The Nexus Line and VoLTE…Why it Matters (Part 2)

Hi Folks,

So I wrote a post about the Nexus line and VoLTE back in November 2012 when the Nexus 4 was announced without LTE and created the a backlash of various commenting. You can read the entire post here: The Nexus Line and VoLTE…Why it Matters

They key points of that post..well my predictions over the next 2 years were..

  • Google releasing a Nexus device unlocked with LTE on all carriers using VoLTE
  • VoLTE going live nationwide within a year
  • Unlimited Data Plans making their way back
  • Unlocked Better priced Contract Free Mobile devices. No more $650 Off contract phones
  • More competition, with more and more customers becoming month to month non contract users

Well fast forward 8 months and one major announcement just occurred,http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57591213-94/verizon-says-first-lte-only-phones-to-arrive-in-late-2014/, yes Verizon will pushing LTE only phones across the network late in 2014.

What do you all think? I think LTE only phones will be the next big thing in mobile wireless service? With major carriers like Verizon not able to control or locked down LTE only phones, due to Open Access rules, I think competition and pricing of phones will get better for the consumer. And Google will finally be able to offer the Nexus on every carrier.
Your thoughts?

Low End, Mid Range, High End….It Doesn’t Matter..It’s the Experience

All this talk about the leaked Moto X specs and it’s “Mid-Range” Specs made me think about this whole spec battle in general. We all know the the Nexus line of phones are considered Mid Range devices based on their specs, but 9/10 provide a much more smoother enjoyable experience than the High End devices like the GS4 or HTC One.

I guess my point here is that just because a phone is a mid-range device does not mean it will perform worse than the so called high end device. I mean the iPhone based on specs would be considered a mid rang device, however most people considered it, arguably here, a premium high end device. So what exactly is the difference?

I think in the end the focus should be experience…not specs. For the new Moto X, you probably are not going to need some crazy specs to run Stockish Android. The real reason the GS4 and One need those specs is because they have to account for the skin layer on top of Android which the phone runs.

For me I predict the cheaper “Mid Range” Moto X will out perform the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One in regards to smoothness, polish, and more enjoyable user experience. In my mind that is what makes a premium phone, high end phone. Sure it might lose in the benchmarks….but that doesn’t matter.

I think Apple’s marketing team has always been geniuses at pushing the message that the iPhone is about experience not specs. I think this is why the new “Cotton Candy” look of iOS 7 gets so much flack. It messes with the users experience.

Google/Motorola needs to change the conversation in Android and start focusing on the experience…not the specs. IMO Stock Android’s design language is a much cleaner, more gender neutral look than any of the other OS. With Google services in tow, there is really no reason the phone should not be a hit.

Jailbreaking. Embrace it rather than Limit it

So I found this article speaking to Apple advising their more inquisitive crowd recommending them not to Jail Break their devices.

http://www.valuewalk.com/2013/02/apple-inc-aapl-advises-fans-not-to-jailbreak-their-ios-devices/

I thought this is one of Apple’s weak points. Yes, Apple, you may not like developers tweaking with your “perfect” OS but this part of what moves the platform. This is part of how those new great features get added to the OS. Contrary to some, the best ideas don’t come out of Cupertino. Some actually come from the enthusiast who want to see something better. The treasure chest on concepts found on the internet many on Verge forums, with some being working Jailbreak modifications is just an example of this.

Now Azrienoch did a Youtube video explaining why rooting on the Android side is…necessary, and pushes the OS and platform. You may say, “Well that’s Android…this is Apple,” but the same premise still remains true here. The more developers you have using and tweaking mods to your OS, the more ideas you have to poach from and officially add it to the OS, in your own “unique” way. The only difference is that Google welcomes individual development and modding of Android OS, and OEMs know better than to come outright and try to stop it. HTC’s latest debacle shows how important that development/rooting community is.

