Apple Watch is smart but set up painful


Apple Watch in the flesh

Apple’s first wearable device is here. It’s lovely, but set up was incredibly frustrating, unlike every other Apple device I have owned. Perhaps I was just unlucky. The glitch was in language selection. It started well: choosing and confirming UK English.

Apple Watch: choose your language

Apple Watch: choose your language

Apple Watch: confirm language

Apple Watch: confirm language

But when I tapped the tick to accept, I was given a stark choice to rest the phone or cancel. And the whole doom loop started again. Repeatedly.

Then, breakthrough. I was out the other side. I was asked to choose which wrist the Apple Watch would grace, and to add my iTunes account. At which point the whole thing ground to a halt again:

Apple Watch: two factor frustration

Apple Watch: two factor frustration

As I have two factor authentication set up on my Apple identity, I got the two step screen. But as I was pairing the iPhone to the Apple Watch, the iPhone didn’t appear on the list of devices. At this point I gave up and had dinner. But when I got back, I was right back at the very beginning – that language glitch.

After multiple attempts, I got beyond the language doom loop again, and finally got the thing working. A very unApple experience.

I’ll do another post about Apple Watch when I have used it for a few days. If you have problems setting up yours, keep trying.

Back to O2

O2 Telefonica iPhone

Back to O2

I’m back with O2 after a three year break, and after 17 months of frustration at countless missed calls with Three.

I never meant to leave Telefonica-owned O2. I was happy with the UK’s original iPhone network, but moved to Vodafone as I didn’t see why I should pay more for the iPhone 4. It was a big mistake, as I blogged in 2012. I have found Three excellent for data, but hopeless for voice calls, even in London.

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How to stop iCloud asking for old Apple ID

I’ve started using my old iPhone 4 again to play Spotify and podcasts in my car. Just one problem: iCloud kept asking for the password for my old Apple ID. It was driving me crazy until I found the solution.

I logged into My Apple ID and changed my Apple ID and primary email address to the old email address. I was worried that it would send a verification email to the old address, which no longer exists, but I needn’t have worried. I just had to click on the link sent to my current email address to activate the change.

Next, I went into settings on the iPhone 4, selected iCloud and logged in under the old ID to delete the ID from the phone’s iCloud settings. You can choose to save bookmarks etc but I didn’t need to as I was only going to use the phone as a music player. (Before I did all this I logged out of Messages and FaceTime but I’m not sure if this was necessary.)

After making sure that I was no longer getting any prompts under the old ID, I logged back into My Apple ID to change the ID and primary email address back to the current one.

Another problem solved!

PS: I activated Apple’s second factor authentication last week. It was reassuring to get a prompt to enter an SMS verification code before I could change my Apple ID and email address.

Samsung Galaxy S5 camera: first impressions

Once, we bought phones to make phone calls. Years ago, that’s all a phone did. But in the era of the smartphone, we’re just as likely to judge a handset by its abilities as a camera. So I was keen to find out how the Samsung Galaxy S5‘s snapper performed.

Galaxy S5 shot of Richmond, Surrey

Galaxy S5 shot of Richmond, Surrey

First impressions are good, at least outdoors. I got the chance to test the camera at the seaside at Penarth, Wales and Richmond, Surrey, last week. The sun was shining, and the Galaxy S5 captured the colours beautifully.

Richmond, Surrey, captured with an iPhone

Richmond, Surrey, captured with an iPhone

But, as you can see here, my 2012 iPhone 5 was just as capable at capturing the sunny scene. And it’s arguably easier to use as a camera, with its smaller size and physical button (the volume up button) to release the shutter. (UPDATE: I have since realised that you can also use the S5’s volume button to shoot, although it’s hardly instant.)  Finally, the iPhone camera is quicker to open from the lock screen, which may make all the difference between capturing a moment and cursing at missing it.

I did find the S5 better at switching between video and still shooting modes. After all this time, I still struggle to cope with the iPhone’s slider to choose between the two – and find selecting flash on, off and auto modes even worse. The S5 is much more logical, once you remember that clicking the video camera button starts filming, rather than just switching mode.

Where the S5 really wins is when you view photos and videos on that beautiful large screen. It makes such a difference.

