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Rochester, Kent, United Kingdom
Amateur sleuth interested in finding out what's happening in the world today!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

ANDROID BUGBEAR - RETURNS

It's not a title to a film - far, far, far from it... Android Bugbear has been away and will be back reporting the Android biz and updates!

Next Post due before 25/09/2011

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The War of the Smartphones: The fact Apple, RIM and Android are taking different routes to hegemony

There is a battle in progress - the winner will take a profitable chunk out of the mobile phone market and with it the ad and app revenue generated therein. The problem is that the media, bloggers, journalists and even the public believe there is an on-going battle between Google and Apple/BlackBerry in progress. But in reality this isn't the case, far from it, in reality Apple and BlackBerry are competitors as they have handsets which use a proprietary operating system and then they spend a small fortune marketing the brand. Google does something else. It does not make handsets (granted the Nexus is a Google handset but made and co-branded by Samsung) and it does not sell its operating system (it gives it freely to handset manufacturers under terms which allow Google services to interact within the network and handset to generate advertising revenue).


This creates a quandary whereby Apple and RIM are creating in all intense and purposes 'lifestyle' devices incarceration within a pre-determined ecosystem and enclosed application-based environment but Google leaves the portcullis to the castle open to anyone able to adapt, develop and thereafter resell their software. The problem is that Apple/RIM are intoxicated by their own 'brand', although that is not to say Android isn't a brand it's just what that brand means and therein becomes associated with is completely different to anything Apple or RIM create and distribute.


So, what the issue here surrounds is that of the public perception whereby 'Google' is going to steal or beat Apple and RIM into inferiority within the smartphone market. However this just isn't the case, in reality a free Google product will help to see an increase in market share, but that does not mean Google captures that market share for its self. HTC or Samsung capture that market. We need to remember that Handsets and Operating Systems, partially due to the success of Android, have become divorced from one another. This cleavage creates a perception  problem and one that needs to be cleared up.


Apple makes the iPhone. The iPhone is in incredible piece of both technological and marketing accomplishment yet it's operating system iOS is confined to the Apple mobile computing environment. You cant install iOS on a BlackBerry 9780 or a HTC Sensation. So that means Android cannot be compared to Apple or BlackBerry in the same way. Yet, this is what has happened so far. Android is battling BlackBerry and Apple. The question is can this be healthy for the future of Android.


The argument about Android's open eco-system are predominantly based on the Wintel arguments of the 1990s where, generally perceived, PC manufacturers and Software manufacturers colluded to bring down quality and technical excellence so as they could compete on a race to the bottom. Price was everything and that's how Intel, Windows and HP/Dell or IBM won out! The arguments are transplanted into the twenty first century that Google's Android will with Samsung, HTC and Sony Erricson's help see 'excellence' eroded through a battle of 'dumbing down' and racing to the bottom and competing on price.


Yet, the issue here is that we are arguing that BlackBerry and Apple, the undoubted smartphone pioneers, worked hard to keep their phones at a certain cost level so as to retain their incredibly profitable revenue streams from collapsing because of engineering excellence. Apple and RIM make billions from selling phones, so when Android came along and people like DoCoMo, Huwaei and HTC created mid-range phones offering similar experiences to the iPhone or BlackBerry but at a substantially reduced price this created the perfect storm to occur within the mobile phone market. Apple and RIM went tooth and nail for the premium customers whilst Android's open handset alliance went all out for the budget and mid-size customers. The result was the undoubtedly that Android would dominate the smartphone market. Android handsets are shipping at 3-1 to Apple or RIM handsets according to Catalyst/comScore but, importantly, to different customers. 


The issue here is that Apple/RIM are now going to begin dumbing down their products for the mid-size/budget markets whilst Android is going to have to cater for premium customers. This is evident as BlackBerry  is now creating low-end phones and Apple, allegedly is creating a toned down iPhone for 2012, is mimicking RIM's business plan however Android has gone premium because we can see that premium phones are awash since 2.3 was released on dual core smartphones. But the differentiation between ecosystems needs to be made clearer. 


Apple and RIM are rivals but Google's Android isn't, yet, a competitive rival to these two smartphone rivals. More premium models, better quality apps and more security/functionality on the Android market is needed before premium customers (who, if we remember spend money on apps as oppose to budget/mid-size users who avoid payware for freeware) switch in large swathes. HTC or Samsung need to match handset sales with RIM and Apple for this 'battle' to become a reality. Android is using the old Roman adage of 'divide and conquour' but this might not help them with the premium custom-base. This change requires a change not just from Android and Smartphone manufacturers but security firms, software developers and web content developers to come together, like RIM and Apple have created, to build Android a tiered platform for different user expectations. Therefore budget users on £39 Android smartphones, or pay monthly customers with a £200 or premium customers on £500+ handset pay monthly contracts will be catered for in the correct fashion. Only then when all sections of the mobile market are fully catered for by Android and that there are a plethora of designated tiered phones available will there be any reality in the 'battle' between the Smartphone giants.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Quality or Quantity what governs the basis of the Android Market and what relation does free versus fee-based software actually have on the model

 

The Android market, over the last year, has listed 283,889 new apps. This gigantic number equates to a 97.5% increase of the Android market on 2010 levels (1). The importance of this increase can be seen in the relationship between free apps and paid apps. It is here that developers which include small developers to large multi-national companies can make money, yet, in reality, it is here that the Android Marketplace has a problem.

