Friday, October 29, 2010

The Nook Color Could Have Been a Game Changer

So Barnes and Nobel just announced the Nook Color for $250. eInk fanatics are up in arms over the use of an LCD screen, but for Android Tablet users, this is a gift. The Nook Color is a full Android Tablet for $250. It does not have the app store, but I will count the minutes after the release until a hack is made available to install the app store. What do you end up with? A Galaxy Tab for half the price with a very nice Nook app. So to me, the Nook Color is a game changer for Android Tablets. If Barnes and Nobel isn't smart enough to advertise it as such. The Galaxy Tab would be dead in the water.
Sorry that I have not posted for a while. I have developed a new gadget obsession. Deciding between an entry level DSLR or a mirror-less DSLR equivalents such as micro 4/3 or mirror-less APS-C .

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blasphemy! What it would take to make me switch to the iPhone.

The Wall Street Journal recently announced that the iPhone will be coming to my carrier of choice, Verizon, in 2011. So, it got me thinking what it would take to get me to switch? I have written in the past on what I think the advantages of Android over the iPhone are, but only some of them are essential. Despite loving Android, I am not a "phanatic." I will switch to any system that meets my needs the best. I think the iPhone is a great piece of technology, but there are a few deal breakers for me. So without further adeu, here are the iPhone changes I would NEED to switch.

4" Screen. The iphone screen is just too small for a cutting edge phone. After looking at a Galaxy S, for me, a 4" is the perfect medium between the iphone and the massive 4.3" screen of the EVO and Droid X. Sadly, Apple's silly Retina Display marketing campaign has boxed it in from offering a larger screen without inscreasing the resolution.

Text reflow after pinch zoom. I spend more time browsing the web on my Droid than anything else. This is a huge deal breaker for me with the iPhone. If you want text to reflow on the iPhone you must double tap which reflows the text to the apple chosen font size. On a 3.5 inch high resolution screen, the text is just too small for me to read easily. This is Apple at it's control freak worst. I can't even choose the size text I want to read without having to constantly scroll side to side? Ridiculous! Apple needs to make double tapping after pinch zoom reflow the text like Android. Kinetic scrolling in the browser would be nice too.

Home Screen Customization. This is a core problem with iOS. My friends with iPhones were absolutely giddy when folders came out. That's like being ecstatic about being able to make shortcuts on your PC desktop. I realize that the iPhone is made to be idiot proof, but that doesn't mean people should not have the option to customize. People customize their Mac so this can't be an immutable decision for Apple products. When I turn on my Droid, my home screen has everything I need within a single touch. Weather widget, flashlight widget, mail count widget, direct dial shortcuts, most used apps, one touch directions to my house from anywhere. One swipe brings me to my Facebook, twitter, music, and calendar widgets. With launcher pro I have a dock with 15 shortcuts each with a "swipe up" action that acts as a secondary shortcut. For example, I have an icon on Launcher Pro dock bar that launches my browser, if I swipe up on that icon it opens my RSS reader; Swiping up on my camera icon opens my gallery, etc.. And these are just some of the dozens of customizations one can make with android. What can you do with the iPhone? Have 4 docked icons and then rows and rows of icons and folders. I don't want to have to open my contacts and scroll to find the person I call the most. I want to just do a single click on the direct dial shortcut. I realize that jail breaking allows much more customization (and I would definitely jailbreak), but it is not close to Android.

Here are a few things that I would really want, but are not deal breakers.
1. SD cards slot.
2. Micro USB
3. Removable battery

Android has many more advantages over the iOS, but iPhone is a much smoother experience than Android and has many more good apps. Without these three necessary changes, however, I could never see myself using an iPhone.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Verizon Possibly Removing Googe Market from Future Android Phones

Verizon is at it again. They are making their own Android app store under it's much maligned Vcast name and possibly removing Google Market. One article states that the google market will be downloadable. I just can't understand why Verizon is trying to anger its customers. I guess they feel that they can do whatever they want and customers won't leave because of the network.
Here is a more positive spin from Phandroid. Commenters, however, make some good points. Even if Vcast is complimentary to the google market, can you take your Vcast apps with you to another carrier? Probably not. What happens when Verizon starts signing exclusive deals with app makers for popular apps and forces you to buy them on Vcast. Will other carriers follow suit with exclusive app deals?

