Apple iPhone5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE?

The new Apple iPhone5

Is iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3 better? Is iPhone5 worth the upgrade? These are religious debates which I am not ready to engage in. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I shall only focus on my requirements and why I think iPhone5 is the best choice for me … at the moment.Being an Apple user (iMac, macbook, iPhone (until 3GS), iPod, etc) for many years, I love Apple products for their clean and spartan design. However, I was very pissed with Apple’s arrogance (if I may use the word) when Steve Jobs refused to admit a product flaw in iPhone 4’s antennae. Instead, he gave a ridiculous response that people held the phone the wrong way and thus caused the issue. OMG, this really upset me cos that’s not the Apple that I love. It’s intuitive to hold a phone in the palm, not with 2 fingers pinching its sides. Enough said, this is an old issue and I am not going to be a broken record. You can check out the following links if you need to refresh your memory on this saga.

So I switched from iPhone 3GS to SonyEricsson Xperia Arc (Android) in 2010 just to prove a point – there is life after Apple. The switch wasn’t that painful afterall and I love my SonyEricsson. However, my SE started to give me problems recently. It started auto rebooting, auto shutdown and the final straw was that it actually wiped out all my calendar events, including those in my MacBook. Luckily I had time-machine backup copies and that saved the day.

Now, here’s the million dollar question, “Why did I choose iPhone 5 over Samsung S3?”. It was not an easy decision, trust me.

Why not SonyEricsson?

This is a simpler question to answer. For some reasons, Sony kept pushing down applications onto my phone and as a result, my phone got more and more cluttered with applications that I never used. Even though I uninstalled them, they will miraculously re-appear after a while. What’s worse? Android needs memory for almost everything. As a result, even though my SE has 14 application updates pending, I couldn’t update any of them. Some of these applications will also crash unexpectedly. It was becoming a norm that I had to restart my Channel News Asia application each time I read it as it will crash upon launching. From the error messages, it seemed that these issues were caused by the limited memory in the phone.

According to my friends who are using Samsung S3, they didn’t have any of these issues and thus I suspect this is very Sony specific. To summarize, I had enough and I definitely want a change (even though I really like its camera).

Long Term Evolution (LTE), aka 4G

This tops my wishlist as I hate waiting for pages/applications to load. On paper, both iPhone 5 and Samsung S3 meet this criteria. Unfortunately life is not as simple as I like it to be. There is no standardization for LTE today and even in a small country like Singapore, we need 2 frequency bands (1800MHz and 2600MHz) to provide island-wide coverage.

iPhone 5, in this case, only supports 1800Mhz band, which will be typically deployed inland where its lower frequency allows better penetration of the buildings. 2600Mhz, on the other hand, is used near the coastal areas for wider coverage. I haven’t really tested my iPhone 5 in coastal areas such as East Coast Park, but at my residence in Hougang, the coverage and speed is fantastic. It’s even faster than my broadband.

Compared to Apple, Samsung got this right with Galaxy S3 LTE as it supports both 1800Mhz and 2600Mhz. From LTE coverage point of view, S3 is definitely more desirable than iPhone5. Galaxy S3 LTE will be launched soon and it’s just a couple more days / weeks away. (source: cnet)

Winner for this round: Samsung Galaxy S3

Screen Size and Retina Display

Having used SonyEricsson Xperia Arc for 2 years, I am pampered by the large (4.2″) screen. I don’t agree with Apple that a larger (or rather wider) screen will make the phone difficult for single hand operation. As an Asian, if I can hold the phone comfortably in one hand, there’s no reason why the bigger built Americans can’t do it. See the photos above? I can reach any part of the phone easily. 😉

iPhone5 (left) is longer than iPhone4S (right) but with the same screen width.

iPhone5 is really just longer (not wider) than iPhone4S and thus do not expect what’s on the screen to be any larger. The longer screen will reduce the scrolling and that’s about it. Again, this is another huge disappointment as a bigger viewing screen will make reading easier.

Then what about the retina display? Is this really good? Yes, it is. But is it necessary? I can live without it, for sure. I don’t show people my stunning photographs on a phone, by the way.

As for Samsung Galaxy S3, do I even need to introduce anymore? It has a large screen (4.8″) and although it doesn’t have retina display, I don’t think that’s a deal breaker.

