Thursday, March 22, 2012

Motorola: Make This!

I could be accused of a bit of Monday night quarterbacking when it comes to mobile tech manufacturing. I'll admit that I have never created, marketed, and sold a mobile device on the open market (though I have listed a phone on Craigslist). Perhaps, then, I am not qualified to tell Motorola what they ought to do when it comes to making a smartphone. I should be sorry for my actions, and never tell a multi-billion dollar corporation how to best develop products again.

I'm as sorry as Keanu is here; no amount of cats will displace my shame.

But I'm going to anyway.

I do what I want!

Motorola made my current smartphone, the Droid RAZR. For that, I sincerely thank them. It's a svelte pice of awesome; Kevlar and Gorilla Glass wrapped Android thin enough to fit in a hipster's jean pocket. A truly great device.

But it's not what they should have made. It has several limitations that seem almost arbitrary, and it could have been so much more with presumably just some minor changes. The Maxx comes to mind, but even that doesn't do it all justice (after all, I still prefer my RAZR's thin profile to the "bloated" Maxx, which is still thinner than the Galaxy Nexus and iPhone).

I'm here, Motorola, to help you out. You're one of the few manufacturers going out on a limb and coming up with something new, form wise. Sure, you flop now and again, but that's what promotes greatness. Like when Luke messed up at first when he tried to defend against the remote with the blast shield down.

With the patent dispute down, how am I supposed to compete?

I'm not here to say you should have used Samsung's sAMOLED+ panel if you weren't going for HD resolution, or that you ought to have used coding resources to get vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich onto your device rather than Blurred Gingerbread. That would be beneath both of us (and also a bit disingenuous, since I love my RAZR). No; I'm here to tell you what the most awesome handset in the world would be, with current technology. Use it as a litmus for where your development future will go. I expect my consultant check in the mail.

First thing first: you need to make something without limitations, but that's still unique. You don't want people to say, "I'd like it if only it didn't have . . . " Instead, it's OK for people to say, "I just don't personally care for . . . " It may seem subtle, but the difference is huge. People need to feel that the device made no compromises in its design. If there's something there that's against their alleged tastes, that can be dealt with (remember when people thought 4" screens were too big?). If it's something that they like that could have been better, then you failed to uphold your device's perception in the public eye.

Just because your marketing team says it's awesome doesn't mean we have to believe it.

No compromise. That's the perception you need to cultivate. Apple's done this with their iOS brand, and people have bought it. Mainly that's because Apple doesn't compromise within their sphere. You can't find a better 3.5" screen than the LG made IPS LCD panel in the iPhone 4/4S. The GPU in the A5/5X is second to none. The design is preference. As much as I don't like iPhones, this is a winning combo.

I'll let you in on a secret, Motorola: you have more to offer than Apple does.

I just blew your mind. I know.

This is not to say you need to copy Apple; not in the slightest. I'm just saying that Apple has successfully marketed themselves as a no-compromise manufacturer, and you should strive for this, too. Plenty of other companies have done the same, so this isn't an Apple corner in the mobile space. Basically, you need to be the best Motorola you can be. Go get 'em, big guy! You can do it, slugger!

Besides, no one likes a bad copy.

First thing's first: design. This is an easy one: don't change a thing. There is not a single handset out right now that holds a candle to the RAZR design. From the materials to the look to the nano-coating for water resistance, you guys really hit it out of the park. Bravo.

Anyone who thinks this isn't a great looking phone needs their vision checked.

Next on the list: screen. This is by far and away the most important part of a phone, these days (though there are a few contenders for a very, very close second). Your screen needs to impress, to awe; to make a grown man cry from its sheer beauty.

And it needs to be huge. No hyperbole, here; I'm dead serious. The majority of people that seem to "prefer" a smaller screen are those who haven't used a larger one. People knocked the HTC Evo's screen for being practical-joke big, and now it's the standard size for smartphones (and it made HTC a dollar or two).

Of all the panels out there, one that is currently in production comes to mind.

Take note: I like puns.

The 5.3" sAMOLED panel on the Galaxy Note is nigh perfect. Take this screen and make it non-pentile matrix and you're set.

Next: radios. You guys are the standard for radios, so do this portion in-house. Use one of the smaller die processes for your LTE radios (28nm, preferably). This is paramount because of our next point:

If I had a dollar for every time I saw this screen, I'd try to see this screen more often.

