Forget Bending, Nexus 6P May Have Speaker Defect

UPDATE November 5, 2015: Several people are reporting this issue on Reddit and XDA(The XDA link provides several links into Reddit covering this issue.)

While Bendgate 2.0 haunts the headlines, Speakergate continues to gain attention, and many people are growing concerned that this is a widespread issue. Below is my original post, before I was able to locate other people having the same issue. It’s time for Google to acknowledge Speakergate and address it.

I received my Nexus 6P on November 3rd, and by the end of the day I was printing out a UPS label to return it to Google.

I ordered the 64GB variant in aluminum on November 2nd along with a $34.99 case, and was not expecting to receive it until the 13th of November or later, so you can imagine my amazement when Google emailed me a tracking number on the evening of the 2nd. I had ponied up $18.99 for overnight shipping, but skimped on buying Nexus Protect, as replacing a cracked screen would cost less than the $79 deductible + the $89 purchase of the Nexus Protect coverage. When my phone arrived on the 3rd, I was excited to set it up, but I was taken aback by how much time it took to install a 49 MB OS update – close to 45 minutes!

I’ll spare you a review, as the internet is choking on them. It’s a great device, what can I say?

But, I noticed the one of the front facing speakers was much louder than the other. The earpiece speaker, to be exact. I played back a few videos and moved the phone this way and that, rotating it and moving it back and forth around my face, from ear to ear. Nope, it definitely wasn’t my hearing that was impaired, the bottom speaker was a whisper compared to the top one.

I searched the internet for any complaints about this, but the nets came back empty, so I contacted Google. The nice lady on the phone informed me that she had actually dealt with the same issue two weeks prior, and that she had spoken with the manufacturer to determine if this was a design flaw or just a defective unit. It was determined to be a defective phone.

The nice lady on the phone expressed concern about this speaker problem being more widespread than just a handful of units. I agreed with her that it would indeed be unfortunate.

The OS has no feature to balance the audio channels for the dual speakers, so there was no workaround to this annoying problem.

After having me do the mandatory reset on the phone, the nice lady said I could trade it in or get a refund. A trade in would entail a $584 hold on my bank account, which is $584 I don’t have to be held, so I opted to just mail it back for a refund.

I have to say that I am disappointed, because I truly loved the phone. I am also extremely hesitant to purchase this device a second time – I’m already out $34.99 on the case, and a further $18.99 for shipping. At this point, I have not yet decided if I wish to risk a repeat of this ordeal in a couple of weeks when the refund finally hits my bank account.

Forget Bending, Nexus 6P May Have Speaker Defect

Viaero Wireless testing LTE service after Verizon rolls out XLTE in rural markets.

Employees at the regional carrier Viaero Wireless have confirmed to me that the network is either currently testing or soon will be testing LTE service, initially in the Colorado market.

I had previously speculated that the carrier might make such a move after moving to kill unlimited data, but ultimately dismissed it. However, with Verizon already nearing completion of its XLTE rollout, (XLTE is essentially LTE using separate frequencies for uplink and downlink), Viaero had everything to lose and nothing to gain by remaining on an outdated system. After all, Viaero only complete the move from 2G to 4G last year. For perspective, AT&T was already implementing 4G when the iPhone 3GS was launched around 6 years again, and Android and Windows Phone flagships were supporting LTE more often than not by 2012, with Apple waiting until the iPhone 5 to add an LTE radio to its fruit phones.

Viaero will likely add LTE service to cities and large towns first, to alleviate congestion of the 4G GSM network in those areas, and then upgrade its other towers afterwards.

Of course, there is a catch to this news. Not every device sold by the carrier supports LTE; just eight of the smartphones sold by the carrier have LTE radios, leaving a majority of their current offerings, and customers, on 4G.

And then there’s this to consider: Once unlimited data is gone, you’ll have a much faster connection on your phone to make up for it, therefore you’re much more likely to purchase data in 1GB increments as you chew through your allotted data.

Viaero Wireless testing LTE service after Verizon rolls out XLTE in rural markets.

After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero glass on the Start menu and the notification center.
Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero Glass on the Start menu and the notification center.

