The Problem With Google’s Nexus Devices: No Accessories

I love the Google Nexus line of devices. They have proven to be solid performers, well designed, and always the first to receive updates to the OS when Google rolls out the latest “dessert”. I have owned each and every Nexus device, and look forward to the next but the strategy by Google has one fatal flaw that will keep the Nexus line from really competing with Apple: Accessories.

When Apple and Microsoft release their latest iOS or Surface device, they include some amazing accessories that make your purchase even more useful like keyboards, docks, cases, covers, and the like. Most people complain that they do it to mop up a bunch more money from the consumer, and while that is partly true, it delivers a pile of perceived value to them as well. A well designed and integrated keyboard for my new tablet? Wow, that makes it feel like I don’t need a laptop. That is value.

The latest round of Nexus devices, the 4, 7 and 10, are all amazing devices. So I should head on over to the Google Play store and pick me up some accessories, right? Wrong. 6 months after the 7’s release and a month following the release of the 4 and 10 there is exactly 1 accessory available in the Play store for these devices: a bumper case for the Nexus 4. And it has been out of stock for all but a few minutes of that month.

Google is missing the boat here. They need to create an ecosystem for their devices by adding a bevy of accessories that make their awesome Nexus devices even more amazing. They seem to think that competing on price and feature will win the war, but without accessories to back the device up, they will continue to attract the tech savvy, but not the masses. The Nexus 4 has the capability to charge wirelessly!!! Ummm, but not included in the box and a month after release, not even a leaked rumor about a date you might be able to pick one up. How about a keyboard for the Nexus 10? Nope. A official cover for the Nexus 7 that uses the “close to turn off” magnet? Not happening, unless you count the ebay Chinese junk. Come on Google, make more than just a Nuxus next time. Make a collection of Nexus branded and designed tech that changes the game.

Nexus 4 Review

OK, it’s been a few weeks since the new Google phone arrived, the Nexus 7 so it’s time for a bit of a review. I have had all of the Nexus devices over the years and my initial thought when i started using the 4 was that this phone is the Ferrari compared to the American muscle cars of past devices. Here is the Good and the Bad:

GOOD

  • Fit and finish – this phone just feels great in your hand, smooth and buttery (see BAD though) and the glass makes it feel solid and sexy.
  • GPS – this has to have the best GPS of any device out there. When choosing Navigate there is no delay ever – it always has your location ready, unlike past Nexus devices.
  • Google Now – I love this feature. Integration of my Google searches, Gmail and mapping plus all that is around me in the form of notification “cards” – what is there not to love? I’m all in.
  • Wireless charging and nice little bumper – these are in theory as they are back ordered, but I know both will be great.
  • Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro – this processor screams. Project Butter (Google’s effort to make Android “smoother”) shines on this device
  • Decent battery life – although I have had a few issues with run away Google serice processes, I am happy with this device’s battery consumption – it’s taken me through the day and I am a pretty heavy user.
  • The screen is beautiful – next to my other Nexus devices, this phone looks amazing – bright and crisp.
  • Google will update this phone over the next few years with Key Lime Pie and any other OS upgrade that it will handle – usually on the day it is released. No other line of phones is treated to the Google OS love like the Nuxus ones.

BAD:

  • No user replaceable battery – this is just about a deal breaker for me. I love to carry an extra battery or two when I am out exploring a city, but this device has no way to replace the battery. I will try a external charging device and decide where I will land on this one in the future.
  • Slickest Phone EVER – Wow. I never knew a phone could be this slick. I will break it for sure. I think the Gorilla Glass 2 enhancement was to create glass that you could ice skate on or something. Be prepared to put a case or bumper on this thing, not because you are afraid to scratch it, but because you are afraid you will throw it.
  • Camera – Not the best, not the worst. I wish a nexus phone had the best on the market, but it’s not the 4.
  • Wifi issue in 4.2.x – There seems to be a wifi connection issue in 4.2 and 4.2.1. When roaming around wifi connection points the Nexus 4 will drop it’s connection (the icons all turn grey) and you have to shut down the radios or go airplane mode and back to get them to re-connect. There are open issues in the Google forums for this, and some people seem to have better luck than others with their router hardware. This did not exist in 4.1.3, and is present in my other Nexii after the upgrade too, lets hope Google pushes another update soon to fix it.

