It seems like there’s a lot of people really hoping that App.net, is going to teach Twitter and its big brother, Facebook, a lesson of some sort. The service will be ad-free and subscription-driven, and promises to put ‘users and developers […] first, not advertisers’.
The intentions are certainly good and I’ve no doubt they are technically highly competent, but I can’t see this working for two reasons:
- Ultimately, its success will be judged on the number of people using the platform. Charging a fee, no matter how tiny, will be a showstopper for most people. So I don’t predict any mass exodus from the big two to App.net.
- But even if it were free… I asked a colleague recently, what it would take to get him to switch from Facebook to Brand X, and similarly to convince most of his friends to move and couldn’t come up with anything. We agreed it would take something pretty incredible — a feature or service that dwarfed in its awesomeness everything else out there*. Remember that Google with its considerable has been unable to get a decent chunk of the social-media market.
None of this is to say that Twitter’s future looks all that rosy (I actually think it’s looking a bit bleak at the moment) or that Facebook can sit back on its laurels (I think it’s a one-company bubble — i.e. grossly overvalued and there will be price to pay once investors realize this). And there’s always the possibility that something new and unexpected will come along that will make social-networks suddenly seem — oh so noughties.
* I did eventually come up with one idea that he said would get him to switch but I’ll save that for another day.
Last week my trusty Sennheisser CX-300-II gave up the ghost (one of the speakers just stopped working which seemed to be a wiring issue) and I suddenly found myself facing an unexpected dilemna — what headphones to buy? I was reluctant to buy another pair of Sennheisser. They sound great but I wondered if there wasn’t a sturdier option. And something else had changed since I’d purchased the Sennheisser — whereas before I had an iPod Touch, now I have an iPhone and taking it frequently to pause/take calls/adjust voume was starting to be a nuisance (not to mention an accident waiting to happen!).
So I decided I wanted something with a remote and mic and wondered about the Apple In Ear headphones (these are the headphones which are not delivered by default with the iPhone/iPod).
After reading reviews one thing that worried me was bass — ‘not for bass-heads’ being a common refrain. But I decided to take a chance on them — I was feeling risky! I got them home, put them on and was immediately disappointed. Yes, it was probably true that I could hear the mid tones better as some reviews had said but my music sounded flat. Then I came across a blog entry where the writer explained that, with time, he had grown to prefer the sound of these headphones. And that the bass wasn’t a problem — most people who reported that problem were not inserting them correctly. If any air escapes, they don’t work. So I put mine back in, a bit deeper into my ear canal than I would normally do with the CX300-II and started twiddling them around. And suddenly — boom! — there was the bass!
They weren’t totally comfortable so I swapped out the medium-sized buds for the small size and now they feel really comfortable. I’ve been listening to them for the last hour and I have to say I love the sound. They don’t thump like the CX-300 IIs but overall I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the sound is probably crisper and clearer. I think I can hear more of my music. And the bass is fine (I’m not a bass head after all — whatever that means, anyway.) I’ve tried listening to a variety of music, from rock, pop, folk to classical and it all sounds equally good. And it goes without saying that they simply blow the stock Apple headphones out of the water — musically and from a comfort view point.
I’m pretty happy with them overall. However, I also want an over the ear pair for around the house and at the office and I saw a great review of the AiAiAi Tracks at fiftyfootshadows.net and have ordered them. I’m looking forward to comparing them with the Apple In Ears.
I’ve had my iPhone 4S about a week now. It’s quite simply amazing and so much better than my iPod Touch (with which I was already delighted). But all the tiny things make a huge difference. Speed, superior camera, better build, the convenience of the always-on Internet, GPS, compass, etc.
I’ve now got a bit more used to shooting with it (mainly with the excellent Camera+ app) and can deliver my verdict. Drum roll… it’s absolutely fabulous! In fact the camera is a strong contender for the one thing I most love about the iPhone 4S. So what’s so good about it — it’s only a phone camera after all, right?
To answer this, first, let me say where I’m coming from. My ‘normal’ camera is a DSLR — a few years old admittedly but still a decent enough camera (a Canon 400D). Early on I abandoned the kit lens (18-55mm zoom) for a couple of bright, good quality (and cheap) prime lens: a Canon 50mm f1.8 and a Canon 35mm f2. Even though neither lens allows me to zoom in and zoom out, they both more than make up for it in terms of optical quality: I get lovely, contrasty, sharp images with the option of having a very shallow depth of field if so desired. Because both lens are bright, I almost never have to resort to flash. For all the convenience of zoom lens, you lose out massively in terms of optical quality. I find instead that the prime lens forces me to be more creative. You have to learn to photograph with whatever is available to you and both of these lens make excellent walk around lenses — versatile, light and a field of vision that will get you most shots.
So, how does an iPhone 4S compare? Well it’s a completely different beast — in some ways you’re comparing chalk with cheese. With the right lens, set-up and photographic skill, the images produced by a DSLR can easily blow the iPhone 4S out of the water. However, see the way I said ‘With the right lens, set-up…’? That’s the crux — the iPhone 4S is always with you and at almost any point you can whip it out of your pocket or bag and take a photo (it’s really quick to power on). I have my DSLR with me a couple of hours each week max. As the adage goes, the best camera for the job is the one you have with you.
