Posts tagged “google

Samsung Galaxy S10, the best Android smartphone right now

There, I said it, there is really nothing else to read — unless you want to learn about how smooth interacting with the device is, how it matches up to the competition or the hole punch for the two front facing cameras actually interact with the device.  It’s a quick takeaway, but Samsung is truly doing something great here and it should not go unnoticed.

S10Plus_BB

Samsung Galaxy S10+


Design and Use

(*My main interaction and time was spent with the Galaxy S10+, which this hands-on will focus on.)

Samsung knocked the ball out of the park here with an incredibly light design housing a massive 6.4″ AMOLED display that is industry and class leading.  For full specifications of the Galaxy S10E, S10 and S10+, go here.  This display stretches to each side, curving over to the edge and going almost to the top and bottom as well — almost.  There is a small bit of continuity cut off due to the hole-punch cutout for the front facing cameras and in my use and to my surprise, were not too impeding in the use of the device.  The cameras essentially sit in the notification space and leave the rest of the screen open as a gigantic media-centric canvas.

What does this mean for daily interactions on the device?

Plain and simple — the hole-punch does not get in the way, unless you really, really want it to.  Even during expanding a YouTube video from regular pillarbox to full-screen, the camera cut out doesn’t kill the viewing experience — say that about a traditional “notch”.  See below:

Video on Galaxy S10+.  No zoom versus zoom.

Using the Galaxy S10+ is a breeze with apps opening fast and seamlessly, as someone who has tested out most of the flagship Samsung phones in recent memory, the optimizations put in place by the company get better and better and One UI is certainly helping out here.  One UI is Samsung’s attempt at simplifying the user interface of a smartphone on a big display.  With that being said, touch points are larger and placement of items on the display make it much easier for one-handed use, which is something most of us wish to do.  Additionally, One UI seems to cut out a lot of the “crap” and jankiness that older Samsung smartphones included out-of-the-box and looks and feels a lot easier on the eyes.  Although One UI is an improvement in performance, we still see the usual shutter lag present in most Android smartphones and the S10 camera is no exception.  While the photos turn out excellent and going between all three camera modes (2x, 1x and telephoto) are a breeze — when I tap the shutter button, I expect a photo then not a milli-second or two later.


Wrap-up

When it’s all said and done, if you want a great all-around performer, this device is for you.  Samsung keeps getting better and better and while us techies, including myself, constantly talk about the Pixel — many seem to forget that.  This years Pixel 3 XL is an absolute abomination to look at and many argue that the only reason to even buy the phone is for the camera; however, when Samsung has put together the most complete Android phone of the year, it’s simply too hard to ignore.

Welcome Samsung Galaxy S10, the current best Android smartphone of 2019.

Made By Google 2018

On Tuesday October 9, 2018, Google showcased a variety of updated services and hardware offerings to the delight of many Google fans.  We knew all about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, in all of it’s “notchy” embarrassment, thanks to a variety of leaks, although Google teased as if we didn’t.  Overall, the keynote was lacking due to the leaks and due to several technical miscues throughout.

In the keynote we learned more about Google’s future for home, portable computing and services all through it’s products.  A future that is interesting, fun and oftentimes confusing, but with Google at the helm, it won’t be boring.

Let’s begin.


Google Home Hub

Every smarthome needs a centerpiece and Google Home Hub plans to be just that.  Over the course of the keynote, this proved to be one of the most well-thought out, polished pieces of the day.  From showing you recipe tutorials on YouTube, to weather and driving conditions and photos from your most recent trip — this device is designed in such a way that brings it all together and is excellent if you already have a variety of smart devices.  In addition to the Home Hub, the Google Home app received a significant update that mirrors what HomeView on the Hub screen, putting all of your connected devices first.  This is the way that it should be and the way that it should’ve been.

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Updated Google Home app, iOS.

The Google Home Hub is meant to be that home device that blends in with the rest of your home and buy offering different color options like Google Home, Home Mini and Max devices, it accomplishes that easily.  Interacting with Google Assistant on any of the Google Home devices is very simple and straightforward although during the keynote, that was muddied my interactions that had bad timing because they were prerecorded.

