All posts by Benny Taylor

Ben is a Microsoft-trained freelance consultant and part-time writer. Although a Windows man by trade, he has recently moved his own working life to a MacBook Pro and an iPhone, which he discusses at his blog, http://www.windowstomac.net

Who needs newspapers? Just use Flipboard

In case you don’t know, Flipboard is a newsreader app. I’ve had it on my iPhone for some time now, loving the way that it pools together stories from a range of well-known media outlets and presents them to me using a “flip” interface that’s both intuitive and satisfying to use.

When you first run Flipboard, it asks you for your interests. My personal choices include news, UK news, technology, food, and travel but there’s plenty more to choose from including celebrity news, sport, TV and fashion. Flipboard can also link to Facebook, Twitter and various other social sites, presenting friends’ updates alongside the other content.

Flipboard

After several months of use, Flipboard became one of those apps guaranteed to survive every one of my occasional iPhone app clear-outs. So when I recently purchased my first iPad, it was a given that it would be one of the first apps I would install and check out on the new device.

Flipboard on iPad

screen480x480

It turns out that the difference between brilliant and perfect is an increase in screen real estate. While Flipboard was great when it showed me one story at a time, it now spreads out mixed media (including video) across iPad “pages,” making the experience just like reading a futuristic newspaper. I’m able to scan the headlines, and then drill down into the stories that interest me.

Creating a Flipboard account is free and very easy. In my case I simply linked it to Facebook – a true “one tap” signup. Once you have an account you can “favourite” stories that interest you and create your own Flipboard magazines. I’m not sure I will find a need for this feature but it’s good to know it’s there.

For me, it’s quite enough to have access to all the news stories in a format that is so much like a newspaper. Picking up my iPad and “reading Flipboard” at the end of a working day now brings me that familiar sense of “it’s time to relax and read the paper.” In fact, I often read far enough back to meet the feed of stories that I finished the previous day.

Conclusion

There’s really very little I can find to criticize about Flipboard, it being one of those apps that’s just slotted neatly into my existence. However, one thing I have noticed is that my chosen subject areas tend to feature a lot of stories from The Economist, which requires a subscription if you wish to read a lot of articles on a regular basis. As such, I often find myself tantalised by interesting features that I’m unable to read as I’ve “hit my limit.”

Still, given that Flipboard itself is completely free (a wonder in itself), perhaps I should just pay out for a subscription. After all, with Flipboard in my life, I can’t imagine a time when I’m ever again going to feel the need to pay for a newspaper.

Review: My first week with the iPad Mini

Even though I’m an “IT guy,” I’ve never been a believer in “technology for the sake of technology.” Before I buy a device, I have to understand how it’s going to fit in with my life and be sure I’m going to use it. I’ve seen far too many clients become hooked on buying shiny gadgets that never get properly exploited.

As such, it’s taken a very long time to convince myself that I really need an iPad. There’s been one in the house before, as my wife had one as part of her job, so I’ve hardly been blind to their desirability, but with an iPhone and MacBook Pro already in my possession, I needed some strong justification.

It came in the form of my signing up to do a degree course via distance learning. The course requires me to read a lot of online content, which is ergonomically awkward on a laptop and impractical on a smartphone. So I finally had the excuse I needed, and went out and purchased a 32GB iPad Mini.

The White iPad Mini

First Impressions

Let’s face it, nobody’s ever disappointed when they take home a box containing new Apple hardware, and the iPad Mini is no different. However, I didn’t fawn over the sleek silver back for long, as I placed it straight into a protective rear cover and clipped on Apple’s own magnetic cover and stand combo.

How the device worked was obviously no surprise either; we’re essentially talking about a big iPhone that’s not a phone, but I was pleased that I didn’t feel myself badly missing a retina display. However, I did notice (and continue to notice) that the touch control isn’t quite as precise as that on my iPhone. It’s not bad at all, but I do sometimes find it hard to tap small “x” icons, especially when they’re near the top right corner of the screen.

Daily Use

As I said above, I was far more interested to find how the iPad slotted into my life than in investigating every feature available to me. After all, most of the functionality is already available on my iPhone.

The first point to make is that it’s given me a greater sense of separation between my working day and my evening. As I work from home, it’s easy to find myself still on my MacBook as darkness falls, in a strange kind of half work / half play limbo. Now I have the iPad, I’m more likely to close the laptop when the work is done, and switch to the iPad. This is a good thing, as it’s a far more sociable way to use technology.