Here is the video…

 

Anyway, knowing Apple, if they don’t like something, they sort of try to shut it down. If the Jailbreaking ceased to exist, will it hurt anything? Probably not, but I feel Apple will lose a great idea machine, by trying to squeeze the life out of the Jail-breaking community.

Anyway what do you all think?

The X-Phone is Google’s way to Restore Balance…

So with all the talk about Samsung dropping Android, and all the X-Phone rumors, I ve come to a conclusion…

The X-Phone is Google’s way to restore balance to the Android ecosystem. I personally do not think Google intended for their to be only 1 very dominant OEM in the Android space..and with Samsung basically doing whatever they want short of forking Android, Google needs to make sure there is a viable competitor.

Now….

  • The OEMs are in it just like Samsung they want users to be in their own ecosystem and their own apps, and they are not big on selling or marketing Nexus devices, so Google can not count on Sony or LJ as they can just as easily get big and try to push their own deeply customized Phone with their own ecosystem leaving Google Apps to the side.
  • Nexus devices are still reference devices that are unlocked and getting updates directly from Google. This needs to stay this way. Regardless of what people say. The Nexus line is a developer device. It is the device that the Android Compatibillty Guidelines are based off of..thus it is called “Reference Device” So you cannot get rid of the Nexus, or dilute it with things like the VZW Galaxy Nexus.

The Motorola X-Phone will be Google’s Android balancing act, so to speak. It will not be a bone stock Nexus but a “stockish” Android phone designed to be sold with carrier customization in mind. So what does this mean? It means it would be a Verizon Galaxy Nexus marketed to the masses with LTE and a few Verizon apps. So in Verizon’s case it would not have Google Wallet, will come with Isis Payments built in, and maybe some games and other bloatware. It will not carry the Nexus name so that the Nexus line is not diluted, and it will be mass produced and available on all carriers. Now you will have some caveats. It will not be updated directly from Google, but will probably be updated faster than any other OEM and you will have to deal with any of the Carrier applications and lock-ins that may come with any other phone. Yes it will have bloatware, but that can easily be disabled, unlike the likes of Touchwiz and MotoBlur.

I think this will allow Google to put more focus on the Google version of the Android experience, focusing more on their ecosystem and services, in addition to offering wide device availability, and ensuring that there is a premium alternative that can compete with Samsung.

Google TV…What it needs to really compete

At this years Google I/O we saw Google TV boxes all over the place with various skins and designs raging from stock to cubes. It kind of reminded me of Android Smartphones, with every OEM coming out with their version of what they think Google TV should be, some which suck…and some which seem like they have promise.

Google TV reminds me of what Android was right before Gingerbread, still trying to figure itself out and work out the kinks in the platform, and not a major player on the field. So Google should learn from their own history to make Google TV a strong platform…..

1. More updates, it is like the Google TV team took a long vacation. Android was getting major updates almost every 6 months, making it more stable and adding more and more features. For Google TV, it is not the case and probably gets updated once a year.

2. A Nexus Google TV. Yes, some thought we were going to see one at CES, but lets not forget Google does not present Nexus devices at CES…I’m not sure if they ever have. If we see a Nexus Google TV it will be shown at Google I/O along with all the other Nexus paraphernalia. This Google TV should probably be built by ASUS or LG which seems to be it’s strongest partner in this area.

3. Features. The Google TV already has a great feature set, but this is what it needs.

  1. A Tuner. The Google TV needs an Tuner for all those folks who are cord cutters. Yes, this will bump up the price, but Google could solve this by making two options. A Cable/Sat add on box, and a Stand Alone Box meant for cord cutters which use broadcast HD. All this for 99.99. What would be the better solution would be one box that offers both.
  2. Local Media. Yes the Google TV needs to do a much better job of organizing local media, it should be able to connect to a SMB or DLNA share and scrape the movie info similar to a Boxee Box. In addition, the search feature should be able to additionally pull up local media when you are searching for a TV show or movie to watch.
  3. Content. This is probably the more complicated issue but for people like me who still suscribes to digital cable…all I really want is better DVR integration. If Google could negotiate that, as a cable subscriber I would be happy. For those who are cord cutters, most shows and movies are already being added in a la carte. With a tuner for live TV, 90% of needs should be met.

