Goodbye to the perfect disposable phone

This looks bad. I’ve been writing all day about the new Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus from Lenovo, and in fact I’ve just written an opinion piece at Xataka (Spanish).

The feeling about those products isn’t positive. The road taken by Motorola Lenovo after swallowing a company that has been legendary in the segment mobility is very, very sleazy. I didn’t think about approaching it that way, but again Vlad Savov has published a great post at The Verge where he has compared Motorola and Lenovo with Palm and HP. The analogy is clear, and I fear that unless something strange happens Motorola could end up as an entry in the Wikipedia and a memory of something good for those who had the privilege of enjoy his best years. That is precisely what Palm has become. And I quote (emphasis mine):

There’s no doubt, looking at the new Moto G range for 2016, That the former Motorola now lags ITS competition. Chinese Have surpassed rivals Moto phones industry in the design stakes, and the overall quality of Android software has improved to the point where the purer Moto experience is not all that big of a selling point. Will the new Moto G phones be decent? Sure. They just will not be competitive.

The new Moto G4 models are indeed ok, but they are not superior to their competitors. They have become what every manufacturer should fear: a me too who follows boring trends and neglects what brought real value to the phone. As I said at Xataka, this is no longer the terminal that for years caused that feeling of being a bargain.

This stylized photo shouldn't deceive you. This device is not worth what it costs. Not anymore.
This stylized photo shouldn’t deceive you. This device is not worth what it costs. Not anymore.

For years, the Moto G has been the device most recommended by me to my relatives, friends and acquaintances. It was a sure bet, one that worked flawlessly and that could suffer anything without that being a tragedy.

It was as close as possible to the perfect disposable smartphone.

These devices aren’t that. With prices starting at £169 (about $243) for the Moto G and £199 ($286) for the G Plus (they’ll arrive to the US later than in most countries), they go too far from that price that we psychologically associated with a fair cost for a phone that could easily fall to the toilet or the floor without making us cry.

The problem is that everything looks bad in the future of this legendary brand. Lenovo had already announced they wanted to change the branding and use only the word Moto, but that contempt for this manufacturer is evident in other details. A good example is how Lenovo has announced the Lenovo K5 in Spain as a replacement for the Moto G4 Play that, truth to be told, shouldn’t have been announced because it is an absurd product both in specifications and goal market. A poor tribute to a product that changed the mid-range forever and that made Motorola, as Savov said, a beloved maker again -and a very American one- after spending a few years with no clear path to follow.

So dear readers, my recommendation is clear: unless reviews tell us otherwise, these Moto G4 / Plus can go to hell. There are several better options from other manufacturers.

What a pity. Poor Motorola.

Lumia 950 XL and second chances

Lumia 950 XL review 8

Tom Warren at The Verge:

The Lumia 950 XL simply isn’t for me or the vast majority of smartphone users out there. I use Windows 10 on a daily basis on a PC, but the experience on mobile is just lacking. Microsoft has done an excellent job on its apps for other platforms, and my iPhone home screen is full of them. The Lumia 950 XL needed something exciting and unique to convince me to switch back, but it failed.

I’m expecting to confirm this, but every review out there has pointed more or less to the inmature state of these new smartphones. It’s Microsoft fault, but it’s a logic flaw: Windows 10 Mobile is a baby OS. I’d like to give it a chance, but I’m affraid the market won’t be so merciful.

Are we ready for virtual showrooming? HoloLens fails to give a good answer

Here we’ve got another nice example of a promising technology that has to overcome several big obstacles. The user experience is far from perfect, and on this specific scenario -showrooming- it fails when what you actually want is touching something physical.

But as with many HoloLens demos, objects are coherent only at a very specific distance and angle. The very thing you want to do with the showroom model — walk up close and get a sense of its scale — chops it into pieces or makes it disappear altogether. The headset’s lenses are easy to adjust, they’re just incredibly unforgiving. I couldn’t quite find a fit that didn’t have me craning my neck to see a whole object, even if it was a Volvo logo the size of a dinner plate. Maintaining the showroom’s illusion requires unflagging concentration.

I’m affraid we still are too attached to actually feeling something in our hands or on our bodies to get a glimpse of the real sense of the product. Hololens seems nice as an expensive toy, but nothing else at the moment.

I really don’t see this escaping from the gaming and certain design scenarios.

Source: Microsoft and Volvo’s new HoloLens showroom is fascinating and frustrating | The Verge

iPad Pro review time: a great product that you shouldn’t buy?

Walt Mossberg on The Verge has written an impressive, sincere and up to the point review. Three problems arises according to that piece: it’s “too big and bulky“, the keyboard case (just one angle, no backlightning, not many shortcuts) is disappointing (“I kept wishing for a trackpad, so I didn’t have to keep reaching for the screen“, something that Lauren Goode, the other reviewer, also misses there), and few apps take advantage of the greater screen state.

The Apple Pencil is great but not perfect either according to Mossberg, who points out the fact that “there’s no place to store it, or even to magnetically attach it when it’s not in use

ipadpro3

Those reviewers agree on one thing: the hardware is there, the software not so much. That’s important: the apps are not ready for the iPad Pro. I guess they will be at some point, but that could be a problem for early users. The new dual-window mode seems nice but it’s not a real replacement for multi-window management on a desktop OS. Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica goes deeper on this and explains how many apps don’t render well on the new screen resolution, and reveals that “iOS 9’s multitasking still needs a lot of work“. The conclusions about the software are pretty evident:

There’s no exposed filesystem, no easy official way to install apps from outside the App Store, no iOS version of Xcode for developers. Connecting external accessories (cameras or SD cards, mics or audio interfaces) requires dongles and adapters and, occasionally, external power supplies. There’s no true multi-display support to speak of.

