06 Dec

Ars Technica – Google Earth, other mobile apps leave door open for scripting attacks

In the rush to create mobile apps that work across the leading smartphones and tablets, many developers have leaned heavily on web development tools and use embedded browsers as part of their packaged applications. But security researchers have shown that relying on browser technology in mobile apps—and even some desktop apps—can result in hidden vulnerabilities in those applications that can give an attacker access to local data and device features through cross-site scripting.

via Ars Technica – Google Earth, other mobile apps leave door open for scripting attacks. Oops, just because it doesn’t look like a browser doesn’t mean it doesn’t suffer the same security holes.

17 Oct

My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome

If I could simultaneously re-experience my first time using iOS and my first time using Android, I don’t know how the two instances could ever reconcile. iOS feels like technology that’s years ahead of Android just through polish and design. And while a lot of Android users have told me that stuff doesn’t bother them, I can’t get over it. Why choose the tool that feels worse?

via My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome. That pretty much sums up every bit of experience of Android I’ve ever heard.

02 Sep

TechCrunch – Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It.

It’s called simply the “Amazon Kindle”. But it’s not like any Kindle you’ve seen before. It displays content in full color. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. And it runs Android.

Rumors of Amazon making a full-fledged tablet device have persisted for a while. I believe we were one of the first to report on the possibility from a credible source — the same person who accurately called Amazon’s Android Appstore. That source was dead-on again, it just took Amazon longer than anticipated to get the device ready to go. They’re now close.

How do I know all of this? Well, not only have I heard about the device, I’ve seen it and used it. And I’m happy to report that it’s going to be a big deal. Huge, potentially.

via TechCrunch – Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It. If I could buy one today, I would. This thing is going to sell like hotcakes.

18 Aug

Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys

On Friday, August 12, Google filed inter partes reexamination requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the two patents asserted in patent infringement claims by Lodsys against, among others, several Android developers. The patents subject to these requests are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,222,078 and 7,620,565.

We have had a chance to review the reexamination requests, and after that review we believe Lodsys is in for a rough time. We have seen reexam requests before, but when we saw these, the above quote came to mind. Lodsys, you shouldn’t have brought a knife to a gunfight.

And for all of those naysayers who have shouted Google is not doing enough to protect Android app developers and that Android app developers should cave to the Lodsys demands, you need to reconsider your position.

via Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys. What’s interesting about this story is the suspicion that Google and Apple had not previously filed re-examination requests because their agreements with Lodsys prevented such an action, apparently not so at least for Google.

30 Jul

Silicon Alley 2.0 – Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone

The other day I bought the newest, fanciest flagship Android phone for my mother and it was an unmitigated disaster. She has an iPhone now, which she loves, and when I read that 30-40 percent of Android devices are being returned, I honestly wasn’t surprised.

With a user experience as bad as I saw on a brand new Android device, I’m considering an iOS device for my next phone, and I’m a big Android fanboy and proud PC owner. Of course, that 40 percent number is very hard to verify and I’d guess that it’s a bit of an exaggeration – but still, something is rotten in Android town.

So my mom needed a new phone and she was game for an Android – she had been envying my HTC Incredible for about a year and was tired of her aging feature phone. She’s pretty tech savvy –uses Gmail, has a Tumblr, does most of her emailing on an iPad– so after some discussion we decided that Android was the way to go. The integrated Google search, Gmail, gChat, and much richer maps functionality seemed to trump the UI functionality and app selection of the iPhone 4 for her needs. A trip to the Verizon store later, we came home with a Samsung Charge. The giant screen was brilliant. The 4G was blisteringly fast. The camera had more megapixels than was reasonable. The phone was an absolute nightmare to use.

