Friday, October 21, 2011

How Do Latest Nexus and DROID RAZR Stack Up in Pixel Density?

Wow! The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a beautiful screen. The Motorola DROID RAZR also sports a pretty looking display. I'm impressed, but there's one thing missing from their silly acronym: "+." Yes the Galaxy Nexus has a 720p (1280x720) "HD" people go nuts. But it's a Super AMOLED, no plus. The Samsung Galaxy SII may have a "measly" WVGA 800x480 resolution screen, but it has the plus. What's the dif? The 720p sounds fabulous on paper, but the perceived resolution will not quite match the pixel density they are hoping for, as it uses a Pentile Matrix arrangement of subpixels (RG-BG). Super AMOLED+ displays use a RGB-RGB arrangement typically seen in plasmas and LCDs. The RG-BG results in a resolution 2/3 of what is advertised.

Advertised resolution is 1280x720 with a pixel density of 316 ppi, but it will appear closer to 4.65" this is 258 ppi. It will most likely appear sharper than the AT&T Galaxy SII's (217 ppi), but not as much as hoped.

Below is a chart showing recent Smart Phone's ranked by their Pixel Density, their display tech, resolution, and screen size. Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S take the crown with 330 ppi on their small in comparison 3.5" display. Notice how much the perceived resolution drops the Nexus and DROID RAZR compared to their marketed resolution.

Screen Tech
Resolution Name
Screen Size
Pixel Density
Apple iPhone 4/4S
330 ppi
Galaxy Nexus
Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix)
1280x720 (marketed)
316 ppi (marketed)
Galaxy Nexus
Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix)
258 ppi (perceived)
Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix)
960x540 (marketed)
256 ppi (marketed)
HTC Sensation/EVO 3D/Atrix 2
256 ppi
Samsung Galaxy SII (AT&T)
217 ppi
Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix)
960x360 (perceived)
209 ppi (perceived)
Samsung Galaxy SII (Sprint, T-Mobile)
207 ppi

Why Pixel Density Matters
Ever had to zoom in on a web page because the text wasn't clear? Pixel Density increases sharpness when viewing text, photos, video...really anything on the screen. It makes text pop, your album art sizzle, and home-screen beautiful. This is why I love and hate tech advertising! It's a magical art to show off that a "new" tech is just so beautiful and shiny (heck Apple is a master at showing how awesome a shiny rock can be). The average consumer won't ever find out or care, but it's nerds like me that just gotta know why a screen has bad viewing angles or just doesn't quite have the great clarity as advertised.

If it's a Super Phone, why did Samsung go with a Pentile display?
Two words: Cost and Marketing. It's cheaper to go with the Pentile Matrix AMOLED display for this screen size and density. At that lower cost, they can market the display as being "720p HD." That's huge in marketing! The first 720p HD display on a smart phone!? Wow! While it is a pretty sneaky advertising move, the screen will still be gorgeous, and you will love this phone, regardless.

Will you be rushing out to get the Galaxy Nexus?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Ecosystem Analogy

One of my readers said, "Why would you stick with Apple? Motorola and Samsung have recently released some great devices."

Well, dear reader, besides the reasons listed under Why I Stay an Apple fan, I answer with an insightful analogy:

Recently, I was going to switch checking accounts from bank A to bank B with a higher interest rate. I found out I had to pay a monthly fee for online billpay, so the extra interest earned was negligible. Coupled with having to move over all my "payees" and re-setup autopay and direct deposit, I wasn't convinced to switch. Now, had I been a member of bank B all along, I would probably be perfectly happy, but bank B didn't give me reason enough to leave bank A.

For me, bank A is Apple, bank B is Android/WP7/etc.

(   By the way, just kidding...........I don't have any readers.  :-P   )

Galaxy Nexus and Android Ice Cream Sandwich Unveiling

Powerful, sleek, and the first Android device to run Ice Cream Sandwich.
The video plugin in Firefox crashed on my laptop, so I didn't get to view some of the last features. I rebooted the browser and reloaded the video to catch the middle of the Android "Beam" demo. Hey it actually worked!

For the most part, it was an interesting content. Some Vice President gets on the stage and brought his D game at best in presenting the device's makeup. Speed, Screen, Design, and OS. I fell asleep in the middle of Speed, and woke up to some words about the screen.

Yawn...We get it, it's fast...Just like every other device that has come out in the last 6 months. Is this one faster? Probably not anything noticeable. Let's just say it'll at least keep up, if not surpass by a smidge the leading Galaxy SII. It's nothing leaps and bounds advanced, though. And another thing...................Wha? Oh sorry...just woke up.

I'm impressed with the screen, but there's one thing it was missing in its absurd acronym: "+." Yes it's a 720p (1280x720) "HD" people go nuts. But it's a Super AMOLED, no plus. The Samsung Galaxy SII may have a "measly" WVGA 800x480 resolution screen, but it has the plus. What's the dif? The 720p sounds fabulous on paper, but the perceived resolution will not quite match the pixel density they are hoping for, as it uses a pentile arrangement of subpixels (RGBG) resulting in a resolution 3/4 of what is advertised. So, where they advertise a pixel density of 316 ppi, it may appear closer to 4.65" this is 273.5 ppi. It will most likely appear a little sharper than the GSII's, but not much. We shall see.

