Finished Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over the weekend ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ . A laugh-out-loud read for sure.
At work we picked up an Oculus Go for research and development purposes. But of course I commandeered the device first to put it through its paces and I think I have a good enough feel for it to write up a few observations.
These are, as always, in no particular order.
Many of my observations sound like complaints or feature requests. But I think that is normal when something is so new. The Oculus Go has left me wanting more. Much more. Better quality, more capability, more options, and to be able to use it for more tasks. I could see myself spending hours in VR doing the same things I do on my phone, iPad, or computer throughout the day. And I think this is evidence of how good Oculus Go already is.
If you are interested in VR and are looking for a completely standalone affordable solution; Oculus Go is your best buy right now.
After 10 years of using iOS as my primary mobile platform I’ve decided to give Android more than just a casual try. This post is my review both of the Google Pixel 2 XL and Android 8.1 as well as a few comparisons I’ve drawn between iOS and Android ecosystems. I’ve been an Apple fan for decades. But I’ve tried to be as unbiased as possible and truly allow my feelings of day-to-day use dictate my review. I’ve owned the Pixel 2 XL for over a month so I’m hoping that my first reactions have subsided.
I love this phone.
I’d been thinking about trying out an Android-powered phone for a few months but I think what pushed me over the edge was how many YouTubers rated the Pixel 2 so highly. Many tech reviewers have the privilege of getting their hands on dozens of phones. Which phone comes out on top (or very close) of most of their lists? The Pixel 2 XL.
I switched to the Pixel 2 XL from an iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus was a great phone — easily my favorite camera system in an iPhone — but not as comfortable in the hand as the iPhone SE. For a sense of how much I liked the iPhone SE you can read what I wrote here.
By going from an iPhone 7 Plus to a Pixel 2 XL I upgraded the camera system in a number of ways. Front-facing portrait mode is far more important and useful in daily use than I could have imagined. I think Apple has missed an opportunity on the front-facing camera for years. It is likely used more often by younger people and yet the hardware and software driving the forward-facing camera is always superior on iPhones. With the Pixel 2 XL both cameras are fantastic and both offer the same software features.
Photo: A rather terrible photo of the Pixel 2 XL’s ambient display. Notice the icons.
The Pixel 2 XL has a few features that are not available on next-generation iPhones, namely; a lightning fast fingerprint sensor, squeezable sides, screen that wakes with a gentle double-tap, an ambient display with clock and gentle notifications, and “what’s playing” feature (showing you what music is currently playing) that is always on.
My phone is my primary camera. On hikes, walking downtown between meetings, or traveling – I like to be quick so I don’t miss any moments. With the iPhone 7 Plus I was like Bruce Lee with nunchucks. If I spotted a fleet-footed while on a hike I could likely capture it. After a few weeks with the Pixel 2 XL I’m beginning to feel my muscles learning the new gestures and maneuvers to get my groove back. One feature that makes this even better than iPhone 7 Plus is being able to double-tap the power button to invoke the camera app of my choice on the phone.
The Google Assistant is a primary feature of this phone. I’ve always wanted to try a different assistant than Siri but Apple simply does not allow you to do so on iOS. You can download the Google Assistant app but it is a neutered experience. iOS does not give third-party apps the control they need to be useful and there is no way to invoke the assistant easily.
On the Pixel 2 XL I have several ways to invoke the Google Assistant. I can squeeze the sides and nearly instantly I can begin making my request. I can say “OK Google” at any time and, again instantly make my request. And I do mean instant, unlike Siri, there is no pause needed between “OK Google” and my request. With Siri I need to wait for the “ding” sound. And lastly, I can long-press the home button to invoke the assistant.
The Google Assistant’s results are much better than Siri. It gets my query correct the majority of the time. I don’t know what my success rate with Siri is but I would say it is less than 50%. I got so fed up with Siri that I only used it to ask for the weather each morning. With the Pixel 2 XL I’m using the Google Assistant multiple times per day. And, I use it for things that aren’t even possible on iOS like turning down my screen brightness, turning on or off my flashlight, taking a picture, etc.
I charge the Pixel 2 XL at night while I sleep and I routinely plug it in with greater than 50% battery life. I have changed no settings on the phone to extend the battery life. In fact, I’ve turned on the ambient display and “what’s playing” features which warn you that it will use more power. In my use, even with the “always on” features turned on, I have no issue at all with battery life. I also appreciate that it charges with USB-C. I can plug it directly into my MacBook Pro, no dongle.
To sum up, the Pixel 2 XL hardware is as good as the iPhone 7 Plus (and likely the 8) and has a better front-facing camera system, more options, and the squeeze feature.
I bought the Pixel 2 XL within days of Android 8.1 shipping. Coming from 10 years of iOS, and the very limited number of user preferences it affords, using Android has been really fun. If I was a new user I could leave all the defaults as they are and be happy. However, I’ve enjoyed the number of options Android has.
One of the complaints about Apple I’ve heard the most is that they make too many choices for the user. My rebuttal to that has always been “Yes, but they make good choices”. However, two things have changed in recent years.
First, Apple is making worse choices. I know this is subjective but more and more I’m convinced that Apple’s choices are becoming more anti-competitive than they are user-focused. I can understand limiting some of the user preferences in iOS for the first few years to allow the platform to become rock solid, then slowly add more features and settings. But iOS is over 10 years old and there are a few options that Apple has, in my opinion, criminally omitted from iOS like being able to set default browser, email client, maps app, and assistant.