Its weakness? Taking photos indoors and in poor light. It’s a weakness it shares with my iPhone 5. It’s too soon to ditch a real camera, although Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone has the advantage of being the camera you always have with you, unlike a bulky SLR. I was glad I had it with me when the Thames was at high tide in Richmond last week (below).

Richmond high tide, seen on Samsung Galaxy S5

Richmond high tide, seen on Samsung Galaxy S5

PS: read my post: How to take Samsung Galaxy S5 screenshot and other tips

How to take Samsung Galaxy S5 screenshot, and other tips

I’ve just joined the Android revolution. My new work phone is the new Samsung Galaxy S5 – and I love it. But having been an iPhone user for five years, I’ve had to learn afresh how to do things that had become second nature in iOS, such as taking a screenshot. Here’s the answer to that question, and the other main lessons I’ve learned in my first week with Android.

Taking Samsung Galaxy S5 screenshot

Taking Samsung Galaxy S5 screenshot

The easiest way to take a screen shot on the Galaxy S5 is to (literally) swipe the screen with the side of your hand, as if you were wiping it.

Taking screenshot on Samsung S5 with button combination

Taking screenshot on Samsung S5 with button combination

The other option is to hold the home and power buttons. This is like the way you take a screenshot on an iPhone, but it takes longer to take the shot – wait until you hear the shutter noise before releasing the buttons.

My other top Samsung Galaxy S5 tips

Silence is golden…

I loved my S5 from the moment I turned it on. But it’s a noisy neighbour. It whistles and pings at you the whole time. After a few days of saying sorry to family and colleagues, I needed to silence it.

Silencing the Samsung Galaxy S5

Silencing the Samsung Galaxy S5

Here’s how to do it. After unlocking the phone, pull down the notifications bar from the top of the screen. Click the Sounds icon and turn it to vibrate (as shown) or mute. You can also go into settings and untick various options, such as Touch sounds and Screen lock sounds (shown) and Notifications.

Keyboard choice

I liked the Galaxy S5 keyboard at first – it was good to have the numbers and letters visible at the same time. But after a few days, I was getting frustrated by failing to find the full stop. (Bottom right, if you’re wondering.) The beauty of Android is you have a choice.

Swiftkey keyboard

Swiftkey keyboard

The SwiftKey Android keyboard is the best I’ve tried so far. It’s easy to use and predicts what you’re about to type very effectively.

Kill My Magazine

When I first got my iPad in 2010, I liked Flipboard, the app that aggregated content from various news sites. But before long I stopped looking at it. Samsung’s My Magazine is a version of Flipboard that takes up a screen of the S5. If you’re not going to use it, you can get rid of it. (The same goes for Galaxy Gifts and the pedometer.) Touch and hold the icon, and drag it to the ‘remove’ dustbin at the top of the screen.

Kill S Voice

The Galaxy S5 comes with two voice control services, Samsung’s own S Voice and Google Now. S Voice is, as you’d expect, deeply integrated in the S5 but you may want to make the phone a bit quicker by disabling it. Double clicking the phone’s home button activates S Voice, and when you press the home button the phone waits for a second press in case you want to use voice control. Disable S Voice by unlicking Open via the home key if you’re not using it regularly.

Give it the finger

Galaxy S5 fingerprint with PayPal

Galaxy S5 fingerprint with PayPal

The Galaxy S5 takes fingerprint authentication to a new level. Unlike the iPhone 5S, the S5 lets you use fingerprint authentication to do more: for example, to use your finger to shop and pay with PayPal. I found it easy to use, especially after I had stored different fingerprint angles, such as swiping from the side. Think about which fingers and thumbs you’ll find most convenient and comfortable to use on the phone when you’re out and about – and store these digits. It may take you a day or two to get used to the fingerprint technique: you need to swipe down over the trail and the home button.

Why I love my Galaxy S5 and Android

I’ve fallen in love with my Galaxy S5 over the last seven days. It’s so much nicer than the S2 I used briefly in 2012 after using it for a major media event. The combination of native Android and Samsung’s TouchWiz is much cleaner, especially if you’re moving from Apple’s iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. I was ready for a new type of device after almost four years with a barely changed iPhone and iPad interface. And the freedom that Android allows is a bit like leaving home for the first time: you realise that you can decide.

