October 2012 Archives

2012-10-08 15:56:50

The Apple Experiment: Lowering Expectations

After days of struggling with the account creation, I had to realize that I could simply not have an iCloud account. The Windows toolbar, which was my last, best hope for a clean iCloud account, could not create them, only log in to them. So I had to create an Apple ID based on my current Google Apps mail address. After opening Mail, I could then finally create my iCloud address, but the account was tied to my Google Apps mail account.

But at least I could finally start using the iPhone. I connected it to the wireless (I was in a different place now) which worked just as nicely as you would expect. Except the keyboard is a bit quirky because, unlike the Hacker Keyboard on Android, it doesn't come with number keys or symbols without first switching to some different mode. If you have complicated passwords, this can be very time-consuming.

Come to the iTunes store (if you can)

I then went on to install various apps on the phone. The App Store suggested a number of usefull apps from Apple which I should install by all means. In order to do that, though, I first had to sign my Apple ID up with the iTunes store. This procedure involved giving my home address, credit card and phone number and verifying some mail I received in my Gmail (rather than the iCloud account, so I had to go back to my laptop to confirm my account creation).

While the iTunes store asked for a backup mail address, it complained when I entered my Google Apps address because even though this address would be the backup for my iCloud account, it was still associated with the Apple ID, so I had to enter a third, distinct mail address to satisfy the iTunes store.

Unfortunately it took me some time to find my home phone number and by the time I had it ready, the screen lock had kicked in. I unlocked the screen and found that this going into the screen lock had closed the iTunes account creation wizzard and I was staring at the regular start page of the App Store. The advertisement for the useful Apple apps was gone for good, I couldn't find it anymore. So I decided to install an app and was asked to type all the iTunes account details in again.

Luckily, I made it on time this round so I didn't have to repeat the process. Now I was finally able to install the free DB Navigator app I required for my trip to Hamburg the next day. Then I tried to install the SBB app and was asked to come up with 3 security questions and their answers. All of the questions were completely useless and could be figured out easily by anyone with enough knowledge of my life. Like, what was the first rock concert you ever went to? Really?

Then I had to find the SBB app again and tell the App Store one more time to install it. Luckily, it didn't have any further questions and just fulfilled my request.

Big Podcast disappointment

I then found, installed and launched the Podcast app. Since I was going to Hamburg the next day, I would want something to listen to while traveling. The Podcast app contained a slightly sorted list of completely random podcasts, but it appears that the collection was big enough that I could find some interesting ones by searching for a bit. I added them to my list and one of them started playing immediately and rather loudly, which earned me some slightly embarassing stares.

I then set the alarm clock and went to bed, attaching the phone to the charger for the first time since its recent repairs. On the next morning, I was woken up by my esteamed phone at the right time. However, the battery was still at a relatively low rate. It had not been charged over night, again. It seems I will have to send the phone in for repairs another time.

I caught the bus to the station and boarded the train to Hamburg. I made sure to take my Sennheiser phones with me on the train so that I could listen to some of the podcasts I had selected the previous day. When I was looking through the list, all of the episodes were gray. It turned out that the default setting was not to download them ahead of time for you to listen, but to let you do that manually. (At the same time, the default setting would download them only on wifi, not on 3G when you're someplace outside).

Unfortunately, I was in a foreign country (Germany), so I couldn't download the episodes from the train. Also, consdidering how full the 3G network in Zurich is during commuting times, I would expect most people to have difficulties doing that in the first place. I reconfigured the Podcast app and continued my trip without anything to listen to.

So I wonder, will I be able to get along with this phone? I haven't yet found any offline street maps for Germany, like OpenStreetMap (OSMAnd) for Android. Also, will I ever have a phone which works for more than a few days, until the battery is drained and cannot be recharged again?

Read more about this in the next episode…

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2012-10-06 01:40:55

The Apple Experiment: Day One

About a week ago, I received an iPhone 4S with 32GB of storage. I immediately spent another CHF 40.- to get a rubber bumper and a display protection foil for the phone, in order to avoid it being destroyed in an accident or by being transported. A good iPhone user would possess such protectors, so I should have them too. They're ridiculously expensive though: CHF 20.- for the bumpers and CHF 20.- for the display protection foils.

