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Case maker Olixar created quite a stir yesterday when it started selling screen covers based on what it believes is the design of the next-generation iPhone SE.

It illustrated this with a render that shows a classic iPhone SE casing updated with a full-screen display and iPhone X style notch. It’s not the first time we’ve seen the concept, of course, but Olixar was sufficiently convinced to throw some money at it …

As we noted yesterday, there are a number of reasons to view the idea with considerable skepticism. For me, there are three reasons in particular.

First, there’s the idea of a full-screen display in a model designed to be more affordable than the flagship models. Near-bezel-free displays, whether OLED or a new generation of LCD technology, are expensive.

Second, Face ID is also relatively expensive tech, so it’s again hard to imagine this making it into the next generation of a model that currently sells for $349. And yet it would have to be included if the render is accurate as there’s nowhere for a Touch ID/Home button – and Apple isn’t dumb enough to put it on the rear of the case.

Third, Apple appears to have a clear strategy for this year’s anticipated iPhone lineup: a successor to the iPhone X, a larger version for those who want a bigger screen, and an LCD model with a similar design to the X but pitched at a more traditional $700-$800 price point. Adding an iPhone SE with a similar design would seem to compete too much with the more expensive LCD model.

So I really don’t expect to see this model, but I’d really love it to be true.

I’ve written in the past about how much I love the classic design of the SE. So much so that I downgraded from an iPhone 6s.

I still prefer the look of the SE to that of the iPhone 6/6s/7/8. The comparison with the iPhone X is a tougher one. That ‘single slab of glass’ look is fantastic. It’s a great-looking phone.

But a huge part of what makes the iPhone X look so great is the all-screen design, complete with the notch that I find invisible most of the time and cute when it is seen. If that were carried over to the iPhone SE, then I think I’d actually prefer the aesthetics of that.

Yes, the slimness of the iPhone X is incredibly impressive. But I still consider protruding cameras a crime, and I still prefer the slab-sided look of the SE to the rounded one of the X. So, in truth, on aesthetics alone, I’d choose that SE 2 render.

Then there’s size. Again, yes, I love how large a screen Apple has squeezed into a reasonably pocketable iPhone X. I have found myself using my iPhone a bit more and my iPad a bit less, and that’s as a direct result of the screen size.

But even so, I still carry my iPad with me almost every time I leave the apartment. I’ll use my iPhone for a quick skim through Twitter or a Facebook post, but for most things I’ll use the iPad instead. So the extra screen size of the iPhone X doesn’t make that much difference to my real-life use.

And I do find the size of the X a bit unwieldy in jeans pockets. We’ve been having some unseasonably warm weather here in London of late, so I’ve been going out in the evening without a jacket, my iPhone in a trouser pocket. Often when I sit down, I find myself adjusting the position of the phone in my pocket for greater comfort. And cycling, it feels a little too much like it could slip out.

The trade-off has definitely been worth it. In particular, I’m a huge fan of Face ID. I love glancing at the Lock screen when a message arrives, and seeing the content unlock as I do so. I love being able to logon to online banking just by looking at my phone; indeed, I now do most of my banking transactions on the phone simply because it’s so much easier than logging-on with 2FA on iPad or Mac.

But give me iPhone X tech in the SE form factor, and I’m in. And from our poll, I’m not the only one – more than 60% of you say the same. Of course, that’s very much a self-selecting poll: the people most likely to read an SE post are people who like the SE. But it does indicate that the interest is there.

In a perfect world, Apple would offer two versions of the SE: the classic, low-cost one, and a full-screen version for those who choose the SE on size and design rather than price. That’s never going to happen, but it’s nice to dream …

Concept images: Concept Creator

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I Like Amazon’S Fire Phone, But I Won’T Buy One

I like Amazon’s Fire Phone, but I won’t buy one

Amazon’s Fire Phone is a pretty cool piece of tech. It’s the right size, has a very respectable spec sheet, and the price is fair (not great). All that adds up to enough reason most people would want to snatch one up when it becomes available. In theory, I’d love to as well; here’s why I wont.

The Fire Phone itself is a neat concept. The screen has a pretty cool dynamic perspective that looks 3D-ish, even though it’s not. You can twist the device around to see past corners in games and such, which is a neat concept. It also supports a cool list of gestures, where flipping the phone around while still holding it scrolls through menus and allows for webpages to scroll by.

Firefly, too — pretty amazing stuff. Snap a picture of an item, and it takes you to the Amazon listing straight away. If you’re not ready to buy, it will save the item for later. Snap a picture of a scribbled-down phone number, and it will save it in a readable format for you. Amazon’s Mayday service, introduced last year with the Kindle, also comes with the Fire Phone.

