Tag Archives: Android

Stewart Alsop says dumb things, get attention

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Stewart Alsop is having many problems with his Motorola Droid:

“The software (Google’s Android plus apps both from Google and from other developers) doesn’t work and is unacceptable on a mobile device.”

Only thing is that these are problems that it appears no other Droid users are having – blatant, massive issues which anyone even glancing at the phone for five minutes couldn’t fail to see.

But Stewart’s opinion is, at seems, that everyone else is wrong and he is the only one who has seen it.

Obviously, there’s some kind of conspiracy and all the other people who have Droids and are not reporting this behaviour are in on it. As opposed to, say, Stewart having a duff phone.

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There’s these great cut-down computers, right…

Daring Fireball: Maybe Instead of Two Cars, You Just Need a Car and a Bicycle:

“The idea of a computer that does a lot less — leaving out even things you consider essential, because you can still do those things on your other, primary computer — is liberating. That’s the opportunity, and that’s the idea behind Chrome OS and Litl and even Android and iPhone OS.”

The idea of it is liberating, as I’ve found out with my experiences with netbooks over the years. The problem is that while the idea of it is liberating, the actual reality of it is less so.

While my MacBook Pro takes up a larger bag, I’ve carried it around with me much more lately because it really doesn’t weigh that much more. And the rest of the time, I have my iPhone – a constantly-connected device which lets me take notes, write short documents.

Chrome OS is an interesting experiment, but in the long term the trend is still towards more power on the desktop – and in the lap.

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Come, gentle readers: Help me buy a new phone (Part 1)

Within the next month, my contract with o2 runs out – and that means it’s new phone time. However for the first time since the release of the iPhone, I face a serious choice: do I stick with iPhone, or not. Here are the runners and riders.

iPhone 3GS

Let’s be clear: I like the iPhone. Compared to everything that came before it, it’s a wonderous thing of amazement. There’s the responsiveness. You touch it, it responds, and you almost purr with pleasure. Yum. This thing was designed by someone who really, truly understands that the most important thing about a touch interface is how it responds to being touched. Sounds obvious – but try any one of the competitors, and you’ll quickly see how few companies have really got this fundamental point.

But… I’ve run into some walls with the iPhone. Things which actually have begun to drive me what can only be described as “batshit crazy”.

First, multitasking – or rather the lack thereof. I cannot begin to describe how painful the lack of multitasking is. I’ve used an OS with multitasking that I’ve forgotten what computing was like before it. Or rather, I had forgotten it – until the iPhone.

Using iPhone is like taking your lovely new MacBook Pro, ripping out Mac OS X, installing System 6, and disabling MultiFinder. But still letting you run the powerful lovely apps you’re used to. Just one at a time. It’s dark ages computing – and I’m bored of it. The novelty has worn off. I can multitask – why can’t my phone.

I don’t care that I might do terrible things – like making my phone run at less than optimal Jobs-dicatated performance. It’s my phone – treat me like a grown up and let me do it.

Multitasking is the big beef, by it’s by no means the only one. There are plenty of elements in the iPhone which are half thought out, or just plain half baked.

Take email. Like a lot of people, I have work and personal email accounts, and I check both a lot. And on the iPhone, the elegant, minimal iPhone, it takes four taps to get from one inbox to the other. By happy coincidence, that’s the same number of taps it takes to type “suck”, which is what the iPhone’s email client does.

This “make ‘em tap” approach is elsewhere, too. Tethering, for example, takes five taps from Home Screen to turning on, and the same five if you want to turn it off – which is, of course, what you should be doing. This should be on the home screen, but it’s not. It’s almost like the developers were so pleased with how well tapping and scrolling and touch generally worked, that they decided to make you, the user, do more of it so you’d appreciate just how responsive the interface is.

Worse yet, no developer other than Apple can create the simple app to do it, because that is a Part Of The OS Into Which Only Apple Is Allowed. Thou shalt not mess around with those bits, sayeth Steve.

