Microsoft AU Store: Where are the games in the catalogue?

Today I was feeling generous, so I thought to buy my brother an Xbox game and gift it to him. He had been talking about a couple of games recently, so I wanted to look and see what the Xbox store had. I was already on my PC, and I didn’t want to go over and turn my Xbox Series X on just to gift him a game. I hopped over to the Xbox AU store page to browse their catalogue of games to see what a good game to gift would be, and that is when I noticed something very odd.

This is the page that was presented to me.

I was sort of confused. Maybe the filter was broken or there was something wrong with the options on the left-hand side that had been selected. I checked all of them out and everything seemed to be fine with those filters and options. I went into incognito mode and tried the page again with the same result. Last resort now and that is to try another browser; both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge showed the same broken web page. I have seen my fair share of broken web pages working in the software industry but this one is a big oof to me. I can only hope that it is a security setting or privacy setting I have enabled that is causing this; but if that is the case then I am a little more concerned about what information Microsoft is needing from the user just to show the games on the page.

Microsoft, if you want people to purchase and look through your catalogue of games you have available on your Xbox platform through a web browser then you need to have this functionality. Again, I hope that this is just something on my end and others are also not experiencing anything like this but if they are then it is not a good look when a core component of your website is not functioning as intended.

On the plus side, I did gift my brother a game, Cult of the Lamb. He has been talking about it for a little while now so searching for that specific game and buying it as a gift was a smooth and easy process. Searching the catalogue of games though is not.

Google Nest Support Hell [Update: 31/07/2022]

Update [31/07/2022]

Good news 😀

In the last week or so there have been a number of updates to the iOS and the iPadOS Google Home apps. Either with the changes to the Google Home app or some back end system updated, having a Google Nest Hub with more than two radio alarms you can now successfully access the alarm settings in the Google Home app.

I knew it was not an issue with the device, my set up or anything on my end. I am happy that the problem has been resolved but I find it very frustrating that Google could not be transparent and open about having a potential bug in either the Google Home app or their back end system. Not all software created is perfect, as a software engineer myself I should know; but not acknowledging that there are issues or problems to customers is not great either.

At the end of the day my dad is just happy that he can access the alarm settings again in the Google Home app, until it breaks again 😛

Original Post

I am writing this blog post purely out of frustration and what I feel is the Google Nest support team not being very helpful in trying to resolve the problem or at the very least providing me with information about what the team is looking at or even how to proceed. Right now I feel completely abandoned by the Google Nest team and the more I experience this (along with the bugs and issues) the less likely I would recommend the products to other people (which is unfortunate as I really do like their products). I do not want special treatment or anything like that but just a status update or something to know where my case is at or even how to proceed further.

Over half a month ago my dad came up to me and asked if I could access the Alarm & timers settings page in the Google Home iOS app. I don’t really use that setting so I was like, “I have no idea”, and he showed me what he was seeing on his iPhone. He would open the Google Home app, wait for it to say connected and choose his Google Nest Hub Gen 2. in his room. He would navigate to the Settings page for the device, go to the Audio settings and then finally the Alarms & timers page. The Google Home app would just completely hang and eventually just crash. It is as if there is a bad response coming back from either the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. or Google’s services and the app does not know how to handle it.

I thought it would be best to contact Google Nest support to see what the issue may be and if there is a simple explanation to the issue. Contacting them was fairly easy and straightforward. I feel like the process started very pleasantly but right now I feel completely shafted and lost for what to actually do even though as I will explain I have complete steps in how to reproduce the issue and may explain why the issue is happening.

Much like any good support team member they ask me the standard set of questions:

  • Have you factory reset the device?
  • Have you tried doing the same thing on any other device?
  • Have you tried connecting to the device from another device device?

