Chris Hannah

Technology


Motorola Are Making a Lenovo ThinkPhone

Lenovo have announced that they are releasing a new phone, the ThinkPhone, which will be made by Motorola.

From the official announcement, it seems as if this will be aimed more at the enterprise market, and especially at users of ThinkPad laptops. Users of a ThinkPad look to gain the bigger advantage of the ThinkPhone, as there various integrations, similar to what you would find in the Apple ecosystem, which they call "Think 2 Think". Here are a few that interested me:

Not a bad list! And being a fan of the ThinkPad myself, I certainly appreciate the design of the ThinkPhone. Although, even though I am starting to appreciate more Android phones, such as the Pixel and the Nothing Phone, I can't say I have any intention of trying this one out. Although, like I said about the Nothing Phone, I still hope this does well.

When I first saw the headline about Lenovo releasing a ThinkPhone, I was partially hoping that it was based on a new OS, not iOS or Android, just to offer another competitor to the market. I guess the wait for that continues.

Nothing Ear (stick)

A few weeks ago, I got myself a pair of the new Nothing Ear (stick) earphones. They're an intriguing product, and they're certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the competition. So since I've now used them for a while, and in quite a few scenarios, I thought I'd share my feelings on them.

There are two main reasons why I bought them. The first being that I wanted an upgrade from the original AirPods, ideally with better sound quality and battery life. But I didn't want to get AirPods Pro, because I'm really not a fan of in-ear earphones at all.

Secondly, the Nothing brand, and its recent products, are making me think differently about technology. They're making fun products, with slightly quirky designs, and not forcing themselves into being yet another bland tech company, obsessed with specifications and just one number being higher than another. I've been getting bored of technology recently, both hardware and software, but these  seemed to stick out, so I thought I'd give them a go.

Design

First off, I'm a big fan of the design. Both the individual buds and the case. I like how they're not just the most minimal design and colour, but instead feature transparent sections, and a bit of colour. I also appreciate how the case isn't just a flip-up container like the rest. It has personality.

That's not to say the design is perfect. Because the design isn't just how it looks, it's also how it works. And I have felt at some points that they weren't sitting securely in my ears. That may be due to my ear shape, or maybe I just needed to get used to the feel of them. But I'd say they feel slightly less secure than the original AirPods, which fit perfectly for me.

I did have one of the buds fall out of my ear once. But I'm not quite sure if I had put them in properly because this was only a few days after getting them. Nevertheless, I still don't think I would ever do something like running with them. (Not that I plan on doing that any time soon anyway)

Once you get past the slight feeling that they may not sit as snugly as other earphones, they are quite comfortable to wear. I'm hoping it was just an adjustment period, and that they won't fall out again. But I'll wait and see.

Sound

I'm not a sound expert, so I can't offer any technical expertise. But I am a person with ears. So for what that's worth, I have found the sound quality to be very good. As in, they sound better than the original AirPods to me, and I've never noticed a problem with any kind of audio.

I've used them in my home, while walking, on the train, and in a busy office. All have been fine. Although from what I've heard, in a quiet environment, any volume over 50% starts to become audible to people nearby. (Not that this is a problem, these things can get pretty loud.)

I've had to go on quite a few work video calls as well during the past few weeks, which have all sounded fine. The microphone is also good enough that no one on the calls ever seemed to have any issues hearing me.

If you want more control of the equaliser, there is an app that you can download. From there you can boost the bass, treble, or highlight voices. I haven't played with this much myself, as the default settings have been fine in every circumstance for me.

Battery

I didn't actually know the official battery life of these until just now, which is earbuds having 3 hours of playback on their own, and the case holding another 12 hours.  I didn't know this, simply because, they've never gone flat.

I remember one time I had used them for multiple days in a row, listening to music on my commute, video calls at work, etc. Then when I next picked them up, I checked the battery, the buds were at 100%, and the case was at 50%. That may sound useless to some people because I can't say exactly how long I used them. But, I remember thinking "surely they're nearly flat by now", but nope!

It's definitely helped by the fact that it charges by USB C. So while I'm at my desk, whether at home or in the office, I can either find a dedicated cable or just quickly unplug my Mac for 10 minutes and top them up.

I think the fact that I hadn't needed to know about the battery life until now is a very good sign. I wanted earphones that lasted long enough so that I didn't need to think about it. I give them 10 minutes or so when I can, and that seems enough to keep them around fully charged most of the time.

Misc

A few small things that I noticed:

Overall

After a few weeks of using the Nothing Ear (stick), I can definitely say that I will be keeping them and that I will continue to use them as my primary earphones.

