While Google and Samsung have long sought to talk up their various partnerships over the years, there is little doubt for me that 2017 will be the year in which the two giants go after one another more aggressively than ever before in their history. Samsung actively presents a threat to Android's diversity, and Google must step in to stem the bleeding of an increasingly unprofitable device ecosystem. Samsung's challenges in wearables, television, and smart home also are a major cause for concern to Google as Samsung increasingly leverages its smartphone dominance.
Samsung and Google have been close collaborators from the days of the original Galaxy S, a phone launched almost seven years ago. Read More
OnePlus started its existence as a brash upstart, and today it's... a brash upstart. It is, however, a brash upstart that has produced a very good 2016 flagship phone. The OnePlus 3 and 3T are basically the same phone, but the 3T has more power under the hood and dollars on its price tag. Both phones offered similarly good experiences at launch, and now they're even better with Nougat.
So, how do these phones (specifically the OnePlus 3T) hold up? Quite well, but OP's actions in 2017 will be telling. This will be a pivotal year for the company. It could become a staple of the smartphone industry or prove to be just another middling player that will eventually fade away. Read More
Unlimited smartphone data is back! Roll out the barrels, re-download Netflix, and disable all those "Wi-Fi only" settings options, happy days are here again. But don't throw away your data meter just yet: the new batch of unlimited data plans from American carriers isn't what it used to be. A lack of limits now comes with an asterisk, like your favorite sports star "enhancing" his performance. So the question is no longer, "which mobile unlimited plan is the best?" Instead, it's "which carrier is going to put the least amount of petty restrictions on my so-called unlimited data?" Read More
A very hot article is currently circulating around the web in which a relatively unknown tech analyst concludes that Fuchsia, Google's new operating system, is the end game of what we dubbed Google's "Andromeda" initiative last year. Unfortunately, despite the excitement it is generating, the post's conclusions are largely speculative, not revelatory, in nature.
The article is seemingly based on the available technical material, code repositories, and various news stories written about Fuchsia to date, cobbled together into a hypothesis that Fuchsia must be the Andromeda project of lore. And it is stated in no uncertain terms: "Fuchsia is the actual name of the [Andromeda] operating system, while Magenta is the name of the kernel, or more correctly, the microkernel."
But the author starts with a faulty assumption: that it is known that Fuchsia is being developed as a replacement for Android and or Chrome OS. Read More
Today, I uninstalled the Daydream app from my Pixel XL, because I hadn't used it in nearly three months. When I reviewed the experience in November last year, I had the sneaking suspicion this is where I'd end up. Not because I felt Daydream was uniquely lacking in some way, or even that the sparse content ecosystem would quickly be depleted through my use. It's because the exact same thing has happened with every Samsung Gear VR I've been sent to evaluate over the years. And Gear VR's Oculus Store has tons of stuff - hundreds of experiences, games, 360-degree videos. Read More
Back at Google I/O 2016, we got a first look at Google Assistant. It was designed to be a conversational assistant, as opposed to the search-based Google Now. Then when Allo was released in September, it shipped with a beta version of Assistant. Finally when the Google Pixel phones were released in October, Assistant was a major selling point.
Google has a tendency to rush products out the door without fully finishing them, and Assistant was no exception. So now that about four months have passed since the official introduction of Google Assistant (roughly five months if you count the Allo beta), has anything changed? Read More
Unlimited data is back at Verizon. There's much merriment to be had throughout the land, as data-hungry power users once again return to their streaming music and video services without fear of sudden charges or slowdowns. It's been over five years since Verizon cut off access to unlimited data, and the number of customers hanging on to their grandfathered unlimited plans has dwindled down to a few grizzled veterans. It's a good day for wireless customers. Read More
Yesterday, Google announced what many hoped would be the first "proper" Android Wear smartwatches - designed from the ground up to provide the best Wear experience possible by the very team behind Android Wear. But what we received increasingly appears to be two LG smartwatches with hints of Google design influence, with far more of Google's effort being felt in the marketing and media campaigns than on consumers' wrists. Our reviews of the LG Watch Style and Watch Sport haven't yet landed, and I don't wish to taint their conclusions (my opinions here are my own), but to me they show Google's strategy with the struggling Android Wear platform is deeply misguided. Read More
Android One is an ambitious smartphone initiative launched by Google in 2014. To date, it's been limited to a handful of countries - mostly in Asia - and it remains at best unclear if it's actually been successful. The idea was nice enough: Inexpensive Android phones built by typical handset-makers, but with Google lending a helping hand on the messy business of software updates. Of course, the carrot also came with a stick. In exchange for this software support, those handset companies agreed to use what Google decided constituted a good, proper Android - no bloat, stock look and feel, and regular security patches. Read More
2017 marked my sixth consecutive attendance at the world's largest technology event, and for the sixth year, I left feeling like phones weren't really a very important part of it all. I have come to accept that's just what CES has become, especially given it sits in the shadow of the much more mobile-focused Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, which is happening about seven weeks from now. But before we start looking ahead, let's talk about what happened last week.
CES has always been a proving ground for bold ideas from companies big and small. In 2017, the bold move is to take normal products that consumers use and smartify them. Read More