Tag Archive | Mobile

Why 2012 will be the most exciting year in mobile yet

The rapid change in technology over the last five years has been nothing short of astounding, we have seen established brands such as Blackberry and Nokia go from market dominance to struggling underdogs. We’ve seen the dominance of Apple, the beauty of the multitouch capacitive screen and the lightning in a bottle that is the well developed ecosystem. As exciting as they have been, I don’t think its going to hold a candle to 2012.

I say this for a number of reasons:

  1. It has taken time for smartphones to be ready for consumers
  2. It has taken time for consumers to be ready for smartphones
  3. Platform App stores are now the defacto content delivery mechnisim
  4. Developers are now empowered with tools and easy (ish) languages and more importantly are finally getting the respect and recognition they deserve.

We now have an educated consumer base, who want to purchase apps and services, demand more from their phone and expect it to be delivered faster. We have a mature ecosystems where you can buy movies, tv shows, games, utilities and more all under one well designed roof.  But more importantly all companies understand that they need to have a mobile strategy and continue to invest in it.

Now it would be foolish to not to mention the most dominant force in mobile today, Apple. Apples’ success has been nothing short of phoenix like, from being 90 days from bankrupcy in 1996, to being one of the worlds richest companies in 2011. Its products are beautifuly engineered and executed, popular and aspirational. The App Store is the number one player in the game and to some the only player. Its users buy more and spend longer using their apps. Apple will not be dislodged from its position in 2012 or 2013 for that matter.

However to modify a phrase used by Steve Jobs: For other companies to win, Apple doesn’t have to lose.

Android
My thoughts on current versions of android arent all that positive, versions up to 2.3 (gingerbread) feel rough around the edges, a powerful but somewhat blunt tool when it comes to the user experience. However, Google understands that it can’t succeed if it delivers a sub par user experience and with its next release Ice Cream Sandwich it is improving all aspects of the User interface. Android is already well on its way to becoming the most popular (by units sold) platform, but with ICS it will finally have a response to the long standing criticisms. Combine this with the number of hardware partners and a well established eco system it becomes more than just a cheap alternative to iOS.

Blackberry
Rim has had a tough couple of years, all of which are its own fault for ignoring the market. It has rushed to catch up but faltered at each step, its tablet dreams fell short of market expectations and users have been leaving in droves. All is not lost as they have begun a platform transition away from current operating systems and are focussed on trying to improve all aspects of pretty much everything they do. People also forget the huge presence in emerging markets like Latin America, how RIM seeks to bolster its marketshare will be crucial. They have started delivering handsets that people want and like, have set out a clearer roadmap and begun new developer initiatives to keep their Eco system alive. 2012 is make or break for Blackberry, hopefully that will lead to some interesting developments

Windows Phone
Now this is the dark horse, released last year to a smattering of applause was Microsofts scorched earth policy to its previous mobile platforms. It has started from scratch and developed an interesting take on the user interface, forced consistency from its hardware partners and strived to court developers to create apps and services. Most importantly it has convinced Nokia to sideline its Symbian and Meego operating systems and concentrate on developing Windows Phone handsets. In short Nokia is fundamental to the success of Windows phone, it brings brand value, high quality production capabilities and manufacturing and delivery infrastructure like no other.

Nokia is committing a huge spend to marketing of its new Windows devices (three times larger than any other Nokia marketing budget), which is getting the platform visible in new ways. Microsoft has a small but growing App store, and with Nokia seeding 25, 000 developer devices to developers worldwide in 2012 it is only going to increase in size. A major side effect of Nokia working with Microsoft is that it is forcing the hand of other Windows phone licensees to up their game to compete. From marketing to device design there is now a premium level Windows phone handset which opens up new options for manufacturers.

In summary we have multiple ecosystems that have matured, devices that put customers first, platforms that are despearte to win and customers who understand the product.

2012 has the makings of the perfect storm and I cannot wait to see what happens.

Android.