There are some minor downsides, like any product, but the benefits outweigh them personally. I love the design, the battery life, and also just that they're not the standard earphone design that the AirPods introduced. And at £99, I think they're an absolute bargain.

I'll certainly be looking forward to more products from Nothing in the future. Maybe I'll even switch to their phone at some point. Either way, I hope more companies start to act like Nothing and add a bit more personality to their products. Because there's no rule that says technology needs to be boring.

The Way I Use Technology Is Changing

A thought popped into my head the other day, about the apps I use on my iPhone. So I gave it some thought, and I didn't think the list was that long. I know I have a ton of apps installed on my phone (I checked, it's 208), but as for day to day use, I barely touch most of them.

I seemed to pique my own interest, so I went through the list of apps I have installed on my phone, and took a note of each app that I have used in the last week or two. Even when I was being a bit generous, I could only find 27 apps that I've used.

The majority of them are core phone apps like Camera, Mail, Photos, etc, then the rest are mainly entertainment, social, and football related.

Full list of the apps I've used:

Core Phone Apps

  • Camera
  • Clock
  • FaceTime
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Phone
  • Photos
  • Safari
  • Weather

Shopping

  • Amazon
  • App Store
  • Deliveroo (Food delivery)

Entertainment

  • Cracking the Cryptic (Sudoku game)
  • Reeder
  • Spotify
  • YouTube

Social

  • Instagram
  • Linky (I use the Share extension to share links to Twitter)
  • Telegram (I use this literally for one person)
  • Tweetbot
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp

Sports

  • OneFootball (Football scores)
  • Premier League (Fantasy Football and stats)
  • Sky Sports (Football news)

Other

  • Monzo (Bank)
  • Zero (Fasting)

That may seem like a relatively long list, but for most of them, I use them for a maximum of a few minutes at a time, and only a few times a week. I just went through them again, and I could probably drop 10 of them, and barely notice it.

This doesn't mean that I can now delete the other 181 apps that I haven't used this past week. (Although I should probably go through and clean some up.) Because there's a certain type of app that will only ever be used sporadically, like apps for flights or restaurants. So I'm not going full minimalist of anyone. But I did just look at my home screen, and of the 22 apps that are there, I haven't used 6 of them in ages.

I'm not writing this to say to everyone "hey, everyone, look at me, I use less apps than you". I just wanted to share something I noticed in my own behaviour, and maybe put a little thought into the possible reasons behind it.

One thought that entered my mind, was that maybe this is just how normal people use their phone? Maybe before, I was an iPhone "power user" but now I'm not? That does seem to match up with my current feelings about technology, and tech products in general.

In general, my interest in computing has dropped slightly, although to be honest, the biggest drop is my interest in Apple. And maybe this is because I've reached 30, but I just want things to work now. Sure, I can sit inside a command line for hours, and play around with silly customisations and tools, but when I'm doing a task like programming or writing, I don't care about the frills anymore.

Now I think about it more, that does seem to match up with a few more things I've noticed recently:

Even when I'm using my Mac, for both work and personal use, I rarely use anything other than a browser, text editor, terminal, chat app (for work), or email client.

It's fascinating to me to see how much my interests and feelings have seemingly changed so much recently. For quite some time, I was the "Apple guy" to my friends and family. Anything Apple did, I liked, anything Apple sold, I purchased. Maybe this is part of becoming older? If so, hopefully, that means I'm getting wiser.

Fortunately, I didn't build this blog around a niche, so I guess as I work out my new feelings on technology, and possibly my new interests, I'll keep on writing here.

I Hope The Nothing Phone Does Well

If you haven’t heard, there’s a company called “Nothing”, and they’re very close to releasing their second product, the phone (1). It’s a company that seemingly loves hype. And I think it’s worked well for them, as they’ve been getting a decent amount of press.

As far as I can tell, it’s an Android device (with a custom launcher), that looks a bit (from the front) like an iPhone 12, but with a whole new back design that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

They call it the Glyph Interface, as you can see, it’s full of lights. The one near the power connector will show the current charge when plugged in, and you can also assign various light patterns to ringtones, which Marques Brownlee made a great video showing off. Maybe that sounds a bit useless to you. But to me, it just seems fun, a bit quirky, but overall definitely something different.

The problem I’ve already started to see with this phone (that isn’t even released yet), is that some are already asking “Is this the iPhone killer?”. Let’s not beat around the bush. The Nothing phone (1) is not the iPhone killer. Nor will it kill any popular current major smartphone. And it doesn’t need to.

