That was definitely a feature packed week. We already expected things to heat up with the new OnePlus 2 and new Motorola smartphones, but boy did Motorola surprise us. The twin Moto X variants was something we totally unexpected. But this week was also the time for review, particularly a financial review. Despite the popularity of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, Samsung isn’t out of the woods just yet. And speaking of trouble, bad things are brewing for our favorite platform. All this and more in this week’s edition of the Android Community Weekly Digest, covering July 27 to August 2, 2015.
Suffice it to say, OnePlus didn’t disappoint and the OnePlus 2 is as we imagined, down to the odd metal strip at the back. Sure, it’s not exactly Galaxy S6 edge material, but it has other things going for it to offset the lack of a QHD screen. Like the price point, which, happily, dips below $400, depending on which model you’re gunning for. Of course, this all looks great on paper, but we’ll need some real world testing to prove its mettle. And looks like that will take a while, considering 1 million already requested an invite within just 72 hours of its announcement.
Equally important as what the OnePlus 2 has is what it doesn’t have. You could say that OnePlus had to cut some corners here and there to keep the price tag down. Like leaving out NFC, for example. Or wireless charging, which isn’t really as critical a feature, at least for now. Strange, however, is the lack of support for fast charging, considering the Qualcomm chip inside is more than capable. We can only hope that it was a clerical error and that the smartphone does indeed support Quick Charge. Perhaps for the price of a special charger.
See our hands-on coverage of this “2016 flagship killer” for more photos of the OnePlus 2.
Motorola’s new army
The real surprise of the week, however, was Motorola. We already expected the Moto G and hoped for the Moto X. Instead, Motorola gave us the Moto G and TWO Moto X’s. The 3rd gen Moto G itself hits all the notes we expected from a budget smartphone. That’s a 5-inch 720p screen driven by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 with 1 or 2 GB of RAM and 8 or 16 GB of storage. The 13 and 8 megapixel cameras, back and front respectively, are nothing to pan either. And all for the price of $179.
Motorola, however, made a strange bet with the new Moto X. Or the two new Moto Xs, to be precise. Now divided into Style and Play variants, old Moto seems to want to appeal to as many types of users as possible. Those aiming for the truly high-end experience will appreciate the Moto X Style’s 5.7-inch QHD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (not 810!), 3 GB of RAM, and up to 64 GB of storage with a microSD card slot to boot. But Motorola also wants to call your attention to the 21 megapixel f/2.0 rear camera, which DxOMark has just named as the third best smartphone camera, right behind the Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy Note 4 and above the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Moto X Play, on the other hand, is like a lovable middle child. The 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 615, and 2 GB of RAM might not appeal to hardcore smartphone users, but the 3,630 mAh battery means they’ll be able to use it long after their contemporaries have run out of juice. Plus, the same camera specs means it won’t be an underdog in photography.
The Moto X Play will fetch a price tag of $299 though no word yet if it’s going to land in the US. The Moto X Style, on the other hand, will go by the name of Moto X Pure Edition in the US and will sell for $399. A bargain if there ever was one.
Samsung’s continuing woes
With the start of the third quarter, the figures for the previous quarter have started rolling in. While Samsung did have some positive news to share, it isn’t all that great. Once again, the company owes its profits mostly to its semiconductor business. That said, though it remains its strongest player, it is also seeing hard times. Most troubling, at least for those in the smartphone industry, is the fact that Samsung’s mobile business barely has its head above the waters. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge did bring it a measure of profit, but not that much.
As a result, Samsung will be lowering the prices of the two flagships while promising that the supply and production issues that plagued the smartphones have already been resolved. Meanwhile, it is also hoping that its upcoming larger flagship will also help offset the losses.
Android has been notorious for not being as secure as other rival mobile platforms and instances like those that happened this week seem to prove the point. For example, the so-called Stagefright bug could easily crack open any smartphone just by the very fact that it received, not even opened, a Multimedia Message or MMS. This is due to a feature in Android that automatically scans media files in an MMS. The temporary solution, while waiting for the official fix to trickle down to users, is to disable auto fetching of MMS.
Another, and older, threat discovered by Trend Micro is also related to multimedia. Android’s mediaserver service doesn’t handle malformed MKV video files that well, causing the system to virtually lock down, silencing all notifications and, if the phone was locked when the problem happened, render it unlockable. Here though, the attack requires that a user be duped into installing a malicious app or visiting a specially crafted website, both of which have proven to be easy to do.
These critical issues are exacerbated by the fact that even if Google patches them up at the very top, those patches could take weeks, even months, to reach end users, thanks to the chain of custody which goes from Google to manufacturer and even to carrier.
Razer and OUYA
Razer has finally officially acknowledged its purchase of OUYA, but it isn’t what we completely expected. Razer specifically only bought the software and the brand, and the people that go along with those. It isn’t exactly interested in OUYA’s hardware, given that it has its own. In effect, this edges out the last non-Android TV gaming platform.
It seems, however, that Razer might have also inherited OUYA’s headaches, or at least its problems with the Free the Games campaign. Fortunately, Razer seems to be willing to pitch in to prevent things from getting ugly.
When we said this was feature packed, we weren’t exaggerating. As you can see, a lot has happened, and a lot more will be taking place, specially by mid August when Samsung will be making a big splash. Will the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 edge+ be the saviors that it hopes they will be? Or will they be an even worse dud? Stay tuned!
And do check out our Top 5 Games of July if you’re in the market for a few good games to play before school starts. Don’t worry, most of them are free, but beware of those pesky IAPs.