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This is tempting: iPhone Upgrade Programme - Apple (UK)

Getting the latest iPhone has never been easier.

With the iPhone Upgrade Programme, you no longer need to wait for your carrier contract to end to change your phone. After 11 payments, you can get a new iPhone and simply start the programme again with your new choice of model, colour or storage capacity.

From £33.45/month for iPhone 7 32GB

How To Take Incredible Mobile Phone Photos In Any Situation

By Madeline Buxton

You Want To Really Emphasize A Photo's Shadows

If you want to make a photo darker so that shadows will contrast with the rest of the scene, use the camera's built-in exposure compensation, says professional photographer Pei Ketron.

You Want To Capture A Splash

Burst Mode is your best friend for action shots.

You Want To Make Running Water Look Smoother

To give water a cool, blurred effect, many iPhone photographers use the Cortex Camera app.

 

The best must-have apps to edit your Instagram pictures. — Desk of van Schneider

All images are edited directly on the iPhone 6 with the following apps.

Step 1: Cortex Cam

First of all, we start with taking the picture. In case I shoot my pictures on the iPhone, I usually have two options.

If I’m in a rush, I just use the default camera feature from the lock screen.

If I have time and the picture is taken in low light (or even at night) I use Cortex Cam.

Step 2: SKRWT

In the second step we make sure to fix all the basics. SKRWT helps me to correct the perspective or fix the lens distortion. Especially of you’re taking pictures on your iPhone or any other wide lens, you will always struggle with lens distortion. So before even I go into editing the colors, I make sure to fix these things.

Step 3: VSCO

I use VSCO mostly for enhancing colors and applying image effects. I’ve purchased all available presents, so I can’t even tell you which are my favorite ones.

But generally, if it’s nature I usually work within the A, C or E filters. If it’s clean architecture & urban environments I usually navigate more towards the Q or S presets. I personally just like to have a little bit more of a cooler light/tone on my images. But then again, there is no right way to do it.

But one thing I can tell you for sure: I rarely use a filter at a 100%. I always tone it down to around 50–70% and then increase the overall contrast by just a tiny bit.

Step 4: Snapseed

I mostly use Snapseed for more specific image editing such as selective editing where I want to enhance just a certain color, or retouch something small with the “Healing tool”.

For example see below, I want just the green in the tree to pop a bit more, so I select the color and enhance it with a bit more saturation. Snapseed gives you editing tools on your iPhone that you usually only have on your computer with bigger tools such as Lightroom.

Step 5: Lens Distortions

Our picture should be already perfect, but sometimes you want to add a little bit of extra to it. The app Lens Distortions gives me a range of effects such as additional fog, light shimmers or lens blur effects.

For example in the image above, I just wanted a little more fog on the right side. You have to be careful to not overdo it with lens flares or other effects, but if you already have these effects in your image and you just want to slightly improve them, Lens Distortions is perfect.

Step 6: DONE!

This is pretty much my full work flow, and it all happens on the iPhone. In some cases if the image I’ve taken is already perfect enough, I only use VSCO and I’m done.

It seems like a lot of steps, but using a combination of apps on your phone can really improve the image. I go back and forth from VSCO as my image enhancer -  I don't find it easy to use. My go to camera app is Camera FV-5, which is complicated but on my Nexus 5X delivers decent shots (even by my low standard)!.

How Google sets goals: OKRs

Though the video goes into more detail, here are a few keys to what make OKRs work at Google:

  • Objectives are ambitious, and should feel somewhat uncomfortable
  • Key Results are measurable; they should be easy to grade with a number (at Google we use a 0–1.0 scale to grade each key result at the end of a quarter)
  • OKRs are public; everyone in the company should be able to see what everyone else is working on (and how they did in the past)
  • The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 — .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough. Low grades shouldn’t be punished; see them as data to help refine the next quarter’s OKRs.

Are you getting superfast broadband? If not why not?

