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Android as a Communicator replacement - take #2/2017

 
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AVR4000
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PostPosted: Friday, 07.Apr.2017 18:37    Post subject: Android as a Communicator replacement - take #2/2017   Reply with quote   

Time to make a new thread on this subject, six years later.

My current device is a Xiaomi Mi Max and it is the best 'Communicator replacement' so far among those I have used even if it must be stressed that the market is missing a product considered as a full replacement.

The dream device is still a proper Communicator and the most appropriate properties would be:

1. 6.44-7" display.
2. E-ink on the back with the same size as the main display.
3. Full landscape keyboard, either integrated into the hardware or as a keyboard flip cover (i.e. detachable).
4. Stylus available.
5. Linux based OS, either a modernized Maemo/Hildon styled system or Android. A revived Hildon UI would still be appropriate in this type of 'pocket computer' as a new Communicator.
6. Dual SIM and dual memory card slots (either dual SIM and one memory card or one SIM and two microSDs/UFSs).
7. Full VoIP integrated dialer with plugins for different services.
8. SoftMaker Office preinstalled.

I went Android due to the Nokia failure back in 2011 (my initial idea was to get the N9-00 keyboard device that became the N950 before the E(f)lop destroyed everything). It was the 'best' choice back then and still is. No, not because it is perfect but because it offer the features and flexibility needed in a Communicator, something missing from restricted and locked down 'smoothness' platforms.

The Xiaomi Mi Max with Resurrection Remix 5.8.2 based on Android 7.1.1 offer as good 'Communicator properties' as can be provided by a non-PKB device. It provide an excellent feature set when properly setup and configured, including excellent battery life. I will outline the properties below.

1. Battery life. This has been a key strength of the Communicators and the Max doesn't disappoint. I get around 10-11 hours SOT on one charge and the standby consumption is about 0.1% per hour, which I am really happy with. It is the first device since the E90 where I feel pretty relaxed about the battery life, i.e. it has such a battery that it can withstand heavy use including long GPS/navigation sessions without ending up in 'charging emergency'.

2. Multi window and resizable windows. This feature can be enabled easily through the Taskbar app and it is a really great thing to have on a 'Communicator'. Multi window is easily accessed from the Recents menu and works well. It is worth to mention that I had this on Android 4.3 already through Xposed Framework so it isn't new but still a great feature.

3. Excellent developer support from XDA. This factor has been a key aspect in all my device purchases since the X1 and the Max offer a decent ROM selection, which is important from a feature perspective. Third party developers typically offer better 'Communicator' features and more efficiency compared to bloated stock ROMs with a lot of 'added value' applications.

4. HERE We Go Maps. Still excellent and still going strong after the good old N95 and E90 days.

5. SoftMaker Office. This suite was unsurpassed in 2010/2011 and it still sublime with a full desktop UI with pulldown menus like Series 80 and runs really well. I can't see any competition after all those years and it is still the logical step forward from the great suites available on the S80 Communicators.

6. AquaMail. An excellent email client with dual pane UI and fast, efficient mail management. I have been using it for a couple of years now and it is still great.

7. BlackBerry Hub. I like this concept of Unified Messaging even if I think the future will be a 'Messaging Center' with plugins for every service you want to use (i.e. just install the plugin and the conversations are unified).

8. BlackBerry Keyboard. Really excellent software keyboard and the best I have been using so far.

9. Popup Widget. This app is a great solution for widgets since it enable the 'swipe to open widget' when used with Nova Launcher. I like the ability to swipe on an app icon to open its widget.

10. Nova Launcher Prime. It just make the desktop environment efficient, especially with the swipe gestures. Its abilities is a bit like the good old PowerDesk for S80.

11. Kodi. A really excellent media center. This is an entertainment thing obviously but I really like the interface and elegant management of the movie and music library.

12. FX File Explorer and MiXplorer. Two great file managers. I use both since I prefer the first one for pure file management and the latter for checking documents without adding it to the MoonReader library.

13. MoonReader Pro. I consider this application to be the best E-reader/PDF reader so far. It handles thousands of books and magazines without choking (unlike such an app as Aldiko Reader or Adobe Reader) and offer great organization features. I have been using it for a long time now and it has always impressed.

14. CAF/Snapdragon Browser/Tuga Browser and so on. I don't like the regular Chrome but the Qualcomm/CAF-Chromium based browsers for Snapdragon CPUs literally FLIES on the device with quick rendering of pages and smooth operation. GelloMod is another great browser and so is Firefox with its plugins (I alternate between them).

