Going Back to the Flip Phone

Going Back to the Flip Phone

Why, in the age of the smartphone, would someone voluntarily go back to a flip phone?  I can hear you asking, “You run a Tech Blog, why would you do that!” Well, there are a few reasons why I have done it.  I will try to lay out a couple of them here for you.  Maybe it will convince you to give it a try, or make you clutch your smartphone that much tighter.  Let’s get one thing straight to start with, I am not going all Luddite.  This is just one area of my life I have chosen to take a simple approach too.

Can you even buy a flip phone anymore?

Turns out you can, you don’t even need to dig your old Motorola Razr out of the closet.  I was able to purchase a brand new Cingular Flip 2 from AT&T.  The phone is made by Alcatel and branded as a Cingular phone.  Cingular doesn’t really exist as a company anymore, it’s a brand name owned by AT&T.  This flip phone features a lot of not so backward features.  It operates in full 4G LTE mode, has Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi, and a built-in MP3 player.  For a “dumb phone” it’s pretty smart.  I can still check my email on the go if I want to.  Responding to the email, on the other hand, is a little more difficult.  The phone also allows you to listen to over the air FM radio if you have a pair of wired headphones plugged in to act as the antenna.  So not so bad and not your grandmother’s jitterbug either.

Since this is a tech site, let’s bring out the phone’s stats:


DESIGN

  • Size: 4.13in x 2.06in x 0.73in
  • Weight: 4.16oz
  • Color: Dark gray

MEMORY

  • ROM/RAM: 4GB/512MB
  • SD Support: Up to 32GB

FEATURES

  • Processor: MSM8909 Quad Core CPU 1.1GHz

OPERATING SYSTEM

  • KaiOS

DISPLAY SIZE

  • 2.8”

RESOLUTION

  • QVGA (320×240) TFT-TN

CONNECTIVITY

  • Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • 3G/4G/LTE
  • UMTS B2/4/5 FDD B2/4/5/7/12 MFBI
  • HD Voice: Yes
  • Wifi Specs: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 3.0
  • FM Radio
  • USB Type: Micro-USB
  • SIM Type: Nano
  • Others: A-GPS

BATTERY

  • Size: 1350mAh
  • Standby Time: 384 hours (16 days)
  • Talk Time: 8 hours (3G)

CAMERA

  • Main Megapixels: 2MP
  • Focus: FF
  • Angle: 60°
  • Main Camera Video: 720P @ 30fps

SOUND

  • Music Player
  • Supported Formats: PCM,MP3,AAC,AAC+,eAAC+
  • HAC Rating: M4/T4
  • Headset Jack Size: 3.5mm
  • Speaker Size (In Watts): 1 x 0.7W

IN BOX

  • Quick Start Guide
  • Charger
  • Battery
  • Safety and Warranty Information

*HD Voice is not available in all areas. HD Voice Requirements: To experience HD Voice,both parties on the call must be located in an AT&T HD Voice coverage area and have anAT&T HD Voice-capable device and SIM with HD Voice set up on their account. Incompatible Services or Features: The following services and features are currently incompatible with HD Voice: prepaid service, Smart Limits, Ringback Tones, andOfficeDirect and OfficeReach (for business customers). HD Voice is available at no additional cost; standard voice rates apply and are charged according to your wireless rate plan.


All of this flippy goodness was bought for the low price of $60 US, that’s right $60 bucks.  You can’t even get an iPhone’s screen repaired for that.  Buy two to have one as a backup for when you accidentally lose one.  These phones are not the bricks of old.  I have been using this phone for a couple of months and I don’t even notice it in my pocket.

So why did I switch to a flip?

Simple, simplicity.  A smartphone is designed to keep you engaged with it.  Call it FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), boredom, the need to be doing something with our hands, the fact we have forgotten how to be bored, or whatever, a smartphone keeps it all within reach.  Never before in human history has so much information been so easily available.  Try and think about the last time you were having a real in-person conversation with someone and one of you didn’t pull out a smartphone to fact check something on Google.  Does proving yourself instantly right or wrong bring anything better to the conversation?  Probably not.

