Category Archives: Android

Chromes OS, Android, and the future of Android apps

Sundar Pichai, who recently took over Android from Andy Rubin, pours some cold water on the “Chrome OS and Android to merge” rumours in this interview with Wired. But he does leave one door open:

” We want to do the right things at each stage, for users and developers. We are trying to find commonalities. On the browser layer, we share a lot of stuff. We will increasingly do more things like that. And maybe there’s a more synergistic answer down the line.”

Suppose that, rather than Android effectively subsuming Chrome, as most people seem to think will happen, Android got the ability to run Chrome Packaged Apps? What if Chrome Packaged Apps ultimately became the default way to develop for Android?

Java, which Android apps are currently developed in, has never felt like a good fit for Google – a company which spends much of its time evangelising the web and web technologies. Packaged apps deliver native-like capabilities and are installable, so you don’t need a constant Internet connection to run. Developers have already used Packaged Apps to create some pretty good games, which shows what can be done. 

I wouldn’t expect to see this at this year’s Google I/O… but next year? That sounds like a pretty Googly thing to do.

HTC One, Android Zero

A great point about the new HTC One from Techpinions’ Steve Wildstrom:

There was a word missing from HTC’s unveiling of its impressive new HTC One phone. HTC executives talked about the BlinkFeed streaming home screen, the redone Sense user interface, the BoomSound audio system, and the Zoe photo-plus-video app. But there was no mention of the phone’s Android software. Even on the One’s web page, you have to drill down to specs to learn that it runs Android.

Nexus is a brand. HTC One is a brand. Samsung Galaxy is a brand. Is Android really a brand anymore?

Hardware in a software world

The inestimable Mr Gruber:

Even “hardware” features are defined by software, and can no longer be judged on their own. Consider, say, mobile phone cameras. The camera itself is important – the sensor, the lens, the physical size – but ultimately what matters is the quality of the images it produces, and software is a huge part of that.

This is something that I have to repeatedly point out to Android users. Over and over again, they point out how the hardware on a particular phone is better than the iPhone, and how the software allows you more precision control over the shot you take with the camera.

And over and over again, I ask “which takes better pictures?”

And the answer is always the iPhone.

(via Daring Fireball Linked List: CES Is the World’s Greatest Hardware Show Stuck in a Software Era)

The end of the beginning in the mobile market

Benedict Evans sums up the current state of the mobile market:

“In other words, Apple has 20-30% of the market by volume, but it is the top 20-30%. Google ‘has’ the rest, but has only a very tenuous connection to large parts of it, and another large proportion is likely to be worth little or nothing for a long time. Roll on uncertainty (link): everything will change, again, in the next year. ”

This is only phase one. Whether iOS and Android are even in the same market most of the time is up for debate.

In which someone may be switching to Android (Or, a classic case of Geek Itch)

At Techpinions, Patrick Moorhead is pondering leaving the iPhone, and switching to Android. But take a look at the language that Patrick uses:

With Android’s “Butter” introduced at this year’s Google I/O, the feel is nearly as good as iOS… My front-page apps like Evernote for Android and Windows Phone are still ugly but they don’t keep me from doing my job or having less fun. There is much less of a time delay or quality delta between Android and iOS apps than there ever was before. [My emphasis]

Turn that around, and what it says is that iOS remains smoother, and the apps remain higher quality and usually released first. In other words, for many of the things that affect Patrick’s decision, by choosing Android he’s actively choosing second-best in terms of experience.

That might make sense if there were other features Patrick wanted or needed about Android which significantly outweigh taking the pain there. But if there are, I’m not really seeing them here. Sharing isn’t as hard as you make it out to be: I share from Safari on iOS to Google+ in one click, by using a bookmarklet. There are equivalents for both Pinterest and LinkedIn.

Speech to text and control is a more personal decision. For me, Siri works better than Google Now’s voice control stuff, partly (I think) because Google hasn’t implemented all the features for British English. The dictation engine works better for me on iOS than Android. And voice search from the iOS Google Search app uses the same voice recognition as Google Now (as you’d expect) so if I want to do voice searching, I mostly use that.

It think Patrick also gives Apple a little less credit on new technology than it deserves. For me, a deal breaker with Android has always been integration with a wider eco-system of devices through AirPlay. Despite Android’s focus on this recently, Apple is still a mile ahead in simplicity. Hook up a (dirt cheap) Apple TV to your living room TV, and stream pretty much any content to it. Making something that easy is the best way to implement new technology, because it removes the barriers to “normal” people using it.

I get the feeling, though, that Patrick has classic “geek itch”[1]“. I get this too – the desire to jump to a platform which will allow me to play around a little more, to to spend time configuring things and digging into them. Nothing wrong with that – but it’s not really more broadly applicable as a comment on a specific platform.