I’ve had the Sony Ericsson Xperia play for a week now, so I thought I would jot down some initial thoughts on Android and my overall experience. Now, it’ only right to confess that I come to Android full of preconceptions and that I have not set them aside. Some of you may argue that this is unfair and that any new platform should be taken on its own merit viewed as an island among many, a mobile archipelago if you will.

I think those people are morons.

We are now (arguably) in the third decade of mobile with at least three established mobile platforms and many more close behind. It is very hard (read near impossible) not to take a level of expectation or preconception with you when looking at a new device or platform.People are beginning to have certain expectations on what their device does, if a new platform doesn’t meet that expectation there’s a problem.

Which brings me to Android.

I’m not a fan, there are things I like but a lot more that I don’t

The Xperia play runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3), apparently one of the best versions of the software yet, but it still seems to put the user through so many hoops, steps and jumps.

A very simple example:

Last week I was going to the Nokia Minibar event in London and needed directions from TechHub to the event. I grabbed the Meetup app from the marketplace and eventually logged in (this is due to the keyboard and I not really meshing well). I then clicked on the Meetup and tried to get directions.

It then pops up  a message asking me if I want it to show the location on a map or get directions and needing directions I clicked the latter. I then get another pop up asking if I want to complete the action using the browser or maps, I click maps.

It then starts loading up driving directions.

It’s great that it has driving directions available by why it presupposes im going to use them instead of walking in London is a strange one. In fact the only time I wanted it to ask me a question, it doesn’t offer me the choice.

Android: So close, yet so far.

Going back to my preconceptions, I always felt that Android was like iOS but just a little bit worse. Which made justifying purchasing a handset very difficult as if I’m looking for a iOS style product why would I go for one thats slightly worse? It’s why when I left appledom I went to webOS because it didn’t seek to ape or emulate other platforms, it went its own way. It’s also why I am attracted to Windows Phone, because the interface is completely different to the rest of the market. The most important thing in mobile is to match with user expectation and competitors but also seek to create your own path at the same time.

This is very difficult and not always guaranteed to succeed (see webOS), to butcher a certain Apple marketing message:

Be better, think differentiation.

Preamble: INNTW reviews the Pre 2

I had an rough relationship with the Palm Pre last year, I loved the platform but in the end swapped it for an iPhone 4. The reasons were simple, poor quality hardware and sub par performance.

Pre 2

As highlighted in my earlier posts, I dont tend to use many apps, sure on my iPhone I have plenty installed but my core are twitter, facebook and safari. Secondary Apps are lightbike and  kindle. Shocking I know, but those are my main uses of both my iPhone and my iPad.

Kindle is coming to webos but sadly I think light bike is but a dream…

Still I had the Pre – for around two weeks and it went from being a techno joy to being just plain annoying, I suspect that the fact that although my app need were satisfied, ‘this was as good as it gets’ put a dampner on things. Combine this with the dissapointing build quality and sluggish performance (I did overclock it but I feel it should be optional rather than mandatory) meant that  the Pre and I were doomed.

So why am I posting about the Pre 2? Well as said I’m a big fan of the WebOS platform and when Palm announced it was setting up a developer device program, I signed up immediately. A couple of months later (due to the overwhelming popularity of the program) and I recieved my Pre 2.

So what’s it like? Pretty impressive.

It corrects many of the Pre’s deficiencies, the touchstone coating over the entire surface of the Pre makes it much nicer to hold, I suspect it will pick up less scratches that the hard plastic of the Pre -. Further enhancing the Pre 2 is the redesign of the front of the phone. These consist of two changes, first (and arguably most importantly) a change to a Gorilla Glass screen. The plastic screen of the Pre – was a real let down for me, it just made it feel cheap and it scratched incredibly easily. The other major change is recessing the ear piece, it’s a simple change but it creates a very iPhone like appearence and brings the Pre 2 closer to a premium device.