Winner for this round: Samsung Galaxy S3

App Store and its ecosystem

Apple AppStore has a very strong ecosystem and Android has always been trying to catch up. 2 years ago when I started using Android, the Android Marketplace was weak, both in quantity and quality. Today, I think Google Play is much better and the quality of the apps has also improved. Having said this, I think AppStore is still the clearcut winner here.

Winner for this round: Apple iPhone5 

Manufacturing Precision

Have you seen the official iPhone5 introductory video? In the 6 minute video, you will notice that almost 2 minutes was focused on the manufacturing precision of the phone. As a consumer, do I really care? Though I appreciate the final output such as a highly polished diamond cut beveled edge, it is not a big deal to me as I know I will be wrapping this baby like a mummy. The amount of exposed areas after I added the screen protector and casing is really … not much. What about colour? Black or white? I don’t really care.

Since Samsung (or any other vendor for that matter) does not put in so much emphasis on their manufacturing process, I don’t know if their manufacturing process is as precise, or even better. So reluctantly, I think Apple is a winner here.

Winner for this round: Apple iPhone 5

Camera 

This used to be one of the most important features on my wishlist. However modern phones have pretty decent cameras and in this aspect, I would think the difference in image quality between iPhone5 and S3 would be minimal.

Winner for this round: No winner

Integration with Apple MacOS

There are many 3rd Party synchronization applications in Google Play for MacOS and I was using SyncMate and doubleTwist for my SonyEricsson Xperia Arc. I would not say the experience was seamless. It was kinda hit and miss; though more hits and misses. However, the last synchronization actually wiped out all my calendar events and that helped me with the decision between S3 and iPhone5.

Winner for this round: iPhone 5

Conclusion

Seriously, if I am not so deeply rooted into the Apple ecosystem (iCal, iPhoto, iTunes, Apple Address Book, etc), I would have chosen Samsung Galaxy S3. However, for the sake of seamless integration, I chose iPhone 5.

Many people asked me, “I thought you are an Android guy? I thought you don’t like Apple? I am surprised that you bought an iPhone!” … Well, my response to those is, I support products and not companies. I bought iPhone because it’s the phone that suits me best. This doesn’t mean I have changed my views on Apple; it’s still a company with “arrogance”.

Disclaimer: The above is purely my personal views and you are entitled to yours. Let’s agree to disagree …

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How to get Kindle for iPad in Singapore

Kindle App for iPad

Having used the Kindle Touch for a few months, I love it. It’s light, the battery life is good and more importantly, my eyes don’t feel tired as there is no glare from the screen. In fact, everything is good about the Kindle Touch, except for one thing – viewing pictures in colour. E-ink, with its multiple shades of grey, is capable of displaying crisp text and detailed graphics. However, it does not display in colour. While this is not a problem for most books, it’s a huge minus point for graphics intensive publications such as magazines and cook books. Amazon actually has a Kindle app (compatible with Kindle reader) for most devices such as Android, iPad, iPhone, PC and Mac and this app supports full color. Kindle app is free and has the same user experience as the Kindle reader.I have the Kindle app installed on my MacBook for some time already and there hasn’t any issues with it at all. Installation on PC and Mac is easy – Just run the installer from Amazon and you are done; regardless of where you are (in the world). Installation of Kindle app on iPad or iPhone, on the other hard, is tricky. It must be done via iTunes and the list of available applications is location-specific; for people whose locations are not in the supported countries (such as Singapore), Kindle app will not be available in their iTunes store. The workaround this is simple – change your Apple App Store to United States. But do note that creating an account for the US App Store when you’re not based in the US is against Apple’s terms and conditions, so I’m not recommending that you do it. But for the sake of discussion, here’s a way to workaround this issue, i.e. how to create an iTunes account with location in United States. This workaround is good for downloading of any free apps, such as Kindle, since it doesn’t require any billing information. You can refer to Apple’s instructions here on how to do it . However, if your intention is to download paid apps from the US App Store, you will need a valid US registered credit card or iTunes gift card.

iTunes Account Creation Error

It seems that Apple had recently updated their billing address verification and it doesn’t accept my VPOST USA address (as shown in the error above). I am very sure my VPOST USA address works as I had already bought a few items shipped to it with no issues. After some googling, somebody mentioned that iTunes accepts Apple’s own address. If you face the same issue, try the address below and it may help.