6 min read

This article was first published on EamonnMallie.com

Availability of superfast broadband within Northern Ireland97% of Northern Ireland residents have access to superfast broadband1, the highest proportion of any region within the UK. So why are only 60% of Northern Ireland households taking up this service?

Ofcom have published “The first Communications Infrastructure Report” which details lots of interesting facts that no local news outlet seems to be paying much attention to.
Access to the Internet is pretty much a human right these days and you can access the Internet for free at your local library. What student would prepare for an assignment without conducting some form of Internet research? I’d guess that nearly every single office job requires the Internet whether for email or browsing.
The Internet, therefore, is as much a utility as our water supply and is an essential every day service that we need.

So why then has there not been a media frenzy about these figures? Naturally the report does not cater for the need of our tabloid media but it definitely does need reported on.

The BBC reported “Northern Ireland broadband service criticised” which is a misleading headline in my opinion. Yes the report suggests that more could (and should) be done to improve access to broadband, but 97% of us here in NI already have access to superfast broadband. I have it and I’m about to get upgraded to a 30Mbit/s connection. What have you got? 1 in 4 have less than 2Mbit/s which means that you will really struggle to stream video online and most likely your skype call will be pixelated. In my view this is unacceptable and easily rectified with a simple call to your ISP.

National broadband measures

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s

 

 

Percentage receiving less than 2Mbit/s
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the percentage of broadband connections that have modem sync speeds of less than 2.2Mbit/s.

1= less than 5%
2= 5% - less than 10%
3= 10% - less than 15%
4= 15% - less than 20%
5= 20% or more

Of course there will be those who argue that you simply don’t need superfast broadband. This is shortsighted and fails to recognise the benefits that come with a fast connection to the Internet. Superfast broadband is now more affordable and the consumer is in a strong position to take advantage of this without having to stretch their budget. Ofcom also reveal that on average we download 17 Gigabytes of data every month. That’s equivalent to about 11 or 12 hours viewing of iPlayer per month. As each year passes we consume more and more content online (up sevenfold in five years) thus making superfast broadband all the more important if you want to watch video online.
Hands up if you have an Internet connected TV? I know it’s not just me. If you have a games console, a Blu-Ray player, an Apple TV or have recently bought your TV then you can probably watch YouTube and other online video content from the comfort of your sofa.

Lots of us have laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers and we use them while we are watching television. I would wager that the majority of the time we are using the Internet on those devices either browsing facebook, playing words with friends, updating all of those apps you downloaded from the App store or even sending an email. OK so nobody sends email anymore, but you get the point, we need the Internet just to go about our normal everyday tasks. If you are a typical household with a mummy and daddy and 2.1 teenagers you’re going to need superfast broadband just to keep everyone happy.

The family I’ve just mentioned will all have mobile phones and statistically speaking more than 2 will have a smartphone and in a couple of years (maybe even just one) everyone will have a smartphone. This will not only apply pressure to the home wifi network but will see massive demand for 3G (and soon 4G) services. In other words, we just can’t get enough Internet!

But, we in Northern Ireland are a bit screwed when it comes to mobile Internet.
If you want 3G on the road you better not actually need it outside Belfast and the main roads.

[caption id="attachment_1360" align="aligncenter" width="517"]3G coverage in Northern Ireland 3G coverage by geographic area[/caption]

 

 

 

3G coverage by geographic area
Each area has been ranked from 1 to 5 on the level of mobile coverage.

1= 90% or more
2= 70% - less than 90%
3= 50% - less than 70%
4= 25% - less than 50%
5= less than 25%

