Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rant: Google Wallet = Google Betrayal

Any other T-Mobile Nexus S owners feel a little bit irritated that one of the main features that made the Nexus S standout is being held back from the original Nexus S? Google Voice integration, Google Wallet--seems like the real Nexus S, at least from Google's perspective, is the Sprint version. 

Now, this is not all that bad. When T-Mobile is slaughtered by that evil, lying villain, then the next best alternative is certainly Sprint, which means that, chances are, I will one day be a Nexus 4G/Wallet user, but that does not mean I don't like being tiered as Nexus S owner. 

The question is: Is Google to blame? Probably not. T-Mobile, I am nearly sure, is the culprit here. And it could be a direct result of the merger (I really like to blame AT&T because, hey, they deserve it!), but it is still very difficult to swallow.

One thing that I do find irritating, and Google has addressed this at IO, is the fact that as soon as you think you've got the best thing you get one-up'd. What was the exception to this? The Nexus line. The only thing that beats a Nexus was the newest Nexus. Now, one could argue that the 4G is the newest Nexus, but it is not a true contender as that will be the yet announced Nexus 3 (LG?), which should come around Christmas time. No, this is Google making new partners as they go along.

. . . As they go along.

Google seems to utilize this moniker like it is the corporate strategy. I know Google releases beta products all of the time, i.e. Honeycomb, (have they actually finished a product?) but all of this fragmentation (the real kind, not the scrolling kind) has a lot to do with Google, and one cannot put all of the blame on the phone makers/providers. The user cannot get comfortable with Google. Everything feels, similar to their OS, just a bit unstable. I appreciate it, actually, I like the work in progress. I, like other Android users, want the latest technology now--and I will take it with bugs--but it is getting really expensive to do that.

Google announced at IO this update policy of theirs, and we all know that it is a facade, but it is an appreciated mask nonetheless. It is just annoying to go get that precious Google vanilla, just to be outdone by the next player as Google sashays across the dance floor tossing away partners and accepting them back quicker than the consumer can pull out their credit card.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hack The Planet . . . , Or At Least Your Phone

I recently read an article that discussed how Android was losing its “hackability” and I must admit that at first glance I might have agreed, but in a very short time several things have happened that make me think that Android users are on the brink of something truly revolutionary in user control.

I admit that things looked pretty dismal for a bit. HTC’s G2 was released with some wonky lockdown method. Stories of Motorola’s DroidX booting into recovery if a custom ROM was attempted. Motorola’s Atrix bootloader lockdown. And the final straw, Google’s announcement that they would not release the Honeycomb source code. (See my discussion on Google’s decision here.) I too thought all was lost, but then a company that has been a relatively weak player in the Android handset market changed the game.

Sony Ericsson released a statement that their phones would not have a locked bootloader if the customer bought the product outright. Then, to prove their new found acceptance of the Android dev communitiy SE offered a tutorial on how to unlock their phones and build a kernel. Motorola followed suit, in response to an online poll, with an announcement that none of their future phones would have a locked bootloader. LG released the G2X and G-Slate with unlocked bootloaders. Google announced that they will release Ice Cream Sandwich source code and that the Nexus S is the most open device on the market, near completely open--save a few proprietary drivers. Regarding the Nexus S’ maker, Samsung, their devices are ridiculously hackable and nearly impossible to brick. Samsung devices use a proprietary tool named Odin that allows users to flash new ROMs on to their phones as well as return to factory stock. Finally, today while installing the Amazon Cloud Player on to the Xoom I saw that Amazon made edits to its code to make it more compatible with CyanogenMod 7!

These examples show a staggering resolve on the part of hardware companies and corporations to allow the consumers, who spend a great deal of money on devices, to have root access. There are, however, real concerns that need answering, such as: Should one root, warranties and support, and economic impact and billing. The Android community should be politely aware that every company has an economic interest and without taking care of that interest the company ceases to exist. That said, it seems as though the hardware companies and corporations are not the threat the community original thought they were, but need to focus on the real threat to openess, which is carriers. Carriers are going to fight this (especially AT&T who has a special dislike for hacking . . . and sideloading . . . and data use . . . and fair prices . . . and the truth . . ., moreover, Verizon has not commented on Motorola having unlockable bootloaders, but rest assured they will have something to say about it) and the community needs to show support for carriers, and hardware companies as well, that allow openness to prevail. Consider SE, LG, Samsung, and Moto first as they are showing their support for open. Consider T-Mobile over another carrier as T-Mobile has continually supported the dev community (unless AT&T buys them, then head to Sprint as they are also supportive, albeit less so).

In sum, the development is not ending any time soon. The Android Dev community is the strongest there is and they can wade through a lot of junk to expose some really nice phones and devices. Make sure to support those companies and carriers, but most of all--Support the Devs themselves. Go to the forums and hit the donate button for your favorites. They work incredibly hard to get the job done and make things easier for all of su.  


