Checkpoint: iPhone XR Edition

I bought my first smartphone on Tuesday, September 3rd , 2019. I’ve owned multiple iPhones over during the last 9 years but I never actually bought one for myself until now. My iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6 were all hand-downs from my brother. Normally, I would just wait until he upgrades and happily use his old one but he has no intention of upgrading this year and iOS 13 is dropping iPhone 6 support.  

So after some deal hunting, patience, and a trade-in involving my old Nokia 2610 handset, I got myself an iPhone XR for just over $450 after taxes.  

Why the iPhone XR?

I’m staying in the Apple ecosystem. I like it. I like how it works with my iPad Pro 10.5″ and my MacBooks. I may not like their prices but I generally like Apple’s hardware. There’s no question that I would have preferred the iPhone XS over the XR but I’m not willing to pay over $700 for a phone let alone over $1000.  

I could have picked up an iPhone 8 for less but I wanted a paradigm shift in my smartphone experience.  An iPhone 8 is essentially a faster iPhone 6 from a user experience perspective. I wanted FaceID, edge-to-edge screen and Qi wireless charging. The iPhone 8 didn’t offer that and the iPhone XS costs a small fortune, so the iPhone XR was my only choice. 

Colors of the Rainbow 

Yellow would have been my first choice. Then red. But I chose white/silver because all they had were white or black.  

I’m content with the fit and finish of the iPhone XR. It feels familiar; it reminds me of an enlarged iPhone 6 married with an iPhone 4S. It’s not as slippery as the iPhone 6 but that’s a moot concern because it didn’t take long for me to put a Spigen case on it.  

6.1″ is too big  

I think the iPhone XR’s 6.1″ screen is too big. I preferred the XS’ 5.8″ but for whatever reason, Apple decided to squeeze the XR between the XS and XS Max. The form factor of the entire phone feels excessive in my hands and my poor pockets. I was finding the iPhone 6 a little too big so this XR is just a device of decadence in this regard.  

I’m quite certain I will get used to owning such a big phone. I felt the iPhone 6 was too big at one point and now I think it’s fine. However, I don’t know if the iPhone XR will win me over completely. When I’m considering crossbody bags and fanny packs just to carry my phone, I think phones may have gotten too big for my lifestyle. 

LCDs & pixels per inch 

OLED would have been my preferred choice of display technology for a pricey phone like the iPhone XR. I would also like a pixel density closer to 458 ppi like on the iPhone XS as well. And if I were paying anywhere close to the suggested retail prices and  launch or today, I would reconsider my choice of iPhone.  

Or I would if I were purely looking at specs. 

After a week or so of using the iPhone XR, I found the pixel density to be fine; it’s just like my iPhone 6’s. I was fine with that and I’m fine with this. 

Long Time Performer

This phone is fast. Very fast. And I appreciate every ounce of its speed. Everything from Face ID unlocking to launching and switching apps is just so much faster than the iPhone 6 and I’m spoiled by it.

I also appreciate how long I can use this phone without having to charge it. With my light use of Twitter, some browsing, and Spotify, I can go 3 or 4 days before having to charge it. Incredible.

It’s a fine phone 

The iPhone XR is a fine phone. It’s the iPhone for the masses and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. With discounts and offers, this is a no brainer for anyone who’s looking to upgrade their iPhones without taking out a small loan. 

Checkpoint: Uncle Tetsu Edition

Just had a slice of Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake and a madeleine. After we shared some Korean Fried Chicken from Go Gi Ya, we waited a whole hour for those Tetsu delights and it was worth it. But that’s the last time I go out of my way to wait a whole hour to get some cheesecake. It’s good but not worth the lineup.

I can see why many people prefer Tetsu to Rikuro but I am a fan of both. If I had to choose one, I’d choose Tetsu’s for its richer taste. Uncle Rikuro’s cheesecake airs on the fluffier and eggier side of things.

Ottawa asian food choices are blossoming and I’m all for it. Go Gi Ya on Bank leans more western with its Korean Fried Chicken and K-Bowls but it’s all made with Korean sauces sourced from South Korea. They have 3 other locations serving KBBQ and an expanded menu but we have yet to partake.

