Last week we had Nexus 7s and Chromecasts. This week, the fun rolls on with Kindle Fire rumours and Google Glass expansion. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on! (more…)
The signs have been here for a few years. Being a services company with reach spanning from your web browser to your mobile phone, Google has been pushing for a better integration of all of the digital aspects of your life. For a long time now, you could visit the Play Store from your computer and click one button to have an app installed on your device. Or if you used Google Talk on the web and on your phone, you might have noticed that it only received notifications on the device you most recently used to send a message.
But apart from these rare examples, it always felt like the digital pieces of our lives were synchronizing together, working the same way with the same set of data, but never in intelligent tandem. Synchronous but not unified. That’s what I had been waiting for, and this year’s I/O as well as this week’s Google event got me excited. The wheels are in motion and we’re finally moving toward a future where all the digital fragments in our possession become one entity.
Google’s Nexus program has been absolutely vital to the Android ecosystem over the years. In fact, most of the Nexus devices came along right when they were needed, acting as a guide for the Android OEMs. A couple months ago, the Android ecosystem was completely shocked when Hugo Berra took the stage at Google I/O. While many were expecting a new Nexus 7 to follow in last year’s pattern, Hugo dropped something different entirely. He showcased a Samsung Galaxy S4 with stock Android.
The excitement and speculation this generated only increased when Sundar Pichai announced a similar take on the HTC One at The Wall Street Journal’s D11 conference. People were of course very pleased to have two popular flagships running stock Android, but they were also concerned about the future of the Nexus program. There were rumors going around that some companies were losing interest in Nexus phones which only fuelled the speculation that the program might be finished. This, obviously, is not the case as the Android ecosystem needs a Nexus device now more than ever.
Despite how much I am involved with Android now, and my ever-growing addiction to the platform over the past couple of years, I was surprised to reckon a few weeks ago that I have never experienced Android like it was created and meant to be — ie. on a Nexus device. I have owned and used an HTC Desire Z, an Iconia A100 tablet, a Samsung Galaxy S3 and an LG Optimus 4X HD, but never a Nexus device. That’s because I live in Lebanon, where Nexus devices are a black market rarity and Samsung is everywhere.
However, I eventually managed to convince the local LG team to lend me a Nexus 4 for review. And *insert expletives* I’m blown away.
In the third of a series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?
Having surprised myself by proclaiming both Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense to deliver more advantages than disadvantages, and given that Sony’s Xperia UI is arguably slightly closer to stock Android than the other two, you might probably guess at the same outcome here too, but for this ‘skin’, I’m definitely swinging the other way.
I have used Android since late 2010, when it started becoming a more mature operating system and a respected player on the market. Although I switched to Google’s platform about 2 years after its initial release, the system has kept on evolving, and came to be my favorite mobile operating system. Android has been a trendsetter over the years and has introduced several handy innovations, such as a central notification hub, remote installation of applications and more. Even today, Android has features neither iOS nor Windows Phone or Blackberry have and remains a source of inspiration thanks to its unified sharing system and widgets.
Nonetheless, not all Android devices are consistent and easy to use at first, and many find iOS to be simpler to get accustomed to. While I don’t fully agree with this, I have compared the ease of use of my iPad with my Galaxy Note II, and it is clear that there are instances where Android could learn a bit from the simplicity of iOS.
Every year there’s one Monday morning in June where the company Google loves to hate takes the very same stage that previously hosted Android announcements to present updates to iOS, amongst other things. This year was no difference but with a rumoured significant design change, the 2013 instalment is perhaps one of the most anticipated.
iOS 7 has delivered a new design with a skeuomorphic-less, flatter design somewhat resemblant of the design principles of Google’s Holo and Microsoft’s Metro. In this article, we’re going to take a look at iOS 7 and see how it stacks up to the incumbent versions of Android.
In the second of a new series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?
HTC’s Sense interface has received much criticism over the years, principally because it presented a face to Android that was just a little too different to stock. This was rarely an issue for new users, many of whom grew up with Sense, but switching from a Samsung or Motorola (or Nexus) device would typically involve a lot of head scratching and set-up time. Sense 5.0, here on the HTC One, is actually something of a rewrite — so forget everything you ever knew about Sense, this is more streamlined and refined. And, indeed, arguably close enough to stock Android that few may want to spend time hacking it around.
Up front and central is the new BlinkFeed homescreen, of which more later. Integrating social feeds into Sense has always been something HTC has been keen on, and the company has knocked it out of the park here.
Google may well be best known for its search engine, but the company has plenty of strings to its bow including Gmail – the free email service that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. As with many other online services, there is a mobile version of the Gmail website that you can use to access your inbox from your phone or tablet, so why would you want to use an app?
The recent update to Gmail — both its Android app and the website — means that this seems like a good time to take a closer look at Google’s email service. This is something I use daily, and have done for years. There are aspects I love, aspects I hate, but I think it’s continuing to make moves in the right direction.
In the first of a new series on Android.Appstorm, I look in turn at each of the Android manufacturers and the changes they make to Android’s start up, interface and basic functionality. In each case, does the end result justify the huge investment in programming time and the resulting delays for end users in seeing each new version and update for the Android OS?
Here, for the purposes of the review, Samsung’s TouchWiz is implemented on Android 4.1.1 on the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Galaxy S III mini, and on Android 4.2.2 on the Galaxy S4 — I’ve sprinkled screenshots from each throughout, as needed. Summary? There are significant benefits here for new users, and for advanced users too, provided they’re happy to delve deeply into Settings to turn a few things off. The level of Samsung’s ‘additions’ to the platform is slightly worrying in places but is, overall, manageable.