Android vs iOS

Over the last year or so I’ve been making mobile phone reviews for giffgaff and in that time I’ve played with a lot of Android phones, a Windows phone (eugh!) and a couple of iPhones.

I’m a big Apple fan (and tempted by the iPhone 6) however have been wondering if I could make the move to Android…in particular the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. There were a few reasons for me toying with changing to Android: the price of phones and the ability to add extra memory were 2 big factors in this.

A couple of weeks back I was sent the Z3 Compact to review and decided to set it up as my mobile and use it as my main handset for the weekend.

Getting all my data across was easy thanks to Google…you can even upload up to 20,000 songs to Google Music for free (and there’s an iPhone app) and so working between Android and a Mac isn’t really an issue.

I did find however the more I used Android the more little things bugged me. It’s not a bad operating system it just doesn’t feel as smooth as iOS.

One thing I missed was the notification bubbles on app icons and I found that only a few had them…I also found that the notification centre wasn’t quite as easy to use as iOS.

On top of that I just found there were lots of little things that I didn’t like that required downloading an app to customise it (i.e. the calendar). Whilst making the OS customisable is a big draw to Android for many people I found I only needed to customise it because it didn’t work as well for me as iOS.

All in all the longer I used it the more Android bugged me…it’s not bad, it’s just not as good (in my opinion) as iOS…maybe it’s the hardware/software combination that makes iPhones work better or maybe it’s just what I’m used to. The problem is, whilst I felt like I could get used to Android I felt lie it would be doing just that rather than it being as enjoyable to use.

I guess I’m well and truly attached to the Apple!

September’s Jam

This marks the 12th ‘jam’ post (and in terms of it being a monthly thing it will be the last as I’m rethinking how I post things more regularly on here).

As always I’ve been listening to lots of music this month and here are my 3 favourites. There’s a YouTube playlist at the bottom of this post.

The 1975

I saw The 1975 at Leeds Festival having only known one of their songs from a cover and this month ordered their album and have been really enjoying it. In particular I’ve been hooked on their song ‘sex’.

Jimmy Eat World

A few weeks ago I picked up Jimmy Eat World’s album ‘Invented’ in a That’s Entertainment and have been really enjoying it as an album. I may have posted about J.E.W before in this series but will link a couple of songs off invented in the playlist.

Lily Allen

I finally ordered Lily Allen’s latest album ‘Sheezus’ this month. Lily Allen is a little bit of a guilty pleasure and I quite like her previous album (although not a fan of her first). There’s some good tracks on Sheezus too.

Playlist
(Warning: some songs contain swearing)

If you like my music posts I started a music tumblr which I’m posting stuff on on a semi-daily basis (some days a few times, some days nothing). You can find it at http://listeningtothesoundtrackofmylife.tumblr.com.

I Don’t Deliver Washing Machines!

This morning I woke up to the following 2 messages through my contact form on this site.

I have no idea which part of my website leads people to believe I deliver washing machines (I don’t) and a google search for my name and washing machine doesn’t help me understand this more…although this is a result half way down the Google results.

Anyway to cut a short story short I have informed Rosemary of her error and given her my best wishes regarding her washing machine delivery.

Good deed for the day?

(Note: I’m 99% sure it’s not a series of SPAM messages as the e-mail address was a Karoo e-mail who are a local company in Hull)

Sony Smartphones & Watches - One to Watch

Last week I posted a couple of blogs about Apple’s new iPhones and the Apple Watch however last week Sony also made an announcement in Germany about their new products which, whilst lacking the hype may actually be more in touch with consumers than Apple! (Those of you who know me will know saying that is difficult for me!)

The New Xperia Z3 & Z3 Compact

In the past I’ve reviewed Sony’s Z1 and Z2 for giffgaff and they’ve always been impressive phones although my biggest criticism has been that they’re too big to use with one hand (the Z1 compact solved this).

This week Sony announced the Z3 and Z3 compact. The 2 phones are very similar in terms of spec although the Z3 compact has a slightly lower quality screen and less RAM however both boast 4K video, a 2 day battery life, a 20.7MP camera and are waterproof and dust tight.

The Z3 has a 5.2” screen and weighs 152g (less than the iPhone 6 plus) and the Z3 compact has a 4.6” screen and weighs in at 129g (the same as the iPhone 6). The pricing for the Z3 stands at £550 and the Z3 compact at £430 which prices them below the new iPhones.

