The Hills Are Greener: The Sexy But Un-Ergonomic Android

The Hills Are Greener: The Sexy But Un-Ergonomic Android

Oct 8, 2012

Ever since I bought the Galaxy S III, at a behemoth 4.8 inches of screen size, I find that there is one chief drawback: my iPod touch 4th generation is practically unusable. It’s tiny by comparison! Everything feels so cramped at that screen size, the one that was touted for its one-handed usage, and recently got stretched out to 16:9 while keeping the same width. This width is praised by Apple acolytes for its ergonomic advantages, especially while using an iPhone or iPod touch one-handed.

Now let me say that it is a fair point. I know the S3 is harder to type on if I’m standing on the bus or train, clutching a pole for balance with one hand and typing out a tweet with the right. But that’s a minority of the time I spend with my phone; I like having the larger screen size for when I’m using it two-handed. When I’m watching video on it, I like being able to see more of it than on the iOS screen. Games play a lot better on that screen size, and virtual controls feel better. It is definitely a trade-off: I would rather my experience be better when I have full access to it than when I only have partial access to it. Of course, the fact that I work from home and don’t have to travel often makes my situation somewhat biased, but plenty of people drive to work, or maybe even take uncrowded public transportation routes and find they don’t need the one-handedness of a phone as much.

This is thanks to the fact that our phones have become more than just phones, they’ve become multimedia devices, and the larger screen is more conducive to that. Plus, it makes the phones easier to sell, really. Who wants the tiny phone when they can have the big phone?

But I do fear that there will exist a trade-off in these phones, where someone who wants flagship power but also something ergonomical will not find a good choice on Android. Motorola’s launching the RAZR M, a 4.3" phone that has little-to-no bezel, but it does fall short of the flagship RAZR phones in resolution, at 960×540. While time is proving the mid-range devices to be better than ever, on Android there exists a non-choice: either enjoy a giant phone or get one that’s not top-of-the-line. iPhone exists in that crosshair, and I wonder if there are any potential Android users going to iPhone because of that.

Perhaps the solution would be for a manufacturer like Samsung to release the next Galaxy S in differently-sized flavors: a standard size, a smaller one-handed-friendly size, and humongous-sized. That last may be unlikely with the Galaxy Note 2 being released separately, and with rumors that the Galaxy S IV might be a 5" phone, then fans of smaller phones may be left waiting for something never coming, just out of their grasp.

Meanwhile, in the world of iPod touch owners like myself, with device sizes having drastically increased in the past two years since the 4th generation model was released, with only a moderate hardware boost and taller/wider screen in the 5th generation, I ask if it’s truly worth it. Yeah, I’ll probably still get it, even if it is puny.

The Hills Are Greener: All About the Presentation

The Hills Are Greener: All About the Presentation

May 7, 2012

Samsung’s presentation of the Galaxy S III (I’m using the Roman numeral only because it reads a lot nicer than the Galaxy S3) was painful to watch. In the literal sense, the livestream was janky and stuttery, and it made me physically ill to keep watching. I wasn’t alone – our own Jeff Scott thought he had ingested too much caffeine. Well, we as if there’s such a thing, but that wasn’t the excuse. It just was part of how Samsung doesn’t get how to do a product launch, especially compared to the company they idolize: Apple.

The word that kept sticking out to me was “customers” – Samsung on one hand was trying to pitch their phone as a more natural, and more human experience, yet they kept saying how it would be good for their “customers.” The word customer conjures up the idea of money exchanging hands, and that the people who use this phone are those who spend money on it. It was rather confusing terminology, and seemed to belie Samsung’s true purpose with the phone.

Compare this with Apple product announcements. They are similar, but Apple does a much better job at making sure that they stay on message – that this thing they are revealing can do so much for people. Not just living, breathing sacks of money. Sure, they talk about price, but it’s about so much more than that.

It felt like Samsung was attempting a pale imitation of an actual Apple keynote – the joke being that Samsung has been accused of copying Apple. The announcement was meant to feel human, but it felt like robotic corporate-speak. The stilted marketing buzzwords used when talking about being a corporate partner of the Olympics in London fell extremely flat because it didn’t feel genuine, or even useful to the announcement. Just the words “corporate partner” threw up red flags, as they should. Again, it indicates money exchanging hands, not a genuine human experience that Samsung wants to push, seemingly.

The other problem with mimicking an Apple announcement is that Samsung took it a bit too much to heart: oh, you have voice recognition? Yeah, Apple announced that back in October. You can stream videos and mirror your screen to your TV with a special box? Yeah, you’ve been able to do that for like a year now too with Apple products.

The phone design itself doesn’t seem to impress – Samsung talked about it being inspired by pebbles and nature, but there’s just something off about it. Perhaps it’s the lack of symmetry, possibly demanded by legal issues as Android Police points out. Or maybe Samsung just tried to swing for a home run, and have missed so far. Maybe customers will decide that this thing is actually really nice-looking, and we’re all just freaking out.

It’s a shame that Samsung can’t do an exciting product announcement. They’re the one company out there with the scruples to actually pull it off. They have the kind of clout to get people to pay attention, to watch a livestream of their product announcements. It’s too bad that they’re aiming for second rate Apple imitations across the board.

Samsung Officially Unveils the Galaxy S III

Samsung Officially Unveils the Galaxy S III

May 4, 2012

On May 3rd in London, Samsung finally revealed their latest phone: the Galaxy S III.

Samsung has gone with a 4.8″ super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass, at a 720p resolution. Unlike the Galaxy Nexus, the phone doesn’t use on-screen buttons, with physical buttons below the screen. The processor is a 1.4 GHz quad-core Exynos, with 1 GB of RAM. Samsung has taken a step forward with the battery, providing a 2100 mAh battery by default. The phone will come in cobalt blue and white at launch.

The phone should lend more ammo to the “Samsung is ripping off the iPhone” crowd, and with good merit. The design, especially the international variant with The S-Voice feature is almost identical to Siri on the iPhone. They’ve boldly gone and implemented the “tap status bar to scroll to the top” feature from iOS in to TouchWiz. As well, they’ve introduced their own variant on AirPlay Mirroring and the Apple TV with AllShare Cast and the compatible dongle; this will allow for the display and media to be streamed to either a compatible TV or TV with AllShare.

However, the software and hardware have some standout features as well. The 8 megapixel rear camera will have zero shutter lag, along with a burst shot mode where the best photo of the burst can be saved. The front camera will boast a 1.9 megapixel resolution, and will be used for more than just video calls and self-shots. The device can use it to tell if the user is still looking at the phone, so it will not go to sleep, even if the user hasn’t touched it. The phone will also respond to the user’s voice and to specific commands, even when the phone is locked. While texting someone, users can hold the phone up to their ear and automatically call the person they’re texting. As well, Samsung is expanding on ICS’ Beam NFC technology, claiming to send files between phones at 5 MB per second, making it easy to share music and videos.

While there’s still a lot to find out about the phone’s launch plans, Europe will start getting the phone by the end of the month, and the US should get the phone this summer. Will it continue Samsung’s run of success in the Android market? Time will tell.