Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wake Up Alarms

I use my phone as my alarm clock and I have to wonder what the people were thinking when they designed the screens to turn off the alarms (shown above on an iPhone 5 and a Droid RAZR M).  For the benefit of the younger and less experienced readers (I'm starting to find some sick pleasure in saying that) I'd like to explain the problem here.  As you become older, or as Brian my youthful employee likes to say "become more brittle", you'll find that you need corrective lenses for almost all you do.  I'm now to the point that when somebody hands me something to read I find myself pulling a "Dr. Gaisford" move where I hold the item at arm length from my face so I can actually read it.

There is a reason why most alarm clocks have a single physical button on the top of them to turn them off.   Simply slam your hand down on the top of it and you'll most likely hit that button and turn off the alarm.  At 5:30am when I am suddenly thrust out of my deep sleep into a very dark room lit only by the seemingly ultra-bright screen on my phone, it is very difficult to make sense of these screens.  The iPhone screen is not as bad as the Android screen because the slide at the bottom of the screen is fairly easy to do.  Of course when the room it pitch black and I'm groggy from sleep and I don't have glasses on the screen looks more like this (except it hurts your eyes more and there is a loud sound that won't stop):

Most of us could probably figure out how to turn the alarm off even when the screen is that bad.  How about the Android screen:

Now imagine having my vision being half asleep squinting as hard as you can to make out the text on that screen (which I never could due to the extreem brightness) trying to turn off the alarm.  A few days ago I hit what I thought was the right button because it went silent.  When I turned off the water from the shower I could hear it going off again.  I obviously guessed wrong and hit the snooze button by mistake.  That or I guessed correctly but since the two buttons are so small and right next to each other I may have actually hit the wrong button.

I would suggest that a wake up alarm screen needs to have two simple large buttons, one to snooze and the other to indicate I'm up.  Here is a very quick and dirty mockup adjusted to my early morning perception:

This is by no means a perfect and beautiful, but for the purposes of turning off my alarms at 5:30am, I don't need perfection, I need function!  Note that the two huge buttons are on opposites ends of the screen so you won't make a choice and hit the wrong one.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Pigs Fly

I was chatting today with Boyd and he discovered he hasn't blogged anything since January 1, 2009.  The shocking part came when we realized that was four years ago.  While it hasn't been that long for me, I've been pretty inconsistent and most of my recent entries have been about biking.  Since I can't bike right now (27˚F) I thought I'd write about some technology.

A little more than a month ago I began work on Todo Pro for Android.  I have a very limited working version that I can use and syncs with the Todo Pro service.  BTW, the answer is no you can't have it yet, only I know how to tip-toe through it so it doesn't have problems.  

Galaxy Note 2
Just before Christmas I decided I needed to really experience life with an Android phone so I went shopping.  I was limited to the Verizon models available and spent half a day researching and going to the Verizon store to play with the devices.  The first device I was shown was the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  I stick with my first observation in that this device is not a phone.  It is a very small tablet that works to make phone calls and is only good for Women who can place it in their purse.  As if calling something this large a phone isn't enough entertainment, it comes with a stylus!  

For the benefit the younger and less experienced reader, a stylus is a stick that looks like a pencil that you use for input on a device.  It's sort of how you use your finger on your iPhone, but think Soviet Military from the 80's.  Steve Jobs was right.  My top desk drawer tends to collect items at the back of it that were useful in their day but have now been replaced.  Under a collection of foreign money not worth the time or effort to exchange and an old wallet I never used is my old worn out collection of styli from devices years ago.

Back of my desk drawer
Lost Styli Revealed

The thought of going back to a stylus is frightening, but the sales guy at the Verizon store assured me the Galaxy Note 2 was the most advanced phone made.

