The Solution to Vertical Video

The introduction of video on the iPhone 3GS introduced an issue into society: vertical video. If you’re reading this online, then you’ve likely seen a vertical video. The iPhone 3GS only recorded SD (640×480) video. Now, iPhones record HD (1080p). Thus, people are sharing around huge vertical videos via social media, SMS, etc. If you’re unfamiliar with this, then watch the following video.

This has been prevalent since 2009, but has increased exponentially in the past 3-4 years. It seems educating people on the matter is a lost cause; (non-technical) people are complacent. (Snapchat also isn’t helping the situation.)

I have a solution which doesn’t require people to learn anything new. (Plus, it will make Instagram users squeal.) Device manufacturers just need to place a square imaging sensor inside phones, tablets, and any devices which people tend to primarily hold in a vertical orientation. Most imaging sensors in cameras (DSLRs, camcorders, REDs, etc.) are in a 4:3 or 16:9 (wider than they are tall) aspect ratio. Cameras were built to be held in a certain way. Phones were also built to be handled in a certain way. If manufacturers just place a square sensor in devices held in a portrait fashion, then the software can determine whether to record with a widescreen crop on the sensor, or not. Vine and Instagram have exploded the square (1:1) content market. I don’t like the limitation of a square (especially in video), but it’s far better than vertical videos.

iPhone 5 iOS 8 UI - Video Camera modeWith a square sensor, you would load the built-in camera app and it would function the same way it does now. However, when you switch to video mode and hold the device vertically, it will display a dark, translucent overlay on the live view from the sensor. That overlay will appear on more of the screen than the clear portion representing the content which will be captured (see image left). This may entice people to rotate the device horizontally — so they can see a larger image of what is being recorded. Even if they continue to hold it vertically, the video recorded will be horizontal. Huzzah!

So, Apple, Google, Motorola, LG, and all you folks. Get Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and all those image sensor manufacturers to make you square sensors. Then spend a day tweaking the software to support it. Then give yourselves a big hug as you witness vertical videos being less and less viewed online.

From an art perspective, I have no issue with vertical video. I haven’t not seen it used in a creative, artistic way though. Enlighten me, if you have.

Oh, and Instagram users. You’ll be sharing photos created by capturing light to every single pixel on that sensor. Congratulations.

Graphic created by me using iOS 8 Illustrator Vector UI Kit, screenshots from my phone, and a frame from a vertical video Kali sent me. 

Switching my iPhone from AT&T to T-Mobile

AT&T was great and everything, but it was just costing too much. As you can read here, I’ve used AT&T’s services for almost two years.

T-Mobile is $10-$15 cheaper than I was paying on AT&T. AT&T offered me a similar (after tax) price to T-Mobile’s, but that only included 300 minutes, 200 texts, and 2GB of data. Comparatively, T-Mobile is giving me 500 minutes (not that I’ll use anywhere near that much) and unlimited SMS/MMS & data. All that for about US$70/month (much better than the US$85 I was paying AT&T).

NB: I specifically asked T-Mobile if there data is unlimited (not ‘fake unlimited’; capped) and they told me I can “go nuts”. Sweeet!

The Switch

It was painless, but it did take up quite a bit of my time. Here are the steps I took to switch:

  1. I looked on T-Mobile’s website for the plan that best suited me. For me, this happened to be the Even More Plus 500 Talk + Text + Web contract-free plan.
  2. I called T-Mobile, setup an account, told them I had an iPhone, and had them send me a SIM card. (There was no obligation to make a payment until I activated the SIM card.)
  3. I called AT&T told them I wanted to cancel. They immediately put me through to their cancellation department where they asked some expected questions and then offered me a lower-cost plan (which I haven’t seen available online or elsewhere) that included (as I said above) 300 minutes of talk, 200 SMS, and 2GB of data. I said “No thanks.” and proceeded with the cancellation. AT&T asked if I was going to port my number (something I hadn’t thought of) and if so the porting would cancel the account anyway.
  4. When I received my SIM I called T-Mobile to activate it and port the number. Within minutes they had done so and my AT&T account was canceled.
  5. It took almost a week to get data working. Each T-Mobile support representative I spoke to was helpful, but the first few didn’t realise that I wasn’t on the correct data plan. I had to be on a smartphone data plan. Once that was activated my data worked. (T-Mobile forum posts like this were helpful, but didn’t resolve my issue.)
  6. Visual Voicemail is a feature on T-Mobile, but for some reason it doesn’t appear to work on the iPhone. I spoke to a nice T-Mobile girl about it. She told me everything was active on T-Mobile’s end, so it must be some kind of iPhone incompatibility. Perhaps it’s because of [Step 7].
  7. I was originally told that there was great 3G coverage in my area, but according to T-Mobile’s website my area has the slowest data rating. Outside of my apartment I get good EDGE speeds; I’m not complaining here; I usually had 3G turned off when I was on AT&T anyway. You must note that T-Mobile’s 3G isn’t compatible with the 3G radio inside the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4. So, even if I had awesome 3G in a certain location my iPhone wouldn’t be able to see it. That doesn’t bother me though.