When Vista debuted, one of the first things people noticed was the beautiful user interface, assuming they had a graphics adapter capable of rendering it. Glass windows, a frosted glass Start menu and taskbar, insanely huge and detailed icons, Flip 3D, and several other enhancements. All of these made the move to Windows 7, sans the black Start menu and taskbar, which changed to a basic glass style.

However, Windows 8, which retained the technology behind this UI, dumped the glassy windows but kept the icons and taskbar, presenting a jarring mixture of 2006 and 2012. The UI was largely flattened, while retaining many Vista elements on the desktop. This was the beginning of what I call Aerogate, with users of the new OS upset that it didn’t look like Windows 7.

With Windows 10, beta testers and tech media have been clamoring for Aero Glass to fully return, with Windows 7 often cited as the prefered appearance, and Microsoft has taken note. But rather than looking to Windows 7, Microsoft has reached back to Windows Vista for the color of the taskbar, Start menu, and the notification center.

Several of the new icons which had originally been seen in early builds have now been replaced with updated Windows Vista icons, with a few notable exceptions. Ironically, the current Recycle Bin icon debuted on Earth Day to much fanfare. The faux outrage over the icons which arrived in early Windows 10 builds was what I refer to as Icongate, which has now been largely resolved.

Even with these concessions, I think it is safe to assume that Aero Glass will not resurrected in full, and I’d even argue that Aero Glass would look awful alongside the Metro Design Language. Kudos to Microsoft for finding the middle ground.

After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Screenshots from the latest Windows 10 Tech Preview build for phones.

I briefly installed the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones on my Lumia 1520 today, but has to revert to 8.1 because the OS has no MMS settings yet, rendering my handset useless. Here are a ton of screenshots I snapped before blasting the OS off my phone. Keep in mind, this is more of an alpha than a beta, and much work remains to be done. A few universal apps make an appearance, but NFC payments (zNFCPayments) is missing from this build.
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Screenshots from the latest Windows 10 Tech Preview build for phones.

Spartan arrives in latest Windows 10 build, with Cortana hitching a ride.

Cortana leaps forth on Project Spartan.
Cortana leaps forth on Project Spartan.

A new Windows 10 build has landed for Windows Insiders who are in the Fast ring, keeping Microsoft’s promise of a much more rapid build release cycle. Not much has changed, but there have been bug fixes, a revamped Calculator, and a new browser.

A new Calculator app is included in the latest build, and it keeps a history of your calculations.
A new Calculator app is included in the latest build, and it keeps a history of your calculations.

The new browser is currently called Project Spartan, continuing Microsoft’s trend of using Halo codenames for new products, such as Threshold, and Cortana. An official name for the browser has not yet been decided, but it will have “Microsoft” somewhere in the name.

This version of Project Spartan is far from complete, with many features still missing or only partially implemented, but I took it for a spin anyway, on a tablet and on a desktop too.

The UI is minimalist, with the tabs residing on the application bar rather than below it, which provides a larger viewing area over existing browsers. The browser is a Windows App (e.g. Metro or Modern), enabling more flexibility for the UI than traditional Win32 apps. Windows Apps are being updated to support drag and drop and other more traditional features, so any awkwardness which was present in Windows 8 should be ironed out by RTM.

Cortana is present as well. Typing search phrases into the address bar invokes Cortana and she will provide an answer without needing to venture out to a search engine or another site.

Reading view in Project Spartan, with the Actions menu invoked.
Reading view in Project Spartan, with the Actions menu invoked.

Reading mode is a nice touch, something which Chrome lacks, and provides more options than Internet Explorer does on Windows 8.x. The Actions menu is to the point, with no confusing or pointless options crowding it.

Google Chrome and Microsoft's Project Spartan displaying results on the HTML5 test.
Google Chrome and Microsoft’s Project Spartan displaying results on the HTML5 test.

Performance of the app over all is a little sluggish, but that’s understandable, as this is more of an alpha than a beta. On touch, it lagged a lot, but such lag was not as noticeable with a mouse and keyboard.

I have not encountered any broken websites with Spartan, but rendering takes a little longer than on Chrome, likely because I have an ad blocker installed on Chrome, which helps with loading times.

On the HTML5 test, Chrome scores 523, while Spartan comes in with 375. Not show stopping, but definitely something Microsoft will continue to work on.

Over all, I feel it’s a solid start, and I look forward to seeing further builds of Project Spartan.

Spartan arrives in latest Windows 10 build, with Cortana hitching a ride.