I factory reset my dad’s Google Nest Hub Gen 2. so there was no alarms and low and behold I could access the device’s Alarms & timers settings. My dad added his alarms back and then the Google Home app once again froze when trying to access the settings. I did the same steps he did to his device to my own Google Nest Hub Gen 2. Same result, the Google Home app just froze. If there are no alarms then there is no issue but as soon as I add a number of alarms the Google Home app completely freezes on the Alarms & timers settings page. I no longer have an Android device that I can readily access but I tried accessing the settings on my iPhone, my dad’s iPhone, my mum’s iPad Mini and my iPad Mini. All had the same result; the Google Home app would freeze on the Alarms & timers settings page. So this is not just an iOS issue now but it also affects the iPadOS version of the app too (unsure if they are identical binaries though).

I let the support individual know what I tried and they gave me more settings to change. The Assistant language should be changed to English – US (which it already was) and to show them a video of the issue which I could easily and readily reproduce no problem.

After a couple of days I got a response and they asked me to try a completely different Google Home home structure. I was a little confused why this would matter and if this indeed fix the problem I would be completely annoyed because I would need to move a large number of devices. So I created a test home structure in the Google Home app and factory reset (again) my dad’s Google Nest Home Gen 2. plus added his alarms back in. This did not work 😦 A further step they asked was to try setting the device up using a mobile hotspot and boy was this process completely messy. I was getting constant communication issues between the Google Nest Hub Gen 2., my iPhone which was the hotspot device and my wifi. I would also need to factory reset the device once again. None of what they have asked me to do helped so far. I was not completely annoyed or frustrated at this point as I didn’t know what was causing the issue yet.

I did some more playing around with the alarms on the device and the settings in the Google Home app. It was with this I noticed something very odd. With no alarms set on the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. the Google Home app would load the Alarms & timers settings page no problem. Adding one alarm and the page still loads, adding a second alarm and it is still fine, but adding a third alarm and the app completely freezes. Okay this is something to forward to the Google Nest support team. So I did. I could reproduce it reliably on all my devices across all platforms (iOS and iPadOS) that I have access to plus how not to reproduce the issue. I thought finally I would get a response saying they are looking at this in more detail now.

Even more time passed now and I got a response back. I was hoping to read in my email that the Google Nest support team got a hold of a commercial Google Nest Hub Gen 2., the public version of the Google Home app on iOS and attempted to add three or more alarms on the device and check the settings page showing that the issue is present; but nope. Not even a recognition that they attempted the steps to reproduce or even if it was helpful at all. All I got was a response saying to turn on device usage and crash report (was already on) and provide feedback when I navigate to the page. But if the support team member had paid attention to my chat, the emails or the video that I sent, the option to send feedback from that page is not possible as the app freezes and crashes after a period of time. Now I am a little frustrated and annoyed. I still politely mention that I cannot perform the feedback step because (as mentioned in the chat and previous emails plus the video) the app freezes and if there is anything more that I can do and if my steps to reproduce were relayed.

Originally I was not going to show excerpts from the emails but I felt it was necessary. The second last email response I got had

We do understand the issue we’re working on. We just need to send feedback and our higher team needs to capture it. Then, I’ll update them for us to proceed to our next steps.

Let me know once done.

Google Nest support team member

If they know the issue can they not reproduce it locally on their end? I again ask for clarification in how I can provide them with the feedback necessary if I cannot do it through any of my devices as the app freezes completely. The last response I have got from them was

You may try to use another device.

If not, use your voice command to send us a feedback, “Okay Google, send feedback”.Then, say “<case-number-redacted> unable to access the timer on the Google Home app”.

Google Nest support team member

Not only are those steps to try completely useless but I am under the impression that no one on the team understands how their Google Assistant works on the Apple platform and that no matter what device I use the issue persists.

Right now I have little to no hope in them resolving the issue and for the time being accessing the alarms will need to be done through the actual Google Nest Hub Gen 2. and not the Google Home app. It seems like there may be some communication issues and some small quality control problems happening at the moment. Fingers crossed this gets resolved soon but I don’t have my hopes up. If you too are experiencing the same problem as me, please let me know. I also posted in the Nest Community forum to ask if others are seeing the same thing and if they know of a workaround, the post can be found here.

Is a Dark Mode/Theme necessary?

Dark mode or a dark theme is generally fairly common in most reputable apps or websites. I am a big fan of using a darker theme no matter the time of day because I find it puts less stress on my eyes and I can continue doing what I doing for longer on my device plus it looks way better. My blog even uses a dark theme 🙂 If a product I use does not have a dark mode I find I use it less or if I have to use it for longer periods then my eyes get much more irritated.

