Tag Archives: cell phone

Nexus One Redux

I guess it’s going to be my three-year anniversary with my Nexus One comes end of March, so it’s kind of fitting to blog about it again. The $500+ purchase was what it was. Planning a trip to Japan later in the year, I decided to pull the N1 out of storage (especially since I gifted it to Dad, who has since found a spare AT&T HTC One lying around) and put Jelly Bean on it. And it is on it–4.1.2.

My Verizon Galaxy Nexus, until this moment, was on 4.1.1.

Com’on Man. Ok, yeah, I’ve grated on this enough. I’ll stop now (until the next Android update).

You might’ve read some news clipping on the Nexus One being sent into space as a part of a school satellite project. You know what? That phone is probably just as flimsy as the next Made-in-China consumer hardware, speaking of averages. However it’s probably one of the toughest phones out there rocking the vanilla variety of android, and because it was a reference development phone, it’s also “open” enough so developers can easily run circles around it and, well, make it run Android 4.1.2, despite its aging hardware specs. Or whatever you use for satellites. I bet it uses ext4. I never thought I had to format a micro SD card with ext4. Srsly. I can see why all these reference Nexus hardware are ditching the micro SD slots. Ext4, man.

I just want to say I spent about as much time doing that as side-loading 4.2.2 on my VZW GNex. Srsly. Well, not counting the 4 hours subsequent trying to load all the gapps I want on the N1. In the end I didn’t even a2sd gmail, which is regrettable but at this point I’m way too lazy to circle back for it.

PS. Japan now can support UTMS 2100 MHz, which does mean your garden variety iPhone (GSM) and Nexus items will work in Japan. Yay.

On iPad Mini

People say now the MBAs has taken over Apple at the wake of this announcement, etc. If you don’t know why they’re releasing a mini tablet, you are blind and/or a fanboy. Put it this way: one size never fits all. It’s as true as Moore’s law. It’s why there are 2 iMacs, or 2 Macbook Pros. And why shouldn’t there be 2 (or more?) iPad size factors? I welcome Apple’s new move, it’s more progressive, more demographic, it offers choice with the minimum compromise. It has a reasonable price point for what you get, too. If Apple is serious about dominating the tablet space, they have to release multiple form factors.

The problem is, actually, if you compare the Mini with, say, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. The Fire HD is a terrible machine overall, but for certain specific applications, nobody does better. One of these is watching/consuming media: reading and watching videos. Both of my parents bought tablets in the past 12 months. Mom got the original Fire, and Dad got the Nexus 7. Dad uses his mostly to browse websites like Craigslist, Mom uses hers for Chinese/Korean/Japanese soaps. Now that I know what they use these things for, I would not hesitate to get mom the Fire HD if she wants another one for Christmas, or an iPad for dad. The only real advantage for the iPad mini for Mom (and it would be the one to get since she has a history of RSI/carpal tunnel), is that she can ask one of her Apple fashionista friends to do tech support, and not me. I think Dad doesn’t want an iPad because that contrarian streak is part of the family DNA and nobody wants an iOS device as everyone has one, plus Android tabs are better deals. Well, a refurbed iPad 3rd generation is a great deal now.

For the record, I’m very much ecosystem neutral. I evaluate based on merit. Mostly. I’m glad I dodged the bullet on the 13″ Macbook Pro w/ Retina. If it had a 650M I would have had to sell my 15″ and trade it in.

The other concern about fragmentation (as in, Apple is fragging more of their ecosystem) is valid, but ultimately near-sighted. With Android, it’s a good case study on how fragmentation impacts user uptake and developer uptake. I think ultimately we have to recognize that fragmentation is the future. There’s no way around it. You might as well bite the bullet early. Apple definitely has a big head start by not fragmenting their ecosystem, but the time will come when they have to (to grow marketshare with more devices, to differentiate their existing product lines, etc). Well, they already did with the iPad. It’s not a stretch to do it again, as soon it will be a reality for all devs in this space.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Verizon LTE Review

I bought this, it came via Amazon Wireless and it got to my place by Dec. 20th.

There’s a lot I could say but let me keep it real brief.

