The mobile world thrives on change, and we're always waiting expectantly for the next big OS update, next hot phone, or next service that changes our lives for the better. But that ceaseless hunt for improvement can also backfire on users when something they've loved and relied on is suddenly upended in the name of progress.
A good number of us are feeling that kind of frustration right now, as we get to know Google's latest Gmail redesign. We shared with you the news of its launch last week, and while there's a whole lot it does well, including the introduction of some powerful new features, we've also been putting together a not-so-insubstantial list of gripes. Read More
Technically speaking, Android is open-source. This means anyone can look at the operating system's code, or change it - this is how OEMs like HTC and Samsung add their own tweaks. That openness has often been a rallying cry for hardcore Android enthusiasts. Why use a closed platform like iOS, when you can have a free and open-source platform?
But even from the beginning, there were components of Android that were closed-source. The Gmail app, Maps, Google Talk, and the Play Store were some of the earliest examples. To combat the always-present fragmentation of Android, Google offers many APIs through the Play Services Framework. Read More
Email remains the linchpin of online communication, and while we heavily rely on everything from instant messaging to video chat in order to stay in touch with the people we need to in our lives, we always find ourselves turning back to tried-and-true email. Of course, even for something so utilitarian as email, there are still a million companies putting their own spin on it, and for so many Android users around the globe, Gmail is their email service of choice. Read More
"Smartphone addiction" is a term that entered our cultural lexicon relatively recently - you could say it's A Thing. And it's a thing increasingly cited by techno-skeptics and self-help authors looking to capitalize on our natural desire to purge "unhealthy" habits from our lives (historically, a very American kind of fad). Not to mention: the ever-popular fear that we're all being spied on. Some people are even switching back to dumphones to avoid all the awfulness smartphones have brought into our lives. In short, the smartphone's ubiquity has made it The Next Big Source of All Your ProblemsTM. And I think, in spite of the best intentions - being more in the moment, having more meaningful interactions, and sleeping better - we've all kind of jumped the gun here. Read More
The war on bezels has been hard-fought, and smartphone makers like Samsung, OnePlus, and Google have made steady progress in their quest to minimize wasted space. The masses have cheered the heroes on as they endeavor to end bezels, but you have to be careful what you wish for. Device makers are now trending toward display notches to shave off what little bezel is left, but not all of them are doing it very well. In fact, some display notches are little more than lazy iPhone clones. That does not mean display notches can't be done well on Android, but we don't have all the pieces of the puzzle yet. Read More
OnePlus has a lot of things going for its phones. They're usually the least expensive way to get flagship specs like the latest high-end Qualcomm SoC, and the software experience is close to stock Android. But, in my opinion, their best feature isn't something you're likely to notice unless you spend a bit more time and money on the company's store. That's because the first-party wood and Kevlar cases OnePlus sells are, without exception, the single nicest I've ever used. Read More
Google unveiled Android Auto way back at I/O in 2014, but it didn't reach vehicles until May of 2015 when Hyundai added it to the Sonata. If you looked at Android Auto from 2015 and compared it to the current version, you'd see precious few differences. Google has been slow to improve Auto, but at least we got wireless projection. That tells us Google is still working on Android Auto, but it's still missing some features we've wanted ever since we got our first glimpse at Google's infotainment platform. Here are four features we still want to see in Android Auto. Read More
Since Essential launched the PH-1 last year, the phone has gained a cult following. Although the phone isn't without its faults, there aren't many other choices for a Snapdragon 835 below $500, and many people took advantage of last fall's Sprint and Amazon sales that saw the price fall lower, under $400. Essential also pioneered the "notch," which (like it or hate it) is only just now coming into vogue. The company and its products aren't perfect by any means, but one might even call Essential disruptive.
For better or worse, I’m reminded of another company that pioneered disruption in the flagship space: OnePlus. Read More