Smartphones are incredible tools and toys that make our lives easier, more productive, more social and more fun. All great things, right? But like anything in life, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. This is especially true with smartphones (Android, or otherwise): we can actually use them to our detriment. I discovered this the hard way…but thankfully found a solution: replacing my smartphone with a “dumb phone” and a tablet to set some healthy boundaries on my “tech time”. Read on past the break to hear my experience of disconnecting.
A few months ago, before Google released its most recent Nexus phone, the LG Nexus 4, there were several substantial rumors floating around that Google was planning on opening its Nexus line to multiple manufacturing partners. It all started with a report from the very credible Wall Street Journal and the rumors went something like this: Google will offer its “Nexus” name and early access to the latest stock Android builds to any OEM who is willing to play by Google’s rules and build their phones with a minimum set of specs set by Google’s team. There was said to be five new Nexus phones from five different manufacturers (LG, HTC, Sony, Samsung, and Motorola) all released on November 5th (Android’s 5th birthday) and they’d each be sold in Google’s new Play Store. Sounds pretty plausible, right? Android had finally grown up as an operating system, and now it was time to get the pure Google experience on as many powerful flagship phones as possible, while bypassing the manufacturers ugly and unconventional skins. To be honest, when I first read this rumor I was beyond excited. I absolutely love stock Android (post Ice Cream Sandwich) and was salivating about the fact that I’d get to choose from several top of the line hardware variations for my next Nexus.
Our favorite little green robot has made a lot of progress over the last four years. From humble (and ugly) beginnings with Android 1.0 to the smooth and sleek styles of Jelly Bean 4.2, we have seen some tremendous growth and progress of our favorite mobile operating system. Google has worked hard at ironing out the kinks and improving the user interface with some exciting new features. The result has been a much smoother, better, faster, prettier operating system, but it has surprisingly left some simple yet important features out in the cold. Here are three features (or lack thereof) that I believe are major oversights in Google’s current OS.
If you know anything about User Experience (UX) Design, you’ve read Steve Krug’s popular book “Don’t Make Me Think”, now an industry manual on how best to approach Web usability. The basic premise of good UX, according to Krug, is to reduce the amount of thinking a user is required to do to successfully use a Web site. This is also known as the K.I.S.S. method (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”), and is today being applied not only to Web sites, but to all software, including mobile operating systems.
Hit the break to find out why this may not be the most elegant approach to mobile OS design.
A couple weeks ago we had the pleasure of wishing Android a happy fifth birthday. This past week, many in the U.S. paused to celebrate a day of thanksgiving, and I’d like to take time to express some thanks for Android. Granted, some of these could apply to any smartphone operating system with the right app, but my Android phone is what makes it possible for me. Without further ado:
The Nexus 4 packs pure unadulterated Android into a quad-core powered black slab of sexy. It’s a great device at an unbelievable price. Problem? It’s gone mainstream. Not in the way hipsters refer to any semi-successful musician either. Google’s deliberate attempts to make the Nexus brand much more grandma-friendly has, in some respects, been a message to its most ardent “root first and ask questions later” fans. I can almost hear Andy Rubin say, we’re going mainstream now, you tech-heads can come along for the ride if you want but you’re not riding shotgun anymore. The “pure Android experience” is no longer being designed or marketed for the power user.
I really wanted the Nexus 4 but after much deliberation I’ve had to conclude that I am not entirely drunk on Nexus Kool-Aid. The lure of a $299 (8GB version) price for a top tier unlocked phone was certainly tempting. So too was the appeal of receiving timely and undiluted updates. For many, the updates alone may be reason enough to buy this phone. When I examined the compromises Google made to court the mainstream customer I realized the Nexus 4 can not fulfill my needs. I suspect this may be the case for other tech-savvy Android users.
There are many things in life for which to be embarrassed. Like Steve Ballmer’s first Windows OS commercial. Or Christina Aguilera forgetting the words to the National Anthem. Or Apple’s latest Maps release. Embarrassment comes to those who deserve it, and after yesterday’s debacle, I think Google deserves to feel awfully embarrassed. In my eyes, yesterday’s product launch of the company’s new Nexus line-up was a complete and utter failure, if not for the company itself, then at least for its reputation in the eyes of loyal customers. Would-be buyers were plagued with non-stop server errors, buggy shopping carts, flawed payment methods, and jammed phone support lines. What should have been an exciting and fulfilling moment ultimately left thousands of would-be buyers frustrated, angry and worst of all, empty handed.
The Nexus is a name we have come to know and love amongst the Android community. It’s the one place where we can count on the latest hardware and software meeting in a completely open environment. Powered by a completely open Android playground of the latest software, Android geeks and aficionados would often choose devices from the Nexus brand purely for development purposes because of the openness.
Every Nexus has had its flaws: the Nexus One had pretty subpar battery life, the Nexus S was just plain boring, the Galaxy Nexus had a meh camera, and now the Nexus 4 has arguably the biggest flaw yet…
When it comes to Android, one of the hottest topics has always been how fast updates are. It has been a problem for a while now and there’s no question that Google recognizes that. At last year’s I/O, they announced a new agreement with OEMs that would make them commit to updates over an 18-month period. That didn’t seem to do much, so at this past June’s I/O, they announced the PDK. which is the hardware equivalent of the SDK. It gives manufacturers of hardware and chipsets early access to Android builds so they can get a jump start on current and upcoming devices. It’s still too soon to judge if this will help or not, but I really have to point out that things are going in the wrong direction in a major way.
As Android continues to grow as the preferred ecosystem among people worldwide, we are seeing an explosion of innovative and impressive devices. I’m not talking about an explosion of just smartphones either. We are seeing an explosion of devices designed to improve your TV, full-fledged gaming systems, innovative tablets and even a nifty camera or two. Now while those type of Android devices are impressive and all, there’s a type of Android device that I failed to mention and for good reason— Android portable media players or PMPs for short. Android PMPs are neither innovative nor impressive– compared to other Android counterparts. Generally speaking, Android manufacturers generate buzz and excitement for various products, yet consumers never hear anything about PMPs and see any real excitement or reason to talk about them. Knowing there’s no real push or excitement for PMPs, is it really important for Android fanatics or even the average consumer to go out and buy a PMP? More importantly, is it important for manufacturing giants like Samsung to continue churning out PMPs, despite there being no major push or excitement these devices? I will respectfully say no to both questions.
In the interest of full disclosure— even though I am an editor of this great Android website and have a great deal of passion for the Android ecosystem, I’m by no means an Android fanboy. I own numerous Apple products including an iPod Touch for my commutes on the New York City Subway or for use when working out. I love technology as a whole— but when it comes to having my personal media player on the go— music, video, pictures and gaming for example— I would rather use an Apple iPod Touch before using an Android PMP, without hesitation. The Apple iPod Touch has set the standard when it comes to managing a consumer’s personal media, while giving the same consumers items like an impressive display, abundant number of applications and plenty of accessories for starters. Android PMPs on the other hand often feature uninspired designs, horrendous features (i.e. lackluster displays or Gingerbread) and few, if any accessories available. Simply put, Android PMPs are a waste of money and resources for consumers and manufacturers and that’s why the average consumer should not even bother with Android PMPs. I’m sure many of you are interested in seeing my reasoning for my strong claim, so go ahead and jump past the break to see my thoughts in greater detail.