However I know a number of people who are the complete opposite. They always use a lighter theme and swear by it. Some of these are developers too which have all their development tools using a lighter theme. To them they find using a darker theme more difficult to read and puts more stress and strain on their eyes.

Everyone has their own personal preference it would seem and I have read a number of different studies that will say a lighter theme is better for you while another study will say that a darker theme is better for you. So trying to figure out which is the optimal theme for your health can be a little difficult. Perhaps the best theme to use is one you personally prefer if there is so much conflicting information out there.

Something I feel is critical for all current apps and websites is the ability to allow the user to choose the theme they would like to experience their product in. If each individual person has a certain preference on the theme they would like to use then it would be in the best interest of the team working on the product to ensure that their users are happy and use their product for longer. Many software teams are big on including as much accessibility options for their users and I would consider having an option for a darker theme an accessibility option just like having a color blind mode, toggle icons showing on/off indicators and bolder text.

What is your opinion on having a dark mode or theme and how does having the option of choosing a light/dark mode/theme influence your decision on using the product or service for longer periods of time?

Google Home iOS/iPadOs App Device Networking Issues

Sigh, I really do hate writing negative blog posts but sometimes it’s a good way for me to vent my frustrations with software and hardware when there is a lack of consistency and synergy. Consistency here being the main pain point.

For some time now my hidden wifi network has been split between both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands (different SSIDs). Originally I was using the Netgear SmartConnect functionality to juggle the devices between the two. However I was getting constant switches, network dropouts, etc so I turned the feature off. It was not so smart and was causing constant frustration for me 😦

For the time being I have all my high volumed traffic devices like my laptops, tablets connected to the 5Ghz band as they are all used to consume media and are all extremely close to the router. Every other wireless device I have is connected on 2.4Ghz which is mainly my Google Nest hubs, Chromecasts, etc. and spread across the house. Each of the devices connected on the network can communicate with each other.

Recently I bought a Google Nest Hub Max and used my iPad Mini to connect it to the network. The wifi that it connected to originally was my 5Ghz band. This was all fine as all my devices like the tablets are all on that same band. However I don’t have my iPhone 13 Pro connected on that band, it is on the 2.4Ghz band and this is when I started to notice a glaring problem.

If I open the Google Home app on my iPad (connected on 5Ghz) I can see the new Google Nest Hub Max and can modify the settings for it. If I go to my Google Home app on my iPhone 13 Pro (connected on 2.4Ghz) I can see the device in the list of devices in my home but I can’t modify the settings. All I see is a message that read:

Disconnected device

Connect to your Wi-Fi to cast

Check that Disconnected device is online and your phone or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Additionally, make sure local network is enabled in your phone or tablet’s privacy settings.

Google Home app for iPad

So this message makes perfect sense I guess if the devices were not on the same underlying network. If I change to the 2.4Ghz band on my iPad Mini then I can see the device and modify the settings. However there is one big glaring problem with this. If I change back to the 5Ghz band and then try to change my bedside table Google Nest Hub Gen 2. settings I can. Even though *drum roll* the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. is on 2.4Ghz. This also applies to my Google Nest Hub Gen 1 in my kitchen. I moved the new Google Nest Hub Max to the 2.4Ghz band with the other devices for consistency.

To summarize what I am seeing:

  • The iPad Mini is on 5Ghz and can see:
    • the Google Nest Hub Max (connected via 2.4Ghz) but cannot modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 2 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 1 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
  • The iPhone 13 Pro is on 2.4Ghz and can see:
    • the Google Nest Hub Max (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 2 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 1 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings

I am not sure what is going on. I don’t know if this is a software bug with the iOS/iPadOS versions of the Google Home app or if this is an issue with the actual Google Nest Hub Max (a restart and reset also did not help or fix the problem). I contacted Google support but they just ran through the usual support troubleshooting process and could not come to a resolution.

Is anyone else having this issue?

Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault macOS Missing Feature

As someone who uses OneDrive as one of my main cloud storage solutions for random documents and photos due to having it available with 1TB storage via Microsoft 365; I wanted to take advantage of all it has to offer. That means having access to the Personal Vault. However it appears to be explicitly missing from the OneDrive app on macOS.

Coming from using a Surface Book 2 as my main laptop I never had any issues accessing the Personal Vault through the Windows 10 app. However since I have recently moved to the Apple MacBook Pro 14” with the M1 Pro and installing OneDrive, that feature is completely missing 😦 Looking at the official Microsoft documentation, it appears that the Personal Vault is just not available on macOS.

This is a real shame as it is available on Windows 10/11, Android and even iOS/iPadOS. You can obviously log into the browser to access the Personal Vault but by installing the official app it would make sense to have access to this feature. Unless it is a market ploy to not bring feature parity across different platforms for the app to entice the user to migrate and move to Microsoft’s desired platform, aka move away from macOS and go to Windows.

This is not a big deal for me and only a minor inconvenience, but it really is annoying when companies do this. So now if I ever have to move files to the Personal Vault and I am on my MacBook I need to first store them on OneDrive in a random folder then either log into my OneDrive using a browser or go to my iPhone, iPad or gaming PC and move the file from my OneDrive folder to the Personal Vault. The extra steps could be completely avoided if Microsoft did not play these types of games with consumers. I mean Outlook for macOS looks and functions IMO better than it does on Windows so…

Short Term Experience: MacBook Pro 14” M1 Pro

The MacBook Pro 14” M1 Pro is my very first personal Apple laptop. The MacBook Pro that I have spec’d out has a 10-core M1 Pro CPU, 16-core GPU and 16-core neural engine; 32GB of unified memory and 1 TB of SSD storage.

I was always going to go with the M1 Pro as from what I read, the M1 Max had the same CPU but a much more powerful GPU. As someone who has no real need for a more powerful GPU, the M1 Max was completely unnecessary. Plus there were several videos that I saw where benchmarks of the M1 Max GPU was not reaching its full potential and being throttled. Not to mention there was always going to be a greater chance the laptop fans would spin up and the laptop getting hotter to the touch.

The size choice was also something I agonized a little about originally. My current work laptop is a 15’’ MacBook Pro and that is a little too large to use when on the train and on the lap when on the couch. The 16’’ with the bulky design while probably having better thermal performance than the 14’’ was going to be just as annoying to use when not at table and may be a little too heavy. The 14’’ seemed like the right balance between performance and portability.

Aesthetically I like the space grey colour, with the black keycaps and black keyboard inlay. The thicker body of the laptop is also something that I like because it means the thermal performance is going to be better even if it comes at the cost of size and weight. I always prefer function over form and the last couple of Apple laptops have favoured form over function. Having a good number of ports available to me is a nice addition too. As someone who has used Windows or Unix laptops exclusively in the past, I was never short on ports.

The keyboard is one of the better keyboards I have used on a laptop and is on par with my Surface Book. My 15’’ has the butterfly key switches and they are just way too loud, have very poor key travel and is just an uncomfortable typing experience for long periods. The tactile feedback and key travel for me is also near perfect for the 14’’.  Having full sized function keys is great and the touch ID button on the top right is perfect. The trackpad as usual is near perfect as with all Apple MacBook laptops. The exclusion of the touch bar is also something that pleases me.

I thought that the notch would be annoying or hard to get used to, but I barely notice it. I have not installed software to “hide” the notch and I don’t exclusively use dark mode, so it is not hidden throughout the day. The menu items for the apps that I use has also not been an issue causing odd overflow problems either. Perhaps I will find an app that will cause problems but for now the notch is a non-issue. Do I think it could have been smaller? Yes, especially because there is no FaceID built it. The notch reminds me a little of the Pixel 3 XL.

I have not really used the speakers much on this device yet as it is not primarily used to consume media, but from the videos and music/podcasts that I have listened to, it has been fine. I know the 16’’ has larger and even better speakers but the 14’’ is entirely acceptable and much better than any Windows laptop I have had in the past, including my Surface products. Apple seems to always have the best sound producing laptops on the market.

