Evernote has finally released pen capability for the Android app. The Evernote desktop version for Windows had this ability when they first came and iOS users of the Evernote app have had this capability through Penultimate for a while now. However, it was only recently that Android users finally got a version of the Evernote app that would support pen capability. This was big news for me as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is my primary mobile device – it’s the device that I use the most. Continue reading Handwriting for the Android version of Evernote has arrived
To complement Henry’s post on installing Plex on a Ubuntu Desktop, I decided to install Plex on a Ubuntu Server. The major benefit for using a Ubuntu Server is that it requires less memory and the Plex web interface is powerful making it quite viable to manage it without a desktop interface. The install steps for Plex on Ubuntu is also extremely painless. My Plex server is installed on a KVM virtual machine and connects to its media to my FreeNAS via NFS.
Google Hangout launched with much gusto at Google I/O this year. There has been much talk about the project that was apparently codenamed Babel and that it would make the Google Messaging finally make sense. There are currently multiple ways to communicate with someone in a form of a conversation on the Google platform. The obvious one is of course Gmail and Google Talk. Then you have Google+ Messaging which apparently isn’t the same thing as communicating with someone during Google Hangout. Then there’s the little used and likely little known feature of being able to message someone while working on a document together. After much anticipation though, while there things about Google Hangouts that are great and there are things that are lacking, this initial release of Google Hangout is mostly just a new flavour of Google Talk.
Let’s start with the good
The Google Hangout Chrome Extension is phenomenal. I like that even though it’s a Chrome extension, it’s also pervasive and you can access it even when you’re in under windows as it hangs around at the bottom of the screen and on OsX, it also shows up on the notification bar. I actually have slowly replaced using Mac Messages with Google Hangout at least for my primary IM account. The app that is powered by the Chrome extension is also aesthetically quite visually appealing. It’s simple and clean like the new Google+ themes. Google Hangouts (which is a replacement for Google Talk) on Android is also quite aesthetically pleasing as well.
The app itself has a few really nice features that I like especially on the Android version. I like that you now can add multiple people to the chat as well as include photos which they didn’t have before. The loads of of smileys isn’t particularly appealing to me but I know that’s one of the differentiators for apps like WhatsApp and Line.
More of the same
I do like that Hangouts is much more prevalent in Google+ as well. There was no way of accessing Google+ messages and if Hangouts is meant to replace Google Messages and Google Talk, this is definitely a good start. However, Google already had the Google Talk panel on the side from before.
While there is much said about Google Hangout video, Google Talk has been leveraging Google Hangout for video for a while. Yes, it’s awesome but it’s really no different then from before Google I/O.
One thing that really irks me and I didn’t realize this until Saturday when someone pointed out to me that you really can’t tell if someone is online on the Android client. That’s actually quite annoying. This is definitely a step backwards. I also don’t like the fact that Google+ Messages still exists. I would have hoped that they would have killed that app when they launched Google Hangouts.
There’s much to hope for with Google Hangouts as, just like Google+, I see a ton of potential for Google Hangouts as it’s already a pretty solid messaging platform. I really hope they take the best of all the other messaging apps that they currently have and release the best of breed.
The topic of jailbreaking and rooting is a hotly debated one for those who are ardent users of iOS ecosystem and Android ecosystem respectively. I’ve used both extensively with a strong preference towards the Android system.
At first glance, both jailbreaking an Apple iPhone and an Android phone accomplishes the same thing – it gives a user access to functionality that isn’t provided and sometimes unintended by default by Google and Apple respectively.
In order to appreciate the difference, you first have to look at not only the product approach each company has taken but also the the mobile phone industry as well. At a very high level, here’s what happens:
- The OS provider creates the OS and provides it to the manufacturer
- The manufacturer creates the device, develops the appropriate drivers, loads the OS and loads additional software to differentiate itself from other manufacturers using the same OS and then sells the device to a telecom provider
- Telecom provider locks the phone and adds their own software to differentiate themselves from other telecomproviders
Apple is in a position where they are both the OS creator and the manufacturer. Where they are truly unique is with the volume of sales, they are able to determine what software is pre-loaded by the telecom provider as well. While Google does own Motorola, they have yet to release native Android OS on Motorola handsets. They have reserved that for their Nexus lines of phones.
So that the context is set, here’s the gist of the difference.
From an end user perspective, Android is probably as open as it can reasonably get from an end-user perspective. Here are some examples of it’s openness:
- The ability to change your launcher.
