Tablets – iPad vs. Competition

“I’ve always thought it would be really wonderful to have a little box, a sort of slate that you could carry along with you.”

Steve Jobs, 1984

He followed up on that and introduced iPad.

“iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”

Steve Jobs, 2010

Steve Jobs was right in so many ways in introducing iPad (then). And since then I find the competition to be nearly non-existent or competing with “toothless” Tablets with the intention to ripoff the buyer/user !

Context : My Devices

On the devices I use today – it’s been all Apple – MacBook Pro 13″, iPhone 7, Android Phones from Lenovo, Xiaomi for Family, iPad Air, Xiaomi MiPad for kids.

Over years, I have owned and personally used iPad in both 9.7″ and 8″ dimensions. As time passed, I had sold some of them, broke one of them and gave others to my family members.

Context : My Usage Pattern

My usage of my Mac and iPhone is mostly segment into 4 categories :

  1. Work – Email, Calendar, Access to documents to attach, Time-Organizers,
    Browser ( occasional ) and Apps ( which run mostly on my Mac )
  2. Search & Find – Browsers, Maps, Calendar, Few Apps
  3. Social – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Photo Sharing, Browsing
  4. Hobbies – Music, PhotoProcessing, Movie Watching, Reading, Games ( not much )

I don’t use Tablets for taking photos and am equally not interested to hold a 7″, 8″ or 9″ device to make or receive phone-calls.

In essence, a WiFi Tablet which can do a good job ( performance ) and good bang for the buck ( value ), will help me in many ways ( portability ).

For anything else, that needs more of my time or need to use my phone or need to type, existing other devices can fill in.

Curiosity and Need

All this while, I had been watching the Android ecosystem develop across a spectrum of mobile devices and it’s dimensions and got curious to see if I can use an Android tablet for my “routine needs”.

Problems In The Android World

Android ecosystem “still” is fragmented to 1000 pieces and still breaking apart. There are multitude of problems.

Problem of the Android OS – The OS is still a memory hogger. It follows the pattern of Windows almost entirely. It needs and consumes lot more memory for the OS to just breathe easy. It also demands that the end-user to be “conscious” about performance issues and know to clear memory, junk accumulation, killing of apps et al., just like Windows. [ iOS handles memory and manages Apps, way better ]

Problem with the Tablet’ Spec – On the above point, tablet of any kind has to have “at least” 2GB of RAM for it to start to run smooth. And for my above demand, I find that more the memory is better, more so when I’d be multitasking.

Problem of too many – While there are many options in India ( thanks much ! ), and on the above point of Android Tablets having 2GB of RAM or more – there is too much of fragmentation and abandoning from the manufacturers. Android manufacturer do not make the latest or even the prior OS version available to recent Tablets. I say “recent” for many reasons as detailed below.

Manufacturer’s Ripoff – Most if not all of them pick a version of Android, customize and test it out and make it available for the Tablet they’d be promoting. And they sell this customized OS in their Tablets’ of various dimensions. By the time it’s widely available, newer versions of Android becomes available. However, manufacturers, who are caught up in the spec-race, decide to abandon to customize the latest/recent version of the OS to those recent/old Tablets. This is a widely used business-tactic ( they think! ) to make users buy the very latest.

Suicidal Business Model – This model doesn’t cut anything – neither for the manufacturer, not the end-user or the potential buyer.

First, while each Android Tablet maker has 10’s and 20’s of models, I find that except for 1 or 2 of their top-end moels ( of those 10 or even 20 others ) are in the recent
( not even latest ) OS version. Rest are at least couple of Android-versions behind ! Needless to say, old versions of Android aren’t optimized for performance and carries no value.

Second, lot of Tablet options are not really options, as most of them have meager spec., which can barely run the OS, leave along other apps. So, as a new buyer, you are pushed with a very narrow list of options ( of couple ), top end models.

