Google Pixel 4 – what’s sticking?

This year the Pixel 4 is mostly a safe release but it also adds some weird new features. Google released a new version of their flagship and tries to figure out, what sticks.

Samsung is known for trying new stuff before adding the features to the main flagships. Do you remember the original Galaxy Note with the massive 5,3″ display? They created a new category of devices just by trying if people like big screens. The original Note had an 81.4 cm² display area. The Note 10+ now has a 114 cm² one.

They also created a new trend with curved displays. The Note Edge, released at the same time with the Note 4, was a limited production curved screen variant of the Note 4. Now all of the Samsung flagships have curved displays.

What about Google? Where are their dual front facing cameras this year? Where is the single rear camera that can do all the things a multi camera setup could do? Where is the unlimited cloud storage for original quality photos? Where is the safe and quick fingerprint scanner? Where is the 3,5mm adapter? Where is the USB-C headphones? Where are the dual front facing speakers?

Google has been trying something new every year but this year it seems that they have ditched too much of the good features and added empty gimmicks.

I mean, who is ready to completely give up the fingerprint scanner for the face unlock? Not me at least. When I get my hands on the Pixel 4, I’ll no longer have my phone unlocked when it comes out of my pocket. Why can’t we have both?

The radar is another thing. If I understood correctly, the radar is used with the face unlock feature to make it more accurate. But it is also used for the reaching over the phone feature so the phone will detect when user is going to pick it up and unlock it. It’s used to skip songs and silence alarms. At the same time Google is promoting all the voice control features.

The entire keynote looked to me like Fiat Multipla design team was managing the Google hardware business. The features were not unified. The release looks like a collection of new stuff Google engineers were able to create this year. Some old stuff was left behind while doing this.

The biggest mess is the Google Photos backup. They got rid of the free original quality backups to get more people to buy the Google One subscription. If it only was an affordable option but it’s basically the price of the iCloud. This should not be that big of a deal as the high quality backups are still free but anyway, it has been the flagship feature of Pixel phones until now.

Google is testing, what will stick and I hope that some day, they will make the perfect combination of the features they have tried. While waiting, I’ll tease myself with the idea of switching to an iPhone and with that, getting a proper smart watch that does only exist in a fruit ecosystem.

Why switching to iPhone is more compelling than ever?

Every year, many people switch their smartphone ecosystem from iPhone to Android or the opposite way. However, this year Apple seems to be more compelling option than ever.

The early sales numbers show growth in Apple iPhone sales, and Apple has even ramped up the production by 10% to meet the demand of the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models. This is like back in the old days when Apple surprised themselves every year by selling more iPhones than expected. This year, there are legitimate reasons for that.

Price is the first reason. As every other manufacturer is rising their prices, Apple is keeping theirs the same. When you can get the proper status symbol with a fruit logo on the back for only a few hundred more, why would you buy a Samsung or a Pixel?

Apple Watch is now in the class of its own. And it only works on an iPhone. It looks like Google has given up with the WearOS and there are no interesting new models showing up. Samsung uses their own watch without Google apps like Fit. Who wants to add Samsung apps to their phone if they don’t already have a Samsung? Apple seems to be the only choice right now for those who want to use a smartwatch.

Features. Apple hasn’t passed Android phones yet but they are getting closer. Dark mode, triple cameras, fake emails for apps to add privacy, better water resistance and much improved battery life. Add this to the ones they already had over Android, superior performance, better accessory options, superior build quality and updates for five years. They are even doing most of the features right or more right than their competitors.

Sustainability. Every company has to polish their shields. Apple however has done some actual improvements. The iPhone 11 Pro models are more modular than ever. Single components seem to be replaceable and it doesn’t look like the whole phone must be swapped every time something breaks inside.

These are just a few examples and the users that have used iPhone and Android phones side by side lately, surely can add more to that list. I switched my number 2 phone to Android a year ago and have only Android since. I don’t think I’m going to get an iPhone any time soon but maybe this year will push Google to improve more.

Rebranding, Huawei’s change to survive

Huawei has been released from the black list but its reputation is ruined. Can the Chinese company survive in the mobile device business after that mess?

As every one of us have heard, Huawei was put to the black list of US trade commission. That meant that US companies could not trade with Huawei in any way. It lead to the big headlines about Google banning Huawei and so on. Now the company has been released from the black list and life goes on, or does it?

Image result for huawei

It is very hard to understand customers’ reactions to the entire Huawei mess if we think about different regions. In America, Huawei really hasn’t been a big player in smartphone market but a relatively competitive in the network business. Very little Huawei phones have been sold by the carriers and that’s still the way Americans buy their phones. The little market share they had in smartphones, is now gone.

