My iPhone 6 Review

Posted by Mark

iphone6-2

I got a surprise phone call from Geant earlier in the month. At first I thought it might have something to do with the comments under my post from the previous day on customer service in Kuwait but it turned out to be unrelated. Instead, someone over the phone wanted to give me an iPhone 6 to review for the blog and the timing couldn’t have been better since I was thinking of pre-ordering one the following day from the Apple store website. At first I thought it was a bit odd that Geant was the one calling me up this year to review the iPhone since the previous years have always been electronics stores but then again, I’ve bought countless electronics from Geant myself without realizing it, my TV, two printers, a scanner and a bunch of external hard drives and memory sticks. So once they got the phones last week, I passed by their 360 Mall branch and picked up my unit.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of the phone since there are a million websites out there who have reviewed the phone thoroughly. Not only that but I don’t think majority of the people care if the battery lasts an extra hour or if the screen is slightly sharper or at least I don’t. The improvements year by year aren’t as drastic as they once were and I was perfectly happy with my iPhone 5 (not even an S) even though it was scratched up, dented and one of the volume buttons did’t work. The only reason I wanted to upgrade my phone was because the app 1Password would now unlock using my fingerprint and that would save me so much time instead of having to type out my very long and complicated master password.

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When I first picked up the iPhone 6 last week my first reaction was oh no, they accidentally gave me the larger iPhone 6 Plus. Compared to the iPhone 5, the iPhone 6 looks and feels huge. I liked the size of the iPhone 5 and I really don’t need a larger screen and I definitely don’t need a larger phone. Even though I’ve gotten used to the size of the phone now I still think Apple should have kept the previous screen size. Navigating the phone with one hand is a lot more difficult now even though you can double tap the home key and have the whole screen shift down closer to your thumb. That’s an extra step I didn’t need before. My biggest concern though was if it would fit in my shorts. My running and cycling shorts have a small pocket in the back where I put my iPhone in so I could listen to music while exercising. It was already a pretty tight fit with the iPhone 5 so I was worried the iPhone 6 wouldn’t fit and that would be a deal breaker for me #firstworldproblems. Luckily, my shorts use a stretchy material for the pocket so the iPhone 6 fit without issues.

Size aside everything else is fairly similar. The camera is slightly better the screen is a bit sharper, the battery life a bit better and compared to my iPhone 5, the phone definitely feels a lot faster. The only other major difference compared to the previous iPhone is the way it looks. It’s a much more slicker looking iPhone this year, it’s curvy and more comfortable to hold in your hands but I also feels it looks very generic and lacks the character of the previous generations. As I mentioned earlier, my iPhone 5 is just covered in dents and scratches, it had taken a lot of abuse from me and somehow I only cracked the screen once. I’m not very sure how much abuse the new iPhone will take, my gut tells me I’m going to end up cracking the screen very soon but hopefully that’s not the case.

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Do I like the iPhone 6?
Yes I do, I do wish it was smaller but I’m getting used to this size. On the main home screen I’ve moved the apps I use the most to the lower half of the screen for easy access and I’m getting the hang of the double tap for reachability feature.

Should you upgrade from an iPhone 5S?
No, you don’t need to. The biggest feature I’m using with my iPhone 6 is the fingerprint scanner and the 5S has that.

Should you upgrade from an iPhone 5?
No, you don’t need to, not unless you need the fingerprint scanner.

Should you upgrade if you own anything older than an iPhone 5?
You don’t but you probably should, the speed difference is considerable, the newer cameras are much better, your battery is probably getting old by now and not holding a charge like it once used to and iOS8 needs one of the newer phones to run reasonably well.

Geant are selling the iPhone 6 starting at KD269.990 for the 16GB, KD299.990 for the 64Gb and KD369.990 for the 128GB. I think 64GB is the best size, 16GB is just too small and 128GB too big unless you’re never deleting your photos and videos from your phone. The iPhone 6 Plus is more expensive, they start at KD399.990 for the 16GB, KD449.990 for the 64Gb and KD489.990 for the 128GB. No one under the age of 60 should be getting an iPhone 6 Plus, if you want a tablet get an iPad mini and if you want a phone then get the iPhone 6.


