess if you have a lot of apps in a Folder that you launch then close then immediately open the next app in that same Folder, this feature could prove useful.

The look and feel of the Pull Down Notifications and Menus at the top have changed as well. Again, you have to relearn how to do something you already knew how to do or where to find it. The look and feel of Settings has changed as well.

Facebook has changed, too, but I don’t know if that’s part of the Nougat upgrade or if Facebook updated their app at the same time.

For example: Now there is this extra icon bar at the top between the original menu ribbon and the “What’s on your mind?” status input. It contains a button called, “Direct,” one called “Your Story,” and yesterday it had something else I can’t remember now, but today it has a button with the name of one of my FB friends. When I click on it, it shows me his face all distorted with lights shooting from his eyes. WTF is that for? No explanation. 

I don’t mind change if it has obvious improvements. So far, with Nougat all I see is they polished all the bells and whistles  and moved them around just enough to be annoying. I’m curious what functional changes took place. 

Will I get used to the changes? Sure. We always do, but the real question is why should we have to?  What was wrong with grid view that they had to change it, for instance?

At least give us the option to choose which view we prefer, like:

  • Grid View – View lists in a pleasing,  orderly, and quickly  understood grid with easily recognisable thumbnails, or
  • List View – View lists in a dull, old-fashioned, and hard-to-read list format that you have to scroll through to find anything.

I think you know which one of pick.

Essentially, Nougat  is just showboating by the programmers, nothing more.

I give the Nougat upgrade a C, with the option to change that grade as I learn more about it.

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Buh-Bye WIndows Phone

My first touchscreen phone was an LG. It wasn’t an Android, this was long before Google. Nor did I have a data plan, so my Internet use on it was limited. Mostly used for texting, with a flip open keyboard, and as a phone. You know, that thing people do when they hold the object to their head and say, “Hello? Is Joe there?”

But then the true smartphone revolution started. IOS, then Android (forget about all those silly first attempts like the Palm Pilot and Crackberry — which for about 2 seconds I had thought about the Crackberry Storm, but then I came to my senses), and of course, Windows.

My first smartphone in this area was the Samsung Galaxy S. I believe it was the first iteration. At first blush, it was a pretty great phone. But after a few months, that blush turned to a flush of anger as I discovered more and more things about it that simply irritated me. I probably blogged about that at some point.

So when that contract was up, I switched to the Apple iPhone 4S. And again, at first blush, I thought it was marvelous. I became an Apple fanboy. I was going to switch every electronic device I owned over to Apple, but that lasted for only about a year, then I started getting irritated by it again. For one thing, since it was an Apple, everything was proprietary. I had to use their music service, which also meant their software on my computer, software that wasn’t always compatible with my Windows machine. There were other complaints, which I’m sure I blogged about, but most critical to me was writing. The iPhone just didn’t have a writing program completely compatible with MS Word. And the teeny tiny screen made editing on it a nightmare.

So I divested myself of that as quickly as I could and picked up a Windows 8 Nokia Lumia 928. Best thing about it? It had a phone version of Word that was completely compatible with my laptop’s version. I could edit on it without any hiccups or complaints. So for that reason alone, I was happy. But, as the year went on, I started to realize how pathetic Win8 apps were. I thought I could live without many of the ones I had on my Android and my iPhone, but no. There wasn’t an app for my bank, or an app for Wisconsin Public Radio, or Live365, for starts. But more importantly, the apps it did have, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, were crap. More often than not, when connecting to Facebook, I received an error, “We’re having trouble receiving data.” Totally frustrating and it got to the point where that was the deal-breaker. A smartphone without useable apps is a paper weight.

So guess what? Yes. I have a new phone. I’ve gone back to Android. If it isn’t 100% compatible with my laptop, at least it will be compatible with my Samsung tablet.

What did I get? The just released Motorola Droid Turbo. Just released the day we bought it. Verizon has just started the ad campaign for it. I’ll let you know how much I like it in a few years, but so far, the Facebook app flies! Literally. Whereas the Win8 phone took forever to load, then took an addition forever to refresh, this one is open the instant you touch it and it responds instantly to every touch. Beautiful.

To me, the 21 megapixel camera itself is worth the price of admission. It puts my Nokia, which had an 8.7 mp camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, to shame.

My youngest son has had the Motorola Droid Maxx for a few months and has been very happy with it. I know Motorola fell on hard times for a while there after creating the original Droid, which was all the buzz back then. But things fell apart and much of their equipment was less than stellar. Then they were bought out by Google, and now by Lenovo, which puts them in very good hands. Lenovo makes some excellent devices.

As the months go by, I’ll try to give a report on my impressions, first, and with continued use, but for now:

Hello Moto.

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Windows 8: To phone or not to phone

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I just got a new computer with Windows 8, which I really like and I’m getting fed up with the teeny tiny screen on my iPhone, among other gripes.

So instead of just jumping back to an Android phone (I think I blogged about my experiences with my Samsung Galaxy S a few years back), I’m taking a serious look at the Windows 8 phones.

