iPhone 13 Pro/iOS Impressions from a Pixel 3/Android User

Last week on Wednesday my new Apple iPhone 13 Pro finally came in. I was super excited to get it all unboxed, SIM card inserted (I put my case on and then realized I needed to put the SIM card in, then had to take the case off again :facepalm:) and then put the case back on, ready to use as my next phone for the future (or until Apple no longer supports the device). Below are some of my initial and first impressions from someone who has only used an Android phone consistently in the past and is using an iOS device for the very first time as their main mobile phone.

Look and Feel

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is built like a tank when compared to my old Pixel 3 phone. It is very close in size, with the iPhone 13 Pro being only slightly taller, wider and thicker but it is significantly heavier. I think the combination of the battery, stainless steel frame, and front and back glass make up most of that weight. When I pick up my old Pixel 3 it is like picking up a feather compared to picking up my iPhone 13 Pro. It took me a little bit to get used to the new weight difference. I do like this weight change though as it does feel a little more premium.

I like the way the phone does feel in my hand too. It is not too large and manageablefor single hand use, which is one of the reasons why I moved from Android to iOS. I am sorry Google but the Pixel 6 Pro to me does not look good, I absolutely hate the curved display on the edges and being such a large size makes it a deal breaker for me. The case helps to ensure that the frame does not dig into my hand and slightly protect my back cameras as there is a little lip.

One thing that I do know about Apple products is that generally they make extremely well-built products, be it their laptops to their tablets. Sure, sometimes they make “foldable” devices but by and large Apple does not skimp on using quality materials for their products. Paying for more premium products to get a better finished product is a no brainer for me and is something I am willing to pony up for. This may not be possible for everyone, but I am in a fortunate position where I can do this, so I took advantage of it.

I am a little disappointed in that it has a lightning port to charge the iPhone 13 Pro and I cannot use my many USB-3 cables that I have laying around, but it is what it is. The silent switch on the left-hand side of the phone is superb and I wish more phones incorporated something like this as it is very useful. The massive camera bump is not an issue for me, and I am not too fussed about the notch compared to other people. A single hole punch camera hole is a little cleaner but you lose out on Face ID.

iOS 15

Moving from Android to iOS I knew was going to be a little difficult at the start but there are a number of frustations that I have with iOS when compared to Android.

Less customization is something I knew I was going to lose on iOS. I did generally keep my Pixel 3 stock with what came out of the box, but I did like the ability to change the icon shapes, folder shapes and the ability to keep the icons, folders and widgets at the bottom of my screen and not have them all go at the top. That is my first gripe with iOS. Why does Apple not allow me to have icons, folders and widgets placed anywhere on my screens? I would like to have even easier access to my apps and folders by only using my thumb.

Something I thought I would not get frustrated by was notifications. Now I have to perhaps make some more changes in the settings, but I find notifications are absolutely horrible on iOS compared to Android. I find I am missing more notifications on iOS compared to Android. The notification center is okay but not great. I would like to have a small notification indicator on the top bar to know that “hey you have a message, etc.” instead of looking at the notification center. I am not too sure if it is a bug but there are times when I would get a message and sometimes I would get a notification sound and other times I would not.

I do like the iOS settings, permissions and app management compared to Android. Everything is more clearly laid out and is much easier to manage. Pulling down the control center from the right-hand side is also nice to have, but I found the universal pull down anywhere at the top on Android (notification drawer) to get access to quick settings and notifications is a little easier and more user friendly than how iOS makes you swipe down elsewhere for the notification center. If iOS could adopt something like this then that would be great.

My biggest two gripes are to do with notification/media volume levels and universal back gesture behavior on iOS. On Android you have dedicated alarm, notification/caller/alert and media volume controls while on iOS I found that managing my audio levels a major pain. I have no idea how I can keep my notification/alert levels high while keeping my media volume levels low. If I use the buttons on the side and keep the volume low all my sound minus the caller audio is low, and if I raise it then when I watch YouTube or listen to music, I need to quickly lower the volume. Perhaps I am missing something or have not set something up correctly but why are those volume levels paired? I would like to have all my notifications and alerts at the same level as my caller volume levels but keep my media volume levels low.