From the second we turned it on, the user experience was astonishingly bad. Want to activate your phone? Take the battery out, write down a series of minuscule numbers that you find on the phone and on the SIM card, then enter them into Verizon’s barely-functional site. Once you’ve got it hooked up, navigate the opaque first time setup, if it doesn’t crash while you’re entering your information (it did – twice). Once you’re done with the setup, enjoy the apps that Verizon and Samsung think you should use: a terrible golf game, a Samsung branded Twitter client, Verizon’s half-baked navigation app.

via Silicon Alley 2.0 – Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone. His proposed solution is one that Google should really think about, though even that may not be right. For instance do you really want to split the Android market into these are the “approved” phones and these are “not approved”?

13 Jul

WSJ.com – Amazon Plans iPad Rival

Amazon plans to release a tablet computer by October, people familiar with the matter said, intensifying its rivalry with Apple’s iPad.

Amazon’s tablet will have a roughly nine-inch screen and will run on Google’s Android platform, said people familiar with the device. Unlike the iPad, it won’t have a camera, one of these people said. While the pricing and distribution of the device is unclear, the online retailer won’t design the initial tablet itself. It also is outsourcing production to an Asian manufacturer, the people said.

One of the people said the company is working on another model, of its own design, that could be released next year.

The introduction of a tablet poses a conundrum for Amazon on how to keep from cannibalizing sales of its popular Kindle. Amazon has long said the Kindle is its best-selling device, though it has declined to disclose sales.

A person familiar with Amazon’s thinking said it still figuring out how to market the tablet computer. One issue is whether customers will want to buy both the tablet and Kindle, which is viewed as a dedicated-reading device for bookworms.

Amazon plans to introduce two updated versions of its black-and-white Kindle in this year’s third quarter, people familiar with the matter said. One of the new Kindles will have a touch screen, which current models don’t have.

WSJ.com – Amazon Plans iPad Rival. An Amazon tablet I’ll probably pass on, in so much as at the moment I’ll pass on the iPad. I’m not sure where a tablet fits into how I consume/create content. A new Kindle though I’ve been waiting for that, defiantly pick up one of those puppies.

19 Jun

Mika Mobile – Android

With Battleheart having been on sale for a few weeks, I feel I’m equipped to offer up some impressions of the android market from a developer’s perspective.

Still, despite those disclaimers, Battleheart for Android has become a meaningful source of revenue, and has proven that the platform isn’t a waste of time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a polished, high quality product is more likely to be embraced on Android than on iOS because the quality bar on the android market is so pathetically low. Here’s some interesting data: on iOS, user reviews for Battleheart average 4.5 stars (4000 total ratings), which is quite good. On Android it’s a stunning 4.8, with 1000 ratings. So not only is it reviewed more highly, it’s also reviewed more often, with a huge percentage of android users taking the time to rate the app. I think the lack of competition makes quality apps really stand out, and generates a lot of enthusiasm from app-starved android users.

The technical side of supporting android isn’t so bad, but it is a bit of a nuisance. 95% of the heavy lifting is handled by Unity, the game development engine we use to develop our apps. Actually porting the game only took about a day. Still, some devices don’t handle our shaders in a consistent way, some devices just plain crash for no apparent reason. These kinds of issues are few and far between though – the main thing I had to concern myself with was simply making the game work properly at various screen sizes and aspect ratios, which I had been doing all along, so it was trivial to get it up and running.

The most frustrating part about developing for android is actually just dealing with the deluge of support e-mail, most of which is related to download and installation problems which have nothing to do with the app itself, and everything to do with the android OS and market having innate technical problems. Do some googling for “can’t download apps from android market” or similar wording, and you’ll see that this is a widespread chronic issue for all devices and all OS versions. There are numerous possible causes, and there’s nothing I can really do about it as a developer, since its essentially just a problem with the market itself. Based on the amount of e-mails I get every day, download problems effect 1-2% of all buyers, or in more practical terms, somewhere between two and three shit-loads. I have an FAQ posted which offers solutions for the most common problems, but lots of people can’t be troubled to read it before sending off an e-mail demanding a refund.

Mika Mobile – Android. It’s nice to see that Android has the potential to support developers, though the download and market problems really need work. Probably the most common complaint I hear about across any phone or any maker.

