When I woke up in the morning, it never crossed my mind that I was going to change my phone that day.
I’ve been off contract for several months. If I wanted to go back in to contract, I would need a good deal since I was on an unlimited data plan that are no longer offered. Another benefit that I should look into a new contract is the price of a new phone.
Since I’ve used my Galaxy Nexus for two years and have been very happy with the stock Android experience, I didn’t want to go back into a custom branded phone; like something with Samsung’s Touchwiz for example.
I started the day by getting lunch at P.F. Chang’s, and right across the street there was a Telcel customer service office. So I went over there just to be curious on what was available, and surprisingly got a good deal: a lower rate contract since I not using all the minutes I was paying for, and a relatively good price on the Motorola X phone.
Coming from using the Galaxy Nexus, the improvements are very noticeable. Not in the software, which are minor tweaks, but in the performance. The GNex has 1GB RAM vs the Moto X’s 2GB RAM that make a world of difference in load and response times.
The screen is very bright and I love the contrast (is it called dynamic range?) of the blacks and the bright colors.
Although the general software is pure Google Android, it has some special software like Touchless control and display notifications. I comes with Android 4.2.2, and not the current 4.3 version. The Motorola sales guy told me that it will upgrade to 4.4 “as soon as it comes out”, but I take his word with a grain of salt. You can also install the Motorola Connect Chrome extension so you can read your SMS messages and review your call log on the computer screen.
Also the camera software is different from stock Android, which I still haven’t tested thoroughly. Upgrading my mobile camera from the GNex’s 8 megapixel camera to the Moto X’s 10.2 megapixel camera sounds like a nice improvement that I still have to test and compare in detail. I like the fact that with two swings of the wrist the camera quickly activates. I got tired of spending 8 to 12 seconds to bring up the camera on the GNex, most times missing the moment, and don’t get me started on the focusing. The Moto X camera seems to focus pretty fast the couple times I’ve tried it so far.
The only complain I have so far on the Moto X is the Gallery app. It doesn’t sync all my web albums. So all I see are the photos stored in the phone. I don’t want to replace the gallery app with some untrusted version. The same thing happens with my CyanogenMod tablet, but I’m willing to experiment on that one more than on my new device.
I know that at the time of this writing and my recent purchase, the Nexus 5 is only days away from being announced. But I don’t regret my purchase. It will take weeks for it to start hitting the streets and months for it to get offered by my mobile provider at probably double the price than in the US. I guess I’ll still want a Nexus 5 when it comes out, but for now I can wait a few months, to save up for it while I figure out how I can order it from the US and get it shipped to Mexico, but more importantly, read comments and feedback from the early adopters.
Google released Keep, a note-taking application that allows you to save your todo lists, notes, web clips, audios, photos, etc. and it stores everything in your Google Drive account. With the recent notice of Google Reader being shut down, this new application release has been badly received by users that are questioning Google’s trust on keeping a service alive for long, even when it has a lot of usage.
The funny thing about Keep is that this is the second incarnation of the service. The previous attempt was called Google Notebook and also got killed in July 2012. Will Keep stay for long?
Om Malik, on Gigaom, advices that it is wiser to trust a small company whose core business is the service you need. Companies like Evernote and Dropbox only have one core product, and they concentrate on improving it and keeping it useful since it is their core business. Google has a lot of products and services and it’s not a big deal to kill any of them at any given time.
The problem on depending on web services is not new and I’ve been talking about it several times. Companies come and go and people are trusting their services with their information. This is why it is important to create and use free network services. Owncloud is an alternative to cloud backup services like Dropbox. For note taking I’m not aware of any FAIF web service but applications like Tomboy (Gnome) or BasKet (KDE) are good desktop options. I personally use Emacs Org-mode and sync it with MobileOrg.
Will you use Google Keep or stay with Evernote or other similar service providers? Do you know any free web alternative to these? Let me know in the comments!
On December 2011 Google introduced Currents, an RSS reader app for mobile devices with a magazine-like user interface similar to Flipboard. The application is very good-looking, they have done a great design and user experience. But before that, there was the Google Reader web service and mobile app.
The Google Reader app looks old and outdated from current Android development design standards. The product seems abandoned since Gingerbread, with a minor update for tablet layouts while Honeycomb was the latest Android version. That was about two years ago. On the web application side it also felt abandoned. I’m sure there’s been incremental minor updates and maintenance tweaks on the project, but it clearly doesn’t have the attention and priority that Gmail or YouTube have, even though it’s probably the most used online RSS feed reader.
I always wondered why Google made Currents and not update the Reader app into what Currents is. Then it was weird that Google had two products doing basically the same thing in two different ways. The fact is that Google Currents is more than just a simple RSS reader, it is a publishing platform where publishers can control and customize their content presentation and also charge for subscriptions.
