Just a day after Steve Jobs basically begged developers to stick with Apple, Google is looking at an issue with their app repository that had some developers up in arms. It seems that over the last few days, apps that have been updated in the Market are just going missing. They were no longer visible on any phones running Android 2.1 (the newest official release). Interestingly, older phones still running 1.5 or 1.6 could often see the applications. Google said shortly ago that they believe the problem to be fixed.
It's unclear what the cause of the issue was. It may stem from the way the Android Market hides incompatible or unavailable applications. Apps that are explicitly dependent on APIs in newer versions of the OS are usually hidden from phones that cannot run them. Similarly, devices running unregistered ROMs often have trouble seeing copy protected apps. Google didn't have much to say at first, but in the original thread from June 4th that began the discussion, a Google employee posted today saying they were working on the problem. They had the issue fixed only a short time later.
Google's app model, unlike Apple's, does not require an app to be approved. Developers can upload and update apps as they please. It shouldn't take a few days to realize there's a problem. If these sort of problems become more common as the Market expands, developers could see less incentive to go with Google. Are any apps missing on your Android phone?
Sources are reporting today that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are wrangling over which one of them should lead a preliminary antitrust investigation of Apple. The action was spurred by Apple's new developer agreement which forces app designers to use only Apple programming tools. The inquiry may be launched in a matter of days, and will seek to determine if the policy damages competition in the mobile app space.
Apple's claim has been that adding a layer of abstraction (i.e. a third-party compiler) results in poorer quality apps; thus requiring specific developer tools is a quality control mechanism. Those on the other side, however, claim that Apple is seeking to force developers to choose Apple's platform instead of porting their code to multiple platforms. The worry is that independent developers won't have the resources to rewrite code for multiple platforms, so they will choose Apple's larger and more lucrative app store be default.
The possible inquiry does not mean anything is about to change. The preliminary analysis will determine if a full investigation is required. Do you think Apple is a fault here? How much control should they be allowed to exercise over their platform?
An official Twitter app showed up on the Blackberry platform just a few weeks ago, followed quickly by the acquisition of Tweetie for iPhone. Now Twitter is stamping it's seal of approval on an official Android app. The bad news is that it's only compatible with phones running on Android 2.1. So right now, that means the Nexus One, Moto Droid, Droid Incredible, and a few European only phones.
Upon opening the app, it easy to see why that is. The background is animated and it appears to use some system design themes (like the pop-up contact bar) that are seen in Android 2.1. The speed seems acceptable, especially for a first release. There are also both large and small widgets in the 1.0 version. Most apps don't have this feature out of the gate. There is also baked in Bit.ly support. Presumably, that will be replaced when twitter rolls out its own URL shortener.
Twitter worked directly with Google to design this app, and the code will be open-sourced in the near future. As a possible result of this close interaction, the app is capable of syncing your Twitter contacts right to the phone, if you wanted that for some reason. It's a bummer that older phones are getting left behind right now. Hopefully those people can get a system update at some point, seeing as this will continue to happen. Twitter could also refresh the app for older phones. If you have a compatible Android phone, let us know what you think about the app. It can be found in the Android Market.
It's no secret that Apple and Google take different approaches to managing content in their respective smartphone app stores. Apple is notoriously hard-edged, rejecting apps seemingly on a whim. Google on the other hand, takes a more laissez faire approach where anyone can post their app to the Android Market. An iPhone developer recently contacted David Pogue of The New York Times with a story that exemplifies the difference to the nth degree.
According to the dev of Texts From Last Night for the iPhone, he was contacted out of the blue by a Google employee. The Google rep wanted to "open the lines of communication" should the developer ever want to port his app to Android. They even offered to give him a free Nexus One no questions asked. "It shows that Google is actively recruiting developers to their platform, using the enticements of free hardware and open communication," said the dev.
What's more interesting is the completely different response he has gotten from Apple. The app was rejected time after time for three months, before making it into the store. Despite the app's high popularity, the developer still has no relationship with anyone at Apple. The two approaches couldn't be more different, but which is the winning strategy?
