In a recent study, it was reported that a policy of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has already been adopted in around 40% of the American corporation, and this trend will grow in the following years.The idea behind BYOD is that people work better with technology they already chose themselves and know how to use. BYOD should save the organization purchasing, training and some of the maintenance costs, while increasing productivity and worker satisfaction. However, it increases security concerns, introduces compatibility issues and requires a wider range of skills from the IT and HD departments. I did not realize this, but for the past 5 years, I've been using BYOD on an almost daily basis. It started with a PDA, went on to smartphones and now I find myself using my own 2 smartphones, my laptop and my GMail account for work. I was offered alternatives, but I am very particular about the technology I buy and I often refuse to use the equipment I am getting from work: usually I find it at best uncomfortable and at worst unusable. But there is a line that should be drawn. It seems to me that the employers of today think that they own our private time as well, not just most of our waking hours. We are expected to be flexible with our work hours and stay a longer or arrive earlier when we're needed to, often without proper compensation. We are being asked to use personal connections to help the company, usually without the promise of a personal gain. In recent years, it has become almost mandatory to "Like" or "Share" the company's page on Facebook or its account on Twitter - but this is where I draw my line. I see no reason why should I do that. My personal life is my personal life. It's true that my job is financing it, but this is it. I'm giving away those 9 hours each day, because I'm getting paid for it. I bring my own devices, because they make my work slightly less frustrating and easier. I will stay longer or arrive earlier because I have responsibility. But I will not use my free time, or my personal life unless I make sure that me and my friends or family benefit from it as well. Same goes for social networks. I see employers' requests to Like or Share posts that are published on their Facebook pages as further appropriation of our personal lives, and I am not going to take a part in it. Like BYOD, BYOL (Bring Your Own Life) is a policy that benefits the employer, but the employee is paying for it.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
I will begin by apologizing. In a blog post that I wrote some time ago, I claimed that the phones are getting to large to handle, literally. I claimed that a phone shouldn't be wider than 65mm, thicker than 10mm and heavier than 130g. I still hold that these are the perfect dimensions for a phone, so if I were a man of my word, I shouldn't have bought the HTC One X. Therefore I apologize for betraying you, but at the end, I did get a phone that's considerably wider, at 69mm. But seriously, there's a good reason for this choice.
I could have bought the HTC One S, which is lighter, slimmer and smaller. However, when it came to specifications, it looked a little like yesterday's news. The CPU is a very modern dual-core, and the metal finish is said to be very luxurious, but the screen is pentile, no NFC and no 5GHz WiFi. I was actually willing to compromise on these, but it also has just 10GB of accessible storage space with no possibility to upgrade, and to a music lover like me it's very limiting.
So if I was willing to compromise on size and somewhat on build-quality, why not the Samsung Galaxy S III? After all it has better hardware, it's upgradeable and it is "the superphone of the moment". I did consider it and waited for the Galaxy's release until I made my final decision. I was eager to see it being revealed, expecting the new messiah, but all I got was just a very naughty boy. The design is uninspiring - for a phone that costs so much, it doesn't look like a luxury product. It looks as if they said to themselves "we had a good run with former S-series phones, why should we bother with an actual design?".
The One X is beautifully designed though. It's a big phone but it's very fun to hold, because it's slim and has a matte finish on the back. It's being made of plastic (they call it polycarbonate, but it is the same material your Legos were made of), but it's machined to look like a much more expensive material. The Gorilla-glass covered screen is slightly sloping on the sides, and the phone's sides have glossy finish in the shape of arc, so it looks slightly curved. There are only 3 physical buttons: 2 for volume an one for power. There are 3 touch buttons on the front: back, home and task manager, which is the new Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) configuration.
The screen is fantastic: it's an IPS panel (they call it SuperLCD2). It's bright, contrasty and saturated and fairly easy to read even in the Israeli summer sun. It's even brighter and more contrasty than what I considered the best phone screen until now, the one you can find in the iPhone 4/4s. The viewing angles are perfect, and they managed to make the image "float", in a way that it looks as if it was printed on the screen.