As part of this, I took the decision not to sync my email accounts and calendars with the iPad, supporting its role as a leisure and study device and not a business device.

Despite the separation, the iPad is such a pleasure to use, it’s kept me up long into the night on a couple of occasions: once simply playing around with apps, including DJ software, games and music tools, and the other reading a recommended text for my university course that I found instantly available to me via iBooks.

I’ve also enjoyed being able to take the Traktor DJ app to a house party, resulting in a usable casual DJ setup, all in a package weighing 308 grams.

Conclusion

I’ll be honest: I really should have splashed out on an iPad sooner. There really is room for another gadget between laptop and smartphone, even if both of the other gadgets can technically fulfill every purpose.

The beauty of the iPad Mini is in its form factor. When we had a full size iPad in the house, I rarely used it for prolonged Web browsing as it simply wasn’t that comfortable. The iPad Mini is perfect in this respect and very pleasing to use, even with just one hand.

If you’re struggling to justify buying an iPad, it’s time to give in. I promise you won’t regret it.

Reading magazines on the iPad: A great, but confusing experience

I love printed magazines, and I have since I was a teenager, when my magazines of choice included hip-hop journal The Source, and lots of geeky Atari ST mags, which always came with a demo-filled 3.5-inch “cover disk.”

Much has changed since then, obviously. Easy software downloads have obliterated the last of the cover disks, and the printed magazine industry itself is struggling as a result of people consuming information on their PCs and tablets rather than in printed form. Many long-standing magazines have folded (pardon the pun), and many more have switched from monthly to quarterly production.

For me, however, the lure of printed magazines has remained strong. As I now live in Portugal, English-language magazines are hard to come by and are rather expensive, but every trip to the UK has me visiting the airport newsagent for a stack of magazines to bring home, including titles such as BBC Good Food, Wired, and Mac Format.

Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio
Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio

Enter the iPad

Earlier this week, everything changed, as I finally gave into temptation and purchased an iPad. The ability to read my favorite titles on a sensibly-sized screen was one of the main attractions.

One of the first things I did was download the Zinio magazine app. I had used this before on both my Mac and iPhone, but found the experience far from pleasurable on those platforms. It’s not comfortable or relaxing to read from a laptop screen, and magazine reading on an iPhone involves far too much pinching, zooming, and squinting. Furthermore, I don’t particularly fancy leaving the fate of either of these expensive gadgets to the bath or the beach.

Zinio on the iPad was everything I had hoped for. I could comfortably read a whole page without zooming, and the ability to switch to a pure-text display for long articles was very convenient. Within hours of unpacking my iPad, I had devoured the latest issue of Mac Life, as well as several other digital magazines that I purchased impulsively.

Still yearning for print editions

I then switched to Apple’s Newsstand app and downloaded Wired, another title I greatly enjoy in its paper form, but it’s not really quite right to describe the electronic version of Wired as a magazine; it’s more of an interactive experience, with embedded video clips, animations and mixed-media advertising. I was impressed, but before too long, I found myself wishing I was curled up with the paper copy instead.

The simple fact was that the overuse of clever features made the experience more like playing a game than reading a periodical. It wasn’t instantly clear how I was meant to use all of the gestures and such, and as a result I found the experience more tiring than relaxing, especially when I reached a page which appeared to have a glitch that interrupted my reading.

Conclusion

I’m truly glad that I have instant access to all of my favorite magazines, but I’m not at all convinced that I want magazines presented to me in a newfangled interactive way. While I’ve no doubt that this works wonderfully for interactive textbooks, I simply like to sit and read my magazines from cover to cover, without having to work out how and where to press the screen of my iPad.

So, while magazine reading will surely be something my iPad is used for much of the time, I’ll still be visiting the newsagents and leaving with a carrier bag full of magazines when I get the opportunity, and I won’t have to worry about dropping them in the bathtub.

The Budget iPhone: A Risk for Apple?

The Apple rumor mill is currently working overtime with reports and leaks related to a new low-cost iPhone. In recent weeks, various photos have emerged, including the rear view of a plastic iPhone in a range of colors, as well as a pile of plastic boxes for an “iPhone 5C.”

While there’s nothing to guarantee that there’s any truth to the rumors, when the web-based chatter reaches this volume, there’s usually some level of fact in play. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, the bulk of the leaked information proved to be right, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the reports that we’ve heard about the budget iPhone are correct.

Budget iPhone

Assumptions

Let’s assume that most of the rumors we’ve heard are true. What other assumptions can we hypothetically make about a new budget iPhone? Here’s what we could expect.

