Wileyfox Storm: a stormy start

Hi-spec affordable smartphone from new UK company Wileyfox offers great value for money, but early experience is spoiled by a couple of niggling annoyances.

My recent mobile phone journey has been a bumpy one. I dropped my beloved Nexus 5 while getting into the car, completely shattering the screen, and since paying one of those cowboy high street repair shops £80 to replace it the vibrate function hasn’t worked and the rear cover is open on one corner and won’t snap closed. My phone needs to be fully functional so I found these “wounds” impossible to live with. The Nexus was a personal purchase and on enquiring with my provider I found I was due an upgrade, so I chose the HTC One Mini 2. This was a lovely handset to look at and to hold, with brushed aluminium curved body really sitting well in the hand. The problem? It’s slow. Sooo slow. Facebook would regularly take five seconds or more to load and often the screen would just freeze for no apparent reason. So, I have one phone that performs well but has battle scars and another that looks and feels great but slows to a crawl frequently with no explanation.

The Wileyfox Storm

Then I heard about Wileyfox and its two new budget handsets: the Swift and the Storm. At £195 the Storm is a real bargain: 5.5 inch screen, 20 MP rear camera with the same sensor as the Sony Experia Z2, dual 4G SIM card slots, 3Gb RAM and a host of other neat features. So I ordered one thinking it would be the solution to all my phone woes.

It isn’t.

When it was delivered the other day from Amazon I unboxed it with joy, and initial impressions were great: big, bold, fast, good-looking. But in the three days I’ve been using it I’ve noticed a few things that individually I could live with, but combined add up to a level of frustration that is spoiling the usual new device honeymoon period.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  1. Battery life is very poor. Even with normal usage I’m having to recharge it in the early evening in order to keep it alive til bedtime
  2. Battery indicator behaviour You know that little lightning bolt that appears in the battery icon to show that it’s charging? When I unplug the charger in the morning the lightning bolt stays there and I have to reboot to get the icon back to normal.
  3. Trebuchet Launcher and Google Now this is broken. If you use the Trebuchet launcher that comes built in and then enable Google Now, the Google search bar on the home screen is replaced by a static Now Card display that you can’t remove. To get around this I’ve had to switch to the Google Now Launcher, which is nice but on a screen this size the icons are too big. It looks like a smaller screen zoomed in rather than making the most of the additional real estate available.
  4. TouchscreenThe screen seems a little less sensitive to touch than the Nexus 5, meaning I have to press a little harder than I’m used to. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem in general but there’s one area where it’s a real pain: Minesweeper. I like to try and beat my own personal best on this game, and that means quick tapping to uncover mines. On the Storm’s screen I find this doesn’t work reliably, and my games times are suffering.

Why can no phone deliver the goods in all departments? Why is there always a fly in the ointment like this? My search for the perfect smartphone continues…

Brilliant New Online Magazine Launches

If you are a FlipBoard user (and if not, why not! ? ) you’ll know that it’s a great app for getting you the news and articles you want in a nice flip-to-turn-the-page design.
A handy new feature they added recently gives users the option of creating their own magazine on topics that matter to them, and then sharing it with the world.

So, without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to since the latest magazine to hit FlipBoard’s shelves:

Chris Neal’s Personal Technology Digest

Every day it will be beefing up the pages with news and stories from around the tech world. No more taking through repetitive tech blogs! Let me do the digging for you do you get straight to the juicy white mat.

Just click the link on your mobile device to add my new magazine to your virtual rack.

“Watch” This Space

See what I did there? Quite witty when you realise this post is about the ticking time bomb of the smart watch market. I’m so sharp I might cut myself.
If-like me-you’re a tech geek AND a watch geek, the next few weeks should have you quivering with excitement. Smartphones are sooo last week:: now it’s all about the smart watch.

What’s a smart watch you say? Well, think of it as Robin to your phone’s Batman: a trusty sidekick that turns The Caped Crusader into The Dynamic Duo. Imagine a touchscreen on your wrist that can communicate with your phone–show you who’s calling, emails, texts etc. But that also has some tricks all its own, think camera, pedometer, alarm clock, erm…watch.

Watch the skies (the tech blog skies that is) over the next few days. Google has acquired WIMM Labs, rumors of the Apple iWatch abound, and most importantly Samsung are expected to announce their first production model, the Galaxy Gear, on September 4th. That’s just three days away. I’m setting my alarm for that: shame it’s not on my wrist…YET.

How to customise the Dock on the HTC One Smartphone

One of my clients has the HTC One, and while it’s a fantastic smartphone with lots of great features, it can be a little tricky figuring out how to customise the home screens and application dock. For some reason HTC does this very differently from other Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy range.
Anyway, after a little searching around I came across this short video that shows how you can move icons out of and into the Dock. Easy when you know how!

Asus Padfone: Stroke of Genius?

