[Op-Ed] A completely unbiased Android users opinion of iOS 7 – it sucks

Image courtesy of Apple.com

So…yeah.  I’m an Android guy.  Have been for a long time, and its still my current phone.  But as many already know, I DO own Apple products.  Yes, even me.  For all my bashing of their not really being a tech company more than a marketing company and not having had an innovation since the iPad first debuted, I do like and purchase (or ask for as gifts) some of their devices.  This puts me in a unique position: to be on the outside looking in.  No “iSheep” fanboiness here…I’m looking solely at how the device works best for me.  And I have to be honest – I wish Apple would have left my iPod touch the way it was before iOS 7.

I really couldn’t live without my iPod.  For all my posturing, I love this piece of tech.  It makes my daily commute more bearable and allows me to listen to my entire library of music in a small, portable package.  And it has done so since they had little trackwheels and clicky buttons.  And when I got my latest iPod touch (see my review here) I was elated.  And recently, when I heard about the upgrade to iOS 7, I figured “why not?”  I was actually a little interesting in getting a chance to play around with it, and I’d seen the early release photos of what it was supposed to look like as well.  But the reality did not match the idea I had of what the experience was going to be like in my mind.

First off, lets get the obvious out of the way – the colors are hideous.  Flat out annoying.  And standardized icons have been changed (along with some of their names) to boot.  Which (for me) means that after downloading and launching it for the first time, my first thought was “did something go wrong with this install?”  Because things sure look and feel off around here.  Folders no longer look like folders, but more like grey blobs in which other, more colorful blobs reside.  Facetime was moved out of the folder blob where I had placed it, and it was now front and center on my home screen.  Really, Apple?

Image courtesy of Apple.com

Okay, okay – maybe I’m being overly critical you might say.  The colors don’t look that bad.  And haven’t you been saying that iOS is tired and could use an update?  Yes – perhaps all of these things are true.  But there’s tweaking and there is radical redesign; this is the latter.  And not all change for the sake of change is good.  Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean others won’t either…but as with most things Apple, you don’t get a choice.  With my Android phone, if I don’t like how the stock look and feel of things is, I can install a custom launcher and then choose from dozens (if not hundreds) of other icon packs, themes, and other such to change it over and over and over again until I find something I like that works for me.  Rather than the “Apple tells me that I will love it” (whether I love it or not) approach.

My annoyance with iOS 7 is more than skin deep however.  There are other relatively minor changes that are puzzling too.  For example, on iOS 6 one of the features I used most was a double button press to wake the screen which, if your last activity was playing music, would wake the iPod to the music player and allow you to play the current or next track with just a single additional tap on the screen.  This is gone in iOS 7, now replaced with the double button press taking me to the lock screen and asking me to swipe to unlock, then pressing again on the music player to start my track playing.  While not important to some, this is one of the main features I used with my iPod, and now it takes longer to get my music to play.  Perhaps this has something to do with more security in this version of iOS, but honestly, its more irritating than anything else about the operating system to me.

Image courtesy of Apple.com

Hey, its not all bad – the Control Center feature (accessing your settings from a single contextual swipe up menu from the bottom of the screen) is useful and actually decently implemented.  Not something radically innovative again, as this “feature” (in various forms) has been in versions of Android for a while now, but at least it was well thought out. The new animations for things opening and closing/launching is neat, but hardly something I would hang my hat on if I was touting the merits of the overall operating system.  The sorting of pictures (excuse me, Photos) into Collections and Moments is long overdue, and a vast improvement over the glut of photos en masse in Camera Roll – but again, this is something that should come as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.  And all these changes come at a price – even my less than 1 year old iPod touch (5th gen) stutters and lags a bit when performing routine tasks.  I can’t imagine what the new iOS its doing to owners of iPhones from the 3S-4S range.

