Good Writing, Poor Thoughts

I’m just picking on the Verge because I can’t log in. I think it collects a nice reader base so I “troll” in the comments. With MTF being inaccessible I need somewhere to have a prose-y way of expressing myself? Something between a chat and a blog, and a federated public space (eg., not my Facebook page).

But reading the articles, I think they at least try to point fingers at large topical areas that are relevant given the landscape of personal tech, but there is poor thought put in.

Take this one about USB-C and universal charging. As the landscape move from Micro-USB (and Lightning) to USB-C based methods, yeah, issues will happen, consumers will be bothered, so there’s space to write something. But at the same time the complaints in the articles are exactly the things why we did not have a unified standard to begin with. Once you unify the plugs, the more types of plugs, the more different use cases you have to distinguish, that used to be sorted by plug types. Yes, isn’t it cool you can charge your laptop with your Switch? Oh it’s a problem? Because people don’t know how new stuff works? Isn’t this exactly the “dumbening” at work? It’s not even growing pain as I call it, it’s about maturity of one area in which personal tech needed more support from.

Then you have tone deaf ones like this. He’s saying the small phone feels smaller, but not that much smaller. You still have to stretch to hit the top, but the S8/S8 Plus makes it easy. But the reality is anyone who opts for the smaller phone in this space are doing it 1) for the money, or 2) they want a phone that is easier to handle, or just smaller phone. The S8 Plus is not easier to handle than the S8, and he doesn’t even claim it handles the same. So what is this? It’s kind of mansplaining if you think about it. It’s the kind of dumb articles that just tells the reader “hey I have no real idea why people buy smaller phones!”

The point about the S8’s new shape and handling is well worth pointing out. They are gaming the spec sheet by changing both the aspect ratio and having no bezels. People shop by screen sizes (for some reason, thanks comparison charts and the like) and not by how phones handle (dimensions don’t tell the full story either, weight distro, surface grip, curvyness/shape all play big roles). The S8 was able to make good handling for a phone of that size screen (hope you like black bars), so the usual comparison charts fail. It’s worth pointing out. But not like this.

Sigh.

This Really Is My Next?

I spent a good chunk today reading up on 3D XPoint technology. It’s basically non-volatile memory based on a phase change technology. Think NAND, except it writes-in-place (no erase needed) and does not have the same degradation issue NAND has (it still does…). This means this memory can be directly addressed, and also offer very low latency and very good performance at low queue depth.

This is because Intel issued a PR for its consumer space, selling 3D XPoint SRT (basically M2 cache drives for consumer grade desktops and maybe laptops). For $77 or whatever you can stick 32GB of fancypants new memory tech into your crap-tier desktop and it will function like a hybrid drive? Uh okay. The only juice I found was that they’ll release a U2 version of this memory and that’ll be worth looking into when the time comes?

Instead, let’s read up on Intel’s roadmap (unlike SLC/MLC NAND, Intel and Micron locked 3D XPoint down) here. Or their 4$/gb enterprise “cache” solution. Or Sammy’s answer as of last year. As you can see this has been playing out for years. A lot of the performance that 3D XPoint brings are going to be “locked” behind the controller scheme, and OS level support. Obviously for hyperscale solutions there’s all kind of juice to be extracted but if we plebs get even non-volatile memory as a result, that would be pretty sweet. Of course even for NVM-based memory (that sounds dumb) to play a revolutionary role there’s so much that has to change…

It’s interesting to see that the heating uptake on NVM directly leads to my investment in NVM (bought a Sammy 950 pro last Christmas) being obsolete. As someone who still owns an Intel X-25m g1 I find it only apropos.

#Donglelife Remixed

If we think of removing the 3.5mm jack on iPhones and rumored next Sammy’s Galaxy phone as how Apple removed less-used IO devices like optical drives and Ethernet ports, then it makes sense.

Is it anti-consumer? I don’t know, they do include a dongle in the device so not really to me. Could it have been done better? Yeah sure.