I personally sit a desk all day with a computer in front of me.  A smartphone is an accessory to most of my day.  Why would I access the internet on its small screen when I have an awesome 24-inch monitor and a keyboard in front of me.  Same thing at home, I have a nice laptop and a tablet.  I was finding more and more I was limited by the smartphones smallish screen.  My smartphone was pretty awesome, it was no other than last years (2016) Google Pixel.

So it’s not like I had a crappy phone, I had a great one.  But I felt myself being more interested in it than what my kids were doing, or other things going on around me.  Sure a lot of it was my own self-discipline.  I wanted to not have the distraction of a smartphone around.  Just turning it off, of removing the apps, etc, wasn’t enough.  It’s like when I first tried to quit smoking a long time ago, I would keep a pack hidden in the house, “just in case” and I would always go back to them, maybe a little less.  The only way I was able to quit was just to remove them from my environment.  Same thing with the smartphone.  If I wanted to be better about not using it, I had to get rid of it.

These are just my reasons, if you are feeling the nagging that you need to do something about your smartphone use, or just want to have a good backup phone, the flip is the way to go.

What have I noticed?

Since I switched to the flip I find that I text people less.  Since it’s hard.  I never embraced T9 back when it was new, I was always the multi-button pusher.  I got pretty quick at it, and was kind of amazed how fast the muscle memory came back.  So now I call people.  It’s interesting how many people don’t like taking phone calls anymore.

I miss maps.  I have a horrible sense of direction (pull my man card now) and I used a smartphone and Google Maps as a crutch.  The only time I have found it would have been really helpful was when my older daughter came out to visit me in Washington DC.  We were wandering around seeing the sights, but we needed to find a Metro station.  I “knew” one was nearby, but not sure where exactly.  We had to *gasp* look at the many maps posted around the National Mall to figure out where to go.  We also double checked by asking someone.  Crisis averted.

I am more focused at work mostly in meetings, I usually only need small pieces of the overall meeting I am attending.  So it was easy to just pull out the smartphone and find something to distract myself till my part came up.  Now I am finding that being more present in the whole meeting has made me more productive since I am gathering more the contexted of the information I am collecting.

I also really notice other people on their phones.  Resturants are the biggest one, whole families sitting around staring at their phones and not talking to each other, or their conversations revolve around showing each other things they have found on their phones.  I am as guilty of this as anyone else.  I just don’t want a part of that right now.  My little kids tell great stories if I just really listen.

Will I ever go back to a Smartphone?

I won’t say I never will, the convenience of a smartphone does tend, to me, to outweigh the drawbacks.  Our culture is becoming more smartphone-centric, which is good and bad at the same time.  Since all the things that people use their phones for, don’t work once the power goes out.  Smartphones are great when they are working and have a good connection to the internet, not so much when they don’t.  It’s always a good idea to have a “back-up” communication system.

For now, I am enjoying the mental clarity that comes from not being constantly distracted.  Is it for everyone?  I don’t know, it works for me, but I am not everyone.  If you think you might be too involved with your smartphone, try turning it off, go to a flip phone for a couple of weeks, or months.  See how you feel.  Also, the lower data plans tend to be much cheaper.  As of this writing (late-2017), it looks like the unlimited plans are coming back, so it might not matter.

What do you think about giving up your smartphone?  Something you think you might try, or will they pry your iPhone from your cold dead hands?

Switch from iPhone to Android

Switch from iPhone to Android

www.avgguytech.com

It’s not as hard as you think

So maybe you asked for and got the new Google Pixel for Christmas and are ready to ditch the iPhone.  Maybe you are just holding on to the iPhone since it is all you have ever known.  If you have been seeing your friend convert from iPhone to Android and think you might want to give it a try.  Whatever the reason for switching Mobile Operating Systems, it’s not as hard as you think it might be.