From a European standpoint, Huawei hasn’t changed that much during the debate. The US and China trade war has been going for a while now and for most of us Europeans, the Huawei ban was just a part of that trade war. I personally don’t find Huawei phones that attractive anyway but their two brands, Huawei and Honor have been some of the best selling phones in Europe for the last few years. That trend is unlikely change too much after the Huawei debate is completely over.

However, the way Huawei could turn this into gold, is to rebrand their phones and make some other changes as well. From this point onward, this article doesn’t base on facts but on my personal smartphone preferences. First of all, the rebranding. Huawei has been making phones under the Honor name for a while now, so that name is done. They’ll need to find a new, catching name like Vulcan or Wraith.

They should also drop their own UI and use Google’s Android One as a base. All Huawei’s own extras should be added as applications that could easily be updated and has to yield to same permissions as any other apps. This could win the doubters to their side. Camera app of course is important as Huawei has been known for its great smartphone cameras.

Oh, and as I accidentally just made another Nokia / HMD Global, Huawei’s new brand would differentiate itself by being the first at new technologies, like it has been. Their own SoCs are half a year ahead of their competitors even though they are a bit slower. Their display technologies and especially their product design has been top notch for the last couple of years.

Image result for android one

There are currently no clean Android phones on the flagship market other than the Pixels and maybe the Sony Xperia 1. There used to be some Moto phones and that’s it. Nokia’s 9 was a big disappointment and it is also competing more with the upper mid-rangers like OnePlus 7 or Galaxy S10e. More competition in the clean Android market is better.

The state of mobile tech and Superzeppo

It has been way too long since I have updated this site. There are several reasons to that but those are not my talking points today.

 

Getting stuck in old technology is easy. All you need is way too good tech that you don’t want to get rid of. 

I have pretty much always been an early adopter. I was very early with my Nexus 10 purchase and I’ve used a WearOS Watch since the first Huawei Watch came available. Since then however, I have slowed down with my upgrades to a point that I feel like I’m Google, coming a generation behind.

The fact that I’m using a Google phone is not helping. The Pixel 3 XL that’s my main smartphone, was a generation behind the trends with it’s huge notch and single camera. Still I got one. Am I getting old?

Last year, I bought a Note9 and I kind of liked it at first. Although, after a while, I started to feel the worse sides of Samsung’s mobile UI. There were duplicates of all Google apps and the camera was just outright bad for my liking compared to my old Pixel 2 that I had back then. I decided to feel old and go back to Pixel.

Conservatism in mobile tech is what sells

You can see what Apple is doing. They may have the best SoC and video recording but everywhere else they are behind their Android competitors. Still Apple sells their iPhone 7 and 8 models like crazy and they are not slowing down. The iPhone 8 from 2017 is basically an iPhone 6 with a better SoC. Still it sells.

Have you tried the new swiping navigation on either iPhone or Android? It’s awful. You feel like dropping your phone and navigation is way slower than on a traditional three button navigation on Android. Normal people unlike me and probably you, are not interested in new ways to drop your phone which the new home gesture is.

Normal people also don’t want to get a mortgage to buy a phone. That’s another reason why older models sell.

Innovation is still needed

I’m not saying that the new technologies are not needed or the smartphone tech has reached its peak. The expensive new technology always dribbles down to the more affordable devices and at some point every one of us do have a notch and a swiping navigation.

However, at that point the early adopters are using the next generation of foldable phones. The first gen seems to be priced just for the richest of the geeks and with the issues that Samsung and Huawei are having, probably won’t make Google and Apple rush their foldables out.

The smartphone market is going to be very interesting soon. I’ll try to keep this blog updated with my thoughts on the current and future tech.

Huawei launches P20 Pro with 40 megapixel camera

Huawei tries to breath new life to the stagnant smartphone market with the new P20 Pro. It uses AI to stitch together images from three different sensors.

As the smartphone market is getting less and less interesting with iterative updates, the Huawei P20 Pro is a welcome exception. Huawei launched a full lineup of P20 devices at Paris but the Pro model is easily the most interesting.

The Huawei P20 Pro is a glass and metal sandwich with a 6.1″ 18.7:9 2240 x 1080 resolution notched OLED display. It has the Huawei’s in house Kirin 970 chip, 6 GB of RAM,  128 GB of storage and a 4000 mAh battery. On the camera side though, things get more interesting. The front 24 megapixel camera is placed in the notch and on the flip side, there are 3 cameras.

The main camera, on the middle, has a massive 1/1.7″ 40 megapixel sensor for nearly Pureview-like resolution. The top camera has an 8 megapixel sensor with a 3x telephoto lens. The bottom camera has a 20 megapixel sensor with a monochrome lens. To turn this massive amount of data to a beautiful image in all conditions, Huawei is using AI. The monochrome lens lets in more light in dark situations, so the AI can for example take the colors from the main camera, and the details from the monochrome sensor.

