Using Google Apps for business – Or for pleasure

UPDATE: Google is no longer offering a free version of Google Apps. They wiped out the ability to use Google Apps for free with less than 10 users and few features missing and all businesses (and individuals) of any size must upgrade to the premium service that starts at $5 per user monthly or $50 per user annually. Google also announced that existing free account holders will still be able to use their free accounts with no changes. If you’re like me and were lucky enough to get in on Google Apps while it was free, don’t close your account!

For years now, I’ve run various websites on many different servers and hosting configurations all with varying success. One of the biggest pitfalls in hosting your own web services besides keeping up with security is finding that happy balance between function and form. While it may be easy to get a server configured properly and have your site up and running in no time, email services seem to always become problematic.

I find that the reason for this is because no two hosting companies are alike and depending on your setup (dedicated, VPS, shared, etc.), the email service(s) that you’re forced to use can be anything from OK to downright crappy.

Google Apps

Google Apps PricingIf you haven’t heard of Google Apps by now, you’re seriously missing out! Google Apps provides your business (or you) with EVERY Google app for use on your own domain. Imagine instead of having a random email, you can use and still have full access (and interoperability) with things like Mail, Drive, Plus, YouTube, etc., etc. and it’s all free (up to 10 users)! This experience is greatly enhanced if you’re also an Android user as you would imagine.

Now if you’re like me and you only run a personal website, have a few extra domains lying around that you want to be able to send email from or you’re just looking to consolidate all of your Google accounts under one roof, you’ll get the most out of Google Apps. This is because you’re the admin and have full control over everything from creating new users, domain aliases and more. If you work for a company that already uses Google Apps, you must suffer the consequences that all of your services are managed by your company and things like YouTube favorites won’t be so personal anymore.


I started using Google Apps mostly for the email service. I had so many problems running my own mail server. I’m not sure if it was my lack of experience in running Linux-based email or if my server was never configured properly to begin with, but either way I had issues ranging from invalid SSL certificates to mail servers not being found. By moving everything to Google, I was gaining quite a few advantages:

  • Fast and secure email
  • Freed up extra bandwidth on my own server
  • Trusted email servers
  • DKIM signed messages (more security)
  • Ability to check my email by simply logging into Google anywhere in the world
  • Flawless syncing to my Android devices

This is not to say that none of that couldn’t have been done without Google Apps, but for me, I was starting to use my original Gmail account more and more because of the ease of use that Google always seems to provide. I didn’t want to use this account because I wanted so badly to be able to promote my own domain,

Google Apps Domain AliasesThe best part is that I also have many other domains that I used to use for email and a few that I still wanted to have access to, but the old way of doing things meant that I had to setup a mail account for each domain and then configure all the accounts separately on my mail client and/or phone. At one time, I had 6 different email accounts all draining my battery with each server check.

Google Apps solved this problem as well by allowing me to add multiple domains under my account and use them as aliases. From there I was able to create email aliases all pointing to my one main email account. It gets better! Within the Gmail settings, you can set up a bunch of email addresses you’d like to send mail from, so now when I compose a new message, I have the option of sending it from any one of my many aliases! And this isn’t one of those aliases that just looks like an email, but the end user will see your real address…no…these are fully functioning email addresses.

Anyone who uses Gmail will tell you that Google’s labeling system is amazing. Rather than create actual folders that emails are placed into for organizing, Google simply allows you to place a label (or more) on messages so you are given the appearance of folders. Mix this in with filters and you can have all of your incoming email from each domain alias being labeled properly so you can sort everything as it comes in!


If you’re just a solo user, this Drive account is nothing new. It’s just connected with your new Google Apps domain and works the same way that your standard Gmail account worked. However, if you’re using Google Apps for business, Google Drive becomes much more than a storage place. You can now have shares automatically setup between user groups. For example, if your business has 20 employees and 5 of them are in the accounting department, Drive will allow those 5 to share files between themselves while still being able to share everything else with the other 15 employees.

By creating user groups within Google Apps, you can break down your entire company’s employee structure and secure it piece by piece.

Google Plus

Again, as a solo user, nothing has changed. For businesses, each of your employees will get their own Google Plus profile with all the perks included. Plus, as the owner, you actually have the ability to post things across all accounts without needing approval. This would be handy for times when you want to send out an advertising campaign through your employee’s pages.

