One of the biggest reasons for Android's success is in the hardware variety. There is an Android smartphone that fits everyone's preferences, size needs, and budget. The basic aim of the platform is to be incredibly adaptable and malleable, so why do people continue to try defining Android's success through the lens of what Apple has done with iOS? The comparison makes little sense when looking at market share, and even less sense when looking at how the platforms are built and how that affects the resulting hardware.
I love voice control. Let's just get that out there right from the start. I may be a writer, meaning that I am at my best when conveying my thoughts through the written word and not on the spot talking; but, I am also a lazy man, and I like to be able to get things done with the minimal amount of interaction with my computing devices. As such, I can't help but wonder: why can't Google Now, Siri, and Cortana offer full voice control?
As we covered in Part 1, 2013 wasn't as big a year for Windows as you might have thought. The software didn't see much change aside from a couple minor updates; the hardware saw some impressive moves, but users didn't pick up too much; and, overall, Windows Phone was the "fastest" growing platform in the world, but growing fast is easier when you don't have much market share to begin with. Still, Windows Phone has momentum, it has the backing of Microsoft and its deep pockets, and it has the backing of Nokia's hardware. So, while Windows Phone has a long way to go, it's hard to count it out in this race. And, Microsoft does have plans to fix at least some of the issues stated above, and a lot of those fixes are planned to be part of Windows Phone 8.1, which we'll get to in a bit.
Yesterday was absolutely filled to the brim with HTC One (M8) news, just as you would expect from the combination announcement/release day of a major Android flagship device. And, one of the more interesting bits of news was that HTC was not just going to release its BlinkFeed app into the Play Store, but that it would eventually be expanded for compatibility with non-HTC Android devices. The question quickly arose as to why HTC would do this, and after taking a while to ponder the question, I've formed a theory: it may be the only option left to compete with Apple and Samsung.
We have been hearing some rumors here and there about what to expect in the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update, but ever since Microsoft released the SDK for the update, the rumors surrounding the update have positively exploded. We have been posting a couple articles every day with new information that has been gleaned from the SDK or other sources, so it is time to do a rumor roundup to make it easier to sort through what we know so far about Windows Phone 8.1. Of course, this article will be updated (and has already needed updating as it was written because the news doesn't stop when it comes to Windows Phone 8.1.
We have been hearing rumors for a while about Facebook working on a new app called "Paper", which was rumored to be something of a news reader similar to Flipboard or Instapaper. Instead, Paper has turned out to basically be a Facebook app that just doesn't look or feel anything like Facebook, which actually could be one of the best ideas ever.
Facebook's new Paper app is an incredibly strange experience for a number of reasons. First of all, it is beautifully designed, which is something that might not have ever been said about a Facebook app in the history of the company. The other very strange thing about the app is that it is very much inspired by newspapers, which is a fact that has its pros and its cons.
Big companies are always looking to add new features or create new products that will help to "lock you in" to their ecosystems. Apple has been best known for this by controlling the entire line from hardware to software and the integration between those products. No company is innocent when it comes to this, but it is always in how the lock is set that makes the difference. Locking in users via monetary concerns, like iTunes, Google Play, or any other content store, is annoying but an acceptable side effect of doing business (at least with apps and games, not so much for other content). For me, Google Now has been the best lock yet, but I'm not sure I'm happy about it.
Ubuntu Touch is getting closer and closer to being ready to go, but of course even when the platform is all set, there is always the issue of apps. It will take a while for the ecosystem to fill up with apps, so in the meantime, why not just customize your Android device to look like Ubuntu Touch. This way you still have access to all of your favorite Android apps, and you get a fresh new user experience as well.
These are the sorts of things that make us really love Android. Every time a device is announced that has compelling new features, likelihood is that you'll find apps that try to emulate those features come out in the Play Store very quickly, assuming they don't already exist (and many of them do). This time around, we want to let you know how you can give your Android device the best features of the Moto X right now.
After the initial launch buzz, we haven't heard much about Ingress. The game is still going strong (though we gave up on it, because the innate repetition of a MMORPG got boring for us), and it has millions of players around the globe; but, Ingress is still in closed beta. There are Ingress events planned around Google I/O, which is making us wonder if a wider release of the game is imminent; and if so, what does that mean for the game that exists right now?
The testing of Facebook Home had to be delayed a bit, because it took the good fellows over at
the app to run on my Nexus 4, but the testing has been done. And, the results will likely surprise you (it certainly surprised me). First of all, you need to know a few things about the reviewer here, because that info is important to the review.