As always, all of the information you need to do your own research is below. I encourage you to look up the sources and read the stories for yourself, leave a comment here if you have something to say, and follow my Twitter (@GhostWriterv9) and the social networking pages of the person's involved so that you can get a diverse take on the story.



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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Life's Not So Good for the T-Mobile Ghost-Slate

I recently purchased the T-Mobile G-Slate and have been using it for about two weeks now. Let me start by saying that this is not a post on how I am displeased with the G-Slate, because, quite frankly, it is a pretty amazing machine. It is incredibly fast and where Honeycomb lacks, the G-Slate hardware makes up. Is the 3D video camera gimmicky? Yes, of course, and it is not that great either, but it is fun. Is the size a bit long/tall? Yes, and at first I found it a bit awkward, but after awhile I really think that this is a great size (albeit less productive than a 7" tablet). The real issues that the G-Slate has so far as usability are Honeycomb issues, not hardware. So why is life not good you ask? One word: Visibility.

In the technology world if your device gets forgotten, then you better like what you have because you are not getting anything else. With that said, I think many consumers will really enjoy the slightly overpriced G-Slate, but many of us are not the average consumers. Many Android users want unlockable bootloaders, ability to customize, and quick updates to the OS. This is where the G-Slate fades and disappears like a ghost--like it never existed.

I am a rabid T-Mobile fan and wanted to get the tablet that T-Mobile was putting out, but to my surprise T-Mobile really did not advertise the G-Slate. Sure there was the billboard or web advert here and there, but nothing to write home about. Moreover, the release date was really awkward. The G2X was being released on April 20th and all of the communications from T-Mobile stated that "another" device was being released as well, which we all knew was the G-Slate. But where T-Mobile might have been trying to generate excitement backfired into them not really announcing it at all. Once the tablet dropped there were a few reviews, most favorable and nearly all received it better than the Xoom, but then crickets. No follow up . . . no discussion. 

I had learned enough about stock and wanted to delve into the tablet so I headed over to my favorite forum, XDA Developers, but was disappointed to not see a forum created for the G-Slate. They have a forum for the Motorola Flipout, but not the G-Slate?! It is not really that insignificant of a release as it is the second Honeycomb Tablet and the first with 4G connectivity (I know, I know, but I am not going to get into the 4G war right now; however, I will tell you that the speed on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is excellent as I cannot even tell if I am connected via network or WiFi the speeds are so solid). I contacted LG and @theLGgirl about the bootloader and asked if it was unlockable, but no response. At this point I realize that this machine is dead in the water, a vision of something that could have been, a ghost, . . . but just then a light.

Chandon, a member in the XDA forums figures out a way to get root (it can be found here). It is a but trickier than the usual, but nothing impossible. I am not an avid Ubuntu or Linux user, but I was able to do it in about 15 minutes and there seems to be very little risk involved. Coupled with the fact that I know that Cyanogen and KMobs both got a G-Slate, I am thinking that the tablet is about to takeoff, but alas, no. 

Google IO started today and there is mention of a lot of things, in fact, many devices have been heralded and name dropped, but nothing said about the G-Slate. In fact, it was so obvious that a tweet from @theLGgirl stated:
In the Honeycomb highlights session at I/O...proud to have 1 of the first/only 4G Honeycomb tablets. Love my @TMobile G-Slate w Google!
It was as if the silence on the LG product was so deep that she just had to say something. What came through from Google IO was just as we had assumed: The Xoom was the tablet that Google was going to take care of (first to get Honeycomb 3.1 and Google Music). In fact, Google went out of their way to update the Xoom before any other tablet (and as of right now there is only one other carrier tablet out there . . . you guessed it, G-Slate). This is like a slap in the already battered face of G-Slate owners. 

I am not sure now if I am going to keep the G-Slate. There is a solid chance that it will be returned and I will go with the Xoom. The updates alone make the tablet worth it. I realize everyone says that consumers should buy something for what it is, not what it will be. But these devices are too expensive and that makes looking to the future very important. I think, however, that I will wait and see if that elusive Nexus Tablet will be announced at IO and that would make the decision pretty easy.

The G-Slate is an excellent device and in this case it is not the device's fault, but if one thought the Xoom was headed to market death, then that means that the G-Slate's coffin is already being nailed down. Too bad, because the Ghost-Slate could have really been something great. 


As always, all of the information you need to do your own research is below. I encourage you to look up the sources and read the stories for yourself, leave a comment here if you have something to say, and follow my Twitter (@GhostWriterv9) and the social networking pages of the person's involved so that you can get a diverse take on the story.

Parsons, C. (10 May 2011). Android 3.1 rolling out today to Verizon Xoom owners. Android Central. Retrieved from 

Ricker, T. (10 May 2011). Google Music Beta to stream 20,000 songs for free, official! (updated). Engadget. Retrieved from

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