Let’s look at what you are probably most interested in carrying over.  Your contacts, your photos, your calendar, and your music.  These are usually the most important things people keep on their phone.  What about all your favorite apps?  Well, that’s the rub there.  Most, if not all the apps you use on an iPhone are available in the Google Play Store.  You will have to rebuy any paid apps you have, sorry.

First things first

You need to set up a Google Account.  You won’t be able to do anything with an Android phone without one.  This is similar to setting up your iCloud account that you had with Apple.  So go ahead and set one up, don’t worry, I’ll wait….  Ok, done right? If you already have a Google account (think Gmail address) then we can proceed.

There is a lot of stuff you can do via your computer to get things ready to go before you even turn your new Android phone on.

Export your contacts

This could not be easier:

  1. Download and launch iTunes.
  2. Connect your iPhone to the computer.
  3. Open the handset’s device summary page.
  4. Click the Info tab.
  5. Check “Sync Contacts With” and then select “Google Contacts”.
  6. Type your Google account’s username and password.
  7. Click Apply.

Really, that’s it.  This should create all your contacts on your shiny new Google account.  Now again, if you already had a Gmail account this might cause some duplication of contacts, you might want to give your Google Contacts a run through to see if you catch contacts that are out of date or not ones you want anymore.  Switching phones is a great time to do a little housekeeping on your files anyways.

Transfer your Photos

I know that your iPhone is now your primary camera.  People don’t generally carry around a separate digital camera anymore.  I don’t blame them.  That has been the convergence of the all in one device that does everything you need.  So how do you get your pictures from your old iPhone to the new Android phone?  Again, easier than you think.

Your new Google account automatically comes with a Google Photo Account (also if you are an Amazon Prime member you can back up unlimited Photos to Amazon Photos also).  Google Photos is a cloud storage solution for backing up your pictures.  You can set up Google Photos on your new Android phone to automatically back up your pictures to the cloud.  This way there is never the chance to miss saving one of your great selfies!

All you have to do is connect your iPhone to your computer and use the File Explorer (PC) to open your phone’s folders.  From there you should be able to navigate to the user/media/DCIM folder.  When in doubt as to where pictures are located on any camera device, it is usually the DCIM folder.

Once there you can copy all the pictures to the desktop or some other location on your computer.  Just remember where you put them.

Now you can go to Google Drive and create a folder in the Google Photos directory to store your iPhone Photos.  Once you create the folder, you can drag and drop the files from your computer to the cloud drive.  This might take awhile to finish, depending on how many pictures you have and the speed of your internet connection.  At this point, you should just let your computer do it’s thing and take a coffee break.

Transferring your Calendar

If you use iCalendar for keeping track of all your appointments, then I am sure you would like to have the same stuff on your new Android.  This is also really easy.

  1. Open settings on your iPad or iPhone.
  2. Click on the Mail, Contacts, Calendars button on the left-hand side.
  3. You will see an accounts section that has iCloud, Exchange etc. …
  4. Select the Gmail option.
  5. Enter in your details.

That’s it.  They make it really simple.

Transferring your iTunes Music

Once you have finished transferring your Photos and your computer is freed up to do another transfer, you can move your music.  The iTunes music is kept in a folder on your computer that you have iTunes installed on.  It is in your Music folder.  The easiest thing to do is transfer the whole folder to your Google Drive.  Now if you have a huge collection you might need to upgrade your storage on Google Drive.  For most of us, though, this shouldn’t be a problem.

You can also copy this folder straight to your new phone, but again, why use up the storage on the phone when you can be connected to your cloud storage via the Google Play Music app.  You do have the choice to download some of the albums or songs so you can access them when off line or without using your data plan.  I recommend doing this for the music and playlists you use most often when out on the road.

