Wednesday, September 26, 2012

iPhone 5

Black Apple iPhone 5.On September 21st at 3 AM Eastern time Apple started a pre-order process for iPhone 5. I, as opposed to my friends, was sound asleep. During all previous years one had a whole full day to place an order and assure oneself and new phone delivered on the first day of release. This year was different. An initial batch of new iPhones has sold out within an hour of going up for sale.

I decided not to do a pre-order at all and try my luck at a local store(s) on the first day of release and so I did. I woke up at 6 AM. My original plan was to go to Apple Store Staten Island, but I dreaded going there knowing that the line would be enormous. So I figured I’ll make a slight detour through Brighton Beach Avenue and see if an AT&T store there has a long line.

The line was short enough that I decided to find parking and take my chances here. Store opened at 8 and in 15 minutes AT&T rep came out and proclaimed that 32GB phones were gone. Fine, that works for me, though I, as I wanted to get 16GB version. However 15 minutes later the same thing happened again, only this time for 16GB phones. So much time wasted for nothing. I got into the car and started driving towards Staten Island.

But I didn’t get there. I made another detour and stopped by our local Best Buy. There were people inside, but I was told that they will start letting buyers in at 9 AM, so I had to wait 30 minutes. I was first in line. However soon people started showing up and most of them had pre-orders at Best Buy. Soon a Best Buy rep showed up and said that they had a good bunch of phones for those who didn’t have a pre-order with the exception of those who needed an AT&T phone. More time wasted.

Back to the car. This time I did get to Staten Island Mall. It also had a Best Buy, which also had spare phones, but only for Sprint customer. At this point I figured I’ll just have to bite a bullet and stand in line at the Apple Store. When I got there the line wasn’t as long as I thought it would be. And at the end of the line there were Apple reps handing out cards, so you would know for sure that you’re not standing in line for nothing. One small problem — no more AT&T phones left!

At this point I kind of lost hope for getting iPhone 5 on the first day or any time soon at all. I decided to check AT&T store located inside the mall as my last stop before calling it a day. And to my dismay the store had no line:
– No line, no phones? — I asked a rep.
– If were you to pick a size, which one would you get?
– 16GB!
– And the color?
– At this point I’ll take any!
– But if you could pick?
– Black.

And what do you know? She yells at someone and they bring out a brand new unopened 16GB black iPhone 5 box. She processes my upgrade right there and then and hands me an activated iPhone 5. That was not expected.

iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S.First thing you notice is that the phone is noticeably thinner and even more noticeably lighter. It is so light in fact that it feels fake. Like there is nothing inside. And even though multiple tests other people have done show it to be much sturdier than previous version it just feels very delicate to me. A perfect piece of engineering.

It doesn’t stay that way for a long time. The black paint covering the aluminum back and sides scuffs up way too easily. Knowing that now I would probably go with a white version as I did with all my previous iPhones when I could choose. I treated it very gently and it already has two scuffs on the back exposing the natural color of aluminum. I imagine after a year of use it will look pretty bad and what’s the point of having a thin phone I’m going to put a case on it? I will not.

I’m really happy with their decision to keep the screen the same width — it is perfect for me to be able to use the phone with one hand. If they had to increase the screen they choose the least annoying way to do it. And after some use I actually enjoy the added height, but having an iPad I still will do most of my reading on it, not the phone.

I never really looked into LTE before and as a result I was quite amazed how much it clocked in on speed test — 30 Mbps downlink in Connecticut, and half of that in Brooklyn. Either number is bigger than my WiFi connection. But since we fit just fine in 200MB per month and since it costs us $15 per month I plan to use cellular data connection as much as I did before and will continue to rely mostly on WiFi.

The new connector is much better designed than the old one. It turned out to be a lot smaller than I imagined from the images that I saw online. I didn’t really have any gear that relied on the old port, but I do have a slew of wires that I can no longer use on this phone. This wire can be plugged in either side into the phone, so it makes it easy in the dark. All my old wires I have marked with a knife on one side to make it easy in the dark as well — don’t know why Apple never did.