  1. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.  ↩

What, exactly, is Android?

Toward a More Informed Discussion on Android | TechPinions:

“Android is in no way shape or form the same as OS X, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone, or RIM’s Blackberry OS. When we speak of those operating systems we are speaking of a unified platform controlled by one company whose platform share represents the total addressable market, via single SDK, for developers. Should a developer want to develop for any of those platforms, all they need do is get the SDK for that single platform. Android, however, is an entirely different beast.

Android is not actually a platform, it is an enabling technology that allows companies to create platforms Because Android is open source, all the term Android refers to is the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project. Anyone can take this core code and create their own custom operating system using Android as the core. Google created and manages the AOSP but also has their own version of Android. Amazon does this and has their own version of Android. Barnes and Noble does this and has their own version of Android. I would not be shocked if new entrants as well take the Android platform and make it their own for their own needs as well.”

This is the thing that gets overlooked, all the time. Android is not a single, unified operating platform: it’s a set of semi-compatible platforms, built around the same technology.

Amazon’s version of Android is to Google’s version of Android what FreeBSD is to Ubuntu. You can probably get the same apps to run – but be prepared for some tweaking.

The finest explanation of how Samsung works

The Economist gives a fantastic insight into what makes Samsung successful. Hint: it’s not being innovative in terms of technology:

Samsung’s successes come from spotting areas that are small but growing fast. Ideally the area should also be capital-intensive, making it harder for rivals to keep up. Samsung tiptoes into the technology to get familiar with it, then waits for its moment. It was when liquid-crystal displays grew to 40 inches in 2001 that Samsung took the dive and turned them into televisions. In flash memory, Samsung piled in when new technology made it possible to put a whole gigabyte on a chip.

When it pounces, the company floods the sector with cash. Moving into very high volume production as fast as possible not only gives it a price advantage over established firms, but also makes it a key customer for equipment makers. Those relationships help it stay on the leading edge from then on.

The strategy is shrewd. By buying technology rather than building it, Samsung assumes execution risk not innovation risk. It wins as a “fast follower”, slipstreaming in the wake of pioneers at a much larger scale of production. The heavy investment has in the past played to its ability to tap cheap financing from a banking sector that is friendly to big companies, thanks to implicit government guarantees much complained about by rivals elsewhere.

Now consider this in the context of how it’s worked in the smartphone market. “Fast follower”, indeed.

Google’s iOS app strategy

If you think that it’s in Google’s interests to create better apps on Android than iOS, two recent releases should absolve you of that notion.

First, there’s the latest release of Gmail, an app that’s so good even Android sites are wishing it was available on their platform.

Then there is YouTube, which improves so much over the previous (Apple-created) app that I wish Apple had dropped its own version sooner.

So what’s going on? Why would Android’s creator make better apps for the platform it competes with than for its own?

There’s two reasons. First, as I wrote in my most recent posting on Macgasm, the role of Android isn’t to defeat iOS, but to ensure that Apple does not dominate mobile in a way which meant it could lock Google search out. Second, there’s the issue of revenue. Although Google doesn’t break out how much it makes from ads served to iOS devices, given that iOS drives far more web traffic than Android it’s safe to assume Google serves more web ads to it. And that makes iOS a more profitable platform for Google than Android is.

Given this, why would Google want to damage a platform it makes more money per user from, in favour of a platform it makes less money per user from? Google is driven by data, and the data says that providing services to iOS users makes it money.

One product or fifty?

One on One: Jim Wicks, Design Chief at Motorola Mobility – bits.blogs.nytimes.com:

If another company is only making two products and four products, and they’re putting all their resources into that, and you’re making 50, you can imagine the challenges you have. Do you feel like you have the best talent, the best testing, when you’re doing 50 products that cover smartphones, tablets and accessories, which are all in their own right highly complex products

I wonder which “other company” he could be referring to?

A Message To Eric Schmidt And Android: Put Up Proof Of Profits Or Shut Up

A Message To Eric Schmidt And Android: Put Up Proof Of Profits Or Shut Up | TechPinions:

“Please stop. There’s nothing more important to a business than profits. Stop talking about:

– market share without context. – how much profit you’re going to make in some distant, undefined future. – how much you’re making from some undisclosed and undiscoverable content, advertising, data gathering or other nebulous activity. – how your business model is different and it shouldn’t be compared to other companies. You’re wrong. Every company’s profits can and should be compared. Profits are the great equalizer.

The proof is in the profits. If you don’t the have profits, you don’t have the proof. And if you don’t have the proof, then please, just stop talking.”

I’ve often wondered how much money Google actually makes from Android. I suspect, even if you factor in mobile ad sales, it’s peanuts.