My Two Cents

As you can tell, I’m pretty stoked about Google Apps. I’ve been using it for about 2 months now and it was the best move I ever made! As I mentioned earlier, the main reason for making the change was to clean up my email issues, but knowing that I have access to all of Google’s other services as well just makes the deal that much sweeter.

Everything within the Google Apps suite is free for up to 10 users. If you have more than 10 users, it’s $5 per user and you don’t get to have the first 10 remain free. But along with that $5 charge, you up your storage space on Gmail from 10GB to 25GB and you can finally disable those pesky ads that show up in your inbox. Personally, I haven’t found a need to upgrade since I’m well below my 10-user limit. Even with the addition of some of my friend’s websites and at least one username for each of them, I am still within the free range.

In all honesty, when you factor in some of the features of the more corporate ($10 per user) plan that Google offers and compare it to running an Exchange/BlackBerry environment, I wonder how long it will be that those two giants are still leading the pack. It can costs thousands of dollars purchasing hardware, software and licenses to operate just one Exchange server. Plus you have to factor in the amount of money it takes to keep everything updated as well as the paycheck of the IT guy to manage and maintain it all. Add to that the cost of providing data backup services (on or off-site) and you have an insane bill at the end of the year. With Google Apps, you pay a monthly fee and that’s it. Everything is maintained by Google.

Nexus 4 Is Now On Sale!

I waited up last night…I’m not going to lie. I actually started refreshing the Google Play page at around 9:30pm and began following the Reddit posts around 10. This all brought me back to my iPhone chasing days!! There was speculation that Google would began a pre-order process at midnight and then those rumors were quickly dismissed with reports that this wasn’t a pre-order, but the actual purchase. That fueled more speculation and excitement around what time all this was going down.

People were arguing about what timezone was in effect, what country was going to get their’s first, whether or not 2-day shipping was going to be an option and how quickly things would sell out. Then came the reports from Australia saying that the Nexus 4 sale had started early by mistake and everyone who placed an order had it cancelled shortly after. Then they started reporting that the 16GB was sold out and the 8GB was sure to follow.

All of the night’s events—phone calls to Google support, Reddit updates, blog posts and even YouTube videos had the makings of an iPhone/AT&T launch written all over it. We can all remember those days…server crashes, people getting bounced off the shopping cart page, users reporting successful orders only to see them get cancelled later and the countless arguments from people claiming they “knew” how to get through.

Yet today was rather peaceful.

Google Play Nexus 4 Order ConfirmationI was expecting a 9am PST release time, so naturally I was refreshing my phone every few minutes during my morning commute. I got to work, attended a meeting and quietly walked to my office. Once inside, I launched the live stream of a local radio station and opened the Play store. I began my refresh regiment once again and was delighted to see that at 8:33am the “Coming Soon” message had been replaced with an “Add to cart” message.

I added the 16GB model and processed my order. It took about 30 seconds as I imagine I was only one of hundreds if not thousands doing the exact same thing and then I got my order confirmation alert and order email.

At 8:58am, I did another refresh just out of curiosity and I was surprised once again that the “Coming Soon” message was back! If I assume that the order process started at 8:30am, then Google successfully sold out of the 16GB models in less than 30 minutes. As of this writing, the 8GB models are still available. UPDATE (9:23am): The 8GB models are sold out.

I just wanted to share my story. When I get my new phone this week, I’ll be posting a video comparison between it and the Galaxy Nexus (GSM) as well as my initial thoughts on the new device. For those of you who got your Nexus 4, congratulations!

4 Days Until New Google Nexus Devices Are Released

Only four days left until Google begins selling it’s new Nexus line of products! On Tuesday November 13th, Google will be adding a 10″ tablet and the new Nexus 4 smartphone to it’s line. The Nexus 7 (already available in 16 and 32GB) will soon be getting a 32GB HSPA+ model as well. There’s no word on whether that version will be ready for order on Tuesday, but it is indeed “coming soon”.

Nexus 4

Nexus owners have been eagerly awaiting the release of Android 4.2 as well. Originally it was speculated that the software update would be pushed out to devices as early as October 29th when Google made the announcement of the new releases, but it didn’t happen. As we draw closer to the 13th, it can only be assumed that the 4.2 update will be handed down at the same time the new products go on sale. Here’s an unboxing video from Android Central:


As for me, I’m a Nexus GSM owner and even though I’ve only had the phone for about 2 months, I’m planning on getting the Nexus 4. The main reason is simply the quad core processor and upgraded camera. Originally I wanted a Galaxy S III, but after trying a pure Android experience, I can never go back! Plus, since it feels great to not be on contract with AT&T, I doubt I could ever sign another one of those again.

