35 Things I Noticed After Upgrading to iOS 11 and an iPhone SE

iOS 11 just happened to drop on the same day I bought a new 32 GB iPhone SE in order to replace my 16 GB iPhone 6 and switch over to a prepaid plan. The 6 was running low on storage space and the SE was on sale, so why the heck not upgrade my OS and my phone on the same day!

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#19-YUUUGE!
  1. First things first: Upgrade my iPhone 6 to iOS 11. Maybe I can use that as a selling point after I move to the SE.
  2. I can’t help but cackle at glee at how many problems iOS 11 is likely causing for customers at my old job. Jerks.
  3. Yes, I am saying my former customers and my former employer are jerks.
  4. Free space on 16GB iPhone 6 before upgrade: 900 MB. Free space after: 4.9 GB. WTF?
  5. When I hit the Wireless or Bluetooth buttons in the Control Center I expect them TO TURN OFF, not just disconnect. No bueno. iOS!
  6. Is a Location on/off button in the Control Center too much to ask for?  Android has had one in their Notification Area for years. Don’t you want to be cool like Android, iOS?
  7. On a related note, the fact that Apple constantly wants to know where you are is mildly creepy.
  8. Why would I want to turn off the cellular part by itself? Isn’t that what Airplane Mode is for?
  9. The “Do Not Disturb While Driving” thing is pretty cool.
  10. The Pebble smartwatch app is still standing; it’ll be a sad day when it or my watch stops working. Stupid FitBit.
  11. From the ‘what took Apple so long’ department: Files. Yeah.
  12. Only four app updates to install…so far!
  13. All in all, iOS 11 is pretty nice, with a few annoyances I can live with. On to the new phone!
  14. Why not Android? Let’s see: For $200 I can get a questionable phone with a lousy camera and maybe one OS update or a really good phone with an awesome camera that will get updates for a few years.
  15. Despite the smaller screen, I consider the SE an upgrade. Better CPU, twice the storage, and a better camera.
  16. Yeah, yeah. I shouldn’t have bought the 16GB model two years ago, but here we are.
  17. The SE is small enough to fit in my pocket and not be constantly clipped to my belt looking like it’s there for something important.
  18. I’m sort-of trying to not be tied to my phone so much.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’m trying!
  19. Funny how my old phone is nearly as big as the box my new one came in.
  20. Shopping for a case was a little annoying because the iPhone SE section at Ye Olde Electronics Store was cleaned out. It must have been one heck of a sale, or maybe the SE has become the ‘poor man’s iPhone.’
  21. Found an OtterBox case on the cheap at Wally Martinez (Wal-Mart) so maybe there’s something to that.
  22. Yay, another set of EarPods and Apple stickers I’ll never use.
  23. I can never put screen protectors on right.

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    Out with the old, in with the small!
  24. The gal at the activation line has an interesting accent. I wonder if she’s in the Philippines…FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON.
  25. Accidentally hung up on her once during the activation process. Oops.
  26. Apparently the dweebie at the Best Buy warehouse didn’t scan my new phone so it wasn’t technically ‘purchased.’ That led to WHY IS IT NOT WORKING ANYMORE ten minutes after activating it, which led to another phone call to Whereveritis-istan.
  27. Realization: I’m going to have to be super-careful to not drop this thing in the toilet.
  28. It took me a half day before I realized I hadn’t set up my ringtone.
  29. Apple productivity apps are useless to me without OneDrive support.  Buh-bye.
  30. Garage Band, iMovie and TV apps on a 4-inch screen? Um, no.  Gone.
  31. Free space: 22 GB  That’s more like it!
  32. What the hell is up with not letting me use my phone as a hotspot, cellular prepaid people? Crazy idea: If people use up all their data tethering, THEY HAVE TO BUY MORE DATA WHICH MEANS YOU MAKE MORE MONEY.  Idiots.
  33. Tethering seems to work just fine via USB, so neener-neener, prepaid cell phone weenies!
  34. Going to take a little adjusting to having a smaller phone, but I think the SE is going to work. Hopefully my new provider works out, too!
  35. I’m just waiting for that one friend (you know who you are) to see my new SE and say “OH MY GOD, IT’S A BABY PHONE!”
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myPhone

technology2There are a number of things that I don’t mind, but at the same time it’s sometimes fun to wave my metaphorical Cranky Old Man cane at the durn kids with their newfangled doohickeys and double-you-step music.