Now to the back gesture. This is something that I need to get used to as on Android I would swipe left from the right edge to go back to whatever screen I was on and even to previous apps sometimes. On iOS 15 there is no universal back gesture itself. You can go back to the main home screen by swiping up from the bottom or you need to press the dedicated back button located somewhere on the app which can be either on the top left or the bottom. It would be great to have a single and universal way to go back to the previous screen from any part of the right edge, but I guess that would fundamentally change the way iOS would work and would require apps to be re-worked to allow for the gesture.

All in all, I am not finding iOS very difficult to get used to. I am using many of the native Apple apps instead of my usual Gmail, Google calendar, Gboard apps, etc. But I do have installed Google Chrome and Google Maps as I have all my favourites, etc set up there and it would be a pain to migrate all of these to Safari or Apple Maps (as well as this being my only Apple device at the moment for personal use). All the other apps that I had used for travel, fitness, my smart home are all there so I have not lost anything but I did need to buy new licenses for the iOS app versions which is a little bit annoying but expected.

Final Thoughts

I knew there was going to be some initial teething issues with using iOS. I knew I had to adjust to the way iOS worked compared to Android. I knew that moving from a Pixel to an iPhone was going to require a little bit of mental and physical gymnastics. Overall though I did not find the initial migration and adoption of an iPhone or iOS that difficult. I do miss the ability to perform some customizations, the more accessible notifications and universal gestures. However I gain some of iOS’s handy streamlined, accessible and user friendly features while being housed in what I would again call a mobile tank.

Now I do have an iPad Mini 2021 version coming my way as well so that I can take more notes, read a little more and also watch videos and surf the web a little easier. Plus the new Apple Watch series 7 is also being delivered sometime next month. Did I jump completely in the Apple ecosystem? Yeah. For me to take advantage of everything that Apple offers I need to really start looking at investing in their ecosystem, even if it is for the next 5 years and has a very very steep entry cost. But I feel that in those 5 years (at least) it may be all worth it and I may be a permantely converted Apple user for mobile, tablet, watch (and perhaps laptop).

Bye bye Android and hello iOS

I wrote a blog post recently about potentially switching to the Apple ecosystem for my smartphone, smartwatch and tablet with the laptop also being an option. And I can officially say that I have bought an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, Apple iPad Mini 2021, and am waiting on the new Apple Watch 7.

If Apple do have an October 2021 event and showcase a new Apple Macbook Pro 14” with the M1X or M2 and it can support 32GB of RAM, 2 external monitors and have a good battery life then I may skip out on the Framework laptop and just go with the Macbook Pro. Even though I really like the repairability and upgradability of the Framework laptop there is no information about availability in Australia and my Surface Book 2 battery is not doing so great 😦

The more I see what the Pixel 6 Pro looks like the more I do not want it. The glossy back, the large size and the curved glass edges are all turn offs for me. I like to have a nice small smartphone that is powerful in the hands, and at 6.1” the iPhone 13 Pro is just that. Android 12 looks fantastic and what Google is doing with their software apps and assistant is going to be a major loss IMO by switching to iOS as that native support is gone. Most if not all the Google apps I use are on iOS so I am not missing too much there as Google seem to update their apps fairly frequently, sometimes even before they update their Android apps.

Currently I am still waiting for Apple to deliver my iPhone 13 Pro and Apple iPad Mini 2021, but I do have with me an Apple Pencil Gen 2 and leather case for my smartphone. The smart cover for the iPad Mini 2021 is still in transit the last I checked.

So by the end of October 2021, I will have my new smartphone and tablet, and am looking forward to using them. From the people that I have spoken to, getting used to iOS is not that hard and some of the workflow might make things a little easier. Overall I am looking forward to moving to a new mobile OS as I have been with Android for a very long time with a short stint using Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Will I go back to Android? Perhaps, but if I am happy using Apple’s products and they continue to support it for a long period of time (which from what I read and see, they like to continue to update their older devices) I may be in the Apple mobile ecosystem for a long time. My smart home/devices however will be still primarily Google/Nest and Philips Hue as I really like the Hubs and smart lights.

