Monthly Archives: February 2011

Android This Week: Xoom Lands; A Faster Firefox; Gingerbread Flies

Google’s tablet platform has arrived in the form of Motorola’s Xoom, the first available tablet to run Android 3.0. Reviewers, including myself, found much to like ranging from an effective notification system to an outstanding experience with the core Google apps, such as Mail, Music, and Maps, to name a few. You can get a peek at both the Xoom and Android 3.0 in my video overview. The Honeycomb user interface is huge leap forward compared to Android on the smartphone, but is more computer-like and as a result, some consumers may find it challenging on a tablet.

After the core Google apps, however, the Honeycomb experience lacks depth. As of late this week, only 16 applications specific for Android tablets appeared in the Android Market. While Android smartphone apps do run on the Xoom and other expected Android tablets, many of them are simply stretched to fit larger screens and waste much space. This suggests Honeycomb will take time to mature and that perhaps Motorola rushed the Xoom to market. Additional indicators of the early launch include a non-working memory card expansion slot until after a software upgrade and Verizon’s procedure to add 4G support to Xoom: Consumers will have to send their device in to Motorola and wait up to six business days for a return.

While Honeycomb may sound like a beta, I’ve used some Android software that actually is a beta, and been impressed nonetheless. Mozilla released the fifth iteration of Firefox for mobile devices this week, and not only is it a solid app; it’s speedy too. Indeed, my benchmark tests showed a 218 percent increase in JavaScript performance, making for a fast mobile web experience on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. Even the dual-core Xoom tablet gained speed with Firefox’s browser, which tested faster than the native Honeycomb browser.

This wasn’t all about tablets though; after two months of waiting, Google Nexus One owners began to see the Android 2.3.3 update for Gingerbread via an over-the-air delivery. Since I have a custom ROM on my Nexus One — I’ve probably had more than 100 of them installed over the past year — my phone won’t see the update from Google. Instead, I’ll need to revert back to the stock firmware and then wait for the update to be sent. Or will I? Instead of waiting, folks like me can install the update themselves with a small download found at the XDA-Developers site. I’ll still have to “downgrade” from my custom ROM to a stock ROM, but there’s no wait involved. And since Gingerbread brings a much improved copy / paste function that also found on Honeycomb tablets, I’m certain this will be my next weekend project. That is if I can put aside my other hobby and stop controlling robots with my Android phone.

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How Mobile Is Changing the Video Game Market

Last week, mobile analytics firm Flurry released the results of a survey of more than 60,000 users who play mobile social games — a space that includes everything from Electronic Arts’ Pogo lineup to Zynga’s Words With Friends and FarmVille. As it turns out, on-the-go gamers are very different than their console-playing counterparts.

The average mobile social gamer is 28 years old, according to Flurry — about six years younger than the average player on consoles or PCs — and women account for 53 percent of the worldwide mobile social gaming market. That’s somewhat different from the stereotypical image of a 30-something dude chugging Red Bull to play a war game all night. And with the continued proliferation of smartphones laying the foundation for dramatic long-term growth, advertisers, developers and app store operators bear the following in mind:

For advertisers: Mobile social gaming is far more mainstream than the world of console gaming. So its audience is low-hanging fruit for a wide variety of potential advertisers, especially those looking to target both women and men. Unlike other types of mobile ads, social gaming is well suited to the kind of “actionable” advertising strategies that ask a consumer to engage with a brand or click to call. But those ads should be more than just the pedestrian banner ads that increasingly ignored by consumers (and that often just push other mobile games). Instead, advertisers should work with developers to integrate their campaigns with well-known games, and cross-promote them via traditional media and online ads.

For developers: Developers should employ every available strategy in monetizing mobile social games, from the promising freemium model to simple paid downloads to free titles supported entirely by ad revenues. And mobile social gaming is a particularly good fit for in-app purchases that encourage users to cough up a few dollars to acquire virtual tools or access new levels. (As long as those games don’t encourage kids to ring up ridiculous charges on their parents’ phone bills.)

For app store operators: The likelihood of an app being found gets increasingly harder as the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market add more titles. So app store operators can cash in on the exploding space by making sure the best — and most lucrative — games are easy to find. They should spotlight the most popular and highest-quality games as “featured” titles, especially those from established, trusted publishers, and make it easy for gamers to find relevant titles by using recommendations based on past purchases and reviews. And app stores should leverage the social component by encouraging users to suggest specific games to their friends who opt to receive those suggestions.