Battery life is key. What you've done with the Maxx is a step in the right direction, but if you pair that with 28nm die LTE modems (and other parts, obviously), you would take this into the stratosphere. This isn't exactly an epiphany, so expect other manufacturers to be hard at work on the same thing. Get to market first and you'll be known for it.

Of course, Andy's already been to the stratosphere.

Next up: CPU/GPU. I know you all like to play nice with Texas Instruments, but their combo screams "compromise!" So does nVidia. For that matter, so does just about everyone. Samsung is the only company I can think of that doesn't, and that's only with their Exynos processors. Be our hero, Motorola. Come out with an A15 dual core that has a killer GPU.

Software is also important, and I must commend your choice in using Android (since you've been acquired by Google, I'm doubtful this will change). However, I also have a bone to pick; two, in fact. Blur and bootloaders.

"Blur" rarely makes one think, "that must be really polished and awesome."

Blur is actually not bad, but you really ought to focus more attention on serving add ons to the OS rather than a complete refresh of it. I know you think that it "differentiates" your device, but you've misunderstood. The consumer couldn't care less about Blur, Sense, TouchWiz, etc. No one goes from a Samsung Galaxy SII to a Droid RAZR and says, "Wow! This new theming is the best!" Go ahead and make a new launcher and do a few small tweaks like allowing swipe to camera from the lockscreen on Gingerbread, but leave it at that. Spend your time on making Smart Actions more polished (and who cares if it ends up a pirated *.apk; that means you're making something others envy!).

For the bootloaders, unlock them (well, decrypt the signature). The people that want it will love you for it, and they are few. The people that would be trouble with an unlocked bootloader won't be doing anything that requires one. Keeping it locked up is basically a no-advantage scenario. If you're worried about more tech support issues, just be sure to send a new device, pre-release, to the heads of some of the usual suspects of awesome ROMs and they'll handle the tech support side (AOKP, CM, MIUI, etc.). It'll cost you a grand total of something like $4500 retail (less, since it'll just be your cost plus shipping), and it'll also be free advertising to boot. That will probably be the best $4500 you'll ever spend, equating to thousands if not more handsets sold. This is a no-brainer and a really, really easy and cheap way to be the #1 make amoung the tech and Android enthusiast blogs and forums.

And please, none of that stupid "developer device" crap sold without a warranty and no carrier subsidies. That just pisses people off and makes you look cheap (remember: no compromise perception).

You could be King of the Nerds, Motorola. Embrace your destiny.

Last but not least: the camera. This is an easy one: use a Carl Zeiss lens and a Xenon flash. Yes, the Xenon will take more juice than an LED. It won't matter. People don't use the flash enough to make a giant dent in battery life, but they will notice the difference in their nighttime photo quality. That's also why you'll use the Zeiss lens: picture quality, picture quality, picture quality. This is key. You'll need competitive MP so that you don't fall short on silly spec sheets, but the picture quality will make you a legend in the blog world. And, since you're Motorola, you'll find a way to make it look sexy and not like, well . . . a Nokia.

This is one of the few things Nokia got right, and they're universally praised for it.

The rest is fluff. MicroSD slot vs. internal memory, HDMI port vs. PDMI, etc. don't mean too much. If Apple's shown the world anything, it's that you can compromise on connectors and most people won't care.

So, to sum up, make us a device with the following:

  • RAZR Maxx build (battery included)
  • A15 with a killer GPU (a real benchmark-buster)
  • 5.3", HD, sAMOLED+ screen
  • Carl Zeiss lens with a xenon flash
  • Vanilla Android with a custom launcher and some basic tweaks
  • Unlocked bootloader
  • Advance devices sent to leading devs in the ROM scene
Do this, and you'll be awesome. Do it not, and every one of your handsets will die this day.

True story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waving Goodbye

This morning, my inbox (and probably yours, too) greeted me with this message from the Google Wave team:

It says, "Dear Wavers,

More than a year ago we announced that Google Wave would no longer be developed as a separate product. Back in November 2011, we shared the specific dates for ending this maintenance period and shutting down Wave. Google Wave is now in read-only mode. This is a reminder that the Wave service will be turned off on April 30, 2012. You will be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. We encourage you to export any important data before April 30, 2012.

If you would like to continue using Wave, there are a number of open source projects, including Apache Wave. There is also an open source project called Walkaround that includes an experimental feature that lets you import all your Waves from Google. This feature will also work until the Wave service is turned off on April 30, 2012.

For more details, please see our help center.

Yours sincerely,
The Wave Team"

Time to pour one out for the best collaboration software money couldn't buy.