13 May

The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web

Today at Google I/O, we launched the developer API of Google In-App Payments for the web. In-App Payments enables any web application to receive payments from users and keep them engaged in your application. It is available to all US developers in sandbox today and will be followed by a consumer launch and an international rollout over the summer.

via The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web. The most interesting part of this is the 5% fee, most payment services charge 2-3%, so double that for Google to cover their hosting costs and such and it seems pretty reasonable. Here is where it gets interesting this puts Apple at a distinct dis-advantage. Apple charges 30% on everything (purchase an app, music, in-app purchases, etc). For ebook readers this creates a non-existent business model due to the agency model that publishers now require all books sold to recieve 70% of the purchase price (ie not wholesale price but what the customer actually paid). So 30% to Apple and 70% to the publisher means nothing get’s left over for the middle-person. That 70% cut could be argued as a problem, but the publisher is one paying for the advertising, development and writing of the book itself, 70% seems like an acceptable cut.

Google is really demonstrating what seems like the fairer margin for the service that serves, stores, builds the store, etc. Apples cut feels too high. Apple does valuable work and important work and it’s a fair argument that without all of Apple’s work there wouldn’t even be this store or platform for developers and publishers to sell their content. But the margin that Apple takes doesn’t seem right, especially when looking at e-books. Etsy is a great example of where the fees seem much more realistic, 20 cents per item listed and 3.5% sales fee. There is a business model that is working and doing much the same as Apple currently is with their App Store. Apple’s cut is so out of portion to everything else comparable is the real problem.

I’ll agree that this is defiantly a subjective claim as it’s hard to state what is and isn’t a viable or reasonable business model, and certainly Apple can charge a 30% or 5% or 90% fee and they are within their rights to do so. The argument can also be made, that a business shouldn’t bet their model on Apple treating them fairly cause that’s never a good idea, Apple defiantly does what is right for Apple. However if Apple doesn’t change their stance I can defiantly see Amazon just pulling out of the App Store and launching their service as a web app. It’s not the best solution for them, but it’s better than Apple taking every penny they make on e-books, especially when the competing smartphone platform takes only 5%.

05 Apr

ericbieller.com – What makes iOS user experience so much better than Android?

Since starting my position as UI/UX Designer at Tapjoy I have had the opportunity to become more familiar with some of the latest Android Devices. Though I have been an iPhone user since the first iteration of the device, I consider myself open to new devices and experiences. I had heard a lot of hype about the Android phones (mainly the HTC) being a comparable alternative to the iPhone so I was excited about the opportunity to check them out. However, the point of this article is to tell you that, despite 4g, kickstands, larger screens, higher-res cameras, Android phones still can’t compete with the iPhone.

For the sake of clarity, I want to disclose that I will be looking at the phone from a user experience perspective. Typical reviews are quick to compare specs and features but don’t usually focus on the overall experience and aesthetic of the device. This aesthetic appeal is what makes the iPhone the top consumer handheld, despite any lacking features. So if you care more about features and specs than user experience, you might completely disagree with what I have to say. That being said, here are my thoughts on the two different experiences:

via ericbieller.com – What makes iOS user experience so much better than Android?. In a nutshell these were more or less my main issues with the experience of using an Android phone.

05 Apr

NYTimes.com – Pandora Discloses a Privacy-Related U.S. Inquiry on Apps

The online radio service Pandora has received a subpoena from a federal grand jury investigating whether popular smartphone applications share information about their users with advertisers and other third parties.

The company said on Monday that it believed that it was one of many companies to receive subpoenas in an investigation into the information-sharing practices of publishers that make apps for the iPhone and other Apple devices, as well as smartphones that run on Google’s Android operating system.

Pandora said it shared information with third parties to help it track how users interact with the service and to deliver targeted advertising. But the company, based in Oakland, Calif., said it was “not a specific target” of the grand jury investigation.

via NYTimes.com – Pandora Discloses a Privacy-Related U.S. Inquiry on Apps. Wonder when we’ll start hearing something what this investigation into mobile advertising and I presume privacy is trying to discover.