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Goodbye BlackBerry

Posted by Mark

I’ve been using BlackBerry in Kuwait ever since Zain introduced it back in 2007 (they were still called MTC Vodafone). My first BlackBerry was the 8700 and although it looked horrible it had a battery that used to last forever.

I was originally just using the BB for work emails but then once BlackBerry’s picked up in Kuwait I started using it for chatting as well. Everyone I knew seemed to have a BB so it was a pretty practical way of communicating. A few years have gone by though and things are not longer the same. Hardly anyone I know chats on BlackBerry anymore and the only reason I was keeping it around was because of our Diwaniya Group. But since we’ve moved the group to WhatsApp there is no longer a reason to keep my BlackBerry. The only person still holding out is Marzouq but he’s caving in as well.

I just canceled my BlackBerry service and I don’t think I’m going to miss it. I just hope BlackBerry released BlackBerry Messenger for the iPhone and Android devices since WhatsApp is really crap compared to it.


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Interactive NBK Timeline Wall

Posted by Mark

Looks very futuristic. It’s not yet open to the public so you can’t experience it just yet. [YouTube]

Update: Vimeo video got set to private, YouTube video still active so I swapped the links

Update2: YouTube video has also been removed now


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Energy saving at ACE and IKEA

Posted by Mark

Ace Hardware have expanded their power saving section and now have solar panels in a wide variety of sizes as well as a lot of different kind of LED lights including powerful garden projectors. I can’t see many people going the solar way since electricity is really cheap but I can see these panels being practical at campsites.

I also noticed IKEA is now selling LED GU10 lights alongside the regular halogen ones. I converted to LEDs around a year ago because my halogen lights kept dying on me and I haven’t regretted the decision since. The LEDs are being sold for KD3.900 which is very reasonable. Their solar powered garden lights are also back in stock.


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Boxee Box Media Center

Posted by Mark

I’ve got a ton of TV shows and documentaries on my server and for the longest time ever I had been using XBMC to watch them all. XBMC is basically a software that allows you to stream videos from another computer or hard drive. Originally I used to use XBMC installed onto the old original xbox, then I installed it on a hacked AppleTV but since XBMC on AppleTV couldn’t play 720p video I finally I ended up purchasing the small Acer Revo and was using that to run XBMC until Boxee.

Boxee is the name of another media center software that was actually built using XBMC. But unlike XBMC, Boxee was more focused on providing content (TV Shows/Movies) from the internet primarily and from a local home server secondary. Boxee never really interested me much until the end of 2010 when they did something I always wanted XBMC to do… release a set-top device that was dedicated to just running the media center software. The Boxee Box (pictured above) is a beautifully designed tiny angular cube that runs the Boxee software. Everything about it from the package to the interface is very tastefully designed and that really sets it apart from XBMC. Where XBMC looks like it was put together by geeks, Boxee looks like it was put together by Apple. They even paid attention to the little details like how the Boxee logo lights up in a nice green glow when the device is powered on.

It might not show in the pictures above but the Boxee Box is pretty small, maybe around the same height as the iPhone. It comes with a double sided remote control that has a very simple minimal amount of buttons on one side and a QWERTY keyboard on the other. The remote uses radio instead of infrared to send signals which is great because you can hide the Boxee Box anywhere in the room and still be able to control it. It also comes with a power adapter that works in Kuwait (110-240v) as well as a HDMI cable.

The interface is very easy to use. You can easily browse the available online TV Shows and Movies all nicely organized but you need to have a VPN account (I use StrongVPN) to actually watch the shows online since they don’t allow non-US residents to stream stuff. Watching your local media files is also easy, you can either plug in a hard drive into one of the Boxee USB ports or connect to your home server over Ethernet or Wifi. Once you add the media it will scan IMDB for information on the shows or movies and then download the DVD cover and all the other information and store them on Boxee. It’s really very easy to use, much easier than XBMC since Boxee is trying to be fairly mainstream.

