It’s still about the ecosystems, and Amazon is holding serve

It’s still about the ecosystems, and Amazon is holding serve

Feb 9, 2018

Remember back when Amazon released the Fire Phone? That Android-flavored smartphone most pundits called a flop? Yes, don’t pretend. You dissed it too.

What about the Amazon Appstore? It was appreciated, but with developers less likely to put their apps on it versus the Play Store, it was always gonna be a tough sell. Hey, at least the Fire Tablets have been doing well, right? Either way, for all its financial acumen, we couldn’t help but wonder if Amazon would really become that other ecosystem consumers deserved. I mean, Apple, Google, Samsung et al. weren’t taking naps at the time, either.

Somehow, we practically missed her until she was right on top of us: Alexa.

Hey, nothing has changed. It’s all about the ecosystems, and Amazon seems to be pace setter, especially from a mindshare perspective. In this race, mindshare is gold.

With the connected smarthome being the new frontier, being in front early is important. When it comes to consumer adoption, it’s not always about who has the best product on the market, but rather who has the most recognizable one. When your grandma makes fun of friends who use Alexa, Amazon smiles because it knows it has a future customer.

Don’t cry too hard for Apple. It has become great at sitting back and perfecting technology rather than necessarily introducing it.

One thing’s for sure: consumer wins.


What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 2)

What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 2)

Sep 30, 2016

First, it might make sense to get into the specific reasons that I root. A major one is the ability to really customize the look and feel of my device. For example, one thing I liked was the ability to create an “invisible lockscreen” on my phone. Hidden icons and latent access that made my phone fairly unusable without a formal lockscreen. I can still do a lot of that with Nova.

Another thing rooting worked for me is/was to was allow me to expand on Google Now functionality. With specific tools, I could add the number of keyword-driven actions I could perform. With Commandr for Google Now, a few commands do require root, but not a lot; as such, I figure a stock device wouldn’t hurt me too bad with regards to this.

A real big one for me is the use of Tasker. I use this quite a lot, and would miss it a lot too. With Tasker, I can automate a lot of tasks, like running backups and creating group events (like tapping on Google Maps invokes Launch GPS – Increase Screen Brightness sequence.) Or, using Google Now to create tasks in Toodledo. Now, some of this can be replicated in other ways, but hey.

When it’s all said and done, the truth is that Android continues to get better. Yes, device manufacturers and the telcos don’t make it easy to root, but it might be the maturity of the OS that ends up reducing the rooting minority. In any case, there are easy-to-root devices that thrive.

There will always probably be a rooting community that pushes the boundaries, and don’t see myself stopping tinkering permanently. I just really like the fact that it doesn’t feel mandatory any more.

Rooting is becoming more of a pastime than an ownership ritual, and that’s a GREAT thing.

What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 1)

A few years back, I was listening to a podcast hosted by Android sage Phil Nickinson, and heard him say something that a lot of die-hard Android heads probably considered crazy.

Phil said he no longer roots his Android devices.

Okay, you have to see this in context. Nickinson is the editor of Android Central, one of the most renown tech sites in the world. Outside XDA, it probably is the biggest repository for rooting (getting administrative rights) information on the web. For a lot of Android users, AC is the source for everything Android modding.

So when Phil (as interpreted by me) said he had reached a point where he felt stock Android was good enough, it says a lot.

Quite a deal.

I tend to root my devices, and have done so with every main device I have used since I moved to Android moons ago. It has never been about celebrating geekhood — though I do admit to falling prey to an over-inflated sense of “why not?” — or getting round legalities. I like being able to have full control of my gadgets, and expanding upon the functionality of an OS is something that has been well worth the time. In many ways, I have continued to use Android because of the ability to root: I can do a lot, and cannot replicate it elsewhere. I tend not to upgrade every year anymore, and I avoid contracts, so having a rooted device helps keep me on track.

But with my latest acquisition — the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge — I might be leaning towards Phil’s madness.



There may not be a need to any more. For my needs, at least. I could conceivably use this device without ever going S-Off, and actually intend to.

And the reasons aren’t that crazy.

