Bollocks to this (HTC One M8)

Dear Mr & Mrs HTC,

Thank you so much for letting me play with your offspring, the HTC One M8 (do we say ’em-eight’? Or do we pronounce it in text-speak as ‘Mate’?).

The last two weeks of M8 experience have been, on the whole, mediocre.

I’ve loved playing with your offspring’s UI. I have to say the way the phone reacts to passes and motions, and the speed with which it processes taps and touches is just amazing.

And that’s where the good stuff ends.

You can’t pick the thing up without the phone activating itself through the silly double-tap screen experience. But what’s the point of switching such a fundamental feature off? It’s great to have, but when it activates every time you get up from your desk to go to a meeting… What the hell?

The camera is beautiful. Easy to use, it captures stunning detail every single time. Such a shame your stupid-beyond-belief menu system doesn’t let you back out of the camera, though. Isn’t it?

And then there’s the stunningly ridiculous logic of not being able to assign individual SMS alerts. Who, in the HTC household, thought this would be a good idea? Oh sure, I can (and did) download an app which let me assign individual SMS alerts. It let me assign individual SMS alerts right up until the time I rebooted the phone, a few days later. And then the phone switched the app off.

And here’s another thing. Assigning ringtones to groups from my contact list? Hahahahahahahaha. Yeah. That. It’s just beyond stupid that the HTC M8 messes with this simple customisation.

Now none of these things are unreasonable. In fact, they’re pretty ordinary requirements. I could do all of these things so easily, with my Samsung S3.

Oh sure, the S3 is not as slick as your M8. And sure, the M8 is faster, and has a better UI than the S3.

But ask yourself this.

What is the point of a slicker, faster UI, on a phone, if the phone can’t do simple customisations that (probably) every other Android phone can do?

I may as well have bought an iPhone for all the use the M8 has been.

Away from the handset itself, let’s look at the knock-protection cover that comes in the box.

It’s a half-phone cover, so it only protects the back and sides of the handset.

This, obviously, leaves the whole of the front unprotected.

Leaving such a fundamental (not to mention breakable) proportion of the handset unprotected s is a good idea, in whose world?

And then there’s the port, in the heel of the phone cover, where the charger plugs in.

After less than two weeks (that’s fewer than 14 ‘plug-ins to charge’), the port won’t fold shut.

So it hangs open to dust and the usual pocket detritus.


And, because it won’t fold shut, it’s a sticking-out object just waiting to get caught on clothing and other stuff.

Which, I’m fairly sure, will result in a sudden visit to the floor.

See the unprotected screen comment, above.

So the bottom line, for me, is bits of the phone are stunning. And bits of it are rubbish.

And I want to use a whole phone that isn’t at least a bit rubbish.

So I’m sending my HTC One M8 back.

And I’m getting another Samsung.

Because Samsung understand the Android system.

Something that HTC needs to take onboard pretty quickly.

And Samsung came top of the class in design.

Whilst HTC are in design remedial.

Phoning it in

Inspired (if that’s the right word) by Young Masher, I decided to have a long, hard look at my phone, what’s on it, how I use it and how often it gets used.

First of all, I have a Nexus S3:








I like my Nexus S3, it gets a lot of use every day; from very early in the morning, through to very late in the evening, and in to the night.

The big selling point about this phone, the one thing that makes it a quadzillion times better than any other handset I looked at, is the absolutely awesome battery life.

So, the applications installed on it are, alphabetically:

  • Adobe Flash Player
  • AndFTP
  • Audioboo
  • BBC News
  • Calculator
  • Camera
  • Clock
  • Contacts
  • ChatOn
  • Chrome
  • DomainTools
  • Drive
  • Dropbox
  • eBay
  • Email
  • FileExplorer
  • FM Radio
  • Evernote
  • Facebook
  • Flipboard
  • Freeview TV Guide
  • Gallery
  • Game Hub
  • Gmail
  • Google Local
  • Google Maps
  • Google Navigation
  • Google Play Books
  • Google Play Movies
  • Google Play Store
  • Google Search
  • Google Talk
  • Google+
  • GuitarTuner
  • Lookout
  • Meetup
  • Messaging
  • MusicShop
  • MX Player
  • My Vodafone
  • My Web
  • Nexus Availability Checker
  • Ocado
  • Phone
  • S Planner
  • S Voice
  • Skype
  • SpeedTest
  • SwiftKey 3
  • Talk
  • The Pill
  • TweetDeck
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • WordPress
  • YouTube

Some of these come with the handset, so having them there is no indication that I have ever used them.

