Monthly Archives: July 2011

The best case I never expected to like: Rearth Ringke case for SGS2

Ringke sgs2 case

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Rearth and asked if I’d like to review their Ringke Case for Samsung Galaxy S II. I was hesitant at first, then thought…. why not? Despite receiving this case for free, what you’ll read below is my candid, unvarnished view. Read on…

Thin and light, but any downside?
I love the idea of skin cases but in practice find them hideous… they are usually lint magnets and with a long-haired cat at my house, well, you get the picture. So, when the Rearth rep asked me if I’d like to review a case I thought would share this issue, what did I think? Well, my very first thought was, “Ugh!” Then, I realized I had nothing to lose, so why not?

Thankfully, I was very wrong about this case. When I received it, I first noticed its unique feel. Thin, close-fitting with a slightly grippy feel. And I was delighted to find the surface didn’t have that lint-magnet “feature” of so many other thin, light cases! Despite leaving the case on surfaces my cat likes to walk across, the case consistently looked brand new and lint-free. Another bonus: The surface never showed fingerprints. Nice!

I even asked a friend what she thought. Her reaction? “I like the texture.”

Which brings me to… fit
I was delighted to find that the case fit the SGS2 like a glove and the cut-outs are properly sized. Volume up/down buttons are covered but still easy to find and manipulate.

Another interesting find: Despite being a tight fit within my HTC EVO 4G messenger side case, the case didn’t stretch out.

Cosmetics
The case is available in several colors, some quite bright and other more subtle tones. I received a black case and it’s very professional looking — it’s suitable for a conservative office environment.

Bottom line?
I like this case alot. I expected to use it for a few days and then take it off, but found that I didn’t want to remove it! It retains the thin form factor of the SGS2 and provides a slightly grippy texture to make dropping the phone less likely. It looks good, feels good, and I couldn’t find any downside. Highly recommended. (More photos, below)

Case and box

 

Inside

 

Back

 

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Google+: New & Improved

plus
Participating in the Google+ field trial reminds me a lot of my recent CR-48 pilot experience: Googlers are listening closely to feedback and quickly making adjustments to improve user experience.

I published some initial thoughts about Google+ yesterday. Since then, Google’s already enabled some feature enhancements, so a follow-up post is in order. For more about Google+ feature set, see this Google+ Project article.

Late yesterday, Google+ rolled out two very welcome enhancements based on user feedback:

  • Revising how limited distribution posts can be shared.
  • Revising post stream algorithm to ensure that highly-commented posts don’t crowd out other posts at the top of user streams.

I’m delighted by what Google is offering in Google+ thus far, and excited to see how it evolves. I love that Google is listening to users and demonstrating sensitivity to privacy concerns and data portability… Google+ feels like the anti-Facebook!

Other things I love about Google+ so far:

  • Open internationally from the outset: Some of my favorite people live outside the U.S. and my Google+ experience wouldn’t be as fun without them!
  • Not just rank and file Googlers are interacting with G+ users, but executive level folks are also accessible, as this Bits column notes. Sure, it’s PR, but it’s still cool.
  • That my posts can be as public or as private as I wish.

Some enhancement requests I’ve submitted since my last post:

  • As my follower list grows, it’s becoming more time-intensive to identify users not already added to circles. Would love to have a 4th link on the Circles page, something like “Followers not in your circles”, to help me identify them more quickly.
  • I love the Android app!! As an SGS2 user, I’d love for the app to offer the option of a black background (theme), to minimize battery drain due to the super amoled screen.

Will continue to post my thoughts about Google+. So far, I’m impressed!

Initial thoughts on Google+

googleplus

A few days ago, I started hearing buzz about a new social networking service called Google+. I was able to join via a Twitter friend’s invite, and have been using Google+ for about two days.

My initial impression after logging in was…. um, okay. But then I realized that social networks aren’t any fun without one’s friends, so I got busy inviting friends and adding those already on Google+ to my “circles.” A few days in, I have to say I really like Google+ a lot. Cool features, granular privacy controls, interesting ways to interact with friends, family and acquaintances.

Rather than reiterate Google+ features (which you can read about here), I’d like to note what I like about Google+:

  • User Profile: Easy to set up user profile and user can share only as much (or as little) as you’d like. I can share details with my circles, with extended circles (my friends’ circles), or broadly with any web user. Google has left that decision up to me, and I appreciate that!
  • Stream: The post stream is reminiscent of FriendFeed in that you see posts from folks you’re following. If you follow a wide variety of people, your stream will be more diverse and interesting than following just a few users. You can choose to see a Stream from everyone you follow, or select a specific Circle to only view posts by those users.
  • Post settings: I can decide on a post-by-post basis who can view the post. It can be public (viewable by anyone on the web), limited to those following my friends, as well as limited to my circles, or even individual users. Nice granularity!
  • Circles: Easy to determine what level of access other users have to my posts by using the Circle feature. I can set up private circles for close friends and families. I also have a circle set up including folks I interact with on Twitter, as well as another circle that includes folks I don’t know well but find interesting.
  • Android App: App is available via Android Market as well as online via forum.xda-developers.com (handy for folks outside the U.S.). For an initial release, the Google+ android app is surprisingly full-featured and fun to use. I’ve set most notifications to be pushed to my phone rather than my inbox filling with various types of Google+ notifications. I’ve seen a few comments about high battery use with the app, but I haven’t experienced any unusual battery drainage with Google+ android app running on my unlocked SGS2. (Also see my SGS2 review here.)
  • Interaction with Google employees: Google+ is a lot of fun and an interesting social product. I love how Google employees are accessible and interacting freely with G+ users.  Makes Google+ even more fun!

Some ideas for feature enhancements (I’ve submitted all of these to Google via their “Send Feedback” feature):

  • Stream (post) order: Let users determine which posts they want to have “bubble” to the top of their streams. Right now, posts that receive a lot comments, shares or +1s automatically move to top – this approach “crowds out” other equally interesting posts by less popular users (similar to the Scoble effect on FriendFeed). While I can “mute” any post to stop seeing it again, I’d prefer posts appear chronologically in my stream (newest at top). Note: Googler Kelly Ellis posted a video today mentioning a new algorithm will be implemented this weekend, to instead give higher ranking to posts from friends. Sounds like a good improvement, although I’d still love a setting to enable me to always see newest posts displayed at top.)
  • More granular ways to monitor posts: A noted above, I can mute a post so that it no longer appears in my stream. However, there are some posts that I want to go back to later, to read new comments. I’d love to see a new option added under the “Stream” listing, called “Monitored Posts” or something similar, to see new activity on posts I’ve commented on, shared, or +1ed.
  • Make Google nav bar at top persistent: Google+ provides a Google navigation bar that offers easy access to other Google products like Gmail, Calendar, etc., as well as a Notification Alert (that turns red when user has notifications). Currently, if I scroll down, the Google nav bar disappears. Instead, I’d love to see it persistent, so that it remains viewable at top of screen even if I’ve scrolled to bottom of a Google+ page.

I’m delighted with what Google is offering with its new Google+ product and enjoy using it. Kudos to Google for hitting it out of the park on this effort and to all the Googlers involved!