2015 was another year filled with cool stuff, and I made sure I got to try a whole bunch of it.
A lot of what I used in 2015 was Android-based, naturally. Android has come a long way since it began, and so have the products it runs on. I never would have imagined any of 2015's best phones on the day I bought my G1. I also never would have imagined Android becoming the most used computer operating system in the world. But I'm glad both happened, because Google has to keep trying to make things better and better now. Had Android been a flop, it might have met the same fate as Google Reader.
Anyhoo, I had to sit down and pick just a few of my favorite things from 2015, because Phil said I had to. I would have been happy picking them all, but he signs the checks. This wasn't easy.
1. The Nexus we want, the Nexus we deserve
There are a lot of Android phones that have a few things that are great, but recently I've decided the best Android phone is the one that has the least amount of things I think are bad. And that's the Nexus 6P.
It's bigger than I would like, and it doesn't have Qi charging. By now, you've seen and heard me complain about both of these issues a few times. While I've moved past the size and can deal with it, I'll still complain about the lack of wireless charging. But other than that, there's nothing I dislike about the 6P. It's fast and lean, and the lack of a million things I need to turn off or uninstall is refreshing. It's secure, and will stay that way for at least 20 more months. It's also open and allows me to freely break it without asking for permission from the people who took my money or trying to circumvent their need to control my hardware. It's also the first Nexus that is as good or better than every other phone from every other company making Android phones. There is no need to compromise.
The best part? I'm ready for Android N when Google releases it.
2. This is how Android TV is supposed to be
Android TV needs two things to be done "right" — hardware and hardware. Seriously, the Nexus Player shows us that we need something powerful enough to play games, render 4K video and deliver great audio simply by not being powerful enough to do any of it well. NVIDIA's Shield TV is your fix.
The Shield TV handles anything you can throw at it, whether it be streaming video from the Internet, playing local files from a USB hard drive or playing full immersive 3D games like the Talos Principle. If that's not enough, you can stream just about any PC game from your gaming computer, broadcast to Twitch, or even use NVIDIA's GRID service and play ALL the games for a monthly fee. It's also small and fits in just about any entertainment stand or cabinet.
You haven't lived until you've played Bloons TD5 on the big screen.
3. Squeeze and puff
I almost didn't buy this, because I was afraid it was too weak for me. In case you're wondering, the Vapor Flask Squonker is a vaporizer — one of those gadgets you see obnoxious kids at the mall using and blowing big clouds of steam into everyone's face. But people who aren't douchebags use them, too.
I liked the idea of "squonking" — having a reservoir filled with juice that can feed the atomizer with a squeeze through a bottom-fed tube system. But I was also used to big, dual-battery vaporizers that could push out a crap-load of wattage through atomizers with huge air holes. My wife talked me into buying it for myself as a birthday present, along with the tiniest little atomizer I have ever seen. I was skeptical, but it's perfect for me. I smoked for 30-years, and quitting was not easy. The Vapor Flask Squonk made it easier. This gadget just might make me live longer, and it sure tastes better than cigarettes.
4. All about that viewfinder
I needed a smaller camera so I could take it more places. Carrying a full-size DSLR gets old. I actually tried a few of 2015's new mirrorless cameras, then settled on the older Sony NEX 6. It might not be new in 2015, but it was new to me.
I had a few requirements — Wifi, small size, a decent selection of lenses and a real viewfinder. I just can't get the hang of shooting pictures through a screen on the back. I usually love Sony's shiny products, and was willing to pay the Sony tax and buy the NEX 6. I love the fast focus, the electronic shutter and the viewfinder, of course. I don't love how expensive the lenses are.
I wouldn't recommend the NEX 6 to a beginner, but if you want to move to something smaller, need a viewfinder and are willing to pay double for lenses, you might be interested. The pictures look good, too.
5. Meat and Greet
I finally got a chance to go to the Big Android BBQ in 2015. Now I want to kick myself for not forcing it to happen in years past.
Seeing the vendors and sponsors with all the things they want to show us was really cool. Listening to people who know what they're talking about teach us things was also very cool. The meat was off the hook. But the best part was the people attending and hanging out with them.
I got to see old friends, talk to people I only see at events like Google I/O, and I got to meet a whole bunch of new people. Everyone was chill, and I had the time of my life. The folks at IDEAA put together one of the best tech events I've ever been to, because it didn't feel like a tech event.
I'll be going every year from now on. You should, too.
6. The one where Jerry cheats because he likes too much stuff
There were a lot of other things that belong on a list of stuff I like. I am going to totally cheat and drop a some more of them right here.
- The Huawei Watch: I'm still not totally in love with Android Wear, because I can't think of a reason that I need anything it offers. but the Huawei Watch with the silver mesh band is so damn pretty.
- NVIDIA's Jetson TX1: It's so cool that GPU compute and machine learning are converging. NVIDIA has really outdone themselves by offering a complete development package for the people who are going to make it all happen.
- Cheap and good unlocked phones. Not everyone can afford or wants to buy a $700 smartphone. In 2015, nobody had to. Companies like Alcatel and ASUS followed motorola's lead and made some affordable and awesome unlocked phones. I hope the trend continues in 2016, and we see a whole lot more of them.
- Project Fi: It's not for everyone, but Google is trying to do something different. I like to see people try to shake things up. I wish Apple and Microsoft would do something similar and make the carriers in the U.S. try a little harder.
- Monthly security updates: We all deserve the phones we pay a lot of money for to be safe from people that would steal our data. By bringing the security update process out in the open, Google and the folks making our phones are being more transparent so we can know more about what's happening. We can then pressure them to continue doing it, and use it all as part of the decision-making process when we by our next phone.
I'm sure I could go on and on, but here's what I liked best about 2015. Tell me the things I missed or should look at in 2016!