But which applications do I use?

To one degree or another, pretty much all of them, with the very notable exception of Facebook, which I do not use on my phone ever.

But here is a list of the applications that I do use every day – and some of them (the bold ones) get used dozens, if not hundreds of times a day:

  • BBC News (a scaled down, mobile News app)
  • Camera (it takes photos and shit and that)
  • Clock (also my second alarm clock of the working week)
  • Contacts (my Gmail address book)
  • Drive (formerly known as Google Docs)
  • Evernote (the mutts nuts of portable note-taking)
  • FileExplorer (it explores hardware for files)
  • Flipboard (a brilliant RSS aggregator)
  • Freeview TV Guide (for, you know, TV guide information)
  • Gmail (my primary email app)
  • Google Navigation (SatNav)
  • Guitar Tuner (use this when I’m doing guitar practice in the car)
  • Lookout (my sentry/guard system)
  • Messaging (the SMS application I use so well and so frequently)
  • Phone (it makes and receives calls! you can talk to people!)
  • S Planner (a slightly slicker Google Calendar with full interface)
  • S Voice (I talk to my phone, tell it to do things, it does them)
  • Skype (for, like, Skyping and stuff)
  • SwiftKey 3 (the best virtual keyboard app I’ve found)
  • Talk (an interface to GoogleTalk or GChat as it used to be known)
  • TweetDeck (totally well-used app)
  • WordPress (a very slick interface to WordPress websites)



I think that’s probably enough lists, for now.

While all the lists were written some time ago, and published on a ‘scheduled update’, things – in other areas of my life – have been, as you might imagine, happening.

I have been to so many gigs in the last two months that, frankly, I can’t remember them all. I need to find a quiet half-hour (or hour!) to sit down and go through my notes.

And, erm.

I’ve started writing for a media offshoot of The Guardian.

Yes, that Guardian.

And, in another area of my life, as the personnel have, obviously, changed, I’ve put some serious thought (and effort) in to remodelling the show – This Reality Podcast.

The changes that I’ve come up with; updating the format, increasing the musical content to six tracks, and tightening the duration downwards to around 30 minutes per show, all seem to have been well-received in the greater world. The listener figures have seen some significant uplifts, now that the show is more focussed.

It was helpful, obviously, that I was able to do some significant networking at the Media Centre in Manchester.

And also down at NME.

And, most beneficially of all, I’ve slutted and whored the show all over the Guardian (who have been wonderful about allowing me to trawl the show’s name and website details through their print and online properties).

I’ve also made a couple of minor updates to the show’s website. The most significant change is that the the revolving header photograph now updates, whenever a new show is released.

It always seemed odd, to me, that I’d put out a new show each week, but the main eye-grabbing feature of the website didn’t reflect this.

But not odd enough to do anything about it.

Until now, obv.

In other news, we had the yard Christmas ‘do’, the week before last. And that’s all I’m giving away.

I’ve sold my beautiful horsebox.

Even though Vin is on the point of being passed as ‘fully fit’, I’ve decided that my seriously competitive days are over.

If I need to take a horse somewhere, I’ll borrow a lorry.

Vin is due to see the chiro in the next week.

If he gets a double thumbs-up, we should be able to start bringing him in to work just after Christmas.

And, erm, speaking of Christmas.

I am off to Morocco in a week’s time.

And going to the Event Riders Association ball in January.


My phone is due for an upgrade this week.

I want the new Nexus, obv.

But I’m also thinking of dumping Vodafone.

This is radical, I’ve been with Vodafone for about eight years. But, you know, one always wonders if the grass could be greener on the other side of the telecoms fence.

And there have been lots of other things going on.

Yes, lots.


Improving the mobile experience

Those of us who use WordPress as our Content Management System of doom choice will like this (if you haven’t already got hold of it).