On this, I also have to say, the world of Android is dominated by Samsung, even more in the Tablet world. Even giants such as Lenovo, Huawei, Asus, LG, Acer ( and many more ) don’t have any compelling offering ! Even if they do have a Tablet ( and a strategy ), it’s at least 2-3 OS versions behind and lacks any comparitive feature with the leader in that space ! [ Reference : Forums are filled with complaints of abandonment among ohter issues. ]

Third, here is the most interesting situation in the Android world. Top end models – which claims to support latest or recent version of Android are more expensive than iPad !

iPad wins over on other dimensions too – Spec, Portability, Features, User-Experience and of course Apps-EcoSystem. Apple is very prompt to make available latest OS version to older iPads.

Requiem – Tablets in general ( both between iOS and Android ) have a longer lifespan compared to Smartphones. So, when I know, I am going to be holding onto a Android Tablet, which will not get latest and greatest software and features of Android, as and when they are released and more expensive than iPad – what’s the point in buying a more expensive dud ?!

iPad still rules and I sincerely hope they are able to put lot more focus and bring in innovative ideas to grow this offering.

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Wearable Devices : Hype About Smart Watch

Devices are about interactions. Intuitive the device is, basically the OS is – the more you spend time with it. It’s applicable for phones as with TV and others. Touch connects us well as it’s natural. In that size and comfort does matter. e.g. phone size and remotes that have easy controls. Voice is even more natural but has social constraints – you may not have privacy in a public place when you’d want to interact with your device without touching it.

I think it’s a hype seriously about ‘super smart watches”. How much do can ‘interact’ with a watch ? If one were to argue that a good, yet unexplored interface with change watches – I’m not sure. May be not yet.

We get immersed in our devices and apps on it – in other words, we lose track of “time”. Watch is a “reminder” of time, and with such a tiny interface, you can only do so much. I understand that you can remove the indicators of time on a smart watch, but again how much can you do in that small interface ? Do you see it a device where you lose track of time or, a device to start a ‘interaction workflow’ on your regular activities ?

If anything, a smart watch is a reminder that you are better off to do what you want to do elsewhere – in other device and interface. With a smart phone or a tablet around you, you’d tend to use it than a smart watch. Overtime, I believe you’d want to eliminate that tiny mostly useless device in your “interaction workflow” and stick to something that’s completes that workflow.

Smart watches for fitness – I’m not sure yet. You can do with Fitbit, not necessarily a watch 🙂 Even the latest iPhones have health sensors ( they call it motions sensors) , which are so accurate to track movement. It tracks steps and runs and even altitude you climb and it so accurate. There is there analytics on top of it.

Watch is highly dependent on ‘another device’ – it can’t fit by itself like a phone or a tablet. I think next innovation in watches is Star Trek like ‘beaming’ to transport us.

 

I Spoke To and Touched God !

I was seriously feeling very tired in Chennai airport because of the flight time – 4AM. The time after 1:30 AM is always very painful, as the body gives up.

But it was at that time, I noticed – what looked like a very familiar face – Is that the world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand ? I wasn’t sure initially, when I saw him about 300 yards away – but his signature rub of his finger nails, just assured me that it was. I was shocked.

But then I had to get into the flight. I thought well, may be if I get a wild chance, I would catch him on the flight to just shake hands.

I settled at my seat, and with in few minutes – Anand came close and soon enough he had my very next seat ! Is this really happening was my question – all my tiredness were doing something different in my body and it was pure adrenaline rush. I didn’t how to react.

After about full 10 minutes – I slowly pinged me with the question “Hi, I’m sorry to bother you, you are Vishwanathan Anand…”. Even before I finished my sentence, he had a broad welcoming smile and shook hands !

” Words aren’t coming out, I’m truly overwhelmed… ” Stuttering I continued. ” I just want to say it’s a pleasure meeting you and you’ve been my inspiration, idol and god for decades “. Anand smiled further and said thanks.

As luck would have it, seat next to him on the other side were empty and other passengers were moving fast to find their seats and not realizing his presence.

I felt he was very uneasy on his celebrity status and was trying hard to stay away from peering looks, to protect his privacy. A couple approached me to check whether it was Anand, but left him alone 🙂

Time went by during our flight and Anand was so friendly and humble to talk on a number of things. We spoke on British Airways’ India Food options which he opined on, checked with me whether we had good Movie options and we spoke on movies. I asked his of the time when he’d play 20-40 chess games in parallel and whether he has time in India to do so. He was very warm and open in these conversations while I continued to be in disbelief. I didn’t want to sleep but just talk, but he requested that we both get rest so politely – that’s when I realized to shut up and respect his time and rest.

