Yoga Book: Going beyond the tablet

The guys at The Verge have done a fine job by discussing how the new Lenovo Yoga Book came to life. This is a hardware device that, as Nilay Patel has said over at Twitter, is the first fascinating one in a long time.

The new and impressive Instant Halo Keyboard won’t be perfect for many people, but I’m sure the trade-off is worth it. Being able to type, write and draw on the same surface is a great deal, and not many hardware makers would have thought of an option as creative and bold as this.

In fact, there’s one company everyone would think of if asked which could be responsible of that innovation. That company, of course, was Apple.

It hasn’t been that one for some time now. The problem is, this is becoming the new normal.

Apple should have done something like this. Lenovo? Not in a million years.

And here we are.

Amazon Kindle (2016) seems cheaper than Paperwhite but it’s not

All-new Kindle in white (Photo: Business Wire)

The new Amazon Kindle (2016) is thinner, lighter, has ads -with Amazon’s “Special Offers” and most interesting, has Bluetooth audio support (for blind readers).

But it doesn’t have physical page flipping buttons, and resolution is still its weak point against its eldest brother, the Kindle Paperwhite. This e-book reader is pretty much invincible if you want the best price/performance relationship.

Nice, useless update.

The HP Spectre is everything the Macbook is not

HP has surprised us all with its HP Spectre, a laptop that is just a laptop in spirit -no convertible mumbo jumbo here, thank god- but that gives the conventional segment a real spin.

First, of course, is design. Last year Apple launched the MacBook, a new concept that was right in several ways -ultrathin and ultralight- but that was wrong in so many more. It was underpowered, had just a USB-C port and had a keyboard that made not many fans.

spectre3

HP has take all those hints and have made them their strengths: there are 3 USB-C ports (two of them with Thunderbolt 3), a promising keyboard (1.3mm of travel) and touchpad, powerful Core i5 and i7 CPUs, and an intriguing cooling system. The non-multitouch screen is also a great choice, because the 1080p resolution allows to save battery without compromising too much the pixel density.

This is a really well balanced spec sheet, but it is impressive to find it inside on such a thin device. Putting all that technology in just 10.4 mm is really a wonderful feat. The new HP logo for its premium products is also a nice addition, and although I’d like to have another color combination -silver instead of gold- I think HP has really made something great here.

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Surpassing Apple -which seems to be a little bit unimaginative these days– in design, specs and price wasn’t easy a few years ago, but we are seeing how more and more makers are showing their capabilities here. And that’s absolutely fantastic. Kudos for HP.

Android N won’t be enough for convertibles

Latest data from IDC suggest that convertibles will transform current tablet sales: the current sales drop this year (5.9% from 2015)  will stop next year with “single-digit growth in 2017“. That growth will have a leader: Windows.

Microsoft’s operating system is leading this market now, but it will do with even more strength in the next few years, increasing the gap with iOS and Android.

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The latter will probably have the same problems on convertibles that it has shown on regular tablets. Not many applications take advantage of the tablet and that’s a real issue for users that can enjoy a better software catalog for tablets both on Windows and, of course, iOS.

But there’s another problem coming: productivity. Last year Pixel C showed promise, but in the first reviews  it was clear that Android was not a good match for a convertible. It wasn’t then, and it won’t be this year despite the current discount in price.

The reason is again clear: Android N is available for developers and supports several devices (Pixel C included), but the only real feature that will enhance that productivity scenario is the new multiwindow support. It’s nice to have that finally -one year after iOS introduced it-, but it’s far from enough. Again.

When you are in front of a convertible with a laptop and a touchpad (not in this case), you want a laptop experience, not a tablet experience. That’s the one we actually are productive with. So I’d ask Google why are they being so stingy and so shy in their convertible bet.

Considering the rumors about an Android and Chrome OS merger, these are not good news. I would expect much more from Google.

Ubuntu convergence: dream or nightmare?

Last year Canonical and bq launched the first smartphone based on Ubuntu. Now they will launch the first tablet that is based on the new Ubuntu convergent platform. This device can act as a tablet, but also will act “like a full-blown PC when you connect a keyboard, mouse and display to it“.

I’ve already written about this in Xataka and Incognitosis in Spanish, so I won’t go much deeper here because mostly everyone is covering the news superficially. It doesn’t matter if the tablet maker is bq, it doesn’t matter what are the specs, and it even doesn’t matter that the device can actually offer the user a desktop experience when the tablet is connected to that display, mouse and keyboard we were talking about.

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What matters is the quality of that experience. And that quality isn’t gonna be high enough to convince users to make the switch.

I’ve reviewed the bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition not once, but twice. I’ve followed the progress of this project since Mark Shuttleworth first mentioned it in October’2011, when no one had talked about this convergence thing before (at least, not to my knowledge), and I had great expectations even though that dream was delayed many times.