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Verizon Reverts to the Bad Old Days

I am stunned to learn that Verizon has replaced Goolge with Bing as the search engine on the Samsung Fascinate. While you can get google maps and GPS from the market all search including voice search can only be done through Bing. Bing on a Android phone as the only search option??? Only Verizon could stoop so low. It's a return to the days when Verizon would charge you 25 cents to eamil a photo from your phone (the only way to get a photo off the phone). Just to throw salt in the wound, they defaulted all Navigation functions to their paid service VZ navigator. I understand that it can be reset to google by going through lots of settings. This is just absurd. Hopefully the backlash will be enough that they don't try this BS again.

Update: Apparantly, Launcher Pro and ADW Launcher (you should be using one of these anyway) put the google search widget back. Not sure how this effects the rest of the Bing integration.

Update 2: According to users on the Fascinate Forum at Phandroid, Bing only uses the widget and the single tap search button. Voice search still uses google. When the Fascinate gets 2.2, users can download the google search widget. So in the end the only affect will be on the haptic search button using Bing (not long press voice search). Not a big deal for me as I never use it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Most Amusing iPhone Fanboy Alive?

The editor of the website Beat Week is by far the most religious Apple fanboy I have ever read--which makes him very amusing as well. Last we saw our esteemed Knight of the iPhone Order, he was orgasmic over bogus Android statistics that later proved to be false, and espousing antenna-gate "truther" theories.

Now, I usually ignore fanboys; they are harmless if a bit repetitive in everything they say--same for Android "phanboys." On the other hand, you have truly hilarious religious Apple fanboys who create conspiracy theories out of anything they perceive as could help or hurt their savior, the iPhone.

The premise of his argument this time is that the Droid 2 was released so close to the Droid X because of fear of the allegedly upcoming Verizon iPhone.

It starts with faulty logic:

But it does beg the question of how much faith Verizon has in the Droid platform overall – or ever did – if it’s pushing models to market left and right with a ridiculously confusing naming convention (How does 2 come after X, anyway? Stick with either letters or numbers, not both.

Did you get that? Verizon, who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the Droid brand, has little faith in it. Why? Well, because it apparently will abandon it when the magical iPhone graces its stores; and like the messiah, will convert heathen Android users to the one-true-phone. I wont even get into his amusing statement that "2" should not come after "X" because one is a letter and one is a number.

Then, the conspiracy theory:

it is becoming more clear by the day that the Android’s supposed “massive success” as a platform has in fact been massively overblown by the geek tech journalists who want the Droid to succeed to badly.

See, no one is actually buying Android phones. It is just a conspiracy by "tech geek" journalists to discredit one-true-phone and support the blasphemous Android with "the rooting, " and " the custom ROM." And Don't even think about defiling the iPhone with jail breaking.

Then we have "the truth" that the blasphemers don't want you know:

In the real world, not a day goes by that we don’t hear from at least one longtime Verizon customer who’s wanted an iPhone all along.

He continues that no one on Verizon really wants an Android phone, they are just suffering with cheap imitations for now until the one-true-phone can come to Verizon.

After the faulty logic, the conspiracy theory, and "the truth," we finally get back to the issue of the timing of the Droid 2 release. First we find out that the reason it is so stupid to do so is:

the Droid X and Droid 2 are having to split the free word-of-mouth publicity that comes early in a product’s rollout. In other words, there’s a reason why Apple rolls out its new iPhones at one time of year and its new iPods in a different season.

See, it is impossible to have two products that appeal to different audiences at once in the market. Apple knows better, knows the "obvious fact" that you can never do this and succeed. It's just an anomaly that car, television, computer, and video card makers have done this for decades. Don't they know the unique genius that is iPhone? Why haven't the iPhone marketers told this to the MacBook marketers. Releasing two different versions of the MacBook at the same time? Blasphemy!