When we were about to land, I thought for a full 10 minutes to ask for a selfie. But was shy, instead opted to just thank him.

” Mr. Anand – it was my pleasure to meet you. You continue to inspire generations and I want to thank for that and making India proud “. He had a broad smile. After all I had wanted to say that to him for ALL these years.

Gained little strength from his response to try again, I asked

” If you won’t mistake me, can I take a snap with you “. Yet again, before I finished he said ” Sure, can we do it after we land, outside ?”.

With selfie covered, we started to walk out of the plane, wanting to finish rest of the procedures. Yet I was talking and he was still very involved. We spoke about our families, our decisions to relocate back to India, Immigration procedures and recent changes on flights to UK, USA et al.

As we were wrapping up our Immigration procedures, he stopped, turned around, wished me well and to see again near the baggage pickup or somewhere. I was frozen and hadn’t recovered from the turn of events.

God (Anand) had been very kind !!

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar

Twenty Four years could be compared to that of a well grown adult in any generation. In one’s life, in 24 years one grows from infant to become an young man, accumulating lot of educational qualifications and practical training. That enables them to face the world confidently and make a living. Their success motivates others to follow their steps to become successful.

A generation grew up for 24 years in the cricket of Sachin Tendulkar !

Watching Sachin for a quarter of a century years is “education” at it’s best, “reference” as one could ever have had and “pure joy” to watch for any Cricket lover. To quote a match or two, a turning point of a match after his batting, an inning or more or the match he saved for India and took to glory – is impossible – as after all he had done far too many times !

Indian Cricket has had its high and low moments. Very few have reacted to those low moments to dislike the game and more than the game, the system. I say few as India is a nation of cricket addicts and fanatics. One sign read “India is divided by religions, but united by Sachin”. That is very true. That was the impact of Sachin on me. Even when I hate Indian Cricket because of corruption, I watched him bat and felt that he was trying to be different. Euphoria was negative, but he held himself and all too often he turned the match or, took India to glorious victories.

His batting and single-handed-mission was an experience on its own. You as an audience saw him as a lone warrior, a gladiator dismantling the opposition and coming through as the victor, out of impossible odds. He did far too many times, that expectations only grew. Many times, one felt that it’s the rules of the game of Cricket, which demanded 11 players, but it was enough for India to have Sachin to win the game. He owned Indian Cricket and true it such an expectation and responsibility, took it to glory.

I too have felt emotional and at times, even have hugged the TV out of his brilliance, tenacity and pure Cricket which made impossible, possible. The only other time I could remember hugging TV was when Sunil Gavaskar – another genius from Indian Cricket – scored 10,000 runs.

Age doesn’t wait on such great people. It’s only right for a generation to grow up and age along with Sachin, for us to recognize and feel overwhelmed at the sheer service that he had done for Indian Cricket. As for the generation-next and those Cricket enthusiasts, those glory days stays as a “lesson that’s most important”, those videos of his matches part of the “learning library”. I shall cherish that I was part of that generation which was fortunate enough to watch a “god in action” for all those 24 years, as it happened !!

All good things in life comes to and end. It’s inevitable but with a sweet reminder that overwhelms one, yet to cherish on the fact that a generation grew up watching and learning and cherishing the golden age of Indian Cricket.

Sachin Tendulkar leaves Indian Cricket, very proud and at a very high level than, when he became part of it.

iPhone 5S

And so there it was. My iPhone 5S finally arrived. I had to drive out in the dark to collect it from an acquaintance. iPhone by then had hopped different hands in different countries and cities. Nevertheless, the feeling was colorful and eventful. This would be my third iPhone in the series – starting from iPhone 3G and then using iPhone 4.

iPhone 4 was, still is a great phone. But as iOS progressed to advanced to several versions, I could see it demanded lot more horse power and gradually older phones were naturally restricted on features.

Since iPhone 3G, I saw the newer features (both hardware and software) were released on the ‘S’ series (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S) than others. Still I had bought iPhone 4, after iPhone 3G. So I decided to skip a full cycle of iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, to try to hop back with iPhone 5S.

