Apps and Android Fragmentation

Smashing Magazine LogoWhen it comes to developing for Google’s favourite operating system, Android fragmentation is often bandied around as an issue for app developers. But how bad is it really and what’s the impact?

Fortunately you don’t have to make do with my wild guesses and assumptions as Smashing Magazine have a done a comprehensive critical analysis of testing done by app and game developers using the TestDroid cloud-based testing suite. Over 17 million tests were run on 288 different devices over 3 months early in 2014. Depending on region and measurement, the 288 devices represent somewhere between 92% and 97% of Android phones. With the credentials laid out, let’s take a look and see what the testing revealed.

Most of us will have seen the version stats from Google, showing the relative percentage of Android versions. Put simply, Froyo is less than 1%, Gingerbread is around 10% and ditto for Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean takes the lion’s share at nearly 55% and KitKat comes in second at about 25%.

Android LogoSmashing Magazine’s testing showed that on average 23% of apps exhibit a problem when moving between versions of Android. The biggest problems arose with Gingerbread (30%) followed by KitKat at 21%. Jelly Bean and ancient Honeycomb were next. Interestingly, although Gingerbread is the oldest version with significant market share, 40% of tested apps still work with this version.

The figures also reveal that ICS is the most stable version of Android with a low failure rate that broadly continues through Jelly Bean, though KitKat was more problematic with an increased error rate.

While the OS can cause problems, the hardware’s not blameless either. The research looked at screen resolution and the impact of memory on apps as well. Devices with resolutions of  2560 × 1600, 1280 × 800 and 1280 × 720 pixels gave the fewest problems, typically 1.5% or less. Small screen resolutions were the worst with 400 × 240 and 320 × 240 pixels being particularly bad.

On the RAM front, 512 MB seems to be a significant cut-off point and it’s no surprise that Google recommends this as a minimum. With this amount of memory or less, around 40% of tested apps exhibited problems. At 768 MB and above, the error rate falls to 16% and by 1 GB RAM, it’s down to 1%.

Overall, this is all interesting stuff and a fascinating insight into what app developers have to put up with. I’ve only covered a few of the areas and there’s additional analysis on drivers, OEM customisations and chipsets. I thoroughly recommend that you read the whole article over at Smashing Magazine to understand more.

Taking a slightly different view from a user perspective, if you want a really stable device, you should be buying a high resolution device, with 1 GB RAM and running Ice Cream Sandwich. Hmm.

Safe Games for Kids by Toca Boca at The Gadget Show

Toca BocaAs a a parent with a tablet-loving daughter, I’m always worried that she’s either playing inappropriate games or else building up whopping a credit card bill via in-app purchases. Being tech-savvy, I can easily rectify the latter by controlling the password to my account, but this doesn’t always negate pester-power. The former is still a concern and I’m not alone as these two issues are relevant to parents everywhere.

To help mums and dads, Swedish outfit Toca Boca, “a play studio that makes digital toys for kids” have created a range of open-ended, non-competitive games that appeal to children where the initial purchase cost is the only time you need to flex the credit card. There are over 20 apps available for Apple, Android and Amazon devices, and include games for young hairdressers, chefs, doctors, vets, chemists, scientists and drivers. The themes are very similar to some of the popular “free” games that are out there; the Toca Boca versions usually cost US$2.99 but there are no subsequent in-app purchases.

I chat to Sonia about the Toca Boca apps and how parents can be more confident in what their children playing on their tablets without the worry of an enlarged credit card bill.

The Apple M7 Co-Processor: What it Is, What it Does

Apple-M7Last time I had to deal with co-processors was in the 90’s when I put in a 386SX/DX combo into a PC. Technically, co-processors are in your computer still – just as one chip. However, Apple has separated the processors once again with the iPhone 5S. The A7 and the M7 processor.

The A7 processor will be the primary processing unit for your iPhone. A chip that brings the smartphone to 64-bit processing, the A7 will be able to give you some great gameplay while managing your apps and even using the muli-task features of iOS7.

The M7 is going to handle the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass information. This instantly turns your phone more into a pedometer, heart-rate monitor, location tracker and more.

The M7 runs at lower power so it doesn’t drain your battery when you are on a walk or run. It can also free up CPU time from the A7 chip so location-based apps work a little better.

Expect the healthcare industry to utilize this chip as they put out more apps that can monitor your health. Companies like Fitbit and Nike Fuelband can utilize this chip for their exercise apps. If an iWatch is in the works, it could possibly have monitors that would report straight to the M7. As for location tracking, the M7 will be able to geo-tag photos and video better.

Ultimately, with this co-processor, Apple has been able to tout a 40x difference in speed and 56x graphics difference from the original iPhone. It even is close to doubling the speed of a iPhone5 (from the chart Apple provided at the event).

The 5S breaks some new boundaries. The M7 chip looks to give location tracking and healthcare apps the ability to build strong programs that help in your everyday life. If it all comes together right, the iPhone 5S could be a major shift in the mobile computing market.

Using Google Glass to Automate Your Home

Wonder what Google Glass can do? How about fully automate your home! Vectorform, a company that develops new app technologies have come up with the concept to open a garage door, close shades or change the thermostat using Google Glass.

As Kevin Foreman said on the Vectorform blog:

After receiving our pairs of Glass, we’ve been ideating, designing, and developing with them over the last few weeks to see what new types of experiences they enable. In addition, I personally have decided to go “all in” with Glass, wearing the device throughout my entire day to find all of the benefits and drawbacks the device brings with it.  Follow me after the break to experience what it’s like to live with Google Glass.

4 ideas of Vectorform were accepted by Google explorer program. Of course, you will need a smart home and your Glass will need to be tethered to your smartphone so the commands can be delivered over Wifi.

