Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Pixel C is meant to be experimental

The Pixel C, on many dedicated technology websites, is being compared to the iPad Pro and Microsoft's Surface range of devices. First, as posted before, it is a mistake to compare the iPad Pro to the Surface devices. Similarly, it would be a mistake to compare the Pixel C to either the iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro. A docked tablet, for enhanced productivity, is nothing new and I don't believe Google intends this to be something different, in that way (docked Android tablets was first made mainstream with the Asus Transformer range). Nevertheless, it can be stated, that the metallic keyboard dock released by Google is genuinely its own product, compared to other manufacturers.

The Pixel C is part of Google's Pixel range, in which full ownership is taken for hardware and software. The Nexus range of products, on the other hand, are partnerships with other manufacturers, with Google taking ownership of the operating system. There is also a difference in purpose - the Pixel devices are more experimental, while the Nexus ones are more finished consumer products. Further, Ron Amadeo, at Ars Technica, may be correct in his speculation that this may have been an experimental Chrome OS convertible device; however, where he goes wrong is to point to the mismatch between hardware and operating system features to then buttress his speculation. I believe this mismatch is intentional and is consistent with what Google aims to showcase with the Pixel products. In other words, the Pixel range is meant to show the potentials of Android and Chrome OS, as is the case with the Chromebook Pixel - the Pixel C is just another example. Further, there appears to be a design in the the current mismatch; for example, from aspect ratio to four microphones, the idea is to future proof upcoming features such as enhanced voice recognition to split screen multi-tasking.

To sum, this isn't meant to be a productivity device compared to Apple's iPad Pro (Apple explicitly markets the iPad Pro as a possible laptop replacement) but is part of Google's attempt to develop both hardware and software, in-tandem, with the Pixel range being an experimental showcase for Android's future direction. Even with this experimental ethos, it can still be argued that the Pixel C, at this moment, is the best Android tablet out there and one that will only get better with future updates

Monday, 7 December 2015

Amazon Fire firmware update & Fire HD8 Reader's Edition

Amazon updated Fire OS 5, with some extra features. The highlight is 'blue shade', which, in the words of Amazon, is meant to minimize blue light, reduce eye strain and provides low-brightness for reading in darker rooms (there are applications that offer something similar e.g. Twilight and f.lux). The feature is based on a study by the Harvard Health Publication and works to intelligently adjust the colour filtering to suppress the blue light:
Recent studies by the Harvard Health Publication have shown that evening exposure to blue light from electronic screens can suppress our bodies’ production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone. A lack of melatonin can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep, which in turn can delay REM sleep and reduce alertness the following morning. Blue Shade gives you the option to fine-tune the color settings, with the device intelligently adjusting the color filtering so that at any color or brightness, the blue wavelength light is always suppressed.
A nice perk, with the update, is open access to Washington Post content for six months (the newspaper is owned by Amazon). The interface of the newspaper is intuitive - articles are navigated by swiping to the right and swiping to the left provides access the contents menu.

Finally, there is the introduction of the Fire HD8 Reader's Edition (currently only in the US). This is a bundled version of the tablet with a year subscription to Kindle Unlimited and a 'limited edition' brown rustic leather case. I think a bundle like this works better with a Kindle e-reader, while Amazon Prime, would be the better option with a Fire tablet. Kindle Unlimited, itself, is restricted in terms of choice and it would probably be a better idea to use the cost of a Kindle Unlimited subscription to select specific books that you actually wish to read from the Kindle store (only a small fraction of books in the store are available via Kindle Unlimited). In terms of the Fire HD8, then it is not a bad tablet but there are better options for its mid-range price. Amazon can be hit and miss with both their hardware and pricing; at the moment, the Kindle Paperwhite, basic Kindle, Fire HD6, Fire 7 and Fire TV Stick, are the best options for both hardware and value.