For more data on the growth of the mobile gaming market, please see my weekly column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user pfig.

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MobileTechRoundup Podcast 233

CLICK HERE to download the file and listen directly.

MoTR 233 is 62 minutes long and is a 46.5 MB file in MP3 format.

HOSTS: Matthew Miller (Seattle) and Kevin C. Tofel (Philadelphia)

TOPICS:

  • Hands-on with the Motorola Xoom tablet.
  • Don’t count Firefox out for mobiles just yet.
  • The third ecosystem – Kevin goes Windows Phone (for now)
  • iPad 2 is coming – may not be huge changes
  • When will “smart” watches be ready for prime time?
  • Other topics TBD based on the chat room participants

SUBSCRIBE: Use this RSS feed with your favorite podcatcher or click this link to add us to iTunes

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Watch Out iPad, Honeycomb Has 16 Tablet Apps!

The tablet war between Apple and Google is only just getting warmed up, but it’s going to take time before it becomes a full-scale conflict. Apple’s iPad has a good 10-month head-start over Google Honeycomb tablets, the first of which became available only yesterday. Motorola’s Xoom is the initial soldier in the Android army, and other Honeycomb tablets from LG, Samsung, Acer and others will soon enlist. So we’re sure to see a regiment or two join up with Android, but you can’t win a war solely with infantrymen. You need supporting personnel as well, and in this case, that means third-party developers. We’re only in the second day of the siege, but a quick scan of the Android Market shows a scant 16 tablet apps.

It’s great that the new Android Market has a section highlighting Android apps for tablets, but the shelves are definitely a little bare. There’s a good reason for this: It was only a few weeks ago that Google released the software toolkit for developers to write Honeycomb tablet apps. Mobile app programmers simply haven’t had time to digest the new features — and the APIs to use them — in Google’s operating system for tablets. However, I suspect there are actually more than 16 apps optimized for tablets. The Earthquake app, for example, is tablet-optimized, but doesn’t appear in the list above. Perhaps developers need to mark their app as “tablet ready” for inclusion this area of the store.

The tablet apps I’ve used — CNN, Pulse, Cordy and Accu Weather, among others — all do take advantage of the larger screen and new controls that Honeycomb provides. So from an end-user perspective, these apps are on the right track to help Google tablets compete against the iPad. There just aren’t enough of them yet, and that means potential buyers will primarily judge devices based on apps designed for the smaller screen. Unfortunately, the experience is generally a turn-off for some of the top-tier titles right now. Facebook’s home screen looks silly due to tiny icons on a relatively huge display. Twitter’s text is small and hard to read. And even the popular Angry Birds game appears slightly less crisp and more blocky on the Xoom’s 1280×800 resolution display. Both the native Google Books, as well as Amazon’s Kindle app do work well, so the e-book reading experience, at least, is solid.

Will developers adjust their software to run on Google tablets? Of course they will, although Google should have worked with key development partners to have apps ready in advance of the first Honeycomb tablet launch, like Apple did. That didn’t appear to happen, so fixing the situation now is going to take time and effort. This means Android won’t win (or even be competitive in) the tablet war in the short term. For the time being, Apple and its 60,000 iPad apps (as of last month), have a huge lead in terms of developer and consumer interest. Google’s going to have to put much more effort into mustering the troops if it wants to be more competitive in the tablet wars.

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Watch Out iPad, Honeycomb Has 16 Tablet Apps!

The tablet war between Apple and Google is only just getting warmed up, but it’s going to take time before it becomes a full-scale conflict. Apple’s iPad has a good 10-month head-start over Google Honeycomb tablets, the first of which became available only yesterday. Motorola’s Xoom is the initial soldier in the Android army, and other Honeycomb tablets from LG, Samsung, Acer and others will soon enlist. So we’re sure to see a regiment or two join up with Android, but you can’t win a war solely with infantrymen. You need supporting personnel as well, and in this case, that means third-party developers. We’re only in the second day of the siege, but a quick scan of the Android Market shows a scant 16 tablet apps.

