The Alpha, the Omega, and the Google

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Photo by Daniel Cukier CC BY-ND 2.0

Rumor has it that Google is set to recast itself as a full-fledged smartphone maker, with the expected introduction of its new “Pixel” phones on October 4. I think I understand what they’re up to.

To quickly catch you up, Google has for years offered up phones under the Nexus brand, but these were devices built by other manufacturers in partnership with Google, mainly intended as a “reference” for other manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC, and Sony, and to serve the Android die-hard fanbase. Nexus phones offered the “pure” Android experience, as opposed to the phones made by other manufacturers which usually layer manufacturer-specific alterations to “stock” Android. Nexus phones get software updates as soon as they’re available, and they are usually very well received and affordable relative to Samsung and Apple flagships.

Now it’s being reported that “Nexus” is gone, and the new name is “Pixel.” Pixel is not new, of course, being the brand under which they’ve been producing high-end Chromebooks and one (so far) Android tablet. Google reportedly intends the Pixel line of phones to not just serve as showcases for stock Android, but to assert a new level of control over the entire Android experience. The devices themselves, which will be built by HTC, will not carry any HTC branding. Not Nexus, not HTC’s Nexus, but a Pixel phone. A Google phone.

David Ruddock at Android Police has a piece today in which he ponders what the grander strategy is, and this part grabbed me:

This “Pixel versus Nexus” distinction matters a great deal. By framing the Pixel and Pixel XL as Google products and not as Android ones, and by removing all discussion of “partners,” Google will finally be able to assert that, if only implicitly, it is offering a counterpoint to Apple’s iPhones.

It’s more than a name change, and more than Google simply throwing more weight around. This is part of Google’s overall effort to instill in consumers the idea that it is “Google” that they can trust to make their lives better.

Let’s back up. This past summer, Google unveiled its own take on the digital-assistant-in-your-house thing with Google Home, more or less a googly Amazon Echo. This same digital-assistant tech will also live in its upcoming messenger platform Allo, and already more or less exists in a less-personified form in Google Now on Android phones.

But what’s different about what Google does here than what Amazon or Apple does? I mean apart from whatever back-end, A.I., deep-learning, jiggery-pokery is going on in server farms. When you want to talk to the digital assistant on an iPhone, you talk to Siri. When you want to talk to the Echo, you ask Alexa. When you want something from Google, you just ask Google.

Google doesn’t want to separate itself from its interactions with you. It doesn’t want you to imagine some “character” answering your questions. Google wants you to ask Google. Google is the company and the character.

Google is also the search engine. You don’t look up information at the “Nexus Search,” you google, as in the neologistic verb. Your photos live in Google Photos, your stuff is synced on Google Drive. Google is the agent, the entity, that you look to.

But not with phones. Not now, anyway. Following digital thinking, I’m going to guess that “Pixel” is the name of the phone model. There’s the Apple iPhone, the Samsung Galaxies, the Amazon Kindle, and now the Google Pixel. Not “Google and HTC’s Pixel,” but the Google Pixel.

That means it’s an honest to goodness Google phone, just like the Pixel C is a Google tablet and the Chromebook Pixel is a Google laptop.

And perhaps most importantly, again leaning on digital piece, is that the new phones aren’t “Android phones,” any more than Apple is known for “iOS phones” or Samsung for “TouchWiz (gag) phones.” For years, the tech press discussion has been about iPhone vs. Android, but Android means a million different things in a million different contexts in a million different iterations.

Android is just the operating system, and it’s not the brand that regular consumers seek out. Almost no one other than enthusiasts go into carrier stores and ask for the latest Android phones. They might ask for the latest Samsung or Galaxy phone, but not Android. Again, no more than they ask about the latest “iOS phone.”

I frankly think Android as a brand is more or less alienating to most folks, evoking the image of something geeky and complicated. Notice that the Android device manufacturers almost never mention the word Android in their PR. They know that no one other than techies care about that. Brands like Apple, iPhone, and Galaxy give feelings of bedazzlement over cool, useful things. “Android,” I suspect, sounds like homework.

But you know what people do feel comfortable with? Google. You know what’s a nice, cute, safe word that feels both phone-related and still friendly? Pixel. Androids are semi-humanoid robots who have no feelings and might want to take over the world. Pixels are colorful things that make screens glow!

(Imagine how confused folks will get when their Google phone breaks and and they then google “how to fix dead pixel.”)

