How’s that for a click-bait title? As many of you know, I farm during the summer and fall and work in the auction industry during the balance of the year. As I was doing the math this summer for seeding rates and fertilizer application rates, I noticed some parallels between converting gallons per minute to gallons per acre and deciding what changes to make when going from an in-person auction firm to one that implements Internet bidding.
We learn in algebra that we can convert one value to another by using a unit multiplier. If I want to convert 5 miles per hour to feet per second, I have to multiply 5 miles/hour by 1hour/60min by 1min/60sec by 5280ft/mile.
We can cancel one unit in the numerator with the matching unit in the denominator, leaving us with (5 x 5280) / (60 x 60) = 7.33 ft / second. We use minutes in our math, but we don’t have minutes in the original problem or the solution because they cancel out.
When auctioneers begin to consider implementing Internet bidding in their auctions, many wonder about changes they’ll have to make in their business model, advertising methods and data management processes. Changing a variable as important as the way bids are collected in an auction must mean fundamental shifts to many other parts of the business.
In fact, nothing should change as a result of taking Internet bids. Advertising should always be based on the asset type and the appropriate demographic, not the way in which bidders are expected to participate. Data management processes for a good in-person auction marketer should already be based on taking pictures of individual items and listing them separately. The business model of a professional auction firm is no more tied to bid calling than my farm is tied to which crops I produce or which equipment I use to do it. If changes must be made to advertising, data management or a business model due to changing the way bids are accepted at an event, something more fundamental is wrong in the operation that won’t be fixed by flipping the Internet bidding switch.
I’ve found that bidding type doesn’t actually matter much to the rest of the operation. If the auction business were a long equation, bidding method would cancel out. Internet bidding is like the minutes used in our algebra example. We need it to get the desired result, but it’s not something that we use when identifying the problem nor do we expect it to be present in the solution of a successful event.
Update 2019: I’m currently loving the Amazfit Bip which has killer features and battery life for an amazing price. However, it doesn’t run Wear OS, which is disappointing. Hopefully new Wear watches come soon with better battery and lower prices. If you’d like to learn more about modern Wear offerings, check out the Android Smart Watch: The Ultimate Guide from Joy of Android.
I’ve been an Android Wear enthusiast for over a year now. I ordered the Samsung Gear Live when it was announced and shortly thereafter upgraded to the ASUS ZenWatch. Both of those watches are rectangular, and I never had the opportunity to use a round Wear device – until now. My friends at Verizon let me spend the last several weeks with the LG Watch Urbane. While the specs are very similar to my ZenWatch, it’s clear that the Urbane is designed with an emphasis on style.
Android Wear works better on rectangular devices; there’s no way around that. While a round watch is best for displaying an analog watch face, every other use I can imagine involves interacting with text or images. These interactions are inherently less efficient if the image or text is reduced in size or cropped to fit a round display.
Unlike rectangular Wear watches, however, the Urbane doesn’t make me feel like I’m that guy wearing a calculator watch. It gets noticed as a watch first and a computer accessory second. It also has a completely round display, unlike LG’s competition in the round Android Wear arena, the Motorola 360, which has a notch out of the bottom of the screen that’s commonly referred to as a flat tire.
Android Wear performs great on the Urbane. Interactions are snappy and it’s great to be able to delete emails and dismiss other messages without having to take out my phone. The button on the side brings up the launcher, allowing a quick way to launch common or recently used Wear apps.
The stitched leather strap that came with my silver Urbane demo watch looked nice but seemed somewhat difficult to latch and unlatch. Perhaps that’s something that would break in over time, but the Urbane supports standard 22mm straps for easy and inexpensive customization.
The charger on the Urbane is much better designed than the Wear watches I’ve owned in the past. Other watches utilize a clip-on charging cradle that can break or be arduous to attach every night. The Urbane has a dock that weighs enough to sit on a table and stay put when you lay the watch on top of it at night and remove it in the morning.
