Galaxy Nexus

I’ve been a happy owner of Motorola Defy for more than a year now.  It is a fantastic phone – small, well built, water resistant and powerful enough.  The only thing that bothered me about it was that Motorola stopped releasing Android updates for it and it was stack at pathetic 2.2 when the rest of the world was enjoying Android 4.0.

There was a way, of course.  People have been hacking phones for as long as … well, forever.  And there is a well established path of rooting Motorola Defy and upgrading it to the newest version of Android.  I’m not the hacking type (when it comes to phones at least), so I was delaying the upgrade for as long as possible.  But with the recent hype about Galaxy Nexus phone and how awesome Android 4 is, I couldn’t any longer.

I didn’t read much of the instructions, and I didn’t quite got how the process works.  Heck, I didn’t even verify the versions of all the firmware and kernel and apps that I’ve downloaded to install.  So obviously my attempt failed miserably.  I bricked the phone.  At first, it was responding to recovery boot option only, but there was nothing useful in there, so I formatted everything and pushed the original firmware.   Which was for a different phone or country or something else.  After that, the phone didn’t even respond to the power button anymore.  Dead.

I gave it to a friend, who is more experienced with these things, to see if he can revive it.  But in the meantime, I couldn’t stay without the phone, so I rushed to the shop and bought myself a … Galaxy Nexus.

The price for this phone varies from place to place.  If I had more time, I could have gotten it for about 350 EUR.  But since I was in a hurry, I was robbed off 600 EUR.  Yeah, that’s the way it works.  But I wanted it so much for so long that I didn’t really care.  I’ll care next time, I promise.

Before I go into any detail, let me just say this – Galaxy Nexus is everything I wanted from an Android phone and even more.  Now that I have it for almost two weeks, I can say that the positive feeling I had about it on the first day still lasts, and the more I have it, the more I can do with it and the more I like it.  Now, for the details.

First things first.  This phone actually has a Google logo on the back of it.  For a long time Google fan like myself, that by itself is worth the phone price.  It’s especially cool having that logo on the device that is so tightly integrated with all the awesomeness of Google services – Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Search, YouTube, Google Picasa, Google+, Google Maps, and so on.

Secondly, the thing that stands out immediately after unboxing the phone, it’s its form factor.  Compared to Motorola Defy, it’s huge!  It’s was almost awkward holding it, so big it was.  But, for that size, it was surprisingly thin and light.  I guess it’s made of plastic not glass and metal.  After using it for a day or two I totally got used to its size and it wasn’t awkward anymore.

Thirdly, the screen.  The moment the phone is turned on, you know that you gonna love it.  There is no way not to love it with that screen.  As mentioned before – it’s huge.  4.65 inch diagonal, 1280×720 pixel resolution, and the brightest and vividest colors that I’ve ever seen on a mobile device or tablet – an absolute pleasure.

Fourthly, the performance.  It’s super fast.  It’s super fast compared to Motorola Defy. It’s super fast compared to my laptop.  It’s just super fast.  It’s so fast that it needs some getting used to.  Every single phone I ever owned, was slow compared to this.  Browsing through address book, making phone calls, editing the calendar, checking email, surfing the web – all of it is flying.

Fifthly, the software.  I’ve been introduced to the variety of the software for Android for some time now.  But the tricky bit with Android Market is that it limits the apps based on the features your phone supports.  For example, if you are browsing the market with a device which runs Android 2.2, you won’t see any apps that require Android 2.3 or Android 4.  Same with some other features – large screen, WiFi connection, etc.  But with Nexus Galaxy you will pretty much see everything!  It looks like that it supports and runs every single app in the market.  And there are really awesome apps.

Now that I’ve praised and boasted about Galaxy Nexus, you probably want to know the downsides. Are there any?  Yes.  Everything has a downside.  Galaxy Nexus has two – one easily solvable, one not.

The easy one is the USB.  The one of the biggest differences between Galaxy Nexus and other devices is that it does not support an external SD card.  Internally, therefor, it keeps the operating system, applications and all files on the same media.  Which is dangerous to give access to non-technical people.  Things can get deleted or overwritten via USB.  So it doesn’t support USB mass storage protocol.  Instead, you need to access it via MTP, which requires additional software or drivers.  Which I didn’t want to bother with for my Fedora Linux.  The easier way is to install AirDroid application on the phone.  When you install and start it, your phone will provide a desktop-like web interface to all the features, using a WiFi connection.  With that, you can do pretty much everything – upload and download files, reorganize folders, browse through contacts, and even send SMS.

The other issue is with volume and power buttons.  They are on the same level, on opposite sides of the device, which makes it nearly impossible pressing just one of them using one hand.  The index finger presses on the volume button at the same time as the thumb on the power button.  Somehow, I keep switching the screen off every time I need to adjust the volume, and volume up every time I wanted to send it to sleep.   Not a biggy though.