Google Home, Pixel, and all these other initiatives are of a piece. They’ve decided, I think, to stop making disparate products under disparate banners. Phones, operating systems, tablets, laptops, browsers, search engines, IOT/home devices, digital assistants – we’re meant to stop thinking of these things as separate brands in various arenas. They’re all just part of one thing, and to integrate them into your life, you just think, “OK, Google.”

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Oh No, Not OLED

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It is being reported that Apple will begin to use OLED displays in an upcoming iPhone generation, as opposed to the IPS LCDs it has always used. And I’m not at all happy about this.

I’m not an iPhone user at the moment, so in the near-term I don’t really care what Apple does to its phones. But it can’t be denied that anything significant that Apple does with its most important product will likely be aped by most other manufacturers, if they aren’t already doing the same thing.

And the problem is that I seem to have some sort of ocular allergy to OLED. Throughout my Year of Phones, several of the units I tried out had AMOLED or Super AMOLED displays, and I recently spent some time with a Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet, which is OLED. And with only one exception, all of the OLED devices gave me headaches when looking at them for more than a few minutes. Indeed, I feel the strain on my eyes almost immediately.

I have no solid explanation for why this is so. OLED devices with which I’ve had significant experience, Notes 4 and 5 and the Venue 8, while they are truly excellent, each gave me the same problem. I thought perhaps that there might be some difference between Samsung’s proprietary “Super AMOLED” and Dell’s vanilla “OLED,” but no. They both produced the same effect.

And no settings-tweaking helped. Lowering the brightness, lowering the saturation level, adjusting hues, nothing mattered.

Some folks in forums have speculated to me that this has to do with an imperceptible “flicker” that OLED displays produce and LCDs don’t, but that’s just a guess from a few people who are otherwise as stumped by this as I am.

There was one exception, however, the Nexus 6, the device with which I had a stormy relationship. That has a Quad-HD AMOLED display just like the Notes 4 and 5, and yet with all the problems and delights I had with that device, I don’t recall headaches being an issue at all. I have no idea why.

On the flip side are LCD displays, like that on my beloved LG G4, and on every iPhone and iPad ever. I have never had any problem gawking at iDevice screens for hours on end, and my G4 Quad-HD LCD display is so lovely I can sometimes hardly believe it.

Also, I’ve seen far more problems with OLED displays than LCDs. This is anecdotal experience, of course, but on OLED screens I see far more burn-in, ghosting, dark spots, dead pixels, and the like. I do know that it’s currently a fact that they degrade more quickly than LCDs. They seem, from my personal experience, to be far less reliable.

But now Apple will, well, saturate the market with OLED, making it the new normal. OLED displays, at their best, are far more eye-catching and rich than most LCDs (though the G4’s is right up there), so they have obvious appeal. But if they are less reliable, why would Apple commit to them so wholeheartedly?

Boy Genius Reports speculates that Apple is prepared for OLED’s degradation problem, saying, “It stands to reason that Apple is confident that the aforementioned drawbacks can and will be addressed in the years ahead.” But I don’t think that needs to be true at all. Apple has already introduced its own leasing program so that folks can get new a new iPhone model every year, so we know that Apple very much wants to push regular consumers to upgrade at a rate that’s high even for many tech enthusiasts. If they’re confident that an enormous number of their users are going to get rid of their phones after a year anyway, why should they care if the OLED displays start to lose their “oomph”? You’re buying the new one anyway.

But what this all means for me (which is what this is really about, remember) is that the best phones on the market in the coming years will all be OLED in one way or another, which means that, unless they change something as-yet-undiagnosed in the displays or my eyeballs, I will be squinting in agony at the objects I would otherwise hold most dear. It’s like an Van Gogh devotee who gets a small electric shock whenever they look at one of his paintings.

There is still the anomaly of the Nexus 6. Perhaps there’s something in the way its display was made that holds the answer. Or perhaps LG will continue to improve its LCD displays to the point where it’ll be clear that it’s the better alternative.

But with my luck? I’m going to need a new drug.

The Diminishing Returns of Flagship Phones During the Mid-Range Renaissance

Moto X Style, image by Motorola.

