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Year of Mobiles 2013

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C Sab #1

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Posted Dec 31 '13 @ 9:00 AM

Well, at time of writing, the new year begins tomorrow and since after the events of tonight I might forget that I even wrote this so now it’s time to look back at how this past year has blown our geeky minds with new mobile tech in the form of smartphones, phablets (I still wish someone would come up with a better name for them), and tablets.

 

Now, before I continue I gotta add a disclaimer here: No, I do not consider any of this to be truth. It is what i think is true but others are welcome to disagree (and this is the Internet so people will disagree and despite this disclaimer will probably still say I’m wrong and tell me to go kill myself or sell my soul to Apple or something.)

And now, we begin!

 

Biggest Disappointment: As far as years go, this one has seen probably the least amount of major disappointments. There were a few of course, such as the One Max which was basically an oversized HTC One, and the fact there was no Nexus 10 2013 Edition but I would say that the biggest disappointment out there this year was the Galaxy Gear. Now, I’ve been gradually (at a glacial speed) getting interest in smartwatches and as a Samsung fan (*puts up flame shield*) I was hoping Samsung would really bring out a wrist mounted device that would allow me and other like-minded lunatics to fulfill our secret agent fantasies. In some ways they definitely did that, I mean the camera alone was perfect for that and it took decent pics considering how low-end it was, and the design was great. However, why in the holy-holy-hell did they make it only usable with the Note 3, butcher the notifications that didn’t come from their own first-party apps (yes they fixed that in an update but the fact something so obvious wasn’t done right the first time is perplexing), and charge double what the Pebble cost? No! Bad Sammy! Bad! (Rant over, drink break!)

 

Ok, now with a Jack and Coke in hand here’s the next category.

 

Most Impressive Feature: I say impressive, because I refuse to use the word “innovative”. It’s an overused term these days, and you know I love being the rebel.  Anyway, there have been a ton of new features that have appeared on phones this year (with plenty being improved from before) and if I had to choose one that really pushed things forward it would have to be Active Display/Active Notifications (I consider them to be pretty much the same feature btw.) This is a feature that I’ve found myself putting on my Nexus 5 (shoutout to Cyber Warrior for making the video that showed me how) and will put on every smartphone I ever have because it is just a much better way to check what kind of incoming notification you’ve gotten. A major improvement to something we’ve been doing ever since we dumped our flip phones for smartphones.

 

It doesn’t seem like much, but small things can make the biggest difference.

 

Best Accessory: Almost as big a deal as our smartphones are the accessories that go with them. They make the best phone better in many ways, cases and screen protectors help them look their best, speakers make listening to media so much better, etc, etc, etc. But there was one that stood out above all the others, and while I personally wouldn’t use it because I have a Nikon SLR the Sony Smartshot lens accessories are an excellent example of why Sony is one of the best companies ever. An entire camera body packed inside a lens which can be used with any smartphone as long as it isn’t too (see Samsung, THAT is how compatible with other phones your Galaxy Gear should have been, all smartphones, not just yours). Now only is it an impressive concept, you can’t argue with the results. The images you take with one of those, undeniably surpass anything you could get with even the best smartphone camera out there, sure the cheaper model is $250 bucks but when you add in the fact that there are point and shoots that cost even more than that it’s not that ridiculous especially with how small it is. The app, I understand it could use some work but nothing ever comes out perfect when it’s first released.

 

Most Overhyped Phone: So there were a lot of phones that came out this year, and most of them were pretty great. But as we all know some people out there like to exaggerate about their choice in some attempt to convince others it was the best choice or maybe to convince themselves that the phone is as good as they hoped. Whatever the reason, I found myself not really agreeing with all the praise. I can’t think of a better example of this than the HTC One. I know I’ll probably have some stones thrown through my windows and maybe a few dozen eggs thrown at me but yes I said it. The One is a great phone, no-one can deny that but I honestly can’t see why so many sites call it the best phone of 2013. Yes, it’s a good looking phone but people seriously put too much stock in its design just because it’s aluminum, yes the software has been greatly optimized but after an update the S4 was almost as fast, plus other phones came out that were as smooth or even smoother than the One, and honestly I wasn’t a huge fan of Sense 5 despite how well it ran. Plus the features weren’t that big a deal, at least not to most people. Kudos though for listening to people and giving them the option to turn off Blinkfeed.