Using the phone is very easy: the new HTC Sense UI is very smooth and as always, but now more elegant and restrained. HTC was criticized for not sticking to the stock task manager, but it's a good thing: they sort-of borrowed Windows Vista's task manager design, but did it much better. The phone itself is very responsive, especially if you install one of the beta Android 4.04 ROMs. It's also rock solid: I did not need to reboot it for 3 weeks now. The only bad thing about this UI is the keyboard, which is not accurate enough and not elegant. Unlike the rest of the UI, it looks like an afterthought.
The camera is a mixed bug though. I like the low-light performance and the responsiveness, but I don't like the final picture quality. True, it's unfair to compare it to a DSLR, butthe final quality is worse than one-year old Galaxy S2 or iPhone 4s. Seriously, I expected more from a phone that claims to have BSI sensor, f/2 lense and a dedicated image processor.
The audio quality is good, but again for a media phone it could have been better. Still, it's very good and the Beats enhancements do make some things at least louder. Anyway, as always, invest in good earphone. Obviously I can recommend the Shure SE215.
My biggest concern was the battery life: a quad-cored, huge-screened phone cannot last long on a charge. I admit that I was pleasantly surprised: HTC claimed they worked hard on optimizing the phone's power management, and it shows: when I don't play with it and just listen to music and o the occasional twitting or Facebooking, it will easily last me the whole day. Only if I do a lot of surfing and video playback I will feel some "range anxiety", but even then it will most likely last the whole day, with about 20% charge left. So all in all, the battery life is not amazing, but quite okay for these specifications.
So all in all, I like this phone, a lot. It does everything I need it to do very well, it's fast, it's very nice too look at, it's very stable and it's comfortable. I would like a better photo quality and battery life, as well as less easily-pressed physical buttons and narrower frame around the screen. But I am glad that I got this phone, because while it seems that the S3 was created to amaze you, the One X was created to serve you - and looking great while doing so.
Year of purchase: 2012
Wireless technologies: GSM, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA+, Bluetooth 4, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, NFC
RAM and Storage: 1GB of RAM, 2GB of ROM, 25GB user accessible storage.
Cameras: 8MP main camera, 1.3MP secondary. HD video recording.
Other stuff: GPS, microUSB, upgradable OS, Android 4.0.3-4.0.4, accelometer, digital compass, micro HDMI
Battery life: about 1 day Display:: capacitive multi-touch display, 4.7" IPS screen, HD 720
What I liked: Looks great, amazing screen, light, easy to use, up-to-date specifications, rock-solid and usable software.
What I didn't like:Slightly too big, non-upgradeable memory, the battery cannot be replaced, so-so battery life, audio quality is not amazing and the camera does not deliver up to its promises Conclusion: Not perfect but it's very good.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Back in 2009, Google and HTC introduced the Nexus One, the first Google-branded smartphone. The phone was described in a new term, "superphone", in order to emphasis the fact it had features that exceed any other smartphone on the market.
When I heard the term "superphone" for the first time, it instantly reminded me of supercars. Supercars are usually described by their manufacturers in terms such as "high performance", "beautiful" and "exclusive". Those terms are usually true, but Jeremy Clarkson's description is just as accurate, saying most supercars are "big", "impractical", "unreliable" and "trying to kill you".
Superphones are therefore surprisingly similar to supercars: they are usually beautifully designed, have high-quality screens and powerful features. But also, they're usually too big, suffer from unstable software, fragile and have battery life that will hardly suffice for a single workday.
But in the same way that every driver would like to drive a Ferrari, an Aston Martin or a Lamborghini, most phone owners would like to use an iPhone, a Samsung or an HTC. We tend to ignore the faults and focus on the (rather useless) advantages. In the real world, Ford Focus is a much, much better car than a Lamborghini Aventador, but it will never satisfy our dreams. My old HTC Desire is a perfectly acceptable phone but still, I wanted to have the HTC One X.