All in all, this phone is a winner. If you can stand the few negatives, you will love this device – it is the best Nexus to date. I say pull the trigger, especially if you can pair it up with some cheap carrier plans (like the T-Mobile Value plans) that don’t feature carrier subsidy for phones. Currently at $299 and $349 for the 8/16GB versions.

Google Android Market VS. Amazon Appstore

There are plenty of 2nd party App-Store wanna-be’s out there like SlideMe.org, AndroLib, AndAppStore and others that have tried hard to crack the Google Android Market gold mine, but have had only mild success. While Google rested on their “we own it” laurels, and did little to bring the Android Market to the public in bigger ways, monsters like Amazon now loom in the background – threatening t o bring real web development and internet sales skills to the table.

Google may have the lions share of the app sales game at the moment in the Android space, but are they moving too slow to lead?  Recently the search giant introduced a new web presence for the Android Store that allowed online browsing, and push to phone – something sorely missing from the Android experience, but possibly too little too late.Google needs to step up their game here I think, or the doors might be open exposing the castle keep here.

The thing with smart-phones and app stores is that they need to be sexy! You have 10 minutes to kill, so you turn on your phone, hoping to be amused, informed, amazed. Google’s less is more search interface, while perfect for the desktop experience, doesn’t fly here.  The current Android Market web experience is like it came from the same department – sans sex. Google needs to bring in some designers and marketers that know how to make me A) open their app store when I have 10 minutes, and B) be excited to be there and get new stuff.

Amazon has recently moved into Google’s space with their Appstore.  Having looked at it from the beginning, months prior to the release, I can say that they have really come a long way.  In fact, I think maybe they have even one-upped the big G’s gold standard. They have editors (that are used to selling stuff!!) writing content for app descriptions, and have an app submission process that is getting pretty sweet. Their one click purchase system makes it a breeze to get that new app, and their Appstore is fresh and feels right.

Look for more competition in this space, as there is plenty of money to be made here.  For now, these two behemoths have the dance floor and while it may not yet be even money, look for Amazon to do everything in it’s power to be in mobile as a formidable leader.

Motorola Xoom Standard Dock Review

Along with the Motorola Xoom Wifi, I picked up the standard dock for it as well.  The dock itself is a heavy little thing, which gives it plenty of stability when you are touching your tablet while docked.  The Motorola Standard Dock comes with an adapter for gel case users, and a power supply. The power supply is the same proprietary adapter that the Xoom uses (no surprises there I guess) but still made me disappointed once again that the device is not powered by mini-usb.   The tablet light sensor lines up nicely with a dot on the dock so you can easily get it into position. Also included is a standard jack to route your audio into a better sound system without fuss when docked.

 

I like the dock overall, but here is the list:

Good:

  • Sturdy, heavy duty feel
  • Sound routed to external system works great
  • Charges unit
  • Stays “dim-lit” so you can see your desktop/apps when not in use
  • Makes for a great living room end table slide show dock

Bad:

  • If you are a developer and think this thing will have a mini-usb pass through so you can develop and debug while docked, think again.
  • The viewing angle while docked, to me, seems a bit steep
  • MSRP is $50 – are you kidding me?  You can find it cheaper, but still…

So there you go, aside from a few complaints this thing is a solid addition to the Xoom.  I’m guessing a nice Bluetooth keyboard would make this thing a pretty handy travelling PC. You can pic the dock up at Amazon over here: Motorola Standard Dock and Power for MOTOROLA XOOM (Motorola Retail Packaging)

 

Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi Review

The day finally came where the price point and no need for a data plan device stars aligned and I found myself down at the local Costco picking up the Motorola Xoom – Wifi version.