Thank you Android for all the fond memories starting with my HTC Desire HD all the way to my current Pixel 3. You have generally been very rock solid but the current hardware missteps, the lack of a proper first party smartwatch and tablet, and the poor security and update policy for the devices has made me decide to move on. I may see you again in the future :wave-bye:

Switching from Google to Apple?

I do not have any Apple products I personally own or bought for myself. I did buy my mum a iPad mini for her birthday. My work computer is an Apple Macbook Pro and is the only Apple product that I have actively used. On the other hand I own a Google Pixel 3, a Fossil Gen 5 smart watch, several Google Home Hubs, a Google Home Mini, a Google Chromecast Ultra, and several other Google branded smart home devices. I am entrenched in the Google ecosystem.

This week Apple showcased their next iPhone, smart watch and iPad refreshes. It was the first time I actually watched an Apple event. I always knew that Apple had the superior software and hardware harmony. Their entire ecosystem works nearly flawlessly together. This flawless cohesion is something I find sorely lacking from Google. The commitment to hardware from Google I do not find very authentic and could change at the drop of a hat. Their support for their products is also questionable unfortunately. The one thing that made me stay away from Apple and their products was their extremely high price. Apple is a luxury brand more than a technology brand IMO.

The more articles I read and videos I watch on Apples products the more I am inclined to make the switch over from Google to Apple. The way I look at it, there are several core products for me; the phone, the smart watch, the tablet and the computer.

The Phone

With Apple, you know exactly what you are going to get. You are going to get a generally well built device with a mature operating system that while lacking in customization options is simple, clean and easy to operate. There really is not much to write about here. Generally not much changes between revisions and from what I can see, the difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 is very minimal. If I was to get an iPhone the iPhone 13 Pro is very tempting.

Google Pixel phones on the other hand is a little bit of mixed bag, like the box of variety chocolates. You know on the software side you will be getting the Android experience that far outshines the competition. You get a clean OS and something that I feel is what Google wants Android to be. The hardware is where Google stumbles hard. While the devices may generally be well built there are always short coming such as a bad battery life (Pixel 4) to mid-tier/average specifications (Pixel 5). The Pixel 6/6 Pro appears to be targeting once again the premium market so I’ll need to see more before I can decide if it is a worthwhile purchase.

Previously I have said that I will not be purchasing another Android device that is not a Pixel and I still stand by that statement. With Android updates both OS and security sorely lacking from the other brands, Google is really the only option.

The Smart Watch

Here again Apple does it near flawlessly. A perfect device that does what you would expect with the addition of all the health monitoring. I really like the Apple Watch and what Apple is trying to do in the health market is great. If I gave scores for devices the Apple Watch would get a near perfect 10/10.

There is no competition with the Apple Watch. Google and the entire Wear OS ecosystem is an absolute mess to put it kindly. I also do not think the new partnership between Samsung and Google will save it. What Google needs to do is release their own smart watch, a Pixel Watch. My Fossil smart watch is now no longer connected to my phone anymore as the bluetooth continued to lose pairing somehow. I gave up trying to keep it connected. It was not a good user experience.

If you are in the Android ecosystem then I suggest you just stay away from any Wear OS smart watch, even the Galaxy watches from Samsung (unless you have a Samsung phone). I do not regret getting my Fossil Gen 5, but I will never buy another Wear OS smart watch that is not Google branded.

The Tablet

This one is very much identical to the smart watch section.

Apple hits it out of the park with their iPad line. The Pro, Air, Mini and even the standard iPad are all brilliant.

I do not know what Google is doing with Android tablets. They have no first party Android tablets. The last Android tablet that Google produced was the Slate and that was a disaster. The other brands like Samsung and Lenovo continue to sell Android tablets but again, I do not want a skinned Android tablet. It is pure Android or nothing at all.

