On Monday, we asked for readers to send in their questions for Volume 19 of the DL Q&A Sessions. We have gathered our favorites, then let our team have at them.
Questions seems to be quite focused on Motorola and the general state of the hardware/software game for Android. If you were curious for our honest opinions on the Lenovorola deal or which spirit animal our Android device’s would be, then read on.
Thank you for your fantastic questions, everyone.
Reminder: K is Kellen, T is Tim, R is Ron, and E is Eric.
If every phone manufacturer was running stock vanilla android, what hardware would you choose?
K: Motorola. I know we talk about our love for the Moto X all of the time, but it is the hardware I would still choose (thankfully it already runs stock Android). It may not carry the premium look of the all-metal HTC one, but it feels so fabulous in hand. I really hope that Motorola doesn’t change the size of the new Moto X, but maybe just upgrades the display and camera. No phone feels better in hand to me than this after all this time. And I’ve gone back and forth between the One, G2, and Nexus 5.
T: I would choose whichever one had the best camera. If each hardware maker had their typical sensors in there, then I would have to stay away from almost every one of them besides Samsung and HTC. If you were to tell me that each had the same camera, and I had to judge solely on the quality of hardware, then I would lean towards Motorola or HTC. Maybe if HTC lowered the weight on the One, I wouldn’t be so snobby towards it. Metal is heavy, HTC.
R: I think HTC makes some of the best hardware still, but Sony would be up there as well. It would probably depend on whoever had the best camera.
E: Probably HTC. The aluminum body of the One just feels too substantial to pass up. It isn’t a perfect design (the big black HTC bar on the bottom, capacitive buttons), but if the software was equal across all the other devices, that would be my choice. If only it were real!
Which OEM are you rooting for this year?
K: Last year I said Motorola, this year I’m probably going to go with HTC. HTC has one hell of an uphill climb if they want to survive. I don’t know if it can be done, but I hope so. They are truly trying to make the most premium smartphones of our time, they just don’t have a marketing budget to let everyone know about them. Hopefully, something changes this year, because I’d hate to see one less Android OEM.
T: I’m rooting hard for HTC and Motorola. Both of these companies need to hit a couple of homeruns this year, so here’s hoping they come through for consumers. We pretty much know what HTC has in store for us thanks to a ton of leaks, and I’ve gotta say, it’s not looking too good for them. Motorola on the other hand has found some success with the Moto X and Moto G (especially), so let’s see if they can keep it up.
R: I’m hoping HTC can stay afloat, that Sony will enter the US, and that Motorola will surprise us with a phone that can take pictures.
E: Everyone! Why wouldn’t you root for an OEM? HTC and Motorola need all the love they can get at this point. Samsung looks like they have disappointed a few people with the S5 so we have to give them some backing too. LG has their constant little brother syndrome and Sony still doesn’t seem to understand how to roll out a phone across the globe. No one benefits from not rooting for all Android OEMs, spread the love man.
What is your phone’s spirit animal?
K: A koala.
T: Kevin Bacon or a big ol’ bald eagle. ‘Murica!
R: Jony Ive.
E: Grumpy Cat.
How do you honestly feel about Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola?
K: Not great. They soon won’t be an American company, they’ll no longer have the freedom that they had when being owned by Google, and their future is a giant question mark. They already lost their CEO. Who knows how many others from their current executive group will leave in the next few months. The Texas MotoMaker plant is almost guaranteed to go away. It all kind of sucks, actually. Moto did some really cool stuff last year, and will likely again this year until the acquisition is official, but after that, who knows what we’ll see.
T: Another great American company, now owned by a Chinese company. All of the hard work and uphill battles they fought last year might as well have been for nothing, as Lenovo announced they plan on introducing Motorola to emerging markets. Will they focus still on the US? Probably, but not as much as we would like. We probably have a few devices in Motorola’s pipeline to look forward to, but in terms of overall feeling towards the deal, I’m bummed about it.
R: I don’t know what to think yet. I really like Lenovo’s Yoga Pro 2, but their smartphone software has been sub par so far. I think Lenovo has pretty good design chops, so for me the big thing will be to see if they can continue Motorola’s new-found love of close-to-stock Android with useful, not gimmicky, software enhancements. And a camera that can take pictures.
E: I think we all shared our feelings on a Droid Life show a couple weeks ago, but to sum it up: I’m disappointed. It seemed that we were just getting a new Motorola who was on the right track to do some really cool things and now we can’t be sure of that now. I know Lenovo has the manufacturing prowess to boost Motorola, but it takes more than that. You have to have an idea and vision, and I think we fell in love with the vision that Moto had under Google. I highly doubt that it will be the same under new management.
Do you think Nokia has a chance in the Android market?
K: Go away, Nokia. Go away.
T: It’s Nokia. I don’t really care quite yet. When I see an awesome flagship with crazy specs and a good camera, I might turn my head to re-acknowledge their existence.
