Your smartphone battery draining the life out of you?

Did you just buy one of the latest smartphones, only to find it consumes your battery quicker than the next Charlie Sheen story can be published on a major news site? Wondering why such a sophisticated device can run at ancient capacity levels? The problem actually isn’t capacity, the problem is demand for that capacity. Since the devices are becoming much more powerful, they are requiring more power! The recently announced Thunderbolt that will run on Verizon’s 4G network has, as many know, been delayed and the rumor is the device has battery issues. More speed, usually means faster processing, which equates to more required juice.

If you find yourself charging your phone every 4 hrs, and are not willing to upgrade to a larger capacity battery, here are some quick hits that should improve your battery levels:

  • Turn off your location services – this includes Google, Verizon (or whoever your provider is), and GPS. This will impact your instant weather and any cool features that require these services to know your location, but how often do you really use them, and you can always turn them back on when you do.
  • Lower the brightness of your screen and don’t use auto bright. Your display is your worst enemy when it comes to consuming the battery. Keep it at a minimum.
  • Watch out for programs that auto sync or pull information regularly. Getting your tweets every 5 minutes; perhaps your e-mail every 10 minutes? Every time your phone goes out to get this info, it costs you battery power. If you only check this info every hour, have those services only poll every hour. You can usually poll on-demand, so if you happen to check before the next scheduled poll, you have options available to you.
  • Turn off your WiFi – if you aren’t using it, turn it off. Yes, you will have to remember to turn it back on when you are home or wherever you use WiFi, assuming you do, but WiFi “always on” draws a lot of power because the phone is constantly looking for connections. There are also programs out there that will allow you to better manage your WiFi, if you are adamantly against turning it off.
  • Bluetooth – see WiFi above – just insert “Bluetooth”; wherever, you see “WiFi”.

While this is not an all-inclusive list and there are surely other ways to preserve your battery, this should provide a good place to start.

The Future of Mobility

The announcement of the iPad 2 kindled (not the Amazon one) something inside of me this week.  I have provided a few angles on the new iPad, but wanted to close out the week looking at how I view the future of the mobile market. 

Undoubtably, mobile devices have finally taken off and are becoming more mainstream.  What was once seen as a techy item, is being used by professors, business people, mothers, students, and even Grandma and Grandpa Joe. 

The evolution of the smartphone has taken a turn.  What was once a push for smaller is better has turned to a balance between functionality and size.  With the smartphone becoming more functional, allowing users to surf the web and watch movies etc, consumers started seeing the benefit to larger screens.   What we are seeing now is the advent of larger screen smartphones and tablets to satisfy the increased functionality.  A new strike between functionality and convenience.  

So what does the longer term future look like for smartphones and tablets.  Who will be the front-runner, and what will they need to do to stay on top.  Obviously, Apple is seen as the leader at this time, but can Android or even Blackberry catch up?  Keep in mind, when I present these questions, I am writing with regards to the US market.  The addition of the International markets would change everything and add some more players. 

Right now, I see the major US players in the mobile space as:

  • Apple
  • Google – Android
  • Blackberry
  • Microsoft

What do each of these players have to do, in order to stay competitive?  Well, for starters they need to continue to innovate and improve on their products, while keeping their costs down.  This is a given for all of the players above. 

Let’s look at the specifics for each player:

Apple

  • They need to open up.  They are too stuck on a proprietary mindset and this already got them in trouble in the 80s.  Add a USB port to the iPad, allow an SD port, let me see my files and folders and transfer stuff without using iTunes.
  • More product lines – the one reason the Android devices have better specs is because Apple only provides product upgrades once a year.  You want the next best iPhone, it could take 1-2 years.  With the Android, HTC is coming out with one phone, while Motorola is already working on the next best thing.  This keeps the product line fresh. 
  • Realize Google is for real.  I know no one has been able to touch the iPod, but Google has a good chance to make a run at Apple with phones and tablets.  According to Steve Jobs at the iPad 2 unveiling, iPad is 90% of the market today, but keep approaching it from a standpoint that no one can beat you and someone will…especially when it’s Google in the rearview mirror.

Google

  • Push to become more mainstream and less techy.  Nothing wrong with techy people, I could be considered one of them, but a phone branded as “techy” for some is an automatic classification of “scary” for others.   Start marketing campaigns branding your products towards less tech oriented market segments.
  • Improve your security model.  This might be a difficult one since Google’s model relies on openness.  Education might be the best practice here or having a security program pre-installed might help reduce the risk. 
  • Lower your price points of your higher end products.  The Motorola Xoom was deemed the iPad killer.  I must admit, it looks pretty nice, but the price point is too high.  $600+ and I have to sign a contract with Verizon?  Apparently, a cheaper model in the $500 range will be released at Sam’s Club with only Wi-Fi, but when there are cheaper iPad options, who do you think will get the majority of the market?  Android is in the position where it need to impress and get itself out there, not price itself out of the market.  Think of Vizio TVs – they were high quality and in a lot of cases a better product, but the main way they got out there in the market and proved themselves was on price. 

