Time for a new phone

My LG Nexus 5X is almost two years old and has already had a new motherboard fitted to fix the boot-loop of death. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the phone starts boot-looping again, and things are starting to slow down. Most annoyingly, it will appear to take a photo but the photo never gets saved – yesterday this robbed me of a nice photo I’d taken of my son opening his birthday present.

As it’s almost inevitable that the boot-loop will happen again, it makes sense to replace the phone before it happens – that way, I can sell the phone and get more money for a working model. It also means I can transfer everything over to the new phone or backup photos etc. to my PC – it is next to impossible to do this once the boot-loop starts, as I know from painful experience!

I’ve spent a while deciding which new phone to get. I don’t like iOS so an iPhone is out of the question. I was looking at the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2, but I can’t bring myself to pay such a premium for them. So I started looking at phones at a lower price point. My considerations were:

  • Camera – I want a decent camera for taking photos, I don’t carry a standalone camera everywhere with me and it’s nice to be able to take photos of my family when we’re out and about. I’ve been spoiled with the Nexus 5X camera I think – obviously the Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 have the best cameras but they’re also the most expensive.
  • Headphone socket – I have a headphone cable in my car to plug my phone, and one in the kitchen too. Bluetooth has its uses but sometimes I just want to plug my phone in and have it work straight away!
  • USB-C – I’ve become accustomed to using USB-C with the Nexus 5X and I don’t think I can go back to micro USB and having to insert the plug the correct way.
  • RAM – The Nexus 5X only has 2GB of RAM which these days is not brilliant – I’d like a phone with more memory available.
  • Storage – I’d prefer not to use a micro SD card but it’s nice to have the option. The Nexus 5X has 32GB storage which has mostly been enough for my needs.
  • NFC – I like having the option to pay for things with my phone – it comes in handy when out and about in London, for example, as you can use it with Oyster terminals.
  • Fingerprint reader – It’s so quick and easy to unlock with a fingerprint, plus it stops the kids being able to access my phone!

I was initially looking at the Honor 9, which has had some excellent reviews and covers all of the points above. However, when I went to see how much it was on Amazon it was out of stock and wouldn’t be available for shipping for at least a month. Whilst there I noticed that the Honor View 10 was reduced to £380 – only £80 more than the Honor 9, but for that extra money you get more RAM, storage and a better screen. £80 seems a decent premium for these features and it will hopefully future-proof the phone a little more, so I’ve gone for the Honor View 10. Sadly Amazon didn’t have it available for next-day delivery but it should come next week. I could have ordered it from elsewhere but if I buy from Amazon I’ll have a bit more peace of mind when it comes to guarantees, etc.

I look forward to trying out the new phone and will post my thoughts here in the near future.

The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

I’m a bit late to the party but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing game. I bought a Nintendo Switch just so I can play this game (I skipped the Wii U for various reasons). After playing it for 40 hours with so much still to do and enjoy, I’m pretty certain that this is one of the best games ever made, if not the best.

I love that once you’ve cleared the first area you’re basically free to explore and do whatever you want. I love that there are various ways of solving puzzles in the game. I love the variety of terrains, characters, weapons, and more.

Link from Breath of the Wild

The art style is wonderful – it’s not hyper realistic but I think in 10-20 years time it won’t look dated like some other games do.

The game isn’t perfect but there isn’t a great deal to complain about. So far I’ve beaten three Divine Beasts and reclaimed the Master Sword, and have done the first part of Trial of the Sword. I have enjoyed the game immensely and cannot wait to play the rest of it!

New year, new blog

I don’t really have the time to update this blog at the moment, but partly I also don’t have much to write about – I can’t afford the latest phones etc. so I’m stuck talking about my older devices (although I am considering an upgrade to either a Pixel 2 or a Galaxy S8). Personally, I don’t find Android as exciting any more – there haven’t been any major changes recently, it’s more a case of ironing out flaws. It’s still the best mobile OS as far as I can tell, but I don’t have much to say about it.

