Category Archives: mobile devices

Theft of a mobile phone

In the early hours of Saturday 25 November I was returning to my hotel in London after enjoying the UCL Lab Dinner. I had my phone in my hand because I was checking something, and there was no-one around. A cyclist came up behind me (of course I didn’t hear him), and reached out and snatched the phone from me, and then cycled away. Obviously I couldn’t catch him. I then had to decide what to do. I hadn’t brought a computer with me, and the hotel I was staying in didn’t allow outside calls from rooms, only having a non-functioning payphone in the reception area. The night porter was entirely unhelpful. I tried to phone home using the hotel payphone, knowing that my wife’s phone would be switched off, but hoping I could leave a message, but it took my money and didn’t connect me (which brought back other memories!) So I was entirely helpless, or so it seemed.

I decided to get some sleep and catch the first train home, which I did. I visited the O2 shop in my local town and bought a new phone, and have been setting it up ever since. I tried to report the theft, but we no longer have a local police station, and the helpdesk in the local town isn’t open at weekends!  In any case, I don’t expect I would get much help. Similarly claiming on household insurance would be a complex process, and might lead to a premium increase. I was intending to upgrade anyway, but not under these conditions!

What have I learned from this experience? Well, firstly, don’t walk around at night with a phone in your hand. I use a number of geolocation services, and often have my phone out and connected for that reason. But no longer – my check-ins will be restricted to places where there are other people around, or inside buildings. Secondly, have a computer with you (leaving it in the hotel room of course) so you can go online to report the theft. And thirdly, stay in a decent hotel! I have been using the hotel in question for many years, and it is very good value. But they have seriously blotted their copybook this time, and I won’t be back.

A theft like this feels like a violation, and it has taken most of a week to start feeling myself again. It will be an uphill process, but I’ll get there. Thank goodness for the Christmas break, and some quiet family time.

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Pokémon Go – a ‘game’ changer for mobile device power

Pokémon Go (referred to in this post as PG from now on) has been around in the UK for a while (since mid-July). I started playing it (largely out of curiosity initially) in August, on a visit to London for a few days, where we went to some exhibitions and to the Great British Beer Festival. I was quickly captivated by the game – it fits in well with my interest in travelling, and is, in a sense, complementary to Swarm/Foursquare, which I already use all the time. Travelling to new places and discovering new Pokéstops is fun and an education in itself, as well as is (of course) catching new Pokémon.

The main purpose of this post is not to discuss PG itself, but the issues involved in using it on a mobile device. I currently have a Sony Xperia Z3, running Android 6.0.1. The PG app is relatively memory-intensive (220 Mb, compared with Facebook at 320 Mb), and although it can be installed on an SD card, I found that it was less stable then, and had a tendency to crash. So I am now running it on the phone’s internal memory. It runs pretty well, although the latest update (0.37.1) seems to take a bit longer to start up. It only works properly if it can get a GPS fix, and needs a good data signal. Wi-Fi or 4G are best, but it will work (just about) with a decent GPRS signal (‘2G’) which is still all that is often available outside cities and urban conurbations. It doesn’t usually work well when travelling, unless the phone has a clear sky view, since otherwise it can’t get a GPS fix, and often the data signal is poor as well in these situations. I have been able to use it on a bus going through a town, as long as it is either a single decker, or I am on the top deck of a double decker (so the phone can get a GPS fix).

The introductions to PG that I have read stress the need for a good data plan. I have not found this to be a problem, especially as I use Wi-Fi whenever possible. The other thing they talk about is power consumption, and as my time playing the game has increased, this has indeed become an issue. For example, let us suppose that I am able to play the game with my phone connected to its charger. I have found that the power demands of the app almost balance the power supplied by the charger, and I can’t charge my phone while the app is running! It isn’t surprising then that a fully charged phone doesn’t stay charged long if PG is running continuously. I have used two approaches to get round this problem. The first is to always carry portable rechargeable power supplies with me. I already did this in my pre-PG days, as with my normal heavy use the phone didn’t always last a full day. The difference is now that I carry 3-4 of these with me when travelling, all of which have to be charged before a trip, and recharged during it if it is longer than a day. This requires considerable organisation and planning, and when staying in a hotel, ones with multiple power points are now my favourites! The second approach is to try to be sparing about when the app is running. If it is hatching eggs, it needs to be left on when walking, but otherwise, switching off the app whenever you can is recommended. But this isn’t always possible if (for example) you are in an area with lots of Pokéstops and Pokémon, in which case, switching supplies is the only option once the phone gets low on power.

In conclusion, PG is great fun, but successful and extensive use with a smartphone requires careful planning to ensure you don’t run out of power just when you reach a particular Pokéstop, or an area teeming with interesting new Pokémon! This may become less of an issue as battery technology improves, but for now it is a serious consideration. That reminds me, it’s time to check my portable power supplies!