I am, and have always been, an early adopter of a lot of things, particularly when it comes to technology. My cell phone voyage started back in the year 2000 with a Nokia 5110. Back then, only a handful of people had phones, and seeing someone on the street with one was a somewhat rare sight. Nowadays, the same cannot be said. Cell phones have become a massive commodity—one that gets a lot of attention, and certainly one that is likely one of the most profitable industries in the world today (in the tech sector anyways).
Every Joe Schmuck and Jane Doe sport the latest Galaxy devices or one of Apple’s latest iconic iPhones (just to mention a few manufacturers). Sure, they all have a somewhat interesting appeal, and many of them are loaded with more unique functions and capabilities that (in theory) make life a lot easier. However, looking at the overall market and trying to overlay an innovation line through the timeline from the early 2000′s (when Nokia reigned supreme) ’til today, we can easily notice a few trends that are worrying and don’t necessarily correlate with what anyone would expect from “progress” or “development.”
Going back to the very beginning of my article, I mentioned owning a dinosaur of a phone, the Nokia 5110. The device was a jewel, and it did exactly what it needed to do (and far more). The device was relatively cheap to get with a 2-3 year agreement. So, the device manufacturer (again, in this particular case, Nokia) knew that in order to have a good customer base, the devices needed to last that long. After all, not everyone could spend $400-600 USD on a phone upgrade while still being locked in the middle of a contract, nor were they willing to do so either.
Nokia designed the 5100 series with a few crucial engineering concepts in mind: good battery, reliable, easy to service, and durable. I had my device for the length of my contract before I decided to upgrade (mainly due to swapping carriers). I have to admit that it must have been one of the best cell phones I have ever had the pleasure of using. Not because of the usage per se, but rather how the device gave me 0 issues in the course of 3 years of ownership. Needless to say, the thing was built to last, as the body was virtually indestructible (exaggerating a tad here, but it was a tough device). When I upgraded, I went with a Nokia 8210. They had done a good job because with their mindset, they created a device that prompted me to want to see what else they could come up a few years down the line—all that without compromising my ability to enjoy the one I currently had. Ah, those were the days.
Fast forward to 2007 (big jump, I know). The iPhone was released and the (back then) current king of smartphones, Windows Mobile HTC devices and Blackberry, were dethroned. Because of silly mistakes, loads of bugs, and a simple yet effective marketing strategy to get people to buy more, the iPhone 1G sees a successor not much later down the line. Seeing how many other manufacturers were now jumping into the bandwagon, stable and decent cell phone manufacturers saw themselves in dire need to release more products in a shorter timespan. This was primarily done to keep up with their competitors, who were quickly gaining market share due to shorter intervals between new products. The next thing that happened (and still does to this day), new models are released every 6-9 months, each one promising to be “better” than their predecessor(s). This last statement is the cornerstone of this entire article. Why are manufacturers releasing devices that are NOT designed to be the best they have to offer? It isn’t that they develop new tech for newer versions. Rather, they make enough (in)significant changes to the existing one, such that it can be labeled the “next best thing.”Does any of this sound familiar?
I myself am an engineer, as many of you are as well (or studying to become). It honestly makes my blood boil when I consider the engineering teams behind the product development of some of these devices. No longer are devices durable. Rather, they have gone entirely to the other end of the spectrum and have become practically disposable. I simply cannot believe that a $500-1000 USD item becomes “irreparable.” Product design basics dictate that any engineered product is designed to have a certain life expectancy under normal conditions, tear, and wear, and even leave some leeway for accidents. If products need repair, they should be perfectly serviceable by the manufacturer without having to charge the consumer exorbitant amounts of money to get the product back in working order. Needless to say, whenever a phone does break this day and age, sending it in for repairs is a fruitless ordeal due to the fact that more often than not, the device will be deemed as “not repairable” due to directions coming from engineering design teams.
Make the world a better place through the application of science? That is what product engineering should be about. Squeezing every last drop of sweat over your own design and making sure that you put your very best efforts into making something that people will have for years (not months) to come is what every engineering company should strive for. Unfortunately, this was quickly replaced with “ooh, look how shiny this new toy is,” which is then followed by “oh, your old one? pfft That is so 3 months ago…. you won’t get two pennies for it on eBay, and don’t even think about repairing it.”
