After half a decade away, I jump back into Android with the launch of the 2013(2nd gen) Nexus 7. Ive got to say, things have changed! I bought this tablet for a few reasons. First, its damn cheap compared to the Galaxy Tabs(Notes), and Apples iPad Mini. Second, it has the highest pixel density out of all the 7 inch tablets currently. And last, its pure Android without the Samsung bloatware. For $230, its a pretty good deal. Some people think tablets are toys and while they can be good fun, I find them extremely useful for doing quick research, reading articles, and quickly looking up a video. Continue reading Nexus 7 (2013) Full Review: Android Revisited→
BlackBerry 10 devices are on the horizon and while we look forward to shiny new phones with new features, many are disappointed with the removal of the optical trackpad. The main pointing device on BlackBerry has gone through many key changes. From the scroll wheel, to the trackball, and now the trackpad, RIM has decided to ditch them in favor of full touchscreen navigation. This transition seems inevitable but is it really progress? Lets break down this decision and answer this question ourselves.
Why Remove It?
The trackpad has been the standard pointing device from the 8500 series to the current 99XX. Since then, weve seen our BlackBerry phones transition from non-touchscreen to full on touch. Maybe RIM feels that full touch inputs can replace the usefulness of having an optical trackpad. Another reason RIM might have to ditch the trackpad is freeing up space. The trackpad, along with the call, menu, back, and end buttons take up real estate and removing them frees up space for a larger screen. Many people associate the trackpad with BlackBerry as all current models have them. Perhaps people see this as old and inferior hardware and RIM may be looking to break that image. In this case, I am reminded of the old phrase, if it aint broke, dont fix it.
If It Aint Broke
Removing the trackpad from a tradition(Bold, Curve) BlackBerry is like using your desktop with a keyboard and without a mouse. A mouse/trackpad makes it easy to perform simple tasks. Tasks like copy and paste or clicking on a link can be done without the clumsiness or frustration of a touch screen. Dont believe me? Try it. Sure you may occasionally click on the right link but you will run into misclicks the more often you try. In order to reduce errors, a pinch+zoom technique is required. Another thing people dont often consider useful about the trackpad is the ability to highlight before making a selection. Think about how a full-touch UI handles this issue. Button and lists are enlarged to reduce misdials. While it is possible to highlight selections with a full touch device, its easier with a trackpad. Having the call, menu, back and end buttons omitted is another issue. I can understand that they want to eliminate buttons altogether but these buttons are often used. BB10 better have a smart and fast way to handle or replace these core buttons or else they will lose many faithfuls.
The trackpad has a special novelty to it that I will personally miss. I love how it lights up revealing its borders as I am using it in the dark. I also love that its the last light to go out as the rest of the screen and keyboards backlight dims before it. I know its quirky and strange to say but the trackpad gives my BlackBerry Bold character. Thats something I would argue is missing from the sea of slate iPhones and Droids that all look the same.
What Do We Gain?
Beside a half an inch of extra screen real-estate, I really dont see a benefit in removing the trackpad. Not only does it give users an accurate pointing device, but it also doubles as a tactile selection button. Hovering over a link and clicking the trackpad assures me that Ive performed that operation with success. Ive used full touchscreen devices where not only do I mistap, but Ive also accidentally double tap because the phone would temporarily freeze up and I think the tap didnt register. This problem can be reduced by having a faster phone but the tactile feedback cannot be replicated by a full touch screen. Many virtual keyboards vibrate on keypress or make an audible click to simulate this tactile feedback but this in turn creates a new problem which is excessive battery drain.
Another thing people dont consider about using a full touch device is how often we shoot blind. Think about it. You usually tap the touchscreen with your big ol thumb and for a split second, your thumb is over the screen and you dont see what you are tapping. With a trackpad, you see a cursor as it moves across the screen so your big thumb does not block the screen and you can hove/click. Not to mention all the ads you avoid mis-tapping when you use a trackpad. I cant tell you how many ads I mistap on my tablet when all I wanted to do was scroll. Sometimes, using a touchscreen feels like navigating a minefield. Its so frustrating. So what do we really gain? Half an inch of screen real-estate and more touchscreen problems.
I know the decision has already been made and theres nothing we can do about it but that doesnt change my opinion that its a bad one. В It saddens me that in order for a company like RIM to sell a good device, they have to dumb it down to cater to all the hipsters with iDevices and Droids. I look at this like a slippery slope. First, they removed the second convenience key for no clear reason. Then, theyre removing the trackpad and all their button. Whats next? No hardware keyboard on a flagship device? So this has been my short rant. What do you think? Will you miss the trackpad? Is this a smart move?