The HTC One X is certainly a superphone. Its design is impeccable, it has cutting-edge hardware and the best screen I've ever seen in a phone. It's also too big, slightly uncomfortable and will not last more than one day on a charge. It ticks almost all the superphone boxes, except for the reliability issue: it's very stable.
I could have waited a little and buy the superphone of the day, the Samsung Galaxy S III - but I simply could not make myself do it. It is better in almost every hardware aspect than the One X (screen quality would be that exception). But it's still a Samsung: uninspired design, non-elegant design and cheap feeling, despite it being the most expensive phone out there.
Maybe that's the X-factor they talk about in Top Gear, the fun factor. It's not about the hardware, it's about how the device makes you feel. At the end, this is why I chose the One X: the Apple iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S III are the phones everyone will buy, but I am an HTC fanboy, and this phone just makes me feel happier. This is not rational, but it doesn't have to be. Had I been rational, I would have stayed with my old phone.
Edit: Something must be added here. Unlike supercars, even non-millionaires can afford the latest and greatest superphones. Technology is a great equalizer.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Well, not really. I am going to write reviews (or rather extended opinions), but they won't be detailed. Also, I am not connected to any gadgets producer or distributor, so those reviews will be written only on products that I actually own or use.
I promise to write the reviews only after using the products for at least a week. Most of the reviews are being written by professional writers, who usually have a high level of understanding in the products they write about. However, despite their credentials, they simply cannot predict production flaws and design quirks that appear only after a longer period of usage.
Another kind of review which I don't like are those who simply quote numbers, analyse components and perform synthetic benchmark tests. I'm sorry, but very often these benchmarks are irrelevant. Also, those super-technical reviews tend to exaggerate minor differences in performance, which have no influence in the everyday life. I rather have a product that works well and has better user experience, than a faster processor or a higher megapixel count.
I will try to be objective, but at times I probably won't be. I do promise not to let first impressions and technical specifications dictate my verdict. Also, I will do my best not to be cynical, but this is really too much to ask of me... Oh well. I guess it's better than nothing, right?
Monday, May 21, 2012
After a few years of using solely Sennehiser IEMs (In Ear Monitors, a fancy name for in-ear headphone or earbuds), I was convinced to buy the Shure SE215. These earphones are the lowest in Shure's range of IEMs that includes the SE315, SE425 and SE535. I always perceived Shure as a firm that makes very good high-end models, but neglects the middle range. Apparently, the SE215 is a break from this tradition, which they made in order to cash in the ever growing number of portable media players and smartphone. The SE215 received excellent reviews, like "the best under $100 you can buy" and another review "$100 earphones should not sound that good".
In conclusion: if you want great IEMs which sound great but you're on a budget, they should be on anyone's shortlist. With the exception of the slightly annoying bendable ear hooks and the weak highs, I found nothing really bad in those earbuds. They sound great, the design is restrained, they are comfortable and it seems like they're built to last. I'm sure that they will not be audiophiles' choice, but they will satisfy almost anyone else.
A note: I know that everything today are being compared to Beats by Dr. Dre, but according to some reviews to get comparable quality from Beats, you'll need to pay about twice. It means that in addition to everything I said, they're also practically a bargain.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
It's a well known wisdom that things should be given a second look before determining an opinion about them. Some of the best albums have to be listened to twice to get the nuances in them. Some books have to be read twice in order to get the full extend of the ideas behind them. Some people may seem uninteresting or rude, but given a second chance they become entertaining and pleasant.
The same goes for gadgets: at first I disliked in-ear headphones, but now I love them, and the same goes for laptops. Even my current smartphone: I was certain that I won't buy the HTC Desire because of his many flaws, but now I consider it the best device I've ever owned. But the problem is, that this second look may go the other way around too, and this is what's happening to me and my current work phone: the Samsung Galaxy Gio S5660.
I had to take this phone, I did not choose it, but at first it seemed good: light, small, sturdy, not too thick. It has a low-res but decent screen, the UI was quite snappy and it felt good to hold. Even the design is rather elegant and in line with the current Samsung products.