Native NFC wallet arriving with Windows 10? A beta app exists, so maybe.

A slide showing how tap to pay will function on Windows 10 phones.
A slide showing how tap to pay will function on Windows 10 phones.

A recent story revealed that Windows 10 on phones will be receiving an overhaul for NFC transactions. The Secure Element in SIM cards from some carriers will continue to be supported, but users will no longer be forced to use such a SIM in order to use NFC payment terminals.

Microsoft will be implementing something call Host Card Emulation with Windows 10 on phones. Google added support for HCE in Android 4.4, removing a carrier requirement that phones be equipped was a Secure Element or an Enhanced SIM. HEC supports credit, debit, loyalty cards, smart cards, and transit passes. Essentially any card which can be read via NFC can be emulated by software, without special SIM cards needing to be present in the device.

There are no details as to how this will be implemented however. The above slide indicates that the native Wallet will function on its own (as it was supposed to have done in 2012 with Windows Phone 8) while also supporting the non-existent third party payment apps, such as CurrentC (which uses a QR code system rather than NFC) or Apple Pay, should it ever expand from Apple devices.

Unless Microsoft fully implements their own solution, all of this means nothing, aside from the requirement that consumers are able to obtain a special SIM card which most carriers around the globe do not use, nor do they have any intention of adding it unless they have to in order to support a new iPhone. Microsoft will not hand just anyone the APIs for creating an NFC wallet, only select partners receive that access.

Further adding to my initial confusion is this video, which appears to show a third party app on a Lumia 1520 being used for tap to pay. At first glance at least.

Wait… Let us take a closer look.

An app called zNFCPayments is seen running on Windows 10 for phones.
An app called zNFCPayments is seen running on Windows 10 for phones.

zNFCPayments? What on Earth is this? If you have used Windows 10 Technical Preview, the first few builds had an app called zStore, which is now labeled as Store (beta). This means Microsoft is not only overhauling the APIs in the OS and adding HCE, it is also building an app, which may be included in a future Tech Preview build on the phone side.

However, it’s possible that carriers will derail this, making it an app that only some have access to, but not others, much like the Google Wallet debacle played out until Google bought SoftCard (and snatched away the only Windows Phone app for making NFC payments). We should know more about this soon.

Native NFC wallet arriving with Windows 10? A beta app exists, so maybe.

Windows 10 ROMs for Android handsets could be the perfect Trojan horse for Microsoft.

Microsoft and the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi, have announced an upcoming program which will allow current owners of the Mi 4, which runs Android KitKat, to try Windows 10 on their handsets via a ROM which will replace Android. Microsoft will be running this program independently of Xiaomi, which implies that other phones from other companies could be on Microsoft’s conversion list.

Microsoft did not announce that the ROM will be available to more than one specific phone, but it is impossible for me to imagine this ROM staying put for long. Hackers will get this ROM into any phone with similar hardware pretty quickly I imagine. Microsoft and OEMs can already drop the OS onto Android phones (HTC M8), so this move shouldn’t come as a real surprise.

But what if Microsoft itself releases a generic ROM for Android users to flash onto their handsets? The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are off the table due to the Samsung CPU, but the LG Flex 2 and HTC One M9 could run the ROM with ease, as could basically any other Qualcomm based handset. This opens up a whole new user base for Microsoft.

Releasing a ROM for most Android handsets has several implications, not the least of which being that anyone who flashes this onto their phones will be voiding their warranty and potentially losing support for custom hardware features, such as fingerprint scanners and heart rate monitors.

On the flipside, many modding enthusiasts would likely leap at the chance to put Windows on their Android phone, and people feeling disheartened with Android could leap to Microsoft’s OS while keeping their existing handset.

Microsoft could also buy flagships in bulk and flash Windows 10 onto them itself and sell the phones in its own stores, or offer free conversion services for select phones.

Cyanogenmod likely won’t be happy with this news, but I imagine Google is even more upset. Here is Microsoft, with its scrappy third place OS, already sneaking itself onto Android phones with Office, OneDrive and a host of other apps, soon including Cortana, making a play to grab the entire phone away from Google. It could go nowhere, or it could be a very clever move to steal more market share from Google.

Windows 10 ROMs for Android handsets could be the perfect Trojan horse for Microsoft.