From the Editor’s Desk: Road Trippin’!

From the Editor’s Desk: Road Trippin’!

Jun 27, 2016

2016 has been a pretty good so far.

Great new products, plenty of great concepts, and on the device front, competition is very fierce. It’s a tech lover’s nirvana, and we are barely halfway through.

Stateside, it’s summer time… just about, mostly, kinda. The seasonal anthem is all Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff, with cookouts becoming the norm and suntan is in high demand.

Visibility is good, the sun comes up early and it’s the perfect time to travel, and the automobile is the tool of kings.

Now, when I was a kid, road trips were painful. Nothing to do but read, look outside, sleep or bicker, and four kids in the back seat of a micro sedan left a LOT to be desired.

Things have changed.

It makes sense that the malleable concept of technological mobility has to converge with a physical one. Android Auto, for instance, is an ever-growing initiative that looks to organically pair Android devices with one’s appropriately equipped vehicle. And then there is the wealth of car accessories that continue to be released, all with one objective in mind: improving users mobile experience.

Creating a hands-free experience? Device holders so the backseat drivers become backseat movie watchers? FM modulators that refine older school solutions? Off-road helpers? Wireless chargers? Navigation apps? Heck, even portable “smart” gadgets that shorten a trip? Bluetooth accessories?

Yep, yep and yep!

As usual, we at Android Rundown are quite happy to ride the wave. In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at several products, from simple to fairly complex. You know… tools that make one’s life on the road more enjoyable.

We have gear from Magellan, Roidmi, TYLT and other innovative accessory makers on tap.

Fun times ahead… keep tuned to our hardware reviews. You’re sure to find something you like for the road.

My Upgrade Conundrum: An HTC M9 Mini-Review — A Look Back

Frankly, working with technology has its perks. We get to see the coolest new software and gadget all while never really falling out of love with the old. It’s a fun diversion, and hard to complain about.

I have found a way though.

When it comes to picking a daily driver on Android, the problem of choice arises. Everybody has a worthy flagship that looks good; just about all of them carry the main features people on the go crave, and every generation sees one or two introduce something especially cool that might set them apart — for a short time. Other device makers either co-opt the feature or create a better one, and the cycle gloriously repeats.

The fight to be a cut above the rest is definitely a boon to Android OS users.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of HTC software. The company has been front and center with Android since the beginning, and its recent devices, back to the M7, exemplify what happens when cool software is merged with Android; My One M8 is still my device of choice.

Still, I have looked at going for a spell with another manufacturer, not necessarily because I am unhappy with HTC hardware, but more because I can, and wouldn’t mine having extended time with something new. Samsung has me yearning, LG is tempting, and Huawei continues to be intriguing.

Unfortunately, I have had a lot time with the HTC One M9. Darn.

The specs are well known; what it underscores is the great concept of finding a winning solution, and sticking to it. The exterior still manages to feel premium, and HTC’s softawre overlay is still beloved… even in 2016. It’s a device that is easily relevant far into the feature (hey, like I said, I’m still rocking my M8 as my daily driver).

My biggest wish? HTC stays in the Android hardware business for the long haul. Please.

New York, New York…

New York, New York…

Jun 29, 2015

I might be giving up my reputation as a mover and shaker here, but New York City frazzles me. The Big Apple is busy, crowded, and literally never sleeps. Since moving away, I don’t necessarily miss the bright lights, but I can’t help but feeling a small sense of homecoming on the occasions that I return.

Walking own 34th, I did enjoy the sights, some of them old, some new. In the knick-knack shops that carry a lot of the keepsakes visitors treasure, one gets to see the same mini-statuettes, t-shirts, bedazzled hats and I LOVE NY paraphernalia that are as much a part of the experience as the landmarks. One thing that stood out was the sheer amount of mobile technology that is front and center in these stores. Even in the tight spaces, there is serious shelf space allocated to phones, cameras, selfie sticks, headphones… even drones. One hates to window shop, but it really cannot be helped; it’s a tech feen’s paradise.

