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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nexus 6P v. Pixel XL: Is It Worth the Upgrade?


I have been a Verizon customer for many years. The past year I've been using the Nexus 6P which I bought on Amazon. I've been very happy with the 6P.  I have no complaints and was not looking for an upgrade. But about a month ago I stopped at the Verizon store and checked out the Pixel XL. Verizon had a deal going which would only cost me about $10 a month so I decided to give it a shot and try out the Pixel XL. I have 14 days to return the phone and pay a small restocking fee so I decided to give it a try. I received the phone yesterday and activated it. I want to give my readers my initial impressions of the Pixel XL and discuss whether 6P owners should upgrade to the Pixel XL. Here's my initial impressions:

Set Up Is a Breeze

As a long time Android user I can tell you that Google has been making strides in coming up with a seamless and effortless way to transition into a new phone. In the early days of Android you had to manually download your apps and manually input your accounts and settings to set up your new phone. Then Google began restoring apps automatically from the cloud but you still had to manually set up your accounts and your settings.  The setup process for the Pixel XL has improved the Android experience once again. The phone comes with an adapter that allows you to connect your old phone with your new Pixel XL and easily transfer the apps, the accounts and settings from your old phone to your new phone. From my experience the process was not 100% successful. While all of the apps, with the exception of one or two, were automatically installed on the new phone, more of the settings were not successfully transferred. I found myself having to sign in on a couple of apps, but this was not a serious problem.  While not 100% successful it was sufficiently good enough that it did speed up the process and make it much easier to transition into a new phone. Android has made incredible strides when it comes to transferring apps and the data from your old phone to a new phone. The experience was positive and I have to give Google credit for really streamlining the process and making it very easy for me to set up the new Pixel.

Physical Appearance


My initial impression was that the 6P and the Pixel XL are the same size. But the more I look at the phones, especially side-by-side, the 6P is noticeably larger than the Pixel XL. While not much bigger, the more you look at the Pixel XL, the more you realize that the 6P is a larger phone. I don't know what impact that will have on my impressions of the phone. I say that because when I got the 6P I was coming from a 2014 Moto X. For the first couple of weeks the 6P felt very uncomfortable with its larger size. I was worried that the 6P was too big. But after a few weeks, I got used to it and learned to like the size of the 6P. In my first 24 hours with the Pixel XL, I find myself wondering whether the size of the phone will be a problem. Thinking that it may be too small. I'm thinking that I need to get used to it like I did the 6P. So my judgement about the size of the 6P has to wait.

Overall, I prefer the appearance of the 6P.  The Pixel XL is not a very attractive phone. The plastic and glass back doesn't do anything for me. The metal backing on the 6P is more attractive to me and makes the phone seem more substantial and premium in spite of the price difference. While both phones are slippery, the Pixel XL seems to be a little more slippery than the 6P. Both phones require a case. Not only does that improve the grip of the phone but it protects them from being damaged if dropped.

Overall the 6P wins in physical appearance.  But that is probably more of a personal preference.

Performance

The Pixel XL performs better than the 6P. There is no doubt that the Pixel XL is slightly faster and than the 6P. Having said that I am not putting down the 6P at all. While the difference in the performance of the phones is noticeable, the Pixel XL is only slightly better than the 6P. The display on the Pixel XL is better than the display on the 6P. This may be one of the biggest differences in the phones.  It is crisp and clearer than the 6P. The blue colors used in the system settings on the Pixel XL are an improvement over the dull green colors on the 6P. The display on the Pixel XL is brighter and more pleasing to the eye. But that should be expected considering that the Pixel XL is much more expensive than the 6P and about a year newer.

So when it comes to performance, the Pixel XL wins.

