Category Archives: Musings

Fairphone (FP1U) Review

The news that the final batch of FairPhones will be available to buy soon (the shop re-opens on Tuesday 3rd) has spurred me to write up a review now that I’ve been using mine for a while.

FairPhone is trying to create a phone while opening the transparency in the supply chain – improving workers’ rights, etc.

I’d been following their progress for a really long time, but felt I couldn’t really justify purchasing a new phone until my old had really died. The performance of my old HTC One X finally dropped to that point around December so I finally got one through the Phone Co-Op (bought outright with a PAYG SIM, so I can’t say anything about their offering).

Things I love about the FairPhone

Masses of usable, expandable storage: There’s 14Gb of built in storage, but it’s all one lump that you can use for apps or data, so I’m in no danger of running out of space, nor am I shuffling apps from “phone storage” to “internal storage”. If I want to more space for data, then there’s a MicroSD slot so I can expand as I like.

Battery life: I have seen it go south of 50% just a few times, and then only after heavy usage or if I’ve failed to charge it. Because I can easily replace the battery (or get a second one), I’m re-assured that this will never be a real problem.

UI is clean, phone is responsive: Even though the phone specs are not top of the range, they’ve kept the UI light and it felt really quick, especially when I first got it. A few apps down the line and it’s a little bit more sluggish, but still significantly faster the the HTC One X it replaced (which had a faster processor). I think part of that may be the complete absence of any pre-installed apps that you can’t get rid of – everything is a choice.

Design: it’s a little heavier than a lot of phones, but it’s got a sort of old-school charm to it and is nicely balanced, so that extra 30g doesn’t really matter to me.

Decent speakers: I can happily play music on this and bimble around – don’t try anything too bass-heavy on it and it’s fine. To place it – it beats the HTC One X (is that hard?), it doesn’t beat an iPhone 5.

The price: £230 – I’ve since read that this isn’t brilliant for the mid-range segment of the market, but I’ve found that to be great value for money. And, yes, you are paying extra to try and ensure that those who made it have greater freedoms – it would be weird if that didn’t cost some money!

Things that I don’t love about the FairPhone

No core OS upgrade path: This isn’t intentional from FairPhone, but a side-effect of the way that Google, Android, and chipset manufacturers work together. It’s still disappointing and is likely to be the reason I will upgrade in the future.

Original set up: None of the Google Apps come as default, and so you have to download them separately, and each time you upgrade the FairPhone part of the OS. That wouldn’t really be a problem except that the process failed a few times and it actually took me a few hours to get my contacts and e-mails on the phone.

Camera is only OK: An upgradable component please FairPhone!

Visited Oxford Hackspace, first project idea: stand-up desk

Although I’ve been meaning to get down to see the Oxford Hackspace studio for a while, I only managed to go last Wednesday to help out (a tiny, tiny bit) with improving their space. Since then, I’ve been trying to think of a project – something practical that I can try to build. To prove that I’m not yet in the maker headspace, I have on a separate thread been thinking about replacing my home desk with a stand-up desk for better health and the like. Only today did 1 + 1 = 2, and I realised this might be a good first project. Taking a quick look around the web, it doesn’t seem like a particularly complex task although there are a few constraints for what I would like to do:

  • I can’t screw anything into the wall – at least, not the kind of screws that would be needed to make a really secure desk.
  • I’d like to avoid just hacking IKEA pieces together – seems to be a common theme out there, but it increases the cost and, well, I want to try something from scratch.

There are other things that would be nice but I think I ought to keep out of my first project – perhaps I can go for a V2.0 if I actually build this thing: adjustable height, cable gutter, proper monitor mounts and bracket for holding PC. Will post progress on this blog, if I ever make any.

Two interesting snippets from New Scientist about smell

A tip for the Cellar:

…when Hendrick Schifferstein from Delft University of Technology and colleagues pumped the smell of orange, seawater or peppermint into a club, the revellers partied harder – they danced more, rated their night as more enjoyable, and even thought the music was better.

And at once surprising and not:

Yaara Yeshun and team at the Weizmann Institute found that the imperceptible smell of women’s tears decreases sexual arousal in men.

Thoughts on brand loyalty

I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings where we were discussing brand loyalty – various schemes to try and lock users in to our service – to penalise them for leaving. At no point did we discuss any brand loyalty we would get by treating our customers better – for example, not spamming them every week. The companies I’m really connected to are those where I’ve had a good experience with, and I’m rewarded for loyalty – not those who treat me like rubbish and would penalise me if I left.

Geeking out with a speedometer on a train

(today = about two months ago)

My train from London was cancelled today so I had to catch the Swindon train and change. Out of Paddington I noticed we seemed to be hopping it something fierce. Twenty minutes, a new app, and a change at Reading later I had my answer – the first train was going at 120mph (class 125, train fans) and the usual Oxford service at 85mph (class 165).

For those who were never train spotters you might not have noticed that the Oxford-London fast train is served by a combination of 165s and 125s but the timetable is the same for both. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that there could be a 45 minute service into London during peak times (when they tend to use the longer 125s) – how convenient would that be, eh?

Customer names vs. customer numbers

I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks that the sales and service teams almost always refer to customers by their names instead of their customer id.

Of course, we’ve moved the search facility for surnames out of the way but judging by how often it’s used we should bring it front and centre and add an index on that column. We should even produce a search-as-you-type style interface for it as most surnames do bring up a fair few choices.

I can only think it’s a good thing that the customer-facing teams think of the customers by names rather than numbers and we should remember that not everyone thinks like a techie. We’ve bandied around the idea of letting customers upload photos for their account and perhaps displaying these in the CMS would re-inforce the concept that there are people behind the list of numbers and settings. Even more useful, perhaps, is finding a way to put our service and sales teams photos in front of the users – reminding them that they are also talking to a person.