iOS 7 on older hardware: you should wait

I upgraded my 8gb iPhone 4 to iOS 7 when it released.  In the few days since the upgrade, however, I have experienced some anomolies with the upgrade. First off, it seems the NASCAR app is not compatible as it locked up the phone. I had to reset it to use it again.  While this may not be an issue for you, bear in mind that there will be apps that may not work or work well with iOS 7.

Next, while trying to setup one of the gestures, the OS started ‘scanning’ the screen, presenting options at each widget. The screen then became unresponsive.  After holding down the power and home buttons, I was able to reset the phone. Unfortunately, the touchscreen became unresponsive after about ten to twenty seconds.  I decided to restore the phone, but, because I have ‘find my iPhone’ enabled, I was unable to reset it with out turning off that feature.  Now, will someone tell me why it is this way? Yeah, I suppose it is a security ‘feature’, but, if my phone becomes unresponsive, how the hell am I supposed to fix it? Go to an Apple store?

Anyway, after twenty or so minutes and repeated restarts, I was able to close a few apps and get the phone responsive again.  There has to be a better way.  This process was enough to make me want to pull a Scott Bourne and toss the phone into the river.

While some Apple supplied apps are a bit faster, overall, however, this upgrade is akin to running Windows Vista on a machine designed for Windows 2000 or early XP: you might get it to work, but it won’t be pretty. There are so many features in iOS 7 that simply do not work on this earlier device I have to wonder why they thought it was a good idea. 

I know there are millions of iPhone 4 devices out there and those owners would be ticked (I would, I know) but, sometimes, things are better off left alone, like iPhone 4.  I am glad that Apple finally put it to rest, they should do that to the 4S as well.

This experience has, more than anything else, made me want to ditch the iPhone altogether now. I won’t go back to Android, that’s for sure.  I had given a fleeting thought to a Blackberry Z10, but, with their recent news and woe, I want a Windows Phone even more now.

Desire aside, other issues with the upgrade, for me, include confusing settings, the control center-which does not always popup- and animations that are just in the way.

If you have an older iPhone, a 4 or 4S, you may wish to wait for the inevitable ‘point’ release, which, I am sure, will be soon.  If you simply must upgrade, do so with caution. Make sure you back up first. And, good luck!a

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Siri alternatives: Google Now, Evi and Vlingo. Which is best?

Since I got my company issued iPhone 5, I’ve had the opportunity to play around with Siri, the voice search application that began with the iPhone 4s.  I’ve had mixed results with it and, generally, do not use it. However, that does not mean I don’t like the idea. Far from it, I do.  It’s just that the Siri implementation is, well, sorely lacking. And, for some reason, I can find out the meaning of life yet cannot get results for NASCAR.

Bias aside, I can blame some of the poor results on Apple’s algorithm. Some of the witty results are from Wolfram Alpha while some, I am sure, are from Apple itself. (Ask it who let the dogs out…go on, I dare you.)

Since my personal phone is an iPhone 4, I do not have Siri. Neither does my first gen iPad.  However, all is not lost. See, there are a few apps that do some or all of what Siri does and more.

I have tried out three alternatives and my results are below.  Each one of the apps are free but there are paid ones as well. I have not tried them.

GoogleNowGoogle Now

Google Now is the most complete of the three apps I tried. It has the power of Google search behind it and, in my opinion, is more responsive than even Siri. Google Now also works on PC’s and Macintosh. Google Now also gives you access to Google goggles and a host of Google apps. But, how useful is it?  In a word: VERY.

I am not a huge fan of Google, in fact, I use Bing as my primary search engine but Microsoft does not have something like Google Now (it did, way back in the Windows Mobile 5 days with Live Search. That was pretty good, for 2006.) That said, I think Google not only did a good job with Now, I find it better than Siri in so many ways. It returns better search results, does not give as many smart assed answers (though some of them that Siri gives are funny) and it knows about NASCAR.

eviEvi

Admittedly, I did not try this one as extensively as the others. In a word, it’s confusing. However, it did come closest to Siri, even using Siri’s voice(!). However, it failed to discern Erie, Pennsylvania from Gary or Yearly when I asked for the distance between that location and Mechanicsville, Virginia. Some results it spoke, most it just returned a web page. This was my least favorite of the three. It had far too many options as well and was the worst of the three in picking up my voice.  To be fair, however, I tried it on the iPhone 5 and Siri seems to misunderstand quite a lot as well, so maybe it is either the microphone on the 5 or neither like my voice. Evi also seems to be iPhone ready as it fills the screen completely.

VlingoVlingo

Vlingo is interesting in that it has hooks into email, sms, maps and your social nets as well as search. It really does create an email with the to, subject and body all filled in. It really does create an SMS message and will post to Twitter or Facebook. The problem, though, is that you have to use specific words (which makes sense) and it must understand what you want. Here’s where it seemed to have problems. For me, it mostly understood me, it just did not do what I wanted. And, when it did, you still have finish the task by tapping an onscreen button.  Why can’t you just say ‘Vlingo, send’ or ‘Vlingo, done’? I like what they are trying to do, they just need to go a wee bit further. Oh, one additional gripe: you must tap the screen when you are done speaking. It was the only app to require this. I suppose it is so the apps knows when you are dictating, but it makes little sense.

Of the three (and Siri,) I prefer Google Now. Vlingo, when the bugs are worked out, will be a strong contender, but, for now, Google wins.

All three apps are in the App Store, work on iPhone 4 and up and are free.

EDIT: I neglected to mention that Google Now and Evi are also available on Android and gives Android users a Siri like experience. Evi is currently in Beta. Vlingo is also availble on Blackberry and Windows Mobile (no mention of Windows Phone, though.)