Battery Life

Since I've only had the Pixel XL for about 24 hours, it would be unfair for me to render a final judgment when it comes to battery life. But I do want to point out that I never had any battery issues with my 6P. My 6P would never run out of battery life but it would never make it through an entire day without a charge either. In the short time that I have had with the Pixel XL I haven't noticed any drastic improvement in  battery life over the 6P. If anything, the battery life on the Pixel XL may not be quite as good as the 6P. But then again, it may just take a little bit of time for the Pixel XL to settle in and give me a better idea of the performance of the battery.  It wouldn't be fair to the Pixel to render judgment on it's battery life this early.

So at this time, no judgement on the battery life.

Camera

We've been hearing that the camera on the Pixel XL maybe the best camera ever on a smartphone. This may be true. The pictures taken by the Pixel XL are outstanding. They are very clear and look great. A definite improvement over the pictures taken by the 6P. Just take a look at the pictures taken at the top of this post.  The photo of the 6P was taken by the Pixel XL while the photo of the Pixel XL was taken by the 6P.  You can clearly see which picture is better. But the biggest advantage that the Pixel XL could have over the 6P is the ability to save all of the photos taken on the Pixel XL to Google Photos in high resolution for free. Any pictures taken on the Pixel XL will be saved to Google Photos in high resolution. Any space taken on Google Photos will not count towards your Google Drive storage limit. That is a big deal for people that take lots of pictures. For many customers, this may be a big enough advantage that will make upgrading to a Pixel XL a no-brainer. For me, it may not be that big of a deal because I don't take lots of pictures. But I will acknowledge that this is a huge advantage that the Pixel XL has over the 6P. Like battery life I don't think it would be fair for me to render a final judgment on the Pixel XL camera until I spend a little bit more time playing with the phone. But regardless of what happens, there is no doubt that the Pixel XL camera is a big improvement over the 6P. The unlimited Google Photos storage in high resolution and the speed of the camera alone are enough to give the Pixel XL the edge over the 6P. Taking pictures is a snap. You tap on that button to take a picture and it's almost instantaneous!

So while it's a little early to render a final judgment on the camera, I am confident in saying that the Pixel XL camera is a big Improvement over the 6P.

Software

The biggest advantage to owning a Google phone, whether it's a Nexus or the Pixel, is that your phone will be upgraded to the latest and greatest version of Android first.  That's true for both the 6P and the Pixel XL. Both are running Android 7.1.1. But while both phones are running the same version of Android, the Pixel XL has a few features that are not available on the 6P. First of all, when you first set up the phone you are notified you can set up Wi-Fi Calling. This is something that you cannot do on the 6P. I don't know if this will make a difference for me but knowing that if I am somewhere where I cannot get a signal to make a phone call but have access to Wi-Fi that I will be able to make a phone call is a good thing.  It's better to have the ability to do this than it is to not have the ability to do so.   HD Voice is also available on the Pixel XL. I don't know if this feature is available exclusively to the Pixel XL or if this is just a feature that Verizon offers on all new phones. I haven't made enough phone calls to decide whether this is a big deal, but just like the Wi-Fi calling, I would think that it's better to have this feature than to not have it.

I've been hearing that the Verizon version of the Pixel will not be upgraded as quickly as the Google Store version of the Pixel. I can assure you that that is not the case. As soon as I turned on my Pixel XL yesterday, I was notified that a system update was available. I downloaded and installed that update. That update was the January security update to 7.1.1. My 6P has yet to receive that update. So it looks like the Verizon version of the Pixel XL will be updated by Google without delay

The biggest software feature that the Pixel XL has over the 6P is Google Assistant. It looks like Google Assistant is Google's answer to Apple's Siri. It basically gives you the ability to control the phone with your voice.  Setting it up is really simple. It takes a minute or 2 to train Google Assistant to recognize your voice and a simple command of "Ok Google" wakes your phone and gives you the ability to do pretty much anything you want by just using your voice. I was able to send a text message using my voice from beginning to end flawlessly. It's going to take a little bit more experimenting with Google Assistant for me too render a final judgement but the little I've seen of Google Assistant is very promising.  My understanding is that Google intends to add more features to Google Assistant as time goes by.