OK, first, I understand Win8 has nowhere near the amount of apps that are available on Android or iPhone. I get that. I look at my iPhone and I have a ton of apps.

But how many do I actually use? Only a handful. Mostly email, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Amazon, eBay, Kindle, and WordPress. And except for WordPress, all of those are available on Win8. Mostly everything else I do, I do through a browser any way. Banking? My bank is bassackwards so no app. I use a browser. I visit a couple message boards and use the Browser.

The only thing I might miss is my Sky Junk app that let’s me hold the phone up to the sky and show me what star is what and sometimes track the International Space Station. But to be honest, the iPhone astronomy apps aren’t anywhere near as good as the Android app I had years ago, so no big deal if Win8 doesn’t have them.

Games? I don’t play games. Period.

I do write, however, and aside from the iPhone’s teeny tiny piece of fucking shit virtual keyboard, my biggest gripe with the iPhone is I’ve had no documentation compatibility. I haven’t been able to write. Not as prolifically as I’d like. Is it really too much to ask for a free app that can open and edit docs in any format, including .ODT? I guess so because I never found it.

So yes, I’m seriously looking at a Win8 phone. I really would love that Nokia Lumia 1020 with that awesome 41megapixel camera. YouTube it. There are some demonstrations of it that will blow you away. They show a picture of a haystack and they zoom in and in and in and the detail gets sharper and sharper until you can see each individual piece of hay, complete with the seed head and there! Look! You found it. The needle in the haystack! And you can zoom in and see the eye with no pixelating. No distortions. Well, at least they could.

Unfortunately, there are two problems with it. The first is, even with a 2 year contract, it’ll cost around $300. The second is, it’s only available on AT&T and even though my Verizon Wireless contract is up and I could jump ship, I won’t. We had AT&T for a while. Was not a fan of their service, which was so poor our phones would cut out AT HOME! The basement? Forget it. No signal. But even in the rest of the house, we’d have to go upstairs to talk. Nor was there customer service much to speak of then. Maybe they’ve improved, but at this point, better the devil you know than the one you don’t know.

So for Verizon, the flagship Win8 phone is the Nokia Lumia 928. What I like about it:

1) It’s Finnish.
2) The camera has a Carl Zeiss lens and a Zenon (not LED) flash.
3) Win8 means its compatible with my laptop and files, unlike the too numerous to mention here current iPhone/PC laptop issues (no more iTunes! Yay!).
4) Did I mention it’s Finnish?
5) It has a speaker that they claim can achieve 140 decibels (the same as a jet taking off)!
6) Se on Suomen!

Reviews mention negatives like:
1) A dull design. Oh, like my iPhone is so great looking.
2) Poor battery performance that won’t make it to evening. Again, my iPhone isn’t any better. On average, I have to plug in around noon because the battery is down to 30 or 40%.
3) No external memory. Hello! iPhone.
4) No removable battery *waves his iPhone*
5) The Verizon Nokia model only comes in black and white (no brilliant red!). Because, you know, my iPhone is so colorful.

So essentially, the Nokia Lumia 928 negatives are exactly the same as the negatives I’ve been living with for two years with my iPhone. No big deal.

The only real issue I have with Win8 is the feature they seem to think is the most important one. Live tiles. So you’re connected and informed the minute you wake your phone or laptop. Well, maybe I’m weird this way,, but I shut all my live times off. To me, that’s just wasting juice. It’s like leaving the TV on when no one is in the room. Sure, as soon as I walk back I’m instantly aware of what show is on, but is that really necessary? I don’t think so. So I’ll probably turn off all the live tiles on my win8 phone just as I turned off all the notifications on my iPhone, thereby saving battery power and my reducing monthly quota of data usage.

Really, I don’t want my phone constantly buzzing and bothering me. If I want to know what’s going on with Facebook, I’ll open the app. Twitter? I’ll open it. Email? I’ll open it. eBay? OK, that you can notify me. I don’t want to miss out on a watched item. But everything else? Stop notifying me!

Sorry. Minor rant. So there you have it. My reasons why I’m going to get a Win8 phone.

Besides, that new Samsung Galaxy S 4 with the ability to pause when you look away from a video? That’s like electronic stalking. Bad enough the phones keep bothering me with notifications, now it’s watching me watch it? That’s just so NSA creepy. No thanks.

Update 07August2013: I stopped at the Windows Kiosk to look at the Win8 phones. That Nokia 1020 takes some awesome pictures! Too bad it’s only available on AT&T, which begs the question, why do all the new exciting phones come out on AT&T and Sprint while Verizon offers all the decrepit, old phones? The newest phone Verizon offers is from November of last year. They don’t have the cool HTC One or the Nokia. And even the phones they do get are boring black and white. Where’s the Red Nokia Lumia 928?

