Tag Archives | Android

Google’s Android Wear Smartwatch Software: An Interesting, Unfinished Idea

Even if you like this concept, waiting makes sense
Samsung's Gear Live smartwatch

Samsung’s Gear Live smartwatch

Some product categories are easy to review. Smartphones? Until something comes along which redefines them as radically as the first iPhone did in 2007, it’s pretty obvious how to judge them, because there’s a general consensus on what sort of capabilities such a gadget should have.

Not so, however, with smartwatches.

Sure, scads of tiny computers you wear on your wrist have been released over the past couple of years, but the industry is still thrashing out what’s important: what features a smartwatch should have, what technologies it should use, what tradeoffs it should make involving size, weight, and battery life.

No two models reflect the same vision. And if you’re not yet convinced that the world needs smartwatches at all, you’re not alone.

With new smartwatches based on Google’s Android Wear software, however, the vision is pretty clear. Android Wear is all about rolling notifications from smartphone apps and features from Google’s excellent Google Now information service into a form which you can check without fumbling for your smartphone. (Google says that typical Android phone owners check their phones 125 times a day.)

The concept makes sense to me–not as an epoch-shifting gadget in the tradition of the PC, smartphone, and tablet, but at least as a worthy phone accessory for busy geeks. Judging from my time with it so far, though, the reality doesn’t yet live up to its potential.

Continue Reading →

One comment

This New Google Project Proves Humans Are Better at Animation Than Computers Are

Sorry, Android L, Android Wear, and Android Auto: This may be the best thing which got announced at I/O.

I had a good time attending Google I/O, but I somehow missed out on the premiere at the conference of something which means a lot to me: Duet, a new short film by Disney veteran Glen Keane, one of the finest animators of the past forty years.

Fortunately, I just caught up with it on YouTube:

The movie is part of Google’s “Spotlight Stories” project, and will be available in an interactive mobile version for Android phones later this year. But the thing which makes it interesting and moving isn’t the technology: It’s the fact that it consists of a series of drawings by a human being who happens to be a master draftsman, rather than the digital stop-motion puppetry that is computer animation.

Keane may have used more modern tools than his counterparts at Disney did in the 1930s and 1940s, but the basics of his craft haven’t changed at all.

There’s lots of computer animation I like, and some I just love–but the medium has a long way to go until it can match the charm, grace, and emotional depth of something like this. How said it would be if traditional animation–which is clearly an endangered artform–ever goes away altogether.


10 Observations About Google’s I/O Keynote

One of many giant Androids towering over the human attendees at Google I/O at San Francisco's Moscone Center

One of many giant Androids towering over the human attendees at Google I/O at San Francisco’s Moscone Center

If you’re looking for a good straightforward recap of the news which Google made during its I/O keynote on Wednesday morning, stop reading this post. Instead, head over to Mat Honan’s fine summary over at Wired. And then, if you’re still interested in the topic, come back here for my initial musings.

Continue Reading →


Parallels Access 2.0 Lets You Use Mac or Windows Apps From Any iOS or Android Device

Photoshop CC for OS X running on an iPad via Parallels Access 2.0

Photoshop CC for OS X running on an iPad via Parallels Access 2.0

Last year, Parallels–the company behind the best-selling virtualization software for OS X–introduced a service called Parallels Access.

It let you use an iPad to remote-control your Windows PC or Mac across the Internet, allowing you to run PC apps from your tablet. Other companies had done that before, but Parallels didn’t just cram your PC’s screen onto the iPad: It created an environment which made using Windows or Mac apps as much like using iPad apps as possible, with features such as iOS-style cut-and-paste and a touch-friendly app launcher which looked like the iPad’s own home screen.

When I reviewed the first version of Access, I had some quibbles but was still dazzled by the whole concept, which was bursting with cleverness and technical derring-do.

Parallels Access running on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Parallels Access running on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Now Parallels is releasing Parallels Access 2.0. There’s quite a bit that’s new–including the fact that it now works on iPhones and Android devices as well as iPads.

The iOS and Android variants of Parallels Access are similar, but not identical. For one thing, they both do a good job of hewing to the interface style of the mobile operating system they’re running on: Cut and paste, for instance, look like they should in both cases.

Both versions also have a new feature or two not seen in the other one. The iOS app lets you use the mobile device’s microphone with apps running on the remote computer, and includes a new file manager which looks like iOS while providing access to files on the distant computer. The Android app, meanwhile, lets you plunk shortcuts to specific PC apps on the Android home screen, a feat which isn’t technically possible in iOS.

Parallels Access for iOS's new file manager

Parallels Access for iOS’s new file manager

Oh yeah, there’s the pricetag. When Parallels originally released Access, it charged $80 to control one computer for one year. It quickly lowered that price. And now it’s slashed it again: For $20 a year or $35 for two years (or $30 for two years for a limited time), you can control up to five computers from as many iOS and/or Android devices as you want. There’s also a new business plan for companies which want to roll out Access to multiple staffers at once.

As before, Parallels Access is amazing: I can’t imagine anyone coming up with a better way to put OS X and Windows apps onto a mobile device which can’t run them natively. But there are some technical limitations which are beyond Parallels’ control. The OS X apps I used on my iPad didn’t have a Retina-like crispness–text was a tad fuzzy even though you can now choose between three different screen resolutions. Not surprisingly, the experience feels most like the apps are right on your mobile device if you’ve got a fast Internet connection. And for all that Access does to make desktop apps more touch-friendly, there are still tasks which are tough to perform with your fingertip, such as selecting part of an image in Photoshop.