I remember riding subways way back when. It was an impersonal affair, with the occasional appearance of a tape-laden Walkman. Now, it is still just as impersonal, but I was fascinated by how much of tech melting spot a single carverse could be. New Yorkers, as always, are not that enthralled with only the big brands. Beats headphones and iPhones were all over the place, but so where other brands. And yes, Android definitely has mindshare, with several devices from different manufacturers. When the Wall Street crowd hit the train, the technology pieces on display were pretty impressive. Just about everybody had a smartdevice of some kind, and a set of headphones to match. Power players in business suits rocking fitness bands.

The WTC Memorial was a whirlwind of activity, with a seemingly endless sea of people sharing in honoring those whose loss united the world. It was a somber moment, and touching those names is something one won’t soon forget. It was the one place that we saw the most selfie sticks, but they were probably used here rarely.

It’s a different world, and it is helped along, observed and recorded with personal gizmos most of us take for granted.

New York… technology melting pot.

From the Editor’s Desk: Connecting the Dots

From the Editor’s Desk: Connecting the Dots

Feb 11, 2015

In hindsight, it seems so obvious.

As we made the technological transition from cellular phones to full-fledged pocket computers capable of wireless connectivity, life started to become more, well, connected. First came the apps. Simple utilities, web portals and easy games morphed into powerful applications that mimicked desktop versions. The accessories have transformed as well, from the ubiquitous cases to specialty equipment that rival standalone hardware.

Now we’re at the precipice of the (gasp!) Internet of Things… you know… where the web becomes the great unifier. By default, and because of its mobile nature, the smartphone has become the hub of the burgeoning connected home. Apple-based software tends to get the vast majority of companion applications, but Android can’t be ignored, and as such, the number of products hat can be manipulated on the go continue to increase exponentially.

At Android Rundown, we couldn’t be happier. Taking a look at current and upcoming products, it’s easy to see why: connected sockets, home controls, door cameras and even door locks, controlled from one’s Android device. Connected solutions are upending the traditional home security segment, with legacy tech companies joining some interesting startups in bringing some nice stuff to market. Competition is bringing the prices down too, such that the prices of connected products need not induce high blood pressure. Scales, toothbrushes, even crockpots are getting the connected treatment, and frankly, it just makes so much sense to use one’s most accessible gadget as the centerpiece.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to look at even more connected products from a variety of companies. We’ll give some insight into how these solutions fare in the real world, and how they just might make your life easier.

We’re still looking at several health-related products, so there will be plenty of hardware analysis to go with our usual batch of application reviews. It’s gonna be fun.

Stay tuned!


Tre L

Happy New Year from Android Rundown

Happy New Year from Android Rundown

Jan 1, 2015

It was a great year for Android users.

We saw some fantastic applications. We got to see some of the best flagships from a host of OEMs. We also witnessed some truly interesting accessories and affiliated gadgets.

If upcoming CES is any indication, 2015 might do the impossible: topple 2015 in terms of applications, gadgets and tech-related stuff. Expect to see more cross-platform innovation, and an increased focus on extended functionality.

On the application front, the iOS app gap still exists, but it is ever-shrinking. In the last year, simultaneous iOS-Android application releases became more commonplace. Android is a valuable option for most developers, from the big houses to the single-person Indie shops, and that is great for consumers. And reviewers.

The foundation OS got better too. We all speculated on its name, but were still mostly wowed by Lollipop. better yet, it’s being deployed faster and wider. Material Design is something we have really come to appreciate, too. As more developers embrace it, it is giving Android a more unified feel. And Google’s suite of in-house offerings get better and better, from Inbox to Calendar to Maps and beyond.

If I had to guess, I suspect we might see HTC look to build on the mindshare it grabbed with the M8. The rumors about the follow-up are in high gear. LG is becoming more of a household Android name, so I would love to see some more products from them. Samsung? Well, we all know the BMOC is going o wanna rebound from what it considers a rough year (though we’re sure several companies would love such a “rough” year). Huaweii… Sharp… Lenovo… we could go on and on, and we can’t wait.

As the Connected Home becomes a more tangible concept, we look forward to see how manufacturers bake in Android compatibility into their products.

