Spring is finally here, but as excited as I am for the better weather, there’s really not much to feel sunny about this summer in tech.
Two of the best phones out now will probably remain the best phones of 2013. The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is just around the corner, but Apple has admitted that there won’t be any hardware updates until the fall. Google’s I/O didn’t show much that was skydiving-ly exciting, and although the next-generation gaming consoles have finally been revealed, we can only see but can’t yet touch.
Google is, I have to say, one of those companies that I feel is sincerely trying their hardest to build the best products they possibly can. I always get this feeling after watching their I/O conferences. After looking back at what they’ve done recently, I can’t help but express how exciting it is to be living in a time like ours. When I was growing up, most people didn’t even have any idea what the internet was. Now we wield its power in the palm of our hands.
Google is King of the Internet. I would wager that, in some way, shape, or form, you’re using at least one of their services every single day. This year’s I/O keynote didn’t really have any new toys to show off, though they did announce the Google Nexus Samsung Galaxy S4 (wow, that’s a mouthful). This device is very cool because it’s factory unlocked, which means you’ll always have the ability to update the latest Android operating system as soon as it’s available. The price is something some will bark about, but I think it’s fair considering that it’s a world phone of such quality.
The event wasn’t as jaw-dropplingly amazing as we’ve all become accustomed to, but the most impressive unveiling on the agenda was the new Google Maps. The new Google Maps is pretty much Google Earth and the original Google Maps fused into one on steroids. You can now zoom out of a map until you see Earth, and there’s a live cloud feed so that you see the Earth as it would actually look if you were in outer space. This eye-candy is an extremely cool feature, but a more useful new add-on to Maps is the ability to actually enter into buildings, such as restaurants and clubs, to decide for yourself if the place that everyone’s been talking about really is worth going to.
I don’t know what move Pandora is going to make in the face of all its competition, but Google is officially in the radio business. With Google, you can now pay a subscription fee and listen to music that’s in the Google Play Store. I still think Spotify is the best digital music service for satisfying a broad range of users’ music needs, and I still use Pandora because their algorithms get me. Plus, I enjoy finding new music, and I feel Pandora does the best job with this. But the party is getting a bit crowded as Apple is only inches away from joining in on the fun. These developments are great for us as consumers because of all the choices we’ll now have, but more free music also means more airwaves filled with ads begging you to listen.
The last note I’d like to make deals with what Google is all about, and that, of course, is Search. Not many things are more personal than those we look up, and Google Search will be getting a little more personal in a good way. The AI has been improved and can now understand pronouns. It does so by remembering what you’ve recently searched for and using that information to predict future inquiries. This is all made even easier with Google Now, an intelligent personal assistant like Siri. A lot of people are shaking their heads as to why Google brought this app over to iOS, but I’m shaking my head as to their confusion. Google is a search company. It feeds off of your information. There’s already a huge group of iPhone users talking to Siri, so it’s a win-win for both companies. Now, with Apple, users will have more voice options than they would if they purchased an Android phone, while Google can replace yet another pre-installed app for iOS.
I have a feeling that the two most-requested gifts on people’s wish lists this year will be Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. After taking a step back and trying to understand what’s going on with these consoles, I really feel like these machines are focusing more on general entertainment rather than just on gaming in particular. It was pretty self-evident if you happened to watch Microsoft’s announcement of their new Xbox. It now physically lives up to its name, as it looks like a box. That’s it; just a very plain, rectangular box. It’s almost as though Microsoft is trying to tell us, yes, you’ll still want to buy this thing even if you don’t play video games. As it stands now, when hooking up your entertainment center, you won’t need anything but the Xbox connected to your TV. Everything from speakers to even your cable box can be installed on the Xbox One.
Every Xbox will now also have a Kinect, which you can use in a bunch of cool ways with the 360 already, such as for voice activations and Skype. But now, with the Xbox One, you’ll be able to do all of this while still watching your programs! The overall idea here is that your TV is very smart, and, along with your smartphones and tablets, Microsoft will use Xbox SmartGlass to integrate with your favorite shows. Microsoft is currently making their presence known so strongly in television that they’re even going to have their own exclusive programming, such as a Halo series. We’re constantly hearing about how Apple is in the process of building out an innovative television, but who would care if Xbox takes over the screen?
June 2013 should be exciting because it brings WWDC and E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Through these events, we’ll learn more about iOS 7 and all of the cool new tools that Macs will have. E3 is going to be huge because everyone wants to know more about these new consoles before they sell out on Black Friday this year.
If you’re debating whether or not to buy a new phone, now is the time! The Samsung Galaxy SIV and HTC One are the two best phones on the market right now, and you won’t have to worry about something better coming out for a while. The Samsung Galaxy Note III, and maybe the next iPhone, could rival them at some point this year, but these won’t even be relevant until the color of the leaves starts to change. So in the meantime, enjoy your current smartphone or one of these newcomers while listening to all the rumors that will start flooding in as fall approaches. For me, the main event for WWDC is that iOS 7 update. The iPhone is losing its cool factor, and the software is in dire need of revamping. With Jony Ive running the show in that department, we’ll see how well he can convert his design talents for hardware to software.
This year’s E3 is the most anticipated event of all. We’re all expecting to know everything we’ll need to know before we go on a free-for-all spending spree to test out these consoles for ourselves. The battle is Xbox vs. Playstation. The stage is already set. All we’re left waiting for are the fighters. Then let the match begin!
– Guest post by Lance Mayfield, tech enthusiast. Born and raised in the great city of New York; graduated from the University at Albany.