Whilst, to an extent the Z3 & Z3 compact are simply improved versions of the Z1/2 there are small design tweaks and they actually look pretty good. I’m hoping to review them for giffgaff later on this month so it’ll be good to get my hands on one!

Sony also announced a range of watches and smart bands (for fitness).

The new SmartWatch 3 SWR50 is nice but nothing special (in my opinion) however I think the device to watch is the SmartBand Talk SWR30.

The SmartBand Talk SWR30 is probably going to retail at about £100 and is a slim smartBand with fitness sensors built in plus a curved e-INK display, speaker and microphone.

I think this is wear Sony seem to have got the right idea. I don’t particularly want a smart watch that does everything my phone does however a smart band that tells the time and can also show some notifications from my smartphone does seem pretty useful. If you add into the mix a 3 day battery life (not ideal but acceptable) and a smartBand that is up to 1.5m waterproof then I think Sony get it.

Gimmicks vs Usability

Sony seem to be the underdogs in the technology market, Samsung and Apple seem to get the media attention but I wonder if Sony are actually better at producing technology that is actually what users are looking for rather than quirky gimmicks and flashy launch events that try and convince users that they want the latest product.

I’m certainly going to be paying more attention to Sony in the coming months!

(It didn’t quite fit into the theme of this post but Sony also launched a waterproof Z3 tablet which is about the same size as the iPad mini but lighter…also worth a look)

The Apple Watch

On Friday I posted my initial thoughts about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and realised the post was getting a little lengthy so decided to do a separate post with my thoughts on the Apple watch.

Apple have been rumoured to have been working on a smart watch for a long time and on Tuesday Apple revealed their entrance into the smart watch market in the form of a highly customisable square watch with a control wheel on the side.

The Apple Watch will come in 3 versions both available as 38mm in size or 42mm. There will be the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition with a variety of options including black stainless steel, 18-carat rose gold and silver aluminium.

In terms of usability the watch will be able to tell the time (as you’d expect), receive notifications from your phone, control some of the features, have some apps specifically for the watch, allow you to reply to messages and make calls, view maps and access a load of other stuff from your iPhone.

On top of that there’s an emphasis on fitness and the watch has a fitness tracker built in which will collect your total body movement, heart rate and use the GPS on your iPhone to track movement too. These features will tie into the new Health app coming in iOS8 on Friday.

1st Impressions

My immediate response was ‘I want one’ however in reading about it since and hearing various view-points I’m not so sure. 

For starters the price will start at $349 which is just over £200…which makes it an expensive watch! Compare that to its closest counterpart: the Samsung Gear Fit which is £150 and you have quite a difference, especially when the Gear Fit is (in my opinion) superior in design and is also waterproof.

Shortcomings…

There are certainly some shortcomings in the Apple watch beyond the price.

For starters I think the design is a little chunky. On top of that it’s not waterproof meaning that going running in the rain or forgetting to take it off for a shower after a gym session could prove fatal.

Then there’s battery life…do you really want your watch to need charging on a daily basis?

I’m also not entirely convinced about the control wheel on the side…it feels a little bit like a step backwards and I’m not convinced it’s really a selling point.

Essentially, (much as it pains me to admit it as a huge Apple fan) I think there are better smart watches out there and as someone who’s mostly interested in the fitness aspect I think the Samsung Gear Fit or the more simple Sony Smartband Talk may actually be better options that sit better on your wrist and I think Apple are largely relying on existing Apple users to make the product work.

The iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus

On Tuesday Apple announced the expected iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus and the new Apple Watch. As expected with Apple these have gained masses of media attention. Now a few days have passed I thought I’d share my thoughts and initial impressions.

This post will be about the iPhone 6/6 Plus with a post on the Apple Watch coming on Sunday!

The iPhone 6/6 Plusimage

The new iPhones are pretty much as the rumours suggested, they are faster, have improved cameras (although not in terms of megapixels) and have a new design plus they are bigger!

The one thing that stands out to me about the new iPhones is the design. I like the curved look and it clearly has had a lot of thought put into it however I do wonder if a bigger screen is something Apple has been pressured into.

The 4.7” screen on the iPhone 6 is probably about the right improvement and will still be usable with one hand however the iPhone 6 Plus just seems a bit big to me. I’ve used a few bigger smartphones and my frustration is always that they’re uncomfortable to hold and can’t be used with one hand.