I want this phone to exist in a wide marketplace of different offerings from various companies. I want devices that exist to have a bit of character, not just be a minimal slab of glass with a generic camera square at the back. I think there should be loads of smaller niche devices that cater more towards certain markets or tastes. Because if everything is the same, then it’s just boring.

I really want this phone to succeed because I think it will encourage other companies to do something similar. To me, it seems like the big phone manufacturers are just trying their hardest to reach the phone design singularity, where you can have the smallest bezels, the thinnest body, and the best camera. But they don’t seem to make anything fun, or unique, or even just plain interesting.

There’s a big chance I won’t end up purchasing a phone (1) when it’s released. I just hope enough people do, so that the smartphone market starts to become a bit more diverse.

Using Older Products

I’ve had enough thoughts on this idea to span a short book, but I had a moment today where I was just occupied with my thoughts, and I started contemplating using an iPhone 5 again.

A quick bit of a context: the iPhone 5 is my favourite phone to have existed, and I’m also a fan (nostalgically) of older technology.

Whenever I think about an older product like the iPhone 5, or whatever old product or service that I used in the past, I always end up watching YouTube videos like “Does X work in 2022?”.

After going through a moment of nostalgia, I’m always left with the thought that “of course it should work”. Older products don’t magically stop working when newer versions come out. In the same way that if you buy a Game Boy Colour now, and Pokémon Yellow, you’ll have the same experience as you would have done 20 years ago.

Surely as long as the hardware of a product remains functional, and any software updates keep the product working as expected, then technology should theoretically last forever?

When the question whether an older product or technology is still viable in a certain moment, if the need/purpose is still the same, then it is as suitable and capable as it was originally.

Of course, there are more specific arguments that could be made against this. For example, if you have an old iPhone and update it to the most modern version of iOS, while you may have newer features, your device is most likely going to run slower.

There’s a potential argument here that keeping software updates isn’t always the best way to keep something working for a long period of time. But I’ll save that thought for another day.

All I’m trying to say, is that when you think about older products, their capabilities aren’t usually what has changed. They can most likely perform the same function as they did originally. But what has changed is your expectations of what a certain product should provide.

My answer to every “Can you still use X in 2022?” question, is that if your needs have not changed and there aren’t any software compatibility issues, then of course you can.

The Restrictions for Younger Users on Douyin, China's Version of TikTok

There's certainly a lot of opinions about TikTok, and technology that originates from China in general. But putting aside cultural and political differences, I've been reading about the rules that Douyin (China's version of  TikTok) have put in place for its younger users, and to be honest, I'm a fan.

I've got a pretty strong opinion that in general, social media isn't a good thing for children. But I'd have to admit that it does have its benefits. Especially given how intertwined social media is with the modern world.

According to Kerry Allen, a BBC China media analyst, these restrictions have been coming for a while:

For the last three years, official media has been warning that the growing amount of time young Chinese people are spending on the internet is having an impact on their physical and mental health.

I'm sure it isn't a surprise to most people that young people's physical and mental health can be affected by the internet, and in particular, social media. But I can't think of any other platform that has actively tried to combat the effects.

As for the rules and differences that apply to Douyin's younger users, here are a few:

The restrictions for under 14 year olds is known as "Youth Mode", and it requires what they call "real-name authentication", so I'm assuming that some form of identification is necessary, which would certainly be a controversial topic in the west.

However, I still think it's good to see that at least one social media platform is putting the health of its younger users before engagement metrics.

The E.U. Want To Enforce USB-C as a Universal Common Charger by 2024

Louise Guillot, writing for Politico:

The European Commission is set to present a legislative proposal on Thursday to force manufacturers to use a common charger for electronic devices, according to a Commission official closely involved in the file.

The proposal will require all manufacturers to harmonize the charging points on devices — using a USB-C charging point — and to make their software protocol for fast charging interoperable between brands and devices.

The main target of the new legislation is U.S. tech giant Apple, which has pushed back against EU attempts to standardize chargers through binding requirements, arguing that it will hamper innovation.

This is such a fundamentally stupid proposal.

How can you enforce all phone manufactures to use the same charging port?

What happens when USB-C isn't good enough anymore?

What about the massive number of lightning cables that would be unusable by the current iPhone users? Does that waste not matter?

What if a manufacturer wants to only support wireless charging?

John Gruber echoed my feelings in the last sentence of his post[1]:

And people in the E.U. wonder why England wanted out, and why nearly all the major tech companies are from the U.S. and Asia.


  1. Of course, it was the UK that left the EU, not just England. But I think everyone gets the point. ↩︎

A New Found Appreciation for Control

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed something change within myself, regarding my opinions on technology, and my preferences on what I’m willing to put up with.

