Feature Review – Nexus 6 & Project Fi Part One

Google’s new cellular network, Project Fi, is here. Is it all its cracked up to be?

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Introduction

I’ve been a Google Services user for quite some time. In fact, I have a Gmail address that I still actively use that dates back to one of the very first and original Gmail Invitations. I began using Gmail in 2003, shortly after it was introduced to the public. I’ve been using Google Apps as a (now grandfathered) free, domain account since late 2009. I love Google Services for (seriously) just a very few reasons, the first and foremost being that they usually are always up and running. Its not like the earlier days when they went down all the time.

When Google announced Project Fi, I looked into getting myself a review unit and an account. With device and service now in hand, I am now currently looking into how well it all fits together. Project Fi is the company’s first foray into being an MVNO – Mobile, Virtual Network Operator.

Project Fi combines services from two mobile operators and one universal, networking service (Wi-Fi) in order to provide voice and data services. With Sprint and T-Mobile providing calling and mobile broadband service, combined with Wi-Fi calling and internet access, you should have coverage nearly everywhere… or at least that’s the idea.

There are a couple caveats with Project Fi, however. In this article, we’ll look at those. We will also look at the service it provides, the changes it makes to Google Voice – if relevant in your use – as well as the hardware it requires. I’m not going to go into a truly in-depth look at the Nexus 6 hardware (though I will cover it, somewhat). I’m going to concentrate more on how it works with Project Fi more than anything else.

The device has been available for a while; and if you’re looking for an in-depth or teardown review of the Nexus 6, you should check those out first. Again, I’m going to go over the device , but I’m going to really skim over it. There are a number of really good reviews of the Nexus 6 on the web already. You can find a few at pocketnow.com, C|Net and Engadget. With all that said, let’s get to it…

 

Hardware

The first thing that you need to know about Project Fi is that it requires very specific hardware. You can’t just take a Project Fi SIM and stick it into any phone with a SIM slot. It just doesn’t work that way. In order to use the service, you have to use compatible hardware, and that means acquiring a new device, unless you happen to own a Nexus 6.

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The Nexus 6 is the first (and currently only) smartphone (at the moment, at least) that works with Project Fi. If you already have a Nexus 6, you’re halfway there. All you have to do to get on the service is go to the Project Fi website and request an invitation.

Yep… an invitation. Oh… and then wait. Like, forever.

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Like everything cool that Google does, part of their DNA is to dangle their projects in front of you, make the access exclusive, elitist and again, cool; and build demand for it, if only just to build up the hype. In the end its (metaphorically speaking) just a photo upload service, just a webmail app, just an online office suite, etc.   So, Project Fi is just like a… no. Wait… I’m getting ahead of myself… AH-GAIN.

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In order to access the service, after your invitation arrives, again, you need a Nexus 6. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can purchase one through Project Fi. If you do, you have the option of buying it outright, or by paying for it over the course of 24 months as part of your monthly service, interest free.

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Through Project Fi, the Nexus 6 is $549USD for a 32GB version or $599USD for the 64GB version. Project Fi only offers the Midnight Blue version of the Nexus 6, so your only real choice with the device is storage size. If you want to purchase a Nexus 6 via their monthly purchase plan, you’ll pay about $22 a month for the 32GB version and $24 a month for the 64GB version. Again, there are no finance or interest charges. Your monthly charge will include any applicable taxes. If the Nexus 6 on Project Fi is going to be your daily driver, then it really makes sense to purchase the 64GB version, especially if you go the monthly payment route, as the price difference between the two is only $50USD. That process requires a credit check, though.

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However, Google is being very picky about who qualifies for the monthly payment option and who doesn’t. I wasn’t given specifics, but I was told by the PR rep I spoke with that even with my very good credit, that I wouldn’t qualify.

Screen

The first thing you’re going to notice about the Nexus 6 is its huge screen size. The device’s screen specs can be seen below. All of the specs in this article have been gathered from Phone Arena, which is one of the best places I know of to look for hard core, device specs.