When it’s all said and done, we can’t promise much, and don’t claim to be fortune-tellers. Still, with a serious degree of certainty, we can proclaim 2015 is gonna be a great year for the tech enthusiast.

Happy New Year.

From the Editor’s Desk: Android Health Trippin’

From the Editor’s Desk: Android Health Trippin’

Oct 27, 2014

Hey y’all!

So… it’s been a short while since I took over the reins here at Android Rundown. I’m still working to fill the big shoes left behind by CD; it has been an interesting process. My advice? Go give your boss a hug right now.

One thing that has been truly on my mind for personal reasons is connected health. Health living is all the rage now, and it becomes more achievable with the concept’s intersection with mobile technology. Health trackers, blood pressure and heart monitors, health apps, etc. They all have the potential to help folk meet their respective health goals.

With this in mind, we are taking a look at fitness tools with an Android component. In conjunction with ChurchMag, we’ll be reviewing a myriad of tools and apps as part of the Android Rundown Health Series. Plus we’ll see firsthand how they help a real life person reach goals. Best of all, we have an interesting guinea pig that has foolishly agreed to open themselves up while doing this project.

As far as tools go, the term “varied” comes to mind; companies like Withings, Adidas, Oregon Scientific, Under Armour, Misfit, Samsung, Arkon and Pear gave us some of their gear to try out. We will see how they work in the real world, especially when paired with their respective Android companion applications. We’ll look at unique apps that interface with several of these apps, like Runkeeper. And, we got some cool interviews from executives at Adidas and Withings.

For a taste of the AR Health Series, check out our opening review of the Withings Connected Weight Scale.

All in all, it is going to be a fun endeavor. I think. I hope. In the mean time, pray for me (yes, I’m the insane subject of this project.).

Something tells me I am going to need it.

Android? Why?

Android? Why?

Sep 15, 2014

Talk about first world problems…

I was faced with a problem recently. I had an upgrade to burn, and I didn’t feel like burning it. Now, to give some context here, I love mobile technology. If I could afford it, I would buy EVERY mobile device on EVERY platform. Literally. Just to play with ’em. I love my technology that much.

I’m a bit more circumspect when it comes to my daily driver. For a device to earn that honor, it has to do a lot, as I am a picky boss. I could go on and on about my specific mobile needs, but that is a post for another day. Suffice to say, my HTC EVO LTE 4G was getting a bit long in the tooth, I had been due for an upgrade for about 12 months and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to upgrade devices, much less what I wanted to upgrade to.

I faced the same issue when I was looking to replace my original HTC EVO 4G.  No horrible need to get new hardware… and eventually I did the easy thing and stayed with the new EVO. Like the original, this one was unlocked and rooted within minutes of getting home, and I went ahead and immersed myself in the glories of refreshed hardware and newer custom puzzle

When its all said and done, I like holding on to devices. I skipped the HTC One M7, not because it was not a fantastic device, but because it wasn’t enough of an increased value proposition for me at that time. Free and clear? It might have tempted me, but I didn’t see myself spending the cash for what wasn’t enough of an upgrade for my needs at that specific time.

Part of the problem is that since I review hardware, formally and informally, I’ve developed a “what’s next” syndrome. Can it be that I have unconsciously insulated myself from the lure of the never-ending new Android devices? Maybe. I’d be insolvent otherwise.  At this point in the game, when all the features are measured, it just feels like there is a serious degree of parity. And I believe that in the end, this is Android’s hidden strength: the OEMs are forced to shoot for the stars while simultaneously dragging each other on an upward trajectory. this is why, for me at least, picking a new device is delightfully difficult. Look at all the choices, and the competitive prices. We can choose to be very, very picky.

So, in the end, it boiled down to a very simplistic reason. Most current-ish devices can do what I want the way I want them; most are sleek, and several have a lot of third-party accessories.

So what ended up being the choice maker for me?  Wait for it… I liked the aluminum uni-body of the HTC One M8. So there.

Don’t judge me. Android allows folks to be frivolous.

[Image courtesy of Tsahi Levent-Levi via Flickr Creative Commons]