The keyboard is much improved, I had found myself getting more and more frustrated with the onscreen keyboard of the iPhone 4, so the transition was welcome. The key action is more satisfying and I find myself making far less mistakes, the cheese grater edge is still present. However, the slider seems to be the same sadly and there is ‘Oreo shimmy’ present, which jars slightly with the rest of the improvements, I don’t have great confidence that the Pre 2 will handle a short fall any better than the original.

Performance is a strange combination of improved and sluggish, launching apps is much improved and TMC has not reared it head just yet. The touchscreen seems to be far less accurate than that of the iPhone 4, I’m not sure of the reason but I find that in some instances, multiple presses are required to make the phone recognise the button press. There are also noticeable pauses when using the gesture area, especially if you switch on ‘advance gestures’.

Now lets get on to the important bit, software.

The changes in WebOS are stunning, I love just type.

 

Just Type

It enables me to quickly and easily find/search both locally and on the internet. For example If I wanted to find out where Pecroino Sardo came for, I simply swipe up and start typing and I can choose to search for it using twitter, wikipedia and the internet. I can also instantly see how many emails and messages contain that term. You can also add custom search engines (e.g. WordPress), if a website supports just type a notification will pop up at the bottom of the screen and you can install it.

Stacks

Stacks, are a simple but very well thought out idea. As we know WebOS is a true multitasking OS but having multiple cards open can make linked information hard to track. Stacks solve this by stacking (shocking I know!) related items on top of each other. So if I have an email with a hyperlink in it, if I choose to open that link it will stay with that email rather than go to the end of the card list. Both are brilliant ideas and available no where else, these are the features that HP need to be screaming from billboards, but that’s a different subject for another time.

Overall the Pre 2 is an improvement, its not perfect but I am making it my main phone, which is as close to a ringing endorsement as you can get.

First base

This post is a day late, mostly as  I was nursing quite a large hangover which meant the creative juices weren’t exactly flowing.

So how has it gone?

So far so good, I managed to get the phone set up play with the gesture tutorial and then I started with Synergy. Big mistake on my part as I had forgotten to sync my contacts to my sim card prior to resetting my iPhone which meant that the ones the Pre now had were at least a year out of date.

Joy.

For those unfamilar with ‘Synergy’ its Palm ethos that you should be able to sync all of your contacts from a range of different sources(Facebook, Gmail, Sim card etc) which is great in theroy but can lead to frustrations. Namely the fact I have ALL of my Facebook friends on my contacts list, which is fine for me as I’m a big proponent of ‘Friend Culls’ meaning that most of my friends in Facebook are actually people I physically know. The big drawback is that once you’ve added your facebook contacts, you can’t delete them from your contact list without deleting them from facebook first. This is further compounded by the fact that not everyone has their mobile numbers in Facebook (I certainly don’t) which creates a fair number of useless entries that just seek to take up space in your phonebook and you can’r remove.

So the first half hour of the my life with the Pre was spent sorting out the large mess of contacts into one list (lots of clicking, copying pasting and deleting), not the best way to be introduced to the phone.

Annoying.

Afterwards I setup my App Catalog account and put a card onto it, which almost didn’t work because the App Catalog only appears to accept Visa and Mastercard, luckily it seem to accept my Visa Debit card and all was well, I’m getting a feeling that this lack of clarity on certain sections is going to be an every present theme during my time with the Pre. So  now I was all set up and good to go, it was time to get some Apps, now I know the App Catalog is threadbare in comparison to the iPhone and I had indentified that I only really use three core apps (Facebook, Twitter and  Web browsing), all of which are easily available via the Pre (I’ve selected Bad Kitty as my twitter client of choice). I haven’t really spent much time looking at other apps although I may later on today.

I should take a minute to talk about the keyboard, its not great but I’m certainly getting used to it although I’m not nearly as fast as with an iPhone and the  lack of autocorrect is a major oversight by Palm. On a side note its a lot harder to type on when you’re in bed as the slider makes the phone top heavy leading to potential a TKO as you inevitably drop the phone on your forehead.