Websites try to render their content on to mobile devices with varying degrees of success. I love the way The Guardian (mobile) website presents its content on my phone. Every (mobile) article presents well, is easy to read and I have no need to do that ‘pinch/squeeze’ thing to expand or contract the text.

Other websites don’t detect mobile users, or if they do, they don’t provide mobile users with the kind of content that renders easily on to a mobile device.

I’ve recently discovered a WordPress plugin that detects mobile devices, and renders your content accordingly.

It’s called WPTouch and you can do the auto install thing from your WordPress admin panel.

WPTouch makes a massive difference to mobile users; it might not be to everyone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely mine.

And it’s free!

This is a public service announcement and it comes courtesy of a discovery I made via Shouting At Cows.

Ups, downs, lefts, rights and straight-aheads

Edited: Saturday times in

This Saturday Tom and I are competing again. If you’re in the Ascott-under-Wychwood/Burford/Charlbury area, the British Eventing One-Day-Event is free to spectators. There’ll be the usual on-site catering and the organisers are putting on a range of activities/things to see for children.

But the best things to watch will be the action in the show-jumping arena and out on the cross-country course.

Our times are:






We jumped brilliantly today; if we can keep everything as smooth in the show-jumping arena on Saturday as it was today, we’ll jump a careful but perfect double-clear. Here’s hoping!

Of course, it will be a different kettle of fish on the cross-country, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 🙂

In other news…

I have been impressed beyond belief with the way my Googlephone (Nexus One if you prefer) seamlessly plugs in to the full range of Google’s services. But yesterday, on my way to Cambridge, I accidentally discovered that it has SatNav built in to it.

I was in a motorway services, having a coffee and using Google Maps on the phone to double-check the location I was aiming for. And then I noticed a ‘Navigate’ button. I pressed it. After 2-3 seconds of looking at a ‘Fetching directions’ message, a disembodied female voice said ‘Turn left, then travel forward for half a mile then turn left and join the motorway’. And the screen displayed the typical GPS ‘directional’ display that has become so familiar to us all.

So I put the phone on the passenger seat and followed the instructions. And arrived, not too much later, at the front-door of my destination.

I’ve been playing with the SatNav feature in Google Maps today too. It really is simple to use.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking that this Old Welsh Fart(tm) has changed his mind and is going to get all hypocritical and be in favour of SatNav – a product he has raved and ranted against on more than one occasion.

You’re be wrong.

Using SatNav has made me realise just how dangerous it is.

  1. SatNav has a screen with a moving display and it is a design intention that the vehicle driver looks at the screen. This means the driver taking his/her eyes off the road.
  2. SatNav has a commentary, but when the commentary dries up – even if it is only because the commentary has nothing to tell you at the moment – the driver inevitably takes his/her eyes off the road to make sure the device is still working.
  3. SatNav has the ability, I can clearly see, to stop the driver for thinking for him/herself. I am now completely unsurprised that so many ‘middle lane hoggers’ are SatNav users. They can only be sitting in the middle lane of the motorway because the SatNav has not told them to pull in to lane 1.
  4. SatNav creates a dangerous situation whereby the driver stops giving 100% concentration to his/her driving, and instead, transfers a significant proportion of his/her concentration to SatNav, and that leads to situations like this.

There is a more trivial point for not liking SatNav: it doesn’t like my short-cuts through farmyards.

But it’s a thumbs-down for SatNav as we know it.

Phonio, phonio, wherefore art thou phonio

On 21st May 2009 – yes, 2009! – I started, failed to finish and left languishing in ‘drafts’ this post. Time to shake the dust off, breathe some new life in to it and turn this baby around…

Mobiles. Not the kind one might hang from a child’s bedroom ceiling.

I have been having issues with my Samsung F480V. Not functional issues, as in: it doesn’t do its job.

These are functionality issues, as in: it does its job but only in such a complex way that it takes 12 Functional Points to pass from main menu to sending an SMS (not counting the keystrokes to compose the message, obv).

And that is a major piece of suckage.

(continued May 2010)…

Until now.

Because, as of four days ago, I have dumped the Samsung for the long-awaited Google Nexus One.

And I love it.

I love being able to stand in the queue in Tesco, pull up the application window, flip over to Gmail, read, reply, flip over to Seesmic, see what’s happening on Twitter, flip over to… ANYWHERE and see what’s happening whilst passing through an absolute minimum of Function Points.