  • Screen is easy to scratch, so be careful.
  • It’s way too big. If I have issues navigating it with one hand, a lot of other people will too.
  • It’s fast? Yea it’s fast. Does it lag? It can. In fact at this point I think no android phone will escape this, just like you can make any PC lag.
  • Great screen, but I guess that is par for the course. Still kinda oversaturated though.
  • It’s not thick or heavy. And the flimsy build is not a real concern–the back cover is the thinnest and whimpiest back cover I’ve seen on a phone, but it gives a good hand feel once clipped in.
  • WTB a legit car kit.
  • I don’t see the point to the soft nav buttons if they’re lit all the time and that you can’t trade it out for screen real estate. Wallpaper and apps have to cut itself out of those number of pixels. The real benefit is just that when your phone is off, it looks like a cool slate. Except it isn’t even that cool since you still can see where the screen and camera is.
  • Never liked the way samsung placed the power button, but I’ll live.
  • Volume rocker is fine, although I tend to hit it accidentally if I don’t use a case.
  • Battery life is actually pretty good if you turn off LTE. Better than my N1.
  • LTE is fast when it works. It doesn’t always work I think. VZW 3G coverage is pretty solid though, so that has been a big help.
  • LTE on, it uses power like a laptop uses power. But it’s not going to drain even if you plug it into your car, unlike certain review used to claim.
  • ICS is awesome
  • The MTP thing is not a big deal, but it is a minor annoyance if you copy files to your phone all the time.

This phone is pretty okay, and like all previous Nexus phones nobody would buy this phone if it didn’t come with the latest version of Android and first-party support.

The Bi-Annual Cell Phone Race

I got my Nexus One back in April 2010. It was my first smartphone and it changed the way I work and play. It also gave me this habit of staring at it while nothing is going on. It’s probably a bad habit.

With my 1.5 yr mark coming up (well it’s up technically but the 6-month-to contract renewal time is in November) it’s time to shop for a phone. I’m definitely interested in Verizon’s Nexus Prime and Droid RAZR. I also have some partialness to a GSM style device that AT&T provides. Sprint is a dark horse with good 4G plans and prices. All three, as of now, have good devices.

Current problem with my phone and service. Ranked:

  1. It only supports  HSPA, which is really terrible especially as an AT&T customer in this area–it  is simply unusable on large strides of the northeast corridor. And on the train is where I use my phone the most.
  2. It could be a little faster, although I can run most anything I want to at this point. Even more if I hack it and run a 3rd party ROM
  3. It’s finally dropping out of the googly heaven, but it’s still a well-oiled and well-hacked machine.

Long story short, these are the devices low-down:

  • I like those Galaxy S II’s, even if we’re 6 months into its life cycle already. AT&T’s LTE version launches next week and it is probably the one I would buy if I am sticking to that device. It’s also available starting 11/6.
    • Pluses: Nice screen, Available next week. Probably best supported non-Nexus phone you can get.
    • Minuses: LTE won’t roll out in this area until probably late next year, so feeling a bit wasted with just HSPA+. Kind of big. 6months in the cycle. Feels tinny.
  • I like a Nexus Prime because I’m coming from a Nexus One, and I like my googly updates. I tinker with my phone enough even if I’m running stock vanilla right now. No release date yet though.
    • Pluses: Google Heaven experience. Good phone all-around.
    • Minuses: Probably has one of those fatal flaws that mars all Nexus phones. A gambit on a Samsung CDMA-LTE phone. GS2 has better screen. No MicroSD slot
  • I think the Droid RAZR is a top notch device coming from the hardware perspective. Google’s “partnership” with Moto bodes well for Moto owners. It would be more desirable than the Nexus Prime if it had the added devices like a gyro and a compass. out 11/10.
    • Pluses: Good hardware, doesn’t feel like a POS, better than Nexus Prime basically in terms of hardware quality.
    • Minuses: Lack of a gyro and a compass, no NFC.

In terms of network, pros and cons:

AT&T:

  • I am an existing AT&T customer, so upgrading to anther AT&T phone saves me the ETF. The ETF for me is actually very low due to the fact that my 2-yr is not with an advance device. (I got $50 out of this supposed contract). But another $80 or whatever it is now (150 – 4*number of months, or 150-4*16=86).
  • I am grandfathered into their unlimited data plan. This is a huge deal potentially.
  • I can stay with the family plan (it’s better value for everyone on the plan, but not necessary the cheapest option for individuals).

VZW:

  • Full LTE coverage in my area, way better coverage on commute. Even in the tunnel!
  • See above, ETF.
  • About the same cost as AT&T on the individual basis.
  • 2gb data limit most likely.

