Reaction and Expansion upon Load The Game’s Nexus 5 vs. Moto X Comparison

Okay guys, not a snappy title but it’s definitely an important one.

I have the Nexus 5 and my wife has the Moto X.  Which is better? Well, Load The Game posted an article on this today which came under heavy fire in the comments because of either price and other factual inaccuracies, omissions on information or just plain feeling out of date.

I’m not here to tear it apart, but to expand on it from a usability perspective.
See, I moved from the Samsung Note II which was a beast hardware-wise, but buggy and slower than it should be, to the fantastic Nexus 5.  Nothing else I’ve used since has been able to compare, until I had to research for my wife’s next phone.

We went through the immensely popular Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (she wanted a smaller phone than mine), the Moto G, the Moto X and more, but I suggested she stick with the Moto X after loads of reviews including a fantastic video review by Marques Brownlee (MKBHD).  Coming from her lovely HTC One S this was an obvious choice as it was a similar form factor overall, comfortable and very slick.  An upgrade in all aspects (except the camera, but even the Moto X speaker quality wasn’t far off from the HTC).

After all my research I have to say Marques Brownlee was right; the Moto X is just such a great phone to use.  It’s the most jealous I’ve been over her tech, even though I love my Nexus 5 (also recommended by MKBHD) and even though her new laptop is immensely better than my 5 year old desktop replacement.
It does what the Nexus 5 does – it runs a simple version of Android KitKat with a speed and fluidity I thought only possible on Nexus devices.  No HTC, Samsung (bar the Galaxy Nexus when it first came out) or Sony I have used has been quite so consistent in performance.

We don’t get the Moto Maker here in the UK and that doesn’t matter; the Moto X looks fine as it is.

Moto X UK

What I have found is her battery life lasts a fair while and she doesn’t exactly skimp on using her phone for games, Facebook and email.  This is simply down to the super smart X8 architecture.  Dual core CPU instead of quad to avoid unnecessary drain, but a quad core GPU for when it’s really needed.  Top that up with a dedicated low-drain language processing chip (making the “Okay Google Now” keyword work in standby mode) and you’ve got magic.  Finally there is a Contextual Computing Processor for the little touches such as auto-dimming, auto-screen wakes and all the little computing tasks that don’t need a mega powerful CPU to do the work.  This also means those lovely active notifications on the lock screen are made possible, when married with the AMOLED screen.

I must say, I do love the little touches.  And that’s all Motorola have done: add little touches to the firmware to make it intuitive instead of bloated.
Colour me impressed – on a day to day basis this means the phone is incredibly usable.  Even the little dimple on the back which adds a nice place for your finger to stay when you make a call; a small touch that just works.

Yes, the rear camera under-performs in many situations, but the front camera makes for a good way to check if you have some food in your teeth after a meal and actually has a nice resolution for a front camera.

Another small criticism I’d have of the Moto X firmware is purely aesthetic.  I find that the margins around the app and widget grid are too wide.  They make the usable space on the screen much smaller than the Nexus 5 and even that phone had beefy margins compared to my Samsung Note II running Nova Launcher Prime.

The reason I haven’t been using Nova Launcher on my Nexus 5 is simply because I love the Google Experience Launcher; Google Now gives me lots of info (it’s how I came across the Load the Game article) and I’ve found myself using the unified search so much more than I used to.  The Google Experience Launcher is an acquired taste and my wife prefers to use the stock Moto X launcher so she’s not overly fussed.  As long as Chrome glides, as it does on both phones, and apps don’t constantly crash, she’s happy.  I think maybe her Moto X has marginally more crashes, but hardly any compared to my old Note II.  My Nexus 5 seldom has issues however.

Finally, my wife’s Moto X feels well put together for the most part.  However, only a couple of months in, already it creaks.  Quite a lot.  Turns out she’s not the only one.  Still, it doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart at all and it’s actually pleasing to hold.

