Tag: Android

App developer news – a busy week…

app developer news google io 2016

It’s been a very busy week for app developer news. Dominated by Google IO, we take a quick look at what the announcements mean for app developers as well as few other stories in the app developer news that have been overshadowed by Google’s flagship developer conference and you may have missed.

Google IO 2016

The app developer news this week has obviously been dominated by the spectacle of Google IO 2016. However, what grabbed the headlines is perhaps not the most important piece of app developer news this week…

The app developer news headline grabbers

app developer news google homeFirst, lets take a quick look at the headline grabbers, starting with Google Home, which goes head to head with Amazon Echo. You can ask it questions, use it as a speaker and control Chromecast with it – finally gives those of us who backed Chromecast over Apple TV a fighting chance during the water-cooler debate (even if it does look like an air freshener)!

The first Beta of the new version of Android shipped to developers yesterday and will be named in an Internet competition. Presumably if the British public have their way, this will therefore be NDroid McDroidface! This will build in support for split screen apps (which Samsung and LG owners already have) and remove the annoying App optimization “helper” (that didn’t last long).

Two new apps were announced. Duo – a one-to-one video messaging app with one very striking feature to let you see the caller before you answer the phone. This makes perfect sense, but it might be a stretch to suggest that feature alone will be enough to worry the incumbent apps in the space.

The second app to be announced was Allo, a messaging app with the new Google Assistant at its core. Google Assistant aims to provide a universal, cross-device platform for voice queries that will, unlike Google Now, get contextual answers. What this means for Allo is that if you and your friends are discussing a subject (e.g. food), a subtle icon will appear to indicate Assistant may have information that can help if you tap (e.g. restaurant suggestions) – your very own chat bot! What could possibly go wrong…?

app developer news clippyWell, quite a lot really! Will the icon be subtle enough not to distract and disrupt the conversation? And if you cannot preview the information until you click on it, it had better be relevant (or very easy to dismiss). While we should keep an open mind, the acceptance that the volume of data is more important than the actual algorithm does make one worry that the quality (in a contextual sense) of the information may remind us of something we’d all rather forget!

 

 

The one app developer news story that really matters

In my opinion, the most significant app developer news story of the week is the announcement of Android Instant Apps where you can use part of an app without having to download the entire app and install it. For example, at the airport, tapping your phone against the NFC enabled checkin machine causes that airline’s checkin app to pop-up, get the information it needs and the disappear completely.

This had been rumored and expected, but perhaps not quite so soon. But what will this mean for apps and app developers? Firstly, the app will need to be developed in a modular fashion – arguably good practice. However, what about ongoing user engagement and measuring Recency, Frequency and Monetization (RFM)? If your client pays you a lot of money to develop their app, grow their audience and engage their users, how will they feel about their users being able to use the app without installing it? How will you, as their developer, measure this.

Yep, this is the app developer news story that we all need to pay attention to and see what impact this will have on the fledgling app store optimization and RFM space.

And the rest…

Other notable announcements include the Daydream platform for Virtual Reality and associated standards for handsets, controllers and apps.

Numerous new features have been added to Android Wear 2.0, the most significant of which is full offline apps that continue to function even if the paired handset is out of battery or out of range.

Chrome mobile has hit 1 Billion Monthly Active Users (MAU) – that’s 14% of the world’s population and an adoption rate that most app developers can only dream of! Not bad! Guessing it won’t be an Android Instant App?

They are also making a significant investment in Firebase, which reinforces the trend for developers consuming services rather than servers for their app backend. However, Google, like so many others they still fail to acknowledge the fact that most businesses do not have the in-house app development knowledge or skills needed to build apps themselves and as a result continue to neglect the growing number of specialist app development agencies whose needs, as we at Kumulos understand, go beyond that of a tool for building apps.

Finally, there was the token compiler news with the preview release of Android Studio 2.2 – it is a developer conference after all (who am I kidding – it looks awesome)!

All in all, it certainly was a spectacle, but as one app developer news commentator alluded to “Real artists ship”

Microsoft

On the same day as the Google IO keynote, a significant piece of app developer news was Microsoft announcing they were selling their feature phone business in a complicated transaction to a subsidiary of FoxConn. Deliberate or co-incidental timing? I was assuming deliberate until I re-read that the announcement refers to feature phones, which are basic mobile devices that can run some apps, but are not as powerful or full featured as smartphones. Microsoft said they will continue to develop its Lumia range of Windows smartphones.

