Phone batteries

Apple announced a new Smart Battery Case today. Which seems like the sort of Product Opportunity that they’ve historically preferred to leave for third party makers. It just goes to show that only a fool thinks they know what Apple could, should, or will do. Does Apple plan to ship a new iPhone next fall? Er…I’d say so. But please don’t quote me.

Based solely on the photo, I’m going to rock the boat and say that I’m kind of pleased by this design. It’s quite literal. It looks like Apple just added enough extra volume to their standard silicone case to accommodate the battery. Their silicone cases are awesome, and because Apple took the simple route, the Smart Battery Case will work with any cable or charging dock that works with the standard version.

If I worked for Apple and had been part of the design or marketing team, I would have pitched a killer idea:

“We will also make one in Teal. It will ship with no battery. That empty space will contain a little note that says ‘You can hide weed or LSD in here. If you don’t use recreational drugs, bring your case back to the Apple Store and we will swap it for either a black or white one. Plus, we’ll give you a $15 iTunes Store card as a token of our appreciation for your continued silence about the truth about the teal ones’.”

I am a damn genius.

Why is Apple making a battery case at all? See Paragraph One. I imagine it’s just something they wanted to make (like when they started making their own rechargeable batteries and charger), and/or they saw the market for battery extenders and asked themselves why they were leaving that money on the table.

It does seem odd as an Apple-logoed product, given the iPhone’s killer battery life. I expect a device maker to design every accessory that the product needs, such as the keyboards for the iPad Pro and Surface Pro. Unlike most Android phones, the iPhone doesn’t “need” a battery extender. But that’s not true for everybody. Some people can’t even count on ending every day near an outlet.

Speaking of phones and power, I had another great experience with the Nexus 5X. I was out of the house all day on a meeting and was so tired at the end of the day that I just dropped my phone on the kitchen counter, got myself a drink, and slouched upstairs to bed.

I ease myself into the day by spending the first hour on my MacBook, in bed. Nothing gets me dressed and downstairs faster, though, than realizing that I forgot to recharge my phone. My old Nexus 5 would run out of juice after just six or eight hours off-leash, even if it was just in the pocket of the pants on my bedroom floor.

The 5X, with Android 6, is way way better. Even so, I wasn’t expecting it to light up this morning. But, yay! I still had 40% battery left. I plugged it into the charger anyway to make sure it’d be ready to go in an hour, when I was heading off for breakfast somewhere.

And then I left for breakfast without it. I kind of preferred it when I didn’t have a phone with me in the morning and I had something else to blame.

Its new phone day!

I’m taking a break from work to do something that is only defined as quote fun on quote in my sick little vernacular: I’m setting up a brand new phone. I do that all the time, what with all the devices that I review. This one is special, because it’s a personal phone that I bought during the Black Friday sale last week: a Nexus 5X.

I bought it because, yes, I’m definitely trending towards switching back to Android. The switch to the iPhone 6 was never intended to be permanent, it was just a necessity of getting to know the Apple watch. But it was certainly possible that I was going to stay with iOS. Most of the decision was going to hang on what Google released in September or October.

These new Nexus phones really scored big. I only really cared about three things, hardware – wise: I wanted an iPhone-class camera, I wanted fingerprint security, and I wanted to finally have a battery that didn’t make me want to scream every four and a half hours, which is when I would need to find a new source of power for my previous Android phone, a Nexus 5.

And, well, what do you know: the new Nexus phones delivered all that stuff. The smaller of the two is a better fit for my needs, and the price is absolutely one that I’m comfortable spending on a phone.

I’m not officially back on Android yet. My SIM card is still inside my iPhone. But, yeah, that’s where I’m leaning.

I’ve been setting it up for the past hour or two. This isn’t a reflection of how difficult Android is; it’s a statement about how much of it you can actually customize. As you can imagine, I’m having a ball. It’s great to be able to configure something for my needs, specifically. It gives me the opportunity to think about how I use my phone, and how I can make things easier on myself.

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I’m giving a lot of thought to widgets, for instance. I’ve been setting up this new phone so that all of the features I need are always right in front of me, and that I rarely have to launch an actual app. The new iPhone does a good job of this with 3D Touch. Android has always had a version of this solution, in the form of allowing apps to put their most useful features and content right on the desktop.

