Phandroid » Opinion http://phandroid.com Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Wed, 17 Sep 2014 02:11:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Is Comcast planning “Studio Xfinity” retail stores to cure customer woes? http://phandroid.com/2014/09/16/comcast-studio-xfinity-retail-stores/ http://phandroid.com/2014/09/16/comcast-studio-xfinity-retail-stores/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 01:52:26 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=149231 We’ve all heard the Comcast horror stories and too many of us – especially Netflix customers – have lived the nightmare while listening to the company blather on about net neutrality. The company is now looking to acquire Time Warner Cable, a move of unparalleled proportions that could give the new super company a monopolistic competitive advantage in two key areas : internet connectivity and terrible customer service.

Have Comcast execs been intently listening and carefully plotting a solution to improve customer service and customer satisfaction in the form of retail stores? If the September 11th trademark filing for “Studio Xfinity” is any indication, it seems possible. Here’s how Comcast describes their new trademark:

Retail store services featuring telecommunications goods and services; retail store services featuring entertainment services, namely, providing television programs, films, movies and other audio-video content via cable, fiber optics, the Internet, mobile networks and other electronic communications networks; retail store services featuring goods and services for home and business automation, control, monitoring, and security; retail store services featuring the demonstration of said goods and services

Comcast Studio Xfinity

Careful attention should be paid to the full term repeatedly used by Comcast: retail store services. Rather than building a nation-wide network of retail stores for a company that sells no physical products, Studio Xfinity would more likely incorporate a number of popup stores found in retail partners such as Best Buy to either feature a holiday push (a la Samsung) or facilitate better, permanent customer service solutions (think Comcast Geek Squad).

That raises another interesting question, though: what if Comcast did have physical products to sell to customers? Comcast would be in a unique position to leverage their existing customer relationships in an emerging market that has yet to fully take shape: the connected home.

If you’re currently a Comcast customer, I know what you’re probably thinking: the last thing you want is a connected home powered by Comcast. Your garage stops functioning, refrigerator starts spouting out water, TV is stuck on QVC channel, and after 4 hours of sitting on hold with Comcast customer service, they schedule you an appointment for next week between the convenient hours of 6AM and 10PM.

xfinity-truck

But the idea of physical Comcast retail locations, especially as store-within-stores in already popular shopping locations and outlets, could be great for customers if approached modestly and not only as a cash grab for selling new products and services. Current Comcast office locations are nothing short of horrendous, and to be honest, the opportunity to browse new technology while waiting in line would be a welcome addition.

Unless Comcast has some huge unforeseen announcement waiting in the wings, we’re going to predict they don’t jump head first into the retail space. But this holiday season could prove to be a fruitful test with a small sample size of featured “Studio Xfinity” store-within-stores concept.

As we’ve discussed regarding Google in years past, retail stores are risky but tempting. Struggling companies like Radio Shack and Office Depot are facing increasing competitive pressure from online juggernauts like Amazon. On the flip side, prominent brands with loyal customers and premium brands (read: Apple) continue to make a killing. Where on the retail store spectrum would Comcast belong, what could they offer customers to make the experience worthwhile, and would they ultimately be successful/profitable?

This editorial is speculative, based on Comcast’s trademark filing for “Studio Xfinity”

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Apple is 3 years late to Android’s party, but does it matter? http://phandroid.com/2014/09/09/apple-vs-android-screen-size/ http://phandroid.com/2014/09/09/apple-vs-android-screen-size/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 21:17:43 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=148670 Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.25.46 PM
iPhone 6 vs. Galaxy S5 | iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4Apple Watch vs. Moto 360

Since the iPhone’s inception, Apple brass – once led by the brilliant Steve Jobs – has vehemently argued that Android is nothing more than an iPhone knockoff. Recently, however, it’s become apparent that Apple is now the one playing catch up, launching new features they once adamantly opposed– the same features Android had wholeheartedly embraced years ago.

This trend continues with Apple’s most recent announcement: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Does bigger always mean better?

Sporting a gorgeous 5.5-inch screen, the iPhone 6+ rivals the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge. It’s the first iPhone (along with the iPhone 6) with a display over 4-inches. By comparison, the original Galaxy Note launched in 2011 with a 5.3-inch screen and introduced a 4-inch screen with their flagship product: the Samsung Galaxy S, way back in March of 2010.

It’s almost embarrassing to think that until last year, the largest iPhone you could buy had a 3.5-inch screen. Android bested that way back when Verizon’s robotic “Droiiiid” slogan first began dominating TV channels in 2009: the 3.7-inch screen on the original Motorola Droid.

Now (finally), in two consecutive years, Apple announces 3 devices with bigger screens. Just like last year, Apple started their iPhone event by bragging about new features — ones Android users have been enjoying forever — including split screen display view, the same one Samsung made available years ago.

iphone-6-plus-vs-galaxy-note-split-screen

The iPhone gets split screen e-mail 3 years later. Groundbreaking.

It doesn’t start and stop with screen size, either:

apple-pay-vs-google-wallet

apple-watch-vs-android-wear

Maybe Conan O’brien said it best when first discussing the iPhone 6 rumors.

Conan Obrien iPhone Galaxy joke

For Apple, timing is everything

Technology has become more powerful, components have become smaller, the industry has evolved and consumer needs and desires have shifted with those changes. A recent report from Adobe shows use of 4-inch and smaller mobile devices dropping in the double digits while larger device use continues to skyrocket. Our own 2011 poll of over 5,000 readers anticipated this long ago.

Apple is adapting. That much is clear. But isn’t that a funny word for Apple- adapting? Apple’s role as the trailblazing mobile innovator seems to have slowed considerably.

Apple’s primary role in forging new opportunities for MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets is undeniable. However, let’s not forget that Apple wasn’t first in any of these areas. Rather than rush to market for the sake of being first, Apple spotted opportunities, worked to perfect them, and launched only when they felt the consumer was ready to spend money on devices that truly wowed. Regardless of who is first, Apple simply needs to continue wowing.

It’s worked, and no matter how big of an Android fanboy you are it’s hard to deny these facts:

  • The iPhone gained mass popularity before Android phones
  • The iPad gained mass popularity before Android tablets

But he who laughs last, laughs best and today, Android market share dominates all competition.

While “winning the war” would be nice, it’s not necessary for Apple to have the highest market share or launch products before the competition in order to be a successful company. The company is still raking in massive amounts of money for every iOS device they sell. The stock is up 25% this year alone, not to mention 300% in the past 5 years and almost 4,000% percent over the last decade.

Apple is still largely known as the premiere industry innovator: when they announce something brand spanking new, people pay attention. And then people buy it. And then the door is opened for competitors to become profitable making similar products, thanks to the Apple brand’s ability to demand attention for new product categories.

In a post Steve Jobs world, what product category will be next?  In 2001, we saw the first iPod. In 2007, the first iPhone. In 2010, the first iPad. For years now, people have been wondering — what will be the next big thing?

Apple Watch vs Android Wear

Today, the oft rumored iWatch has finally become official, announced instead as Apple Watch. Our own research shows that the Moto 360 is largely considered the most attractive smartwatch to date. If there is any indication that Apple has indeed lost it’s innovative edge it’s probably not best illustrated by the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screen size increases. Apple is going to make an absolute fortune on those improvements and the devices themselves look impressive. What’s more telling, in my opinion, is that Android Wear’s current stable of devices mostly look superior to the Apple Watch and highlight Android’s true edge: hardware options.

android-wear-vs-apple-watch

From a software perspective, Android Wear’s design language seems much more impressive. Its ability to accommodate circular watch faces and its wide variety of manufacturers provide the greatest combination of choices, price points, looks, and feels. Because, well. It’s Android. There’s also two very different wearable philosophies coming into play. Google believes a wearable should be quick, simple, and nearly hands-free, while Apple… well, they’re taking more the kitchen sink approach by shrinking down a smartphone, adding a physical scroll wheel, and slapping it on the wrist.