And up for repairs

The charge of the battery was relatively low, about 20%, when I received it, so I plugged the phone in to charge it. While the phone was running on external power then, the battery wouldn't charge. As I carried it around, the power would continue to drain. Eventually, it reached zero, but the phone still wouldn't charge, even after several hours on the charger. So I brought it in to be repaired.

After a week in repairs I received the phone back just today, configured to the Apple ID of an employee of the shop which fixed it. The phone firmware had been reset and I was promised the phone would charge again. I haven't yet had an opportunity to try though.

Initial setup

Now that I had the phone back, I had to reset it and configure it for my own use. The option for resetting the phone could be found easily in the settings menu. Then, I was greeted with the iPhone setup screen. I slid to unlock, selected language and country, then configured the wireless network. I enabled location services and configured the iPhone as new. Then I was asked for an Apple ID.

I didn't have one, so I chose to create a Free Apple ID. The first question I was presented with was the birth date. The date is selected using three adjustment wheels, which is highly unpleasant if you were born at the other end of the month and year, a long time ago. A combined adjustment wheel and number editor would certainly be a relief here.

Then I had to type in my name — no surprises here. However, the name was split up into first and last name, which doesn't work for all cultures. It's a bit surprising that Apple forces this specific name format although they should have gathered quite some experience in dealing with different cultures by now.

Either way, I do have a first and last name, so I entered them. I was then asked whether I want to enter a mail address or create an iCloud account. Trying the full Apple experience, I had to go for the iCloud account. A quick question for the mail address later I received an error message: «Can't Create Apple ID: Your Apple ID could not be created because of a server error.» Clicking «Ok» on this message lead back to the screen which asks if you want to create an Apple ID or use an existing one.

Roadblock iCloud

Left without an option, I went to the Apple web site using Safari on my Mac Mini and was greeted with a very large video of Steve Jobs promoting various products to a kind of music. I couldn't find any other controls on the web site so I patiently watched the video till the end — which wasn't exactly easy, since the buffer kept running out. At some point the video was over and started again.

Hovering the mouse randomly over the browser window I discovered that there was a cross button on the upper left corner of the screen which would only appear when the mouse was hovered over it. Clicking that button loaded the regular Apple web site. However, that site didn't show the slightest sign of Apple ID creation mechanisms.

The apple in the menu bar brought back the video of Steve Jobs, which wasn't particularly helpful. The other menu items (Mac, iTunes, etc.) didn't mention Apple IDs either. In the Apple Store, there was a menu which mentioned «Accounts» and contained a menu point named «Account Home Page». The following page was more centered around orders from the Apple Store (looking at order lists or modifying or canceling orders), but there was a link to a page for changing the mail address of an Apple ID account.

The following page asked me to log into my Apple ID and offered an option to create one. I had finally found it! But the «Create Apple ID» page only allowed to create an ID with an existing, external mail account. No mention of iCloud anywhere.

So I used Google to find the iCloud service, which was apparently located at icloud.com. The web site didn't offer to create an account directly though. It asked you to create the account from the Mac or from an iOS6 device. The alternative was to use some iCloud tool bar on Windows. Since however I didn't have Windows, I couldn't follow that route.

The MacOS way required to open the system settings dialog. In that dialog, there was supposed to be a point called iCloud. I couldn't find that point though and it turned out that MacOS version 10.7.4 was required. I didn't have that version at hand, so I abandoned that road as well.

I may try finding a Windows installation to attempt the third way, but right now it appears that I cannot pursue the road I wanted to take due to a server error. Does that mean that my experiment is already over?

Read more about this in the next episode…

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2012-10-05 18:30:00

The Apple Experiment

In order to know better what I'm talking about, I have started an experiment: I got myself an iPhone.


Now that your shock has faded, let me explain. First of all, it is not a new iPhone. I got an iPhone 4S for cheap from someone who just received it back from repairs as a replacement drive. So my phone was either new or refurbished, so as good as new. I still have about a year's worth of warranty left.

The purpose of this experiment is for me to figure out and document what the life of an Apple user is like. So I'm not going to jailbreak my iPhone or use any other methods to make my life easier or to make the iPhone work more like I want it to. I want the full dosis, and I want to try out every detail Apple is throwing at me. And I will try not to resort to my good old Galaxy Nexus for the period of the experiment, even when I want to.

And with that, wish me some luck on my challenge.

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