Consider smartphone launch cycles, and more importantly, whether you actually need to upgrade
Smartphones are quickly becoming one of the biggest sources of e-waste on the planet, but these devices really shouldn't be — especially considering all the components within that are hazardous to the environment. The rate at which people get new smartphones is increasing, and many times, it's at the behest of the very companies that make the products. Now, does this mean that these entities are evil and trying to destroy the earth and drain the money from our bank accounts? Well, maybe — but as consumers, we have the choice of when we need a new smartphone, and when to actually buy it.
Perhaps it should work on changing its reputation
Google, perhaps more than any other company, is responsible for the character of the internet today. Its search engine controls over 80% of the market. YouTube is the gold standard for video distribution, and Google's ad platform is only rivaled by Facebook's in terms of market dominance. The Android operating system controls over 70% of the global mobile market, and ChromeOS has similar numbers in the educational market. Google is one of the most successful companies in history, with some of the most successful products under its belt, and yet the road to this success is littered with the graves of hundreds of failed or abandoned products and services, and this doesn't even get into the years of poor support across its many products.
It's made by a company you've never heard of, but this band looks great and the price is right
The Pixel Watch 2, like the first generation before it, uses a unique band mechanism that helps create a seamless profile, with straps clicking into place in such a way that they almost look like they're a permanent part of the watch. It's really neat, but it also means you can't use standard watch bands — only bands made specifically for the Pixel Watch will fit. Google's first-party metal mesh band is an extremely handsome option, but it also retails for a blistering $130. Luckily, I found a pretty decent alternative on Amazon for all of 10 bucks. It's certainly not perfect, but for a savings of nearly 92 percent compared to the first-party option, I think it's close enough for a lot of people.
'Tis the season for smartphone savings
Where has this year gone? Halloween is now weeks behind us, Thanksgiving is coming in hot, and before you know it, it'll be the end of December. You won't hear us complaining though, as scores of Black Friday deals are starting to hit the web. We've already seen significant discounts on everything from top tablets to our favorite wireless headphones, and we expect to see many more in the coming days.
What good are hardware improvements when mobile games are stuck in the past
After a rocky start with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Qualcomm has refined its latest chipset series into reliable powerhouses that power many flagship Android phones. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 promises even more power, but this info has some of us at AP scratching our heads. After all, what's the point of powerful hardware you can't take advantage of?
But our discussion about Epic Games is bonkers, too
Of course we're going to talk about Humane's silly AI Pin on the Android Police podcast this week — spoiler: we don't make it out to be as silly as you might think it is. That plus a recap of Epic v. Google in the courts and the absolute shambles that is mobile gaming right now as well as a new (but very familiar) Steam Deck that hit us right between the eyes!
Google has already proved the tech fruitless with Instant Apps
In October, it was revealed that Samsung was working on a game-streaming service for Galaxy phones and tablets. Game streaming on mobile devices comes in two flavors: Full console and PC game streaming like Stadia and Xbox Cloud or streaming lightweight mobile games like Google's Instant Apps on the Play Store. Neither implementation has done very well historically. Xbox Cloud Gaming isn't dead in the water, but I don't know many Game Pass users that use it. Stadia was killed off in a move none of us expected, and Instant Apps, while still supported by Google, are few and far between, it seems. So, what exactly does Samsung think it's going to do differently in this space?
The original folding phone maker needs to step it up in 2024
I don't know about you, but any time a new gadget gets announced, I have to see what it's all about — even if all signs point to a small refresh. For me, I'm always hoping there will be something that hasn't leaked, delivering that "wow" moment we're all chasing. A perfect example is Samsung's first Galaxy Fold, which mesmerized both my inner and outer nerd. Of course, the first version had its issues, forcing a delayed launch, but nearly five years later, Samsung has dominated the folding phone market with both book-style and clamshell smartphones.
To build a smartwatch that can go toe-to-toe with the Apple Watch, Samsung and Google need to team up
The best innovations and features on Android devices have often been refined through key Android makers working together. Multitasking features once found only on Samsung phones have been built into the OS so that any large screen can take advantage. Manufacturers launched many camera features that have now been adopted by the core OS. Even the refreshed Wear OS was built in partnership between Samsung and Google.
The history of Google’s iconic bugdroid Android mascot
The official Android mascot, casually known as bugdroid, has been with us since 2007 - and like all of us, it’s gone through changes over the past 15 years. It’s no longer a flat image, it’s more three dimensional, and its green hue has altered throughout its history.