Most of the changes seem forced, copies of other operating systems innovations (the tabbed multi-tasking or Safari tab switchers come to mind immediately) or fall into the catagory of just plain “why haven’t we had this until now?”  I think that Apple’s leadership realized that they needed to make a big splash with something and they were counting on iOS 7 and the new iPhone 5S/C to do just that.  Well, maybe just the iOS 7 and 5C since the 5S (as usual) is mostly just a spec bump and a new gold color chassis.  For my money, I’ve been thinking more and more often how I wish I had my old drab looking iOS 6 look and feel back.  At least with it, I knew where everything was.

[News] Apple no longer world’s most valuable company

In what has been a reversal of fortune for one of the largest tech companies, Apple has lost the title of “World’s Most Valuable Company” after falling stock prices reduced its market cap to below $414 billion – slightly under Exxon’s market cap of approximately $417 billion.  Shares of Apple were trading under $450/share at the time of this writing, a huge tumble from the over $700/share price it saw around the time of the launch of the iPhone 5 last year.  This represents a drop of about 36%, just since September.

The stock plummet comes as market researchers and analysts are wondering where Apple goes from here in terms of product innovation.  So much of Apple’s edge has been built on staying ahead of their competition…but now that Android handsets and tablets are seen as viable (and in some instances more cost effective) alternatives to iPhones and iPads, the profit margins for the Cupertino tech giant are not what they once were, even a few short years ago.  With new device launches possibly coming as early as March, it remains to be seen if Apple can return to its status as “top dog” anytime soon.

*Source:  USA Today

[News] Report indicates tablet demand greater than expected

Who knew?  Analysts with IDC are predicting that sales numbers for popular Android and Apple tablets will be greater than previously thought, with an estimated 122.3 million devices sold worldwide (up from the previously estimated 117.1 million).  These trends are expected to continue though the next few years, with forecast numbers published through 2016.  Market share is expected to be largely dominated by Apple products, with Android devices coming in 2nd place, and Windows devices a (very) distant 3rd.  A whopping 282.7 million devices will be in the hands of consumers by 2016 – a number that is mind boggling to me right now.  But if folks are getting as much enjoyment as I am out of my tablet, perhaps this isn’t such a huge surprise after all.

Mobile computing and web content consumption is on the rise, especially in the global market, and tablets (as well as smartphones) are an alternative to get this content at a much more cost effective price point than a traditional home PC or laptop.  Google’s $249 Chromebook notwithstanding, most people have to have a mobile phone for a host of other reasons, and when it comes to spending discretionary cash, a lot of folks are going to choose what they need first.  And that means that the mobile phone (or smartphone) comes before a laptop or PC.  And it looks like the tablet is quickly growing into the “need” category from the “want” category.

*Source:  BGR

[Special Feature]Two Tech Geeks Best of Tech 2012

With the year coming to a close, and the looming Mayan Apocalypse, the Two Tech Geeks thought it would be a good idea to take a look back and highlight some of our favorite things from that wacky, wonderful year that was.  Without further ado, we bring you our Best of Tech 2012:

Best Small Tablet (8″ screen or smaller):

Sean: Asus Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 has it all; a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a 1280 x 800 IPS LCD display, 1GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of internal memory.  Better yet, the 16GB version will only set you back $199.99 while the 32GB version goes for $249.99.  Sure the iPad mini may be thinner and constructed of nicer materials, but it has an inferior screen and the 16GB iPad Mini costs 65% more than a 16GB Nexus 7.  In the smaller tablet market, the Nexus 7 reigns supreme.

Shawn: Asus Nexus 7

You’ll get no argument from me here.  I recently purchased a Nexus 7, and can’t actually use it because the wife likes it so much.  Great materials, great screen, small enough to be portable, but big enough to be useful for things your phone is too small for.  In short – its perfect.

Best Large Tablet (8″ screen or larger):

Sean: Apple iPad 4

The iPad 4 is the best large tablet on the market.  It has a beautiful 2048 x 1536 (264ppi) screen, a blisteringly fast A6X CPU and a quad-core PowerVR SGX544 GPU that can handle anything you can throw at it.  It also has access to the best tablet ecosystem in existence.  No other large tablet matches the total package that is the iPad 4.