There are also the Microsoft Surface line of products. I have a Surface Pro 3 that I occasionally use as a tablet but it is far easier I would feel to use an iPad for entertainment and basic tasks. If I needed a device for productivity then my Surface Book 2 or gaming PC would be my go to. Sorry Microsoft.

The Computer

For all my gaming needs then my custom built gaming PC is my go to plus it can handle any productivity task. However it would be nice to have something portable that I can also get work done on.

At the moment I am using my Surface Book 2 to get this post written up. A fine device but it is getting on in age and I can see that the battery is not where it used to be.

Originally I was looking at some Chromebooks. Again, it seems that Google does not want to support their official line of Chromebooks in Australia. There are only third party Chromebooks and based on the build quality of those devices I am not too happy with them. If Google did offer their latest Chromebook here in Australia then I would have purchased it especially with the new Linux support in Chrome OS.

If I did go all the way in the Apple ecosystem then purchasing a Macbook Pro would be a no brainer and then I could create some iOS apps too. I would not buy an M1 Macbook Pro but an M1X/M2 Macbook Pro when announced would be a worthwhile purchase. So right now on the laptop front it is a wait and see. If I do go with an iPhone and Apple Watch then a Macbook Pro may be a smart purchase.

The only spanner in the works is the new Framework laptop. The ultra repairable and upgradable device that from everything I have seen is really good. However that device too is not shipping any products to Australia at this time. I am monitoring this closely because running Linux on that device seems like a smart option for a portable, repairable, and upgradable productivity laptop.

Google Nest Hub Radio Alarm Issues

I have both Google Nest Hub generation 1 and generation 2 devices, which seem to have issues consistently in playing a radio alarms. Doing a quick Google search and it appears that I am not the only person having this problem. The dates from the results also suggest that it has been a persistent issue for a number of years unfortunately 😦

I have factory reset the devices, tried a number of different radio stations, etc. and it seems that every other day the radio alarm will not play and a traditional alarm will played instead. I double checked to ensure that the devices only have a single alarm and it is a radio alarm.

Both devices do not have issues with network connectivity and the only thing that I can think of is that there is some software bug that is causing the radio alarm not to play. However the one problem with that is the radio alarm sometimes does play. Generally if it is a software issue then it would either work or it would not work, ie. 0 or 1.

I am a little confused about how to resolve this issue as it seems that Google support know of “an issue” with radio alarms but have given no other information. The troubleshooting steps I have already gone through from the support forums and have not helped. One solution I found was to have instead a routine that is triggered at a certain time and to play a radio station instead of having a radio alarm. But that sort of defeats the purpose of having a radio alarm.

If anyone out there has any solution or steps that I can try to resolve this issue then it would be greatly appreciated. I love both my Google Nest Hubs and with the second generation the new sleep sensing features are fantastic as I have difficulty wearing any watch or ring to monitor my sleeping pattern, etc. while I sleep.

Bluetooth Connectivity Issues with Wear OS

I have been meaning to write about this for at least a month or so, but I wanted to make sure that I had exhausted all avenues and that it was not an issue that happens once or twice. Since the last Wear OS update to my Fossil Gen 5 and the January Android security update for my Pixel 3 I have been having horrible Bluetooth connectivity issues. Looking at the Wear OS subreddit I appear to not be the only one too.

The situation is that every week or so at no particular time or particular day my Fossil Gen 5 appears to completely forget that it is paired to my Pixel 3. A notification will appear on my Pixel 3 to pair my smartwatch and I will need to confirm the pairing PIN on both my Pixel 3 and Fossil Gen 5. At first it was not a major issue but now it is starting to get a little annoying. Sometimes the pairing itself will completely fail and I will need to either turn off and turn back on the Bluetooth on my Fossil Gen 5 or restart the Fossil Gen 5.

The standard troubleshooting process that Google offers is to uninstall the Wear OS app on my Pixel 3 and factory reset my Fossil Gen 5. One major problem with this is the setup and update process of the Fossil Gen 5 and getting it configured again with Google Pay, uninstalling several unwanted apps, etc is not easily done and takes some time. It also appears that the only way to connect your Wear OS smartwatch to your smartphone is to use the Wear OS app too and it cannot just be paired like any other Bluetooth device.