We as consumers have allowed these companies to throw basic engineering practices out the window so that they can squeeze more juice out of us. Now, I have no issues with companies trying to make money. Hell, that is what they do after all. But when greed takes over your most basic principles, I simply have no sympathy. I still recall our friend XDA Senior Recognized Developer AdamOutler doing an unboxing of the new Droid Razr when it came out. His words have been stuck in my head ever since. “Motorola made this device to be disposable.” Why? What was the point of making the device “disposable?” Why did such an important part of engineering a new product (ease of service) gets tossed aside like this? Would it kill you to make your device fixable? Another example: I tried to fix the digitizer of my HTC Titan a few days ago, but ended up destroying the LCD entirely. Why would there be any need to superglue both LCD and digitizer and superglue that combo to the device’s body? To keep them in place you say? There are small, low profile screws that will do the job just as well without jeopardizing the serviceability of the device or its overall design (read: they will not make it any thicker).
The entire world has been sucked into a game that the companies play on a large scale. They are trying to see just how much they can shove down our throats, all while expending the least amount of effort in doing so. These practices not only have the effects mentioned earlier, but they can also have dangerous consequences (bulging exploding battery of SGS2 devices anyone?). The core activities here on XDA-Developers actually somewhat put a damper on this, as the allure of “a new OS version exclusive to a device” is now mitigated. But unfortunately, software is just but a small part of the overall equation.
Next time you are out there shopping for a cell phone, just think about a very important thing that goes beyond specs or pretty colors. Just think about how well the product you are about to purchase was engineered. Let that be your deciding factor, and don’t simply fall in line with the rest of the masses who will jump at anything shiny like fish in heat. There are manufacturers out there that still care about trying to keep their core engineering values. To these companies, kudos. To the ones like HTC, which used to be like this (my HTC Wallaby that I bought in 2003 and that has been through hell and back still works), look at your early years and try again. Get off the path you are in right now because you will lose this race. And to the companies that simply don’t give two flying feathers about engineering, progress, and making the world a better place (looking at you Apple), I sincerely hope that your lack of engineering values comes back with a vengeance and bites you where the sun doesn’t shine.
If I have to choose between a phone that is 0.0001 mm thick but that will break upon looking at it without any way to fix it or my old 5110, I’ll take my old Nokia any day of the week. At least, that has engineering at heart.
November 23, 2013 By: Samantha
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some very exciting news and announcements from OEMs and telecom providers regarding Android 4.4 KitKat rollout schedules. Among them, we saw Sony share details on the first raft of Xperia devices slated to receive the update. The announcement wasn’t met with just smiles, however, as many Xperia users have voiced their confusion, anger, and disappointment over the selection of devices Sony has decided to allow into the KitKat party.
If you found yourself disappointed before, hold your horses. The initial announcement only showcased the first raft of devices, which only means that there will be a second raft. This is evident with Sony’s recent update to the Xperia SP‘s support page, which now proudly brandishes the KitKat-flavored Android mascot along with the words ‘Future Version: Android 4.4 (KitKat). Although not an explicit announcement, it’s pretty much a dead giveaway of things to come in the very near future.
As for users of the Xperia T, TX, V and ZR, you may have to wait a bit longer to see if you’ll be catching the second wave. Although the respective support pages also shows the Android 4.4 icon, the accompanying words “Under Investigation: Android 4.4 (KitKat)” are a bit of a dampener. This is somewhat expected for the 2012 devices, as Sony would definitely have to investigate whether these devices will be capable and compatible with a version of Android that’s more than just changes to aesthetics and functionality. That said, we have to wonder why the ZR has also been left out (for now).
Nevertheless, this is great news, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more confirmation from Sony soon. With greater clarity on Sony’s update schedule, what are your thoughts and concerns? Which devices will be on the second raft? And will there be a third? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
November 14, 2013 By: Samantha
It’s pretty obvious that over the past couple of months, Sony has been increasing their support for open-source development not only for Xperia line of devices, but also the various accessories such as the Smartwatch 1 and Smartwatch 2, and their Smart Imaging Stand. And it seems as though Sony isn’t stopping there, as they just recently added support for their stereo Bluetooth headset SBH50 and the Smart Bluetooth Handset SBH52.