I don’t love the Nexus One, I only love organic things; Sophie, Tom, Vin.

But in four days of learning about and adjusting to the Nexus One, it’s safe to say that I’ve become acclimatised to it, to the point of feeling like it has always been part of me.

I have had one issue over the last four days, and even that isn’t a Nexus One issue.

Getting the 784 contacts exported from the Samsung has been an issue of megalithic proportions.

Not getting 784 contacts imported, oh no, the Nexus One could do that in the blink of an eye and do it in any one of a bunch of file formats.

But getting them out of the Samsung?

Yeah, that’s been really tough.

But I’ve loved that, as I’ve wrestled each contact in to place in the Nexus One, the contacts have been populated with their WordPress icon (where they have a WordPress account, obv).

And I love that I can look at a contact and see if s/he is online and available to chat.

The only disappointment is that there’s no native Skype application in the app store, but NimBuzz seems to do the job, so I’m using that for now.

Battery life, on the Nexus One, seems to be a moveable feast. Left to its own devices, the handset would need an electric fix every 24 hours, whereas the late but remarkably unlamented Samsung would go 72 hours of heavy use before needing a fritz of 13Amps.

So I’m using a system monitor, and learning to use which utilities and processes I can kill off, which I can rank in terms of importance and where I can set the processing ceilings.

I think I’m up to having one extended charge every 29 hours, but I can probably improve on that, the more I learn about the device.

And I love the simplicity of the alerts and notifications menus and, using the app settings, sub-menus.

Let me know about Twitter responses, but not about emails, but vibrate a little if someone calls me.

It takes a swipe of excellent simplicity to set up a complex structure like that.

So yeah, watch this space, but for now I really am having a whale of a time with the Nexus One.

In other news…

I shall be back in an old haunt on Tuesday, so if there’s anyone knocking about the Westminster/Vauxhall areas with not much to do at lunchtime, let me know.


So my lovely, slim, small, smart, trendy, funky touch-screen Samsung F480 (which sounds as though it should be a Ferrari) handset sits – shiningly – on my desk in front of me.

Dead as the proverbial doornail. Or to put it another way… As alive as a flock of Dodos.

And I, who lives and breathes and does mucho mucho mucho business via his mobile phone… am gutted.

And very seriously unimpressed with Mr Samsung for having given me a defective product.


I have a new gadget!

The old new gadget has been returned to Vodafone. Now I have a new new gadget. And already I love it.

It’s fab, it’s hip, it’s groovy and it isn’t either turgidly slow or mind-bogglingly complex.

It is the Samsung SGH-F480V and it is, compared to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, the mutt’s nuts.

I’m happy it’s a Samsung – my old handset was a Samsung and I was deliriously happy with that – and I’m happy with the way it’s performed so far.

Yay me. Yay it. 🙂


I have a new gadget.

My old mobile phone, my dear old, much loved, extremely trusted and many-times-dropped Samsung D500 handset has just creaked past the limit of operating acceptability.

When one is texting and presses the ‘H’ key and the letter ‘B’ appears in the screen, or when one is making a call and presses the number ‘6’ only to see the character ‘!’ light up, it’s time to set the trusted friend aside.

Especially when Vodafone laugh down the phone when I call them up to ask about warranty; after the giggle they explain that my handset went out of warranty 18 months ago.

Eighteen months being, in the mobile phone world, the equivalent of three millennia and a small aeon. And perhaps an Ice Age or two. Not the cartoon of the same name, natch.

So the Sunday before last found me in Oxford’s Ye Olde Vodafone Shoppe, examining replacement handsets.

Eventually a decision was made; the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1.

It had the things I need; Text, Bluetooth, 3G WAP, WiFi and a Camera.

It can also make and receive Video Calls and record video and has an FM radio and has MS-Office compatibility (and has MS-Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Internet Explorer preloaded) and has the Opera browser and full data exchange/synchronisation with Outlook and Many Other Things.

And it even makes and receives phone calls!

It also has great call-time life and is very strong in the standby-time department too.

In fact there’s just one thing wrong with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 handset.

It sucks.

I’ve had the thing a week and a half, but some time in the next few days I’ll be hot-footing back to Oxford’s Ye Olde Vodafone Shoppe to hand the thing over, admit defeat and choose a replacement.

