Are native apps for Android safe? Are webapps / browser based apps safer and more secure? Apparently yes in many cases.
These days it has become really tedious to track and review various permissions any given app is requesting. Are all those permissions necessary for even trivial apps? How many people can really understand the implications of various permissions an app is requesting? My mom and dad cannot... I am sure.
And with the increased adoption of mobile banking and e-wallets, all these insecure practices of granting whatever permissions an app is requesting poses even greater threat. I am confident Google is addressing many of these issues at the platform level but I seriously doubt whether anyone can audit each and every app and its updates.
And most apps do not have to be native to begin with. They can simply be browser based apps and still be effective offering great user experience. Most apps are already hybrid (native+html based) anyway.
All that is remaining is making the experience seamless and more developers will embrace this approach. Web apps are discovered in browser, so the browser should hint the availability of an app when visiting a website and installation should be seamless. The Play store should allow listing of simple unwrapped webapps and the newly installed app should become a first class citizen in your app drawer; not a measly shortcut on home screen.
PS: We have already discussed in a previous post how Mozilla could build a launcher with in-built browser and web-app catalog for Android and make their browser-app approach a first class citizen on Android. What we really need is a Firefox launcher/eco-system in Android and not Firefox OS since Android is already open source.
"Today, Android powers more than 80% of the smartphones in the world" - A feat commonly attributed to its flexibility and market diversity. But then its greatest virtue is also its Achilles' heel. It is hugely inconsistent across devices from different manufacturers and sometimes even among devices from the same manufacturer!
Many manufacturers in an effort to differentiate themselves from the rest, add custom layers with so many bells and whistles that in the end leave the average joe puzzled and clueless. Some might describe this situation as a total mess to say the least.
On the other hand, simplicity and consistency are the main reasons why many stick to iPhone / iOS and Google is making progress in this area by promoting stock Android experience in as many devices as it can. But then Google can only go so far and the said variety is what draws many others to Android in the first place. Its a catch 22 situation where you disappoint one group or the other either ways. Is there a better solution to this problem?
Fortunately Android is completely modular and you can customize almost every part of it to suit your needs. And the solution is to completely customize the default experience to achieve a level of consistency across devices from different manufactures and generations. The best part is we can achieve all this with apps from the app store. Eg. Aviate as launcher, TrueDialer as dialer, Hangouts for messaging and conferencing, Chrome for browsing and so on.
I bet you are already doing something similar on your phone! The idea is to extend this approach all the way till we completely customize and thereby unify the experience across devices.
Update: This approach is particularly useful when bootstrapping / customizing a phone for your older folks so that they can feel at home using any Android with these swaps today and tomorrow. Ideally, it would be great if we can have an app to remember the setup and re-do it on any other phone.
The on-screen Navigation Bar on Android phones came as a mixed bag for many. Although it improved the usability and consistency of user experience on low-end phones, many saw it as a step backwards by just emulating the buttons on-screen.
However, by replacing physical buttons with virtual on-screen buttons, we can make the whole navigation bar more contextual. And I bet that nobody will be complaining about the virtual buttons in the first place when we enhance the whole navigation bar with contextual elements.
Imagine displaying the recently used apps icons between the Back and Home virtual keys as depicted in the attached image. This way we can seamlessly switch between apps and multitask in just one click / tap than clicking on the recent apps icon, swiping through the stack and clicking on the desired app.
Some recent phones such as the LG V10 use a secondary display for this purpose, but I believe we can accommodate the same on the main display and make it a core Android experience.
Recently there has been a tsunami of Smartphone OSes (Tizen, FireFox OS, Ubuntu Phone, Jolla, etc.) with every other new OS calling itself different but did more or less the same thing. Are they doing the right thing? Is a new OS really needed?
In a way this can be seen as an attempt to capture the outliers and grow from there but one cannot capture a market by offering a similar / slightly better experience than the incumbents. In short none of these OSes broke new grounds!
However, as previously discussed in this topic, forking Android and improving on it is a better proposition (CynogenMod) than building everything up from scratch. This approach atleast gained traction and Cynogen fared better than many efforts mentioned earlier. Had BlackBerry embraced this approach and shipped devices with its own fork of Android, it would have atleast made it out of the red.
In my humble opinion, anybody interested in the smartphone segment, should focus on either forking android or extending Android. There is a lot of scope for improvement in the Android ecosystem and this is a bigger and better opportunity than creating another smartphone OS. For example, we can create a better shell and slowly transform it into a platform. Imaigne an uber smart Firefox launcher with an integrated runtime and appstore for HTML5 Apps that seamlessly merges web apps ecosystem with that of native apps.
Imagine letting your friend see on his device what you are seeing on your device, be it a webpage, a video or some photographs. How about playing DJ to a small group of friends in the cafeteria? What if you can show your folks on the TV, a picture or a video you just found on a blog? Sounds like another cloud based service or a second screen app right? Not really!
