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Big Android BBQ – Day 1 recap and interview with Russell Holly of Android Central!

As I sit here at the Hurst Convention Center writing this, the skies are darkening and the cement outside is wet with rain. It’s been a gloomy day in Texas, but inside, the energy is abound. Everyone here at Android BBQ 2015 is ecstatic! People are riding on big wheels, startups are showing off their latest idea, and I’m taking it all in.

This is my first Android BBQ – hopefully not my last – and I have never felt so comfortable in a crowd of strangers. It’s amazing the amount of love that I’ve received from attendees here. Everyone’s like “ASUS! It’s awesome that you’re here! FINALLY!” It’s safe to say that I’ve made some new friends here at the biggest Android enthusiast and developer event of the year.

This morning at 7:30, the anticipation was already building as vendors, and attendees began to gather around for the keynote speech by IDEAA. Hundreds of people piled into the main ballroom where we heard a few talks from Google and General Assembly, and listened to topics regarding application performance, and healthcare. Needless to say, we were given a foreshadowing of the variety of topics featured in the breakout sessions to come.

As we all left the keynote, I was surprised how humble in size the venue actually was, though admittedly, I had no idea what to expect. People flooded the area, checking out all the different booths, but the main vendor area was maybe a 1 minute walk end-to-end. Not that it mattered, but just an observation.

The session with the guys from Android Central drew a lot of attention and discussion

I attended a couple of sessions; one which was about the Cyanogen Theme Engine, and the other was a great “campfire” discussion with Russell Holly, and Jerry Hildenbrand from Android Central about what makes up a good smartphone review. About 100 people filled the tiny side room and there were some heated discussions about what the priorities should be in a review: Size, battery, and even the topic of good spelling and grammar came up.

Android BBQ Russell Holly
Russell Holly thinks the future of Android should revolve around the family unit

After the session, I spoke with Russell and asked him some questions. Here’s what he had to say:

Can you tell me why the Big Android BBQ is so important to developers, enthusiasts, and OEMs like ASUS?

RH: Well, so I think it’s the cross section that is the important part, because it’s the only event that joins those three groups together, and it creates a fascinating avenue for enthusiasts who touch phones every day to interact with manufacturers directly, and it’s a really great place for people who aren’t necessarily developers yet to see that the tools are right in front of them to get up and do stuff, and also is an interesting way for existing developers to kinda go to an event that is more relaxed and less structured.

What role should OEMs play in an event like this?

RH: It’s a fascinating opportunity for a community forum. You have here a really diverse group of people who use their phone in a way that the average consumer really doesn’t. So, if this is a group of people that you’re interested in catering to, it’s really important to put a phone in front of them and say, “What parts about this do you like, or what parts about this don’t you like?” It gives you the opportunity to weigh that in the decision for the next thing that you do with your phone as a manufacturer. It’s a pretty powerful tool!

The landscape is changing and new competitors are popping up all the time. With a movement toward unlocked SIMs, unlocked bootloaders, lower prices for premium features, what do you think is going to separate the winners from the losers?

RH: I think a lot of it is going to have to do with general availability. Making the hardware available to purchase at a reasonable price, making the software available for people of every skill level to poke around in, and making people from those companies available to communicate with the audience that they are trying to reach. This is a very vocal group of people and so being able to talk to them, not as a customer service person, but as someone who can provide intelligent answers to their questions will be very powerful.

Can you tell me how you think Android will evolve, or maybe tell me something you think Android is missing?

RH: I think a big thing that Android is missing right now is appropriate support for the family unit. I am in a unique situation where I have three kids and two other adults in the house with me, so using these services back to back, I usually end up being the dominant account holder for music, and movies I’ve purchased, and having other people able to access that isn’t easy right now. For such a cloud-focused operating system, I find it fascinating that we haven’t figured that out yet.

What would be your perfect ASUS Android device?

RH: ASUS has done a really remarkable job making their phones stand out visually. I think the best thing ASUS can do to move forward is taking those things and just work on the basics like battery life and camera and make them the best that they can be. We’re in an interesting position right now, where if the phone is reasonably-priced, looks nice, and has some of these premium features like camera and battery life, it’s something that a lot of people could get behind.

Overall, I had a fantastic day meeting hundreds of fellow Android enthusiasts and learning more about what makes this OS so special. My discussion with Russell was great too, and I agree with a lot of his comments. As we move toward an even more connected world, it makes sense to have that kind of functionality across devices and across profiles. Could you imagine being able to tap into a device with your fingerprint and be able to access your apps and data, then when someone else logs in that way, their separate apps and data is synced? That seamless experience would be amazing. Well, that’s pretty much it for today. I’d like to thank Russell for his time! We’ve got more interviews from enthusiasts and from XDA members coming up so check out our article tomorrow!


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