Shawn: Apple iPad 3/4

The iPad is the king of the hill in terms of traditional (large) size tablets.  The recent refresh of the iPad line includes their new “Lightning” connector, which ends up having the effect of making the device even lighter and thinner than it was before.  With “Retina” quality displays, machined aluminum unibody construction, and exceptional battery life, if you’re looking for something in the way of a larger tablet, there’s the iPad…and then there’s everything else.

Best Small Smart Phone (4.3″ screen or smaller):

Sean: Apple iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 has it all.  It’s powerful, well designed, has a beautiful screen, a great camera and is among the thinnest and lightest smart phones in existence.  The addition of a larger screen and LTE were much needed updates that addressed the shortcomings of the iPhone 4S.  The iPhone 5 is the best smart phone in the 4.3″ or smaller category by a wide margin.

Shawn: Apple iPhone 5
While not groundbreaking in terms of innovation, the iPhone 5 is surely the best phone on the market in terms of what it offers for its size.  Loads of great features are packed into a form factor that is very similar to the iPhone 4S, but offers up 4 inches of “Retina” screen real estate.  The latest version of the iPhone now sports LTE, and Apple claims the battery last just as long as the non-LTE version.  While I’ve not had a chance to verify this personally, if true, it’s something of a technological marvel.  Many folks I know that own iPhone 5s are very happy with their purchase.  Good enough for me.

Best Large Smart Phone(4.4″ screen or larger):

Sean: Samsung Galaxy Note II
The Note II is my favorite smart phone of the year (mine arrives next week as a matter of fact).  It’s what I expected the Galaxy S3 to be.  It has a quad-core Exynos 4412 CPU, an overclocked Mali-400 GPU, 2GB of RAM, a 5.5″ RGB Super AMOLED screen, a giant removable battery, an SD card slot, S-Pen and a host of specific software features.  The Galaxy S3 announcement was disappointing because of the pentile matrix screen and the U.S. specific dual-core S4 processor.  It felt like we were getting a compromised version of what Samsung had intended.  The Note II on the other hand feels like the complete vision.

Shawn: Samsung Galaxy S3
The Galaxy S3 is without question the most popular smartphone Samsung has ever produced.  With a large bright display, thin and light form factor, excellent camera, and high end specs under the hood, the GS3 is a powerhouse that will probably only be dethroned by the newer version of itself that comes out next year.  You can also usually get this phone brand new for bargain basement prices – making the Galaxy S3 an exceptional value for the money.

Best Smart Phone Design:

Sean: HTC One-X
The One-X is the best designed smart phone of the year.  HTC is known for quality hardware but with the One-X they outdid themselves.  From the sleek one piece polycarbonate body to the beautiful inlaid 4.7″ Super LCD-2 screen, it’s really a piece of art.  The white version is particularly gorgeous.  From a design standpoint the iPhone 5 is a close second, but nothing beat the One-X this year.

Shawn: Apple iPhone 5
What’s this?  Shawn recommends an Apple product twice (3 times if you include the iPad) in the same column?  Folks, I give credit where credit is due – and the iPhone (since the 4) has been well made with a focus on the design aesthetic.  I’m actually going to cheat a little here and say its not the iPhone 5 design and form I truly love, but more the new iPods which share a lot of the same features.  The machined aluminum body and chamfered edges really give the device a nice look and feel in the hand.  Its lightweight, almost unnaturally so, and presents a clean and polished look to the user.  Always minimalist in design, these industrial elements appeal to the lover of beautiful things in me.  Few, if any, do this better than Apple.

Best Custom ROM:

Sean: AOKP
Fast, stable, infinitely tweakable, and its mascot is an angry pink unicorn.  What more could you possibly want?

Shawn: Team BAMF Paradigm
Take it from someone who is a self confessed “crack-flasher” of custom ROMs – I’ve tried quite a few out on my Galaxy Nexus, including AOKP, FnV, Bugless Beast, and CM 10.  Paradigm gets my vote for the best of the lot.  The Jelly Bean version of Paradigm is smooth, stable, and chock full of useful tweaks but isn’t weighed down by extra bloat or mods just for the sake of having mods.  It feels like a final finished product each and every time I flash an update.  The devs are helpful and their public forum is moderated well and is easy to get answers from.  Its the ROM I use as my daily driver…you should too.

