A Pixel 4a running iOS

The more I see the Google Pixel 4a the more I look over in envy. As much as I like the camera on my iPhone 11 Pro I hate the size and construction. Two of my favourite iPhones were the 5c and 7 in jet black, both either made of plastic or felt like it. I hate cases but even though I resist using one it feels like I almost drop this one weekly.

Thinking about my dream iPhone it would be the 7 in jet black with modern cameras. Actually if the SE 2020 had the 2x zoom it would be my phone of choice at the moment.

That got me thinking about how great the Pixel 4a (my current hardware want) running iOS 14 (my current favourite mobile OS) would be. It’ll obviously never happen but it’s a fun thought experiment. When I owned a 3a I loved the hardware but couldn’t get on with using Android on a daily basis. Plastic hardware and back mounted finger print sensor it was a joy to use everyday and reminded me a lot of the 5C.

So this is a ramble but just wanted to share my thoughts on what I’d love to be using as my daily phone

Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface Duo

Back when the Surface Duo was shown off by Microsoft I remember being excited at the prospect of using it in my daily workflow and now it’s available for pre-order (USA only) it rekindled my thoughts around wanting to test drive one for a bit so how it fits in.

You can view all of the info on the product HERE

I’ve been toying with picking up an Android device but having something at this level where I could possibly use it for everything I do is an exciting prospect. The only area that I have some concerns is how good the camera is going to be but as soon as reviews drop I’ll be paying close attention.

Adaptive camera 11MP, f/2.0, 1.0 µm, PDAF and 84.0° diagonal FOV optimized with AI for front and rear

Photos:

Auto mode with low-light & HDR multi-frame photo capture and dynamic range scene detection

Super resolution zoom, and super zoom up to 7x 

Portrait mode with adjustable depth control

Panorama mode

Burst mode

Video recording:

4K video recording at 30 fps and 60 fps

1080p video recording at 30 fps and 60 fps

HEVC and H.264 video recording formats

Gyro-based digital video stabilization

It has all of the apps that I need (with the exception of iMessage) and with the extra screen I’m curious to see how the device would cover me for photography, blogging, sketching notes for my day job and generally dealing with productivity like a daily Calendar and task list.

I can’t afford to drop this amount of money on something to test but if someone at Microsoft happens to read my stuff or see this please contact me, pretty please.

Camera improvements are no longer good enough for an iPhone upgrade

It’s that time of year where I’d normally be looking forward to seeing what the next iPhone looks like but with the current global situation and also some personal financial changes it’s got me thinking – are camera improvements enough to warrant a £1000 iPhone purchase?

I know the rumours point to a slight redesign this year but with most people putting it in a case I don’t think it’s as important as it once was. There aren’t a lot of us that use their devices without a case or even appreciate it’s design, I think every iPhone I see is stuck in a plastic prison.

The last few upgrades for me have been about the camera. I don’t like FaceID but it’s the draw of the telephoto that’s keeps me on an 11 Pro (If an SE had zoom I wouldn’t think twice, I’d be getting one ASAP). The 11 Pro is in my mind the best camera I’ve ever used in a phone. Even putting it up against my Canon 70D in certain lighting conditions it beats it. Where it falls short is the cropped detail in lower light and zoom.

I genuinely feel we have now reached the peak for this form factor. I can’t justify an upgrade if all we see are some minor camera updates. For a justified £1000 upgrade I want to see something significant, be it Apple’s take on a folding screen or a 10x optical zoom but with money being tighter and no job security the best approach (and Apple has done with this with the SE) is for manufacturers to make really good £300-£600 phones. I can see the market being sat here for a while and value for money is where it’s at.

This is were Apple is king with the SE and at least for me I’m interested to see how Apple are going to cater for a changing market. Samsung seem to have lost the plot with their £1000 and £2000 phones this year and I think this price point with the addition of the pixel has it’s best shot at making some headway to showing manufacturers we can’t afford £900+ anymore.

How are you feeling about your purchase plans this year?

A foldable phone I’m actually excited for

Wow, how did I miss this announcement – well I know I’m pretty much off the internet right now but I’ve only just caught up on the new Motorola Razr. I’d owned plenty of phones back in the day but the original Razr was and still is an iconic design. At $1500 I won’t be buying one on a whim to test out but it’s the first phone that has me lusting for something other than an iPhone. For me foldable is this form factor, not like the Samsung giving me two phones slapped together but something that is small to go in my pocket but is easy and satisfying to open and use when you want the bigger display. I’ll be doing my best to get on Motorola’s review list to see if I can take one for a spin.

Google Pixel 4 hands on

I was out and about at the Mall and to my surprise a store had the Pixel 4 out and on display. I immediately went over to it and had some quick hands on time, didn’t buy one (keeping my fingers crossed for a review unit… I can dream I guess).

The first thing that was immediately impressive was the display. Bright and vibrant and the high refresh rate meant it was very responsive. After using a screen like this on the iPad Pro for so long I’m really hoping Apple bring it over to the iPhone soon.