I find both of these phones have it right: vanilla Android (or close enough to not make life difficult in Moto’s case) in solid, responsive hardware.  It works, it lags less and you familiarise yourself with it quickly.  I think for me, I prefer how nice the Moto X feels in the hand and it’s less likely to slip than my white Nexus 5.  In fact it is actually quite durable as well as non-slippy as crazier people than I have tested.

Nexus 5

Firmware-wise, it’s a tie for me.  I love my Nexus 5 with it’s Google Now/Experience Launcher and I am even liking the new camera app.  I will admit the being jealous of the always wake-able Google Now feature the Moto X has and active notifications, because those are genuine innovations which impress me and add value to the phone’s offering.

Some have said these are not the best available options any more so why did Load The Game write about them?  Well, what’s come out since?  The S5, which is an improved S4 really with some little toys (*cough*bloat*cough*) added in.  I’ll pass.  The OnePlus One? Ooh, not out just yet, but so close and a powerhouse to boot…  Cyanogenmod may be an acquired taste however.
Then there’s the Xperia Z2 –  A mighty beast of a phone also, but quite unwieldy and increasing in unnecessary bloat.  Not cheap either!
There’s always the HTC One M8 which is a top up to last year’s HTC One – and that phone has some fans let me tell you.  Sense 6.0 looks simpler and quite close to being more integrated with vanilla Android KitKat with little touches like Motorola did, but with enough of a HTC flavour to remind you you’re using Sense.

So, what’s as pure, that’s come out since the Moto X and the Nexus 5, running the latest Android KitKat and doesn’t cost the Earth?  Well, there’s the Moto G and I’ve tried it too.  It is the best value-for-money phone out there right now, but it isn’t quite as impressive, still, as the Moto X.  It does a lot for very little money, but the Moto X is just a smarter smartphone.

There is one other pure phone worth considering for all of you in the US: HTC One M8 Google Play Edition, which has stripped the polished and lauded Sense 6.0 and replaced it with vanilla Android KitKat; this means pure Android in a superb shell with some unique features still available without having to use all of Sense.  Marques Brownlee liked that so it may be worth considering.  I’m in London, UK so for me it would be a no-go, but even still I’d be tempted to try out the original HTC One M8 it seems that good, albeit taller and over 25g heavier than my Nexus 5.  Still, I wouldn’t buy one outright.  The only phone I’ve bought outright is the Nexus 5 and that’s saying something.

 

Does the Android world need more powerful sub-4.5″ phones?

In a word, yes.

At least that’s what GSMArena and over 6,300 people so far since yesterday, 15th April 2013, have suggested.

GSMArena Petition

The Change.org Petition highlights in the following way:

The market for high-end smartphones is disproportionally populated with slabs of gargantuan size. We feel that given the choice, a substantial number of users would prefer the latest hardware and software achievements in a more compact, mid-sized form factor.

To:
Android phone manufacturers
We are witnessing high-end smartphones getting bigger by the day. We feel you should not reserve the mid-size phones for the mid-range. We strongly urge you to rethink your mobile portfolios.We firmly stand behind the idea that high-end smartphones should not turn into mini-tablets or at least, users should have the right to enjoy the latest hardware and software achievements in a more compact, mid-sized form factor.Android smartphones manufacturers should not forget that portability is a key feature for any phone. We, the mobile phone users urge you to start making mid-size smartphones with high-end specs.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Well, certainly, even as a Note II owner, I would be inclined to agree.  One of my friends was eager to leave Apple for an Android-based device and after researching for months on end decided to opt for an iPhone 5 anyway.  The size was the problem.  He couldn’t get better specs in a phone closer to 4″ and in the Android world the hardware specs makes a bigger difference than the Apple offering let’s face it.

Don’t get me wrong, I fell in love with the Nexus 4 but then opted for a Note II because it wasn’t that big in the pocket, really, and the massive screen was just so beautiful for media consumption. Big is good in my opinion as a lot can get done on a 5.5″ screen.

So, why do I agree with this? Well I have a few reasons: Samsung Mega 5.8, Samsung Mega 6.3, Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Oppo Find 5… the list continues for phones over 4.5″ and each has it’s own charms and a great spec to match.