The Urbane is a little thicker than I like, and I’m not sold on the round shape as the most efficient display for day-to-day functionality. However, if I wanted a fashion accessory that was also a smartwatch, it’d be difficult to imagine a more stylish way to carry Android Wear. The LG Watch Urbane is a really good looking round watch that runs Android Wear very well.
It’s been a fun year for phones. I wrote about my Nexus 6 in March. My friends at Verizon let me spend some time with the Samsung Galaxy S6 in April and the HTC One M9 in May. Each phone had strengths and weaknesses, but when I needed to select a phone to use this year on the farm, I bought another LG G3. When Verizon offered in June to let me try out the new LG G4, I was excited to see how it would perform against the Nexus 6, the S6, One M9 and, most importantly, the G3.
The LG G4
The G4 is the perfect size. The gorgeous 5.5″ screen is significantly bigger than the S6 and M9, but pleasantly smaller than the Nexus 6. The G4 is slightly larger than the G3, and features a slight curvature that’s stylish enough to be neat but no so pronounced that it’s annoying. The plastic back doesn’t feel quite as good as the aluminum of the One M9, but it’s much better than the glass back on the Galaxy S6. The power and volume buttons are located on the back of the phone just below the camera, like the G3, which makes them easy to access regardless of which hand is used or how it’s held.
The 16 MP camera on the G4 is the best camera on a phone I’ve seen so far. I don’t have a lot of requirements in a camera nor do I use many of the advanced features, but I do want a camera that’s fast and produces great pictures. I love the laser autofocus and optical image stabilization on the G4, two features that allow the 16 MP camera to outperform the 20 MP camera on the M9. The pictures from the G4 seem as good if not better than the pictures I took with the S6. The G4 also has a huge 8 MP front camera. I’m not big on selfies, but it also takes great pictures.
Power and volume buttons are located on the back below the camera
The G4 is fast and cool. I notice no appreciable difference in performance among the flagship phones. While the One M9 had a tendency to get hot when charging and while under heavy use, the G4 doesn’t seem to get nearly as warm. I did, however, have the G4 turn off on me once. I was working outside when the temperature was around 100° and had the phone in a holster on my belt. It’s unfortunate that the thermal protection kicked in due to the outside temperature, but it’s not an environment that the average user will likely encounter on a regular basis.
I selected the Customerfirst LG G4 case as an inexpensive belt holster case and it worked very well. I received my G4 just as I started drilling milo and I immediately transferred my Google Voice number and podcasts to it in an attempt to use it as my primary phone. Unfortunately, I found the battery life to be only slightly better than the S6 and One M9, lasting me only from about 6 a.m. to just after noon on the farm. I got a good 8 hours or more out of the battery using it around the house. I wish the G4 would have shipped with wireless charging, but the availability of aftermarket Qi charging stickers makes that oversight easy to fix. The expandable battery means that the G4 is the only one of the recent flagship phones that I’ll actually be able to use on the farm without worrying about finding a charger during the day. The expandable storage means I’ll be able to use an SD card to hold all the podcasts I want without having to worry about filling up phone.
The software on the G4 is definitely colored by a custom overlay on top of Android. It’s not as intrusive as Sense on the M9 or TouchWiz on the S6, but it’s definitely not as clean as the stock experience on the Nexus 6. As with any non-Nexus device, I recommend immediately installing the Google Now Launcher and SwiftKey to get a jump on creating a clean and productive Android experience.
I really like the G4. It’s the perfect size and has the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used. The expandable storage and upgradable battery make this phone far superior for my needs than the S6, M9 and Nexus 6. I’ll be upgrading as soon as a company releases an extended battery for the G4 so I can get through the whole day.
As always, here’s the gallery of unedited images taken with the G4. You can easily download the original from the attachment page by clicking on the dimensions link above the picture.
The M9 features perhaps the best build quality I’ve seen in a phone to date. It’s an aluminum unibody, with two color schemes – gold on silver or gunmetal grey. The aluminum back is much easier to hold than the glass backs found on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Sony Xperia Z3v. The edge around the screen seems sharper than the M8. This edge initially seemed awkward, but has grown on me as it seems to make the phone easier to hold. It actually feels really good in the hand. The power button was on the top on the M8, but it’s on the side of the M9. It’s now so close to the volume buttons that sometimes I get them confused. The M9 has the now-common double-tap to wake feature, so the power button position isn’t a problem.
