Technologizer posts about Google Android

Over at TIME.com, I’ve written about my experience with Samsung and Google’s new Galaxy Nexus phone–and in particular its operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Overall, I’m impressed. Lots and lots of little refinements add up to the best Android handset to date. And while Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t utterly eradicate Android’s geeky, ungainly feel, it makes it far more pleasant. If you like big screens and want LTE, this is the Android phone to get.

Posted by Harry at 2:15 pm

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Here Comes Google Music: Leaked Screens Show Android Interface

By  |  Posted at 7:03 am on Monday, November 14, 2011

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Google Music screen shot as shown on TecnoDroidVE.

Android, meet your not-so-shockingly exposed dance partner, Google Music, and Google, meet another Google Music store rumor roundup, this one bolstered by screens that may indeed depict the upcoming Google-powered online music boutique.

We’ve heard rumblings about a Google Music store all year, since before Google launched its Google Music cloud service last May. But Google Music arrived, ironically, music-free—a blank online storage locker into which Google hoped users would pour unlocked tunes ripped direct from personal media or rival services. The theoretical reason: Google hasn’t been able to shore up relations with labels, prompting it to forestall Google Music’s “store” component. Until now, the service has looked the online equivalent of a Self Storage acreage.

That may all change this week. The Wall Street Journal said as much weeks ago, citing music executives in the biz, who claimed Google would launch a music store at some point between late October and early November. What’s more, the service is said to include Google+ integration, giving it a social networking one-up. For instance, users of the service would have the option to recommend songs in their online library to Google+ contacts, giving those contacts the option to listen to the songs once for free. After that, the MP3-format songs would cost in the vicinity of 99 cents each.

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Hey Amazon, How About a Kindle Fire Phone?

By  |  Posted at 10:00 am on Friday, November 11, 2011

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Yesterday, after writing about Android fragmentation, I ran into a friend at a conference. He began ranting about a particular type of fragmentation: The way wireless carriers muck up Google’s operating system with junkware, promotional stuff, pointless tweaks, and general bloat that makes the operating system less usable. He got pretty worked up about it. I agreed it was a problem.

I wondered why no company has taken up the challenge of building…well, the iPhone of Android phones. Something that’s elegant, approachable, uncluttered, and respectful of the consumer’s intelligence. Any bundled services would need to be beautifully integrated rather than just shoveled onto the phone indiscriminately, as the apps on Android handsets often are.

And then it hit me: Why not Amazon?

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Android Fragmentation: Am I Imagining Things?

By  |  Posted at 9:48 am on Thursday, November 10, 2011

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My Technologizer column on TIME.com this week is about the ongoing problem of Android fragmentation–and in particular the fact that even very cool Android handsets get the newest version of the operating system only months after it’s available on other phones, or sometimes not at all.

At least I think that this is a problem. And when I write about it–which I often have–it comes from the heart. I own a Verizon Fascinate phone, and would love to use Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on it. But I’m not even sure if the Fascinate, which was released just fourteen months ago, will ever get the year-old Gingerbread update, let alone ICS.

Whenever I mention the words “Android” and “fragmentation” in the same post, however, I hear from people who think I’m…well, hallucinating. They say either that Android fragmentation isn’t a big deal, or that it’s good.

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ViewSonic Tablet Runs Windows and Android: Good Idea, Poor Execution

By  |  Posted at 9:46 am on Tuesday, November 8, 2011

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As a holdover until Microsoft ships the tablet-friendly Windows 8, I like the idea of a Windows 7 tablet that also runs Android. Sure, Windows 7 doesn’t play nicely with touch screens, but it’s a great operating system for getting work done, and when you’re finished, you can switch to Android for leisure.

That’s what ViewSonic tries to accomplish with its ViewPad 10pro tablet. The 10-inch slab runs Windows 7, and also includes an Android emulator on the desktop, letting you run proper tablet apps without restarting the machine. (A previous ViewSonic tablet, the ViewPad 10, dual-booted Windows and Android, requiring a restart to switch between them.)

It’s a neat idea in theory. But in practice, the ViewSonic 10pro only proves that some ideas are better left unrealized.



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HTC Rezound: Beefy Specs, Beats Audio and Red All Over

By  |  Posted at 2:21 pm on Friday, November 4, 2011

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With the holiday smartphone smackdown in full swing, the HTC Rezound is stepping into the ring. At $299 on Verizon Wireless, this Android phone will have some tough competition against Motorola’s Droid RAZR and possibly Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, but HTC’s hoping the addition of Beats Audio will help the Rezound stand out.