Find me something under 4.5″ which fits the bill?  Only China’s Small Cosmic X1 comes close and the spec isn’t quite there even as a quad core, nor does it fit into the 4.2″ size GSMArena are looking for.

So, if you’re one of those who is still looking for something to fit in your pocket and life with power to boot, go sign that petition.

It’s not that RSS is dead Jim, it’s that it will never be the same…

Google Reader - Sad Times!

There are mixed opinions to the news of Google Reader’s demise from the eternally distraught who have taken a furious stance on this action, through to those who don’t care either way.  Another reaction is, it will be sad to see Reader go, but the world is not at an end, RSS is very much alive still.

I must admit, RSS is very much alive, and there are alternatives picking up the pieces Google will be leaving behind, but, after using a couple touted as the closest replacements, I can’t help but feel current fans are going to miss Reader more than people think.

I have given others a try as mentioned and the general consensus has been towards Feedly so I decided to give it a fair try.  Indeed I also tried The Old Reader which is a social reader built around the old Google Reader idea of sharing.  None of them will be satisfactory for me to replace Reader, but I thought it fair to explain why they don’t quite work for me.

The Old Reader

Firstly, in terms of feel this is the closest to Google Reader.  Whilst Feedly is a lot more polished with a magazine feel, this is a slightly slicker Reader experience based on the days of Google Reader before the launch of Google+.

If it’s all the same to you, I must say, aside from the pain of reorganising 357 feeds in to the order I’m used to, there are limitations to The Old Reader which take away from its promise of behaving just like Google Reader:

  • According to The Old Reader none of my current feeds have posts before mid-February 2013.  I revisit my comic archives and other articles are searched for within my feeds in reader quite regularly.  This doesn’t help.
  • Sporadically updated feeds have older entries parsed, but again a limited amount.
  • The search is awfully slow.  Not sure if a demand issue at the moment or inherent issue with the site.
  • The interface is clean but on some screens I can’t see the separation between articles as clearly (minor issue)
  • Sharing is, as far as I can tell, a one-click process to share with other members of The Old Reader – makes sense as they’re building their own social reading experience, but other sharing options (save for connecting to Facebook) are limited.

Overall it’s not a bad solution and probably the one I would stick to if only it would give me access to my older items.  With Google Reader keep scrolling, more feed items will load and you can carry on reading them, here we don’t get that.  The Old Reader is simple and does most of the job, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

Oh, and occasionally, quite possibly due to recent high demand, you do get this:

The Old Reader Error

Feedly

This is an elegantly presented solution which serves as a good middle-ground between a magazine-style news aggregation tool like Flipboard, but with conventional list views possible, as well as a pretty powerful search function.  I tried this on Firefox on my work PC, but upon going to install this on Chrome at home, this rang alarm bells:

Feedly on Chrome - Accesses everything!

Er… No thanks!

Access my data on all websites? No thanks.  This is the start of why I can’t use Feedly to replace Reader. More reasons? Well:

  • Feedly is available only as (intrusive) add-ons or apps for phones created by Feedly themselves.  Reader was available as an API for some (fantastic) third party apps
  • Reader is available on any browser at any time, synced and ready without the need for addons.  Feedly isn’t available the same way, though The Old Reader is so bonus points there for our previous contender!
  • Feedly’s app, for Android at least, feels a bit too simplified compared to the aspirations of it’s web add-ons. It also falls short of a swift headline crunching app. Third party Reader widgets (for now!) and Currents as an app alone do the job better
  • Feedly’s widget is okay, but doesn’t always pull off the most interesting stories like Appy Geek tends to for my tech needs. Oh, and it does have a tendency to crash.

For most, Feedly will do. Sharing to various networks gives it one over The Old Reader, and it has it’s current Google Reader integration, so mark something read there, it’s synced with Reader.  Great for a transition, but I fear relying on it too much will end in further heartbreak for those who decide it is their replacement.  I don’t expect it to be around forever.  If Google Reader can die, nothing is safe anymore.

