Android Central

Ya know, looking back at our recap of the first six months of the year, I'm not quite sure how I survived. Well, OK. I do. And the answer is pretty simple: With a kick-ass team, of course. No one person here does it alone. I may be the one who spends too much time on airplanes, but it's the entire team that keeps this ship running.

And with that said, it's time to turn to the second half of 2013. And for as exciting as January through June was, July to now stepped it up that much more.

Let's take a look.

July 2013: Goodbye, Google Reader ... Hello Nexus 7 and Chromecast!

Nexus 7

Strangely enough, the world didn't end on July 2, 2013 — the day Google Reader was shut down for good. Alternatives had arisen. OMPL lists were exported, imported and enjoyed anew. Are our RSS lives the same? As fulfilling? Maybe not. But persevere we did.

Verizon has a little get-together in New York to announce the new Droid Mini, Droid Ultra and Droid Maxx. The Droid Ultra is decent, but it's pretty clear that the Droid Maxx, with its massive battery, is where it's at.

The real news of the month, however, was the new version of Google's Nexus 7. A "Breakfast with Sundar Pichai" was scheduled for July 24 — yes, the same day as Verizon's Droid event — in San Francisco. We got an exclusive first look at the new Nexus 7 a week early, but the event was well worth the wait. The new Nexus 7 upped the ante in the specs department, giving the tablet the innards and display that it deserves

But, wait! There's more! Google also gave us the Chromecast — a dongle-sized HDMI, erm, dongle to stream video and music to our TVs. The Chromecast actually does the heavy lifting, but it's controlled by an Android device. And it's easily one of the most important devices of 2013. It's not quite a Nexus Q replacement — it's not quite as full-featured a device — but with a $35 price tag (instead of $299) that made Chromecast an instant buy. And I finally box up my Nexus Q — for good.

Oh, and Android 4.3 dropped

A few other nuggets:

August 2013: Finally, the Moto X ...

Moto X

That's it, cancel the rest of the year. The Moto X finally has arrived. It's almost difficult to find a phone that had been leaked more — if not outright displayed publicly — before its announcement, but here it is. We had a relatively intimate briefing with Motorola in New York, then time to explore the phone. 

The wood backs. The wrist-flip camera app. The custom designs through Moto Maker (though on AT&T only at first, which sucked). All things to be very excited about. Touchless Control. Active Display. Trusted Bluetooth Devices to help better protect your phone. But the camera? Eh, not so much. Pictures were sorely disappointing, never mind what Moto sang to us. Also extremely disappointing was the fact that Moto X is U.S.-only. Moto X still isn't going to win any specs battles — but it's not supposed to. And that's OK, though.

It becomes pretty clear to us pretty quickly that Moto X will be among the top phones of the year.

Also worth a pretty big mention is Google's new Android Device Manager, which allows you to track the location of any of your connected devices. You can ring them remotely, or outright wipe the thing if lost. This is a big deal and goes a long way toward keeping your data more secure.

The Moto X was released by U.S. carriers toward the end of the month.


The sleeper hit of the year came in August as well. LG came to New York City to take the wraps off the new LG G2. (It dropped the "Optimus" name earlier in the year.) Not only does it check all the boxes when it comes to specs, but it moves the volume and power buttons to the rear of the phone. Sounds crazy, but I got used to it quickly enough. The 5.2-inch display is big, but it wasn't too big for me to actually use

Really, the biggest quibble I had with the LG G2 was the decision to partner up with the Vienna Boys Choir for ringtones and notifications. They're cute, at first, but by the end of the first day you're ready to throw the phone against a wall. (Or at least change to something less annoying.)

September 2013: Berlin and New York and Miami ... And KitKat!

IFA 2013

The whirlwind continues. First up, the IFA conference in Berlin. But, first, a fun story: I get rerouted from Amsterdam through Paris and finally to Berlin. Hours late. Exhausted. But, oh, look. As I'm sitting at CDG in Paris, waiting for one last flight, Android 4.4 KitKat gets announced. And the Nexus 5 gets leaked out in Google's video of the KitKat statue being unveiled

So there's that.

Anyhoo, it's my first time in Germany. And we've barely got our feet on the ground (Alex and Richard where there, too, leading me around) when we get our first look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

The Note 3 definitely is the more important device of the two, but I do still like the Galaxy Gear. It's just hard for most folks to stomach the $299 asking price, especially when you consider that it just now got more proper notifications. Design-wise, it's pretty good. I just think it might be trying to do too much.

In addition, Samsung brought the awkwardly named Galaxy Tab 10.1 — 2014 Edition. Great 10-inch tablet. Horrible name.

From Sony, we got the Xperia Z1 smartphone, but the real sexiness came from the QX10 and QX100 lens attachment thingies. For as weird as the idea is — a self-contained camera that attaches to just about any normal-sized smartphone (or works as a standalone shooter — it is remarkably fun to use. Basically Sony took the glass and guts from its excellent point-and-shoot cameras and turned them into the QX series.

And from LG, we got the G Tab 8.3 tablet. It was obviously a great piece of hardware with a decent price, and it finally led to a Google Play edition of it later in the year.