I am not having Bluetooth issues with any other device connecting to my Pixel 3 like my Pixel Buds or my PXC 550 headphones. I believe this is not a hardware issue with my Pixel 3 and I am hoping that this is not a Bluetooth hardware issue with my Fossil Gen 5; if it were, I would imagine that it would fail to pair completely. Seeing as it only started to happen after I had some updates, I believe this is software related. Crossing my fingers that either Fossil or Google will fix this problem in the future, but I have little hope as Google appears to have all but abandoned the Wear OS platform or are keeping it on life support.

If Google was serious about wearables, then it should back the Wear OS platform by adding their own first party apps to the platform. Right now, you cannot even get the Google Authenticator on the platform anymore. This to me shows that Google is not serious about wearables even with the recent purchase of Fitbit recently and will always play second fiddle to Apple, watchOS and the Apple Watch. If Apple allowed the Apple Watch to be supported on other platforms like Wear OS smartwatches I would buy one in a heartbeat and not look back at another Wear OS device.

Four Years of Android OS and Security Updates as Standard, Finally

As someone who likes to keep their mobile phone for as long as possible when Samsung announced that they will be supporting their line-up of Galaxy products with updates for four years from initial release it was great news. I know that Samsung are one of the device makers that do update their phones (security and OS) even if it might take them longer or in longer intervals than Google or Nokia. Officially supporting your product for at least four years is a must if we are to start reducing the amount of e-waste we keep producing.

Google currently only supports their Pixel line-up officially for three years. I am using a Pixel 3 and by my calculations I will be on my last year of support and will most likely need to purchase a new mobile phone if I am to get any further new OS or security updates. This is a little disappointing because not only do I really like my Pixel 3 but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the device. Everything is working like it was since I purchased the device. Sure, the battery might not be as good as it was, but it still gets me through the entire day even with heavy use. I like to get new features and security updates to make sure my device is protected, but why should this be limited to only new products after three years even if the old product is still functioning, working as intended and can support these new features?

The question is will Google also be officially supporting at least four years of security updates (and fingers crossed OS updates)? Qualcomm and Google did announce in December 2020 a collaboration to extend Android OS and security update support for four years which is amazing. When I read the Qualcomm press release I saw that it will officially start with the new Snapdragon 888 Mobile Platform. What I was not sure of was will it only be supported on high end chips? This is critical as Google in their Pixel line currently is not using the flagship Snapdragon chips anymore. If only the flagship Snapdragon chips will support this new four year update support, then it is a little kick in stomach.

Thankfully reading the Android blog post about the same announcement, the chips that will be supporting this four-year support will be any SoC launching with Android 11 and later. So that will mean that any device launching in late 2021 that has Android 11 will support this new four-year cycle. That would mean that the Pixel 6 will fall into this category. I am going to try and hold onto my Pixel 3 for as long as I can and that it stops officially receiving security updates. Perhaps 2022 will be the year that I need to upgrade my mobile phone. What Samsung announced seems to indicate that will be support phones already released while Google/Qualcomm will be supporting future devices. If you are in the market for an Android device then it may be wise to wait for an Android 11 device to get the full four year of support.

Interested in a Pixelbook Go and Chrome OS

For the last month or so I have been watching a number of videos on Chrome OS laptops and what you can actually do with a Chrome OS laptop. The more I watched the more interested I was in actually picking one up. Do I really need a new laptop or even a tablet? No not really but I have some disposable cash and it will be used by not just me but my parents.

There are a number of different Chrome OS devices out there but the one that I am really interested in picking up is the Google Pixelbook Go. However as I am located in Australia the product is not available here. That is a real shame because I would have bought one right now – like right now. I contacted a Google support team member to just verify this information and yep, the Google Pixelbook Go is not available to purchase in Australia 😦

What made me decide to start looking at Chrome OS? As much as I like my Surface Book 2 I would like to have a device that runs Android apps and just have a device that is more tied to my smart home ecosystem. You can also write code in Chrome OS so it scratches my developer itch as well. Plus I can also have it as a family laptop that my parents can use without the need to worry about security, viruses and malware like I have to do on a Windows laptop at the moment.

