Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is the 'Droid I'm Looking For

So, the Windows Phone didn't last long.

If you read my blog post last week, you learned that I suddenly found myself going from a consumer who was inquiring about a replacement smartphone to the owner of a new telecommunications device/hand-held computer. About two months sooner than I had expected to be.

And, because I had been wondering about the Windows Phone, it was the first device I picked up. I planned to test it for two weeks, but by day five, I was ready to move on.

Though I was able to find most of the apps that I used on my iPhone, I quickly discovered that I missed the apps that I couldn't find: especially, my Starbucks app and HootSuite. I also found that the camera wasn't that great—didn't seem that sophisticated nor did the photos appear that clear on the screen. While I liked the tiles and the ease of navigation, I found the look of the tiles themselves to be a little uninspiring.

Many of you who communicated with me through the blog and Twitter steered me toward Android, and so I returned the Windows Phone 10 days earlier than I planned and opted for a Samsung Galaxy S4.

On day 5 of having it (as of writing this post), I love it. I love the speed of its quad-core processor and five-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution HD display, it works fast and looks great doing it. It also has a 13 mega-pixel camera and, with my love of photography, makes more sense than the 5-MP camera on the Windows Phone.

As far as apps go, Android has so many, including my favourites. I was paying for my grande Pike on my phone the very day after I left the store with it. And I can finally receive audible notifications from HooteSuite, something that stopped working on my iPhone a year ago.

I'm bonding with this phone more than I have with any phone to date. I'm not even missing my iPhone a little bit, and that Windows Phone is already long forgotten.

I want to thank those who helped steer me towards an Android phone, but I especially want to thank Vanessa, from Future Shop, for her help and patience in setting me up with the phone, and Jon Moore, for showing me some secrets of the Galaxy phone and passing on some useful apps.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Music Monday: Live and Die

I can't stand country music.

I don't know what it is about it: the twang of the guitars, the seemingly similar beat, the god-awful drawl of just about every country singer. Whatever it is about country music, after about one minute of listening to it, I get in the foulest of moods: I become angry combative, and overall, not nice to be around.

So, typically, when I hear a country song come on the radio or television, I switch channels or turn the TV or radio off.

If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, "if you listen to this song, you will live: if you put your hands over your ears, you will die," I would most likely die within seconds.

Now, that can't be said of every single song that falls into the genre of country music. There are some Kathleen Edwards songs I like. I can tolerate a few (very few) songs by the Eagles and Blue Rodeo.

And there's this song by The Avett Brothers.

I really like the sound of a banjo if it's played right, and in Live and Die, it is plucked just right. I like the vocals of this song: no sickening drawl that borders on a yodel. This is just a lovely song. It's a country song that I could get through and live.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Friday: Hung Fatt

For decades, every time I've passed this small, Montreal Road Chinese restaurant, I've wanted to take a photo of its sign.

This Beacon Hill take-out restaurant looks as though it started as a home and, despite its size, does not offer dine-in service. Perhaps it is because the owners live there?

Though I've never eaten food from there, I've always been intrigued by this eatery's name. I mean, how appealing is the name?

I've always guessed that the food must be decent if a small, out-of-the-way restaurant has survived for more than 20 years. But, according to some reviewers at Urbanspoon, Hung Fatt has changed management and is no longer as good as it once was.

Have you eaten at Hung Fatt? How is it?

One of these days, I'll go. It's not a convenient restaurant for me: usually, when I'm out in the east end of the city, I'm visiting friends who offer hard-to-beat, homemade pizza. But someday, if I have the chance, I just might pick something up.

I just won't think of the name while I'm putting food in my mouth.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Goodbye, iPhone

Last weekend, I got a new smartphone.

I hadn't meant to swap up my phone so soon, had meant to replace it in June. I also hadn't made up my mind about what phone I wanted. Did I want to upgrade to the latest iPhone? Did I want to move over to Android? How about those Windows Phones?

I'm never tied to a brand. I am loyal to no corporation. I own a Windows PC and an iPad. My laptop is made by HP and I hook it up to an LG monitor. The TVs in my house are Insignia and Samsung. I shoot photos with my Nikon DSLR and my Canon compact cameras. My cars have been Pontiac, Chevy, Toyota, Datsun, Honda, and Ford.

I have coffee apps for Starbucks and Bridgehead.

The only issue I had with moving away from Apple for my smartphone was that I would lose some of the apps upon which I have come to rely. My favourite app for cycling, Cyclemeter, is available for Apple products only. Same goes for Tweetbot, which is what I use for mobile tweeting. HootSuite, which I also use (though, I really use it on my laptop), is only available for iPhone and Android.

In breaking with Apple, I thought it might be best to go with a Windows Phone because I feel it will be easier to integrate with my home computer. And while I'm not crazy about the tiles for Windows 8 on my laptop, I liked the ease of use on the smartphone.

The next major factor for choosing a new phone was the price. My provider was offering the Nokia Lumia 625, with Windows 8, for free, on a two-year contract (contracts don't bother me, especially since I was going to unlock my old iPhone). For an iPhone 5s, under the same contract, it would cost more than $400.

I went for the Windows Phone.

That is to say, I'm testing it. I understand that this is a pretty basic smartphone, but my needs are simple. I want to be less reliant on my device. I found that I couldn't walk away from my iPhone, that I was on it all the time. I was addicted. So far, with my new device, I've been on it only when I've been customizing it and restoring some of the apps that are still available (I almost freaked out when I learned that the Starbucks app is not supported, but settled down when I found the Bridgehead app).

I have 15 days to decide if I like it. And so far, there are things I like, other things I don't like. I like the ease of navigation. I'm not planning to load up the device with tons of apps; just the "essentials" (my social-media apps, communication apps, note-keeping tools, and photo-related apps). No games. I love how I can scroll to the tiles that I've set up and quickly access the apps I need.

I like the size of the screen. With my failing vision and my constant forgetting of my glasses, this screen is much easier to read than my iPhone.

I like how I don't have to deal with the controlling and un-intuitive iTunes for setting up my music. I'm still dealing with a learning curve with the Windows Phone app, which lets me quickly drag and drop the tunes I want, but I'm getting the hang of it and it's much faster.

I like the integration of many of my social-media tools, such that I can check Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail in one place. Awesome.

I like how the phone knows when I'm getting in my car or van, and the Bluetooth automatically syncs and shuts off all apps, except for the phone and text messages. And it will read my texts to me through the hands-free speakers. My old iPhone 4 didn't do that.

But I do have a make-or-break issue with the phone: the other day, when I plugged my Windows Phone into the USB port in my car, I expected it to sync and respond to the voice-command system of the car (my car's console runs on Microsoft, after all). But the car failed to detect the device through the USB connection (it did connect with the phone, through Bluetooth). When I wanted to listen to my music, it only played through Bluetooth, only played one song, and the sound quality was poor.

I love my music. When I'm not listening to CBC Radio while driving, I'm cranking my tunes. This is a deal-breaker.

I have reconfigured my music on the phone and will try it again. But I'm now doubtful.

Also, I listen to my music through my device when I'm at work. On my iPhone, I would use my noise-cancelling headphones. But, because of how the headphone jack is angled, I have to remove the phone from the protective case to get the jack all the way in. And some of the jack is exposed. 

I don't like that.

I don't know if I will keep the device. If I don't, I can try an Android phone. I'm eyeing the Samsung S4.


Update: in the time since I wrote and sent this post to publish, I have replaced the Windows Phone with an Android. I'm now test driving a Samsung Galaxy S4. I would still love to hear your thoughts on your smartphone pick.