This week has been an exciting week in consumer technology! Lots of moves by Apple, Google, and Samsung as the newest iterations of their flagship products have been announced. This will all lead to my Smartphone Guide soon but for now let’s see what happened:
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Samsung finally released the long awaited Galaxy Note 4. The Note 4 is latest and greatest “phablet” device continuing the product category it single-handedly invented. The basic specs feature a 5.7″ Super AMOLED display, a 2.7Ghz Snapdragon 805 processor, 3GB of DDR3 RAM, a 16 megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a 3.7 megapixel front facing camera, 3220 mAh battery, and Android 4.4.4 Kitkat (with a promised upgrade to Android Lolipop).
A trademark feature of the Note series is the use of a stylus called the S-Pen. This year, the S-Pen is much more accurate and precise, allowing you to navigate the phone, draw pictures, write notes, multitask and more. Another notable feature of the Note series (no doubt helped out by that beefy processor) is the ability to have multiple windows on the screen, allowing you to watch youtube videos and check Facebook at the same time.
Ahhh, the Nexus line. Google’s baby. For the uninitiated, the Nexus 6 is the latest version of the Nexus phone line which is sold directly by Google on the Google Play Store. The Nexus series is pure Android, plain and simple. Unlike flagship phones, Nexus phones are untarnished by manufacturer skins (such as TouchWiz on Samsung phones or Sense on HTC phones) which often cause performance issues on Android phones and delay OS updates (if any). Nexus phones are usually billed as reference devices or developer devices that showcase the best of Google. They were also very affordable off contract compared to the other flagship phones. For example, the Nexus 5 was $350 off contract while an off contract iPhone 5s was around $600. Because the Nexus phones were more affordable, they often didn’t have the most bleeding edge hardware but were definitely more than capable of delivering a superior Android experience. That all changes with the Nexus 6….
The Nexus 6 is the Android phone to beat all Android phones. It is without a question, the most beastly Android phone Google has ever put out. It is made by Motorola and is basically a bigger version of Motorola’s own flagship Moto X. The specs: A 5.96″ 2560 x 1440 Quad HD AMOLED display, a 2.7 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Quad core processor, a 13 MP rear camera with OIS and 2 MP front facing camera, and a 3220 mAh battery.
We have seen a trend towards big screen phones (hence the phablet phones) and Google definitely has a huge phone. The Nexus 6 screen is bigger than both the Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6 Plus. The screen resolution itself its a crazy 493 ppi although it’s not class leading. Both the Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 have higher pixel densities. One of the biggest changes this year for the Nexus phone is the price. Last years Nexus 5 was $350 off contract while the Nexus 6 is $650 off contract. That’s normal for most high end, premium smartphones but unusual for the Nexus line. This points to Google’s focus on capturing the high end market that is dominated by Samsung and Apple.
Note: PPI stands for Pixels Per Inch. It basically says how many pixels are packed into the screen. The more pixels, the more crisp the screen looks
The Nexus 9 is an HTC made, Android 5.0 powered tablet. It has a 4:3 display ratio (same as the iPad) which is actually unusual among Android tablets that typically use a 16:9 ratio. Nexus 9 is available in either black or white and comes in three configurations: 16GB for $399, 32GB for $479, and an LTE-enabled 32GB model for $599. It’s carrying a 2048×1536 display and HTC’s “BoomSound” speakers which are found in HTC’s other flagship phones such as the HTC One M8 and are quite good.
One notable feature of the Nexus 9 is the processor which is an Nvidia Tegra K1 chip which is a 64 bit processor (a first for Nexus). It comes with 2GB of RAM and around 9 hours of battery life. Google is also releasing a keyboard attachment for the Nexus 9 that allows you to use it like a laptop. It seems like Google is targeting the iPad and the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Previously, Google tried to infiltrate the TV with Google TV. It sucked. Horribly. However, this time Google is taking another stab at it. The Nexus player is a set top box made to compete with the likes of Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. Nexus player runs on the Android TV platform. Android TV allows you to stream movies, music, tv shows, play Android games with the hybrid Playstation/Xbox looking controller, and act as a Chromecast.
It looks like a hockey pock that’s 4.7 inches in diameter. It has a remote control that’s also capable of voice commands (ala Amazon Fire TV) and can stream over 802.11ac WiFi. It’s available for preorder only on the Google Play store.
Android 5.0 aka Lolipop
Android L, which was announced back at Google I/O conference during the summer, was officially named Android 5.0, Lolipop. It continues Google’s trend of naming new versions of Android after sweets in alphabetical order (last year was KitKat, the year before that was Jelly Bean). Lolipop brings an entirely revamped user interface called Material Design that emphasizes flat design and depth of field using animations. It’s actually quite slick and very modern (to this bloggers eyes anyway).
The operating system update brings over 5000 new APIs for developers to utilize and allows different sized devices to work together. Lolipop also implements improvements to notifications, a kind of “Do Not Disturb” mode that silences notifications during certain times (ie. sleep or meetings). There is a now a built in battery saver mode that allows the phone to get more use when the battery is low. There’s also a way to make it harder to reset the phone to factory settings which is aimed at protecting the phone against would be thieves. Lolipop is a huge step forward for Android and is positioning Google to make Android the central platform of the future. Samsung and Motorola have announced that all of their newer devices will be upgraded to Android 5.0. Google announced that the Nexus 4 and 5 will also be receiving the update.
iPad Air 2 & iPad Mini 3
Of course, no tech round up is complete without mentioning Apple somewhere in there. On Thursday, Apple announced the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3.
The iPad Air 2, an update to the previous iPad Air, is 18% thinner than the previous Air. It has the new A8X chip which is 40% faster than the previous A7X chip and the Touch ID sensor which reads your fingerprint. It will also come in gold which is a first for iPads. The Air 2 has the same 9.7″ display but now the screen, glass, and touch sensor are optically bonded together which allows the display to look as if you are literally touching the items on the screen. The screen also has an anti-reflective coat that Apple says will reduce reflections for things like reading books. The Touch ID can be used to authorize in app payments. It also includes the M8 motion coprocessor which does things like track your steps and movement for heath related apps (although why you would go jogging with an iPad is beyond me). The new iPad Air 2 also adds wireless AC support.
The iPad Mini 3 gets a mild update to the Mini 2 before it. It adds the Touch ID sensor and comes in gold. Aside from that, everything is basically like the iPad Mini 2. In fact, the gold color and Touch ID is the ONLY thing different about it. The size and shape are the same, the internals are the same, the screen is the same. I would actually recommend against buying the Mini 3 and go for the iPad mini 2 because it is $100 cheaper. I’m not sure if adding Touch ID and a gold color is worth the upgrade.
That’s all for now. Yes, I know it was a lot but a lot was introduced this week. Next week I will be publishing my Smartphone Guide for 2014 because Christmas season is coming up and I’m sure many of you are wondering what the heck to buy. There are many, many, many great choices out there. Fortunately, Short, Black, and Techie is here to help you find out what kind of phone you need! Until next time!