Basically, you control your Android device by touching it and the device interacts with you through its display and audio systems. Display and Audio are just streams under the metal and your touch input a sequence of events. These streams and events can be shared, broadcasted and replicated over WiFi to create a powerful ecosystem.
Now that Android has moved beyond smartphones and tablets, I believe its time for it to have a framework in place for discovery and sharing of various native streams and events. Such a framework will strengthen the Android ecosystem and make way for interesting possibilities in the future.
There were some pretty amazing things happening on the Android front off-late but I still feel the core android experience is fragmented at best!
Some of the pain points with android devices are the hugely variable screen sizes, resolutions and their respective aspect ratios. More importantly the aspect ration of the screen is what plays havoc!
Why is this an issue? Let me elaborate! While resolution and screen-size affect the fidelity of the display, the aspect ratio is what determines how various elements are laid out on the screen.
Variable aspect ration = inconsistent user experience.
Android plays host to one of the largest third party App Ecosystems in the world and these apps have to accomodate for an acceptable experience on so many devices that they have to make many compromises and settle for the least common denominator. This has created much confusion for the developers and became a serious limiting factor for the platform itself.
Well, once we understand and accept this issue, the solution turns out to be pretty simple too and can be adopted without compromising the possible diversity in Android devices. I believe Android can restrict compatibility to just a couple of aspect ratios and let the device makers choose the right screen size, resolution and orientation for their devices.
16:9 looks like a good candidate for this IMHO.
Clearly Android is going places not just because of the increased penetration of smartphones but also because of plummeting prices (read quasi branded chinese phones). Even global brands such as Lenovo and Panasonic have joined this wave and want to cash in on the huge budget smartphone market.
However, this market is currently awash with poorly integrated devices that offer a paltry experience to the consumers. The hardware inside these devices may not be cutting edge or blazing fast but is perfectly capable of delivering a solid smartphone experience to the end-users. Then where is the problem? Sadly, most of these quasi brand manufacturers lack the talent or muscle to integrate their hardware and Android well enough to deliver the desired experience.
Solution? Outsource Android integration to someone who has made a name for themselves in this space! Eg. CynogenMod community has been delivering aftermarket Android builds for a variety of devices for sometime now. And chip makers such as MediaTek should work with such integration partners to make sure Android interfaces well with their SoCs.
Recently, One Plus, launched their flagship 'One' to huge fanfare under a similar arrangement. Now its time for Mediatek to strike the right chord with Cynogen or vice versa and bring well integrated Android experience to the budget smartphone. Such a partnership can create history!
There is a new version of Android (4.2.1) out there and I am stuck with the old flavor of Jelly Bean (4.1.1). My almost new phone, Atrix HD, which is perfectly capable of running the new Android is shun out of this party and this is the case with many of your phones too.
We are told to live with the old software that came with the phone or purchase a new one which is unfair by all standards. I am aware that I can root and flash my device with after-market ROMs but is all this mess necessary? Why are the devices locked in the first place and why should we turn hackers just to upgrade the software of a device we paid for?
Android is Open Source (free as in free speech) and modular but the device makers and service providers don't want to make this an open platform. I feel deprived of my rights to use my device the way I wish to.
Why cant our smartphones behave like our good old PCs where we are free to run the software of our choice?
I installed the latest flavour of jelly bean 4.2 on my device last night.Except bluetooth,photosphere and miracast, everyting works well.Although the UI is almost same,there are cool additions to the previous version(JB 4.1) .
Last week me and Praneeth hooked up an Atrix HD phone to his TV via HDMI to try Android on a large screen and I could not believe what I saw. Its perfect!
I have been hunting for a good HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) experience for many years now to access local and online media on my TV. A few years back I have even assembled a fairly powerful Win 7 HTPC but the whole thing is neither friendly nor optimized for large screens.
Some how the touch screen optimized Android UI is also perfect for large screens.
To control the HTPC you can either connect a Bluetooth handheld Keypad/Mouse combo such as Dinovo Mini or mirror the display onto another android device using VNC server and client.
On the other hand you could just replicate the display of your Android device to a Miracast enabled display to achieve the same experience but then battery life could be an issue.
Manufacture 500,000 units.
Ship out 5,000 of them on day 1. Sell out. Create massive hype.
Ship out 495,000 of them on day 2. Cash in on hype for great week 1 sales. Get instant salary bonus.
Even Apple might have done the same.....IMO
The HTC One X+ is powered by the fastest, new generation 1.7GHz Quad Core processor, for a mobile experience that’s more agile and responsive than ever. Supported with 89GB* of storage you’ll be spoilt for choice with the things you could do. Packed with an 8MP camera and a fast ƒ2.0 wide aperture lens, touch to capture allows you to focus and shoot with just one touch so you’ll never miss the perfect moment. And with a powerful 2100mAh battery, it lasts 35% longer for all-day performance on a single charge.
LIKE A BOSS!
