Now that Google+ is open to the public (and you can add me to your circles here by the way,) some of the first people who have joined are the people eager for an alternative to Facebook. Obviously, the first few people on the network were the geeks and techies who wanted first access to assess it for features and usability so they would write about it, tell the world, and use it for themselves. I was more than happily one of those people – after all, it’s my duty to tell others about it, right?
Well, after that, the next few people to sign on were people who were desperately looking for an alternative to Facebook either because they have issues with Facebook and it’s privacy policies, dislike the way Facebook handles data, have had it up to here with Facebook’s design changes, or they dislike Facebook for some other reason. Naturally those people tend to be vocal about their dissent and departure. What’s been unexpected though in the past few weeks and months has been exactly how vocal Facebook users on the other hand have been defending their platform against anyone perceived as a threat. While Twitter users don’t seem to have much problem talking about Facebook or Google+, and Google+ users tend to look at Facebook with a little disdain but prefer to speak instead of the merits of Google+ as opposed to denigrating Facebook, Facebook users actively dislike any mention of Google+, and will go out of their way to be vocal about it, even if it’s mentioned in passing. What I don’t understand is why.
I love Android, I really do – and I especially love how imminently customizable and tweakable it is, regardless of how sometimes carriers and Google itself will try to arrest some of that tweaking and hacking. Still, it’s probably the most open mobile OS out there, and clearly the one that most people are experimenting and toying with.
And above, one group of researchers have come up with a 32-inch multi-touch display running Android. The results are astounding to see. I kind of wish I could get one of these for my wall, frankly.
Over at Google I/O last week, one of the interesting but under-reported items on the event floor was the Meta Watch from FOSSIL. The folks over at This Is My Next managed to play with it a bit, and in an age where people are generally shedding wristwatches entirely in favor of phones (which all have clocks on them anyway,) the Meta Watch wants to do something a little differently.
What if, for example, you could check your SMS messages, read them, see how many e-mails you had unread, and more, as well as the time, date, and weather? If your watch were more of a companion device, paired with your smartphone, would a watch be a more attractive device?
That’s FOSSIL’s goal. The two models of Meta Watch pair with your Android phone to deliver relevant information to the watch face, while your watch stays on your wrist and your phone stays in your pocket, away from prying eyes or thieving hands.
Here’s a video of the watch in action, thanks to This Is My Next:
I have to say, the concept of “+1″ is actually pretty geeky. Lots of people have pointed out how close to net-speak +1 really is, although Google has the right idea with it. Saying “+1″ is usually a way to affirm that you agree with what the person said (kind of like saying “signed,”) and support their sentiment. Google wants to take it to the next level by giving you a way to +1 search results, services, products, and good results from Google so they can improve their search results.
It’s not Google’s first attempt at leveraging user input to improve search results, but this one might catch on because it has a lot of things in common with Facebook’s beloved “Like” button. The end goal is that you can put a “+1″ button on your Web site to get a little more exposure, and to have people click to prove to Google that your site is a good one and full of good information.
The down-side though is that it’ll be difficult for Google to separate the wheat from the chaff on this one: a number of tech pundits I know have already pointed out that SEO specialists and marketers have found ways to exploit and leverage virtually all of Google’s social search tools and techniques up to this point: why would this one be any different?
I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s Google’s video describing exactly what the +1 button is and how it’ll work:
I’ve reviewed a bunch of mobile apps that promise to help you text while walking or in motion without forcing you to not pay attention to where you’re going, but this is the first time I’ve seen an app that actually proactively takes action against its owner if the owner has pirated the app.
The rogue Android App, Walk and Text, is not an official version of the app from the developers, and it’s listed as a version number that doesn’t exist (1.3.7.) Essentially, the only way to get it is to get a pirated copy of the app – one that includes the trojan that’s lying in wait under the surface for you to install and try to run it.
Once the app is installed, it’ll display a screen to you that makes it look like the app is cracking or installing itself, or setting itself up in some other capacity. What it’s really doing behind the scenes is taking your name, your phone number, your phone’s ID information (your International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI number,) and anything else it can get to an external server.
Then, and perhaps this is the clincher if the previous weren’t bad enough, the app sends an SMS to everyone in your contacts list that tells everyone that you pirated an app and how cheap you are. The SMS looks like this:
Yowch. That’s pretty harsh.
While I have no love for piracy, I think this one might go a little too far. Maybe if it sent a message to your own e-mail address or something, or did something clever that stayed between you, the app, and the people who knew you pirated it, I wouldn’t think too much of it. Then it’d be harmless.
