Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Google IO 2016 and Android N

Google hosted its annual developer conference, Google IO last week.  Key announcements included:
  • Android N: successor to Marshmallow
  • Google Assistant: replaces Google Now
  • Google Home: smart speaker system (similarAmazon Echo)
  • Allo: messaging (similar to Apple iMessage)
  • Duo: video chat (similar Apple FaceTime)
  • Daydream: virtual reality (similar Oculus Rift)
  • Android instant apps: use apps without downloading them
  • Android Wear 2.0: connect to wi-fi, support for iOS

I upgraded my Nexus 5X to Android N beta over the air and it was the easiest Android upgrade so far.  I registered for the beta on my Mac/PC and within moments, I received a notification on my Nexus 5X to upgrade with one tap.  I've been impressed with how stable the beta is and the number of new features including improved notifications and split screen multitasking.  I'm looking forward to trying the new instant apps that launch immediately without downloading.  A good list of the new Android N features can be found on Android Central.

Apple's annual developer conference, WWDC, kicks off on June 13 in San Francisco.  I'm looking forward to Apple's announcements.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Android Nexus 5X smartphone - thumbs up!

I recently purchased a new, Nexus 5X 16GB unlocked smartphone on eBay for $229 (deal of the day).  The phone itself is made by LG and uses Google's Android reference architecture including a native Android 6 Marshmallow experience. After using the Nexus 5X for over a month, I'm a fan.

The new Imprint fingerprint reader is easier to setup and quicker to use than Apple TouchID. Initially, I didn't like the placement of the fingerprint reader but I quickly got used to it. Using Imprint to unlock the Nexus 5X is much easier than entering a passcode.  However, there are relatively few apps that support Imprint for app authentication at this time.

Pros:
  • Low cost
  • Just the right size - not too big and not to small; can be used with one hand
  • Very nice LCD screen and build quality
  • Nice camera
  • Native Android 6.0 Marshmallow experience
  • Android Imprint fingerprint reader
  • Native Android experience
  • Lots of security updates from Google that are installed automatically
  • USB C connector

Cons:
  • Buttons for power and volume are awful - way too small 
  • Dual speakers look great but sound awful
  • Security updates take a long time (20 minutes+) and have to process each app installed on the phone - the more apps the longer the updates take
  • No integrated visual voicemail

Specs:
  • 5.2 inches
  • 1920x1080 LCD at 423 ppi
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Fingerprint- and smudge-resistant oleophobic coating
  • Rear Camera 12.3MP, 4K (30fps) video capture
  • Front Camera 5MP
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 Processor, 1.8GHz hexa-core 64-bit
  • Memory & Storage RAM: 2GB LPDDR3
  • Internal storage: 16GB or 32GB.  No external storage options



Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Apple iPad Pro review - Thumbs down!

I've been testing the Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch for the past several weeks and while I appreciate the incremental improvements, it's not worthy of a separate "Pro" model and the extra cost. The iPad Pro 9.7 brings even more enhancements but is still just an incremental upgrade to the iPad Air 2.

Hits:
  • Larger 12.9 inch screen. While not for everyone, it's great to have choice - small (7.9 inch), medium (11.7 inch) and large (12.9 inch).  While most apps aren't optimized for the large 12.9 inch screen, they are coming. Slide Over and Split View, introduced in iOS 9 provides multitasking capabilities and work great on the large 12.9 inch screen. 
  • Apple finally eliminated the base model with 16GB of limited storage and replaced it with 32GB.  I hope Apple follows suit with the new iPhone and also increases the paltry 5GB of free  iCloud storage.
  • Smart Connector.  While I'm not a fan of the Apple Smart Keyboard (there are much better and less expensive third party keyboards with backlighting and support for multiple screen positions), I am a fan of the new Smart Connector as it eliminates the need to charge a Bluetooth keyboard and it delivers "instant on" capabilities. 
  • Faster A9X processor, 4GB RAM (12.9 inch) and improved front and back cameras (9.7 inch).
  • Improved four-speaker design sounds great.
  • Improved cameras. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch now has support for 4K video and an improved FaceTime camera

Misses:
  • Additional cost. Apple hasn't delivered enough enhancements to warrant the extra cost or the "Pro" moniker 
  • Too many models. Apple makes the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 and iPad Mini 2.  Apple needs to consolidate and simplify the product line.  Why not just call it the iPad and make it available in three sizes?
  • Apple Pencil. There are plenty of excellent third-party styli and the Apple Pencil seems like an afterthought.  There is no eraser, no way to turn off the Apple Pencil to conserve battery life, no magnet to attach the Apple Pencil to the iPad for travel/storage and charging using the Lightning port is awkward.  However, it's unforgivable to ship the Apple Pencil without handwriting recognition in iOS.  The Apple Newton had this feature in 1993. 
  • Apple marketing.  Apple touts the iPad Pro as a Windows laptop replacement. Why isn't the iPad Pro being positioned as a Mac replacement?  The sad truth is that the iPad Pro isn't a replacement for either for most users. 
  • Software. iOS hasn't been optimized for the larger 12.9 inch screen. Finally, Apple's focus on hardware is overshadowing software and quality has suffered as Walt Mossberg and others have noted.

What are your thoughts?


Monday, February 08, 2016

What tech accessories do I use for work?

In my previous posts, I shared the smartphones, tablets and PCs I use for work as well as how I have my Apple iDevices configured.  In this post, I share my favorite tech accessories:

High Sierra Business Elite backpack is my everyday gear bag for all my electronic devices. I've owned several High Sierra backpacks and I've found them to be well made with plenty of pockets to keep all my gear organized

Amazon basics laptop sleeves are affordable, high quality and keep my gear protected and free from scratches and dents

Velcro cable ties keeps my cords under control

Vaultz mesh bags keep all my cables and dongles together

Beats Studio Wireless headphones are a great way to listen to music, watch movies on flights and keep out the noise. Yes, they are expensive, but there are deals to be had online (I picked mine up new on eBay for $120)

Pencil by Fifty-three is an excellent stylus for the iPad Air 2 and works with several apps including Paper and Microsoft OneNote as well as others.

Anker PowerCore 20100 is an outstanding external charger to keep all my mobile devices charged and ready to go

EasyACC 4 port USB charger is inexpensive, small and charges 4 USB devices

Ergotron LX desk mount LCD arm is relatively inexpensive, easily adjustable, well made and frees up precious desk space in my home office

There you have it. My favorite tech accessories. What are some of yours?


Monday, January 18, 2016

What laptops, smartphones and tablets do I use for work?

As a follow up to my earlier post on how I have my Apple iDevices configured, I thought I'd share details on the hardware I use for work:

Apple MacBook Pro (13 inch) my primary work laptop. When I work out of my home office, I connect my MacBook Pro to a 24" external monitor and an external Apple keyboard. I have other Macs (MacBook, MacBook Air) that I use for testing as well as several Windows laptops and tablets that I use for testing

Apple iPhone 6 (64GB) is my primary work smartphone. I have several other smartphones that I use for testing.

Apple iPad Air 2 (64GB) is my primary work tablet. I have several other tablets (Nexus 7, HP Stream) that I use for testing.

Apple Watch is my primary smartwatch and I use it to read alerts, flip Microsoft Powerpoint slides and more.

Apple TV (Gen 3) is my primary streaming device since I use Apple products. I always keep an Apple TV in my work backpack to deliver wireless presentations to colleagues and clients. At home, I use an Apple TV Gen 4