It looks great. The phone has a barometer. The phone has a nice, curved design.........Hey sleepy guy! Did you just say Barometer? That's cool, what's it do? Oh, you skipped right over that one huh. Well I shall enlighten. This is actually a pretty sweet feature, potentially. It tells you the barometric pressure where you are....right now. Not using GPS and the internet....just the barometer! Don't you see? Picture every person with a smartphone with a barometer. This could potentially take pressure readings at precise locations and predict weather that much more accurately. Some serious stuff.

The meat of the presentation. The UI looks pretty. I gotta say I love the social network integration that exists throughout Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) (ridiculous name). The lock screen has some interesting features, including "revolutionary" facial recognition to unlock. Demo time..."You'll see that Billy Bob can't unlock my phone because his mug is not mine. Now if I smile for 10 minutes at the camera it will...un....lock. really gonna do this to me?" It didn't unlock. Hopefully Google figures that one out before launch.

Google has taken strides in making the entire OS cohesive with similar gestures found throughout. Nothing too new in the browser. Mail shows more "people" apps integration. Their "Beam" function with NFC is pretty neat, if not a little gimmicky...A buddy is playing Minecraft, you say, "I wanna get that game!"...Your buddy butts up his phone against yours, beams it to you're in the Market place ready to download the app. Cool. However, I think NFC will bring about a lot of new and interesting functions that no one has even thought of yet.

Overall, the presentation lacked that flair that the late great Steve Jobs possessed during grand unveilings such as this. It needed that, actually. This phone and OS are supposed to be a big deal. At least, Google wants it to be a big deal.

These questions remain:
  • How much for the device?
  • How much flash storage on the device?
  • Available in November.....well when exactly? November is 2 weeks away.
  • Which carriers will house this Galaxy Nexus?
    • They mentioned LTE and HSPA+ connectivity, so Verizon and AT&T?
  • Perhaps on the minds of 1,000's of Android users...When will my device (if ever) get ICS?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Increase Story Readability in your Web Browser

Safari Reader in iOS 5
The new Safari Reader feature for iOS5 inspired me to get the Readability and Blank your Monitor and Easy Reading add-ons for Firefox. You'll never read stories the same on the web.

What Readability add-on does
Example of a story before formatting:

Unformatted story

Story after hitting Ctrl+Alt+R to format it:

Formatted story
What Blank Your Monitor add-on does
Formatted story after hitting Ctrl+Alt+B:

Formatted story with colors inverted

As you can see, these add-ons make it easy to read your story, removing ads and other content from the screen. Simply hit Ctrl+Alt+B to toggle invert colors, and Ctrl+R to reload the unformatted story. Though inverting the colors may not be for everyone, it is interesting to try. Try them out today!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How do you make iTunes Match even better? iTunes Unlimited

iTunes Match is pretty cool: $25/yr allows you to match your songs to iTunes library and keep them in iCloud at 256kbps AAC DRM-free quality. Any song that doesn't match gets uploaded to iCloud. You can then stream (yes, stream) or download your songs to sync any iDevice or PC/Mac. Translation? I can upgrade all my crappy 10-year-old CD rips and albums from "friends" into high-quality 256kbps AAC songs! That is huge, and to have easy access to all 9,000 of them anywhere I go is icing on the cake.

That's great, but how do you make the world's largest library of songs even better?

First, a little perspective
Services like Spotify and Rdio are great models...charge $10/mo to share music "likes" with your friends, discover new music, listen to new albums, save playlists, and download to your phone to listen offline. There's 1 major thing they don't have...the massive library of iTunes.

iTunes is massive. Huge. How big? Over 20million songs exist in their library. Sure it's nice to download an album for $9.99. How often do you do this? Once a month? Twice a month? A couple times a year? My guess is on average once or twice every two months.

A Better Way: iTunes Unlimited (not real, just my idea)
How about another option: iTunes Unlimited. Rather than $25/yr for Match, how about $99/yr for the services of Match plus the ability to stream as many songs/albums/playlists as you like? Now, I don't think Apple would just let you download any song in iTunes to keep forever, but do you really need to for your 24/7 internet-connected PC and AppleTV? You just need the ability to stream to your PC or AppleTV. But our iDevices aren't always connected to a network. How about another option. We all like about:
  • $99/yr tier ($8.25/mo) - 30 offline song downloads to iDevices per month
  • $119/yr tier ($9.92/mo) - 50 songs/mo
  • $149/yr tier ($12.42/mo) - unlimited
Of course these tiers would each include unlimited streaming to your devices. You could share your favorite songs with your friends in iTunes, and maybe Apple can actually make their Ping service usable. All while keeping playlists synced across devices.

Apple...make this happen!
If Apple implemented this, they would have a killer service that would be far superior to any cloud storage service (e.g., Amazon Cloud Player, Music Beta by Google) and social music discovery service (e.g., Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Slacker) combined.