Battery lasted from 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m. The only significant screen time was about 30 minutes, shortly after noon. The rest of the time I was listening to podcasts over Bluetooth with the screen off.
The 5″ screen on the M9 has the same 1920×1080 resolution as was on the M8. As much as I squint, I can’t tell a difference in clarity between the screen on the M9 and the higher resolution screens on the LG G3 or the Nexus 6. By bucking the trend of manufacturers racing to the highest pixel count for their latest flagships, HTC should garner significant improvements in battery life. However, they’ve packed the M9 with the latest 8-core processor and 3 GB of RAM. These specs make it amazingly fast but also fairly battery-hungry. The Galaxy S6 had pretty short battery life in my tests, and the HTC One M9 seems to actually fair worse. Unfortunately, the battery isn’t expandable. Luckily, HTC built in Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 so it recharges in a flash – so long as you can find a place to plug in during the day.
HTC One M9
Last year’s M8 tried a new approach to the rear camera, using two cameras instead of one. The primary Ultrapixel camera was only 4 megapixel, but its pixels were much larger than cameras in other phones. The secondary camera on the M8 sensed depth to create special effects. I found the Duo Camera to be quite good in the M8, but many found it inferior to other competing phones. HTC has ditched the larger pixels in the M9 and rejoined the spec race with a 20 megapixel camera that is a higher resolution than the Galaxy S6, but it lacks optical image stabilization. I found the M9 camera to be good, but not quite as good as the S6. Here are a couple of comparison shots showing the M9 against the Nexus 6 and the LG G3. No editing, other than cropping, has been performed on the images.
HTC One M9, on the right, does a better job with the colors of the sky
Nexus 6, left; HTC One M9, middle; LG G3, right
The back of the HTC One M9
The software on the M9 is the latest version of HTC’s Sense overlay, version 7. I remarked in my M8 review how Sense 6 was beautiful and stayed out of the way. While Samsung’s latest TouchWiz has reduced its footprint, the new Sense seems to have become more invasive. It’s mostly fixable with the installation of the Google Now Launcher and SwiftKey keyboard, but the larger footprint reduces the storage available for content. I’ve got about 15 GB of podcasts to catch up on, and after I installed all my apps and synced DoggCatcher, Evernote and gReader, the phone was complaining that it was running out of storage space. Indeed, PhoneArena notes that the user storage available on the 32 GB M8 was 24 GB and is down to 21 GB on the M9. Fortunately, the M9 features expandable storage, so the problem was easily fixed by throwing in an SD card.
The one aspect of the phone that I really appreciated was call quality. I don’t normally remark on call quality, since I don’t really take calls and those I do are on my LG Tone. However, there were a couple calls I took on the phone itself when my headset wasn’t connected. The calls were loud and crystal clear, thanks to Verizon’s new Advanced Calling feature.
The HTC One M9 is a solid phone. Having spent time recently with both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the M9, I’d definitely prefer the M9 to the S6 for the build quality and expandable storage ability. They’re both great phones. The camera on the M9 isn’t quite as good nor the software as clean as the S6, but the M9 just feels better in the hand and looks better to the eye.
As usual, here are some additional video and pictures taken with the HTC One M9.
I’ve been addicted to podcasts for the last eight years or so. Earlier this year, a couple of events made me really think about podcasts – partly about how create them but mostly about how I consume them. First, a question from a viewer of the Auction Video Podcast episode 15 asked about the hardware setup I have for recording commercials and podcasts, leading to the post describing it. Second, my appearance on the Fast Talking Podcast episode 49 led me to think about the more than 50 podcasts to which I subscribe, as well as how I consume them.