Some reviewers have criticised the S5 for feeling cheap because of its plastic back. They compare it unfavourably with the iPhone 5S and HTC One M8. They’re all great phones but I love the S5’s bigger screen. After living with the iPhone 4 since 2010, I didn’t think the slightly larger screen of the iPhone 5 was an upgrade. Maybe it just shows how unreasonable we are to expect each new generation phone to be a leap forward.

One thing I do miss with the Android phone is Photostream. I love seeing a photo I take on the iPhone appearing almost instantly on my Mac and iPad. I’ve not yet seen any real alternative, given that Dropbox doesn’t work well on my Mac.

Android KitKat

Android KitKat

Easter is a time associated with chocolate. What better time to get to grips with the latest version of Android, KitKat

PS: read my post: Samsung Galaxy S5 camera: first impressions

Vodafone’s overseas internet rip-off

I’ve blogged before about my unhappy experience with Vodafone’s mobile internet service. I explained how I found it almost impossible to get online. So it was a bitter irony to get charged £100 by Vodafone in June for mobile internet roaming charges in California – especially as I was careful to go online when wifi was available in the office and hotel in San Jose.

When I first complained in June, a Vodafone agent accepted I was not responsible but said that my phone was. She said the phone was online continuously for six hours – yet at the times she said this happened, I was mostly in the office on the work wifi network. (And, just as significantly, I was not using the phone as I was on my work laptop and wifi-only iPad.) Despite this, the agent said they could do nothing until the billing period was over.

False sense of security: the Vodafone texts

It gets worse. Vodafone send me texts (above) saying that I was halfway through my 5MB data allowance. At no point did they say I had used up the 5MB allowance. So I was appalled to get a further text saying I had used up 80% of the £100 cap on data outside Europe (below). So Vodafone’s texts to me went straight from saying I was more than halfway through a 5MB allowance and would be charged £15 for exceeding it to telling me  I had used £80 of data. How incredibly irresponsible and misleading. (I’m now been told I had used 30MB.)

Vodafone’s bombshell

Customer service woe

It gets even worse. When I complained, I got a phone call from someone from Vodafone. They asked me for personal information, including my date of birth. I said I was uncomfortable doing so without being sure it was a genuine call. The caller said they’d send a code by text – which never arrived. When I chased by email, Vodafone’s agent asked me to send my date of birth by email. I said I wasn’t prepared to send such an important piece of info by insecure email – only to be told:

“I understand your concern about the Internet charges, Rest assured, the medium to exchange the information via email is on secure server. Your can provide information over the email. We care about your personal information that is the reason we have developed a secure protocol.”

Quite bizarre, as the email exchange was not taking place within a secure section of Vodafone’s website but by ordinary email. So the security of Vodafone’s servers was irrelevant.

Nearly two weeks on, Vodafone’s customer service team is still ducking all my questions:

Why didn’t you tell me that I had exceeded the 5MB allowance?

Why did you wait until I had supposedly used £80 of data over six hours before warning me?

Your agent acknowledged in June that I had not personally instigated the data usage – so why have you charged me for it?

I’m still awaiting answers.

The Guardian investigates Vodafone

The Guardian is doing a good job exposing Vodafone’s practices. Its deputy personal finance editor Rupert Jones this weekend reported that Ofcom is investigating price rises on ‘fixed’ mobile phone contracts. Vodafone is about to sting 10 million customers with higher monthly charges. As the Guardian said:

“The signs say pay monthly, the contract tells you how much you will pay … then suddenly something which you thought was fixed is moved.”

This weekend’s Guardian Money also reported that Vodafone had charged a small business £17,484 for a stolen phone. The company told the Guardian that  “Vodafone doesn’t monitor accounts – this is the customer’s responsibility.” It could learn a lot from the banks and credit card companies, who have a good record of monitoring unusual transactions and warning the customer.

UPDATE: once again, Jenny and team at @vodafoneuk came up trumps, with an excellent, fast and generous response. A copy book example of great customer service through social media. Thank you!

The mobile phone and me – 20 years on

Twenty years ago this month, I got my first mobile phone. It was a work phone: a classic early 1990s brick-like Nokia.

Little did I imagine that one day I’d be able to watch TV programmes, listen to music, get directions and buy things on a phone small enough to slip in a pocket.