If you weren’t aware of these accessories, the SBH50 is in essence a wireless bluetooth headset that connects to your device—wireless headphones, so to speak. As for the SBH52, it serves as a ‘secondary’ voice and sound transmitter wirelessly connected to your phone, so rather than holding a massive phone next to your ear during conversation, you can hold the SBH52 instead. Interesting.
With the new APIs, developers interested in these accessories will be able to create app extensions on the connected devices, much like on their Smartwatches. This also allows developers to emulate these accessories, in the absence of one, to test app extensions. Additionally, Sony has updated their API code example, SampleSensorExtension, which provides information on sensors in certain accessories, aiding in app extension development involving sensors.
If you would like to learn more or interested in Sony’s Add-on SDK in general, head over to the Sony Developer’s announcement post.
We’d like to think that temperature control is the least of our problems when it comes to our smartphones and tablets. It’s a factor that the majority, if not all, of the large manufacturers refuse to acknowledge—instead preferring to tout form, power, and performance. So when we do CPU-intensive activities, such as playing games, or when the weather’s hotter than usual on a particular day, we don’t expect our devices to usually heat up to such a degree.
To manage such problems, Sony has Thermanager, a ‘thermal management solution’ for Xperia devices with binaries that were previously released through their Developer’s Portal. An issue with this was developers weren’t given the flexibility and freedom to customize, improve, or analyze the behavior of the thermal management. This then hindered possible fixes and solutions to thermal-related problems, which were not properly addressed otherwise.
Sony decided to address this issue by releasing the source code of Thermanager to the general public. Made available through their Github, this source release is yet another step that Sony has taken inline with their developer-friendly reputation. So if you’re a developer looking to build on the existing thermal solutions, be sure to check their information post.
September 30, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
The Sony Add-on SDK 2.0 has been released, and it brings new APIs for the Sony SmartWatch 2 and Xperia Z1. That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about an easy rooting Toolkit makes rooting simple on Sony devices. In more Sony news, he talks about the guide on how to port the Sony small apps and task switcher to CM10.1.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this weekend on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Jayce released a video answering his frequency asked questions, and later he released a video talking about how to combat procrastination. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
September 25, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
XDA:DevCon 2013 is over. Without the great support from our sponsors, the event would not have been nearly as interesting or informative. One sponsor that really stepped up was Sony. Not only did they attend and bring their latest goods for ogling and testing, but they also brought three interesting presentations of our enjoyment.
Their first presentation Karl-Johan Dahlstrom (head of Developer Relations at Sony Mobile) gave was titled “How Sony Supports and Works With Independent Developers.” Part of Karl-Johan’s job is bridging internal software development with external developers, innovation, and knowledge sharing. Above all, he is responsible for fostering co-innovation through tech and developer mindshare. In his presentation, he talks about and gives examples of how independent developers and Sony can, and have, collaborate through different opportunities and open initiatives. Finally, he talks about the initiatives and activities we do to support independent developers and opportunities ahead.
In their second presentation Sony brought Alin Jerpelea. He and other developers started “Free Xperia Project” trying to offer software alternatives, like CyanogenMod, for Sony devices. In his presentation “Android on Legacy Devices – Use It or Lose It,” he talks about how Android support on legacy devices is demanded by a lot of people because manufacturers rarely release Android updates. Developers and members at XDA work hard to support devices on new Android versions. Alin ponders how much should we push those devices. Is it enough to have the latest Android version booted, or do we want more? Alin and the audience talk about whether or not working to get new Android versions on old devices is worth the time. Check out the video to see what they have to say.
Finally, Sony provided one more presentation. Sony Developer Pal Szasz created the CHKBUGREPORT tool for internal needs, and then open sourced the tool for everyone’s enjoyment. In his presentation “CHKBUGREPORT: Open Source Bug Reporting Tool,” Pal talks about how the tool allows you to get good information out of bug reports. Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS, and developers need a good way to deal with bug reports. To see if this former Sony internal tool is right for you, check out this video.
Again, we want to thank Sony for attended and providing us with three excellent presentations. If you want to see more presentations or get a copy of the presentation slides, visit the XDA:DevCon Presentations page.
