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. Read More
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)? Read More
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. Read More
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.
Proprietary pogo pins: yesterday's technology, tomorrow! Read More
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.]? Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
There's no denying that the increased performance:power consumption ratio of CPUs has been benefiting laptops and tablets alike of late. Microsoft's Surface Pro series, Apple's new iPad Pro (a product I would also call pretty misguided, to be honest), the new MacBook, and a slew of Chromebooks are all doing things that would have been nigh-unthinkable five years ago in their respective form factors or price points. Also, tablet sales are down and the traditional tablet model doesn't seem to be working so well anymore. So, Google is apparently hip to this now and wants Android to get in on the action with its own mobile-feeling but laptop-grade-ish ultra-portable device. Read More
Google's material design, which I've written about a number of times, has generally been received well by designers, developers, and press alike. We've seen numerous apps adopt it, developers explain and evangelize it, and users react positively to it.
Still, there have been nagging questions about the new design philosophy. A big one, and one that could potentially be a stumbling block for adoption, is the question of branding. Some voice concerns that material design may overshadow existing brands if implemented to Google's spec, or that it's too difficult to brand a "material design app."
Someone recently asked me what I thought about the relationship between branding opportunities and material design, and while I was able to come up with a short version of the answer, there are a few different things packed into this issue that are worth exploring. Read More