Coolest New Software Feature/App:

Sean: Multi-Window from Samsung
Multi-Window is just so damn cool.  The first time I watched it on video, I was blown away.  Larger screens and more powerful processors have made true multi-tasking a reality.  This is a feature that Google should start incorporating into future versions of Android starting with Key Lime Pie.

Shawn: Photosphere in Android 4.2
While not generally available to all phones running Android just yet, Photosphere gets my vote as the absolute coolest new software feature.  The Android camera software was long in need of an upgrade, and boy is that what we got.  Using the same technology that Google employs in their “Street View” Maps app, users of Photosphere can take multiple photos of a scene and then stitch them together in something that can only be described as a 3D collage.  Its really, really neat, and will have a much bigger following I think as more users move to Android 4.2.

Best Hardware Innovation:

Image courtesy theverge.com

Sean: Droid DNA 1080p screen
The new 5″ 1080p Super-LCD 3 screen in the Droid DNA is the future.  Next year a flood of 5″ 1080p phones are going to hit the market including the LG Optimus G2 and the Samsung Galaxy S IV.  Whether a 1080p screen in such a small size is worth it versus a 720p screen is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that packing over 2 million pixels into such a small area is simply incredible.  

Shawn: Nexus 10 Exynos 5 CPU w/Mali T604 GPU

There are a few things in life we just take for granted; the sun will rise in the east, there’s always drama on any show that has the words “Real Housewives” in it, and he who has the fastest processor usually wins.  With all the speculation around the Nexus 10, and the hype from the crazy 300 dpi display, don’t overlook the monster that’s driving the whole show – the Exynos 5 CPU.  A dual core 1.7GHz beast with A15 architecture will crush anything you throw at it, and then ask for more.  The Cortex A15 at a 32nm process makes it twice as fast as the previous generation A9 architecture, while being 30% more power efficient than the A9.  This is the same processor chosen by Google to power their new Chromebook laptop…and they put it in a 10 inch tablet.  Simply remarkable.

Most Pleasant Surprise:

Sean: Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX HD
I wrote not one, but two pieces expressing my disappointment with Motorola’s new flagship offering.  As it turned out, I owed them an apology.  Sure the RAZR MAXX HD has a pentile matrix screen, yes it only has half as much RAM as the Samsung Galaxy S III, and Verizon absolutely charges too much for them.  But despite all that I find myself recommending the RAZR MAXX HD constantly.  It has fantastic build quality, the radios are second to none, and the battery life is INSANE.  Amazon wireless only charges $174.99 for a MAXX HD with an upgrade and at that price it’s hard to go wrong.   

Shawn: Nexus 4 pricing
Google and LG have gone to a place with the release of the Nexus 4 that I don’t think that anyone could have foreseen – they’ve released a device, unlocked from a carrier, at a competitive price point.  The device itself boasts some of the highest specs of any device on the market, and you can get it for at little as $299.  That’s the same price that I paid for my Galaxy Nexus, and I had to sign a 2 year agreement with Verizon just to get it at that cost.  If they keep offering great phones at affordable prices, what Google is doing with their partner program is going to eventually revolutionize the mobile smartphone industry.

Biggest Disappointment:

Sean: HTC’s continued struggles
HTC continued to have major problems in 2012.  When the One X was unveiled at the beginning of the year it looked like HTC was back on track.  The phone was gorgeous.  Unfortunately it ended up being an AT&T exclusive and was enveloped by the Samsung Galaxy S III launch across all major carriers a month later.  The One X ended up a sales disappointment.  The end of the year saw HTC release the One X+ again as an AT&T exclusive, and then the Droid DNA as a Verizon exclusive a few days later.  This strategy makes absolutely no sense.  HTC should have released the One X across all carriers in May ahead of the Galaxy S III with a major add blitz, and then done the same thing with the DNA this month.  HTC needs to ditch the carrier exclusives next year and get their great products out on all carriers, because otherwise they’re doomed to continue losing market share to Samsung.

