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opinion

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It's time to talk about Google, the Pixel phones, and feelings of abandonment

First, I'd like to invite everyone to take a deep, calming breath. I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically: Google's Pixel phones have proven rather literally to be an emotional topic in the tech community over the last few days. In looking over Android Police's comments, the sentiment around these phones has been a veritable tidal wave of negativity - and not all of it is unwarranted. There are clear and legitimate reasons to find Google's new smartphones uncompelling as a consumer.

But much of the anger, the frustration, the rage seems directed not at the Pixel phones themselves. And of that which is, is often through the lens of Nexus, not of the Pixel phones as products in their own right.

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The 2016 Nexus "Sailfish" may have a "recycled" design, but does it even matter?

Making the rounds now is a GIF by Android Police alumnus Ron Amadeo. In it, Ron uses our leaked photo of the 2016 "Sailfish" Nexus device and frames it against a perspective-shifted image of the HTC One A9. The comparison has absolute merit: there is clearly some relationship between the front panels and overall proportions of these two devices.

But there are now claims that Sailfish has simply "recycled" the HTC One A9's design. In short: the growing sentiment is that Google phoned it in with Sailfish. But I would argue strongly that, aside from proportional similarities, dismissively calling Sailfish a reworked 2015 HTC phone is doing an unreleased handset a complete disservice and ignoring a vast, gaping chasm of nuance in favor of tired arguments about Nexus phones just being OEM leftovers that have persisted for years.

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Opinion: The bottom navigation section in the Material guidelines is not license to port an iOS navigation model

Bottom nav bars. Between the time of Gingerbread and Marshmallow, they seemed to become significantly less prevalent on Android (or maybe I was just able to avoid more of them), with many developers and designers going for other navigation models. But those other nav models - specifically the hamburger menu - aren't always ideal. Often, teams worry that items in the drawer are "hidden" from users. Sometimes immediate visibility and total obscurity seem like the only two realistic options.

To be fair, it's true that ensuring users see these options each and every time they open the app tends to increase usage. And while the situation isn't so dire, it makes sense to have official guidance on popular navigation patterns.

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The Galaxy Note is no longer Samsung's "enthusiast" smartphone series (opinion)

When the Galaxy Note was introduced in September 2011, it was a revelation - to some. (I, personally, did not get it, much to my disappointment in hindsight.) It was big. It was bold. It was aggressively powerful. Put side by side with Samsung's earlier Galaxy S (i9000) phone, the Galaxy Note was borderline overkill. A screen a full 1.3" larger. Twice the CPU cores, RAM, and storage. A 1280x800 resolution - scarcely believable on a smartphone at the time. The Note was, as many remember, openly ridiculed for being too much - too big, too expensive, too niche. How wrong we were.

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Has the "affordable" smartphone let us down? (opinion)

I consider myself an advocate of the affordable smartphone. 2015, and the years before it, seemed to paint a picture of promise for the mid and low-end smartphone, a noble future as the no-frills alternative to the $800 wonder-brick. I cannot help but feel we have failed to watch that potential emerge in a way that we can really say has served consumers well.

Who’s to blame for the promising ZenFone turning into a bloatware-ridden pile of bugs languishing on Lollipop, seven-plus months since Marshmallow was released? What’s the reason Alcatel’s relatively unbloated Idol 3 took nearly as long to get Marshmallow itself (mine still doesn't have it)?

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It's Time To Let The Phrase "Stock Android" Die (Opinion)

Sundar Pichai made a series of statements at recode's Code Conference yesterday that seem to have the internet aflutter. Pichai claimed that Google would be adding more software features to future Nexus devices, specifically: "You’ll see us hopefully add more features on top of Android on Nexus phones... There’s a lot of software innovation to be had."

Some have taken this to mean that "stock Android" on Nexus phones is no more. That Google will begin to differentiate just like its partners, with proprietary features and software, and that this marks a move away from a "purer" interpretation of Android. This makes sense until you actually think about it, because Nexus phones haven't run "stock" Android in years, and it's time for us to have a conversation about what that word even means, let alone the idea that Google's interpretation of Android is somehow "purer."

For starters, all of the following applications that ship on Nexus phones today are closed-source.

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"Modular" Smartphones Are Now The Official Gadget Gimmick Of 2016 (And Possibly Beyond)

When LG announced the modular G5 at MWC in 2016, we were all taken a bit aback. Admittedly, there was plenty of reason to hold judgment - it seemed possible that LG had actually done something interesting and innovative with a smartphone that hadn't quite been tried before, and gadget-lust is an easy feeling to succumb to in the face of something new and weird. It turns out that the G5's "friends" were basically DOA as a concept, though, and there has been little indication that consumer response to the idea is even existent, let alone positive.

nexus2cee_mod

Proprietary pogo pins: yesterday's technology, tomorrow!

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Opinion: As Smartphone Innovation Slows, Google's Nexus Program Is More Important Than Ever

Smartphones are, by their nature, iterative products. But if you've felt that this iteration has started to slow a bit in the last few years, you're not alone - and you're probably not wrong, either.

Think about it: smartphones have a pretty set list of characteristics and features we evaluate in order to judge the overall quality of a device. Some are more subjective than others - design, for example - but many are also quite objective, even if quite difficult to measure objectively sometimes. How fast is the phone? How long does the battery last? How good is the camera [at night, for video, in slow motion, etc.]?

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Maybe It's Time To Stop Letting DxOMark Decide Whose Smartphone Camera Is "Best" (Opinion)

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has the best mobile camera according to image and video quality testing firm DxO Labs, with an overall score of 88 points out of 100. It received a 90 in exposure and contrast, an 83 in color, a 94 in autofocus, 91 in texture, 89 in noise, 79 in artifacts, and 86 in flash. This all sounds very official. And we see DxO scores increasingly cited and posted as news around the internet because of that absolute, highly-comparable set of values they provide (Android Police has posted such stories - you'll get no argument from me). We did not, however, post an item about DxO's leaderboard-topping score for the S7.

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Editorial: The iPhone SE Is The Good Small Phone That Could Finally Create Good Small Android Phones

Apple copying somebody to make something successful then everybody else copying Apple's success is a well-worn narrative path (independent of that narrative's truth in reality). As such, with the unveiling of the surprisingly-powerful iPhone SE today at $399, it's very reasonable to wonder: has Apple started a small-phone renaissance? Are we going to see a flood of small (less than 4.5" display) but powerful and premium Android phones enter the market?

Let's start with some phone size history. The new Apple iPhone SE is the same size as the outgoing 5S - roughly 124mm tall, 59mm wide, and 7.6mm thick. That is a very, very small phone.

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