Personal · Technology

A few months later.

Well, it has been a few months since getting a Nothing Phone and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the best Android phone I’ve ever used – no crapware or adware, prompt updates (link), does not insist on reinventing the wheel in favour of using stock Google/Android default apps. The other benefit with the lack of bloat is that copious amounts of time and money isn’t wasted on not only maintaining duplicate functionality but not having to migrate all these ‘enhancements’ every time a new version of Android is released. Android 13, although trailing behind the official release, I would sooner have stability than being on the bleeding edge after having seen the effects of people jumping as soon as they can only to find that they were bitten by some nasty bugs – I guess without those early adopters that many of the bugs wouldn’t have been fixed for those who take a more cautious approach.

Even though it has Qualcomm Snapdragon 778+ SoC is is incredibly fast and fluid – helped along by the 12GB of RAM which enables more apps to stay in memory so then it is possible to quickly switch between applications without having to wait for the app to load itself back into memory again. The retaining of a largely vanilla Android with some light customisations results in a very responsiveness interface that isn’t weighed down with features that I don’t actually use. It is something I find that with many OEMs that their focus is about filling up with as many tick boxes as possible for the sake of being able to boast about being ‘feature rich’ but in reality it is dubious as to whether what they have added actually benefit the user beyond ‘specification flexing’ between fanboys. When it comes to product development, it is easy to throw features at the wall but it is a lot more difficult to say ‘no’ not to mention the challenge of removing features that aren’t absolutely core essential.

When it comes to Android 13 based Nothing OS 1.5, there was a beta 2 released around a month ago (link) with notes that imply that they’re getting closer to some sort of release. In the past one would get frustrated about missing out on the latest cool changes in Android but over the last few years there hasn’t been the massive changes because as a platform is is maturing with many of the major deficiencies being addressed many years ago such as in Android 7 when ART introduced when Google switched Android’s Java Runtime Environment from the discontinued Apache Harmony to OpenJDK with the recent years less about radical change and more about optimising what already exists. A good example of those optimisations being in Android 9 was to make greater use of bytecode compression and in Android 13 introducing a new garbage collector which will improve memory utilisation, reduce size of the code etc. The wikipedia page goes into good details along with sources (link).

Now, am looking at going back to an iPhone? No, I’m staying with my Nothing Phone because it makes little sense to keep jumping between platforms when it appears to be something that is motivated by the need to ‘scratch an itch’ than actually a genuine list of issues that causing major grief. I’ll also stay with my Chromecast with Google TV because with each update the experience is getting better and better and with the improvements in Android 13 regarding ART (link) then there is a good chance that those memory efficiency improvements will make their way through to Android TV which will help both the 4K and Standard Chromecast with Google TV.

Regarding my cloud provider, I am sticking with Google Workspace – for NZ$18 per month the price is pretty reasonable when you consider that iCloud has 2TB option for NZ$16.99. Although I could split between using Safari/iCloud and Google Workspace I decided to standardise on Workspace by moving to Chrome. The recent builds of Chrome have shown a marked improvement (I use it on a regular basis for work since my workplace also uses Google Workspace) in terms of performance, memory usage, compliance with standards etc. and unfortunately Safari suffers from the same issues that were raised for years – it can work fine when it comes to simply web pages but as soon as you move into the area of progressive web apps that make extensive use of web standards then you quickly find that either things break or if they work you find that within a given period of time it’ll come up with an error message about a web page using too much memory with the whole page just hanging there – keeping in mind that I’m running Chrome on either a laptop with 24GB RAM or a desktop with 32GB RAM so one can guess it cannot be insufficient RAM in the devices.

Regarding the recent hype around ChatGPT I think that far too many in the press are getting far to ahead of themselves in terms of the implications of such a technology. Yes, Microsoft has hyped it up and Google’s presentation wasn’t exactly smooth but in the real world I go to Bing and it still makes a pigs breakfast bringing results back that even Google, when operating in ‘Incognito Mode’ meaning it doesn’t have the benefit of learning what my preferences are, still come back with better results. The reality is that if the underlying technology produces bad search results then it isn’t going to matter all that much if you plonk a AI bot on top because it is still a matter of garbage in garbage out. Was the Google presentation pretty rough? sure but lets wait to see what happens in the real world because it is all very well to put on a great presentation but the question is how well it holds up to real world use outside of carefully controlled conditions that a presentation operates in. With that being said, the rumoured cutting investment (link) in Google Assistant has come back to bite them in the backside – this is what happens when you make decisions purely on a spreadsheet without considering the broader implications of cutting investments to save money short term but for the consequences to be disastrous in the long term.

Side note: Android 14 Developer Preview 1 has been released (link) which has a limited number of new features but like what normally happens, the big features will be announced at the next Android developer conference. For those interested, here is an interesting video regarding the Linux kernel and the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).