Anyway what do you all think

The Problem with Windows Phone from the outside looking in.

I’m an Android user so I will speak on this from the outside looking in. I am a heavy Windows Desktop user as I never really saw the point of using a Mac for my needs so desktop runs Windows while the mobile stuff is Android. Now unlike many folks I don’t think Windows Phone had a feature or hardware problem…I think the problem was more of a problem with the Windows Phone ecosystem. Windows Phone represented a move from the standard icon grid many people were sick of and most of the issues which I hear are built around the ecosystem.

First, Microsoft should of done a better job with the integration with their cloud services. People should have to automatically use their Outlook.com to sign in to the phone, if they don’t have one make them create one. Just like Amazon, Apple and Google force you to create some account for Kindle, iOS and Android. Using this account should enable services you have turned on across the board with single sign-on to each.

Which brings me to my next point. Windows Phone has a poor streamlined cloud services experience among all product lines. Microsoft already has majority of it’s services on the web to all users, something Apple does not have, but everything looks disjointed. Why does the calendar still look like crap. In addition I should be able to log into Outlook.com access all connected services, So I should be able to go to Bing Maps, Music, the Market Place, Office 365, and all other content offered under that umbrella. This will help to promote the Windows ecosystem because it is all available in one place.

Next is marketing…..bad job on marketing. People’s experience is more geared toward the ecosystem that they use. Android is all about Google….Apple is all about iCloud. Microsoft focused more on the feature set and forget to market their ecosystem. If you don’t want users to depend on something else you have to give them a way out. For example Google Music gave users a way out of iTunes by providing syncing directly from iTunes making the switch simple. Apple dropped Google Maps and provided their own offering (Even though it kind of sucked). The key here they where marketed heavy to get users on board.

Microsoft should have marketed the features of Bing Maps and how it does what Google Maps does but better. They should have of marketed their content offerings much better, and maybe use deeper skype integration as a leverage for customers.

I think MS went about this all the wrong way and should have never went negative with Google or anyone else, regardless of what Google did or didn’t do, MS should have focused on their product and showing how great their product is. Windows Phone is a great phone being managed by the wrong people, and that is unfortunate because they had a strong chance of wiping blackberry away.

Why a Amazon Phone will be a dud…

So there has been all the talk of Amazon stepping up their game and there has been rumors in the air of them releasing a smartphone. Well, I think that is grand but I also think it will crash and burn..and here is why.

You Can’t Win by Riding the Back of Another OS

If Amazon releases a phone, it will most likely be a forked version of Android just like the tablet is.  Which is where the problem begins.  When you fork a OS it means you always have to wait for the code to be released before actually updating your own.  This is why the Kindle Fire HD is running on Android 4.0 not 4.1 and definitely not 4.2.  Now it probably does not matter to much since Amazon completely changed almost everything about the OS, but there is still that point…that at any give time your OS will always be running one major version behind the rest.

Ecosystem is Everything

Android’s claim to fame is that it is the ecosystem that works well with other ecosystems.  So If you are a Amazon person you can pull in MP3s, Books, and hopefully Video onto any Android Phone.  We see this done with the Droid DNA, and I feel this might start to become a trend.  However, because Amazon is forked, they have no access to Google Apps…which is one of the perks for being in the OHA.  In addtion you can’t even market it as an Android phone even thoug it runs Android Apps, so you now have to really market your App Store, to people who already have the same App in the Play Store.  Anyway, all those Googleytes out there that need their Google apps like Search, GMail, Maps, and the like are out of luck.  Oh plus, if you have moved content over to Google that also means no access to Play Store or Google Music, Drive, Currents…etc.  Again this matters, because most of Google Apps are available for iOS and Android which account for over 80% of the smartphone market.  With Amazon services being available as a simple app download you get the best of both worlds by just getting an Android or iOS phone.  While you will miss out on services by moving to an Amazon phone.  This aspect matters more on your primary device than on a tablet which is more of a secondary media consumption device.