Apple Pay is the other feature that I think stands out…yes Android devices have had NFC technology for years but Apple might be the company who can pull off this technology actually being used in stores. Of course if they do manage to get stores to adopt it I think the same will follow for Android users.

The downsides…

Whilst the iPhone 6 is a new device in terms of design and has the expected speed improvements I’m not sure that it’s a big enough leap especially when, whilst it’s a little gimmicky the other high end smartphones are including the ability to be waterproof.

On top of that the battery life is much the same and whilst the 720p HD screen is nice it’s still not quite caught up with some of the other smartphones on the market.

Of course the biggest downside is price. The iPhone 6 starts at £539 and the 6 Plus at £619 (both 16gb models). Compare that to the Galaxy S5 which is around £470 and the new Sony Xperia Z3 which is £550 and it doesn’t seem too bad but both flagship phones from Sony and Samsung are waterproof and allow you to add additional memory yourself…if you want to add more memory to the iPhone the pricing goes a little mad!

At the end of the day with iPhones you pay in part for the Apple branding and also for the seamless linking between Apple devices. I’ve used an iPhone for years (and will probably continue to do so) and find the seamless linking between devices brilliant however I wonder if Apple are falling a little behind and getting a bit complacent.

I’ll post my thoughts on the Apple watch on Sunday!

Leeds Festival Favourite Bands

This year was the 3rd year I’ve been to Leeds Festival and once again it was a great experience. I was there partly as a volunteer with Festival Angels (click for more info) and partly as a music-freak.

I knew this year going to be good when Blink 182 were announced as headliners earlier this year but there were lots of other bands I caught that were also really good…here’s my favourites.

Blink 182
I have to start with Blink 182 really. Blink have been one of my favourite bands for over 10 years and finally seeing them live was brilliant. I know some people at the festival were disappointed but I think I’d listened to enough bootlegs of them over the years to know what to expect…they’re probably also one of very few bands who, regardless of what they’d played I’d have known all the words!

Paramore
Whilst Blink-182 were awesome Paramore were probably my favourite performance of the festival. I saw them at Leeds a couple of years back and knew they’d put on a good show. Hayley Williams is a fantastic front-woman and puts so much energy into Paramore shows…plus she has an incredible live voice.

The 1975
I went to see The 1975 partly because I’ve heard a lot about them and partly because I’d heard a cover of their song ‘sex’ and liked it but hadn’t really heard any of their music but I really enjoyed their set and have been listening to their album since the festival!

Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World played 2 sets at Leeds and I caught their MainStage set which was really good…not a lot else to add, just that they’re a very good live band!

You Me At Six
I was looking forward to seeing You Me At Six live again as seeing them at Leeds 3 years ago is what got me into them…they put on a great show and I’m excited about seeing them with All Time Low in February!

Nero
Finally, an artist I didn’t expect to like (or see). At one point we ended up in the tent where Nero were playing a set, I have to confess that I had no idea about them before but really enjoyed the 4/5 songs of theirs we heard and have actually bought their album since (and am listening to it as I type). It’s totally different from most things I listen to and so it’s nice to have something new.

I think that’s it!

I did also manage to catch ‘Of Mice & Men’, Milton Jones and Jack & Dean amongst other acts but the above are my festival favourites!

Music News

When I was 15 I used to get home from school and write songs at my drum kit because I couldn’t play guitar and piano wasn’t ‘punk’ (whatever that meant). At college I bought a cheap acoustic guitar closely followed by an electric and taught myself how to play.
Those first guitars began a process of writing and recording that would eventually lead onto the songs that would become ‘Escape This Town’.
Over 10 years later I’ve become a better musician, an improved singer and able to produce my own music and last year released my 2nd full length record ‘Thirteen Months’ which I’m still incredibly proud of.
3 years ago my New Years resolution was to play a gig. Since then I’ve played quite a few acoustic sets with my friend Rob and it’s been a lot of fun to play originals and covers live.
This leads me onto the point of this blog. In the coming months I will be drawing my solo music to a hiatus. That’s not to say I’ll never release anything under my own name again but that there are no plans to do so beyond 2014.
However I wanted to finish things off properly and so in the coming months I will be putting out 2 new releases.
imageA.C.P.R
The first of these is A.C.P.R (acoustic punk rock) which will be a 12 track acoustic album with 11 acoustic original songs and 1 cover. Some of these songs are songs I’ve been playing live for the last 3 years, others have been been a chance to re-write some of the older songs and there are also 2 new tracks which will appear in rock format on…
imageRoad Trips & Memories
Road trips and memories is a 5 track rock EP which consists of songs I’ve been writing and recording over the last year. It’s been ready for a few months but a load of other things have got in the way of me releasing it. 
All being well both ‘A.C.P.R’ and ‘Road Trips and Memories’ will be out before December.
What next?
I’m still going to be playing shows and producing music but the honest truth is that the music I’ve been writing for the last year has been very different from anything I’ve written before both musically and lyrically, leaving me with a selection of pop influenced tracks which I’ve been working to record.
imageThese songs are going to become my new project ‘Backroom Stereo' with the 1st single 'Brighter Future' out today over at backroomstereo.co.uk