It’s great that the new Android Market has a section highlighting Android apps for tablets, but the shelves are definitely a little bare. There’s a good reason for this: It was only a few weeks ago that Google released the software toolkit for developers to write Honeycomb tablet apps. Mobile app programmers simply haven’t had time to digest the new features — and the APIs to use them — in Google’s operating system for tablets. However, I suspect there are actually more than 16 apps optimized for tablets. The Earthquake app, for example, is tablet-optimized, but doesn’t appear in the list above. Perhaps developers need to mark their app as “tablet ready” for inclusion this area of the store.

The tablet apps I’ve used — CNN, Pulse, Cordy and Accu Weather, among others — all do take advantage of the larger screen and new controls that Honeycomb provides. So from an end-user perspective, these apps are on the right track to help Google tablets compete against the iPad. There just aren’t enough of them yet, and that means potential buyers will primarily judge devices based on apps designed for the smaller screen. Unfortunately, the experience is generally a turn-off for some of the top-tier titles right now. Facebook’s home screen looks silly due to tiny icons on a relatively huge display. Twitter’s text is small and hard to read. And even the popular Angry Birds game appears slightly less crisp and more blocky on the Xoom’s 1280×800 resolution display. Both the native Google Books, as well as Amazon’s Kindle app do work well, so the e-book reading experience, at least, is solid.

Will developers adjust their software to run on Google tablets? Of course they will, although Google should have worked with key development partners to have apps ready in advance of the first Honeycomb tablet launch, like Apple did. That didn’t appear to happen, so fixing the situation now is going to take time and effort. This means Android won’t win (or even be competitive in) the tablet war in the short term. For the time being, Apple and its 60,000 iPad apps (as of last month), have a huge lead in terms of developer and consumer interest. Google’s going to have to put much more effort into mustering the troops if it wants to be more competitive in the tablet wars.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/jkOnTheRun/~3/GhLvGrMpV3k/

MobileTechRoundup Podcast 233: LIVE at 1pm ET

A downloadable MP3 file of the show will be available here after the live broadcast.

HOSTS: Matthew Miller (Seattle) and Kevin C. Tofel (Philadelphia)

TOPICS:

  • Hands-on with the Motorola Xoom tablet.
  • Don’t count Firefox out for mobiles just yet.
  • The third ecosystem – Kevin goes Windows Phone (for now)
  • iPad 2 is coming – may not be huge changes
  • When will “smart” watches be ready for prime time?
  • Other topics TBD based on the chat room participants

SUBSCRIBE: Use this RSS feed with your favorite podcatcher or click this link to add us to iTunes

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/jkOnTheRun/~3/oc2zzqiMrXo/

MobileTechRoundup Podcast 233: LIVE at 1pm ET

A downloadable MP3 file of the show will be available here after the live broadcast.

HOSTS: Matthew Miller (Seattle) and Kevin C. Tofel (Philadelphia)

TOPICS:

  • Hands-on with the Motorola Xoom tablet.
  • Don’t count Firefox out for mobiles just yet.
  • The third ecosystem – Kevin goes Windows Phone (for now)
  • iPad 2 is coming – may not be huge changes
  • When will “smart” watches be ready for prime time?
  • Other topics TBD based on the chat room participants

SUBSCRIBE: Use this RSS feed with your favorite podcatcher or click this link to add us to iTunes

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/jkOnTheRun/~3/oc2zzqiMrXo/

Firefox for Android 2x Faster Than Native Browser

Last night, while I was getting some hands on time with the Motorola Xoom, the Mozilla folks were busy launching the latest beta version of Firefox for Android and Maemo. For these eight reasons mentioned prior, I’m extremely happy with the Dolphin HD browser. It’s the default window to the web on both my Samsung Galaxy Tab and my Nexus One smartphone. But when I read the release notes for the latest Firefox beta and spied several key performance improvements, I had to try it. And I’m glad I did because I learned something very surprising: the JavaScript engine is more 216 percent faster on the stock Tab browser and more than 248 percent quicker than Dolphin HD. And Firefox brings a small but noticeable speed boost to the new Xoom, too. Here’s a look at the benchmark tests:

If you’re unfamiliar with some of these terms, let me quickly explain. SunSpider is a benchmarking test used to compare JavaScript performance between browsers. SunSpider solely tests JavaScript (a scripting language that enables functionality in web pages) functionality in the browser. A faster JavaScript engine, for example, can make web-based interfaces, such as Google’s Gmail, perform faster. The lower the SunSpider result, the faster the tested browser will be for JavaScript functions. For mobile devices, this is key, because much of the mobile web’s functionality is built upon JavaScript and a faster engine speeds up the experience on a smartphone or tablet.