Many people who are new to Android think that the main screen where you see is static to your phone. For instance, Samsung is famous for its TouchWiz launcher and HTC is famous for its Sense UI. However, there are many other launchers that you can load – Apex and Nova to name two of the more popular ones and you can do this out of the box. Apex and Nova lets you do many things including change how many icons you can load on each screen
- Change your keyboard
Don’t like the default keyboard? Change it – you can buy SwiftKey or TouchPal from the store. You can change this without rooting your phone
- Change your own app store
Some of the manufacturers have their own app store and Amazon has their own as well. You can load Amazon’s app store
- Side-load apps
So if an app is not in any app store like for instance Swype (my favourite keyboard for Android still), you can always download it from their site, uncheck a safety setting (do this at your own risk), load it and run it
Manufactures like HTC actually freely give you the ability to root your phone without hassle although by doing so, it would automatically void your warranty. As open as Android is, there are a number of scenarios why you would want to root your phone. The first one is that unfortunately, you can’t delete the pre-loaded apps out of the box. The only way of getting rid of them is to root the phone and then delete them. The second big one is getting the latest and greatest versions of Android before the manufacturer puts them out. You could also do things like change kernels and tweak memory but I find that Android for the most part does that well enough on its own without interference from me.
Apple’s philosophy is different. At it’s core, the primary objective for Apple is to give all of its end-users the best experience. In order to achieve that, it has to be able to have almost complete control over their product by limiting what you can use.
You have to jailbreak a phone to allow you to
- Unlock your phone
- Enable multi-tasking
- Change any of the default apps like your dialer, etc
- Change your default UI
My conclusion is that one is not necessarily better than the other. It’s really what your goals are for your phone. The one thing that is obvious though – you can do a lot more with your Android phone out of the box without rooting than you can with an iPhone.
* Edit made based on Jason’s comment.
Mashable has recently announced that Samsung has sold twice as many devices as Apple in Q3 of 2012.It’s been pretty interesting how over the time the mobile argument has shifted from Apple versus Google to Apple versus Samsung. The Apple versus Google comparison didn’t make a ton of sense. Both Apple and Google are vastly different companies and you can tell by how they measure success of their mobile strategy. Apple measures success of their mobile strategy by the number of devices sold. Additions to iOS, introduction of the iCloud and Siri are all manoeuvres to retain or cause users to purchase new devices. Google measures their success by the number of accounts activated on Android devices. In order to facilitate this, Google gives away their software for free (OS and Tool sets), allows developers to publish their apps for free and more recently introducing high end hardware for cut throat margins.
The Apple versus Samsung argument is a (pardon the pun) closer apple to apple comparison. Both are hardware manufacturers who measure their success on units sold. And Apple has come out hard in their fight against Samsung – harder than they have against any organization. The most telling sign of course has been the $1B lawsuit that Apple levied against Samsung and won. There are a couple of interesting things about the lawsuit in general
It’s not about innovation
Both Apple and Samsung (through the Android ecosystem) have ideas that are not uniquely their own within their devices. Some really glaring things are the pull down gesture to show the notifications that are now on Apple devices have been a well-known Android paradigm since launch. The same can be said with putting icons on top of one another automatically creating groups has been a well-known Apple paradigm for a while now.
It’s not about money
Don’t get me wrong – $1B is a lot of money and I’m sure Samsung is not happy about losing $1B. But both Apple and Samsung are multi-hundred billion dollar companies. Apple doesn’t need the $1B to enhance their business and losing $1B will not hamper Samsung’s efforts in the market.
It’s about messaging
The one interesting thing to me that came out of the whole lawsuit was messaging. The message which Apple sent to the American people who is their power base is that Samsung is a copycat and a cheat; they are stealing and profiting on American innovation. At it’s heart, this is where Apple has been hurting the most. Apple has traditionally been the masters of brand and messaging. They have always been able to capture the imagination of their consumers by showing them how to purchase less than bleeding edge technology to its fullest. Samsung has copied much of Apple’s marketing playbook and has reaped much benefit from it.
So it will be interesting to see how this continues to play out. The end benefit though is better consumer products assuming that Samsung doesn’t get trapped in a quagmire of lawsuits
With the combination of having to had to recently do factory reset and new friends moving to the Android platform, I decided to write a quick blog entry about what I consider to be the 5 must-have apps on the Android platform for me.