The Android platform has between 2010-2011 dominated the smartphone market. Nielsen/Catalyst have already stated that Android will and has surpassed Apple, Blackberry and Nokia’s variant operating systems to become the number one Smartphone OS. The reason for this lies in the Android dominance of the budget to mid-range marketplace. This is a problem! Whilst HTC, Samsung and DoCoMo have begun making major inroads into the premier/upper-mid-range market the lower end of the marketplace does not equate to users who are big spenders on apps.

The average Apple user, according to Nielsen, is aged between 29-39 and is a middle to upper earner who on average earns  $ 33,000. This means a larger disposable income, than that of, say, a budget smartphone user who has a smaller available disposable income. Now this miniature economics lesson is important in highlighting the glaring problem with the Android Marketplace. Money, or revenue, is important as its the reason developers create the apps in the first place.

Rovio didn't just create Angry Birds because they wanted to create a game that would be freely enjoyed without strings. No, they, as do other firms like Backflip Studios, wanted to make apps that generated revenue. Now the introduction of ‘lite’ apps are designed to be a selective taster and after ‘tasting’ the app, and if one enjoyed using it, they would then purchase the app. It works, and works quite well, on the Apple appStore platform but they're attracting a different user demographic than that of Android. The dearth of quality apps is telling. Now this isn’t the end of Android, far from it, it shows that the market lacks maturity. Electronic Arts have released apps and other larger developers are releasing apps because Android is perceived to be a platform with the potential for exponential growth. But there does need to be a ‘wake up call’ moment for the Google Android team.

Is Android too ‘open’? Any Tom, Dick or Harry with the ability to code is able to upload their ‘app’ onto the Google servers for a $ 25 dollar fee. The telling issue here is that the app isn’t verified by Android analysts which is indicative of a wider lack of platform understanding. No one can deny that Android Marketplace has a lot of, well to put it kindly, crap applications. Perhaps, maturity will mean closer control of the gates to the Android kingdom. This, whilst not micro-managing to Apple levels, will deter developers of naff apps to take their wares elsewhere. This will not stop determined criminals, but neither has the Apple, Nokia, Palm and as has been seen recently the Android marketplace platform.

What’s needed is quality – The Oxford English dictionary defines quality as thus: the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something – quality is unfortunately whilst not exclusively linked to payment. This is not the end of freeware, far from it, but to get the developers in revenue is important. So over the next 12 months you, as Android Marketplace users, will start seeing apps with pricetags increase from those ‘lite’ or free apps.

This is not a moment to despair, no, it is a moment to pause and think about the quality of hardware and cellular technologies available and to think about what quality apps will bring to your handset. This will bring about a change in how we use and interact with our apps. Free apps are something we take for granted to entertain us during moments of boredom, be it on tubes, metros or commutes, but we do need to think about using our phones in a different way.

The Motorola Atrix is the beginning of this ideology. The dual-core wave of smartphones along with Android 2.3/4 being released this year will mean a greater capacity and quality of hardware. But this also means we can use our Superphones in a different way. Think about writing that presentation on your phone instead of the laptop? Or maybe look over the business accounts on your phone. This is a reality, now, not in a month’s time or even a year’s time. The technology is available now; but what is required is the ‘app’ to go with it.

Think about Quickoffice Pro, a $20 dollar app, which allows you to create or edit Microsoft Office documents, worksheets or database queries. Think about it; the Motorola Atrix with Quickoffice Pro means a Laptop with an office suite. This means we can write, edit and distribute material from our phones. This is a great future, but such quality comes at a price. It’s time to think about purchasing apps. This great new age of mobile computing does have a big problem: Ever been late to work and called your boss and said your in traffic and the bus, train or tram and your going to be late. Now he can turn around and say ‘don’t worry – just finish your work on your phone and email me’. That’s the end of the wonderful excuse when you woke up late and are running behind.

 

(1) for information on Annual market apps increases visit http://www.androlib.com/appstats.aspx and for information on Increase of the Android market see http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/05/android-to-surpass-apples-app-store-in-size-in-august-2011-report-exclusive/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29 (accessed at 17/05/2011)

Saturday, 2 April 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Android Gingerbread is changing its name to, eh, Android Gingerbread!


Android 2.3 is called Gingerbread and Android 2.4 is called, well, Gingerbread. Not following, well you’re not the only one. Google released Android 2.3 in December 2010 and it’s now March 2011, at time of writing, and how many new devices do you think run Android 2.3? Well it’s 2.5% that’s how much Android 2.3 accounts for which is month on month stagnant. Now Android 2.2 is climbing it currently accounts for 63.9%.[1] The reality, Gingerbread was dual-cored out! Dual core Honeycomb hardware can’t run on Single Core software. This is the problem with dual core hardware and single core software – the prevalence of Wi-Fi and high-end apps means tasks which were once the domain of Personal Computers are now used on Smartphones – the original Gingerbread could not run dual-core processors so Google had to quickly repair that by releasing Gingerbread mark two. That’s why 2.4 is called Gingerbread and not, well we need to skip H because of Honeycomb, so that’s Ice Cream. The reality is that, as NVIDIA argues, flash-based content or High Definition movies or music streaming takes a lot of juice out of microprocessors so the introduction of dual core technologies will make smartphones function quicker and more importantly a lot more stable. 