Samsung Galaxy S III
I spent a lot of time looking at the various Android phones available and even called up Android users I knew and asked their advice.  The Galaxy S III seemed like a logical choice.  It's Verizon's most popular phone from what I could tell and it had the best Calendar App (an exclusive app to Samsung) of all of the devices.  I use my calendar a lot!  It also had great specs and I was fairly confident it would get the next few Android updates which would prolong it's usefulness to Appigo.  I bought the phone and had them connect it to my plan replacing my iPhone 5.  That night I went through all of the apps on my iPhone 5 and downloaded the Android versions of them.  Dropbox, mSecure, Mint, Chase, Dictionary, eBay, Kitco, Gospel Library, LDS Tools were all available for Android and I had them up and running quickly.  I of course also had Todo Pro!  All of my calendars and contacts were in iCloud so I found an app called SmoothSync for Cloud that will sync iCloud calendars and contacts to Android.  I was amazed at how easy it was to still have access to everything on a completely foreign device.  I didn't need the Reeder app since Google Reader is available for Android and I could get all of my notes from Appigo Notebook directly from Dropbox.  Dropbox on Android is more like Dropbox on OS X.  It syncs even when it's not running and will let you edit files and upload them.

For the first time I was actually beginning to think I could switch to Android and be happy about it.  My previous experience was with a Nexus One from Google and Android has certainly come a long way since then.

Twelve days later I was back in the Verizon store returning the Galaxy S III.  It took just over a week for the novelty of this shiny big new phone to wear off and I started to focus on it's faults.  

The first fault I noticed right away but it took a week for it to really frustrate me.  It was the location of the power and volume buttons on the phone.  They are directly across from each other on opposite sides of the phone.  It's not apparent why that's a problem until you wake in the middle of the night and reach over to turn on your phone to see what time it is.  The Galaxy S III is so wide you have to stretch your hand out and squeeze both sides to turn it on.  When I would do this, I would always, always, always turn the volume up on the ringer and it would make a noise.  Of course I want the phone silent at night so I would then have to fumble and turn it back down all the way.  Then I noticed this volume changing was happening all them time when I would try to turn the phone on and off.

The next fault I also noticed right away but it took me longer to figure out what was happening.  Actually, it took me going skiing for several days in a row.  The lift going up the mountain at Sundance is not exactly what I call quick so there is some time to burn.  I often will pull out my phone and keep in touch with people.  Well, it's also cold so I one hand operate my phone.  No reason to get both hands cold unless of course you bought one of Samsung's new ginormous Galaxy Note 2 phones.  You can barely hold that phone in one hand let alone use it.  Well, turns out the same is true of the Galaxy S III.  It's too big for one handed operation.  Every time I would try to reach my thumb to the top or bottom left of the screen, my palm would touch along the right half of the screen and "palm-launch" an app.  It was also precarious to handle when sitting on a ski lift thirty feet above deep soft snow.  I decided I needed to return it and either go back to an iPhone 5 or find a smaller phone that didn't have the power and volume buttons on either side.

When the woman at the sales desk in the Verizon store found out I was returning a Galaxy S III she looked like I was calling her baby ugly.  She was stunned.  "I have never had anyone return this phone, I don't understand" she said.  I tried to explain the button thing and the one handed stuff on the ski lift but she was not very understanding and still stunned I was returning it.

Motorola Droid RAZR M
I replaced the Galaxy S III with the Droid RAZR M from Motorola.  The only thing I liked better on the Galaxy was the calendar app but I'm making due with the default Android calendar app.  The M is nearly identical in size to the iPhone 5 and one handed operation is excellent.  It also has the power and volume buttons on the same side so there is also no volume changing when turning the phone on and off.  I've had it longer than I had the Galaxy S III and I still like it.

Todo Pro for Android running on my Droid RAZR M

I showed Jack Young that my new phone was an Android on Sunday.  He looked shocked and asked me if he should make an announcement from the pulpit.

Wake Up Alarms (part 2)

Back in January of 2013 I wrote about wakeup alarms and compared the difference between Android and iOS.  That was back on an iPhone 5 and a...