Mobile coverage based on predicted coverage

So how does this actually affect us? Generally speaking when we are at home we can make the best use of the Internet, whether that be watching a High Definition movie or making a video call to a friend who lives on the other side of the world. However, this report should be highlighted not because of how I can get access to the Internet on a personal level, but for the stark reality that many businesses and those who travel for their work are not able to make use of superfast broadband connections whether in the office or from their car. This impacts the local economy. This means we are not as competitive and this means jobs are on the line. You only need to have a quick look at a recruitment agency to see that IT plays an important role within our local economy. The wider view is of course that the Internet provides access to a global market. We can now sell services overseas with literally the click of a mouse. The Internet provides opportunity and superfast broadband will enable our local businesses to compete on the global stage which ultimately will boost the local economy. Simple. Well not quite, but I hope you understand how crucial it is that we not only have access to superfast broadband but that we also avail of its service.
Feel free to leave a comment on the issue of broadband access and whether you think it really matters to the local economy or not.
Ofcom have published the press release The state of the communications nation and their report The first Communications Infrastructure Report but I'd highly recommend you visit
http://maps.ofcom.org.uk/ and see for yourself what level of access you currently have.
1BDUK defines Superfast Broadband as having a potential headline access speed of at least 24Mbps, with no upper limit.

Use Sentiment Analysis To Understand Your Customers

12 min read

Sentiment analysis provides the tools which enable you to learn what your customers are saying about your product. This will help you build a better understanding of your customers.

[caption id="attachment_833" align="alignright" width="100"] Download this article as a PDF[/caption]

“Sentiment analysis or opinion mining refers to the application of natural language processing, computational linguistics, and text analytics to identify and extract subjective information in source materials.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentiment_analysis

Eh?

Basically it’s good to know what people are saying about your company or your product.

So how do you gather this information?

In the old days, companies spent lots of cash doing consumer research by surveying people on the street, in focus groups and via the telephone. Today, companies can ask people to complete online surveys when the visit their website or contact them via email to follow up an online purchase. Despite the advancement in technology, the questions remain the same.
What do you think of the service? How easy was the transaction? Would you recommend the product? And so on.
However, people lie in surveys. Think about it. How truthful are you when you complete a survey? Do you always tick the right age box? What about your financials, do you pretend to have a £10k or a £100k a year job. I mean what harm does it actually do?

The point I’m making is that the research is only so good. It’s like stats.
63% of people who visited this blog ‘liked’ the page on facebook.
Over what time period?
The previous stat doesn't reveal that! Stats can be used to hide a lot of relevant information.

So what are the options?

Customer surveys are only part of tracking feedback. We live in a culture which publishes blogs, reviews, status updates and emotions online and in public. This is good as it allows companies to mine that data for references that are relevant to them. Sentiment analysis allows you to use that information to find out what people are saying about your company / brand / products / staff.

How to start.

Define your overarching objective and be realistic.
Why do you want to know what your customers are saying?
Is it going to affect your price point, your marketing strategy, what products / services you provide?
Be honest.

What’s your budget?
Do you have the resources to carry out customer surveys?
Ask your customers a direct question. If you are on social networking sites, ask your followers for feedback. You can use the front page of your website to promote a customer feedback survey or just ask people to complete a comments section.

Let’s talk about conducting online research

You could go to google and enter a search term and collate the results, but how useful would that be?
Sentiment analysis is all about getting real data together that you can then use to shape your future strategy, policy, or product line.

Before discussing some of the tools that can help you conduct your research I want to explain how you will score content so that it is actually useful.

Let’s use the example that you’re trying to find out what people think of the “iPhone”.

Example content from a review site:
“I bought an iPhone 3GS. Well I say bought, but it was free with a contract. The contract is expensive but the phone will be worth it. I hope! After only a few hours use I can see that the battery wont last all day, but I don’t mind as I’ve already downloaded lots of cool apps. I love Apple products.”

Example content from twitter:
“One thing I can't live without? My iPhone 4.”

Example content from facebook:
Woohoo!! Just got a white iPhone. I’m now one of the cool kids ;) Anyone know any good apps or have tips on how I can really make use of it? I can’t figure out how to get my music onto it either, any help would be great. Thanks.”

Example review from Apple.com:
“The iPhone 4 is the best phone ever, not just by design but it also has the best apps. I use it everyday.”

Example review from Play.com
“The HTC Sensation is way better than the iPhone. While people claim the iPhone has better apps, that is no longer the case. The HTC has a far better battery than the iPhone and while the iPhone has a great screen, it’s smaller than the sensation as it therefore not as good”.