And that’s a great example of the other great flaw of the iPhone: developers cannot fill in the bits which Apple doesn’t do right, if it means digging into some bits of the system. Leaving aside the fact that the App Store is broken, what developers can do is firmly in Apple’s control, and the company keeps tight reign on where they’re allowed to poke. Want the ability to link up an external keyboard to your Mac? Can’t have it – not because developers don’t want to make one, but because Apple won’t allow them to do it.

But… having said all that… the iPhone is still my front runner. Why? Put simply, because it’s the path of least resistance. I have lots of Apps, which I like, and I’d need to install and run some of them on my iPod touch if I didn’t have an iPhone. And that touch interface really is seductive. So for all my complaining… maybe iPhone is my best option.

In part two, I’ll look at the two other contenders: Android (of some kind) and the Palm Pre.

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Scoble is right about iPhone users. But the game isn’t over yet

Robert Scoble has a post up about why Apple’s key advantage is the breadth of the app store. And he’s right – but the game isn’t over yet.

85,000 is the headline figure, and what it allows Apple to leverage is a classic “long tail of usefulness”. For me, 99.99% of those applications are (to me) useless crap that would have no bearing on whether I stick with iPhone. Unfortunately for everyone else, that still leaves 8 or 9 apps that act like heavy anchors, dragging me back to Apple’s platform.

But suppose Nokia, Android, or whoever got the developers of those apps to port them to their platform? Great! They’ve won me as a customer. But the problem is that this is a long tail: maybe four or five of those would be common ones, but three or four would be ones which only me and a relatively few other people wanted. So the actual base of applications that are “must haves” would be much wider, in the low thousands at a guess. That’s a long way from Robert’s claim that you need all 85,000, but it’s still a pretty daunting number.

And the experience of Apple in the 90′s, when the Mac was on the back foot, proves that it’s no good having “equivalent” applications – once people get used to having app X, they want app X, not app Y which does pretty much the same thing.

However, there’s a catch: it’s worth remembering that most people haven’t bought smart phones yet. Smartphone penetration remains comparatively tiny, and in the biggest growth markets for phones (Africa, BRIC) it’s still dirt-cheap simple phones which are driving the growth.

And people are used to buying phones on hardware features: the best camera, for example, is a big influence. That’s why Apple has been advertising with “there’s an app for that” – raising a flag for the one big advantage they have. But until you actually use a phone which is infinitely malleable via applications, it’s hard to appreciate why it’s so cool. So it’s not a totally easy sell.

(As an aside, this is the reason why the iPod Touch is so important: it’s a “gateway drug” for the app store. You might not buy an Apple phone, but you might replace your old iPod with the touch… and then find that you love the apps. At which point, you’ll buy an iPhone next time.)

So the game isn’t over yet, and there’s plenty still to play for. But Apple has a head-start, and if I was a betting man, I’d place my money on the iPhone. Essentially, it’s Apple’s lead to throw away – but, as others will no doubt point out, Apple has thrown away leads before.

(Update: John Gruber’s written an interesting response to this, and I’ve written a further response posing what I think is an interesting question: What happens when there aren’t 100,000 apps on the store, but one million?)

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3′s Spotify/Android deal could be a game-changer

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Quick heads up on this, and I’ll probably write more later, but 3 is apparently going to do a bundle of the HTC Hero Android phone (widely-regarded as the best of the current crop) with a premium Spotify account for the two year lifetime of the contract.

And, by strange coincidence, it’s priced at the same level as the cheapest o2 iPhone package.

More to follow, no doubt.

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“Please don’t call this an iPhone killer”

The phrase “touch screen phone” is synonymous with “iPhone” in some people’s minds. That’s tough on the other phone manufacturers, but indicates the extent to which Apple has managed to dominate the market – if not in sales, at least in marketing.

But the Apple way of making a touchscreen phone, which focuses on the software above everything else, isn’t the only way. With the Arena, LG has concentrated on making a phone which offers excellent audio alongside high-quality pictures and a compact, easy-to-use phone. It’s not fair to compare it to the iPhone – it’s a very different kind of touch-screen.