Nexus 10

I’m loving this Nexus 10 and if I can find a reason why I need a tablet, I would seriously buy this one. I think my only complaint so far would be the slight rounded curve it has along its sides. I’m more a fan of the squared look, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to widescreen devices looking like tvs. Microsoft Surface certainly wins the design prize on this one.

At any rate, I won’t completely judge until I have one in my hands. Here’s a quick look:


That’s it for me today! I decided to keep it short, so have a great weekend and I’ll see you all back here again on Monday.

Has Apple lost its Magic? iPad 4 released already

iPhone 5 comicOne of my readers commented on a blog a while calling me out for “talking crap” about the iPhone 5 and we started a debate about whether Apple really does innovate products anymore or have they lost a bit of the allure that once was when Steve Jobs was around. Of course the answer to this is subjective, but what I found most interesting about this conversation was that he called me an early adopter, thus explaining why I have moved on from Apple.

So after watching Apple’s latest keynote speech where they introduced the new iPad mini, the new iPod nanos and some other product upgrades, I began to think about that conversation and what it actually means to be an early adopter. Essentially what I was being told was that because I like to get in on the ground floor of new tech items, it’s easy for me to get bored with the tried and true. In other words…the moment all my NON-tech savvy friends, my parents or anyone from the older generations start using things like the iPhone, I decided to jump ship to a less-saturated market. I guess sub-consciously I don’t want to be grouped in with all of the people that just buy iPhones because they see celebrities using them.

Anyway, back to the original purpose of this post…

Apple just launched the iPad mini which is really nothing special other than it provides a smaller iPad solution for those seeking one or just interested in owning an “i” device without shelling out tons of money. I feel this is great, but as a tech person, I tend to look at things from an aerial view. When done this way, it appears that Apple isn’t really creating anything new and exciting, but rather just releasing newer versions of their flagship devices.

Now I know all you business-minded people out there will tell us that this is the perfect business model: sell the hell out of your most popular products, but when is enough, enough?

The New iPad

iPad miniHow many versions of the iPad do we really need? And I’m not just talking about the different colors or sizes, but actual upgrades! The new iPad (iPad 3) came out just last March and already it’s been replaced by the new iPad (iPad 4)!! That’s right, as of today, the “new” iPad of November 2012 just replaced the “new” iPad of March 2012.

TechRadar exposes the key differences between iPad 3 and iPad 4 on their blog, but basically you’re getting a faster processer, a better front-facing camera and the new Lightning connector that everybody loves to hate.

I feel bad for everyone that bought the new iPad last March after scrimping and saving for it only to be trumped by a new, new iPad today! The old adage that technology is outdated the moment you buy it is coming true for iPad 3 owners today.

At least back in the day, there was some unwritten business plan that only released new products every year, which I still think is too fast, but seriously…only eight months?!

To top it off, the people who somehow didn’t know the iPad mini was coming, they too probably feel ripped off that they just dropped $500 for a new iPad when all they wanted was a slightly bigger iPhone.

My Thoughts

As if my thoughts aren’t evident enough, here’s some more for you to chew on. I’ll give Apple a pass this time around. Rather than complain that there are too many versions of every Apple product, I’ll just say that maybe they’re just re-aligning their product line.

They now have a full line of Macbooks, iPods, iPads and iMacs that come in a variety of sizes and colors. If we started at square one, then we can say that Apple finally has a product for everyone at almost every price point.

Yes, saying that made me feel better. But I have a feeling that next year isn’t going to bring anything new and spectacular. I think the tech world is going to have to slow down like the video game console world has. There’s no need to release a new device every single year.

I’ll leave you with a funny photo I found on an Android forum:
iPhone evolution

Google Announces New Devices and Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)

Google had originally planned an event today to discuss the latest devices coming out of the Nexus line of products as well as showcasing the new Jelly Bean upgrade, but due to hurricane Sandy, it was cancelled. This didn’t stop Google however since they decided to go ahead and make the announcements via the official Google Blog.

Google Play screenshotAs expected, we’re going to see a Nexus 10″ tablet from Samsung and the new Nexus 4 smartphone from LG. What was not so expected was that the Nexus 7 is now being offered with HSPA+ services making the tablet even more portable than it was.

