Happy 2014, everyone! As we gear up for another year and wait to see what surprises await us in the Android world, I thought it'd be a prime time to step back and think about what we can do to improve our own Android experiences -- and the experiences of those around us.
So as we kick off the new year, I present to you six New Year's resolutions to consider as an Android fan in 2014. Make your list, check it twice -- and for Goog's sake, don't let it become a forgotten memory by January 15th.
(Yeah, yeah, I know: This is the year you're really gonna get to the gym six times a week. Riiiight.)
Resolution #1: Buy some apps
Android developers are the life of the Android ecosystem -- the blood, sweat, and tears that make our devices do all the cool stuff we love. Without them, our phones and tablets would be mere skeletons with a small handful of preinstalled system programs.
Yet so many of us are hesitant to drop a couple bucks here and there to support the devs who devote their days to creating cool stuff for our phones and tablets. Let's be honest: We're typically talking a dollar or two, maybe three or four tops, for a "pro" version of a quality Android app. That's less than you spend on your Venti Soy MochaSpressoNutmeg Fizzler every morning. And a few bucks for a lifetime software license -- including ongoing upgrades and support -- is a damn good deal.
Equally important, all that pocket change adds up to make a living for the men and women who bust their humps building apps for us to use. If they don't earn a living, they can't keep devoting their days to development. See how it all comes full circle?
So the next time you're on the fence about snagging that $1.99 "pro" upgrade for an app you use and love, go ahead and tap the button. You'll get expanded functionality, the developer will get paid, and we'll all feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Resolution #2: Try something new
This ain't iOS, folks: Android is full of cool tricks, tweaks, and customizations that can make your device do more. For the new year, dedicate yourself to trying something new with your phone or tablet.
Maybe it's experimenting with a new Android launcher (there are tons of great options out there) or setting up a sleek new home screen configuration. Maybe it's diving into Tasker and creating a cool new form of context-aware automation. Maybe it's rooting your phone and playing around with a different ROM. Or maybe it's something as simple as learning to take full advantage of Android's ever-expanding Voice Search capability.
Whatever it is, step out of your comfort zone in 2014 and try something that's new to you. Trust me: You'll be glad you did.
Resolution #3: Share your knowledge
One of the best parts of Android is the community that forms around it. When you discover something new and interesting with your device -- an app, a Tasker recipe, an advanced configuration -- share the love. Whether you're posting to a community like xda-developers or sharing with friends on social media, giving back and passing along knowledge goes a long way.
We've all benefited from someone else doing it at some point, so make 2014 the year you step in and keep the act alive.
Resolution #4: Re-evaluate your mobile plan
We've got loads of options when it comes to mobile plans these days -- and if you haven't taken a close look at your own setup in a while, there's a decent chance you're paying far more than you need to for your smartphone service.
Don't let yourself fall into the trap of complacency: Set aside an hour this month and research your options. From contract-free postpaid plans to the variety of contract-free prepaid configurations, there are plenty of choices that can give you what you need for less money and without all the annoying asterisks that have long accompanied mobile service.
Maybe a traditional contract-based plan still makes the most sense for you. That's certainly A-OK. But you owe it to yourself -- and your wallet -- to do your homework and make sure that's actually the case.
Resolution #5: Quit the petty "mine is better than yours" bickering
You know what I'm talking about, right? Blog comments and social media have become cesspools for emotional battles over whose smartphone is the best and why Person A is totally dumb for buying Phone X instead of Phone Z.
Let me settle the debate for you: There is no universal "best" Android phone for everyone. Rather, what we have now is an elite group of excellent devices -- devices that excel in different ways and offer different benefits for different needs. Smartphone selection isn't a zero-sum game, folks. What's best for you isn't necessarily best for the next guy -- and the fact that we have the level of choice to support all sorts of desires is a very good thing.
I think we can all agree that the childlike putdowns over people's device preferences have gotten to be both silly and boring. This is technology, not religion, and what's important to you in a mobile device doesn't have to be the same thing that's important to everyone else. So relax, enjoy the phone you love, and stop feeling like you have to act like its full-time missionary and defender.
Resolution #6: Put your devices down and live in the moment once in a while
I'm as guilty of this as anyone else -- hey, mobile devices can be pretty darn compelling. But whether you're sitting at home with family or hanging out in the world, you'd be amazed at how much actual experience passes you by when you spend every second either attempting to document it or simply staring at your screen.
Embrace your phone. Enjoy it. Learn to take full advantage of everything it has to offer. But put it down every once in a while and take in the world with all of your focus.
It's easy to forget sometimes, but the physical people and environments around us have pretty awesome functionality, too.