Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Analysis of smartphone stew

This is a difficult little article I've been contemplating writing for quite some time.

For smartphones in the modern age there are a multitude of factors people try to pin success on and to some degree they are right. Some say its this feature or that feature, or this particular or that app... yet I will contend that it is a particular mix of applications, features and function that is ultimately necessary for success.

First thing, a smartphone is not the same as a platform. A platform is something that spans and scaled a multitude of both devices, services and consumers.

Windows is a platform and Linux is a platform. They are platforms that fit on silly little fixed function devices, to TVs to Game Consoles to full fledged Super Computers.

Linux has always been a miserable failure in the consumer space until a sugardaddy with deep pockets and a network of pimps got its hands on it in the form of Google acquiring Android. Google funded Android development acquiring people from the now defunct Palm and other companies in the industry building a platform that could both functionally and visually compete with iOS; better known as Android Version 3.0 Honeycomb built for tablets.

Honeycomb was a steaming pile of bularky and an utter failure. Yet it laid the groundwork for Android 4.0 Jellybean where all proprietary code was removed, the problems worked out and the UI and design ported down to phones. Now Android was visually, aesthetically on par with iOS and superior in terms of features.

At that very moment Windows Phone 7 was stuck with the taste of Mangoes in it mouth. The consumer side of the OS was filling out beautifully. Basic functionally like email, messaging, music and social media was utterly perfect compared to Android and iOS. Then Windows Phone 8 happened and we all cried. The near perfect Zune Multimedia Experience was gone, replaced by a rebranded and broken Xbox Music Player. As a matter of fact, the whole consumer entertainment and multimedia aspect of the phone was now broken. However corporate Email was working along with VPNs. So they broke what was working, and fixed what was broken...

Syncing Playlists to WP8 was pointless as it took days for Xbox music to notice a playlist had been synced to the device and after you unsynced it, the playlists would stay on the player, albeit empty and you would have to manually delete them one by one, lest you resynced the playlists and the playlists and music files would duplicate themselves due to a broken file indexing system.This also happened with Photos and Documents.

At this point Android had implemented Android Version 4.3 which has introduced TRIM on the internal flash memory which would alleviate the notable degradation in performance in android phones as the internal memory was used. No one actually got the update through OEMs until 6 months after the fact. As a Samsung S3 user I can say with complete contempt, Samsung, I effing hate you...

At the end of the day, we reach Lollypop and Windows 10...

Android is filled out in terms of features and functionality. Google is mostly reintroducing SDCard support after removing it bit them in the ass.

Windows on the other hand needs to get a couple things right...

  • A basic Music player that can snc music over MTP like my 30 USD Sandisk Sansa and work as reliably. And if we're really lucky, it might have folder navigation support.
  • A Video Player that handles MKVs and allows you to manage videos by folders.
  • A Podcast Player equivalent to Pocketcast on Android and the stock Podcasts app is pretty crappy and overall shit on WP as it is.
  • A reader app for none standard formats like CBR CBZ and other likes it and an easy way to get the actually files into the app, say drag and drop in a folder that the app knows to look in for files (cough... Komik)
  • Roll your own Audiobook app because we cant all afford Audible much less even get service.
  • The ability to let apps create one folder in user accessible memory to store its files (such as a podcast folder for podcasts and not dumping everything in the music folder, and audiobook folder for audiobooks, a comic book folder for comic books etc)

Now these are just apps and scenarios that I deal with every day. Some people may use other things and yes the Facebooks and Netflixes of the world need to be there too.

That said, these are basic things a cheap MP3 player can get right and something you can achieve on Android by installing a few free apps and maybe one or two paid ones. So these need to be gotten right at a structural level in the OS and left alone. Look at iOS, yes iTunes is a bloated mess but everything works and works fairly reliably. Podcasts, Playlists, Music and Videos.

But if Microsoft keeps waiting on developers to provide a solution and don't at least provide a base level reliable app as in the case of audiobooks, music, podcasts and readers, users will leave to get such basic functionality on other platforms.

I know I did for Android so I could reliably sync playlists but after 3 android phones I still cannot because of the misguided handling of SDCard support on android 4.0 and 5.0 and OEM modifications to the OS.

So in other words, if I cant find an Android Phone that can sync playlists reliably, I'm getting an iPhone.

Please get the simple things correct out of the box, at least then we can live with the phone until you get the grand overarching things done.

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