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Physical size: 6.0 inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density: 493 ppi
Technology: AMOLED
Screen-to-body ratio: 74.03 %
Touchscreen: Multi-touch
Features: Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)

Simply put, at 6 inches, the device… is enormous. With a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, its screen rivals the display resolution of my Apple Thunderbolt display. The only difference in the resolution (and only the resolution) between the two is that the default orientation for the Nexus 6 is Portrait (where any monitor – like my Thunderbolt Display – has a default orientation of Landscape). According to the specs, above, the screen is nearly 3/4 of the entire device. When you see it, you’ll likely have two thoughts – 1. Wow! The screen is 3/4 of the entire device!; and 2. Wait… its only 3/4 of the entire device?? That can’t be right. There’s more screen on this thing than that! The rest is system board, casing and battery.

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With its AMOLED display, the Nexus 6 is incredibly readable in direct sun light. I didn’t have any issues with it in that department. The device is awesome for watching video or taking pictures with its 13MP camera (more on that, below). Game play on this thing has to be amazing, given the screen’s large size and resolution. (I, unfortunately, am not much of a gamer…)

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With such a large footprint, the device is nearly impossible to use one handed. I’ve used a lot of devices with a lot of different form factors, with and without large touch screens. This one is hard to use with only one hand. I’m not certain I’d even try if I were you. You’ll sprain a thumb, at least. When I tried, I kept dropping the display on my desk.

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Lastly, the Nexus 6’s screen is covered with Gorilla Glass 3. The glass is effectively scratch proof, though Google will tell you its only scratch resistant. However, Gorilla Glass 3 is so tough, you won’t have to worry about the contents of your pocket scratching your screen.

Specs

The Nexus 6 runs Android 5.1.x, Lollipop. Google has recently stated that the device will receive an update to Android 5.1.1, “within days,” but since I received my review unit on 2015-07-09, I haven’t seen the update hit. Android 5.1.1 will be arrive as an over-the-air (OTA) update; and will provide a number of improvements, such as improving the display, increasing battery life for Wi-Fi calling and enhancing notifications.

OS: Android (5.1, 5.0)
Dimensions: 6.27 x 3.27 x 0.40 inches(159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06 mm)
Weight 6.49 oz.(184 g) the average is 5 oz. (142 g)
Rugged: Splash resistant

If the screen size didn’t give it away, then the dimensions above, should. The device is really big. At 184g (6.5oz), its also got a bit of heft to it, too. The biggest problem I had the first day I had it, though was actually keeping it in my hands. The device kept sliding out of my hands (as I noted above) because I kept trying to use it one handed. Thankfully, I was sitting at a desk in the office. With a phablet this large, don’t try it. If you’re out and about and you fumble the device, you’re likely going to have it hit the ground, and these things always manage to land on a corner or edge and then the screen shatters (Gorilla Glass 3 or not). That’s physics and geometry. Hitting the corner of a device at the right speed and velocity will likely send enough force up the glass to crack or shatter it. This bad boy requires you to use both hands to operate it. Get used to it and get over it.

The Nexus 6 has a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and Adreno 420 graphics with 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The device is quick and can handle just about anything that you throw at it. With the native resolution that it has, and support for HDMI (via microUSB), with the right adapter, a Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft Office for Android, this could make a decent, on the road, laptop replacement. Couple that with OneDrive for Android, and you’ve got a perfect on the go way to edit documents in a pinch. With its large screen, you don’t really HAVE to have a microUSB to HDMI adapter. You could probably edit documents right on the plane in your oh-so-comfy coach seat if you really needed to.

