Years and years after Samsung, HTC, and Motorola started plopping bloated skins on top of stock Android, manufacturers are still trying to create semi-artificial market differentiation with their shiny software toys. While manufacturer skins have gotten more tolerable as of late (thanks in no small part to the way they've also become much more resource efficient), it's still vaguely annoying that all these companies feel the need to spend vast amounts of time and effort completely overhauling something that already works pretty well.
Initial reactions to the Nexus 9 have been less than stellar, to say the least. In David Ruddock's review, one of many sour points for the hardware was the volume and power buttons:
...the volume rocker and power buttons on the Nexus 9, for example, are simply bad. They're squishy, have almost no travel, and provide very little feedback unless you know the exact angle to hit them at.
It looks like manufacturer HTC may be addressing at least some of the problems with the initial batch of tablets, its first since the HTC Jetstream way back in 2011. According to one poster on the dedicated Nexus 9 subreddit, a tablet manufactured last week which arrived to a customer on Wednesday has buttons that are noticeably better than those on previous hardware.
It looks like HTC is intent on getting all its news crammed into one week. Just a few hours before its scheduled media events in New York and London, wherein the company will reveal the New One (or at least show off whatever hasn't been leaked yet), HTC has been uploading apps to the Play Store like there's no tomorrow. In addition to the Blinkfeed launcher and SenseTV apps, the Sense versions of the Gallery and HTC Guide have been added to HTC's publisher page.
The Gallery app looks like HTC's default image browser and viewer, very much like Motorola's similar manufacturer app.
Getting in some early news, Samsung has - as part of CES 2014 - announced its new Samsung Smart Home service, a means by which users will be able to control all their connected home appliances (from refrigerators to air conditioners to smart light bulbs) through a single app on their compatible smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or wearable device.
To start, the service will cover three main areas, which Samsung identifies as Device Control, Home View, and Smart Customer Service.
Device Control, as you might guess, allows users to control home devices using a mobile device remotely. The feature also allows for voice commands so if, for example, you're going to bed, you could tell your smart TV "good night," and it would know to turn off and tell the lights to dim gradually.
They've done it with the camera. They've done it with Touchless Control and Migrate. They've even done it with the FM Radio from the brand new Moto G. Now Motorola is moving even more of its proprietary phone apps into Google Play Land, presumably to allow for more frequent and reliable updates. Today Motorola Assist and Motorola Connect, both exclusive to the Moto X and Verizon's new Motorola DROID phones, are available on the Play Store.
Motorola Assist is a pretty basic automation app that will change a few settings based on time or location. In driving mode it can automatically start a music app and read out text messages or incoming callers.
It's not all that uncommon for software companies to roll out updates on a monthly, even weekly basis, but manufacturers are typically content to improve their products much more slowly. This isn't the case with Xiaomi, the successful Chinese smartphone maker Hugo Barra, former Vice President of Product Management for Android, left Google to join a few months ago. The company ships a new batch of phones every week, partially relying on user feedback to determine what changes they should make for each group - new shipments come out every Tuesday at noon Beijing time, containing new software builds and possible minor hardware tweaks.
Just in case you slept through the first week of January, take a peek back at our coverage of Project Shield, NVIDIA's attempt to inject the Android gaming market with a Tegra 4-powered supersoldier serum. There's still no word on exactly when shield will hit the market, but the boys in green want to make sure it stays in your mind. To that end, they've just posted a short run-down of a year's worth of Shield development on their blog, including the frantic construction of show-ready units less than two weeks before NVIDIA's CES presentation. Fried chicken was apparently a vital component of the limited manufacturing process.
OtterBox, one of the leading names in protective cases and accessories for just about every popular mobile device under the sun, announced today the acquisition of Wrapsol, a Boston, Massachusetts based manufacturer of several lines of protective film wraps for smartphones, tablets, and e-readers, and makers of an interesting "Grip Pad" line introduced at CES 2012 that provides a, well, grippy surface to hold onto so your device can avoid the drops Wrapsol's films protect it from.
For those unfamiliar with Wrapsol's work, here's a quick demo:
Exact details of the acquisition are as yet unknown but Brian Thomas, President and CEO of OtterBox, assures readers the deal is a match made in heaven.
Google usually releases a new Nexus phone in Q4, and we're already firmly into Q3 - which means the rumors should start heating up any day now. In fact, given just how little we've heard on the subject (presumably because everyone is too busy gushing over the Nexus 7), we should probably (hopefully) be hearing something any day now.
Our question to you is, if you could pick the manufacturer of the next Nexus phone, who would you choose?
In a fascinating new video titled "Get to know the HTC EVO 4G LTE," HTC explains the ins and outs of Sprint's One X variant, from the conceptualization of its design, to decisions surrounding build quality, materials, and a pretty interesting explanation of the new EVO's soft-touch unibody form.
Senior Director of Advanced Materials Chris Porter details the EVO's soft-touch feel in the video, explaining that the device has a "warm, velvety, soft-touch feel as opposed to a harder, rougher, cold metal feel." Porter explains that creating the effect involves sand/grit-blasting the device's frame, followed by a light chemical etching process to remove the sharp "peaks."