  • It will run iOS 7, because Apple’s hardly going to release something new that runs an old operating system, obviously.
  • Storage options will be similar, although there may be a return of the low-capacity 8GB model that’s been dropped since the release of the 4S.
  • It will have the same aspect ratio as the iPhone 5, although it may not be a retina display.

As we’re now playing the assumption game, let’s also assume that the cost of the budget iPhone is roughly half the cost of an iPhone 5. (A SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5 is $649 in the US right now, making our hypothetical budget iPhone cost around $325, which is broadly in line with internet rumor).

What will you get for paying double the price?

  • Potentially a little more storage space
  • A higher-resolution camera
  • A retina display
  • A phone built with higher-quality materials

So what’s my problem with all of this? My main problem is that aside from the points above, consumers still get an iPhone after paying half the price. Most everyday consumers don’t even know how many megapixels their camera has, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, the lack of a retina display will most likely have no bearing on sales, as the lower-quality display has done nothing to stop the iPad Mini selling by the boatload.

We’re then left with the materials. The materials that have made previous iPhones seem luxurious and desirable are the same materials that result in expensive repair bills from disastrous smashed shells and screen incidents. With this in mind, I have to wonder if, when I go to buy my next iPhone, I’ll decide to buy one that costs half as much. More importantly, it will still only cost half as much when I have to replace or repair it.

Conclusion

I welcome the possible release of a low-cost iPhone. I also fully appreciate that there will always be plenty of people who simply have to have Apple’s flagship phone. This is, of course, made easier for consumers in countries where handsets are network-subsidised.

However, I can’t help but wonder whether Apple is underestimating how many people just simply want an iPhone and aren’t that bothered about specs and materials. While a budget iPhone will undoubtedly sell to millions of people who haven’t been able to afford one before, it may also encourage existing iPhone users to “downgrade” the next time they “upgrade.”

Review: Traktor DJ, a professional music mixing app for iPhone and iPad

I would never claim to be a bona fide DJ. At best, I am a hobby DJ who’s been given the occasional opportunity to do his thing at some bars and parties. Even so, I am passionate about playing and mixing music, and over the years I’ve invested in various software packages and items of equipment.

I started, as every DJ should, with vinyl decks, and then progressed via CDs to Virtual DJ software. I then added a cheap mixing console which, it’s fair to say, served me well for a few bar gigs.

Then, a couple of years ago, I found myself with a bit of spare cash and invested in a Traktor Kontrol S4, Native Instruments’ flagship hardware controller. I had a lot of fun with it, but lately I’ve became painfully aware of the expensive piece of equipment’s confinement in the cupboard in our spare room, getting (at best) a quarterly airing at an impromptu house party. I made the vague decision to sell it, especially when Native Instruments dropped the price of the Kontrol S4, which resulted in a corresponding drop in the value of my “asset.”

Meanwhile, things have yet again moved on for the digital DJ, and there’s been no development more exciting than the release of Traktor DJ for the iPad and iPhone. Recently, I decided to finally give the iPhone version a go, and I’ll be up-front from the start: I was extremely impressed.

traktor-ipadmini

Usage

Traktor DJ for iPhoneTraktor DJ’s interface is clear and slick and the beat-matching engine is spot-on. What’s more, all the key features are present and correct, and all reimagined for touch control – which, as it turns out, is actually a really tactile and natural-feeling way to mix.

In terms of the basics, there are EQs, filters, hot cue points, loops, and a basic range of effects including delay, reverb, beatmash and gater.

Then, there are a couple of things unique to the iOS version of Traktor. One is “freeze mode,” which allows you to freeze a section of the track (usually a four beat loop), and manually trigger the beats by tapping the screen, effectively allowing you to remix “on the fly.”

There’s also a track recommendation engine that suggests your next track based on its key as well as its BPM. This kind of harmonic mixing isn’t even available in the Traktor Pro software at the time of writing, so to see it in an app that costs $19.99 on the iPad or just $4.99 on the iPhone is truly impressive.

Conclusion

Features aside, however, could Traktor DJ really replace my existing digital setup? Well, on the iPhone alone, probably not. There’s simply too much functionality to cram onto such a tiny screen. Even though the way that Native Instruments has designed the UI is very clever, with the ability to “slide” between decks, I still keep managing to accidentally stop a track when I’m intending to come out of a loop.