September 20, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Apparently, unlocking the Sony Xperia Z1 Bootloader breaks the camera. That and much more is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about Framaroot bringing One-Click Root to various devices and news about root and write protection bypass for the Moto X and the Droid Ultra.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Kevin released a video talking about understanding Xposed Framework, Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler did an XDA Unboxing of the new Nexus 7 (2013), and TV Producer TK gave us an Android App Review of ViPER4Android. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
Today we are very excited to announce a new pilot program that will go live in the next few days. Given the emergence and increasing popularity of One-Click-Tools and Toolboxes, many developers faced a problem: Where do I put my thread if the tool is compatible with multiple devices?
Until now, you had three possibilities where each one had its own flaws:
We hope to solve this issue with the introduction of a cross-device development forum. For now, this will only cover a few Sony devices. But if the pilot is successful, we plan on adding other OEMs as well. So here’s how it works:
Obviously this new forum has a very strict set of rules to keep it clean:
August 4, 2013 By: jerdog
Back in June, we announced the start of a unique competition here at XDA involving the latest high end tablet from Sony. And in early July, we announced the Stage 1 winners. What was to follow was a month of intense development from the 10 winners, 9 of whom are listed below (in random order). Note: only 9 are mentioned, as the 10th winner never responded.
What makes this competition even more unique, is how we’re conducting the voting. Sadly, community voting often leads to fanbois flocking to increase voting for their idol, diluting the worth of the obtained results. So in order to make sure everyone is given a fair chance at receiving a vote, we’ve done the following: The information on where to vote is not posted here.
That’s right; it’s not posted here. Instead, you will need to go to the thread containing the list of winners and read through all of the projects. Once you have read about them, you will have the link to vote. If you can’t find it, you’ve not read about all of the projects. Do not ask for the link, and do not send it to someone else once you have found it. This way, everyone who votes will have done so after reading.
Who is eligible to vote?
Anyone who was registered on XDA-Developers before 9 AM (GMT) on July 26, 2013, and who is not a member of XDA staff. One vote is allowed per person. Accounts created after the 26th of July will have their votes discounted. Votes will be checked. This date and time was selected because it is shortly before information on the voting process was made available to competition entrants. Voting closes on Wednesday, August 8 at 19:30 GMT.
Ready to look at the entrants?
Head on over to the thread about the competition entries! The information on how to vote is contained within the thread.
June 24, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Sony Xperia illumination bar API released! That and more are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about using CloudCube to tame your clouds and news about Ariel Shimoni and XDA Elite Recognized Developer Stericson speaking at XDA:DevCon 2013.
Jordan talks about the other video released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Jayce released a video talking about how a to make money as an app developer and be more than “Ramen Profitable.” Also, the winners of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z contest were announced. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
READ ON »
June 22, 2013 By: Samantha
Further testament to Sony’s increasing support for third-party developers comes with their release of ‘experimental’ APIs for that funky translucent illumination bar found on many of their phones such as the Xperia S. The new APIs will allow developers to play and experiment with the bar’s functionality in various situations, apps, and ROMs.
Announced at Sony’s Developer World, the APIs will allow developers to control the bar in unrestricted ways never before possible, such as setting the LED color, controlling the LED pulses, and define fading patterns. The devices that are fully supported by the APIs are the:
The following phones are also supported, however support for the fading patterns will not be as extensive:
Developers of the Xperia S and P should also be mindful that the hardware only supports white color, and this limitation may be found on other devices.
These new APIs also mark the introduction of ‘experimental’ APIs from Sony, and will most likely be for ‘playful’ and novel features of the Xperia lineup. So if you own one of the supported devices and would like to check out just exactly what the illumination bar can do, be sure to visit Sony’s announcement for more information and download.
June 14, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Sony now allows you to install custom firmware on your Smartwatch device. That story and more are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about Daniel Nazer speaking at XDA:DevCon 2013 and news about the contest. Additionally, the Paranoid Android team has open sourced HALO.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Kevin gave us video on USB On-The-Go, AdamOutler and friend shows us how to develop for the Google ADK, and TK does an App Review of Hi App Lock. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
June 7, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
A “top secret” court order forces Verizon to hand over your call data. That and more are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about leaving Google Apps and news about the Sony Xperia Tablet Z contest.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer TK gave us video on Installing OTAs with Root, Steve shows us how to root the HTC One and TK does an App Review of Greenify. Pull up a chair and check out this video.