The display is also pretty good. The colours seem to be accurate enough; I don’t do any photo or video editing, so I really don’t need anything too perfect. Having a “high” refresh rate screen is also a bonus. I think that the screen is comparable to any other high priced or tiered Windows laptop though. With the M1 Pro chipset I can also have more than one external display so that is a nice addition to have.

Now on to macOS. As someone who has primarily used Windows but macOS for work, the transition has not been too difficult. I do miss not being able to natively snap windows to the left and right and a couple of other Windows nice to haves. Having Unix running under the hood instead of having to run Windows Subsystem for Linux is a bonus, especially as a developer. Regarding battery life and performance, it is impressive. I never hear the fans running, the laptop never gets hot, and I really don’t need to charge it. So, kudos to the Apple engineers to build a chip that performs so well, does not crumble and throttle under pressure and get hot to the touch (unlike my 15’’ MacBook Pro).

I have run into some small issues with macOS though. One of my biggest annoyances is updating any app from the App Store. It is painfully and confusingly slow. I have a 100 Mb/s download and when I do a speed test, I get that, however updating an app through the App Store that is several MB in size takes way too long. I am not too sure how to resolve this issue.

If you are in the market for a high priced yet very high-quality laptop then the MacBook Pro 14’’ M1 Pro is a great choice (if you can find it in stock or are willing to wait for shipping). With the performance being so good, you may not need it all and the M1 may be the better choice. So, before you commit to spending so much cash on the 14’’ consider the M1 options.

iPhone 13 Pro/iOS Impressions from a Pixel 3/Android User

Last week on Wednesday my new Apple iPhone 13 Pro finally came in. I was super excited to get it all unboxed, SIM card inserted (I put my case on and then realized I needed to put the SIM card in, then had to take the case off again :facepalm:) and then put the case back on, ready to use as my next phone for the future (or until Apple no longer supports the device). Below are some of my initial and first impressions from someone who has only used an Android phone consistently in the past and is using an iOS device for the very first time as their main mobile phone.

Look and Feel

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is built like a tank when compared to my old Pixel 3 phone. It is very close in size, with the iPhone 13 Pro being only slightly taller, wider and thicker but it is significantly heavier. I think the combination of the battery, stainless steel frame, and front and back glass make up most of that weight. When I pick up my old Pixel 3 it is like picking up a feather compared to picking up my iPhone 13 Pro. It took me a little bit to get used to the new weight difference. I do like this weight change though as it does feel a little more premium.

I like the way the phone does feel in my hand too. It is not too large and manageablefor single hand use, which is one of the reasons why I moved from Android to iOS. I am sorry Google but the Pixel 6 Pro to me does not look good, I absolutely hate the curved display on the edges and being such a large size makes it a deal breaker for me. The case helps to ensure that the frame does not dig into my hand and slightly protect my back cameras as there is a little lip.

One thing that I do know about Apple products is that generally they make extremely well-built products, be it their laptops to their tablets. Sure, sometimes they make “foldable” devices but by and large Apple does not skimp on using quality materials for their products. Paying for more premium products to get a better finished product is a no brainer for me and is something I am willing to pony up for. This may not be possible for everyone, but I am in a fortunate position where I can do this, so I took advantage of it.

I am a little disappointed in that it has a lightning port to charge the iPhone 13 Pro and I cannot use my many USB-3 cables that I have laying around, but it is what it is. The silent switch on the left-hand side of the phone is superb and I wish more phones incorporated something like this as it is very useful. The massive camera bump is not an issue for me, and I am not too fussed about the notch compared to other people. A single hole punch camera hole is a little cleaner but you lose out on Face ID.

iOS 15

Moving from Android to iOS I knew was going to be a little difficult at the start but there are a number of frustations that I have with iOS when compared to Android.

Less customization is something I knew I was going to lose on iOS. I did generally keep my Pixel 3 stock with what came out of the box, but I did like the ability to change the icon shapes, folder shapes and the ability to keep the icons, folders and widgets at the bottom of my screen and not have them all go at the top. That is my first gripe with iOS. Why does Apple not allow me to have icons, folders and widgets placed anywhere on my screens? I would like to have even easier access to my apps and folders by only using my thumb.

