Stopping my use of Google services

Opinion, Tech

I’ve been thinking a lot about my data, where it’s sat and which companies I trust or more importantly line up with my morals. Google is one I’ve wrestled with for a while but I’ve decided to delete my account over the next few months. I’ve stopped checking my gmail and signed out of YouTube everywhere but now I need to make some concrete plans to remove myself or stop using it until they change their attitude.

I’ve been following the Center for humane technology for a while but listening to their podcast really got me thinking about how companies are pushing for attention biased on the extreme and negative. YouTube recommendations are terrible at this and being signed out is even worse. I can no longer give Google my views when it can’t take any responsibility for its algorithm. Check out the latest episode of their podcast which is a great resource if you’re interested in why I’m not it’s biggest fan. Content creators I’ve followed for a while are now sucked into this arms race for negative content, which YouTube keeps on rewarding (I’m still glad I stopped trying to build a following there, I couldn’t have done this).

I’ll get off my soap box now, just wanted to share my thoughts on removing or pausing my account, I’m not expecting anyone to follow.

Why I returned the Google Pixel 3a

Tech

I used the Google Pixel for just under a week but in the end I decided to return it within my return window. I wanted to share my thoughts about why I did this. I really feel that even in a week I’ve got a new appreciation for iOS but I’m also more conscious of what’s missing from it. Ultimately spending almost £500 on a device plus accessories when it would be used maybe 20% of the time felt wasteful in this day and age and I feel better having given it a try. Here are few of my feelings:

  • Android isn’t for me, full time at least. I liked the novelty of using another OS but for me it was the nagging that I couldn’t get under control. Even though I turned off everything I could find I was still getting asked to share my location or tune another setting. For someone like me it’s just too many options and I want to just use my iPhone to get things done.
  • Assistant vs Siri isn’t even a competition and I’ll miss it. I’m not the biggest fan of Siri anyway but now I seen how the other half live I’m jealous of some of the things you can get the assistant to do for you. Even more so the way it understood everything I asked of it, Siri has about a 50% success rate for me on iOS.
  • Third party app ecosystem for me works better on iOS. I’ve come to really like apps like Bear, GoodTask and Halide. When I used Android I found myself not really enjoying browsing the Play Store and used Google apps instead.
  • After playing more with RAW and editing my images I realised that the XS (for me) took better images. The Pixel 3a takes a great shot without editing for my eyes but with editing I preferred the XS images.

Now my tech fund is back and iOS 13 is coming I may be putting it towards an iPad Pro 12.9” soon…

Google Pixel 3a case review

Review

I’m not a huge fan of cases but the fabric finish of the official Google case hooked me in.

I picked up two colors

  • Fog
  • Seascape

Unboxing these is fine, good to see the packing almost all recycling friendly.

The inside of the case is soft microfiber that will keep your Pixel in top condition.

We then have plastic buttons with the same colour accents as the phones.

There are cutouts for the camera and fingerprint reader.

The only downside with this case is that hole for the fingerprint reader. It’s actually deeper than it needs to be and not big enough. I’ve come to like swiping down on the reader to show notifications. This is tricky with the case on. It’s also not so comfortable to unlock.

For £35 it’s not a bad price for these cases, I really like the fabric finish and maybe it’ll soften over time. It’s going to offer drop protection and protect the screen as it has a raised lip on the front.

iPhone XS screen vs Google Pixel 3a

Review, Tech

Switching back and forth between the iPhone and Pixel I was struck with how much narrower the Pixel felt to me when going back to my XS.

Now here’s the Pixel 3a

They are both great displays to my eyes but the aspect ratio of the Pixel and on visual inspection with the 5.8″ of the iPhone, the iPhone is both wider and taller. For me this makes it more comfortable to type on.

What helps Android though for me here is the fact I have a swipe keyboard so I’m not tapping keys but still I prefer the screen real estate of the iPhone XS over the Pixel for general day to day comfort.

Colour wise they both looks excellent to my eyes and I’m not seeing the price difference.

You can’t go wrong with the Pixel 3a at £399 for the quality of the OLED it’s packing in my opinion.

Google Nest Hub review

Review, Tech

To preface this review I need to state up front that I’m new to Android and haven’t been hooked into the assistant for long so your mileage may vary. This is a review from someone that’s lived on iOS for the last 10 years but is gaining new perspective on mobile operating systems.

When I picked up the Pixel 3a I took advantage of the offer to get a free Nest Hub. I didn’t really know what to expect with it to be honest being a heavy iPad user I didn’t know where it would fit it.

Setting up is easy and all you need to do is turn it on and manage the setup from the Pixel Home app.

The construction is great for the price but I would have liked a black front option rather than white. On top we have a couple of sensors and the screen although not huge is clear and looks great when displaying photos.

On the back there’s a manual switch to disable the microphone if you want to make sure you’re not always being listened to.

On setting up I was immediately struck with how useless this product might be for me. No Apple Music, only Spotify and Google Music and without my entire photo library in Google Photos it meant my picture frame options were limited.

I put it in my office and thought I’d see what it can do for me in my day.

Well, all it became was a clock for me. I asked it to play my YouTube subscriptions but it couldn’t. The only way is either to ask for specific videos or cast from your Pixel. This was ok but my iPad has a bigger screen and is already hooked into my YouTube account.

After looking at the photos for a bit I realised this is a £119 fancy clock that tells me stuff about the weather.

Remember this is my experience if you’re totally hooked into Google then I’m sure it’ll be good as a photo frame but I couldn’t get the use out of it and now it’s sat in the box and I’m wondering what I do with it.

It’ll go back with the Pixel if I ultimately decide to return the whole package.

How to use AirPods with a Google Pixel

How to, Tech

I’m a big fan of the AirPods and as nice as it is to have a headphone jack on the Pixel it’s also nice to not have to get wires caught in stuff. I hadn’t even thought of pairing my AirPods. Well the good news is that they work (to a point), you obviously don’t get Siri and tapping them doesn’t seem to do anything but I don’t do this even on my iPhone. The one that annoys me a little is them not pausing when I remove one AirPod but that’s not a big deal for me whilst I just use them to go for a walk or whilst I’m doing stuff at my desk.

  • On your Pixel head into ‘settings’, ‘connected devices’, then tap ‘Pair new device’
  • Make sure your AirPods are in the case and then hold down the button on the back of the case
  • You’ll see them pop in the list

  • Tap on the AirPods and you are good to go

When I fired up Apple Music and started listening they were automatically connected.

Google Pixel 3a build quality

Tech

One thing I’ve seen in some reviews of the Pixel is the cheaper materials being seen as a negative. For me it’s a positive.

If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know how much I miss my 5c. I love the feel in the hand of a polycarbonate phone. Glass is fragile and slippery. After using the Pixel I have to say that I prefer picking up and using it than the iPhone XS. Apple are never going back to colored plastic phones but I can dream.

If you’ve ever used a 5c you’ll know what a pixel feels like.

It’s comfortable to hold and although I haven’t drop tested it’ll hold up fine. I dropped my 5c a lot and although I had fine scratches on the back and a few chips it kept going. The Pixel will be the same.

The buttons are chunky and have a nice click to them.

The only area to be concerned about is the screen. As with any phone it’s the main weakness. If you’re worried about this user a screen protector. Personally I don’t like them.

My only worry with the Pixel is how to get it serviced if I do break it somehow. With Apple I can just pop to the store but with Google you’re going to need to mail it in. This is fine if you don’t mind being out of a phone for an unknown period of time.