Thursday, August 23, 2012

Google+ Events - Lets get into Party Mode

After hearing about Google Plus Events at Google IO and then seeing one in action at the after party I couldn’t to take it for a road test. Every year my partner in crime Maz and I hold a large dinner party in honor of Bastille day. It’s an expensive, stressful, but grand affair that provides the eating of some of the best French food I’ve had the privilege of seeing on a plate. Everybody walks away full, slightly drunk, and unfortunately with all the pictures they’ve taken. And there in lies the problem for which I thought Google Plus Events could fix.
Google Plus Events is an interesting feature of Google Plus which makes events much more social and fun. Events cover the full lifecycle of an event by firstly making it extremely easy to send out invites, and Google Calendar syncing makes guest list management a breeze. Both of these have features have merit on their own however, where Google Plus Events really shines is when users enable party mode. Party mode enables guests to upload any photos taken to the events timeline automatically which combines with social chatter and photo comments to provide a in depth and sometimes hilarious trip down memory lane.

All of this is great in theory but how did Google Events perform when put to the test in an environment where technical support was at a minimum? Well honestly as much as I wanted it all to just work, it wasn’t without issues. Party mode only worked on two out of the five Android devices at the event, and only after completely disabling party mode on the other devices were they able to upload any photos at all. To this day I’m not exactly sure why as one of the devices not working was identical to mine. Then there were those pesky iPhones who didn’t have party mode at all, and had to manually upload images. Which to be honest was less troublesome than Party mode. Luckily the guests were very understanding, in fact it became the highlight of the evening. However, even with all those issues and me running technical support in between mouthfuls of food the end results were great. The social chatter and comments on the photos we actually managed to upload were hilarious and I still laugh whenever I flick through the events timeline.
I think that it is important to mention that at the time of the dinner party Google Events was only just released, and I did expect it to have some issues. Since my this event the Google Plus client has undergone various updates and  improvements, and I’d expect now that things will work more smoothly. I think the bottom line here is that even with all the running around and extra effort the end result was more than worth it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nexus 7 Review

The new tablet from Google isn’t an iPad killer, and it’s not meant to be. It’s priced much lower and aimed at a different market. No, this one’s going directly after Amazon and their closed version of Android. Competing against the Kindle Fire is no easy task, it’s extremely low priced and doesn’t have the reputation of the Nexus branding to uphold. Thankfully apart from a few missing features like rear facing camera and expandable storage, Google haven’t sacrificed much to make the price bracket. In fact with the $25 credit on the Google Play Store, I find it hard to imagine Google isn’t taking a hit to the bottom line. Not that taking a hit on the device is a bad idea. The more devices in people’s hands, the larger the boost to the Google Play store purchases. A strategy which game console makers have been using for a long time.

The build quality on the version I have great given the price point. All seams are seated well, the screen is really very good (for the price point), and it feels solid and sturdy. The back has a slight texture which feels rather grippy so having the device slip from your hand shouldn’t be an problem. The one issue I have notices, which may be limited to the Google IO version, is that the back stains quite easy and once it does stain it’s very hard to remove. With the darker backing of the retail version this might not be as big an issue but for me with the white backing it’s plain annoying.
The Nexus 7’s screen, as I said, is pretty damn good. It has a great viewing angle thanks to the IPS screen, the colors are vibrant, and it’s leagues better than any of the first gen Android tablets. There has been a lot of talk on forums of washed out colors and pixelization at some brightness levels. I suspect these are thanks to some poor manufacturing calibration rather than the screens themselves. It’s important to note that I haven’t experienced any of these issues myself but that could be me overlooking small imperfections subconsciously based on the device’s pricing point, and that’s the important aspect here, the price point. It’s unfair to compare the screen of a $250 tablet against that of $500 + tablets, and even when unfairly compared it does admirably well.

The 4325mAh battery paired with the Nexus 7 provides more than enough power to get through a day of heavy usage, and with plenty of standby time this isn’t a device that will need nightly charging for the average user. The best part about this power plant is that it can be easily charged through the same MicroUSB cable we all know and love. No longer do you have to lug around a separate power adapter just for the tablet.
As you can probably tell I’m impressed by Google’s 7 inch offering. It’s a great form factor that is large enough to view most content without a lot of zooming yet small enough to fit easily in one hand. Granted there are a few issues here and there being reported, and some features are missing like expandable memory and a backwards facing camera, but for the price it’s a solid offering with direct Google updates, and performance to spare.