The more I’ve used the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 handset, the more I’ve become disenchanted with it.

Today was the final humiliation.

A colleague rang me and she and I talked about what we needed to talk about. And then we chatted.

And then there was a slightly awkward pause and then we chatted falteringly about some random things for a while. And then she said ‘Aren’t you going to hang up?’

‘No, you hang up.’
‘Why?’ came back down the cellular line. If lines can indeed by cellular.
‘Because I want to see what the handset does when the incoming caller hangs up.’
‘You don’t know how to!’
‘Rubbish! Of course I know how to hang up. I just tap on the little red telephone icon on the screen.’
‘Well go on then.’
‘No. I told you. I want to see how the phone reacts when the incoming caller hangs up first.’
‘That’s rubbish. You don’t know how to do it!’
‘Of course I do. I just tap the red handset icon.’
‘Do it then.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because why?’

I mumbled something.

‘I’m sorry?’ she asked.
‘I can’t.’
‘Why can’t you?’
‘Because the screen goes dark after 20 seconds, to preserve the battery life.’
‘And no matter how or where I tap it, it doesn’t come back on.’
‘You’re joking!’
‘No.’ I may have felt slightly embarrassed at having to say this.

Anyway, we concluded our call – she did the hanging up thing.

I really love the look, feel and weight of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 handset. But it really does suck. It does far too many things and because of the functional complexity it is a complete and utter fucking nightmare to get it to do what you want it to do.

Want your address book?
1. Push the button to deactivate the screen/battery saver
2. Click ‘Start’
3. Click ‘Contacts’
But that’s four keystrokes to get to the alphabetical list. My old Samsung did it in two.

Want to make a call?
1. Push the button to deactivate the screen/battery saver
2. Click ‘Start’
3. Click ‘Phone’
4. Click on ‘Address Book’
And that’s four keystrokes to get to the searchable address book. My old Samsung did it in two.

Want to use the camera?
1. Push the button to deactivate the screen/battery saver
2. Look for Camera in the list
3. Keep looking
4. Look some more
5. Check the list again

  • a. Today
  • b. Office Mobile
  • c. Calendar
  • d. Contacts
  • e. Internet Explorer
  • f. Messaging
  • g. Phone
  • h. Vodafone Find & Go
  • i. Comm Manager
  • j. Opera Browser
  • k ActiveSync
  • l. Programs
  • m, Settings
  • n. Help

6. Click on Programs
7. Look at the list

  • a. Business Applications
  • b. Games
  • c. Media
  • d. Tools
  • e. ActiveSync (again!)
  • f. Calculator
  • g, Comm Manager
  • h. Email Plus
  • i. File Explorer
  • j. Getting Started
  • k. Google Maps (yes, really!)
  • l. IM Messenger
  • m. Opera Browser
  • n. Search
  • o. Vodafone Find & Go (again!)
  • p. Vodafone Live
  • q. Vodafone (something different!)
  • r. Windows Live

8. Realise the camera isn’t there
9. Look for the ‘Back’ button
10. There isn’t one
11. Click on ‘x’
12. Click on Start (again!)
13. Look at the same list
14. Give up

See what I mean? And do I really need to tell you that my old Samsung did it in four?

There’s far too much in there trying to be way too clever. And yet Sony Ericsson haven’t even got their basic functionality menus right.

As I said… The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1?

It sucks.

‘Ello? Yeah, it’s me. I’m on the ‘plane

The  news that Ofcom has approved the use of mobile telephones on aeroplanes fills me with dread.

In the UK we laugh when comedians (cf Dom Joly’s joke character) heaves an unbearably loud, improbably large mobile telephone earwards and shouts “I’m on the train!”

But how would we laugh when (trapped in a crowded, claustrophobia-inducing  narrow metal cylinder that’s travelling at over 30,000 feet at a speed of greater than 400mph with several hundred other poor folk) we hear the dreaded Crazy Frog (or similar) ring tone followed by: “Yeah? No, we’re over France or Spain or sumwhere I fink. Yeah, got burned. Well pissed too.”?

I suspect we wouldn’t laugh at all.

Please Ofcom, reverse this awful decision!