apple iPhone reviews

iPhone 6 on Softbank in Japan

Well worth the 3.5 year wait


iPhone 6

Well, after all the good intentions of keeping my iPhone 4S for one more iteration, I cracked on Friday. It didn’t help that the phone was really struggling to run iOS 8 (if you have a 4S, I don’t recommend upgrading to the new OS). On the way to work I stopped at a quiet, out of the way Softbank shop and had a look at the new iPhones.

I was originally inclined to get the 6 plus, as I liked the idea of having a bigger screen to read ebooks and surf the web. Then I saw the actual size of the thing…

The iPhone 6 plus is basically too big for me to use one-handed, which kind of negates the point of having a mobile phone. I also had trouble holding it comfortably. This thing really is big.

I asked what they had in stock, and ended up getting the 128GB space grey model. My thoughts so far:

The good

  • light, smooth, and beautiful
  • great display
  • very fast and capable
  • the fingerprint thing is amazing. Never going back
  • battery life much better than old iPhone 4S
  • tethering
  • Softbank subsidizes the phone considerably, and they have a campaign to buy your old phone back too (I got 24,000 yen for my old iPhone 4S)
  • camera/photos are amazing
  • Softbank reset my contract, so it will expire around the same time I pay the phone off (instead of eight months beforehand)

The bad

  • it’s bigger than I am used to, so still getting used to that
  • pretty slippery without a case
  • the camera lens sticks out
  • Softbank has this obnoxious policy where they automatically sign you up for free trials of various services that will auto-renew and charge you, and won’t let you cancel them until the next day (call 157 to do this quickly and easily)


I love this phone. I’m impressed at how little it is costing me to buy it. It is a huge improvement over the iPhone 4S in every way. Right now I am really happy I upgraded.

I don’t know if it would be worth if for iPhone 5 or 5S users, but if you still have a 4 or 4S I would recommend checking the new models out.

ES materials Review reviews self-study young learners

Review: Oxford Junior Workbooks

An oldie but goodie

oxford junior workbook

The Oxford Junior Workbook series is a great homework resource for elementary school age children. There are ten workbooks in the series, from the introductory A and B, to the 1-8 of the main series. We have been using these for many years now, and find them extremely useful as supplementary homework for children (post-phonics, pre-intermediate).

The Good

  • Price. The books are 735 yen before discounts, so one of the most economical workbooks around.
  • Intuitive. Most of the exercises are fairly intuitive and require little explanation. Perfect for homework.
  • Well designed. The books build up language and concepts slowly in a very learner-friendly way.
  • Range of activities. There are a range of activities, from colouring to matching, writing, and drawing.

The Bad

  • Dated. The books are showing their age in terms of design.
  • Dated. Some of the language and content is archaic (ink blot?).
  • Dated. Slightly sexist and non-PC at times.


Overall the Oxford Junior Workbook series is a great way to provide extra work outside of class that student enjoy and find useful. They can be used in lockstep by assigning specific pages as homework, or individually by allowing students to work at their own pace. The books are cheap enough that buying one or two each year shouldn’t break the bank.

Very much recommended.

blogging reviews

New Posting Schedule for

New Year, New Plans


Along with the new Reviews Page, I have decided to be more deliberate about reviewing materials and organizing the reviews into a useful resource.

From next week the blog will alternate between news and opinion pieces on Tuesdays and reviews on Fridays. Once I run out of things to review we’ll change things up again, but I don’t see that happening any time soon 😉

I hope you find the changes useful!

blogging graded readers reviews textbooks websites

Reviews page

New year, new features


Happy New Year!

The eagle-eyed among my visitors may have noticed the shiny new ‘pages’ menu in the top right-hand corner of the site. You’ll find all the reviews I have done gathered there, and I aim to add to them more regularly in 2014. I hope you find it useful.

Please feel free to add your comments or questions.

JHS junior high school materials reviews SHS university

Review: Question Quest The Language Card Game

We’ve been trying out Question Quest for the last few weeks at Cambridge English.

question quest


We love AGO, the UNO-like simple English question game, and David Lisgo’s Switchit card games.

When I saw Question Quest’s website I was extremely interested. It seemed like it would appeal to our teenage learners and complement our existing card games so I ordered a copy immediately.

Once it arrived I was impressed with the production values. The game is very attractive, with incredible artwork, quality materials, and a sturdy box.

The good

  • The artwork is beautiful and very appealing to Japanese teenagers
  • The game includes English and Japanese instructions
  • The materials are high-quality and pretty sturdy
  • The language covered is very appropriate for our students
  • Cards include example sentences to help students
  • The gameplay is interesting and more skilled players are more likely to win
  • Students practice strategies such as asking for more information, asking a third party, and expressing their lack of understanding
  • Reasonably priced (1575 yen for over 100 cards)

The bad

  • The game as written takes a long time to play (probably 20-40 minutes), which was a bit long for us
  • It took a while for us to understand the rules, both teachers and students
  • Some of the example questions on the cards are a bit unintuitive


This is a very promising resource. We normally do some kind of game or activity in the last 5-10 minutes of class, so found that Question Quest did not quite fit in that time. However, we were able to adapt the game (teacher asks the questions to students, playing without the conversation strategy cards, etc.) to fit the shorter time.

We also took some time and played some full games. Lots of fun and the students are practicing useful conversational gambits.

Overall I recommend Question Quest to teachers of teenage or young adult students (although it would certainly work with the right group of adults too). It’s an attractive and versatile resource. A single pack is a very reasonable investment for a small classroom: teachers with larger classes would need one set for each group of up to 4-6 players.

Has anyone else tried this game?