I still remember getting my first text message, in 1997. (From my friend Andrew Baud – the phone said I had a message, but I couldn’t hear any voicemails. Andrew explained all…)

Those early Nokia phones were wonderfully simple to use. (I had a succession of Nokia models for the first 13 years of my mobile life.) But as handsets became more sophisticated, Nokia lost its way. It was criticised for failing to make ‘clamshell’ phones when they were hugely fashionable 10 years ago. That was a minor mis-step compared with the Finnish giant’s disastrously complacent response to the rise of the iPhone and Android over the past five years.

Nokia has one last chance to return to its glory days, with its new Windows Phone 8 powered Lumia phones. They look wonderful, as does the elegant new Windows Phone operating system. I’m looking forward to putting a Lumia through its paces in the coming months – and comparing it to the new Apple iPhone 5.

The iPhone – the phone that really did change everything. I got my first glimpse of one when I was running PR for first direct, Britain’s favourite bank, five years ago this month. (I remember being especially wowed by seeing ‘pinch to zoom’ in action.) first direct saw how influential Apple’s new baby would be. It pioneered iPhone banking, adapting its internet banking website for the smaller screen before Apple even launched it in Britain.

I got my first iPhone a year later. I was driven into Apple’s arms by the frustration of trying to find directions on a Blackberry and Sony Ericsson K800i. As the ads said, it really did change everything.

The Guardian: too much Apple coverage?

iPhone 5: does it get free and easy publicity from the media?

The Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott today devoted his Open door column to respond to reader criticism that the paper has, in Elliott’s words, been,'”brainwashed” by Apple to give the company and its products excessive amounts of favourable publicity.’

Elliott makes a comparison of the paper’s coverage of Apple phones compared with the rival Android mobile phone operating system over the past 12 months:

“There were 900 references to Apple in the paper and on the website in total; 470 of those were in print. There were 340 references to Android phones, of which 30 were in print.”

Elliott’s article was balanced without reaching a verdict on the claims of Apple bias. He quotes the paper’s technology editor Charles Arthur:

“The statistics show that people read about Apple stuff. If a story involves the company, it gets huge readership. We aim to write about it fairly. If it gets a lot of coverage, that’s because what it does can move entire markets – stock markets, other companies’ shares (eg suppliers who win/lose contracts), how we use devices (so it might not have been the first company with a touchscreen phone, but it set the standard all the others followed).”

Arthur was criticised heavily by readers last month for posting a 5 star review of the iPhone 5 that didn’t mention the flaws in the new Apple Maps app that replaced Google Maps in the iOS 6 operating system that powers the new phone. Arthur reassured readers who may be concerned about switching to the Apple app: “Don’t worry – it’s very good.” Within 24 hours, his colleague Juliette Garside reported ‘significant glitches’ in Apple Maps, including the disappearance of Stratford upon Avon, new airports and relocated towns.

Charles wasn’t the only reporter to publish a glowing review that didn’t mention the maps fiasco. The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond wrote a similarly euphoric write up the same day. The challenge tech writers like Shane and Charles face is that readers and publishers demand an instant appraisal of new tech products. They don’t always get enough time to get under the skin of the latest phones and other devices. It was much the same with the last truly new iPhone model – the rumpus about the reception problems of the iPhone 4 (the predictably named ‘antennagate’) broke a couple of weeks after the launch, long after the glowing reviews had appeared.

UPDATE: Shane has pointed out in response that he wrote a parallel story the same day as his iPhone 5 review highlighting that iOS 6 isn’t as good as it could be: “Unfortunately, in the version I tested, Apple’s Maps are missing places such as railway stations and frequently misplace cafes and restaurants, often putting them streets away from their actual locations.” Charles has highlighted his piece last week asking ‘Why do some people really hate Apple?”

The cult of Apple … and Android

It can’t be easy to be a tech writer. Anything you write about Apple or Android leads to an torrent of vitriol from fans of the rival systems that is literally beyond reason. Take one comment on Chris Elliott’s article:

“For most purposes Apple products suck. If you want to do any serious professional work using a computer you do not use Apple, but instead PCs running Microsoft Windows or a version of Linux…The only people who use Apple products are those who buy the product as a fashion accessory, or because they think it is cool and rebellious not use Windows.”

