7 April 2014

Hello Moto; Goodbye Moto; Moto what's wrong?

Ok one last post because I haven't yet sorted out an alternative blog and I wanted to record something for posterity. Last week I picked up a new phone from Tesco. An 8gb Moto-G and apparently I can return it within two weeks if there are any problems. I wonder if that's standard sales patter or if I was expected to return this one. I am still making up my mind.

When I got back to the car and opened it up, it looked like the security seal had already been broken and there was a scratch on the screen. I used my glasses cloth to wipe this and it vanished otherwise it would have gone back there and then (always check the seal folks). I got back to the office and charged it up after which it insisted on doing a whole load of updates. It took a while but I eventually realised it's an Android and I wasn't asked for my Google account at first start-up. When I checked, it had already been linked to someones account and the phone was packed with their family contact numbers. It was registered to an account called 'thehamills'. Well ok maybe it was Mark Hamill (a.k.a. Luke Skywalker from Star Wars). Probably not but do I want to risk calling the number listsed as 'Dad'? (always reset your phone to factory defaults before you part with it)

So I reset the phone to defaults and wait while it goes through all the updates again. I left it on charge (on my PC) and at the end of the day slipped it into my pocket and went home. That was Thursday night. Fast forward to last night (Sunday I recall) and as I'm going up to bed I realise my phone is still in my coat pocket and it's set up as my alarm clock (Android has great alarm tones imo). On fishing it out of said pocket, I noticed it was powered off and it wasn't happy about me trying to wake it up - just like me before 7am.

This morning I tried plugging it back into my work PC and it wouldn't charge. I've since read all sorts of forum posts about issues with updates and charging problems. Some people say use a different charger (worked for me), others suggest putting the phone in the freezer for 5 minutes (only recommended if you want to call Captain Birdseye) and various other suggestions about holding the power button for a couple of minutes until the LED flashes or lights up (top left by the camera).

I had to switch to my Nexus-7 charger which got things going again, but then when I checked on the battery screen (at 1%) it said it wasn't charging. At that point I switched it back to the PC usb socket and now it's up to 9% and still going. The battery screen reported it also lasted 2 days, 11 hours and 38 minutes on that first charge. It also appears to have had wi-fi turned on the whole time so I've now turned that off (I'm using it as a phone, not a tablet - see my previous post for why).

I can't help thinking that the battery life is a bit low compared to my old LG KS360 which I can charge on a monday and it usually goes the whole week. Obviously it doesn't have all the bells and whistles but until recently it's been reliable at what it does (except the Orange sales texts started getting too frequent and there have been a couple of times recently where it's turned itself off without me knowing - not even because of a flat battery). Maybe they don't make phones with long standby times any more. It's good that Android has that log though as now I know what to expect. I am a bit dissapointed by the faffing around needed to get the Moto-G charging again and the various comments about the network dropping out and going into stealth aeroplane mode are currently cause for concern. I still have time to decide whether to keep it or not though. I think I need to use it a bit more this week while ~I still have time to decide.

Edit: 23/4/14

I decided to hang on to the Moto after some tweaking (turning off 3G data, location, wi-fi etc and just using it for phone & sms). After charging and leaving it like this I got 7 days & 22 hours with around 40% charge left before I decided to charge it up again before a weekend away. All was going incredibly well it seemed, but while I was away I tried to sms someone and forgot to close the messaging app afterwards. There was a very sharp penalty for doing this. Even though the screen turned itself off, just having this app running overnight seemed to cut my battery life down to 50%. I have to say I'm also not that keen on the un-intuitive contacts interface. So many times now I have called the person I was trying to text by pressing the wrong photo. It's also a pain to update someones mobile number when you discover they changed it. I'm sure these are only minor annoyances once you get used to the phone but if any of the devs are reading this then please add some sensible icons for these features (which I'm sure you will agree are very important basic functions). There are probably plenty of icons around for call, edit & message functions so there's no excuse for a confusing UI these days.

4 April 2014

How Google lost the plot and got me using Bing (rant post)

Until recently I've been quite a big fan of Google. It's true over the years they've occasionally over-stepped their mark and needed reminding that they are a service, not the internet police. I have often been amused at how a U.S. marketeer frequently ranks higher than me in their searches for a specific term where I have both the .com and .co.uk domains registered. I also remember their move to rapidly demote pages where ink & paper colours were the same to hide things (like hidden comments which could be used to recognise direct copying of parts of your website). I have often praised their services and products. I use their calendars and we have multiple Nexus tablets in our household. You might then wonder what they have done to make me consider turning my back on their wonderous acheivements; and why now?

It all stems from my new phone (Moto G for anyone interested). I have ditched my old phone primarily because as part of the networks deal to get free texts with my top-ups, I have to receive a certain amount of 'offers'. These started out as irregular SMS messages every month or so but just recently they have started to become annoyingly frequent. Not only that, my old phone has been getting a lot more cold calls than normal. It's not even a smart phone and I'm very careful about who I give the number to as I consider it my personal hotline for my nearest and dearest to contact me in case of dire emergency. Such is my insistance on this that any web-site requesting my personal mobile number will invariably be given my old number or a completely made up one instead. In short, this one is for me, for my family and is for emergencies rather than for chancers trying to sell me junk.

Now while I may be willing to install anything which looks like it might be even remotely useful on my Nexus-7, this experience with Orange has left me unwilling to take such chances on my Moto-G. The first person who manages to cold-call me on my Nexus-7 would be worthy of a few minutes of minimal attention while I figure out how they managed to do it. On my mobile however, I take a lot more notice of what permissions apps are requesting. So much so that before installing anything from the Play store, I have been trying to find something that gives me control. Along the journey I came across references to Whispercore and Snoopwall, both of which had some negative feedback. I then found App-Ops starter only to discover that the hidden permissions pages it allows you to access have since been removed (by Google).

This seems very unprogressive and appears to have removed my choice of whether or not to allow apps to transmit my personal details to god-knows-where. I may no longer have the choice to set these myself, but I do have a choice over what browser and search engine I use. I am therefore going to register my protest by making this my last blog post, ditching Chrome and no longer using the mighty G for web-searches. My new smart phone will have no apps other than those which were pre-installed and all location reporting will be turned off (which probably won't be enough these days). Hopefully Google will see the error of their ways and in time restore the privacy options. If not, my next phone may be a Windows phone. I don't consider Microsoft to be any better in the area of privacy but usually there are third-party apps to get the job done. If Google don't restore the privacy options then the next step will be to find a way to filter-out adsense adverts from web-pages (and I better start looking for a calendar replacement as well).

As this post is essentially mud-slinging at a large powerful corporate the usual disclaimers apply - "all oppinions are my own and blah-blah-blah etc".