RIM is no stranger to bad press. When the whole blogosphere is counting down the days until they die, you know something is wrong. Ive been using BlackBerry for a few years now. As much as I love the phone, there are lots of things about it that I cant stand. A brief history. my first real smart phone was an Android and I decided to try out BlackBerry. Ive used it for the past few years and although things have gone relatively smooth, there are still issue about this phone that bugs me. The browser sucks, the phone is slow to boot, I need to reboot after every app I install or remove, the app world sucks, and watching that spinning clock makes me want to throw the phone at my wall. Enough rambling, lets get this down on a nice list.
1. The Browser sucks!
2. Long Reboots
I dread seeing app updates available for my phone. You would think this is very convenient that you get a message in your inbox reminding you of app updates but what this really means is enduring another long reboot. My computer takes less than a minute to boot up, why does my phone take 11 minutes to boot up? Yes, Ive timed it. Even then, I still have to wait for the phone to become usable as the system hangs and verify security. Sometimes, I would wait for a bunch of updates to build up and install them all at once. Then I would reboot the device once instead of doing it each and every time I update an app. The long reboots are required for app updates, installations, and removals. The process reminds me of those long anti-virus/malware scans I used to endure when I was using Windows. I didnt miss it when I went to Linux and I wouldnt miss it if this hassle went away. On Android, when you install apps, you can use it right away without rebooting. Same for removing them. BB10 is supposed to unify the smart phone with the QNX PlayBook OS and you dont have to reboot after installing apps so until then, this is something that sucks about BlackBerry.
3. App World and App Selection
Lets face it. The App World sucks. Android and iOS have a larger library of apps compare to BlackBerry App World. They always seem to be talking about a milestone which is currently over 70k apps but I dont see them. Most of the apps on the App World are garbage. I came from Android and they are not immune to trash either but where are the good apps? Honestly, it doesnt matter to me how many apps are in xyz store. What I am looking for is quality apps. Im looking for Skype, Netflix, HuluPlus. You know, the big names. Too often I hear about a cool new app and they offer a mobile app. Download for iPhone or Android. Wheres BlackBerry? Is this necessarily a fault of RIM? Yes and no. While its not technically RIMs fault that people dont develop apps for the platform, us end users dont really care. We just want the apps. When we open the App World and cant find Skype, we dont think, Man, Skype should make an app for BlackBerry or the PlayBook. No. We think, Why isnt there any apps on BlackBerry App World? What is RIM doing about it? I hate the App World. If I hear about a cool new app, I can count that it wont be available on BlackBerry.
4. Stale Phones
Pretty much all BlackBerry smart phones aside from the Storm/Torch/Style are the same. Thats not necessarily a bad thing. RIM found a formula that works for them and the keyboard is iconic to the BlackBerry image. The problem with that is people are getting bored. They want something different. I believe what RIM is suffering from is happening to Apple. After years of the same thing, same style, and same phone, people will look for something new. It happened(is happening) to RIM and its happening to Apple. Just look at what people are saying about the iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S. I will say Apple is executing things a bit better than RIM. All their phones are good when they come out. RIM tends to spread themselves thin with lots of variations especially cheaper entry-level phones like the Curve. Dont get me wrong. I have the Curve and its a decent phone but I always have Bold envy when I see it. iPhone users enjoy having a great product because they know their phones were top of the line at one time. They are never treated as second class. Cheaper phones are good for market penetration in developing countries but I live in the US. I dont care about marketing strategies in India and Africa. Most iPhone users have a sense of pride when owning their phones. Once upon a time, BlackBerry users had this feeling too. Not anymore.
5. 1 Convenience Key?
It appears when they are moving in the right direction, you catch them taking one step backwards. One of those nice little perks about owning a BlackBerry was the convenience keys. On older BlackBerry phones, you had two, one on each side. One is usually automatically set up for the camera and the other is set up for voice commands(that sucks). You could set these convenience keys to quickly open up your favorite apps or in my case, turn on the flashlight for those time when I needed some light. Quick, convenient and cool. Tell me why in their infinite wisdom that they decided to remove 1 convenience key? Why? What was the point? Did people have too many keys to press? I can tell you from my experience that 1 in not enough. Its little things like these that piss off your users.