Other things to consider

Switching from iPhone to Android has a few learning curves, depending on the brand of Android phone you get, the Android interface itself will look a little different.  Each manufacturer is allowed to tweak Android to their own version of the OS.  This means if you have an LG phone and your friend has a Samsung, things will look a little different, but overall they work the same.

You also have to get used to having a back button.  Spend a little time with your new phone, explore the menus and the features before you start diving into the apps.  You really can’t break anything in there.  If you change something and you don’t like the change, it’s easy to just reverse the steps.  You can also Google your problem or even email me and find the answer.

Some great resources for all things Android are Android Central and Android Authority they have great links and how to articles on setting up your phone and getting the best apps running on it.

Bottom Line

Let me be the first to say welcome to the Android universe, you will find things are a little more laid back here.  Android allows for much more customization than Apple does.  Good thing or bad thing, hard to say, it depends on how comfortable you are with a little bit of change.  I do know that once you switch to the Android and really start using it as your daily driver.  You will wonder why you ever even bothered with the iPhone in the first place.

Full Review: Google Pixel

Full Review: Google Pixel

www.avgguytech.comFirst Week with the Google Pixel

It’s been a week since I bought a Google Pixel, I chose the Very Black 5 inch 32GB version.  I am switching from the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active that was also a 32Gb and made that work just fine.  I didn’t see the need to pay another $120 for another 32GB of storage.  So how has the phone been performing for me?  So far so good, let’s take a look at some of the great, the good, and the not so good.

My friends at Chromeunboxed.com did an unboxing and early review of the Pixel XL. Here is their video:

The Great

This phone is fast.  There is no wait for any of the apps to launch or any hesitations when switching between screens and apps.  Everything happens as fast as I touch it.  The screen is crisp and responsive and the phone feels great in my hand.  The materials used for the construction feel premium because they are.  For a $600+ flagship phone that Google is putting their name on, I would expect nothing less.

Google Pixel

The back of the phone features two halves, top, and bottom.  The top is glass and houses the fingerprint reader, the camera, and flash.  I also assume that since the upper half is glass, it is where the antennas for the cell phone, WiFi, and GPS are housed in order to avoid interference from the aluminum chassis.  The aluminum has just enough texture to not feel slick.  I feel confident holding the phone in my hand.  I have since added a silicone case for a little extra grip and protection.

The fingerprint reader on the back has to be one of my favorite features of this phone.  All you have to do is touch the sensor and the phone unlocks, no fumbling to type in a pin or accidental unlocking from sliding the phone in your pocket.  You can even set the sensor to read multiple fingerprints.  I am right handed so I usually unlock the phone with my right index finger.  I also keep the phone in my left pocket, so it is helpful to also unlock with my left index finger as I pull the phone from my pocket.  The reader itself is large and is fast to unlock.

Google PixelThe screen is fantastic, it is a full 1080p HD panel and it shows.  It renders colors accurately and crisply.  It’s a pleasure to watch HD content on this screen.  I have pulled up a couple of 4K videos from YouTube to attempt to fully experience the screen.  The colors are amazing.  the 5-inch panel probably isn’t enough for serious media consumption, but great for shorter videos.  The 5.5-inch screen that is also offered has even better resolution and pixel density (makes the screen look sharper).  The larger Pixel would be better for those wanting more of a tablet experience on their phone.

The battery life is also great!   I easily take it off the charger in the morning and have all day battery life.  I don’t stream a lot of videos or play games.  For normal use, Social Media, Email, Internet Browsing.  It’s not uncommon to be heading to bed with around 10-15% battery life remaining.

The Good

The camera is good.  I probably don’t have all the skills necessary to take those breathtaking smartphone shots that others do.  I do take pictures a lot indoors so I need a good low-light camera.  The Pixel handles low light situations really well and can brighten up a picture with pre-flash that doesn’t give the subjects red-eyes.  Also, low light pictures usually end up a little blurry since the shutter stays open a little longer to capture more light.  I have not found this to be as big of an issue with the camera on this phone.