Meanwhile, I experimented with a lot of different devices on Android ecosystem – Samsung Galaxy Fit, Google Nexus 4 and recently Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos. I also bought Google Nexus 7 in between for my family to use.

I still am not convinced about using Android.

I hate the experience on Samsung hardware. Too many useless features and copy-cats – two music players, two scheduler’s, two browsers etc. It was all jarring and distracting. In spite of all of that, their devices were very poor in user experience.

Google’ devices makes me feel “raw, unpolished and hurried releases” and was not a rich experience either. Display, User Interface and User Experience was always missing richness.

Using Android, I always felt that I was using “another form of Microsoft Windows”. It was too mundane and moronic at times – checking running processes and clearing memory to make the device work properly, using file-browser to locate files, using back soft-button option to move back etc. Above all, hardware design from different vendors put those have-to-use soft-buttons at different places. It drove me crazy. Across all the hardware vendors, battery life sucked in Android devices, no matter what you do. And even if you don’t do anything. It was as though that the OS was always breathing very hard to stay up – leave alone what it was capable of doing.

There was a clear feeling that I was missing something or that I was expecting an experience as rich as in iOS. Over time, I realized that Android world is not matured enough to provide that, yet. It was time to bail out.

Meanwhile, while I was not using my iPhone 4 and waiting for a new iPhone, I was still in touch and in love with iOS through my iPad. I love iPad and iOS on iPad. My personal computing changed ever since I got iPad and I’m sure it is going to change my professional computing soon as well. Using Android and iOS on a daily basis just enforced my thoughts on iOS that it is the way to go.

Apple had few welcome changes with in the company – among them was Jony Ive took over the iOS software design and iOS 7 is powering all their mobile computing devices. Having waited, I decided to hop onto iPhone 5 – after bit of deliberation, was convinced that it is only worth to get 5S than 5C.

Having spent half a day till now, with my iPhone 5S – I am in peace. Experience is very rich. Device is super fast and yet smooth. More to come iPhone 5S as I go along. I am glad I am home with Apple now.

Business Travel And Family

I just returned from a 3-week business trip. And boy, what a change in the time ?!!

My 11-month old started to crawl, stand-up holding objects, almost talk and has 4 bunny tooth ! 🙂 Sadly though, when I got back, for several hours she would not recognize me and was fussy to come to me 😦

I was a stranger whose face must have been only familiar through the frame of FaceTime. Internet plays such an important role in our daily lives and thinking of a situation with out that is blank and scary.

Meanwhile, my 4.6 year old – I heard was crying on a regular basis on my separation. She apparently was tracking the dates on the calendar, every single day counting down to the date of my return. It broke my heart 😦

Meanwhile, travel this time was good. It was on an important assignment and was busy. I was in the Somerset, New Jersey area again. While I was in the Branchburg area of New Jersey in the first quarter of this year, Somerset was a deserted town. Except for bunch of Hotels and few businesses, there was nothing much. One had to drive on a 5-mile radius to find thick population of humans 🙂

Ever since we as a family returned to India, I get to visit USA at least twice an year on such business trips. It brings out of lot of memories of events, decisions at different points et al.

While I am not much of a fan of business travel, may be it is time to explore other parts of the world 🙂

AirTel, D-Link – Internet Connection Nightmare

I have an Airtel DSL connection at home. D-Link 2730U ADSL Modem/Router was the internet enabler. My Mac Mini was hard-wired. Few devices were connected over wireless – Google Nexus 4, iPad2, iPad4 and my Lenovo laptop from work.

It all were working harmoniously, until one day when the modem/router would suddenly give, soft-reboot itself and disconnects were random but regular.

I enabled logs in the router and I started to observe a pattern but only in the message. At random interval it was indicated that ADSL connection was down and it would restart.

I thought it was a problem with my Airtel connection. Gave a complaint, not once but four different times. They checked everything but said line was fine, some else was wrong. Suspicion turned to the router. I found a lot of complaints on the net where folks had faced/still face same issues. It was almost certain that the router had issues.

Then I went on to order a brand new modem/router. Thought about it a lot as whether I would need to go with a combo of modem and router or divide them up. For some reason, I ordered D-Link DSL-2750U from Flipkart.com. Reviews were very positive.