The additional software features available on the Pixel XL gives the Pixel XL a clear software advantage over the Nexus 6P.

Conclusion

After reading my initial review you would think that the Pixel XL is a hands-down winner over the Nexus 6P. I don't think that I am ready to make that conclusion. While the Pixel XL is an improvement over the 6P, the improvements are not drastically better than the 6P. The advantages that the Pixel XL has over the 6P are slight differences. I'm a little concerned about some of the things that the Pixel XL is missing. For one thing, since the Pixel XL is priced among the high-end phones it should have more premium features. One feature that the Pixel XL should have is wireless charging. I know that wireless charging has not taken off like we initially thought it would but at this price point the Pixel XL should have this feature. While not essential it would help make the phone a little more useful. Another feature the Pixel XL should have is dual speakers. The 6P has a speaker at the top and bottom of the phone. The Pixel XL has 2 speakers at the very bottom of the phone. At this price point, the Pixel XL should do a better job with the speakers.

So at this point I am not ready to make a final recommendation as to whether it's worth upgrading from a 6P to a Pixel. If I absolutely had to make a recommendation right now I would probably recommend not upgrading to a Pixel XL. The differences between the 6P and the Pixel XL are just not quite big enough and the missing features from the Pixel XL tip the scales in favor of sticking with the 6P. It may be better to wait for the next version of the Pixel to upgrade from the 6P. Based on Google's track record, the next Pixel should be out in about 9 or 10 months.

It will be interesting to see if my opinion changes in the next 2 weeks.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How to Force Update to Your Moto 360

Last week, Motorola issued an update for the Moto 360 smartwatch.  The update takes the software version up to 4.4W.2 and includes many updates and improvements.  The update will be rolling out in phases to all Moto 360 watches over time.  But if you are impatient like me, here's a method you can try to force an update to your phone.

What Does 4.4W.2 Update?  First, let's see what this update does.  According to Motorola, the 4.4W.2 update makes the following improvements:

-Smart Battery Saving - When your battery hits 15%, your Moto 360 will turn off ambient mode, so you don't have to remember to.

-Timely Time Checks - Moto 360 will synchronize the time with your phone more often to make sure it up to the minute.

-User Interface Tweaks - We observed with customers that there are many times where you want to use your Moto 360 as truly a classic watch-a beautiful way to see the time.  A new gesture now lets you see the full watch face without permanently dismissing a notification.  Just touch the top of a notification and swipe down.  You'll see the notification again when you have another high priority notification.

-Mood Lighting - Moto 360 will adjust to the lighting of the room while charging, so that it isn't too bright or too dark.

-Readying the wires for Bluetooth - There are a couple of under-the-head enhancements that will pave the way for connecting Bluetooth headsets to the watch.

-Bug Squashing - As usual, bugs are squashed to enhance the overall user experience.

How to Force an Update.

Here's how I was able to force the update to be pushed to my Moto 360.  While I cannot guarantee that this will work for everyone, it did work for me.

1.  Unpair Your 360 From Your Phone - To do this go to "Settings" on your phone.  Go to "Bluetooth," find your Moto 360, click on the arrows to the right and choose "unpair."  From what I can tell, this step is key to forcing the update.

2.  Uninstall Android Wear - Go to "Settings" on your phone, then go to "Apps" and find "Android Wear."  Then just "Uninstall" Android Wear.

3. Reset Watch - Go back to your watch and go to "Settings."  Choose "Reset" and go through the process of re-pairing your watch to your phone.  

4.  Install Wear - When your watch prompts you to Install Android Wear on your phone, make sure you do that and pair your Moto 360 to your phone.  It may take a while for this process to complete so be patient.

5.  Check For Update - Once the pairing is complete, go back to your phone's "Settings," go to "About," and click on "System updates."  