However, this has not stopped another round of app developer news stories decrying the end is nigh for Windows Phone pointing to declining sales and low volumes. Understandable given the Lumia range has managed 110m units in last five years compared to 4.5bn iOS and Android phones in same period. Why is this? With Nokia’s heritage, the hardware should be good enough. The concept of one desktop for phone, tablet and PC is admirable and I even overheard one of our iOS developers admit he quite likes the Windows Phone UI.

Well, I would suggest that this good ‘ol fashioned bar chart explains it all… lack of apps compared to other platforms.

app developers news app stores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a tenth of the apps of Apple and Google and sandwiched between Amazon and Blackberry, developers simply aren’t targeting the Windows Phone platform. Given the Nokia deal came when the man of the infamous “Developers developers” speech was in charge, this is somewhat ironic. Also explains why Xiaomi’s new monster (size) small (price) handset will be running Android.

However, with the recent acquisition of Xamarin, Microsoft do indeed remain an important player in the mobile app development space. Earlier this week in the app developer news, Realm, the cross-platform mobile app database, announced Realm for Xamarin has been added to their Java and Core Data versions.

Linked Insecurity

Away from the spectacle of Google IO and the complicated world of M&A, there have been two more sobering stories in the app developer news as 167 million LinkedIn logins have been compromised and are being offered for sale. A stark reminder for app developers that the design of their App Backend is as important as the UI/UX of their App Frontend. Would recommend changing your LinkedIn password now, if you have not already done so.

There was also the news that new Android malware had bypassed Google’s security checks and made it into the Google Play and other stores, in some, even topping charts.

In the same week, that Android Pay launches in UK, this is a potent reminder that security needs to be at the heart of all app development activities. That said, given the popularity of contactless payments (which are arguably as insecure as they are convenient), convenience will always be the driving force.

Bueller? Bueller?

One notable absentee in the app developer news this week is of course Apple. The Apple WWDC is in San Francisco from 13th June – 17th June and I’m sure we can expect that week to be just as busy for app developer news. This year’s conference is being tagged as “game changing” and will focus on some similar themes to Google IO, specifically wearables (watchOS) as well as home entertainment and automation (tvOS).

app developer news Ferris Bueller registers for WWDC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumours circulating in the app developer news that Ferris Bueller is intending to skip school to attend are of course unsubstantiated.

Self-driving ahead?

However, there are also rumors circulating around vehicle automation and the expected development of an Apple Car (iCar?) and any announcements relating to this at WWDC certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise. Related to this aspect of the app developer news, a new startup called Otto has announced plans for kits that can be retro-fitted to existing commercial lorries to turn them into self-driving vehicles, which further strengthens the views that we are likely to see self-driving trucks on our roads long before self-driving cars.

That is of course assuming that the FCC do not re-assign the 5.9 GHz spectrum band allocated for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Several major Telecom providers (including Google?) have written an open-letter to The White House arguing that the auto-industry is not sufficiently utilizing the spectrum and that it should be opened up for public Wi-Fi, the growth of which is creating an “unlicensed spectrum crisis” (which apparently has nothing to do with copying tapes for the classic Sinclair computer). Understandably, the auto industry has written a counter-letter along the lines of “Give’s a chance – this stuff is hard y’know” (okay, maybe not in those exact words, but you get the gist).

Earlier this month, the UK Telecoms Regulator announced plans to create a new spectrum license for Internet of Things and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, so at least that element of Google and Apple’s strategy doesn’t yet face any regulatory hurdles!

Why Window’s failings may be Google’s winnings

303512_news120511-chromebook-logo_big-300x278

Google have always been ones to slip into any market that looks like its got some wiggle room. They did it with mobile, they did it with browsers, they’re doing it with wearable tech, and they’re also doing it in the PC market. That self same PC market that has been on the blink for years, shrinking and slowly spiralling down as Microsoft see their profits and margins go with it.

The result of this has of course been that Windows OEMs are getting twitchy. Acer has been seeing dropping profits recently, their Windows 8 tablets and computers really not doing well at all. So how can OEMs like Acer recover their loses?

Well, if Google has anything to say about it, it’ll be through Chromebook and Android.

Already Acer make the C7 Chromebook that sells for $199, riding on the back of the netbooks of old. Running Chrome OS, these Chromebooks aren’t the biggest players in the PC market by far, but they’re a strong indication of where things are headed. Acer are predicted to have some 12% of their revenue come from either Android or Chrome based devices by the end of the year, and Chromebooks alone are looking to be 3% of their sales. A small number perhaps, but when you take into account that these Chromebooks are essentially running experimental software and are largely cloud based in their storage, it’s quite an impressive number in such an entrenched market.