Plugged in the new modem and in less than half a day, same symptoms started to show up !! Complained again with Airtel. They were still certain that something was a miss between the DSL hub inside the home and the device (modem). Called up D-Link’s technical support. They said, the device had a manufacturing defect and replaced it through Flipkart.com. Second new modem came home and in less than a day, same problem again !

Complained again with Flipkart.com and they run such a wonderful company and their customer service took back the faulty modem (second one) without a word! Bravo!

On my end, I was back to square one. I was left with D-Link DSL-2730U. Checked one more time with Airtel and a new suggestion cropped up. Change the connection splitter to modem and phone. Tried that with D-Link DSL-2730U but with no luck.

Then decided to order just a DSL modem. This time it was TP-Link TD-8817 and through Snapdeal.com. Snapdeal took a very long time to fulfil the order. Not only that, they didn’t keep the date of shipment. On the shipping date, I checked on the status. Suddenly a SMS is fired that my order is delayed for unforeseen reasons ! A day after I get an email with the same message.

I call up, the next day. Customer service was insisting that shipment date is that day and it’s all set !! I asked the rep to check the order tracker and it was showing that my modem should have shipped previous day. I told her that I was very unhappy with the way she handled my purchase and wanted to cancel. Reluctantly she took the cancellation. Next day the modem shows up at my door ! Weird.

The long search for a stable connection and a device which actually works stays at that status as of now !

Nexus 4 and Bluetooth

I have been overall happy with my Nexus 4. However there are two issues, which I think is either an hardware or software issue.

First is with the way my bluetooth headset connects with Nexus 4. I use M28 and Savor M1100 from Plantronics. Issue is once in a while it does not transmit the voice to the Bluetooth headset. Suddenly it will just be silent, while the call will still be active. If I switch off your headset alone, the active call won’t get transferred to the phone (so as to hear it from the handset’s ear piece). Invariably I have to end the call, pair the headset again and call back. This happens many times with in a day.

Second issue is with address book entries which has toll-free numbers and passcode to be keyed in automatically after a pause, while using Bluetooth headsets. While the address book entires are right and they work sometimes and pass-codes and pauses in between won’t be transmitted right. Resolution has been just to press ‘back’ or ‘return’ and kill the dial-pad to try again. It works after a while.

Never been able to find a solution for these two. I suspect these are more of an Android Jelly Bean issue with Nexus 4, than an hardware problem.

Review : Google Nexus 4 Phone

Premise
It was a change of an universe for me to get an Android phone as I have been using only Apple made phones since 2009. Back then, I had bought iPhone 3G and never had to look back. Then for last two years, I have been using iPhone 4. It’s a great phone, but I was one of the many affected by the manufacturing defect of iPhone’s “Home Button”. It would respond when it wants, not when I wanted. iPhone 5 came along, was very impressed with the design change and bigger screen size (than iPhone 4), among other improvements. However, I always felt that the ‘S’ series of iPhone’s were better than the numerals (iPhone 3GS vs. iPhone 3G, iPhone 4S vs. iPhone 4). So I decided to skip iPhone 5 to get iPhone 5S. It was a gamble, still is.

Enter Nexus 4
While my iPhone 4 still works, the problems with its home buttons response time were just compounding and frustrating. So I had to get a phone for the ‘interim’. Thought it was an opportunity to get an top-end Android phone. I do not count my spare Samsung Fit in that category. It sucks.

The very fact that Google could push and make available the latest Android software (without having to wait for the handset maker) attracted me. Also, there won’t be any stock apps from the handset maker. It was time to jump the ship.

Build
Overall I am very impressed with the build of Nexus 4. It’s very sleek and light (coming from the iPhone world). It does not feel heavy on the hand, even when the phone is held to the ear on a long conversation. There is no “heavy stainless steel” rim as iPhone 4. Back of the phone has tiny, shiny crystal like interface and it looks great on day light or from any light source.

Gorilla Glass 2
Touch interface, user experience is simply fantastic on Nexus 4 with Gorilla Glass 2. Older versions of Android always had a lag when you swipe or touch. But I never felt that on Nexus 4 with Jelly Bean OS of Android

Display
Overall I am happy with the display and user-experience of Android, but it not even close to Retina Display of iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. Icons and art-work on Android are bad looking and does not take advantage of the display or Gorilla Glass 2. They always look pale. Edges are not smooth and classy. Overall it lacks taste.

