Tag: Google

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!

Amazon.com goes down as well, not to be alarmist but…

amazon-logo

Almost seems like there’s a pattern here doesn’t there?

In the last week; Facebook’s ban bot went mental and kicked a whole bunch of users, Google went down for a few minutes and took 40% of the internet with it, and finally Amazon.com went down for half an hour yesterday, dragging the Canadian site down with it.

Then there’s the fact that the NYT went down, and CNN and the Washington Post were hacked.

All these big bastions of the internet seems to be dropping like flies right now, and although paranoia is what the internet does best, it seems interesting to the casually observant eye that all of these big services have suffered glitches so close together.

“It’s very unusual to see such a number of high-profile websites all suffering peak-time outages within the course of a few days of each other,” said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at the Davies Murphy Group consultancy.

“People are going to be very interested to know exactly what the reasons were for the incidents that are still unexplained because the implications are huge: we’ve seen everything from users being unable to see their email to visitors and third-party retailers who use Amazon’s marketplace being unable to buy and sell goods – all happening seemingly with no warning.”

(source: BBC news)

So what are the explanations?

Hacking groups getting uppity? China or Iranian military trying to steal some more data? Could it be Skynet flexing its online muscles for the coming apocalypse?

Let’s hope it’s not the latter.

What’s interesting is that there’s been no press release from the major companies stating the causes of these faults. We shall have to see.

Until we find out, you can rely on Kumulos’s Mobile Backend as a Service to be reliable, and not associated with any apocalyptic machines. Promise. So why not get in touch?

Why Window’s failings may be Google’s winnings

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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.

 

Google’s just done an Apple

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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.

Self-Driving cars, the future is right around the corner

self driving car

Watch any decent cyberpunk sci-fi and there’s a consistent but perhaps overlooked element present in most of them; the self-driving car. Blade Runner, Demolition Man, Fifth Element, iRobot, the list goes on and on. We’ve been looking at not having to drive ourselves for decades, but now it’s looking like we may be heading towards actually seeing it as a reality.

Of course everyone knows about Google’s self driving cars which recently just passed the 300,000 mile mark in terms of distance travelled between the dozen or so vehicles that Google has on the road at any one time. When you divide that down that’s about 20,000 miles that each car has travelled, so far without an incident caused by the automatic systems. In both cases that the Google Driverless cars were involved in accidents, humans were involved. To maintain overwatch on the cars, they have a driver and a Google engineer in them as they drive, with the driver able to take control of the car at any time. In one of the incidents the car was being driven manually; in the other it was rear-ended by another driver.

Volvo have also just announced their own program of automated cars recently as well. Whilst not as immediately as ambitious as Google’s work, Volvo’s seems to be much more immediately applicable. They’ve announced a range of different features such as Cruise Control with steering, which is essentially smart cruise that allows the car to not only maintain a safe distance from the car in front of it, it also helps the driver steer with the road and can actively prevent lane drift and other issues that are common on highway driving. They’ve also got pedestrian and large animal collision detection, which uses radar and camera technology to detect people and animals at the side of the road, to warn drivers if they look like they will present a problem and even brake the car if the driver takes no action.

The final, and potentially coolest feature Volvo have been looking into is automated parking. Whilst in its infancy right now, the idea is that you get out of your car at your office and then, using your phone, tell your car to go park itself and it will toddle off to do just that. Then when you need it, you just use your phone to tell it to come to you and it’ll be waiting for you when you get out from work. The idea that in the future parking lots will be filled with driverless cars gliding around looking for spaces is perhaps a little creepy, but also rather awesome in another way. How these automated cars will deal with space snatching bastards is a question they’ve yet to answer.

What they will do though is open up yet another avenue for app developers. There are already multiple in car app development opportunities, but how cool would it be to be writing something that helps a car drive itself?

UPDATE 2017: Want to see how far self-driving cars have come since this article was written? Just take a look at Waymo, the Google car project. 

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.

New Nexus 7 suddenly arrives in the rumour mill

nexus-7

Google I/O 2013 was something of a disappointment. After last year’s hardware announcements and the upgrade to Jelly Bean, we were sort of hoping that something similar would come from the conference this year, but sadly no luck. Well, that may have changed now as all of a sudden, the newest iteration of the Nexus 7 has appeared all over the internet, bringing specs, pictures, a potential release date and even a video.