But this office romance between me and my new phone did not last long. It started with the realization that the email app was very good at a lot of things, but displaying emails was not one of them. Then I figured out that the battery seems to last about 24 hours, while it's on standby, without WiFi or Bluetooth running. If I dare using the phone for calling, I can do it for about 2 hours, at best. The screen is illegible even in semi-sunny days and the touch sensitivity reminds me of smart phones from 2006. It's not even tough as it looks: it scratches easily and when I once dropped it, the back cover dismantled. The worst thing about this phone is not any of these, it's actually the call quality: the sentence I say most while using it are "can you please repeat what you've just said?".
You can claim that this is just a mid-range phone, released more than one year ago. But this is not an excuse, because other cheap phones from that period, like the HTC Wildfire S are better in almost every respect. With the exception of its size and weight, I found no advantages for this phone over my 2 years old HTC Desire, and I will get rid of it as soon as my new phone will arrive.
And yes, I am getting a new phone, but I will write about it in a future post.
Year of purchase: 2012 (I didn't buy it, fortunately. Got it from work)
Wireless technologies: GSM, GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.1
Other stuff: GPS, 3MP camera, microSDHC, miniUSB, upgradable OS, Android 2.3.4-2.3.7, accelometer, digital compass.
Battery life: about 1 day Display:: capacitive multi-touch display, 3.2" TFT, HVGA
What I liked: Nice looks, small, light
What I didn't like: Awful call quality, bad battery life, so-so build quality, tends to disconnect from 3G, unstable software, screen not nearly bright enough, insensitive touch. Conclusion: possibly The worst smartphone I've ever used.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
When it comes to smartphones, I'm happy to see that the standards are rising. They're getting easier to use, more functional, faster and with the exception of battery life, more usable. There is one problem though: screen sizes have really went out of hand. Literally.
My first two touch screen phones, the HTC P3600 and the HTC Touch Cruise both had a 2.8 inch screens, which were too small. Then I bought the HTC Diamond 2 and received the HTC Magic, both with 3.2 inch screens, and things got better. Later I bought the HTC Desire with its 3.7 inch, and I thought I found the perfect form factor: wide, 3.5 to 4 inch (8.9 to 10.1cm) screen, 10 to 12mm thick and a weight of 130 to 140g. Everyone seemed to agree on this size: HTC, Samsung, Motorola and even Apple.
But then things started to go wrong. The problem began when HTC released its HD2, back in October 2009. It was their last Windows Mobile phone, and was supposed to serve a niche market of businessmen with freakishly big hands, using its gigantic, 4.3 inch screen.
"Wait", you must think, "4.3 inch is not gigantic, this is the standard size nowadays". Well of course. Most high-end and mid range Android models have a 4.3 inch screens, but it's easy to see that this is practically the largest size of screen you can still use with one hand, assuming you have average hands. My fingers are relatively long and I find Samsung's Galaxy S2 hard to handle with just one hand, especially when it's inside a protective case. It doesn't matter that it's very slim and has relatively thin frame around the screen, the Galaxy S2 is still edging on being too big.
But things did not stop with 4.3 inch. Samsung's Galaxy Nexus has a 4.65 inch screen (though at narrower 16:9 proportions). HTC's Sensation XL and Titan both have similar a 4.7 screen, at the regular 16:10 proportion. However, the phone who certainly takes the oversized cake is the Samsung Galaxy Note, with its ridiculous 5.3 inch screen. I realize that the designers wanted to give these phones the ability to replace tablets, but they don't. What they created are devices that still cannot function as tablets, but are too difficult to use as phones. To make matters worse, larger screen use more power, and the size of the phones make them harder to slip inside pockets.
My perfect form factor would be a phone that's no more than 65mm wide, no more than 10mm thick and weighs no more than 140g. Obviously, I will have to compromise, but please, stop with this insanity. Phones are not tablets and there is such a thing as "too big".