Also with the camera, you get unlimited storage in your Google Drive Account for Pictures and 4K video you take with the Pixel.  So go ahead, take all the HDR shots and 4K videos you want.  It will always be backed up to the cloud.

Set-up and menus.  The Google Pixel runs the latest version of Android (7.1.1 as of Dec 2016) there have been a lot of material changes in how this version of Android looks and feels versus previous versions.  The biggest difference I have seen is the notification bar.  It has been a small learning curve for me.  Once you figure out where everything is, it runs great, you can also customize the buttons in the notification bar.

The speakers.  Normally with a smartphone, the speakers are tinny and not very loud.  The Pixel brings the noise with some great sounding speakers.  Now, you won’t fill a concert hall with sound, but they do sound good in a small room.  The bass is a little flat, but that will always be an issue with small enclosed speakers.  There have recently been some reports around the web about there being an issue with the speakers hissing a high volume.  I have not had this issue.

Bluetooth pairing is simple and quick, so it’s easy to overcome the smartphone speaker issues if you need room filling sound.

Google Assistant was one of the most talked about features of this phone.  I have used it, she is good, but I have not really explored the depths that it could be useful.  I so will hold total judgment on this feature so far.  But her speech recognition is good, and more conversational back and forth is nice.

The Pixel’s native Google Drive support also makes it ideal for syncing with my Acer Chromebook 14.  As I take pictures on the phone I can almost instantly see them on my Google Drive.  This makes sharing media between my phone and my laptop that much easier.  I can also use the fingerprint unlock on my Pixel to unlock my Chromebook.

 

The Bad

The only thing I have found that I don’t like about this phone is the WiFi setup.  I don’t blame this on the Pixel itself, but rather the Android UI in the latest version.  In Android 6 I could tap the WiFi icon in the notification bar and see a list of networks to connect to, Android 7 from what I can tell, doesn’t do this.

Other than that I have not found anything else that bothers me about this phone.

Everything else

Day to day, this is a great phone.  Calls sound good (AT&T Wireless) and no one complains that they have a hard time hearing me, or that there is a noise in the background.  I make calls both with the phone and with my Bluetooth headphones. Either option works well for making and receiving calls.

USB-C charging has become my new favorite.  I love that I can much more easily plug in the phone, which I don’t have to do often, in the dark without worrying about which end of the cable to use or if it is right side up or down.  The included charger and cable bring the phone from 0 to 70% battery life in about 15 minutes.  The box the phone comes in includes a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-A to USB-C cable.  So you don’t have to run out and buy all new accessories when you get your phone (cough, cough Apple).

Texting is easy with the on screen keyboard and the phone is comfortable to hold for extended periods.  The Screen, as I said before, is bright and I do not have any trouble seeing the screen outside on Sunny days.

The lock button and the volume button are on the right side of the phone and easy to reach and use.  The top of the phone has the 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom has the two speaker ports and the USB-C charging port. The left side of the phone has the SIM card access.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for something different than the Samsung Galaxy line or want to switch from Apple, then the Google Pixel is a great way to go.  It is feature rich and Google has put a lot of time and energy into their phone, while this isn’t Google’s first pass at a phone, it is the first they are really putting their name on.  It has been designed from the ground up to be one of, if not the best smartphone out there today.

More Info

It is available from the Google Store, Verizon (Unlocked), and from Best Buy.  You can also find them on Amazon and eBay.

I ran a comparison of the top three phones today: Google Pixel vs. Apple iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge – GSMArena

First Impressions: Google Pixel

First Impressions: Google Pixel

Google Pixel

The most anticipated phone of the year:

Well, at least the one that still has a headphone jack and also doesn’t explode in your pocket.  A lot of signs early in the summer pointed to Google releasing their own phone.  For many years the Nexus line of phones have been the flag carrier for the big G.  Unlike the iPhone, the Nexus phones were always branded with the manufacturer’s logo.  The Nexus phones were produced by the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC.