The use of a cross-compiler like Adobe's will leave telltale signs in the final code that Apple could easily recognize. Some developers have no choice but to alter their development methods if they intend to put out an iPhone or iPad app. Any work already done in other languages may as well be scrapped, leaving the poor dev back at square one.
This leaves Adobe in a strange place. The Packager for iPhone was supposed to be a big feature in the upcoming Flash CS5. The license was just made available with the new dev preview today, so we'll be interested to see how developers react to this.
The SlingPlayer app for the iPhone has long been a good example of what the platform can do. When last month Sling was allowed to stream video of AT&T’s 3G network, the deal got even better. Now we’re hearing that Sling is hard at work on a version of the app specifically for the iPad. This is great news for every Slingbox owner who whishes the iPhone screen was just a little bigger.
The current SlingPlayer app (which costs $29.99) will work on the iPad, but will be upscaled. Sling was tight lipped about just when the iPad native app would show, but did seem to hint that it would be able to stream video at the iPad’s native resolution of 1024 x 768. We’re skeptical that this sort of resolution will be possible over AT&T’s 3G network, even with high compression.
The only real concern we have is the cost. If the iPhone version is $30, how much will the iPad edition cost? Are there any Slingbox owners out there? Would a high quality Sling app for the iPad entice you to take the iPad plunge?
Take note, software developers - there's big money to be made in the mobile app market. According to an independent study commissioned by GetJar, the world's second largest app store, the market for mobile software will balloon to $17.5 billion by 2012.
"It is easy to see how mobile apps will eclipse the traditional desktop Internet," GetJar chief executive Ilja Laurs told AFP. "It makes perfect sense that mobile devices will kill the desktop."
That might be taking it too far, but there's no denying how huge the mobile app market has become. Apple's App Store alone contains more than 150,000 iPhone apps and has noted over 3 billion downloads, and Google's Android Marketplace is gaining steam. At last count, there were more than 30,000 programs designed for the Android platform.
Market analysts say the explosive growth is a direct result of the increased data plans, which isn't surprising when you consider that many wireless providers require some sort of data subscription.
Microsoft's Istvan Cseri made an interesting admission at MIX10 today. The Windows Phone 7 Series App Market will have the ability to revoke licenses remotely. As we’ve previously heard, the App Marketplace will be the only way to get apps for 7 Series devices. So any app on a 7 series device could be deactivated at Microsoft’s behest.
This is not entirely dissimilar to the iPhone App Store, which apparently has a kill switch as well. It has never been used in the case of the iPhone, and most would consider it to be the most tightly controlled app ecosystem so far. Cseri seemed to imply that the feature would be used if a Marketplace app were to malfunction in some way, but that doesn’t rule out other possible uses.
If you were feeling pumped to get your hands on a 7 Series phone, does this dissuade you?
It’s amazing what the high profile launch of a smartphone can do for a mobile platform. According to numbers that come straight from The Big G, the number of Android apps has more than doubled since December. This leaves it hovering somewhere around 30,000. Most of this growth is almost certainly thanks to the massive number of Droid sales. The Android Market may not have 150,000 apps like the iPhone App Store, but still quite a feat.
Android tends to have a higher ratio of free to paid apps than other application stores, so many of these new apps are available free of charge. Will the trend continue, or are we likely to see short bursts of app development around big phone releases? Google is doing their part by handing out Droids and Nexus Ones to successful developers. Where’s the tipping point where number don’t matter anymore? There will be a point that everything you need will be on various mobile platforms. The question is: does Android have what you need?
Google’s Android platform has been making use of QR codes since its inception. A QR code is a useful way to encapsulate information that can be read by cell phone cameras. In the case of Android, many app developers use them to direct people to their applications. Such is the case with The Weather Channel, which just threw up a QR code for their Android app during the national forecast. The code takes Android users straight to the Weather Channel app in the Android Market.
This is one of the most mainstream uses of QR codes we’ve seen thus far. Some countries have been in on the QR code game for years now, but Android is the first major mobile platform to popularize them in the US. There’s definitely something to be said for QR codes. They are very efficient ways to disseminate information. In fact, the admittedly fuzzy screen cap below still contains a working code. It would be interesting if Android users found themselves increasingly bombarded with QR codes on TV.