I’ve used Lookout since they were called Flexilis on the Windows Mobile (no, not Windows Phone) platform. They’ve grown to be an authority on mobile security with applications on the iPhone, the Android and the Blackberry platform. They offer the ability to scan applications that scan apps as you install them. This is particularly useful for Android apps especially if you plan to install apps that aren’t in the Marketplace for whatever reason. This is often used for installing apps that are in beta stages. Other features include backing up information (i.e. photos, contacts, calls, etc) and a slew of functions that allow you to deal with a missing device such as locating your device, making your phone scream, remote locking and remote wiping your device. My favorite feature is the find your device followed by making it scream. It’s a really quick way to find my misplaced devices 🙂
It’s hard to imagine typing on a smartphone without Swype. It was the first keyboard that introduced swiping gestures as a means to enter information on a phone. Because you’re moving over more letters and numbers, it actually tends to be more accurate. Because you’re swiping, it’s actually a bit faster because you’re not lifting your finger up to type. When it first came out, it didn’t handle touch typing as well because it didn’t perform autocomplete. It now does that just as well as the swiping. The one thing though is that it’s a beta product and not in the Google Play Store. While there are other products that do something similar like Flex T9, Swype is still the best in market especially since being bought by Nuance. You’ll have to sign up for it and install it here.
Evernote is probably the first app that I used that has a desktop client, web client and mobile client. It was one of the first truly productive web services available in the market when it started. Evernote has also grown to be a leader in its space. Although I do have Springpad and Catch installed, I find myself using it the most because of the desktop and web client availability. There are so many awesome features on Evernote such as OCR and speech to text translation which are extremely useful. The Windows client also supports drawing as well. However, the feature that I absolutely can’t live without is the offline sync and its rich multi-client application.
I use Pocket largely because it was the first official Instapaper-like app on the Android. I needed it to mark articles on my Google Reader feed to follow-up again later. Also, I use it to archive any bookmarks of links that friends send me. When Read It Later became Pocket, it also became a beautiful application to read links. This is a particularly powerful app when leveraged with Android’s Sharing capabilities
Dropbox is a well-known file sharing service so I won’t bore you with what it does. But there are two things about Dropbox for Android that are awesome. The first one is it’s ability to sync your photos automatically to your Dropbox account. This is especially great when I use multiple devices and it’s nice to be able to consolidate all my photos in one place. To encourage this, Dropbox will increase your free account with 2 additional GBs of space which is the second awesome thing I love about Dropbox for Android. If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, you can use my referral link where both of us can have an additional 500 MB of space. Here’s my link: http://db.tt/sIzRrr71
What are your 5 Must-Have Android phone apps today?
This has been a pretty mad week in technology starting with Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility for $12B followed by HP announced the folding of their PC business including their newly launched tablets featuring WebOS. There have been some articles about the Motorola purchase which I really enjoyed and some that I thought seem a bit short-sighted for various reasons. So here are some scattered thoughts about the events this week.
It’s all about defense
It’s really hard to imagine why Google would buy Motorola outside of its patents. While I wouldn’t second guess what Google’s patent defence would be or if I think it’s better or worse after the purchase, Google does believe that it’s worth $12B. Android is important to Google – not because of it’s $11M revenue through the Android Marketplace but it’s really important for their ad business. It’s the main reason why they got into it and then continues to give it away for free. The Android, Chrome and ChromeOS strategy all have the same goal which is really about further reach and control over how a user interacts with Google. It’s not difficult to recognize that the browser is quickly replacing the desktop when users aren’t mobile and users are consuming information on their mobile devices more and more each day. Outside of Microsoft’s accusation that Google intended to purchase Nortel’s patents to attack others, I haven’t been able to find an instance where Google attacked anyone based on patents outside of protecting others.
Strength in numbers
Android’s strength is in its ecosystem which is made of the OS, the manufacturers that use them, the software and the developers that develop the software. Android is important to Google and I would imagine even more important than Motorola. It is in Google’s best interest to keep the ecosystem they have in tact. If Google intends to get into the handset manufacturing business as an additional business, HTC would have been a much better buy. Google does not have the in-house expertise to turn around Motorola as a handset business. While I agree that Google may use the opportunity of owning Motorola to build phones in the way that they envision the phone, it by no means equate to other OEMs from creating other phones that are equally or are even more successful. That Nexus program to date proves that. The Nexus series are phones that are built very closely by OEM manufacturers to date starting with the Nexus One followed by the Nexus S but rarely are these phones the overwhelming favourites in terms of number of handsets purchased. In fact, the Nexus One was a complete flop. It is also the Nexus One experience that should indicate to both the market and OEM manufacturers that Google buying Motorola is unlikely a threat to their business. Building a business is much more than building a successful technical product – it’s also about marketing and partnerships. Google does not know how to do either well in the handset business and unfortunately (as I snakily remarked in my Google+ post) neither does Motorola.