Android Jelly Bean
With in few days of getting Nexus 4, there was an update available directly from Google. Update was very smooth and few touches away. It was not painful as upgrading iOS in the Apple world. Android update was OTA (Over The Air), no need to hook up to an application such as iTunes or, key in the password. It has to be said that even iOS offers OTA upgrade as an option, but I never tried that. Felt always it was safe to do it tethered to iTunes.

Jelly Bean seems to pack a lot of fixes and upgrades on the core Operating System, but it is not a feature set upgrade.

Android Interactions with Nexus 4
Interaction is how from the point one initiate’s an app (by touch) how all you use the app. Android app options are very much like applications installed on a Windows PC. Every app has their own way of providing options such a sub-menu or settings. This is very exploratory and inconsistent across Android apps. Android has just left it open to the app designers than have to guard the user and user-experience. iOS in comparison is “mostly” consistent as in very few cases I have seen that few apps direct you to Settings. Likewise, these options are enabled at any of the four corners of the app. Overall this is very confusing and very poorly designed.

Google Apps vs. Rest of the Mobile Apps
You got to know your stuff well. Google sticks to that. All apps created by Google for Android are blazing fast. Chrome is a good example (while it has to be said that Chrome is fast in other platforms as well. Google+, GMail, Google Talk are other examples of super-fast apps.

Clear Winners
From an user-interface and design stand point there are few that Apple/iOS clear lost to Android – Lock-screen options, Dashboard/Springboard menus and my very favorite Keyboard (Swype or Google Keyboard). Clearly Google Keyboard is a winner. You can compose an email or SMS in a flash. Typing one by one as in iOS is so yesterday. In all I feel Android’s UI (User Interface) design use the FULL interface of a touch interface than iOS. iOS is more of a showcase, a statement of Apple/iOS brilliant “display capabilities” than using the full of interface.

Clear Loosers
Battery life sucks in Nexus 4. No matter what energy setting you enable and use sincerely, it does not help. It’s a clear disconnect between innovation on the Android OS, UI and battery life oriented tweaks. This again is like Microsoft’s approach to battery life on a laptop with Windows OS. Clearly Nexus 4 is not a Green or Pro-Green device as one ends up charging often, to use the puppy.

Conclusion
Overall, I am happy to use Nexus 4 as an “interim” phone before I head home to get iPhone 5S. But again, it clearly is not a long term, converted to Android phone. At least not yet.

Life is precious

It all happened in the blink of an eye. I was traveling on a 2-wheeler yesterday and suddenly an accident.

Next thing I knew was I was falling at an awkward angle. Thud! My shoulder bag was flying in one direction, my vehicle was turning throwing me upfront, my leg was twisted with extraordinary stress on my knee. While my head slammed to the road, my helmet guarded me. Traffic stopped as a miracle and luckily there wasn’t any vehicle nearby and traveling in high-speed to run over me.

But these are my recollections, not those that was going in my mind when it happened or
even after.

What I do remember was something else. Images flashes of my two daughters suddenly from nowhere! It was the most distinct moment that I never, ever experienced in my life before. Fear of life engulfed and the strong realization that god let me live took over and it even overtook the excruciating pain on many parts of my body.

Life is amazing, blessings are vital and life is surely precious. We should not fear for life, but cherish by spending every moment of it, with those and for those, we love dear. Grab every moment to have your undivided attention and love, for them.

We check our phones 1000 time a day, we carry around our computers all the time like our kid, we are always preoccupied with work of the day. Work occupies majority of our lives.

How many times have we blacked them out to play with our kids without disturbance ?
How many times have we kissed them sincerely ?
How many times have we played with them sincerely, without squeezing their time for our meetings, for our work ?
How many times have we listened to our parents, spouse, family when they were talking?

It is not true that we ignore them, but few things in life are taken for granted. This moment reminded me of that and to change course.

Drive safely, wear protective gear. Hug you kids tight, spend time with your family. And work hard. Life is precious and to cherish.