Meanwhile ...

And because it's not like there's been news going on or anything, the Mobile Nations editors head to Miami for a week to decompress, strategize, and eat fish tacos. By the end of the week, things were getting weird.

October 2013: The HTC One Max and Samsung DevCon

October was a bit of a hodgepodge. 

The biggest thing for us was Samsung's inaugural developer's conference in San Francisco. A couple days of devs and the biggest damned tech company on the planet. We streamed the keynote live and did a couple days of interviews live from the show as Samsung's official community partner. And I had a better time doing it than I expected.

Samsung did a great job with its first devcon. I'd expect it to grow by leaps and bounds in 2014.

Oct. 31, 2013: Finally, the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4

Nexus 5 and Android 4.4

This one's worth splitting into its own section. Looking back, announcing Android 4.4 KitKat and the Nexus 5 on Halloween makes perfect marketing sense, though perhaps just a little too cute for its own good. But, finally, they've arrived. The phone was barely beat out by the Moto X for the least-surprising device of the year, but that's not its fault. And LG (tapped for the second straight year as the Nexus manufacturer), did a pretty good job with it.

The phone pretty obviously mimics the Nexus 7 in overall design language. While it lacks some of the sex appeal of the Nexus 4, it makes up for it by adding LTE, a slightly larger display in just about the same footprint — and, c'mon, it's a Nexus.

The camera is decent enough, but we did run into a few other software issues that Google has since taken care of.

Alex was able to get his hands on a retail Nexus 5 a good 12 hours or so before my review unit arrived, so he took the lead on this guy — and did so in his typical awesome fashion.

A lot of hay has been made over the Nexus 5's launcher (aka the "Google Experience Launcher"), which integrates Google Now more closely and puts it to the far left as a sort of home screen. I think this GEL thing has been wildly overhyped, and I'm still thumbing up from the home button just fine. (From a different launcher altogether, actually.)

Also, we poured one out for the Galaxy Nexus, which was being left behind on Android 4.3.

Oh, and as if we didn't have enough going on that day, the FAA decided we could use our phones and tablets on planes below 10,000 feet, which was rather nice of it.

November 2013: All Nexus, all the time ... and then Moto G!

I'll be perfect honest here: Even we get a little sick of writing about the same phone over and over — never mind great hardware and great features. But the Nexus 5 and KitKat continued to dominate the news cycle.

Google's added some great new photo features in the past several months. One of them is Auto Awesome Videos, which basically apes the Video Highlights HTC introduced earlier in the year, but on the server side, not rendered on the phone. But it also introduced a "Photos" app alongside the "Gallery" app. Andrew Martonik did a great job explaining the two, but it's still a mess. Google will clean it up, no doubt. But for now, it's confusing.

A new version of Google Hangouts is released, and it becomes the default SMS client on the Nexus 5, for better or worse. (If you use Google Voice, you're going to have to wait for proper integration.)

We all play around with the new ART runtime in Android 4.4, but, again, we also overhype it.

Moto G

And then there's the Moto G. It's easy for us to forget that what smartphone nerds demand (especially here in the U.S.) isn't necessarily what most folks need, to say nothing of the realities of other parts of the world. And that's where the Moto G comes in.

At an event in Brazil — South America often gets short shrift when it comes to smartphones — Motorola unveiled its "budget" smartphone. Off-contract, $199 gets you a 4.5-inch smartphone with Android 4.4, interchangeable shells  and 16GB of storage. (You can get half the storage for $20 cheaper, but why bother?)

This phone is a big deal. It's the smartphone for everyone else, at the right price. No contract. No LTE, either, but again, that price. This is what changes games, folks.

December 2013: And here we are ...

And that's just the big, big stuff off the top of my head. Yeah, 2013 was kinda ridiculous. Just wait until this wearables thing really takes off.

Stay tuned for 2014, folks, kicking off next week with our #CESlive coverage from Las Vegas. This is going to be a good one. Thanks for being a part of it.


Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: Looking back at 2013 (Part 2)


I still scratch my head at what HTC was thinking with the Max, it took to long and was very underwhelming, missed opportunity for them to go head to head with the note 3

Posted via Android Central App

I agree 100% better specs would have made the Max the best phone on the market in display,performance, and obviously build quality

Sent from my Nexus 7 2013 or Moto G

Lol. It is just a big phone, specs alone belong to the Note 3.

I am not spec whoring but you brought it up

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

It isn't just about specs with the one max. The phone is freaking huge. Made even bigger cuz of the bezels.

Posted via my defective Nexus 7(2013)

Metal >Plastic, no matter how faux leathery. Can't say anything about display but, at least for me, every OEMs customisation is better than touchwiz. But I'd flash a ROM and get a closer to stock look

Although the plastic rim wasn't great, I've seen it on a friends one mini

Agreed 100%. I want to see HTC become a bigger player, and the fact that they were able to cause so much disruption to the GS4 with the One was a good sign. But then they go around and make one of the dumbest designs ever. It was clearly not thought out.