Some features don’t work very well when formatting is applied
Google has a laundry list of apps to maintain, but it seems to do a good job keeping all of them up to speed with the competition and its own Material Design guidelines for Android. Google Keep recently received its share of attention from the company’s developers, with text formatting options finally finding their way to the app in a recent update. In theory, they should help split lists into defined segments, helping you emphasize certain elements. I use Keep to maintain a shopping list and was sorely disappointed to find out that this is far from the case.
Team red or team blue?
If you know anything about me, you know I'm a big fan of Samsung's smartphones. In fact, next March will mark the fifth anniversary of my move to Galaxy devices. I'd spent most of the 2010s using Nexus and Pixel devices, but on the heels of the Pixel 3, it was time for a change. While I've kept Google's hardware around primarily to test out upcoming Android releases, I've never felt the temptation to return — that is, until I laid eyes on the Pixel 8.
It's not perfect, but the OnePlus Open should be a wake up call to the competition
Although the OnePlus Open is the company's first foldable, realistically, it's a third-generation device, with Oppo’s Find N series paving the way. Even still, the Open features improvements that top the fifth-generation Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and add functionality that Google Pixel Fold users could only currently dream of. The OnePlus Open earns its status as a great foldable phone because it feels like it was designed and engineered by people who learned from previous foldable mistakes. And while the creature comforts might seem small, the result is definitely more impactful than the sum of their parts.
Has Epic gutted one of indie artists' best assets?
The music industry isn't exactly kind to upcoming groups and artists; breaking into such a competitive market can be a challenge even for the incredibly talented. This also obstructs fan engagement in terms of monetary support; it's hard to network when nobody can find your address. Bandcamp is the indie music cave of wonders, an app with countless artists selling their work and merch directly to fans. It's a haven for independent music creators, who can post, share, and generally sell their content, with the site taking a 15% cut of each sale — pretty reasonable.
A promising idea, but my early impressions aren't very positive
I was excited about Google Home's script editor feature: as my smart home collection has ballooned, the idea of more context-dependent automations with more of my devices working together in novel ways (changing thermostat settings based on the season! turning on the lights when the front door opens after sunset!) has gotten to be very appealing. When I finally tried whipping up my own automation scripts, though, I found it was more technical than I'd expected and gave it up the same afternoon, vowing to someday figure it out. I never did.
Google's approach to health means I'll be wearing an Apple Watch for the foreseeable future
The Apple Watch has been a fixture on my wrist — and subsequently, has kept an iPhone in my pocket — for almost seven years. Since I first started using the Apple Watch, I have been enamored with Apple’s approach to health and the subtle, psychological impacts it has on how I use data to improve my health.
The experience is soured by sloppy translation work
Outside of HoYoverse's offerings, most gacha games fail to meet my expectations. So many of the mobile gachas I've tried have felt underwhelming: terrible story, baiting character designs, and a general lack of passion and care for these projects (outside of finding ways to extract money). But three gacha titles have kept my eyes peeled and lit with hope: Project Moon's Limbus Company, Jun Maeda's Heaven Burns Red, and Bluepoch's Reverse: 1999. My hope lies in the willingness of these games to dive into deeper, more profound themes that you cannot reproduce in surface-level, cash-first gachas. So, since 2022, I've been waiting patiently to play Reverse: 1999 on my phone. Now that the game is out, it saddens me to say Reverse: 1999 isn't ready.
Magic Editor truly lives up to its hype
Google's Pixel phones are more than just about their clean Android experience. Since the Pixel 6 launch in 2021, the company has used its Pixel devices to showcase its AI prowess. This year's Google Pixel 8 and 8 Pro pack many exclusive AI-powered features, like Video Boost and Magic Editor. The latter is Magic Eraser on steroids, first showcased by Google at I/O 2023. It uses "semantic understanding and generative AI" to let you significantly alter your photos after they have been taken. So, how well does Magic Editor work? Is it all hype, or does it work in real life?
Who needs App Script when you can make custom functions right in Sheets?
And we can't keep the OnePlus Open shut (conversation-wise, that is)
After two weeks away, Daniel rejoins the Android Police podcast this week to be the ketchup to our mustard and mayonnaise... who the other two are is up to you. Anyways, we catch up with some chat on the Snapdragon X Elite chips, bemoan the Galaxy S23 FE, continue to praise the OnePlus Open, and give Google a sideways glance and ask how it's doing in court in the next 73 minutes... and then Baby Daniel joins us with his ten-year-old Nexus 5 review to wrap the show.