In that regard, the battery on this device is pretty nice too. At 3220mAh, you have about 12 hours of talk time, 14 days of standby time and 10 hours of continuous video playback (or likely somewhere in between, depending on your brightness settings and data needs). When you need to recharge, the device comes with a turbo charger that can take you from 0-50% in 20-30 minutes. The device also supports Qi wireless charging (pronounced “chee”) for your cord-free, charging convenience.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY

GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS: 800, 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE: 700 (band 28), 800 (band 19), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 900 (band 8), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
TDD LTE: 2500 (band 41) MHz
Data: LTE-A Cat 6 (300/50 Mbit/s), HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSDPA+ (4G) 21.1 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, EDGE, GPRS
nano-SIM: Yes
VoLTE: Yes
Positioning: GPS, A-GPS
Navigation: Yes
Bluetooth: 4.1
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
Mobile hotspot: Yes
USB: USB 2.0
Connector: microUSB
Features: Mass storage device, USB charging
HDMI: via microUSB
Other: NFC, MHL, SlimPort, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync

Camera

I’ve been trying to use the Nexus 6 as a camera whenever possible. Its not the easiest device to wield and hold; though, in truth, taking pictures with it isn’t a horrible experience. Though (also) in truth…the performance could and should be a whole lot better, especially with the specs on the camera and the system hardware. This thing should be a whole lot faster than it is.

Thankfully, it appears as though Google has heard the wails and cries of its peoples and has released a Nexus 6 and Android 5.1 Lollipop only update to Google Camera that addresses some of these issues (plus others). The update – version 2.5.052 (2005148-30) was released on 2015-06-11. I’ve had this device for about a week, and I’ve had it on every day since getting it. I’m not certain why I’ve only just received this update today.

I’ve got a small gallery of pictures that I’ve taken with the device. They’re not anything spectacular, but you can check them out, below.

Camera: Popup13 megapixels
Flash: Dual LED
Aperture size: F2.0
Features: Autofocus, Optical image stabilization, Face detection, Digital zoom, Geo tagging
Shooting Modes: Popup High Dynamic Range mode (HDR), Panorama
Camcorder: 3840×2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920×1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps), 1280×720 (720p HD) (30 fps)
Front-facing camera: 2 megapixels

The rear camera is a 13MP camera that will shoot in a number of different sizes and modes. The camera supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio shots. You can get 13MP, 5MP, and 3.1MP shots in 4:3, and 9.7MP and 2.1MP shots in 16:9. The camera has a f2.0 aperture, so its pretty fast and should be ok in lower lighting situations. The cool part, though comes in its camcorder modes. The Nexus 6 shoots 4k, 1080p and 720p video at 30fps.

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Speaker pop

I’m not sure why this is happening; but every time I turn the device on or off, the bottom speaker is popping. Its getting pretty annoying, too. The device started doing this out of the box, even before any software was installed or updated on it, so I know this isn’t something that I installed or updated causing a problem or conflict. I may need to contact Google on this one…

Software

Stock Android

The great thing about a Nexus device is that you’re running stock Android. Granted, this is not AOSP (Android Open Source Project), which is what Amazon and similar players use. This has the full Google Services install in it, and as such, you get the full Google Experience.

With the Nexus 6, you are supposed to get updates regularly, and you’re supposed to get all the updates, too. I’ve now gotten my Lollipop 5.1.1 update, and I really don’t see much of a difference in the device’s performance.

End of part one … come tomorrow to see the part two of our review

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Microsoft Acquires Acompli

…and now they have a cool mobile email app.

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When a company doesn’t really have a US focused mobile device strategy – and let’s face it… Microsoft really doesn’t – things can get a bit stressful. Yes. You’re right… Windows Phones exist. Yes. I have one. No, it obviously ISN’T my daily driver; but you also have to understand one thing – Microsoft’s target market for all of its Windows Phone is NOT the United States (or other First World countries).

Microsoft isn’t making high end Windows Phones any longer. They have instead decided to concentrate their efforts on Third World countries. Very quickly, here’s why that’s very smart
1. There’s no way they are going to overtake Android or iOS devices in any kind of market share race. They just don’t have the legs to do it. Both Android and iOS are too firmly well established to nudge out of the way.
2. Microsoft’s Mobile strategy is still largely unknown. Without any real presence in the US, we’re left to people like Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott and to give us any kind of clue on what Microsoft is going to do with itself in the mobile space.