Still, this concept shows us how Glass can change our hands-free lives.

 

Google Glass + Home Automation from Vectorform on Vimeo.

 

Amazon Productivity Hits free for Android today

Everyday the Amazon App Store offers a “free app of the day” and, during special occasions, the retail giant frequently offers extra deals — either additional free apps or steep discounts.

While there seems to be no special occasion indicated for today’s offer, it is still something that many Android faithfull will wish to take a look at. Today the store offers what it calls a suite of “Productivity Hits”, that runs across multiple different application types and will save you quite a tidy sum of money.

Apps Included:

  • WiFi File Explorer Pro by Dooblou (normally 99-cents)
  • Documents To Go (Full Version Key) by DataViz, Inc. (normally $14.95)
  • PrinterShare Mobile Print by Dynamix USA, LLC (normally $12.95)
  • Tasks N Todos Pro by Handy Apps Inc (normally $5.99)
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop HD by Splashtop Inc. (normally $8.99)
  • Spacedraw Key by Scalisoft (normally $4.99)
  • Splashtop Remote Desktop by Splashtop Inc. (normally $4.99)

amazon productivity hits

If you have an Android device then you will certainly want have the Amazon App Store installed and give it a check daily to see what the free app of the day is. Several of these have been offered individually in the past and are already installed on my device, so I can attest to how good WiFi File Explorer, PrinterShare and Splashtop are. The deal is good for today, July 14, only. Thanks to Android Central for catching this one.

After 5 months the Windows Store hits 50,000 apps

windows 8 store updates link

Windows 8 launched way back at the end of October last year and it has steadily grown since then, though there is a vocal minority who would like you to believe otherwise — some of whom have a vested interest in making you think that way. While the growth of the operating system itself has been rather quick — four million copies sold in less than a week — the growth of the App Store has been slower, but rather steady.

Now the web site Metro Scanner reports a new milestone has been reached. As of this writing, the store is officially as 50,304 apps. This is likely a big moment for Microsoft, as it is validation of the company’s plan and proof that people, most importantly developers, are finally coming around.

Of course, there is a long way to go. The operating system is still without a number of feature apps. Lacking still are official versions of things like Twitter, Facebook and others.

However, the growth should steadily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As more apps appear the pressure on others to get in there will mount. The steadily growing number of users will also add additional pressure on developers to get them on the ball with this OS and Store.

Amazon — Buy an app, get a free MP3

amazon logo

While it has not been largely publicized, Amazon has a deal going on right now for Android customers and music lovers. The online retail giant is offering a trade-off — buy an app and get a free song.

The deal is not exactly temporary either. It began back on February 13, 2013 and will run through December 31, 2013. Customers need not do anything to qualify — simply purchase an app from the Amazon Appstore for Android and then, shortly after making the purchase, you will receive an email from the company that includes a code for $1 credit to Amazon MP3. The code is good until 11:59 PM PST on January 31, 2014, so you have plenty of time to decide on your song.

As many of you likely know, Amazon offers a paid app every single day as its “Free app of the Day”. As it turns out, these also count, meaning you need not even spend anything to land your MP3 credit.

The Ford Developer Program

Developer Program Ford Motor Company opened up their app program to all developers at CES 2013 The new platform is called Uplink it is a suite of technology that works with Connect to Sync. This program has gone through two years of beta testing using such apps as Pandora however now it is open to all developers. It should be opened to North America, Europe and China by the end of the year. Ford has hired people from the mobile industries work previously done some development so they are ready for the volume. They’ve have told developers there are certain categories they will not permit including games videos anything with a lot of texts involved. Ford has developed a multiple number of test that the developer’s app must pass before it is even submitted. These standards are available at the Ford Developer Program website. Ford would like developers to concentrate on using voice commands or if that’s not available quick touch. Right now Ford is concentrating on the driver and they want to make sure that the apps are distraction free.

Developers can work on either the iOS platform or the Android platform. The IOS platform works with the Xcode package in Objective C. The Android platform uses the Eclipse package in Java. Is it a Json library with an API call. The head unit software accepts and manage the information. The head unit software is being open to the industry. Ford is trying to work with competitors so that developers don’t have to develop a different package for each car company.

The apps once developed or tweaked for the environment will be available directly through iTunes and the Google Play Store. Ford is also continuing to work on opening up their diagnostic platform or OpenXC Platform to produce more data for research. If you are developer and interested in developing for the Ford platform you can find more information at the Ford developer website.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor. l

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Livio Connect Adapts Apps for Cars

Livio Connect APINicole from Livio chats to Todd and Don about how the company has changed its approach to the market and the success it’s having in the automotive space.

Over the past year, Livio have moved away from consumer products and instead has started licensing its technology to other app developers. The Livio Connect API makes it easy for app developers to customise their apps for in-car and hands-free use, typically using the car stereo’s features to access and control the apps.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Ford Sync is Moving Ahead

Ford Sync Developer Program Ford has been busy this year with Sync. It now includes apps like the Wall Street Journal, Aha Radio, Glympse, Amazon mp3 and USA Today. Newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today are read to you. Ford has open up Sync to developers and is excited about what they will bring to the Eco-system. The Tech Podcast Network is working on their own Ford Sync app.

Ford does it’s updates via a USB stick which they provide to Ford drivers free of charge. According to the Ford representative most users where able to do the update themselves.

The majority of new Fords now being sold have Ford Sync in them. One of the great things about Ford Sync is that it works in a noisy environment. You can use it in a convertible with the top down going down the highway. Ford believes that listening to their customers and developing and maintaining a quality product is key.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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