Another year is coming to an end, and as I sit here watching the snowfall blanket cars and homes on my street, I find it hard to believe Thanksgiving is already upon us. As with most, I look forward to the traditional Thanksgiving feast and football while reminding myself of those things in my life I am thankful for.
Of course, my family, friends, and health top that list, but with all that’s occurred I thought I would reflect on some of the things Android has brought us this past year. With that said, here are a handful of items I’m most thankful for from an Android perspective.
Motorola has gone through a myriad of changes the last few years. From being purchased by Google and subsequently sold off to Lenovo not too long after, I’m not sure anyone knew what to expect from them regarding the future of their products.
I have been a fan of Motorola dating back to my Droid X. No, I wasn’t a fan of Moto Blur (like most) but the build quality of the phone itself was solid and the software only improved over time.
Motorola has secured themselves a stronghold among the “big boy” OEMS in 2014. Their 2nd Gen follow ups to their successful Moto X and G predecessors were once again a hit due to their price point, software, build quality, and customization options. Throw in the introduction of the budget friendly Moto E and you now have a company that is truly creating devices for the masses. Something we have’t truly seen until this year.
Let us not forget the Nexus 6 and Verizon Droid Turbo, to compliment their smart phone lineup. Each brought a smart phone legacy to new heights.
The Nexus 6 is bigger, more expensive, and sports a gorgeous quad HD display on a six-inch screen, while being powered by a next-gen snapdragon processor. For better or worse, Moto most definitely pushed the limit with the latest edition of the Nexus 6.
The Droid Turbo is no slouch either. With specs similar to that of the 2nd Gen Moto X wrapped in a sleek and sexy body, Verizon’s flagship device gave customers a reason to be excited. And why wouldn’t they be? The specs are great and they are complimented by a mega 3900 mAh battery and “Turbo Charging” to keep you going strong. Sounds like a win to me.
That’s a lot of devices, and I haven’t even mentioned the Moto 360 which was probably the most anticipated smart watch of the year. Most notably due to its round face. Overall, the 360 had a lot to live up to and for the most part it held up well. I wear mine daily and can’t believe how integrated into my life it’s become.
Moto addressed early 360 battery concerns with a prompt update soon after it’s launch. They listened to consumers and responded quickly, Something I like to see in a OEM.
There’s good reason to be encouraged by what we saw out of Motorola this year. They produced great products that were well received, and I have no reason to doubt that trend will continue.
Admittedly, In the past I was never a fan of LG as far as smartphones were concerned. My introduction to LG devices was via the Nexus 5, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by what they were able to accomplish. So much so, that when they unveiled the G3 this year I didn’t hesitate to pick one up.
I felt like LG had gained quite a bit of ground on the other more established OEMs with the release of the G3. It took everything that was good about the G2 and made it better. They finally had a true flagship device that was worthy of competing with the likes of Samsung, Motorola, and Apple.
They set the stage for Quad HD display by releasing the first, and while not everything displayed on the screen took advantage of all those pixels, you could definitely see a difference. The camera is superb, snapping clear and crisp photos that stand out. Also, while it’s a change from the norm, I love that LG bucked the trend and went with a rear power button and volume rocker. It’s takes a little getting used to coming from a device with a side rocker, but once you do it feels quite natural.
As with Motorola, LG also hit the ground running with their G Watch. Early reactions regarding the G Watch were mixed, but it was among the first to provide an appearance of what Android Wear would look like on a wearable device. As we know, LG didn’t stop there. We were recently introduced to their second smart watch offering, the G Watch R. Their latest, offers a round alternative to the 360 and latest reports is that it’s succeeding nicely. It touts a “true round” display with a classic sporty design and leather band. LG has done an admirable job the second time around.
One last item I’d like to mention is the LG Tone headphone line. I’m not one to spend big money on headphones, so I gave these a try. I have to say they are superb, they’re not super “bassy”, but they’re light around the neck, offer Bluetooth, and sound great. At a price of approximately $60 you can’t do much better than these for quality and affordability.
I’m happy to see LG making great strides this year from a product perspective and hope to see them continue to do so for many years to come.
From a tech perspective, 2014 will most definitely be remembered as the year Google extended their popular OS to run on wearable devices, and hence Android Wear was born. Where would we be without Android Wear? Well, we would still have Pebble devices which are great in their own right, but Wear opened the door for OEMs to begin the smart watch crusade.
Thanks to Android Wear, we now have numerous smart watch devices option including those of the like of the Moto 360, G Watch R, and Samsung Gear Live. With a flip of your wrist you not only have the time available to you, but important notifications, navigation (if you so choose), and the power of Google Voice Search. All this in a watch. Who would have though such a thing was possible just a couple of years ago?
While Android Wear is still very much still in its infancy, it’s seen quite a few updates already. Android Wear will continue to develop and mature over time just as it’s older sibling has. I’m curious to see where Google takes Android Wear and how OEMs and others continue to integrate the OS into their products.
Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
As important as Android Wear was for Google and the smart watch industry this past year, Android’s latest update dubbed “Lollipop” is equally as or even more important.
Lollipop boasts “Material Design” and is Android’s boldest and most intuitive UI design to date. The UI is more colorful and richer than ever with seamless and fluid motions as you navigate through the OS. It’s simply gorgeous and a pleasure to use.
Aside from its visual design improvements, (which are noticeably present throughout the OS) notifications are customizable and you can now opt to get what you want from who you want. Furthermore, notifications are accessible right from your lock screen for quick and easy access to your information.
“Recent Apps” is now called “Overview” in Android 5.0. The most noticeable change is that the app list is displayed as a revolving card stack rather than a vertical list. Apps can be dismissed in the same manner by swiping or tapping the “X” in the right hand corner but there still isn’t a way to “Clear All”, something I would have liked to see integrated into Android by now.
One of the features that I really enjoy is the notification tray pulling down in multiple layers. It’s a relatively small change in relation to the other UI changes throughout the OS, but it’s one I was drawn to immediately. The layered effect definitely shows attention to detail and the evolution of the OS.
Google’s latest update to Android is it’s best and brightest to date. It feels like a finished and polished OS and one worthy of being discussed in the same breath as Apple’s iOS. Something that was not so easy to do with earlier iterations of Android. Android’s future certainly looks bright. I’m happy to be among those who use it to manage not only my devices, but my day-to-day life
A Few Last Words
So there you have it, my list of the Android items I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Each has made my life more entertaining and enjoyable, and I welcome more of the same in the coming year. I hope each of you have had similar experiences with some or all of those that I mentioned here.
With that, I’d like to wish you all a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!