Of course, I’m speaking from a slightly biased viewpoint, but I wouldn’t consider myself an Apple hater — they make some of the best electronics in the world and the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are now among them. But seeing the Apple Watch announcement, I can’t help but feel some of that Apple magic has faded away.

Check out the Apple Watch promo video and the Android Wear promo video and let us know which one you think looks more impressive:

And as an added bonus, here are our first impressions of the Moto 360:

Getting Beat to the punch by Android

Apple is still one of the world’s most iconic companies, but recently, they’ve had some swings and misses. Take for example the iPhone 5C which attempted to reach a younger and more price conscientious consumer with a colorful array of affordable iPhones. It flopped and Apple didn’t feel the need to bring it back this year.

Meanwhile, Motorola’s Moto Maker — first announced a year earlier — blows all other manufacturer’s customization features out of the water. And it’s only getting better. Soon, Motorola will be adding natural wood and genuine leather finishes for the Moto X, giving them a premium and personal feel unmatched by other brands. The more affordable Moto G, which competes directly with the iPhone 5C, recently became the companies best selling smartphone of all-time.

The point I’m trying to make? Motorola led. Apple followed. Then failed and gave up. Doesn’t sound very Apple-like.

With these recent failures, maybe Apple is finally accepting that some of their gusto is gone. Lending credence to that sentiment is the company’s recent purchase of Beats by Dre for $3 Billion bucks.

From a business perspective the move makes sense: Beats markets itself as a premium brand with a high price tag, huge margins, and “cool factor.” Detractors would say they’re overpriced piles of audio dung, but for the purpose of this discussion, that point is moot. Apple had a huge pile of cash begging to be spent, but purchasing an existing brand of this nature seems out of character for a company that’s traditionally thrived on organic creativity and style.

The financial analysts might paint a much different picture, explaining that instead of taking a margin on the sale of Beats products in Apple Stores, they could own the company and take all the profits for themselves. Simple math could justify the purchase. That’s true, but the symbolic story told — if you can’t create it, buy it — seems nestled in that context.

Can Apple still win the war with Android?

So here we are with larger iPhones (nothing new to Android), Apple NFC payments (ancient Android feature), and Apple smartwatches (that are convoluted and much more expensive than Android Wear devices). Color me unimpressed.

Apple has gone from leading the pack to drafting off Android’s dust. Apple’s new iPhones will sell like hotcakes, though, crushing holiday sales figures in ways the iPhone hasn’t done in years — you best believe that. The Apple Watch won’t trail far behind, once it sees the light of day next year. Apple has created a loyal following of people who love their products, their software, their services, and their culture. Today’s announcements will do nothing but fuel excitement in consumers that Apple events have lacked for a couple years, plenty powerful to keep Apple chugging right alongside Android as top horses in tech.

Here is the most important thing about the Apple vs. Android war: both companies can win. In fact, both companies are winning. Android seems to have the current edge on innovative hardware, but there is plenty of room for both companies to succeed and if you consider yourself a true tech enthusiast, you should be rooting for both.

I hope Apple sees it this way, too. Rather than only chase Android, perhaps they should revisit Steve Jobs’ take on the Apple vs Google war before Android became prominent.

“We never saw ourselves in a platform war with Microsoft and maybe that’s why we ‘lost’ [laughs], but uh, we always saw ourselves as trying to build the best computers we know how to build for people. That’s what we were always trying to do.”

And so the saga continues. From what I’ve seen the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus look great. Apple Watch looks pretty good and will inevitably sell like hotcakes (because Apple). I think the mobile payments through Apple Watch are the most compelling new feature of the device and together with Apple Pay — although they were far from first to market — have the opportunity to finally make mobile payments the defacto standard.

Is Apple simply following in Android’s footsteps? It appears that way on the surface, but just ask Nokia and Blackberry how quickly the mobile landscape can change. Apple might not be the trailblazer they were 5 years ago, but they’re within striking distance in a marathon and will be taking home the gold or silver medal for years to come. It’s hard to ask for much more.

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Is the Galaxy Note Edge doomed to the same fate as the Samsung Continuum? http://phandroid.com/2014/09/07/is-the-galaxy-note-edge-doomed-to-the-same-fate-as-the-samsung-continuum/ http://phandroid.com/2014/09/07/is-the-galaxy-note-edge-doomed-to-the-same-fate-as-the-samsung-continuum/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 15:00:20 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=148191 The year was 2010 and Samsung was riding the high of their debut Android flagship, the Galaxy S. That Galaxy S spawned a smartphone line that has since gone on to sell millions of handsets; the sales figures growing exponentially for each new iteration. The most recent, the Samsung Galaxy S5, garnered sales of over 10 million units in its first month alone. But back in 2010, before Galaxy devices carried the banner for Android, Samsung’s strategy was quite a bit different.

At that time, carriers still depended on device differentiation to draw customers to their network, and the policy was that each US service provider would receive a unique version of the Galaxy S. In the end, consumer desire and other factors in the smartphone industry that favored a unified device experience led manufacturers and carriers to ditch the strategy for future generations of Galaxy devices, but not before the DNA trickled down to one of the most disastrous Android releases of all time: the Samsung Continuum for Verizon.

samsung-continuum-available-at-verizon

The Contiuum, which did or did not carry a Galaxy prefix depending on the marketing materials you reference, was released several months after the original Galaxy S. The specs for the phone aren’t even worth mentioning today, but they were mostly identical to the already popular Galaxy S and among the best you could get in an Android phone at the time. What set the Continuum apart was the presence of a secondary ticker display — a gimmicky second screen placed below the phone’s navigation keys and measuring 1.8 inches and sporting a whopping resolution of 480×96 pixels.

This ticker showcased notification info, the date, time, weather and updates from your social feeds among other things, but it ended up looking more like a constant banner ad on your smartphone. It could be awakened independently to quickly access info without tasking the Contiuum’s larger primary Super AMOLED display. The benefits were touted as battery saving and distraction reducing — don’t interrupt the meeting by waking your bright smartphone display, discreetly check the Continuum’s ticker. Perhaps the idea was ahead of its time.

Perhaps its place as a one-off feature on a Samsung device running Samsung’s version of Android meant developers weren’t too keen to take notice. What we can agree on is the fact that Samsung utterly miscalculated in launching this phone and believing that a ticker gimmick would be enough to get consumers interested in buying a different version of a phone that had already been available for months.

Four years later, why are we talking about the long-forgotten Continuum now? Earlier this week Samsung announced the Galaxy Note Edge, a device that is reminiscent of the Continuum in both its unique functionality as well as the strategy surrounding its upcoming launch.

note-edge

The Edge, like the Continuum, offers users a secondary display that will act as a notification ticker, shortcuts drawer, and information hub. The secondary display can be awakened independently of the main display. Samsung  is hoping once again that developers will buoy the idea by introducing novel uses for the “Edge Screen.”

The Edge, like the Continuum, is also a repackaging of another Samsung device. In this case, it’s the upcoming Galaxy Note 4. Slightly different this time around was Samsung’s decision to announce both devices simultaneously and launch them concurrently across several carriers (including the big four in the US).

So how is the Note Edge different from the Continuum? For starters, the technology has evolved since 2010. The Edge utilizes flexible display technology developed by Samsung to present its secondary display as a curved portion sloping off from the primary Super AMOLED pane. It’s an impressive technical feat, and Samsung has fleshed out functionality to an extent that wasn’t seen on the Continuum. The screen’s placement, higher resolution, and larger surface area help it blend into the overall design of the phone. Moving frequently used shortcuts to the Edge Screen frees up space on the main display, adding precious real estate for multitasking.

The question we must ask again echoes the Continuum: does the secondary display functionality provide reason to choose this phone over the standard Note 4? Maybe that’s a bit of a loaded question. After all, the Continuum’s chances for success were hampered by availability limited to a single US carrier. The Galaxy brand wasn’t a household name in 2010.