Blackberry

  • Stick with what you are good at and appease your main market.  Blackberry is still alive because of the security and their seamless Enterprise integration.  Businesses that require tight controls, especially government related, will turn to the Blackberry.  For Apple and Android, they are out to appease the average consumer right now with new and innovative things.  Their models aren’t tied around security and in some cases, like I mentioned with the Android,  harbor less security.  For Blackberry, they are seen as lacking in innovation, but sometimes boring means stability and security. 
  • Don’t lose complete sight of innovation. 

Microsoft

I only mention them because I am sure they will make some kind of run in the mobile space, but they have a lot of catching up to do.  So did Apple in the 90s…

What about tablets?  Are they the future or a fad?  I think they can be the future, but they can fizzle out if not marketed properly.  The main way to keep the tablet heartbeat alive is to get it into the workforce; Seamless integration within the Enterprise.   This is key!

I have had my iPad for two weeks now and I love it.  I am also starting to realize everything I do on it, I can do somewhere else and better.  For example, it acts as an e-reader, but so does my Kindle and the books on my bookshelf.  It plays Netflixs, but so does my 65 inch TV.   It acts as a computer, but my netbook definitely is my device of choice when working or writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad, but others might come to realize, they don’t really need it. 

If the tablet can get itself into the Enterprise workforce, it can prove that it is more than just a cool gadget.  I think this is achievable and already in the works in many places.  During the iPad 2 announcement, there were many examples of different professions using the iPad.  And now with the camera, the options are even greater.  Remember when we use to watch sci-fi shows with workers communicating with each other via tablets – can you say Facetime on the iPad!  The industry must continue to come up with more practical uses of tablets; otherwise, people are going to realize their smartphone does enough for them on the go.  If I had to bet on tablets continuing to be a future game changer, I would probably take the bet.

The Duel of Fates – iPhone vs. Android

photo above retrieved from http://www.wallpaper4me.com 

 

The iPhone on Verizon was supposed to be an easy choice – right?  I remember getting my first Blackberry and trading in my Palm Treo.  It was sad to give up the Treo, but the Blackberry allowed me to access my corporate e-mail.  Then came the Blackberry Curve – a solid communication device, but lacking in multimedia.  The answer to my multimedia issue was the Blackberry Storm 2 and yes, it was a bad answer.  So I waited and waited, hoping the obvious answer would be released to the Verizon Gods.  I prayed each night that someone would find a mis-print or spelling error in the AT&T exclusive deal with Apple…but it didn’t happen.  I counted down the days for that deal to expire, and waited patiently for Verizon to announce the iPhone would come to their network.  Then something unexpected happened – the Red Eye appeared.  

It was a cold Fall night, while watching primetime TV and surfing my netbook.  It called to me on the television, like it was my guardian angel (or a demented demon – however you want to look at it).  It’s voice was clear, music to my ears…it said…Droooid.   It was at that moment, I knew Google had thrown a wrench in my plans with their Android operating system!  

The Motorola Droid put Android on the map and many more device would follow, including the Droid X and the HTC Incredible.  So what did this mean now for my match made in heaven with the iPhone, if and when it came to Verizon?  Well, for me, it was over.  The Droid was now my phone of choice.  I left my Blackberry, and kicked the iPhone idea to the curb.  It was a triangle love story in the making.  All along I had planned on running off with my wife’s arch rival in High School, who was currently overseas, but instead I cheated on both, and ran off with the new girl in town!

I believe many people are having the same dilemma these days.  No, not with their wives and girlfriends (see some other blogs for that topic…), but when it comes to the their next smartphone.  Is the Android or the iPhone the better phone?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  Which phone is better, depends on what you are looking for in your next smartphone.    So while I cannot offer anything more than an opinion on which I like better for myself, I can try to go over some general difference, I noticed between the iOS and Android operating systems. 

I bring up the operating systems because that is the heart and soul of these devices’ functionality and really the heart of the problem at hand.  I want to strip away the hardware and additional software packs some manufacturers (mainly on the Android phones) include on these devices because this is about Apple vs. Android.  Not HTC Incredible vs. Motorola Droid X.  Figure out you want a Droid first, before you worry about which one.