But you might be saying, “Chris, there are plenty of third party Chrome OS laptops from HP, Lenovo, Samsung, etc. Just buy one of them, they are just as good and offer Chrome OS too.”. Well as someone who used to buy laptops from those brands, you will not find the same build quality from those vendors as you would from Apple, Google and Microsoft; plus aesthetically they are not as pleasing. Apple’s Macbook line is known for the superb build quality (ignoring the butterfly keyboard fiasco), the Surface line from Microsoft is rated extremely high with regard to build quality (and I can confirm this as I have a Surface RT, Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book 2), and well Google’s line of products are also generally very well received too (ignoring the mess that was the Google Pixel Slate). I want to make sure that I buy a Chrome OS laptop that lasts, has great support and just overall looks aesthetically pleasing. The Google Pixelbook Go ticks all those boxes.

Perhaps in the future Google will release the next Chrome OS laptop in Australia made by them. I mean they release their Nest line of home products here (yes I know they do not ship all their Nest products like the thermostat and the doorbell but a good portion are released here), the Pixel line of phones, and even the Pixel Buds 2. I have a Google Pixel 3, the Google Pixel Buds 2, a Chromecast Ultra, several Google Home Hubs and a Google Home Mini. My fingers and toes are crossed, but I do not have my hopes up as Australia is such a small market and why would a global company like Google support such a small remote market? Google changed the theme of Android and appearance to be more inclusive but it seems not all departments are on the same page at Google as not releasing a product in certain countries is not very inclusive in my opinion. Google do the right thing 😉

Google Pixel Buds Initial Impressions

Finally Google released the Google Pixel Buds in Australia at the start of the week (13th July 2020 I believe). As soon as I found out they were available I ordered a pair from the official Google Store, and they got delivered extremely quick (two days later after ordering). Several days have passed and I have been using them as my primary pair of wireless earbuds, and I have some initial impressions. The TL;DR is that they are very good but not perfect.

First off I want to say that I was using the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds and even though they sound amazing and have an okay battery life the overall experience has been extremely lacking. The phone app is disappointing to say the least (check the Android reviews in the Google Play Store), pairing with my Google Pixel 3 and previously my Nokia 8 was a major pain (I would need to re-pair several times a week), and worst of all you could not turn off the earbuds themselves (even after being placed back in the case). But this is not a post about hating on my previous earbuds, it is about my initial impressions of the Google Pixel Buds.

As usual the unboxing experience with brands like Apple, Microsoft and Google; is premium. You get a small solid box, with some paperwork, extra tips, a decently sized USB-A to USB-C cable (half a meter by the looks of it), the Google Pixel Buds and the case. I ordered the white version of the earbuds as that was all that was available but would have most likely still bought this color anyway. The case has a clean and matte like finish to it. The lip where the case opens has a black trim which is nice and when you open the case the interior is black. There are two lights on the case. One at the front to show the case’s battery and one inside the case which signals to you the battery of the earbuds.

The earbuds themselves have the same matte finish with the “bud” themselves being white and the rest of the earpiece being black. The earbuds have attached to them a stabilizer that holds them in your ear. From what I was reading in various reviews, some people had issues with this as it dug into their ears, but to me it didn’t and I had no pain while wearing these for extended periods of time. Overall they felt really comfortable and I experienced no discomfort. The medium sized tips that came with the earbuds were the perfect fit so I did not need to change the tips to get the earbuds to fit perfectly in my ear.

Pairing the Google Pixel Buds was extremely easy on my Google Pixel 3. I unlocked my phone and opened the lid of the case. A notification came up on my phone, I selected to pair them; and that was it. The earbuds were paired. The touch controls are easy to use and remember. Plus you can use either earbud to perform an action unlike the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless for example. One thing that will take a little getting used to I think and what I am finding is that because the earbud surface area is so small it can be a little tricky to make sure you land on the surface to trigger the touch controls. Google Assistant on these is also super handy to have and trigger which is a bonus for me because I use the Google Assistant a good amount on my phone and have several Google Home/Nest products in my house. If you are in the Google ecosystem then these will fit right in.