From the five examples above the iPhone would seem to get favourable reviews. However, let’s take a closer look.
To quantify the data you need to set some parameters.
Who is writing these reviews? Let’s assume that they are written by ordinary people.
Do they seem genuine? I believe that the reviews above are genuine.
What are they talking about? The iPhone of course!
Really?
Which model?

This is the first obstacle you will encounter. From the outset the search term was too broad and produced results that weren't specific enough. Each of the examples could be talking about a different iPhone. Not one mention the size of the included memory.

Keep thinking about your overall goal. If your objective is just to research the brand “iPhone” then the examples above can still be used. If it’s to assess the iPhone 4 then the first review can be discounted.

Once you are sure that the data you have collated is valid i.e. refers specifically to the task at hand, you should then try and score each statement. You can do this by asking the following questions:
Is the statement positive?
Is the statement negative?
Is the statement neutral?

You will need to develop a scale which you can then score the statement against e.g. a positive statement receives a score of +2, neutral 0 and negative -2.

It’s not always easy to judge whether a statement is positive or not. There are additional factors that will need to be considered.

  • What are the emotional components of the sentence and how do these influence the classification e.g. anger, sadness or happiness?
  • We would need to how much influence that statement could have e.g. is it a tweet to 20 people or an article on Amazon?
  • Is the facebook page private?
  • Is the statement opinion or fact?
  • Is the statement provided by the owner or is the statement a quote by another?

In the examples above I have added the bold font and red colour, but what if the original author used different fonts to create emphasis on their words?
The intended message could have a different meaning with certain words written in bold. It is important that you factor this into you calculation. Consider why a person has taken the time to highlight a positive (or negative) feature.

Where does the author mention the pros and cons of the product within the review? These positional features indicate the strength of the piece. A review that starts on a negative tone will most likely be negative overall. People tend to lead with their strongest emotion.

Here is a quick guide on what to do:
1. Determine objective - “I bought an iPhone”.
2. Determine document subjectivity - is it a factual statement or opinion?
3. Determine document orientation - is the statement positive, negative or neutral?
4. Determine the strength of the orientation - i.e. weakly positive, mildly positive or strongly positive.
5. Determine the sentiment - what emotional components are in the statement i.e. it’s a nice phone.
6. When was the statement written? This can help deduce what product model the review refers to.

If you follow these six steps you will have a good understanding of what the statement says about your company or product.

What if an article contains both positive and negative phrases? How can that be evaluated? Is there a weighting formula?
Break up the statement into scoring chunks.
Weight the statement by keyword, emphasis (e.g. bold type), where it’s published, small following, how influential, private / public etc.
Things to remember: how many times is the keyword mentioned? Is there a lot of emphasis? Does the person have a small social media following? Is it a popular website? Is the post public or private?

I suggest that you plot this data on a chart
Bar charts can help you visualise the data

1 = keyword
2 = positive orientation
3 = negative orientation
4 = level of influence
5 = negative orientation

This is just an example to give you an idea of how useful plotting your data on a chart or a graph will be in determining the overall sentiment associated with just one phrase.

Of course, you will be able to find many different sources of information regarding your company or products, the trouble is how do you quantify them all? Is that realistic? I firmly believe that depending on the volume, companies should only take a snapshot of data e.g. information published one week per month or one month per year and analyse that. I would account for any outside influences e.g. product launches or news related items about your company during this time period.

You should look at each resource individually i.e. score updates on twitter, then score updates on facebook, then product review sites, then blogs etc. Once this is completed you will have total scores for each network that you can then plot on another graph which will give you an overall snapshot of opinion.You may decide to weight each network differently e.g. if you sell on Amazon, an Amazon review is going to be more influential than a blog post.