So I think I am going to change the blog to cover games as well as Android. After sitting out the PS4/Xbox One era, I’ve finally entered the current generation with a Nintendo Switch. So far I am loving it and Zelda is such a wonderful experience, I’m looking forward to trying out other games. So in the coming weeks I’m going to update the blog (and find a new theme as well!) to include my thoughts about games. It will also be a handy place for me to keep my completed games list. I’ve tried maintaining lists on other sites but they always seem to shut down or not get updated.

Tablet decisions

I’ve had my LG G Pad 8.3 nearly 3 years and it’s beginning to show its age. Things seem to be slowing down and it’s still running on Lollipop. I’ve resisted using a custom ROM because some apps won’t work (such as Virgin Media’s TV apps) but there are a few things that annoy me such as the SD card always dismounting itself for no good reason.

I’ve borrowed my mum’s iPad 2 (she’s got herself a newer model) and despite the iPad 2 being older than the G Pad it’s still going reasonably well. The main reason I wanted it was for GarageBand, but I also use it for Readly (the screen dimensions make it easier to read magazines on). I am still not a massive fan of iOS but it still feels like there are not many great apps for Android tablets, whilst the iPad ecosystem is much more extensive.

I don’t think I could ever switch to an iPhone but I could be tempted by an iPad to replace my Android tablet. It just seems to work better for media consumption (which is all I would be doing anyway). The other alternative is a Surface which I’ve been lusting after ever since it was released. It looks great but unless I can get a good deal it’s just a bit too expensive to justify getting.

I’ll wait and see how my current devices fare and whether there’s any good deals in the Christmas sales. I have a feeling I’m going to need a new phone first anyway as I’m sure my Nexus 5X will bootloop again soon…

Android 8 is known as Oreo

The latest version of the Android operating system is now available to select devices. Android 8 is a major release and has a new name: Oreo. I wonder if Oreo paid anything to have it known as that, like with KitKat? Anyway, if you have a specific device (e.g. Pixel or Nexus) the update should be available now or in the near future.

Android Oreo

My Nexus 5X hasn’t received the update yet but I’m in no rush – I’m sure it’s possible to force an update by joining the beta scheme but I’ll just wait for the update to arrive naturally.

Here are the headline updates for Android 8:

  • Performance – devices should be faster to boot up and run. It is also possible to set a quota for each app so that if the cache for that app gets too large, it will automatically be cleared.
  • Battery – Oreo should limit apps running in the background and force them to run background jobs which should use your battery less.
  • Notifications – these can now be “snoozed” for a certain amount of times. Icons on the launcher will also feature dots to show that a notification has arrived.
  • Autofill – it is possible to autofill certain forms and logins.
  • Adaptive icons – you can choose which icon to display for certain apps.
  • Bluetooth 5 – Oreo will support the latest Bluetooth standards.

I look forward to using Oreo but the changes are not so drastic that I feel compelled to update immediately. Generally there are no major visual changes (such as with the introduction of Holo, Material, etc.)

Recording music – what are the choices?

Android has always had one major downside compared to iPads, and that is sound latency. Anyone wanting to record music will know that Apple have a great range of recording apps, notably GarageBand, but as the Android operating system suffers from audio latency it is harder to develop good recording apps.

Audio latency is the difference in time between audio going into the device and exiting the device. So for example if you were using a device to add effects to your guitar, the delay between you playing something and hearing it would cause you to be out of time with everyone else. This is a problem caused by the way Android is developed and there is not much you can do about it unfortunately.

One big Android player, Samsung, has made moves to counter this and has developed drivers and SDKs for their own premium devices (such as Galaxy S and Note) which allow for practically zero audio latency. This allows apps to be developed for these devices which work in a similar way to Apple devices. This is a huge improvement but requires you to have a Samsung device. One benefit of Android devices is that there are many cheap devices available, but the Samsung Pro Audio devices are all at a similar price to Apple’s offerings.

