Nightline redirect to Parcel Motel

I am expecting a delivery from Virgin Media.

They use the courier Nightline for their deliveries, which on the face of it is a good idea, because Nightline have an advantage over other courier services. They have the Parcel Motel network of storage lockers, so if you’re not at home to receive your parcel, it can be held in a locker to be picked up at your convenience.

My order with Virgin Media went through at 10.00am on Friday, but for some reason Virgin didn’t dispatch my equipment until the following Monday evening.

An email I received from Nightline said that I could track my order online, or redirect the parcel elsewhere if I wan’t going to be in to accept the delivery. So on the Monday evening I tried the redirection process to send it straight to my local Parcel Motel, but every time submitted the request I kept getting an error in Nightline’s Parcel Pilot system. After a few attempts I abandoned it.

I tried again on the Tuesday morning to redirect to Parcel Motel, and it actually worked, and was recorded as a “Motel Redirect” in the tracking system. Unfortunately Nightline didn’t check their own records because they still took it out in their van to deliver to my home. It subsequently got returned to the depot, and the tracking system now says “Nightline delay, due next business day”.

So much for Virgin’s promise to have the equipment in my hands within 2 days! 

Update

So having asked to redirect to Parcel Motel, I received an second email from Nightline on the Wednesday saying it would be delivered to my Parcel Motel locker (they even listed the address of the locker location) between 2.00pm and 4.00pm.

I checked the Nightline tracking, and it said that the parcel was delivered at 3.30pm. However by 5.30pm I still hadn’t heard from Parcel Motel about how to collect the parcel (I need a PIN to access the locker).

So I called Nightline (018835400), and they said they couldn’t help and said I needed to call Parcel Motel on a different number (0768886677).

I called Parcel Motel, and kept getting cut off. It seems that unless your call gets picked up within about 20 seconds then you get a message saying “no agents available” and the call is dropped. Anyway, I eventually spoke to a person on the 5th attempt at calling, and they confirmed to me that it wasn’t actually delivered to Parcel Motel at all. The online tracker was wrong.

It seems that Nightline ignored the redirection request (for a second time) and actually delivered themselves to my neighbour.

Cancel next alarm

I’ve been looking for an alarm clock app for my mobile phone that supports a very specific feature, but I can’t find it anywhere.

What I want is the ability to cancel the next occurrence of a repeating alarm without having to disable all future alarms.

Here is my problem. When there’s a bank holiday or I take a random day off work, and I want a lie-in, I want to be able to cancel that day’s alarm. But I don’t want to disable the whole recurring alarm, as I have to do with most alarm apps, because I invariably forgot to re-enable it a day later.

I want to be able to cancel the next morning’s alarm, but leave the alarm for the day after and all future recurring alarms untouched.

I’ve looked around the Play store and checked the description of all the alarm clock apps, but can’t find any mention of my feature.

So what do I want? Well it would be great if an app developer found this blog post and took it upon themselves to build this feature.

Any takers?

Pebble or Fitbit Versa

I love my Pebble smartwatch. I’m on my third one, having backed them from the start on Kickstarter. And so I was naturally quite upset to learn that Pebble closed down just over a year ago.

Knowing that the Pebble servers are due to be switched off at the end of June 2018, I feel a pressing need to look into alternatives. I’ve already bought and abandoned a Wear OS watch, and am now considering the Fitbit Versa as an alternative, but I’m torn.

A lifeline for Pebble

It’s heartening to know that a group of enthusiasts at Rebble.io are working hard to keep Pebble watches working after the servers are switched off in June. And if their efforts pay off, I could keep using my Pebble with pretty-much all of its functionality still intact.

The only problem is that the Pebble is now old technology. There’s never going to be an updated version of the hardware, and with the best will in the world the good folks at Rebble.io are probably not going to do more than keep the lights on. They’re not going to have the resources to innovate and add new features.

And that’s the heart of my concern. Pebble watches are only ever going to decline in usage. You can’t buy them any more, except for the odd one that pops up on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. So when my current watch breaks, or the battery becomes too old to hold a charge, I won’t be able to get my Pebble repaired or replaced.

Fitbit Versa as an alternative?

So I’m looking at the Fitbit Versa as an alternative. There are plenty of good things going for it. It seems to have a decent 4-day battery life, and the fitness tracking would probably be a step-up from the Pebble. But there’s one or two things holding me back from buying:

  • It doesn’t support Spotify. Fitbit seem to have done a deal with Pandora and Deezer as their music streaming partners, and have no plans to support Spotify.
  • The screen doesn’t stay on. I would need to flick my wrist or press a button to get the screen to light up and see the time. And because its motion-enabled the watch screen has the potential to come on when I don’t want it – say in the cinema or in bed at night.
  • The smartwatch features aren’t very mature. Support for quick replies to messages is coming for Android phone users (but not iOS) later this year, but this will be limited to picking from a pre-defined list. There is no support for voice dictation of replies. Also I’ve heard that the range of watch faces and apps available is still pretty limited.

On the other hand, I like the fact that I will be able to wear it 24 hours – due to it being waterproof and having a 4-day battery life. The Wear OS watch I tried ran out of juice after a day’s usage, so I could never use it for sleep tracking.

I also like the Fitbit dashboard for viewing health tracking stats. I’m not exactly an athlete, but I do like to track my daily steps and my cycle commuting to make sure I’m getting some exercise. I used to use a Fitbit Charge HR (until it literally fell apart), and liked checking the Fitbit app and website.

So I don’t know. Should I go head and try out the Versa? I’d be interested to hear from people who are using one – especially if you have migrated from using a Pebble!

Spam phone calls from Finland

Over the last couple of days I’ve been receiving loads of spam calls on my mobile phone from the +358 international prefix, which is the country code for Finland.

