Moving to Xiaomi mi2s from iPhone 4.

Build:

  • feels like iPhone 3G – plastic back, thicker than iPhone4 and above.
  • sturdy enough, but I’m worried if its dropped into water. iPhone is better sealed out of the box.
  • sits well on one hand without a case. iPhone built for adding a case.
  • screen – some weird uneven chemical spots, probably need to use a protector.
  • camera produces pretty high quality photos, auto focus could be slow.
  • battery, similar to iPhone4, slightly better.
  • wifi range, similar to iPhone4, not any better.
  • fast CPU, web pages renders pretty quickly.
  • iPod headphones control
  • micro USB harder to plug/unplug in the dark or with one hand.
  • vibration not as strong as iPhone, I would not feel the phone vibration for messages.
  • notification LED is kinda good, you can customize different colors for different notifications. Sometimes depends on the application. Whatsapp has good config, but Google Hangout doesn’t.

VS iPhone:

  • Touch sensitive buttons can cause some problems when trying to operate with one hand.
  • The menu / setting button can be confusing. Some apps modelling from iPhone has a navigation button, but it is not the same as settings. Also the settings button brings up different items on different pages. There are more things to remember and trial/error versus the iOS.
  • Notification on status bar seems good, but flashing light is not intuitive.

MIUI

  • Worst problem “Insufficient storage available” – 4 weeks in I started getting this error alot when I try to install new apps or sometimes even updating apps – http://stackoverflow.com/questions/16818049/. This is due to the stock MIUI not able to install apps on data partition. After manually update the system with development rom, it fixes it self http://en.miui.com/thread-1885-1-1.html. MIUI-V5 also has more nicer features than stock version.
  • a lot of built in service, feels good coming from iOS. Need to learn the shortcuts.
    • works well in English
    • auto back up photos to cloud.
    • messenger, notes, calendar
    • flash light
    • Play store, Google apps, recommended apps.
    • Browser includes reader and add to home screen
  • i.xiaomi.com – MiCloud – free.
    • can locate, play sound, lock and wipe phone. Although Locate didn’t work for me while in the US, play a sound worked.
    • sync contacts, photos, messages and notes.
  • mail app – renders better than gmail, but no priority inbox.
  • Theme – only a few ones are good, most are not well polished, but a lot more fun than iOS.
  • Video player not as consistent as iOS, sometimes crashes, cannot control volume until video starts playing.
  • Video player in Chrome doesn’t auto popup to full screen, need to manually click expand. Doesn’t go back to webpage after video finishes playing, it just stops as the end of the video.
  • Keyboard, default normal is shorter than iPhone. Need to use medium tall.
  • Hard to switch between Chinese and English. Need to use Google Pinyin input, which includes an English keyboard, but English keybaord doesn’t support gestures. The English only keyboard supports gestures but it is hard to switch between inputs.
  • Built in touch pal has quirky layout, hard to get used to.
  • Turn on professional setting for camera app – faster access to advanced features like exposure, white balance, slow motion, time lapse.
  • The settings page, all the items are in text. iOS settings have icons next to each function, that is easier to browse. (This is fixed in MIUI-V5)
  • Since using the phone for 3 weeks, it crashed twice. I do exploit the phone quite a bit, but definitely not as stable as iOS.
  • Security seems good, I’m told by the OS that apps are monitored if they breach permissions.

Android

The good:

  • Allows me to install apps that didn’t normally get approved on apps store or are restricted between regions. e.g. Xiami the Chinese Spotify could not be installed on iPhone.
  • There are innovative apps that would not be possible on the iPhone – e.g. Everything.me
  • Widgets – will be the iOS next feature.
  • Feature – Add contact as an app shortcut on home page.

The bad:

  • Hardware Back Button is good, when I go back to the iPhone, that’s one the feature I missed. It can go back between apps. However when the phone is in landscape mode, it does get confusing where the button should be.
  • No iTunes podcast, iTunes University.
  • Chrome doesn’t seem to come with a “Reader” function. Firefox does.
  • Does not recognize music playing the background while playing games. Maybe it is the game I was playing but iOS was smart enough to not play the music part of the games if I had other music playing.

Apps:

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Thoughts on Google I/O 2013

I was fortunate this year to experience Google I/O for the first time. The experience really started from the count down to the morning when registration opened and I managed to get a ticket before it sold out.

