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

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.

History of bungled updates and dropped features for Windows Phone as Windows 10 nears

Lumia Camera on Lumia Denim.
Lumia Camera on Lumia Denim.

Microsoft, its OEM partners, and carriers have a history of stiffing Windows Phone users.

Overly eager to please carriers, Microsoft remains largely hands off with the delivery of updates, while carriers show little to no interest in delivering said updates.

Abandoning devices when updates ship, removing features from the OS and hardware, and leaving NFC wallets completely in the hands of carriers who have no interest in Windows Phone. Maybe this is starting to change, however.

Verizon has done something unusual. It actually is very out of character for them – they released an update provided by Microsoft for the Lumia Icon. This was supposed to occur in January, but better late than never, right? Last year, in December, Verizon also pushed the Denim update to two older Lumia handsets. Verizon did not bother issuing the Cyan update however, so other Lumias were left stagnating on the Black firmware.

AT&T has usually lead the pack in the US when it comes to delivering updates to devices running Microsoft’s operating system, albeit not in a timely fashion, but as of yet, not a single device on AT&T has been updated to Denim. In a recent tweet, AT&T said they’d push the update “soon” but that could mean tomorrow or April. And of course, AT&T has demanded custom versions of Lumia phones, halving storage and stripping out Qi wireless charging.

Verizon remains the only US carrier to have pushed the Denim update to Lumia devices. T-Mobile has only committed to applying the update to the 521 and newer devices, leaving the HTC 8X, which debuted with the 920, on Windows Phone 8. (Lumia Denim only applies to Nokia and Microsoft made devices by the way – it’s a firmware update bundled with an OS update.)

Meanwhile, there has been much speculation that Microsoft will launch the beta testing program for Windows 10 on phones this week, perhaps on Friday.

Lumia Denim is of course not required for devices to run the newer OS – indeed, many Windows Phone users have been marooned on Lumia Amber, or Windows Phone 8 after their device was abandoned by their carrier or phone manufacture, leaving them at the mercy of the Preview for Developers program for OS updates – however, should the Denim update ship after Windows 10 Preview, those devices may have to be flashed via the Lumia Recovery app to grab the newest firmware, forcing users to load the Preview onto their device again, assuming they want the device enhancements, of course.

I happen to want the camera enhancements very badly, and I also would like to be able to use Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 on my 1520. I even bought a new charger in preparation for Denim.

Microsoft is not going to be shipping Denim alongside the Preview – by stating that Denim is not needed for it, they have left the delivery of Denim totally in the hands of the carriers. While it’ll be great to be testing out a new OS, it will suck to not have 4k recording and a better Glance Screen.

I hope Microsoft stops letting the carriers hold users hostage based either on sales numbers or lack of interest on their part for Microsoft’s OS. Apple issues all OS updates directly to their devices, without any input from carriers. If Apple says iOS 9 ships on June 30th, that is when it ships, even if AT&T raises hell. Why can’t Microsoft be more like that?

Apple Pay was not blocked for any carriers either, and they are powerless to remove it. Google’s OEMs on the other hand have allowed carriers to strip out Google Wallet and Microsoft went even further, bending over backwards to leave NFC wallets completely in the hands of the carriers, which I might add have only recently begun to materialize, and SoftCard is horribly buggy, in addition to requiring a special SIM card. It’s 2015, so why can’t I use my Lumia to pay for my coffee? I used my Nexus 7 to pay for my coffee in 2012!

With all of this in mind, I am left to wonder just when the RTM version of Windows 10 will arrive on phones, and whether devices like the Lumia 620 will even see it, due to some carriers opting to leave it on Amber thus far. Will there even be an NFC wallet in the OS? I am hopeful that Microsoft will take steps to correct some of the wrongs that have been inflicted by the carriers, and also by their eagerness to please the carriers.

We will likely find out much more in the coming months.

History of bungled updates and dropped features for Windows Phone as Windows 10 nears

No, there will not be a Windows 10 flagship phone launching in May.

I decided to burst some bubbles, because I noticed some stories popping up on the interwebs today claiming Microsoft will launch a new flagship Lumia phone running Windows 10, either in March or May. No, calm down, it’s not true.

The OS is just being geared up for a Technical Preview launch, which is supposed to happen this month, and I am hopeful that Lumia Denim ships from American carriers before that date. Given that the OS is not even available to public testers, and that all other versions of Windows 10 remain unfinished, it’s safe to say that someone is either just craving page hits, or is conflating reports of a new Lumia flagship with the new OS.

Various outlets and blogs have already reported that the next Lumia flagship will be rocking a Snapdragon 810 SoC, which is a wise choice since existing phones cannot support DirectX 12 unless Microsoft is able to implement a Feature Level of the new API on DirectX 9 class hardware. This new SoC will feature eight 64 bit cores, passive listening support for Shazam and other music/television identification apps, 4k support, an Adreno 430 GPU, and other enhancements over existing hardware.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft will put a 64 bit OS on phones which support them, but they have not said so themselves.

So, before I veer too far from the subject at hand, will Microsoft will launching a flagship Lumia this spring? I doubt it. Microsoft has confirmed that they will indeed be launching flagship phones this year, and I certainly hope they have some standout features, but I don’t think they will debut such a device before July, based on past devices. Also, if said device features special hardware, such as a fingerprint scanner, the current phone OS from Microsoft doesn’t support them, so why show off the hardware so far ahead of the RTM of Windows 10?

No, there will not be a Windows 10 flagship phone launching in May.