It also works really well with Fire TV, where you can send a movie you find on Amazon right over, kind of like a proprietary Chromecast. It also serves as a second screen to your Fire TV viewing, which is great for those moments you can’t quite place an actor’s face to their name. Prime Music? Yeah, you get that, too.

So, great phone, right? Yup — it is. Why not get it if it’s so good, though? For all the things that make it special, those are the same things that make it uniquely concerning.

The Fire Phone ties directly into Amazon, almost all the time. I’m not talking about some sort of security risk, where big brother is spying on me. I’m talking about the utility of the phone. Fire Phone comes with a full year of Prime straight away, but after that, it gets sticky. After the year is up, I am left paying for Prime on my own.

To be fair, I pay for Prime now (and I love it). The problem with the Fire Phone is that should there come a day where I don’t want (or can’t afford) Prime, my phone just lost a lot of utility. No more flinging movies to the TV because I don’t even get streaming movies, and no more Mayday calls. No more Prime music, either.

The Fire Phone sets out to lasso you into the Amazon ecosystem further than you might already be — and that’s okay if you’re sure you want to be there long term. If you don’t, though, and get out at some point — the Fire Phone will let you down. The Amazon App Store is inferior to its Play Store and iOS App Store counterparts in almost every way.

Sans Amazon, you have a device that is adequate, but full of features that won’t work. It’s also an AT&T exclusive, and the standard smartphone pricing won’t help things along. Unless I were to ensconce myself in Prime, there’s not much reason to get this device. I like the Fire Phone, but attaching myself to Amazon so closely isn’t a decision I’m willing to make.

I Wish The Pixel Watch App Was As Powerful As The Galaxy Watch App

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Google is phasing out the old generic Wear OS app that was compatible with all smartwatches running its operating system. Starting with Wear OS 3.0, every smartwatch maker will have to build their own companion app, including Google itself. That’s why you have to download a new app on your phone when setting up the new Pixel Watch. And although that app is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous Wear OS app, it still is, in my opinion, lagging behind the companion app Samsung provides for its wearables.

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The Galaxy Wearable app surprised me when I first got my Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 over a year ago. Here was an app that complemented my watch so well and could change every setting on it. No more scrolling through endless lists on a minuscule display with my finger hiding half of what I was seeing, or trying to minutely customize every complication on a watch face by tapping on tiny targets. And instead of getting both of my hands cramped up by holding up the watch in one and tapping on it with the other, I could do everything single-handedly on my phone’s display.

The Galaxy Watch’s companion app is awesome. It lets me set and manage everything on my watch.

For over a year, I used the Galaxy Wearable app whenever I wanted to make any setting changes on my Galaxy Watch. I customized watch faces to my liking, added and organized tiles, moved apps around in the launcher, made sure the quick settings toggles I used most were easily reachable, and more.

Buttons and gestures, notifications, sound, vibration, frequency of heart rate measurement, and almost any (every?) other watch setting are available in the app. Even third-party app info and management are accessible, so I can see how an app impacts my watch’s battery or storage and uninstall it directly from my phone. Overall, Galaxy Wearable feels like a completely integrated experience and a proper “companion” app.

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The Pixel Watch app takes a similar approach but stops midway. You can customize watch faces and add and organize tiles, control notifications, and modify a few random settings, but things don’t go further. For every setting that shows up in the app, there are four or five more that are only accessible from the watch.

In a way, I understand Google’s thinking there: The most important settings can be changed from the convenience of your large phone display, and the rest are available on the watch. Simplicity wins, but you pay for it in consistency and visibility.

The Pixel Watch’s companion app is simpler, but less complete. Many settings and options are hidden several layers deep on the watch.

The differences between the app and watch create a guessing game and hide away potentially crucial features until you dig and tap and scroll on your tiny watch display. Many users may not know, for example, that they can trigger app updates from the watch’s built-in Play Store, change the display font size, disable speech output from the Google Assistant, or switch to a different default app for messages. Third-party app management looks like it’s available, but all it does is take you to the Play Store to download more; there’s no way to check an app’s impact or remove it from the phone.

Personally, save for editing watch faces, tiles, and notifications, I’ve stopped using the companion app because I’m never sure if the setting I need is there or not. The inconsistency makes the app’s few useful settings less useful overall for me.

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

The companion app also perpetuates Wear OS’s mishandling of screenshots — the bane of our existence as tech writers. Whereas I can simply take a screenshot on my Galaxy Watch 4 by pressing the two buttons at the same time and the image is immediately saved to my phone, the Pixel Watch doesn’t let me do any of that.