The device was on the shelves 3/27/2011 (and not 3/26 – I stopped in and checked, just in case.)   As a bonus for using Costco, they throw in a free gel case, and dropped the MSRP from $599 to $589.  I got there pretty early, but from what I could tell only one other had been sold at that point.

 

The Good:

  • The build quality is amazing – super sturdy
  • The battery life is great (and it was even charged out of the box)
  • Honeycomb (Android 3.0) is polished and ready to contend with any tablet OS
  • The speed is great, makes my Nexus S seem slow (and it’s not…)
  • WiFi is great, even picked up my shoddy WiFi at work all day
  • Micro-SD slot!!  Stereo Speakers!! Decent Camera!  Flash!! Camera Flash!!
  • The Honeycomb built apps (like Gmail etc. are all so much better than the phone versions, with preview and all kinds of extras.
  • Mini-HDMI and USB
  • Tethering to my Nexus S was seamless

The Bad:

  • This thing is heavy – I thought the same of the original iPad – build quality/battery showing their head?
  • Apps – tablet specific apps are in the 50’s as I write this, not thousands like the iPad.  Also, a few apps simply don’t like the layout and hung.
  • Probably a setting, but new apps stick icons on your desktop
  • I find the power button on the back side to be in a weird spot
  • It has a proprietary charger, not the mini USB, so car charging is out for now

With the 90 day return policy I felt confident to pull the trigger on this Moto-offering, and I can tell you I haven’t been anything but pleased in the outcome.  I even ponied up and ordered the dock which comes tomorrow. All I can say is you have to get one of these.  If you have been waiting for the right moment to get in on the tablet bandwagon, now is the time, get yourself a Xoom.

 

Album Review: Radiohead – The King of Limbs

8 Songs, Raidiohead’s shortest album lineup ever, released this weekend as the latest from a constantly changing band that continues to evolve in directions unexpected. “The King of Limbs” was announced on Radiohead.com for download as 320 bps MP3’s ($9), lossless WAV ($14), or as a vinyl/mp3/CD combo($48) or on Amazon: The King Of Limbs. The band’s last release, “In Rainbows”, was offered as a “pay us what you think it is worth” but Radiohead took a more traditional approach with this one. The announcement came as a simple “Thank you for waiting” on the website home page, void of the fanfare and lead-up that accompanies most band’s efforts.

A first pass of “The King of Limbs” leaves occasional listeners scratching their head, questioning the electronic sounds, the trance-like Thom York falsetto, the complex layers and bizarre wanderings in tracks like “feral”. The truth is, if you haven’t been on the Radiohead bus for the last 3 releases, you may just not get this at all. If you didn’t buy into the turns that were taken in “OK Computer” or “Kid A” then you won’t find much to hold onto here. This album is spacey and has moved so far from “Pablo Honey” and it’s generational theme “Creep” that you can barely make it out as the same band.

This album is not a single listen win, and will take some time to digest and understand. The track “Locust” is about as close to mainstream as it gets, and was released with a video of York writhing (dancing?) and doing what you might typically see him perform on stage – lost in his own performance. That said, when I say mainstream, most will look at you wondering what is wrong with you if you tried to make that case for “The King of Limbs”.

Several listens will find pieces like the simple and haunting “Codex” growing on you as you understand their structure and how well they all lead to each other. “Give up the Ghost” is a beautiful song that has Thom musing on about “I think I have had my fill”, again simple but hiding in layers of fear and thought. The closing work, “Separator” teases the listener with a “If you think this is over, you are wrong” and “wake me up, wake me up” and leaves you feeling like you have just shared some magical dream of happiness and pain, love and fear during the short listen.

In the end, and after several listens, I’m not sure this will be my fondest Radiohead release but I appreciate it for what it is: another interesting direction to reveal another beautiful, but so different painting of music by a favorite artist. Much of what you discover here will need to be appreciated for itself, not for what you expect of it based on the past. “The King of Limbs” will leave you wondering though, if something is missing. Did they leave Radiohead’s identity completely behind on this album? Possibly.