Google’s VP for Design Matias Duarte talks about future of design

When Matias Duarte starts talking, everybody listens. To end this crazy but fulfilling 2015, Google’s Vice President of Design shares his vision for the future of design not just for the search giant but also for the whole mobile and tech industry. Matias was known as a former Palm executive but when he joined Google five years ago, user experience for most of the brand’s products and services improved.

Devs and other industry experts always listen to what Duarte has to say because it’s certain you’ll find wisdom in his words. A few years ago, he talked about the Facebook Home, the Roboto design decisions for ICS, and his being less satisfied with the Android UI before. That’s all in the past since he now believes that Android is already in a good place. By that we mean the platform is already established. There may be security and privacy issues but design-wise, it has reached its pinnacle. Actually, it’s already getting old that we should think about changing it.

Duarte noted that there is a “real risk of stagnation” now. That’s true and the landscape of technology is expected to change rapidly in the coming months and years. According to Duarte, computers “will fade away into the background”. The experience will be more human—very well integrated into our daily lives that we won’t even notice there’s been a disruption. Instead of just typing on a keyboard, clicking on commands, or swiping on a touchscreen display. Now, you can draw or say what you need to do.

Matias Duarte said:

“As we get more and more screens and more and more devices that are smart, both integrated into our homes but also on our bodies, it’s creating new types of problems that are going to create a new type of opportunity.”

Since the iPhone was released, we’re still using the apps lined up in rows and rectangles. Believe it or not, even the general tablet and smartphone design is already old. From computers to laptops to netbooks to tablets, people have more choices today than ever before. Some have ditched their PCs at home or the office in favor of the laptop. In some industries however, there is no point in using a computer because the tablets are powerful enough.

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Tablets have come to a stagnant point too–we think. Why? Apple has already attempted to make a big iPad Pro and then there’s the Surface Pro 4 ,and the 18-inch Samsung Galaxy View. The tablet is now getting many different versions.

There may be many lawsuits because of patent infringement and obvious copying in design but it’s difficult to become unique in this day and age. It’s already hard to draw the line between the difference in software and hardware design. Those complaints about copying and infringement won’t stop until a major overhaul is introduced. Google introduced Material Design last year but it’s not enough. Almost a  year ago, we featured what Material Design meant for Google.

BlackBerry may have started in the smartphone arena but it was Apple who revolutionized the mobile industry. Google soon followed with Android and quickly became King, at least, when we’re talking about the number of units sold worldwide. The behavior of consumers changed and still continues to evolve especially now that smartwatch and other wearables have been introduced. This coming 2016, we believe that the smart home industry will finally take off as a lot of device manufacturers have started to look into making smarter devices. There’s also the virtual reality industry that is also starting to pick up.

When it comes to Google, Material Design looks simpler now–less chaotic. Duarte was part of the team who did such change and now he’s working on Android Wear. Google has significant contribution to the way people use mobile devices. By bringing Android to the masses, Google has helped in standardizing the mobile industry. That’s despite some flaws in design or being difficult to understand.

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Duarte noted that there is still a need to improve the design. It may take time to enhance all emotional, social, aesthetic, and historical elements but the Google executive is positive. In software, he’s started to see some changes although numerous challenges are evident. Merging both design and technology can be difficult.

When it comes to design, you take into consideration a lot of things from the style to the materials, manufacturing, history, and more. Duarte shared with Wired:

“If you’re going to be a product designer and you’re going to make furniture you’re going to know a lot about your materials and manufacturing, and that’s what makes you a designer. But you’re also going to know a lot about design, you’re going to know about the history of furniture design, you’re going to know about ergonomics, style and fashion trends. If I look at digital it is almost impossible to identify people who have both of those backgrounds. And that is a sign of the immaturity in the industry.”

Google is working on something new but Duarte refuses to share more. He said he doesn’t know if the company has decided to manufacture its own devices yet. He just noted that he doesn’t know if it’s something “Google needs to do”.

Duarte’s main vision for design or technology in general is something less intrusive. It’s almost similar to what the Google SVP Sundar Pichai said a few months ago that he wants mobile phones to be less intrusive.

Duarte is still not sure if Android Wear is “there” yet but we have to see first in the coming months or years. Digital design will certainly evolve and Google hopes to be able to help. The VP wants to change the the current smartphones and GUI interfaces we all have grown to love and are familiar with. Duarte promised to do his best to work on a “much richer, continuous mesh of devices and interfaces”.

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That “less intrusive” age may still be far from today but there is potential. We somehow understand the idea because Google has been the subject of related topics. A few months ago, Google clarified that Chrome OS is not going away. There was a rumor that Google was planning to fold up Chrome OS to integrate into Android instead but it turned out not true. Android head Lockheimer himself denied the rumor and said that Google is committed to Chrome OS. There will only be major changes.

VIA: Wired

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Chinese smartphone companies may dominate 2016, traditional big OEMs watch out

The way things are panning out in preparation for one of 2016’s earliest and biggest tradeshows – that is, CES 2016 in Las Vegas – it looks like Chinese companies are pushing the traditional tech companies hard for market competition and visibility. And they just might do that in 2016, considering their growing clout in the market. Expect prime real estate in the tradeshows to have traditional OEMs flanked by Chinese companies also pushing for visibility. It’s a clear indication of how prominent companies from the planet’s second-biggest national economy are becoming on the global stage.

We’ve seen this kind of power shift before, even on a global scale. In the early 1990s, Japanese companies like Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic began a strong push for visibility and market share, and they were largely successful at it. But with these companies like Sony and Toshiba now struggling to stay relevant in the smartphone and mobile device markets, vendors from China are taking 2016 as a huge opportunity to gain traction.