Drum roll please. The Conclusion

Verizon isn’t that stupid as to push out two Droids in such rapid succession because it simple didn’t know better, is it? The more logical conclusion is that Verizon knows that its Droid phones will only ever sell to hardcore geeks once the iPhone is also available on Verizon, and since the carrier already invested in developing both the Droid X and Droid 2, it figures it might as well push them both out there now, while the Droid still has a chance to actually sell well outside the geekdom

In the religious fanboy mind, there can only be one possible explanation. That the iPhone is coming and Android will soon fall before its wrath purging Android from all but its most die hard geek adherents. Verizon needs to move quickly before all is lost.

But what if this isn't the reason? Well there can only be one possible conclusion:

If Verizon doesn’t expect to be offering a Verizon iPhone sooner than later, the only other interpretation of the near-simultaneous Droid 2 and Droid X rollouts is that Verizon simply has no marketing acumen of any kind.

There you have it!

Let me conclude with some reasoning of my own. Because Oscam's razor makes short cuts, I will say it in a few sentences and not seven paragraphs. The answer is neatly summed up in one work "Keyboard." There is a certain segment of Android users the like a physical keyboard and certain ones that don't (I was the former and am now the latter). It's as simple as that. A minor refresh of Verizon's only good Android phone with a keyboard to compliment the Droid X. Combine those with people who feel the Droid X is too big and you have very separate user bases. If there has been any release date shuffling recently, it was the late release of the, in my opinion superior, Samsung Fascinate (Galaxy S)--which was released late on Verizon so as not to cannibalize Droid X sales.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Samsung TGalaxy Tab Official Announcement: the good and the Bad

Well, the Samsung Tab is out and I am somewhat disappointed.
  • First the good news. It seems to have the same high end CPU/GPU combination as the Galaxy Phones, it has both a front and rear facing camera, it has near 4G speeds as it is HSDPA compatible, it weighs .84 lbs--about half of an iPad 3G. It also has some really nice Samsung built apps that really exploit the larger size screen. Engadget has a really nice preview and video of them here. Let's hope developers make some great tablet specific apps.

  • The worst thing for Android phone users is that it will require a data plan. All rooted android phones have free wifi tether so this is a total waste of money.

  • At least for now, the phone will not be offered on Verizon--the carrier with the best coverage on the East coast-- for those who want a data plan.

  • Samsung is going for a "phone model" in which it will mostly use "compatible phone apps" and not apps redesigned for higher resolution (although Samsung says most will scale properly) nor to take advantage of the screen space. As I said above, however, Samsung will include some of its own really nice proprietary apps.

  • At this point I would rather have a wifi iPad so I don't have to pay $30 a month for redundant data, but the iPad is too big for my needs so it looks like I am going to have to wait for my ultimate Android Tablet--I will probably wait until the next version of the Android OS comes out with full tablet support as well as a 1280x720 screen.

Hopefully we will see some great Android tablets with wifi only in the future and some groundswell toward custom Tablet apps or at the very least apps with a higher native resolution.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Two New Tablets with 1024x600 Resolution

Seems I was right that the first generation of Android tablets is going to standardize around 1024x600. Archos and Hannspree (who makes some great monitors) just announced new tablets at that resolution. The 10.1" Archos has HDMI out and a font facing camera for just $300. You can read my opinion on the subject of resolution here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Native Android Tablet Apps?

I noticed that we are starting to see the expected "iPad fighter" articles regarding the new Galaxy Tab. I like the form factor of the Tab. A seven inch screen, to me, strikes the right balance between portability and larger-than-phone screens. In my experience, the iPad is just too big and heavy for me to hold for more than a few minutes. That said, developers are cranking out iPad versions of apps and are taking advantage of the new real estate instead of just copying their iPhone apps. I think this is going to be a problem for early Android Tablet adopters. I haven't heard anything about Android developers re-creating their apps for Tablets--let alone specifically for 1024x600 screens. This means that early android adopters-- outside of built-in apps--are going to be running mostly phone apps that either won't use the full screen or will be very pixelated with small buttons. I hope I am wrong and that we see tablet specific apps for Android, but until we can get a definite standard resolution, I think they will be few and far between.