As a CyanogenMod 10 user I religiously check for nightly builds, and today I was surprised to see android 4.1.2 incorporated into the latest CyanogenMod 10 nightly.I flashed the ROM was quite happy to use it.
While many have been going ga..ga.. over the new Miracast feature available on Android 4.2 and beyond, very few have taken note of the disruptive capabilities of this new technology.
For a start it can wipe out the gaming console and console games market and give an edge to mobile first companies to exploit the big screen. Recently games on phones and tablets have been eating away customers from console games and now they will directly attack console games on their home turf, the TV.
Moreover TVs will soon support Miracast natively and we will not need any accesory / set-top-box to mirror display. Browsing on your tablet and watching on your TV is much easier than navigating on the big screen with remote making the set top box for IPTV, etc. redundant. Looks like the set-top-box will go extinct too.
Dont just take my words for it! Watch this video and decide for yourself!
Revenge of the Stylus
Many of us have used early Windows Mobile smartphones and remember how we depended on the stylus for basic needs such as clicking and typing. I even remember keeping a nail on my right thumb to navigate and type with out pulling the stylus out :-)
Then Apple innovated over the stylus with Finger accessible touch screen controls and virtually pushed the stylus to extinction.
But now the stylus is making a come back as a productivity enhancer than a killer as it used to be. And Samsung is leading the pack with interesting stylus enabled devices and applications on Android platform. Another testament to innovation in the Android gang.
Google has come up with yet another version of Android 4.x, the 4.2 which will also go by the same name Jelly Bean. Looks like they have big plans for 5.0 and don't want these incremental updates to clutter the big scene.
This version will power the recently announced super smart phone Nexus 4 and the tablets Nexus 7 and 10.
The most notable feature of this update would be Multi-User Support. While this may not be a show stopper for smartphones, it surely has great utility on tablets. How many times did we yell at our folks for fidgeting with our tablets? Now we can share tablets and still enjoy privacy.
Secondly the remote display feature a.k.a Miracast enables us to share the screen with any compatible TV/Display. Now this is huge and brings our favorite entertainment back on to the TV screen in the living room. Browse on Tablet and watch on TV. Wonderful!
Finally the often loved app driven Gesture Typing (Swype) and Panoroma Mode for Camera have made it into the core.
Google Now is an incredible addition to Android platform inline with Apple Siri. But in my opinion Google can do better with their vast database of worldly knowledge and is already pursuing augmented reality albeit on a different platform a.k.a Google Glasses.
How about an app that can analyze snapshots or live camera feed and tag objects with relevant information. Yes Google Goggles does something similar, but what we need is the relevant information spit out beautifully and not a bunch of search results.
Nokia has already come up with City Lens which is an augmented reality browser that lets you explore places around you.
If Google wants to lead it cannot be late.
Project Butter is what Google has named the overall smoothening of UI in Android ver. 4.1 JellyBean. In my few weeks of experience with official JellyBean rom on my ASUS Transformer Prime, I can definitely say that Google slowly is developing the skills that Apple has under the sleeve for some years now.The overall experience has definitely improved. Every transition has been well 'buttered'. The reason Apple still has authority over this part of UI experience, I believe is because, it handles prioritization of basic UI related commands very strictly. The secret to this 'butteryness' lies in deceiving the user with a more superficial responsiveness.
Rooting & Flashing Custom ROMs is one of the adventures you can embark on an Android phone. There is a very active community on XDA-Developers and other forums porting new versions of Android onto not so new phones. Its fun to resurrect your old phone and give it a new life. Caution is advised nevertheless.
Flashing ICS / JellyBean with Google Now seems to be the in thing now. Yesterday I installed ICS 4.0.4 with GN on my old Samsung Galaxy 4G and boy there is nothing like seeing my old phone dancing to new tunes.
Samsung slams iPhone 5 with its new GS3 commercial...
Noteworthy is the fact that Apple with its latest iPhone did not try to solve anything but just tried to capitalize on its market position and make tons of money.
Its also important to remember how Apple mocked every other smartphone in the market when it introduced iPhone in 2007.
Android 4.1 a.k.a Jelly Bean....
Is it just another update to Android or is it a milestone in Android evolution.
To me apart from all the incremental improvements to the various systems in Android, Google Now seems to be the only ground breaking new feature in it. More over I have heard many reviewers rave about the speed improvements in Jelly Bean.
So should we wait for Android 5.0 to upgrade our phones/tablets or is Jelly Bean a reason enough? Whats your opinion?
Ongoing IFA 2012, Berlin is the showcase to many new and upcoming android powerhouses. Just imagine the possibilities of having android as the base interface for all your home/office technologies. Samsung has created yet another product category called 'smartcamera' like a smartphone. This new very capable point & shoot camera has Android Jelly Bean on a gorgeous 4.8" touch screen device with WiFi and 3G/4G connectivities. Imagine not having to remove the SD card and having all the pictures you clicked to magically appear on your laptop for editing. The possibilities are unlimited. What else do you guys think can benefit from androidification?