The app-situation on Windows Phone

Post 2, after almost a month of Windows Phone usage. You can read about my first impressions here.

We’ve all heard it before, this or that appstore doesn’t have enough apps, that’s why this or that mobile OS is better. For starters, I have a hard time seeing that matters as long as you find the apps you want or possibly even the functionality you need but of course, more apps often suggests more quality apps as well. In Windows Phone I unfortunately run into problems with both finding functionality I want and specific apps.

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Really Instagram, BETA?!

Many of the biggest apps are waaaaayyyy behind its Android and iOS counterparts. Spotify isn’t bad but slower, with more problems, and less functionality – not a great combination. Same goes for Facebook Messenger that I on Android used as much as Hangouts/Texts, both for messages and calls. On Windows Phone, the conversation is so slow that I often find that I leave and rejoin a conversation to force an update, even after getting a notification! Notifications by the way come and go as they like, but when they arrive I haven’t found a way to silent them (even when the vibration is off together with all sound, the phone vibrates), oh and calling is not enabled yet. More than 6 months after the function was rolled out on Android. Simply not acceptable. and these things together seriously limits my ability to communicate freely. Facebook owned Instagram is the same thing, but almost worse, to be honest it reminds me of how Instagram worked and looked over a year ago. It’s even in Beta. Which leads me to Google. There’s not a single app from Google in the store, not one. Stubborn me, set out to find alternatives, and they do exist! GMail users are apparently raging about MetroMail, so that’s what I’m using but… I can’t answer how much of my feelings are based on being used to other apps but so far every attempt to find functionality instead of the app I’m used to have left me disappointed. No, there’s one exception – the podcast app Casts is great and does exactly what I want it to without too many issues. Not without bugs but in general it works great and if I understand it correctly it shows the iTunes catalog (which means that my catalog right now has the iPhone keynote front and center :) ). But as I mentioned, that’s the one that stands out. In many apps, what makes the OS feel smooth, the small animation while an app start for example that I wrote about in the first post, turns into a small animation and then looking at a blank screen, or the text “resuming…”. The smoothness is at large lost in apps.

  That Facebook and Google ignores Windows Phone is not Microsoft’s fault (well, maybe a little bit but not much). I’m pretty disappointed with both of them (once again, using them as an example for what I feel is a widespread WP problem). when they don’t release apps for Windows Phone, Google is in my opinion not acting according to what would be best for their users, but rather they are thinking of Androids best. One could argue that it’s a small user base but my distinct feeling is that it’s kept small by these big companies that simply feels focusing on another mobile platform is just extra hassle (and for Google, competition).

 No matter who’s fault, this is Windows Phone’s Achilles heel. It doesn’t offer enough innovation or wow-factor, and it requires you to be pretty committed to finding apps that works for you, adjusting how you use your phone and which services (I’m also missing Dropbox and Bitcasa for example). I’m trying here, but the general feeling I got is that anyone that already committed to another platform will have a very hard time switching and not only that, will struggle to find a reason to.

Wrap up and final words in the last post soon!

Trying out Windows Phone

Lucky me have a friend who hooked me up with a Nokia Lumia 925 for a while, letting me dip my feet in the Windows Phone pool. There’ll probably be a couple of posts but let us start with some first impressions after a week of use (though, I will wait a bit with publishing).

nokia925First word that comes to mind, slick! I like the feeling and getting started as well as adding my accounts was a breeze. I was a little bit taken a back by how fast and snappy it feels. I don’t consider my Nexus 5 to be slow or suffer from lag really, but it does take a moment now and then to start a new app for example. In Windows Phone that moment is pretty much hidden behind an animation, works out better than you’d think.

Another difference to Android is how many apps and services are built in. Small things like WiFi sharing (Sense as it’s called), Podcast player, Battery Saver (not part of stock Android), Office suite, all makes getting of to a smooth start easier. This of course gives a pretty consistent experience but it also put the pressure on Microsoft to drive its own product development. Looking at the Store, Podcast, Calendar and Explorer I can’t say that I’m entirely convinced. All of them lacks some functionality that I seek and I often feel that the strive for simplicity has won over functionality or even the wish to be intuitive. I just don’t find it simply that often.

To be fair, I’m almost to be considered biased, I’ve been using Android for many years and are of course set in my ways of what apps I use and how I want them to work. I therefore decided to be hard on myself, and I’m really trying to adapt to a Microsoft world, using my Windows account more, Here Maps et cetera. As I’m pretty heavily invested in my Google account and use a lot of their services I figured this switch could be…less convenient, more about how it turned out in the next posts where I write more about apps!