15. BlackBerry Password Manager. A great well integrated password manager and it works well with the BB keyboard.

There are a lot of excellent apps available, especially from F-Droid and XDA-Developers. Some people demonstrate a slight misunderstanding of what an 'app' really are since they tend to argue against them. I would say that there are two types:

I. Service apps. This is apps, which essentially is a web service or page 'wrapped up' as an app.
II. Full apps. This is where we find file managers, tools, galleries, music players, office suites, email clients and so on.

I don't consider 'type I' to be of a particular importance if a good browser is available, while 'type II' full apps are important. A 'Communicator replacement' must have decent quality 'type II' apps. The amount is not important, it is the quality that is the thing here.

It is also important with an open system for developers so they can create applications without nonsense restrictions 'the Apple way'.

Some Android thoughts 2011-2017

I think it has been an interesting Android journey since I created the former thread. The system is way more polished and elegant now than the 2.3.x, which were the latest and greatest back then. The selection of 'type II' apps have improved drastically with almost all quality titles from Windows Mobile coming onboard, with the exception of Resco File Explorer and Resco Photo Manager, which were really great products.

The key benefit of Android is its flexibility and development community. Its drawbacks are mostly related to the lack of big screen optimization - i.e. Series 80 and Hildon/Maemo on the N770-810 with pulldown menus and dual pane solutions were better on those device types. Google put too much attention on the 'Phone UI' instead of offering proper attention to big screens/tablets/2-in-1s as well.

It is also important to notice that more resource efficiency could be good but the Symbian way - i.e. 'power efficiency full feature set'.

I think there are space for a new player on the market BUT it has to be one with proper policies, i.e. not like BlackBerry (keeping the BB10 in-house and then destroy it) or Jolla (restricting its system by blocking paid apps etc).

A system entering the market need the following properties in order to compete in a proper way:

1. Openness - particularly Maemo style (i.e. no annoying restrictions).
2. Managed by an *independent* vendor - i.e. no OEM specific platform, only available on 'X brand' devices.
3. Proper optimization for big screens/Communicator type devices like Maemo/Hildon/Series 80.
4. Stylus features integrated (HWR, system wide shortcuts etc).
5. Support for PKB including CTRL-[key] shortcuts.
6. App store with support for paid apps, quality focus.
7. Support for sideloading.
8. Support for repositories, i.e. the user can easily add them to the app store and browse them in an effective way.
9. Support for FOSS apps (no restrictions on those).
10. Proper file system access including full USB-OTG operation.
11. Support for standard hardware, Linux compatible drivers (i.e. can run off off-the-shelf Android designs).
12. Unified Messaging - i.e. plugins for different services for extended functionality.
13. Native VoIP dialer with plugins for different services.
14. Control Panels - The ability to extend customization options by installing plugins similar to what Mac OS 7/8/9.x offered.
15. Extensions - The ability to plug in more features system wide similarly to Mac OS 7/8/9.
16. Bookmark Apps - The ability to 'pin' bookmarks to different services to the desktop or folders, thus making them operate like a 'type I app' through the browser.
17. Revenue sharing - Each OEM has a unique identifier and a specific percentage of the app store revenue is shared with them. I.e. each app purchased from a Nokia device brings a specific percentage to Nokia.
18. Full multitasking and high power efficiency.

I would be happy to replace Android with such a system if it becomes available. [/i]
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ABCDKE
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PostPosted: Monday, 10.Apr.2017 22:35    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Quote:

A system entering the market need the following properties in order to compete in a proper way:

...



The N900 had literally all of that and still miserably failed, checkmate. :]
(OK, not really "miserably", but you got my point.)

And, to my knowledge, the iPhone had literally none of that in 200x, but nobody really minded that.
------
What I'm getting at:
IMHO the only smartphone characteristic that really matters is a manufacturer that will stay committed and not make you feel (too) sorry for giving him your money. This very forum proves all that, right? :]

Also, do people really need full USB-OTG, styluses, repositories and openness, etc? You might be tech-savvy and everything, but not everyone needs that, not everyone even knows what that is.
Not too many people will be like "Oh this has a completely open-source OS, oh my god totally buying this right now, where have you been all my life".

Just my two cents, of course. :]

------

Quote:

Blackberry Hub/Keyboard/Passwords


Wait, what's that doing on a Xiaomi device? Isn't that BB exclusive?
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AVR4000
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PostPosted: Tuesday, 11.Apr.2017 16:57    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

Argumentum ad Populum doesn't impress me at all. It doesn't matter what 'ordinary people' do since a device should provide a decent feature set. I have never been impressed by those customers (Hintry et al) who make excuses for systems with such arguments as 'ordinary people' doesn't do doesn't do that.