Windows 8 and especially Windows RT seem to be increasing the rate of the market move away from PC. ASUS have come right out and said that RT is killing their windows tablet sales, whereas the Nexus 7 is doing rather well for itself in comparison. If this becomes a trend, where Windows won’t sell but Android and Chrome will, Microsoft will be likely to see Mountain View take more and more of their customers.

Google have been very savvy in how they are managing their move into the PC market; by using OS that can all talk to each other across multiple different devices, we could easily see the day where your phone, tablet and laptop all sport the same OS and even the same homescreens as Google creates the “One account to rule them all” style mindset.

2013 has so far been the year of Android and Google, and as we approach fall, we can only wait and see if Apple can bring the magic and capture us all back from the little green robot.

 

Android’s market share only keeps growing, now close to 80%

android-phone

Android’s market share is now becoming a story that we’ve all heard before, the reports of its dominance in terms of pure handset numbers have been coming out for the last couple of years. We all know that Android can move handsets; but this new data from IDC is showing that Android is starting to really forge a proper lead that could result in some interesting changes coming to the smartphone market in the next couple of years.

According to IDC, 187.4 million Android smartphones were shipped in the last quarter, that number being equal to 79.3% of all smartphones shipped during that time. iOS is still easily the next in line with 31.2 million units, coming to somewhere around the 13% mark of full market share. Android has seen very strong growth in the last quarter as well, with all of the major OEMs seeing sales in the double millions of digits.

The other stand out here is Windows Phone, which has grown some 77.6% year over year, with its market share sitting somewhere around 3.7%, making it certainly the strongest 3rd place OS. There was only more bad news for Blackberry however as they managed to drop a full 2% of their already small market share, leaving them at 2.9%.

As the table shows, only Android, iOS and WinPhone had any growth at all recently, with every other competitor starting to fall away. IDC attribute Android’s continuing growth with two main factors: The release of high quality, premium handsets like the S4 and HTC One and the continuing movement of emerging markets from feature phones to budget smartphones, where Android is currently king. The big event to watch at the end of this year will be Apple’s supposed, and now heavily leaked, budget iPhone, and what that does to the market tables.

 

Moto X, a second opinion

MotoX

We talked last week about the new Moto X. This is Motorola’s entry into the high end smartphone market, the Big One. The new contender that we all hoped would shake everything up. But looking at the specs, looking at the questionable release schedule and the very gimmicky customisation options, we’re left with an overall feeling of “Meh”.

The Moto X looks like it’ll be a decent phone, it does, but it’s a phone that arrived about 6 months too late. In the Android world, the S4 and the HTC One are great examples of what high end Android smartphones can be if the manufacturers put their minds to it. They have ridiculously fast computational power (for phones), slick interfaces, more features than you can shake a stick at and the One also has incredibly high construction standards.

In comparison, the X only has mediocre specs, some mostly inconsequential visual customisation and a set of sensors that are cool, but an always on mic during the ongoing PRISM and NSA spying debacle is probably not what people want in a phone.

It’s doubly disappointing that this phone came out of a manufacturer that is, essentially, under the flag of Google; who gave us the continually excellent Nexus line of hardware. The Nexi balance specs, build quality and price to make for almost irresistible offers if you’re an Android user. But Motorola don’t seem to be following the same path. Instead they’ve given us a middling to high end phone with gimmicky customisation and a price tag that rivals the One’s, except with none of the benefits that the HTC brings.

The fact that Motorola seem to be trying a different strategy than “Make it faster and give it a bigger screen!” which has been the high tier Android race to the top for the past few years, is interesting and admirable; but they just didn’t bring the goods with the hardware. They are rumoured to be bringing out a budget handset next, but budget isn’t how you make it big in the current mobile hardware business; Apple has proven that. Unless this is all some kind of bait and switch game, we’re going to call it and say that Motorola have missed the boat.

It’s sad really, after years of being silent, we all hoped that the original mobile phone maker could come up with something more, but legacy does not equal success.

 

Google’s just done an Apple

7-google-new-nexus-7-240713-300x200

So yesterday Google had the breakfast meeting that it had announced a couple of weeks ago. It was heavily rumoured going into the meeting that we’d be seeing the new Nexus 7, and lo and behold, there it was for the whole world to see. Sleek, sexy and a strong upgrade to the older model 7.