The original Nexus 7 was a solid tablet offering at rock bottom prices that gave us the option of premium hardware without breaking the bank and it also helped seal the 7” tablet market as one to watch. It is getting close to 2 years old now, which is positively geriatric in modern mobile terms, so it’s exciting to know that it’s going to be upgraded.

As for specs, so far as the current rumours go, we’re looking at a Snapdragon S4 processor (the same one in the Nexus 4), a full HD screen, rear and front cameras and a debateable amount of RAM. The reason we say debatable is that there seems to be some uncertainty as to whether there will be 2Gb or 4Gb of it in the new machine. 4Gb would be awesome, but being realists at Kumulos, we’re willing to bet that it’s 2Gb.

There are reported to be 2 offerings in the wings: a 16Gb package at $229.99 and a 32Gb one at $269.99. You’ll notice this is slightly above the current price point for the Nexus 7, but we’re guessing this price is one that will drop relatively quickly as the older Nexus 7s are phased out and replaced with the new ones. As for a release date, well, apparently we can look to be seeing these new tablets hitting shelves by the 20th of July, which is really not far away at all.

No current news on whether we’ll be seeing an update to Android with this new hardware, but  following the pattern Google have followed before we can probably expect to see one.

So apparently being a Google Intern is pretty awesome

intern

In the recent film The Internship, Google Internship is portrayed as an endless party full of young, smart people living in swanky apartments and having everything they need provided for by Google as they live the high life. Turns out that it’s not really that far from the truth. Until recently the interns were essentially told by Google to find their own place and make their own way to work. This year however, the company rented a swathe of apartments in Crescent Valley, San Jose and offered interns a rent paid for summer in these apartments together. Just to point out, these apartments have pools, gyms and Google even pays for the intern’s laundry.

And of course, they’re making the other resident’s lives… difficult. Regular complaints are apparently filed of noise, loud music, hot tub parties and whatever else you could probably expect of a bunch of highly paid, high flying 20 something’s who’ve all been put together under one roof. You have to bear in mind that this neighbourhood was a quiet, family orientated place before Google moved in.

Of course, Google doesn’t have the monopoly on interns misbehaving, although they all misbehave in different ways.

Apple fired Apple hacking whizz kid “Comex” after he failed to reply to an e-mail asking whether he wanted to stay in employment with them. Seems a little harsh, but then, Apple have always had something of a no nonsense approach to employees.

From the outside, Silicon Valley has a slightly mystical air about it. It’s New Mecca for techheads around the world, where the magic happens and some of the greatest minds of our generation sit puzzling out how to push things past where they sit now. If most of us were offered a place at one of the big companies (Google, Apple, Quora etc) we’d leap so hard at the chance we’d probably hurt ourselves in the process. All we ever hear are stories of that strange land where not having wi-fi is a nightmare only joked about, where the campuses of the biggest companies in the world have no fences or gates and you can apparently blag your way through (if you look the part that it).

It does, however, make it easy to understand why those who aren’t part of the Tech bubble see it as, well, exactly what the Google interns do. An endless party full of young, smart, people earning way more than you and looking better as they do it. Only, it’s not really that is it? These are people who are working exceptionally hard to get where they are.

Bill Gate reportedly only slept for 4 hours a day and an employee who tried to match his way of living could only manage a week before bowing out. Steve Jobs was so driven by his desire to make the world around him the way he wanted it he made an Apple technician make new prototypes of the oxygen mask he had in the hospital because he hated the design.

Having said that though, even if you’re not a technophile, if someone offered you a job with $6000 a month salary, rent free living, pools, hot tubs, gym membership, free bus transport to work, free food and all of that as you’re surrounded by those in a similar situation to yourself? As one Billy Connolly said, there isn’t a “herd of wild horses” that could stop you going.

Interships aren’t for everyone though, some of us like to work for ourselves and many app developers out there do just that. And even if you’re part of a bigger team, you’re still going to need a Mobile Backend for your latest and greatest app. And we at Kumulos have a solution for you with our Mobile Backend as a Service designed from the ground up to support your every app development need.

So why not get in touch with us today?