Something I thought I would not get frustrated by was notifications. Now I have to perhaps make some more changes in the settings, but I find notifications are absolutely horrible on iOS compared to Android. I find I am missing more notifications on iOS compared to Android. The notification center is okay but not great. I would like to have a small notification indicator on the top bar to know that “hey you have a message, etc.” instead of looking at the notification center. I am not too sure if it is a bug but there are times when I would get a message and sometimes I would get a notification sound and other times I would not.

I do like the iOS settings, permissions and app management compared to Android. Everything is more clearly laid out and is much easier to manage. Pulling down the control center from the right-hand side is also nice to have, but I found the universal pull down anywhere at the top on Android (notification drawer) to get access to quick settings and notifications is a little easier and more user friendly than how iOS makes you swipe down elsewhere for the notification center. If iOS could adopt something like this then that would be great.

My biggest two gripes are to do with notification/media volume levels and universal back gesture behavior on iOS. On Android you have dedicated alarm, notification/caller/alert and media volume controls while on iOS I found that managing my audio levels a major pain. I have no idea how I can keep my notification/alert levels high while keeping my media volume levels low. If I use the buttons on the side and keep the volume low all my sound minus the caller audio is low, and if I raise it then when I watch YouTube or listen to music, I need to quickly lower the volume. Perhaps I am missing something or have not set something up correctly but why are those volume levels paired? I would like to have all my notifications and alerts at the same level as my caller volume levels but keep my media volume levels low.

Now to the back gesture. This is something that I need to get used to as on Android I would swipe left from the right edge to go back to whatever screen I was on and even to previous apps sometimes. On iOS 15 there is no universal back gesture itself. You can go back to the main home screen by swiping up from the bottom or you need to press the dedicated back button located somewhere on the app which can be either on the top left or the bottom. It would be great to have a single and universal way to go back to the previous screen from any part of the right edge, but I guess that would fundamentally change the way iOS would work and would require apps to be re-worked to allow for the gesture.

All in all, I am not finding iOS very difficult to get used to. I am using many of the native Apple apps instead of my usual Gmail, Google calendar, Gboard apps, etc. But I do have installed Google Chrome and Google Maps as I have all my favourites, etc set up there and it would be a pain to migrate all of these to Safari or Apple Maps (as well as this being my only Apple device at the moment for personal use). All the other apps that I had used for travel, fitness, my smart home are all there so I have not lost anything but I did need to buy new licenses for the iOS app versions which is a little bit annoying but expected.

Final Thoughts

I knew there was going to be some initial teething issues with using iOS. I knew I had to adjust to the way iOS worked compared to Android. I knew that moving from a Pixel to an iPhone was going to require a little bit of mental and physical gymnastics. Overall though I did not find the initial migration and adoption of an iPhone or iOS that difficult. I do miss the ability to perform some customizations, the more accessible notifications and universal gestures. However I gain some of iOS’s handy streamlined, accessible and user friendly features while being housed in what I would again call a mobile tank.

Now I do have an iPad Mini 2021 version coming my way as well so that I can take more notes, read a little more and also watch videos and surf the web a little easier. Plus the new Apple Watch series 7 is also being delivered sometime next month. Did I jump completely in the Apple ecosystem? Yeah. For me to take advantage of everything that Apple offers I need to really start looking at investing in their ecosystem, even if it is for the next 5 years and has a very very steep entry cost. But I feel that in those 5 years (at least) it may be all worth it and I may be a permantely converted Apple user for mobile, tablet, watch (and perhaps laptop).

Bye bye Android and hello iOS

I wrote a blog post recently about potentially switching to the Apple ecosystem for my smartphone, smartwatch and tablet with the laptop also being an option. And I can officially say that I have bought an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, Apple iPad Mini 2021, and am waiting on the new Apple Watch 7.