Case in point: Apple.  I don’t mind them.  I own a 2009 iMac and an original iPad mini.  Both are quite good at what they do, and I continue to use them.  Despite that, I like to thumb my nose at the ‘Apple guy’ in the office (there’s always one) and have back-and-forths with him about why I feel Microsoft is better.  As if in retaliation, my original iPad mini has been slowly inching towards obsolescence with each iOS update.  Recently, I was frustrated at not being able to play the neato new Fallout Shelter game for more than a few minutes without the poor thing crashing.

While the thought of getting a new iPad has crossed my mind, the thought of dropping a few hundred bucks on another one is not a pleasant one, especially since my Windows 8 tablet has proven to be quite capable, Microsoft Office notwithstanding.

Because of its creaky performance, I have been using the iPad mini as a hotspot more than anything else as of late.  I would use my cell phone as a hotspot, but Cricket Wireless has internet sharing disabled on my Lumia 530.  Jerks.  So I send a few bucks to Verizon, turn on the iPad’s hotspot feature, set it down, and then use my Windows laptop or tablet to get things done.

Which brings me to my next point.  I am, for better or for worse, married to Microsoft Windows as well as their ecosystem.  Windows 8.1, Word, OneDrive and OneNote have all served me well over the years and I have no reason to stop using them.

In spite of that, I have decided to get an iPhone for my next phone.  As I am not on a contract, I can make the jump whenever it pleases me, but more practical concerns such as home and vehicle maintenance take precedence. Nevertheless, whenever I am financially ready to make the jump I will be more than happy to for the following reasons:

  1. Apple makes pretty good hardware – My iMac and iPad have been pretty durable and dependable over the years.  I’ll likely have to get a case for an iPhone, but I’m pretty careful with my phones; I’ve never cracked a single screen over the years.
  2. Apps apps everywhere – This is the Achilles’s Heel of Windows Phone; the limited app selection wouldn’t be so bad if Microsoft would keep their own apps up to date.  The iPad version of Word blows the Windows Phone one out of the water, too.
  3. Accessories – Because I often get cheaper (or Windows) phones, cases and accessories are rare or nonexistent.  Stores seem to have three sections for phone accessories: Apple, Samsung, and one with a big sign above it for everyone else that says EFF-YOU.
  4. Microsoft is on board – The fact that I can get Microsoft Word on iOS and Android means no more Brand X Office apps.
  5. Hotspot! – I travel, and it would be nice to be able to fall back on my phone as a hotspot instead having to carry another device to do so.
  6. Android = suck, WinPhone = bleh, iPhone = ? Android devices have been craptacular for me over the years and Windows Phone trips at the finish line despite its nice interface.  I have never owned an iPhone so who’s to say I won’t like it?
  7. Get rid of iPad – I still only have my iPad mini for two reasons: to use as a hotspot and for work.  If I get an iPhone I can do without it completely.
  8. Updates for all! – With Android and Windows Phone, you are at the tender mercies of your carrier for updates unless you buy an unlocked device.  My Windows Phone is one update behind because of this.  iPhones, on the other hand, usually get all updates.