A simple formula that could help you with this process is:

Ci = {C1, C-3, C4, C0}

and

D = {Ci, Cii, Ciii, Civ, Cv}

C can be used to represent a classification e.g. a keyword. So if your company was trying to assess sentiment against a range of products each product would be identified by a different keyword and hence would be represented by Ci, Cii, Ciii etc.
Ci is the sum of the figures within the series {C1, C-3, C4, C0}.
C can also represent different places you have researched e.g. Ci = twitter, Cii = facebook, Ciii = Amazon etc.
You just need to make sure that you understand what you need C to represent and then run with it.

D will represent your companies / products overall score and will provide a representative sentiment analysis.
D is the sum of the figures within the series {Ci, Cii, Ciii, Civ, Cv}

A screenshot of the twitter sentiment website
If you find that you are swamped by data you can try using an automated service such as Twitter Sentiment(screenshot above) which is “a Twitter sentiment analysis tool. Research the positive and negative opinions about a product or brand.”

Tools

There are many tools that you can use to track sentiment online, but you can start with google alerts, twitter and facebook searches.
With google alerts you can establish a search query specifically relevant to you and have google email that to you each day. Google will search websites, blogs, news sites etc and email you the results, thus saving you from having to repeat the search on a daily basis.
Twitter allows you to save searches and to track , but I’d recommend using a tool like Seesmic or tweetdeck to view these searches. These will allow you to see every time you have been @ mentioned or how many times someone has tweeted about your brand name or product. You can have many ongoing searches making it easy to monitor on an ongoing basis.
Seesmic and tweetdeck will also monitor your facebook pages and notify you when someone leaves a comment against one of your posts.
Bing has agreement with facebook that gives them access to facebook profiles, so head to http://www.bing.com/social and enter your query.
Blekko is another site that searches facebook e.g. http://blekko.com/ws/iphone+/facebook
so don’t limit your tools to just a few applications.

One trap that you definitely do not want to fall into is spending all day everyday searching social media sites. If you set these tools up correctly, you should only be checking in a couple of times per day. Respond where necessary and record sentiment when it comes up. Only analyse the data when you can set aside the appropriate amount of time. So your work flow could be that you check your data once per day for 10 minutes and you spend another 10 minutes capturing feedback. Compile that information in whichever way suits you e.g. copy and paste into Word or onto a spreadsheet. At the end of the month you can then spend a few hours going through the data with the aim of producing a sentiment analysis which you will then use to review your existing products or services.

Conclusion

With sentiment analysis it is easy to get carried away and spend too much time focusing on finding and rating content that describes your product, which can take your focus away from developing great products or services. You definitely need to find the correct balance between conducting the research and actually carrying out your business activity.
However, the importance of sentiment analysis cannot be stressed enough. Even a little research into what people think about your products can help your business overall. If you are deaf to customer complaints your business will start to get into trouble.

Feedback! I’d like your thoughts on this article.

Do you think it is wrong, factually incorrect, glosses over important topics?
What has been your experience with sentiment analysis?
Is your company doing it?
Do you have any tips that you’d like to share?

Thanks for reading.

My first impressions of google+

7 min read

Last week Google launched their long awaited social network, Google+ and while it is currently in closed beta, I have been lucky to get an invite and have been using it for the last 5 days. View my profile to see what I've been up to.

What is Google+ and can it give facebook a run for it's money?
According to Google:

The Google+ project makes sharing on the web feel like sharing in real life.

But will that get them the critical mass that so many of their previous social apps failed to get? Google's executives have been quick to deny the companies social ambitions and have instead stated that google+ will only improve the user experience within the google ecosystem and that this product is about understanding social, location and other signals so google can enhance its core search platform. They can say what they want, but to me this product poses a real threat to twitter and not to facebook.

So what can you do on google+?

[caption id="attachment_740" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Google plus running in the Chrome web browser."][/caption]

When you first join you are asked to add your gmail contacts into circles. Don't worry, you only need to add the people you expect to interact with on a social network. At this time it is unlikely that any of your friends will be able to join, but do put them into circles now while you remember. Circles enable you to separate out your private life from your public life, therefore allowing you to send status updates to only certain groups of people. Watch the video below to see how useful circles are.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocPeAdpe_A8
The Google+ project: Explore Circles

The ultimate status update?

