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Are we ready, is Google ready for 2k Phones?
Google has a problem. It’s drawing closer to a new generation of screen resolution and one that it’s had its hands on for nearly two years and they’ve demonstrated over and over again that they don’t care about high resolution when combined with a tablet. Look, the Nexus 10 was a terrific device for its time – but it was made better by the development community and never by Google itself.
- Nexus 10 was released with Android 4.2 and even then it was released with unfinished software. If you recall, the multi-user support and lock screen widgets didn’t turn up until nearly a month and a half after release
- The 4.2.2 update is slow to the punch – lagging by up to almost 10 days from official release on other Nexus Devices
- The 4.3 Launch nearly goes off without a hitch (Yay, go team go)
- The 4.4 release takes nearly a month to get to Nexus 10 users, and when it does – the translucency effect (so you get full screen wallpapers and no black bars at the top and bottom of the screen) – goes absent and then it’s noted by Google that there were some “graphical glitches” caused by applying the transparent bars…and rather than fix the problem – they just removed them. Thanks Big G.
It’s with this spotted (at best) past that one starts to view Google’s outlook on the high resolution wielding tablet as: “It’s great that we have this, but we don’t really care about it.” And not for nothing, Google has done nothing to improve the super high resolution ecosystem- despite the trend (sort of) catching on…rather it felt kind of like Google looking at Apple and saying “Hey look, we beat you at your resolution game…now let’s quit worrying about it all together.” I suppose I understand why, if you look at the timeline where the Nexus 10 was released, 720p (or 1200*800 in Android land) was the defacto Android resolution, the next tablet push would go for the much lower target of 1900*1200 (Nexus 7 part deux) – and the Nexus 10 always felt like an experiment that didn’t have much in the way of “legs” past “we out retina’d Apple.”
But there was a small amount of us who really enjoyed the higher resolution tablets and refused to go backwards. And of course…if there’s any interest – there’d be OEM’s to go after it – Samsung certainly tossed their hat into the ring (it took them a year but they did) with the Galaxy Note 2014 edition, and then promptly followed it up with the Pro Line in late 2013 – all of which support the native 2500*1600 of the Nexus 10. Even Asus threw their hate into the ring…but while all of the OEM’s who tried have met with some success, they’ve done so because they’ve offered some compelling brand options (the wacom digitizer in the Note’s and Pro lines, the keyboard doc of the Asus) – rather than rely on Google to make them a more compelling offering – and right they were to do so.
So why is there a Google problem? Because that insane, much un-cared for resolution range is about to hit phones…and Google just isn’t ready with its current offering of services. LG’s G3 represents the first of the so called “QhD” displays, coming in at 2560*1440, the G3 will sit squarely in the 2k screen resolution column that they can claim “first,” for…and kudos to the for that. Samsung is sure to follow, then the game will slowly start to play out amongst the other IHV’s over the next year as is the case when anyone does anything that relates to the words “mile or stone.” But is Google ready for this? My thinking is no…but not because they arbitrarily hate the resolution…but because they’re going to have to rethink how they manage all the screen real estate in new and interesting ways…that over the last two years…they’ve not done one thing about.
To show you what I mean, I’ve dummied up a number of screenshots. This is a completely unscientific demonstration, but I think my point still comes across. I used a Galaxy Note at 2500*1600 to illustrate the issue – then tried to recreate the experience on a phone having had resized the images to a 6(ish) inch phone. Again, this is an imperfect analysis…the resolution (and thus aspect ratio) is a little off – and I don’t want to stretch it just to fill in screen space (so you’ll see a gap at the bottom of the screen where you’d have more image and the overlapping soft keys). I’ve tried my best to keep it as accurate as I can – but it’s hard to do without an actual device to manage the little things like bezel maintenance, use of on screen buttons, etc) – but have a look anyway.
I used some raw Google apps (Gmail, Hangouts, Keep, Chrome, Music) as well as two non-native apps (CNN and Quiz-up) to demonstrate the challenge I think Google (and other devs) are facing with a 2k device. How do you manage all of the screen real estate that a higher resolution affords while managing the small form factor of the device itself. To me – it looks like the potential for a lot of wasted space if they apps remain in their current form, and since I’m already looking at those apps running in native resolution on a 10 inch tablet.
Oddly, it looks like the non-native apps actually handle the resolution better – though there’s still some room for improvement…but that’s not unexpected. I’d really hope that LG has something up their sleeve to help compensate – akin to what we saw come out of Samsung for apps like Twitter, which they worked with Twitter to create a Samsung specific large resolution tablet version of their app which works really well (and utilizes the extra resolution to a better user experience)…but I suppose I’m skeptical because of their lack of doing something like this in the past.
So I guess I’m just looking to start a discussion here. Do you think Google (and/or LG) and it’s OS/User Base is ready for 2k on phones? If I had to answer for tablets – I’d have to give them a solid C+ but it’s up from a D, so that’s something.