I gotta say, I’m not so sure there’s much reason these days to buy a phone that retails (unsubsidized) for more than $600. Merely a year or so ago, I wouldn’t have said this, as the most well-regarded and reliable phones were those such as the HTC One M8, the Galaxy Note 4, the LG G3, the Nexus 6, and of course the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. All of them came out at prices over $600, and reached into the realms of $800–1000.

There were exceptions in the flagship realm: the 2014 Moto X was just under $600, and the OnePlus One blew minds at the low price of $350 or so – that is, if you could actually get one. The Nexus 5 was technically a 2013 phone, but at about the same price at the OnePlus One, remained a strong contender.

But generally, unless you wanted to take a chance on a crazy “flagship killer” with hit-or-miss service and a decent chance for receiving a lemon, or you were okay with using a year-old device, you had to spend at least $500, but more likely closer to $700 or $800, if you wanted a solid, well-made device. Goddamn that’s a lot of money.

But today? While the current crop of high-end flagships are great, they’re not so much greater than the new middle-range, which is in the midst of some kind of sudden renaissance, to make the extra few hundred dollars worth it for the general customer.

I recently wrote that last year’s flagship phones are usually a better bet than a current-generation mid-ranger, but that truism has been exploded entirely with a slate of recent announcements. Last week, Motorola announced its new flagship, the Moto X Pure Edition (or “Style”), which will start at $400, a hundred less than last year. (It’s also got a new Moto G, which competes competently for under $200!) OnePlus has a new Two, which is only a little more expensive than its last phone, under $400. Asus has its Zenfone 2 at $300, and Alcatel has its Idol 3 at $250, both of which have been widely heralded as excellent, far exceeding the expectations set by their prices.

The LG G4 looks gorgeous. The upcoming Note 5 will certainly be a powerhouse. The Galaxy S6 has a screen so gorgeous I could just die. And so on. But for most people, there’s almost no reason to get any of them instead of one of the sub-$500 phones in the previous paragraph.

Here are the exceptions: General consumers who simply can’t be bothered to learn something new, who will be so flummoxed by anything that’s not iOS, or are utterly entrenched beyond all measure into the Apple ecosystem (or just spent an enormous amount of money on an Apple Watch), they should still get an iPhone. They’re amazing, they’re beautiful, and are far more than the sum of their specs. (I played with a 6 Plus the other day, and I swear, its display seems sharper and appears bigger than it actually is. It’s a marvel.) But a lot of folks who think they fall into that easily-flummoxed category would actually be just fine with the stock-Android experience offered by something like a Moto X or Moto G. We still don’t know what the next Nexus (or Nexi) will be or how much it will cost, but if it goes the 2013 Nexus 5 route, it will also be an easy recommendation for this crowd.

Also, those who have a specific need for high-quality stylus work, clearly you’ll want the Note. (Though the Note 4 will remain a kickass phone well into the next year, so I’m not so sure how necessary the 5 will be, but we’ll see.) If you must have the absolute best camera possible on a smartphone, get an iPhone, a Galaxy S6, or an LG G4. By all means!

But for everyone else, I am becoming convinced that spending the additional $300 or $400 one would spend on a high-end flagship will yield ever-diminishing returns. Manufacturers are getting better at what they do, understandings of software interface and optimization are improving, technology is advancing, and the general consumer who needs an excellent phone simply doesn’t have to drop a fortune to own one outright. Whether or not they’re usually iPhone people, now’s a great time to doff the high end, save some cash, and still be happy.

Unaligned Ports, Unhinged Punditry

I really respect Rene Ritchie at iMore. He’s a great reporter, an eloquent writer, and has a nuanced perspective of the larger tech world that few in the tech blogosphere even aspire to, let alone achieve. He really understands not just the technology, but how real human beings, the “normals,” use technology. Check out his review of the iPad Air from 2013, which I remember as one of the best tech reviews I’d read in a long time (and I told him so over Twitter). And overall, iMore is a very good site staffed with talented folks and stuffed with useful information on all things Apple. (I’m also a devoted MacBreak Weekly fan, on which he is a host.)
You know there’s a big “but” coming, right?

He has a piece that exemplifies for me the worst excesses of Apple apologetics, lauding Apple for centering and aligning the ports and speaker grill at the bottom of the iPhone 6 (which is fine), and shaking his head at Samsung for only centering but not aligning them at the bottom of the Galaxy S6.

Ritchie says:

Some people might not care. Like painting the back of the fence or finishing the underside of the cabinet, it’s a detail that only people who take tremendous pride in craft really care about. And, of course, people who look for just exactly that kind of quality.