So, would I recommend Galaxy Nexus?  Absolutely!  It is the best mobile device I’ve had my hands on.  It works well both as a phone and a small tablet – for games, web browsing, and reading.  It is super fast.  It lasts more than a day on the battery, even with heavy usage.  It’s not that expensive, if you are not in a hurry.  And it has a Google logo on its back.  It is brilliant.

P.S.: the friend to who I gave my bricked Motorola Defy managed to revive it.  And not only – he upgraded the Defy to Android 4.0 as well.  Now that I have my Galaxy Nexus, I’m not going back to Defy, but my wife will get a much needed phone upgrade for her 7-year old Samsung.  So all is well.

Android global market share is at 48%

Canalysis did a world-wide study of mobile markets and published their results.  Make sure to read the whole article – there are many other numbers and trends.

Canalys today published its final worldwide country-level Q2 2011 smart phone market estimates, showing substantial market growth in all regions. Globally, the market grew 73% year-on-year, with in excess of 107.7 million units shipping in the second quarter of 2011. Of the 56 countries Canalys tracks around the world, Android led in 35 of them and achieved a global market share of 48%. Asia Pacific (APAC) remained the largest regional market, with 39.8 million units shipping there, compared with 35.0 million in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and 32.9 million in the Americas.

Android, the number one platform by shipments since Q4 2010, was also the strongest growth driver this quarter, with Android-based smart phone shipments up 379% over a year ago to 51.9 million units. Growth was bolstered by strong Android product performances from a number of vendors, including Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei. The final country-level data delivered to clients today shows there were particularly strong performances from Android devices in APAC countries, such as South Korea, where Android holds an 85% platform share, and Taiwan, where it has 71%.

With shipments of 20.3 million iPhones and a market share of 19%, iOS overtook Nokia’s Symbian platform during the quarter to take second place worldwide. In doing so, Apple also became the world’s leading individual smart phone vendor, stripping Nokia of its long-held leadership position.


Motorola Defy – my first Android device

It has been more than three years since Google announced their Android platform, but I still remember how excited I was.  I knew that it would be years before I’d own a device running Android, but that didn’t matter to me.  It was (and still is) a very cool concept and initiative.  Not everything worked out the way it was supposed to workout, and the process is still in its infancy, but I am super glad that I can finally participate rather than just read about it.  A couple of days ago I spent 355 EUR to buy my first Android device – Motorola Defy smartphone (specs on one page).

Choosing which smartphone to buy was easier for me than it was for my friends.  While most of them had to count on website reviews and comparison charts, I could actually spend a few minutes playing with different devices, since I was among the last people to get one.  But the decisive factor was this video review (in German, but quite easy to understand even if you are like me and don’t speak the language).  See, for me, one of the biggest problems with smartphones is that they are quite expensive, but at the same time, they are too fragile.  No matter how carefully I handle them, it takes only a year and some to render them unusable – touch screens get stack, buttons fall out, etc.  Motorola Defy seemed indestructible by comparison.  Plus it was moderately priced and of a smaller size than most other similar phones.

So far I’ve been using this smartphone for two days and I am very happy with it.  I am already used to the interface (which differs quite a bit from Symbian that I used on my previous phones).  I am comfortable with configuration options.  And I already went through hundreds and hundreds of applications.  The variety is just amazing.  Anything you could wish for is there – wallpapers, ringtones, games, calculators and converters, news and social updates, and much much more.  And I haven’t even started yet with commercial applications.

Of course, as with any other device, there are issues and nuances.   For example, there seems to be an issue with Android devices not being able to connect to ad-hoc wireless networks.  (I guess not many people use them, but I happen to be one of those who needs this often – some of the offices that I work at don’t have wireless networks, so I connect my laptop via Ethernet cable and then create an ad-hoc wireless network to share the connection with my phone.  I’m sure that it will be fixed in the future updates.)  But what I get now is different from what I had before.  Before I had to Google for the answers myself, read pages and pages of forums, and fight the problems on my own.  Now, all my friends are using Android devices.  And even though the devices vary, they have enough in common for us to share solutions to problems, cool applications, tips and tricks.  And I absolutely love this bit.

This phone is very much like a modern computer – it’s not very useful when offline.  With built-in synchronization of contacts with Gmail and Facebook, calendar synchronization, and support for Twitter, YouTube, and pretty much every other major social network, this phone shines when it’s online.

An extra layer of awesomeness is guaranteed by built-in GPS.  And unlike the previous generation of devices with built-in GPS, this time it actually makes sense.  No longer I need to wait for 5 minutes until all satellites are acquired and my position is triangulated.  It just works and takes mere seconds.  My position information can then be utilized by a whole range of applications – camera geo-tagging pictures that I take, Twitter telling where I am, and foursquare which is a lot of fun in itself.

Even though I had this phone for only two days, I’ve kept in touch with Android platform for years.  So now I can talk about this for days.  It turns out I am as excited about Android as I was three years, and getting myself one was exactly what I needed to do.  My only regret is that I haven’t done it earlier.