Featuring a 7″ display, the Home Hub is perfect for an office or a kitchen device; however, it can also go safely into a bedroom since there is no camera on the device — unlike the Amazon Echo Show.  This large and bright display is how you will interact with Hub and discover new things it can do.  Coming in at $149 and available on October 22nd, this little guy is bound to shake things up.

Source: YouTube, The Verge.


Pixel Slate

Is it a tablet?  Is it a computer?

The introduction of Pixel Slate started on a high note, with a stone thrown at it’s competitors Apple and Microsoft with the statement, “..something that isn’t a laptop trying to be a tablet…or a tablet, that’s really a phone, pretending to be a computer“.

It’s Pixel Slate and it’s neither.  Yet, it is a combination of both depending on how you utilize it.  A tablet is nothing more than a different type of a personal computer, just like your smartphone, laptop or gaming PC.

Pixel Slate is an interesting device.  Starting at $599 you get a tablet-esque device featuring a re-imagined “molecular” 12.3″ display featuring 293 PPI, Intel inside starting at the Celeron and fully equipped with an i7.

PixelSlateLineup

This device is the spiritual successor to Google’s Pixelbook and ultimately Google’s long game in the space and puts itself in a direct fight between Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface.  Chromebooks are ubiquitous in the classroom and with those who are entrenched in Google’s ecosystem for all of the right reasons.  Most computing today is done through the browser, whether you utilize Google Chrome, Edge, Firefox or something else — you’re still in browser.  One of the reasons why Chrome, Firefox and others have such a large userbase is due to the many add ons and “apps” that can be accessed through the window of a browser.

Nowadays, Google has been pumping Chrome OS to be much more than just a browser, to having Android app support and support for some Linux applications, the gap between a Chrome OS device and traditional desktop operating system is blurring more and more and the Pixel Slate seems to be a solid device the enter that “gap” with.  Pairing this device with the optional Pixel Slate Keyboard transforms this from tablet to that traditional laptop feel; however, Google did something different with it’s keyboard, allowing the user to have many different positions to the screen unlike the iPad Pro keyboard, mimicking a majority of the angles that a Microsoft Surface can reach.

Source: YouTube, The Verge

This is the future of mobile computing through Google’s Chrome OS and with this operating system becoming more open to other platforms, this increased interoperability is making it a more viable solution as most are simply in the business of content consumption rather than creation.


Pixel 3

It was noted that Pixel 3 was “built with exceptionally beautiful and design choices”, which is the biggest fable of the entire keynote.  While the Pixel 3 may be of good design, no person will agree with anyone on that stage that the Pixel 3 XL is a beautiful device.  This is absolutely one of the most tasteless and awful design decisions in all of smartphones with the largest and most obtrusive notch on any device.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.  It’s laughably bad and as I noted on #150 of the In the Weeds podcast, it looks like hot garbage.

Pixel3XLNotch

Pixel 3 XL close-up of the the display notch.

Aside from the addition of a notch, that no one asked for, there are several small additions to the Pixel 3 that push it slightly over it’s older sibling Pixel 2.

The design of the device was completely re-engineered by giving it an all glass back with custom milling to make the lower portion soft-touch, making it almost indistinguishable from the Pixel 2 and an additional second camera on the front, which extends the camera angle 184 degrees.  Camera upgrades don’t stop on the front as Google builds in a new feature called Top Shot, which utilizes frames before and after the shutter is pressed giving the user the opportunity to select the “top” frame as the still image.

Additionally, Google takes advantage of the best digital assistant in the business with it’s new Screen Call feature, which allows you to interact with a potential spam caller utilizing Google Assistant so that you don’t have to in an interactive exchange and potentially even mark the call as spam.  Lastly, with your shiny new Pixel 3 in hand, you need a charging stand to take advantage of the newly added wireless charging.  Meet Pixel Stand, which charges your device wirelessly, but also gives you an overview of your home, recent photos and more.  While this stand may not charge multiple devices at once — it is actually going to ship unlike Apple’s Air Power.  Pixel 3 starts at $799, with its large sibling at $899, up from last year and available on October 19th.