Of course, there is some bad with the good:

  1. Increased Cost – I am currently not on contract with Cricket Wireless and its been pretty sweet: $35 a month for 2.5GB of high speed data and unlimited minutes and texts.  To get an iPhone I’ll either have to pay a few hundred for the device up front or go on a contract again.  Either way that means more money.
  2. Durability – It is out of sheer luck that my Lumia doesn’t have a cracked screen given all the times I’ve dropped it (thank you Nokia).  I will definitely have to get a case to ensure my iPhone doesn’t meet an unfortunate fate.  It will remain to be seen if the iPhone is ‘Eduardo-proof’
  3. Apple EVERYWHERE? – Despite having an iMac and iPad, I am barely invested in Apple’s ecosystem.  Except for backing up my iPad I don’t use iCloud for anything.  That should stay the same with an iPhone…I hope.

I was on the fence about getting iPhone before writing this blog, but now that I’ve jotted down all the ups and downs, I’m all but certain I’m going to pull the trigger on one…eventually.  $35 a month for cell service is going to be really hard to give up, though!

Up-and-Down Grade

I bet my size 14 would get great reception
I bet my size 14 would get great reception

I’ve had smartphones for quite some time, going all the way back to my T-Mobile Dash running Windows Mobile 6.0.  From that ‘charming’ system I moved to Android with a Samsung Moment on Sprint, and am currently using a Motorola Photon, also on Sprint.  My contract is coming up in a few months, and instead of contemplating which phone I’m going to upgrade to next, I am actually considering downgrading to a not-so-smartphone.

Why?  Three reasons:

First, like many other folks, I’m trying to cut back on expenses, and the $80 a month I currently pay for my cellphone plan (and that’s with an employee discount) is a big one that I would love to reduce. I could easily get a month-to-month talk-and-text plan from Virgin Mobile that would cost half what I’m paying now while keeping me on Sprint’s network, which has been pretty good for me overall.

Second, I’m starting to wonder if Android phones have a limited shelf life: my Samsung Moment started crapping out a few months before the end of the two year contract that I purchased it under and the pattern appears to be repeating itself with my Motorola Photon.  I think I’m done with Android at this point, and while I could get an iPhone or maybe even a Windows phone, I’m not sure I want to.  I’ve never had the latest cell phone so being a step or two behind the times isn’t a big deal to me.

Thirdly, ever since I purchased my iPad mini back in December, I have been using my phone less and less for internet stuff.  Thanks to the built-in 4G LTE modem and bigger screen I find myself reaching for it whenever I need to check my social networks or need to Google something.  While it costs $20 for 1GB of data per month, that has been more than enough for me given my limited use of video and since WiFi is more pervasive now.

While this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about downgrading to a not-so-smart phone, having the iPad this time around would make living without one much easier.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get a flip phone, or a phone with a physical keyboard…or maybe even one with a pull-out antenna! 😀

Tablet Thoughts

As I work on my Acer Iconia TAB A100 review and read the headlines coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I keep hearing about why Android tablets haven’t quite caught on. I keep hearing the same arguments: Android is fragmented, Android tablets are all the same, blah blah blah. What I don’t hear anyone talking about is how overpriced some of these Android tablets are.

Any tablet that costs $499 or more is not going to sell unless it is an iPad.  Period.

The iPad is the ‘gold standard’ in tablets right now, and the least expensive one costs $499.   If a competing product cannot be as good as an iPad then it has to cost less, or else that person will just buy an iPad.  Android is nice, but it is not as easy to use as iOS.

Keep in mind that I am referring to the average person when I make these statements.  Nerds such as myself are willing to live with a learning curve and some obfuscation.  We like figuring things out, we’re just funny that way.  The average person isn’t as patient, though, they want to turn a device on and be able to do things from the get-go.  That is why iOS is as successful as it is.  Granted, there is a lot that you can’t do with it, which is frustrating to nerds like myself, but the majority of people tend to not care about stuff like HDMI ports and memory card slots.

I think Amazon did two smart things with the Kindle Fire: first, they sold it for cheaper than the iPad, but more importantly, they didn’t make an iPad. The Fire is significantly smaller than an iPad, and doesn’t look like one when you start it up.  Sure, if you’re a nerd you can argue about how yes, its really Android under the hood and does mostly the same things as an iPad and all that, but to the average person it is different.