Address: 1 Infinite Loop

City: Cupertino

State: CA

Zip Code: 95014-2083

Area Code: 212

Phone: 2263127

Once you have successfully created the US iTunes account, you need to log out of your iTunes stores and re-login again with the newly created account. You may receive a warning that the app store will be changed from your current location to US and that’s normal. You should be able to install Amazon Kindle in your iPad/iPhone now.

BTW, if you already had downloaded some apps onto your iPad or iPhone (with your iTunes Singapore store), don’t worry about losing them cos any downloaded apps will remain in the device. 😉

How to get Amazon Kindle Touch in Singapore

My daughter is an avid reader and as a matter of fact, we are running out of shelves to store her books. This year, instead of adding to our storage woes,  I decided to kill two birds with one stone by getting her an Amazon Kindle for her birthday. As Amazon currently does not ship Kindles to Singapore, I received a lot of queries on how do I get a copy, especially the ebooks for Kindle, in Singapore. For those who are interested, here are the steps and the process is rather simple.

  1. First, you need a US registered address.  In my case, I have a VPOST account and it comes with a personalized US shipping address. VPOST accounts are free and I have been using them for all my US purchases with no problems – So far, so good. 😉
  2. Create an Amazon account and enter your address with the VPOST USA address. You can use the Singapore registered credit card for your purchases. Somebody told me that only US registered ones will work, but I didn’t have any problems (so far). If (for some reasons) your credit card doesn’t work, fret not. You can always use Amazon gift cards for your purchases. There is a shop “Tinyfries” in Millenia Walk that sells Amazon gift cards.
  3. Purchase the Amazon Kindle online and ship it to the VPOST USA address. I bought the “Special Offer” edition where the Kindle Touch is cheaper by USD$40. The catch is that there will be paid advertisements during the screen-saver mode. It’s not irritating and it only appears when you are not reading. There is actually a hack documented in the Internet on how to remove these paid advertisements but since I opted to save $40 in return for these non-intrusive advertisements, I decided to keep my end of the bargain and honour the agreement. I think you should too.
  4. Once VPOST USA receives your goods, it will send you an invoice via email with the shipping charges back to Singapore. Make that payment and you should be expecting your Kindle in about a week’s time.
  5. Once you receive your Kindle, connect it to your home WiFi and register it with your Amazon account. Any ebooks purchased will be “delivered” to your registered Kindle (via WiFi) almost instantaneously.

All in all, it took about 2 weeks for the parcel to arrive at my doorstep – easy peasy lemon squeezy. 😉

The original packaging only includes an USB charging cable and does not include any power adapter. For US$99, I won’t complain though. Anyway, I can use my blackberry charger to charge the Kindle. The output from the blackberry charge is 5V, 700mA and that means it allows upto a maximum of 700mA. The optional Amazon Kindle charger has a specifications of 5V, 850mA and thus there is a chance that the Kindle may draw upto 850mA. Since the maximum output from my charger is only 700mA, I reckon it probably means that it may take longer to fully charge up the Kindle. I am further assuming that it’s ok to use my blackberry charger as the output voltage is the same for both chargers. So far, I have charged my Kindle twice and it didn’t have any problems; The first charge took about 4 hours and the second charge took 6 hours as it was already 3/4 drained.

By the way, the little Amazon man (danboard) in the pictures above is to show the relative size of the packaging only. You know that it’s not part of Kindle, right? 😉

Before you take the plunge and buy a Kindle, there are a few gotchas that you should be aware of, mainly as a result of the fact that Kindle is not sold in Singapore.

  1. You need to send the unit back to US (and bear the additional international shipping cost) for any warranty issues
  2. You need to register an US address in your Amazon account before you can buy any ebooks from Amazon. Note that you will only see the list of available ebooks after you have logged into Amazon with the proper credentials, i.e. US address.
  3. Depending on your luck, Amazon may reject your purchases when it detects that you are accessing from a non-US location (i.e. via your computer’s IP address). To work around this issue, I use a prepaid VPN (Virtual Private Network) service from AlwaysVPN. As the name “VPN” implies, this service basically “teleport” yourself into US so that your web access is perceived as if it originates from US. For a prepaid amount of USD$8.50, I get 5GB worth of downloads and based on my calculation, I can easily download more than 2,000 ebooks if I use this service purely for Amazon’s transactions. Afterall, Kindle Touch only has 4GB of memory.
Since Kindle is not available for sale in Singapore, naturally you don’t expect to find its accessories in the local stores. My advice is to get all its accessories together with the Kindle. The shipping charges are also cheaper when you pool a few items together, as compared to shipping them individually.