It’s been a while since my last blog post, and there are two reasons for that. One: I’ve been busy working and two: I’ve been neglecting the blog in what spare time I have had. But enough excuses, on to content new!

While away in Asia on a business trip I discovered the Asus Padfone series. The basic idea of the Padfone is that it delivers both a smartphone and a tablet experience, but without two set of apps, data etc. In the traditional model you’d have a smartphone and a tablet: Apple fans with their iPhone and iPad, and Android people with their Nexus’s and Galaxy Tabs. Many people have both devices because there are times when only a smartphone will do — out and about, on the town, parties.. when you need your device to fit in a trouser pocket — and there are times when only the larger display a tablet provides will do too. I’m thinking reading the news, playing games, watching movies etc. For this reason many people buy two devices. The issue with two devices (apart from the cost), is that you end up with two lots of everything: two collections of apps, two music libraries, two Facebook clients, two email programs checking the same account, etc.

The two-in-one Padfone

The Asus Padfone aims to solve this problem by making one device –plus an accessory– fulfil both roles. Essentially you are always using the smartphone, but with the choice of using it in ‘phone mode’ –which is exactly the same as any other smartphone, or “tablet mode” where you slot the phone into a slot on the back of a larger ten inch display. So, you have what look like two separate devices but instead of being a tablet the larger one is just a bigger display for the phone to use. A benefit here is that, when you plug it in you get the same home screens, same wallpaper, same icon placement, same data, same apps as when in phone mode, only this time with a bigger, higher-res display.

The Padfone 1 has been out a while and the 2nd generation has just launched, with a third — the Padfone Infiinty– already announced for a mid-2013 release. I have to say I’m tempted by the idea. For me the combination has a kind of Thurderbird 2&4 coolness, where one thing nestles inside another and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I am currently using an Android phone and an Android tablet, and do sometimes get frustrated with the need to clear email and Facebook notifications twice, update the same apps on both devices and so on.

What do you think? Would you be tempted?

Streaming, Streaming Everywhere

Streaming, Streaming Everywhere

Apple’s AirPlay wireless display and streaming technology is great…IF you have a house full of Apple devices. How can you also invite your Windows PCs and Android devices to the media streaming party?

Thought you might like to see this LifeHacker article that explains how and gives links to some useful add-ons and utilities that can do just that.

How well do you know your gadgets?

A quick poll for the weekend: Think about the mobile device you use most — iPhone? iPad? Android phone? How well would you say you know all its features? If you could quickly vote in my poll you’d help me out in determining what the most common teaching needs are.


One last question: if you feel like answering this one please leave a comment: If there was one thing you could change or improve about your mobile device and the way you use it, what would it be? What’s the difference between today and your perfect tomorrow?


Stream your media from your Android device to your TV with Skifta

If you’re an Apple fan you can look away now — you have Apple’s Airplay to do this (assuming you have at least one Apple TV in the house).

Android users! Jealous of your iPad-owning friends’ ability to play movies, music and photos from their iPad on their TV? Well you can do that too, with a little tweaking and an app called Skifta.

Actually there are several ways to wirelessly connect your Android phone or tablet to your laptop and/or Smart TV. In fact the next version of Android (4.2, JellyBean update) will include native wireless display support. Until then here’s a nice and easy way to do it:

First you need a TV that supports the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard. Most flat screen TVs from the main manufacturers should support this. The TV must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network that the device is connected to.

Next, go to the Google Play market on your device and download the free Skifta app. Run that app then go into your TV’s menus and locate the option to play media on the home network. You should see your Android device listed as an available source. Click on that and then browse your device’s music, photos and videos and play them on your TV screen.

One advantage this method has over Apple’s AirPlay is that you can do this anywhere, in anyone’s house, on a friend’s TV etc., as long as their TV meets the requirements above and they allow your device on their home network.

I installed this yesterday and it works pretty well.

What’s new in Android Jellybean 4.2

What’s new in Android Jellybean 4.2

Some great new features coming, IF your Android phone or tablet is one that gets good update service from the manufacturer. What if your device’s manufacturer is too slow in providing updates? Fed up waiting for the latest update? Do it yourself with a custom ROM. I offer an Android device rooting and custom ROM update service from £95, or a written how-to guide for £50. Breathe new life into your Android phone and get the latest features today. Cheaper than buying a new one!

Apple & Samsung have won the smartphone wars. What’s next?

Apple & Samsung have won the smartphone wars. What’s next?

Interesting Guardian article about the smartphone market. Samsung has greater market share than Apple, and there is speculation that demand for the iPhone 5 is dying off. Is the market getting saturated with devices that are too similar and updated too often? Apple (and Samsung) need to go in a new direction and bring out innovative new devices that create yet another market, like Apple did with iPad.

What phone do you have, and what will you get next?