What’s dual core technology and what will it bring to smartphones in 2011?  Got a HTC Wildfire or a LG Optimus? Ever ran a browser, music player and Angry Birds concurrently? Do you see major performance degradation? It’s because the architecture wasn’t designed to handle this ‘tidal wave’ of processes.[2] Increasing the size of the processor from say 600Mhz to 800Mhz does increase performance but also increases the voltage which means batteries will be sucked dry. This is why devices like HTC Desire HD or the Samsung Galaxy S have lower battery life – their infrastructure, on a semiconductor level, wasn’t engineered to handle such intensive processes. Also the cooling of the device along with battery depletion sees the form-factor increase this is problematic. So this is why Dual Core is important.

The NVIDIA Tegra 2 is two ARM Cortex A9 microprocessors which handle the main system processes with added microprocessors for graphics, audio etc. and this collective of processors work in a homogenous form-factor which require fewer transistors and delivers higher performance whilst consuming less battery power. Meaning if you’re playing Angry Birds, whilst listening to music with social networking apps, like Seesmic, running in the background added to the bloatware UI and your anti-virus software the system would probably feel a bit, well, the technical term is ‘sluggish’. 

Single Core processors have to handle Java, Flash, Active X or embedded video and other rich media content along with system processes in a combined fashion. Now a Dual Core processor has a processor which looks after the system processes, a processor which looks after the media rich content, a processor for the audio. You get it… It means the architecture works in synergy and the result is improved performance and battery life.

NVIDIA aren’t the only players in 2011 releasing the next wave of microprocessors for Smartphones. They include the Motorola Atrix, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 and the Intel Moorestown. The new phones which will incorporate Dual Core are expected in 2011. They include the LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy Pro. These phones will incorporate both Dual Core technology and, more tellingly Android 2.2. Why would the latest smartphones from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers release flagship devices running an older Android OS over the new Gingerbread variant. 

Android 2.4 when is it due? Well the word is April 2011. It’s why Android 2.3 hasn’t been released by carriers and Google. They’re waiting for Android 2.4 – don’t worry it’s still Gingerbread – which will change the architecture-to-software relationship for smartphones from 2011 onwards. What this means is that we have reached the end of the Smartphone era and now we are entering the Superphone era! This is not an exaggeration it’s a reality. This year will see phones with processor speeds reaching 1.2Ghz to 1.5Ghz yet with the smaller form factor and increased power and graphic capabilities – Win Win? – well only time will tell if this will usher in a new era in Android functionality. This is why Android, the new dual-core processors and the new raft of phones will create a period of change within the Android community.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Motorola’s purchase of 3LM Inc and what this means for enterprise-class computing on the Android platform.


Three Laws of Mobility is a little known setup from two former Google executives Gaurav Mathur and Tom Moss.[1] They have setup a business which wants to create enterprise-class security that beats BlackBerry. On their website they state, quite simply, what they’re about

  • Protect your user. A mobile device may not harm its user or, through inaction, allow its user to come to harm though malicious code or content.
  • Protect yourself. A mobile device must protect itself and the integrity of its data and secured communications.
  • Obey. A mobile device must let the user use the device freely, as long as such usage does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

What does the acquisition by Motorola of 3LM mean to the Android platform as a whole? Firstly, 3LM Inc will be an independently run organisation which will be wholly owned by Motorola but not device-locked. They have strategic partnerships with HTC and Sharp. But what is the 3LM technology and how will it change Android enterprise computing?[2]

3LM platform will help IT managers to better secure their infrastructure and how they go about this by allowing managers to better administer their users and more importantly devices. Therefore ICT Managers who have a pre-defined LDAP and/or Active Directory groups can have better control of their users/devices. With this system in place network administrators can remotely install, wipe, lock out, recall or perform any other corporate ICT policy objective with ease.

Secure enterprise computing with Android Is that possible? With 3LM’s platform yes it is. With their secure enterprise link technology it takes away the requirement of password credentials and links via an encrypted connection to the internet, corporate resources and intranet simultaneously. And on top of this it links with Corporate Exchange servers to deliver quick and up-to-date mission critical information from calendars, documents to email. These combined elements will create an Android enterprise platform which could surpass even BlackBerry.  

2011 is going to be the year of the Tablet and added to this will be the increase in smart phones sales. Business organisations are now looking at these devices as viable replacements of Laptops and even desktop devices. These devices can increase productivity and allow a greater distribution of resources in different environments without losing your businesses security or data integrity.