Sadly, the bargain prices for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are going to make it harder for other 7-inch tablets to gain any traction unless they drop in price as well, so it may not necessarily be a good thing for Android in general.  Then again, the functionality they leave out is fairly significant, so it may not necessarily be a bad thing, either.

Why a Tablet?

I have been thinking about getting a tablet as of late, going as far as to even take one for a test drive not too long ago. Of course, the question then becomes “Why?”  Here are my reasons for wanting to “small-grade” down to a tablet:

I DON’T REALLY DO A LOT WITH MY LAPTOP

When I am on the road with my laptop, I increasingly find myself either doing stuff inside of a web browser or in Microsoft Word.  I don’t play games with it, I don’t do any programming (yet!) and except for the occasional trip to YouTube, I don’t watch very many movies or videos.  All of the “big stuff,” such as editing audio or video, I do on my desktop, which has plenty of horsepower and a nice, big 24-inch screen.

PHONE TOO SMALL, LAPTOP TOO BIG

I have owned smartphones for about four years now, with my first one being a Windows Mobile 6 phone that I had before my current Samsung Moment running Android.  They work okay, but their screens and keyboards are just too small to type on for extended periods of time.  I am due for an upgrade soon and am leaning towards a phone with a larger screen, but even then I don’t think that they will not be big enough to use for any extended length of time.  As I mentioned in my Vizio Tablet review, I tend to carry a lot of crap in my laptop bag, which even at 12-inches, makes more cumbersome to lug around than it should be.  A tablet, on the other hand, would be more usable than a phone because of its smaller screen, and more portable than a laptop.  It should be the best of both worlds.

INSTANT-ON

Ideas don’t wait, so when something pops in my head I want to be able to jot it down before it gets lost with all of the other stuff being tossed around in the clothes dryer that is my brain.  While Windows 7 is nice, it does take a while to boot up and shut down.  With a tablet, I can turn it on at the touch of a button, type down whatever Big Idea I have, put it back into sleep mode and then get back to using the crapper or whatever it was I was doing when inspiration struck.

BACK TO A DUMB PHONE

These days, Wi-Fi is widespread enough to the point where it’s available nearly everywhere you go.  For those times when WiFi isn’t available, I have a pre-paid MiFi device which works well, even in the hole in the Internet that is my hometown.  Since an Android tablet can to do everything that my phone can do, there doesn’t seem to be much point in carrying an Android phone.  Thus, I should be able to ‘downgrade’ my phone to a more basic model that does not require a data plan which should save a few bucks in the long term, especially since Sprint is bumping up the price of the their smartphone plans another 10 bucks.

So there you have it, four reasons I will be soon purchasing an Android tablet.  I’m looking forward to having the near-ultimate in portability in the palm of my hand!  Move over, laptop!

RANDOM REVIEW: Vizio VTAB1008 Tablet

Vizio Tablet 1008
My God, its full of...space

View the Vizio VTAB 1008 Product Page at Vizio.com

INTRODUCTION

As portable as my twelve inch laptop is, it’s not really that portable, partially because of all the stuff I need to carry along with it: the charger, mouse, cables, external speaker, external hard drive…okay, so I don’t help by filling my laptop bag full of crap.  Disregarding my tendency to overpack, my laptop bag does take up a decent amount of space and weight.

While my Samsung Moment smartphone can do a lot of stuff, it does have its shortcomings, not the least of which is its screen size.  Also, after nearly two years of reboots, crashes and a less than reliable GPS, I find myself wondering if all the extra stuff smartphones can do comes at the expense of the phone.  Just sayin’.

Thus, I started looking at tablets, the near-ultimate in portability and (hopefully) functionality.  The most obvious device would seem to be the iPad, but I have never been a big fan of Apple’s locked-down portable devices.  I also hate iTunes with a passion and try to avoid using it after getting frustrated with it way back when.  Those statements are odd considering that I own an iMac, but one can get around most, if not all of the iMac’s annoyances.  Heck, if worse comes to worse you can install Windows on it. -shrug- My needs are a bit above that of the average user, so a do-it-Jobs-way-or-else iPad was not going to cut it.