So that’s why it makes sense from a business point of view to kill Google Reader. I think that Currents will be the new Reader, and for that to happen, they will release a web version of Currents and migrate everyone’s data to it. The early announcement of killing Reader can also a strategy to generate nostalgia in the users and listen to the feedback generated by everyone who will miss it. Then choose to implement the most loved features into the web version of Currents. Maybe it will be announced during the Google I/O event, which is just in time before Google Reader goes dark on July 1st 2013.
I’ve seen many posts about alternative RSS feed readers out there. But when they talk about open source feed readers they refer to desktop clients, and when they don’t make the freedom distinction, they mention proprietary web services. But these days, with all the mobility and multiple devices, who wants a desktop feed reader?
If you are worried about another web service you love to use might go dark in the future, there is hope. Here are some good free and open web based RSS feed reader clients you can use as Google Reader alternatives and host them yourself.
A very nice looking site, with responsive design for mobile devices. You can also mute or feature certain articles based on tags found in the content. Written in Python using Django, Celery, RabbitMQ, MongoDB and PostgreSQL.
I know little about this one. The project’s web page is offline, but the code can be obtained from Debian repositories.
sudo aptitude install yocto-reader
Switching from Google Reader to another proprietary feed reader service makes little difference. It doesn’t solve the real issue, just solves the short term need before that other service decides to terminate the service as well or something weird happens. Hosting your own web based feed reader will provide you with the convenience of having your feeds available from any device anywhere, and be in control of your data and applications.
I was lucky to get an online coupon to get the Galaxy Nexus phone on launch in Mexico (Telcel carrier) last thursday.
The software and usability
I wanted to give the phone some use before writing about it so I waited some weeks to post anything about it. I think it’s a very fast and elegant phone and the new operating system is key to its success. The good news is that the Galaxy Nexus was not altered by the carrier, so it has no crapware on it. It’s 100% Google’s Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
Having used for months the Samsung Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb, moving to ICS was not a big deal to me, but I can imagine that it would be a big leap for Gingerbread users. The interface is very different and they way you interact with apps has also changed. Since there are no “physical” buttons, or touchable buttons like in the Galaxy S and S2, all buttons are on screen. The menu button is gone, so for apps that use it you need to look for a button that has three vertical dots. That can be very confusing at first, but having used the Honeycomb’s Gtalk and Gmail apps, it was easy to figure that out immediately.
One friend once complained about Android taking too long to open the contacts list. On the Galaxy S it took a couple seconds to load. I don’t know if this is Samsung specific or all 2.x versions had this lag. On ICS there is no lag when opening the contacts list, it has a very fast scroll and it has a very nice and clean design.
For the security aware people, ICS now comes with an option to encrypt your phone, a feature that was present in Honeycomb as well for the tablets (but I hadn’t tried until now). The bad news about it is that once you decide to encrypt your phone, you can no longer use swipe, pattern or face unlock screens. Only PIN and passphrase unlock screens are available. I didn’t expect that but I don’t mind, I “ported” my pattern to a PIN and use that. I can’t imagine typing a passphrase everytime you want to unlock your phone.
The hardware and design
On the hardware design part, I like the fact that the headphone jack is at the bottom and not at the top like in the Galaxy S, this makes it more comfortable and a more natural movement when taking it out of your pocket without having to flip it around. I sometimes miss the front button that you could tap quickly to turn on the screen.
My surprise though, was that when I read the Galaxy Nexus official website, it says it has 32Gb of internal storage and no indication of any alternative options. The version I got, has only 13Gb and since it has no SD card slot to expand your storage, this can get quite limited.
The Galaxy Nexus has a multicolor notification LED that is very practical to see what type of notification you haven’t seen. The downside is that the LED blinks very slowly, so you have to stare at your phone for a couple seconds to see if there’s anything blinking. On the Galaxy S I used BLN notification and when I had a notification, the LEDS were always on. If only I could make the Galaxy Nexus LED blink faster it would be more practical.
Compared to the Galaxy S2, the phone’s camera is “smaller” on the Galaxy Nexus, and by that I mean that it has a 5 megapixel camera vs the Galaxy S2’s 8 megapixel camera. The good news is that it has a zero delay shutter speed so as soon as you hit the button, the picture is taken. Long shutter lags was one of my biggest rants on previous phone cameras, so for me this is a must have on every phone from now on.
Battery lasts longer than my Galaxy S, for which I’ve had to buy an additional battery because it drains so quickly. Still you have to take the normal battery saving considerations of turning off things that you don’t need, but it still lasts longer on idle. It’s a bigger battery as well, so it might be just that.
Having used the phone for a couple weeks now, I noticed that for me there was little difference in speed and usability to use the Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb or the Galaxy Nexus with ICS. But I could feel a difference when using the Galaxy S with Gingerbread. I went on a weekend trip taking only my phone and I didn’t miss my Tab or my laptop to do my causal browsing and information consuming “needs”. But I couldn’t say the same if I just had the Gingerbread phone, the larger screen and the commodities of ICS in the Galaxy Nexus makes it a very fast and comfortable mobile device. ICS is a very well built mobile operating system that is not designed as only a smartphone like the 2.x Android versions. I’m very happy with this new phone and I recommend it greatly.