There are some minor downsides but it’s really just nitpicking. I don’t like how the remote control feels and I can never tell which side is up or down without looking at the remote. The remote keyboard buttons on the rear also need to be pressed hard but I guess that’s better than no keyboard at all. Boxee is also not as easily customizable as XBMC.

Price wise it’s fairly decent costing around KD50 on Amazon plus around KD13 to ship it with Aramex to Kuwait. I think this is probably the best media center option available right now until Plex (another XBMC clone) starts working properly on the Roku. Boxee doesn’t have any trouble playing 1080p video files and most importantly it doesn’t take much shelf space while still managing to look very cool. If you have a lot of media files and are looking for an easy way to watch them on your TV screen then I highly recommend the Boxee Box. It’s only available on Amazon and here is the link if you’re interested [Amazon Link]

Update: Forgot to mention you can install Apps in Boxee and my favorite is Pandora.


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LED Bulbs

Posted by Mark

I’ve been thinking about swapping my halogen bulbs with LED versions and so after a bit of research I found two bulbs that were reasonably priced and highly recommended. Since I couldn’t find the specific bulbs I wanted locally I decided to order them from Amazon UK.

I got the bulbs, I tried them out and I’m disappointed.

The major benefit of LED bulbs is energy saving. Halogens are usually 35w or 50w while the LED replacements are either 3w or 6w. The 3w is supposed to be comparable in output to the 35 and the 6 to the 50. The bulbs I ordered were 6w and compared to the 35w halogens they replaced the 6w were considerably brighter.

As you can see in the picture above I ordered two different style of bulbs. The one on the left contains 3 LEDs with each one being 2w in strength. The one on the right is made up of 80 lower powered LEDs. The two bulbs turned out to be very different, the one on the left for example takes a second to light up once you turn the switch on and the beam of light it gives out is concentrated like a spot light. The one on the right on the other hand comes on instantly with a light beam that’s much wider. Both bulbs can not be dimmed.

Now what I hate about both bulbs is the color of the light. Halogens are pretty warm and even though I ordered these two bulbs as warm they turned out to be much cooler in color. By cooler I mean when compared to regular halogens, both these LED bulbs were more bluish than yellowish. They really don’t light up the room nicely which is why I found them very disappointing.

Who should buy LED bulbs? They’re for people who want to make the world a better place by consuming less electricity. Personally I wanted to try them out for my apartment in Lebanon. We don’t have 24/7 electricity in Lebanon so when the power goes off the backup generators come on and with the generators you have a limit to how much power you can consume. For the power of one 50w light bulb I could power eight LED bulbs of similar strength and still save electricity. That’s a big difference.

Here are the prices and models if you’re interested
Left: EDISON 6W LED GU10 – KD6.200
Right: 6W 80LED GU10 – KD6.000


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Team from Kuwait came 2nd in the GCC Microsoft Imagine Cup

Posted by Mark


[YouTube]

Ali Taqi, a student at AUK emailed to tell me about their performance in the Microsoft Imagine Cup that was recently held in our region. The Imagine Cup is a student technology competition where the aim is to create technology that will help solve the worlds toughest problems. The AUK students came first in Kuwait and second in the GCC and have now qualified to the next level which is to compete on an international level in New York. Their idea is very simple and according to them was inspired from the blog.

The students saw how when I took a picture of a problem and posted it on the blog the proper authorities would find out about the problem and get it fixed. So the students came up with the idea of creating a software which would be set up with a variety of different authorities (emergency services, garbage collection, health ministry etc..). They then would create a phone application for people so that when they find a problem, they can just snap a picture of it and then have the application send it to the proper authorities along with a geotag so that the location of the problem can be located quickly. They’ve called their idea the Revolutionary Reporting System or RRS for short.

In the video above for example they’re showing you how this software can be used to report an accident. Usually you would waste time trying to get a hold of the emergency call center and then trying to tell them what the problem is and where the problem happened. With this software they created things would be a lot easier.

