Month: December 2012

Android

I’ve been an iOS user for 5 years now which is natural as I also use Macs. I love the devices and software but in doing the podcast and seeing so much momentum with Android I had an itch – I really wanted an Android device to play with. I didn’t want a phone as that would involve a contract and I didn’t want a device that had a companies UI grafted on top of vanilla Android. So when the Nexus 7 was launched it seemed to be the ideal device for me to get. The price drop/increased spec’s at the start of November made the choice even easier so I picked up a 32GB Nexus 7 in the middle of November.

As I already have a iPad and iPhone 5 (both new this year) it’s definitely a luxury purchase as it wasn’t as if I had a gap in my gadget library but it has allowed me to compare the different form factors and understand their strengths and weaknesses. What I was most interested in was the software – how good is Android now that Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) is launched and how strong is the third party support? I hate the iOS vs Android posts on the web as the two camps are so entrenched it’s hard to get a view that’s accurate. At least buying the Nexus means I can form my own view and I can also be more informed about Android. I’m also a geek so it was a brand new device and ecosystem to enjoy.

Nexus 7 Hardware

Nexus 7

Nexus 7

I’m not going to cover the Nexus 7 hardware in detail but just mention some highlights. For a full review I’d read The Verge review from June 2012. So what do I like about the Nexus 7?

  • Ever since Steve Jobs dissed the 7 inch form factor there has been a debate about their value. For me the 7 inch Nexus is an excellent size for a tablet. I can hold it in one hand and read from it easily. I’ve not had an issue with touch points or that my hands are too big for the screen. Indeed Apple bringing out the iPad Mini shows that Jobs ire was more to do with competition to the iPad rather than a 7 inch tablet is too small.
  • The screen quality is excellent. Much is made of retina screens but I find the text quality on the Nexus 7 is great. No eye strain and no visible pixels either. The screen is 216 ppi which is less than the 264 ppi that the iPad has but similar to the Macbook Pro which has a ppi of 220. One point to note is the screen felt washed out at first. I found that having the brightness set to automatic set it far too low and my current setting is around 40-50% which is ample for me. Video playback is excellent too – it’s a great device for watching video’s on but more of that later.
  • The weight is excellent. I think this is the biggest advantage over an iPad. I can hold it in one hand, I can read easily on planes, at work or around the house without getting arm fatigue and unlike the iPad the weight is just not an issue. It also feels good in the hand with a grippy dimpled plastic back which makes it less likely that you’ll drop the Nexus.
  • Overall build quality is good but not quite to the same standard as Apple but it is a lot cheaper that the iOS devices. It never feels cheap though – considering it’s only £160 for the 16GB version it’s a steal at that price.
  • Landscape mode isn’t the best. It feels squashed and I find it difficult to work in that orientation unless it’s for watching a film. Limitations of a 7 inch tablet with this form factor.
  • The 7 inch tablet is great for reading, watching video, Twitter et all but I do have issues with it as a work device or content creator. The iPad can do all those things but I found the screen just to small in landscape to create anything useful. Another issue is the lack of software written specifically for Android tablets. More on that later.

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What price free?

It’s been an interesting week for Instagram users. First the company change their terms and conditions and make it pretty clear that adverts are coming and that they will be able to use your photo’s in adverts that they serve. They don’t quite say they are selling your photo’s but for me go pretty damn close. This caused quite a commotion ranging from chatter on Twitter that it’s time to go through to a discussion on Newsnight. Really?

A day later Instagram tried to clarify the position via a wordy blog post, acknowledging that their legal speak had caused confusion for it’s users but don’t worry, we will make the language easier to understand. Meanwhile we will change the terms a bit so it doesn’t appear to be such a major change. Sneaky?

This was a long time coming. Facebook didn’t pay $1 billion purely to stop competition. They have to make that money back somehow and advertising is just one of the ways that they will do that via Instagram. So as a user what choices do you have? Either suck it up and continue to use Instagram or leave and use something else. That’s it. And it’s clear many are leaving because on deleting my account this morning Instagram are actually linking to their clarification blog post.

Instagram now linking to their clarification statement on changes. Seeing a few users leaving?

Instagram now linking to their clarification statement on changes. Seeing a few users leaving?

For me it’s exactly the same as Twitter where they are changing the service into something I don’t want in order to make money but won’t let me pay for something I do want – the service as it stood a few months back. This is the danger of free. Free web services will alter/pivot to suit advertisers and not their customers.

While I have much to say on this topic, Gordon has blogged about this already and covered much of my views so go and read his post and then come back here for some conclusions.

So my Instagram account has been deleted. This is no biggie for me as I took only 14 photo’s via the app. If you’ve taken hundreds and made lot’s of contacts then I can see why it’s not so easy to leave. I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for 7 years and despite looking at 500px, self hosting and new options like openphoto (they have a nice import feature so you can copy photos from Instagram, Facebook and Flickr like I’ve done here) I’ve stuck with Flickr. With the new iOS app update I’m glad I did and I’m hopeful of future improvements down the line. I’ve too much invested to make the move trivial.

Aside from privacy concerns my main problem with Instagram was always fragmentation. I want all my photo’s in one place, and as I was a Flickr user, that one place wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. I never felt a compelling reason to use Instagram. Yes the filters were great and it made it really easy to take and upload an image and also see your friends photo’s and comments quickly, all in one app. Flickr missed a trick in taking 2-3 years to release a decent iOS application. In fact Flickr has been missing a trick since Yahoo bought them but thats a whole other topic. But for me I never got the Instagram bug. I tried but it never clicked.

The lesson for me is to try and stop jumping from app to app, service to service. I pay for Evernote, iTunes Match, Flickr, App.net, web hosting and share my data via Dropbox and iCloud. There’s probably more that I pay for that doesn’t spring to mind which is a problem in itself. App.net shows lots of promise but I have two issues. One is that many of the people I interact with on Twitter haven’t moved which I expected but it has made it far less sticky for me. The second is my time – I find it hard enough to keep up with Twitter (cull coming soon) but adding a second similar social network on top is a time sink. However I need to make more effort with App.net – maybe a Netbot for Mac would help? Even writing that ‘I need to make an effort’ tells me that App.net isn’t working for me. Mmmm.

Will I go all paid like Gordon is musing? It’s probably heading that way. I use Google App’s for all my domains and the podcast and would happily pay a fee each year to keep using those services. Same with Gmail – I’d have no issue paying for a great e-mail service. Where paying get’s frustrating is when iTunes Match goes through a flaky patch yet Googles similar but free service has worked without a hitch so far although I’d expect Google to charge at some point or start showing some ad’s. The excuse that Apple doesn’t get web services is wearing thin.

If I get a great reliable service then I will happily pay – Xbox Live for example has been really good over the years and it’s a service I have no objection to paying for. What I will be doing is shutting down the accounts that I’ve created over the years that I just don’t use anymore. Last.fm jumps to mind – scrobbling from everywhere used to be important to me but not anymore. I will also try and stop signing up to everything shiny and new. Honest.

Well, thats a lie really as I’ve signed up to three new services in the last day or so. When will I learn.

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