Two months with the new iPhone 6 Plus

IPhonesAt the end of November, Jean and I decided to shout each other new phones for Christmas. The iPhone 4S that we each had were showing their age and the new iPhone 6 was beckoning.

Having heard about short supply and 2 week delay in delivery, we went shopping at the end of November assuming we’d get phones just before Christmas. As it turned out we walked out of the Spark shop on Lambton Quay holding two new iPhone 6 Plus’ which were active within a hour. Well done Daniel from Spark, two happy customers.

As a side note, we were Vodafone mobile customers but after their cock up with Jean’s roaming in Italy in August and the 59 minute wait on the phone for their call centre help a week or so prior, we were moving. Sorry Vodafone, you’re losing the plot in terms of support and as a result you’ve lost us as customers. By the way the 59 minute wait ended only because I hung up, not because they actually answered.

After two months using Apple’s biggest phone, I’m pleased to say that neither of us would swap them for anything. And so far, both phones are unbent and undropped and have become a necessary part of our lives.

And yes, bigger is better. The idea of using our 4S phones to sit and surf the net wasn’t an option given the screen size, but the 6 Plus is regularly used to do just that. In fact I no longer carry my iPad around as the 6 Plus has become the computer in my pocket.

The landscape mode – where you can swivel the phone 90 degrees and the desktop follows is great and the ability to use a split screen for mail and browsing is also a bonus.

It’s fast too, with all apps running without any lag and video and photos looking superb.

The downside of “Plus” is the stretch required to reach the top of the screen. Apple thought about this and with a double tap of the Home button the screen slides down for easier access but at times it is cumbersome to use and two hands are needed.

My litmus test for size was the ability to slip the phone into a jacket inside pocket. It fits perfectly and the lightness and slimness both help to not make it feel bulky.

Would we go back? No way. And now all we need to go with it is “the watch” – so roll on April.

 

Air New Zealand versus Cathay Pacific – our experience

Travelling to London via Hong Kong and then back from Rome to Auckland via Hong Kong gave us the ability to compare the Premium Economy class offerings on the two airlines. And although it’s called the same name, the reality is that the offering is quite different.

Air New Zealand were one of the first airlines to offer this “better than economy but not business” class when they phased out first class and promoted business class to lie flat beds.

The general Premium Economy offering is simple – greater legroom and wider seats in a separated cabin area with a range of added comforts – a dedicated check in, better food and drink, amenities packs, welcome drinks – all which vary by airline.

With Jean and I being tall, the key benefit is the added legroom. This is even more important given the distance we travel and the time we spend onboard.

Until this trip we have been dedicated Air New Zealand customers and have seen their Premium Economy offering evolve over the years from a basic “greater legroom” product through to the specially designed seat pods that they introduced about 4 years ago.

But two years ago Air New Zealand made changes to their Airpoints programme which removed any advantage for us booking and paying for their Premium Economy seats. So this trip we threw ourselves on the open market and simply went for the best deal we could find – which turned out to be Cathay Pacific.

We discovered our trip was, in fact, a codeshare between Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand so our trips between Auckland and Hong Kong were on Air New Zealand metal and the legs between Hong Kong and London/Rome were on Cathay – the same Premium Economy class but very different experiences.

In terms of legroom and seat comfort there was not much in it. Cathay had 8 seats across the cabin, Air New Zealand had nine – but the Air New Zealand seats felt wider. Legroom was expansive on both.

The cabin ambience was better on Cathay mainly because the plane (an Airbus 350) was new versus Air New Zealand’s 777 which was in need of a refit or replacement with one of their new Dreamliners.

The service was much better on Air New Zealand. Meals were better quality and served on china, not plastic, and there were cabin staff dedicated to the premium economy section. If you wanted something, it was there, immediately.

Cathay Pacific, on the other hand served standard economy food on plastic plates – and wine from plastic glasses. The cabin staff served both premium and economy cabins, but they still managed to answer our calls quickly and efficiently but did slip a couple of times.