I have been known to exaggerate at times, but the status update in google+ is more useful than twitter as you are not restricted to 140 characters and you can include all of your media within google+, therefore you are not relying on third party media hosts such as yfrog or twitpic. However, you can do this in facebook, so it's not the ultimate platform for updating your status. From an ease of use perspective, it is very easy to post an update, control how visible that update is and you can edit your update. Yes, unlike twitter and facebook, should you make a typo you can just edit that post. Accidentally posted your exact location? No bother, just delete the location from your post. Simple.

Sparks

One of the many things I do on twitter is search for specific subjects e.g. I'll search the hash tag android to see what people are saying. On google+ google are introducing Sparks, which allows you to search a specific subject and pin it to your sparks area. This allows you to check in regularly to see the latest information. This is no different than using a saved search on twitter, except that it looks a lot better and seems to be more user friendly. If something really interesting comes up I can share that with my android buddies or to my wider social circle. This you would struggle to do on twitter.

Group messenging

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Google plus has its own native android appGoogle plus running in the Chrome web browser."]Google plus has its own native android app[/caption]

Huddle is clearly aimed at iMessages (Apples soon to be released iOS messaging app) and allows you to a send instant messages to multiple recipients. It also features its own separate android app which is a sinister way of threatening all those other group messaging apps such as ping chat.

Group video chat

The killer feature for me is hangout which enables you to hold a group video chat. If I want to have a video chat with my family who live all over the place, now we can have one conversation instead of multiple conversations. We could say we'll hangout on a Sunday afternoon and just chat to each other as each turns up. What I like about this approach is the lack of pressure to be somewhere or answer the phone.

There are other nice features such as the integration with gmail where you get notified to your google+ updates, the seemingly free photo storage with picasa and the (rather scary) instant uploads from your mobile of your recent photos (can be turned off) to name a few.

So who should be scared?

I don't think facebook has anything to be worried about, they are just so big, with many active daily users who really engage with the site. They have a business model that is making them serious cash and they are growing revenues year on year. If anything, google+ will inspire facebook to push out new features. The potential loser in this is twitter, a company that is not turning a profit and has much venture capital invested in it. Those guys will want their pay out soon! The reason twitter has been so successful is is limitations, but twitter seems to be moving away from the basic 140 characters and let's be honest, would you as a third party twitter app developer be confidant that they will keep those APIs open?

Gmail has 200 million active monthly users and if google can persuade those to switch their social profile to google+ then they will have serious traction. There are far more google accounts, so the potential is there if google can sell this social network to the masses.

[caption id="attachment_737" align="alignright" width="180" caption="your google+ stream on the android app"][/caption]

What can we expect in the future?

Google has already said that they will release APIs, so third party apps and the ability to post to several social networks will happen soon enough.

Native apps on the iPhone and iPad should be with us within days depending on Apple's app store policy.

The uptake to the service will be slow! Remember how long you will have been on facebook and twitter. I have been on facebook for 5+ years and twitter for at least 4 years. If google+ can stay around, let's judge how successful it is in a couple of years.

Businesses can expect to tie in their google profiles and place names into google+ so that they can offer a better customer service experience. Imagine using your mobile to search for a local business, check out their profile, ask them a question on google+ (any availability for a table at lunchtime?) they can then respond directly to you. Even better would be to update their status with offers and lunch menus etc.

Marketers will love this site. I have no doubt that google ads will creep in eventually and if facebook is anything to go by, marketers will have access to all sorts of profile data. Therefore Adsense will become much more targeted. Let's remember that while search might be google's best product, they are for the most part an advertising company and that's how they make their money.

Google apps customers need this product fast. Huddle and hangout would be really powerful within the workplace.

Conclusion

Is this going to be my main social network? Probably, but only if I can get my family to use it. I find google+ to be more engaging than twitter and much more valuable than facebook, but it's early days and the noise ratio is quite low.