Given the insane amount of coverage on these announcements, I don’t need to go over every last detail, but here’s the overall gist of what’s going down on November 13th.

Nexus 4

Nexus 4The Nexus 4 is unfortunately not a 4G phone, thus leaving the only 4G Nexus device as the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon. However, LG did put a quad core processor inside so that would explain why it’s only HSPA+. Apparently LTE doesn’t play well with quad core processors.


  • 4.7″ screen with 1280 x 768 resolution (320ppi)
  • 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front
  • 2GB memory
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor
  • Wireless charging

The device comes in 8GB ($299) and 16GB ($349) sizes both with no external storage options. This is because Google despises external storage devices as they can sometimes cause performance issues with apps and whatnot. This is probably why Apple doesn’t go this route either.

Nexus 10 Tablet

Nexus 10Recently the Nexus was available in the 7″ size with wi-fi only, but Google has just released a new 32GB model that has HSPA+ cellular connectivity. This brings the Nexus 7 line up to three models: 16GB (wi-fi only for $199), 32GB (wi-fi only for $249) and 32GB (wi-fi + HSPA+ for $299)

But the biggest news was the announcement of the 10″ tablet. Originally with the Nexus 7, critics were only really paying attention to it as a competitor to the Kindle Fire, but now we’re looking at some real competition to the full size iPad.

The only downside…both models are wi-fi only. The 16GB model will sell for $399 and the 32GB will sell for $499.


  • 10″ with 2650 x 1600 resolution (300 ppi)
  • Dual-core A15 processor
  • 5MP front camera, 1.9MP rear
  • 9000 mAh battery
  • Weight: 603g (1.3lbs)
  • Size: 263.9 x 177.6 x 8.9mm

Without the HSPA+ option, some of the iPad models are still looking like a better choice, but at these price points, Nexus tablet is still a better buy. Plus you get Android software unobstructed by any manufacturer software.

Android 4.2

Android 4.2Originally dubbed Key Lime Pie, it appears that Android 4.2 will simply be a major update to Jelly Bean and it packs in a lot of new features! For full details, check out what’s new on Android.

Photo Sphere – Here’s a new feature that allows you to take photos in all directions and put them back together in a 3D sphere and then share them with your Google+ friends and/or add them to Google Maps.

Gesture Typing – Now you can type simply by gliding over the letters of the word and letting go. The word will appear with spaces and all. Plus, with Google’s new dictionaries, your text conversations become more predictive, allowing you to select your next word without having to type.

Multiple users – Available only on the tablets, this features allows you to create new users on your device so each person can have their own everything — apps, games, homescreen, background images, widgets, etc. You can also use fast user switching to go from one user to the next without having to log out each time.

Wireless HDMI – Connect a wireless HDMI adapter to your tv and now you can stream whatever you’re doing on your phone or tablet right to your big screen!

Of course there’s so much more, but I found these to be the top highlights.

My Thoughts

Here I am once again with my infamous dilemma. Before, it was about getting the iPad or a Macbook Air, or getting the Kindle Fire or staying with an iPad. Today, the question still remains. Do I need a tablet? More importantly, do you? Many people are finding that while tablets are very convenient smaller (compared to laptops), they still don’t present much of a “working” device. They seem to be more of a luxurious toy rather than a practical replacement for any of your real devices.

Microsoft may shift this paradigm when they release their Surface tablet with full blown Windows 8 Pro, but again, only time will tell.

As for the Nexus 4, it doesn’t appeal to me other than its cool design, wireless charging feature and quad core processor. Since I currently have the Nexus GSM, these basic upgrades aren’t enough for me to swap phones again. However, I’m saying this after only owning my Nexus for a few months, so who knows how I’ll feel come Christmas. Maybe if the phone was 4G LTE, I’d be singing a different tune.

Android 4.2 is definitely an upgrade I’m excited about. All these new features for free and because I already own a Nexus device, I don’t have to wait months before the carriers and manufacturers get it together before I can update my phone.

Windows 8 versus Windows 8 RT

I’m writing this mainly for a friend, but after looking into the subject, I figured my site could use a bit of information on the matter as well. Windows 8 releases tomorrow and as expected, it comes in multiple flavors depending on your specific needs. There are some key differences between them, so listen up!