Although, market research firm Gartner Analysis predicted in 2010 that Tablet PC’s wont account for more than 10% of the enterprise-class computing device market before 2015. Gartner adds that it will take the consumer market to ‘push’ the enterprise-class market into changing. This is because it is cheaper for personal consumer users to upgrade than enterprise-class overhauls. Yet, does the increase in smartphones being brought to work which is a challenge to ICT professionals and the boom in tablets mean ICT professionals will be forced to think about ways of securing their organisations data integrity?[3]

Only time will tell whether Motorola’s acquisition and the broader partnership with HTC et al will bring about a change in the Smartphone/Tablet enterprise-level market and break the BlackBerry monopoly?


Thursday, 10 March 2011

N97 is this what Apple meant by 2011 being The Year of the Copycat?

Steve Jobs this month released the iPad 2 and during this keynote speech he made reference to 2011 being the year of the copycat. But is Steve guilty of hypocrisy?
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In February, the media and finance news giant Bloomberg leaked information about Apple creating a cheaper mid-range market iPhone. It’s codenamed N97 (No relation to the Nokia of the same name) and it’s going to be a cheaper cut down version to invigorate the mid-share market. The importance of this is that Apple have finally realised they’re loosing market share and need to quickly stem the leak.
Old Steve knows what he’s doing and he’s not a fool. When he arrived back at Apple in the late 90s he turned around a near-bankrupt PC and Software minnow into the world’s largest tech firm. The problem is that, as research by Canalys shows, they are loosing the budget/mid-range markets whilst they're retaining (along with BlackBerry) the high-end market which has been successfully dominated by Apple.
Apple’s advertising has made sure that it’s connected with ideas of high fashion. It’s usually purchased, according to Nielsen, by 29-39 age group with high-end incomes. This niche means they can charge £599 or the US$ or Euro equivalent without anyone quaffing. The threat comes from Android making discounted or budget phones, mid-range phones and high-end phones.
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This copy-cat move from Apple illustrates Jobs fear. As the old adage goes you beat your adversary by beating their argument. Android’s argument surrounds the idea of device-agnostic ecosystem and Apple has reacted by carting out a sick Steve Jobs who took turns smashing into Android, not because of technical prowess but just to knock the competitor. His claim that appStore had 65,000 apps ready for iPad whilst Android had only 100 is just that. In 2009 Android had 6,7 million users worldwide by the end of 2010 this had increased a hundredfold to 67,2 million and by the end of 2011 analysts predict that 202,2 million.
This freedom from handset strictures and a freer ecosystem has its faults (just see the latest app scare on the Android market along with fragmentation fears over OS and microprocessor variants) but it’s winning the market share. Apple knows if it doesn't do something soon it just might loose its crowning glory as the market leader in the high-end market. Samsung, DELL and HTC are creating high-end phones which are being released in 2011 this will create further tensions within Apple.
But all is not lost for Apple, far from it, the support for Mac is legendary. The marmite motto just might fit the mac phenomenon – you either love it or you hate it – its that simple. Android is building a fan-base but without a strict hardware fan-base Android could have problems. Diversifying the iPhone brand will help gain market share in the mid-range section.
So 2011, with tablets, Honeycomb and Gingerbread and new phones coming Android has a good year lined up. But so do RIM with the BlackBerry PlayBook and so do Apple with their iPhone5 and iPad2. This year will be interesting. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Is this the end of BlackBerry’s Mobile Enterprise Dominance in the US?

 

BlackBerry’s parent company RIM (Research In Motion Inc,) this month saw findings released by comScore which indicated that between October 2010 and January 2011 RIM lost –5.4% market share and in the process lost their market share dominance. As of January 2011 the US Smartphone market is dominated by Android.

According to comScore Android captured 31.2% which is a 7.7% increase on their October 2010 presence. RIM are relegated to second place with 30.4% whilst Apple remain third with 24.7% which showed a 0.01% marginal increase on October’s position(1). During Q4 of 2010 RIM, Microsoft and Palm lost a combined total of 7.8% which was shared between Android and Apple.

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The ABI Research/Gartner Research findings in Q4 of last year indicated that Android was a sex-neutral purchase and was purchased predominantly by twenty+ age group. This is problematic, whilst Android’s new ‘lower-end’ phones will help in expanding Android’s already growing market share what Android is missing out on is enterprise-class smartphone computing capabilities.

Exchange Server and Lotus Notes are major parts of the SME/Corporate back-bone. Not that many businesses have emails with the Gmail suffix. There needs to be a functionality re-appraisal for Gingerbread/Honeycomb which will integrate great personal usability alongside corporate usage. This is the reason why RIM has the monopoly in enterprise-class smartphone usage. According to TNS Global; RIM have captured in aggregate terms, incorporating SME to Corporate 1-10000+ employee environments, a 67% market share whereas Android accounts for an aggregate total of 11%(2).

Microsoft have made sure that Microsoft Exchange Server works with BlackBerry’s, iPhones and Android phones along with their own Windows Mobile/7 variants too(3). IBM have also  made sure their world-class enterprise software Lotus Notes is available for Android (4). So if it’s not just simply a communications barrier between corporate email software and Android phones then what is the commercial problem with Android?

