Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Generic iPhone blog

With the launch of the new iPhone just a week away I thought I'd give Apple a hand at generating publicity (they need the leg-up) and share some of my experiences of the device.  Caution: contains uninformed opinions and personal experiences you may find tedious.

By the time I get hold of the new iPhone it's likely my current one will have reached it's third anniversary.  Given a) Apple clearly want us to buy a new one every year and b) the tendency of the things to pack in or stop functioning in order to make you considering fulfilling a) it's somewhat of a miracle it's lasted this long.

I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone.  It's clearly an amazing device, and it's transformed how I do many things.  The biggest of these is probably getting around - no more does the pocket London A-Z sit in my bag, and our 2009 holiday travelling from Land's End to John O'Groats would have been a great deal tougher without access to local maps that the phone provides.  That said, it's infuriated me more than any other phone I've owned in the 11 years I've had a mobile, and maybe this is because it promises so much (and indeed delivers when it works).

I bought my iPhone in October 2008 soon after they became available for pay-as-you-go.  Since you ask, I've never considered going contract - my £10 per month top up gives me 500MB of data, public wifi, 300 texts and then the £10 credit itself which goes on two £5 bolt-ons giving me plenty of O2 and landline minutes.  Given most of my calls are to Kate and my family, this arrangement pretty much covers my fairly dull existence (SIM-only deals allow those with better social lives than mine to do a similar thing).  I'd rather buy the thing outright as contracts are just a form of hire puchase but still with a big one-off cost at the start - over £200 for most of O2's affordable monthy tariffs for the iPhone 4.  This is a particularly good option if, like me, you're not planning to upgrade for some time. 

Kate followed me in January 2009 and got hers rather cheaply through some oddball BBC/O2 deal (yes, I'm jealous).  And for a while, we were happy iPhone users.  Then came the iPhone 3GS (aka the £500 3 megapixel camera).  Neither of us were particularly tempted as it didn't represent a massive change, at least not to simpletons like ourselves.  The following year was a different matter.  The iPhone 4 was a massive change and boasted (so it seemed) an impressive set of changes to the device.  My 3G was starting to show it's age and I did consider upgrading, but weirdly I think the uber-hype and (surely partly planned) supply issues actually put me off.  The "death-grip" signal issue didn't help matters, but the icing on the cake was the software update that accompanied the phone which once again was retrospectively applied to iPhone 3Gs.

I don't think there has been a worst "update" than iOS 4 for 3G owners.  Unlike previous updates the process seemed to involve completely wiping the phone and then restoring it from backup as if a new device.  The process of updating took hours and hours for some reason, so I left it going overnight.  When I woke I found a phone that could have just been bought in the shop - pretty much back to factory settings.  What had happened is it had failed to restore from the backup it created in that very session, and I couldn't get it to do so no matter how hard I tried.  Looking online I wasn't the only one, and in the end I gave up, synced as if it were new and had to get all my phone numbers again from scratch.  It turned out I was one of the lucky ones - when Kate updated her phone it did restore but turned it into the infamous "treacle" version of the interface which made daily operation a nightmare.  To add insult to injury the software update didn't even change much for 3G owners apart from folders.  Whoop.

Unfortuntately Apple weren't interested.  One 3G user on a forum I read who took their phone into a Genius Bar was told by a lanyarded-pillock that the second iPhone was "old technology" and problems should be expected.  Unfortunately for them it was "old technology" that they were still happily selling as new in their stores until a few weeks previously.  Apple were preoccupied with their new phone, which as we all know had problems of it's own.  A software update later sneaked out without fanfare correcting the 3G issues they'd denied all along.  But then my phone started having trouble connecting to wifi: in fact the wifi bar in Settings displayed "no wifi".  A quick Google revealed that this was a problem rather a lot of 3G users had had in response to iOS 4 but had also happened to orignal iPhone owners after the previous year's update.  Basically, my wifi chip had been "fried" (for want of a better word) by the latest update as it couldn't handle the demands placed on it. 

