Sorry for the wait, but we have been busy. Last week on Monday, we called for questions and you all delivered quite well. For Volume 43, questions concern our trust in Samsung’s future devices, whether the Nexus 6P is still a good purchase, and what’s currently our vote for Phone of the Year.
On the lighter side, we were asked about this year’s World Series, how an Android newcomer can best get acquainted, and if we can expect Moto to drop modularity with LG’s exit from the module space.
All of that and more await you down below.
Reminder: K is Kellen, T is Tim.
With the rise of competitive mid-range phones, does it now make more sense to buy a mid-range phone every year than a flagship phone every 2 years?
K: Yeah, maybe, assuming you are the type that needs fresh tech at all times. Phones, at least in the past, didn’t used to age well, so about a year in, it wasn’t surprising to see performance take a hit. Getting a new mid-ranger could be a good idea to cure that issue, assuming you pick the right ones. But in reality, you almost don’t need to go mid-range anymore. $300-$400 are now as good as some flagships. If you drop to the $200 range, you really do get into a realm of phones that may not satisfy you (for example: they all have terrible cameras).
T: Thanks to companies like OnePlus and ZTE, it seems we’re continually having to redefine what “mid-range” means. When these companies launch phones with crazy-good specs at super reasonable prices, it makes me think that other companies like HTC and Moto aren’t doing enough to justify their higher pricing for flagships. That being said, now is a good time to love mid-range devices. Ar the $400 range, there’s no reason you can’t jump from phone to phone every year, especially if you are on a carrier plan (pre-paid, etc.) that allows for the instant switching of devices via a SIM swap. To sum up my answer, yes, buying mid-range devices makes sense with regard to how quickly you can find yourself upgrading.
Which phones are contenders for Phone of the Year?
K: At this point, it’s Pixel for me. It would have been Note 7, but yeah. I’d also throw the Galaxy S7 Edge in there, though, because it really is still a great phone. Other than that, I don’t know that anyone else even makes the short list, unfortunately.
T: Galaxy Note 7 was the bomb, it would have easily snagged my vote for Phone of the Year. Too bad it was a literal bomb. Moving past that, I would be crazy not to vote for the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. They are everything the Note 7 was, basically, minus the S Pen and Iris scanner. While I’d love to vote for the Pixel, it’s missing a few things that in my eyes, don’t justify its higher pricing.
Do you think the next round of Moto phones will include modularity, or does LG’s abandonment of the concept spell an industry-wide abandonment?
K: I think Moto sticks with it for another cycle. They clearly invested heavily in that platform and making universal mods. They can make similar phones, at least in shape next year, and those mods from this year keep working. They can also hopefully continue working on useful mod ideas instead of having to re-do the design. LG failed because their design failed. Motorola has the right idea, they just need to make mods useful.
T: Unlike LG’s implementation, Moto did modularity right. You click them on, snap them off. It’s painless and extremely straightforward. Compared to LG’s idea of modularity, Moto blew the G5 out of the water with Moto Mods. Because of this undeniable fact, I don’t see them ditching modularity already, unless their sales haven’t come close to expectations. Making Moto Mods was a very long and expensive investment, and you have to assume their parent company, Lenovo, would be willing to see if the bet pays off in the longterm.
Got any tips for someone coming back to Android after a couple of years away?
K: If your budget isn’t huge, you have so many good options at the $400ish range. Skip Allo and Duo. The Note 7 blew up, bet you didn’t know that. People over here are doing this modular thing, but no one has gotten it right yet. If you like stuff and things, the V20 and its ridiculously sized self are out. Android is actually super polished now as an OS. You may not recognize stock Android anymore because of how clean and powerful it is. Also, updates are still something we complain about all of the time.
T: First off, welcome back, we’ve missed you. Assuming you already have a new device, download Google Now Launcher, get yourself a hot wallpaper pack, then get ready for the jankiest experience of your life. Just kidding, but seriously. In fact, I have a question for you: What made you come back to Android? Was it the fragmentation and poor software update experience? Do yourself a favor and get out while you can!