It’s been a busy couple of months. Helping my brother move out, pondering and picking stuff for our new house in 2020, and rejigging all sorts of IT infrastructure stuff within the house. I’m swapping PCs because my RVZ-02 just couldn’t handle that Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1070 in that case. I think it was throttling and causing stutters in Wolfenstein II. I haven’t tested it yet but even if it doesn’t alleviate Wolfenstein II’s stutters, I should have a quieter gaming experience.

Game wise? I’ve been dabbling with Overwatch whenever an event kicks off but I’ve been primarily playing Apex Legends Season 2. I just hope I can continue playing it because I’m taking the plunge and cleaning out my PlayStation 4 Pro. While I’m in there, I’m going to replace the thermal compound in hopes of shaving off a few more degrees.

Checkpoint: Banff Edition

Here I am watching episode 3 of Neon Genesis: Evangelion in a hotel in Banff. It’s an older hotel that radiates old wealth. I can see appreciate it for what it is but it isn’t my idea of an impressive hotel. I like my hotels modern.

At least I have adequate complimentary Wi-Fi to entertain me during the down time. The down time isn’t much but it’s enough to catch an episode of Evangelion on Netflix or Billions.

Banff is a sight to behold. Being completely surrounded by mountains and trees should be awe inspiring but there’s something about its abundance that I find conflicting. I feel like it’s unnatural to humans like myself. This isn’t where I belong. I somehow find a small piece of green space carefully curated by man to be far more fascinating than the vast forests and mountain ranges stretching across the landscape.

There’s also the clash between all this nature and all these people milling about trying to capture epic vistas for their social media pages. At least in a crafted garden, the touristy reality of the spot is apparent — I felt those spots were more honest to their nature. I find there’s a lack of authenticity to Banff. Many of the locations were operated by foreigners who hailed from other Commonwealth nations. All of this feels like I am paying a lot of money to breath in cleaner air and have beautiful background for me to wake up to. I’m neither fascinated nor engrossed by any of it.

Canada Day is coming up and there’s still much more to see. Maybe there’s still something out there that will make the hours of driving worth it.

Checkpoint: Japan & South Korea Vacation Edition

I’ve just returned from a two week vacation in Japan and South Korea. We made our way through Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Seoul. It was a great trip with the girlfriend (now fiancee). We saw lots of great sights, ate lots of great food, and caught glimpses of what life is like in those great nations and cities. 

We took plenty of photos and videos but those we’ll likely remain on Facebook for now. In its stead, here are some thoughts in text form.

Tokyo

We landed in Tokyo first and experienced the best of modern Japan. I loved how exceptional the service was. Everyone was so polite, helpful, and patient with us English speakers. Getting around the city was initially confusing but careful reading of the English signage coupled with Google Maps, we made our way through Tokyo’s excellent subway system. 

We loved how clean the city was and how safe we felt. We visited Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Toyosu Fish Market, Senso-ji temple, Sumida Aquarian, and the Tokyo Skytree. All of those spots were wonderful.

Shinkansen

We made our way to Kyoto via the JR Shinkansen which was an exceptional way to travel. The reputation of timeliness of these amazing high speed trains was known but we just didn’t appreciate how timely everything in Tokyo was which resulted in us waiting around for over an hour. We didn’t have confidence in Tokyo’s public transit and our ability to navigate so we gave ourselves a lot of unnecessary buffer time. 

So we people watched and explored Tokyo station a bit before eventually zooming away to Kyoto. We got to Kyoto in 2 hours or so. The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is roughly the same as Ottawa and Toronto and it takes nearly double that time via car. Going by VIA Rail is even longer. I miss Tokyo’s transit but I will miss Japan’s Shinkansen more. I would gladly spend $150 to just zip into Toronto in 2.5 hours in comfort. 

Kyoto 

We spent approximately $100 – $120 per night accommodations in each city. As a result, we got to see how far our money took us in each city. The Comfort Inn in Tokyo was older but alright. Kyoto’s was like a mini modern day guesthouse full of some neat gadgets. I was particularly impressed with the LED lighting with adjustable temperature function. There was no complimentary breakfast here so we were forced to fend ourselves. It turns out, breakfast in Kyoto is a bit tricky. We eventually found a few solid spots near our hotel but our options were limited if we weren’t feeling coffee shops or western styled breakfast spots in subway stations.