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The three main priorities for commercial users are; data control, platform support and cost effectiveness. These priorities are central to any IT department’s policy objectives in any FTSE or NYSE 100 company. The integrity of their information is of paramount importance and this is where open source could be problematic. RIM and iOS are closed-sourced Operating Systems which require direct approval from BlackBerry and Apple to work on their OS/Apps, but Google has an open-handset alliance which allows anyone to decompile the Android OS. This is a fear, but as earlier posts have stated the Android security market is growing and growing fast. Symantec, Norton and AVG have all released Android-based security software along with the support of Lotus Notes/Microsoft Exchange the support/security aspect is currently achievable. Finally, cost-effectiveness is central to any business organisation. The idea that they can get a return-on-investment from using Android smartphone technologies to make their staff/procedures more productive which will mean a greater ROI over revenues/profits. Therefore, the three main issues surrounding Android and enterprise-class computing have been fixed-up.

There is still work with Android 2.3 with enterprise-class computing, but it’s possible and enterprise-class Android smartphones are cheaper than anything RIM or Apple produce. Meaning cost-effectiveness, broad-based support and security and app integrity is achievable.  

Android’s enterprise-class smartphone computing market-share will grow on the 11% in Q3/4 2010 as the explosive growth this year with tablet computing, which the multitude of Android devices being released this year will further complement Android’s market share, with enterprise-class organisations looking seriously at tablet computing as ways of increasing productivity and data manoeuvrability within strict data integrity structures. Cisco, Barclays and Wal*Mart have implemented Android into their ITC infrastructure without any major upheaval.

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Android in 2011 will dominate the personal smartphone market but it has also now reached the age of maturity for commercial enterprise-class uptake to commence. This is an important part of Android’s expansion as an all-round Smartphone OS platform. The versatility of handsets, which will help with cost-benefit issues for companies, as Samsung, LG, Google and HTC have a myriad of phones available for different users, along with the increase in security software from the big 3, AVG, Symantec and Norton, which means the platform addresses the corporate-world’s versatility instructions and can now become successfully incorporated into Corporate ITC infrastructure. Yet, BlackBerry will continue to dominate the Corporate smartphone sphere in 2011, it is Apple’s overtures to the Corporate world that Android this year will overturn and see gigantic strides in enterprise-class Android smartphone usage.

 

(1)  http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/3/comScore_Reports_January_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share/%28language%29/eng-US

(2) http://www.tnsglobal.com/news/news-EBE5DD9AE77B4A09AB7FA6B1AF0E4BE2.aspx

(3) http://www.microsoft.com/online/exchange-online.aspx

(4) http://www-01.ibm.com/software/lotus/products/inotes/ultralite/

Saturday, 5 March 2011

What are the 5 Best Android Social Networking Apps?

 

 

The definition of Social Networking according to the Oxford Online Dictionary is:

“a network of social interactions and personal relationships.”

The integration of social network sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn have allowed mobile phones to become more than just that. They allow the user access to their entire online social network of relationships and allow interaction therein through a structured network system.

Android’s open source functionality has meant that there has been a lot of enterprise/non-enterprise level development in the social network app field. So lets look at the five best apps available.

 (1)  Facebook for Android (Official App)

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The Facebook App of course does the usual stuff like allows you to update your status, look at friends newsfeeds and chat. There is a general consensus though that this app has its faults (just look at the Android Market app review page – the main critiques surround failure to update in real time and it has been reported a loss of friends status updates – but these faults aside the app, being the official app, is a secure way to connect to facebook via your Android device. Another great element of this app is that it syncs your calendar, contacts and alarms with important events from facebook – so never miss another birthday or anniversary again. If you would like to download or find out more please visit https://market.android.com/details?id=com.facebook.katana&feature=search_result

(2)  Twitter for Android (Official App)

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The Twittersphere has become a popular destination for millions of people from celebrities to politicians. Microblogging site Twitter has attracted a somewhat ‘marmite’ following – you either love it or hate it – but this aside, the official android Android app is superb. It allows you to tweet on the go and look at others tweets too. Its easy to navigate via top/bottom menu bar and it is good at real-time updates, although one review dislikes this app stating that

“This app is complete bullshit! I don't get all of Charlie Sheen's tweets!”

Charlie Sheen’s tweets aside this app has a very cool edge over the millions of other third-party Twitter apps because Twitter worked in collaboration with Google in developing this app and it is tried and tested on Android 2.2 and above. It also syncs the people you follow into your own phone’s contacts and details. The only problem I have is that it doesnt autocomplete @username or #topic like on the PC or on Android app Tweetcaster. Twitter has, due to privacy concerns, cracked down on thrid-party Twitter app developers. Many users have had problems with apps such as Twitoid you can be safe in the knowledge that this wont happen with the official app. To download this app visit https://market.android.com/detailsid=com.twitter.android&feature=search_result

(3)   TweetDeck App

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TweetDeck is probably one of the best social network management apps available on Android. It links your Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter of Google Buzz accounts and allows you to simultaneously update via multiple social network. It’s great all round app which intergrates well with the Android platform. It does not allow multiple accounts to the same social network, also tags can be problematic too. To find out more and to download this app visit http://www.tweetdeck.com/