The Rezound has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and a 4.3-inch Super LCD display with 720p resolution, making it the first 720p phone we’ve seen in a screen smaller than 4.5 inches. HTC paid special attention to the camera as well, with an 8-megapixel, an f/2.2 sensor that’s supposedly superior in low-light, dual LED flash and 1080p video camera. There’s also a 2-megapixel camera up front.

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John Gruber of Daring Fireball was moved by the release of new Net Applications mobile browser stats that show Apple’s Mobile Safari with more than three times as much usage as Android to disclose his own site’s mobile usage numbers. Which moves me to share Technologizer operating-system stats for the past month. I’m going to include all operating systems, not just mobile ones.

Here you go:

Windows: 47% (the easy overall winner, but even it doesn’t have a majority)

OS X: 26%

iPhone: 10%

iPad: 8%

Android: 4%

Linux: 3%

iPod: 1% (is this iPod Touch?)

Everything else: 1% (including .06% via Chrome OS, and .01% apiece via Wii, Google TV, and OS/2)

Looks like 19% of visitors are using iOS, vs. about 2 percent two years ago. Prediction: At some point, iOS will surpass OS X for second place. (No, I’m not guessing when.)

Oh, and if you consider iOS to be a version of OS X–which it is–then OS X is just slightly behind Windows. Or to put it another way: Almost half of visitors come here on an Apple device.

Posted by Harry at 4:08 pm

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GameStop Starts Selling Android Tablets, But Why?

By  |  Posted at 5:25 am on Wednesday, November 2, 2011

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Earlier this year, GameStop said it would either find some tablets to sell or build its own. Now, the retailer has chosen option A, launching a handful of familiar Android tablets with some free games inside.

So far, the lineup includes the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and Acer Iconia Tab A100. They’re available online and in 200 U.S. stores, according to Joystiq. The free games are Dead Space, Monster Madness, Riptide HD, Re-Load, Cordy and Sonic CD. GameStop is also pre-loading its Flash game portal Kongregate Arcade, and is selling a Bluetooth game controller for $39 extra.

The strategy seems a bit puzzling to me. When GameStop said it wanted to sell tablets, I assumed the retailer would use them as a foothold for selling downloadable games. GameStop owns its own digital distribution platform, Impulse, and also has some streaming technology from Spawn Labs that could allow tablets to stream high-end video games from consoles or PCs. Neither of those services are present in this first wave of Android tablets, or if they’re on board and in hiding, GameStop’s not saying so.

GameStop isn’t getting onto the tablet business just so it can sell Bluetooth game controllers.  There must be more to the story than this. My guess is that whatever GameStop really has in mind isn’t ready yet, and these tablets are just filler–a way to sell more stuff to holiday shoppers until the real GameStop tablet is ready.



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The One Really Nice Thing About Android’s Back Button

By  |  Posted at 3:56 pm on Monday, October 31, 2011

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Back in June, I took up the unpopular stance that Android’s navigation buttons are kind of useful. This was before Google introduced Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which, as rumored, allows smartphones to drop physical buttons in favor of software buttons.

But Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t remove buttons altogether, it just moves them to a different place, leading Mobisle Apps Co-Founder Christoffer Du Rietz to conclude that Android is conceptually broken because it’s doomed to carry these buttons forever:

“The problem is, that Android hasn’t decided what that it wants the back button to do. Do you want it to take you back to the previous screen, wherever that was, or take you back one step inside the app? Right now it’s a convoluted combination of the two, and most of the time, which one will occur is a guess and can’t be known before pressing the button.”

I agree that the inconsistency of Android buttons is a problem, because you don’t always know what’s going to happen when you press “back,” “menu” or “search.” But I’m still happy to have these buttons, and the back button in particular, for one reason: “Back” is universal. It allows you to move not just within apps, but between them.

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Over at The Understatement, a revealing info graphic about Android phones (and iPhones) and the situation with software updates. Overall, it’s ugly for Android owners…

The announcement that Nexus One users won’t be getting upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich led some to justifiably question Google’s support of their devices. I look at it a little differently: Nexus One owners are lucky. I’ve been researching the history of OS updates on Android phones and Nexus One users have fared much, much better than most Android buyers.