OK, so the same could be said for any phone camera. What’s so special great about the camera in the iPhone 4S? The best review I’ve read on this is by Ars Technica. Your experience may differ but here are the main points I’ve noted so far:
- Overall, the quality of pictures is excellent. In good conditions it’s hard to distinguish them at a casual glance from photos taken with a dedicated camera
- The focal length is wide (sometime like 28 on a traditional camera) but there’s very little distortion.
- White balance is excellent — the colours in photos are rarely washed with unnatural hues because they were taken under artificial lighting for example.
- I can almost always take photos without flash — because of the bright f2.4 aperture, the sensitive sensor, the usable nature of the higher ISO settings, and the tolerance the camera seems to have for even quite long exposures (e.g. 1/15)
- I get as many ‘keepers’ as I do with my DSLR, if not more
- The basic IOS camera app is OK but it’s well worth upgrading to Camera+ — great interface and you can independently set the focus and exposure which doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is
- Haven’t used HDR much so can’t really say much about that
- There are lots of useful and fun photo apps available — effectively you end up carrying around with you not just a camera but a darkroom and a photographic distribution network!
- PhotoStream is really great — it allows you to seamlessly upload photos taken with your iPhone to all your devices and access them from anywhere
- Because the iPhone 4S has an 8MP sensor, it’s perfectly fine to crop images to a smaller size (e.g. to focus in on a particular detail) and still have a useable image size at the end
- It works perfectly as a portable scanner — you can take a photo of a page in a magazine say and read it afterwards no problem!
- It’s got quite a decent macro capability
The things that took me a bit longer to adapt to (and which I still half hope Apple might some day do something about):
- There’s no way to specify the aperture which maybe isn’t such a big deal
- There’s no way to set the exposure which is more of a big deal — the way the iPhone handles low light is by increasing the shutter speed and then boosting ISO — higher ISO means more noise so, it would be nice if you had a tripod for example, to be able to keep the ISO low and just set the exposure for longer (e.g. several seconds)
- There’s no way to manually override the auto-focus
But they’re minor gripes — really minor. As I said above, you have to make use of the equipment available to you and the restrictions force you to be more creative.
Though I’ve been a long time Apple user and have had an iPod Touch for the last two years, it was only today for the first time that I ventured out into the world with an iPhone (iPhone 4S 64GB / black). In theory, the difference between it and an iPod Touch shouldn’t be so big, but really it’s like comparing a Toyota Yaris with a Ferrari. There are so many gob-smackingly awesome things about an iPhone that it’s a different category of beast altogether.
I personally love the look and feel of the iPhone 4 — it’s timeless. And I love the fact that it is actually reasonably thick and has a solid feel — I never understood the thinner is better approach, of which the iPod Touch was the embodiment (damning any chance of it having a half way decent camera).
So other than that, what are the main differences?:
- the quality of the screen (they’re both retina screens but the iPhone 4 is superior by some way)
- the fact that it is a phone (the iPod Touch may have been thinner but I had to carry two devices around with me)
- the camera is vastly superior — I love the angle of view which I think is about 35mm on a traditional camera and the low light abilities are pretty decent
- it’s so much zippier (hadn’t really noticed the iPod Touch was so sluggish until I switched)
- Video — haven’t tried it yet but on paper it looks vastly superior and image stabilization is a huge help. It means I won’t have to replace my Canon MVXi after all (an SD camera about 5 years old).
- Lowlight capability… for both video and photo, it performs much better in low light (on the iPod Touch once things got a bit dimmer, the image became quite noisy)
- Siri — I think this is pretty nice though there’s no getting around the fact that you have to talk to your phone to use it
- Compass and GPS — it can really locate you on a map but not just that — it can tell you which way you’re looking. For someone like me who has a poor sense of direction this can come in really handy!
- Ubiquitous internet — there’s no denying how handy this is. My bill pay package (from Vodafone in Portugal) gives me 100 mins calls + 600 MB internet for 15€ per month — I’m sure this will cover my needs (especially given that I have wifi at work and home).
It’s true that at one point, the iPod Touch did deserve it’s honourary title of poor man’s iPhone but that’s no longer the case.
I have been completely waylaid with my redesign of Portable Poetry. A few months ago, I decided to ‘freshen up’ my personal website (www.stoneloach.com), and realised that, to do some of the things I want, I need to get more comfortable with Illustrator. And so I’ve been teaching myself to use Illustrator lately. Slowly.
This is my first post and I’ll keep it short. The central theme of this blog is online publishing. The ‘poetry’ of the title refers literally to poetry, in the form of Portable Poetry, a custom book service I set up and ran some years ago. I still have the site online and though the service no longer exists, I’ve set myself a mini-project of revamping it and I’d like to write about the process, documenting what I learn as I go along (I hope it may help others).
But I hope to also write more generally on online publishing—a hugely broad topic, for sure, so I will hopefully focus a little on the parts which most interest me—and in those case, the word ‘poetry’ in the title should take on a more metaphorical meaning.