That's it.  It may take a few minutes to do this but this should force the update to be pushed to your watch.  Let me know if this works for you.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How To Update Extensions on Chrome

Yesterday I had to update an extension on my Chrome browser.  I have a Moto X cell phone and Motorola posted an update to the Motorola Connect app on my phone.  The Motorola Connect app is a very handy feature for Motorola users only. It allows you to download an extension to your Chrome browser so that you can share your text messages on your phone with your computer and a list of your call history. You can send and receive text messages from your Chrome browser. The update refreshes the UI on the phone and the browser app and adds the ability to ring your phone from the browser extension.  This new ring your phone feature is handy if you misplaced your phone.  But in order to take advantage of the updates, you have to update the extension on your Chrome browser.  To do so is very simple.  Here's what you need to do:

-Go to the "settings" tab.
-On the left side click on "extensions."
-On the top click the box next to "Developer Mode."
-Below Developer Mode click on "Update extensions now."

That's it. Now all of your extensions are updated automatically and you are assured of having the most up to date extensions on your Chrome browser.

Hope this is helpful.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Set Up K9 Mail on Android Phone

If you are like me and have several email accounts, being able to unify all your incoming emails into one unified inbox makes life just a little easier.  For the past several months I have been using the Mail app from Dropbox.  I am pretty satisfied with the app and have very few complaints.  The UI of the app is a little boring, but the app is very stable and reliable. I decided to give the K9 app a try to see if it does a better job for me.  I noticed that the UI is a little nicer than the Mail UI.  Another difference between the two is that it's a little harder to add email accounts to the K9 app than it is with the Mail app.  If you are using the Mail app just add the user name and password.  With K9, if you are using a regular gmail account then you will encounter no problems.  Just type in your user name and password and the app will automatically set up your account.  But if you are like me, and have an email account associated with a paid Google Apps account, you will run into problems.  Simply including your user name and password will not work.  You have to manually configure the details in order to get the app to sync your Apps email account.  Here's what you have to do:

1.  Install the K9 app from the Google Play Store;

2.  Open the K9 app and manually set up your personal email account as the default account by simply         adding your personal email account details;

3.  Now you can add your Google Apps email account.  Start by clicking the "+" button.  Type in your full email address and password. Click "next" and choose "IMAP."  

4.  This is where it gets tricky.  Here's what you should change the settings to.

     Incoming server settings     
     Username:        Name@(Your Domain).com
     Password:        Make sure password is correct
     IMAP Server:  imap.gmail.com
     Security:          SSL/TLS (always)  
     Authentication: Plain
     Port:                993

     Outgoing server settings
     SMTP server: smtp.gmail.com
     Security:         STARTTLS (always)
     Port:               587

5.  Click next and set up your individual preferences.

And that's it.  Obviously, I only talked about Gmail accounts.  I only use Gmail accounts.  I have a couple of old Hotmail accounts and a Yahoo email account that I have synced with my personal Gmail account. I no longer use my Hotmail or Yahoo email account so I have not tried to set up those accounts on K9 so I don't know if you can even do it.

Anyway, let me know how it goes in the comments below.  I would be interested to see what you think about K9 and Mail.

Monday, January 23, 2012

LTE Spectrum Article

I want to share an informative and educational article which does a great job of explaining how frequencies are allocated to wireless carriers.  According to this article, Verizon is winning the war.
LTE spectrum: How much do the big carriers have?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Use of Messaging Apps Eating Into Carrier Revenues

One third of cell phone carriers are reporting that the use of third party apps for text messaging is eating into their profits.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why Nexus One Can't Run 4.0

I ran into this article this morning which does a great job of explaining why the Nexus One cannot run Android 4.0, the upcoming newest version of Android commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich.  Even though the Nexus One was considered state of the art a little over two years ago when it was released, it is now considered a relic.  It's 1 ghz Snapdragon processor is an outdated version and its lack of internal memory are serious limitations for today's resource intensive apps and operating systems.  While I can't complain about its processor I can, and often do, complain about its lack of internal memory.  I frequently find myself complaining that I have to delete apps to free up memory.  This is the only serious flaw I see with this device.

Anyway, here's the article: