Google Photos celebrates 200 million users »

Anil Sabharwal, Vice President of Google Photos:

A year ago, we introduced Google Photos with one mission: To be a home for all your photos and videos, organized and brought to life, so that you can share and save what matters.

Now 200 million of you are using Google Photos each month. We’ve delivered more than 1.6 billion animations, collages and movies, among other things. You’ve collectively freed up 13.7 petabytes of storage on your devices—it would take 424 years to swipe through that many photos! We’ve also applied 2 trillion labels, and 24 billion of those have been for … selfies.

I still keep all of my photos in Dropbox, and started backing them up to Google Photos many months ago. It’s an amazing tool; searching for photos is fast and easy, and the built-in Assistant makes it easy to relive days in the past, and organize photos into albums. While I still sync some albums to my iPhone via USB, but I love having all of my photos just a few taps away. I’m glad it seems to be successful.

Thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 

Samsung S7 Edge

Let me just address the elephant in the room here. It’s a little unusual that I’m doing a mini-review of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s been many years since I sold my original Motorola Droid1 and returned to the iPhone.

That’s not to say I’m unfamiliar with Android. Every couple of years, I buy a current Nexus phone to check in with what going’s on on the other side of the mobile OS fence.

At the risk of getting a lot of email, I just have to say it: Android had gotten really good. While I have some critical iOS-only apps in my workflow that would keep me from switching, the OS itself and third-party apps are miles better than they were 3 or 4 years ago.

What’s more interesting to me is the hardware companies like Samsung and LG are shipping these days. While there are a lot of forgettable phones out there, the S7 Edge stands out from the crowd.

The phone is dominated by its 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display. It’s bright and colorful, if not a little over-saturated for my taste. It’s super sharp, though. The big story with the display is the curve on either side. The sides of the display simply roll off the curved edges of the phone. The effect is subtle; its even hard to photograph clearly.

While using the phone, it’s obvious, however. Edge-to-edge content is slightly distorted by the curve, which is less than ideal, but I only found it to be an issue in apps like Instagram, with its full-width photos. Most developers have some padding on either side of their content windows anyways, so it’s not as big of a deal as it first seems.

Speaking of the screen, or rather, what’s around it, let’s talk about bezels. Naturally, the S7 Edge doesn’t really have side bezels, since the screen flows over the edge, but it does retain a chin and forehead, much like the iPhone. However, these are smaller than the areas on the iPhone. These changes lead to the S7 Edge being noticeably smaller, despite packing the same sized screen:

Samsung S7 Edge and iPhone 6S Plus

Cupertino, take note.

The rest of the device is pretty much on par with the iPhone. The camera is great, the speaker is good and the fingerprint reader is fast and reliable in my usage.

Oh, and the thing is water resistant. All phones should copy this.

The hardware isn’t all good news, though. The metal rail that goes all the way around the phone is very thin on the sides where the sloping cover glass meets it. There’s just not a lot of surface area to grip, and what’s there is crazy slippery. Coupled with the all-glass back, this may be the most slippery device on God’s green Earth.

(That glass is a fingerprint magnet, too, even in silver.)

I can’t say the S7 Edge is the best Android phone to buy. Samsung still does silly things to Android, and there’s some Verizon bloatware on this particular model. However, I think it’s the best example of how good other manufactures have become at building phones. Yes, its slippery, and yes the curved screen feels a little gimmicky, but this phone is beautiful and well-built. Throw in the reduced footprint and water resistance, and I think Apple has some things it needs to address next time around.

  1. And for that matter, my Palm Pre Plus. Now I’m just sad. 

Material #23: Matías Duarte: Material Design »

This week on Material, Relay FM’s Google-focused podcast:

We’re joined by Matías Duarte, Vice President of Design at Google. We talk about everything from Material Design to how to camouflage LEGO against couches.


‘ChromeOS is here to stay’ »

Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast, writing on the Google Chrome blog:

Over the last few days, there’s been some confusion about the future of Chrome OS and Chromebooks based on speculation that Chrome OS will be folded into Android. While we’ve been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there’s no plan to phase out Chrome OS.

Notice the dancing around in that paragraph. Either the WSJ got it wrong, over-stating the work to “bring together” the two OSes, or this is happening, and somehow “Chrome OS” will stick around.

Report: Google working to merge ChromeOS and Android »

Google currently ships two OSes. Android, which powers everything from watches to smartphones to tablets and ChromeOS, which is designed to run on small, (mostly) affordable notebooks.

According to Alistair Barr at The Wall Street Journal, that may be about to change:

Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.

This new version of Android would run on PCs. Instead of the it’s-mostly-just-a-browser experience ChromeOS users have now, they could enjoy the ever-growing ecosystem of Android apps and services.

I’m interested to see how this plays out.