Amazon Kindle Zip Sleeve

Personally, I prefer a sleeve over a cover as I like Kindle’s thin profile. Since this is meant to be a birthday gift for my daughter, I let her decide on the type of case. Like father like daughter (maybe), she chose a sleeve too – the blue Amazon Kindle Zip Sleeve. I must say the sleeve is very well designed as it has sufficient padding to protect the kindle against minor knocks and yet it’s not too bulky.

Amazon Kindle Zip Sleeve and its padding

Kindle Touch – Fits in my hand easily

As a standard disclaimer, all of the above are based on my personal experience and your mileage may vary. Please use any of the information with discretion. Do not hold me responsible and have fun with your Kindle! 😉

updated: 13 November 2012

The store “Tiny Fries” in Millenia Walk has closed down. ;-(

Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid hard disk

Seagate Momentus XT – Ferrari of the consumer disk

Solid State Disks (SSDs) are low capacity storage devices typically used in enterprise storage systems for extremely high performance and low power consumption. Despite its superior IOPS (I/O per second) performance (upto 100X as compared to an enterprise 15K RPM FC disk), it was rarely deployed in enterprises until recent years where technological advances helped to reduce the cost of SSD considerably.

SSDs today are usually built on non-volatile NAND flash memory and flash are available as Single-Level Cell (SLC) or Multi-Level Cell (MLC). SLC flash is typically used in enterprise grade SSDs for its speed and longevity. MLC flash, on the other hand, is slower but has larger capacity. Seagate Momentus XT uses SLC NAND flash.

Features MLC SLC
Bits per cell 2 1
Erase/Write cycles < 10,000 < 100,000
Read Service Time.
Lower is better
50µs 25µs
Write Service Time.
Lower is better
900µs 300µs

So what exactly is Seagate Momentus XT hybrid disk? Think of it as a fusion of the super fast Solid State Disk (SSD) and the traditional SATA hard disk. In this case, Momentus XT will automatically caches the data to the on-board 4GB Read-Only SLC flash so that when the application requests for its data, it will be served out from the flash. In the event that the requested is not available in the flash, Momentus XT will fetch the data from the traditional SATA disk. Hence the trick here is really to have a relatively consistent “pattern” in the usage of the computer so that adaptive memory technology of Momentus XT is able to pre-fetch the data and hence increases the probability of the data being served from the flash, rather than the disk.

Does this sound too good to be true? Is the future really here? Well, at least the reviews on this product seem to indicate that this drive is worth the extra bucks. Since I ran out of capacity on my macbook pro and needed to upgrade the disk, I have decided to give this disk a try.

I did some tests on the time it takes to boot up my macbook pro with the original 5400 RPM disk versus the new Momentus XT and here’s a summary of the results.


With Original HDD 5400RPM With XT Clean Install/No Apps With XT Clean Install and Apps
Run #1 65s 35s 26
Run #2 62s 34s 26
Run #3 60s 34s 26
Average 62s 34s 26s
Time taken to cold boot my macbook pro

As you can see, the performance of this disk is quite amazing. The boot up time of my macbook pro has reduced from 62s to 26s. Is this worth the extra bucks? Well, I think so. 😉

Specifications of the Seagate Momentus XT

  • 2.5-inch laptop PC hard drive
  • 500GB 7200 rpm of spindle speed with 32MB of drive-level cache
  • 4GB of solid state SLC (Single-Level Cell) NAND flash storage

List of applications installed on my macbook pro for the tests

  1. Mac OS X (10.6.8)
  2. Microsoft Office 2011
  3. VMware Fusion 3
  4. Firefox
  5. Adobe CS4
  6. Evernote
  7. Filezilla
  8. Textwrangler
  9. MAMP
  10. Skype
  11. Cisco VPN
  12. Sync-Mate
  13. MacFuse
  14. NTFS-3G