Changing the game but not really
The OEM reaction of Google’s purchase of MMI is reminiscent of a two-year old child welcoming a newborn sibling into the family for the first time. The OEMs are tentative and cautious; they’re waiting to see what Google will do with MMI. On one hand, they’re a bit optimistic because the 25K odd patents could land an extra hand in protecting their Android investments. On the other hand, they’re also worried that Google might play favourites with Motorola by giving them special privileges. For Google to really protect Android, it will need the OEM support. Without OEM support, the number of Android handsets sold will plummet and likely resulting in the loss of developer interest and hence equating the demise of Android altogether. Motorola is nowhere near the top in terms of total number of Android handsets sold. It is in Google’s best interest to treat all their OEMs well if they intend to protect the Android platform. I think HTC recognizes this.
There’s plenty of room for everyone
For OEMs to compete with Apple, the only realistic choice is Android. No one is going to out-Apple Apple however the good news as the market has shown, not everyone wants an Apple. There are other factors that people look at when purchasing a phone including price point and form factor. While no one Android phone is dominant in market today, many companies, especially HTC and Samsung, have been able to make successful Android products that compete one another and make each of their parent companies money. Google is very interested in the number of devices activated; it is a metric they actively track. It is quite easy to imply that their own revenue is based on these activities and not so much from the revenue generated by manufacturers or from the marketplace.
I don’t get patents
I have to admit this – I don’t get the patent wars that we’re in. It’s obvious that it isn’t working and that it’s hurting innovation in the US especially at a time where innovation is one of the longer term answers to US economic success in the future. Some of the patent disputes are silly. I remember seeing this article and thinking to myself that yes, all tablets look like iPads but the author seem to also have missed that most devices look similar to each other long before the iPad. The Lenovo PC tablets look very similar to the Dell Latitude tablets that look very similar to the Asus tablets. It’s the nature of the beast. I’d hate to imagine if someone in home building patented open-concept homes or that cars have 4 wheels in the 1920s. Imagine how much further we’d be as a civilization.
WebOS is a failure of HP, not a failure of WebOS
Launching (or in this case re-launching) any new platform is hard. Even when Google first launched Android, it took many a year before it became the success that it is today. WebOS is a decent enough OS. While I read that HP spent a lot of money in terms of marketing it, I don’t think I’ve come across any ads for it. I suspect that HP marketed it like it was 1999 with tactics such as in store marketing, etc. The market has changed but HP hasn’t. I sincerely hope that someone else (even HTC) picks up WebOS. It deserves a much better fate than it got.
I’ve recently acquired my 7th mobile device in the last 12 months or so. I started out with a Nexus One, Points gave me a BlackBerry Bold 9000, picked up the HTC Desire Z, explored the ExoPC but didn’t like it. So I bought an Asus EEE Pad (EP 121) which I LOVE. Upgraded the BlackBerry Bold to a newer version and then recently picked up the HTC Flyer. The only other device I’d look to get this year is something with NFC. Truthfully, I hope to be done with mobile purchases this year. There were some lessons I learned over that time and the conclusion is that size matters when it comes to devices. OS matters as well bit to a lesser degree than size.
4 inches (aka the phone)
This is probably one of the more familiar form factors. It started with PDAs which evolved into smartphones. It is small enough to fit into a pocket and travels everywhere with me. It’s extremely versatile because of its size and the amount of computing power you can fit into that package these days.
At 4″, the screen is big enough to read things if you have at least a 6pt font and stripped away graphics to remove the clutter. However, given its small screen, reading a lot of text can be tedious at times. It doesn’t do well for managing information because in order to truly manage information, you often need other pieces of supporting data to do the job adequately. However, it is great for quick updates such as checking off tasks and creating reminder type notes.
Because of its constant availability, it’s usually where a lot of personal data is created and is likely the data master for this type of data. Some examples of this kind of data include information like credit card info, passwords, appointments and contact info. This is one device that you want extreme security with.
7 inches (aka the Playbook)
While there are many other 7″ device, I deem the Playbook to be the most prolific because they started this idea although the Samsung Galaxy Tab launched first. I remember hearing about the 7″ form factor and didn’t find myself interested in it until playing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab last year. It was naturally more phone then tablet and was surprisingly usable. It’s small enough to fit into the back of most of my jeans pockets bit has a large enough screen to read a lot of information efficiently. This makes the device quite portable but not portable to bring it every where with me like a phone. For instance, I can bring it with me to a meeting but not likely to bring it with me if I were stepping out with the guys for coffee, for instance.
