The Nexus 5

Over the years I have been an Android fan but not a real Android user.

I love the audacity, ambition and vision held by my friends Andy Rubin and Rich Miner who were the original founders and creators of Android before Google acquired them early on. 

But I was always seduced by the fit, finish and app availability with iOS.

It seems like many moons ago when I wrote up my thoughts on the very first Android powered device

So when the Nexus 5 came out I was again energized to give it another go. I received mine recently and have been putting it through it’s paces. 

Few thoughts on using the Nexus 5 as a long time iOS user. 

The Good

– stock Android has really come a long way. In so many ways it blows the doors over iOS. I love how the apps work together. I love how notifications work. It feels faster than iOS 7. The design looks durable. I’m not a fan of iOS 7. 

– the hardware feels light but certainly not cheap. It’s a design that isn’t as beautiful as Apple hardware but everything is in the right place. I like where the physical buttons are placed. My Nexus 5 has a white back. I like the black front and white back contrast better than the iPhone 5s all white model. Apple used to do the black front/white back during the 3GS days but i guess they don’t like it as much as I do. 

– I love the bigger display. It’s beautiful. Apple got this one wrong. The bigger display on the Nexus 5 makes everything nicer. Easier to read and I type faster on the Nexus 5. 

– wireless charging is awesome. This thing works and it’s rad. 

– the camera isn’t as good as the iPhone 5s but it’s getting so much closer than ever before. 

– we run our office on Google Apps and as you would expect everything is much smoother running their apps on Android than iOS

– it’s super cool having a notification light. i loved that feature on blackberry and glad the Nexus 5 keeps the tradition alive. 

-most of my favorite iOS apps work great on Android

The Funky

– profile photos in the phone app look awful. there are some other rough spots for sure. 

– google hangouts is the default sms app. what’s up with that?

– i have two gmail accounts on this phone. On iOS, i can view both inboxes at once. I can’t seem to do that on Android. switching back and forth is a hassle. 

– battery life seems inconsistent. sometimes i get much better mileage than the iPhone 5s and sometimes it’s just horrific. (yes, my brightness settings are set to ‘automatic’) 

The Bad

– There are still some apps that are iOS only and I already miss on my Nexus. I’m looking at you Drafts

– Visual voicemail requires using the AT&T Visual voicemail app. But it doesn’t work on the Nexus 5. Apparently I have to grab the app off of some forum and side load it — but I haven’t gone through all the steps yet. Why isn’t this part of the OS?

-The other option: I can install Google Voice for Android. I get visual voicemail and a whole lot more. But if someone tries to txt you a photo, it literally doesn’t show up and the sender doesn’t get an error message. 

-Google voice doesn’t support international txt message. Seriously

-The really ugly thing is this whole iMessage purgatory. I wish the world would just Kik* and then we wouldn’t have to deal with this sort of problem. But unfortunately they don’t and that means for the time being I’m forced to have two phones until I can get this things sorted out. 

The innovation around Android and the ecosystem has come a long way. I’m not sure Android is better but it’s never been more exciting. That’s for sure. 

(*disclosure: my firm is an investor in Kik)

About to buy the Samsung Galaxy S4 but…

There is so much I find appealing and seductive about Android.

Paul Stamatiou’s post, Android is better, left a mark on me because it basically pointed out all of the frustrating things about iOS and Android keeps getting better and better. 

I’ve been putting my money where my heart is and buying various Android devices over the years too. I was an early Android user with the G1 and have owned the HTC Incredible and the more recent Nexus 4.

So back to Paul’s post. I’m ready to hit the buy button and pick up a stock Android (w/o Samsung bloatware) on a Galaxy S4 but….

I can’t. At least not just yet.

Some of my favorite apps still don’t exist on Android but I know they will soon (ie Lift, Jelly, AvgCam Pro and a few others). Although there is a sweet private beta of Foursquare that I can’t use yet because it’s running on Android right now. 

But I’m guessing the app parity between the platforms is closing and will continue to close. At least that is what I’m seeing with our portfolio.

Yet I still pause…

This vacation I’m currently on is a pretty good example of why.

Our family is way in deep with iOS. All of our chargers on this trip, in our cars and in various rooms in our house have Apple connectors. It’s too easy to plug in and charge without having to get another cable system. (Not to mention, back home all of the iOS devices can beam to the big screens with AirPlay/AppleTV)  

I also picked up this waterproof housing for our iPhones. It’s so awesome and we are having a ball with this thing. As far as I know, you can’t get something like this for the Galaxy S4?

So here I am. My heart says one thing and my head says another….

Ah, stealth mode

I’ve read several posts over the years from VCs discussing whether stealth mode as a startup is a good thing or a bad thing. Those that oppose stealth mode say you are only hurting yourself by not coming out early (feedback, mentorship, recruiting, investor interest, etc etc).

Just look at YC and TechStars startups as good examples. Or Kickstarter projects. They are amazingly open at a very early age. There are clear benefits.