The most important part of earbuds next to comfort and ease of use is sound quality. I am not going to say I am audiophile but I like to hear the voices of the podcasters I listen to clearly and the music to be clear with some good bass. Do these sound as good as my Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds? Not really, but they are really close. Some reviewers have said that they hear a faint white noise/hiss in the background but I do not hear this noise with my pair at the moment. I was not expecting state of the art sound quality but what Google is offering is absolutely acceptable to me and for the average user they will be a fine pair of earbuds.

Some of the other features that I really like is having the USB-C port so I only need to carry a single cable for charging my phone and earbuds. The case supports wireless charging, which is a bonus if you have a wireless charging pad. A negative I can find with the experience of the Google Pixel Buds is the app/settings which is extremely bare bones, for example there is no EQ at all (you need to configure this in each individual app if the app has an EQ setting) and the battery life is a little short. If you pop your earbuds in your case for a small amount of time you get at least an extra hour worth of playback, so there is that. One thing I have not tried is the microphone yet, but I generally find most earbuds to be subpar to passable in regards to their microphone; using my voice to ask Google Assistant questions or get stuff done is usable so I think the microphone does it’s job there.

Overall I am super happy with my purchase and would recommend them to someone who is looking for a new pair of earbuds that are not as expensive as the Apple Airpod Pro or the latest version of the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless 2. You can check out the Google Pixel Buds here from the Google Store.

Google Authenticator Broken and Unavailable on WearOS

For me, one of the reasons why I wanted to pick up a Google WearOS smartwatch was because I use 2FA and being able to quickly open the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch and enter one of the 2FA codes is so convienent. The keyword here is was.

Google recently (first half of 2020) updated the Google Authenticator app. The UI got an overhaul and there was now the ability to transfer your accounts. All great things. However with this new update it would appear that Google “broke” the Google Authenticator app on WearOS. Well broke is partially correct. Essentially the Google Authenticator app is no longer present on WearOS.

One morning I tried to use the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch but all the app would do was load. A white background with a blue spinning circle would appear. I would close the app and re-open it but nothing changed. I went into the settings and force stopped the app, re-opened it but the results stayed the same. Stupidly I uninstalled the app from my smartwatch thinking I’d just redownload the app from the WearOS app store. That was a big mistake.

If you use the Google Authenticator app on your WearOS smartwatch then do not uninstall the app. You cannot redownload it. It is not listed in the WearOS app store.

It would appear that Google has (for the time being I hope) removed the Google Authenticator app from the WearOS app store. If you search for it, it does not appear. If you go to the Google Play store through a web browser and search for the app and try to install it on your devices you may notice that your WearOS smartwatch is not a compatible device. I can see my Android devices where I am logged in but I can’t install it via the browser for my smartwatch.

Going over to the support forums to see if there is some way to fix this or what is going on shows others have and are experiencing the same problem with most accepted answers being to file a bug report in the app. Now if someone has uninstalled the app then this can’t be done. Fingers crossed the engineers at Google see the forum posts and are aware of the issue (most likely they are). Hopefully the issue is resolved soon as now if I want to use my laptop in the living room and leave my phone in my bedroom I can, but I can’t log in to most of the sites and services I use because I have 2FA enabled where available. I am back to moving my phone room to room again 😦

Microsoft Edge Chromium Browser Release Version Impressions

On January 15th Microsoft released a stable version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser, you can read more about that announcement here.

Before I go into my impressions on the Microsoft Edge Chromium stable release version I just want to state that I used (not as my daily browser) the beta and dev channel versions of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser and even the legacy version of Microsoft Edge. To check out those impressions then you can go here and here, enjoy. If you are interested in trying out the beta, dev or even canary channels of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser then head on over using this link.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s go into my impressions on the released version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser. I tested this on both my Surface Book 2 (my main personal laptop) and my Surface Pro 3 (primarily used to watch videos online). I’m not going to break down this impressions into each device but sort of summarize what I experienced.