Samsung Galaxy Round hand

As a counter, we might look toward the Galaxy Round, another device designed to showcase Samsung’s curved display technology. The Galaxy Round also was limited in release, but folks weren’t exactly clamoring for the device. The device’s namesake roundness seemed to exist only as a neat parlor trick not as a form factor that added any particular useful functionality. With the Note Edge, Samsung seems to have found a much more novel and useful way to deploy flexible AMOLED tech, but we’re still not sold.

The Continuum, Round, and Note Edge seem to highlight Samsung’s insistence on making available to the general public devices that should have never left the R&D department. In fact, the Note Edge is nearly identical to a prototype device Samsung showed off nearly two years ago at CES 2013. We’re not saying the Note Edge will be the next Continuum or Galaxy Round, but you can’t blame anyone for making the comparison.

We applaud Samsung for pushing the boundaries of what the smartphone can be, and devices like the Edge certainly seem refreshing in a market that has seen plenty of stagnation lately. One handset won’t do it, however. Proprietary form factors are not favorable to developers and hardly ever last more than a single generation. Is the Galaxy Note Edge just another of these oddities? We’re as eager to find out as anyone.

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Motorola’s Shamu, the first Nexus phone I do not want [Opinion] http://phandroid.com/2014/07/28/motorola-shamu-nexus-6-do-not-want/ http://phandroid.com/2014/07/28/motorola-shamu-nexus-6-do-not-want/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:24:49 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=145753 Nexus-Shamu

When you own a Nexus device, you get a few perks for being backed by El Goog. Nexus means your device will be developer friendly with an unlockable bootloader, have supported AOSP code, precompiled binaries for certain pieces of hardware, and of course factory images in case you happen to tinker a bit too hard. You’ll also be privy to the latest and greatest versions of Android, with timely updates. Last and certainly not least, Nexus devices also set a standard for the entire Android ecosystem in not only software, but hardware too.

The Information apparently has three difference sources confirming the existence of Motorola “Shamu,” which is rumored to be the Nexus 6. Why Shamu? Well, besides aligning with Google’s fishy device codenames, it’s apparently a whale of a phone, literally. 5.9 inches to be exact.

That’s just insane. I might be a self proclaimed Android fanboy, but holy hell. I do not want something that big. I might live and breathe Nexus and Android, however I’m saddened to say that this might be the first Nexus phone that I won’t salivate over or end up buying. It’s just too damn big to comfortably use.

For example, the Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One are just great phones when it comes to hardware specs and software like CyanogenMod. But, no matter how great the hardware and software combinations are for these phones, the sheer size of these devices with their 5.5 inch displays are one of their downfalls. Having to move the phone up and down in your hand like some one handed kung-fu move just to reach the top and bottom of the phone is something I just do not want to experience day in and day out.

Sure, you can argue that Nexus isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that Google should further alienate the brand. While large screened phones also known as phablets (I hate that word) are becoming more and more prevalent, that does’t mean the reference device for Android should embrace their size as a standard, setting the stage for devices to continually grow larger and larger.

Who knows? Maybe Android Silver isn’t dead and this is Google’s way to ween people away from the Nexus program by launching a less than desirable device? Maybe Android L will launch with even more hands-free actions allowing smartphone users to accomplish more without even having to touch their massive screened device. At this point until we hear the good word from Google, anything is possible.

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Has Google’s reputation turned sour? http://phandroid.com/2014/05/19/google-youtube-twitch-reputation/ http://phandroid.com/2014/05/19/google-youtube-twitch-reputation/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 20:13:09 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=140934 google sour

Don’t be evil.

That is the (unofficial) slogan that first helped Google become such a beloved company. They exploded onto the scene with a search engine that was simple to use and blew our minds with results. Then they started giving away great products like Gmail, Docs, and of course Android, for free. There was a time when Google could do no wrong, but fast forward to today and a growing amount of consumers don’t believe that famous slogan to be true anymore. What changed?

This sentiment was perfectly demonstrated over the weekend when the rumor that YouTube (Google) is interested in buying Twitch.tv surfaced. The news was met with negative reactions by a large portion of the internet, especially the gaming community. #RIPTwitch was trending on Twitter quickly after the news broke. Threads on Reddit were filled with complaints, disappointment, and this gif. The most remarkable thing about all of these reactions is how different they would have been just a couple of years ago.

tweet4

YouTube is the best example. In the beginning people seemed to love everything Google did with YouTube. However, in the past few years many people have started getting upset with the changes Google has implemented. Things like the Google+ comment system are still being complained about today. Which is exactly why some people are so worried about Twitch. Google’s once shining reputation has turned sour as consumers fear they will ruin their favorite services.

tweet5

Google+ alone is a major point of contention among many consumers. When the social network was brand new and invite-only there was a lot of excitement. But the more Google has pushed it the more consumers have pushed back. For many internet users the first time they saw Google+ was when they needed to sign up to continue using YouTube. That’s not a good first impression. Unfortunately, this social network has turned into an arch nemesis for a lot of internet users.

tweet2

Last year Google’s VP of Corporate Development said a third of their acquisitions end up failing. This is obviously the worst case scenario in the minds of Twitch users. A few notable Google products that have been shut down include Picnik, Aardvark, Dodgeball, Google Reader, Wave, and Buzz. Not all of these services were acquisitions, but it goes to show how unafraid Google is to shut down a service. Obviously users of Twitch don’t want that to happen.

Another reason that many consumers are wary of Google is how much of the internet they own. A user on Reddit had this to say:

“Google will control the largest video sharing service, the largest video streaming service, the largest e-mail service, a large social network service, 50% of the smart-phone market and is now even providing your internet – yet no one, including the government seems to care.”

They didn’t even mention the fact that most people use Google Search to find information, Google Maps to navigate, they access the internet with Google Chrome, Google Glass can see everything they see, and their car may soon be controlled with Google technology. When one company owns so many popular services it makes people nervous. Just look at what happened to Microsoft in the 90′s. They were accused of creating a monopoly in web browsers by bundling IE with every version of Windows. Anyone that owns a Nexus device or Chromebook will see the similarities. Microsoft is still fighting the negative reputation it earned during that era. Could Google be on a similar path?

tweet1

Something else that has changed their reputation is just the sheer size of the company. It’s easy to love an upstart  that tries a bunch of crazy things and disrupts industries. They are seen as the anti-corporation. Eventually every successful company becomes a giant. Now that Google has become such a worldwide powerhouse they are no different from the likes of Microsoft, IBM, and Apple in the eyes of many people. Google will continue to battle this as they get bigger and bigger. The question will be how do they respond? It’s hard to be cool forever.

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What do you think? Has Google’s reputation turned sour? Do you find that more people are afraid of Google than ever before? What do you think has caused this? Is Google+ to blame? Do you feel the same way?

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Annoying Comcast ad brags about their stance on Net Neutrality http://phandroid.com/2014/05/12/comcast-time-warner-ad-net-neutrality/ http://phandroid.com/2014/05/12/comcast-time-warner-ad-net-neutrality/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 16:00:58 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=140442 There aren’t many things I hate more than misleading advertisements. Flip through the print edition of the Wall Street Journal today and you’ll see one such ad from Comcast and Time Warner.

WP_20140512_002

The ad is posed as a multiple choice question listing 4 potential benefits from the proposed Comcast and Time Warner merger. It leads with “Net Neutrality Protection” but of course  has “All Of The Above” selected, suggesting the merger will also create faster, more secure, more reliable, and more readily available internet for its customers.

Comcast leading with Net Neutrality is laughable, but unfortunately, Net Neutrality isn’t a laughing matter.