This, on the other hand, is anything but harmless, and the folks collecting that data are slowly building a repository of data about mobile devices and their owners that they could do just about anything they want with, including sell it to the highest bidder. The SMS to all of your contacts too is pretty underhanded, I don’t think anyone would want their family, friends, or worse employers to get a text message like that.
Admittedly, the folks behind it would say “well then, don’t pirate apps,” which I think is a good moral of the story now that we’ve all heard it. It won’t stop me from feeling a little sympathetic to the people who get busted by it, though.
Reports are that the Motorola Xoom – the iPad’s first real competitor, and the first Android tablet to run Android 3.0 “Honeycomb,” isn’t selling quite as well as people had hoped. Admittedly, there are likely a number of reasons for why this is, but ultimately the success of the Xoom is key to the success of the tablet market in general: if the iPad has a strong competitor, Apple will feel the need to push forward when it comes to improving and innovating in the marketplace. If they feel they can completely define the market direction and the technology consumers buy, they’ll make more modest steps.
Analyst Peter Misek told ZDNet:
Xoom sales have been underwhelming. While marketing has just started we believe MMI will likely have to cut production if it already has not done so. We believe the device has been a bit buggy and did not meet the magic price point of $500. We believe management knows this and is hurrying development and production of lower cost tablets. Importantly we believe management will likely have to make the painful decision to accept little to no margin initially in order to match iPad 2’s wholesale pricing.
Yowch. He even tosses in a ding at the Motorola Atrix later in the report, claiming that the Blackberry Torch – a phone that got a largely tepid response from the tech community and BlackBerry enthusiasts – is selling better than the Motorola Atrix, the highly lauded Android phone that made waves at CES back in January.
So what’s the deal? Well, the Atrix got dinged on confusing pricing and – the real draw, supposedly the laptop dock that Motorola wanted everyone to pick up – being about as expensive as the phone. Add that to the fact that the Atrix is an AT&T exclusive, and you have a great phone that’s essentially DOA.
As for the Motorola Xoom, some people are complaining that the Xoom is buggy, Honeycomb isn’t ready for prime time, and of course, the fact that there’s a ridiculous lack of Honeycomb apps available, so you’re stuck using apps for Froyo if you can get them to work properly.
To me, there have been three nails in the coffin of the Xoom right now – the lack of tablet-based apps, the confusing pricing structure, and the delay of a WiFi only model. The delay of a WiFi only model all but positions the Xoom as something that people would have to go to a wireless carrier to get, and not everyone who may be interested in a tablet want to get into an added contract with their wireless carrier to enjoy. The lack of tablet-based apps has been talked to death. The pricing structure has been its own problem: there are three prices for the WiFi model, three prices for the 3G model, a cost to upgrade to 4G, an activation fee, a fee to pay Verizon Wireless to get a WiFi only model, and so on. Ultimately, when you buy a Xoom, or think about buying a Xoom, you have absolutely no idea what your out of pocket expenses will be.
Still, all of those woes aside, I really like the Xoom – or rather, the idea of the Xoom – since competition is good and the iPad needs some. After all, I’m still convinced that Apple got away with a fairly lackluster update to the original iPad largely to fanfare because there still aren’t solid competitors in the market yet that can stand toe-to-toe with Apple on the software front.
What do you think? Are you pondering a Motorola Xoom, or are you waiting for additional Honeycomb tablets to hit the market? Maybe you’re looking instead for more Honeycomb apps to appear? Let me know in the comments.
So the blogs have been buzzing recently thanks to a report that for SpaceTime Studios, the developers of the popular mobile MMO Pocket Legends, has found that its Android version is simply more profitable than the iOS version of the same game.
SpaceTime runs Pocket Legends for both platforms, and since the game is an MMO, anyone on any platform can play with each other. But SpaceTime noted that they’re seeing more sales from its Android customers than from its iOS customers. Does this mean – as many tech news sites have jumped to the conclusion – that Android owners are somehow more willing to shell out for apps than iOS users? Does it mean that developers should all switch to building games for Android now?
Well, what exactly does it mean? I know – partially because unlike a number of people who have covered the story in a couple of places, I’ve actually played Pocket Legends (on my Android phone, no less,) understand SpaceTime’s business model, and get what they’re really trying to say here. Let’s dive in after the jump.
(image courtesy of Engadget)
Oh yes, it was predictable, but someone had to go there: as soon as the iPad 2′s specs were released, it was just begging to be compared to every other high-end tablet on the market today, including those that haven’t shipped just yet and will be the iPad 2′s major competition when it’s released.