Android was familiar to me from having used my Moment for nearly two years and so I began looking into Android-based tablets.  After hearing all the wonderful things my friends were saying about their newer Android phones, I figured that the problems I was having with Android were due just it not having been updated.  My poor phone can’t even play Angry Birds, for crying out loud.

Thus, I found myself at Ye Olde Electronics Store poking and prodding at various tablets.  Despite the fact that I had no intention of buying one, I even checked out the iPad as well.

SIZE MATTERS

I am pretty good at typing, so I wanted to have something I could hold in my hands and type on using my thumbs like a phone.  As it turns out, all of the ten inch tablets I sampled were too wide to be used in that way, never mind my arms getting tired from holding them up for extended periods of time.

I found seven inch tablets to be much easier to use in that way, though.  I could almost bang away on their keyboards with aplomb, but soon discovered a new problem: crappy screens.  Quite a few of the smaller tablets were less expensive eReaders that happened to run Android, but their screens were not nearly as responsive as their larger, pricier brethren.  As enticing as getting a tablet for $200 or under sounded, the compromise of having to deal with a less than responsive screen quickly killed that idea.

I seemed to be stuck at this point.  I could get a quality device that would be too big for me to use the way I wanted to, or get a smaller device of dubious quality.  I just happened to find something in the middle.

ENTER THE VIZIO TABLET

Vizio, best known as a maker of low-cost TVs of average quality, recently introduced the their first tablet.  The VTAB1008 (VTAB from here on out) is an eight-inch model priced at $300.  Of course, getting the price that low means some compromises had to be made: it does not run the latest and greatest version of Android, does not have a dual-core CPU like the big boys do and has a pretty low amount of built-in memory (2 MB, which can be increased via an SDmicro chip). Vizio also puts a custom interface called “Vizio Internet Apps Plus” on top of Android that places all of the application icons on the device’s home page like the iPad.

I did some research and checked out online reviews: many of them described the VTAB as being an average device that wasn’t bad for the price.   At $100 less than a ten-inch tablet, it seemed like a good deal so I figured it was worth a shot.  I excitedly picked one up from Wal-Mart and got to tapping.

HARDWARE

The VTAB is a solid device with a little bit of weight to it, but it isn’t terribly heavy.  Like many devices these days, it sports a glossy screen that is a bit on the reflective side, but its 1027×768 resolution produces a good picture. An inwards-facing camera is at the top center of the panel and the typical Android Back, Home and Menu touch buttons are at the bottom.  Oddly enough, the only thing you can do with the camera right now is take pictures of yourself, as Skype is not available as of this writing.  A second pair of touch buttons are on the device’s left hand side are are used when holding the VTAB horizontally.  The buttons light up when available and go dark when not in use.

At the top center of the VTAB is the power button which is flanked by two speakers. In a pretty clever move, a third speaker at the bottom right corner of the device is activated when the VTAB is held sideways so that you always have stereo sound.   The bottom center has a Micro-USB charging connection, a Micro-HDMI out connection, and a Micro SD card slot on the bottom left.  Volume control buttons are on the right side and a control-free left side round out the unit.

The VTAB’s battery life is pretty good compared to other portable devices I have owned, it lasted about eight hours of on and off use with everything on.  Turning off the GPS bumped up the battery life significantly, to over ten hours.  Those numbers aren’t based on “stress tests” so don’t read too much into them, but I will say that I have had to charge it each night in the short time that I have owned it.  Its use of a Micro-USB charger instead of some crappy proprietary connector means I that can use the charger for other things, which is very convenient.

As I mentioned at the opening, Vizio makes television sets and other home theater equipment, and so the VTAB also has an infrared transmitter, so the device can be used as a giant remote control.  The remote app doesn’t quite make full use of the ability, though, important buttons can sometimes go missing.