Ever wonder why Netflix used to be so slow on Comcast? It’s because Netflix hadn’t yet started paying Comcast for preferential treatment to ensure better speeds for its customers. The idea that Internet Service Providers like Comcast can pick and choose which sites and services get good speeds and which get worse speeds is what the entire net neutrality debate hinges upon. Yet they’ve created an entire site to spout about their dedication to net neutrality.

“There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast.”

Yeah and Donald Sterling is the next Gandhi.

Technically speaking, Comcast does support Net Neutrality… but only because the current proposed version of Net Neutrality laws are in direct conflict with the spirit of a free and open Internet. Comcast supports the version of Net Neutrality where things aren’t neutral because they can sell preferred access to specific companies. So by my measure there are at least 150 companies that have a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet.

So how can Comcast stoop so low as to masquerade the net neutrality buzzword around like a crown jewel achievement when most people think a merger with Time Warner will be a disaster for users and severe blow to net neutrality? Where do they derive the gusto to promote participation in a movement when they’re widely considered the number one threat to that movement’s success?

In an open letter to the FCC, a long list of powerhouse tech companies shunned a proposal to legally allow for Internet “Fast Lanes”. Signed by the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and 147 others, here’s a snippet of what they had to say:

According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.

As you’ll notice, Comcast isn’t among those that signed. That’s because they’re among the Internet Service Providers who would (and do) charge tolls. They stand to make huge profits by charging companies like Netflix extra to ensure Netflix streaming videos load quick enough through Comcast’s bandwidth. You can bet those costs will be passed onto the consumer, so don’t blame Netflix if subscription hikes come soon- blame Comcast and the FCC.

If Comcast and the FCC have their way, it could prove to be a complete disaster for the Internet. It could be the start of something much bigger. We’re putting our toes on the tippy top of a slippery slope with an Internet iceberg underneath.

This Comcast advertisement is maddening, because in my mind, it couldn’t be more misleading. Or maybe they’re just delusional. This is the type of smoke and mirror advertising typically reserved for presidential campaigns, so disturbingly filled with BS propaganda that it makes me lack faith in humanity. It makes me loathe whoever schemed up these ads in some thought polluted, idiot filled backroom. It makes me more desperately crave Google Fiber.

But most of all… it makes me want to cancel my Comcast service.

[Thanks Tokugawa!]

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Google is creating their own Android experience to showcase their Googly UI [Rumor] http://phandroid.com/2014/05/09/google-experience-android-silver/ http://phandroid.com/2014/05/09/google-experience-android-silver/#comments Sat, 10 May 2014 02:12:25 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=140389 Google_Now_Launcher_Large_IconUntil very recently, Google’s Nexus line and Google Play edition devices have been “pure” Android, running mostly code directly out of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). With the launch of Android 4.4 KitKat and the Nexus 5, we began to see Google’s version of Android emerge thanks to the likes of the Google Dialer and Google Now Launcher. These applications launched a Google Experience for Nexus devices, laying the framework for how Google envisions their version of Android. Now, new design rumors have appeared that clearly show Google wants to put their own experience on top of Android, similar to what HTC is doing with Sense or what Samsung is doing with TouchWiz.

Google-Experience-Android

With the Android Open Source Project, hardware and software partners from around the world collaboratively work on Android’s open source code. This code is then made available for hardware partners to use as they see fit. They can choose to work with Google and use Google Play Services, or they can go their own way like Nokia or Amazon.

Going the Google route means you’re going to use Google’s services, but you’re free to use your own services too. OEMs then customize Android to their own liking, promoting their own services and creating their own unique experience – and ultimately reaping all of the benefits while they build customer relationships on top of Google’s handiwork. Samsung is probably the worst offender.

Samsung apps vs Google apps

This is where the problem begins. I won’t even get into the fragmentation of applications and services issue that splits and segregates users around the Android platform because of this methodology. More importantly, Google is devoted to promoting their software experience by leveraging their array of cloud services. Up until now, Android has been Google’s platform for doing so. However, it seems we’re beginning to see a transition where Google is acting just like other OEMs and creating their own experience on top of Android.

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This is where those Android Silver rumors come into play I believe. Google needs to demonstrate how beneficial the entire Google Experience can be for users in a big way so that they continue to buy into the ecosystem. Google has to provide a robust enough out of box experience to convince handset makers that customers want the full Google package. The more customers that want to experience Android the Google way equates to more hardware sales – something handset makers can get behind. For Android Silver to succeed, the Google Experience needs to differ greatly from Sense, TouchWiz, and other OEM UIs.

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As with all rumors this size, it’s good to note that not all of these design implementations are guaranteed to make it into a final public release. At this time, Android Police is reporting that Google is working on breaking search out of it’s shell, having a revamped Recents menu, a new Notification shade, a drastically changed Home Screen launcher experience, and even Widgets could see a major usage change.  If these rumors hold true, we could be on the midst of a very defining announcement in the near future. Not only will Google be pushing the full Google Experience, but they could just be using Android Silver to do it.

Maybe the first Google Experience device will launch at Google IO in June on a brand new HTC manufactured tablet? In the meantime, let us know what you think about Google’s new direction in the comments.

Source: Android Police 1, 2

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250 miles with the Galaxy S5 http://phandroid.com/2014/04/30/bike-touring-with-the-galaxy-s5/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/30/bike-touring-with-the-galaxy-s5/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:15:21 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=139407 20140425_155516

The rain begins soaking through my poncho as I zip along the muddy towpath skirting the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. I’ve come 100 miles by bike through the mountains of western Maryland and still have 30 more to go before setting up camp for the night. For a moment there is a sinking feeling in my gut as I remember I forgot to stow my phone, which is now wrapped tight in the heavy, waterlogged fabric of my cycling jersey. Then I remember that phone is a Galaxy S5.

Stopping for a moment to assess the situation and check that the rest of the gear — the sleeping bags and hammocks, the clothes, the food — is staying dry, I pull out the phone to snap a few pictures. It’s waterproof, after all. To prove the point to my riding partner I throw the phone in a deep puddle. I pick it up, wipe the mud off on my leg, and place the phone back into my pocket. Determining that our situation is unlikely to improve over the course of the next several miles, we do the only logical thing and crack open a beer.

Touring with the Galaxy S5

Our final route would cover nearly 250 miles from the valley housing Deep Creek Lake near the western boundaries of Maryland to the tidewaters of Baltimore. The four day cycling tour would be no walk in the park as we camped each night with the minimal amount of equipment we could stuff into the panniers hung from the backs of our bikes, pumped water from wells leeching their contents from the nearby Potomac River, and followed along a route that led us out of the comfortable confines of 4G LTE service into a world of cellular dead zones. And throughout it all, the Galaxy S5 might just have been the most important tool I brought along.

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Full disclosure: I had brought along a secondary phone — an iPhone — but the device saw little use. I also carried an Incipio portable battery pack with a solid 6000mAh of extra charge in case I needed it. But given that packing light was key so as to avoid the pain of dragging 100 pounds of bike and gear up steep mountain inclines, I had to keep a limit on the sorts of technology I brought along. In hindsight, the Galaxy S5 was probably all I needed, no extra phone or battery pack necessary.

This is not to say the S5 was perfect, and I wasn’t necessarily using the phone in the traditional sense — my glowing endorsement really only concerns its use as a GPS device and camera — but I really could have had no better companion for the trip. That’s if you don’t count my riding companion Lee Cumberland. You can catch a glimpse of the full ride as captured via GoPro and the Galaxy S5 over at his S/V Satori blog.

When it rains it pours

Most of the Galaxy S5 coverage we have seen to this point lauds the device for its IP67 certification. The phone’s resistance to dust and water has for the most part, however, only been demonstrated in very controlled settings. While it’s great to know we can drop the phone in a bowl of water or a toilet without fear, I would not call this a typical situation. I was able to put the phone through the paces in conditions that many folks would be much more likely to find themselves in.