Cunningham goes further and tells us he feels the iPad Pro is a “sometimes computer“, which is probably a good definition of a product that wants precisely to be that. And although that could be enough for some people -artists and designers, for example-, I read the reviews and I can’t help but thinking about what a great product this seems and how no one reviewer really recommends it.

By the way, take a look at TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino review: he gives a different perspective, one in which he understands that Apple is just exploring the future with this device, as the company did with the MacBook previously this year. I’d say the former is the future for tablets, and the latter, the future for laptops. Fortunately, we’ll have many things in between.

 

Google as a hardware company

nexus

Walt Mossberg has published a column in The Verge in which there’s a little mistake just in the headline. When he says ‘It’s time for Google to make its own hardware‘ he forgets Google is already a hardware maker.

It has shown that for example with its Chromecast devices, but above all with the two Chromebook Pixel models it released in February 2013 and March 2015. Those beautiful machines only had -still have- one big problem: they were -still are- based on Chrome OS, which was -still is- no match for a machine so powerful and well designed.

But I agree with him deeply in the rest of the article: Google should really become a mobile maker the same way Apple is since 2007 and Microsoft has started to be since the acquisition of Nokia in late 2013.

In fact, when I wrote about the useless Nexus I critiziced the new models (5X, 6P)  because they were competing with Google’s traditional partners without adding that much differentiation on them. As I wrote back the, “it seems Google makes this smartphones just because it can”.

But they can do better. They should do better. The Nexus family should be a testimony of what Android can offer. The should show the way, be the goal, become the model to follow. And that can only be done if Google designs not only the software but the hardware that runs that software.

The five reasons Mossberg gives to defend that role of Google as a mobile hardware company are relevant, and as he adds, that hardware “should be targetd  specific areas like hero phones and those for people in low-income countries“.

I see Google becoming that kind of mobile maker. And I see them doing that because that’s the only way the future Android-Chrome OS merger will be able to show what it’s capable of. Google can’t rely on its partners to demonstrate that. Apple has not done it. Microsoft has not done it (with Windows 10). Google shouldn’t do it.

Source: Mossberg: It’s time for Google to make its own hardware | The Verge

iPhone 6s reviews: size matters. More than anything else.

The reviews are coming. Nilay Patel calls the iPhone 6S Plus the best phone in the market –he’s not alone– , but he adds: “Note that I said the 6S Plus, not the 6S.

The main camera is “not so much intensely better than you’ll notice a difference if you’re just sharing them on Facebook“, and the front camera that matters more according to him (excuse me?).

On 3D Touch, “there aren’t a ton of rules for how anyone should use it outside of the peek and pop and quick action APIs” so he expect developers get the real sense of it.

I’m not sold to 3D Touch -let’s see if it really saves times and makes everything more convenient as it seems- and the camera isn’t that gorgeous (it was already great  anyway), so as Patel says, don’t upgrade from the iPhone 6/Plus.

If you’ve got an older model, though, the update makes sense for iOS lovers. But not for the camera or the 3D Touch technology.

It’s because the size. 

That’s the only compelling reason to jump to the new iPhones. It was the reason too for the previous models, so no big news here.

Update: Take a look at John Gruber’s review of the iPhone 6s. It’s really good. Honest, consistent.

Source: iPhone 6S review | The Verge

A bright future for the web and content on the internet

This is a good summary of some of the problems big media assets are fighting against. Google, Apple and Facebook are trying to control the news and our way to get informed. They are trying to control content, because content is the gateway to ads. Quoting Patel:

Unfortunately, the ads pay for all that content, an uneasy compromise between the real cost of media production and the prices consumers are willing to pay that has existed since the first human scratched the first antelope on a wall somewhere. Media has always compromised user experience for advertising.

But the editor from The Verge doesn’t give much alternatives. He doesn’t mention the clear analogy of TV -you’ve got FTA channels, and you’ve got pay-per-view-, and he even doesn’t talk about paywalls, subscriptions, or micropayments.

There are certainly options to the current situation. I see four:

  1. Free content supported by ads: anyone can do this now, and will be able to do it in the future, but ad revenue will decrease, and users will for sure fight against that with adblockers.
  2. Paywalls: sorry, only huge media here.
  3. Micropayments: an option for smaller media sites. Combine that with a subscription model, and you’ve got a viable alternative for niche sites with loyal readers (Patreon is a good example of that kind of service to support those ‘creative’ sites)
  4. Flat rate: you pay a monthly fee ($5?) and get access to the free-ad web. Earnings are divided amongst all content providers depending on traffic (uniques, time spent there, a combination…) and any publisher can join that effort. There has to be someone managing that, maybe a consortium of tech companies providing the tools (browsers, payment gateways, etc). I see Mozilla as a clear example, and in fact the tried their own vision of this with the Subscribe2Web project. Google Contributor is a nice try too.

There are lots of possible answers to the current everything-is-free-or-seems-to-be model. Let’s see what happens, but Apple and its content blocking feature in iOS 9 has changed something here.

Let’s hope it is for the better.

PS: In case you can read in Spanish, I’ve developed this at Incognitosis.