That’s because it takes an incredible amount of time and resources to achieve it. It takes an incredible amount of planning and coordination as well. It also takes the willingness to not do something if you feel doing it right is important enough.

To align everything along the edge of a device takes designing and mounting the boards in a certain way, and the ports and speakers, and the buttons and jacks, and the grills and every other detail so they all line up at exactly the right place at the end. Painstaking is likely an understatement.

… [O]nce you know the back of the fence wasn’t painted, not only can you never un-know it, you can never stop wondering what else wasn’t given that same care and consideration.

The principle he’s talking about is totally sound. That attention to even the tiniest detail is also why I love Apple products. But this is off the deep end. The perfect-center-alignment that Ritchie is looking for is a matter of taste, and it’s entirely subjective as to whether it matters or is indicative of anything. To Apple’s designers, and to him, aligning everything that way is pleasing and worthwhile, and so they go to painstaking effort to achieve it. Samsung’s folks probably don’t feel the same way about that kind of symmetry. Or they do, and just made the choice to allocate their time and energy to other things.

It’s a fallacy to presume that this was an oversight or neglect on Samsung’s part, and not a mere difference of priorities. The Galaxy line, while not to my own aesthetic tastes, has obviously delighted many, many people with the choices Samsung has made. They like the things Samsung said “yes” to, such as the curved screen on the Edge model, the glass on the front and back, the superior camera, etc. Some of those same people are less than delighted by their decision to say “no” to a removable battery, for example, but I can bet that their delight is unhindered by Samsung’s saying “no” to utter pan-dimensional symmetry in the ports.

This kind of nit-pickery frustrates me, not just because it seems a bit silly, but it’s part of an attitude that implies not just an aesthetic but an almost moral superiority for one design approach over another. I know that this is not Ritchie’s intent by any means, but his piece feeds into this morass of a zeitgeist among Apple pundits that creates a perception of snobbery, whether fair or not, that turns so many off. I love Apple stuff, but I am woozy from it.

Samsung’s designs are not for me, and I do indeed vastly prefer Apple’s sensibilities to Samsung’s, but I also recognize that this is just a subjective preference, and does not imply that I am therefore a better person or smarter user of technology. I think, for example, Motorola’s designs of late for the Moto X and Nexus 6 have been just as striking as Apple’s.

Just in case, I checked to see if my Nexus 6 is “aligned” to Apple standards, and while the power and volume buttons on the side are indeed aligned, the headphone jack is not aligned with the SIM card tray on the top. So obviously, it’s junk, right? As a very happy user of this phone, I clearly don’t know enough to make my own technology decisions, and Motorola and Google obviously don’t care about design or their customers.

And I’m sure their fences are disgusting.

My grossly unaligned Nexus 6. The horror.

UPDATE: My friend Justin Sapp (designer of this site’s banner), made this for me. Enjoy:

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The Right Device Isn’t Always the “Best” Device

20150417_162356The other day, I wrote that I felt the Nexus 6 was not the premium piece of hardware it has been billed as. I called it “chintzy,” citing issues with the camera, battery, and more than anything else, heat.
I have on a couple of occasions called the Galaxy Note 4 the best phone available (that I know of), due to its amazing display, powerful innards, removable battery, great battery life, expandable storage, excellent stylus, and almost unsurpassed camera.

And despite all this, I can’t bring myself to stick with the Note 4, and I’m instead – finally – ending my phone quest with the Nexus 6. What the hell is going on?

I should say that since my tantrum about the Nexus, I checked in with some smart folks on Google+, and generally got the sense that I wasn’t giving the phone enough time. And I have to say, they were right. Yes, it’s still warmer than I want it to be, and the battery isn’t as good as the Note’s, but the warmth is now tolerable, and the device is now becoming undeniably compelling to me again — which I suppose is why I keep coming back to try it again and again.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the irrational feelings of affection one can have for a piece of technology. (It doesn’t have to be technology, of course. Humans feel affection for all sorts of inanimate objects, but for some reason I think there’s an alienation people feel when they think about affection for something like a smartphone as opposed to something like an old book or tchotchke of some kind.) I talked about how the actual capabilities of a given device do not necessarily translate to attachment. I was thinking of the Nexus vs. Note comparison, among other examples, when I wrote it, but it’s applied to all manner of device categories in my life, especially since I became a Mac user, when the question of raw utility versus “style” or “design” really came into focus for me for the first time.