Nothing is breaking

As with my original two posts about using Microsoft Edge Chromium and Microsoft Edge Legacy respectively, the Chromium version (in beta and dev) had absolutely no issue in loading up web pages whereas the same pages would take longer to load, not render content correctly or not render at all. I can say that nothing has broken after leaving beta and being released as a stable version. This I believe comes down to using Chromium under the hood. Generally any site that Google Chrome can load, Microsoft Edge Chromium can load too. So off to a good start.

That seemed fast

Microsoft Edge Legacy I found generally (but not always or consistently) tended to load web pages quicker (if it could load the page). Is the page loading noticeably faster than Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge Chromium? Not really, but if you launched both browsers and navigated to a web page for the first time Microsoft Edge Legacy would load ever so slightly faster. Microsoft Edge Chromium loads web pages about as fast as Google Chrome. So again, between beta and release nothing has broken or regressed there. Again, so far so good from the team from Redmond.

Slightly ore RAM available and more battery life

We all know how much of a RAM hog Google Chrome can be. We have all seen the memes and we have all experienced our RAM slowly be eaten away by Google Chrome.

So much like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge Chromium uses more RAM than Microsoft Edge Legacy. However what I did find on both my Surface Book 2 and my Surface Pro 3 it used about 10%-15% less RAM than Google Chrome consistently. So I guess that is a good thing 😀

Now to battery life. Much like my beta impressions post, the battery life is about what I was expecting with something running the Chromium engine under the hood. It is slightly better than Google Chrome (I was seeing about 1 hour more battery life on my Surface Book 2), but Microsoft Edge Chromium is nowhere near as battery efficient as Microsoft Edge Legacy. This is especially noticeable on my Surface Pro 3 and less so on my Surface Book 2. You will not get the same level of battery performance on the Surface Pro 3 when running Microsoft Edge Chromium compared to Microsoft Edge Legacy. It mirrors Google Chrome nearly identically in regards to battery performance on my Surface Pro 3.

One point to note is that on my Surface Book 2 is there are no fans, so I do not hear anything when my CPU starts to pick up speed and my machine starts to get a little warm. This is in extreme contrast to my Surface Pro 3 where when I use Microsoft Edge Chromium and watch YouTube videos in anything greater than 720p the fans kick in and it starts to get hot. The Microsoft Edge Legacy browser did not have this issue at all even at higher resolutions as I noted in my original post, so this is something to consider.

Everything else

Much like the beta and dev channel, the appearance of Microsoft Edge Chromium is nearly identical. It looks much like Google Chrome, so if you like how that looks and are comfortable with that, then you will feel right at home.

One area where Microsoft has done a fantastic job is in regard to your privacy settings. You get a very solid choice of options and I feel it gives the user more control of what you share and with whom. Google really needs to update their browser to be a little more restrictive and enforce some stronger privacy policies. But then again it is not in their best interest as they make most of their money from advertising. So I am giving Microsoft a big kudos here in ensuring the right things can be blocked and letting the user decide who has access to what information while they browse the net.

Feature parity with the Microsoft Edge Legacy browser is coming and new and exciting features are also coming down the road; currently you are missing some sync functionality for example. Google Chrome extensions now work on Microsoft Edge Chromium which is fantastic because the Microsoft Store is lacking some extensions that you may use daily.

Overall I feel that Microsoft has made a very good browser that can keep up with the best of them (thanks to running Chromium). And by contributing to the Chromium community not only will the browser get better but so will other browser that run on Chromium like Google Chrome. If you are “trapped” in the Google ecosystem, then it may not be enough to change browsers, but if you use a Microsoft account instead and the current legacy version of Microsoft Edge then this browser can easily replace Google Chrome. Now it is really up to the web developers and Microsoft to ensure that this browser is made compatible with what is out there and ensure that it does not break over time. Would I recommend this browser to someone who does not want to use Google Chrome? Yes, yes I do with no hesitation.

Where to download

You can get the released version of Microsoft Edge Chromium using this link.