 

Summary: Definitely a great phone, but also (in my eyes/experience) the most overhyped of the year.

 

Biggest Improvement in Smartphones: Like I said, there were a ton of great smartphones this year and each of them pushed the industry forward in some way, whether it be the S4/Note 3’s gesture controls, or the HTC’s design, or even the G2’s unique button placement. One of these improvements however stuck out to me, and I’ll tell you which one and why. As someone who is big on customization, I was very interested in Moto Maker. Being able to customize not just the software of your phone like every other Android phone (the fact it was almost completely stock helps with that) but now being able to also customize the design of your phone was a big deal. You could choose the color of the back plate/trim, have a customizable message engraved on the back and as of recently you could finally start taking advantage of the promised wood backings (the only available one, which is Bamboo doesn’t look that good to me unfortunately.) I immediately started wondering if this would start to become a normal thing. No longer would people have to throw their arms up in annoyance because they saw an announcement of their wanted phone coming out in the color they wanted only to find out that color is exclusive to another carrier (DAMN YOU BELL FOR ALWAYS GETTING THE RED MODELS OF PHONES *ahem*) they could now design their phone to be that color unless of course they’re the type to always put a case on their phone. Whether or not this will happen, I can’t say as this would definitely have an effect on those exclusivity deals giving only certain carriers a certain colored model of a phone or maybe Motorola would decide to patent the concept (if they haven’t already.) Still, it would be awesome for everyone to have this feature.

 

Best Phone of 2013: So since I can’t think of any other categories I guess I should name what I thought was the best phone of 2013. I’ve tried out demo models of all the biggest smartphones of the year, exploring their performance, screens, features, etc. and while I wasn’t disappointed in any of them, I definitely enjoyed a few of them over the others. Honorable mentions go to the Galaxy S4, and G2. After what seemed an eternity I finally saw the benefit of the G2’s button placement and I was pleased to see that all of the S4’s hyped features worked pretty well (a few are a bit finicky but for a first attempt that’s understandable) and I still stand by the benefits of plastic over aluminum.One phone however stood above the rest, not because it had the best of everything but because of what it stood for. That phone is (*drumroll* *get ready to be somewhat surprised*) the Xperia Z1.

 

I know you’re probably wondering why I chose that phone over the rest, well this is why. Like HTC, Sony has been struggling for a while to get it’s phones out there and into the hands of people in this part of the world. This is somewhat because their previous phones didn’t exactly reach the level easily attained by others in that time. Earlier this year they started showing their potential with the Z and ZL but with the Z1 they showed us all exactly what they could do. A beautiful design, great software, water-resistance, and one of the best cameras in the industries are just a few of the reasons why this proves that Sony deserves people’s attention. If I hadn’t gotten the Nexus 5, this is the phone that I would have gotten and I would have bragged about it to everyone.

 

So, that's about it. If you've been able to hold back your anger at your choices enough to have not attempted to punch me through your computer screens, I hope you enjoyed this. If you did do that, then why the hell am I still typing this? 

 

Discussion beginning in 3....2....1....

 

 

 

 


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Photopaul65 #2

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Posted Jan 3 '14 @ 9:46 AM

OK, I'll bite! Though, since I haven't played with every new phone in 2013, my statements will be more or less generalizations. 