The Field is Getting Serious about their Stuff

With Blackberry 10 on the horizon and Windows Phone 8 trying to make their mark, what can Amazon bring to the table as an innovative smartphone for users?  Price?  Sorry the Nexus 4 already did that.  Services? By Using a forked version of Android it will be gimped from the start.  Cloud Services? Well Amazon is chasing behind everyone else here as MS, Apple, and Google…have cemented a robust offering of cloud services both for entertainment and productivity.  Amazon is only focusing on the entertainment side, which is great for Tablets, but you need both for SmartPhones.

Final Thoughts..

In the end I think it will be great for competition, and in turn great for consumers as everyone will really have to start thinking outside the box.  However, Amazon becoming a major player?  I just don’t think it will happen.  Now I could be wrong and Amazon takes a different approach to this maybe making an Amazon experience Android phone through HTC, like the Droid DNA, but even more Amazon’d out.  There could be some sort of exclusive to it, like 5% off any Amazon prime purchase through some special Amazon app on the phone. That would be major. But hey I guess we will have to wait and see.

Best of 2012

Everyone is always releasing these best of 2012 post which some I agree with and some is pure garbage so I figured I will release my own, as it doesn’t take a genius to to make a list of the best in tech.

SmartPhones

First off lets talk about phones.  Just toss the whole Fanboy  Android vs iPhone deal out the Window, and tell your little whiny Windows phone friend to be quiet.  There was no best phone of 2012, in my opinion there were 3.  Yes of course there was the iPhone 5, Apple’s iconic phone which honestly had some major updates this cycle.  It has a better, bigger screen and 4G LTE.  Yes I know some of you will say it is so much more, but lets face it the majority of people see 2 things a bigger screen and 4G LTE, which for all intensive purposes might be, “Meh” to others, but it is major for those iOS users.  In addition, add the Galaxy S3 to your list.  As much as I hate touchwiz, it is a pretty nice device with some nifty little features, and everyone I know has that damn phone.  Finally of course the Nexus 4, yes I know it does not have LTE, but yo, that thing is $300 unlocked, who ever heard of that.  Not to mention, it is finally putting the Nexus line on the map, something Google has had a hard time doing.

Tablets

Nexus 7, no not the iPad Mini, or Kindle Fire….the Nexus 7.  This tablet had Apple fans dropping their iPads and buying 2.  When has an Android tablet ever done that.  Kindle Fire was just too….well…Amazonish, and no Google Apps, we all know how we love our Google Apps.  The iPad mini, was basically Apple forcing themselves to make a tablet so they don’t lose market share.  I mean no retina display, no GPS, and 329.00 for that thing….I think not.  I don’t care how beautiful that thing is, people don’t buy tablets to adorn like a work of art.

Finally the real best of 2012 is Project Glass..this is what tech companies should be doing, thinking outside of the box, not iterating their smartphones and calling it, some new innovation.  I still watch this YouTube video and I’m like can’t wait till this is live.  Yeah I know most have seen it but I will show it again, because it is just that cool.

 

The Platform battle has turned to an Eco-System War

Sometime last week Google released their much anticipated Maps App for iOS and caused mad app downloading hysteria in one night, and FanBoys on each side stirring up trouble. Android Fans pissed that Google gave the iPhone Maps, Apple Fans still pushing Apple’s Maps as better. I guess you can’t please everyone.

Anyway even before that Eric Schmidt made the comment, “The Platform War is Over and Android won” which I agree with, but with some caveats. I believe Eric is talking about the platform war in regards to the race to get user market-share. That has always kind of bean what the platform war is about. Companies create services and hardware to attract more and more users, Google needs it to push more ads, Apple and Samsung needs users to sell more hardware. Anyway I won’t get into business model differences here.