The final arrival of Ubuntu approach has been so late that Microsoft has won that race: they’ve stolen the idea and applied it to Windows 10. The execution is still far from perfect on smartphones -I reviewed the Lumia 950 XL and Continuum a few days ago, again, in Spanish- and the problems I’ve seen on that device –UX incoherences, lack of universal apps on many cases, buggy behaviour everywhere– will for sure appear to on Ubuntu.

Launching a platform that wants to change the statu quo is a big challenge, and you won’t succeed with a platform in beta or even alpha status as these two are now.

Even Remix OS  is more promising than what I’ve seen on the Ubuntu front, and I suspect that the Ubuntu team will not be able to offer us that convergence dream they talked about for so long.

In fact, I suspect this will be more of a nightmare. Not only for us, the dissappointed users, but for Canonical as well.

Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Lauren Goode on The Verge:

NPD estimates that nearly 33 million fitness trackers were out there in the wild by the end of the fourth quarter of 2015 (though, not necessarily being worn —see earlier point), compared with 13 million smartwatches. And Fitbit still holds a whopping share of the activity tracking market, accounting for 79 percent of sales.

I made the same mistake twice. I thought tablets would kill the e-reader -wrong- and I thought that smartwatches would kill the fitbit and other similar wearables.

On that early thoughts, I assumed that e-readers didn’t deliver anything special to the reading experience. They did, of course: easier on the eyes, free-distraction reading and an everlasting battery were arguments too important to dismiss.

The same has happened with wearables: they have become something nice to wear on, they provide simplicity and don’t overcomplicate the product, and again, they’ve got near everlasting batteries -at least, compared to smartwatches-.

Hopefully I won’t make the same mistake again. A device that does something but also a lot of other things isn’t necessarily better. In fact, most of the times the experience is worse when you were just looking for that something in the first place.

Split-screen feature for Android is coming, but that’s far from enough

Google’s sleek new Pixel C tablet has already gotten dinged in initial reviews for missing a basic productivity feature that is available in comparable gadgets, like the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4: the ability to run multiple windows at any given time. Now we know for sure that the feature is coming to Android.

We talked about this yesterday. A split-screen feature to be able to have two windows at the same time in your screen in nice, but the problem is the software catalog itself.

mash

You can’t not be that productive when the apps look like scaled, giant versions of the ones you’ve got on a phone. Android has never had a good tablet catalog of apps, and work must be done there.

Look at the iPad Pro. The split-screen feature hasn’t saved it from “just decent” reviews.

Source: Google is working on a split-screen feature for Android, always-on ‘OK Google,’ and DisplayPort support for Pixel C

The Pixel C is just and oversized phone

The new convertible tablet from Google is available at last, and reviews came as expected from different big media assets. Ars Technica, Engadget or The Verge (in two ocassions, this one and this one) speak about the device and mostly arrive to the same conclussion, expressed very well by Walt Mossberg on The Verge:

Without a decent selection of true tablet software, especially for productivity, it’s just an oversized phone

That’s why Pixel C is another attractive device no one would really recommend. Google’s proposal follows the ones made by Apple (iPad Pro) and Microsoft (Surface Pro 4, Surface 3) but fails at the software part. Android is not ready for that multitasking features we get on these other platforms. Even iOS 9 has included a dual-window mode, and reviews weren’t that nice on that front either.

We’ll have to wait for that hybrid between Android and Chrome OS, I guess.

Follow-up (12/11/15): This new report from Ars Technica shows that Android was probably a last minute solution to launch a product that was meant to be based on Chrome OS and that will probably was affected by the decission to merge Chrome OS with Android. Interesting.

Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 is a promising cheap alternative to Surface Pro 4 & iPad Pro

You don’t need much more than that to work on the go. A 7.9 inch screen (2048 x 1536 resolution), a quad-core Atom X5-Z8500, 2 GB RAM and 64 GB of internal storage make this Windows 10 tablet a surprising cheap alternative to the new breed of expensive convertible tablets.

This is exactly what Microsoft should have announced in addition to Surface Pro 4. A cheaper, smaller version with similar capabilities. You’d only need a good “Type Cover” for this (Logitech Wireless All-In-one Keyboard TK820 seems like a good fit, but there are other options) and boom, you’re there.

I’d say the complete pack will cost around $300, which is a fair amount to spend on that occasional replacement to a real laptop. Not bad at all. Beware, Microsoft (and Apple).

Source: Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 is an iPad mini that runs Windows 10 | The Verge

iFixit: Apple Pencil is a little technology marvel

I remember Ken Shirriff’s article about the Apple iPhone charger teardown. On something so seemingly unimportant, Apple showed their capabilities. Design was important, but execution was critical.

Something similar has happened with the Apple Pencil. We can laugh about Apple admitting finally that the stylus can be useful on certain scenarios. What we can’t do is ignore what the company has accomplished withe the Pencil in terms of technology integration again.

Wonderful.

Source: iFixit Apple Pencil teardown reveals twin emitters to measure angle & orientation, logic board folded in half