After attending the 3 day conference, I can safely say Google I/O is unlike any other conference I’ve been to. This is probably the only one where I felt inspired, had a lot of fun and learned some practical knowledge at the same time. The 5 different tracks were wide enough to cater for a variety of interests. Some tracks even had concurrent sessions. Since all of the sessions were recorded and available on Youtube, I chose to attend the more technical sessions that required more focus. The fireside chat sessions were also interesting as you could ask questions and interact directly with the team behind the scenes. I also enjoyed the office hours in the open expo area in which you could talk closely with Google employees.

I was impressed with the range of technologies put on show by Google. My Google I/O experience can be summarized in three parts – Inspiring, Practical and Fun.

Inspiring 

The impressive visual display of the keynote set a stage for thinking big and seeing the future. What was more inspiring though was hearing Larry Page answer questions in the new Q&A session this year. Larry encouraged everyone to gain a deep understanding of what you are working on in order to think big and solve the real issues. He asked “How far are you off from the raw materials cost?”. He emphasized that it is very important for engineers to stop optimizing at a high level which may only provide incremental improvements. Larry also emphasized that Google has only accomplished 1% of what is possible. Keeping those pieces of advice in mind was an inspirational start to the conference.

The second talk that I found inspiring was “7 Techmakers and a Microphone”.  I didn’t know what to expect at first, but the stories of each woman was truly moving and exciting. There was an air of celebration and appreciation of the early days of computer science, something I haven’t felt myself for a long time. One of the amazing stories in the talk was about the first all-electric computer, the ENIAC, and how the first six women programmers of the ENIAC almost faded into the unknown. Their story will be produced as a documentary very soon – http://eniacprogrammers.org/.

By the end of the conference, I found myself looking forward to owning a pair of Google Glass. Everyone at the conference was optimistic and understood that this is the early experimental stages for wearable technologies. Larry said that they are focused on making users of Glass happy, and getting technology out of the way of people’s lives. I look forward to the possibilities of Glass and wearable technologies.

Practical 

If practicality is what you look for in a conference, Google I/O also had a lot of informational sessions. The sessions on Chrome and App Engine were most relevant to me. The Chrome team focused on performance; the #perfmatters hashtag was everywhere. It was clear that it is in Google’s interest to keep users using the web by making sure they have a fast experience in comparison to native apps. Apart from educating developers, Google also invested a lot in tools and advancing browser capabilities. Chrome had some cool demos with WebRTC & WebGL. They are standardizing ideas from AngularJS as web components. Google created new languages like Dart and Go that promote better engineering practises and performance. The flexibility and performance of Google App Engine was impressive. Last but not least, the new Android studio based on IntelliJ is a long awaited tool for Android developers.

Furthermore, eager attendees could get their hands dirty in code labs which started at 9am on the 3rd day of the conference. The one I recommend is “Whispering Gophers: networking programming in Go”.

For a list of sessions on web performance, check out the perfmatters blog.

Fun 

The after hours party that Google put together on the first night was absolutely tailered for geeks. It was kind of surreal with robots everywhere, a robot bartender mixing custom drinks with real time stats, Billy Idol, DJ Aoki, great food and drinks. I couldn’t think of anything else to ask for other than making the party last longer.

On top of that, this year everybody received a Chromebook Pixel. I’ll admit it is not going to replace my Macbook Pro, but it got me interested in learning more about Chrome OS and what it is capable of.

In closing

There were a couple of things I observed. Google is incredibly fortunate that it can afford to experiment and bet on different technologies. Given they make a majority of their income from ads, Adsense and Adwords were not heavily visible in the conference.

It’ll be interesting to see Chrome as a major platform and see how that will coexist with Android. It is not clear how that will pan out, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Google releases a phone running on Chrome OS.

Finally I’m looking forward to seeing more from Google[x] and Google.org on how to use technology for social impact and improving human life.

 

Gravatar experiment

Since I’ve launched Ankoder, I started to think alot more about marketing, especially online. The biggest question is how to get more people clicking onto your site? Well, I’m going to start a little experiment by adding a play button looking icon on my gravatar and see if that makes more people clicking on my profile.

Marketing guru Seth Godin explains why it is important.

Rex Chung