The problem I have isn’t the whining–the whining is the solution to the problem that I have–the problem is that Bluetooth is this wild child growing up on the sidewalks and street corners of today’s gadgets metropolis. Someone needs to take him/her in and give Bluetooth the grooming and upbringing it deserves. If the wireless future is to continue, and based on what I understand about Bluetooth there’s nothing technically inferior about it, companies need to drive this technology.

The problem with audio technology in general is that consumers are far from discerning. As much as I look down on Beats phones, the commercial success of those fashionable cans does drive people to new habits–namely buying better quality headsets. That in turn should drive more people to better Bluetooth devices. Historically BT was used for crappy conference speakers and headsets that sound like a 3200baud modem. And that has been the way China and all them product chains are working. (Side note: same thing is happening with cables for USB-C). This means the marketplace is flooded with terrible BT implementations. And nobody knows any better.

So in order to take dongle life to the next stage, we need better BT implementation. Which is why Apple did just that. This is why Android OEMs need to take note and play along. I think by ditching the 3.5mm that will mobilize public attention on this issue. If we want real progress we can’t just let fools keep fooling around with their cables, as suitable as it might be. Life is better when wirelessly portable is literally wireless.

Google Pixel Hot Take (72 Hours)

TL;DR after the jump.

The Pixel is a good phone with flaws, but that shouldn’t stop anyone because there are no perfect phones. Every phone has some flaws, and any claim of “best” is to be taken not just with a grain of salt but a confirmation of bias in the opinion. After all, there are only ‘better’ phones, and no perfect phone yet. I got the Pixel on a Monday (but didn’t open it till Tuesday) and I like it a lot, as I have no regret changing from a Nexus 6P. But you need to be cognizant of your own requirements and preferences before going into any high end smartphone purchase decision.

If that sounded a defensive way to open up a phone review, it’s because ultimately I feel the Pixel is a flawed phone. The ideal Google Phone probably won’t emerge until next year. Reason why here. But compared to other phones on the market, the Pixel is still the best or almost the best Android phone you can get.

The only real concern about the Pixel is the cost versus the value you get. I think at some level it’s hard to justify any phone over, say, $500, just because alternatively you can get a Nexus 5X or 6P or OnePlus 3 or something, and get on with your life. The extra $200-400 go pretty far and it’s up to each person to figure out if that distance covers the difference between the newest Pure Google experience and their best alternatives.

To help with that fundamental calculus, let me offer another delta-value, which is the difference of having a Nexus 6P when it was the newest Pure Google experience a  year ago, and the Pixel today. I can’t really speak from a place of who may be coming from a more “mundane” device, like someone who wants to upgrade from an iPhone 6 or your garden variety Android phone of 2 years+ vintage. I can speak to that this shiny New Google Device experience is better than the last one. How much better?

  • The 6P has good hardware, but it’s not Huawei’s best bet, just one of their better ones. The Pixel might be HTC’s best phone.
  • Software-wise, the biggest advantage to Android 6/7 was the power management. The Pixel takes it up a notch (FWIW Pixel XL owners were reporting 1+ day batt life across the board).
  • Arguably the best camera although what really shines is the HDR+, much like Nexus 6P but better compared to rival phone cameras.
  • The new on-board features, such as live help and unlimited Google Photo storage @ full size, are of some value. I don’t even count the assistant integration, although that’s nice.

The real driving reason to buy a Pixel is because this is Google’s first start-to-finish product. That allows them to innovate in the software in a way that has only been possible to see in iPhone and the Microsoft Surface (and the Surface Studio is a prime example of it), because they can control both the hardware and software in the minute. I can say that Google delivered a little of that in this first iteration. A lot of the above bullets are more “business” reasons in that some of Google’s strengths are their ecosystem/services, and it would be more kosher to embrace a phone that didn’t belong to an Android OEM. For that, you have to look at the camera–i is the crown jewel of Android integration and Google engineering.

Which is to say, it’s kind of like a Nexus phone in that the Pixel has some breakthroughs, but it also has some rough edges. It’s just that, by far, the Pixel is the most polished Nexus phone if it was one. Which is good, because you expect that given the price gap.

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