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The first day of riding on the C&O Canal towpath, an unpaved surface of packed dirt and loose gravel, saw no shortage of dust kicked up around the GS5. A major storm system would turn that dry and dusty path into a mess of mud by the next day, and the ensuing storm would soak us to the bone as we toughed it out to keep on schedule. No, this was not a test immersing the Galaxy S5 in a few inches of standing water. This was actively using the phone to navigate and track progress with no qualms about keeping it out of the damp and dirty conditions.

While the water protection was ace, that is not to say the Galaxy S5 was the most accommodating device to use in wet conditions. While damage was not an issue, water build up on the phone’s touchscreen made navigating the user interface impossible at times, and caused some issues when trying to snap off a few quick shots. This is not necessarily a flaw inherent to the Galaxy S5 itself — water would interfere with the accuracy of any capacitive touchscreen — but it does draw a distinction between “safe from water damage” and “usable in wet conditions.” Wiping off the display provided a quick remedy, but in a torrential downpour it wasn’t staying dry for long.

Still, the peace of mind that the Galaxy S5 could survive the rugged nature of the journey is a testament to its design. I did not go easy on the phone, nor did mother nature, but it made it back in one piece and no worse for the wear.

That camera, though

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Perhaps even more impressive than the device’s resistance to water and dust damage was the performance of its camera. The phone was always on hand and I used it to document the journey, snapping a few quick photos here and there as we rode along. Without thinking too hard about the photos or even messing much with the Galaxy S5’s modes and shooting settings, I was able to capture some pretty nice shots. All the photos you see in this post were taken with the phone.

The Galaxy S5 definitely does wonders in the sun. Give that 13MP camera ample natural light and you might just impress yourself with how good a photo you are able to capture. When the clouds rolled in the story wasn’t quite the same, but image quality remained impressive.

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Nearly everyone I have shown the photos since my return has made a comment along the lines of “that phone takes some pretty nice pictures.” And it does. My secondary iPhone might have done a a decent job itself in capturing photos, but the Galaxy S5 made sure that other handset stayed buried deep in my bag.

Battery life for days

Eight hours of GPS tracking per day, constantly connecting and disconnecting from cell towers while searching for a signal and moving in and out of roaming — these are just a few of the pitfalls that the Galaxy S5 had to face over the course of four long days traveling away from the comfort of an easily accessible wall outlet. Despite a life on the road that would test the limits of any phone’s battery, I never had to worry about keeping the Galaxy S5 powered.

After two days of use with a little over 30 percent left on the phone’s battery I gave it a quick recharge via my Incipio offGRID battery pack. I can’t say enough for that little device either. In an extremely portable and rugged-in-its-own-right package, the offGRID provided 6000mAh of backup juice (enough to get about two full charges of the GS5’s 2800mAh battery) with two USB ports providing 3.1 amps of charging power. Charge times were quick, and they needed to be. The trail waits for no one and we were constantly on the move.

But even without the Incipio battery pack I feel confident the GS5 could have made it to four full days of use had I worked the battery more efficiently, powering down when possible and limiting connectivity to avoid wasting power searching for data networks and downloading emails. If needed, the Galaxy’s Ultra Power Saving mode could have easily kept me connected for the duration had my battery waned to below 10 percent.

The struggle is real

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Riding hundreds of miles over four days is no easy task. Being the smartphone that tags along can be equally grueling. While the GS5 did its job and more, there were some areas where the device still fell short.

For starters, forget S Health. I didn’t bother using the pre-installed app to track the ride due to its extreme limitations. S Health is probably nice for the casual user that wants to track steps or a couple runs or shorter bike rides per week, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Strava, my default app for recording and analyzing my cycling activity.

The Galaxy S5 is also rather bulky and difficult to use with one hand. Opting to ride without a handlebar mount for the phone, removing the GS5 from my back pocket in order to check a map or take a photo typically meant coming to a complete stop. Not that it’s recommended to operate a bicycle with one hand and a smartphone simultaneously with the other, but the Galaxy S5 makes the task highly impractical.

With all the praise being heaped on the Galaxy S5’s display, it’s worth noting that in sunny conditions even the eye-searing brightness of the Super AMOLED display was greatly washed out. At maximum brightness there were still times where a hand was needed to shield the sun from the display.

As a smartphone user, I have my personal differences with the Galaxy S5 and Samsung. I’ve never been a fan of TouchWiz and the cheap feel of of the Galaxy line’s plastic build has provided me enough reason to keep my distance. But Samsung’s latest effort has given me some hope for the Galaxy brand. Sure, it’s still clunky in many ways — four days of solid use was not enough to demystify the bloated and at times overly complicated software of the phone — but it gets a lot right in the process, including battery life, ruggedness, and camera quality. If the Galaxy S5 is at home in any adventurer’s bag, it is equally worth consideration for a place in the average user’s pocket.

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Don’t Smash the Past: This OnePlus One promotion is a bad idea http://phandroid.com/2014/04/25/oneplus-one-phone-smash-bad/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/25/oneplus-one-phone-smash-bad/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:25:35 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=139252 Samsung Galaxy S3 cracked

After unveiling their “Flagship Killer” smartphone earlier this week, Chinese start-up OnePlus has announced that you can become one of the very first 100 people to purchase their new phone. Even better – it will only run you one dollar. All you have to do is enter a contest stating that you’ll smash your current smartphone if your entry is chosen. This is a bad idea.

Sure, drop test videos and “phone durability tests” generate an insane amount of views and dumb promotional stunts generate a lot of hype for businesses. These are reasons why we love the Internet – for sometimes dark and twisted entertainment. That said, these types of stunts are done on a very small scale. Asking 100 people to destroy perfectly fine smartphones is just bad form and someone could get hurt.

OnePlus has already stated that they won’t be held liable for any damage or injury that occurs while smashing your phone. Why did they put that clause in their FAQ? Because it’s a very real possibility. Remember the Galaxy S5 hammer test that sprayed out noxious fumes and caused the viewer physical harm? I’m sure he’ll never forget it.

Here’s a few alternatives to smashing your phone:

Sell it on Swappa. OnePlus wants you to smash your phone in lieu of $298. Did you know that a lot of the phones accepted by OnePlus’s Smash promo actually sell for a lot more on Swappa? For example, the unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, Sony Xperia Z, LG G Flex, and many others are selling for $450-$550 right now. You’d actually turn a profit if you sold your current phone on Swappa and used that cash to buy a OnePlus One.

Use it as a media device. Turn your phone into a music player. This is a great idea for kids. If you don’t have kids, no problem. Having a portable music player helps save your phones precious battery life. You could also turn your spare phone as a dedicated remote control for your Chromecast devices.

Turn your phone into a security camera. There’s plenty of camera apps on Google Play that allow you to turn your phone into a home surveillance device. You’ll be able to easily check in on things while you’re away from home and you don’t need to buy an expensive system to do so thanks to your existing Android phone and just an app.

Use HTC’s Power to Give program. With the Power to Give app, you can make the world a better place by using your phones CPU cycles to crunch research data. It may not be that much, but you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing your helping out in some way or another.

Donate your old phone to a good cause. Cell Phones for Soldiers is a nonprofit organization that provides free communication services to active-duty military members and veterans. If you don’t want to have to keep a phone plugged in all of the time just to a good dead, this is probably your best option – helping those that have served your country.

Will you be entering the contest for a chance to smash your phone? Let us know in the comments.

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Strangling the Internet: Government headed in disastrous direction [OPINION] http://phandroid.com/2014/04/24/fcc-net-neutrality-fast-lanes/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/24/fcc-net-neutrality-fast-lanes/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:54:31 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=139152 You can help by signing the petition to save the internet!

We may soon be entering an age of digital discrimination, where all websites are not created equal. The government is supporting a law to allow Internet Service Providers like Comcast to charge websites and companies fees to ensure their content is distributed with guaranteed speed to consumers.

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Some of today’s most powerful companies were built on the shoulders of the Internet. The US Government seems poised to section off the web into a VIP piggy back riding zone

Regardless of where you place “The Internet” on the list of greatest technological developments of the past century, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t had the most profound global impact in the shortest period of time. Some of today’s most powerful companies – Google, Facebook, and Twitter – were built on the shoulders of the Internet. Hopeful entrepreneurs and innovators of the future may not have this same luxury: the US Government seems poised to section off the web into a VIP piggy back riding zone.

When you buy internet service from the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable you’re essentially paying for access to bandwidth. Up until now, for the most part, all bandwidth is created equal. Whether you’re reading e-mail, watching videos on Youtube, browsing Facebook, or checking up on the latest Android News on Phandroid, you could expect the same consistent speed and levels of service.

That could change. And if it does, it could be a devastating blow to this open and awesome thing we call the Internet.

The United States Government, by way of the FCC, has announced that it supports “fast lanes” for the Internet where companies are able to pay service providers for more and faster bandwidth to consumers. For example, Netflix could work out a deal with Comcast to ensure their content is streamed quick enough to give users a good movie-watching experience.

This helps absolutely nobody- except for the Internet service providers.

This hurts innovators trying to make “the next big thing” who can’t be sure their service is being delivered quickly relative to huge corporate competitors. This hurts huge corporate competitors who can be price gauged by Internet Service Providers if they want to ensure the best possible experience for customers. And this hurts consumers who – when they go online – could get an uneven and unfair experience depending on which site or companies they patronize.

This is bad.

In some regards you can sympathize with with the Internet Service Providers who have to deliver exponentially more bandwidth than in years past. Ten years ago, nobody was streaming HD content to their TV through their Internet on a daily basis, yet these companies are shouldering the increased bandwidth costs.

fcc-logoThe ISPs need to be provided a competitive environment, but the FCC can not allow for net neutrality to be the basis on which that environment is delivered. In 20 years from now, where will the Internet be? If these “fast lanes” are created, I don’t want to know. The government is putting their toes on a slippery slope that could create a very unfortunate and entitled Internet ecosystem. The sense of entitlement should be on the side of consumers, not the corporations and not the government.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended the stance, claiming the notion that they’re “gutting the Open Internet rule” is “flat out wrong”. But the stance is so open to interpretation that it can (and will) eventually be twisted by lobbyists and corporations.

Here are his “I’m talking but not saying anything” assurances:

The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.

He also insisted companies would be forced to act in a “commercially reasonable manner.” If you ask me, commercially reasonable would mean keeping net neutrality… neutral… and finding other ways to correct the direction of their business that don’t violate Internet equality.

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times weighed in saying, “big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or Twitter.”

Perhaps Michael Weinberg of community advocacy group Public Knowledge said it best, “This standard allows Internet service providers to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet.” And then once you make it, your newly great company will be “taxed” into the ground to ensure your content/service is properly delivered on the web.

If you ask me, one of the most beautiful things of the Internet is the ridiculously low barrier to entry. Almost nothing. And the value to access is astronomical.

Netflix responded to this development by issuing the following statement, “The proposed approach is the fastest lane to punish consumers and Internet innovators.”

Netflix

The more appropriate avenue to address these industry concerns would be to tell Comcast and similar companies to adjust their business model. We’ve seen mobile network providers like Verizon and AT&T deal with the bandwidth burden by adjusting their service packages based on data consumption. It might not be a popular move, but it beats what they’re proposing by light years. I’d be happy to pay a higher price and keep net neutrality intact and I think other consumers would, too, if they knew the potential long-term implications.

The government might think these “fast lanes” are a good idea to help the flow of traffic, but the only thing they’d be supporting is a highway to Internet hell.

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OnePlus One size and specs draw inexplicable anger http://phandroid.com/2014/04/23/oneplus-one-specs-and-size/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/23/oneplus-one-specs-and-size/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:26:52 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=139065 The CyanogenMod based OnePlus One phone has just been announced along with a pretty crazy price and equally crazy promotion. But what we find craziest is a bizarre backlash against a specific OnePlus One spec announced: the dimensions.

Last month the company released a promotional image of the OnePlus One covered by the Sony Z1, insinuating the OnePlus One had smaller dimensions.You can see the OnePlus One barely peeking out from the sides – so we knew it would be slightly wider – and based on the angle of the picture no assumptions could be made about the thickness or height.

After all was said and done, here are the dimensions of the OnePlus One compared to some key competitors:

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It’s taller and wider than both the Sony Z1 and Oppo Find 7 and also taller than the Galaxy Note 3. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, that’s cause for chaos and a reason for disbanding the fabric of the universe. You can find a prime example of this on a thread titled “This company is founded on lies” on the OnePlus Forums and a discussion of the same on Reddit.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either: across many different forums and sites we’ve seen a multitude of people bash the company for being unfair, misleading, and lying about the OnePlus One in regards to the dimensions and specs. Unless this is a targeted attempt by OnePlus One’s competitors to discredit and troll the launch, I’m not sure where all the hate is coming from.

Let’s get a few things clear:

  • OnePlus never made claims that weren’t true… they posted a picture, people made assumptions, and are now holding OnePlus to words that other people put in their mouth.
  • Starting at $299, nobody should have anything to complain about
  • Especially a few millimeters here and there, which is exactly the difference. Unless these complainers saw this stat on a spec sheet, they’d never  know the difference
  • The people complaining are welcome to a refund. What’s that you say? They haven’t paid for anything yet? Oh… I see…

Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. The complaint is so absurd that I’m finding it hard to rule out some type of foul play.

I’m really excited about the OnePlus One and I’m sure our OnePlus One Forums will be heating up in no time. I’m not very excited to see people breaking their phones for a chance to get One, but I’ll just sit on the sidelines and hope someone tosses me an invite.

Hint, hint?

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100 Billion Google searches are done every month http://phandroid.com/2014/04/22/100-billion-google-searches/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/22/100-billion-google-searches/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:09:34 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=138979 At an event for Google Adwords advertisers the company revealed a bombshell statistic: 100 Billion Google searches are done every month.

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To put that in perspective: if you gave me a nickle for every time someone did a Google search, I’d be a millionaire in 9 minutes.

That’s about 3.3 billion Google searches each day. There are roughly 7 billion humans on earth. Clearly that’s not enough Google searches per person so the company wants to fly thousands of WiFi balloons around the world so 3rd world countries can get inernet, too. And no… that’s not a a joke.

What’s unclear for the 100 billion stat are the guidelines for what’s considered Google.com. If I do a google voice search that brings up a google search on my android phone, is that included in the 100 billion? If I’m getting information from Google Now is that considered part of this 100 billion?

The answer: it doesn’t really matter.

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The 100 Billion statistic is a towering number, but when you consider that Google.com is just a small part of our relationship with Google, it’s an overwhelming statistic. Consider Google Maps, Google Navigation, GMail, Google Docs, Google Adsense ads seen on sites across the web, Android Phones, Chrome Browsers, and the list goes on and will continue to grow.

When Google first announced Android, they insisted they weren’t trying to create a cash cow of their own, and instead trying to bring the internet to more places so Google’s core services could flourish. Let me refresh your memory: in a 2008 interview a Google Executive flat out told me that there is no monetization strategy for Android.

Their sincerity was questioned but they’ve stuck by that principle, continuing to bring the internet to more places in more ways, looking especially towards opportunities like Google FiberProject Loon, and the Open Automotive Alliance.

Here is an excerpt from the full presentation:

For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the opportunity of mobile and mobile’s importance in your advertising. But today I’d like to tell you that it’s not really about mobile, it’s about consumers. And as consumers, what we really want to do is connect with the people and things that matter the most. Wherever we are, whenever, on any device.