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One of those companies looking to make it big globally is Huawei. Once Huawei (and its sub-brand Honor) become as well-known as Samsung and Apple, the traditional Android and iOS OEMs will be in a lot of trouble. Huawei is set on bringing its Honor brand to the US, which means US customers will be able to buy the premium smartphones Huawei puts out, with great specs at affordable prices. Perhaps Huawei’s biggest stumbling block is software. Thankfully, the Nexus 6P and the Huawei Watch are all running stock Android, and with those, Huawei can stick to making great-looking devices with great hardware.

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Xiaomi has recently lost its spot to Huawei in China, but seeing its biggest rival have success internationally should push the other “big” Chinese manufacturer to have a go at the market themselves. Xiaomi has long been known for releasing phones with competitive specifications at ludicrously low prices, and that in itself is a big advantage for them globally. Rumors say that Xiaomi will also start selling its phones officially in the US in 2016, and that could be big news for everybody in the smartphone market.

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You also have to admit that OnePlus is a really interesting company to keep watch on. The upstart Chinese company’s unconventional approach to marketing and logistics means you really can’t predict what they’ll do next. We knew that they were coming with another rflagship killer in the OnePlus 2 this year, but who knew they would come out with one of the best, and classiest small screen smartphones ever to ship with Android in the OnePlus X? Not you or me, but they pulled it off.

Other tech pundits continue to speak harshly on the “annoying” invite system they made or the logistical problems OnePlus continues to have. But you have to say, OnePlus is stirring things up in the market, and without them, the smartphone industry would be incredibly dull.

These are just three of China’s most exciting smartphone companies. Expect to hear more and more news from this side of the world, especially if the big OEMs like Samsung, Apple, LG, Sony, and HTC continue to slip up in the market. That will just be another step in the ladder for this huge power shift in the smartphone industry that is just waiting to happen in 2016.

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Bluboo to release new triple-sim Xfire 2 smartphone

What’s the best way to make a name for yourself in the already over-crowded Android market and you’re not a Samsung or Sony or LG? You’d have to release one great product after another of course. Bluboo wants to become a popular name and so they’ve previously released their “secret phone” Picasso, a sports smartwatch Xwatch, plus some other smartphones. Now the OEM has announced the Xfire 2, which is the first Android 5.0 device with a triple SIM.

The smartphone has a 5-inch display with a 2.5D arc glass on top and runs on a MediaTek quad-core MT6580 processor. It has a front LED so that when you take your selfies, you’ll have some sort of illumination and so you won’t look like a zombie or something. But of course the selling point of this smartphone is that it has triple-SIM support.

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While not everyone would need to have three sims at the same time, it’s nice to have that option if you need to use different networks for data, calls, and messages. There are two nano SIM slots and the third one, a micro SIM, can be turned into a microSD slot to extend the smartphone storage.

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The Xfire 2 is priced at $69.99 so we probably can’t expect some high-end specs from it. But if you like having those initial features they released, then this would be a good buy. More details will be announced before its expected launch this January 2016.

SOURCE: Bluboo

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JAQ is world’s smallest fuel cell charger for your smartphone

As long as our smartphones still have a battery problem (meaning it doesn’t last that long), we will always be on the lookout for alternative solutions. Power banks are the current most popular and most affordable one, but it can sometimes be too bulky and for the environmentally conscious, not a good choice. So when fuel cell batteries/chargers started showing up, it became a good alternative to external batteries. But they were still a bit bulky though. That is, until myFC is now set to release JAQ, the smallest fuel cell charger that will be available in the market.

The JAQ fuel cell is a 5 volt/1 amp device is as big (or as small) as a regular smartphone. What powers it is the PowerCard, a thin card-like gadget that fits into the fuel cell. It is loaded with salt and water and once placed in the JAQ, hydrogen is produced and it will then be charging the smartphone or tablet connected to the fuel cell.

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The PowerCard is actually made from recycled materials and has a 1,800 mAh, but it can only give your device one full phone-charge and then you’d have to dispose of it. So it’s both sustainable and also kind of wasteful for that matter.

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myFC says that they’ve already shipped out the first batch of JAQ fuel cells, but there isn’t much information on the pricing and availability except that it may cost $5.35 per month on a 24 months plan. There are no details yet on how many PowerCards will be included and how much PowerCards will cost later on. The JAQ fuel cells will be showcased at the CES next month.

VIA: Gizmag

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AT&T will reportedly get rid of two-year contracts by 2016

A lot of smaller carriers, and even big ones like T-Mobile, have started removing two-year contracts from their product offerings, to give their customers the freedom to not be locked in for 48 months to a single carrier. Now it looks like AT&T will be the next one, as an internal document that has been leaked shows that if customers want to get new phones, there will be no more 2-year contracts, but rather an upfront payment or through installments through their AT&T Next program.

The move is set to start January 8, 2016 and by then all AT&T customers who want to avail of a new device will have to pay for the device in full, even the flip phones and non-smartphones. But as for the wearables like the Samsung Gear S2 or the tablets, it’s not included in the document as to whether or not they will also be removed from the 2-year contracts. Multi-year contracts for the corporate accounts will probably still be around.

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As to why they’re doing this, a vaguely worded statement says it is for “aligning… service offerings with customer and industry trends”. Industry trends may refer to the fact that T-Mobile got rid of their multi-year contracts back in 2013. AT&T actually stopped offering two-year contracts through their partner retailers like Best Buy and Apple since June of 2015. You could only get it through AT&T stores and for existing customers, they would have to request for a contract extension.

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What AT&T has been pushing for is the AT&T Next payment plan where customers can get new gadgets though an installment plan, whether it’s 24 months or 30 months. So let’s wait for the official announcement from AT&T before making any plans.

VIA: Engadget

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