We have your answers to Volume 15 of the Droid Life Q&A Sessions. There were some great questions, so we took out a few of the best ones and placed them down below. A lot of readers seem interested in which phone is the best one to upgrade to, which according to our staff, is easily the Moto X. We gave our thoughts on an upcoming Google-made smartwatch, and discussed the spirituality of drinking beer. The questions are all over the place in terms of subjects, so have a look below and see if yours was answered.
As a reminder – K is Kellen, T is Tim, R is Ron and E is Eric.
What is your least favorite feature that you wish was improved with Android?
E: To be honest, there’s not a lot of things on Android that I dislike anymore. Our little OS has come a long way and Google has worked pretty well to fix all of the kinks out of it. If I had to choose something though, it would be that Google Now isn’t integrated more into Android than it already is. I think Google has got something really, really cool with Now, so I’m excited to see how they try and bake it into Android a bit more.
T: Text messaging on Android is pretty boring. If they would revamp that app or basically just finally give us a unified messaging service that combines, Google Voice, Hangouts and text messaging, I would be a happy camper. Tired of iMessage kicking our butts.
R: My least favorite feature of Android is probably multitasking. I think Palm had it best with cards and Quick Launch, but I’d love to see more implementations. I think what Samsung did with the Note 3 and being able to draw in spaces for apps on top of other apps is cool. I also like what Paranoid Android Halo did with multitasking. I’d like to see some more innovation there.
K: If we’re talking stock Android, it’s the camera app. The stock Android camera app has been terrible from day one, and even with updates over the course of a variety of builds, still remains the worst part about any Nexus product. Here’s to hoping we see that change with Kit Kat and the Nexus 5!
Do you guys think that a mid-range phone (like the Moto X) will be sufficient for the next two years?
E: We’re going to have to see. I think Moto has redefined what “mid range” is when they put this much work into the Moto X. The X8 Computing System that they added in seems to be a labor of love. It really takes whatever “mid range” specs the Moto X has and makes it shine, it’s something you have to see for yourself. What we will have to see is whether or not the shine that the phone has now will hold up over the years. Obviously I’m willing to give it a shot since I bought one myself.
T: The way we view and define “mid-range,” at least in my mind, has been changed quite a bit since my time with the Moto X. The optimizations that Motorola put into the processor and its X8 Computing System is rather interesting. On paper, I would expect the Moto X to stutter and lag all over the place while switching between apps, but it’s been almost a month now and it performs like it just came out of its box. If its current performance is anything like that two years down the road, then there is your answer. I am constantly searching for the perfect Android experience from many different devices. With the Moto X, I think I have found the closest thing to it. Cha-ching!
R: I think the Moto X would be a great phone for the next two years. Historically it’s been hard to tell, but as the spec race slows (ends) it should be easier to guess. The Moto X has great software, good specs, and Motorola is going to support it. I would feel very comfortable using the phone for two years.
K: Is it really a mid-range phone? We know that the specs sort of lead you to believe that because the processor isn’t a Snapdragon 600 or 800 and the display isn’t 1080p, but Motorola added on additional companion cores to help the phone do things that phones running more powerful processors can’t and won’t ever be able to do. Also, is the iPhone 5s mid-range? It doesn’t even come close to 1080p, yet people still think it’s top tier. The Moto X should be a fine 2-year companion.
When it comes to packing in proprietary features, such as all the sensor tracking/gestures in the Galaxy S4, when does it begin to cross the line from useful to a novelty feature that is just bloat?
E: The key to these type of features is whether or not it gets out of your way. Adding in all these features sounds nice on paper, but if they are complicated and confusing to use they are going to be counterproductive. Motorola’s Active Notifications are probably the best thing they’ve done in years because it just works. No hassle or fuss, but it just works when you need it to. When they don’t work when you need them or want them to, then it becomes “bloat.”
T: Samsung reached and crossed that line some time ago, I think. Sure, multi-window software is totally sweet and has its uses, but some of that S-Pen stuff is completely unnecessary in my eyes. Not only does it seem to bog down the flow of productivity you want in a smartphone, but it’s just too much to remember sometimes. Sure, if my hands are dirty it is nice to swipe across the sensor to answer a call, but I don’t need that to swipe through pictures in my gallery. I don’t need to hover over a video to view it. A thumbnail should suffice in most cases. Some features are sweet, some are dumb. It’s as simple as that. What’s great is that you can just disable the ones you don’t like.
R: I think the big difference is identifying things that regular people will want to use regularly because it solves a problem. Having your video not pause when you look away from the screen is not a problem.
K: There are now two opposite approaches to feature add-ons for Android that we are going to watch closely – the approach by Motorola to keep stock Android and add 3-4 useful features, and then Samsung’s approach which is to overwhelm and slap as much useless crap as possible onto a phone. There are few features on a Galaxy device that I find useful. I use the camera in Auto, don’t use any of their gimmicky multi-tasking, wouldn’t even consider any of their gestures, and do everything I can to cover up their vision. That answer your question?
What’s your favorite beer?
E: I think we’ve had a question similar to this before and my last answer was an Indiana native, Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale. For the sake of switching it up though, I’ll go with another Indiana beer, Upland’s Champagne Velvet is the bomb.