Windows 8 EditionsFirst, let’s look at the list of Windows 8 editions:

  • Windows 8 – Available in 32 and 64 bit versions, Windows 8 is the most basic edition you can get. It features all of the most essential requirements a typical home user would need like live tiles, Windows Store, Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft account integration, the standard desktop, etc. Windows 8 is the direct replacement of Windows 7 Home Basic.
  • Windows 8 Pro – Windows 8 Pro also comes in both 32 and 64 bit versions and includes everything Windows 8 has, but it adds more business-like features such as Remote Desktop, Windows server domain compatibility, encrypted file system, Hyper-V, Virtual Hard Disk booting, Group Policy and BitLocker. Media Center can be added to Windows 8 Pro as a free add-on. Windows 8 Pro is a direct replacement of Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate editions.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise – This edition will be much harder to find as it’s only intended for high-end corporate networks that require more than what Pro can do. Enterprise includes everything that Pro has (minus Media Center capabilities) and adds features like Windows To Go, DirectAccess and BranchCache.
  • Windows 8 RT – Windows 8 RT will only be available on ARM devices such as tablets and other mobile devices. RT features touch-optimized apps such as Office 2013 RT which ships free with Widows 8 RT.

As you can see by this list, Windows RT is considered to be the mobile version of Windows 8. The most notable difference will be how you get apps. On a typical Windows PC, to get software, you can download it or install it from a disc or local network share. On a Windows RT device, the only way to get software is to buy it from the Windows Store. This is because Windows 8 RT only has a partial desktop.

Let’s compare this setup to Apple. Apple makes computers and tablets. On their computers, they offer a full operating system called OSX (current version is 10.8.2, codenamed Mountain Lion), while on their tablets, they offer a mobile operating system called iOS (current version is 6.0.1). There are many things that can’t be done in iOS as compared to OSX.

So, if you’re planning on getting the Microsoft Surface, consider your choice. If you’re looking to have to a direct copy of your Windows 8 desktop with all the same features and the ability to install software not from the Windows Store, you should wait until the next version of Surface comes out (hopefully soon). But take into consideration that while RT comes with a free version of Office 2013 RT, the regular version of Office 2013 will cost you.

My Thoughts

I hope I like Windows 8 after I upgrade my desktop tomorrow. If I do, then I might consider buying a Microsoft Surface with full blown Windows 8 in order to have a device that syncs everything with my desktop. On the other hand, if Windows 8 doesn’t do much for me in the way of syncing my life as it is, I might just stick with Android on a new Nexus device although I’m hearing about a program called BlueStacks that allows Android apps to run on Windows 8!! This month has so many new things coming out…the choices are endless!

Then again, there’s always the $8,000 touch-screen table that has a computer in it.

Google Announces New Nexus Devices on October 29

As a late adopter of a Nexus product, I couldn’t be more excited by this news! I currently own a Galaxy Nexus phone (unlocked GSM version) and I’ve had my eyes focused on the new Nexus 7 tablet, but with next week’s announcement right around the corner, I’ll just wait and see what Google has in store for us.

It’s rumored that Samsung will be the manufacturer of a new Nexus 10″ tablet (likely to be called the Nexus 10) while LG will be making the new Nexus phone to be called the Nexus 4. Along with these items will come the latest version of Android, version 4.2 which up until last week was being called Key Lime Pie. It appears that Google has dropped that name and instead will be releasing 4.2 as a slight update to Jelly Bean.

Nexus 10 tablet

Nexus 10

Samsung already produces some quality Android tablets with their Galaxy Tab 2 and Galaxy Note 10.1 devices, but as with all manufacturer’s versions of Android devices, they both come with that lovely Samsung “overlay” of extra software and features that tie you to them for updates and product support.

With the Nexus 10, Samsung will only be making the hardware and Google will ensure that the end user gets only the purest Android experience possible. It’s speculated that version 4.2 will allow for multiple user accounts on the tablet devices so it’ll be much easier to share your device without worrying about your friends buying new apps on your account or messing up your home screen layout.

Preliminary specs include:

  • 2650 X 1600 display with 300ppi which beats Apple’s Retina iPad at only 264ppi
  • 10.1″ screen
  • Possible wi-fi and cellular models

Nexus 4 Smartphone

LG Nexus 4I love my Nexus GSM phone and even though it’s considered outdated by most standards, the phone is amazing! There are a few things I wish it had like external storage, a better camera and 4G compatibility, but overall I love it. I’ve never owned an LG device, but from the photos I’ve seen of this new device, I can say that I like what I see.