August’s Jam

August has been a funny month and as I’ve had most of it off work it’s been very musically oriented both from writing/recording and also from watching a load of bands at Leeds Festival. So here are my 3 favourite artists from August.

As always there’s a YouTube playlist at the bottom.

Carrie Underwood

I finally got around to buying some of Carrie Underwood’s music this month. Carrie is fairly similar to Taylor Swift during her more country time and she write nice soft country pop!

Family Force 5

I’ve been a fan of Family Force 5 (who are a fusion of all kinds of genres) for a while but their new album ‘Time Stands Still’ arrived this month and it’s so much better than anything they’ve done in the last few years giving me a new love for them.

You Me At Six

I’ve been listening to You Me At Six for a couple of years now but saw them  play live at Leeds Festival and really enjoyed hearing some of their new songs played live…I’m also going to see them & All Time Low in Birmingham in February which is exciting!

Playlist

July’s Jam

The end of July is approaching and with it comes some of my favourite music from July (although not on the list below it’s also worth checking out Colbie Caillat’s new ‘Gypsy Heart’ EP and Luke Leighfield’s new song ‘Begin Again’

Here’s my 3 July favourites. As always there’s a playlist with 6 tracks at the end.

BriBry

BriBry is an Irish pop/folk singer/song-writer mostly famous for his YouTube channel. BriBry makes fun music which is perfect for the summer and his strong Irish accent comes through in his music which I really like.

Katy Perry

I ordered Katy Perry’s MTV Unplugged CD/DVD earlier this month and whilst it’s a few years old it’s still really good…especially the jazz influenced version of ‘I Kissed A Girl’…Katy Perry certainly sits up on my guilty pleasures list!

Linkin Park

In contrast to the 1st two artists Linkin Park recently released their new album ‘The Hunting Party’ and I think it’s probably the heaviest album they’ve ever done but it’s also incredibly good and I’ve been listening to it a lot!

Playlist

June’s Jam

My ‘May’s Jam’ post doesn’t seem long ago but somehow it’s the end of June so here are my favourite music from June (there’s a YouTube playlist at the bottom)

Candy Hearts

I got into Candy Hearts a while back and this month they released their new album ‘All The Ways You Let Me Down’. The album is brilliant and I’ve had it on repeat, essentially it’s feel good pop-punk with a female vocalist.

In particular I like the tracks ‘I Miss You’ and ‘All The Ways You Let Me Down’.

Linkin Park

This month Linkin Park’s album ‘Hybrid Theory’ turned 15 (which is crazy) and so I’ve been re-listening to it a few times and have a new appreciation for it.

Hybrid Theory was an album that was hugely popular when I was at school and I liked it but listening to it now over 10 years later I love the blend of heavy rock with melodic verses. It’s also an incredibly consistent album and just flows together.

(I still need to buy Linkin Park’s newest album which came out this month)

Brian Wilson

Finally I’ve been listening to a lot of Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson is the lead singer of the Beach Boys and has done a few solo albums. In particular I’ve been listening to his album ‘That Lucky Old Sun’.

The album as a whole is one of my favourite albums because it flows together completely and almost feels like it should be a musical. In my opinion this is the perfect summer album!

Playlist

New Vlog - Unexpected Birmingham Adventure

Last week I was meant to be on training in Birmingham but the timings got changed leaving me with 8 hours to kill around Birmingham so I put it to Facebook asking my friends what I could do…this is what happened.