Posted by Harry at 9:54 am

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How do current tablet sales break down into iPads and Androids? As GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel explains, it depends on how you account for them:

First is the definition of market share with respect to tablets sold vs tablets shipped. Apple’s figures are tablets sold, which don’t include tablets sitting on store shelves, tablets en route to stores or tablets sitting in a warehouse. By comparison, Android’s figures are the shipped number of tablets, so any devices sitting on a store shelf actually count, and they shouldn’t for market share purposes.

Posted by Harry at 11:56 am

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How Disappointing: Google’s Andy Rubin Dismisses Siri

By  |  Posted at 1:37 pm on Thursday, October 20, 2011

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I’m having trouble wrapping my head around Andy Rubin’s dismissal of Siri, the virtual assistant built into Apple’s iPhone 4S. Here’s what Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile, told Ina Fried during the Asia D conference in Hong Kong:

“I don’t believe that your phone should be an assistant,” he said. “Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

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The Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich Are Official

By  |  Posted at 12:00 am on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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The Android world has a new flagship phone, and Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, is finally official. In Hong Kong, Google and Samsung have announced the Galaxy Nexus, the first phone to run ICS. Here’s a video about it:

The Galaxy Nexus may be the ultimate Android handset to date–if so, it makes the reign of the Motorola Droid RAZR, which was announced Tuesday morning, the shortest on record.

The Nexus has a 4.65″ 720p display, 4G, and NFC capability, and it’s got the teardrop-shaped case that people thought the iPhone 5 would sport. But the real news is Ice Cream Sandwich. It owes a lot more to Honeycomb, the tablet-friendly version of Android, than it does to Gingerbread, the most recent release for phones. It ditches the physical buttons, has thumbnails for multitasking, lets you unlock your phone via facial recognition, and generally looks slick.

I’m hoping it’s the first phone version of Android that doesn’t feel like it was created by nerds who don’t know much about interface design–and that the stuttering problem which This is My Next’s Vlad Havov noticed when he tried out the Nexus disappears before the phone ships.

More thoughts to come…



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More evidence that Android is the Windows of mobile operating systems: It’s under attack by sleazeware. PCWorld’s Tom Spring reports:

Brandt says that one Android battery app, called both Battery Doctor and Battery Upgrade, is particularly problematic: Not only does it not upgrade a battery or extend a charge, but when it’s installed and unlocked, it harvests the phone’s address book, the phone number, the user’s name and email address, and the phone’s unique identifying IMEI number. With a phone user’s name, IMEI, and wireless account information, an attacker could clone the phone and intercept calls and SMS messages, or siphon money from a user by initiating premium calls and SMS services. Once the battery app is installed the program sends the phone ads that appear in the drop down status bar of the phone at all times – whether the app is running or not. Lastly it periodically transmits changes to the user’s private information and phone-hardware details to its servers.

Posted by Harry at 8:02 am

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My pals at PCWorld Labs compared the iPhone 4S camera to those on a bunch of Android phones, plus a Nikon point-and-shoot. The results? The 4S and the best Androids were basically tied, and just a hair behind the Nikon. (The iPhone 4S rated Good for video, but the best Androids did even better.)

Posted by Harry at 12:47 am

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Microsoft has struck a deal with Quanta, the giant contract manufacturer, to license its patents which may be violated by Google’s Android and Chrome OS. (I knew that Microsoft had been doing these pacts for Android, but wasn’t aware that it thinks that Chrome OS also rips off its intellectual property.)

Jay Green of Cnet reports:

As Android has grown and surpassed Microsoft’s mobile-phone operating systems in the marketplace, the company has targeted handset and tablet makers that use the Google operating system. It’s racked up a laundry list of licensees in a little more than a year, starting with longtime partner HTC. Just last month, Microsoft reached an Android licensing agreement with Acer.

I’m not criticizing Microsoft for its dealmaking. For one thing, I’m not a patent lawyer, so I don’t have a stance on the legitimacy of its claims against Google’s products. For another, aggressive licensing is probably less depressing than what the rest of the industry is doing: Attempting to sue everybody else’s pants off. But considering the company’s lack of success with Windows Phone so far, the possibility exists that it’ll slowly devolve from a product company into a patent-licensing one–and that would be sad.

Posted by Harry at 11:24 am

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