According to CNET,

The smartphone will have a quad-core SnapDragon processor from Qualcomm, 2 gigabytes of RAM, a 1,280×768 display, 16GB of internal storage, and an 8-megapixel camera. Unlike the Optimus G, the Nexus 4 won’t be an LTE device, according to a person familiar with the announcement.

I can’t believe that this phone won’t be a 4G device. However, from what I’ve heard, this is merely a tech issue with the quad-core processor. Apparently, they don’t play well on LTE networks. This was the reported reason why the Galaxy SIII U.S. version was downgraded to a dual-core.

My Thoughts

I’ve wanted a Galaxy Tab 2 for the longest time since getting rid of my iPad, but once again I feared that I would be paying a hefty price for something I really couldn’t find a valid use for. Then the Nexus 7 came out and I figured it was cheap enough to justify, but it seemed too small.

With this announcement, it’ll be interesting to see the 10 in version of the Nexus tablet as well as seeing how much it will sell for.

ICE is dropping Blackberry in favor of iPhone

In yet another major hit to the already dwindling customer base that Research in Motion (RIM) has acquired over the years through its Blackberry line, the government agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is switching over to iPhones.

iPhone vs BlackberryTheir stated reason is that the iPhone currently provides a better technological experience for its users. ICE has used Blackerry devices for eight years now and felt that RIM has not advanced fast enough for their needs. I have often stated that the last saving grace for RIM was going to be its government contracts and it appears that this is becoming the case.

In comparison, Blackberry has always been the favored device for many large corporations and government agencies because of its ability to be locked down almost completely by IT and security managers through the use of the Blackberry Enterprise server where as iPhones and Android devices only offer limited control. As for the battle between iPhone and Android devices, ICE said that it looked at both options and decided that iPhone was still a better choice because of the tight controls Apple has on its iOS software.

Of course this development will no doubt give iPhone fans more steam for there “who’s phone is better” argument, but I feel that it only goes to prove that iPhone is indeed more of a tightly controlled device whereas Android devices allow more user customization and “hacks” to get things just right.

As a result of this change, ICE claims it will be providing phones to 17,600 employees which will equate to just over $2 million in sales for Apple. RIM is understandably disappointed in their decision especially since BB10 is about to come out in March of 2013. RIM states that the BB10 will offer a brand new operating system among other features re-directing their focus on getting back the customers they’ve been losing for over a year now.

Personally, I feel like RIM is done. They’ll go the way of Nextel and if their lucky, maybe they’ll be bought out too. It’s not that I want to see RIM fold…it’s just that I quit being a Blackberry customer when I bought the first iPhone and now that everyone is catching on to the smartphone craze, I can’t fathom how Blackberry can compete anymore. However, I might be speaking prematurely because with my luck, the BB10 will be a real contender and a new turning point in the smartphone game will have arrived.

Google Chromebooks For Your Business

It’s been just over a year since Google released the Chromebook, which they are marketing as a lightweight laptop that doesn’t run a traditional operating system, have a cd drive or any of the frills you’d expect from even the most modest of netbooks. Essentially, it’s a computer that has Google Chrome and some Office®-type software that allows you to work on documents, browse the net and well that’s about it. Then again, on a cheap laptop, what do you really need it to do anyway?

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Galaxy Nexus – Best Phone Ever?

Ever since I got rid of my iPhone and moved farther away from iTunes and the whole Apple ecosystem, I’ve tried quite a few different devices. Because I was funding my transition from device to device out of my own pocket, it hasn’t been a fast or cheap adventure. As an AT&T customer since the early 2000’s, I’ve fulfilled my fair share of contracts and purchased many subsidized phones. Today, I couldn’t be less interested in 2-year contracts and cheap upgrade prices. Enter the Galaxy Nexus…

iPhone users are quick to point out that while Android devices do have very similar functionality, the Android landscape is very complex. For the most part, they are correct. Here you have Google handing out a free operating system and a plethora of manufacturers waiting to destroy it. By “destroy”, I simply mean that they decide to add their own software which sits[pullquote_right]A 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.[/pullquote_right]
on top of Android like a heavy fog in a city park. In most cases, this extra software adds a great deal of functionality that jives perfectly with the physical features of the phone. For the most part, the lines between Android and the add-ons are blurred, but once you pick up a Samsung device and compare it to an HTC device and then compare it again to a Motorola device, you start to feel like you’re holding three very distinct Android versions. In fact, you’re probably looking at the same version, but aren’t used to seeing the vast differences between manufacturer-skinned Android software. On top of this, you have the carriers adding their own software, network logos and other features all while blocking certain apps and hardware functions. This is simply unfair marketing.