For f0lks interested in the raw benchmark numbers for Android’s native browser and the Firefox beta, here they are:

  • Galaxy Tab: 5850.2 ms in Chrome, 2697.6 ms in Firefox
  • Motorola Xoom: 2119.4 ms in Chrome, 1787.8 ms in Firefox

I haven’t yet put Firefox through the paces for usability, which of course, is an equally important aspect of any software. But for the time being, I’m going to give Firefox a chance. I’ve just set it as the primary browser for my Galaxy Tab to give it a fair shake. I might have done so sooner if I used Firefox on the desktop; the mobile browser can automatically sync bookmarks, history, saved passwords and open tabs with its desktop counterpart.

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Windows Phone 7 Arrives on CDMA With Sprint

Sprint will begin offering the HTC Arrive, a Microsoft Windows Phone 7 handset, on March 20 for $199 with a new 2-year agreement and after $100 rebate. The smartphone marks a first for Microsoft’s new mobile platform, which just launched in November of last year: Until now, only handsets using the GSM cellular standard could run on Windows Phone 7. With an expected update in the first half of March, Microsoft’s smartphone operating system will support the CDMA phone standard, which is used both by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the U.S.

Unlike most other currently-available Windows Phone 7 handsets, the Arrive supplements its 3.6-inch capacitive touch screen with a slide out, landscape, QWERTY keyboard. With the keyboard extended, the display can be angled up and forward: handy for watching video on the 800×480 screen. Other key specifications include:

  • 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • 5-megapixel rear camera with auto-zoom, flash and 720p video recording
  • 16 GB of internal storage
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR

If the Arrive looks familiar, it’s likely because a GSM version of the device launched in Europe as the HTC 7 Pro. Now that Microsoft is making good on its promise to deliver CDMA support in the first half of 2011 for Windows Phone 7, HTC can sell through Sprint. One important note about the software on the Arrive: Because it will have the platform update that current Windows Phone 7 handsets will see next month, it will include copy / paste functionality.

Clearly, for Microsoft’s platform to gain momentum, it needs to expand in terms of devices offered and networks supported. I’ve criticized Microsoft’s lack of speed in terms of updates, not to mention a botched update that happened earlier this week, but getting CDMA support out in the first quarter of this year is a solid step forward. I know that some Sprint (and Verizon customers, for that matter) have been on the outside looking in when it comes to Windows Phone 7. In less than four weeks, we’ll see how many of them decide Microsoft’s platform can indeed be a viable third ecosystem in the mobile space.

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LTE Will Grow. It Just Needs Hot Devices

Those hot new LTE networks are coming online around the world, offering speed galore, but an analyst firm says that without the right devices, the operators won’t offer those speeds to many subscribers. Much like we had to wait for devices to take advantage of 3G mobile networks, LTE will face the same adoption curve, according to TeleGeography.

I remember testing Verizon’s 3G service almost 10 years ago driving around in my car with my laptop open listening to Internet radio, thinking, “Cool, but it’s not something I’d pay $70 a month for.” This was before smartphones, before Facebook and before the emergence of a real-time web, when being disconnected was still socially acceptable. Smartphones, and primarily the iPhone, helped drive 3G adoption into the mainstream, and LTE will likely require some type of mass market adoption of a device such as a tablet with embedded LTE to hit its stride.

Of course, because LTE networks are still going to face some capacity issues if everyone walks around streaming HD video on their iPad, I also think the spread of cheap and ubiquitous Wi-Fi, as well as newer pricing models for cellular data will end up playing a large role in driving adoption too. According to TeleGeography Analyst Peter Bell, speaking about 3G and LTE: “Both technologies suffered from a lack of suitable devices immediately after their launch, but a raft of new LTE devices is expected to hit the marketplace in the coming months. Mass-market adoption will not be far behind.”

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