Logitech Squeezebox Radio, not nearly as good as it should be

Most of the times I write here it’s about something I like or find extra newsworthy. Today will instead mark my first “this is one lousy piece of equipment”. I tried not to, I had the device for over a year but now that I’ve tried to rely on it more regularly it pushed me over the edge.

Dear Logitech Squeezebox Radio, you’re making me more frustrated every day.

The idea behind the device is simple, small internet radio with built in speaker. Great! And it doesn’t stop there, it also use it’s own server solution for wireless music playback anywhere in you house. Neat, even though Google Play Music support would have improved it. The main feature for me however is Spotify support. You just install an app and you can play your playlists from Spotify (also support Wimp and Napster but not Rdio last I checked). Brilliant for a kitchen radio (my preliminary plan) or a bedside radio (my present set-up).

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Unfortunately it doesn’t work. The built in WiFi has serious problems holding a connection, even when in the same room as the router. Just for information, I tried with three different routers without any change. Sometimes when I turn it on it just shows no internet connection and other times it just drops it in the middle of listening. In case you thought it might be my internet connection. I’ve tried it in 3 different apartments with 100 mbit, 200 mbit and then back to 100 mbit again. No other streaming services show any similar problems.

Since the UI is a bit tricky I’m using my Android as a remote. Overall a decent looking but too sluggish app. They also hide some functions that I use all the time, like Sleep and Alarm. There’s a lot of room in the main menu so I can’t understand why they are both shuffled away far down in settings. It just doesn’t feel polished, at all. How the same company that makes the Harmony remotes can release this without a need to go into hiding afterwards is beyond me.

The biggest and most annoying problem to me is the sudden stopped playback. It just freezes, jump to next song and it might start playing again. This happens several of times every week (I use it every night and morning). Sometimes it will say that it is because the chosen track is not available in my region. Which of course is utter bs since the same playlist works flawless on both my PC and Android devices. Sometimes it says buffering but nothing happens and jumping out to the main menu and back in again might do the trick. Or it just stops. No message. In one word: UNRELIABLE.

Nowadays you can also update the Squeezebox Radio with Logitech UE firmware. Since this “update” it actually works a liiiittle better. All problems listed above still persist though, albeit more seldom. Now it only stops playing on me a couple of times a week.

If the Squeezebox/UE Smart Radio is anything to go by my recommendation is that you stay way clear of both the Squeezebox and UE brands. I know I will, no matter how solid the idea is the solution is far from “the smart radio” they want it to be. Squeezebox where “the only” option back when owned by SlimDevices, they aren’t any more so go for the competitors instead. Today I often use my bluetooth headset connected to my stereo instead and that’s saying something.

Last minute speculation, Google I/O

Google I/O logo

Today is the day when speculation turns to answers as Google I/O take place in San Francisco.

But, before the keynote I’d like to do some final brainstorming/speculation/guessing.

What we’ll get:

New Android version. Probably not Key Lime Pie though but a new Jelly Bean version with some fixes and a Game center that will hold international leader boards and possibly cloud saves (how awesome would it be to move seamless between my N7 and my N4? Very that’s how awesome). Also see What we might get.

Some new hardware. Yes I’m quite certain that something will be presented. Exactly what however…an updated Nexus 7? A new big tablet? A phone, possibly made with Motorola that Google bought a year ago? I would place my money on a bigger tablet or possibly a new phone. Not that a high-end 7″ tablet wouldn’t be a cool product but I think they’ll stick with the present config a while longer, an upgrade on an already upgraded device doesn’t give me the Key-note tingles. Or it could be…(see What we might get)

A big load of talk about Glass. And then some more talk about glass, and then some sessions on programming for glass. Google thinks this is the future and they pursue it fiercely. I haven’t looked closer on a pair in real life so I don’t know what to believe, loving the visions though.

What we might get:

They new Android version might hold a new messenger service, possible named Babble. It makes perfect sense and is just the next step combining Google+ Messenger, Talk and the regular text messages. Microsoft is already doing it, Apple did it last year, Blackberry does it and smaller companies like Viber, WhatsApp have been doing it for long. On top of that Facebook does it too, a clean copy+paste+improve on Google+ Messenger but why not? Google only went half-way with G+ messenger then of course Facebook will do it better. Not a matter of If, just a matter of When and I think now is a good time as any.

The update for Android might also hold an update on Google Music, containing a streaming option and not only single song purchases. Not a bad idea but the market is already crowded. What’s the unique selling point, besides being big’ol Google? With Rdio, Spotify, Wimp and so on they won’t lack competition. Still, I like Google Music and the thought of combining single song/album purchases with the opportunity to enable all-you can eat streaming for an evening (think party-mode) is intriguing.