I decided to go to a Genius Bar anyway despite knowing it was probably terminal to see what their response was, as Apple were known to be quite cagey about the problem, but I wondered if I'd get some of that legendary Genius Bar generosity.  Well, not quite - I was told the wifi chip was indeed fried (thanks) but although I was out of warrantt I could buy a new iPhone 3G for £160.  That's the iPhone that was no longer on sale to the public.  I could have one of the dusty unwanted boxes hidden in the back, and presumably wait for the same thing to happen again.  No thanks.

So I decided I'd put the money I would have spent towards a shiny new Sony Vaio laptop instead, which I'm typing this on now.  I rather hope the wifi capability on this lasts a little longer than on my iPhone - there'd probably be a bit of a scandal if Microsoft sent a Windows Update out that stopped a key bit of functionality from working.  My 3G is really showing it's age now and the battery can't get through an average day with 3G networks switched on.  I don't even receive the software updates anymore as the phone is so "prehistoric" (probably no bad thing given what happened last time).  We've both been looking forward to getting the new iPhone after not upgrading for two years, but it would have to be this year that the thing gets delayed until the Autumn!  Finally with today's announcement it would seem to be very near, and I think we deserve to be front of the queue after waiting for so long.  (I'm not actually going to queue, I do have some pride.  And a job.  Which ironically has conspired to present me with a Blackberry at around the same time).  But, to look at the other side of the equation, I can't think of any other mobile that has lasted me three years.  I just hope that they're getting better at lasting, as I don't plan to replace the one I'll buy next month for another two or maybe even three years.

Hello?  Anyone still there?


Sunday, 4 September 2011

End of Part 1

Friday was essentially the last day for me in my old job, which as I've alluded to in the past on here has been moved to Leeds (where there is a sister dept already).  I've spent nearly two months handing over our duties to the new team, and although the half of the department that takes the schedules to the point they go to press is still in the process of being transferred, Friday was quite symbolic as it was the last day that we will send the final schedules from London (at least on a regular basis) so in a way was the end of an era.  Although there have been many, many changes along the way in how we do the role at the core it's still the job I got six years ago and moved down to London for.
The final London team of schedulers

In a twist that you could never plan, the person who is effectively taking on my old job is my brother-in-law-to-be Lee.  Talk about keeping it in the family!  I spent nearly two weeks at Kirkstall Road in July training the new team.  YTV has undergone something of a renaissance since I was last there around the time network production was being wound down - Emmerdale has moved into the main building, Shiver is doing pretty well, the Northern Transmission Centre has had a re-fit AND they've got free Starbucks-style coffee on tap, the lucky gits.  They're also a great team who were lovely to me while I was staying up there and I'm very jealous they get to do that job AND live in a cool city like Leeds.
At the end of my two weeks in Leeds.  Corporate-signage-tastic

Thankfully all of us in the old team in London have been offered new roles which we've all been gradually moving into over the past month.  I'm going to be managing a new "advance scheduling" mini-department aiming to prepare for the more complicated schedules much further out than we do currently.  Certainly it will be a very different pace, as one of the old team put it "getting off the hamster wheel".  I won't miss having to deliver a plan for twenty-four hours of TV at the end of every day, the stressful Fridays where everyone else is down the pub and you're still stuck in the office for hours trying to get the weekend's schedules done, and most of all Christmas and New Year where you're busier than ever  (especially when you try and incorporate trips home to see family) while everyone else is at home eating chocolate.  Although we worked office hours it was a curious elongated version of them that meant you just had to stick around until everything was all done, and could never really plan much for Friday nights (although more recently we have had some quite generous "time-back" initiatives).  And that's before you even consider everything else that has been thrown at us in the last few years so it's a credit to the team that that the show has been kept on the road.  But at the end of the day I've always found it very rewarding to have had such a close hand in what's gone out.
Half-arsed celebrations

So although there's still much to transfer oop north, I was keen to mark Friday because, just to be a little melodramatic for a moment, there has been an equivalent of our deparment in London (in many, many guises over the years) since the launch of our channel 56 years ago.  And what better way to celebrate than with Krispy Kremes and not-quite-champagne in plastic glasses?  Thanks to the final scheduling team - we couldn't have had a better one and it's been a pleasure working with them - and good luck to the new guys.  Now Kate and I are off to the Scottish highlands for a few days.  See you after the break.

The end