 

Biggest Disappointment: Manufacturer gimmicks. Everything from the ill-conceived G2 button placement to Samsung's useless "feature" bloat. I'm hoping in 2014 that manufacturers follow Motorola's lead and just give us great hardware design with a near stock Android experience and timely updates. Honorable mention: Android cameras. They still suck. Still too slow to focus and take a photo. Still misses focus far too often. Very sad that the old iPhone 4 I have laying around here takes as good or better photos faster than even the best Android cameras. Why is this so goddamn difficult?

 

Most Impressive feature: Hardware-wise, HTC's Boomsound speakers. They are amazing and no-one else even comes close. Honorable Mention: Sony's "anything's a stylus" screen technology. Hopefully they keep developing that, but knowing Sony, it'll be forgotten.

 

Best Accessory: Chromecast, by a country mile.

 

Most Over-hyped Phone: (God, I'm gonna get flamed for this, but here goes...) The Nexus 5. OK, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying over-hyped because it's a bad phone. It's over-hyped because it will never be (and was never intended to be) a mainstream device. It's a one-percenter, fanboy phone that gets over-praised and under-criticized by the fanboy press. Try and ask on any forum what phone to get, the answer is almost always "A Nexus". Nevermind the fact that it's not available on the largest carrier in the country, which means very limited LTE and next to no service in the majority of rural areas. The praise for these phones never equals the sales (LG's shipping issues aside), thus, it's over-hyped. Google's mainstream efforts are now with Motorola, and that's where they should be.

 

Biggest Improvement in Smartphones: Motorola's revolutionary X-8 chipset. By adding low power co-processors, Motorola succeeded in conquering one of Androids biggest issues, battery life. My best friend's Moto-X regularly goes 15-18 hours between charges, and he's a heavy user. It's amazing and I can't wait to see where they take it next.

 

Best Phone of 2013: Tough call, since I haven't played with every phone. I'd have to say the Moto X. Despite the lower specs, I think the Moto X really set a high bar for every other manufacturer with it's innovative chipset, features, customization options and lightning quick updates. 



C Sab #3

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Posted Jan 3 '14 @ 10:10 AM

Ok, half of that tells me you haven't used many if any of the high-end Android phones of this year. Especially the "Most Disappointed" and "Most Impressive Feature" sections.



Photopaul65 #4

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Posted Jan 3 '14 @ 10:51 AM

Well, unless you're a paid writer/tester, I would have to assume that most of us here haven't used many of the top phones of the year to any real extent.

I have limited hands-on experience, based on models my friend and family own and demo units at retail, with all the major phones of the year except the G2, Note 3 and the Z1. I have an upgrade coming up very shortly, so I have been trying out many devices to help me in my decision. I know what I like and these are just my opinions, you are free to take them or leave them. If I were independently wealthy, or it was my job to review phones after using them for several weeks, then I'm sure some of my opinions would change (except the G2, awful, awful awful. I picked it up and immediately put it down).

Let me first apologize for disliking unnecessary bloat. I will strive to put aside my feelings and just deal with fact that the Galaxy S4 should scream like a cheetah, yet doesn't, even after disabling everything "S-Crap" you can.

Secondly, I will hold my head in shame for pointing out the one feature I experienced this year that actually made me say "Wow" (as in, I'm Impressed!), as the One's speakers did. Obviously, my ears overrode my common sense. I promise to ponder more deeply about features that just garner a "Meh" or a "That's cool" so I can form a more popular opinion.

 

Whatever. You can think what you want.

 

If you don't want people to play, don't invite them to the playground


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C Sab #5

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Posted Jan 3 '14 @ 7:41 PM

I've used them all, I spent time with those demo units,enough time to actually learn all there is to know about them and I can tell you the S4 is anything but laggy. Just because it isn't quite as snappy as the One doesn't mean it's slow. Plus the features work very well and since most of them just came out its good for a first attempt. And yes, the One has great speakers but big deal. It's not the first device to have good front facing speakers, i hardly find that impressive. If you wanna call it an impressive device, I'd at least start with the Zoe's and the still-unmatched low-light capabilities of the Ultra pixel camera. And if you wanna play, don't get upset when people play hard. :P Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 4

Updated by C Sab, Jan 3 '14 @ 7:43 PM.