The Motorola Xoom, which is already out but clearly the most natural comparison to the newest iteration of the iPad, the HP Touchpad, and the BlackBerry PlayBook – neither of which even have ship or pre-order dates yet – all get thrown down spec-wise to help you understand whether you should spring for the iPad 2, get a Xoom, or wait for something new.
The table is over at Engadget that runs down all of the specs (including the reported future specs of the tablets that haven’t been released yet) – and yes, I can hear people complaining now that it’s not entirely fair to compare a unit coming out now or already on the market to tablets that have been announced but aren’t shipping and are subject to change. To those people I say: I agree completely – take the future specs with a grain of salt, and don’t wait unless you’re wedded to what you’re waiting for.
Head on over to Engadget and take a look at the table.
Google had a huge announcement today: partially unveiling Android 3.0 “Honeycomb,” which we all knew was coming and were waiting for details on, and partially to show off a new, revamped Android App Market (finally with a Web-based store that can do push-installs to your Android phone, much like AppBrain can) complete with a much more unified payment system for apps that cost money.
I was sitting in the live chat for the announcement at PC Mag, who I think has wrapped up the news very nicely:
The first part of Google’s Wednesday event was dedicated to a demo of Honeycomb, its next-generation Android platform. Google showed it off at CES this year, and Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google, took the stage again today for another look.
Google has revamped how users navigate on Android, with a new button dedicated solely to multi-tasking. There is a notification and systems status area on the bottom right, but the rest of the screen is dedicated entirely to apps, he said. The home screen is not just a “warehouse of apps; it’s an app development platform in itself,” he said. Widgets can be stacked for easy scrolling through things like baseball stats or YouTube videos.
“What really matters is, despite the clever computer science we have to enable the smooth experience, it’s just about quick and easy access to important information,” Barra said.
Barra showed off Honeycomb’s IM options, video chat functionality, and notifications, which he said were designed to be “completely non-intrusive.”
Barra also said Google has “spent a significant amount of effort to make sure existing Android apps run really well on tablets.” He pulled up Fruit Ninja on a Honeycomb tablet, a game he said was built before Honeycomb even existed. “It works amazingly well,” Barra said.
Coming out of the event today, it looks like Honeycomb won’t just be for tablets – it may make its way to mobile phones as well, but time will tell. [ update: Google is driving this point home. Honeycomb is for TABLETS, it is NOT FOR SMARTPHONES. ] Honeycomb looks like a complete revamp of the operating system, here’s hoping it’s a good one.
As for the updates to the Market:
At its Wednesday Honeycomb event, Google unveiled the Android Market Web Store, a Web-based version of the Android app store.
Google also announced in-app purchasing for Android apps, and new currency options for developers.
“The Android Market Web Store is basically the new way that users can get apps on their devices,” said Chris Yerga, Android engineering director for cloud services at Google.
Until today, users could only access Android Market apps via the app store client on their phone. Now, users can go to market.android.com and peruse all the available apps. It is live now.
The Android Web Store includes a carousel with promotional banners for apps, as well as familiar categories like features, top paid, and top free, Yerga said. To purchase, click the buy option and a pop-up window will appear, asking you which device on which you want to install the app. Select payment option and the Web Store will send the app directly to your mobile device.
Definitely an improvement over the hodge-podge methodology previously and the ad-hoc payment methods of the Android App Market before today, but I’m not sure if that’s saying too much considering how horrible paying for apps in the Market used to be. Still – the fact that the store is live now and ready to go is a great sign, and the push-installs are great features.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Google’s made the right set of changes to the Market to make app purchases take off. We’ll have to wait even longer to see if Honeycomb pans out to be the boon that Google hopes it will be.
A lot of parents clearly don’t need this – especially some of the ones I know that are just as – if not clearly more so – tech savvy than their offspring, but for those folks who find themselves constantly addressing even the smallest technology issues on a regular basis because they’re “the computer person” in their family, this handy little Web site (actually a Google project!) may come in handy.
Simply fill in the form letter with the name of the person you want to send your note to, set up the little support care package you’re about to send, and then select the YouTube videos you want to send over to your recipient. Whether it’s simple, basic how-tos on how to copy/paste or how to take a screenshot on your computer, or how to set up an e-mail auto-responder or share a large file without overwhelming someone’s inbox, Tech Parents Tech can help get your recipient started with a video tutorial.
The videos are down to earth and very straight-forward, and they don’t assume a great deal of technical knowledge for the viewer to get some benefit from them, so they’re perfect if you’re looking for a way to give someone a visual tutorial without actually being there to do it.
Next time someone in your family calls you up asking how they can make a photo smaller, or how they can view traffic on the Web, now you have a way to help them!