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Android’s fragmentation problem Is still a problem. 6 months later.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

How would you feel if you went to a dealer to buy a new car and walked out having bought the 2011 model that gets worse gas mileage even though the new model is already out? On a much smaller scale, I’m thinking this is happening to a lot of consumers buying Android phones right now (and good thing it’s a less expensive purchase than a car).

Backstory

So I am testing websites on Android, so I thought it would be better to have a real Android phone around the office to test with1. Since this is something we are going to pay for, we might as well get an Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) phone, Android’s current operating system, to get the most for our money. ICS  has been out for over 6 months2, so it should be easy enough to go by Best Buy and buy a phone on my carrier (AT&T) and add it to my plan. Right? Unfortunately, no.

First off, the only phone on AT&T that Best Buy carries that comes equipped with ICS out of the box is the HTC One X. Seems like a nice enough phone, decided to buy it but it was out of stock (even though the display was there and I discussed it with the sales person). The phones that have been issued updates for ICS 4 (HTC Vivid and Samsung Note) are not in stock and the phones that have been promised updates for ICS (Samsung Galaxy SII and SII Skyrocket) have had their release dates pushed back to later this month for that role out. I called the AT&T store and their stock was the same situation. So when it was all said and done, I got a phone (HTC One-X) that was out of stock and had a co-worker pick it up in Edwardsville, Illinois.

The whole experience was rather frustrating. I knew what I was looking for and came prepared to find a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich installed. I can’t imagine what this experience would have been for an inexperienced consumer who had heard good things about Android, wanted to stick with AT&T and ended up buying a phone with an outdated operating system and not even knowing any better. This would be like buying a new PC with Vista when Windows 7 was out for 6 months. Only this scenario is worse because you are locked into a new two-year contract with this phone.

I’ve read a lot of Android defenders saying this fragmentation problem doesn’t exist, or that the freedom of choice of multiple phones with multiple OSes is an advantage over iOS, but I disagree. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and current their Executive Chairmen said in late 2011: “Android is ahead of the iPhone now,” in his talk at Le Web in December 2011. During the same talk he said:

“Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking,” Schmidt said. “There are so many manufacturers working so hard to distribute Android phones globally that whether you like ICS or not–and again I like it a great deal–you will want to develop for that platform, and perhaps even first.”

One Android-toting audience member said he was frustrated to see iOS apps beating Android versions to market. But in part because of Ice Cream Sandwich, “my prediction is that six months from now you’ll say the opposite,3” Schmidt said.

CNET - Google’s Schmidt: Android leads the iPhone

Well Eric, your six months is up on June 6, 2012. I am a developer who tried to buy the current version of your operating system you were praising in this speech six months ago. And I needed someone to drive 70 miles roundtrip to buy the only phone nearby that had it on my carrier.  I don’t think developers are going to flock to your platform if the phones are this hard to find and unavailable. I also wonder if the people buying phones today with an older OS are going to less satisfied with their phone two years from now when their contract is up.

If you think I’m wrong (or if you think I’m right but messed something up), let me know in the comments below.

Footnotes:

Fanboyism is getting old

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

In every post you see about the iPad 2 launch on Engagdet, Techcrunch, Ars, et al there are people arguing in the comments about Android verus iOS (or people just bashing Apple). Why do these people care so much about the hardware / software on a device that they don’t own, don’t develop for, and for a company in which they don’t own stock?

When and why did people get this passionate about technology that doesn’t really impact their well-being?

Tangentially why does every clichéd reference of a blogger refer to him (never her), blogging from their parent’s dark basement?

*For the record, I’m blogging from my couch, in a house I pay a mortgage on (I don’t call that owning), while the kids are asleep, and thinking about not being at SxSW*

I’m Not Going to SXSW

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

After a lot of deliberation, I’ve finally come to realize that I’m not going to SXSWi 2011. You see this title and probably think this post is some diatribe about how it’s gotten too big, or how Social Media “gurus” have taken over, or how last year’s keynote was boring, but it’s not for any of these reasons. smcstl-panel

Why am I not going? Well, I have a muscular disease that I’ve kept really quiet for the last 5 months, but it has damaged my muscles to the point where I’m usually walking with a cane right now. Without going into all the details, I have hope that this damage is reversible (although not curable), and with the right treatment I’ll hopefully be back to close to “normal” activities by late Spring or early Summer.

Looking back on last year’s SXSW (which was a great time meeting a lot of people and learning a lot), I realized I walked. A LOT. And no matter how much I want to, I wouldn’t be able to do it this year.