6. Poor Media
From my understanding, BlackBerry smart phones, in general, are not very good phones for media consumption. Now, I say from my understanding because when it comes to music, my Curve rocks. Maybe because my Curve has these sweet media keys at the top of the phone. I can play/pause, and seek tracks easily without having to open the music interface. These keys even work for Pandora radio. Every other BlackBerry do not have these media keys and navigating the media player can be a hassle. Not to mention if you want to view videos, youll have to settle with the usually small screens. This makes consuming any rich video media a pain like watching YouTube.
7. Small Screens
While Android and iPhone users get to enjoy their large touchscreens, BlackBerry users are still stuck using screens about half their size. There are some exceptions like the Torch line and the now dead Storm but for the most part, a small screen over a full QWERTY keyboard is what we get. Today, multimedia, web browsing, and gaming are big parts of what most use their smart phones for. Doing that on a screen half as large is twice as inconvenient. Its a general trend that most people prefer using a phone with a full size screen rather than a full size keyboard. The convenience of a larger screen outweighs the lack of a physical keyboard for the average consumer. This is especially true with the growing popularity of HD media. Smart phone trends say, small screens are out, large screens are in.
Android has gotten better over the years but there are still many things I dont like about it. To put it bluntly, I hate Android. I tried to support it and I actually liked it for a while. Over the years, I got tired of nearly everything about it. I have used Linux for a few years since Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and fell in love with the open source movement. Ive come to realize that all the hype about being open and portraying Apple and RIM as the evil closed platform was all a deception. Google Play(formerly Android Market) adds movie rentals, books, and music all in one convenient shop. The new market is not open source but a tightly controlled shop that Google aims to make big bucks with. No longer is it a simple library of applications but more like a Barnes and Nobles pushing its own products along with the usual selection. Its not just the changes to the market that I dont like. Theres a list(I love lists). Lets go through them.
I know everyone hates the idea of having to convert videos into the iPhone. Its time consuming and the end product isnt always flawless. From time to time your converted videos end up pixelated or even more bothersome: out of sync audio. So instead you look for an alternative means of viewing videos on the iPhone. I own the 64gb iPhone 4s so of course I had intensions in throwing tons of videos into it.В Which in the end became a downside for me because the iPhone would only accept MP4, H.264 and motion JPEG. Needless to say, only about one tenth of my library was actually supported by the iPhone. I decided to look for a few alternatives and I remember having the VLC player app for my iPod touch a while back. I suppose I have been living under the rock for quite some time now because that app was, sadly, removed from the App Store.В So I did some browsing and I found this app calling Goodplayer coming at 2.99. I was hesitant because it had an overall rating of 3 out of 5 stars on the Apple App store. But still, I was desperate so I invested 3 bucks into this app. And Im sure glad I did.
The interface itself is very simplistic. You arent greeted with any amazing artwork. From the main menu you have the option of viewing shared and local files. (You are also given the option to transfer media files through wifi if needed) And finally you have your settings menu where, I am actually surprised, you will find a ton of options.
The app is simple and easy. Just plug in your iPhone or iPod Touch into your computer and open up iTunes. From there click on Apps at the top. And once there you will see a box with a list of your apps. Click Goodplay. There you can simply drag and drop almost any video format into your iPhone/iPod touch without any problems.
Impressions and Quality
For the most part, the videos that I have uploaded consisted of files that were 720p mkv files.В I did not have any glitches and such with those files. However, I have noticed, with larger HD files, ones that range from 4-5gbs, the video at times, did get a little choppy. It typically happens when I am switching the movie from landscape to portrait. (or vise versa) All while I am playing the actual movie. It correct itself in a matter of seconds but it is something to consider.
As far as audio lag, again, there were no problems with 95 percent of my files. But those super large HD files did give the audio a split second lag every now and then. But no worries, in about 5 seconds it seems to correct itself. It does not happen often, but when it does happen, it gets annoying.
Here are two screen shots. The top being what I normally view. The bottom being one of those larger files that from time to time become pixelated.
The app is three dollars. Is it worth it? I would say if you were lucky enough to snag VLC while it was still out in the app store, this app would not be anything new. However, if your in my position, where you just want an app that is simple and works. Then 3 dollars isnt much to ask for. Is the app perfect? Of course not. Every now and then you will run into one of those mentioned bugs. But for the most part, the app gets the job done. Forget the process of converting videos and check out Goodplayer.
Goodplayer For iPhone and iPod Touch
An easier way to watch your favorite movies on your iPhone or iPod touch without the hassle of converting. Whether its an AVI or MKV file, this player gets the job done. But does this paid app work flawlessly?
Rating by Len Thou: 4.0 stars
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