Sprint:

  • Cheapest on the individual basis, unlimited data.
  • See above, ETF.
  • Worst coverage for my area. I don’t even think I get 4G at my folk’s place.
  • But unlimited all that jazz.

The picture is more complicated if I also splurge for a LTE mobile device like a laptop/portable hotspot or a tablet as a holdover. But that is like another $50/mo on the device. That solves the immediate service issue needs (I would get a VZW mifi type thing with LTE) but if I upgrade my smartphone to a LTE device then it kind of is just redundant. Or I can buy a VZW iPad2 and do pay-as-you-go, and resell the iPad when I renew. Something like that.

Damn, those Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTEs are pretty tempting! Only if I have $700 to throw around.

Reacting to WWDC 2011 Keynote

Disclaimer: Android bias. RealNetworks bias.

With that out of the way:

1. iCloud is great. I think this is excellent, the right approach, and to me it combines the best from Google Music, Amazon’s cloud drive, and Unifi. What’s Unifi you ask? Heh, it launches very soon with Vodafone Germany. It’s probably going to go through a phase of normal integration testing, in the comfort of a carrier’s closed garden. Google Music and iCloud are both public betas. Only Amazon’s cloud drive is gold. I mention these things rather than like most every other internet tech people who would drop “dropbox” in this comparison because that’s what those things are gunning for: ecosystem. Dropbox is not an ecosystem.

The cloud idea is old hat. It’s been around. But it is very difficult to execute the ideas Jobs told us today in the sense beyond a drag-drop file system (ie., all those dropbox clones). I actually think Google is the first company who was able to do it in any real sense in terms of their office suite on the web, but they were never able to rope in Picasa, contrary to my expectations.

More pertinently, Microsoft’s inability to get into the cloud despite its spending is another point to consider why this really hasn’t happened. Over at E3, they talked about cloud a bit at around the same time as WWDC’s keynote. But did we know how long it took them to build up MS Live this way? How much effort did Google put into their cloud app suite? (Some would consider it a moat for Goog rather than a genuine market opportunity, in that case.)

I think true multi-device cloud computing is still a wide-open field that is free-for-all. I think Google is by far the closest, but at this stage there’s no “neutral” way to go about it except with something like Unifi. Too bad Unifi develops like a slowass snail 🙁

2. I never noticed it so much with it at this WWDC keynote than any previous one, but iOS has a lot of shortcomings that were fixed by this iOS 5 update. I don’t even know about these things, because I never used iOS in earnest. In fact I think except the music match stuff and maybe 1 or 2 more features, every one of the features were present already on the Android ecosystem. I mean, sharing to Twitter requires a deep OS API? Are you kidding me? Today’s keynote is more like a list of bug fixes, where most of those bugs were already fixed in Android 1.6x. That’s besides the fact that every one of these “feature” is an app somewhere. Or a free app, if you’re on Android.

To drive this home, read this silly bullshit on Giz. Because if the dude’s dad bought a Honeycomb device, he would have none of those problems. None! It’s retarded. A list of bug fixes! That Android had for years! Oh joy now you can go back to your mediocre, non-competitive and low-value software ecosystem! Good job.

As for iOS vs Android, it’s nice to see the keynote start out with a bunch of “hey iOS is ahead” stats. I guess a lot of people do buy iPod touch and iPads, because it’s clearly all Android in the phone market. Seems kind of meaningless since with iPads you’re encroaching on PC territories. But I’m definitely being unfair here. The status quo as king of the hill is a difficult place, and Apple does innovate better than most, to maintain that lead.

3. Before the Keynote, we got a leak about iMessage that it would integrate SMS. That got me in defensive mode for a minute (because SMS is what pays the bill, for me and my team). After thinking about it, it made sense that they would just go for something more mundane; considering what Apple has accomplished via Facetime, iMessage is child’s play. It does open up an in for SMS integration in a way Google voice has been pioneering, but that would require the blessing of carriers, or alternatively, people like me. And that’s a much trickier game.

4. Lastly, it’s about timing. People were too busy being elated about $29 Lion than to note that iOS 5 is due this Fall. In iterative development terms, that’s almost on par with Unifi (actually Unifi is slightly ahead even), and maybe enough time for Google music to turn over a new leaf. Time will tell.