Source: YouTube, Made by Google

Here, the device you like the most comes to personal preference.  The notch is such a horrible design trend that doesn’t give the consumer any additional benefit, but allows the OEM the ability to tout “edge to edge” display while developers cannot utilize all of the space thanks to rounded corners and other elements of the display that need to be shown — this space that can be used is typically called a “safe area”, coined initially by Apple, read more here.


Overall

Google’s devices aren’t usually meant to be big mainstream hits, Google Home and Assistant are the exceptions, while Pixel devices are usually for the enthusiast with the aim of pushing either a platform, software solution or ideal forward.  The Made by Google event of 2018 was hit and miss, as presenters seemed spaced out and presentations early on were marred by off cue interactions.  With all of that aside, the future looks bright, we just have to hope that Google, who frequently changes it’s mind in the direction department, actually stays true to the course and continues pushing the ideals they’ve displayed ahead.

Mobile Design Trends

Apple killed the industry with a notch in the display of it’s beloved iPhone X, due to its True Depth Camera array for Face ID. Afterwards, it’s seemed as if every Android manufacturer, including Google wants to copy it — why?

Reception

Most people note that they “don’t even notice” the notch. However, I argue that OEMs are lying to consumers by offering a device with an “edge to edge” 6 inch screen while due to the nature of the notch and additional curves in the display make only about 5.5 inches of that display actually usable. We are in an ugly middle ground before we get real full display phones and right now, only Samsung is maximizing space properly — no one else.

Wrap-up

2019 hurry up with our non-notched displays.

Google Assistant Continued Conversations

“Hey Google, What’s the weather?”

–Answered

“Can you add an umbrella to my shopping list?”

This is beautiful.  Not only is it useful to continue your conversations because we usually have more than one command to issue, now — as promised at Google I/O 2018, but it brings to life the realization of a more “present” assistant.


How it works?

What happens when you say the “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” wake phrase, the user will see the lights on their Google Home device light up, indicating that Google Assistant is listening.  From there, a question is asked followed up by a succinct and hopefully, correct response.  With Continued Conversations, this changes to an abrupt ending to Assistant continuing to listen for 8 seconds for additional commands, which it will respond to if issues or delete the audio if no commands are issued.  When the user is done issuing commands, simply say “Thank you” and Assistant will reply, “No problem” letting you know that the conversation is over.

With Google arguably having the smartest assistant, the brings this digital assistant to the next level.

YouTube: Tech With Brett


Get out there and give it a try!

A Google I/O smothered with Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Google I/O 2018 has been in the record books for over a week, as it happened on May 8, 2018 — yet people are still talking about the latest in Android P, Google Duplex, Google Assistant, Google News and more — along with a healthy helping of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt, that’s to loudmouths from the Apple community, more on that later).


If you had no idea what Artificial Intelligence (AI) was before this keynote, it was literally said thousands of times — I hope you know what AI is now after this 2 hour dose of Google.  If you’d like the TLDR of Google I/O 2018, you’ll find it below along with my full analysis:

Source: The Verge, YouTube

Google Assistant

Currently able to work with over 5000 smart devices, getting 30 languages in 80 countries by the end of the year, Google Assistant is shaping up to be one of the best, if not best digital assistants when compared to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa offerings.  Additionally, Assistant is working to be more conversational by negating the need for the requesting person to constant say the trigger phrase, “OK Google” to trigger more subsequent actions, Assistant literally will wait for a second or two, while waiting for additional input.  Multiple Actions are introduced, which work with an “and” thrown in between the commands such as, “Turn off the office lights and set a rice timer for 10 minutes“.

Next came the unveiling of Google Duplex, AI at it’s finest.  Google Duplex is a technology that utilizes Google Assistant to call restaurants and other places to book services for you and potentially more.  Imagine the utility that this can have for those with speech difficulties and more.  Additionally, with Assistant sounding so lifelike with implementations of “mmhhmm” and “ummm” — the conversation can be much easier.  See a demo and reaction from MKBHD, here:

Source: MKBHD, YouTube

This where the FUD (translation: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) come in, usually from pundits on the Apple side such as Rene Ritchie (just Google Rene Ritchie biased, if you don’t believe me), who has a tendency to be extremely biased against any company not named Apple.