There is no button combination to capture the screen, the only way to do it is through an invisible menu in the app. You have to enable Developer options on your phone to trigger a three-dot menu on the top right of the Pixel Watch app, otherwise you won’t even see it. And still, every captured screen shows up in the notification shade on your phone with only an option to share. No saving to local storage. It’s needlessly annoying.

The new Pixel Watch app is much better than the old generic Wear OS app, but I wish Google went the extra mile with it.

It’s worth reiterating that the new Pixel Watch app is miles ahead of the old Wear OS app, and a worthier companion for this modern piece of tech, but I wish Google went the extra mile and provided all the settings and features in it, instead of stopping 80% of the way and calling it a day. Perhaps future updates will bring the missing options and allow us to change every setting and manage all apps from the phone — at least I hope they do.

I Hope Google Can Do To Htcwhat They Did To Motorola

‘Made by Google’ was created to build trust between customers who were weary to purchase an Android device

Now, Google has kind of already started doing this. The whole “Made by Google” campaign was created to build trust between customers who were weary to purchase an Android device. Why do you think almost all of my friends have mistaken my Pixel for an iPhone? It’s supposed to be simple. It’s supposed to be recognizable. And most of all, it’s supposed to be easy to use. The Pixel is just that, with its big, easy-to-see icons and incredibly fluid touch latency. These are aspects of the phone that don’t get recorded on spec sheets, but they sure as hell bleed into the user experience.

Motorola wanted to make something that was easy to hold and easy to use… Scrolling through home screens and the app drawer was always smooth… Overall the Moto X is a very solid release that focuses more on what the phone actually does instead of just providing the specs and focusing on what it could do.

These are all quotes from our original Moto X review way back in 2013. It was obvious that Google and Motorola were focusing on making the experience as fluid as possible, and they seem to have to done that again with the Pixel line. Focusing processing power on fluid animations and touch latency is what makes a phone really shine to the mass consumer, and it is this core value smashed in the middle of a great software suite that has really helped Apple’s iPhone succeed. And while we are already seeing the benefits of Google taking the reigns in terms of software and hardware design, actually owning the company could help elevate its devices to a whole new level.

A shift in philosophy

When Google made the move to purchase Motorola, it was a temporary maneuver. Officially, the company stated that it only purchased the Motorola to acquire its patents and keep them safe from the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Everyone thought it was a strange move. Wouldn’t Google producing their own devices undermine all the other Android OEM’s on the market? With Google developing software for use in such a wide range of phones, this seemed like the case, and in the end, it kind of was.

The Moto X was a nearly stock Android handset with a few software tweaks that benefited the user, not some bloated skin the company had developed in order to differentiate itself from competitors. But this very move was also the saving grace of the company, and helped Motorola to combat Samsung and others to create more diversity in the Android space.

With HTCcompletely under its wing, Google can start focusing on tailoring its OS to its own devices more than it ever has before

Now Google has changed its mind. Creating its own devices has become a new part of its core philosophy, and it’s even gone so far as to hide the fact that HTCwas manufacturing its devices. While you could argue that the Nexus line always represented what Google’s baseline “true” experience was meant to be, working with different manufacturers almost every year caused the experience to shift every time the company introduced a new device. With HTCcompletely under its wing, Google can start focusing on tailoring its OS to its own devices more than it ever has before, and could even have its own engineers work with HTC’s fabrication team to make sure Pixel devices are as refined and tailored to Android as the iPhone is to iOS.

Google Pixel 2: Everything we know so far (Updated: September 25)

News

Obviously this deal isn’t set in stone. Everything is just speculation right now, but the potential of such a sale gets me really, really exited for Google’s future as a manufacturer. Is it a little weird that they started making their own devices again? Sure. But something truly magical can happen when you have the power to control the hardware and software on your devices, and since Android is still an open-source operating system, this doesn’t mean we will stop seeing competition from other OEM’s on the market.

Remember – nothing’s set it stone yet

What are your thoughts on the potential sale? There are still a lot of questions that have yet to be answered, and we’ll have to wait and see where this goes in the near future. One thing is for sure though: I want to find love again in a phone every bit as magical as the Motorola Moto X.

I Hate Android: Why? – By A Hardcore Android Lover!

