Life Tech Reviews

UX not Specs!

So, I’ve been back in Hull for a few days now, only to discover my friend Nick has betrayed the good ship Windows Phone and moved to the dark side of Android. ūüėõ Whilst we were discussing his new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, ¬†we got talking about HTC’s latest Android offering — the One X.

What sets the One X apart from the rest of the crowd is the fact that it has a quad core processor. Quad core processors aren’t actually the norm in desktop PC’s yet, most people still have dual core chips, so to have one in a phone is an interesting development. Interesting, I would say, but not entirely useful — in fact, quite the opposite.

In my day-to-day life, my one concern about my phone is how long it will last. It’s always a pain when your phone runs out of juice just as you’re expecting a text, call or email. Smartphones at the moment typically have a battery life of around 20 hours, with light to moderate use of more advanced features like Wi-Fi and high screen brightness. This will last you a day at University or work, but god help you if you forget to charge it up at night and want to make a phone call the next day.

An issue I¬†don’t¬†encounter on a day-to-day basis is lack of computing power on my phone. Whilst I frequently think “I wish this had a bit more oomph sometimes” on my i3 powered Dell¬†Inspiron¬†15R Laptop I can honestly say the thought has never¬†occurred¬†to me about my Samsung Focus Flash Windows Phone, everything seems seamless and frankly im not doing anything taxing like editing and converting video on my phone… I make phone calls, text people, read my emails, browse the web, listen to music and play the occasional game — none of this requires the power of a quad core.

Quad core processors sip more battery than a single core would. Simple fact, so for my¬†experience¬†at least it would actually enhance an issue I have and ‘solve’ an issue I don’t. Of course, everyone uses their devices differently, so your¬†experience¬†may indeed be improved by a bit more power but I think most people want to get the essentials done, with a tad of gaming but be able to do all that for a longer period of time.

Going back to the seamlessness of my phone experience, during our conversation about processing power in phones I coined the term “UX not specs”, which is now the title of this blog post. UX stands for User¬†Experience, the way in which users¬†experience¬†your hardware and software, this includes the “person‚Äôs perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system” according to Wikipedia. What is important here is the word perception, a quad core is usually going to be quicker than a single core clocked at the same speed, but this increase in speed might be so small that it not be¬†noticeable¬†by the user, in which case its almost a waste.

Specs stands for Specifications and rhymes nicely with UX. ūüėČ Specifications are the list of details about a¬†piece¬†of ¬†hardware’s¬†innards, including its CPU Core count, amount of RAM, measurement of storage space etc.

Windows Phone is very cleverly designed so that smooth animations cover the loading time, so even if something takes a while because everything is moving you deem it to be¬†efficient, fast, and working instantly on command. The user¬†experience¬†is good, I’ve never been¬†irritated by a slowdown in Windows Phone¬†so I personally wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice any battery life for more cores. The user¬†experience¬†is great, even without the specs which you think it would demand, so windows Phone has got the UX, but not the (battery draining) specs of some high-end Android phones.

Until we invent a technology capable of holding many days’ worth of battery life on a smartphone device I for one will yearn for more battery life over computational power.


Tech Reviews

A “Resolutionary” Screen Vs. Extended Battery Life

Today I made the 15 mile journey to Milton Keynes, my trademark black skinny jeans had a hole in a rather unfortunate position and needed replacing, whilst there I strayed into the Apple Store and saw a gigantic floor-to-ceiling display for the iPad 3 with a few display models underneath.

Now, the Milton Keynes Apple Store uses iPad 2’s as a sort of catalogue, which can also be used to interact with the employees and flag that you require assistance, this is quite clever. It also meant that I could see an iPad 2 right next to an iPad 3.

Having seen both together, I found that to my eye there was very little difference between the normal old iPad 2 screen and the new “RESOLUTIONARY” iPad 3 screen. Admittedly, the iPad 3 did look better, just, but at that screen size I don’t think a PPI (pixels per inch) increase of the size that Apple did would ever have made much difference. The iPad 3’s screen is not the same “retina” display of the iPhone 4, which has 326 PPI, but rather a screen with a much less impressive 264 PPI. This¬†is double the 132 PPI of the iPad 2.

Why does this all matter so much? Well, It comes down to what you want to do with your iPad. Having a more impressive screen (and really, its not that much more impressive) comes at the cost of battery life. The Battery in the iPad3 is 70% larger than that of its predecessor, but the battery life that apple says the device gets is exactly the same, about 10 hours. Personally, if I was going to buy a tablet I would prefer to have the extra 70% battery life than a screen that seeps all of those gains away, especially as its meant to be a portable device, and not one permanently plugged into a wall.

I must say, it strikes me as odd that apple have gone down this route of making a small adjustment to the screen at the expensive of battery, especially as they are now marketing the iPad as a portable productivity device (e.g. one you can use to write up documents etc.) Instead I think they would have been better of giving the new iPad the 70% bigger battery and a Keyboard attachment as standard, making it into a true laptop competitor and potentially gaining more of the business and education markets.

If you look around our lectures at University you’ll see well over 150 people with laptops, but as far as I know only 2 or 3 with iPads and not many more with Android powered tablets. If apple made a tablet with really good battery life (im talking 15 hours here, which seems possible if they dimmed down the displays a bit) and a nice, portable keyboard attachment as standard they could really be on to something.

Perhaps this is where Windows 8 on ARM tablets will step in, the ARM CPU architecture — which Apple uses in the iPad — ¬†allows for really good power-efficiency, and due to the fact that Windows 8 is licensed¬†rather¬†than sold on devices¬†manufactured¬†by Microsoft we may see a lot of different form factors and ideas of what a tablet should be like from different OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).

Here’s to a more power¬†efficient, productive tablet future,

PS: “Resolutionary” isn’t and never will be a word, I hate when companies make up silly words like that.