Cubbies or Indians?
K: Go Indians.
T: As a Giants fan, I’m torn. Chicago deserves a championship, but Cleveland is also pretty deserving. I mean, they’ve both been awful for so long. I guess my true hope is that the world ends before the World Series is over, meaning neither team will win.
Other than “competing with itself,” are there any reasons why the Pixel and Nexus program can’t coexist?
K: They are basically treating Pixel like Nexus. Sure the prices are throwing people off because Verizon is involved, but the prices of Nexus used to spike whenever Google teamed up with Big Red too. Also, the software situation still seems to be the same to me so far. In other words, I don’t know why they both need to exist, unless anyone thinks Google really needs to work with LG or Samsung or Huawei to brand their phone. I don’t see a reason for that to be a thing any longer.
T: This is a valid point. You’ve got your consumer-facing line of polished devices, then a less expensive brand aimed at the developers and tinkerers. It makes sense. But remember, this is Google we’re talking about. Pixel could be dead in two years and we’ll be onto something else. They just don’t seem to think things through to the 5-year point.
What do you think Google needs to do for the Pixel brand to be truly successful?
K: Keep promoting the shit out of it like they are doing now. They have an opening now with Samsung’s Note 7 debacle. Plus, they made really great phones. They do need to focus on unique hardware, though, for next year and getting the phone on more carriers. Otherwise, keep doing what they are doing, which means not only promoting, but adding in new useful software features too.
T: They’ve got the marketing part down, no argument there. However, I’d argue that carrier exclusivity hurts a bit. While the phone can be purchased unlocked with no problems, many don’t want to go that route – it’s easier to just go into AT&T and get a phone on-contract rather than buying outright. Once and if the Pixel is no longer a Verizon exclusive, we can talk about the Pixel becoming a real success story.
Are digital assistants, like Siri and Google Assistant, legit selling points?
K: If they weren’t, you wouldn’t see them promoted so heavily. People still talk about Siri all of the time, even though I hear most people complaining about her lack of features. But people want to use assistants like this, so that they can touch their phones less. I’ve actually used Assistant quite a bit on Pixel and am excited about its future.
T: I’ve been using the Pixel for a week. How many times have I used Assistant? I don’t know, but I promise I can count the number on two hands. For me, Assistant is great, but it hasn’t changed the way I use my smartphone. When I want to Google something, I still use the search bar. Now, if you want to talk about Google Home, I can see Assistant and digital assistants in general being much more valuable in the sense that you don’t use your hands to interact with those devices at all. That is where Assistant, Siri, and Alexa shine.
Is the Nexus 6P worth buying still?
K: Depends on how long you want to keep it. If you think it’ll last 2 years, I wouldn’t buy one. If you only plan to own it until the next wave of flagships arrive or next year’s Pixel phones, then yeah, it’s probably still worth it.
T: You can grab a Nexus 6P on Amazon for the same $500 price as when it first went on sale the last I checked. That seems like a somewhat decent price, but really, there might be better options so long as you don’t mind running a custom skin. Check out a OnePlus 3, Axon 7, Honor 8, or something else maybe. For $400, you can buy something produced this year, and not last year’s discounted Google flagship. Don’t get me wrong, the 6P is great and you can run Nougat today, but there are other options out there. If you don’t mind spending that $500, you can even find a Galaxy S7 for around that price on eBay, providing you with an awesome camera and water resistant experience. Again, this is the beauty of Android – so many options!
Does Samsung need to do anything to re-gain your trust in its devices?
K: Nah, I’m sure they’ll fix the issue. The S8 and Note 8 will likely be bomb-free because Samsung’s brand can’t afford to take 2 years worth of hits like they just took with the Note 7.
T: For me, no. I’m not one to hold a grudge. It’s not like they meant to hurt anybody. Mistakes do happen. However, if I was a victim of the Note 7 and my property was damaged, you better believe I would harp on it every single chance I got and I would never purchase their technology again.
Check out our previous Q&A Sessions here.