There’s a hole still going to be left when Reader goes, no matter what they naysayers proclaim.  Nothing works quite so well and I can only see three potential options for Google in the face of this:

  1. Keep Reader going. It’s fine as it is and no-one will need additional support or tweaking.  It doesn’t need to be a project that drains resources beyond what it does data-wise.  No human resources needed here.  This is the option that makes the most sense to me and many others
  2. Shut Reader down, give Currents a web-presence and allow full import of Reader feeds seamlessly.  Google are clearly still very much interested in the news, and as an app goes Currents is fantastic for news, but could there be potential to integrate this to give it a little more of a Reader flexibility with Currents polish? Maybe.  The widget still needs work
  3. Shut Reader down, do nothing.  Be hated by those that loved Reader, and hope they forgive and forget. If you’re feeling generous give Reader to someone who gives a damn and will happily keep it going.

In any case, this video tells the pain of losing an important tool in a way I could never do, and also analyses some of the other options very well…  IN SONG! 😮

The most innovative tech company? Hint: Begins with “A”

Not Apple...

I’m gobsmacked.  Over time we have seen some great innovations and just when you think we’ve exhausted all options, someone comes along and offers something fresh.

We’ve seen the iPod come about and put portable music players on the map.  Sure, Diamond had the Rio PMP300 (which the first iPod looks like a streamlined, sexier version of) and Cowon had it’s early offerings as well as Archos with their Jukebox 6000 but Apple really got the market heated up.

We’ve also seen iPhones shake things up over the years – nothing was this slick with touchscreen before.  Yes, there were other touchscreen phones, but this had an ecosystem to go with it, it had the magic that only Apple could bring.

Since then, Android took a massive jump into the scene and has taken cues from iOS and in turn iOS has taken cues from Android.  All the developments have led to larger form factors in both phones and the form of tablets.

In the meantime, Notebooks were shrinking.  Firstly into Netbooks which, for all intents and purposes, are a dying breed.  Then screen size was becoming important again, so ultrabooks made more sense.  Slim it down, keep a lot of screen real-estate.  MacBook Air again was a pioneer in this space.  There was, what many believe, no stopping the Cupertino giant.

But this is not the company I’m talking about.

There are fantastic innovations from companies like Samsung who took the first brave step into Phablet territory.  They are among the main big guys like HTC who have pressured Apple into releasing a 4″ iPhone.  Then they venture into true multitasking.  Windowed apps which allow browsing in two windows, note-taking etc.

Sure, innovations are rife from big boys like Samsung.  But their tablets are tablets, their phones are phones, and, outside of phablet category, that’s about it (even with the S-Pen making sense as it does).

Roll on Windows 8 and ideas aplenty.  Surface RT, groovy, Sony’s efforts, everyone’s efforts, great.  But, oh, look at this… It’s Asus.  Just look at the video below – 8 minutes of your time well-spent:

Yes, the Transformer was genius, the Padfone not so much, but hey, Pad Infinity came out and it rocks, Padfone 2 looks much better and now this?!

The VivoTab is a massive, albeit subtle improvement on the current hybrid form factor.  Easier to detach than the current Android tabs, slicker connection point for the dock, plus it will have MS Office.  That blows Android’s Polaris offering out of the water.

However, the true gem I find is this bit of courageous ingenuity:

Asus TAICHI

The TAICHI is an example of the creativity required to be called innovative.  Simple idea, just implemented so well, with purpose to boot.  The mirror and dual screen modes are a fantastic idea and possibilities have increased exponentially.  More importantly – CONNECT FOUR!

Connect Four! Courtesy of Wikipedia/Wikimedia user Silver Spoon

In any case, Asus were doing magical things before their Windows 8 offerings, but they’ve just trumped themselves again.  Being Asus there is every chance that the TAICHI will be a bit “meh” the first time around, but being that it’s not just another slide, swivel or dock, it’s a totally new idea they’re willing to try.  That is innovative, that takes balls and that’s what’s driving the industry.  Good work Asus.

(Engadget covers specs here for those that want to know, and they originally had a look at this back in June – the link to that is within theri article also – I’ve borrowed the image from their site, which I imagine is a press release image from Asus)