All these tiers/prices/limits variables are off the top of my head, but it sure seems logical for Apple to pull something like this off. $10/mo seems reasonable and competitive for Apple to charge for such a killer service. They could even split the services if you don't want both: $25/yr for iTunes Match, $85/yr for iTunes Unlimited. Then provide a discount of $99/yr for both.

Would you buy into such a service? Please share this blog with your friends!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

iPhone 4S Announcement Reaction

The latest iPhone 4S announcement leaves me feeling funny inside...not haha funny, but weird funny. Here's why:

iPhone 4S highlights
  • A5 dual-core processor - Faster app loading, web page rendering, handles higher graphic requirements in apps, allows 1080p video capture
  • 8MP still/1080p video camera - Will take amazing shots and video I'm sure, as the iPhone 4 already takes great pics/video (albeit 5MP/720p).
  • World phone - Has both GSM/CDMA radios built in. It will be released 10/14 on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Capable of double the download speed of iPhone 4.
  • 16GB, 32GB, 64GB - $199, $299, $399 respectively
  • AirPlay mirroring - Mirror anything on your screen to your AppleTV. You can mirror web pages, home screen, games, anything...not just videos and music anymore.
  • Assistant - The iPhone 4S killer feature. Ask it to "Reply to John, I'll be late," "Find Italian restaurants," or "How many steps does the Empire State Building have?" Uses your natural language to answer appropriately, and learns over time. It will also support dictation as an option to keyboard input (as Android users have gotten accustomed to for some time).

Victim of Hype
Part of me just wanted something crazy to happen announcement of an iPhone 5, a rabbit to pop out of the phone...anything. I really wanted Apple to increase the display to the edge. They didn't even have to change the rest of the design, but make the display 3.7" to 4". Maybe throw in a touch sensitive button for some silly swipe gestures. SOMETHING! I like that this is still a nice upgrade, but part of me feels cheated. Google is coming out with their next Nexus phone in the coming months to go toe-to-toe with this iPhone. It's rumored to have a 720x1280 resolution display (iPhone 4/4S = 640x960).

Why I Stay an Apple fan:
  • Build quality - Apple makes some of the prettiest, solid phones. One year later, my phone still looks brand new.
  • Apple's ecosystem - The iPhone 4S works flawlessly streaming through AirPlay to AppleTV and iTunes. My entire music collection is on my home server, syncing every night to my phone updating playlists/counts/ratings and is playable throughout the house and wherever I go. If you don't like using iTunes, you can still drag/drop music/videos to the device with SharePod. I hate to say it, but everything in this environment "just works."
  • Backwards compatibility - The new phone is still compatible with my excellent Bose stereo dock and any iPhone accessories (e.g., workout armband, external backup battery, car charger).
  • Battery life - The battery management of iOS has been brain-off awesome. I don't have to mess with task killers or worry if my battery is going to last the whole day.
  • Apple customer service - Have an issue with your phone or accessories? Come in to the Apple Store, and leave in minutes with your problems solved quickly. The AppleCare+ is a great warranty; $99 one-time fee covers your phone's manufacturing and accessories for 2yrs. It also adds 2 occurrences of accidental damage coverage...drop your phone in the toilet, crack it by throwing it off a building, and you get it repaired/replaced for max $49. So, you would pay $197 total to replace your phone twice, plus still have your battery, screen, and accessories covered for 2yrs.
  • Resale value - Selling your old iDevice still gets you a pretty penny, and should at least net you enough coin to upgrade to the newest phone.
  • High App Quality - With over 40,000 apps in the App Store, you're bound to find something you like. And with Apple vetting each one before it's available for download, you know that it's malware free. I'm partial to Remote (control iTunes library and AppleTV from iPhone), Early Bird (game), ShopShop (grocery list), Evernote (notes), and Nike+ GPS (run mapper).
  • iCloud services - The brain-off simplicity (and free-ness) of Over-the-Air updates and daily syncing photos/music/documents with iCloud is huge. I'm going to specifically love iTunes Match; Having many 10yr old crummy CD rips, I can now get these in 256kbps AAC quality and access all 9,000 of them anywhere I go for just $25/yr.
  • Jailbreak - Freeing iOS gives me the ability to advance to my next song by holding my volume button (great when driving), theme my phone, double-tap the time on the lockscreen to go directly to the phone app, send a text by tapping the volume button, and many more customizations. Jailbreaking is the icing on the cake to the rest of the above.

All the above are things I really value about the iPhone experience. I think part of me writing the above is to remind me why I am happy with Apple's iPhone. They are things I would miss if I left to get an Android or Windows Phone. The iPhone is not just about software, display size, or hardware in general, it's about the services and ecosystem that really keep me an Apple fan. Is the 4S enough to make me upgrade? How much will you pay for my iPhone 4?

- If you don't own a smart phone, is the 4S your next phone?
- If you own an iPhone, is the 4S enough to make you upgrade?
- If you have an Android/Windows Phone, is the 4S enough to make you switch?