If there’s one thing that you take away from my talk today, it’s this: it’s no longer about devices. It’s about connecting people to the content that they care about whether they’re online, on mobile sites, or in apps.

watch the full event above

Perhaps he should have added, “Or wearing Google Glass, or Android Wear, or watching Android TV, or riding in an Android Car developed by Open Automotive Alliance members.”

This is a theme I anticipate we’ll see pushed heavily at Google IO this year as well. It’s not just about all these different operating systems and platforms and hardware Google has pushed… it’s about improving the entire ecosystem and then unifying the experience under it.

This is something Google has been laying the groundwork for heavily for quite awhile, most recently with Google+ and the single sign on they’ve oh so fluently weaved into our experience across the web. Speaking of which, I absolutely love.

The event where this statistic was revealed focuses on the #1 source of Google revenue: advertisers. The company’s most recent earnings report disappointingly missed analyst expectations. The reason? Growing percentages of users are moving their web habits mobile, where advertising competition is lower and advertisers struggle to deliver measurable and effective campaigns.

This is a problem Google will be scrambling to solve in the upcoming year. Two obvious methods: encouraging advertisers to push downloads of their apps/games and getting advertisers to run ads that send users directly into the app if it’s already downloaded to their device (perhaps targeting them, too).

Over 80% of downloaded apps are used only once and then deleted.*  Lots of businesses are able to get their apps onto a device, but might never see their customer again.  Today we announced a new app re-engagement campaign type in AdWords for both search and display so that consumers can be taken directly into already-installed apps.  For example, if someone has the HotelTonight app installed on their phone and searches for “hotels in San Francisco” on Google.com, they can go directly to the specific page in HotelTonight about SF hotels, instead of being taken to the app’s main landing page.

I’m sure we’ll hear a ton more statistics like these come Google IO and start preparing yourself for information overload: me, Steve Albright, and Derek Ross will all be attending Google IO to bring you the most and best coverage possible.

It’s an interesting dance Google is doing and in many ways they’re walking a fine line. On the one side they’re expanding their business to more hardware and platforms yet simultaneously trying to consolidate the user experience. On another side they’re generating ad revenue as a search engine that penalizes scrapers and spammers and ranks content based on quality and relevance yet they simultaneously bypass these publishers by scraping bits of their content and delivering it to uses through Google Now and the Google Knowledge Graph.

Google has a lot of important decisions to make. The company’s astronomical growth looks like it could continue, potentially becoming the most important company of our lifetime. But when you’re the leader in the tech industry and you’re the #1 trail blazer, you’re much more susceptible to making missteps because you’ve got no footprints to follow.

Circle June 24th and 25th on your calendar with magic marker, spray paint, panther’s blood, whatever… and pop into Phandroid to see what revolutionary things Google has lined up as we cover Google IO 2014 live from San Francisco.

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8 things I hate about the Samsung Galaxy S5 http://phandroid.com/2014/04/19/8-things-i-hate-about-the-samsung-galaxy-s5/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/19/8-things-i-hate-about-the-samsung-galaxy-s5/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 15:36:05 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=138566 Samsung Galaxy S5 back DSC05780

WARNING: Loads of opinion ahead, leave your fanboyism at the door. If you’re looking for a honest opinion, please proceed.

With that out of the way, I just want to say I understand well that there is no such thing as the “perfect” smartphone. Like my mother used to tell me, you’ll never find the perfect woman, only the perfect woman for you. Because, Android is a wonderful mess right now, manufacturers put a lot of time and effort into offering their unique versions of Android, that simply put — aren’t for everyone. Having owned the Samsung Galaxy S5 for a full week now, I think it’s time to stop beating around the bush: this phone simply isn’t for me.

Bu don’t get me wrong, I tried to make it work, I wanted to make it work. Despite my friends and family warning me that buying the Galaxy S5 would only end in heartbreak, I went against their better judgement and purchased the phone anyway. Why? There were only 2 features on my mind: SAMOLED display, and the high-resolution ISOCELL camera. Like a great pair of…. eyes on a woman, they’re all I saw. Everything else? I figured that would work itself out. “I could always put a case over it and TouchWiz is all new,” I told myself. Boy, was I wrong. May I present to you, my list of top 8 things I hate about the Samsung Galaxy S5.

1. TouchWiz Lag

I like to think of myself as a patient man. Whether it’s kids, pets, or the ‘ol gf, it takes a lot to get under my skin. But one area I absolutely have zero patience for is in my electronics. Laptop, camera, you name it. Having owned a HTC One (M7), Nexus 5, and an LG G2 for all these months, maybe I’ve just been spoiled by snappy, lag-free performance. Who knows.

What I do know is that there is something horribly wrong with the fact that you can have a phone with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, software based on the the newest, lightest version of Android yet (KitKat), and yet still somehow serve users a piping hot plate of lag on a silver platter. It takes a special kind of “software” to mess that up.

Whether it’s waking up the phone from a sleeping state, waiting for the keyboard to popup or catch up with typing, opening the multitasking menu or applications — lag, lag, mother-effin-lag. I couldn’t handle it. I kid you not, I was having nightmares that my phone was getting laggier and laggier, only to wake up and find myself in cold sweats.

Is a .8 second lag going to kill you? Probably not. But I paid too damn much for this phone only to have to”suffer” with lackluster performance. Still don’t believe me? See this video here. I mean, what’s the point of upgrading to a faster processor, when you don’t actually reap any of the benefits? The Galaxy S5 is Lag City. Population: you.

2. Limited Internal Storage

Galaxy S5 Storage constraints

External storage is great — when there are apps that actually support. Aside from KitKat making things fun with the way apps handle external storage, finding applications other than games that can actually be moved to the SD card is rare. Sure, you can always root and move everything to the SD card, but that’s a topic for another time. You can have a 128GB UHS 1 micro SD card in the phone, but a 16GB Galaxy S5 — the only version currently offered by US carriers — sucks. There’s no way around it, and I don’t understand how this was overlooked.

3. Touchscreen Sensitivity

Galaxy S5

No, I’m not saying the Galaxy S5′s display isn’t responsive enough. The problem I’m have is that that it’s too responsive. I know, that sounds like a silly thing complain about, but when you type as quickly as I do, the phone is registering screen taps/long presses I never meant it to. In fact, I thought for a minute there I was losing my mind. Really, who would notice something like this?

I think this might have something to do with S5′s new “Air gesture” feature that allows you to interact with the display, without actually touching it. This also means the phone can register screen presses even while wearing gloves — a great feature for sure — but not when it messes with normal use. There is a reason, after all, they included an option to disable it. But even when disabled, it’s far too sensitive (note: I’ve had it disabled since day 1). A great idea, just one better left on paper.

4. Camera

Sony A7 vs Samsung Galaxy S5

Woah, woah, woah. I’m not saying the Galaxy S5 camera isn’t great. It is. But my problem is it only performs well in the most ideal of situations. Taking it out on a bright Spring day, shooting some pics of the kids by the pool, it performs wonderfully. Images are razor sharp.

My issue? As soon as you lose some of that light — shooting indoors on a cloudy day, or a dimly lit restaurant, etc. — everything turns to absolute sh*t. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at my comparison photo above. One side you have a picture I snapped with my full frame camera to show you exactly how much light was actually in this scene. On the right is how well the Galaxy S5 handles in the smallest dip in light: like a muddy mess. Not good. In fact, there were many a times, my Nexus 5 performed better than the Galaxy S5. Don’t believe me? Check out this image here.

5. S Emoji

Galaxy S5 emoji

You’d think that having the system wide emoji support in KitKat would be great new feature, but not when you see what Samsung’s done with them. Say hello to the most hideous emoji’s this side of the iPhone. Like some kind of bastardized version AOL smileys meets Lisa Frank, they look horribly out of place on Samsung’s new minimal interface. What I don’t get is, why even change them? What was so wrong with Android’s stock emoji that you had to create these abominations? Not cool.