Google Clock. 2013 is rumoured to be year of the smart watches with Pebble already out in the open (getting mixed reviews) and about every other smartphone manufacturer either openly or rumoured to be developing their own it’s hard to say otherwise. But will Google present one already? I don’t think so, but it’s not impossible at all. Supposedly there have already been showcases of a watch with functionality resembling Glass but requiring an Android. My feeling is that this is not a device segment that Google will take the lead into but rather wait a year and see if the users is at all interested.  (You can also read my review on semi-smart watch “Mutewatch” here)

What we probably won’t get

Of course there are a lot of things we won’t get but out of the rumour mill and into the rumour bin I think we can throw…

Updated Nexus Q. True, Google believed in the idea only last year. They do want to be a bigger part of our homelife (think Youtube’s new subscribe service) and the Q would be a logic part of this. But. The Q was way to expensive and lacking to much functionality and after last years fail…nope I can’t see them reviving that name. The core functionality could however be turned into something regarding Google TV or the not very used concept Android@Home.

Bold new Chromebooks. The Pixel is still new and the market is maturing quickly enough for Google to let it expand on itself through different manufacturers.

Samsung S4 Google Edition. Once again, not impossible but I think Samsung would prefer to have only their flavour at this time rather than giving the customer the option of a “clean” vanilla Android Experience.

<rant>Oh and the final sad prediction. Absolutely nothing presented will be available in Sweden. Not initially at least. I still can’t buy songs with Google Play (connected to Google Music), or Books or Magazines. What do I care if another subscription service is launched for music that is US only? Well, I do. Because it can lead to less revenue for the companies that think outside one continent and less revenue will in the long run lead to less content. Less content will instead in the long run lead to more piracy and tadaa, back to square one. Legislation should be a support for companies and customers alike. Not a hindrance. </rant>

Time will tell!

Weird citing sources on rumours but still, I get most of my Android news from Twitter which tend to get broader than just som 3-4 news sites that I can keep up with. Some of them: Swedroid, The Verge, Gizmodo, TechCrunch. You know the type :)

Swedish innovation on your arm – Mutewatch

For the last two weeks I’ve been using one of the hyped Mutewatches as my primary time and alarm manager, time to share my impressions!

If you haven’t heard of it before Mutewatch is a watch created by a Swedish startup (called Mutewatch of course). I’ve been explaining what it is a whole lot these last two weeks and looking at functions it doesn’t do a whole lot more than my first digital clock when I was around 8 albeit a bit differently. It’s a clock, nothing less but possibly a bit more.

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A bit more

As you see in the picture you get a LED display, this display is capacitive and is the primary mean of managing your watch. The display will automatically sleep after a few seconds and you turn it on by either taping it or simply turning your wrist. This takes some getting used to and the first few days found me staring at a grey piece of plastic a lot of the times. When you get the knack of it however it’s quite neat, the time is not in my face all the time (e.g when typing on my keyboard) but magically appears when I need it. It also has a light sensor and adapts the intensity accordingly as to not blind you in a dark room (or be invisible outside).

It does a bit more than display time. By simply swiping left and right you reach functions for both Alarm and Timer. They work just as you can expect from a watch except it vibrates instead of beeps. This gives a quite comfortable wake-up alarm whilst not waking up other persons in your vicinity. When the alarm goes of you turn it off by tapping the three boxes you see in the picture below, if you miss – the boxes move and you have to start all over :-) By instead tapping the “eternity sign” you set a recurring timer on 9 minutes, also known as snooze. This works very well and the simplicity in setting up alarms and timers make me use it  a lot more than when I use my mobile for alarm and timer.

mutewatch2

Downsides

Everything is not swell in Mutewatch heaven. The vibration instead of alarm is brilliant, but I slept right through it a morning or two. On the other hand (pun intended) I do that now and then with my mobile alarm as well :)

The set-up of alarms and timer is simple enough, but gives you no time to think. If you pause your input to consider if you should wake up 0700 or 0640 you only get a second or so before it saves your alarm and as far as I found there is no way to edit the saved alarm. You can only delete it entirely, which with such an easy set-up will probably not be a problem for anyone but it bugs me just a little bit every time it happens.

That’s it

More or less a common watch, but a whole lot cooler and a bit smarter. When all the rumoured (and announced) smart watches start showing up though I fear that Mutewatch might loose some of their core  target audience. Time will tell and I hope the Swedish company with Mai-Li Hammargren will keep on innovating and bring great ideas to life, maybe even with a firmware update.

It does feel a bit on the expensive side at $259 and a special edition for $299. But if it wasn’t I would already have a red one to complement my grey which of course is a very good rating :-)

Read more at: www.mutewatch.com and make sure to watch at least one of their videos, informative whilst being stylish!

Meet the Mutewatch from Mutewatch on Vimeo.