My point is that the Platform War was more of a battle, to see what OS will become dominant. What platform will more users be using. The answer is a resounding Android and you really can’t argue with that. However, the platform battle is a big chunk of the larger Ecosystem War. Google, Amazon, and Apple are the big three players on the ecosystem side. Samsung and other OEMs do not play in their league, and will probably never play in their league.

Each ecosystem offers a robust App Catalog, Music, Video, Books, Magazines, and services all integrated together for the user. However each company is fighting the Eco-System War differently.

Amazon provides users with a forked Android experience taking the popularity of Android and using that to create their own App Catalog which is basically Android Apps. They key here is that Amazon now has app exclusives and offers competitive pricing pulling Android users into their store. Amazon additionally has Music, and Video offerings which rival that of iTunes in pricing and availability with Amazon starting to offer their complete ecosystem on the Android and Apple ecosystem it will eventually start poaching users from iTunes. Amazon does not have it’s own smartphone which is the primary device these days. So it does create an issue when you have to relay on another Ecosystems primary device to put your ecosystem on.

Google’s Ecosystem is built on Android, and is a different beast. Google considers Android the Ecosystem of ecosystems, touting it as an OS that is designed for you to choose the ecosystem of your liking. However, because Google basically controls the Android OS, they make sure Google services are more deeply integrated into the OS at it’s core. This includes features like Google Search and Google Voice, which is much more integrated than Skinned versions of Android. Now Google’s move is to offer their services to as many users as possible. Because Google does not sell products like Apple, or Product and Services like Amazon. Google sales targeted ads. That is how they make their money. So the more people that are using Google services the better Google is at targeting ads accurately. This is why you do see Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Earth, and other services for iOS. I think we will eventually see Google Music, Google Magazines, Books, and other content come to the iPhone as a native app as well. Yes I know Android phones will balk, but it is business, I think as Android becomes more polished the OS will be able to stand on it’s own. I think we are at that point that the majority of people want Android because of Android. I predict Google Now will stay an Android exclusive until the OS is 100% polished, and then they will port it out to iOS.

Now we all know Apple’s ecosystem, it is more of a closed wall ecosystem on the mobile side. They do not offer their services natively for any other OS. You basically need to find an app that will be able to tie into iTunes, AirPlay, iCloud, etc…This aspect basically forces the user to purchase Apple hardware if they want full integration to their services. Is it right? Yes, it is right for Apple, they are a hardware company, and that is how they make their money. Think if Apple just the iTunes app for Android, that will cut into their bottom line because they are no longer making money off the hardware purchase which is about 60% of Apple’s profits. If Google loses an Android user because of Maps (It will happen but it won’t be anything major) Google still makes their cash because that user is still using their services and is still tied into their ecosystem.

Long story short Apple provides probably the best streamlined ecosystem compared to Amazon and Google, when the user completely buys in to Desktop, Phone, Tablet, and TV. However we all know the majority of people operate in mixed platforms something Like iPad, Android Phone, Windows Desktop, and an Apple TV or Roko. When that is the typical device make up of a user it is inevitable that the company that wins the Ecosystem war will be the company that has more interoperabillty between the different platforms.

So who wins? I honestly don’t know I think the battle for the Television space will play a huge role on how the ecosystem battle shifts. I do feel Google is winning on the shear fact Android has more users, and their services are accessible to more people regardless of platform. As Google begins to create more native Apps on iOS rivaling Apples services Google can start making huge jumps ahead.

iTunes vs Amazon MP3s vs Play Music…from an Android Perspective

With Google announcing their Scan and match service for Play Music and the recent addition of the Warner catalog a couple months back, Google’s Play Music can actually flex some muscle. For us Android user music management is always that thing which could easily drive you bonkers. This is just my perspective on the 3 major services from an Android user.

