I join colleagues Mihaita Bamburic, Alan Buckingham and Wayne Williams recounting what tech I used in 2012. But unlike them, I made dramatic platform changes, more significant than first using Windows over New Years holiday 1994, buying a reburbished PowerBook in February 1999, adopting Facebook and Twitter in 2006 or purchasing Nexus One in January 2010. Each of these marked major platform changes -- and some not always lasting. Consider this: in early 2012, I owned a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 MacBook Air, iPhone 4S and iPad 3. I end the year using Chromebook and Android smartphone and tablets.
During the year I moved from OS X and Windows running on Intel to an ARM-and-Chrome OS laptop, and after several failed attempts at adopting tablets (three generations of iPads, really), I embraced not one but two Android slates. I store all my data in the cloud -- local storage is now merely a way station between destinations rather than personal repository. This old dog is learning new tricks, and if I make such dramatic platform changes what does that mean for younger users who are more flexible and not as financially or habitually Apple/Microsoft/Intel committed? Look around, the PC era rapidly evaporates around you and its disappearance will be difficult to ignore in 2013.
Yesterday my colleague Wayne Williams posted hist list of must-have iPad apps. Of course I did not want Android fans to be left out, so I sat down and thought about the apps I use most on my Galaxy Nexus. This was a tough decision because there are many. Of course, it is also purely driven by personal opinion and tastes, but many of these types of lists are.
So, if you found a new phone or tablet under your tree on December 25th and you are wondering what you should install then here is a top-10 list of my personal recommendations.
If there's one word that best describes my personal tech use for 2012, change is definitely it. For the most part of the year I "cheated" one platform with another, with no particular personal favorite to get me through (almost) 365 days. Each piece of software and hardware is used for a particular scenario, something that I find rather soothing for my personal early adopter endeavors as well as my sanity. I just can't stand tinkering with the same bit of tech for longer periods of time, although there still is a dear old friend in my life...
My colleagues Alan Buckingham and Wayne Williams already wrote about their personal tech choices in 2012, and now it's my turn. Without further ado here is what I used most throughout the year, starting with my trusty dear old friend.
A month has passed since I started using Nexus 10, Google's first 10.1-inch tablet, which Samsung manufactures. iPad is reason for the delay writing this review. I bought the first three generation models and sold each within two months. The appeal didn't last, in part because of the user interface's long-term limited utility. So Nexus 10 faced resistance before I opened the box and for another, compelling reason: I was (and still am) hugely satisfied with sibling Nexus 7, which form factor and feel in the hand hugely appeal. After a month of testing, just to make sure, I don't plan on selling the larger tablet; its immediate fate won't be that of iPad 1, 2 or 3.
I definitely recommend Nexus 10 to anyone considering a tablet this year in the $400-$500 range. Nexus 7 ($200-$300) is a better option for the budget conscious -- or even Kindle Fire HD ($300-$600). I don't recommend iPad 4 or mini. They cost too much ($329-$829) for the benefits, and iOS has fallen behind Google and Microsoft operating systems. My experience with Surface RT is limited, but the tablet makes a great first impression such that it's worth considering -- and easily over Apple's larger tablet.
Android modding is often perceived as a rare disease that must be treated at all costs with tightly locked bootloaders and impossible to root devices. When users do want to remove the shackles imposed by manufacturers, and carriers alike, there's always a sense that someone will suddenly knock on the door and say: "Stop, we'll void your warranty. Your device must run unadulterated software!" That's just limited thinking. Modding is beneficial and not just for those roaming around in obscure corners of the interwebs.
Some argue that modding is just that insignificant other that is over-hyped per the overall scheme of things. When enthusiasts ask for unlocked bootloaders or maybe easier to root devices, those very same people will shorty argue with "Most people don't need that, so your wish doesn't matter!" Obviously there's some "truth" to that, because in most cases the deniers don't bother to read thousands of forum posts or even to check custom Android distribution statistics. Yes, there are such things.
Nexus devices are largely sold out this holiday season. Supply can't meet demand, particularly the new smartphone. But one Google gadget is missing altogether, pulled before official sales started. I've got Nexus Q, and you should be able to have one, too. The entertainment device is quirky, but I like it. Surely there is stock sitting around in some warehouse somewhere. Sell it out, Google. Give geeks something else to clamor for and recover some of the development and manufacturing costs.
The sphere-shaped device is a remarkable product, and changes fundamental concepts about digitally-delivered entertainment. Users stream music or movies from the cloud, using Android smartphone or tablet as remote control. The approach solves a fundamental end-user problem with digital content: Simple sharing.
Jelly Bean may be the youngest member of the Android family, but it’s also enjoying some amazing month-on-month growth, based on the number of devices accessing Google Play during the 14 days ending December 3. It still has some way to go to match Gingerbread though, which is yet again the green droid ruler.
On November 13, the search giant introduced its latest sugary treat, Android 4.2. Three weeks later, the new version of Jelly Bean had claimed a distribution level of 0.8 percent, a number aided by Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 sales, and Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 upgrades. That growth however, pales in comparison to 4.1 Jelly Bean which is now found on 5.9 percent of green droid devices, an increase of 118 percent when compared to the previous figures released in early November.