That’s about it. It was a longer process than I expected, but my bill is less and my iPhone is working fine on T-Mobile’s network. I haven’t used it outside of the Huntsville, Fort Worth, and Houston areas yet, but I’m sure it would be fine in places like New York City and San Francisco.

Oh, just in case you didn’t read my post on using my Australian iPhone 3GS on AT&T, then you need to know that I did not hack-unlock and/or jailbreak my iPhone to work on T-Mobile. My iPhone is carrier unlocked from my Australian carrier.

Using my Australian iPhone 3GS on AT&T

I assume a post like the one you’re about to read has been written before, but I just wanted to document my experience with using an Australian iPhone in the USA.

The Quick and Dirty Answer

Call your Australian carrier and get them to unlock your Australian iPhone from its network. You’ll then be able to use it on any GSM network in the world. This is NOT a hack/jailbreak/unlocking tip. This is legit unlocking.

The Long and Clean Answer

When I traveled to the USA in 2008 I got a first-generation iPhone from a friend and put it on a plan with AT&T. This was not a contract, but a month-to-month plan that worked exactly the same as a regular AT&T iPhone contract plan, but didn’t have the early termination fee. This means I could cancel at any time. Why no contract? Because I had my own phone/hardware. (Note: I did have to pay a deposit because I had no credit score in America, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

In 2009, Apple released the iPhone 3GS in Australia on the 26th of June. I went to the midnight launch an the Optus Store in Sydney’s CBD. It was a fun event, and I probably only waited in line for about 6 hours. It was a fun time in the dead of winter. 🙂

I went on the $79 Cap which included the following:

  • iPhone 3GS (32GB / white)
  • 1-year contract.
  • AUD$500 worth of calls.
  • Unlimited SMS and MMS. (A first for any mobile phone plan in Australia; previously we only had the option to pay for each text at between $0.05-$0.25 depending on the carrier. We don’t pay to receive text messages (like USA carriers do it) though.)
  • 700MB of mobile data
  • And whatever fancy Optus things it came with, like ‘Yes Time’ etc.

On top of the $80 I had to pay around AUD$48/month just for the phone itself. I did not pay any upfront costs for the iPhone.

48\times12 = 576

iPhone unlocked screen in iTunesThat’s about half the cost (~AUD$1100) to buy that phone outright at the time. Going on a 1-year contract is definitely one of the cheapest ways to obtain an unlocked iPhone. “Unlocked?!”, you squeal? Yes, as soon as you make the first month’s payment you can call Optus (and I assume there’s similar options at other Australian carriers) and ask for the phone to be unlocked from Optus’ network.

When I moved to the USA in February, 2010, I made sure my phone was unlocked and everything was dandy. I didn’t sign up with AT&T until about a month after I got there. I was using my iPhone on Wi-Fi in a lot of places… and I don’t get out much.

I called AT&T and got them to send me a SIM to put in my iPhone. At this point I didn’t tell them I had an iPhone because I figured I could just use the cheaper smartphone data plan and save a bunch of money.

When I received the SIM it didn’t seem to work. After a bunch of calls to AT&T and Apple’s technical department we couldn’t figure out the issue. I even went into an AT&T store to see if they could figure out anything. At that point I had to show them I had an iPhone and they noticed I didn’t have the iPhone data plan. Boo; now I have to pay extra money. That still didn’t fix the issue though.