The next thing I noticed that I enjoyed was the feel in hand, it’s very close to how the iPhone 11 Pro feels. I tried the white, which has a matte back and textured sides. I really like the design and colour contrast of the black sides against a coloured back. I’d get orange if I could afford to get one as a test phone.

General use of the phone was snappy and Android is getting better with every release I’ve used. I still prefer the home screen options on Android over iOS and really hope we get widgets on the home screen of iOS 14. Being able to quickly see important information is something that keeps me looking over to Android.

There are some key elements I couldn’t test however.

Face unlock isn’t something I could set up and test unfortunately. I really want to dig into this versus how Apple implemented FaceID. As you know I’m not the biggest fan of face unlock so I’d love to have one to test for a few weeks to really learn how it works and stacks up against Apple.

Then the most important thing for me I couldn’t test, the camera. Unfortunately as with most demo phones it was attached to a stand. All I could take a picture of was the back of the stand, no point in testing. This is another place I’d love to put it through it’s paces, especially in low light conditions. I loved the image quality of the Pixel 3a when I had one to test. If I got a Pixel 4 I’d be texting zoom and night sky stuff vs iPhone 11 Pro, I think it would make for interesting reading.

So I couldn’t give it a full hands on given the above restrictions but in my quick hands on I was impressed with the parts I could play with. Watch this space to see if can get one in.

Initial impressions of the Pixel 3a

I’ve had the Pixel 3a for an evening and wanted to share some really quick good and bad things I’ve found about it. This is coming from someone that’s been on iOS since the original iPhone and only uses Android on my day job phone.

The good

  • Screen is great
  • Feels great in the hand
  • Fingerprint reader is quick and a nice change to faceid
  • Widgets on homescreen
  • Squeeze to use Google assistant
  • Swipe down on fingerprint reader to see notifications
  • Selfie camera gesture, flick of the wrist and it swaps between front and back cameras
  • Swipe keyboard is better integrated into the OS

The bad

  • App quality, especially productivity
  • Apple music doesn’t load my library
  • Play store is laggy
  • App switching not as fluid in the interface

From a device perspective I’m happy, from a software perspective I’m still getting my head around it. All my negatives so far are from my lack of experience with Android.

Next up is camera testing.

Don’t buy your SIM free phone from Carphone Warehouse

I’ve been browsing around looking at different ways to get a Pixel 3a and came across this return policy for Carphone Warehouse

Wow, you can’t actually return a SIM free phone at all. This is unbelievable in this day in age when compared to some other stores and their 14 day return policies.

If you are after a Pixel 3a (or any SIM free phone for that matter) then I’d avoid Carphone Warehouse completely.

What I’d like Apple to borrow from the Google Pixel 3a

I wasn’t expecting to watch Google IO yesterday but when I saw the introduction of the Pixel 3a I started to get excited for it.

I’ve been wanting to get an Android phone for a while but couldn’t justify the cost of the Pixel 3 to use as a reference device. With the introduction of the £399 Pixel 3a I was ready to jump in. I’ve cancelled my order for now until I can try one in store but it got me thinking about what I’d like Apple to borrow from the 3a.

Colour

Yes, more colours please across everything. I appreciate we have the XR but I want subtle design changes like the coloured buttons on the 3a white version. Goes without saying I’d like to see this on the iPad too. This also applies to accessories, those woven fabric cases look amazing.

Polycarbonate

If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know I love the 5c. I’d give anything for something that looked like an X design but in a polycarbonate shell. It would be easier to repair, more comfortable to hold, lighter and bring the cost down a bit. I know the 5c didn’t exactly set the world alight but maybe the time is right to bring it back in spirit with a new model. Some will think I’m being silly here but I’d be all over a polycarbonate XS in yellow 😀

Offer better value for money

We know Apple isn’t serving the lower priced smartphone market but with sales falling why can’t they dip their toe into this market at least a bit. I’m not saying they could bring us a £399 iPhone Xe but how about £599?

What are your thoughts on the 3a?

Thoughts on a foldable phone

I haven’t watched all of Samsung’s latest event but I did see the new Galaxy Fold, what a name… anyway a foldable $2000 smartphone is something I wanted to comment on.

My first impression when seeing it on the livestream was, wow that’s just two phones stuck together. It’s kind of cool to see something folding out to a bigger screen but this isn’t the implementation that makes sense to me. I’m sure on video I could see a folder or crease at the middle point that would just be distracting. I believe that sliding additional screen from the side is the way we’ll see this implementation. Think of a scroll that you roll out, not unlike the LG foldable TV that was announced earlier in the year at CES.

I’ve got to give it to Samsung for trying here and getting something out but it looks like a terrible implementation to my eyes.

Now with that price I have to think it’ll sell in the hundreds rather than millions here. Looking at the global smartphone slowdown this isn’t the answer, it’s high end luxury and the sales will show it. It’s a party piece to show off not something to use as a daily driver. However it’s good to get it out there and get some in the wild to see how it takes off and get some real world testing completed.

I’m not entirely sold that foldable is the future but whatever it is, this isn’t the end implementation. It’s a baby step, a stepping off point something that gets the technology into the hands of users that are willing to give it a go. For me it still looks like two phones stuck together, I’ll be waiting a while for the ‘scroll phone’.