I am an excited editor. No, really.
Excited because I've seen the roadmap for Android Central. Excited for the way we're going to bring you more Android news than ever before. For the way we're going to continue to be your first, last and best source for all things Android. For all the new devices. For all the best apps. For all the live events. For all the tips and how-tos. And for this, I am excited.
You're already getting a taste of it, with the latest iteration to our homepage. If you missed it, read my post on the changes. But the idea is to bring you the most important news quickly and succinctly, as well as continue to cover the bits and pieces that make Android the most fascinating platform around. And, perhaps more important, we're bringing to the front page the latest and greatest forum discussions. The news is awesome and important, to be sure. But the forums truly are where the real work is done. Nearly 700,000 members. More than 1.5 million posts. Members helping members. A kick-ass cadre of moderators and advisors steering things along. All with a sense of respect and professionalism you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
(Fun fact: If you wonder how I ended up with this job, it started by posting the TreoCentral/WPCentral (nee WMExperts) forums back in the day. Dieter Bohn asked if I'd like to try writing and the rest, as they say, is history.)
And this is just the beginning. It's not final, and it's not perfect. We're improving things every day and will continue to do so. If you've got a suggestion on how we can make your time at Android Central better, feel free to e-mail me.
And now, with all that gushing over with, here's how I'm seeing things ...
Heading to Mobile World Congress ...
The next time we meet in this space, it will be from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. We've got four of us going -- myself, Alex Dobie, Simon Sage and Dan Rubino from WPCentral.com. (This will be AC's fourth trip over, and my third.)
If you're looking for the latest releases for the United States, you're going to come away disappointed. Were expecting new phones (and probably tablets) from HTC, LG, ASUS and maybe Samsung. But this is a more worldly event. Keep that in mind.
Google's going to have a big presence again. Be sure to check out its MWC preview page, and swing by our MWC page for all the latest news.
Motorola Droid 4 review
Oh, man. Did I ever want to love this phone. The OG Droid was my first Android device (yes, I was late to the party), so it's always held a special place in my heart.
The Droid 4's keyboard is the best there is, bar none. But, oy, that display.
That's not to say it's not a good phone. It certainly is. But Motorola was so close to putting it into a class all its own. Give our Droid 4 review a read.
Speaking of disappointing ...
Then there's the Archos 35 Smart Home Phone. Read Alex Dobie's review if you haven't yet. There's absolutely a place for a "dumb" Android home phone. But it needs to have a dedicated UI and not stock Android. And, yeah, the hardware needs to not suck.
On the other hand, it needs to be affordable. Trade-offs, ya know?
Samsung Galaxy Note review ...
The AT&T Samsung Galaxy Note is available starting today. And it's pretty darn nice, and really damn big. (And, at $299 on contract, on the high end of the pricing scale.)
Our full review is coming. The stylus -- excuse me, the "S Pen" -- is a little gimmicky, but Samsung's done a nice job with it. And it hides away nicely in the body of the phone. So if you don't want it, it's not in the way.
Yeah, it's ridiculous big. And if it were from anyone other than Samsung, I'd probably dismiss it on principle. But it is really well done.
Android, iOS and the permissions fallout ...
The iOS world has gotten its panties all bunched over a number of applications uploading users' contacts without permission. I'd argue that it was a failing of Apple's approval process as much as the developers who thought this was OK. But by all accounts everybody's closing the barn door now that the horse is out, and that's good.
The to-do gives us perfect occasion to revisit how Android does things. Read Jerry Hildebrand's walkthrough of how they work in Android. In a nutshell, apps must declare the permissions they're going to use -- whether they can use the Internet, see your contacts, make phone calls, etc -- and you either accept them and install the app, or you decline them and go about your business.
That Android apps must tell you up-front what they're capable of doing, they don't exactly do it in plain English. Not a week goes by where we don't get an e-mail from someone worried about the permissions an app declares. That's not a bad thing. But there's also a lot of undue worry out there. Android's method, however, is better than waiting until an application is installed before finding out it can do something you'd rather it not via some pop-up dialog.
An real-world example: Someone e-mailed asking why an Internet radio app wanted permission to launch automatically when the phone boots. It's because the app has an alarm feature. And you don't want alarms to stop working if the phone resets. Makes sense, but there was no way for the reader to know this. (I had to e-mail the developer to find out.)
I'd probably prefer a middle ground. Declare permissions up front (maybe a little more plainly), and then remind us while we're using an application that we're allowing access to our contacts or some other private data, with an option to dismiss and never see again.
That said, there's been a shift in the prevailing winds over the past six months or so where folks demand to know every bloody thing that phones are doing every second of the day -- or at least they freak out as soon as they learn about something it's been doing for the months and years previous. Ignorance is bliss. We want to trust the apps we use. It's easier for everybody. But the developers and manufacturers and carriers need to damn well not abuse that trust.
And by the way ... We're probably not going to be writing about this Safari third-party cookies brouhaha. I don't pretend to understand all the ins and outs of cookies, but I'm 99 percent sure the only reason this story is getting so many headlines is because Google's involved. I do recommend reading this post by Lauren Weinstein (via Jeff Jarvis) that explained things pretty well for me. Short version is, I don't think Google's doing anything nefarious here. That won't stop the witch hunt, though.
Ta ta for now. Talk to you next week from Barcelona.
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