Bloatware Abounds

For example, Google Wallet is a really sick piece of software that uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow you to pay for products at supporting retailers simply by choosing a digitally saved copy of your credit card information on your phone and touching the phone to the receiver at the register. This is a perfect marriage between hardware and software, but AT&T and Verizon block the app from being used on all their Android devices!! Why?! Because they are in a joint venture with T-Mobile to create a competing service called ISIS that does the same thing. The problem I have with this is what if I prefer to trust Google with my account information or maybe I like their software better…why can’t I choose what service to use? Apparently, the carriers feel that a 2-year contract carries over more than your promise to stay onboard with just cell service.

Another example of unfair marketing is how AT&T adds their versions of maps, navigation/GPS services and other software that is completely un-removable from the device. Granted, I don’t have to use them if I choose, but why can’t I remove them from MY device?! They just have to sit there taking up space. It doesn’t even end there…AT&T’s partnership with Yellow Pages has placed a permanent entry into my contacts list for the Yellow Pages directory service! It’s at the top of the list and cannot be renamed, deleted or moved.

Lastly, getting the latest Android updates are a nightmare! Because of all this extra software, the Android updates have to come down from Google, get approved and tweaked by the manufacturer, then sent over for the same process at the carriers. The entire process adds months and months onto the expected release time.  So while all the iPhone users are getting their updates on the same day, the Android users are all using different versions for a very long time.

But I digress. Wasn’t I supposed to be chatting about the Galaxy Nexus?!

Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy NexusOk, so the Galaxy Nexus is a Samsung device that is part of Google’s Nexus program. If you’re unfamiliar with it, WikiPedia has a nice spread about it, but I’ll summarize here. Google contracts with a hardware manufacturer to make a device worthy of a pure Android experience. Up until recently, this program has selected one manufacturer to make one device that is void of any software tweaks and hacks. The manufacturer is only allowed to make the hardware and cannot touch the software.

The Nexus phone came out last November and was only available on Verizon. I have to say that this single device almost made me switch to Verizon, but I stayed on AT&T due to my remaining contract. Needless to say, I was excited when I found out that Google began selling an unlocked GSM version on their website. I can’t seem to locate information on when the GSM version began selling, but I hadn’t seen it until about four months ago. The device sells for $349 + tax and comes unlocked and ready to use on any GSM carrier worldwide. I secured a 3-week old one on CraigsList for $300 tax free about a month ago.

I can’t explain it, but there is nothing like a pure Android experience on a phone! Having come from a Galaxy SII Skyrocket, which is technically a better phone spec-wise, I can say without a doubt that the Nexus is the best phone I’ve ever used. I have just two complaints. One, it’s not 4G and two, it’s stuck at 16GB with no SD card slot. However, the HSPA+ speed is very comparable to 4G considering that 4G isn’t even available in a lot of places yet and the memory issue doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

But the best part is that there’s no carrier branding, no locks on Google Wallet and no bloatware to laugh at me as I try unsuccessfully to remove. Also, just the other day I discovered that the built-in wi-fi hotspot tethering feature is not blocked either! Normally, AT&T requires you to upgrade to a tethering data plan before they allow you to hook it to your laptop or tablet. This can set you back $60 per month and remove your unlimited data plan if you’re lucky enough to still have one…like I do. The Nexus simply allows me to turn it on, configure a wireless network and be off and running. AT&T has no way of blocking this because the Nexus is not a device that’s registered on their network. In fact, when I log into my AT&T account manager, it doesn’t even recognize what kind of phone I’m using and that pleases me to no end.

For the first time, I feel like I’m on my own terms and have not fallen victim to whatever biddings AT&T and Samsung would like me to follow. I also love the fact that I can take this phone to another country, install a locally serviced SIM card and have cell service without having to pay international roaming fees. As for those pesky software updates that never seem to come…well the Nexus updates come directly from Google so there’s no more waiting.

All of this freedom comes at a price however. Gone for me are the days of subsidized pricing (but then again, so are the contracts) and it appears my device choices are limited, but that’s ok…I was an iPhone user for many years so I’m used to it. I can’t wait for the Nexus 2.