And I talked to the Windows store rep who said, “The Windows 8 phones come with Microsoft Office apps so you can edit your docs from your phone!” (He didn’t speak with exclamation marks. That’s just how I felt.) “On the phone? As in free?” I asked. “Yes! Free!” (Again, the exclamation marks and excitement was mine, not his.)

Take my money!

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Of smartphones, sealing wax, and kings

I was at the Verizon store the other day just browsing. I’ve been thinking of changing my phone. I currently have an iPhone 4S, which I do enjoy and with which I have hardly any issues with. I have to hand it to Apple in that regard. Having everything proprietary is a good business model if your goal is reliability.

My first smartphone was an Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S. when I first got it, I was amazed. Everything was fast and responsive. But as the months went by, little things started to happen. The phone would freeze up or it wouldn’t make phone calls and I’d have to not only shut it down, but pull the battery as well.

I took it in and the tech explained that some apps can cause that but they couldn’t pinpoint which ones. So the best fix was to reset back to the factory settings and start from scratch. Download an app, make sure it works by running it through its paces, then download the next one. He made it sound like this was a time-intensive task, not something that would take a few minutes, but probably days as you ensured each app functioned well within the OS. However, even if all those apps did work flawlessly when I first downloaded them, anyone of them could go wonky when the OS is updated. And if the phone started acting up, I’d have to start all over from a clean slate again.

Sorry, but that seems like a really shitty way of running things and I have better things to do then constantly flush my Android phone.

So I went to the dark side and picked up an iPhone. I, a confirmed Apple h8er. And I’ve had it for a year and a half with virtually no problems. As I said, since only Apple makes the hardware and the iOS and only Apple approves and stringently tests which apps get to be out in the market, this makes for a very stable system. Which I really do like.

But now we come to what I really don’t like. The teeny tiny screen. It’s something like 3×2 inches and because of that I find my eyes starting to blur after continuous use. Burning, itching eyes I do not find pleasant. So I’d like a larger screen and as far as I’m concerned Apple dropped the ball when they updated the iPhone 5. The phone is the same width and maybe a little taller. Not sure what the new screen size is, but I’ve played with it and there really isn’t much of a difference when you’re suffering eye strain issues. Yes, I’m going to see my eye doctor this Saturday, but I’d really like a bigger screen and not Coke bottle thick prescription lenses. Besides, that doesn’t really solve my fat thumbs on their tiny virtual keyboard issue. now does it? As someone who hates typos, I want a larger keyboard, too. And I won’t get that with an iPhone 5 that is the same width as my phone. The problem isn’t the horizontal distance between keys but the vertical distance between the rows. And that hasn’t changed.

So I’m looking at a new phone. Androids, supposedly, have improved a lot in nearly 2 years and some sources say their OS surpasses iOS in various ways. Plus, they have these phablets or whatever they’re calling these new devices that are a cross in size between a large smartphone and a small tablet.

In an age when Mankind has tried furiously to miniaturize everything (I had heard in Europe, cellphones had reached postage stamp size before the smartphone craze hit), phablets seem a step in the other direction.

So I’m looking at a few of the phablets, like the Samsung Note and the industry’s current competitive response with a wave of larger smartphones. They all seem to do the job: provide an easier to see screen and a larger virtual keyboard.

But then I played with a Windows 8 phone. I’ve been leery of Windows phones because, well, its Windows. They are the antithesis of Apple. Whereas everything Apple works well together and you can always expect predictable high performance between hardware and software, with Windows nothing is predictable and nothing is perfectly compatible. I have spent literally years of my life troubleshooting Windows related problems. Why won’t this print? Why can’t I see the network? Where’s my email? And so on and so forth.

In this day and age we shouldn’t have to put up with such unreliable shit. And yet we do. Complaining all the while.

So does it make sense for me to even consider a Windows phone? No. Especially when Windows 8, which is on my oldest son’s recent laptop acquisition completely baffled me to tears as I tried to set it up for him. I finally gave up and just told him he had to figure it out.

So why a Windows phone? I don’t know, but the little bit I played with it they seemed very responsive and the layout seemed clean. Plus, Nokia has a Windows phone and I’ve always heard good things about Nokia but Verizon hasn’t carried them in ages. Granted they aren’t phablets but they’re still comfortably larger than my itsy bitsy teeny weeny iPhone screen.

So I’ll be researching those phones as well as Android. I’ve already run across Windows reviews by h8ers, who just rip on the phones without any real justification.

One small issue is its voice recognition capability is primitive when compared to SIRI and what Android offer. Fine. I rarely use Siri anyway. It’s more of a novelty for me. I can live without it.

And then there are the strange reviewers who complain about a lack of apps — then mention Spotify and Instagram as examples. Wait, do people still use Instagram? Really? And I tried Spotify, but couldn’t figure out why I needed it.

As long as it has Evernote I’ll be happy.

So feel free to let me know what smartphone you use, if you’re happy with it, and why. I’m curious and I’ll add it to my pros and cons.

Plus, I’m easily influenced by peer pressure.

Not.

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