Reviews

Nexus 5 review

After having used all of them and actually owning one (a Nexus S) for close to two years, I’m not exactly new to the world of Nexus phones. But in all these years I’ve never particularly been a fan of them. While I can understand the allure of stock Android for some, for me it was too much of a barebones experience that relied heavily on third party apps to make up for its many shortcomings. Otherwise known as iOS.

Nexus 5

But off late, Google has been doing some good things with Android and except for a few things it has managed to bring the base OS on par with what the Android OEMs have been doing, at least as far as the useful features are concerned. As such, when the time came to upgrade my trusty Galaxy S III (which, for all its flaws, I enjoyed using for well over a year), the Nexus 5 seemed like the most sensible option available at the moment. 

Reviews

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4

So finally got a chance to spend some time with the Galaxy S4 yesterday. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much since for all intents and purposes it is a Galaxy S III S/+/Advance/Whatever. But I was still fairly impressed by the device.

Let’s start with the design. The design sucks; there are no two ways about it. The Galaxy S III design has grown on me over time but it still looks meh. The S4 actually looks bit worse because of the crazy pattern Samsung has going on on the surface. The brushed metal finish on the S III looked way better in comparison. It’s still cheap looking, glossy plastic and feels cheap in your hands. The build quality is good, though. As in, it feels cheap but it doesn’t creak or flex in your hands and Samsung’s plastic is known to be durable.

The improvement in design comes from the flat sides, which makes the S4 easier to hold than the S III. The S III is fairly usable for such a large phone but the curved edges constantly slip from your hands. The sharper, flat sides of the S4 provide better grip and makes it one of the most ergonomic large screened phones I’ve used. Samsung also has a convenient key arrangement on the sides, which reduced unnecessary stretching of fingers.

The display looks fantastic. The higher resolution completely compensates for the PenTile matrix’s shortcomings and even after staring long and hard I couldn’t spot individual pixels, leave alone any sub-pixel irregularities. The panel is also an improvement over the S III’s. It’s brighter, the colors are more natural and does not have that greenish tint that plagues the S III’s display. There are also some color options that let you tone down the saturation levels further.

Compared to the One’s display, the S4’s display looks every bit as good. The colors are more saturated but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s a matter of preference and a lot of people prefer it that way (the way people prefer big bass over natural, uncolored sound). You can fall in love with either display and you won’t be wrong. I prefer the S4’s display, simply because it is bigger, without the phone itself being any bigger than the One.

The software on the S4 is ridiculous. I generally prefer Samsung’s customizations but they have gone way overboard this time. Sure, you can turn off everything but there are just so many things to turn off this time it’s frustrating. Just look at this image of the expanded notification screen to get an idea of some of the software features on the phone.

The software also looks ugly. I’m fairly used to TouchWiz now but the color combination still looks jarring and puerile compared to the simplicity of stock Android or even the new Sense 5. You get used to it after a while but I wished Samsung concentrated more on the design than simply adding more features. There is one nice touch, though. The lockscreen animation is fantastic. It’s a bit hard to explain and is best experienced first hand so make sure you check it out when you use the phone.

From the short time I spent with it I think on its own the S4 is a really good smartphone and if you ordered it or are going to get one then you made a fine choice. Between this and the One, it’s a matter of personal preference and you can’t go wrong with either. I’d go with the S4 because of the bigger screen, higher resolution camera (Yeah, you need those extra pixels. Fuck those who say megapixels don’t matter. They don’t know jack shit. Try taking crops from a 4 megapixel sensor and you’ll know what I mean.) and some useful software features among the sea of useless ones. But if hardware feel matters to you or if you need a phone with speakers louder than most laptops then the One is also an excellent choice.

As for upgrading from the S III? I wouldn’t recommend it. Being an S III owner myself, I was fairly impressed by the improvements on the S4. However, I don’t think they are big enough to warrant upgrading to this phone, especially not at the current price. Perhaps later down the year I might change my mind if the price drops significantly but if you have an S III and would want to hold on for the next year’s model I would say you’re making a sensible decision.

Opinion

Regarding opinions and apologies

So a few days ago Engadget wrote a post on the race to the bottom that has started happening in the smartphone and tablet market thanks to Amazon and now Google. The gist of it was that both these companies, who would (and have, in case of Google) otherwise struggled to sell their devices and make profit off the hardware, have decided to sell them at price, or in some cases at a loss, and instead rely on revenues through content sales to make money.

The problem with this model, as the article mentions, is that it would result in lower quality standards as manufacturers won’t consider innovating or spending much on the hardware if they know they are going to sell it at a rock bottom price. Moreover, it also screws over other companies who make a profit off selling the hardware, and makes people think just because they are not selling things extremely cheap they are ripping people off when it’s just a different way to make money, not worse.

Both of these were very valid points but were met with criticism from the Android-loving, Apple-hating crowd found in the comments section of any technology site these days. And apparently it was so bad that Engadget had to apologize for their article. Yes, apologize for having an opinion that not everyone agrees with.

Now there are usually three kinds of posts you write. There are the news stories where you have no business putting your opinion in. You present the facts as they happened and leave it to the readers to interpret it as they want. Then there are the reviews, which also mostly deal with the facts and numbers but there are also some opinions for things that cannot be quantified. And then there are opinion pieces, which are just that, your opinions.

Every person has their own opinion and the point of these opinion pieces is to get them across to the readers unchanged. You don’t sugarcoat it to make it appeal to a broader audience. Conversely, you don’t spice it up either to make it more sensational. If you do that it’s no longer your opinion. And if you have to apologize about you opinion, you probably don’t care much for it yourself. And if you don’t care about it, no one else will.

I’ve seen this trend recently where people write articles that are too safe, too neutral, where they are afraid to stand by their honest opinion to prevent offending people who would disagree with them. You will find articles where the author mentions something good about a product, only to pull it back with a minor complaint to not appear too excited about it. This is why I enjoy reading the writings of people such as Gruber or Siegler. You may disagree with what they say but at least they are honest and say what’s on their mind without giving half a fuck about what others might think. If you like something, say it. If you hate something, say it. No one likes the guy who tries to please everyone.

The apology has since been removed after both Gruber and Siegler posted about it. Hopefully, Engadget will continue to write sensible articles in future without apologizing for it making too much sense.

Opinion

If you’re importing the Nexus 4, here’s something you should consider

I believe I am a bit late in writing this but if you still haven’t pre-ordered your Nexus 4 there is something you need to consider.

Most gadgets launched these days have some technical issues in the first batch. These issues usually surface immediately in the first couple of weeks after the device goes on sale. The companies are usually quick to rectify them in the later batches and if you bought one from the earlier ones they will quickly replace them for you.

Except if you live miles away in a different continent.

Now I’m not saying the first batch of Nexus 4 will have hardware issues but if they do there is no way to know until the phone has been out in people’s hands for a while. If you were in the US, you could just send the device back for replacement. But what will you do if you imported the device? Wait for LG to sell the phone here in the hopes that they might be able to fix the problem?

Which is why I suggest you hold your horses for a month or so to see if there are any issues with the initial batch. If that is not the case and you don’t hear any major problems being reported then by all means go ahead with your purchase.

P.S. – I admit I did not think of this while I was trying to pre-order the device for myself earlier this week.