Let’s face it… even though the Surface Pro 3 may be an interesting ultrabook, Microsoft has no real content consumption device or smartphone that it can really point to or rely on in any of the markets that will either garner a lot of press or a lot of money via flagship sales. They want to concentrate on third world sales, and while that WILL perhaps produce a lot of global share, in the markets that really drive innovation and enterprise sales – First World markets – they’ve got next to nothing…

So, to help address that issue, early on during the morning of 2014-12-01, Microsoft announced it had acquired the email app developer Acompli for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200M USD.

The acquisition is a good move for Microsoft on a number of different fronts. They acquired not only the app and its IP, but also the people that coded it. Acompli has a really good Exchange interface on both iOS and Android devices, and they plug a hole where something is CLEARLY missing from Microsoft’s mobile Office Suite – Outlook.

Microsoft doesn’t have an “Outlook Mobile App” to speak of on either iOS or Android before this acquisition. According to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Outlook and Office 365, “This acquisition brings us an app with innovative technology and a set of talented people who are passionate about reinventing email and communications on mobile screens. It will expedite our work to deliver the full power of Office to mobile devices.”

It’s clear that Microsoft is intending Acompli to be “Outlook mobile.” How the app is rebranded or actually integrated into their newly forming mobile suite for iOS and Android is yet to be totally understood. However, one would think that users would see something for those mobile suites sooner rather than later…if not before they intend to release the “touch” version of Microsoft Office for their Surface and Surface Pro tablets, currently codenamed Gemini.

This is a developing story, and I intend to follow up with either an update or a new post if something interesting comes to light. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, what do you think of this development? Do you use Acompli? How badly do you feel “Outlook mobile” is either missing or is needed on the iOS and Android side of the world? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and let me know what you think?

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Can Lean Back Devices be used for Lean Forward Activities

…or can you really do that with a tablet??

6a0120a805e490970b01538e1c68a3970bI saw an interesting article by Preston Gralla the other day about how productivity boosting tablets were the gift worth giving this year. Preston sites three in his article – one Android (the Nexus 7) and two Windows Pro (Surface Pro 2 and the new Dell Venue 8 Pro). The bent of Preston’s article is that while there’s a great deal of convenience and multimedia capability built into these, they also contain a great deal of productivity power, providing the user with a well-rounded computing experience.

In his mind, this combination of lean back form factor and lean forward productivity is what makes these types of devices a sure winner. Preston has a point, but I’m not entirely convinced. I think it’s this mixing of features and form factor that are causing problems for these devices.

Tablets were originally (re)introduced as relaxation, or lean back, devices that provided basic, essential computing power in a highly portable, light weight, performance minded form factor. They were small enough to take and use nearly everywhere from the bathroom to the beach; and they got you on the internet, reading and answering email and posting to your favorite social networks without requiring a lot of bulky, computing hardware. They did just enough just about everywhere, and that’s what made them successful. Taking the lean back out of the tablet has changed the dynamic of the device.

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device was a movement that BYTE tried to address between July 2011 and April 2013 over at InformationWeek.com I wrote many BYOD focused articles there and you can still find many of the articles I wrote here. The entire house of cards starts to crumble the moment you try to bring your iPad to work. I know, I tried to do it for 3 or more years. Part of what I wanted to do on the iPad – hand written notes – really doesn’t work well, due to the type of digitizer and touch screen the tablet uses. To this day, handwritten notes aren’t easy, despite the advances in processor, memory, etc.

I have found that both iOS and Android, while capable of running productivity apps, are more suited to handling content consumption focused activities. In other words, while possible, both mobile OS’ are really better at running entertainment software – audio and video players, book reading software, game play, etc. again, even with the enhanced hardware they’ve received over the past few years.

