Tag Archives: mobile

I miss my Galaxy S4

I recently dug out my old Samsung Galaxy S4 for some Android testing. I replaced it with a Nexus 5x last fall, and for the most part I love the newer phone, but there are a few things that I really miss about the S4.

  • The size is perfect. It’s literally as big as it can get and still be comfortable to use one-handed and fit in my pants pocket. The Nexus 5X is barely 1/8″ wider and 3/8″ taller, but it’s just enough that I can’t quite reach the whole screen with my thumb. I have to loosen my grip until it feels like I’m going to drop it, which means I’m extra motivated to keep it in the case, which makes it even bigger…
  • The Galaxy S4 display is polarized diagonally, so I can use it in landscape mode while wearing sunglasses. This is helpful for things like daytime GPS navigation. The Nexus 5X is not.
  • The volume buttons are positioned out of the way of the middle, making it easy to clip on a dashboard mount.

Those are three things that the Galaxy S4 does better (for me, anyway) than the Nexus 5X. They’re all form factor. Of course since giant smartphones are all the rage these days, good luck finding another one that’s just the right size for my hand.

Otherwise, I love the Nexus 5X’s display, the up-to-date Android OS without Samsung’s modifications (and knowing I’ll actually get security updates), the camera, the convenience of the fingerprint sensor, the speed, and just about everything else about it.

I wouldn’t go back. I considered setting up the S4 as a dedicated GPS until I realized that it wouldn’t be able to get traffic data without a SIM card. (Maps can store the actual maps offline now, and GPS works independently of cell service.)

But if Google releases their next Nexus device in a form factor just 3/8″ shorter, I’ll be tempted to upgrade early.

Remember Netbooks?

It’s weird to look back on all the posts I made agonizing about whether or not to buy a netbook.

It was never anything I would have used on a regular basis, and I knew that (which is why I never went through with buying one). It would have been something I used on trips, mainly conventions, and only to overcome the shortcomings of late 2000s smartphones.

Mainly: photos and typing.

Back then, I always carried another camera to get the “good” pictures, because phone cameras were still crappy. So if I wanted to post something online, I had to get it off the camera, onto a computer, and then upload it. Today’s smartphone cameras and apps are so much more capable that they mostly solve the photo issues.

It’s still painfully slow to type anything of length on a phone, but tablets have emerged since then and are a lot easier to type on. Hybrids like the Surface Pro and add-on keyboards make it even easier.

Touchscreens have solved the crappy trackpad problem netbooks had.

Faster phones and cell networks, and a more mobile-friendly web, have made a lot more things possible directly on the phone.

Netbooks, meanwhile, are pretty much forgotten, at least in the form they existed in at the time. Chromebooks are doing OK, at least in schools, but they aren’t quite the same thing. You’d think “netbook” would refer to something more like the network-dependent Chromebook, but it typically referred to the tiny form factor of a mini-laptop.

Looking back at the Tori Amos signing that I mentioned in the series’ first post: These days I probably would have taken the pictures directly on my phone and posted to Instagram within minutes. As for the blogging, I might have powered through on the phone and added the pictures directly, or I might have done so on the tablet and added the pictures that would already have synced from the phone over WiFi.

I wouldn’t carry a laptop of any size around the convention floor, that’s for sure. And I probably wouldn’t bring one on a short trip at all unless I was planning on working during the evenings.

Tablet Blogging is Actually Convenient!

For short posts, I’m actually more comfortable sitting on the couch and writing on my tablet than firing up my computer and sitting at my desk. This is something I discovered during NaBloPoMo. My workflow typically went like this:

  1. Write the post in the WordPress App.
  2. Set categories/tags and upload as a draft.
  3. Switch over to the admin interface to finalize and post: customize the URL, description, share options, etc.

What would send me to the computer are the things that are difficult to do on a tablet:

  • Layout and formatting.
  • Linking to other posts & sources.
  • Major editing.
  • Image size and filenames. Even if I use a file manager on my phone to rename the image, the WordPress app is going to change it on upload to something like wpid-123456789

I’m not sure how much of that is the couch and how much of that is the fact that I’ve been putting off upgrading my home computer in favor of the devices I use more often. I finally replaced the ancient Nexus 7 with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 a few months ago. (It’s awesome!) It’s FAR more responsive (the Nexus 7 was basically a proof of concept, and doesn’t deal with modern software very well), so I can actually use it for stuff.

Plus it turns out even at 8″, a 4:3 screen has a much better balance of onscreen keyboard and text area than the 8:5 screen did. Being able to see more of your document, even a little, has a surprising impact on how comfortable it is to write it.

Too Many Notifications

The thing that takes me longest to set up on a new phone is the notification settings. It’s configured in each app individually, and it seems like everyone wants to get your attention.

Too many notifications end up one of two ways: tuned out so you don’t notice the important ones, or so much of a distraction that you can’t focus on anything. There are studies showing how long it takes to get your train of thought back after interruptions.

I pare audio alerts down to calls, text messages, and work-related IMs. Then I set custom alert tones for each and for specific phone numbers, so I know instantly which it is. (Assuming of course I remembered to turn on the sound, and it’s not drowned out by ambient noise.) Unfortunately every new phone or OS comes with a different set of alert tones, so it’s a pain to either transfer over the old tones or get used to the new ones.

I have silent email alerts. Social media, but only some sites and only replies or mentions that I might be expected to react to. (Not Facebook, though.) Sure, I want to know if someone’s commented on one of my photos or posts, but I don’t need it to break my concentration. I don’t need an alert for every new post on some site, or every new follower, or some auto-generated roundup.

And it takes me forever to find all those settings, turn off everything else, and change the audio for what’s left. Sometimes it’s several days before something pipes up the first time. I suspect I’m not done yet.

As much as we make all these things interactive, they’re still asynchronous. Except for calls and active chat conversations, I’m better off checking in on email or Twitter or Facebook on my own schedule, not when I’m in the middle of something else.

I can distract myself just fine. I don’t need my phone to do it for me.

Coin Slot For Your Cell Phone

The 5YO had an interesting idea tonight: “Devices should have slots that you can put real-world money into.” I explained that it wouldn’t be practical because someone would have to go around collecting it, and meanwhile your phone or tablet would get weighed down by all those quarters or bills. Then I brought up Square and similar card readers that you can hook up to your phone. I’m sure he’s seen us use them, even if he didn’t make the connection at the time he was thinking about the coin slot idea.

Thinking about it, though, why not use something like Square to power online purchases as well as point of sale transactions? Instead of setting up an account and entering a password to buy something, swipe your card. Or swipe a debit card to authorize adding value to it. Katie suggested taking it even further: directly add value to a cash card!

Mobile payments are mainly looking for ways to eliminate the physical card. Card readers are mostly being used to allow sellers to accept physical cards on the new infrastructure, but the technology could easily be adapted to give online buyers another payment – or banking -option.