I know I could still go to SXSW and not walk as much, but I’m worried that I would be end up being disappointed with my experience, and likely in a lot of pain even after limiting my activities.

So I’m not going to SXSW this year… I will miss catching up with the DCTH crew, Scott Bishop and his crazy pirate friends, friends from St. Louis, Roberto and others. I will also miss trying to find a worse session that this one and then blogging about it.

No worries on my end though because I know this is the right decision. I am sure I am going to Big Omaha and probably An Event Apart – Atlanta (I figure there will be a lot less walking for these events). Hopefully I run into friends at these, see some great speakers and learn a lot at the sessions.

Google Product Integration Fail

Friday, February 5th, 2010

So I went to view Google Ocean Showcase (which is supposed to be cool) in my default browser – Google Chrome. Unfortunately it failed. So did Google’s internal development team that should obviously be using their own browsers.

google-product-integration

Lessons From a Failed Hard Drive and Failed Genius

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

So last week I had an unexpected problem with my MacBook Pro when it just stopped working… Uh oh:

Uh Oh

I guessed based on what was going on that it was a problem with the hard drive and decided to schedule an appointment with the “Geniuses” at the Apple Store [Mistake 1].

I was running late due to an accident on the highway, so I politely called to say I’d be a few minutes late [Mistake 2], the nice woman I talked to said:

No problem, I booked you a backup appointment in case you can’t get here on time.

So I showed up about 5 or 10 minutes late for my appointment and I wasn’t listed as still having an appointment at that time, but instead for 2 or 3 hours later. I explained the situation and the “concierge” said they could still get me in at my original appointment time because the woman with an appointment before me wasn’t finished yet… Nor did her appointment finish for a while. So I sat there waiting patiently… fast forward a 1/2 hour and the “Genius” tells me that since I missed my appointment he would try to fit me in between his next appointment… Which of course, is wrong, because he was running 30 or 40 minutes late for my appointment. I explain the situation, he looks at my Mac and says:

I think it’s the hard drive

Umm, really, Genius, me too. Got anything to help confirm that suspicion?

Well I could try a boot DVD or drive?

That would be great since I’m here and all, and by this point I’ve been here about an hour. For the next hour or two he tries this to no avail, asks me if I brought the original Leopard install disk with me [mistake 3] and of course, I didn’t. He explains he can’t confirm it’s the hard drive without taking out the hard drive (?) and if I want the repair it’ll cost upwards of $300, at which point I said I’d be happy to do it myself.  My only real reason for bringing it in was to confirm it wasn’t a logic board or something worse, nevertheless, I left went to Best Buy and bought a new hard drive (after googling it myself since the Best Buy staff had no clue what size hard drive fits in a MacBook Pro).

I followed these great instructions on iFix for replacing my hard drive, and in the process fixed my loose bluetooth antenna and put it all back together.  

So I take the laptop to the office, install that boot DVD the goofball from the Apple Store told me about and tried to restore from my Time Machine backup that I had from about an hour before my Mac crashed, waited three and a half hours and… nothing. ugh

Why? Well since I’m running Snow Leopard, I can’t restore from a Leopard install disk. Thanks again guy at Apple Store.

So after another 3 hours of booting from Snow Leopard install DVD, success, MacBook Pro is working, good as new (faster / bigger hard drive, better Wireless antenna).

What did I learn in this process? Well a few things:

  • The Apple Store does not really employ geniuses
  • It’s not that hard to fix items on a Mac yourself (if you are a techie)
  • Time Machine alone makes a Mac worth the cost (my Vista laptop’s backup process – ugly and horribly slow)
  • I’m still a Mac and now I’m faster.

Finally

Are mouseovers a thing of the past?

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Lately, I’ve been using jQuery and similar libraries whenever possible, instead of flash. Besides the fact that these libraries usually kick butt and make sites more usable and interactive, by not using flash these sites still work on phones.

I like this little garage door effect, and I’ve seen it on some sites and was thinking about using it for a new version of a site I’m working on (hint, it rhymes with smoke), but when reviewing it on the iphone, it occurred to me that it didn’t work*.

Since the iPhone is a growing percentage of web audiences, and the long-rumored Apple table is supposedly about to be released, which will surely use a multi-touch interface, should developers stop using mouseover effects on normal sites (ie non web-apps)?

What do you think small dedicated reading audience of this blog**?

Should web designers stop using mouseovers?

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*Or at least not with a click, which defeats the cool UI experience
**Readership numbers are a pure guess, I’m too busy to go check google analytics at the moment.

