Summer 2013 Phone Thoughts

moto-x

I’m start­ing my new job in sev­eral weeks, and I recently had to make a deci­sion about a work phone.  As a gad­get geek I took this deci­sion pretty seri­ously and gave it many hours of thought.  I’ve made my pick, but instead of let­ting all that work fade into the ether, I thought it would be use­ful to record it here for oth­ers who might be in a sim­i­lar posi­tion.

There were three basic deci­sions involved:

(1) Keep a sep­a­rate per­sonal plan/​phone or merge it into the firm plan?

(2) iPhone or Android?

(3) If Android, which phone?

My thoughts and answers to each of these ques­tions are found after the jump.  (TL;DR: I picked the Moto X).

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Reviewing Google TV & Thoughts on the Internet+TV Space

Got mah Google TV box

My par­ents received a Google TV (the Sony ver­sion) for Christ­mas.  Being the vis­it­ing technophile, I was tasked with set­ting up the device and teach­ing my par­ents how to work it.  I had pre­vi­ously set up the exact same device for my room­mates over the sum­mer in San Fran­cisco, so I was famil­iar with the set-up and the device itself.  This post is a brief review of the set-up process, fol­lowed by my thoughts on the con­cept of Google TV and sim­i­lar sys­tems.

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In Praise of Feedly

The holy grail of the infor­ma­tion junkie is the per­fect Google Reader client.  The idea is that you use Google Reader as your hub for sub­scrip­tions and cat­e­gory man­age­ment, but you use an entirely dif­fer­ent web­site to actu­ally con­sume that con­tent. (Some clients also take advan­tage of the Reader API to let you sub­scribe and orga­nize in their inter­face).

Google Reader used to be pretty good on its own, but it’s a bit spar­tan — espe­cially after its recent visual… er… refresh.  Most clients took the Google Reader orga­ni­za­tional model and just pret­ti­fied it.  With the advent of iPad apps like Flip­board, how­ever, the trend has been to try to merge the util­i­tar­ian advan­tages of the Google Reader orga­ni­za­tional model with the mag­a­zine-style pret­ti­ness and delight of Flip­board.

I have tried many dif­fer­ent Google Reader clients over the years, but I’ve recently set­tled on one that really shines: Feedly.  In a clean-but-not-too-clean inter­face, Feedly strikes the right bal­ance between a beau­ti­ful expe­ri­ence and seri­ous infor­ma­tion con­sump­tion tool.  “My Feedly” is your front page that pulls the most inter­est­ing or pop­u­lar arti­cles to your atten­tion right when you log in.  Once you’ve read or scanned those, you can click the check mark on the right side of the screen to mark that page as read, and then either refresh or move to a new sec­tion.  The sec­tions cor­re­spond to your Google Reader sub­scrip­tion cat­e­gories.

Feedly also pro­vides a series of wid­gets across the site that are actu­ally use­ful.  For exam­ple, on the home page are a list of “Fea­tured Sources” from your sub­scrip­tions (which you can cus­tomize) if you want to jump to a spe­cific feed.  An “Essen­tials” wid­get pro­vides a list of curated sec­tions that you can sub­scribe to, like Gar­den­ing, Android, and Cin­ema.  Feedly also hooks into your Twit­ter and Face­book feeds to scoop out most-liked or ‑tweeted arti­cles.  In fact, there is a very basic inter­face to post Tweets directly from Feedly if you want.  Stock quotes are also pulled in.

Although the default view for any given sec­tion is the mag­a­zine lay­out (see first screen­shot), there are five other views to choose from: time­line, titles only, mosaic, cards, and full arti­cles.  Feedly retains Google Read­er’s abil­ity to mark as read only those arti­cles older than a day or a week.  And there is a really excel­lent sub­scrip­tion man­age­ment sys­tem that lets you eas­ily sub­scribe, cat­e­go­rize, and drag-drop feeds between cat­e­gories.

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Opening Thoughts on Google+

While I did see early ver­sions of Google+ at the end of my tenure at Google, almost every­thing I remem­ber (which actu­ally isn’t a lot — it was on tight lock­down even then) has changed and/​or grown beyond recog­ni­tion.  I don’t have much of any­thing new to add to what has been dis­cov­ered or shared, and frankly the best way to under­stand what Google+ is and does is to sign up and use it your­self.

Still, I will take a lit­tle space to describe why I like the ser­vice, and why I think it will take over more and more of my online social band­width in the com­ing months.  I’ll also point a few things I think could use improve­ment.

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One More Thing*

Apple launched iCloud yes­ter­day, which includes the “iTunes in the Cloud” ser­vice.  Apple is com­par­ing this to Ama­zon and Google’s cloud music offer­ings (see above chart pulled from Apple​.com).  PCMag has a more detailed com­par­i­son chart.

When you duck out­side the warmth of the real­ity-dis­tor­tion field, you real­ize that Apple is offer­ing a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent type of ser­vice than Ama­zon and Google.  It’s a lit­tle mis­lead­ing to com­pare them on only the fac­tors Apple has detailed above.

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