Monday, August 30, 2010

1024x600: The new Android tablet standard resolution?

The specs for new Toshiba 10" Android tablet, the Folio just leaked and the resolution is 1024 x 600(the name is a bit unfortunate). This is good and bad news. The good news is that this is the same resolution as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and, therefore, a standard resolution for Android tablets could be emerging. This resolution also has the advantage of being about 1.2x the lines of resolution of most new Android phones for easy scaling of applications. The bad news is that this resolution, especially for 10" tablets, is a little low. The iPad at 1024x768 is a little pixelated for my taste and these tablets come in short of that. You can read my recommendations for a standard Android tablet resolution here. Hopefully the second generation of Android Tablets will have a higher resolution.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Random Android Thoughts

Here are a few things about Android that I have been wondering about.

1. Android 3.0 Leaks. Where are they?
  • Why haven't there been any Android 3.0 "Gingerbread" leaks. Android's new OS is due by the end of the year, but we know next to nothing about it. I can't remember the last time there were no leaks of information about a major product that was due in a few months. Google is certainly keeping this one close to the vest.

2. Android resolution scaling.

  • I mentioned in my post below that I am worried about resolution fragmentation in the Android tablet market. But, why is it so difficult to write programs that have different resolutions. It is a given that any Windows program will run in a dozen resolutions. Why is this so difficult in Android?

3. Mobile Digital Television Tuners.

  • When will we see the first mobile digital television receivers built into an Android phone? This will be a huge advantage for Android as I do not see Jobs throwing this into an iPhone.

4. Snap-on Game Controllers.

  • For Droid 1 users (and now others), the Game Gripper, which turns your keyboard into a Nintendo-like controller, is a good alternative. But, when will we see Android phones that snap into game controllers (to look like a PSP). Frankly, touch screen controlls on most action oriented games suck--they are inaccurate and your fingers are covering part of the screen. We know that Sony is building a controller into an upcoming Android phone, but why not make accessory controllers that phones snap into? This would make playing android games a much better experience and give Android another leg up on the iPhone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Gameloft Business Model Controversy

Gameloft, knockoff king, and creator of some of the best games for the iPhone and Android has decided to sell it's Android games (except Asphalt 5 for some reason) directly through it's website because of how easy it is to bootleg Android apps. I don't blame them as they are a business and out to make money. My major gripe with them is that if you have to do a system reset, want to install a new ROM, or switch phones, you can not re-download the games after six months. I bought Dungeon Hunter (Diablo clone) and will not be able to play it on my next phone unless I want to pay for it again(it's replay value is low though). Even before six months, you have to contact customer service to get a new download link, which is not difficult, but a bit of a pain. Many customer have also had problems downloading the games after paying for them.

Recently Gameloft has decided to offer demos of it's games free. For example, you get two holes of Let's Golf (Hot shots Golf Clone), and a short level of Nova (Halo Clone). It is certainly nice to be able to try out the games first. Personally, I think this is great and Gameloft is trying to find a compromise with its customers. Not content to get FREE demos commenters at Phandroid still have to complain. Hopefully, after the new Android market copy protection is up and running we will see Gameloft games in the market and this issue will be moot.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Review Pet Peve

Reading over a ZDNet review of the Samsung EPIC 4G for Sprint, I noticed that author dinged the Epic for not have Android 2.2 yet. Is this really a legitimate criticism when it will have 2.2 shortly and all rooted Epics have 2.2 available? If the Epic were never getting 2.2 then fine, but it is silly to knock a phone that will have 2.2 in a few weeks.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Reviewers That Lower Scores Because of Pre-installed Custom Interfaces

I have recently read a lot of reviews disparaging the inclusion of the new Motorola Ninjablur and Samsung Touchwiz home screen interfaces. From lag to longing for the stock interface, reviewers lower the score of phones because of these additions. To me this evidences that the reviewer does not use an Android phone. When one can replace any home screen launcher with Launcher Pro and ADW launcher, there is no reason not to take the 30 seconds to install them if you do not like Ninjablur or Touchwiz. In fact, reviewers should always mention that one of the great advantages to Android is the fact that it's interface is so customizeable. You can even use the Sweeter Home app to create your own interface or download another user's interface.** The bottom line is that reviewers should never lower a revue score because they do not like the custom pre-installed interface.

