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.

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Forget Bending, Nexus 6P May Have Speaker Defect

Could Cortana come to CyanogenMod?

Cortana reminds me to not burn a pizza in the oven.
Cortana thoughtfully reminds me to not burn the pizza in the oven.

News broke earlier this month that CyanogenMod has met with Microsoft, seeking an investment to further their vision of an Android totally devoid of Google services, installed by OEM on devices. $70 million is the figure I’ve seen reported. But, with Microsoft itself developing a plethora of Android apps, including a lockscreen, why wouldn’t they attach a rider to their investment, insisting that their apps and services be on the platform? It makes a lot of sense.

So, let’s say Office, Outlook, OneDrive, and Skype are installed by default, or maybe they are placed prominently in the app store. I know, it’s not as exciting now as it would have been in 2013, so, let’s hit pause.

When Microsoft unveiled Cortana while showing off Windows Phone 8.1, they hinted that she might arrive on other platforms too. And arrive she has. She made her PC debut in January, on the Windows 10 Technical Preview. We can safely assume she will also touchdown on the Xbox One later this year, perhaps in October or November. Sony has nothing like Cortana in its stable, so this will serve to further differentiate the two consoles.

Microsoft has also never precluded iOS or Android. iOS wouldn’t make much sense, because she would be a second class citizen; an app to be launched, a better Bing app. Android would allow her to be almost a first class citizen however. If Google allowed a Cortana app to be included in the Play Store however, she likely wouldn’t be able to totally replace Google Now, thus she’d have a quasi-Cortana experience. She could toggle your wifi, send an email, set reminders, and maybe even add and remove things from Google Calendar, but you won’t be invoking her by saying “Hey, Cortana” nor will she integrate fully with the OS. She also won’t be automatically reminding you to pick up the dry cleaning next time you are near the laundry service.

Okay, unpause that CyanogenMod story now, because this is where both threads cross; Microsoft could build a Cortana experience which replicates the experience on its own platforms for CyanogenMod.

Google Now could be completely replaced by Cortana in CyanogenMod, because the goal of the CyanogenMod team is to make a better Android. An Android which has rid itself of Google’s multiple apps and services. Microsoft has already shown that it’s more than willing to build apps for Android, so this really is not far fetched. And with Cyanogen holding out the hat, Microsoft can probably get away with insisting that Bing is the default search engine, Outlook the default mail app, and Cortana be baked into the OS, ready to be enabled by the user, as it is on Windows Phone. I could even see a small team at Microsoft being devoted to just that.

So, when do I think this could materialize? I would guess that after Windows 10 is a year old, Microsoft would feel comfortable bringing Cortana to third-party platforms like CyanogenMod, which pose no real threat to their handset business for now. Perhaps we will hear news of this sooner, but I don’t think Microsoft wants to announce that Cortana is on CyanogenMod before the first Windows 10 commercials hit the airwaves.

Could Cortana come to CyanogenMod?

Microsoft, for the love of all things holy, please add an NFC wallet to Windows 10!

NFC wallets on mobile devices can hold your credit cards, debit cards, transit passes, loyalty cards, and other items as well. They are pretty handy, assuming there is an NFC terminal present when you make a transaction, and of course have an NFC enabled phone.

The NFC wallet was unleashed to the masses with Google Wallet in 2011. Initially just an NFC wallet which contained debit and credit cards, it expanded into a payment service shortly after.

Apple appeared to be late to the game, making their own NFC wallet, Apple Pay, public in 2014. The Apple approach is more secure than Google’s, generating single use codes for transactions. Apple Pay debuted both as an NFC wallet and a payment service.

Microsoft on the other hand has left the implementation of an NFC wallet up to individual carriers. There has been an app called Wallet in the OS since Windows Phone 8, but it’s just that – a wallet used for Store and in app purchases. It also has some Apple Passbook compatibility, though I am unfamiliar with the full extent of this functionality.

Under the NFC settings on Windows Phone, there’s a toggle for turning NFC on or off, and another toggle for NFC payments, with a disclaimer that an Enhanced SIM is required to use this feature. A third party app, SoftCard, is required to act as an NFC wallet, further complicating and hobbling this feature.

I live in a rural area, and I use a regional carrier. An Enhanced SIM is impossible for me to obtain from my carrier, and the carrier only recently completed its upgrade to “4G” (enhanced 3G) and has no plans for LTE, let alone VoLTE which also requires an Enhanced SIM. I have a feeling that most of Microsoft’s target markets, developing nations, are in a boat not too different from my own, so only a small subset of Windows Phone users even have a chance to use SoftCard, or a similar app.

A good friend of mine is fortunate enough to have SoftCard and an Enhanced SIM too, in a Lumia 925. However, he has not been able to make it work properly for a single purchase. That experience, in addition to the extended wait for the Lumia Denim update, helped prod him over to iOS this month.

I have tweeted to a few Microsoft employees and the Lumia US handle as well for comment about the possibility of adding a native NFC wallet to Windows Phone or Windows 10 on phones, but have not received a response.

With Apple Pay now being okayed for National Park admission fees and the depositing of Social Security benefits, I hope Microsoft sits up and takes notice of the NFC wallet phenomena soon, or I too might be migrating to an iPhone.

Microsoft, for the love of all things holy, please add an NFC wallet to Windows 10!

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

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The “new” rounded toggles in Cortana’s settings, with the Xbox app settings open in the background.

You likely know what the toggle switches look like on Windows Phone and in Windows 8.x – They are squared sliders, matching the Modern interface nicely. In Cortana on the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, many people noticed that the service uses different toggles; ones which are rounded. Initially, I didn’t spot them anywhere else in the OS and wrote them off as a designer just trying something new, something that would go away in the next build.

For a comparison of the old style and the new style, below is a screenshot of the Settings app, which still uses the old style, and above are Cortana’s settings and the settings of the Xbox app as well.

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The “old” squared style toggle switches.

Since this new toggle design has made an appearance in the Xbox app, I think it’s safe to assume that this design will migrate out to the rest of the OS, and on the phone side as well. It really makes sense, when you factor in the wireframe icon styling which is apparent here and there on both the phone and PC versions on the Windows 10 Preview.

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

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.