So enough rambling;  Below I put together a quick list of what I perceive as the main differences between the devices:

Android

  • Plays well with other systems – – less restrictive 
  • Flexible customization and open file access, but can be overwhelming
  • Ability to add more memory in the form of an SD card
  • Fewer Apps, but it seems to have more free apps than Apple
  • Security can be an issue out of the box
  • More choices of hardware across various manufacturers (ie.  Incredible, Droid X, Moto Droid etc.)
  • Cutting edge specs
  • Integrates great with Google products

Apple iOS

  • More restrictive customization and file access – “proprietary” model
  • Simple interface – user-friendly
  • Mature app market, but at a price
  • Tighter security, but not as tight as the Blackberry
  • Less choice (you have the iPhone – yes, different generations, but still one device made by one manufacturer)
  • Maturer Product
  • Integrates well with Mac OS and iTunes
  • I would bet most iPhone users will have a more expensive experience in the end when accounting for the price of the phone and apps

Playing with both operating systems, my first impression with Android was flexibility.  The Android provides a lot of ways you can customize your user experience.  This includes setting up your home screen to categorize your icons, or having items like widgets,  streaming up to the minute information.  The wallpaper selection is also incredible, with the option to have “live” animated wallpaper.  When you plug your Android into a PC, it can automatically be used as a mounted Hard drive, allowing  access to all files.  

The Android Marketplace is growing everyday, with so many choices available to you, but still not nearly as many choices as I found with the Apple App store.  The one bright spot over Apple was there seemed to be more free applications in the Android Marketplace. 

With flexibility, openness and more freebies comes a cost, which is security.  Since Android is open source and less restrictive, there are more opportunities for exploits and hacks.  Just recently, there were a group of applications found in the Android Marketplace that had malicious code within them.  These apps in some cases had over 50,000 downloads at the time!  You would be hard pressed to find something like this in the Apple App store, not that it would be impossible.  

The Android has a distribution model in place that forges competition, which might explain why every new Android phone that comes out has a bit more to offer than the last.  The iPhone is the only Apple phone around at this time.  If you want the next generation device, you need to wait, usually at least a year, for Apple to upgrade.  With Android, companies like HTC, Motorola and LG to name a few are all competing with each other to deliver the next best device.  For some this might be frustrating because you feel outdated quicker, but it provides healthy competition amongst Android providers. 

Working with the Apple iOS device, I found that it was a much easier user experience.  You had your home screens, which you could navigate left and right.  The number of apps you had would dictate the number of screens.  While you could move your app icons around and create folders, there was no option for widgets or shortcuts.  In addition, you could change your wallpaper, but only to static photos. 

Working with files and programs was definitely more restrictive on the iOS.  I could not figure out a way (and there might not be a way) to get to my folders or file system.  In order to look at a word doc, play a song, or view a photo, I had to go through iTunes or open the file using a cloud based solution.  Unlike the Android, the device did not have the option to mount as a hard drive (although I do see there are 3rd party programs that will let you do this).  

Since Apple’s iOS is more restrictive, it has tighter security wrapped around it, but don’t be confused, it is not as tight as the Blackberry. 

While Apple is the only show in town for the iPhone, offering one line of phones, it is a more mature line.  Android has more choices, but many are new lines of phones that come at a risk, with little performance history.  For example, when the Incredible was first released, there were battery issues.  That’s not to say Apple hasn’t had its share of issues – just ask the iPhone 4 users with the mysterious antenna problems.  I believe some are deeming it “Antennagate”.   

Of course either of these products are going to integrate with its other product lines.  For the Android, I found Google Maps and Voice to work seamlessly.  Apple has a lot of apps that integrate well with their Mac Desktop counterpart, although in many cases you have to pay twice for the app (mobile and desktop version). 

In the end, it really depends on your preference and what works best for you.  If you are the techy type and/or you like the freedom to customize your device and are willing to take some steps to better lockdown your phone, you would do well with the Android.  If you are looking for a simpler, user-friendly experience and don’t want to do much customization out of the box, then the iPhone might be for you.  Of course, if you are looking purely for a message/communication device (imagine looking for just that in a smartphone!) that offers top-notch security and don’t care about innovative features, stick with the Blackberry.   

I leave you with some summary words that fit each device:

Android

  • Flexible
  • Expandable
  • Cutting Edge
  • Vulnerable
  • Value

Apple

  • User-Friendly
  • Mature
  • Proprietary
  • Innovative
  • Proven

Below is a comic I caught on some other blogs.  The author of the comic is C-Section Comics.  I thought this was hilarious and wanted to share with everyone else, since it is relevant to the topic at hand.  You can find other works by this author on their website, www.csectioncomics.com.