Like millions of people around the world, I am an Android fanboy. Recently I though about sharing some of my  aspects which I don’t like about Android.  Eventhough being Android has gotten better over the years but there are still many things I dont like about it. To put it bluntly, I hate Android, at least some of its features. I have used Linux for a few years since Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and fell in love with the open source movement. Ive come to realize that all the hype about being open and portraying Apple and RIM as the evil closed platform was all a deception. . Theres a list(I love lists). Lets go through them. I hate some of the UI. Customization is nice but it allows for more things to break. These include themes and design. At first, the UI was cool and beautiful. I felt like I had a computer in my hands, literally. Icons were nice to touch and scrolling was smooth(at first). After using it for a while, I started to experience the pains of using the touch screen. Mistypes, and mistaps were frequent. The Android experience varied depending on manufacturer. All the different flavors of Android pushed by their respective hardware developers all look different. OneUI, TouchWiz, and MotoBlur are all different. OneUI is probably the best(IMO) out of all these. TouchWiz makes me feel like Im using an iPhone and MotoBlur is a mess with all their social networking widgets. These skins load on top of Android making it slower than its vanilla stock core. When I get my phone, I hate all the bloatware that comes with it. All carriers seem to do it. They push Vcast, SprintTV and other bloatware that I dont want. The Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi,Oppo,Vivo are the notorious ones feeding bloatware just to compnsate for the cheap price they offer in some countries. Not only that, but I hate that I cant delete them. I hate knowing that they are on my phone and the only way for me to get rid of them is by rooting my phone. Why do I have to jump through hoops just to get rid of this crapware? Im not scared of rooting my phone. In fact, Ive done so and install a few custom ROMs but there is always a risk of bricking your phone and leaving it useless. Average users dont want to risk the warranty by rooting their phone. Not only are there crapware on the phone, but there is/was malware on the Market. I hate Andoid memory management, being an old Symbian OS user.Symbian was the most efficient Mobile Os in memory management, followed by iOS. My old Nokia 808 Pureview had just 512MB RAM which was handling the Mammoth Camera, the 41MP beast with Xenon flash. I know that comparing a Symbian Phone with very limited apps and strict developer requirements with Android which has an ocean of apps and simpler developer standards is not fair. But are these crazy RAM of 12GB,16GB etc etc in many high end Android Phones really necessary? Or are they worth the performance they offer compared to iOs? Expanding from the 1st and the 3rd reasons, I hate Androids software fragmentation. I hate that Motorola’s flavor is different from Samsung’s. I hate that the buttons are different in all manufacturer, and even sometimes, within the same manufacturers. And I hate that I cant install certain apps because I my phone doesnt have the latest and greatest version of Android. Notoriously all my Samsung Phones from Galaxy S3 to Galaxy S9 Plus started showing sluggishness after 1 year of usage. The problem being whenever I update an app, the hardware is not able to cope with newest software. Android isВ recognized as the open platform and that unadulterated Android experience does not come standard. It only comes standard on Googles Nexus phones  and Selected flagship phones from other manufacturers. But most people dont own these flagship devices. Most people get their Droids from their carriers. Not only are these phones locked down with carrier bloatware but they are also locked down from performing specific tasks. People have gotten around this issue by a process called rooting. This grants the user superuser status allowing him to do anything he wishes with the phone. The Nexus phones are relatively easy to root but carrier phones are harder. Android phones are great if you want the phone to be your hobby, if you dont mind tinkering with the device, rooting it, or if youre just a techno buff.  

Where The Heck Was I In The Nineties?

Where the Heck Was I in the Nineties?

My son sits in the back of the car a lot. There’s the ride to and from school, the field trips on weekends, that sort of thing. I have an internal struggle on what he should be doing back there. Part of me wishes onto him the excruciating boredom I suffered through in my youth in the back of cars. I tell myself that his character will be built upon managing such boredom and not indulging his every whim with digital stimulus. In other words, I worry his iPad is rotting his brain (disclosure, during the day I work for Samsung, we make competitor tablets that I also worry may be rotting his brain). Still, I can’t take away his tablets. I can’t do that to my child. I understand.

Sometimes I make him turn it off and we talk. He’s a 4 year old, so he asks really deep questions and I get to come up with all sorts of crazy metaphysical answers that he’ll either forget or distort in his mind enough that there will be no negative repercussions.

“Where do we come from, Daddy?”

“We’re all made up of little tiny bits that used to be one singular little tiny bit but that exploded and spread all over and formed stars and then those stars exploded and smashed into each other and formed the earth and here we are. But the best part is those little tiny bits are actually made up of almost nothing at all. We come from nothing, and we’re made of nothing. Now, do you want Mexican or Pizza?”