For all these reasons, Access doesn’t reduce the need for powerful native apps for iOS and Android–and there are more of those today than there were last year when the first version of Access shipped, including Microsoft’s very credible version of Office for the iPad. But when you want to get your hands on an app or file which isn’t available on your mobile device, Parallels Access could be a lifesaver–and at $20 a year, it’s a reasonable deal even if you don’t use it all that often.

Be the first to comment

Which is It, Google? Is Android Open or Not?

Lately, it’s not often that I agree with MG Siegler. If you’ve read my work elsewhere, you know I’ve taken issue with some of his coverage of Apple.

But his post explaining his distaste for Android is probably the most cogent argument so far why the platform is falling so far short of its potential.

Android was built on a foundation of good intentions. The platform was supposed to usher in a new mobile era where the power was given to the user to make their device their own. No walled gardens, no censorship, no limits. Supporters of the platform heralded its “openness,” deriding Apple and others for their top-town controlled approach.

It sounded too good to be true, and it pretty much was. Carriers balked at giving up that control and quickly Android became just as tightly controlled as iOS or any other mobile platform. And this is directly a result of Google’s business decisions in the company’s quest for Android market domination.

Continue Reading →

Be the first to comment

See Ya, Streak 5

Dell’s first Android tablet, the Streak 5, is officially discontinued. A strange farewell message now appears on Dell’s Streak 5 web page (“Goodbye, Streak 5. It’s been a great ride.”), with an image of a pretty woman who is not holding a Streak 5.

The general consensus is that the Streak 5 was too big to be a good phone and too small to be a good tablet, but I’m not convinced of that argument. Phone makers have successfully made 4.3-inch screens desirable, and are now pushing toward 4.5 inches with the Samsung Infuse 4G and rumored HTC Holiday. And whenever I write about 7-inch tablets, I’m shocked by the number of commenters who want to use them as phones. I think there’s a niche for oversized handsets. Dell just failed to capture it. In hindsight, it’s easy to see why.

Continue Reading →


Android Global Share Quadruples, Passes Symbian

The standard meme when it came to smartphones was that while Android and iOS powered the lion’s share of devices sold here in the US, Nokia’s Symbian was the worldwide king. That logic is now outdated according to data from research firm Gartner.

For the first time, Android has surpassed Symbian in terms of units sold in the first quarter of 2010, making up 36 percent of the market. That is a four-fold increase from the same quarter last year, when it only made up nine percent of all devices sold. Much of Android’s gain came at the expense of Symbian, which fell from 44.2 percent a year ago to 27.4 percent.

Continue Reading →


Samsung Infuse 4G Brings App Sideloading to AT&T

On Thursday evening, AT&T and Samsung announced the Infuse 4G, an Android smartphone with a massive 4.5-inch screen. But several websites are reporting an even bigger development: the Samsung Infuse 4G will allow apps from outside the Android Market.

Sideloading, as it’s known in tech jargon, has been absent from all AT&T Android phones to date. Prohibiting non-Market apps “minimizes the risk of malicious apps harming customers and provides more protection to the customer’s private data stored on the phone,” AT&T explained last June.

Although AT&T hasn’t announced any policy changes, several bloggers who attended the Infuse 4G announcement on Thursday confirmed the “unknown sources” option in the phone’s settings. Users must check this box to allow non-Market apps on their phones. Samsung’s Philip Berne said his retail boxed Infuse 4G also contains the “unknown sources” option.

Continue Reading →

Be the first to comment

Why Google Doesn’t Want The iPhone To Die

Us journalists and bloggers like to make a lot of the battle between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, but it the search engine has a vested interest in seeing the platform succeed. Why? iPhones and iPads are simply sending the site a ton of traffic.

Says Asia-Pacific president Daniel Alegre to AdNews:

“Whenever iPhone succeeds, Google succeeds. I actually don’t look at it as iPhone versus Android. iPhone is a very strong driver of query growth for Google. We also monetise apps through the iPhone..we actually benefit from iPhone’s growth.”

Makes sense. In total the iOS ecosystem is getting increasingly larger, and if you group the iPad and iPhone together, is more than holding its own against the Android platform. Simply put, pissing off Apple is not in Google’s best interest no matter how much they’d like to see their mobile OS be #1.

Google has said previously that the iPhone has been a key driver of growth in its mobile search efforts. So it shouldn’t be surprising that at least publicly executives like Alegre are making such statements. Then again, if all those iPhone users pick up a Droid — the only other really dominant mobile platform — is Google really losing anyway?


HTC Thunderbolt: iPhone Killer?

HTC’s Thunderbolt has gotten a good deal of positive coverage from the tech press, and now we may have some anecdotal evidence that those good words could be translating into success for the device. According to data from research firm BITG, checks at 150 Verizon Wireless stores indicate that in some cases the Thunderbolt is outselling the iPhone 4.

According to the comany’s data, 61 percent of the stores said they were selling equal numbers of both devices, and 11 percent more iPhones than Thunderbolts, apparently mainly in the southeastern US. But 28 percent were selling more Thunderbolts, seemingly indicating that at least on Verizon, the iPhone may have met its match.

Continue Reading →