The phone only rings for a couple of seconds before they hang-up, and I can only presume that the spammers are trying to get missed calls showing up on the phone in the hope that I will call them back – and they can somehow make money from that phone call.

Just make sure you don’t call them back!

I’m guessing that the spammers are targeting Irish numbers because the Finnish country code of 358 and Irish country code of 353 are so similar, and people might think the phone call comes from someone they might know.

The 41 prefix of all of these numbers come from the range of mobile numbers assigned to the network DNA, but I can’t find any reference online to other people having trouble with these numbers.

I know of a few people that would always call back missed calls on their mobiles, even if they don’t recognise the phone number. So I’m going to make sure to warm them about these dodgy calls.

Update: I’ve now started getting the same calls from +46 prefixed numbers in Sweden. Am seriously considering changing my mobile number to get rid them.

Review: Mobvoi Ticwatch E Android Wear

I've been testing out the Ticwatch E for the past 10 days, and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

I had been hunting around for a replacement for my Pebble watch for the last few months, based on the fact that Fitbit are shutting off the servers that support it in a few months. I also wanted to see what advancements had been made with Android Wear since the LG G Watch I bought 4 years ago.

My requirements for a smart watch were that it had to:

  • Work with my Android phone – thus ruling out the Apple Watch
  • Have a simple design, a round face, and not look like a sports watch
  • Be easy to update and install apps
  • Be not too expensive 

Android Wear

The Ticwatch E runs on Android Wear version 2, which is a new development for Mobvoi, as their previous Ticwatch models ran on a bespoke operating system called Ticwear OS. The support of Android Wear was important to me, as I would be free to install whatever apps I wanted, rather than having to wait for the manufacturer to decide to provide updated.

Android Wear 2 seems to be a big step forward from the original Android Wear OS, and it's good to see the Google are providing regular updates that bring additional refinements. At the moment it's on version 2.8, which brought improvements to notification displays and battery life.

Battery

I had been slightly concerned that the battery life for the watch, as some reviews had expressed problems with it running out of juice during the day. And indeed, when I first got the watch, the battery did seem to die quite quickly. But after 2 full zero-to-full charges, the battery life improved considerably.

Ten days on, I find that I'm disconnecting the charger cable at roughly 7.00am every morning, and by the time I go to bed at 11.00pm there's about 40% left of the battery. I keep the screen brightness set at level 2 (out of 5) which is plenty bright to see inside – although it could be a bit dim in bright conditions outside.

I put mine on to charge every night, but if you wanted to use your watch for sleep tracking then you might need to find another time during the day to charge it.

Design

I like the simplicity of design of the Ticwatch E, and the fact that it doesn't have thick bezels with numbers written on them. The watch case is quite visibly made of plastic, and doesn't look very "premium" when compared to other smart watched that cost twice the price. It's more like a Swatch watch, and more suited towards casual dress rather than formal-wear.

Ticwatch E

One thing that may annoy some people is that the watch has it's one physical button on the left side of the dial, which is the opposite side to pretty much every watch ever sold. I'm not sure why they made this decision, but it suits me rather well. I'm left-handed, and wear my watch on my right wrist, and so I can press the button on the left easily without obstructing the screen. Right-handed people may not like this design feature as much!

The watch face that I use is one of the ones from the Pear Watch Face app.

I'm not sure whether I'll stick with the silicone watch strap. It's fine and does the job well, but I may switch over to a leather strap in the coming weeks. The supplied strap comes with quick-release notches that would make swapping to another 20mm strap quite easy.

Fitness features

The watch comes with step tracking, inbuilt GPS and a heart rate monitor. I've not tested these features very much. The step tracking between my phone and watch seems to differ during the day, but the Google Fit app seems to decide upon one of the values to use.

The heart rate monitor is not running all the time – presumably to save battery life – but can be enabled on demand when you're exercising.

This isn't the watch for you if you want a lot of fitness tracking features. You might be better off with a Fitbit or another dedicated fitness tracker, but it does seem to do the basics quite well.

Price

I got my Ticwatch E from Amazon, and it cost £117 (approx. €132). You can alternatively buy direct from Mobvoi for around €123 at the moment with after a 20% promotional discount has been applied. 

When you compare this to the likes of the Apple Watch which costs between €279 (series 1) and €379 (series 3), and the Samsung Galaxy Gear S3 watch that cost around €300, then the Ticwatch is quite cheap in comparison.

UPDATE: Six weeks on

It's not good news. I'm close to abandoning my Ticwatch and going back to using my Pebble.

It's the not the fault of the Ticwatch itself. I don't particularly mind the sub-premium rubbery plastic styling of the watch. The fault lies with Android Wear, or rather Wear OS as it's recently been renamed as.

It really bugs me that the left and right swipe actions are dedicated to changing watch faces – and that a long press on the screen changes the watch face settings. Who changes their watch face that often that half the touch screen gestures have to be dedicated to the action? I've had countless occasions when I've done something as innocuous as folding my arms, only to discover that I've inadvertently changed the watch face.

Managing battery life is also an issue. On most days I'm pretty happy with the battery. I take the watch off charge in the morning, wear it all day, and when I put it back on charge at bedtime I still have around 45% of battery left. However, yesterday the watch battery died at 5.00pm – for no apparent reason. I hadn't been doing anything abnormal with it. I'm guessing some rogue app got itself into a flap and drained all the battery.

But that's my main gripe. I can't be doing with things that aren't reliable. A product is no good if it works most of the time – it needs to work all of the time. And I don't think that the Android designers and engineers have put enough effort into Wear OS to make it a mature reliable operating system. So for now, I think I'm going to put the Ticwatch away in the drawer, and hope that Wear OS gets an overhaul.

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