It’s been just over a year since Android was released, and we’re finally seeing the floodgates open. There are currently no fewer than 12 Android phones available and still more coming soon. While this may make Android fans out there giddy with excitement, it’s not so thrilling for app developers.
There are 3 versions on Android in the wild: 2.0, 1.6, and 1.5. Developers increasingly find themselves devoting time to patching incompatibilities with new Android handsets. “Instead of working on updates to our apps, we find we are trying to make each app work for multiple versions of the OS and different hardware capabilities,” said Froogloid’s Chris Fagan.
The modifications some manufacturers are making to Android complicate things even further. The recent;y released HTC Hero, for example, was incompatible with Froogloid’s application ‘a2b’. When a2b attempted to enable GPS using standard commands, the Hero would instead respond by presenting the lock screen. The new Motorola Droid also had a few incompatibilities due to the high screen resolution and new Android 2.0 APIs.
Can Android overcome this fragmentation? The solution may be to keep phones more uniformly updated. But that requires better cooperation between hardware partners and Google. Only time will tell if Android’s ecosystem can continue to grow more robust despite these challenges.
At long last, Google has finally released the source code for Android 2.0 (codenamed Eclair). Motorola's Droid is the only smartphone currently shipping that's built around the latest version, but now that Eclair's out in the wild, expect to see plenty more handset makers jump on board.
The release is also great news for the Android modding community, many of which have been eagerly awaiting the update. Modding guru Steve Kondik, otherwise popularly known as "Cyanogen," stated in a Twitter message that he's already gotten Eclair to run on his HTC G1 smartphone, noting that "it runs really well, fast, and smooth. Audio and video not working yet, though."
So what's the big deal? Android 2.0 is the most significant update to Google's open source platform to date. Just a few of the added features include native Exchange support, search functionality for all saved SMS and MMS messages, more camera options (built-in flash, digital zoom, white balance, and so forth), an improved virtual keyboard, multi-touch support, and more. This could be the OS that finally gives Apple's iPhone OS a run for its money.
Samsung announced today that it would throw its hat into the mobile OS ring with “Bada.” Samsung’s new OS's name is based on the Korean word for “ocean” and will support fully open standards.
Samsung was skimpy on the details, but it sounds very similar to the iPhone and Android operating systems. It will feature a central application store and provide developers with a framework to build applications for the device. In stark contrast to the iPhone, Samsung claims that every aspect of the OS will be customizable, including dialer, contacts and other built in utilities.
Samsung anticipates the first “Bada” powered device to be released in the first half of 2010 along with the application store. Adding another OS into the mix might make gaining market share difficult against Google and Apple. However, this likely means Samsung won’t be sporting a new Windows Mobile OS.
AdMob was started in 2006 by Omar Hamoui, and has grown into a major player in mobile advertising. Google points out that the mobile world is becoming as increasingly important part of our daily lives. As such, Google would like to advertise to us in that part of our lives.
Google said in a blog post that app developers will enjoy better monetization of their content because of this deal. They also promise advertisers a more engaged audience. Finally, Google says we can all enjoy the benefits of better mobile ads delivering more useful information, because who doesn’t like ads?
While the mobile world drools over Droid, there's another smartphone that has a shot of stealing a few headlines. We're talking about Acer's upcoming Liquid A1, which is expected to ship in Europe within the next few weeks.
The Liquid A1 is the first Android-based smartphone to be built around Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset. And even though the CPU has been downclocked to 768MHz, that's a lot more pep than most Android phones are boasting.
Oddly, Acer has decided not to step up to Android 2.0 (Eclair), and the Liquid A1 will instead run on Android 1.6 (Donut). That puts it a generation behind the Droid and other upcoming Android 2.0 smartphones, although this could change by the time the A1 ships. We also wouldn't rule out a software update after the fact, although Acer has spent some time tweaking "a new user interface with easy access to entertainment and web bookmarks."
No word yet on price or when this one's expected to land in the U.S.
Sony Ericsson today published the specs and a video of the Xperia X10, its debut Android smartphone, which was hitherto known by its code name “Rachel”. It can be expected to be a guaranteed fixture on the list of the most powerful Android phones by the virtue of its 1GHz Snapdragon processor.
As for the software, the X10 will run Android 1.6 Donut. In addition to apps found on the Android Marketplace, apps for this phone will also be available through Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow arena service. The X10 will feature a 4-inch TFT touchscreen, an 8MP camera with LED flash, WiFi, A-GPS and 3G. The company is expected to release the X10 in the first quarter of 2010.
There’s good news and bad news for eBook fans. First up: new eBook readers using Marvell’s ARMADA 166E chip could see triple the frame rate of first generation devices. The bad news: the faster frame rate of 3 fps won’t exactly have you playing Doom just yet but low frame rate animation will possible.
Marvell doesn’t mind though. The company’s new chip isn’t meant to just increase performance, it’ll also offer a cost reduction and power reduction by shrinking what is now a multi-chip board controller board down to a single chip. Marvell showed off several OEM designs including Spring Design’s upcoming dual-screen Alex.
This dual-screen eBook puts Kindle's web-browsing features to shame.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt is ready to put the hard times behind him and his company to usher in a new crowd of technological innovators. On the Google blog today, Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research, made an open offer to anyone who thinks they can make a difference to seek out Google for employment.
In the entry, he cites the success of Google Earth, Android, and Google Chrome as reasons to be technical innovators. He quoted Schmidt saying, “Innovation is the technological pre-condition for growth.” Eustace reiterated that the Google Chrome was the last in a long line of Google projects to receive the Founders Award, a multimillion-dollar stock bonus to all team members. "(The) future is shaped by small teams of creative people who want to make a difference. We're on the hunt for these kind of people -- let us know if you think you're one of them" said Eustace.
This is a much different attitude from earlier this year when Google made job cuts or lost some employees who felt their career path were best suited elsewhere.
Happy Halloween! Wait, that was last week. But then again, that's also when we recorded this episode of the podcast. Topics discussed this week: how the announcement of Android 2.0 and new Android hardware changes the smart phone market, the many controversies surrounding Activision's Modern Warfare 2, and whether the Left 4 Dead 2 demo assuages boycotters' concerns. We also answer a bunch of listener questions to round out the show. And best of all, we'll be releasing another podcast episode later this week!
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at email@example.com or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are standing by.
HTC’s strengths are innovation and diversity. HTC was first on the scene with an Android phone, and is produces Windows Mobile powered devices. HTC has struck deals with nearly every major cell phone provider. All that’s missing is visibility, Chou hopes this will be corrected with an up-coming global ad campaign: “You.” HTC wants to move itself into the first tier of cell phone makers: Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, and Apple. It has the products, Chou believes, it lacks the name recognition.
Chou’s outlook on the market is interesting for a CEO. Competition doesn’t frighten him. Instead he views it as a positive: “You cannot expect you are the only player in town…You need other players to come and make the ecosystem stronger.” And Chou is still bullish on Windows Mobile, even though the brand has taken a bit of a dive because “innovation has been a little slow.” (A polite way to say Microsoft messed up on development.)
Chou, however, is careful not to spread HTC too thin. With all the portable electronic opportunities available: netbooks, eReaders, tablet computers, HTC plans to stick with what it knows best. “There is a lot of pressure to do these things, but we are a relatively small company and need to be very picky,” Chou said.