It does seem strange that Google haven’t done more in this area – music apps generate a lot of revenue on the App Store for Apple but there is very little to be found on the Google Play Store. It’s almost at a point where I’ve considered buying an iPad just to use GarageBand, but the truth is I don’t spend enough time recording music to justify the expense. It’s definitely something I will consider though when the time to replace my LG G Pad 8.3 arrives.

Allow custom notifications in the Outlook app for Android

I use Gmail for my personal email account but I’ve found that Outlook works better for my work account which has recently switched to using Exchange. There was one minor annoyance however; I was unable to select custom notifications for the app, and I was originally limited to the default selection. Having spent years listening to the same message notification I didn’t really want to change it, but luckily I was able to find a solution.

The problem arises from a change in more recent versions of Android to allow specific permissions for various apps. Outlook does not have access to Storage by default and so it can’t see the custom notification. It’s easy to solve however:

  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Go to the Apps section and select Outlook
  • Select Permissions
  • Switch the Storage permission to on/yes

Screenshot showing permissions for Outlook

Now if you go back into Outlook and try to change the notification sound you should be able to see the custom notifications again!

How to activate “Swipe for notifications”

Thankfully my Nexus 5X did not take too long to repair and is now back in full working order. It’s now updated to Android Nougat 7.1.2, which mainly features stability and bug fixes. However, there is one addition which I’m very happy about – it’s now possible to swipe down on the fingerprint scanner in order to bring notifications down on the screen! It’s so easy to use and it’s a wonder Google didn’t include it before.

To activate this setting, go to the usual Settings menu and go to the “Moves” section. All you have to do is now activate the “Swipe for notifications” setting and away you go!

Swipe for notifications setting

If you weren’t already aware, there are some other very useful settings here. The “Jump to Camera” setting is one that I find very useful, as it allows me to jump straight to the camera when the phone is locked. All I have to do is take my phone out of my pocket, press the power button twice and the camera is active! The “Flip camera” one is also pretty handy, sometimes I like to take photos whilst cycling and being able to switch camera using only one hand is very useful.

The Dreaded Nexus 5X Bootloop

I’d seen all the warnings about the Nexus 5X bootloop and had figured it was going to affect me some day, but in the meantime I was enjoying using the phone – it is easily the best device I have ever owned. However, one day away from it’s first anniversary, the dreaded bootloop hit me whilst I was midway through a game of Marvel Puzzle Quest.

What happens is that the phone turns itself off, boots up, you see the Google logo and then it promptly reboots, you see the Google logo, it reboots, etc. I did actually manage to get it to boot up properly once by leaving it off for a while to cool down, this gave me a couple of minutes to copy some files off before the bootloops hit once again.

I bought the phone from Amazon UK but I have to deal with LG’s warranty department to get it repaired. I’m not holding my breath that this will get resolved any time soon after the efforts it took to get my LG G Pad 8.3 repaired.

Things are already off to a bad start – LG use a locker-based courier firm to get devices to them. They sent out packaging two days after I called them, and I visited the locker and packaged up my phone within an hour of getting the notification. However, five days later and the phone had still not been picked up – I had to email the courier asking why this was and thankfully it is now showing as being sent. Once it reaches LG I’ll have to wait between 10-15 working days for them to repair it, then wait for the courier to get it back to the locker.

For anyone else who bought the phone directly from Amazon, I’ve heard it might be best to take things up with them – if you complain that you’ll be without a phone for a few weeks, they’ll just give you a full refund. The trouble is that I do really like using the Nexus 5X, and I don’t really want to fork out the extra money for a Pixel just yet.

In the meantime I have borrowed my mum’s old phone, an iPhone 4s. Yes, an iPhone – I thought I would give it a try as the only other alternative is a Galaxy Ace 4 with a cracked screen or a Moto G which can’t maintain a cellular network connection. I am trying to be fair (the iPhone 4s is over 5 years old now) but everything seems so difficult to use – I thought the whole point of Apple is that anyone can use it, but simple things require digging through menus which aren’t always obvious. We’ll see if things get any better…