Our time in Kyoto was spent seeking out more traditional Japan. We caught glimpses of two geisha in Gion, spent time with the monkeys in Arashiyama, and visited some picturesque temples. We also tried some kobe beef which was exceptionally rich and tasty. 

Osaka

A short 12 minute Shinkansen ride brought us to our final Japanese city, Osaka. Osaka was a bit of a shocker to me because it broke the mould in cleanliness in Japan. Osaka wasn’t filthy like other like Montreal or Toronto but it reminded me of downtown Ottawa. It was the first time I noticed a lot of trash and cigarette butts on the ground in Japan. A bit of research online suggested that Osaka is more laid back compared to Tokyo and I can see it. Still, that bit of uncleanliness didn’t dampen our food adventures in this great city. We spent more time out at night in Osaka, trying to soak in the lights and glamour of Dotombori. 

Our tatami style Osaka accommodations saw us spend some time sleeping on the floor. It wasn’t terrible but it certainly wasn’t preferable for more than a few days. 

Kansai and Incheon Airports

I don’t enjoy being rushed and as a result, Canadian airports like YVR and YOW irk me a bit with their security processes. Kansai and Incheon Airports on the other hand allow me to take my time to unpack my stuff into bins and still manage to process people at a brisk pace. They’re also friendly and professional without the hint of disdain for their jobs. They’re both also very modern airports with the sensible niceties to go with it — I felt I did more walking in YOW than in the other two considerably larger airports. 

Seoul

A short Peach airline flight later, we made it to Incheon and then eventually Seoul. Incheon was over an hour away from our hotel in Seoul but thankfully there were solid bus shuttle options. We were dropped off right at the doorstep which was very convenient. Our accommodations in Seoul were also the best of the trip. It wasn’t the newest but it was the most spacious, comfortable, and luxurious. Accommodation wise, our money easily went the furthest here.

Our money also went rather far in the food department as well, portions weren’t small in Japan but we both felt many places heaped it on in Seoul. This was especially true with kimchi and soups. 

Seoul was also the most tricky of the places to navigate in the rain. A combination of questionable surface materials and slightly worn out shoes resulted in perilous treks in the rain. Thankfully it was just one day. 

My fiancee loved the fashion and cosmetic offerings in Seoul. She gorged herself in so much of it without making a huge dent in the wallet. The options and competition available Myeong-dong were staggering. 

Traffic & Bikes

There were a lot of takeaways from my trip to Japan and Seoul. One of the more prominent ones were the relationship between traffic and bikes. Japan was a nation of smaller vehicles with plenty of bike traffic on sidewalks and on the streets. Bikes were maneuvering between pedestrians and cars without issue. People from all walks of life were riding their bikes in Tokyo. Businessmen, mothers with children in child seats, and older folks were all riding. And these bike riders didn’t even wear helmets and we did not witness a single spill or accident. 

Despite the density of people and cars, patience and courtesy seems to have allowed bikes, cars, and people to coexist in relative harmony.

Common Trust

Many folks leave the bikes unlocked. Many store shops leave expensive items out in front with nothing but a camera in sight and sometimes not even that. The level of trust both Japanese and Koreans have of their countrymen and tourists is commendable and refreshing. Razors are being locked here in North American grocery stores while I’m seeing SKII Essence bottles being left out in front unattended.

Clean Chaos

Even at its most chaotic, the traffic jams and throngs of people funnelling through subway stations and busy streets, I felt safe and not at all annoyed by it all. The worst of it was in Seoul where the car horn was used liberally but even then I didn’t witness any outbursts of discontent like I would have in North America.

Will Return

This was my first big trip overseas and it was wonderful. I would love to go back to both nations and soak in more of what they have to offer. My expectations of Japan were set by the Yakuza and Persona games and they were largely accurate. I didn’t know what to expect of Seoul but it largely resembled a mix of North America and Japan. I don’t know when we’ll make it back there but I miss it already — there’s just so much you cannot find here. 

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