The all-new Google Pixel is the first phone designed and spec’d by Google themselves.  While it is put together by HTC, it is not an HTC phone.  Google controlled everything from the screen sizes to build materials to features.  What they have come up with is great!

Initial Thoughts:

Google Pixel

I have been excited for this phone since it was announced back in October.  The feature set and the tech going into this phone was enough to make even me take notice.  The inclusion of the best smartphone camera ever, a high-def AMOLED screen, aluminum build and Google Assistant built in?  It was too good to resist.  Unfortunately, I was unable to buy it at launch, so I missed out on the free VR headset, but those are “cheap” so hopefully I can pick one up soon.

Out of the simple white box comes the phone, a wall wart for charging and two power cables, one is a USB-C on both ends cable and the other is a USB-A to USB-C cable for use with the quickly becoming legacy connection.

There is a manual that guides you through initial setup and the warranty guide.  Other than that the packaging is clean and simple.

My friends at Chrome Unboxed did an unboxing video of the Pixel XL if you want to check it out.

 


Setup was easy, I just typed in my Google account username and password, the phone asked if I wanted to restore from my Samsung S6.  Then it confirmed which apps I wanted to install and off it went.  It took about an hour to get everything downloaded and configured.  The phone never slowed down or stalled during the installation.  Once the apps were done, Android 7.1.1 downloaded and installed, rebooted and been running great ever since.

I have to say this phone is fast, switching between apps is effortless and the camera is quick.  It’s noticeably fast and better reacting the even my Samsung Galaxy.  The extra RAM and better processors really show through in speed gains.

The screen is also beautiful.  The HD screen with a dense pixel count make pictures really pop and videos have vibrant colors and rich blacks.  The sound from the onboard speakers is loud but I think the Samsung’s speakers had a richer quality to them.  The Pixel sounds great for watching a video with a lot of voice tracks, but the Samsung is better for music.

My Bluetooth headset connected quickly and without any issues.  I have been trying to create a link between the Pixel and my Chromebook, but so far no luck. It keeps failing during the pairing process.  Phone calls sound good both through the Bluetooth and through the normal speaker.  I was able to clearly understand when someone talked to me, and they said I sounded good also.

Bottom Line:

This is a premium handset to compete with the iPhone 7.  I have not tried the latest from Apple, but I am sure it is a fine phone.  The Pixel is the current standard carrier for Android and will be the first to get the latest updates to the well used mobile OS.  The fact the phone is also sold unlocked *unless you get it from Verizon, so it comes with a pure Android experience.  There is not any of the normal carrier “bloatware” already preloaded on the phone you will never use and can’t get rid of.

If you are an Android user and are looking for a great handset, I recommend the Pixel.  If you are an iOS user and you are tired of Apple forcing change on you, I recommend the Pixel.  If you just want a smartphone to do smartphone things?  Well, the Pixel would work there also.  There are cheaper headsets on the market, but this one leads the pack.  I will do a complete review soon, once I have had some more time with the device and really integrate it into my everyday life.

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Has Apple lost it’s edge?

Has Apple lost it’s edge?

Apple Design

There is not a lot of innovation coming out of Cupertino

Really, what’s going on there?  Apple for awhile has been riding the wave of good customer vibes and the cutting edge of design and tech.  They have produced some of the most sought after products of the first part of this century.  The iPhone, Macbook Air, and the iPad are all considered the benchmarks of their categories.

As time has gone on, several other companies have made great strides to match Apple in quality and style.  It is like Apple found a design they liked, and have stuck with it all this time.  They make minor changes to the hardware and software, but the overall design strategy has been stagnant.

Apple Macbook TouchbarApple fans get excited every time a new device gets announced.  Recently that was the long-awaited refresh of the Macbook line.  Apple’s line of high-end laptops has not had a major refresh in years.  At Apple’s big event they teased a major change.  Coming in on the heels of Microsoft’s unveiling of the new Surface Studio with its new puck style stylus.  This is a new departure in interaction with the computer that we used to expect from Apple.