**Here are some pictures of the one I made (I use launcher pro now). Start from the bottom picture for the interface and each picture above is what the phone looks like when the buttons on the bottom or the clock are pushed. Pushing the clock shows the 5 day weather widget (not pictured).

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The Android Advantage

So you may be asking yourself, is this blog written by some iPhone fanboy who only wants to criticize Android? Well, of course not, but I do want to write down my thoughts on how to make Android better. I think the iPhone is a very nice mix of elegant hardware and software, but here is my list of Android Advantages over the iPhone.

1. 1.5ghz dual core CPUs coming soon.
2. GPUs with three times the power.
3. Free wireless tethering with root--usb tethering without.
4. Flash video.
5. Ability to use any size font in browser. The iPhone will only fit to page on double tap.
6. Kinetic browser scrolling. The iPhone scrolls one screen at a time.
7. Swype keyboard. The easiest one handed typing method in portrait mode. Even faster than two handed in portrait.
8. Customizable home screens.
9. Widgets
10. Free turn by turn GPS
11. Automatic google apps integration.
12. Tabbed browsing with Dolphin and xScope browsers.
13. Desktop direct dial shortcuts.
14. Built in voice dictation, voice app control.
15. Super AMOLED screens.
16. 4" and larger screens
17. Removable batteries to easily double or triple battery life.
18. Removable SD cards for unlimited storage.
19. Open marketplace.
20. Side loading apps and additional marketplaces.

Android Forums User Additions
21. No licensing fee for Developers (added by Necosino)
22. Open advertising network, not limited to JUST apple advertisers. (added by Necosino)
23. Adobe Air. (viva.fidel)
24. Live wallpapers.(viva.fidel)
25. Custom and highly modified ROMs.(viva.fidel)
26. Real multitasking & intelligent handling of background memory process to save ram.(viva.fidel)
27. Companies are required to release the source code of their Android OS build. (Vmanisme)
28. You aren't forced to use the default 'core function apps'. (mickeymop)
29. You can install apps in the background. (Holden Caufield)
30. More free apps in market than apple's app store. (Holden Caufield)

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Android Tablets: Resolution Fragmentation--Why I am scared.

A slew of new Android tablets are comming out this fall and winter. What scares me the most is the resolution choices of manufactuers which will lead to app developers having to write their apps for several resolutions. I have never bought the fragmentation argument for Android phones as almost all new phones use 848x 480--a very good (if not ideal) resolution. Android app developers are not going to want to create separate versions for 10 different android resolutions. The Galaxy Tab is going to be 1024 x 600, for example.

Here are my thoughts on tablet resolution:

  • 848 x 480 in both 7" and 10" models. This is a huge mistake. The Droid X and HTC Evo are already pushing the acceptable limits for this resolution.

  • 960 x 540 This is the let's copy apple resolution and it makes no sense. Existing 848 x 480 apps will not look good at this resolution and it is still too small. The iPad at 1024 x 768 looks a bit pixelated.

My suggestions:

1696 x 960:

  • Android tablets need to have a standard resolution to avoid fragmentation. This should be double the lines of 848 x 480 (1696 x 960) so that apps can scale easily. Or how about having four android phone apps open at once on the same screen!

1280 x 720

  • Use the industry standard for HD--720p. This wont be great for scaling Android phone apps, but it will be great for watching HD television and movies.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

4G: The Future or a Waste of Money?

4G is "the next big thing," but with carriers moving to download caps, does it really affect any of us? Sure web pages might load a little faster, but are we really going to use it to stream video or download a rental from Blockbuster if we have a 2GB download cap. Worst of all, we will be charged more for it and possibly be required to have it on each carriers best Phones such as the Sprint HTC EVO.

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