(4)   TweetCaster Pro for Android

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TweetCaster Pro includes the same functionality as the official Tweitter app such as Twitter account integration but it has other features which make it probably the best (albeit at a premium as it costs £ 3.06) Twitter app available. Does it bug you when people you follow talk nonsense, then with TweetCaster you can tell them to ‘Zip-It’ this function which silences but does not stop following them. You can have multiple accounts setup and also it gives you a trending list along with a location list; So you can find out what people around you are thinking. This app is probably only useful for the more diehard Tweeters out there. But if your interested then please visit https://market.android.com/detailsid=com.handmark.tweetcaster.premium&feature=search_result

 

(5)    Seesmic for Android (Twitter, Facebook)

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Seesmic is a brilliant little yet incredibly powerful social network management app. You can update and get real-time status updates along with device syncing which means a brilliant all-round performance is possible. Yet what’s really clever about Seesmic is that it links with Youtube or Twitpic which means not that this app becomes not just a social network app but a multi-media social networking app. This gives it an edge over most other apps available. Its look and feel and navigation is much simpler than any other app available. For more information or to download this app please visit

 https://market.android.com/detailsid=com.seesmic&feature=search_result

 

There are many more apps available either online or through the Android Marketplace. Social Networking apps are about your preferences if you prefer to post status updates over reading news feeds then some are more suited for your needs than others that cover the full spectrum of social networking. The only other advice I can offer is to make sure you have an excellent security package on your phone and that you look at the permissions the app requires and make sure you feel comfortable and safe using the app. So have fun tweeting, buzzing or facebooking.

Support Fragmentation: Is this the biggest problem Android faces in 2011?

 

 

The arguments surrounding Android OS fragmentation fears are pretty old and obsolete but there is a new fear within the Android community which is platform fragmentation. Electronic Arts new video game Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is available on the Android market. But it’s only available for 600mhz+ processor-based devices. The issue here is that whilst EA have made the video game backwards compatible to Android 1.6 the game hasn’t been tailored to suite all processors.

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Why is this important? Well this year sees the explosive growth of new tablets all running new kinds of microprocessors. The TEGRA chipset manufactured by Nvidia or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset have set the bar even higher by incorporating extensive technologies and processes which have made processor fragmentation a real threat to the Android platform.

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The Android platform’s USP (Unique Selling Point) is that it is part of a broad ecosystem whereby the OS is not dependant on a singular device. This device-agnostic approach means that Android has the capability to work with device manufacturers to create different kinds of devices to suite different needs. The importance of this in the context of processor fragmentation is that apps and services are being linked to hardware.

So whilst Android apps can be made backwards compatible there will be, if this continues, a class differentiation (and please forgive the Marxian metaphor) will occur whereby flagship devices will have both the hardware and software capabilities but other devices will not be so lucky.

This is an important year for Android as it is set to take the tablet world by storm. Motorola Xoom is already being released and soon HTC will be releasing the Flyer and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and other manufacturers are shipping Android tablets too. RBC Capital Markets General Manager made a speech to investors where he argued that in 2011 Tablet revenues will reach $ 11 Billion plus but by 2014 revenues could hit $ 70 Billion. And Android, because of its broad eco-system basis, will beat Apple to become the number one Tablet/Smartphone OS provider(1).

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So, if this is Android’s year then it needs to get a standardised hardware benchmark in place whereby if your device runs hummingbird, Tegra or Snapdragon processors regardless of what Android OS variant your running then the app will work regardless. What is Google doing to help this become a reality?

Android Compatibility Package has been released to help developers make their apps backwards compatible and also create a sort of universal screen resolution spec whereby an app will run on different devices. But the ACP does not create the same set of functions in relation to processors. This needs to be achieved and achieved soon.

The BlackBerry PlayBook or Apple iPad is based on a singular hardware framework and therefore developers have strict architecture to base their product on. That’s why Apple have a lot more ‘quality’ apps the Android maturity/fragmentation issue has hampered this goal. But what’s now needed is for not hardware universality because that would be counter-productive and go against the very essence of Android but to focus Android developers not on singular processors but multi support for different processors.

image

Honeycomb will introduce this feature as it will support single or multicore microprocessor architectures. This will help in the fight against processor fragmentation within the Android ecosystem(2). Honeycomb through is a tablet variant of Android and Gingerbread which is currently the newest variant of Android on smartphone devices means there are still developmental issues at stake here. But the news that Jim Schmidt stated at the WMC that Gingerbread and Honeycomb will merge is incredibly important in overcoming the issue of microprocessor fragmentation within the Android platform.

(1) https://www.rbccm.com/about/cid-202793.html

(2) http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/design/performance.html

Friday, 4 March 2011

Security Apps and the Android Platform: What does the rise in web security apps mean for Android users?

 

The big players are all involved; McAfee(1), AVG (2) and Symantec (3) have all released Android smartphone security and anti-virus apps. Why the sudden rush though? Global Threat Centre have published two whitepapers in June 2010 regarding the potential threat 48,000 apps posed to Android systems (4). Google has had to take down apps from the Android market because of malware being distributed through the market. In March 2011 nearly 50 apps have been discovered to pose a threat to Android smartphones (5).