Itunes_logo1_medium

iTunes has the most content then any of the other 2 services, with most artist making it a priority to add their music to iTunes before any other digital store. In addition there are a lot more “iTunes Exclusive” content here than anywhere else. iTunes offers a match service to ease the hassle of uploading music, however there is a cost of 24.99 a year, which in the grand scheme of things is not bad. With iTunes 11 everything is completely integrated into the cloud (iCloud) and brings the ability to stream music to iOS devices without downloading it. iTunes additionally gives users AirPlay capabilities to stream music Wireless in your home.

My big issues with iTunes are that all these great features are utterly useless for someone who uses another platform outside of iOS. Yes, there are some apps which try their best to replicate those features, but it is never the same. With using iTunes with Windows or Android you will still be required to sync your music, either by syncing it to another service or syncing it directly to your phone. In addition with no native app, you have to use 3rd party apps like DoubleTwist and the like, if you want to setup some sort of wireless syncing to your phone. Even with that it still requires you to be at home or by the computer/laptop in which you are downloading the music to. These apps are great, but the one thing they do not offer is the ability to purchase music right from my phone. Actually you have to be on a computer that you installed iTunes on to purchase music, you can’t even purchase music from a web interface, so it is really limiting. Yes, there is iCloud, but unless you have an Apple device you basically cannot use the service. In addition, for those of us with huge libraries, there is no way to stream your iTunes library to an Android phone which also makes it annoying if your out of town and in the mood to play something that is not currently synced to your phone.

Amazon-mp3-logo_medium

Amazon MP3 is actually a really nice service. For starters it’s catalog is not as big as iTunes, but they carry all of the major labels, so there is a 90% chance most people will always find what they are looking for. In addition there is a native app for Android users, which allows you to purchase and play music directly from your phone. Music could be downloaded or streamed from the Amazon cloud player, and you could always just go to Amazon.com and purchase music there which can be dropped into the cloud player and then accessed from your phone. Like iTunes there is also a match service for up to 250k songs compared to iTunes 25k for 24.99 a year.

My only real big issues with the Cloud Player are that the Android App leaves a lot to be desired..namely being the way it handles offline music…it just downloads everything to the device. Now some people might think that is great, but there is no way of managing what you want on the device and what you don’t unless you start browsing directories and deleting stuff. Also because it does it this way it makes there is no way to just download a playlist for offline play. In addition the you have to use their weird software for downloading music on your desktop which is the buggiest thing I have ever used.

Google-play529556ca-8bbd-413e-bdf4-970aaa8972da_medium

Finally we come to Google Play which is technically supposed to be the standard music app for Android users. The main issue with Google Play their library and who actually has access to it. Even with the expansion of Google Play in Europe and other countries and the addition of the Warner music library, Google Play still does not have as much content as it’s rivals. For the average type of listener this may not be an issue, but for folks constantly looking for new artist and new music, there may be some artist that are not there. I have a friend you has 2 albums on iTunes and not one on the Play Store. However many of these issues are solved with Google Play’s ability to sync outside libraries (Window Media Player, iTunes, etc..) to Google Play. For me the majority of my stuff I find and if not I buy from Amazon and upload it to Google Play. Google play now additionally offers a match service for up to 20k (This kinda sucks) songs for free, so that is a big plus for many folks.

Google Play pretty much does the same things as Amazon MP3, but I feel it does it a tad bit better. For the most part syncing of your music between devices is effortless. The minute you purchase music on the web or device, it will be synced and show up on your tablet or phone. There is no telling the player to sync music as everything happens in the background. In addition Google Play handles offline playback by caching music to your device, by simply “Pinning” a song, album, playlist or even an artist. If you are running out of space you can simply unpin something to add something else. I usually keep just playlist cached to my device, so whenever I add a new song to the playlist, the app knows to also save the song to my device since it is in a playlist that is set for offline playback (Amazon MP3s does not do this). In addition downloading music to your computer is just downloading a compressed file, unlike Amazon or iTunes which is not as straight forward.

In the end everyone has their preference and what they are used to, but I think for those of us on Android, we are finally seeing some good things happening with Google Play.