Creating information on this form factor is a pleasure. I can opt to hold it with both hands and type or hold it in one hand and peck away at it. Two thumb typing (not to be confused by two hand typing) is actually quite great and ends up being the primary way I enter data. I like that I’m fast and have enough real estate on my screen to read and keep context of my data. This is also the average size for an e-book reader making it the natural device to do most of my reading from.
I like it because it’s versatile due to its size. I find myself using this device frequently whenever I think I’m going to consume information. This is the primary device I use when I’m not working or walking. So my main uses are at home, in transit to work or even travelling.
10 inches (aka the iPad)
I remember the fanfare that followed the launch of the iPad. It was yet another revolution for Apple. Yes, tablets have been around for almost 5 year’s at this point. Apple revolutionized the use of the device more than anything else.
The 10″ form factor is an awesome media consumption device. The screen is large enough where it’s often like reading a magazine. Watching movies on such a size is also quite the treat because it is large enough to see the important details. At 10″, most web pages will render legibly although just a little bit more dense than normal making it a very natural web driven device. One of the things that was recognized early is that an app created for a 4″ device doesn’t scale that well to a 10″ device. However, apps created for a 12″ device actually renders decently for a 10″ device.
Content creation for a 10″ device can be cumbersome that is similar to the 4″ device for portable information creation. It’s too long (and quickly becomes too heavy) for two thumbed content writing. It is actually quite comfortable to two-hand type on the device in portrait mode if you can place it down. However, in portrait mode, you quickly lose the real estate space for context which is personally quite important when considering content creation. You could attach a mouse and keyboard to the device but at that point, it is less functional than a desktop or laptop because of the small screen limitation. Although no hardware supports a digitizer today, I suspect using it as a pen input device would actually be a decent experience. The surface is large enough where you can write an adequate amount of information per screen on it.
This is an awesome form factor for travel and personal use. I like it for when I’m sitting around and want to peruse the internet but don’t really want to do a lot of work on it. Newer uses for it are as a cash register or sales tool which makes sense in a number of scenarios.
12 inches (aka the Asus EEE pad)
There are actually only a handful of devices in this form factor and none of them are particularly cheap. This is perhaps the original tablet form factor. The only OS so far available for it really is Microsoft Windows. You could put Ubuntu on it but even at Natty, Ubuntu is not ready for multi-touch use.
Like the 10″ device, it is an awesome media consumption device. If 10″ is nice, media on a 12″ is so much nicer. All web sites render like it should for this form factor. One thing to note though, a 12″ device as you’d expect would be the heaviest of all these form factors. So reading it would entail cradling the device on one arm and swiping screens with the other.
Content creation on a 12″ has many of the same challenges as the 10″ device. No one even thinks about two-thumb content creation on a 12″ device and you have the same challenges although it is slightly better with two-handed typing on a 12″ device. Writing on a 12″ device’s a joy. It is quite possible to hook up a mouse and keyboard to generate content on a 12″ device for an extended period of time.
The reality is that the 12″ device is often a full-blown notebook/laptop without a keyboard. So it has all of the hardware advantages and limitations of one. They often have powerful processors, gobs of RAM, lots of connectors and unfortunately also chew through battery. The power consumption is even more of an issue when the form factor limits the size of a battery that you can put on the device.
Hopefully if you’re looking for a new device or writing software for one, this helps with thinking about how form should factor into that decision making process
I have always loved HTC because in so many ways they have made their devices not only good-looking but also user community friendly. Their history with this has been long before they were a well-recognized consumer brand. XDA-Developers is one of the most recognized communities for this kind of activity. HTC contemplated about whether or not to lock up the bootloader. After concerns from the community, HTC opted to not forge ahead. This is another testament of HTC’s commitment to the community.
It never really occured to me as to why they would contemplate such a thing especially since of their standing in the user community and it’s one of the reasons why their devices is so popular. As we are exploring other devices here other than the BlackBerry, @lukereeves pointed out the security risks with Android devices that have root access. The issue is to do this, you’d have to open access to the bootloader. Once the Bootloader is opened, regardless of what security you have on the ROM, you’ve enabled a way to bypass it.
I’m really curious about how HTC would balance between the consumer community and the business community which is traditionally lucrative. The other thing to consider is that the consumer space is where most of the bleeding edge technology is now unlike 15 years ago. The consumer is more than likely to switch more often. However, not many people would like to carry two devices so whatever corporate provides tend to be an individual’s primary device. It would be interesting to see what HTC will do. Perhaps start a separate brand to focus on the enterprise space?