I remember hearing about podcasts for years before I actually began listening – for some reason, I perceived a barrier to entry that simply wasn’t there. For anyone unfamiliar with podcasts, the concept is dead simple. Episodic content is delivered to a mobile device that you can listen to on your own schedule. While you can listen to or watch them on your computer, it’s much more convenient to consume on the go.
A podcatcher is any app that will allow you to subscribe to podcast feeds and automatically download them so they’ll be ready to play at any time. While it’s possible to stream podcasts and play them on the fly, it’s much better to set your phone to download them ahead of time while it’s plugged in and on wifi so it doesn’t drain your battery or use up your data. It’s also quite frustrating to stream a podcast and have it quit when cellular data coverage fails.
As I was thinking of the way I consume podcasts, I realized there are several requirements I have in a podcatcher and that not all podcatching apps satisfy all requirements nor are the requirements satisfied in the same way.
Custom listening speed
Most podcast apps these days allow the listener to increase the speed of playback. When I used to listen on Apple products, the built-in podcast app would let me toggle 2x listening speed, but it was really 1.25x on iPods and 1.5x speed on iPads. Any good podcatcher should let the user enter a custom speed and actually playback at that speed without altering the pitch of the recordings. I listen at 1.75x to get through the large number of podcasts I consume regularly. I find that I pay more attention and retain more of what I’ve heard than listening at normal speed, which now seems way to slow.
Sync to multiple devices I have a lot of devices, and I frequently review devices for Verizon both here on AuctioneerTech and on my personal blog at aarontraffas.com. When I stop listening on one device, I want to be able to pick up another device and begin listening exactly where I left off. Many podcatchers advertise a way to sync between devices, but not all of them will actually do it right. Pocket Casts, for example, is a very popular podcatcher that doesn’t get it right. It will sync playback progress, subscriptions, filters and starred episodes, but it doesn’t actually sync the podcasts. When I asked the developer what good the metadata was without the data, I was told that if they synced the podcasts it would download each episode more than once. That’s the whole point! Sync is worthless otherwise. Each episode should sync to each device so it’s ready to play. After an episode is completed on one episode, it should be automatically deleted from the other synced devices.
Virtual feeds A virtual feed turns a directory on a phone into a podcast episode list. There are some podcasts to which I pay for a subscription that aren’t delivered by a standard podcast feed. In this case, I download the episodes to my phone manually. Some podcast apps don’t support playing manually from a folder on the phone, so they simply don’t work for these types of podcasts.
Episode pinning Some podcast feeds artificially limit the number of episodes they make available. There are some feeds that only make one episode available each day and remove all previous episodes from the feed. If you miss listening to an episode and try to get it later, it’s gone for good. Episode pinning is a setting, specific to each podcast, that keeps the episodes from these feeds saved on the device until they’re manually deleted. Sometimes I fall behind on podcasts, like the Mike O’Meara show, for more than the 20 episodes they make available in the feed. Episode pinning lets me make sure I don’t get so far behind that the old episodes disappear before I get the chance to listen.
DoggCatcher is the right answer The only podcatching app I’ve found that satisfies all my requirements in the correct way is DoggCatcher. It may not be the best looking podcatcher, but it is by far the most feature complete. It has a very large directory of podcasts and supports searching and browsing for new podcasts in several ways, making adding new subscriptions trivially easy. It also allows manual podcast feed additions for podcasts that aren’t yet listed in its directory as well as creating virtual feeds from folders on the phone itself. The Cloud Sync feature works just as it should, automatically downloading and deleting episode files on all devices.
Development is quite active, with updates to the app bringing new features very regularly. I recently had a question for DoggCatcher support regarding some user interface changes, and the response was back to me within minutes. The only feature I wish it supported was a web player or computer client of some kind so I could play my podcasts from my computer when I’m at my desk, but that’s a small feature request for what is truly a feature-complete Swiss army knife of podcatcher apps. DoggCatcher is available for less than the cost of a beer at an auctioneers’ conference, and you can pick it up in the Google Play Store.
Do you have other requirements for your podcast consumption or other features that you’ve found useful? Do you have a better app that you prefer to use? Let me know in the comments.