The big design change for the new Macbook?  A touch bar where the function keys used to be, not a touch screen, but a touch bar that you can change the icons for.  Uhh, what?  I don’t know who thought this is what the consumer was hoping for.  It does allow you to input emojis easier.  So there is that.

While everyone else is looking to add touch screens to their laptops or go to the two-in-ones.  Apple stayed with the tried and true standard, non-touch screen laptop.  This is the same kind of behavior that Apple used to poke fun at the other manufacturers for. Not innovating.

To touch or not to touch

Touch screens on laptops are not my favorite thing.  I have tried a couple and found the experience to be less than great.  It’s a cool trick, and it kind of works.  I don’t really like interacting with my laptop in that way unless I am scrolling through long form websites.  If I did more creative, photo editing and such, I think the touch or the pen interface would be ideal.  If you just write stuff, like I do, then the standard keyboard and trackpad works well enough.

There is nothing wrong with including a touch screen, even if it won’t get used.  Apple has enough of a fanbase that is price insensitive.  So the extra cost of the touch screen system would be absorbed.

Think about your favorite Macbook that can be folded over into your favorite iPad.  What a game changer that might be.  The fusion of Apple’s two best products.  I think Apple already does the convergence game well, it is just a matter of time till they can put all the pieces together.

That is my holy grail, I want to work on stuff on my laptop.  Go in the other room and pick up where I left off with my tablet.  Then when I hit the road for work I can keep going with my phone.  The laptop should be the place where the heavy lifting gets done as far as computing tasks go.

What happens next

For Apple they need to really pay attention to what their customers/fans want.  The rest of the industry is catching up to them in design and function.  Gone are days of having to choose between something that works and something that is nice to look at.

iPhoneApple completely underwhelmed at their two industry shows, the not-so-new iPhone 7 was just a rehash of the iPhone 6.  Nothing really changed except for some other hardware updates, like the camera and processor.  If someone was looking for a new phone, they have been waiting and will continue to wait. They did remove the headphone jack, ground breaking.

The new Macbooks were the most hotly awaited products Apple was going to unveil.  The Macbook series has not been updated in any real way in several years.  So imagine people’s dismay when the only change that came out was the touch bar and the delete of the ESC key.  The second strike was that the new laptops only have a single USB-C port.  This means that consumers will have to buy several dongles to interface with their external devices.

Macbook AIrThe Macbook Air, which is one of the better laptops they put out, was ignored.  This is where they could have made some hay with the mid-priced laptop market.

The new rumor, based on patent filings, is that Apple is working on a smartphone you can fold in half, like a flip phone with a touchscreen.  This could be something that may be something to get people fired up again.

Bottom Line

Apple needs to launch a new product that one, makes people want it for the sake they didn’t know they needed it.  They also need to launch or redesign something that is edgy and ground breaking.  Their current stable is not the cutting edge it once was, it is now an also ran.  They have managed to hold on to the place of being a luxury item, but even that is starting to slip.

People want stuff that works and some want stuff that looks cool.  It’s nice when you can get something that does both.

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Sunday “I Want This” – Google Pixel

Sunday “I Want This” – Google Pixel

Cafe Latte

 

The Google Pixel Phone – Pure Android

Google PixelThe Google Pixel is now shipping and people so far have been really happy with it.  The phone was announced at the Google Event back in early October.  This is the first phone designed by Google themselves.  Before they would tell a manufacturing partner (LG, Samsung, HTC) what they wanted and they would build it and brand it as a Google Nexus by whomever.  This is the first phone Google engineered, designed, built the OS from the ground up for.  Google did partner with HTC to do the actual assembly, but that is it.  This is not a warmed over HTC design.  It is all new.

So why does that matter?

