Archive for the “Technology” Category

Interesting development – Amazon are moving into groceries.

Apparently the market leaders Ocado have never made a profit in their 10 year history. I presume this is largely because of the expense of the distribution network which of course Amazon already have in place. At the moment it’s just non-perishable items (no meat or veg) but I presume they’ll need to invest in some refrigerated vans before long – I can’t see people bothering to order meat/veg/fruit/bread from Sainsburys/Ocado/Tesco and everything else from Amazon.

There’s still some work to do on the website too to get it a bit more geared towards the needs of food shoppers rather than book shoppers (ie a weekly shopping list).

Another of the strengths of the supermarkets is their own-brand, cheaper alternatives to much of what they sell. How will Amazon compete unless they have their own Amazon branded baked beans etc and perhaps their own even cheaper Amazon Basics/Value range?

All that said, I wouldn’t bet against Amazon – they’ve  gone from being just a book seller to being the first place I look for books, music, DVDs and electricals so why not food?

Another important question is whether they will keep the “buyer reviews” functionality for the food section. I look forward to reading people enthuse about a particular loo roll or packet of crisps!

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I’ve installed a firmware update on my Omnia this week which has significantly improved a number of areas of the phone (better finger interface support, better battery life, gprs/3g don’t try to override an established wireless connection – basic stuff).

One major annoyance I still have is that Windows Mobile won’t sync with the new built-in calendar and contacts of Windows Vista. How stupid is that? If Microsoft are serious about trying to get people to move over to Vista, don’t add software and then leave out features that would make it useful! I get the feeling that Microsoft have given up trying with Vista and are hoping try again with Windows 7. If I could have bought my laptop with XP, I would have, but now it feels like Microsoft have forced Vista on me and are going to leave me to put up with its problems.

Anyway, that’s for another time. I could sync my laptop contacts and calendar to my phone but only if I use Outlook (which I have a cd for but it’s at my parents’ and I’ve never needed it on my laptop before). I suppose until recently most Windows Mobile devices were used in the business world where everyone’s got an Exchange server or at least got Office on their desktop but if these new consumer WM phones are going to compete with the iPhone they’re going to have to start thinking about the needs of the average consumer.

I ended up finding quite a nifty solution – I uploaded my contacts (as a .csv) to Windows Live (the new name for hotmail/messenger etc) and then used the Windows Live app that came with the phone to download them to my contacts list. In the end this is quite a nice solution as my contacts are all now stored online and accessible from anywhere and will sync between the phone and internet automatically.

The downside is that although there is a very slick calendar web-app as part of Windows Live, there isn’t yet a way to sync that information with the calendar on my phone. I expect as Microsoft try to catch up with Apple (and Google) they will add support for this but for now I’m wondering how much a hosted Exchange solution might cost.

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This isn’t a particularly interesting post but I thought it might be useful to some random passer by who might be considering buying the Samsung Omnia but wanted to know the annoyances and niggles before buying. Actually most of the annoyances are down to Windows Mobile rather than the Omnia specifically but here’s the run down anyway…

Annoying Thing 1: Windows Mobile doesn’t like thumbs

Unlike the iPhone, the Samsung Omnia is only partly built to be used with fingers and thumbs. Samsung have had a pretty good stab at wrapping up the major phone parts (texting and calls) of Windows Mobile 6 into a finger friendly interface but as soon as you find yourself needing to access something a bit deeper, you’re into the standard Windows Mobile menus and they’re really too small to navigate with fingertips. It’s just about possible with a fingernail but you’ll keep pressing the wrong thing and having to go back a step. Fortunately, the Omnia comes with a stylus. Unfortunately that brings me to annoyance number 2…

Annoying Thing 2: There’s nowhere to put the stylus

In an HTC phone (and pretty much any smartphone or pocket PC that has a stylus since the 80s) there’s a little hole that you can slot the stylus into when you’re not using it. Not so with the Omnia. It comes with a stylus – quite a slick one – but there’s nowhere for it to slot into the phone when you’re not using it. Instead the stylus has a lid which has a cord that you’re supposed to attach to a little loop of metal on the side of the phone such that the stylus just dangles from the side of your phone. Fine if you wear your phone round your next like an uber-geek (also not such an issue if you’re a girl and only carry your phone in a handbag). Not fine if you keep your phone in your pocket like most guys.

This one is just dumb and means I never take the stylus with me and have to struggle with fingers or find a pointy twig!

Annoying Thing 3: It’s just a little too slow

It’s amazing that a phone can do so much in such a small package but the Omnia’s response is just slightly too slow to the point that it becomes annoying. You poke the start menu (with your too big finger) but nothing happens so you poke it again thinking you missed but then just as you go to poke it again, it appears. Maybe I’m asking too much, but when I poke a button I want a response before I’ve taken my finger away. Instead I have to poke, pause, poke, pause, poke, pause, etc.

Annoying Thing 4: Windows Mobile wants me to oversleep

Come on Microsoft – how hard is it to build a decent alarm clock into a phone. My old Nokia had one button for snooze, a different button for turning the alarm off. When you’ve just woken up after not enough sleep and your alarm’s shouting at you, you need that kind of simplicity. Instead you’ve got to go through (too small for fingers) menus trying to get it to snooze for 10 minutes not 20 minutes or 2 minutes. This is again an annoyance with Windows Mobile rather than the Omnia specifically but it’s still annoying.

Fortunately I’ve found a pretty good solution to this problem in the shape of some freeware alarm clock software called Klaxon which has a touch-friendly interface and niftily allows you to snooze the alarm by just flipping the phone over or turn the alarm off completely by shaking it!

Annoying Thing 5: No automatic key lock

You don’t want your phone calling people from your pocket if you forget to manually lock the keys. Fortunately phone manufacturers solved (mostly) this problem a few years ago by allowing you to tell your phone to lock the keypad automatically if you don’t press any buttons for some number of minutes. Unfortunately Microsoft decided Windows Mobile doesn’t need such a feature. It’s so basic that I feel I must be missing something but the only way, as far as I can tell, to get your keys to lock automatically is to install third-party software.

Does nobody use these phones before they sell them? I can’t be trusted to manually lock the keys every time I put my phone in my pocket!!

Annoying Thing 6: The proprietary connector

When will manufacturers learn that we don’t want to have to use a slightly different charging/USB cables for every device we own. Let’s just standardise to one of the mini-USB shapes and be done with it. The Omnia has its own special flat and wide connector that has the triple purposes of charging port, USB connector and headphone connector. That last one is the most annoying – there’s no standard 3.5mm headphone socket on the Omnia. Instead I have to plug in a little adapter cable, the other end of which I can then plug normal headphones into. Yes, it means I have a volume control on the cable but I don’t want that!

While we’re mentioning headphones, the ones that come with the Omnia are big, ugly and weird! I don’t mind that though because I have these.

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