Just three days ago Google released the Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean update which now recognizes that December and Santa Claus do exist. Today the Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation updated the factory images for the Nexus 4, 7, 10 and HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus with the latest version of the green droid operating system.
Using the factory images the four Nexus devices can be directly upgraded to Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, build number JOP40D, without waiting to receive the over-the-air update. In similar fashion, green droid modders can take advantage of the factory images to restore the devices to stock after previously using a custom distribution such as AOKP Jelly Bean Milestone 1 or CyanogenMod 10.
I'm not wrong -- tablets are still incapable of replacing PCs, but I purchased one anyway. Local Black Friday sales got the best of me, and the end result is the iPad 2 that's laying on my couch right now. Before you start calling me names for buying an older product or "betraying the Android army", let me put it like this -- Apple's tablet was cheaper than a Google Nexus 7.
Price is a very strong incentive in any of my buying decisions. Because of it I couldn't even think about purchasing an iPad, as it normally runs for $550 in my area. But that changed when I read the price tag during the Black Friday sale -- it was roughly $285. Suddenly priorities changed and an older, otherwise overpriced, product made sense. I just had to get it, despite what logic may have tried to dictate at the time.
Nexus 4 is no longer "sold out" at Google Play, and I can't help but laugh at the store's idea of "ships soon". That's "8-9 weeks" for the $299 model. Exactly how is that not sold out? Basically, Google throws out hope to the hopeless. Still, from a marketing perspective, long wait is better than telling potential buyers the product is out of stock. Meanwhile, people place orders and get somewhere in the long queue.
Yesterday, Google resumed Nexus 4 sales after selling out within hours of taking orders on October 13. Like that day, the search giant struggled to take orders, with many buyers watching orders be cancelled in the shopping cart. But the persistent succeeded, often after several hours effort. Today's wait time is more about when devices ship rather than ordering them. Expect "4-5 weeks" on the 16GB model.
If you're one of the lucky few Google Nexus 4 or Nexus 10 owners around the world that prefer a third-party ROM to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, then you're in luck. Today the team behind the popular CyanogenMod custom distribution released an official CM10.1 build for the LG-made smartphone, with another on the way for its tablet sibling.
The CyanogenMod 10.1 build for the Nexus 4 comes in response to unofficial custom distributions, that recently surfaced, built using the former's source code. The first release available to the general public is based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, rather than the newest version issued yesterday. However a missing December in the People app is unlikely to hinder its success considering CyanogenMod's popularity among the modding community.
The LG-manufactured Nexus 4 is nearly perfect. Unless you have no other choice, perhaps because of unsupported cellular carrier and binding contractual commitment, put Google's newest smartphone at the top of your must-buy list. The device satisfies in all the right places -- battery life, call quality, display clarity, size and visibility, operating system and performance. There are other Androids with comparable or better hardware, but they typically slap on a secondary UI and ship with older OS. It's not the measure of one attribute, or even a couple, but many combined that make Nexus 4 so good.
But nearly isn't perfect. Nexus 4's flaws, while subtle, will be serious for some potential buyers. There is no 4G LTE, for example. The feature is built-in to the Snapdragon processor but not properly enabled. The phone is HSPA+ for data, which works on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile USA. No LTE is a deal-breaker for some people, as seen in commments here and elsewhere. Something else: LG copied Apple, which put glass on the back of iPhone 4 and 4S and rightly abandoned the design with the newest handset. Double-sided glass makes the phone less durable than should be, particularly if dropped. Finally, many Galaxy Nexus users won't find its successor to be a compelling upgrade; much depends on what they use their phones for.
At 9:24 am ET this morning, I received surprising email from Google: "Nexus 4 will be available for purchase later today! Order yours from Google Play starting today, November 27 at 12:00 noon PST (US only)".
Sudden availability follows shipping notices many people who had placed orders previously received yesterday. The question: Can Google Play handle the orders this time? Another: Will you get a phone?
Google's attempt to sell the Nexus lineup on its own Play Store could be considered a failure. The company appears to be unable to keep up with the high demand, and as a result devices are mostly sold out all over the world. In order to prepare for that one moment when sufficient stock exists there is a website that checks global Play Stores for Nexus device availability.
Google Nexus Devices World Availability Checker keeps track of all Nexus 4 (including black bumper), 7 and 10 units sold in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. The website allows users to verify whether a particular device is available in stock at the local Play Store in the above mentioned locations. The advantage, over manually checking, is that prospective buyers are not limited to their regional online store, and can look up international availability, which comes in handy for those that want to shop abroad.
I can see only one good reason to choose iPhone 5 over Nexus 4: The LG-manufactured mobile is sold out, and you can't wait. For the patient, Google's fourth-generation stock Android delivers rewarding experience. The new Nexus is the smartphone to buy this holiday season -- if you can find one.
Two reasons stand in iPhone 5's favor, neither is good, just necessary for some people: Your carrier -- for example, Sprint and Verizon in the United States -- isn't supported (Nexus 4 is GSM/HSPA+), or you bought heap loads of apps from Apple and don't want to lose your investment. I feel your pain, but offer no pity. Nexus 4 is exceptional.