Because of the comparative ages of the planes, Cathay’s entertainment offering was more comprehensive and higher quality with touch screens and excellent screen clarity. Air New Zealand struggled to compete but, talking to staff, things are looking up with upgrades to the 777 fleet just around the corner and the first Dreamliners already operating across the Tasman.

So who wins? Air New Zealand by a small margin – but when they are flying with better planes it won’t be a contest. They just know how to do things well, and to make passengers who have paid extra for a little comfort feel it’s money well spent.

 

 

 

I’ve always wanted a Leica camera

LeicaI’ve been an SLR camera guy for as long as I can remember. Ever since I bought my first camera back and lens – a Ricoh KR10 with a 50mm lense – I’ve relied on the control and quality a good SLR provides. The downside of an SLR is the bulk of the camera and various lenses – my current camera bag weighs around 6kgs. There is nothing subtle about taking the camera out for the evening and nothing subtle about using it.

I’ve always wanted a compact camera that could go anywhere, which still took great pictures, and which gave me the ability to control things like depth of field and shutter speed.

I’ve also always wanted a Leica camera but have always been put off by the prices – particularly in New Zealand.

The opportunity to get both came my way when we stopped to browse at the Leica shop at Hong Kong airport. Leica’s range of compact cameras have always got good reviews and their latest mid range compact – the D-Lux 6 – has been no exception. And there sitting in the display cabinet was one calling my name.

Now the geeks among my readers will know that the D-Lux 6 is essentially the same camera as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. There are some minor cosmetic changes – like the addition of the round red Leica logo – but the cameras are one in the same. Leica have been working with Panasonic for years, using Panasonic’s hardware but then writing their own software to control image capture and processing.

This is where the two camera’s differ and the results are impressive. In fact it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a shot taken on the Leica and a shot taken on my Nikon DSLR.

The Leica version of this camera carries a price premium but it seems worth it – for the added image quality as well as that small red circle on the front.

A HOT travel app

HOT AppMuch of our holiday was booked by our travel agent, the lovely Petra, and the team at House of Travel in Wellington. As always, everything was organised perfectly and went off without a hitch.

But this trip there was a bonus – House of Travel’s iPhone app.

We punched in our booking code after downloading the app and had our itinerary available in an easy to digest and easy to use form on our phone. It was amazing the number of times we used it – to quickly check a departure time or to confirm a flight number when completing an arrival card – it was incredibly useful.

And there’s much more to the app than just the itinerary. There is a plethora of options available.

I’ve been involved with designing and developing  a few mobile apps and can appreciate the time and attention to detail that has gone into this app. It’s a great piece of work.

I’ve just checked the app and it has archived our holiday itinerary and is ready for our next trip. Nice.

 

The Sicilean All Black supporters kit

AB KitToday the All Blacks played the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup test. Despite a TV with over 500 channels these Sicilean AB supporters could find no TV coverage of the game.

Compounding this, the villa internet connection is the narrowest broadband connection in the world and so video was all buffering and no streaming.

But the saviour turned out to be the Radio NZ iPhone app which streamed the radio commentary of the game perfectly. And when broadcast through our portable JBL bluetooth speaker it gave us stadium quality sound.

And what an All Black victory – 51 points to 20 – tutto bene.

A post for geeks

Tech DisplayIn the old days the only technology we took on holiday was a still camera and maybe a video camera. These days that’s all changed and our bags are full of various bits of tech.

This trip we tried to minimise what we took but still ended up with a fair collection of things – as can be seen in the photo. The only piece of technology not shown is the camera I took this shot with – a Nikon D7000 with a 50mm 1.8 fixed lens.

Clockwise from top left – Sunpak PZ42X flash gun, Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens, Nikon 18-70mm zoom Lens, Pebble smart watch, WD 500GB portable hard drive, Transcend multi card reader, MacBook Air – 11.6 inch, iPad, JBL Charge bluetooth portable speaker, 2 x iPhone 4S, TomTom GPS, Apple mouse, Sony T500 camera, Nikon 70-300mm zoom Lens and 3 iPad and iPhone chargers. Not included are all the cables that connect this stuff together and various charges for camera batteries.

Nothing like travelling light I say.