IMG_20150417_162438I remember how I described my choice to move to the Mac from Windows to people back in 2004, when doing so was still kind of a weird, niche thing. I said that the 12″ Powerbook I’d settled on drew me to use it. I wanted to spend more time writing blog posts and recording music, and I therefore wanted a computer that would make me want to do those things more. I wanted my machine to feel inviting; not just a means to an end, but a joyful part of the experience. So despite the limitations I may have run into, I was delighted with my choice. I never looked back.

The Note 4 is an amazing piece of technology, a real milestone in function and power. But it is by no means inviting. It’s not unattractive. In fact it’s rather striking, a very serious-looking bit of power-user hardware. Almost sleek, but also business-like, like it belongs in a Fortune 500 board room. But I am not drawn to it, other than by my default to be drawn to the screen in my hand.

The Nexus 6, in contrast, is simply lovely, particularly the white one. Tastefully sloped and curved, it sits happily in my palm, with enough of a border around the screen for me to grip its bezels (which you can’t do on a Note because of its annoying capacitive buttons). It runs stock Lollipop unburdened by Samsung cruft, and does so more smoothly with far fewer instances of lag or stuttering. Its display is only 0.26 inches bigger than the Note’s, and yet somehow, because of that slight difference, it is much more immersive and, well, inviting. I am drawn to use it.

(Seriously, you’d be amazed what a difference that tiny difference in screen size makes. When I’m reading a book or a comic, doing so on the Note feels like reading off a very large phone, which is nice, while reading off the Nexus feels like reading, well, a book or a comic, which is fantastic. The feeling of “I’m staring at a phone” disappears and becomes “I’m reading a book.” To me that’s a tremendous value.)

I think that the feeling of being drawn to the Nexus 6 is part of what makes the heat issue so aggravating for me. It’s like the device is asking me to use it, a lot, but then gets tetchy and demands to be put down again. (One of the things recommended to me from my Google+ inquiries was that within a few days of use the heat becomes less of an issue, though I have no idea why this would be other than these Nexus 6 owners simply getting used to it, or some kind of confirmation bias, which might wind up being the case for me as well.) The Note gets warm as well, of course, though not quite as easily, but it doesn’t bother me in the same way. Perhaps this is because I feel generally more ambivalent about it as an object. I’m not attached to it, so it doesn’t affect me when it becomes less comfortable. It was never “comfortable” to begin with.

The Nexus 6 is a flawed device. A so-so camera, a so-so battery, and other quirks. I was all but ready to click the submit button on Swappa to sell it in order to forego those flaws in favor of the superior-on-paper phone. But I couldn’t pull the trigger. One phone may be better in terms of what it technically offers, but the other seems to just suit me. It’s time to find a buyer for the Note.

The Nexus 6 feels like, for better and worse, my device. The Note 4 feels like I’m borrowing someone else’s, someone who is nothing like me. I think I will expend less energy and anxiety if I just accept all of this, and finally, finally, begin to obsess over something else.

Not headphones, though.

Update, May 27: You know, the Nexus 6’s heat was manageable for a time, and then the summer weather started kicking in. Now it feels like it’s always freshly out of the microwave no matter what I’m doing. So much for the right device! Maybe I should have stuck with my first true love.

Nexus 6, You’ve Burned Me For the Last Time [Updated]

Image originally from Phone Arena

*** UPDATE *** I have very much changed my opinion on this device. Please see here.

The Nexus 6, I have determined, is chintzy. I thought it was me, at first, but after having returned several units that had various problems (which has earned me the ire of Amazon, but that’s another story), I think it’s not me, it’s the phone.

One unit had discolored banding problems on the display. Two others got uncomfortably warm during normal use, and too damned hot when doing anything like watching video or playing a game, such that the glass of the display was almost painful to touch. A great deal of googling showed that this seemed to be an issue relatively few complained of, so I thought perhaps I had gotten a lot of first-batch units that had since been improved. Or perhaps the Android 5.1 update, not available when I tried the Nexi, addressed the issue. Or perhaps it was an issue with the AT&T-specific variant. Or perhaps it was just the blue ones.

So I gave it one last shot with a new-batch, unlocked, 5.1-running, white Nexus 6. And?

And it just gets too goddamned hot.