Photopaul65 #6

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 5:03 AM

Oh, I don't mind when people play hard, just play within the rules they set for the game...

Now, before I continue I gotta add a disclaimer here: No, I do not consider any of this to be truth. It is what i think is true but others are welcome to disagree (and this is the Internet so people will disagree and despite this disclaimer will probably still say I’m wrong and tell me to go kill myself or sell my soul to Apple or something.)

All I did was express my opinions, and you roundly dismissed them as though everything in your OP was hard and true fact. They are opinions, neither right or wrong.

Just because you think brussel sprouts are great doesn't mean I'm gonna like them, and don't accuse me of never trying them or not trying enough of them.

For every person like you who likes the G2's button placement, I can find you a dozen who think it's a bad idea. Perhaps you are one of the few genetically gifted individuals born with the proper sized hand and finger length so that those back buttons just feel natural. I'm not. I have average sized hands, but long fingers. It takes a very awkward shift one-handed for me to operate those buttons. Does that make me wrong? Is it an Apple situation where "Your not holding it right"? Hardly. 

Now, if you wanted to discuss certain points of my opinion, that would've been fine, but that's not what you did.

But that's OK, it is the internet after all, and not life or death. We'll just agree to disagree. No hard feelings.


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C Sab #7

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 7:47 AM

And just like people like you who say Touchwiz is laggy after using it for a few seconds, i know a dozen that actually have a Samsung device that know it isn't. I don't care that you have a differing opinion on me but your wording made you seem like you were assuming the same about your opinion as you're accusing me of doing with mine. I mean, really? Useless? At least say "useless to me". Also, I stand by what I said in terms of Android cameras. You can't say you've used any if you think the camera of an iPhone 4 could even dream of comparing. The camera on the 5S can barely compare with most of them. Though you don't need to use them to know that, there are comparisons everywhere. If you're up for discussion, so am I. I'm not trying to start a flame war here. Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 4

Updated by C Sab, Jan 4 '14 @ 7:51 AM.


Ahowe125 #8

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 11:15 AM

First off, I'm not going to have any opinions because I have only owned 1 smart phone this year, and its an HTC One. So I'm incredibly bias towards it. I love the phone. But I did enjoy reading both of your opinions and agree with some and disagree with others. 

 

Ok, half of that tells me you haven't used many if any of the high-end Android phones of this year. Especially the "Most Disappointed" and "Most Impressive Feature" sections.

 

Really? I find it interesting that you are calling him out on this, especially considering you yourself also did not own all of the mentioned devices. 

 

I've used them all, I spent time with those demo units,enough time to actually learn all there is to know about them

 

 

Demo Units? Like at a kiosk in the mall? Or on display at the retailer? I hardly find that is enough time to form such an opinion about every smartphone on the market today. Because isn't that what is needed to be able to call a phone the Best Phone of 2013? Or to pick out a biggest disappointment? 

 

Well, unless you're a paid writer/tester, I would have to assume that most of us here haven't used many of the top phones of the year to any real extent.
 

 

Agreed

 

Most Impressive feature: Hardware-wise, HTC's Boomsound speakers. They are amazing and no-one else even comes close.

 

Having the HTC as my daily, I agree these speakers are amazing. Its one of the reasons I watch video content on it instead of my Nexus 7. 


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C Sab #9

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 11:51 AM

It actually is enough. They let you use every feature of the phone and I spent enough time with each one of them to get as familiar with them as anyone who owns one of them can get. I didn't spend 2 minutes with each of them before I formed my opinions or I would have said so. I called him out yes, but did I directly say he was wrong? No, I didn't and I won't because I may disagree with most of what he said but that by no means makes him any more right or wrong than I am. Could I have worded my response better? In hindsight yes, and I'm mature enough to admit that and apologize for that. And I do apologize Photopaul. Like I said I'm not here to start a flame war. Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 4

Updated by C Sab, Jan 4 '14 @ 11:52 AM.