The difference in price between the iPhone and iPad versions (which are essentially identical in terms of functionality) seems to indicate that Native Instruments is aware that the iPhone version will be used more as a “toy.” But this brings us to the most important point: On the iPad, Traktor DJ is more than I could ever need for my occasional DJing. In fact, I am already coming close to hitting the “buy now” button on a new iPad Mini specifically for this purpose.

With the addition of Native Instruments’ new Kontrol Z1 mixer and soundcard, I can also have physical faders, headphone cueing and professional sound output – all in a setup that would fit in the glove compartment of the car.

While I’ve no doubt that plenty of DJ purists will object to the ease-of-use of Traktor DJ, for people like me who just want to mix some tunes and play the occasional bar set, it is absolutely perfect. My bulky old equipment just got one step closer to the eBay pile.

Google Search: More advertising leaves less room for organic results

Google’s corporate motto is “don’t be evil.” When this was unveiled in 1999 / 2000 (attribution claims vary), it was seen as something of a dig at various large companies and the way they operate. Zooming forward to the present day, I find myself wondering if Google are beginning to lose sight of this ethos and become a little drunk on their own power.

I run a number of blogs. One of them has, over the past few years, become rather successful. Now, I don’t mean “earn a fortune, quit my job” successful, but successful enough to attract advertisers, gain loyal readers running into the thousands, win a couple of small awards, and earn me enough money to make the time I spend on it worthwhile.

So, why am I moaning about Google? Well, it started a few months ago, when I began to notice my unique visitors dropping like a stone. I had a chat with an “industry” friend, and he pointed me in the direction of a very interesting article about how Google is slowly “killing off” organic search.

Google Search
Google Search

More advertising, less search results

According to the article, there’s now less and less space on a typical Google search page dedicated to organic results, and more and more dedicated to revenue-generating Google products. The examples in the article include a search for “auto mechanic” where only 13% of screen real estate on a 13” Macbook Air ended up displaying natural search results. A search for “Italian Food” on an iPhone showed NO natural results whatsoever on the first screen (barring one from Google-owned Zagat) and required a scroll through four pages of information before any truly natural results appeared at all.

So how does this affect independent bloggers? In my case, my blog has been at the top of Google’s results for a number of relevant search terms for several years. Now it has dropped down, typically to fourth or fifth place. So why has this happened?

Well, it’s clearly due to one of the recent algorithm updates, but looking at the sites that are now on top reveals little. While one or two may arguably have more “authority,” some are small commercial companies appearing seemingly at random, which tells me that despite Google’s punishing algorithm updates, some sites are still manipulating their rankings with SEO techniques and are slipping through the net.

After spending years creating good content and building readers, Google moves the goalposts, resulting in far fewer people finding my site.

While I know this sounds like “sour grapes,” I’d be less bitter if I truly believed that all the results that have pushed me from the top deserved to be there. I’d find it easier to accept the situation if some didn’t contain vastly out of date content that (personal bias aside) simply doesn’t deserve to be there.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that increasingly, the only way to ensure people consistently find you on Google is to pay Google. Even if you’re doing well in the organic results right now, the next algorithm change may plunge you into obscurity, especially when Google’s page layouts now mean that even being on the first page of the natural results doesn’t mean anyone will see you without lots of scrolling.

Google built its popularity on being fast, clear and fair. It would be a terrible shame if that “don’t be evil” slogan came back to bite it.

New Super Luigi U is Nintendo’s first true DLC

Nintendo has always been slightly behind the pack in terms of online offerings. While downloadable content (DLC) for existing games is something very familiar to users of Xboxes, PS3s and even iPhones, Nintendo’s forays into DLC have been cautious and, at times, rather shambolic.

Yes, there were new “coin rush” packs for New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS last year, but these added very little to the game. Then came the Wii U implementation of Zen Pinball 2. This was endlessly delayed, and when it finally arrived the process for buying and downloading tables was unbelievably convoluted, resulting in justifiably critical review scores.

Now, in what Nintendo has coined “the year of Luigi,” arrives New Super Luigi U, Nintendo’s first substantial DLC offering. Essentially a “bolt on” for the New Super Mario Bros U launch title, the DLC consists of 80+ new levels, which are played as Luigi and “remixed” from the original game elements. The game, however, takes place on an identical world map.

New Super Luigi U
New Super Luigi U

Initial skepticism is justifiable here. If you’re playing on the same world map, then just how new is New Super Luigi U? Well, the good news is that all the levels are brand new. Yes, they reuse the music and graphical elements from the original game, but there’s no doubt you’re playing on completely new levels – but more of that later.

The Installation

Unfortunately, Nintendo still haven’t quite got the hang of making the installation of online content feel like anything other than a chore. Up until the Wii U, one of the benefits of choosing a Nintendo gaming platform was speed. Nintendo was always a case of cartridge / disk in – switch on – start playing.

Now, with HD graphics, correspondingly large data files and system updates, the Nintendo experience is all much more PS3-esque, and that’s not a good thing.

To get going with the New Super Luigi U DLC, the process was something like this:

Switched on, visited eShop, failed to find DLC, found a notification telling me to update New Super Mario Bros U, started the game, waited for the update to download, waited for download to install, restarted the game, tapped the icon to download the DLC, got sent back to the eStore, paid for the DLC, waited for the DLC to download, restarted game again, waited for DLC to install, finally found ourselves able to play.

Why, Nintendo, could I not have just visited the eStore, purchased the DLC, and been sent away to wait for half an hour while the console dealt with all the other stuff?

The Game

After a frustrating download experience, it was pleasing to find the game exceeded expectations. New Super Luigi U is a hardcore platforming experience; something akin to a long lost cousin of the fiendishly difficult “Lost Levels” from 1986.

Every level is short, and comes with a time limit. In addition, Luigi’s slower, floaty motion makes him harder to control. Note that this isn’t a criticism of the controls at all, it’s just that Luigi controls very differently to the Mario we are all so used to. As such, it’s essential to adapt one’s playing style to a character that can float and jump higher, but also seems badly in need of some brakes!

The end result is frantic and frustrating; you probably won’t expect to fall to your death within seconds of starting the first level, but you probably will! Yet, in that classic Nintendo way, you’ll never feel it’s unfair. This is exactly the kind of punishing platforming that veteran Nintendo fans have been looking for, but it’s fair to say that the level of challenge may be a little high for those relatively new to the 2D Mushroom Kingdom.

Conclusion

As Nintendo’s first foray into full-blown DLC, New Super Luigi U is a great effort. The level designs have clearly been crafted lovingly to create a serious challenge that frustrates but makes you smile at the same time. If you need something to tide you over until Nintendo catch up with their frustratingly slow Wii U release schedule, this is just what you need.

Just be aware of the need for patience while you download and install. While Nintendo still lead the way in level design and inimitable quirkiness, they still have serious catching up to do with their online ease-of-use. If you think it will annoy you too much, you may be best to wait until the green-packaged retail release of the game arrives later this year.

iOS App Roundup: 3 apps that keep me glued to my phone

According to a recent study, the average smartphone user has 41 apps on their device.

It interests me to know how many of these are in regular use. While I have a small set of core apps that never move from my home screen, I tend to go through phases with others. Several things from last year, for example, have fallen out of favor and been deleted. Examples include Words with Friends (there’s only so much Scrabble one can play), iQuit (sadly my giving up smoking attempt failed), and Instapaper (I just didn’t use it enough).

Meanwhile though, other apps have stepped in to take their place and keep me glued to my device for many a waking hour. In this article I list three that have been enhancing my life in recent months.

Flipboard 

These days, if I get bored, I go on Flipboard. This simple app aggregates news reports in various subject areas, giving you a brief overview of a story, courtesy of its pleasing “flip” interface, with an easy way to drill down to the full story if it’s of interest.

Flipboard - for iOS and Android
Flipboard – for iOS and Android

It’s something akin to StumbleUpon crossed with Twitter crossed with a standard news app, and if you’re a news junkie, it will occupy hours of your time. It’s available for Android too.

TripAdvisor City Guides

I was recently fortunate enough to enjoy a holiday in the USA where I visited New York and Florida. I downloaded various guidebook-style apps before my vacation, but TripAdvisor’s free offering was the one the really enhanced our trip.

Its best feature is its ability to use the iPhone’s basic compass and GPS functionality to point you at anything in the guide. Want to find your way from Midtown New York to Downtown New York, walking via Chinatown – no problem – you can navigate the streets like a pro. It does all this offline from a downloaded guide, meaning it works well enough with data roaming switched off.

Guides are currently available for over 80 cities worldwide. Finding yourself somewhere new without getting lost gives you a lot more time to see the things you want to. I’ll be using this app in every new place I visit.

Subway Surfers

I had to include a game, and for someone with a short attention span, Subway Surfers has stayed on my home screen list for a surprisingly long time. It’s essentially an “endless running” game, but one that runs at a rather more sedate pace than the likes of the popular Temple Run. There’s also something decidedly retro about it that appeals to the 80s gamer in me.

Also, although it’s a freemium game where you can purchase power-ups and such, it never makes you feel like you need to spend anything to enjoy it properly – which just seems…kind and fair, which is a good thing.

My apps come and go, but the list above consists of three that I think are destined to be “keepers.” I strongly recommend you check them out.

Skype is getting worse

“Can you hear me now?

“Is that any better?”

“How about now?”

In recent times, the above three phrases are heard frequently emanating from various rooms in our apartment, where my wife and I both work as full-time freelancers.

Skype is an essential part of both of our respective businesses. We do work for clients in various countries, and being able to interact with them by phone at a low, predictable cost is essential if we are to live and work where we do – in a sunny apartment just minutes from the coast of Portugal’s Algarve.

Skype is, on the face of it, perfect for us. It provides us with London telephone numbers, which shield our physical location and make it inexpensive for UK clients to contact us. Skype also offers a range of all-inclusive call packages allowing us to call clients abroad without bankrupting ourselves.

Skype - Not what is once was?
Skype – Not what is once was?

Or at least that’s the idea.

For reasons unknown to us, the incidence of poor quality Skype calls seems to be on the increase. Now, as a techie, I know that we have a good, fast broadband connection with low latency. I also know that nothing has changed at our end since the days when we could use Skype with only very rare quality problems.

Yet, for some reason, it now seems that (more often than not), people are having trouble hearing us. Usually, this only happens for 10 seconds or so, before a high quality connection returns, but in the meantime we have to go through the whole “can you hear me now?” routine.

When I’m chatting with my mother in the UK, this is acceptable (while still infuriating). After all, I’m able, thanks to Skype, to spend hours talking to her at a very low price. It’s not, however, good enough when working with clients, especially prospective new clients. Sometimes it takes new clients some convincing that our geographical location is irrelevant. If our first few phone conversations keep cutting out, it doesn’t really create a good initial impression.

So, despite a long and happy relationship with Skype, I’ve felt forced to start investigating alternative Voice over IP services, and it’s a shame because when Skype works, it works incredibly well.

Sadly though, until I find a suitable replacement, I’ve had to switch back to a very old-fashioned strategy: If I’m calling an important client, I walk into the study and pick up the landline phone. The bills are unwelcome, but so too would be the loss of a paying customer.

Your iPhone or iPad warranty: check the fine print!

iPhones - Check the warranty small printAt Christmas, I bought my wife an iPhone as a gift.

I live in Portugal, but purchased the device (unlocked and SIM-free) in a London Apple store during a work trip to the UK. There is an Apple store in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, but it is three hours drive from our home, so buying the phone in London made sense. Or so I thought at the time.

Six weeks later, my wife’s iPhone developed a fault. The backlight decided to periodically die, for anything from two minutes to several hours. Despite trying all manner of resets and other things the problem persisted.

We therefore began to look at our options to get the phone fixed or replaced. Had we been in the UK, I would have simply taken it to the store, where I am confident it would have been replaced with no argument. But with no plans to visit the UK in the immediate future, I looked online for details of the warranty, and was quickly dismayed to find out the following “important restriction”:

Apple may restrict warranty service for iPhone and iPad to the country where Apple or its Authorized Distributors originally sold the Apple Product.

Now, this was an unpleasant surprise. If I lived anywhere Lisbon, I would have been happy to visit the Apple store there and argue my case, but as I previously mentioned, we live three hours away. The return cost of petrol, tolls and parking runs to about €150. Add in a day’s loss of earnings, and we reach a sum in excess of the cost of Apple’s flagship phone.

Of course, we could try to phone Apple and resolve this via a “send in” repair, but sadly we’ve been here before when needing to replace the faulty power adaptor for my MacBook Pro (which I, in fact, purchased in Portugal).

A combination of language barrier problems and Apple being incapable of realising that people may sometimes buy their devices in one country and use them in another ended up with us giving in after hours on the phone, and arranging for our replacement to be sent to the UK to be shipped onwards by a friend.

In the case of the iPhone, life just seemed too short to waste more of it on the phone arguing – especially when Apple’s fine print says that they’re basically not interested if your iPhone decides to go wrong in a different country from whence you purchased it.

So, while I know I could waste hours arguing about this and eventually reach a resolution, I’ve instead decided to give in to the fine print and take the phone in when I’m next in the UK. Meanwhile, my wife will tolerate an expensive device that becomes unusable at random intervals.

As ever, I continue to love using Apple products, but I’ll be asking a lot more questions before I hand over any cash for the next one.