New 7

The new Nexus 7 has had a modest upgrade to its processing power, now sporting the exact same Snapdragon S4 Quad core and 2 Gb of RAM set up that the Nexus 4 has; which anyone who’s used an N4 will tell you, is more than enough for today’s current app demands. The most notable upgrade however has to be the screen. Moving from a fairly “meh” 1280×800 to a stunning 1920×1200 and keeping the same 7” form factor means that you have one of the highest pixel densities of any tablet screen, including the retina displays in the iPad. The colour capability of the screen has been upgraded which has given the screen a much more vibrant look, something that was a small problem in the old Nexii which tended towards looking a little dulled and greyed out. Connectivity wise, there’s a wifi version and a 4G LTE version, although currently the 4G is only available in the US (here’s hoping it comes over here soon), and there’s also NFC to back it all up and Wireless charging to boot.

 

The basic 16Gb version will go on sale in the US on the 30th of July priced at $229 (£149).

chromecast_dongle

 

Bait and Switch

The other announcement though, took us all by surprise. The Google Chromecast dongle seems like a fairly innocuous piece of tech, but it’s been making big waves. For just $35 you buy the Chromecast, connected it to an HDMI port on your TV and then you have instant access to Netflix, Youtube and Google’s Play services (in the US they also have access to Pandora). It runs Google’s own Chrome OS and you control the dongle with your phone. Google announced that for a limited time, buyers would get 3 months free Netflix, even if they already had a subscription. So obviously they were selling like hotcakes, so fast in fact that Google had to pull the deal because people were buying the ever loving crap out of it.

The most interesting thing about these two releases is how… Apple like they are. Here’s a premium upgrade to an already great product, and a little piece of innovative tech that people want. In a year where Apple have been almost suspiciously silent, Google have clearly been watching Cupertino’s moves and then are looking to copy them. With Google Glass on its way and with rumoured upgrades to more of the Nexus line, this could be an interesting year if you’re an Android fan.

China now 24% of the global smartphone market

Chinese_flag_Beijing

When we talk about app development and the smartphone market, it’s easy to only think of that market as being only the EU and US. But of course, the global market is just that, global, and in that market China is dominating.

Last year Flurry pointed out that China was the fastest growing market for iOS and Android devices, passing the US for the first time in terms of mobile. The knock on effect was of course that many manufacturers started to sit up and take notice of the Chinese smartphone market in a way that they hadn’t before. Apple have been pushing the iPhone hard, Samsung rule the roost and a range of other smaller Chinese companies are snapping at the giants’ heels.

Flurry have continued to track the Chinese mobile app market and have just released a report on mobile activity in China, which is worth its weight in gold to any developer thinking of moving into that space.

Chinese mobile gaming is big

Perhaps not being a huge surprise considering the gaming pedigree that Asiatic countries have (like that guy who died playing Starcraft 2 for 3 days straight), but interesting to know none the less. There isn’t a huge amount of difference between the Android and iOS numbers, although Android does have a stronger gaming contingent, whereas iOS has a higher productivity and news reading side, which points to iPhones being used by more business orientated users.

OS bases are predictably two sided

As with the rest of the world, Android and iOS are easily dominating the market with Android sitting close to 70% of the share. Samsung are the biggest Android manufacturer, as you can see, holding 15% of the market all on their own, with iOS taking respectable 35% over all; which in the Android heavy Chinese market is nothing to sniff at. One interesting tidbit is Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi who have been doing increasingly well and have been touted as the “Chinese Apple” in some areas. In a market as flooded as the Chinese one with different manufacturers, the fact that a homegrown company can grab 6% of the market is impressive and is definitely one to watch in the near future.

It seems that overall China is a market that, as an app developer, you should really be considering. With its growth still through the roof and with the smartphones there modernising and (starting to) standardise away from the endless masses of cheap knock offs and replicas, Western app developers have a solid opportunity to move into a brand new market.

Jelly Bean 4.3 accidentally arrives in the wild

jellybean

In the tech world, were all just waiting for the next, newest thing to come around. Sometimes that comes predictably with a scheduled announcement by a big company, sometimes a surprise release, and sometimes someone at one of these big tech companies does something silly.

There were of course, the now infamous cases of Apple employees who kept leaving then unreleased models of the iPhone at bars, which allowed us all to see these devices before their appointed times. And now a Google employee has gone and done something very similar (although the creeping dread that must have instilled the Apple employees at the thought of the then alive Jobs’ fury will likely be absent).