To join visit plus.google.com  and don't forget to say hello to me on google+.

Read My Samsung Nexus S Review

7 min read

The Samsung Nexus S is now my preferred mobile phone. Read on to find out why, but be warned, this is a lengthy post!

Before the Nexus S
Nexus S Standby ScreenHaving been a a mac user for over 4 years and previously owning both the iPhone 3G and the 3GS I made the jump to Android last June when I purchased the HTC Desire. During the past 12 months I have discovered that, for me, Android is on a par with iOS devices and actually ahead in some aspects. With that in mind I have now purchased the Samsung Nexus S. For my mind, it is the best example of comparing an Android phone to the iPhone.

The Desire was rooted early on and has run a variety of ROMS over the 12 months, but lately I have been using ROMs that mirror stock Android e.g. Oxygen and DevNull. (As a piece of trivia, I think the Desire is the most hacked phone of all the Android handsets on the market today. The sheer volume of custom ROMs available for it is astonishing.)

As I say goodbye to the Desire, I leave the handset running Android 2.3.4.

My initial impression of the Nexus S
I ordered it from prepaymania for £303 delivered – I have to say that I hadn’t heard of this outfit before, but the phone arrived on schedule, so no complaints.
The box itself was your typical phone box, nice and compact and obviously inspired by Apple.
The Nexus S comes with a separate power cable and data cable which I though was a nice touch (charging and data transfer is by Micro USB). Also in the box was a headset which I have yet to use.
The phone is made from black plastic and is not of the same build quality as the HTC Desire. However, it feels much lighter and sits well in your hand. Let’s not forget that this is a 4” device as opposed to the 3.7” Desire.

In UseNexus S running Android 2.3.4
When I turned the phone on I logged in with my Google account and the phone instantly started syncing my personal data and downloading my apps from the Market. It downloaded most, but not all of my apps. There was no faffing with iTunes or connecting it to a PC to activate – it just worked without fuss. First thing I needed to do however was update the operating system to 2.3.4 as it shipped with 2.3.3.
But you know what? The phone told me I had to update and off it went and started downloading the update.
A word of warning here: installing this update wiped the phone and I had to set the phone up as new again. This was not the case with the Desire, but perhaps I did something wrong.
I had a quick play and I decided that I knew enough about stock Android and that I would be better rooting the phone now rather than later. So that’s what I did. I followed this guide to the letter and it worked great.
I haven’t put a custom ROM on yet as I want to keep to the pure stuff for now, but rooting lets you do simple things like take a screen shot.

Buttons
The Nexus S has no physical menu buttons, but so far these have not caused me any issues. One thing I do miss (although it’s not a big deal) is the trackball which was handy when you need to edit some text.

Is this the best phone I’ve owned?
I think it’s right up there. It’s certainly better than the HTC Desire and the 3GS, which were good phones in their time.
There are several factors that are important to me:
1. Screen size – 4” is probably the biggest size I would want on a phone and the Nexus S has a great screen,
2. Size and weight – it’s big but light, mainly due to the plastic casing. I carry the Nexus S around in a protective pouch, but I also carried the Desire in its own pouch, so I’m used to the bulk.
3. Battery – Even at this stage with the battery not being totally calibrated the Nexus S has a better battery life than the Desire. I should easily expect the Nexus S to last me two days of normal use. My Desire was easily lasting me a day with the DevNull Rom and the latest radio installed. This compares favourably to the iPhone 4 which does not last my girl friend more than 10 hours. She must have a dud. ;-)
4. Apps – people make a big deal about the quality of the apps in the Android Market compared to the Apps Store. Well I’m sorry, the apps I use are the same as the ones I have on my iPad (give or take) and they work fine. I’m a google guy and on Android, google’s apps are better than iOS. Fact!
5. Notifications – I’ve not had a problem with notifications. Scratch that. I did have a problem with notifications (too many!), but I soon learned to only allow certain apps to update themselves in the background. I now get push notifications from SMS, email, ping chat, calendar and everything else I manually update. I feel I am more productive this way.