When you put a more productivity based OS on a tablet as well as add a keyboard, you get devices like the Surface/ Surface 2 series type devices that have more in common with an ultrabook or notebook PC than they do a tablet. While this has a bit to do with hardware, its really more pointed at the OS. Windows 8 is more suited towards full-blown productivity apps than entertainment software, though they also do exist on the platform.

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Interestingly enough, my son-in-law recently received a Toshiba Satellite Click 2-in-1 13.3″ Touch-Screen Laptop for his birthday from my daughter. The device comes with a detachable keyboard and Windows 8.1 Pro. He is using it as a productivity machine for school. I recently asked him how often he had used it as a tablet. He hasn’t. Not once.

He said while he can use the device in tablet mode, the device works better as a notebook. When I pressed him for an explanation, it was clear to him that Windows 8.1, despite its live tiles and ModernUI interface, is more of a familiar notebook OS than a tablet OS. Office works better while using the attached keyboard than the on-screen keyboard. Computing in general, worked better with the attached keyboard; touch pad and extended battery than simply with the tablet. So, he is clearly leaning forward rather than relaxing and leaning back with it. He also hasn’t used it as an entertainment device – i.e. to watch movies, listen to music or to read eBooks – though he can do all those things quite easily with the device.

I’m finding that is exactly the case with the Dell Latitude 10-ST2 Windows 8 Pro Tablet. Its all productivity and very impractical as an entertainment device.

You’re likely going to hear a great deal of advertising this Holiday Shopping Season on how Windows 8.x tablets are the perfect combination of lean back and lean forward – entertainment and productivity – devices. In most of the cases I’ve seen and in my personal experience, it just doesn’t work out that way.

The potential for having both in a single device is great. If it works out for you, you can obviously save a great deal of money. However, I’ve noticed that most people don’t actually take advantage of both in a single device. Their device gets “mentally tagged” with a single or main purpose, and using the device for something else violates that tag.

I’ve seen people do that with a number of things – cars, pens, clothing, AND computers. Its not that you can’t drive the sports car to the office, its that you’re saving it for the fun times. As a child, I had school clothes and play clothes. You didn’t mix the two; and I suspect that with many people, whether they do it intentionally or not, they aren’t going to be able to put a ton of movies and music on their work machines. Let’s forget about how most enterprise admins frown on stuff like that and just say that you probably aren’t going to want to give up all the space you might need for documents, spreadsheets and presentations to MP3’s and videos.

In the end, it’s a metal paradigm that I think many people won’t accept. Its not because they can’t, but because for them, the whole idea just doesn’t fit well.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.

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A phone worth keeping

pbAbout a week ago, a colleague of mine wrote an article about what’s the right phone to choose when you want to buy a new phone. I think that he was right, but a different concept that I found on the great world of internet, and truly, is just a concept, made me think about a totally different design and idea about how we can choose what phone we want and how to make that phone to be perfect for each human being. We all are different and we all want something special, just for us. Of course, even in this concept, you probably won’t have a completely unique phone, but that won’t be a problem.

The concept is called Block Phone, and as you can see in the video, it would be an extreme upgrade to all we knew so far about electronic devices. First of all, we all know that the electronic devices, as you can see in the video, are not made to last…the technology is advancing so fast, and the devices that yesterday were the ultimate generation, tomorrow will quickly be left behind by the newer amazing ones. This is making the electronic waste the biggest ever of the modern world.

The components are customizable and upgradable! So, you won’t need to buy a complete new phone, you will be able to upgrade just the part of the phone that you want! Display, processor, battery, camera, wifi, memory, etc… Exactly how you can see in the video, all the parts.

Well, for the moment is just a concept, but I really hope that it would be under development in a short time. This for sure will open many doors for the electronic industry, and we will reduce the electronic waste. In my opinion, it’s a win-win situation for all mankind…well, maybe except for the big companies. But I still hope the leaders of those companies are human.

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Why Hasn’t Google Mopped the Floor with Apple?

