21 Sep 2014, 10:39pm
apple iPhone reviews

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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.

iPhone 5S in Japan

iPhone 5s

So we have a new iPhone coming out today, one that has finally achieved full market penetration -it will be available on all three major networks in Japan.

I have owned two iPhones (a 3GS back in the day, and a 4S that I’m using at the moment). I will have paid off the 4S in a couple of months, so have been thinking about upgrading.

I’m on Softbank, and they are running at least two special deals that may affect this decision:

1. they will pay off any remaining payments on an iPhone 4 or 4S if you upgrade to one of the new phones
2. they will set your monthly data charge at 4,500 yen for a year (a saving of 1000 yen or so off the standard rate for the LTE network)
3. they will buy back your phone (I think mine is worth about 14,000 yen according to their program)


Another factor is that I upgraded my 4S to run iOS 7 yesterday, and so far I am very happy with it. The battery seems to be holding up fine, it runs fast and does everything I want it to. I really like the new operating system, and it seems to be happy on my old phone.

The new iPhone 5S has had some pretty good reviews, and is technologically interesting, but basically is not going to improve my life. The only thing it does that my current phone does not is provide an internet hotspot (like the iPhone 5).

Doing some rough calculations, upgrading to a new phone is more or less cost neutral, at least for the first year or so. After that it will cost me about an extra 2000 yen a month.

Verdict: undecided. I am going to wait a bit longer and see what the new phones are like. Quite a few people around me are planning to upgrade. I’ll also go in and talk to Softbank and get some accurate numbers off them.

Has anyone got an iPhone 5S yet? Is it worth it?


Google Maps App for iPhone

google maps

Another tangent, I’m afraid. If you don’t have an iPhone you can probably stop reading now. If you have an iPhone that is running iOS 5 or less, this may be of interest. But if you have an iPhone running iOS 6 and you haven’t downloaded the Google Maps App yet, keep reading.

I’ve been playing with the new Google Maps App on my iPhone 4S for a couple of weeks now. The short version is that it is amazing.

(it’s not just me that thinks so, either: here’s the Wall Street Journal version)

The long version:

  • all the accurate data from before
  • better interface
  • amazing driving instructions (it’s better than any dedicated satnav I have used)
  • sharpened up graphics

I’ve used it a few times while driving, and the app is amazingly user-friendly. Clear voice directions, simple screen, very user-friendly (I particularly like the way you can scroll around the map then get back to your route with a simple ‘resume’ button).

The local transport functionality is there too: this is probably the thing I use my phone for the most. When in an unfamiliar city, the app gives accurate local train and bus times and connections -so much so that I use it instead of the official websites to find times.

No negatives I have found at this time. If you don’t have it get it now -it’s free.


*this review is only talking about the Google Maps App in Japan. I haven’t had the chance to test it abroad yet 🙂


Nexus 7 Tablet Review

The Nexus 7 tablet by Google and Asus was finally released in Japan last month. I am a huge Google fan and am looking for alternatives to the iPad for the classroom. It was too good an excuse, so I went ahead and ordered one.

My wife has an iPad 2, and I will be comparing the Nexus 7 to that, as well as to my iPhone 4S. This is my first Android device.

In brief: it’s great. I really like the 7″ form factor. It feels much lighter and easier to hold than the iPad, and at just under 20,000 yen, it is less than half the price of the new retina iPad.

The good:

  • size and weight are much more user-friendly than the iPad
  • screen is good with internet, ebooks, and movies
  • Android OS is fast and fairly intuitive
  • 2000 yen credit for the Google Play Store
  • One movie and three books included
  • Lots of Japanese content on the Play store, including ebooks
  • E-reader includes an easy to use J-E/E-J dictionary
  • Skype is really easy to use
The bad:
  • Not as many apps as iOS
  • No Flash support! This is huge, as most of the websites I want students to use with this (WordEngine, Starfall) are flash-based
  • Not as intuitive as iOS in terms of navigation, etc.


I love this tablet. For reading ebooks, watching movies, carrying around with me, reading PDFs, accessing the Google online world (gmail, reader, drive, etc.) it is wonderful. I’m really glad I got it, and it will supplement my iPhone 4S for most of these tasks.

However, unless I can get around the lack of Flash support (there seem to be workarounds for it, but they are not official and involve some risks) we won’t be buying these for students to use in class. It’s a shame, as the smaller and lighter form factor would make them easier to use for children than iPads.

Basically, if you use Google sites like gmail, drive, and reader, if you read ebooks and need a tablet to take movies and music on the road with you, this could be ideal. As a classroom tool it is crippled by the lack of Flash support.

Anyone else tried the Nexus 7?


6th grade iPhone app developer -very inspiring

The title above says it all. I would love to see more of my students thinking beyond the education box.

Tip of the hat to Parin.


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