Death to IE6

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

As I’ve pointed out twice (my plea to corporate America here & during a poll here), I’m on the bandwagon of those trying to kill IE6. As a web developer it hurts every time you’re forced to support it. It adds hours of frustrating wasted time to every project and as I point out in my plea to corporate America: It’s old, really old and full of holes.   I’ve gone as far as prompting IE6 visitors to this site to download an upgrade by use of a modal popup.

Now more than ever, this movement is gaining steam:

  • There is now an article at Mashable about killing IE6
  • News that Youtube will kill it’s support for IE6
  • And Digg wanted to, but realized that the reason people use it is because they have no choice (locked down XP computers without being able to upgrade).

But by far the funniest of all I’ve seen yet is this – IE6ify any website. This tool will make the site look likes it being shown in IE6 (to a developer). Basically it breaks your page.  Enjoy the fun that I and so many have experienced trying to use CSS on IE6 in this replicator. (H/T to Logan)

Things I Do With My iPhone

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

So I had a typical Apple-hating response on Twitter to something I retweeted.

iphone-post

GaneshaXi’s response was basically: “My $50 phone is better and you’re a sheep for buying an iPhone”.

So instead of taking the old internet advice of “Don’t Feed the Troll“, I decided to make a ‘just-for-fun’ list of things I do (regularly) with my iPhone:

  1. Make and receive calls (duh, it’s a phone).
  2. Send and receive text messages.
  3. Send and receive emails (and using IMAP, so my MacBook Pro email shows if I’ve read them or not).
  4. Update contacts and calendar without synching (via the magic of mobileMe).  So if I add, edit or delete a contact or calendar item on my Mac or on my iPhone, the other one receives an update.
  5. Take pictures, send pictures to this blog, facebook, twitpic, etc.
  6. View twitter, write tweets, respond to tweets, etc using Tweetie.
  7. Update all of my chosen social sites (Facebook, this blog, typepad, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, etc) with Ping.FM using Pingle.
  8. Review and accept / reject comments on this blog and on Spoken Whirred using the WordPress app.
  9. Listen to music, buy new music, create playlists (while still being able to accept calls during the middle of a song, very useful when I’m out on a long bike ride).
  10. Check baseball scores and listen to MLB radio (via MLB app).
  11. Check my fantasy baseball daily stats and update my team (via CBSSportsLine app).
  12. Surf the Web (mostly stltoday.com/sports and vivaelbirdos).
  13. Read the Bible.
  14. Read eBooks.
  15. Watch full length movies, usually on a plane (currently on my iPhone is Iron Man, which I’ve watched like 50 times).
  16. Listen to my favorite music from Pandora.com (via their free app).
  17. Check the weather, view radar and view The Weather Channel forecast, using their app.
  18. Get turn by turn directions and if lost find out where the heck I am.
  19. Skype IM to friends (and sometimes calls).
  20. Take notes.
  21. Browse and view YouTube videos. Usually to show off something I’ve posted up there about Gabe.
  22. Search for something (usually a store location) while driving using voice activated search (Google app).
  23. Remote control Keynote presentations running on my Mac without using a mouse.
  24. Remote control iTunes on my Mac during parties (choose next song, pause, start, etc).
  25. Check in on Brightkite, view who’s around me, etc.
  26. Surf Wikis.
  27. Check nutritional information about food I’m eating.
  28. Track sports scores (using a couple different apps).
  29. Check the status of FedEx shipments.
  30. Look up words in the dictionary.
  31. Play checkers when I’m waiting in line at Disney World.
  32. Check facebook messages, view friends status, etc using Facebook app.
  33. Use a calculator for tips, change, etc.
  34. Choose shows to record on my DirecTV when I’m away from home (use this mostly for Cardinals games).
  35. Set and snooze alarm clock (usually when out of town).

I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting, but I think you get the gist. When I make a tongue-in-cheek comment about my phone being superior, it’s not because I’m a sheep. It’s because it is.  I’m a tech guy (a former full-time software developer) who uses his phone for everything. I’ve had two Windows Mobile phones, they were fine, but not this good. I’ve also had a couple palm based phones (Treos), again, not this good.  And I’m sure your blackberry could do half this stuff, maybe more.  But again not this well. Because I haven’t even mentioned the intuitive touch screen yet (the one every other device is trying to copy without breaking apple’s patents) or the fact that it completely replaced my iPod.

Even better than all of this is that when the phone starts to get outdated, they just update the OS software so it can do more, unlike Microsoft who won’t update their mobile OS to carriers, because the carriers want people to buy a new phone.