Should Christians Be Open Minded?

A couple of weeks back I spent the day at the Youth Work Summit event in Manchester where we had a day of ‘TED’ style talks lasting 10-15 minutes each. The overall theme of the day was ‘Open Up' with sessions titled 'Open Up Your Soul’, 'Open Up Your Mind’, ‘Open Up Your Eyes’, ‘Open Up Your Heart' and 'Open Up Your Arms' with speakers such as Kenda Creasy-Dean, Shane Claidorne, and Andy Hawthorne amongst others sharing with us.

The introduction of the day encouraged us to be open minded and prepared to listen to a range of view on various topics.

Topics of the day aside it got me thinking about something I’ve been pondering for a while and that is: should Christians be open minded?

When I used to go to church in Great Yarmouth I remember the Minister on various occasions stating during his sermons that if we disagreed with anything he was more than happy to chat about it, explain his perspective, listen to other perspectives and potentially change his mind.

Compare this to another experience whereby having listened to one church leader preach a sermon which had several (fairly major) inaccuracies in it, I phoned him up to ask about them and was shot down before I could even finish a sentence on each one. The church leader offered no explanation of his view just told me point blank that he was right (my theology lecturer at uni said otherwise).

The point is that one of these ministers was approachable
and the other wasn’t.
One was open minded
The other wasn’t

To an extent this blog title should perhaps be ‘Christians should be open minded' because I struggle to see a side where we shouldn't be.

Surely if we think we have all the answers, a complete understanding of the bible and can explain everything then we no longer need to study it or listen to teaching and have reached a point whereby when it comes to understanding we are on par with God.

On several occasions in the New Testament Jesus challenges the ‘right’ interpretation of the bible that the religious leaders of the time think they have and their response is (more often than not) one that is fuelled with anger and closed-mindedness. They don’t have time for the idea that their thinking might not be what God intended.

It strikes me that if we’re not willing to be open minded, genuinely listen to other views (without our own agenda) and potentially change our minds then we become just like the Pharisees in the bible (or perhaps the Westboro Baptist Church…after all they think they’re right and refuse to listen to reason) - On a side note perhaps the WBC illustrate perfectly that the bible can bring many interpretations and expressions and isn’t simply black and white!

One of my biggest reflections on my faith journey is that my understanding of God has grown but only because I know I don’t have all the answers and the ones I think I do have might be wrong and I’m quite prepared to have those ideas challenged.

It’s not about taking any suggestion anyone says about God as gospel but about being willing to hear those ideas out, let them challenge our own views, reflect & pray on them and see what God says about it.

I think it’s very difficult for someone closed minded to be approachable.

Which brings me back to the minister from church in Great Yarmouth who used to say that with the views he preached he was more than happy to chat about them, explain his perspective, listen to other perspectives and potentially change his mind.

So in conclusion to this blog:

Are we willing to chat openly about our views?
Are we willing to explain our perspectives?

More importantly…

Are we willing to listen to the perspective of others?
Are we willing to potentially change our minds?

This blog is very much a series of thoughts that aren’t concluded (if they were concluded that would be somewhat ironic!) so I’d be interested to hear what you think!

May’s Jam

The end of May has snuck up on me which means it’s time to write about my favourite music of May.

I seem to have purchased quite a lot of music in May and so coming up with my 3 favourites is going to be difficult but I’ll give it a go!

As always there’s a YouTube playlist with 2 tracks from each artist at the end of the blog.

Mike Mains & The Branches

I came across this band a year or so ago and love their 1st album ‘Home’ and have been meaning to order their new record ‘Calm Down, Everything is Fine’ for a while and finally did (the CD is only available on their web-store).

Firstly the CD came signed which I didn’t expect and was a lovely extra…secondly it’s a really good album. It feels more mellow than their first but still has some great rock tracks and I really like the diversity of the album.

Itch

When Itch announced that he was going to do a hip-hop project after The King Blues broke up I remarked that it would either be incredible or awful.

Thankfully it’s the former and his debut album ‘The Deep End’ is really good and has been playing constantly in my car. Itch delivers punchy, thought out lyrics and his various guest vocalists bring some great choruses into the mix.

The Pretty Reckless

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon The Pretty Reckless but I’ve been listening to their album ‘Going To Hell’ loads this month. It’s a very metal sounding album which works really well with Taylor Momsen’s voice.

Playlist

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