5 Things I Learnt By Dropping My iPhone

1. Bad Things happen at inconvenient times

Otherwise, they aren’t really ‘bad’ I suppose – just… annoying? With exams fast approaching, destroying a device I rely on so heavily wasn’t exactly a good move.

2. Always use protection

If my phone had been in a case, it surely wouldn’t have busted. My phone wasn’t even that badly damaged: no shattered glass, no missing pieces; just a tiny crack internally that destroyed 3 key functions: home button, microphone and, most unfortunately, charging.

3. iCloud isn’t all bad

Not only was my iPhone unable to charge, it couldn’t sync with iTunes via cable to backup and I had never enabled wifi sync.

I didn’t have a recent enough backup but luckily I figured out I could use my remaining battery charge to backup to iCloud over wifi. Best. Decision. Ever. It made setting up my new iPhone so much less painful.

4. Brisbane needs more Apple stores

Chermside sucks. It’s busy, out of the way and it just sucks. Please build a new one somewhere nicer. Please.

5. Even with iCloud, there are issues

However most obstacles actually exist to improve my online security. Google 2-factor authentication makes setting up all the apps that depend on your Google account a pain. I guess it’s better than losing control of my account though.

Also, Kaching by CBA requires you to call their phone service to authenticate a new iPhone if you have previously set it up on a different phone.

The moral of this story: protect your iPhone or buy something else! It’s cheaper and easier than buying and setting up a new one…

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Giving Pocket a Second Chance

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When Read It Later presented its completely revamped self as Pocket, I dusted off my account credentials and gave it a quick look. Five minutes later and I had already turned my nose up at it, playing the role of the Instapaper I-payed-$5-for-this-app-and-now-a-better-and-free-alternative-comes-along snob.

I’m not sure why I didn’t give it a proper chance back in April, but thankfully I decided to give it a second chance today. So here are 4 reasons I favour in Pocket over Instapaper.

1. Interface | Design | Experience

Pocket is beautiful. Really, it’s pretty to look at, responds snappily like any good web app should which takes it beyond a static experience. Instapaper is static, less easy to use and somewhat ironically, has a terribly cluttered interface (in my experience).

Both the website and iOS version of Pocket have two great article display modes, one more like a magazine, and a details/ list view. I am easily able to filter articles by date, title, site, tags or media type.

2. Considerate Media Handling

The team at Pocket is actively tweaking its ‘Article View’ engine (for reading later, distraction free) so it will always display content how it is intended. Whether it be images, videos or lengthy articles from The Verge, Pocket will handle it gracefully.

Instapaper can be a bit hit and miss and while no reading view will be perfect, at least Pocket is showing it cares.

3. Search

Pocket comes with search, for free! Instapaper charges $1/month to use article search. This lets me replace my old (and pretty crappy, to be honest) system of exporting to Delicious. I don’t really use this much, but just the thought of being able to cut free from yet another service makes this a very welcome feature.

However, I found a bug (I think) when searching in the Archive. See this link.

4. Price

This isn’t really a huge issue for me any more, but for agnostics not yet devoted to either service, I’m sure it will be a huge deciding factor. Instapaper is ~$5 for the iOS app and $1/month for some other features. Pocket is all free.

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There are still some things I miss from Instapaper/ would like to see in Pocket. So here is my Pocket wishlist:

  • Better pagination on mobile. Include features like the smooth transition and bullet point progress bar from Instapaper.
  • More readily available links to original content. Currently Pocket only makes the domain available from the reading list, not the original link. You must click through to the ‘Article View’ to find the original (unless I’m missing something).
  • Business model. I don’t want to see ads start appearing in my feed, nor do I want to see Pocket fade away. How are they going to monetize their new product? I only want to support you, Pocket.

I still haven’t completely removed Instapaper from my life. It still holds a prime position in my Chrome bookmarks bar (both my Unread list and the bookmarklet) and it’s still on my iPhone’s home screen.

I think as life goes on, I will fall into the Pocket camp entirely, as they have shown they are willing to change for the better and the change will be ongoing. Instapaper, with its one man army, will struggle, I fear, to keep its position of supremacy. Pocket has opened up bookmarking to the masses it seems, as Evernote has done with note syncing and Dropbox with file sharing; by presenting it in a friendly, easy to use way, that doesn’t feel geeky. And yes… I think Pocket has the kind of potential where it is appropriate to be compared to those companies…


Thoughts on Installous and Paid Apps

I used to download all my apps from Installous back when iOS was the latest version of software. Including many (sometimes expensive… *cough* TomTom) paid apps.

Although I virtually had access to every possible app for free, I used very few paid apps in the end. There are some notable exceptions however. I started to use Instapaper and Reeder on a daily basis; two excellent apps that I highly recommend you check out.

When I finally upgraded to iOS 5 – I had delayed for a while as I didn’t want to lose all the apps and functionality I was used to – I decided to not jailbreak again. I would support developers of quality software and purchase the apps legitimately.

I had originally intended on buying all the paid apps I had downloaded for free, but came to realize, while it may be morally correct to some, a) I didn’t use most of them regularly enough and b) I wouldn’t have purchased any if I had never jailbroken.

I think this is one of the key issues with current copyrighting and distribution laws: no revenue is lost as the content would never have been purchased in the first place.

Therefore by pirating, I exposed myself to quality software, which I grew dependent on, which in turn caused me to actually want to start paying for apps.

Now am I saying we should all pirate everything? Definitely not. However there must be some way to monetize interest in content and exchange payment(s) for content, where both the consumer and producer are better off.

Right? Or am I in a deluded fantasy…


Simplenote the Motivator

The story of how Simplenote motivated me to actually start writing a blog after so long without being able to put ‘pen to paper’.

Simplenote – Homescreen worthy.

Yes, I know, the blog isn’t exactly racing towards having hundreds of posts, but I actually have written more than I ever have, for any reason, other than school assignments! You see, it’s all just sitting in Simplenote – but not stagnating; it is being fine-tuned whenever I have time. That is the beauty of Simplenote. It is there when I need it, providing a distraction free writing environment that lets me focus on my ideas and getting something written.

I recall the moment Simplenote got me to start writing, quite well. It was during a long road trip to the beach. I was bored, but listening to music on my iPhone. I tried playing games but I never get too captivated by any of the iOS offerings so I was still looking for something to do. I opened up Simplenote and saw a note that said ‘Blog Post Ideas’. It contained several general ideas I had picked up over the past few days since creating this blog. I thought, “Why don’t I just start writing whatever comes into my head?”

I tapped out several hundred words on a series that I am yet to finalise. Even on that little iPhone keyboard, it wasn’t too painful, as I can almost touch type with it. Also, with the keyboard filling up most of the screen, there was almost no temptation to waste time revising what I had already written, or be subconsciously paralysed from writing by seeing a blank canvas, a feeling I experience quite often. I just tapped away, not caring if what I had written made sense, so long as it conveyed the story I want to tell. I can always go back over this work, when I am not feeling like writing, to polish it off. Even if that never happens, does it need to be polished?

The most interesting articles I read online are laced with opinion and emotion from the author – not just the facts. I am more likely to agree with someone’s point of view if I empathise with them, feel like I know them or like them. I also find that the more I ‘polish’ anything I write, the more emotion that gets scrubbed away.

Anyway, I digress…

Without Simplenote on my iPhone, synced to my laptop with ResophNotes (yes, it’s a PC), I never would have started writing anything for this blog and it would have sat dormant indefinately. So if you’re having trouble writing, why not give it a shot? There’s something soothing and refreshing about using a plain text editor with a decent font (I’m looking at you Notes on iOS and your Marker Felt font!).