Noted Interviews: Bryan Collom

The tech space is full of creative people, exciting projects and interesting products. With Noted Interviews, we tap into the brilliant minds of the individuals behind such works, letting you know why and how they do what they do as well as giving you a better insight into who they are as people.

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Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Bryan Collom. I am a tech writer, photographer, coffee lover, and runner.

I review any device I could really see myself using as well as writing about anything that interests me in tech culture.

What first inspired you to put your thoughts on tech down on virtual paper? 

Well, that’s a funny story. My first college laptop came down with a virus, totally my fault. From then on out I vowed to learn more about the technology I use. Fast forward a few years, the Nexus 5 came out and I was so excited for it. I had so many thoughts about the phone but none of my friends were as enthusiastic about tech as me. So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Ever since that day I just kept at it.

Why did you choose Medium as the platform for your work and not establish your own site?

I stumbled upon Medium through Twitter about a year after it launched. I had just published the entirety of the Nexus 5 review on Google+ as a blog post. I then discovered Medium, and decided to give it a go. The ease of use is incredible. I have been working on a site for a little while but I keep getting caught up doing other things. It will launch eventually, and I’m really excited about it.

Tell me a bit about your current setup. What tools do you use to get the job done?

Most of my writing is done on my laptop, the Asus UX301LA. Confusing name aside, this Asus Ultrabook is phenomenal. Great battery, a fantastic IPS panel, and a great keyboard. My model has an i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, I future-proofed it. The photography workhorse is the Sony A7R. The A7R is a phenomenal camera in an impossibly small package. If I write, I am normally in my living room watching TV or a movie. But occasionally I will move into my office where I have my custom built PC and a butcher block desk. 

The tools I use to get the job done are actually pretty simple. I use Google Drive to write all of the drafts of my work before moving it to Medium. I edit all of my photos in Adobe Lightroom. I also use Google Keep to take notes about a device while I’m out and about.

You are most known for your writing on Android devices and software. What is it about Android that attracts you? Why Android over other platforms?

When I went to purchase my first smartphone, my parents wouldn’t let me get an iPhone for some reason. So I chose a Samsung Captivate. Ever since, I have been using Android. I’ve grown up with Android, in a sense. I love the ability to customize my device to be as simple and clean as possible. Android allows me to do this. That’s really why Android has remained constant for me for so long. It’s familiar and it does exactly what I want. 

Your deep dives and extended reviews provide a sense of what it is like to actually live with a device for a prolonged period of time. What prompted you to begin producing such comprehensive, thorough content?

I really aimed to do this from the beginning. Though I write about technology, I consider myself a consumer first. I knew that when I started writing I had to view every device that way. The formula is straightforward enough. The first week is all about initial impressions. Then, in the second week, I begin a three-part review by covering the hardware because at that point I am used to the feel and design of the device. Week three covers software, so I can be sure bugs that are present will show up. The fourth week and the finale to the review trilogy is focused on the camera. Cameras have always been the most disappointing area of smartphones to me. So I like to take the whole month to take photos and really see where the device excels. 

"Though I write about technology, I consider myself a consumer first."

I really want to make sure no stone is unturned with a device I use. That’s why there are so many different articles constantly being pumped out. With the Review Trilogy, Top Five Features, Three Months In, Compared, Six Months In, and One Year In I’d say I turn over a ton of stones.

What has been your favorite Android device to date? Which manufacturer in your opinion is pushing the future of Android in the right direction or being most innovative with the platform?

My favorite Android device to date, oh boy, that’s a tough one. I’ve used so many great devices over the years. I would honestly have to say the OnePlus One. No Android device has been that hyped and sought after. The crazy thing about the OnePlus One is, it delivered on all the hype. It has fantastic build and a great camera. CyanogenMod 11S was phenomenal and was just as stable as any OEM release. 

The manufacturer that is pushing Android forward and in the right direction is without question, Motorola. Google brought Motorola back from the dead and gave them hope. The original Moto X and Moto G were phenomenal devices in their own right. Once the sale to Lenovo went through I was worried. But Motorola came out swinging in 2014 with the 2nd Generation Moto X (which I loved), Moto G, Nexus 6 and Moto 360. No other manufacturer has that many great devices that cover that many different markets and price points. They cover every base and every potential consumer in only a few devices.

With Google changing its tactics with Nexus last year, what do you think the future holds for Android as a platform and for Android device manufacturers?

Google changing its tactics is the right move for the company in the long term. I was one of the people that was initially bummed at the Nexus line price hike. But as I thought about it, I came to the realization that Google wants its Android to be on the forefront of the market. Whether we like it or not, carrier subsidy is the way most consumers still buy their phones. Putting Nexus on those store shelves gives Google the best possible chance to take back Android.

The future for Android as a platform is going to be quite interesting. Google has Android TV, Android Auto, Android Wear, and Nest. That is a lot of different places that Android can influence your life. Sundar Pichai is really pushing for Android everywhere. As for Android device manufacturers, it’s going to get more competitive. HTC, Motorola, LG and Sony are all producing compelling devices year in and year out. All the while Samsung is continually losing their hold. I think competition will become more fierce, which will lead to better devices for consumers.

Of all the devices you've tested, which have truly been the most beneficial to your life and not just cool tech to have?

That crown falls to two devices. The first being the Samsung Galaxy Note. The reasoning there is simple enough: I love big phones. That was the first big phone, so I had to have it. Then, I got really, really sick of TouchWiz. So I went down the rooting rabbit hole which ultimately led me to go Nexus. That was the device that really started the avalanche of my interest in Android. The second would probably have to be my Sony NEX-7. It was my first real camera. I would take my camera everywhere, learning the system I bought into, trying new techniques, and practicing like crazy. You can see in some of my earlier work, I was a pretty terrible photographer. I love taking photos of anything and everything, and I believe it is reflected in how my craft has grown over the years.

What tech are you most excited to see in 2015? Could it be the year wearables truly take off?

"wearables will only take of if we figure out the tangible benefit for them."

I feel like we’ve been saying that for a few years now. X year is the year of wearables (for real this time). I think 2015 definitely has the potential to be the year for wearables. Apple is coming out with their Apple Watch. Android Wear is likely to have a second crop of hardware come out. Pebble is also going to be announcing their next wearable soon. The only way wearables will truly take of is if we figure out the tangible benefit for them. Wearables as a whole are supposed to be an augmentation of your smartphone, pushing data that is pertinent and letting you keep going about your day. Some wearables try to do too much, some wearables don’t do enough. There needs to be a definitive sweet spot. Also, making them look more like the LG G Watch R, Moto 360, or Asus ZenWatch is a good place to start.

What does 2015 hold for Bryan Collom?

2015 for me is going to be crazy busy. I’ve tried to consistently have a new piece out every single week. That puts me on par for 52 pieces in a year. Currently I have 42 pieces since October of 2013, so this will be a pretty significant ramp up in work. I plan on covering HTC or Samsung’s next flagship, the next Moto X, the next Nexus, and the next OnePlus device. I’ll also be diving into more niche work such as PC Builds, ROM overviews, and some Smarthome things. Those things interest me quite a bit so I’m excited to work on those projects. I can safely predict I will also review a device that I have wanted to use for six years, but that will be in the fall. I’ve already said too much about that last one...

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can read my tech writing on Medium. I’m nearly everywhere on social media. I’m very active on Google+ and Twitter.  I’m active on Instagram, too. I gave up Facebook a while back and have had no regrets on about it. I’m really accessible and love talking to people about technology. Feel free to tweet at me or message me on Google+ and I’ll answer!