I ended up calling Optus to see if there was some issue with the unlocking. It turned out that they never unlocked it like I requested. Not to worry though; they unlocked it then and there.

I called back AT&T and everything worked like a charm.

Remember what I said about a deposit? Well, if you don’t have enough of a credit score/rating/whatever (I didn’t the first time because I was traveling and I didn’t the second time (with the iPhone 3GS) because I only just moved to the USA), then you have to pay a deposit of US$500 to AT&T (I assume most companies do this. It seems AT&T might be the only one that does this: Read here.).

Don’t worry, it’s completely refundable after 1 year. I can vouch for AT&T on that because they returned the $500 — which I ended up giving back to them when I moved to the USA; haha.

I would like to note that both Optus and AT&T are great companies. Optus beats AT&T for sure, but they both have great customer service (phone/store), great reception (in the areas I frequent; I don’t live in SF or NYC), and have redeemed themselves numerous times when overcharging me then returning the money when I yell at them.

That’s it! Enjoy your unlocked iPhone goodness.

Taking an iPhone from Australia to USA


This issue has been solved.
See how to resolve at bottom of post.

I first got an iPhone 2G in 2008. It was a magical device that advanced me into the 21st century. I’d like to thank Chris for making that possible.

I used the phone on AT&T (I got a no-contract, month-by-month plan with data and all the bells & whistles) and it worked smoothly. In June 2009 I traveled back to Australia and left the iPhone here (in the USA) with Rachel because I knew the iPhone 3GS was going to be released in Australia at the end of June.

I signed a 12 month contract with Optus (and Australian phone/internet/tv carrier) and got an iPhone 3GS. I made sure the phone could be unlocked (NOT unlocked using ‘hacking’ software like QuickPWN) from the Optus network so that I could bring it to America and use it here.

I flew to America and kept the phone in Airplane mode, and have used it to access the Internet using Wi-Fi connections. That’s worked fine, but I have always planned to get an AT&T SIM card for it so that I can use it as a phone over here.

Last week I put that plan in motion and received a new AT&T SIM card in the mail yesterday. I ended up having to call AT&T to activate the SIM card. They were able to activate it, but were unable to get a connection to it; it only shows one bar of reception on the phone and it can’t make calls or transfer any data. AT&T phone customer service suggested I take it in to an AT&T store.

Today I visited an AT&T store. I explained the entire situation to a cool guy named Dustin and he tried putting in a new SIM card just in case the one I received in the mail was faulty. The new SIM card didn’t work either. He tested the new SIM card in another phone and it worked fine. Thus, it’s an issue with the phone. Dustin tried a hard reset (holding the ON/OFF button and the home button). Doing so resulted in the phone not booting up correctly; it just held the white Apple symbol on a black screen. Also, iTunes on Dustin’s computer would not recognise my iPhone before and after the hard reset. Thus, there was no way to restore the phone

Dustin suggested I call an Apple Store to see what they could do. I walked out of the AT&T store a little frustrated, but I knew there was nothing else they could do.

After about 15 minutes I looked at the iPhone again and realised it was on the home screen (i.e., it did finally boot up). I went back over to the AT&T store and Dustin said he couldn’t do anything because the phone said ‘No Service’ in the top left of the screen.

I called an Apple Store, explained the entire situation (again), and they told me to call Apple Care. I called Apple Care, explained the situation again, and I was passed on to a senior technician. The first technician understood my situation completely, so the senior technician was up to speed by the time I got to speak to him. In short, he told me I’ll have to call Apple Care in Australia — which wasn’t open at the time (0700 hrs), so I have to wait.

As it stands right now, I’m currently waiting for Australia to wake up, so that I can call Apple Care there and see if they can remedy my situation at all.

If anyone reading this knows any solutions to my situation (besides hacking/unlocking/jailbreaking the iPhone), then please leave them in the comments, e-mail me, or @djsteen me on Twitter.

UPDATE: After many phone calls to AT&T, Apple, and Optus, I eventually figured out that Optus has never unlocked my phone. I had to restore my iPhone through iTunes with my Optus SIM inside.

At the end of the restore iTunes showed this screenshot:


I hope that helps anyone else in my situation.