Launching a system with serious restrictions won't work - look at WP7.

Every user citing 'ordinary people' as a defense for inferior products and solutions should get an iPhone and enjoy the mainstream.Wink

Regarding BlackBerry apps: BlackBerry Manager takes care of that.

Edit: It is a great stupidity to use the argument 'ordinary people don't know X it doesn't matter that Y lack it.
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ABCDKE
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PostPosted: Saturday, 15.Apr.2017 19:39    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

You are right, but if you want to compete, you should care about the Average Joes.

A smartphone primarily aimed at 1337 h4x0rs can't really "compete in a proper way" with the iPhones and everything aimed at guess whom? Ordinary people. :]

They buy the phone after all, the success of your product depends on them, not on you.

From the perspective of AVR4000 from My-Symbian, the better phone is obviously the one that lets you hack Pentagon from it; but a rich bada$$ CEO of a rich bada$$ company wouldn't really think so, because his richness would depend on the ordinary people.
For Mr. CEO, the better phone is the one with a better appstore/camera/battery/web browser/whatever. Therefore, he designs the product that brings him loads of money to be exactly the way the masses want it, even though he might personally have the same preferences as Mr. AVR4000 from My-Symbian. He doesn't want to spend any more of his precious time/money/workforce on implementing the useful, but pretty niche features, when the majority of people just won't use them.

Doesn't it work that way? :]
I dislike WP/iOS as well, but that's just how stuff work. (from my perspective at least)

(note: I'm not aiming directly at you when I say "Mr. AVR4000", it could be anyone. Don't take that personally. :] )

Quote:

It is a great stupidity to use the argument 'ordinary people don't know X it doesn't matter that Y lack it.


OK, it is indeed, I'll admit. :]

------------------------
This is all my 2 cents, of course. Not trying to
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AVR4000
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PostPosted: Saturday, 15.Apr.2017 20:08    Post subject:   Reply with quote   

OK, thesis "Ordinary People":

User friendly = Restrictions and proprietary vendor lock-in

User unfriendly = Unrestricted and follow industry standards

I.e. a flexible system is 'hard to use' since the mere existence of flexibility (i.e. that the user can extend the system with the features of choice) is something those 'ordinary people' is unable to figure out.

This make it necessary to restrict and lock the system down Apple style since everything else, especially if it can be expanded, is 'hard to use' and therefore 'unsuitable' for 'ordinary people'.

I think all of this is a complete BS.

Android, Maemo, MeeGo and Symbian are BOTH easy to use for 'ordinary people' out of the box BUT support advanced users as well. I.e. they offer flexibility and can be adopted to different needs and wishes.

Restrictions caused by proprietary vendor lock-in and 'revenue management' (i.e. lack support for industry standards, use of proprietary protocols, block of third party app stores and sideloading, sandboxed file systems and so forth) are serious drawbacks regardless of Apple. Android is way more successful than iOS and Windows Phone due to its flexibility and openness so it is pretty self-explanatory that a viable competitor should 'better' the market leader, which simply means flexibility, openness, adherence to industry standards paired with technological improvements.

Another question to all those 'Ordinary People' people is:

*Is every car in the market meant for 'every' driver? I.e. there's no particular difference in target groups for different models and brands - every car is meant for 'Ordinary People'?

One thing is for sure: Android is an indisputable market leader among 'Ordinary People' AND offer powerful features and flexibility. So it is pretty evident that the market for such a platform is way bigger than ditto for a locked down system. Apple would dominate otherwise and WP7 would have been an insane success *if* 'user friendliness' as in serious restrictions and proprietary vendor lock-in would be the thing.

A GOOD SYSTEM is simply easy to use for 'Ordinary People' AND offer the options that power users want. The dominating systems in the market offer this (Symbian was the major market leader with those properties, same with Android). So it is pretty evident that the market for restrictions and proprietary vendor lock-in is pretty small (essentially the share Apple is sitting at since they took all 'those' customers).

So it is pretty obvious that a new entrant can't do another iOS or WP7. It is also necessary to point out that Sailfish OS cater to both groups - i.e. simplicity AND powerful features at the same time.

The failure of WP7 is really telling, actually. *If* 'Ordinary People' wanted a restricted system they would have bought the Nokia Lumia series - especially considering the promotion of it. They didn't, Nokia lost most customers in the process and... it completely eliminate the nonsensical arguments about how 'bad' it is with features and that the most important aspect of a system is 'simplicity' in the meaning 'locked down'.
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