If Apple do have an October 2021 event and showcase a new Apple Macbook Pro 14” with the M1X or M2 and it can support 32GB of RAM, 2 external monitors and have a good battery life then I may skip out on the Framework laptop and just go with the Macbook Pro. Even though I really like the repairability and upgradability of the Framework laptop there is no information about availability in Australia and my Surface Book 2 battery is not doing so great 😦

The more I see what the Pixel 6 Pro looks like the more I do not want it. The glossy back, the large size and the curved glass edges are all turn offs for me. I like to have a nice small smartphone that is powerful in the hands, and at 6.1” the iPhone 13 Pro is just that. Android 12 looks fantastic and what Google is doing with their software apps and assistant is going to be a major loss IMO by switching to iOS as that native support is gone. Most if not all the Google apps I use are on iOS so I am not missing too much there as Google seem to update their apps fairly frequently, sometimes even before they update their Android apps.

Currently I am still waiting for Apple to deliver my iPhone 13 Pro and Apple iPad Mini 2021, but I do have with me an Apple Pencil Gen 2 and leather case for my smartphone. The smart cover for the iPad Mini 2021 is still in transit the last I checked.

So by the end of October 2021, I will have my new smartphone and tablet, and am looking forward to using them. From the people that I have spoken to, getting used to iOS is not that hard and some of the workflow might make things a little easier. Overall I am looking forward to moving to a new mobile OS as I have been with Android for a very long time with a short stint using Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Will I go back to Android? Perhaps, but if I am happy using Apple’s products and they continue to support it for a long period of time (which from what I read and see, they like to continue to update their older devices) I may be in the Apple mobile ecosystem for a long time. My smart home/devices however will be still primarily Google/Nest and Philips Hue as I really like the Hubs and smart lights.

Thank you Android for all the fond memories starting with my HTC Desire HD all the way to my current Pixel 3. You have generally been very rock solid but the current hardware missteps, the lack of a proper first party smartwatch and tablet, and the poor security and update policy for the devices has made me decide to move on. I may see you again in the future :wave-bye:

Switching from Google to Apple?

I do not have any Apple products I personally own or bought for myself. I did buy my mum a iPad mini for her birthday. My work computer is an Apple Macbook Pro and is the only Apple product that I have actively used. On the other hand I own a Google Pixel 3, a Fossil Gen 5 smart watch, several Google Home Hubs, a Google Home Mini, a Google Chromecast Ultra, and several other Google branded smart home devices. I am entrenched in the Google ecosystem.

This week Apple showcased their next iPhone, smart watch and iPad refreshes. It was the first time I actually watched an Apple event. I always knew that Apple had the superior software and hardware harmony. Their entire ecosystem works nearly flawlessly together. This flawless cohesion is something I find sorely lacking from Google. The commitment to hardware from Google I do not find very authentic and could change at the drop of a hat. Their support for their products is also questionable unfortunately. The one thing that made me stay away from Apple and their products was their extremely high price. Apple is a luxury brand more than a technology brand IMO.

The more articles I read and videos I watch on Apples products the more I am inclined to make the switch over from Google to Apple. The way I look at it, there are several core products for me; the phone, the smart watch, the tablet and the computer.

The Phone

With Apple, you know exactly what you are going to get. You are going to get a generally well built device with a mature operating system that while lacking in customization options is simple, clean and easy to operate. There really is not much to write about here. Generally not much changes between revisions and from what I can see, the difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 is very minimal. If I was to get an iPhone the iPhone 13 Pro is very tempting.

Google Pixel phones on the other hand is a little bit of mixed bag, like the box of variety chocolates. You know on the software side you will be getting the Android experience that far outshines the competition. You get a clean OS and something that I feel is what Google wants Android to be. The hardware is where Google stumbles hard. While the devices may generally be well built there are always short coming such as a bad battery life (Pixel 4) to mid-tier/average specifications (Pixel 5). The Pixel 6/6 Pro appears to be targeting once again the premium market so I’ll need to see more before I can decide if it is a worthwhile purchase.

Previously I have said that I will not be purchasing another Android device that is not a Pixel and I still stand by that statement. With Android updates both OS and security sorely lacking from the other brands, Google is really the only option.

The Smart Watch

Here again Apple does it near flawlessly. A perfect device that does what you would expect with the addition of all the health monitoring. I really like the Apple Watch and what Apple is trying to do in the health market is great. If I gave scores for devices the Apple Watch would get a near perfect 10/10.