But this all sounds a bit negative right? There are many things that I love about this phone. I love the feel of the phone in my hand, many reviews have made mention of the polished stone feel of the Pre and I heartily agree, its very satisfying to hold. Another is its beautiful approach to multitasking and the coup de grace, its notification system. Now I can understand if you don’t quite have a passion for smart notifications that I do, but that’s because you may not have been an iPhone user. Let me explain, Palm and Apple have two distinctly different approaches to how they think you should be informed of something happening on your phone. Palm method can be equated to being gently tapped on the shoulder and discretely informed that you have a new text message by popping up a small notification at the bottom of the phone. Apple prefer to use a modal pop up that is akin to being grabbed by the shoulders and  told HEY YOU HAVE A MESSAGE, READ THE MESSAGE, COME ON READ IT NOW!!!!!!!  It will also not release control of the screen until you’ve either read it (closing your existing app and opening the message one) or dismissing it and returning to whatever it was that you were doing. Nothing makes me angrier than crashing during a race just because someone text me and that’s the reason I switched from the iPhone.

So at the end of the first day I’m up and running but apart from the notifications system, I’m not bowled over but that’s not to say I don’t like the phone, far from it. It currently satisfies most of my smartphone requirements, the question is can I find something to keep me here as the iPhone 4 is looming large in my mind.

That’s the mission kids, we’re about  a week and a bit away from the iPhone launch and I’m still tempted but I think I will give the Pre a month to prove itself.

After all the iPhone will always be there.

Action stations

Finally got back from Belfast at 11pm, I treated myself to  2 double cheese burgers, small fries and a small coke at the airport (about a million calories, but I’m going running tonight so it should balance out), 19 hour days on 2 hours sleep are awesome!

Anyhow, moving on.

With yesterdays post about app stores being the ties that bind us to a particular platform I decided to put my money where my mouth is.

As you may know I sold my iPhone 3G a couple of days ago and am now phoneless (save for a work blackberry), my plan was to get this:

With stunning features such as a screen and keypad

As it would do for now and the plan was going really well until I got the o2 shop and they said they wouldn’t sell it without £10 credit, which means the phone becomes £20 and much less tempting. I then played with a couple of phones, including the new Pre Plus and left the store, resolute in my new plan, to not have a phone.

But during yesterdays trip to belfast, it would have been nice not to have to bring out my laptop just to check my email (I know a stunning observation) and a BlackBerry Curve isn’t the greatest phone to use. So I then thought of a third plan: I could get a new smartphone on contract, use it for two weeks and then return it during the cooling off period and get an iPhone, genius eh? Except that the week of the iPhone launch I’m in Blackburn doing training meaning I wouldn’t be able to send the phone back.

Plan four!

I’d just got into bed last night and was at that point where I was so tired that I couldn’t sleep, so out came the hackintosh for some idle surfing.

And lo I surfed high and low, forums, blogs, wiki’s and then inevitably to eBay. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Pre of late, no phone has really captured my ADD attention like it, but they are all too expensive £160-170 (far too much to play around with) and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sell it on for the same price. So I do what anyone would do, I started messaging people on ebay asking them for BIN or if they would reduce their asking price.

I wasn’t expecting any takers at my offer of £120 + pnp but you gotta chance your luck sometimes.

And then, something unexpected happened, I got a bite. I knew it was worth a shot being that the Pre is deffinatly a phone unloved by the masses (but with a solid if tiny hardcore developer community) and with the new iPhone coming people are probably looking to shift handsets quickly but still.

So I’ve got a 2 month old Pre £120, its coming tomorrow and no doubt you think I’m crazy but lets look at the TCO:

LG dumbphone £20 (£10 phone with £10 useless credit as I’m on contract)

Palm Pre £120

Now, on looking at it the Pre is far more expensive but I did get it cheap and I know I can sell it for at least £100 in three weeks time. Making the total cost of ownership (less shipping and app purchases), £20.