Mostly, I’m getting my head back in the game of relying on Android as my full time phone, if it comes to that. I’ve been using Android phones all summer, but always just in a casual capacity. Its reminding me of all the things that I like about Android.

One of those things is Android’s Material Design UI. It’s just much more in tune with how I think, and how I want a phone interface to look. Even after three years, the new iPhone user interface still seems so very stark, and isn’t as intuitive to me as the Android design language.

Another thing: I did actually pay for an Apple Watch, to make sure that I would have one in my hardware library forever and ever. I’m a little surprised that I don’t like it so much that it’s encouraging me to stick with the iPhone.

In the end, I think this speaks well of the diversity of the mobile market. The biggest reason why I’m leaning towards Android is simply because I prefer the looks of the interface, and it’s a better fit overall for me. This is maybe the first year when the software libraries are pretty much equal, and the level of hardware is also pretty much equal, and The level of polish and innovation in the underlying operating systems are 100% equal.

We are now free to make a choice based solely on personal preference. And that’s sort of perfect, isn’t it?

(Written completely on the Nexus 5X, using speech to text.)

Google Project Ara Update

The Verge got another chance to fondle Project Ara, the big stinkers. They wrote up what little details exist of this most cool work-in-progress.

Project Ara is (a) Google’s experiment to build a fully-modular smartphone, and (b) a strong example of why the tech world needs Google. It’s bonkers. Phones cost anywhere from $0 to $199 on contract and by the time one stops working, or requires an upgrade, we’re kind of sick of it anyway and are ready for a new gadget. So why design a phone in which every major feature — screen, camera, battery, storage, CPU — is a snap-in LEGO piece?

Asked and answered. Maybe we’re all dopes for falling for Apple’s and Samsung’s and HTC’s (and Google’s) constant string of “next big thing” phone announcements. Maybe we’re dopes for buying phones on contract instead of buying them as plain consumer items.

I’m shopping for a new phone right now and when you come down to it, if I can just keep everything I have now and just get a better camera…I’m good. Seriously. Better photos is the engine of about 80% of my lust for new phone hardware and that goes for both iPhones and Android phones. On top of that…how many times have I settled for a certain device because it has everything I want except for, say, removable storage?

Ara would let you build a phone with exactly the features you want. Upgrade specific components without having to ditch everything else.

Another another cool twist is implied, though it hasn’t really been covered: if your phone’s identity is on a swappable module, it’s as easy to have multiple styles of phone as it is to have multiple styles of wristwatches. Your daily carry is a 4.8″ frame and screen, but youalso have a flip or candybar frame on your dresser, for formal events when you’re only carrying a tiny purse or wearing an outfit without real pockets.

But yes, Ara remains a bonkers idea. The concept of a power and data bus with modules that can be ejected and remounted without necessarily rebooting (or crashing) the whole platform is…OK, I’m enthusiastic about Ara so I’ll be nice and describe it as a “nontrivial issue.”

The interesting thing about ideas like this one, however, is that they’re only bonkers until someone goes ahead and actually builds one of the damned things. Figuring out how to land people on the Moon in less than ten year’s time was a crazy idea, filled with seriously nontrivial problems. We not only landed on the bastard…we left three golf carts up there.

Another thing about Ara that I like: Google isn’t afraid to experiment, or even fail, in view of the public. Project Ara may never ship, and it might not even be a marketable product. But this is in no way a sign of defects in Google’s way of doing business. On the contrary. Projects like Ara and self-driving car tech and Glass make plain the tactile, and often fumbling, nature of product development.

The Illogical Reasons Why You Love Giant Smartphone Screens | Co.Design | business + design

The Illogical Reasons Why You Love Giant Smartphone Screens | Co.Design | business + design.

I’ve no idea why so many commentators are still so committed to “proving” that people who prefer phones with larger screens are wrong. At this stage, a larger phone — even a huge honkin’ pop-tart — is clearly just as credible as an iPhone-sized device.

Those who want a more luxuriously-sized display and those who want something smaller and easier to manage each have options available to them. And that’s terrific!

Apple made no announcements about a bigger iPhone at WWDC. As anticipated, though, there are enough clues in the new guidance they’re giving developers that it sure seems like a lock for the fall.