It’s hard to think of any other type of consumer product that provokes this kind of religious/cult style over-reaction. Do Ford car owners condemn Vauxhall or Mercedes owners as stupid for their choice of car? Or Canon devotees about Nikon users? It seems unlikely.

My view is that Android and Apple phones are amazing devices. They offer features that we could only dream about five years ago – and are so much more user friendly than earlier smartphones. (Just try using a BlackBerry if you want to see how awful smartphones were before the iPhone.) iPhones are brilliant for people who want a simple yet powerful user experience but aren’t bothered about customising how everything works. Android is terrific for anyone who wants more flexibility – in handsets, software and customisation. You choose.

How to play BBC iPlayer on Apple TV

I finally bought an Apple TV box last weekend. It’s a lovely piece of kit. But my biggest question was: can I use the BBC iPlayer on it?

The simple answer is yes, but not straight from the Apple TV box. I played the iPlayer on my first generation iPad, streaming it to Apple TV via AirPlay. It works beautifully – you wouldn’t know it wasn’t a live broadcast. This is what I did:

  • Choose the content you want to play on the BBC iPlayer app on your iPad or iPhone.
  • Double-click the iPad/iPhone home button – the physical square button on the front of the device. This will bring up your open apps. Slide the icons to the right, revealing various video buttons and the AirPlay icon (a square with a triangle underneath) – as seen in photo below. Click the AirPlay icon, and select Apple TV. Click the play button on the iPad or iPhone  – and enjoy the show.

Playing BBC iPlayer on Apple TV: getting started

(NB: remember to set up home sharing on Apple TV and your iPad before you start.)

Vodafone UK: time for a divorce

Above: connection frustration. Life with Vodafone UK

I should never have moved back to Vodafone. The last 16 months have been an incredibly frustrating experience, as life as a Vodafone customer has meant constant inability to use the mobile internet. I can’t wait for my two year contract to end in December.

It never occurred to me that Vodafone would be dramatically worse than O2. I had been a Vodafone customer, corporate and personal, for 16 years before I switched to O2 when I got my first iPhone (the second, iPhone 3G, model) in October 2008. For many years Vodafone ran adverts boasting it was the best network for voice calls, and it never occurred to me that it would prove so appalling for data coverage and performance.

From the day I moved back to Vodafone in December 2010 I found 3G coverage almost non existent, despite the company’s charts showing how widespread its 3G network was. I can only assume that the company hasn’t increased capacity to match demand – what I found was that a supposed 3G signal dropped to Edge or worse by the time I tried to do anything. And that was when I was stationary.

On the move, Vodafone is almost useless. My Vodafone iPhone is constantly searching for a signal, and all too often comes up with no service. Tonight, as a passenger on a journey down the M40, I wanted to find out about the distinctive tower next to the motorway near Bicester. By the time I reached home 40 miles later, I had only managed to get a page of Google search results. The shocking Vodafone network failed to open the two most promising search results despite 35 minutes trying. It took just 12 seconds on my home wifi network to find out that the tower was distinctive 1909 water tower at Trow Pool near Bucknell.

Vodafone isn’t just poor for data. I can no longer get a reliable voice signal at home – despite years of never experiencing a problem. (I used to feel sorry for people on Orange who found they couldn’t use their mobile at home.) And before you ask if my iPhone is to blame, my work BlackBerry proves that Vodafone is just as bad on the RIM device as on Apple’s iPhone.

Even in London, I find Vodafone unreliable. I found even Edge (never mind 3G) out of reach at one point in Westminster and on a walk back from a dinner in town last year I couldn’t get online once in 15 minutes.

Breaking up won’t be hard to do when my two years are up. I’m likely to buy my next phone SIM-free so I’m not held hostage again for two years by a failing mobile network.

UPDATE: my post has struck a chord. A neighbour says he got Vodafone to give him a Sure Signal device to stop him cancelling his contract. (He couldn’t get a signal in his house without it, and also finds mobile internet impossible with Vodafone.) Another friend recommends Three’s mifi device to get online rather than rely on Vodafone. Just some of the responses I’ve had. Let’s see what Vodafone says.

UPDATE, Tuesday 8 May: kudos to Vodafone for replying to this post offering to help, and also contacting me via Twitter. I will update after I get its response to my email.