T: Favorite beer? Does “all of them” count? If I had to only live with one beer for the rest of my life, it would be Lost Coast Brewery’s Great White. It’s a summer time ale, perfect for any high temperature occasion, but for some reason I can drink it all-year round. In person I sometimes talk about resonating characteristics in many different aspects of life. I can sum this up by saying that Great White resonates deeply within me. Time to get spiritual.
R: Hanger 24.
K: Sooooooo impossible to answer. Kettlehouse brewery in Missoula, MT makes some of the best beer you’ll ever find. If you are traveling through, grab a Cold Smoke Scotch Ale and enjoy those few glorious moments in beer heaven. Otherwise, give me a Franziskaner on draft in a traditional glass.
What phone do you recommend to everyone these days?
E: It’s probably a tie between the Moto X and the HTC One. I’m not a big fan of the G2 or the S4, so these are the two that I really push. The Moto X is pretty much Android’s iPhone and the HTC One is a premium Android smartphone that you can’t really go wrong with.
T: Oh, another chance to cash in a Moto check. What is the Moto X, Alex? That is correct, Tim!
R: If they want an iPhone, I tell them the 5S or 5C. If they want an Android phone, I tell them to look at the Moto X, the HTC One, and the Galaxy S4. If they want a Windows Phone I recommend the Lumia 925 or Lumia 1025.
K: Believe it or not, the Galaxy S4 is still one of the phones I immediately tell people to get. I can’t exactly explain why, but it’s combination of beautiful display, awesome camera, and battery life are hard to pass up. If not that, then the Moto X. I love me some Moto X.
Now that it has been out for a few months, what are your thoughts on Google’s All Access music service?
E: I use it almost every day. It’s an awesome service and definitely worth it. The other day I heard Lorde’s “Royals” on the radio and really liked it (it’s a good song) and I was able to pick up my phone and have the song added to my Library of music within a couple minutes.
T: Can’t live without it. I use it everyday, everywhere I go. It’s a must have feature if you can’t live without all of your music.
R: All Access is a great service is you are only in Google’s ecosystem. Personally I prefer the look and feel of rdio for subscriptions, though. I still prefer to buy my music from iTunes.
K: I use it every single day still. In fact, I have two accounts for All Access – 1 for me and 1 for my wife.
What are your thoughts on Google Watch and what it might bring to the table?
E: If Google can integrate Google Now, Bluetooth Low Energy and a battery life of more than one day of use while making it look sexy, I’d be interested. Anything less than that and it’s going to be just like the Galaxy Gear or Pebble, cool for a week or so and then gathers dust.
T: I hope it’s awesome. Since rumors state that the Android team is working on it, I think it’s gonna be the shizznit. As far as what I want it to do, I want it to be the perfect extension of my already-existing Android experience. If I step away from my phone, I want it to tell me. If I have an important email come in, I want it to tell me and let me preview it. I do not want it to have a camera, and I would prefer if it didn’t have Google Glass’ user interface. Let’s hope that’s not asking too much from the amazing people at Google.
R: If it’s anything like the Galaxy Gear I think it will fail. We need to see innovation in terms of input. If someone can figure that out or find a way to make the watch something other than another screen to dismiss notifications then I think they’ll have a hit.
K: This is one of those products that I have no idea what to expect from. I’m just hoping it’s not a black rubber slab thing made by Motorola. I hope the design tops Samsung’s, but somehow stays minimal and modern at the same time. In terms of software, I have no idea where Google will take it. Part of me hopes they take the exact opposite approach to Samsung’s, whose goal was to overwhelm with useless features, much like they do with phones. Make the watch an extension of my phone’s experience, Google, nothing more.
What do you think is more important for Android OEM’s now, software or hardware?
E: I think we’ve reached a hardware plateau right now, so Android really needs to focus on their software if they are looking to grow. No longer is the iPhone the far and away nicest or most well-built phone on the market, so Android needs to keep innovating and adding cool features to their phone and making sure they work well and they will be fine.
T: I would say hardware. I mean seriously, why don’t I have 8GB of RAM and 500GB of storage? I thought this was the future! All kidding aside, I can safely say that OEMs have reached the perfect level of hardware quality. If they could better integrate their software with Android, that would be great. I understand the importance of differentiation in the marketplace, but stop killing my Android’s beautiful looks and features. LG, why did you skin over the two-finger pulldown in Jelly Bean on the G2? I want my system toggles there, not a copy cat of Samsung’s never-ending line of toggles I have to scroll though. How is that helpful at all? I would like to see OEMs focusing more on software and keeping a steady pace of these spec beasts that are already out on the market. As of right now, we don’t need anything faster than the Snapdragon 800, at least in my opinion.
R: The spec war is over. Software is where we’ll continue to see innovation and gimmicks. I think we’ll continue to see some hardware innovation with cameras, displays, and batteries, but all of that will be determined by software innovation as well.
K: Is marketing budget an option? It’s still a combination of both. The Moto X is a great example, where Motorola only added a minimal amount of great features, but then also took a ton of care in designing the phone. But that doesn’t always sell phones, just ask HTC.