According to reports, a yet unnamed Google employee sold on their Nexus 4 to a member of the public, one Jeff Williams, but forgot that they were running Jelly Bean’s next iteration version 4.3 on the handset. After some confusion,Williams posted a screenshot from the phone showing the apparent upgrade to the OS:

After some debate it was decided by the internet that this seemed to be the real deal and since then Williams has extracted the code and released it to the wider Android community, with Nexus 4 users claiming to have got the new update working sans radio.

If you’re curious you can go download the update right now, although with a Google event upcoming on the 24th it could be worth just waiting until then as it is very likely to be an announcement of the new version, along with a possible reveal of the new Nexus 7.

Eclipse vs Xcode

eclipse-vs-xcode

A common question that we hear at Kumulos from developers looking to get into app development is “Which platform’s development environment is better to develop in?”

A quick search online will turn up many ongoing flame wars between Xcode and Eclipse fans, each of them firmly entrenched in their battle lines throwing out choice insults like Xcode uses a clunky dinosaur of a coding language (Objective C) or that the Android Emulator is so bad that no one actually uses it (true in our experience).

So, from a technical standpoint, how can you decide which one to go for?

Well, part of it will come down to personal preferences and tastes, so what we’ve done is put together a short comparison of the pros and cons of Xcode and Eclipse to help you make up your mind.

iOS – Xcode

Xcode is Apple’s development environment for iPhone, iPad and Mac. It uses Objective C as a language, is closely integrated with Cocoa touch framework and runs exclusively on Macs.

Pros:

  • Has a well designed and easy to use UI creator
  • It’s excellent at code completion
  • Profiling and heap analysis (like the memory leak detection tools) are intuitive and can be learned by and useful to the developer in minutes
  • Simulator works well and makes it easy to test your app as you build it in an environment that mimics your iPhone
  • The app store has a wide ranging audience who are also more willing to pay for apps

Cons:

  • Objective C is clunky and outdated, frustrating to use especially if you’re used to using a more modern language
  • Xcode doesn’t support tabbed work environments, making working with multiple windows a pain
  • Lack of information online to solve problems due to a previous Apple NDA on Xcode development
  • Complex process to export your app onto a device
  • Can only be used on a mac (so if you don’t have one, get ready to shell out $1-2k for a shiny new toy)
  • The App store approval process can be a frustrating and lengthy (although there are ways to help improve that)

Overall consensus on Xcode is that certain elements like the Simulator and the UI creator are incredibly well designed, but the overall package can be clunky and frustrating due to using an old language and having a lack of documentation to support developers when they run into problems.

That said, iOS developers are statistically more likely to make money on their apps due to the App Store customer base being more likely to pay for apps they like.

Android – Eclipse

Eclipse is an open source IDE that supports a wide range of languages, but is most commonly used for Java development, which is what Android uses. It’s open source and can be run on any OS.

Pros:

  • Java is a popular and well documented language
  • Can be used on many different platforms
  • Exporting your app to a device is as easy as one click
  • Open Source so there’s plenty of documentation out there to help with any problems
  • Android’s market place makes uploading and updating your app easy
  • Garbage collection makes developer’s life much easier (but it can be a double edged sword)

Cons:

  • The UI creator is difficult and clunky to use
  • Near useless emulator due to performance issues (most developers just use a device as their testing environment).
  • Java is now getting on a bit and is a more verbose language than more modern languages like Ruby
  • Due to lax code requirements, it can be easier to write in app that leaks memory
  • The lack of policing on the Market Place means that your app is more likely to be lost in a sea of vapourware and knockoffs of more successful apps.

Overall Eclipse is seen more favourably as an IDE due to being more flexible, with better documentation and in using a language that is firmly established and easy to use. It runs into problems where UI design and memory management are concerned, however, and you are less likely to make money through user purchases on the Android Market Place, meaning you usually need to find other ways to monetise your apps.

These IDEs are the industry standards, but in reality, if you’re feeling brave, you can write the code your apps in any text editor.

One that was recommended by our own developers was Sublime Text 2. It’s a very slick text editor that has a massive plugin library to customise it to your heart’s content. It’s not a full IDE however, and it’s also not free (although they have currently got an unlimited evaluation period).

Text editors are a purer and sometimes sleeker way of programming, but make sure you do your research before trying to create your app in one; remember, there’s no UI creator or any testing tools in a text editor!

So there you have it, both IDEs have their own pros and cons, and it really comes down to which direction you want to take your app.

Regardless of which OS you decide on, Kumulos can be there to help support you with our Backend as a Service platform. With excellent technical support, an online backend development environment and awesome features such as push notifications and app store optimization tools, we can be there for your project regardless of how you want to develop it, so why not sign up today?