Like said, this camera setup is like the Pureview of 2018. We are hoping to see more of innovation like this in the future to keep the smartphone market evolving. The notches are not good marketing pointers.

Speaking of notches and Huawei, they actually made their notch a marketing point. They compared it to the iPhone X notch and said that their smaller notch is better because the user can see more notification icons. I’d say that every notch is a notch, and should be got rid of.

The other two P20 models are the regular P20 and the P20 Lite. The P20 has a smaller 5.8″ LCD display with the same 2240 x 1080 resolution, 4 GB of RAM and the battery is 3400 mAh in capacity. The front facing camera is the same 24 megapixel unit but on the rear, there are only two cameras, a 12 MP main camera and a 20 MP monochrome one. Rest of the specs are the same.

The Lite has a Kirin 659 chip, 5.8″ IPS display with the same resolution, 16 and 2 megapixel cameras, 3000 mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage.

Innovation is good for the smartphone market. We have heard some rumors about a Nokia phone with an impressive camera setup. Hopefully we are getting some real facts of it soon. Of course, other manufacturers are allowed to innovate too. It just turns out that some are too busy removing features.

Will the next iPhone be fully wireless?

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The leaked invitation for the 2017 Apple event suggests wireless charging. Of course the image can be fake. 

However, could the iPhone 7s, 8 or 10 be fully wireless? Last year, Apple showed the world that it’s willing to make its customers life difficult by removing ports. The MacBook Pro removed all the usual ports like MagSafe, USB type-A and SD card reader and added a couple of USB type-C ports. The new MacBook Pro still carries the Pro add-on despite losing all the Pro it had.

Later in the year, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone. This way they were able to make it water resistant and sell more Lighting headphones. The sound was supposed to be better and some fanboys and audiophiles can definitely hear the difference when closed into a noise free bunker. Everybody still listens the normal quality streamed music, not the fancy high bitrate stuff.

Now that everyone has a Lighting cable, it’s time to make the iPhone completely wireless by removing the charging port, creating a new wireless charging standard and forcing everybody to buy a few new chargers. That would be so typical post-Jobs Apple.

Making the iPhone cable free would mean that the data cable is also gone. This could be justified by safety, as there would no longer be a way to the storage via USB. All data transfers would be wireless. No more movie downloads from iTunes via USB-cable.

And imagine what that would mean to our charging habits. If the phone has to stay on top of a charging pad for hours because of  the slow amps. How would Apple get around that?

I’ll tell you how, with a cable. They’ll just add a wireless charging pad with magnets at the end of the cable instead of a Lightning jack. That way you can keep using the phone while charging and that way its way different from the others for Apple to patent it.

Of course they will make their own standard. What did you think? Apple is the only company so selfish that they make their own everything. Can’t use USB, can’t use 3.5mm headphones, now can’t use existing wireless charging standards. Now the other manufacturers need to buy Apple’s wireless charging standard because they have patented magnets and others can’t use their wireless charging phones while charging.

There are just too many 3rd party Lighting cables. This time Apple will make sure that the phone only accepts the real Apple $89 wireless charger. Just add wireless tag of some sort that confirms it’s the real deal. They will make some serious cash with that.

Aside the wireless charging, what phenomenal new innovations will the next iPhone bring? Well, OLED display. Finally the Apple users can enjoy the black that’s actually black. The phone can be made thinner because the individual pixels light themselves up and don’t need the backlight module. Also, the display might be curved, never seen that before either.

With all these innovations, Apple is probably going to make what Samsung did with the Note 7… no no not that… the order number skipping thing. The next iPhone is called iPhone 10. Because it’s 2017, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone of course. And don’t forget the price, it’ll obviously go up.

Nokia 6 goes official

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The Nokia name is back with the new Nokia 6, built by HMD Global. The phone will be available in early 2017 but apparently only in China. 

The Nokia 6 will be available exclusively through JD.com in China. No word on global availability yet. The price is around $245 or 233€ (1699 CNY).

The Nokia 6 features an all aluminium unibody design, 2.5D Gorilla Glass and a 5.5″ Full HD IPS display. Powering the pixels, the Nokia 6 has a Snapdragon 430 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 3000mAh battery. The Android Nougat operating system seems to have a skin on top of it.

Cameras are 16 and 8 megapixels, the main one featuring F/2.0 aperture and phase detection auto focus. The Nokia 6 also has Dolby Atmos support and dual amplifiers. The home button also acts as a fingerprint scanner.

Source: HMD Global, Nokia 6 product page