I wish the guys involved in this project the best of luck (Ali Taqi, Bader Al Mohammed Ali, and Eissa Al Qadeeri). It’s a great idea and I for one would use it all the time. I do think they need to work a bit more on the video presentation before the New York event so maybe a local film maker can volunteer to help them out with this.

You can read more on this project by visiting the AUK website [Here]


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First Impression: The iPad 2

Posted by Mark

I managed to get a hold of the new iPad 2 today courtesy of X-cite Electronics and I’m glad I did since there were a lot of questions I had which I managed to get answered after spending some time with the iPad 2.

The iPad 2 I got is the 3G version so the first thing I wanted to check is to see if the iPad was locked to AT&T or not. This time around there are two versions of the iPad 2 3G, there is the AT&T version and there is the Verizon version. The one I got was the AT&T version and it runs perfectly fine in Kuwait. I took out my micro sim from my iPhone 4 and placed it inside the iPad 2 and it worked right away and I was able to browse webpages and stream music from my favorite stations without a problem.

Now physically I was expecting there to be a lot more difference between the old and the new iPad but honestly I felt they were pretty similar. Sure the new iPad is 33% slimmer but it doesn’t feel that different to me (I’ve got big hands maybe?). I never felt the old iPad was actually thick so the fact that the new one is slightly slimmer is a bonus but not really worth upgrading from the old iPad. One thing I want to point out is the fact that I found it difficult to connect the iPad 2 to the keyboard dock due to the way the dock connecter at the bottom of the iPad 2 is on a curve. It took me a few tries the first time and I am guessing I would get better at it after a bit of practice.

The smart cover is pretty cool since it’s very minimal and easy to take off and put on. I didn’t like holding the iPad with the cover on but what’s great about the smart cover is you just pull it off to remove it so it’s very practical to put on and take off and when on it doesn’t add to the thickness by much.

Now I left what I think is probably the most important upgrade till the end and no it’s not the camera which I find useless but the new faster A5 processor. The new iPad 2 is a lot faster than the older iPad and games like Sim City and Red Alert for example run a lot smoother on the iPad 2 compared to the original iPad. Even when launching the apps the difference is very obvious as you can since in the video I recorded above (The iPad 2 is on the bottom).

If you still don’t have a tablet and are looking to get one I wouldn’t recommend anything other than the iPad (both original and 2). If you already own an iPad and are wondering if you should get the iPad 2, well personally I don’t think there is enough change to justify the upgrade. For me the only reason I might get an iPad 2 is if they come out with cool games that take advantage of the new faster iPad 2 processor but other than that I don’t think I would get one. Some people might need the camera or want the smart cover but I use my iPad to read magazines and play games and the original iPad will do both those nearly as good as the iPad 2. But a few months from now I will probably eat my words and end up getting the iPad 2 just because I’m an Apple fanboy.

You can check out the iPad 2 yourself since they are on display at the X-cite Avenues and Al-Rai branch. They are also taking orders and will be delivering them in a week or two. Here are the prices:

Ipad2-16GB-WiFi Black/White KD199
Ipad2-32GB-WiFi Black/White KD249
Ipad2-64GB-WiFi Black/White KD289
Ipad2-16GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD259
Ipad2-32GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD309
Ipad2-64GB-WiFi 3G Black/White KD349


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Wind turbines?

Posted by Mark

A reader emailed me a picture he took of his neighbors house where they’ve installed two wind turbines. I find that pretty strange honestly. It’s good of course that they’re thinking green but I would have guessed solar power would work great in Kuwait and not wind. I mean how many days of the year is it windy in Kuwait?

Thanks Imad


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My phone is off for you

Posted by Mark

Although the project sounds cool there is no way I think I could switch my phone off or ignore it while I am out having a meal. During lunch and dinner I actually enjoy catching up on emails on my iPhone and the messages and pictures from our diwaniya BBM group on my Blackberry. [Link]


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