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C Sab #10

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 12:37 PM

Also, you guys might be wondering why I only included Android devices in this. I didn't include iOS because well...I think you all would have known already where that would fit into all this. As for WP the only one worth mentioning is the 1020 but all I know about it is it has a really good camera but that just didn't seem worth mentioning to me.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 4



Photopaul65 #11

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 2:58 PM

No harm, no foul.

I will also admit a bias against Samsung's Touchwiz, it's well noted in my past posts. That said, I'm not ruling out a Note 3 or even an S5 (or X5 or whatever Sammy calls their next flagship) when my upgrade comes due. Nova Launcher or even the new GEL launcher can fix a lot of the annoyances I have, all except for that GOD-AWFUL NOTIFICATION SHADE.

 

I think I've ruled out the Moto X, as much as I like the design, features and near stock experience, I don't think the dual core will hold up over the term of my 2 year contract. That, and the "always listening", while handy, can get quite annoying when discussing tech with my buddy. He's "trained" it many times, yet if anyone in the room says "Google", his phone chirps. They need to do some serious work with the voice training to eliminate that or that will remain a big deal-breaker.

 

Just to clarify my comment about android cameras, it wasn't geared at the end result. Nearly all top end phones CAN take great photos, it's the shitty firmware that gets in the way. Take my wife's Note 2 for example (which I believe has the same camera module as the S4, correct me if I'm wrong). It has taken some really great shots, but damn do you have to work at it. The problem is the long delay between pressing the button and actually having the photo taken, and every phone I've tried is the same way to varying degrees. The results? Tons of missed shots because the moment is lost. As a longtime photographer, it literally causes me pain to take photos with an android phone. The iPhone 4 I keep around, by comparison, can shoot 2 photos for every one that the Note 2 can. Now, not saying the iPhone cameras are better, they have their own set of problems including using too low an ISO for most less-than-ideal conditions, resulting in slow shutter speeds and blurred movement. Of course, iOS doesn't let you manually change anything. Also not good. If Apple can make a smartphone take a near-instant photo, so can Android makers.

My point is these camera modules aren't bad, manufacturers just need to give a shit about the camera and stop putting out crappy firmware. Forget about all the HDR this and Super Scene that. Keep it simple, make it focus fast and accurately and maybe I can finally stop bitching about it. Maybe. Probably not.

 

Anyway, the way it looks now, my choices will be between the new Galaxy S/X whatever (hoping it's not curved like those renders I saw a couple of days ago), the HTC One2 (please HTC, don't name it that) and who knows what gets announced/shipped before March. I'm really hoping for a flagship Moto device, a quad core "X10" type that would give me more confidence over the long haul. There were some earlier rumors to that effect, but they've died off unfortunately. Oh well, I still have 9 weeks to go. We'll see what happens.



C Sab #12

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 3:40 PM

I can definitely agree with that notification shade, it stands out in a bad way compared to the rest of TW.

As for camera firmware I've always found a slow auto-focus to be the biggest annoyance in cameras these days. Though the latest update fixed that on my N5.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk 4



Photopaul65 #13

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 3:45 PM

Even though I called the Nexus 5 overhyped, doesn't mean I wouldn't like one. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen on Verizon.



C Sab #14

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 3:52 PM

It's a great phone for the price. Battery life isn't the best but it's way better than my old phone, the camera is way better now with 4.4.2 and performance is excellent across the board.



Photopaul65 #15

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 4:00 PM

Sure, rub it in!



C Sab #16

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 4:02 PM

Well to be fair most of that describes pretty much every major 2013 Android phone. :P


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Photopaul65 #17

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 4:30 PM

Well, we always want what we can't get. ;)



C Sab #18

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Posted Jan 4 '14 @ 4:36 PM

Don't I know it. ;P