The mobile space is very competitive; but how why hasn’t Google killed it? Let’s explore that a bit…

aaaIntroduction

Every now and again, even the best of us get hit with a moment of clarity. You know, that moment right after you lay your head down to sleep, you find it…you see it, and it hits you.

BAM!

THE reason, despite ALL others why Google, in spite of their huge vendor penetration and installation base, hasn’t totally mopped the floor with Apple and sent the iPhone packing…and it call comes down to one word –

Ecosystem. Or is it Fragmentation…? In many ways the two are so irreparably intertwined, it’s depressing. However, anyway you slice it, its totally Google’s fault.

Fragmentation

A couple years ago, I wrote an article titled, Opinion – How Google can Trump the iPad. Back in 2010, no one had ever said, heard or understood what an ecosystem was. I was kinda close, but didn’t quite close the loop.

I got about 98% of the way there. Yes, the ecosystem is all about your content on your device; but its more about capturing the consumer and keeping them and their business regardless of what device they’re using. They keep coming back to YOU as the source of truth.

They use your productivity services. They use your applications. More importantly, they purchase those services and applications from sources YOU control, continually providing you with a revenue stream.

Is this starting to sound familiar? Good. Hold that thought… I want to clear something up first.

This is NOT an article about how totally eff-ing awesome Apple is. This is really an article that asks, “how the hell could Google miss the damn boat?!”

Google is partners with Samsung, LG, HTC, and bought Motorola so they could create and sell Android devices of their own. There are more worn out Android devices in land fills now-a-days than there are iPhones in active use, yet iOS and Android are virtually even in market share.

Android Takeover

Can ANYONE tell me why that is?

If you go the fragmentation route, you find that there are so many different versions of Google’s mobile OS out there that it kinda gives you a headache. As of 2013-08-01, you can see the spread of Android versions currently in use. I’m not certain what’s most frightening, the fact that Honeycomb was a total loser, or that Android 2.1 Eclaire still commands a 1.4% share of all devices currently on the market today.

Including Key Lime Pie, there are 35 active versions of Android. That’s all of them, folks. To some extent, you can find every version of Android ever released by Google active somewhere; and Android devices are like grains of sand – numerous to uncountable, even from a single vendor.

To be honest, that figure includes every major, minor and point release of the mobile OS to be made available to end users, and not every version made it to every device.

To contrast this, iOS has seen about 1/2 as many releases in only 6 devices. In the Apple camp, OS releases are highly controlled. Many changes are rolled up to an annual major, release cycle. Minor releases are only introduced as needed. Point releases are used to address crucial, showstopper bugs. The OS simply doesn’t have the level of releases (in software, we call this “churn”) that its competitor’s does. iOS appears to be much more stable and organized as a result.

So, I think its safe to say that there are a bajillion Android devices from numerous vendors running a bajillion versions of Android. The perception here is not just fragmentation, but complete and utter chaos when it comes to devices and OS releases.

Next Page

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HTC Needs…Something

Back in the day, the company could do no wrong. Today, it’s a different story…

htcI’ve been an HTC device user for years. Back in the day, HTC made devices for a company called imate. imate was a device OEM out of Dubai, UAE, and back in 2004…they were the BOMB. Their devices were unlocked, well designed, high performing, high margin products. I remember saving money for an entire YEAR so I could buy an imate PDA2k, a Windows Mobile 5 powered, EDGE based, smartphone. It cost me $930. Unfortunately, the review of the PDA2k I wrote and posted on 2005-06-09 seems to evaporated. There’s nothing left but a small shot of the actual device. It’s too bad. It was a great device and a good review, too.

It turns out that the company behind all of imate’s devices at the time was HTC. Since then, the company came out on its own, established its own brand, made a huge splash in the market and was a total success. Lately, however, they’ve hit some really hard times.

Samsung seems to be able to introduce new Android devices every time it sneezes. Their Galaxy S line of smartphones is a worldwide success, despite any disputes with Apple or accusations of patent infringement. The competition they have been providing in the Android camp is pretty stiff.