I purchased a Note 3 over the holidays, to replace my aged GNex. If the One Max had been a slightly bigger One, with a bigger battery and better internals, I would have easily picked it up over the Note. Oh well. I hope they do better with the next One.

They just made a HTC One with a bigger screen for those who want a big screened HTC device.

Posted Via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App

And they made it 6 months later with obsolete specs.. Serves them right if it flops! Oh it's already done that!

Posted via Android Central App

Snapdragon 600, 2GB DDR2 RAM (when Samsung and pretty much everyone uses DDR3) and not to mention the downgraded 4 ultra pixel camera without OIS.... Also not to mention, weighs like a brick...

Posted via Android Central App

Yup. Once a phone is actually released to consumers, and the hype bubble has deflated, the phone is obsolete and the hypebeast moves on to attack the next unicorn phone.

Edit: Yes, I tried to make this meme-licious.

My point is that they used 6 month old specs in such a device... It either shows how broke they're or how stupid and in this case, probably both... Sony did the same with the Xperia Z... At least they learnt the lesson and didn't do the same with the Z1... Hopefully HTC do learn from this and use the Snapdragon 805 in the new One..

Posted via Android Central App

It's the HTC one with a ridiculously large screen and a fingerprint sensor. Sorry, but I don't need a fingerprint scanner, no matter what the iSheep say. Between the two, the regular One is just fine.
If the One Max had a Snapdragon 800 chip, I would be interested. However, it would have been preferable for a dedicated stylus and more pen-centric features

Posted via Android Central App

Good year in Android overall. Now we wait for 2014.

Posted Via VZW Moto X on the Android Central App

It is impossible to overuse the word "dongle," because dongles are useful and "dongle" is a hilarious word. I hope they keep saying "dongle" as often as possible as long as dongles are on the market.


Yo dawg I heard you like donegals so we put a donegal in your donegals so


So fetch

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

You plug a county in Ireland into your TV. Google decided on this design choice due to large TVs. Samsung has beaten them with one the size of Ireland itself. It has to win size wise.


Phil, you forgot about (insert story that was in the first half of 2013 that Phil wrote about in the first half of this piece, but I don't bother reading anything, I just head straight to the comments)

Posted from my newly Kit Katted Droid Ultra

For me one of the best things about 2013 was how quickly the Moto X got the 4.4 update. Maybe that's just because I have a Moto X;) I did think it was pretty crazy having Kit Kat on my Moto X before others had it on their Nexus devices.

YES. And the typically sluggish Verizon being the first carrier to push it, too. That's a big part of the story, too.

I am still recovering

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

There may have been that Google acquired Motorola to gain control over Verizon. It's really no secret that Big Red has a lot of favoritism towards Motorola.

Posted via Android Central App

Favoritism? Motorola (out of Motorola, LG, Samsung, and HTC) seemed like the only one that wanted to play ball with the DROID brand, almost like they became the defacto DROID-maker by default.

And Verizon's 4.4 update to the Droid variant was Bricking every device it downloaded too. The two devices are almost identical and because of verizons bloat it bricked the Droid versions of the X.

Ok I will say it, the Note 3 deserved more than half a sentence.

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

2195 of which were praising the Moto X, probably...I'm just giving you shit...Have a Happy New Year...Everyone else, too.

Or maybe the 1000 words on the Nexus/kit kat.

Same as above, just giving you crud, happy new year.

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

In all honesty. I think the Galaxy Nexus was parked at a very descent Android version. It has less bugs than 4.4(maybe even bug-free) and the only thing that's really improved on KitKat is the "message default" feature, and perhaps also the improved phone app.

So, nothing to cry about.

Except that it is a Galaxy nexus

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

I am just gonna pretend that Google miss numbered and forget the Gnex and the N4 never exsisted

sent from my DROID Eris, made by Nokia, powered by iOS 7 via BBM

The gnex didn't suck.
I had the Verizon version and that Was Complete Shit. Shitty, Shit, Shit.
The N4 certainly didn't suck.

Posted via my defective Nexus 7(2013)

Really wrong. It's still a great device, even though it's not on sale. The things reviewers complained about didn't apply to me so it was the perfect device for me and as long as my ROM supports it I probably won't upgrade. Also touchwiz is just too ugly, it's the reason I didn't get an s3

Although going by your name you hate the nexus devices, so I'm guessing you're a Samsung fan by your posts, so if they switched to tizen then you'd go there

Yeah, is not all that bad. It isn't perfect. But it looks so nice! I just removed it's plastics and it looks so swell!!

well in the year i received a Moto X, G2, and HTC one...I'd say the G2 is my favorite..But january here i come Note 3

It is but you could try inporting it. Don't expect it to work well on international carriers


Sadly the Moto X is a USA only launch, not sure about Canada but 100% wasn't launched across Europe

Posted via Android Central App

Uh. The Moto X is available in countries not named the United States of America.

Posted via Android Central App

Uh... OK it is available in Brazil, Canada, USA and Puerto Rico aka the Americas.... Such a world wide release, I swear you get more petty with each post

Posted via Android Central App