It matters in a way that Google was able to tailor everything together to work together.  Sounds a little redundant, but trust me it’s a good thing.  Most of the smartphones you buy these days come with a version of Android that the manufacturer has added their own stuff to.  That’s why a LG phone looks different than a Samsung or HTC.  Google is able to make sure that you get the true to intent Android experience.

 

So why do I want it?

That’s easy, I am always looking for the latest and best way to do something.  This phone does literally do everything, I heard it even makes phone calls, but who does that.  It is the first phone to ship with Google’s new AI, Google Assistant, not the catchiest name.  I have been able to use Google Assistant a little bit on my current phone the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active through the Google Allo app.  I really like where it is going.  The ablity to just tell my phone what I want is great.  I can ask “it” to call someone or send a text or open an app all without needing to click through a bunch of menus.  Is it life changing, no, but I like it.  It kind of reminds me of Star Trek, where the crew can just ask questions of the computer and it responds.  The AI also keeps track of things I ask about and asks if I want some of the same information delievered at the same time each day.  Google calls this a subscription.  You can change anything about the subscription at any time.

Google PixelIf you have spent any time using Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana then you will know what I am getting after here.  It’s nice to be able to handle simple tasks with the phone without needing to click on it a bunch.  I find it is best when I need to set a quick reminder or start a timer for something.

The second thing I like about this phone is the camera.  It is, according to some websites and reviewers, the best smartphone camera on the market right now.  Even beating out the Apple iPhone 7, which was the benchmark for smartphone cameras.

I have been trying to take more pictures lately, a lot for this blog and just to capture some of life’s moments.  Having a high quality camera in my pocket would be great.  My S6’s camera is good, but falls down a little in low light and with zoomed in shots.  Two things the new pixel is supposed to be great at.

This phone also comes in two sizes, the Pixel which has a 5 inch screen, my favorite size, and Pixel XL which is a 5.7 inch screen.  I don’t care for the “phablet” form factor, but that’s me.  YMMV.

This phone is also equipped with the latest and greatest processors and hardware.  It should last a couple of years before it becomes obsolete.  It is already VR capable and can capture 4K Video

Some other nice things are the all aluminum build and the glass back, this makes the phone light, and easier to hold onto.  There are no physical buttons on the back or the front, the ring on the back is the fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone quickly.  The Pixel also has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, who knew that would become a “feature”

The Pixel also uses the new USB-C connector for charging.  No more worrying about which way to plug the phone in like with Micro-USB.  This is the new standard in connectors and it’s nice to see this phone has it now.  The USB-C might not be really common now, but it will be everywhere soon.

Bottom Line

pixel-backI don’t usually get too fired up about a phone.  I have a love hate relationship with my smartphones.  I like having one for using it as a computing device when I am out and about, but I usually hate looking at the small screen for too long.  I also don’t like needing to pull it out of my pocket all the time to check messages and notifications.  For that I do use Pushbullet to send those notifications to my desktop.  I can respond to text messages and stuff from the desktop, which is great.

I am deep into Android and the Google Chrome environments.  Both which, while being a semi-closed ecosystem, still offer more flexibility than Apple’s iCloud/Tunes/Takemymoney $.99/time system.  Android just works and lets me work.  Chrome is the same way.  With Android apps coming to Chromebooks I see my dream of convergence coming soon. I should be able to be working on my Chromebook, move to my phone or tablet and keep going with what I was doing.

This is something I think Google is working towards.  They have the heft of their search engine powering their AI, they have the money from it to develop things like Chrome and Android, so I think the future for the system is bright.

The Google Pixel is the best Android phone on the market right now, and with it being Google’s flagship device it will get the latest and greatest updates first.  So this phone will be a relevent feature on the smartphone landscape for a long time to come.  This phone should replace the iPhone as the standard by which other phones are judged.

Some other reviews out there:

CNET.com

My friends at Chromeunboxed.com did a complete video review, it’s really a great way to see the phone and how it looks in real life.