[aquote]Let his mother play him that dreck[/aquote]

In the background of this car ride I play music, which I choose quite deliberately. I never listen to children’s music. I can’t. I know there’s good children’s music out there, by quality artists and musicians, with interesting, funny, meaningful, educational lyrics. Blech. Let his mother play him that dreck. She’s got horrible taste in music. If she didn’t play kids music, his next best choice with her would be listening to boy bands and whatever song got 2,000,000 YouTube views last week. Me? I have taste. I have provenance. Best of all, I have a plan. At least, I thought I had a plan.

Since he was born, my son has heard the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” in its entirety at least once a month. I love my Sirius radio, and they play good music without commercials, which is a key component of kid-friendly listening. But I need to exercise a little control.

My parents got me into good music, but they have weird taste in music. My father has a collection of albums from great musicians, but he has the wrong album. He has the third album, or the album of cover songs, or the duets album. He’s got the Greatest Hits Part II. So, I grew up listening to Magical Mystery Tour, but not the White Album or Revolver. I know Born in the USA, but didn’t discover Nebraska until recently. My first Led Zeppelin album was not titled Led Zeppelin.

I made a mix for Noah. Considering I’m so immersed in gadgets and technology, you’d be amazed at how low-tech my car audio system is. I have no USB port, no 3.5mm input, and no stereo Bluetooth. It’s like I’m living in 2011. So, I made CDs. A mix on MP3 CDs.

Basically, I went through my library and pulled one song from all my favorite artists. I picked the song that got me interested in that artist. Not their best, or most famous. The one that got me hooked for the first time. I’m proud of the mix. There’s a lot of good music there. There’s a lot of emotion in it. After all, these are the songs that first provoked an emotional response to my favorite musicians, and music is important to me.

I was showing off my mix for a passenger recently who remarked:

“This sounds like a middle school dance.” Haha! I laughed. No, that’s just silly. Here, let me just . . .

“Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide . . . “

No, no, that’s just a . . . here, let me find something else . . .

“She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the . . . “

Oh no. No! What have I done?!

“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick. The one that makes me scream, she said . . . “

What happened? I pulled canonical songs from my library. There were plenty of newer songs, but the vast majority came from a period spanning around 1988 to 1996. Not quite middle school, more like music up until the middle of my college career. Still, there’s a huge gap there that I needed to figure out.

Did I not listen to music then? Was I simply ambling through life with my hands over my ears, never hearing anything new or unique? That couldn’t be true. There’s a dark period of heavy A Cappella use stuck in there. A Cappella is heavy on cover songs, so my musical growth was definitely stunted during that period. I had been strung out on vocal bands. I couldn’t find a single example of late 90s music in my collection. Nothing stood out.

The answer is probably technological. I got my first CD burner around 1999, which was early for CD burning. I probably had a 2X burner, so 1 CD took 35 minutes or more. Even then, I was burning .aiff files, fully uncompressed. Nobody stored music digitally until the new millenium.

In 1998, I lived in student housing for Northeastern grad students in Boston. My apartment was broken into 3 times. During one break-in, the thief stole my sleeve of CDs. 200 CDs, a completely stuffed, massive envelope of music. I had renter’s insurance, and they told me I was covered to replace it all. There was no chance I could remember every single CD. I made a long list of 200 CDs I’d like, and they cut me a check for something like $11.99 x 200. I went on a binge.

[aquote]The best thing about Napster was the incredible catalogues of other users[/aquote]

A couple years later, I was deeply entrenched in Napster, and my library was filling quickly. The best thing about Napster was the incredible catalogues of the other users. There was a much more personal connection with the anonymous peers with whom you were sharing. You could see their music, take ersatz recommendations, and fill in the potholes in your musical highway. I drank my fill, maxed out my hard disk drive, and never bothered to back up. See where this is going? This story ends with the 2GB 2.5″ laptop drive sealed in a static bag sitting in a drawer in my office to this day, waiting for the prices on data recovery to drop to zero.

It’s curious to think about whether a pattern is emerging. There’s a gap in my musical collection the size of a small decade. There are equal gaps in my photos, my writing, etc. There are hiccups in the imperfect digital collection of data, and it has erased some of my history. With my history, my memory disappears. I’m telling my own story but the character has selective amnesia and incomplete notes.

As we rely on digital data for our most personal memories, it’s important to ignore the caveat that everything on the Internet lasts forever. Quite the contrary. While it’s harder to scrub something from the Internet once it takes on a life of its own, it’s also impossible to find something once it has been disappeared. Hard disk drives die. Services crumble. Suddenly you’re driving around in your car thinking nothing great has happened in music since “August and Everything After,” and trying to convince your kid of the same.

IMAGE: Michelle Carl; Mathew Wilson

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