As such, it’s been difficult for HTC to gain much traction in this space. I saw an interesting article on WSJ.com, indicating that HTC may need to consider a merger if it wants to survive.

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Many analysts that share this point of view have suggested either Huawei or Lenovo as potential merger partners. It’s unclear whether HTC will consider partnerships with either organization. Both companies are Chinese, and a Chinese partner could really open up sales opportunities for a struggling HTC, who posted their first operating loss on record. Unfortunately for HTC, this loss, coupled with a “gloomy third quarter forecast” is powering an eight year low in HTC’s stock price. Many brokerages are targeting a NT $100 share price in recent weeks. HTC was priced at NT $160 as of early this morning, 2013-07-31.

HTC’s problems aren’t engineering based. Their devices are well designed, and well manufactured. The HTC One is simply stunning by all accounts. HTC’s issues are sales and marketing related, and its seems that a merger may be the best and easiest way to resolve those issues and hitch a ride on someone else’s well-oiled machine.

Any way you slice it, it’s clear. HTC needs…something. If they want to stay relevant and stay in business, they better figure out what that is and get it done, or the HTC One may be the One and Only.

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The Top 11 New Features in iOS 7

With tons of new features on tap, iOS 7 brings updates o-plenty to Apple’s Mobile OS

Please note that while this article was being written, Apple released iOS 7 Beta 2. This article contains comments and issues on both beta releases.

Introduction

It’s summer, and as such every young geeks fancy turns to thoughts of new techy goodness from the top tech companies of the world. In like fashion, Apple’s WWDC and its opening keynote presentation often heralds the introduction of not only new hardware but the software that drives it. This year was no exception.

During Apple’s streamed WWDC Keynote, Apple’s leadership team introduced us to a number of really cool features that would be coming in iOS 7. There are a number of different changes and I’ve had a chance to play with it for a week or two. Its different, that’s for sure; and the OS has a number of new features that are sure to be of interest to a great many people.

So, without further ado, here are what I feel are the top 11 new features in iOS 7. Please note, however, that the mobile OS also a bit buggy as of Beta 1, so I’ve got a section at the end where I’ve listed some opportunities for improvement as well.

IMG_0006Control Center

I was hoping for something like Control Center when I wrote my Top Must have Changes in iOS 7 blog post in May of 2013. The new feature puts some often used toggle switches (Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DND and Rotation Lock along the top, Flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera along the bottom) at your immediate disposal. I also gives you access to brightness and music controls You also have access to AirDrop and active, Bluetooth connections in case you want to send a quick file or manage an active connection.

Control Center slides up from the bottom of the screen, and is (or will be) available from any app or screen on your iDevice. All you have to do is swipe up from the bottom. I’d still like to see the ability to customize this just a bit. I’m never going to use the clock; and I’ve got access to Camera thru the Lock Screen, and I never lock my screen rotation, so me actually using those 3 shortcuts is unlikely and an unfortunate waste of functionality and space.

 

Notification CenterIMG_0007

The revamped Notification Center is a bit problematic. To get access to it, you swipe down from the top of the device screen; and like the Control Center, its available on the Lock Screen, too. I like the idea of a Today screen that gives you specific information about today, but its very long and scrolls too far down the device, if you ask me. For example, Stock information used to be a crawl across the bottom of the device and Notification Screen. When you have a long watch list like I do (3 indexes and 7 symbols), the list is really long, and takes up way too much room. Apple either needs to give me the option to have it list or crawl, or not display it at all.

Its not all sunshine and daisies, though. Make sure you check out the Bugs and Issues section at the end…

 

iTunes Radio

IMG_0018Apple’s long awaited Pandora competitor, branded iTunes Radio is probably one of the biggest and most anticipated features in iOS 7. Built into the Music App, iTunes Radio is the newest music option that the user has available to them, next to Playlist, Albums, Artists, etc.