Why? Google’s Android OS is based on a Linux-kernel which means its open-source unlike BlackBerry or Apple. You can go on the Android website, visit the developers page and download the SDK development pack. If you know a little bit about coding and programming then you could feasibly create malware and publish it on the Android marketplace. The rise in the big 3 (McAfee, AVG and Symantec) have released Smartphone security apps because there is a market for it.

McAfee who were recently acquired by Intel have seen revenues increase, according to Bloomberg, in its Mobile Security division by 33% in the last quarter of 2010. The prominence of Android, the freedom developers have, albeit new stricter rules Google have introduced on newly developed apps from the end of 2010 onwards, mean there is a possibility malware is still available on the Android marketplace( 6).

Well what can you do? The first thing I have done when I get a shiny new Android phone is to download AVG from the Android Market. But Symantec and Norton have all released similar products, with features that beat the free AVG app by far, the issue is payment. Whether you wish to subscribe or not. At the end of the day how much do you depend on your phone. No security software could mean that if you download that bubble game or sexy bikini girl wallpaper it could result in you loosing all your pictures, music, apps and could in the absolute worst case tamper with your phones internal software. So be careful make sure you know what your installing, read reviews and backup to your SD card.

So the first thing you should do with your new or old Android phone is to install an Android mobile security app immediately it doesn't matter from which provider just make sure your lifeline to the world is secured.

 

(1)    https://www.wavesecure.com/

(2)    http://www.avg.com/ww-en/antivirus-for-android

(3)    http://us.norton.com/mobile-security/

(4)    http://globalthreatcenter.com/

(5)    http://news.techworld.com/security/3263465/google-android-malware-scare-leads-to-security-fears/

(6 )  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-08-20/intel-after-mcafee-may-find-mobile-a-difficult-sell.html

Firefox 4 Beta: Will this change the Android browsing experience?

 

 

February 2011 Mozilla launched Firefox 4 Beta 5 for Android. This is the most significant app release in 2011. The Android platform has a very solid web browser built in. The WebKit uses Google Chrome’s own Javascript V8 Engine which speeds up page rendering and makes for a sleeker browsing experience. The other offerings of browsers like Opera, Skyfire or Dolphin have lacked this powerful central powerhouse engine. Gimmicky is another charge often levied towards the non-Android built-in browser. Skyfire for example streams Flash content and Opera loads pages quicker because it caches the page from its own serves. But these technologies dont really work day-in-day-out on smartphones. This is where FireFox comes in.

firefox android pic

The Firefox browser is so powerful that it cannot be used on pre ARMv7 chipset phones. So there goes the Sony Ericsson X10 phones or LG Optima phones or even the HTC Wildfire. You need a minimum of 1Ghz processing power along with 512mb RAM and a minimum of 17mb storage on a SD Card or internal memory. It also works with Flash 10.1 to maximise the Android web experience and it requires Android 2.2 as a minimum OS specification.

Another great function that Firefox enables users to work with is ‘syncing’. It will take your bookmarks and other data from your PC/Mac and shift them to your Android Firefox device. Meaning you can merge your online behaviour from your PC to your portable device.

For more information on supported systems, news from Mozilla or to download Firefox for your Android device visit Firefox website at http://www.mozilla.com/en-GB/m/beta

BBC iPlayer now available for Android 2.2 Smartphones



It's here, at last... BBC iPlayer offical app. I bear the BBC no ill will but I do have a grumble about the speed it was released as version 1 was only published on the 10th of February 2011, whilst Apple iPhone users have had an app for nearly a year now. But this is an important move as outlets and developers now understand that Android is the fastest growing Smart Device OS in the World (Gartner/Nielsen/ABI Research) and that it would be commercially stupid to only create iPhone or BlackBerry apps and forget about Android.

But the new app from the BBC brings the delights of BBC programming to your smartphone or tablet pc. This means you can watch  Football Focus, BBC Breakfast or even University Challenge on the go? It also means you can listen to podcasts and radio sations too.

Visit the Android Market website https://market.android.com/details?id=bbc.iplayer.android&feature=search_result then download it to your phone. Spec Reminder; it requires a phone running Android 2.2 or above.

Music Apps for Android: Is this Android’s Achilles heel?

 

The Android built-in Music playing app isn’t the best music app in the world of smartphones, far from it, its probably one of the worst. The Android platform has a really exiting future but whilst its browser, device-agnostic versatility and all round app coolness are positives the music player it has been argued is a negative feature. Music playing abilities have been hampered by Android, also the lack of decent headphones with Android smartphones is another issue which irritates Android fans. But Android version by version have been making Android music player better. But what else is available?

But what are the best Music apps available on the Android Market or on the web? Lets look at five apps which are popularly believed to bet the best music apps for the  Android platform.

