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.
Saying one product is better than the other is one thing, it’s a completely different issue when you’re just being plain out unprofessional and even borderline racial. Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou just couldn’t help himself to stir up some controversy by highly urging customers to hold off on purchasing the Samsung Galaxy S III and wait for the eventual arrival of the iPhone 5 later this Fall. He even went as far as saying that the “iPhone 5 would put the Samsung Galaxy S III to shame.” If you think that’s bad, Gou gets even more personal by also reportedly called Samsung “a company with a track record of snitching on its competitors” this was a reference to a European price-fixing investigation of the flat panel industry in 2010. He also went on to praise the Japanese: “I respect the Japanese and especially like their execution and communication styles. Unlike the Koreans, they will not hit you from behind.” This isn’t much of a surprise as Foxconn reportedly does have an alliance with Japan’s Sharp Electronics Co. What really hit hard and probably made people lose respect for Gou, is that he also reportedly called Korean’s “gaoli bangzi” which can be translated to “Korean country hicks” or “Korean sticks.”
The Galaxy S III, Samsung’s flagship phone for the year, is ready as ever for its American debut. For the first time ever, Samsung’s Galaxy S line has uniformity within all of US carriers. This means every Galaxy S III in America will look the same and will actually have the same name. This means no more of that added Epic 4G Touch and Skyrocket discrepancies within the names. So you can bet that Samsung is ready to market this phone out like it has never before. This video from Samsung kicks off the start of this marketing campaign with Samsung proudly touting the multi-tasking king that is the “pop-up video” feature where the actor is texting and watching a video at the same time. Checkout the video and see for yourselves! Does this make you even more excited for its pending US release?
I live and work in that area of Northern California known as Silicon Valley… the center of tech innovation. Since I moved out here in 1996 I’ve been working in the tech industry and have seen many a technology come and go, from Palm Pilots to Pocket PC’s to Blackberries.
The Fruity Revolution
Once Apple redefined the smartphone in 2007, the mobile landscape started to change. Gone was the vast variety of feature phones and PDA’s as more and more people got iPhones. Apple essentially redefined what a smartphone should be. There’s no disputing that fact. And for the longest time, Apple had no real competition, allowing them to saturate the market with their devices and increase the mind share of their mobile brand.
The Green Robot Wars
Seemingly out of nowhere in 2008, Google came out with their first public iteration of the Android mobile operating system, known as Cupcake. It was showcased on the now historic G1, a QWERTY slider on T-Mobile in the United States, also known as the HTC Dream elsewhere. It didn’t exactly take the mobile world by storm, but it was a very important release since it showed a glimmer of possible competition to the OS from Cupertino.
Three years later, Android has grown tremendously through follow-up releases Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and now Ice Cream Sandwich. Android is in its fourth major release and has matured to a mobile OS that rivals the Apple juggernaut. As a matter of fact, it has now surpassed iOS in market share worldwide. With over 900,000 daily activations, Android is still growing and its app ecosystem is robust.
There’s no question that right now the top two phones to buy are the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III, but they won’t be so popular 6 months from now. It won’t be because better handsets will be released, it’s more about Android version updates or lack thereof. Both phones come with Ice Cream Sandwich onboard, and for now seem like the latest and greatest. A little later in the year, Android 5.0 Jelly Bean will be announced and the SDK will be released. This will probably take place in October, and unfortunately neither of these phones will see Jelly Bean until at least March/April 2013. If you’re in the U.S. the prospects are even more dismal. So for now everyone is enjoying their new greatness, but come November, the crying and complaining will begin about why their phone isn’t getting updated.
In case you’re thinking that things will be different, unfortunately we go through this every year, and to be honest, things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse.
The great thing about today’s technology is the ability to choose from a variety of mobile carriers to best suit our needs. That means some of you can choose Verizon Wireless for example because of great nationwide coverage and the solid 4G LTE speeds. Others choose AT&T because of the ever-improving 4G LTE network or great selection of mobile devices. The rest choose networks like Sprint and T-Mobile because of their great all-everything value which is price-conscious for consumers. Keep in mind I didn’t mention regional carriers like U.S. Cellular or Cincinnati Bell, which also give great value for customers (albeit at the cost for great coverage in one region of a country, but lackluster coverage elsewhere).
While there’s a great abundance of mobile providers to suit our needs, there’s a growing sense of frustration and anger at the mobile carriers because of the idea that they are not focusing on great customer service, but rather focused on consolidating features— while increasing the overall costs for the consumers. Unfortunately, consumers in this day and age feel as if they are at the mercy of these providers, so they lock themselves into 2-year contracts and can potentially pay thousands of dollars for cellphone service. The effect you see from this is two fold: 1) By locking themselves into a commitment, customers are stuck with devices that often lose support from not only the cellphone carrier, but the manufacturer as well. 2) The average customer doesn’t come even close to using their max totals allowed in their cell plans (an example is using just 40 minutes out of 400 anytime minutes or 1GB of data out of 2GB in a billing month), so they waste precious dollars. It certainly isn’t far-fetched to believe consumers are being taken advantage of by the big companies, especially in these trying times of economic recession and recovery worldwide. Naturally, there are plenty of individuals who have had enough of contracts completely and not have not only gone the prepaid route, but are completely satisfied by the decision. For this reason, I believe it’s necessary for not just Android users— but any smartphone user to at least understand why prepaid mobile service may not be such a bad thing. Read more
Choice is a wonderful thing, for many of us it’s probably the primary reason we own an Android phone in the first place. Speaking of which, it’s hard to beat that initial feeling when you get a brand new device. You remove it carefully from the box, peel off the plastic screen protector and admire it as it gleams spotlessly in your hands. Keeping your phone in such pristine condition throughout its life isn’t easy; however there are numerous solutions on the market that can help. The question is which solution works best? A quick search on the website of any mainstream tech retailer will bring up hundreds of sleeves, pouches, wallets, skins, cases and films. Would you prefer leather, suede, neoprene, plastic, rubber or even “invisible”? I’ve tried various solutions over the years with mixed results.
I’ve been a mobile phone connoisseur since the mid 90’s when Nokia ruled the roost. My trusty 3330 would be thrown in my pocket alongside my keys, coins and wallet without a care in the world. The one and only time I dropped it, I simply popped into town and bought a new exchangeable cover; job done. It was one of my early ventures into the smartphone world that made me re-evaluate the benefits of phone protectors. Back in 2004 I bought a sim-free iMate Jam (HTC Magician) and paid £500 cold hard cash. The store I purchased it from suggested a leather case for protection, which I decided to go for as I could definitely see the benefits. The case in question was a classic design which anyone who has been using phones or PDA’s for a number of years will definitely be familiar with. A couple of pieces of black leather on the front and back, joined by a few strips of black, elastic material with a leather ‘lid’ that folds over the top and sticks in place by way of some velcro tabs. If my memory serves me right, I think it even had a belt clip on the back (did anyone actually use those?). There was no question that this case would protect the phone. The problem was that the iMate Jam was a hefty old device. It was made of metal, as thick as a yellow pages directory and could probably have been used to anchor a small boat. Putting this phone in such a rugged case made it virtually impossible to pocket. It didn’t take long before I ditched the case and it also didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. On a visit to my parents’ house, the iMate was sitting in my shirt pocket. I bent down to pick something up and out it flew dropping a few feet onto the slate finished kitchen floor. I’d gained a sizable dent on the bottom corner and clearly some kind of loose connection somewhere as the device would perform a master reset every time I pressed the top half of the screen. Lesson learned. Read more