Overall it’s a nice next step for iPhone. The only real exception is Apple Maps. They really are as bad as everyone says. Although it doesn’t really upset me all that much since I can do something as radically as open Google Maps in a browser and that works just fine. Not as convenient, but does everything it used to do in the app.

Our collection of iPhone boxes.One last topic on my mind in all of this is AT&T. I really hate the fact that AT&T refuses to unlock phones while they’re under contract. It means that on my trip to Italy I will not be able to use my new phone. I started looking into switching to Verizon and came to a conclusion that it’s even a bigger ripoff than AT&T. Even though they are willing to unlock the phones in 60 days their plans are just outright theft.

Old family plans are gone, new plans stick you with unlimited minutes which nobody needs (we do just fine with 700 minutes AT&T gives us on the cheapest family plan) and end up charging you through the roof. If you have an old family plan — stay with it and don’t switch to the new data share. That’s what my parents are going to do. Also even on the old family share plans the cheapest data plan is $30. On AT&T I pay $15 for 200MB which as I stated works just fine for us. On top of that we would have to cancel a contract on one of our AT&T lines and buy a 2nd phone.

It just was adding up to too much and having an unlocked phone was just not worth it. And then 2 days later I found out that my whole unlocking debacle is easily solved with a $13 through eBay. No jail-breaking, no nothing — a clean unlock through Apple’s database. I don’t know how I didn’t know about this before.

And in conclusion here is a pair of iPhone 5 wallpapers that I’ve made and am currently using on my phone.
LockscreenHomescreen

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Japan: Random Observations

A small collection of random observations and random photographs from our Japan trip that has been accumulated as I was writing the rest of the posts about Japan.

Prayer plaques at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.The end of November in Japan is a great time to visit. We expected to see naked trees, but instead we saw plenty of autumn colors and a lot of green.

Street vendor wares at Ueno Market.There are a lot of people all over the place wearing face masks — in subway, on the streets, at work. Pretty much at any time in any public place you will see somebody doing this. People are courteous enough to keep their colds and flu to themselves. Too bad it is so uncommon where we live.

Tsukiji fish market. Yummy?When we first decided to buy something from a vending machine (which are everywhere) we were surprised that a hot bottle fell out of the machine. Turns out that vending machines sell hot drinks as well as cold ones. You can tell the hot drinks by a red label under the bottle and a cold by a blue ones.

Painter at Nara Park.You can buy a real unsweetened hot or cold, green or black tea from a vending machine.

We often had a hard time finding a trash can on the street, yet all the streets and subway stations are impeccably clean. Every train station has a very clean public restroom.

Stairs to one of Nara shrines.Everything except for the food costs obscene amounts of money. A Nikon — Japanese made — lens that I can get from B&H for $1,999 costs $3,000. Casio Pathfinder watch that I bought here for under $400 costs over $600. A compact flash card that I bought from Amazon for $55 costs $125 there. Dollar is extremely weak these days.

Kasuga Shrine.You are better off using your credit and debit cards while paying 3% for every transaction than exchanging money. The going exchange rate is going to end being worse than your credit card company will give you with that 3% charge included.

Prayer boards at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.While the spoken English of most Japanese is better than my Japanese — it’s not far off. They can handle a very basic English sentence, yet anything slightly more complex causes them to keep repeating what you first basic sentence was and laugh uncontrollably. It appears to us that when they are embarrassed they laugh.

JR Station in Osaka.In all our time in Japan I have seen many Japanese and many European cars and only one American car — some GMC truck. Japanese people seem to be quite a bit more patriotic with respect to their car choices than American people are.

Houses on Miyajima Island.People are extremely polite, but you will never know what they are really thinking about you. It’s as if everyone has a dual personality there. That somehow made us somewhat uncomfortable.

In Japan it is not customary to tip and could even be considered rude. That felt quite liberating actually.

Bicycles in Osaka.Japanese people dress very stylishly. Women wear super sexy skirts, stockings and boots. Man wear western suits with ties during the weekdays. I don’t think I have seen these kind of seas of suits even in Manhattan.
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