New phone : Sony Ericsson G900

A couple of weeks ago my beloved Sony Ericsson P910 died.  It got dropped one too many times.  A rather large semi-lequid patch appeared in its left bottom corner and touch screen stopped working.  Since the keyboard died a long time ago, I was left with no way to input or navigate the phone.  Being an exceptionally smart individual I decided that a reboot might cure this, and, obviously, that left me at the “Enter your PIN” prompt with no hope what so ever.

Next morning I rushed to the mobile shop.  The first two on my way were closed, since that was too early in the morning, but gladly I remembered that there is a Germanos branch in Debenhams, which opens pretty early.  Like 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning.  And indeed it was open.

Continue reading “New phone : Sony Ericsson G900”

Android is coming along smoothly

Today is the last day of The Mobile World Congress which takes place in Barcelona.  Makers of everything mobile (as in phones, not as in real estates opposite) are showing off their stuff at this event.  Also, there are many announcements, news, and releases tied to the dates of the congress.

It seems like a good time to revisit the Android story.  Is it moving it all?  What’s happening there?  Will we see any of it any time soon?

It appears that the Android is moving along as planned.  There were a few pre-production prototypes at The Mobile World Congress, and people were pretty much impressed with them.

The biggest surprise of the demos was how well Android runs on slow devices.

In other news, Google released a new version of Android SDK.  This new version brought a few major changes and improvements, fixed many things that developers complained about.

The upgrade also takes to heart developer complaints about the software and includes several major but less visible upgrades: in addition to easier development of layouts, any app can now translate addresses to map coordinates and back. Audio formats such as MIDI and OGG are now also built-in, according to Google.

The same source suggests that we will indeed see some phones in the second half of 2008, as it was planned and announced last year.

Android’s upgrade brings the Linux-based platform much closer to production quality for its expected release, which should start with handsets in the second half of the year from companies such as HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung. Most of these devices are understood to focus heavily on Internet access and are expected to include some models with GPS and touchscreens.

How often do you change your mobile vendor?

I was reading this post about Mobile World Congress over at Web Worker Daily.  This paragraph got me thinking:

At January’s Macworld show, Apple CEO Steve Jobs cited data from NPD showing that the iPhone already has 20 percent of the smartphone market after one year, and that Apple is selling 20,000 iPhones per day.

How often do you change your mobile?  And how often do you change your mobile phone vendor?  Are you a fan of one particular brand or do you like trying each and every one of them?

Mobile market is measured in billions of users.  And these users can be pretty dynamic about their devices and the choice of vendors.  Mobile phone is something very easily replaceable.  It’s not like a house, or a car, or even a laptop computer. The thought of how dynamic the market is boggles the mind.  One day you the king of the mountain, and the a couple of months later they don’t know your name. But then again you can get it back before the end of the year…

Skype with SkypeOut

Continuing my Skype saga…

I’ve finally fixed the headset at the office. Again, it turned out I had two sound cards – it’s just one of them was disabled completely. Instead of trying to please the SoundBlaster Live! I turned that other one on, and it worked like a charm. Damn Creative. Every time I try to use – I have a problem.

So, anyway, with all the headphones and microphones working, I decided to go further along and buy some SkypeOut minutes. SkypeOut minutes allow one to call from Skype (read: computer) to any regular or mobile phone. Anywhere. Dirt cheap.

I used my PayPal account to buy a 10.00 EUR credit. It worked like a charm. I made a couple of test calls around. The quality is OK. The additional benefit is the anonimity. The calls are not signed with any number, so if you want to call anyone anonymously – here is your option.

That’s it for now. Soon, I’ll tell you about things that I think suck in Skype.

Large files via Bluetooth to Sony Ericsson P800

I’ve got myself a little Bluetooth USB adapter and now I can easily beam files to my phone. No need to use expensive (and slow) GPRS connection for file transfers anymore.

There is a problem though that I am not sure how to fix. You see, transferred files appear as beamed messages in the inbox. I can save the files later to any place I want. But the inbox itself is on the internal drive of the phone. How smart is that?

The internal drive of P800 is 12 MBytes. The external card can be as large as 128 MBytes. But there is no way (or, at least, I haven’t found one) of transfering a file larger than the internal drive. It’s good that I can fill up the 128 MBytes. But it’s terrible that I can’t do so with a couple of 60 MByte files (podcasts anyone?).

Does anyone know of a way to tell Sony Ericsson P800 to save beamed messages on the external card? Furthermore, is this situation fixed with P900 and P910? Those phones can take bigger cards, as far as I know, but their internal memory is not very much larger…

Mobile version is up and running

I came across a simply, but really useful plugin WP Mobile. It provides a much lighter version of WordPress blog for users of mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs. Since I am a rather often guest of my own, and on many of this occasions I use my smartphone, I decided to install this plugin and link to the mobile version of the site from the navigation menu at the top. Feel free to bookmark it too.