1) PowerAMP

Its based on the classic WinAMP music player on Windows which was one of the best music applications in PC history but what’s great about PowerAMP is that it brings this sense of innocence and sleekness to Android – No premium membership or streaming just music plain and simple. To get PowerAMP please visit the Android market or visit https://market.android.com/details?id=com.maxmpz.audioplayer&feature=search_result

2) MortPlayer Music BETA Player

MortPlayer has a unique selling point which is it does not use metadata tags to sort and catalogue music. It simply organises music  on a folder basis. Which means if your music tastes are somewhat weird or eclectic and the cover art cannot be found or musician’s name cannot be detected then MortPlayer is the music player for you. Please visit the Android Market on your phone or visit: https://market.android.com/details?id=de.stohelit.folderplayer

3) RockPlayer Lite

RockPlayer is my favourite media player; It’s music player is brilliant it plays all sorts MP3 to Digital Amazon downloads its brilliant. Again this, like MortPlayer, does not organise using metadata tags but opts for folder categorisation. It’s a very simple and easy to navigate application. Its free but its well worth the ten dollar investment to purchase the full version. To download Rockplayer visit: http://www.rockplayer.com/index_en.html

4) BoomBoxoid Music Player HQ

Is an intelligent app; it scans cover art to smart cataloguing of apps it is a temperamental beast though, with many people having had problems with music files disappearing of being deleted. But I have trialled it for three weeks without problem. To download BoomBoxoid please visit: https://market.android.com/details?id=qodeSter.beatbox.media.flash&feature=search_result

5) SpotIfy

SpotIfy is a really cool new music app. With the birth of the Android device-agnostic platform which has given rise to the practical application of cloud-computing in daily life (where data/programs are stored elsewhere and accessed as and when required) which SpotIfy totally encapsulates. Spotify is not about copying music to your phone, far from it, it streams music from the SpotIfy website. You build playlists and can listen to any song you can think of. Its a premium service which costs £9.99 a month. But the plus side of this is that you can use this service when your offline. If your interested in this app please visit Spotify’s website for information: http://www.spotify.com/uk/new-user/

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The myth and reality of Android fragmentation and what it means to you?



Android 1.1...Android 1.5... Android 1.6... Android 2.0... Android 2.0.1... Android 2.1... Android 2.2.. Android 2.3... An exhaustive list of Android OS variants; But there is an industry fear which is called Android fragmentation. This is where developers fear that some apps wont run on certain devices because of the Android SDK not giving developers a platform to redesign their apps for the multiple releases of Android available. The Android SDK is the development platform for designing, writing and implementing Android applications. The current SDK has created the possibility whereby the app can be too device-centric and will have problems running on other devices. This issue of fragmentation has haunted Google for a long time. So much so, Eric Schmidt the Google CEO, at the World Mobile Congress 2011 in Barcelona, stated that the issue of fragmentation has been fixed with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and thereafter the roll out of Android OS updates will be in an orderly six month roll period.1 Problem fixed then? Not quite, the fear of fragmentation post-Gingerbread seems to be corrected by this unitary six-monthly update cycle but for pre-Gingerbread devices fragmentation still could exist.

Android 2.1 is the most popularly used version of the OS according to research figures released in 2010.2 According to ZDNet, figures in July of 2010 stated that, Android 2.1 accounted for 45.1%,of the market, yet Donut and Eclair (1.5/1.6) account for 54.4% overall market. The fragmentation process will come to a head when, as Schmidt reported at the MWC in Barcelona earlier this week, Android 2.3 Gingerbread will merge with Tablet-specific Android 3.0 Honeycomb to create in Schmidt's own words “The two of them… you can imagine the follow up will start with an I, be named after dessert, and will combine these two”3 This will bring an end to developers and OEMs fears regarding the notion of fragmentation.

Therefore users on Android 1.6 to 2.2 will be at the mercy of developers who singularly recode their apps for the differentiation that results from each Android OS variant. IMS Research published a report on Android fragmentation worries in April 2010 whilst the report is nearly a year old the questions asked to Mr Schmidt this week prove that fragmentation is still a current worry within the industry and does cause developers issues. IMS Research report stated that they “expect Android to see considerable market share gains in the immediate and near future. However, to keep up that pace of growth, particularly in the high end market, Google absolutely has to manage fragmentation.”4 This is the reason why Google has announced stricter update cycles, which the Open Handset Alliance will have to implement, of course this will break with the old freer notion of Android as open-source and geek-driven. But with Android having obtained global Smart phone OS dominance a  responsibility for the wider mainstream user becomes an important issue. Schimidt, this week, realised this when he stated that “we have an anti-fragmentation clause for all our vendors”5 This tougher approach will mean that the fragmentation of the past where vendors where releasing devices with Android 1.5 to 2.2 will see distribution at an incremental speed so there will be a smaller ratio of fragmentation within Android-based devices in circulation.

So does Google's tougher approach now answer questions and allay fears of developers, OEMs and users alike? Only time will tell but this is the right, albeit belated, step in the right direction for Android. The myth of fragmentation did hurt the platform during the early period. Developers stayed away but with new systems and vendor agreements and Google updating twice-yearly will only mean that Android will go from strength to strength.


Sources 

3http://www.mobileworldlive.com/tv.asp?id=348 (accessed 17/02/2011) for Eric Schmidt's speech but the Author would like to thank Michael Murphy at Talk Android for introducing him to the topic of fragmentation. His article is available at http://www.talkandroid.com/30474-eric-schmidts-keynote-speech-at-mobile-world-congress/