I'm not really a big Facebook user. As I have mentioned in other articles,
, and tend to only use Facebook for checking out pictures of friends that live far away. I rarely post to Facebook, and only share to the service about half of the links that get shared to my Google+. I almost never "like" anything except maybe some baby pics from my best friends. I'm one of those people who tends to compulsively check my phone every once in awhile, regardless of if there has been a notification or not. Facebook Home gives me a constant stream of new stuff that's always there. And, because it's stuff from my friends, it's stuff that I am interested in.
When I first installed Facebook Home, I expected to play around with it for a few hours, see what it was all about, then remove it. But, it has been about 24 hours now, and it doesn't look like Facebook Home is going to be uninstalled anytime soon.
There is always a lot of talk around products that are supposedly "threats to Android" or "threats to Google", but we think that those arguments are looking at the puzzle the wrong way.
, but it isn't a threat to Android. Samsung is by far the dominant handset maker in the Android ecosystem, but it isn't a threat to Google. Amazon completely forked Android and stripped out Google altogether, but you know what? It isn't a threat to Google.
We understand that there are plenty of you out there who don't like Facebook, and we want to make something clear right off the bat:
your feelings about Facebook as a service have no bearing on the argument we're laying out here
on a few Android devices. It had a bit of a rough start, and as we all expected, it's really made for the high-functioning Facebook junkie and not really anyone else. However, the idea behind Facebook is one that we should all pay attention to.
Last week, the head of Chrome at Google,
, took over as the head of Android, when Andy Rubin stepped down. Android has been an extremely successful platform, as has the Chrome web browser, but not surprisingly Chrome OS has not been quite as popular. In fact, a new report says that Google has sold fewer than 500,000 Chromebooks so far (and, full disclosure: one of those purchases was by me.)
A few days ago, Google announced that as part of some spring cleaning, it would be
on July 1st. Yesterday, we heard the rumor that Google would be adding a
. These two stories don’t exactly have a direct connection, but they do both speak to the vision of the future Google has for news products.
The tide is turning. Android devices are continually being upgraded, and older handsets traded in for new. As such, Android 2.3 Gingerbread has finally fallen below 50% of the Android ecosystem; and, within the next few months, Android 2.x should also fall below 50%, while Android 4.0+ gains the majority of the ecosystem. So, we think it's fair to ask the question: should Android developers abandon Android 2.x and only support Android 4.0+?
Facebook's Graph Search isn't a Google competitor for users, it's for advertisers
It seems to us that Facebook has a problem with branding. The company has notably been terrible about naming products, often giving products names that no one will want to remember, and the latest in that line is
. The Graph Search feature that Facebook just announced isn't a Google competitor,
it feels more like Facebook misunderstanding its own product
, and admitting a failure for users to discover content in Facebook's now very dense UI. We say that Facebook may be misunderstanding Graph Search, because, while it looks like a product that fills a big need in Facebook, it is more a feature repackaging than a new product, and it fails to bring together some Facebook features that haven't gotten the traction they could have.
Since smartphones have become more and more location aware with GPS signals, and high-res camera's, augmented reality (AR) has been something of a gimmick. It's fun to show off interesting things like Layar, or there may be a simple game based on collecting things around town. But, with its first foray into game development, Google is looking to reboot AR with Project Niantic and a game called Ingress. The biggest difference? Google isn't just bringing augmented reality, its bringing a different meaning of AR: alternative reality.
A report came out today, which claims that sources inside of Google are "not optimistic" that Apple will approve the submission of a Google Maps app into the iTunes App Store. But, we think the pessimism is extremely premature, and maybe beyond that this is actually a push by Google to avoid that exact fate.
reported that an iOS version of the Google Maps app is in development and it should be ready to ship by the end of the year, which means the app has to be almost done if it could launch within the next 2 months. The report also says that the sources inside Google are "not optimistic" that the app will be approved by Apple, and that Google is proceeding as if such approval is "unlikely".
Back in January when Apple unveiled iBooks 2 and the company's overall strategy for textbooks and education, we said that the move was
, but had some problems. The announcement of the iPad Mini has solved at least one of those issues, and the addition of the updated iBooks Author app has helped to cover even more ground.
The simple fact is that tablets have a natural home in education. Printed textbooks are expensive, easily out-dated, and often don't offer much for students who are visual learners, and nothing as far as auditory learners. Tablets offer an interactive experience, and a multimedia experience, so it makes perfect sense that they make their way into the education system. Not surprisingly, Apple wants to be the one to sell those tablets to the schools.