The service allows users to stream ad-supported internet radio to their iDevice from anywhere you can get an internet signal. You get music from the three big music labels, and iTunes Match subscribers can listen to music without ads.

You can create your own stations, purchase songs through the iTunes Music Store as well as see what you’ve previously listened to through the service. The service will be available not only on your iDevice, but on your PC and Mac as well through an updated version of iTunes, and through Apple TV.

As some may remember, one of the big holdups in the service was the ability for users to skip songs. iTunes Radio users can skip up to 6 songs per station, regardless of whether or not they are iTunes Match subscribers or not. Skips should reset every hour the service is used.

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Are Your Windows Getting Dirty?

Will Microsoft be able to hold the consumer and enterprise market dominance they’ve enjoyed since, like the beginning of computing, or is this the beginning of the end?

My good friend, Preston Gralla is on a roll. He’s had a number of really compelling articles on Microsoft lately. His latest contribution is no exception. His theory here is while MS Windows is the number one desktop OS in 2013; it’s the number three OS in 2015.

His points are clear and concise.

  • Apple PC’s and operating systems (both OS X and iOS) are growing in popularity
  • Android currently has a larger market share than Windows (22.8% to 15.6%, respectively)
  • Both Apple and Google OS are going to continue to gain market share. Microsoft is going to continue to lose share.

Microsoft’s biggest problem is BYOD (bring your own device). Most consumers are not choosing Windows when they purchase new computing devices. With OS X, iOS and the many flavors of Android available, affordable, and with available, professional, productivity tools for them, there’s a great deal of choice available to the consumer.

Users don’t have to stick with a Microsoft compatible computing device to get MS Office compatibility. You can choose from any number of open source options or any number of cloud based options, INCLUDING Office 356 and Google Apps.

Apple will soon be joining the cloud-based Office Suite Revolution when it completes and releases iWork in iCloud, currently in beta. Any and all of these office based suites can be accessed from just about any browser, making the type of computing device irrelevant.

Currently, Microsoft’s computing devices – Surface RT and Surface Pro – aren’t selling well. Both are expensive for what they do, there expandability and upgrade options; and the OS’s they run – Windows RT and Windows 8, respectively – have NOT been received well. This combination is proving deadly as their share of the current computing markets is dropping. The current projections have traditional PC sales dropping by nearly 20% by the end of 2014.

When you factor in rising BYOD trends that add non-Microsoft diversity to the enterprise – traditionally Microsoft’s saving grace – you get a dismal picture. According to Gartner, Windows is the number 2 OS in the world right now with a 15.6% share. Android is number 1 with 22.8% and Apple is third with 9.6% (includes both iOS and OS X).

Gartner is predicting the following shifts for 2014:

  • Android – 42.3%
  • Microsoft – 15.1%
  • Apple – 14.2%

By 2015, Apple will overtake Microsoft, according to Gartner. Microsoft has a lot of work to do to prevent this from happening. Ballmer needs to wake up and find someone with a better mobile vision than he currently has if he wants to turn this baby around.

In my opinion, Mobile has been Ballmer’s biggest weakness. He hasn’t gotten it from the get-go. It’s the single biggest reason why Windows Mobile sucked and then tanked, and why they haven’t been able to get a handle on the Mobile Market with Windows Phone. Windows RT is confusing both the market and its users, and Windows 8 is a hybrid mish-mash of mobile and desktop OS components that few understand or find value in.

The traditional cash cows Microsoft has been milking – Office and Windows – have lost their enterprise appeal due to BYOD and the growth of non-traditional PC markets. Microsoft hasn’t kept up with the trends, and is now in a nasty cross road. The time for indecision is long past. Serious mobile leadership is needed.

Preston is right when he implies that Microsoft’s last hurrah may be Windows 9 (or whatever they call it) in 2015. They COULD get it together between now and then and release something that really catches on, but based on their current direction, momentum, vision and products, it’s unlikely…which is really sad, considering how much Microsoft has shaped not only computing, but world culture as well.

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