Second, the resources of these mobile devices are beginning to compete with the speed and storage of slim laptops. The devices beg to be used heavily, for work, and for play. I would say for many people their primary “computer” is their phone. So we are entering an era where it becomes a work horse for people. Steve Jobs thought we’d always have pickup trucks (desktops or laptops) while also owning cars (mobile devices). Well, I believe these mobile devices are beginning to become very pickup truck-like for many. And, let’s face it, a huge number of pick-up truck owners don’t even need them. They just like the look. This mean that the mobile OSes must also become work horses. And that means more options, better compatibility, and power user features.
This is a very long winded way of saying that I wanted to take back more control of my OS and Android allows me to do that. I can tweak Android in far more ways than I expected – even down to choosing a different launcher. Microsoft has one, there is another popular one called Lawnchair (cute name), and dozens of others. These change the device in both subtle and dramatic ways to become whatever the user needs. It makes so much sense. Imagine a launcher built specifically for young students?
To sum up, Android gives users far more control over their devices than iOS.
Photo: Notice how app folders appear directly below your tap, not in the center of the screen.
There are a few things that iOS clearly beats Android on and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point them out. Here are a few that I’ve found that I notice in day-to-day use.
So far I’m very happy with my choice to give Android a try. I’ll be using the Pixel 2 XL and Android for the rest of 2018 and plan to reassess where both platforms are at that point.
Finished Contact by Carl Sagan in audio book narrated by Jodie Foster. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It was excellent. I love the movie but it makes me wish for the π part in the book to have been in the movie.
Finished an illustrated version of Moby Dick last night. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – It is little wonder why this is such a classic.
Dan Kimbrough seems to love his Note8. However, he did offer this one caveat:
The one big let down I have is the speaker. It’s weak and poorly located. There’s only one speaker for media playback. At the bottom, to the right of the charging port. If you’re left handed, that’s probably where your pinky will sit. Sorry. When holding the phone in landscape, it’s where my index finger sits. It’s possible to completely muffle the sound and not mean to, which leads to holding it awkwardly. Playing a game is rough as it becomes hard to hear anything and hold the phone comfortably.
As an aside: Samsung is inconsistent on whether or not it should be typed Note8 (without space) or Note 8 (with space). If you do a search you’ll see ads that show it both ways, videos and news headlines from reviewers that show it both was as well. Even worse, Samsung’s own web site has it 3 different ways; Note 8, Note8, and Note 8.0. Poor form Samsung. This is branding 101.
I’m sticking with Note8.
Almost lost me in the first 15 minutes. Way too silly for its own good. Felt to me like they took what they thought made the first film successful and just cranked up those bits. I enjoyed the middle portion, so stuck with it.
If I had written a review, this would be it.
On Sunday we went to the Iron Horse movie bistro in downtown Scranton. I was going to write a review but Joe Evans of NEPA Scene has already hit most points that I would cover.
All of the follow quotes are from his review. Be sure to head to their site to read it.
The first thing that stood out to me was how simple it was to buy tickets. Being able to reserve and select exactly what seat you want is fantastic. Knowing that you’re going to have exactly what seat you want is awesome. You don’t need to worry about fighting through a packed theater with your date, hoping for two seats together that still have a decent view of the screen.
We bought tickets through the Fandango app. Reserving specific seating is fantastic. I had zero anxiety about “where will we sit?” and that changes the movie-going experience pretty dramatically.
When you finally reserve a seat, the theater recommends arriving about 30-45 minutes early to grab a bite to eat and a drink in the theater’s lobby bar.
Evans made this bit a little confusing for me. In reality, they want you to order your food and drinks when you’re in the theatre not at the bar. At least, that was the direction we were given. Perhaps you can do both? By getting there 30 minutes prior to the show this gives the waiters plenty of time to take your order, get you the food, and pay your bill before the movie starts. I recommend aiming for 40 minutes before so that you can walk in the moment they allow you to. This process worked fairly well for us but not for the woman sitting next to me. She never got her drinks and asked for a refund after the movie. So clearly there are some kinks to work out. I’d give Iron Horse another month or two if you care to be a beta tester.
Evans goes on.
So here’s my biggest issue with the theater so far – the food, in my opinion, is thoroughly mediocre. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was by no means bad, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
Because I read Evans’ review prior to going to Iron Horse I did not have the same expectations as he did. So for me, the food was fine. To me, the chairs and a beer were what made the experience.
Seriously, these seats are the best of all the theaters in the area. And it’s not even close.
Not only are they big, wide seats but they are plush and soft, almost pillow-like. They blow the seats at Regal and Cinemark out of the water.
He goes on, later, about the seats.
Since the button for the electronic reclining system is on the inner arm of the seat, I did press it accidentally while shifting in my seat a couple times, so keep an eye on that. It can be pretty startling in a dark theater if you’re not expecting it.
I did this 5 or 6 times. My hand, for whatever reason, hit the button and I kept making the seat move. This isn’t a complaint. I don’t think the seat design is poor. And I don’t think I will do it again next time. But I couldn’t believe how many times I hit this on accident. I felt like a moron.
Overall, the Iron Horse delivers a pleasant ride that adds a little something more to your local theatergoing experience.
Exactly. Iron Horse isn’t Regal and it isn’t Cinemark. And that’s great.
Oh, one final thing. Overall the experience cost us over $80.00. So it isn’t the most affordable way to go to the movies. But I think that is a very fair price for what we got and I think we’d likely do this a few times per year.