Category Archives: Android

Android Rant Part 1 – Google Now

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Google Now is awesome they say. Tells you all the information right when you need it, but there’s one glaring problem they forget to mention. The system is completely redundant. A quote from the Google Now website: “Google Now gets you just the right information at just the right time.” Google Now is trying to notify you of things that may be important to you, which sounds all fine and dandy until you realize Android has a notification tray already built into the OS. On the right you can see a perfectly functioning notification tray showing someone their next appointment. This is extremely similar to Google Now notifying you of appointments other than the traffic information which could easily be included in the notification. This is true for almost all things featured in Google Now. Flight information, reservations, events, sports, movies, packages, etc. can all be displayed in the notification tray. In fact Google Now even gives you the option to display card notifications in the tray. So the fact that they don’t just put the information there by default is ludicrous. In the rare case that the notification system does not have the capability to do something and the Google Now app does it seems like it would be a much better use of Google’s time to add that feature to the notification system so 3rd party apps can make use of it instead of just adding pointless apps and randomness.

What does a $349 Galaxy Nexus really mean?

Now that all the Google IO buzz has settled down I’ve decided to write about what I’ve taken away from it. I’m not going to focus on the same news everyone else has been reporting since everyone knows the highlight reel from this

years IO. The hugely publicized and ridiculously cheap Nexus 7 is now available for $200. I ordered mine 20 minutes after it was announced. However a more interesting price point to me was the $50 price drop on the Galaxy Nexus.

Ever since the advent of the feature phone we have been locked into carrier contracts in order to get a decent phone. This is extremely evident if you look at AT&T’s website. If you want a modern Android phone off-contract you are looking at a $500-$600 purchase. This is approximately the price of a cheaper end laptop and for the average consumer a very high price point for a device with a lifespan less than 2-3 years. The immensely popular and relatively old iPhone 4S off-contract costs a ridiculous $649. So as it stands buying phones off-contract is not a feasible option unless you are a well paid tech enthusiast.

All of this is starting to change since Google IO. The Galaxy Nexus, even though it is a 8 month old device, is running the latest version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean) and arguably the best running Android phone. So for the sake of argument the Galaxy Nexus is a modern phone. By dropping the price point of the Galaxy Nexus to $350 dollars Google is now saying that it is a viable solution to buy your phone from Google without a contract or being carrier locked. This price point is very important because $350 feels more like a pleasure purchase and less like a major decision purchase. For example it is closer to the price of a gaming console, portable gaming system or an iPod touch. This shows a completely reasonable system for someone to buy the Galaxy Nexus and not feel as bad for upgrading to the new phone in a year.

This change will probably have some lasting effects in the industry over the next couple of years. First and most notable, more and more people will begin buying their phones off contract and not through their carrier. This will mean manufacturers will be in control over their customers devices instead of the carriers. This will result in less carrier bloatware, less carrier restrictions most importantly faster updates. Second, carrier hopping will probably increase exponentially. Now that consumers will be without contracts, when the carriers start charging erroneously and increasing rates consumers will now be able to leave without having to suffer harsh termination fees. This will most likely result in more competition between the carriers and better service. Possibly the most important repercussion of this is that Google will be able to communicate with their customers much better than they could before. In a way that in the past only apple did regularly.

As far as other phone manufacturers, hopefully we will see some of them selling their phones off-contract for a reasonable price. In my opinion this would do nothing but help the industry as a whole and the consumers will definitely benefit.

[Rant] Frustrated with Bloatware

I recently got a Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone with AT&T. First off from a hardware standpoint the phone is glorious. In fact I prefer parts over the recently released Galaxy Nexus. It’s main pitfall is its software. No I’m not talking about Android 2.3.4, I’m talking about the debauchery added to it by AT&T and Samsung.

First off, having been an owner of the original Samsung galaxy S, I’ve never been a fan of Samsung’s touchwiz interface. I know they are trying to make their phones unique but I feel like in a large part they are going in the completely wrong direction. They should do things like offer unique services not offered by Google which can enhance their users experience. They should also offer apps which integrate will with the android ecosystem instead of trying to replace the android ecosystem. Applications added by Samsung such as their own voice control system are an unnecessary addition to the operating system in my opinion but what is even more of a problem than the wasted development time creating these applications is the inability to uninstall the applications. In fact the primary reason I rooted my phone was strictly to uninstall the apps provided by Samsung.

In my opinion the touchwiz interface itself is not as good as the stock android interface. I do appreciate some elements such as messages for call rejection and swipe contacts to call but the dock and app drawer are not nearly as efficient as regular android 2.3. I just wish that Samsung would include a method for flashing a plain ROM without any modifications.

For the main grievance I have had with my new phone is AT&T’s changes. I pay approximately 30 dollars a month for an unlimited data plan which AT&T then blocks parts of my phones functionality. Mainly I’m talking about wifi tethering. I feel like if I’m paying for unlimited wireless tethering I should be able to use it regardless of the device that I am using it on. AT&T however feels that they have the right to charge me not based on the service they provide but on what I do on the internet. This results in me rooting my phone and uninstalling all of there wifi tethering tools in order to get access to the default wifi tethering setup in android. There are also the other AT&T provided apps such as ATT Navigator and MyATT. Navigator is not nearly as nice as Google Maps. I actually enjoy the use of My ATT to view account details so no problem there. But once again these apps are not removable which is a huge complaint. I do believe this device also has CarrierIQ installed so unauthorized tethering makes me nervous even though I encrypt all traffic through a SOCKS proxy since ATT might be monitoring everything happening on my phone.

Anyways those are my thoughts on the subject. ThekKid Signing out.

Asus eee pad transformer first impressions

I was in the market for a tablet and had decided I wanted the eee pad transformer since it seemed the most versatile and I’m in favor of PC vendors over cell phone manufacturers. So this last weekend I picked Eee Pad transformer boxone up and have to say I’m loving it. In fact so much that I’m typing this post on it right now. I have not yet purchased the laptop-keyboard dock but I will in the near future. I never expected to enjoy using a tablet so much and did not realize how much my 17″ MacBook Pro really weighed until I started playing with this device.

My first impressions of the hardware are pretty good. The device is quite light and I like the feel and positioning of the sleep/power and volume buttons. The added black border around the device is quite convenient because my experience with a Xoom resulted in accidentally touching sides of the screen and this does not seem to be the case with the transformer. The sides of the device feel slightly cheap but I’m not really concerned about it. The device’s cameras(front-facing and rear-facing) are well positioned and if held in landscape fingers never appear in shot. The device also has a micro-sd card slot, mini-hdmi port and mic jack on the right side which fulfill their purpose. The device also uses a proprietary charging/data cable instead of the standard micro-usb. This may be an annoyance but I believe it is for added functionality of the dock which has 2 full USB 2.0 ports.

My first uses of the software went great. Honeycomb 3.1 seems to be a very nice tablet operating system and Asus has only made minor improvements such as icons in the lower left, added wallpapers(gorgeous) and added widgets. I could not find some apps in the Android Market such as Facebook but I figure it just takes a bit more effort to get. Android 2.x apps also scale white well onto the larger screen.

To anyone wondering whether the device us worth it I say it definitely is. You may however want to wait until the transformer v2 is released but that might be a while and then they may announce v3. ThekKid signing out.