There is no competition with the Apple Watch. Google and the entire Wear OS ecosystem is an absolute mess to put it kindly. I also do not think the new partnership between Samsung and Google will save it. What Google needs to do is release their own smart watch, a Pixel Watch. My Fossil smart watch is now no longer connected to my phone anymore as the bluetooth continued to lose pairing somehow. I gave up trying to keep it connected. It was not a good user experience.

If you are in the Android ecosystem then I suggest you just stay away from any Wear OS smart watch, even the Galaxy watches from Samsung (unless you have a Samsung phone). I do not regret getting my Fossil Gen 5, but I will never buy another Wear OS smart watch that is not Google branded.

The Tablet

This one is very much identical to the smart watch section.

Apple hits it out of the park with their iPad line. The Pro, Air, Mini and even the standard iPad are all brilliant.

I do not know what Google is doing with Android tablets. They have no first party Android tablets. The last Android tablet that Google produced was the Slate and that was a disaster. The other brands like Samsung and Lenovo continue to sell Android tablets but again, I do not want a skinned Android tablet. It is pure Android or nothing at all.

There are also the Microsoft Surface line of products. I have a Surface Pro 3 that I occasionally use as a tablet but it is far easier I would feel to use an iPad for entertainment and basic tasks. If I needed a device for productivity then my Surface Book 2 or gaming PC would be my go to. Sorry Microsoft.

The Computer

For all my gaming needs then my custom built gaming PC is my go to plus it can handle any productivity task. However it would be nice to have something portable that I can also get work done on.

At the moment I am using my Surface Book 2 to get this post written up. A fine device but it is getting on in age and I can see that the battery is not where it used to be.

Originally I was looking at some Chromebooks. Again, it seems that Google does not want to support their official line of Chromebooks in Australia. There are only third party Chromebooks and based on the build quality of those devices I am not too happy with them. If Google did offer their latest Chromebook here in Australia then I would have purchased it especially with the new Linux support in Chrome OS.

If I did go all the way in the Apple ecosystem then purchasing a Macbook Pro would be a no brainer and then I could create some iOS apps too. I would not buy an M1 Macbook Pro but an M1X/M2 Macbook Pro when announced would be a worthwhile purchase. So right now on the laptop front it is a wait and see. If I do go with an iPhone and Apple Watch then a Macbook Pro may be a smart purchase.

The only spanner in the works is the new Framework laptop. The ultra repairable and upgradable device that from everything I have seen is really good. However that device too is not shipping any products to Australia at this time. I am monitoring this closely because running Linux on that device seems like a smart option for a portable, repairable, and upgradable productivity laptop.

Google Nest Hub Radio Alarm Issues

I have both Google Nest Hub generation 1 and generation 2 devices, which seem to have issues consistently in playing a radio alarms. Doing a quick Google search and it appears that I am not the only person having this problem. The dates from the results also suggest that it has been a persistent issue for a number of years unfortunately 😦

I have factory reset the devices, tried a number of different radio stations, etc. and it seems that every other day the radio alarm will not play and a traditional alarm will played instead. I double checked to ensure that the devices only have a single alarm and it is a radio alarm.

Both devices do not have issues with network connectivity and the only thing that I can think of is that there is some software bug that is causing the radio alarm not to play. However the one problem with that is the radio alarm sometimes does play. Generally if it is a software issue then it would either work or it would not work, ie. 0 or 1.

I am a little confused about how to resolve this issue as it seems that Google support know of “an issue” with radio alarms but have given no other information. The troubleshooting steps I have already gone through from the support forums and have not helped. One solution I found was to have instead a routine that is triggered at a certain time and to play a radio station instead of having a radio alarm. But that sort of defeats the purpose of having a radio alarm.

If anyone out there has any solution or steps that I can try to resolve this issue then it would be greatly appreciated. I love both my Google Nest Hubs and with the second generation the new sleep sensing features are fantastic as I have difficulty wearing any watch or ring to monitor my sleeping pattern, etc. while I sleep.

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