Let’s lay a couple of things out so that they can be easily understood:

  • For Google to parse through real time communication, the call must be recorded.  With that being said, this will likely be unavailable in certain states due to law.  At the end of the day, as a human, we usually can discern if we are talking to a human or not.
  • Assistant will announce itself when it places a call for you, read more here.

So what does the above mean for privacy?  If you receive one of these calls, as a business, and you do not want to engage — hang up and move on.  Google has been addressing privacy and security in many realms. Let’s note that they have one of the most comprehensive and easy to understand privacy statements of any tech company. However, this tech is coming, whether you like it or not and the usefulness of this will be huge, especially for accessibility — all the while companies like Google and others need to help ensure that privacy and security remain at the forefront.

Google News

With Google, there is constant re-branding among many of it’s products and services.  Remember Nexus?  Remember Google Reader?  Remember the Android Market?  All of these either got axed by Google or renamed.  From Nexus to Pixel, Google Reader is just gone and the Android Market is now called Google Play, with Google even working to remove “Play” from many of the names of it’s apps and services.

With that being said, Google Play Newsstand is no more, in comes Google News and oh, is it great.

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In app screenshot from Google News.

For You is all about your briefing — what topics have you added and are following, such as Apple, Android, NBA — the list goes on.  What’s excellent about it is that it is a timeline of what’s happening in your world, but that isn’t where Google News stops.

Headlines takes you outside of your comfort zone.  Headlines gives you the latest world, business, tech, entertainment, sports, science and health news without any bearings on your preferences, which truly brings you up to date in what is going on around you while removing you from the bubble that you’ve created with your topics.

Favorites lists out all topics and sources that you’ve added into Google News that you follow.  Additionally, saved stories and magazines find their home here.

Newsstand is all about sources, you can add sources by searching or coming here.

Overall, Google News is a major win and I suggest you try it, unless you believe that everything Google does is of the devil.

Android

Android P is coming, folks and it’s going to bring some incremental changes on top of Oreo, let’s break it down!

This update aims to focus on 3 pillars: Intelligence, Simplicity and Digital Well-Being.

First up, Adaptive Battery (Intelligence), focuses on reducing the number of CPU wake-ups for apps — when these become more and more infrequent, this will reduce the amount of battery drain.

Next, we learned about Predictive Actions (Intelligence), which is all about understanding how you utilize your device so that it doesn’t take you as long to complete certain tasks.  Before we go forward, all of this user data is stored locally on the device and is encrypted.  Ever open your app drawer to scroll down to your favorite workout app…..everyday….at 5 PM — this is one of the things that Predictive Actions will help with.  Android will learn the apps that you use and under which circumstances and group them together at the top of the drawer so that they will be easier for you to get to.

Source: The Verge, YouTube

Followed up by a beta “Nav bar”, which is eerily similar to the bar on iPhone X, just not as graceful in implementation — note that Android P is in beta and while this first implemtation includes a bit of “jank”, I’m expecting this to grow into a good design choice, hopefully.

We all deal with a bit of device addiction to a certain degree.  Under that sentiment, Google will all you to gray-scale your phone after a certain time so that apps and the UI are not as intriguing to you, thus leading you to put it down (Digital Well-Being).

Maps and Waymo

Google Maps leads the way in digital mapping and updates keep making it get better and better.  This years IO showed us a VPS or Visual Positioning System in which the user can hold up their phone to the world and directions will overlay on the real world.

Source: TWiT, YouTube

Maps is good for us and it’s even more vital for self-driving cars.

In comes Waymo (Google’s self-driving car project).

Waymo has been testing it’s software with an early-rider project and users are loving the tech in its initial city, Phoenix.  With 6 million miles driven on public roads, this technology is only going to get better and better with the data being collected, such as “unusual behavior”, which allows the car to detect bad drivers and avoid accidents.

Source: ExpovistaTV, YouTube

Wrapping Up

Google I/O 2018 was long, fun, unneeded fear-mongering and full of excitement, which has been outlined above .  However, there are some things that I didn’t mention, so feel free to watch this wrap up video, from Google Developers:

Source: Google Developers, YouTube