What about the Nexus S hardware?
I like the phone! I don’t mind that it feels light and is shiny black plastic. The buttons feel solid and the screen is responsive. There is a satisfying ‘click’ when connecting the charger.
My one gripe is that the headphone jack is on the bottom. I’m struggling to get used to this, but only because (in my head) the volume controls are back to front. I will get used to this though.

Camera: The Nexus S comes with two cameras. I’m on record in several places stating that IMO the iPhone 4 has the best camera of any phone. That is still the case. The Nexus S has a 5 megapixel camera and in good daylight the images are impressive, but like most other camera phones, when the sun goes down so does the quality of image.
The front facing camera is VGA quality and is really there to compete with Apple’s Facetime. Surprisingly using the google talk app video calls work well, even on 3G. This app also lets you make standard VOIP calls to other GTALK users.
Minor gripe: why can’t GTALK and Facetime get along? Those two apps would be very useful if they allowed you to chat to users of both systems.

The back of the Nexus SLoudspeaker: I can’t figure this out. When playing music through the loudspeaker I feel let down, but when using the loudspeaker for phone calls it works really well. So good that I can actually see myself using this more often, something I rarely used on other handsets.

Call quality is good.

I use the swype keyboard, just because I prefer that over a more traditional keyboard, but the standard gingerbread keyboard is a big improvement over the standard HTC keyboard on the Desire.

Display
I have the i9023 model which has the Super LCD instead of the Super AMOLED screen that originally shipped with the handset. A lot has been said of SLCD, but for my eyes the screen is superb even with the brightness turned down. In this respect it compares favourably to the Desire.

Conclusions
It’s difficult to compare like for like so I will end my narrative now. To conclude, the Nexus S is generally a little bit faster at everything compared to the Desire. So this is definitely an incremental upgrade, similar to the iPhone 3G to 3GS upgrade.
So much about mobile phones today is not about the hardware, but about the operating system and the apps. The right hardware will however enhance that experience. Therefore, if you’re considering the Nexus S you will not be disappointed. It’s a snappy phone that multitasks well and will more than meet the needs of most people.

Apple replaced my scratched ipad 2 screen under warranty

2 min read

iPadThis post will detail how Apple replaced my scratched iPad 2 screen free of charge.

I recently took delivery of a new iPad 2 and have been having lots of fun with it. So much fun, that somehow, I managed to scratch the screen. Nightmare! A google search for "how to fix a scratched iPad screen" or "scratched iPad screen" revealed some home made fixes, none of which I was prepared to try on such a new device. The google searches also revealed that scratches aren’t covered under warranty, so how did I fix my scratched iPad?

After much thought I decided that I had to speak to Apple to see if they had any suggestions. This involved a trip to the Apple Genius Bar (If you have never been to the Genius Bar before, it really is a treat). Apple does not call these guys geniuses for nothing, they are well trained in customer service and are very knowledgeable on Apple products.

I was met by a Genius who quickly identified the scratch and sympathised with me. I explained that I didn't know what happened (I honestly don’t, I can only suspect that it occurred while I cleaned the screen) and that I always try to take care of my gadgets. After some consideration the genius offered to repair the iPad under warranty for free.  This was a fantastic piece of customer service. There I was, a disgruntled Apple customer who honestly thought he had bought a lemon, but now, Apple have demonstrated quality customer service and have restored my faith in Apple products.

[As a side note, Apple would have charged me £199 (including VAT) to repair the screen.]

So there you have it, if you have a problem with any Apple product, make sure you speak to Apple or visit the Genius Bar as they will offer you advice and may even repair it for free!

Screen Protector

After taking delivery of my replacement iPad 2 I decided that I needed the security of a screen protector. Call me paranoid, but after my first iPad 2 got scratched so easily, I just had to have an extra layer of protection, so I ordered one from Ebay. It was easily fitted and does not make the screen any less bright or usable, but it does make the iPad slightly less attractive to look at!