But there are some founders that know exactly what they want to build but because of the complexities involved it could take 9-12 months to launch. And some of those founders choose to remain in stealth mode until they take the covers off.

There are plenty examples of companies that start in stealth mode, recent example include Nest Labs and Aero operated as Bamboom Labs before launching.

Back in the day (late 90’s) stealth mode was more popular or at least that is my perspective. Before publicly launching as WebTV Networks, the founders hid behind the name Artemis Research for about a year. I love that the site is till up and running.

Before co-founding Android, Andy Rubin, Joe Britt and Matt Hershenson created Danger Research. I can’t find the original website but it was amazingly creative. It had these little videos of a gorilla and a girl skipping with dynamite. And a countdown until launch (hopefully someone can find a link).

And then there was other successes like Optigrab and not so successful but well hyped Ginger.

Anyway, this post isn’t meant to suggest that stealth mode is a good thing or a bad thing per se.

But I do appreciate what stealth mode represents to me — namely an idea that takes a long time to build with founders that are wonderfully proud, crazy ambitious with a healthy dose of paranoia.

Little things I’d like to see polished in Ice Cream Sandwich

I preordered two iPhone 4S’s. One for me and one for @laurensabet. We have been using them since day 1. They replaced our iPhone 4’s which replaced our 3gs…well you get the idea. We are card carrying members of the faithful. 

But iOS 5 isn’t making us happy. Both of our phones lock up a few times a week. The battery isn’t great. The UI gets sluggish. It sorta feels like Google Chrome to me. I love the look and power but I long for the day when it was more stable and faster. 

So, I picked up a Galaxy Nexus earlier today. 

This isn’t going to be a thorough review. There are plenty of those that out there that do a fine job. 

After a day of using Google’s latest – Android 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), I can absolutely say it’s a big improvement over the previous version of Android. And there are a number of things I like about ICS over iOS5.

One thing is clear, there is a lot of polish and improvement that has taken place with ICS.

But it’s still needs even more polish as the new UI makes the good stuff look great but the improvements makes the unpolished stuff stand out. 

Here’s a list of things I’d like to see polished. 

(disclaimer: I fully realize I’m not a designer or a UX person. I’m just a user)

Okay here goes, in no particular order:

1 – I use Google Apps for Domains with ICS. I have thousands of contacts. Some of them have pictures for each contact. Many/most of them don’t. With iOS when I call or receive a call from someone that doesn’t have a contact photo, the screen lights up with their name, number and the wallpaper I’ve previously selected. 

With ICS, I get a generic looking icon that takes up the entire screen and it’s ugly looking. Here we are with a gorgeous screen and it’s taken up with a graphic that isn’t.

2 – When i call or receive a call from someone with a photo, the photo is stretched in a non-flattering way. Again, beautiful screen, ugly presentation. 

3 – Every app has a soft UI for the menu screen or more options. It’s indicated by three vertical dots. It looks nice but some apps have this icon on the top of the screen and others have it on the bottom. Google should pick one location and nail it there.

4 – Android is known for it’s flexibility. I can add widgets and move all sorts of apps all over the various screens. But there is one widget I can’t move. Care to guess which one? Yep’s Google’s search box. It’s on the front page and I cant move it. I have a family pic as my wallpaper and this search box covers my wife’s face. Not cool Google!

5 – The fonts in ICS look very nice. And some of Google’s own app icons looks super great (ie gmail, maps, gallery). But some of them look pretty bad – like Phone, Browser, Camera). The People icon is borderline. 

6 – Meetings on my calendar are a deep dark blue. I’m sure some people like it but it’s not for me. That’s okay but I’d love to be able to change the color somehow. 

7. ICS has three main buttons on the bottom of the phone. Back, Home and a dedicated Multitasking button. I wish they ditched the multitasking button and put the search button there instead. The old-style Android method of getting to your active apps by holding the home button was very satisfying. I miss that and the search button. 

8. i have a password lock on my phone. ICS doens’t have a built in way to have a delay before the lock kicks in. 

It’s almost 11pm eastern time. i’m pretty tired so that’s all for now. i’ll respond to any comments in the morning.

goodnight :) 

Rooting for Android

Plenty of folks ruled out Google’s Android when it first shipped with Tmobile G1. The biggest problem was the G1 hardware & form factor.

Gears on T-Mobile G1G1 by niallkennedy via flickr

Frankly, it was disappointing. Plus the number of 3rd party apps were limited to say the least.

Much of that has changed. I’m seeing more and more entrepreneurs and developers building Android apps. Many of these apps are coming out before Blackberry or Palm and in some cases even ahead of the iPhone.

And now we are seeing better looking Android powered phones. That will certainly increase volume and developers are going to pay even more attention. Plus, Google doesn’t block 3rd party apps like Apple does. (i still believe that apple is going to drop their gatekeeper role with iphone apps in the near future).

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some of the new Android powered phones this fall.

I’m rooting for Android.