Australia follows USA with tree-killing iPhone bills

iJustine's 300-page iPhone billWe all remember Justine’s first iPhone bill [video] totaling 300 pages in August last year. It resulted in every website imaginable writing something about the story, and AT&T removing itemised data from their bills and allowing customers to opt-in to e-billing/paperless billing.

When Justine’s video was released I’d been using data on my Nokia 6280 for a few months. I used it to access Twitter Mobile and Facebook Mobile while I was away from my computer. It worked for me, but I had a limit of 3MB. When I started going over that, and being charged excess usage by the kilobyte, I had to upgrade to a larger data option. I started paying $14/mo for 20MB of data; with daily access to the aforementioned sites, I could keep within that ridiculous data limit.

The more I used data, the larger my phone bills became. (Prior to my data usage my phone bills would be 3-4 double-sided pages; after I began using data: ~10 double-sided pages.) Yes, every darn kilobyte was mentioned on paper!

Justine’s video inspired me go paperless on all my bills. I rang my bank; they did it over the phone in seconds. I have an old account with 3 Mobile where I only pay for what I use and I never use it, so I get a bill every few months saying ‘$0 due’; I rang them and they did it over the phone in seconds.

Then I rang Optus — the company I have my mobile bill with. Now, I love Optus; I’ve been with them for over 7 years. They told me I had to go to my Optus online account and check a box to get my bill as an e-bill. No problem. I go to sign in and my credentials fail. Okay, so I ring Optus and they reset my password and send the new one to my phone. I try it. Nada; it doesn’t work. I ring them again and they say it could be due to their whole system and website being upgraded; try back later.
I ring back after about a month. Same deal. I have to do it myself. I get Optus to reset my password again. It doesn’t work. Again

I give it another month or two. Same deal.

This goes on for months.

As my trip to the USA got closer and closer, I picked up my game a little; yes, despite my lovely nature, I can get fierce when I want something done. It can’t be done. I tell them “I’m going to America. No one will be home to get my bills (a lie). I need them send to my e-mail!!” They respond with “… privacy act … blah blah … Let me reset your password … rah rah …” UGH!!!!
Okay. So now I’m actually in America and I’ve called them three times (thank you Skype!) only to receive the same old deal: sign in and you can do it. They ask me if I want to reset my password. While I have global roaming ON, the signal seems to suck, so there’s no way I can get the password on my phone.

I ask them why they can’t do this for me. Privacy. I’m on the phone. I WANT YOU TO DO IT. I don’t care if you see the password; rahhh! They can’t send the new password to any other phone number either. They can’t send it to an e-mail. They pretty much suck at life. Oh, and the system is still being upgraded (10 MONTHS LATER).

The other night I called them again about another matter, and decided I might as well see if
they can set up e-billing for me. Nope. Although, this was the first customer representative to actually say “Sorry” (he was sincere too! — I think his name was Melvin; good guy!) for not being able to set up e-billing on my behalf; he can’t break the privacy policy.

Optus, among other carriers, now have the iPhone 3G in Australia. (The original iPhone was never released in Australia, nor will Apple give support for it in Australia.) Wonderful! A year too late, in my opinion, but still wonderful. Optus has the best value plans; offering up to 3GB of data, unlimited voice calls, and unlimited texting for the largest plan. Cheaper Optus plans have between 100MB-700MB worth of data included; Telstra only offers up to 170MB of data; Vodafone charges a lot more for up to 1GB of data; Virgin just announced 5GB of data for $100/mo.

iPhoneTom Piotrowski's 16-page Optus iPhone bill

Back to the environmental issue at hand. My dad showed me this article describing large iPhone bills in Australia due to itemised data.
Who works at these companies? A bunch of narrow-minded twats? If you lived in Australia and even knew about the iPhone prior to it’s official release, you would have known about Justine’s bill-in-a-box. Now Optus and other companies are going to offer paperless billing for the iPhone.

You’d think they’d learn from America’s mistakes, but nope; we’re often just as silly!

Brainstorm: Maybe now that this has been an issue in the news down under, I’ll now be able to get a customer representative to setup paperless billing for my Australian phone (currently suspended and not in use); hopeful thinking.

If not, then I hope they find this post and call me. Bias.