Shawn: The Apple vs. Samsung patent trial outcome
There’s a multitude of things wrong with this whole situation – but in short, 1) patent trolling should never be rewarded or encouraged, and 2) clearly there is something wrong with the U.S. Patent system.  When someone can be awarded a patent for “a rectangular smartphone with rounded edges” then we need to rethink our position on what “innovation” really is.  Instead of fewer lawsuits because of cases like this, I think we’re going to see more.

[News] Analyst predicts tablet sales to surpass notebooks in 2013

According to the good folks over at Digitimes, the face of mobile computing is going to undertake a radical shift in the next year, with tablet sales predicted to outpace notebook PC sales for the first time ever.  210 million units are estimated to be sold in 2013, which is surely a significant enough number for OEMs to sit up and take notice.  Predictably, Apple’s iPad will be the forecast top hardware seller, with Google’s Android OS to be the top operating system sold.

As a recent tablet owner, I can speak for its usefulness in certain settings, but can I see it replacing what a laptop can do for me?  No.  Having said that, I think that our lives have been forever changed by things like the iPad and to a lesser extent other tablets like the Nexus 7.  The way we act and behave on a daily basis is almost exclusively focused on mobile computing.  And those devices that aid us in our quest to always be connected.

Sound off in the comments if you have an opinion!

*Source:  BGR

[News] New iPad mini will debut November 2nd for $329 *Updated*

Apple has announced the newest version of their iPad, a 7.9 inch display device coming in either white or black, with specs similar to last year’s iPad 2 for $329 to start, with 16GB of storage and WiFi enabled only.  An LTE enabled version will also be available for sale, price point as yet unknown.  All versions of the device should be available as of November 2nd, 2012.  More info on these and other Apple announcements as they come available.

Specs for the iPad mini (from the keynote speech):  measures 7.2mm thin (25% thinner than the larger iPad) and weighs 0.8lbs. The screen resolution is 1024 x 768 just like the first iPad and iPad 2, but the screen size is 7.9-inches. 4G LTE support is available for the cellular model, an Apple dual-core A5 processor, a FaceTime HD camera on the front, and 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back with 1080p HD video capture.”

Pricing for the different models of the iPad mini, in storage size and then by connectivity (from Apple.com):

Wi-Fi                                                                 Wi-Fi + Cellular


With the iPod mini, Apple also announced an updated version of their only 6 month old iPad 3, introducing both a new processor and the new Lightning connection.  This represents a departure from normal life cycle releases for Apple, who normally pushes a year out before a new version of a product is released.  Additionally, the 13 inch MacBook Pro now sports a Retina display, something I’m sure loads of MacBook Pro users were waiting for.  

[News] Apple’s event is tomorrow

A quick reminder for those Apple fans out there that Apple’s event is tomorrow, October 23, 2012 and will likely showcase the announcement of the iPad Mini (or whatever its real name ends up being).  In addition, there are some other rumors including:

  • The previous generation iPad 2 will be discontinued – end of life
  • The current iPad 3 will get a connection makeover, to include the new “Lightning” connector
  • MacBook Pro (the smaller versions) to receive the Retina Display panels
Will the iPad Mini be a huge hit or a tiny flop?  Are any of you looking forward to a smaller, more portable version of Apple’s tablet?  Can Apple make a dent in the 7 inch tablet market, currently dominated by Android tablets including the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire?  With Google’s event only a week a way, there will be even stiffer competition for the iPad Mini to face soon.  Stay tuned for the Two Tech Geeks coverage of the Apple event as it happens!
*Source:  BGR

[News] Apple sends invites for iPad mini event, world yawns with non-surprise

Well folks…its official – the invites have gone out from Apple for the “official” iPad mini event, scheduled for October 23, 2012.  With the catchy tag line of “We’ve got a a little more to show you.” the invitations certainly won’t blow anyone away with their creativity, but perhaps the product itself will do better.  We are now that much closer to seeing the actual look, feel, and specs of this new device.  There is still no official announcement of when the device will be sold, but some websites are reporting that it might even be as soon as October 24, the day after the event.  More info as it becomes available!