The VTAB is a pleasure to carry around. It has a slightly rubbery finish on the back that provides some grip so I don’t have to worry too much about having it slip out of my hands.  After putting a screen protector on it, I can tap away with impunity.  Typing on this thing is AWESOME, it is as close to typing on a keyboard as I have ever gotten to on a portable device.  It’s actually better, thanks to the installed SwiftKey TabletX software which does a scary-good job of guessing what I’m about to type.  The VTAB is almost a little too wide to be used comfortably when typing using my thumbs like a phone.  I am enjoying it for now, but time will tell.

SOFTWARE

The Vizio Tablet runs the “Gingerbread” version of Android (2.3.2 to be exact) so if you have an Android phone it will feel very familiar.   This is a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s a good thing because it is easy to use, but it is a bad thing because makes the VTAB feel like, well, a giant phone.  That isn’t necessarily bad per se, but the apps and even the OS itself simply do not take full advantage of the larger screen.

A good example of this is the Widget screen, which is identical to the home screens on Android phones. It sadly limits widgets and shortcuts to a four by four grid.  While my main Widget screen is almost full, it also has way too much unused space.

Flash 10.1 is installed, but the browser loads the mobile version of websites fairly frequently.  Alternate browsers are available but seem to confuse the device.  I kept getting asked which browser I wanted to open when I tapped links, which got annoying.

I can understand why Vizio customized Android the way they did, but I think they took away some of its usefulness in doing so.  For example, the notification area at the top of the screen does not behave in the same way as in “plain vanilla” Android.  Normally, each new notification appears in the bar with its own icon, and in order to see them, you drag down the top bar and they appear in a list.  On the VTAB, all notifications are accessed by clicking on a fat asterisk sitting in the upper-right corner that never goes away.  Bleh.  Having to click an icon to get to a “widget board” is also inefficient and defeats their purpose

While the VTAB does get slow on occasion, it is fairly responsive for the most part.  Vizio is reportedly working on a Honeycomb update for it, but as this is their first true computing device,  I’m not sure I trust them to keep that promise.  I’ve been burned in the past by established manufacturers that didn’t keep their products up to date (like my Samsung Moment) so I’m a little skittish about trusing the new kid on the block to do so.  To their credit, Vizio has released two minor updates since the device’s launch, so there may be hope yet.

APPS

The VTAB is severely lacking in apps, which is a unfortunate considering that one of its selling points is access to the Android Market.  I wanted to install many of the same apps that I had on my phone and was surprised to find many of them were not available.  As of this writing, Yahoo! Mail, Netflix, Skype and even Facebook apps are nowhere to be found.  I don’t use very many apps, so not being able to get the few that I do use is a bit of a downer.

CONCLUSION

For me, the Vizio Tablet is almost a keeper.  Instead, the delight of having Android running on a bigger screen is quickly offset by the disappointment of realizing that this device just doesn’t do a whole lot with the additional real estate.  The hardware is pretty good for the cost, but the VTAB’s potential is wasted by the fact that the version of Android it runs was not written for tablets, making it a really big phone-without-the-phone.  App support is the final nail in the coffin; if I could get any app from the Android Market that I wanted, the VTAB would be a slam dunk, but  even with my limited app use, there are too many things missing.

Keep in mind, though, that my needs are not the same as the average user’s.  Most people will be content to check Facebook through the Vizio Tablet’s built-in browser.  Most people won’t care about editing Word documents and attaching them to emails.  Most people won’t care which version of Android their tablet is running under the hood.  Those people will probably be perfectly happy with a Vizio Tablet.  As for me, I’m going to give it a few more days, but it looks like it will be going back to the store while I wait for a reasonably priced 7-inch device to come along.  I may also just say to heck with it and get a cheap E-reader running Android instead.  I guess this eight, isn’t quite enough.

3 out of 5