R: I don’t think that question makes sense. Nokia is using Android to push Microsoft services on the low end, but the experience is far worse than a low-end Windows Phone, so I don’t see Nokia’s line of Android phones taking off any time soon. If Nokia went all in with Android and made something akin to the Lumia 1020 then I think they might have a shot, but that ship has long sailed for Nokia. Microsoft will undoubtedly shut down any Android-related projects once the acquisition is complete.
E: If they keep scraping the bottom barrel of the market, probably not.
Why do you guys prefer stock Android so much?
K: I think partly because I know it so well and am so used to it because we pushed so hard for it to be the standard over skins. I can get down with TouchWiz and Sense, but they just seem to carry this extra layer or three of fluff that I don’t need. Stock Android is simple, but lets me add what I want to it. There isn’t extra garbage. Plus, it has really matured over the last two years to become a beautiful OS that has all of the stuff you need to survive.
T: I enjoy stock Android because Google is my overlord, and if this is how they intended me to enjoy their mobile OS, then this is how I will keep it. On a more serious note, I think the problem with skins is that they add in too much. They go past the point of useful and just add in gigs worth of crap I will never touch. When you buy a phone with 16GB of storage, then only 8GB are useable thanks to a skin and crapware, then we have a problem. That’s some scam/false advertisement right there. Motorola is on the right track – stock Android, but with hints of proprietary goodness. Good on you, Moto.
R: I personally prefer stock Android because I like consistency. I want all of my apps and the OS to look like they match each other. Stock Android tends to be able to meet that aesthetic much better than the skins. That said, most stock Android icons are garbage.
E: For people just coming into the Android scene, it may seem a little weird to have this obsession with stock Android. You have to look at it from where we have been. Android skins like TouchWiz and Motoblur used to be god-awful. Absolutely killed your phone. Putting some kind of stock ROM on it or having a Nexus device was almost like night and day. OEMs have done a lot to make skins a lot less intrusive and a lot more functional, but some of that preference for stock still comes from that. Another big group of thinking is that stock Android makes it easy to ROM, root and hack their device. Something that other mobile OS’s don’t offer so easily. And then personally, I like minimal. Stock Android is slim, sleek and runs fast. Why wouldn’t I love it?
What are you expecting from a new Moto X device?
K: More of the same, at least that’s what Motorola told us in an interview. I’d imagine they’ll continue to add features to Active Display and Touchless Control. They’ll then upgrade to a 1080p display, find ways to extend battery life further, and hopefully keep MotoMaker on some level. I’m sure there will be some sort of new surprise to help sell the phone, I just have no idea what that’ll be. I really just wish they’d put the best possible camera sensor for mobile on Earth in that thing. PLEASE, Moto.
T: “Better” specs and a MUCH better camera sensor. Good lord, Moto, did you even open the camera app before releasing the Moto X? If you tell me you did, I’m going to call you a big fat liar! Regardless, I have high hopes for a 2014 Moto X. Last year’s had the perfect mix of stock Android and helpful software/hardware features like Touchless Control and Active Display. Don’t over do it, Moto.
R: I would love to have a Moto X with a fantastic camera, but I am absolutely not expecting that from Motorola. I’m expecting a slightly spec bumped Moto X with a very similar chassis, a disappointing camera, decent battery life, and a low price.
E: Better camera, better processor, more MotoMaker options and a few other snazzy improvements along the line of Touchless Control and Active Display.
If you had to live with one for the rest of your life, would it be HTC’s Sense UI or Samsung’s TouchWiz UI?
K: TouchWiz. While I like the overall look of Sense, I really hate the way HTC changes basic actions in Android. Samsung may skin the hell out of everything, but general Android concepts are there. For example, to share photos from your gallery in Sense, you have to tap the “share” button first, then select which app, and then select the photos. On every other Android device on the planet, you select the photos first, and then tap share. Or how about their dock/app/folder situation in the Sense launcher? Or their terrible management of contacts? Or the insanely long process they have implemented for changing a wallpaper? Ugh. Things like that drive me nuts.
T: So blowing my brains out isn’t an option? I would go with the new TouchWiz that we saw on the Galaxy S5. It’s actually not that bad. Is it just me, or does Kit Kat make everything better? The unification of colors on the notification bar (and the translucency) has been one of my favorite changes to Android since I have been using this OS. I think it’s extremely hot. So, to answer the question, TouchWiz!
R: HTC Sense would absolutely be my choice. Samsung has always been bad at software design (look at the old Omnia line of Windows Mobile phones versus HTC’s Windows Mobile phones with TouchFlo), whereas HTC has usually been able to design things that look nice. It’s not always my favorite design aesthetic (I’m not in love with the latest versions of Sense), but it looks nice.
E: Both of these skins have a pretty bad history, but I think they’ve both come a long way. I have a slight preference for Sense though. I don’t need birds chirping at me for the rest of my life whenever I get a text message.