[Rumor] iPad mini to be announced on 10/23/12

Photo mock-up courtesy of Cnet.com

If you’re considering making a tablet purchase in the near future (or for the holidays) and the iPad 3 is just a bit too large for your tastes, perhaps waiting a few more weeks will yield just what you’re looking for:  the 7.85 inch so-called iPad mini.  The rumor (courtesy of AllThingsD) is that the announcement for the launch is coming up on October 23rd.  If you’re looking for a really good collection of all the current rumors on specs, style, and well…everything else, check out this write up from the good folks over at Gizmodo detailing everything that is currently out there on this new device from Apple.

Personally, I find the 7 inch tablet form factor to be much more appealing than the current iPod 10 inch size, so for those of you dedicated to the Apple ecosystem and who share my point of view, be on the lookout for this new tablet from those wacky kids in Cupertino.  More leaked photos follow below.

[Op-Ed] Software, apps, and the mobile revolution

Let me tell you a story…once upon a time, there was the PC.  And computer engineers made things called software for these PCs, and life was good.  Then came this thing called the “smartphone” and there was a need to get software onto the smartphone.  And so this software had to change and, when it did, it became something called “apps” and the mobile revolution had begun.

With most of the features of a computer in the palm of people’s hands, there was less and less need to be tied to software on a desktop computer, or even a conventional laptop.  And so companies were born that began from ideas that were based solely around mobile computing.  Slowly, other companies began to follow this example and came to realize the power of what mobile apps in the hands of the consumer could do for them.  This trend towards operating in a mobile environment for business has only accelerated in the last 5 years, and will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

For example, Twitter usage is now more popular on a mobile app, even though the website is still one of the most visited pages on the Internet.  As of March 2012, Twitter had 140 million active users with over 340 million daily tweets.  The majority of these are now coming from either the official Twitter app, or intermediary mobile apps like TweetDeck or TweetCaster that allow posting to multiple social networks.  
Some apps like Instagram are incredibly popular and designed exclusively for mobile, and Instagram’s recent acquisition by Facebook demonstrates the value of apps well designed and built for mobile platforms.  With its recent integration into Apple’s iOS 6, Facebook is also looking to drive up mobile usage.  In a recent Today Show interview with Matt Lauer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that one of Facebook’s main areas of opportunity going forward is mobile.  Of the about 600 million are active Facebook accounts, only a small percentage are currently using the mobile app.  The largest current group of Facebook’s mobile app are using the Android OS; however, this number may shift with iOS 6’s recent release to all iPhone versions.

The rise of tablets/iPad usage has increased the usability of PC power computing in the mobile environment.   This market is the next big niche being exploited by OEMs, with the emergence of Android tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD as well as the iPad and soon-to-be-released iPad Mini.  Go to a coffee shop or airport and look around…how many people do you see that don’t have a laptop with them, but instead are carrying an iPad?  Heck I was at a car dealership the other day and I sat next to a guy using his iPad on a stand as if it was a laptop.  It was the same with increased development of camera tech into mobile phones, because you may not always have a stand alone camera, but you always have your mobile phone with you.  So now you have up to 41MP cameras available in mobile phones.

As the software apps get better, and do more things, they need more resources from mobile hardware…so the hardware has to evolve.  And when the hardware improves, which means that previous limitations of the software go away, the software can evolve even more, allowing it to do even more things.  This necessitates another evolution of the hardware and so on and so on.  In this way, the innovation is actually driving itself, creating a closed loop where change is continuously occurring, for the betterment of the overall technology.  Software vendors are realizing there is a need to scale up their smartphone apps and scale down their laptop/PC apps.  And companies that don’t have a mobile version of their software right now better have one soon if they want to stay competitive in the new mobile workspace.