It's quickly becoming apparent that there's no limit to what Google Labs will concoct to make everyday life a little easier. The latest experiment is called "Open Spot," which is a free app intended to help Android users find free parking spaces.
There aren't any fancy GPS tricks or spy cameras hidden around town, and instead Open Spot relies on you, Joe Citizen, to tap the "Mark a Spot" button on the app when you leave your parking space. Other Android users within about a 1 mile radius will then see the open spot as designed by a red (just vacated), orange (vacated 5 minutes ago), or yellow (vacated 10 minutes ago) dot. And as an incentive, the more open spots you mark, the more "karma points" you're awarded.
So what happens when some jackass gets the bright idea to mark a bunch of spots as open even when they're not?
"We're watching for behavior that looks like a griefer spoofing parking spots," Google said. "We have a couple of mechanisms available to make sure someone can't leave a bunch of fake parking spots. If we see this happening we will take steps to fix it."
It's a neat idea, but one with limited utility until there are more Android users for something like to truly be effective.
Google's Android Market doesn't offer the same extensive library of apps as Apple's App Store, and some would argue that it's not as slick. But one advantage the Android Market has over the App Store and every other mobile platform is laying claim to the largest share of free applications, according to apps analytics company Distimo.
According to Distimo, Android Market's free app share sits at 57 percent and is above all others, particularly Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which has the smallest share at 22 percent.
"The large share of free applications in Google Android Market may be influenced by developers from only 9 countries being able to distribute paid applications in Google Android Market, and users from only 13 countries being able to download paid applications (out of the 46 countries where Google Android Market is available)," the report notes.
The report also goes on to point that users must register for a Google Checkout account in order to download paid applications, which might play a factor in why there's such a high percentage of free apps.
At this point in the game, there doesn't appear to be anything that can stop the fast moving freight train known as Android, right? Not so fast, says market research firm iSuppli. According to iSuppli, a shortage of AMOLED displays threatens to derail the Android Express as it attempts to race past the competition.
"Starting with the Nexus One introduced in January, Android-based smartphones have aggressively adopted high-quality AMOLED displays as a competitive differentiator against the advanced-technology AMLCD screen used in the iPhone," said Vinita Jakhanwal, principal analyst for small and medium displays at iSuppli. "However, rising demand combined with a limited supply base has led to the constrained availability of AMOLEDs."
Part of the problem is that there aren't a whole of manufactures making AMOLED products, which makes keeping up with volume shipments particularly challenging. And because the technology is relatively new, many mobile display makers instead to choose to focus their attention on cranking out cheaper-to-produce AMLCD screens.
The good news for Android fans is that this is only temporary. Samsung, for example, is throwing big bucks at AMOLED and plans to have another 5.5-generation fab up and running by the end of 2011. If anything, the current supply challenges are temporary and will only serve to delay Android's rise to the top, if that's where it's destined to go.
You can expect greater speed, a much improved UI and a mobile site that closely mimics the main site in terms of the overall experience. The new site might make native YouTube applications on various smartphones seem outdated.
“As the world continues to go mobile, we think this is a great improvement for users who want a more consistent YouTube across many devices, no matter where they are. We're launching in English only today, but will be rolling it out in other languages in the coming months,” YouTube said on its blog.
You can watch the demo video below. Or better yet, direct your phone's browser to m.youtube.com and experience the changes first hand.
It's good to see Apple get some real competition in this space. For a long time Mobile Safari was out in front of the pack. We hope to see both companies continue to push the envelope to deliver a better mobile browsing experience.
Who doesn't like venn diagrams? Ruffians and troglodytes, that's who. We happen to love them, and AppStoreHQ has put together a venn diagram showing the proportion of Apple and Android app developers, and those who code for both platforms.
It shouldn't come as a terrible shock that Apple's platform still draws the most attention. Out of the 51,972 app developers listed in AppStoreHQ's database, 43,185 only write for Apple's iOS. That breaks down to about 80 percent, compared to 17 percent who churn out code solely for Android (8,787). And those cross-platform developers? There are 1,412 of them, or 3 percent.
"We were actually impressed at the numbers of cross-platform developers," said Chris DeVore, AppStoreHQ founder. "And particularly the number of recognizable brand names that had already made the leap to Android: Gaemloft, Facebook, AOL, Amazon, Warner Brothers, Intuit."
LG today said it fully plans to release an Android-powered tablet in the fourth quarter of 2010, joining a number of other hardware makers who would like to make a splash in the tablet sector in the coming months, The Wall Street Journal reports.
South Korea's second largest electronics maker by revenue (Samsung is No. 1) didn't give out any details about its device, like how much it will cost or what region it will show up in first, only that it's coming and coming soon. Unless LG is planning some serious modification to the Android platform, the company's tablet will handle Flash content and be capable of multitasking, both of which the iPad is unable to do, at least before iPhone OS 4 ships (which will add multitasking, but not Flash).
LG also said it will launch smartphones running on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS sometime in 2010, but again was short on details.
Equipped with a 5-megapixel rear facing camera and a 720p HD camera on the front, the 7-inch tablet is being touted as potent collaboration and communications platform by the company: “Cisco Cius offers HD video streaming and real-time video, multi-party conferencing, email, messaging, browsing, and the ability to produce, edit and share content stored locally or centrally in the cloud.”
As for connectivity, only 802.11 a/b/g/n and 3G will be supported at launch (first quarter of 2011), with a 4G variant set to follow later. Cisco has promised that the Cius would be priced below $1000.
Everyone has been expecting this could happen at any moment, but late on Monday Google finally began a full scale rollout of Android 2.2 (Froyo) to Nexus One users. Previously, a small number of users got updates, but these were of an earlier non-final build. The update will arrive in the form of an over-the-air update automatically downloaded to the phone. Both AT&T and T-Mobile flavors of Google's superphone have been receiving the update.
It has been over a month since Google showed off Froyo at Google I/O, and some users were beginning to become anxious for the update. Android 2.2 brings such improvements as Adobe Flash support in the browser, Wi-Fi hotspot functionality, and automatic app updates. Google said in a statement that all Nexus handsets should be updated by late this week.
The new version of the mobile OS will still need to be modified by various carriers to be released on other handsets. Phones running skins like HTC Sense and MotoBLUR are in for longer waits. Any Nexus users out there still waiting for the update? Those unwilling to wait, should be able to manually install the update, but proceed with caution.
After a month long private beta period, MSpot has opened up its streaming service to the general public. MSpot offers free and unlimited streaming from the cloud to your PC or Android-based device, at least for the first two 2GB of storage.
You can stream all day long and to multiple devices at once, and if 2GB doesn't cover your music collection -- or the portion you want uploaded to the cloud -- MSpot sells several storage plans, including 12GB ($3/month), 22GB ($5/month), 52GB ($10/month), and 102GB ($14/month).
We briefly kicked the tires on MSpot's public release and found it works as advertised. Following a quick software install, it didn't take long for MSpot to comb through our iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and begin uploading songs. As songs are uploaded, you can start playing them back through MSpot's easy-to-use media player, which integrated perfectly fine in Chrome (it also supports Firefox, IE, and Safari).