Who Would Have Thunk It? Great Customer Service From Google!

Google Nexus 6P and Pixel XL

One of the longest running jokes in the tech industry is that Google’s customer support system is nothing more than a python script (for those that aren’t techies, python is a programming language widely used by Google). Getting actual human help for problems with Google problems was long thought impossible. However, Google really came through for me recently.

Back in 2010, when Google launched it’s first smartphone, the Nexus One, it was seen as a commercial failure in part because Google had no real infrastructure for providing sales and technical support. While Google still has issues on the sales side with trying to purchase their most popular phones the tech side has dramatically improved.

In January 2016, I bought a Nexus 6P as a replacement for the last in a long series of Motorola phones going back to an original 2009 Droid. I’ve really liked the 6P in the time I’ve owned it, especially the camera. When we took a family vacation to Puerto Rico last year, for the first time, I didn’t take a big SLR with me, relying only on phones and while there are some shots I would have liked to get with a longer lens, I wasn’t disappointed with the image quality.

In recent months however, the battery life has severely degraded and running the AccuBattery app it estimated that the battery had less than half its original capacity. Since like most modern phones, the battery is sealed into the case, I decided to reach out to Google to see if they had a battery replacement program like the one offered by Apple.

If you happen to follow any Android news feeds, you may have seen a bunch of stories in recent days about Google replacing defective Nexus 6P smartphones with newer Pixel XLs. I actually contacted Google before these stories started appearing and was fully prepared to pay for a battery replacement.

Google store support actually offers several ways to contact them, email, live chat or by phone (you enter your number and they will call back in a few minutes). I opted for the chat and after explaining the diagnostics I had gone through including a factory reset, I was informed that they would replace my phone, free of charge. Since the Nexus 6P has been out of production for some time, they didn’t have any stock left for replacements.

Instead Google offered to send me a new Pixel XL. The 6P was offered in 32, 64 and 128 GB sizes but the Pixel is only available in 32 and 128 GBs so Google is actually giving the larger 128 GB for customers that have 64 GB 6Ps. I received an email with a link to order my replacement and two days later I had a brand new phone! I didn’t even have to sit around an Apple store for a couple of hours for a genius bar appointment.

Do You Want a Self-Driving Car That Can’t Deal With Weather?

Mockup of Google's prototype low-speed autonomous car

Mockup of Google’s prototype low-speed autonomous car

Over the last several years, Google has made a lot of noise about its progress in developing self-driving cars. However, throughout that time one thing has remained absolutely consistent in all of their progress reports – the sun is always shining and the roads are clear and dry. Unlike the automakers based here in Michigan, Google exists in a seemingly magical environment that is rarely subject to the vagaries of weather. As I pumped some gas and cleaned the salt crust off my headlights the other day, I began to think about the autonomous vehicle prototypes I’ve seen recently.

Tech companies like Google are often accused of living in a bubble where they aren’t subject to the issues that we mere humans have to deal with on a daily basis. Rarely has this been more true than with autonomous vehicles, which Google thinks will be on the road in the next few years. I say fat chance.


“… the same old lies: it doesn’t happen…

Dan Gillmor originally shared this post:

"… the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend."

Newtown and the Madness of Guns

The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassur…

From Stewart Racing to Jaguar to Red Bull…

From Stewart Racing to Jaguar to Red Bull and 3 straight world championships

In 1996, 3-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart launched his eponymous Formula 1 team in partnership with Ford. Four years later after some limited success Ford took over the team and rebranded it Jaguar. From there it was all downhill until 2004 when the automaker finally had enough and essentially gave it away to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz. 

From that point on, the team was re-built from the ground up by team boss Christian Horner and technical chief Adrian Newey. The result is 3 straight championships for Sebastian Vettel in 2010-12.  The video restrospective tells how they got there. 

It seemed like a great idea at the time

It seemed like a great idea at the time

Over the years, there has been no shortage of cars announced and cancelled before ever getting to a dealership. Recent additions to the list include the Jaguar CX-75 and the Saab Phenix and it seems probable that the Fisker Atlantic will end up on this vaporware list as well.

Among the vehicles highlighted by Jalopnik, the V10 Acura NSX is probably my personal favorite. Throughout the 1990s, Chrysler built a string of stunning concepts that never went anywhere and probably wouldn't have been commercial successes anyway. That list included the 1991 Chrysler 300 which was basically a 4-door hard-top Viper with absolutely stunning bodywork and the later Atlantic coupe. While there is no evidence that Chrysler ever seriously considered building the Atlantic, the 300 was indeed very close to an approval. 

Two concepts that I would loved to see built were the Plymouth Pronto and Dodge Copperhead. In retrospect though, it's probably better that they weren't built rather than suffering the fate of the later Pontiac Solstice. 

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Hearing that an exciting new car has been canceled kind of feels like someone just broke up with you. Are you still crying into your beers over the cancelation of the insane Jaguar C-X75 Hybrid super…