For quite some time now, I’ve been a die-hard Apple user. I use a Mac, iPad, and iPhone at home, and also a Mac at work. My life is pretty much in Apple’s ecosystem. There’s a lot of pros and cons to that, some of which I wrote about in my piece: How Do I Know if the Grass Is Greener?, and also touched on when I was thinking about consuming media in Thinking Out Loud: What Is It To Be in Control of the Media That You Consume.

Most of those thought processes stem from the fact that before I used an Apple device, I was really into PCs, whether it was building them, seeing the latest technology, or just tinkering with them. But after I switched to a Mac, it felt like it wasn’t a device for tinkering, rather it was an off-the-shelf product that you used to get things done.

I don’t mean this to be an attack on Apple products, or just to be purely negative about them, because I think they’re some of the best technology products that exist today. But just like every other product, they come with their own pros and cons.

For example, I think that macOS is a better operating system than Windows in a usability sense, design, and overall cohesion with the Apple ecosystem. And the same also applies to iOS and iPadOS. However, there are times when I’ve felt like I’ve been wrapped in cotton wool, instead of having real control of my devices. That’s led to my recent thinking on Android phones, and imagining if I could ever make the switch.

These thoughts have been going around my head for a while, and one phrase came to mind yesterday that seems to sum up my overall opinion on technology: “I don’t want nice, I want control”.  And whether or not this is the reality, I’ve always felt like the Apple world offers more niceties and a cohesive experience throughout all of their products, and not exactly one that offers an abundance of control to its users.

All of this has led me to very recently (a few days ago), purchasing a PC. I’ll write about that on my blog in more detail soon, but it’s a Windows PC, relatively cheap, which I built myself, and I’m now having some fun playing World of Warcraft at the max settings with a seemingly lack of struggle.

I don’t know if this makes me part of the “PC Master Race” or if I’m actually going to be doing more things in Windows than playing games. But one thing I’m going to be doing from now on is to keep an open mind about technology. Somehow I went from being interesting in technology and computing as a whole to then thinking Apple products are the only ones worth thinking about. Whereas I’m now starting to realise that products are contextual. And that the quality of a product is contextual, to the use case, users familiarity, price, what downsides a user is willing to put up with, etc.

Maybe this just means that I’m now an Apple user with a gaming PC, or maybe it’s the start of a wider appreciation for technology. I guess I’ll just have to find out.

Introducing the Framework Laptop →

Nirav Patel, introducing the Framework Laptop:

At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last. Founded in San Francisco in 2019, our mission is to empower you with great products you can easily customize, upgrade, and repair, increasing longevity and reducing e-waste in the process.

Today, we are excited to unveil our first product: the Framework Laptop, a thin, lightweight, high-performance 13.5” notebook that can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways that no other notebook can.

— Nirav Patel, Introducing the Framework Laptop

As much as I do like a few parts of this laptop:

You are still limited to running Windows or Linux (or maybe it could be a Hackintosh?). And I have no plans to ever own a Windows or Linux machine.

So it's not for me.

But I still think it's a fascinating idea, and I hope it will become a success, because I really like the idea of being able to repair and upgrade your own computer, and at a reasonable cost.

Our Devices Are Accessories to Ourselves

Accessory
noun

an extra piece of equipment that is useful but not essential or that can be added to something else as a decoration
The Cambridge English Dictionary

When you think of the word “accessory” in the context of technology, you’ll probably be drawn to accessories for various devices. But I think you can apply the word to the devices themselves. Especially to the smartphone. They can be very useful devices, but at the same time are completely non-essential. Although our uses suggest the opposite.

In my opinion, we treat the smartphone too much as our lens through which we see and experience the world. To a point where we forget to see the world through our own eyes.

It might not seem like a problem to most people, using our phones a lot, since they can be fun, and they can also be pretty useful tools. But we can also fall into various traps where we end up doomscrolling for hours on end, where the smartphone has taken control and is now using you. And that’s not going to go well. Because we all know the internet and social networks especially, are simply cesspits of throwaway opinions, misinformation, fuel for confirmation bias, and an endless stream of people wearing digital disguises trying to make themselves look clever or aspirational.

I’ve got a lot of opinions about the various problems with social media, and the effect it has on people, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

I don’t think we should all rush to quit using social media because it can be used in a good way, but we should take a lot of what we find on our devices and the internet with a large grain of salt. Not everything you experience through your devices is indicative of the real world.


This post is part of the warmup week for the March Blogging Challenge, the theme today is Accessories.