Plus, every unit had something somewhat odd about its vibration, each one had its own sound and quirks. Plus, they all hummed when charging (although the latest one hummed from the AC adapter, not the phone itself).

And the screen’s glass isn’t all that smooth, a little too much friction.

And the battery is not very good.

Neither is the camera.

But it’s fast and runs stock Lollipop! And it’s really big! Which I really like!

But still. I think despite the place they hold among Android nerds as the big-ass pure-Google beast-phablet, they’re just not made very well. Whatever decisions Motorola made to keep the thing affordable to manufacture, they cheaped out. LG did amazing work with the Nexus 5 in 2013, with a phone that was a joy to use despite its lame camera and battery. Motorola really just made a big stock-Android phone, but nothing to hang their hat on.

It’s a damn shame. I was ready to have quite an affection for the Nexus 6. I tried extremely hard to make that relationship work, to the detriment of others. I am finding I now feel closer to my Galaxy Note 4 after all.

Update, Next Day: Playing some more with it the next day, it still gets warm but it seems not as much. Perhaps this had something to do with it being its “first day” and running lots of setup processes? I obviously don’t know. And even the battery life and camera seem improved, and that may be due to the 5.1 update (which I thought I was getting on the Note last night, but alas, it was a small .0.1 update). I can certainly tell that the Nexus 6 is extremely fast now, with none of the UI lag that I sometimes get on the Note.

This may not be over. Perhaps it actually has burned me for the last time.

Android Being a Profit Hole Sucks for Everybody

IMG_0406Android devices are apparently vacuuming money from device manufacturers. Uh oh. Here’s Ina Fried at Re/Code:

Analyst Chetan Sharma estimates that global profits in the Android hardware market for 2014 were down by half from the prior year — the first year that there has been any significant drop.

A lot of that is due to the big drop in profits at Samsung, the largest player in the Android market. China’s Xiaomi gained significant market share, but is only modestly profitable thanks to its slim margins. Meanwhile, other players like Sony and Motorola lost money in their Android-based mobile businesses.

That’s obviously of concern to the hardware companies, but it should also be worrisome for Google.

This should be worrisome to Google, but it’s also worrisome to me. As someone who uses and genuinely enjoys and appreciates both major mobile platforms, the idea that this whole Android thing might not be working out spooks me.

First off, a robust Android ecosystem forces Apple to compete and improve; it’s the bar Apple must clear to maintain its reputation as the best in the mobile space (and even I as a happy Android phone user can say that overall iPhone is the generally superior hardware platform for most normal users). iPhone/iOS gets better in large part because Apple works to provide a superior experience to Android – and note that it’s iPad that’s seen the least innovation, and there is no meaningful competition from Android in its price range (at lower price points there are some excellent Android tablets like the Fire series and Nexus 7, but Apple doesn’t play in that part of the market). With no strong Android ecosystem, Apple is free to navel-gaze…more than it already does. I want better iPhones, so I need manufacturers to make great Android phones.

Now, Google could pull an Amazon, and ramp up the manufacture of its own hardware, sold at more or less a loss. For Amazon, that gets more people shopping its store. For Google, loss-leader Android devices would put Google services in front of more people. But that’s a tall order for a company that’s not really a hardware company, and usually partners with myriad manufacturers to build its Nexus devices.

But there’s also tremendous value in the battle to stand out within the Android space. Motorola battling Samsung battling HTC battling LG spurs all of them to outdo each other. Sometimes you get clusterfuck devices as a result, other times you get brilliant pieces of tech, like my new beloved G3. A Nexus-only Android world would be in big danger of stultifying, save for competition with Apple, but that would likely become a software-only fight, where Google would have no choice but to sell cheap, uninspiring hardware. I want awesome Android phones, and that means Android phones need to be profitable to make.

So what’s going on? Is it simply a matter of insufficient numbers? Because it seems like devices like the HTC One M8 and the Moto X, while not selling at Samsung levels, ought to have been enough to be in the black. It seems that way, but obviously something is up. Is it that the flagship phones are profitable, but the glut of midrange bricks don’t pull their weight? Is it the other way around, where marketing power is thrown at high end devices, but all for nothing, when all the money is in cheap phones? Whatever it is, I hope they all figure it out.

And speaking of “cheap” and “flagships,” this makes me wonder: is OnePlus profitable? Answer: Yes, sort of, barely.