Here at The Plug, we aim to provide exciting and easy-to-digest tech news, tips and reviews. We also want to share the opinions of not only our writers, but others in the technology space as well. UnPlugged is a new interview series featuring the voices of thought leaders and influencers in the world of tech and consumer electronics.
This week we are featuring the managing editor of Android Police, David Ruddock. Android Police is the go-to site for Android news, apps, games, phones, tablets – basically, if it runs on Android, this blog covers it. David was nice enough to share his thoughts on why he prefers Android, his concerns for the future of technology, his favorite gadgets, and some of great tech advice!
Thanks again for joining us! Can we start off by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how tech became a full-time job for you?
Like a lot of people, I never saw myself doing what I do until I was actually doing it. I was just wrapping up my undergraduate degree (in archaeology and history, of all things) when I started at Android Police as a writer, on top of my other part time job in IT, in the summer of 2010. Soon, I would head to law school in Southern California, and figured that AP would be a good way to supplement my [lack of] income and have some fun playing with new technology.
Less than two years later, I realized the lawyering business was not for me. In the meantime, the site had exploded in popularity, and the founder, Artem Russakovskii, was running it as his full time job. Summer of 2012, I started full time at Android Police as a Senior Editor. I am thankful every day for Artem believing that I was worthy of that trust, responsibility, and personal investment. I’ve been there since, with a slight title upgrade to Managing Editor last year. I still can’t quite believe I get paid to do what I do, but I sure don’t question it.
What made you an Android person?
Believe it or not, my interest in mobile phones prior to picking up my Nexus One in May 2010 was essentially nonexistent. I had always been interested in technology more generally – for example, having built my own PCs by that point – but mobile technology held no special place in my heart. Until I heard that Google released a smartphone.
The Nexus One all but emptied my student checking account. I loved it. I’d never owned a smartphone, and my Nexus One replaced an unremarkable Sony Ericsson flip phone. I was soon looking into custom ROMs, kernels, backup solutions, and root apps to use my phone as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. It was around then I stumbled on Android Police.
I almost did buy an iPhone at some point prior, but for whatever reason (I honestly don’t recall) decided against it.
What is the one gadget you can’t live without, and what is something you can’t wait to replace? And why?
Is my car a gadget?
I mean, this is a really boring answer, because I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my phone. I’m typing my answer to this question on my phone. Isn’t that true for almost all of us, though? A lot of people believe the smartphone lies somewhere on the spectrum of technology that will eventually lead us to augmented reality implants and other sci-fi biotech. While I’m not sure I’m ready to consider that future yet, I can definitely see why people say it. It’s practically an appendage. Smartphones really are amazing by virtue of their indispensability alone. I could live without my car – something very dear to me. Without my smartphone? I almost can’t imagine (insert Paul Miller joke).
As to the thing I’m ready to give up the moment something better comes along? Cables. Cables are bad. Wires are a necessary evil for now, but the day we can transmit electricity in substantial quantities over the air? I have a feeling that is going to radically change the way products look and the considerations we make when designing them – everything from lamps to houses to airplanes. We’ve been stuck with copper wire since the telegraph. Imagine what the cellular phone did to communication, then imagine that but for electricity. It’s going to be huge… if and when it happens.
Technology is moving forward and upward – for some too quickly, for some not quickly enough. What advice would you give to folks who are uncertain about what and when to purchase new products – anything from mobile phones to smart home devices?
Be it a laptop, smartphone, or camera, every “high-tech” product you buy will eventually become obsolete. The best thing you can do is put your ear to the ground on rumors, learn when the product tends to be refreshed, and whether or not relevant connectivity standards or core components are about to change in an upcoming generation of similar products (a red flag to avoid a purchase for now).
That’s a tall order for your average consumer, I know, but there really is no substitute for just doing your research, and especially on timing. If you went out and bought a Galaxy S7 next week, only to see the Galaxy S8 announced two months from now (this is a guess, not a subtle rumor-drop), you’d probably regret your purchase.
More obviously, know what features and capabilities are important to you. Find sources with good comparative data and a reputable history. And, of course, be flexible – the search for a product that’s a “perfect fit” to your needs or wants can be never-ending if you’re not willing to compromise occasionally.
Oh, and purchase your stuff somewhere with a good return policy when you can. Amazon makes buyer’s remorse a lot easier to avoid.
On a broader scale, in your time as a tech blogger, what is one product that you would say failed to live up to its hype?
Considering I believe a lot of products fail to live up to the hype (I am an unashamed technological pessimist), I’ll opt for one I found personally disappointing: Android Wear.
I wanted to believe that a smartwatch would be a meaningful convenience. I thought Android Wear would reduce the number times I’d feel compelled to use my phone, and instead handle a lot of simpler stuff directly from my wrist. In reality, the opposite ended up being true: Wear made basic tasks like managing email or messages less convenient by often taking longer to use, and regularly drove me to pull out my phone when it couldn’t do what I wanted.
I just never found that one thing that made Android Wear something I couldn’t give up. I felt obligated to wear my smartwatch, never compelled to. I forgot to charge it, and often forgot the watch itself, constantly. I haven’t worn a smartwatch regularly in well over six months now. I don’t miss it.
Tech companies are tapping into to every inch of consumers’ lives – where do you see this trend causing more problems than intended?
We’re already seeing it: We store sensitive information about ourselves in a lot more places than we used to. Data breaches are real, and there are very real bad actors who are seeking to use stolen data to exploit you financially in one way or another. I find passive digital privacy issues – government surveillance, ad tracking, data mining – far less concerning to me personally than the susceptibility of services I use to targeted cyberattacks.
The NSA can nose in on my conversations if they really want to, they’re not very interesting, and I don’t have any cause to go out of my way to hide them. That’s not to say I agree with such surveillance – I absolutely don’t. But I’m a lot more worried about someone hacking my Gmail, PayPal, or Dropbox than I am my government seeing my Google Hangouts history. I think we should all demand services where we share files, financial information, private communications, and our location be strictly secure.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work? Anything else you’d like to plug?