6. Chrome Bezel

Samsung Galaxy S5 water logo wm DSC05776
Like many of the items on this list, this ones more a subjective opinion. So let me just say, I abhor chrome. I don’t want it near my electronics, I don’t like it on my rims, and I sure as heck can’t stand it on my smartphone. I thought we left this behind with the original Galaxy S? Whenever I see it, it reminds me of 1950′s future and not modern smartphone design we see on devices like the HTC One M8.

Besides its looks (which I found myself wanting to sand paper away or Plasti-Dip over), the chrome rim around the side of the phone is actually raised, creating a lip around the glass. Everyone praised the Nexus 4 for including beveled edges on the sides of the display (something we also saw in the HTC Sensation back in the day). This ensured sliding the ever growing UI elements from the sides of the display was always a pleasurable experience. The Galaxy S5 is the complete opposite of that.

7. USB Flap / No Wireless Charging

DSC05798

Until USB 3.1, becomes the new standard, it’s bad enough we have to put some level of thought or concentration into getting our USB cable inserted correctly into our smartphones. If you thought that was annoying, how about not being able to access this port until you first removed a plastic flap? I get why it’s there, I do. In order to IP67 certify the Galaxy S5, some ports would need to be covered. But it doesn’t make it any more convenient.

Besides needing a healthy amount of fingernail to get the damn thing open, the real problem I have with the S Flap, is it wouldn’t even be an issue if Samsung simply included wireless charging with the device. Sure, you could always spend an extra $30 and order one direct from Samsung, but why should you have to? It’s because between the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, Samsung had to cut those “little” features no one really cares about (sarcasm).

8. Fingerprint Scanner Home Button

Galaxy S5 Fingerprint Reader

When Apple introduced the fingerprint scanner in the iPhone 5S, for the most part, it was done well. Offering a medium level of security, you were able to press the home button as you’d normally do, but this time it’d only take you to the homescreen if it recognized your fingerprint. Great for keeping snooping eyes out of your phone, sure it wasn’t full proof, but it was enough security for most cases.

As we all know, the Galaxy S5 uses a similar security feature, with a new fingerprint scanner found in the home button. Only problem is in their implementation, you actually have to slide your finger across the home button, not simply press it. Why is this a pain in the ass? Because this means every time you go to unlock your phone, you’ll have to use 2 hands to do it. Once again, I know it sounds crazy to complain about, but think of all the times you’re using your phone with only 1 hand available. Holding a beer, your gf’s hand, walking the dog, eating. Requiring 2 hands to simply unlock your phone is a major oversight, and one that should have never made it out of R&D.

Samsung Galaxy S5  back cover removed DSC05768

Before I leave you, I just want to remind that this is merely the opinion of a single lonely blogger (no matter how right it is). Also, there are a lot of things I like about the Galaxy S5 that many of you may find more valuable than the minor annoyances listed here. Things like the small bezels, battery life, the Super AMOLED display (along with saturation controls), camera (when shooting in daylight), super quick 2A charging, removable battery, or its weather proofing.

Those are all great things, wonderful things about the Galaxy S5. But unfortunately, things that for me couldn’t outweigh the “bad.” Come tomorrow I’ll be packing up my Samsung Galaxy S5, heading on over to my local T-Mobile, and eating their ridiculous $50 restocking fee. Here’s to the Next Big Thing.

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HTC exec defends the One M8′s infamous black bezel bar http://phandroid.com/2014/04/02/htc-defends-one-m8-black-bezel/ http://phandroid.com/2014/04/02/htc-defends-one-m8-black-bezel/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 23:14:54 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=137186 htc one m8 hands-on 14

I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that the HTC One M8 is one of the most gorgeous, borderline sexy, smartphones to date. Featuring an aluminum unibody construction, it’s clear HTC takes the design of the smartphones very seriously. Maybe that’s why for some, it was puzzling to find that — despite the One M8 adding software buttons for 2014 — the smartphone is drastically taller than last year’s model.

We’ve seen it mentioned in our comments that HTC possibly could have made the entire device smaller by simply eliminating the infamous “black bezel bar” found towards the bottom of the display. It’s a criticism that seems to have made it’s way back to Jeff Gordon, HTC’s global communications manager.

In a public tweet from his Twitter profile, Gordon addresses comments that HTC could have simply removed the black bezel, making the overall height of the device smaller by saying:

HTC One 2014 vs 2013 comparison video

Okay, so we get it. There’s actually stuff behind the black bezel. And while we wont argue with Gordon that the phone — which has not doubt seen countless revisions by engineers and designers — couldn’t possibly have been made any smaller, is it also possible the display could have been stretched out to “cover” the area where the bezel lays? Gordon claims that by stretching the display, it would have screwed up phone’s aspect ratio. This is true.

But perhaps the real problem lays in the HTC opting for software buttons on the M8 (which we admit, are just following Android’s design guidelines). It seems that, in trying to address complaints about the original One M8′s odd 2-button layout, HTC plugged up one hole in their dyke, only to find a new one spring forth.

For some, you simply don’t get the hoopla being made over bezel-gate 2014. And that’s fine. For others, we’ve reached a point in mobile tech that all we have left is to nitpick over the fine details. What may not be a deal breaker for some, will drive someone else to the point of madness. One thing is certain — there is no perfect smartphone. When it comes to the HTC One M8, no one is saying it’s not a great smartphone. In fact, it’s possibly the best phone to date. But at least HTC knows what they need to improve for next year’s model.

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Will HTC unveil an Android Wear powered Smartwatch along with the HTC One 2014 in NYC? [Opinion] http://phandroid.com/2014/03/24/htc-android-wear-smartwatch-one-m8-nyc/ http://phandroid.com/2014/03/24/htc-android-wear-smartwatch-one-m8-nyc/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 01:05:51 +0000 http://phandroid.com/?p=136344 HTC_NYC

Tomorrow at 11am in New York City, HTC plans on unveiling their next flagship phone, the all new HTC One (M8), the successor to last year’s One. The new 2014 edition of the HTC One has big shoes to fill, seeing as the original HTC One was able to snag the smartphone of the year title at the Global Mobile Awards. The build quality and user experience of the HTC One was able to capture awards, but HTC has still produced profits below expectations. The Taiwanese smartphone maker has a lot riding on tomorrow’s event as they struggles to escape from Samsung’s marketing muscle.

Last month, HTC’s rival Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 along with new wearables: the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit. While the new line of Gear devices seems to be more appealing than the original Galaxy Gear that launched last fall, Samsung’s new smartwatches have already been overshadowed themselves thanks to Google’s recent Android Wear announcements.

samsung-galaxy-gear-neo-2

This is where HTC has a chance to stick to Samsung once and for all.

Back in October, HTC’s Peter Chou mentioned the company’s view on wearables. He indicated that the wearable market was important and that HTC would want to get it right the first time. He said they weren’t interested in coming out with a weak entry device (like the Galaxy Gear), but instead wanted their first foray into the new product category to be something special and useful for everyone. Additionally, last month HTC’s Cher Wang mentioned the company would be getting to wearables before the end of the year.

If you didn’t notice, HTC is part of the Android Wear ecosystem, listed as a hardware partner on the official Android Wear website. Chances are, that membership means sometime in the future, HTC will produce a wearable device powered by Android Wear.

Entering into the wearable tech market with an Android Wear powered device would be an intelligent business move for HTC. They would be absorbing some of the current hype surrounding the Moto 360, the LG G Watch, and cool tools developers are making. More importantly for consumers, HTC could announced and sell the two devices together as a bundle.

Will HTC unveil a smartwatch, smartband, or another wearable tomorrow in New York City? Your guess is as good as ours. One thing’s for sure, we know the HTC One 2014 (M8) is coming tomorrow morning (or tonight, oops). Anything else will be a welcomed addition. Our own Rob Jackson will be onsite for the event and we’ll let you know when we know more.

HTC_One_M8

 

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