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Microsoft’s days numbered on netbooks? Not so fast

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Image via CrunchBase

Michael Hickens thinks that thinks that the emergence of Android as a viable operating system on netbooks means Microsoft is in trouble:

Microsoft got away with ignoring the Web as long as everything important was taking place on the desktop (most of which it owned), but the increasing ubiquity of cloud computing, abetted by faster and increasingly ubiquitous wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, LTE, WiMax, 4G, etc.) is bringing that era to a close. Windows may be trying to catch up, but the truth is that people don’t love Microsoft. They love Apple, they love Google, and they love Nokia. People use Microsoft because they think they have to. Or rather, they used it because they thought they had to. Them days are over, Microsoft.”

It seems to me that it’s a big jump from “people don’t like Microsoft” to “people will use an operating system designed for mobile phones with minimal application support on netbooks”. I’m just not convinced that there’s any advantage to using Android rather than something like Moblin or Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The fact that you might even be able to use Android applications on Moblin makes the point even more moot.

What’s more, Windows 7 is a very different beast on netbooks than was either Vista or XP. It’s performance and reliability is better, for one – and the interface works nicely on a small screen.

UPDATE: And it seems that Acer isn’t all that sure about Android, either. The systems it will ship will be dual-boot, with Windows XP, because “consumer acceptance of the Android platform is unclear for the time being.”

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Reports of Android’s demise somewhat exaggerated

Information Week’s Eric Zeman decided that the fact he hadn’t heard much about Android on the first day of Mobile World Congress meant that the platform was in trouble:

Um. What gives? Many manufacturers have committed to the Android platform. Where are the handsets? Mobile World Congress is one of the biggest mobile events of the year. Android’s failure to show up makes me very nervous about the platform’s future.”

This got picked up by both MacDailyNews and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, which doubtless means that thousands of Mac fans the world over will take away the idea that Android is dead.

Only one problem. Eric’s report wasn’t  accurate. Let’s look at the key bits.

“Nokia (NYSE: NOK)’s new phones don’t run Android”

This is hardly news. Nokia is a major backer of Symbian, and is hardly likely to use Google’s. Sounding surprised that Nokia isn’t using Android is a bit like being shocked that Apple isn’t – fake surprise.

“HTC also failed to announce any new Android gear. Instead, it focused on announcing two new Windows Mobile 6.5 phones”

Perhaps Eric simply missed the HTC Magic, which Vodaphone will be flogging soon. Or perhaps he just got confused because it isn’t called the G2, as was widely expected.

“LG already has picked a a smartphone platform for its future, and it isn’t Android”

This would be news to LG, which confirmed in a blog post that it will be producing an Android phone later this year. LG’s strategy seems pretty clear, as I posted yesterday: give people the option to buy pretty-much the same hardware with multiple operating systems, and see what the market decides.

Seriously, I know that it’s difficult to actually leave the hospitality room at conferences, but when a reporter writes a story like this I expect him to at least wander out and talk to someone on a booth about it. That way you’re actually giving information, rather than speculation.

UPDATE: And to add to the Android fun, Samsung has announced it will ship three phones based on the Google OS this year.

What matters most about the T-Mobile G1: no PC required

Me, for Mobile Computer Mag:

“This is clearly a window into Google’s view of the future – and it’s a scenario that probably keeps many Microsoft executives awake at night. Microsoft’s strength has always been the PC, and much of its marketing and technology has been geared to the idea of having a PC on every desktop. After all, Microsoft’s Office and Windows franchises – the company’s cash (sacred) cows – depend on it.”

Both Microsoft and Apple see the mobile phone as an adjunct to the PC. Because Google has built the software inside the T-Mobile G1 to sync only with its servers in the cloud, this model is broken. The mobile phone gets set free.

Within a few years, I can see a large chunk of people not having their own “personal” computer, but instead relying on their phone for email, web, social networks, and so on. Oh sure, they’ll use PCs – but why would you need your own when all your data lives in the cloud, and you can access that from any machine?