And I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty decent price to pay.

Hack Different?

I’ve been messing around with my netbook (an Advent 4211 – Think an uglier MSI Wind).  Some of you may know my usual success when it comes to fiddling with things, but this time round I had a reason.

My netbook used to run Windows XP, that was until the harddrive died in spectacular fashion (second time its happened this year, both times the hard drives ended up as coasters).  This happened the day I bought a shiny new 6 Cell battery, as my previous 3 cell was only giving me 20 minutes worth of power.

So I had a netbook that could only BSOD, but at least it could BSOD for four hours!

Typical.

However, way back last year I installed OSX on external hard drive when the hackintosh thing first bursted on to the netbook scene. I hadn’t made the full jump as running an OS over USB is cludgy, bulky and I didn’t use the netbook due to the aforementioned battery issue. So I went back to XP and left the hard drive to one side.

Until two days ago, when the XP drive died and I was left without means to re install XP (I’d left my external Dvd drive at a friends),  so I installed the OSX drive and was back up and running fairly quickly.

And it was good and for a time things were fine. I made baby steps into OS X, found out what Expose was its shortcuts and how easy it was to install applications, the usual Mac transition joy.

I should have stopped there….. I didn’t

I had the good sense to check out software update and on seeing on their being an update to 10.5.8, had the really smart idea of click the break button (in this case named install updates).

The update installed and I restarted, the result was someone similar to this:

well truth be told I had a kernel panic (that’s right my Mac had taken a turn for the Emo), as I was greeted by this lovely image when I restarted:

And I hadn't got a dvd drive to sort it out

Let’s review:

  1. I had a shiny new battery and a working netbook
  2. I then had a shiny new battery and a broken netbook
  3. I then had a shiny new battery and a shiny new operating system
  4. I then had a shiny new battery and an apparent out of date operating system
  5. I then had a shiny new battery and a updated shiny new operating system, that hadn’t been restarted
  6. I then had a shiny new battery and a coaster

Now doesn’t that sound like progress!

So I admitted defeat and went to bed, cursing my fiddling until it breaks nature.

The next day I popped round my friends house and regained my external dvd drive and set to sorting out my hackintosh. I was decided that I would try out OS X even though I could now reinstall Windows XP, as during the 30 minutes I had a working copy of OS X I saw enough to convince me that it was worth the time.

So I was all set to reinstall and then I saw that this:

It's a Snow Leopard

It's a Snow Leopard

So why go with a proven hackintosh capable OS, when you can try something that could be buggy and untested?!

So I did,  luckily I found a ISO that was set up for the Wind and apart from the com.Apple.Boot.plist pointing the boot loader to the wrong partition and breaking, necessitating alot of this:

Want to hack da mac? Get used to this....

Want to hack da mac, get used to using this....

But plists aside it was a pretty seamless process and most things work (trackpad, wifi, camera, sound etc), the only thing that is currently broken is the built microphone, but that’s a small price to pay imo. Even updating to 10.6.3 didn’t prove to be too onerous.

So after three days I’ve got a working netbook with Snow Leopard 10.6.3, and a shiny new battery:

The Finish (non broken) Article

None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of those intrepid members of http://insanelywind.com/forum, truly have I stood on the shoulders of geeks.

Windows phone series seven

Bad name, hell even the acronym sucks (wpss), but still yesterdays unveiling of the all new windows mobile operating system has sent shockwaves through the internet.

Like Palm, Microsoft has started from scratch, said goodbye to legacy apps and designed a mobile operating system for the future.

The cynic in me just sees that they’ve taken the Zune HD interface and whacked a phone onto it, but even if that’s the case its still one sexy looking device:

Credit Engadget

Compare that to the iPhone and Cupertino’s wonder phone looks, well….old.

Time will tell if that minimalism will help or hinder but it demonstrates the break that Microsoft has made with the past.