Wearing it on your sleeve

Android Watches

Google have recently a new version of Android for “wearables” specifically watches, Android Wear.

“That’s why we’re so excited about wearables—they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.”

Wearables have been on the horizon for a while now. Rumours have abounded for a while about Apple’s iWatch and we have seen devices such as the Pebble which interact with your phone. Google have been “playing” with Google Glass in the US.

It’s interesting that Google see the next step is a watch.

Back in the 1980s the digital watch was incredibly popular, everyone I knew had or wanted a Casio watch, a watch that did so much more than just tell the time.

Today the watch hasn’t evolved, most people I know either don’t wear a watch or have retrograded to a “traditional” watch. In most respects, people see a digital watch as cheap and tacky!

If you though take a moment, though we are anticipating Android watches and Apple’s iWatch, there have been a few wearable technologies over the years already. The iPod nano was for many people a wearable, either attached to the arm when jogging or as a watch. Nike have their Fuelband and then there is the Fitbit.

The main difference with those devices compared to the anticipated smart watches, was they had limited functionality. The iPod nano was in the main, a music player, whilst the Nike Fuelband is about recording physical activity. You also have devices like the Pebble that aren’t isolated devices, but work in conjunction with your smartphone.

The newer anticipated devices, look like to be powerful multi-functional devices. You can see some of the concepts in devices such as Google Glass.

Mobile phones in the 1990s were in the main for making phone calls and sending SMS, some had a calculator, but generally they were limited single function devices. When you look at the Android phones and iPhones that we have today, these are cameras, gaming consoles, internet communication devices, video devices, as well as a device for making phone calls and sending SMS.

Generally when a device becomes more functional and flexible, the more useful it is for a wider range of uses and contexts.

So are you going to get a “wearable”?

Instagram for Android

I’ve been a fan of Instagram (for iOS) for a long time. So I am pleased to see (finally) a version of Instagram for Android.

A beautiful way to share your world. It’s fast, free and fun!
Pick from one of several gorgeous filtered effects to breathe a new life into your mobile photos. Transform everyday moments into works of art you’ll want to share with friends and family.

Share your photos in a simple photo stream with friends to see – and follow your friends’ photos with the click of a single button. Every day you open up Instagram, you’ll see new photos from your closest friends, and creative people from around the world.

The app is not that easy to find in the Google Market Place so use this link which will take you direct to the app on your Android device.

The app as you might expect works in a similar vein to the iOS device. There are some subtle differences, but you’ll only notice them if you use both versions on a regular basis.

Instagram for Android #366photos

There are the same effects you find in the iOS app, and as my Google Nexus One has a pretty decent camera you get some good quality images.

If you have an Android device, well worth a look.

So it’s not a Jelly Donut…

Well my prediction that the next version of Android, after Ice Cream Sandwich was to be called Jelly Donut was a little wide of the mark. It’s going to be called Jelly Bean.

Unlike earlier names, that were puddings, this name is a type of candy!

Makes it more difficult to guess the next name, the obvious choice is Key Lime Pie. However if Google are using candy names, then it could be anything…

Won’t be Krispy Kreme to Kit Kat though, as they are trademarks.

Android Screengrabbing Failure

Reading a tweet recently from an Android user that a recent update to their phone now allowed them to make screengrabs. Alas that is still not the case with the Google Nexus One.

I was pleased to hear that Skitch, the screen grabbing app that I use on my Mac was coming to Android, disappointed to find out that it doesn’t actually take screenshots.

At the moment I am using the Android SDK to take screenshots, which is workable, but not when you are in the field. I recently for example needed to take some screenshots of a photo app, the only way I could do it was by pointing the camera at photos on the screen of my Mac! Not very authentic and didn’t really demonstrate the power of the camera app.

I am hoping that Google will realise the value of screenshots and how easy it is on the iPhone and make it part of Android in the future.


Is the iPad overpriced?

One criticsim I hear a lot about the iPad is that it overpriced. Someone recently said that you shouldn’t buy the iPad as it as too expensive.

Well £399 for the 16GB WiFi model is a lot more money that the £69.99 that you can buy an Android Tablet for from Amazon.

That isn’t really a fair comparison in my opinion, as it isn’t a proper Android tablet, as it’s not running Honeycomb and only has 2GB of RAM.

The Acer Iconia TAB A500 is a much fairer comparison, it costs
£349.96 from Amazon (though the list price is £417.80 which is more than the iPad!!!).

So you can not only buy a similar specified Android tablet for cheaper than the iPad you can also buy really cheap Android Tablets for less than £100 even from Asda.

So is the iPad overpriced?

Well yes the price is more than the price of Android tablets, so from that basic definition yes it is overpriced.

However though some people are price sensitive, price is rarely the only factor that we take into account when we buy something.

For example, very few people buy the value cola from the supermarket, most people will buy Coca-Cola or Pepsi even though it is more expensive.

Price is one factor to consider when buying something, but generally other factors come into play.

It’s the same with the iPad, though its price is more than the price of similar Android tablets, people buy the iPad because of factors other than price. Saying it is overpriced is irrelevant as the price is generally not the deciding factor when buying a tablet. This is echoed in the sales.

1.21 million Android tablets have been sold, and in the same time period 28.73 million iPads have been sold by Apple. These figures were derived from a recent article by John Gruber.

Breakdown by Google of Android devices in use by screen size. “Xlarge” is defined as any screen 7 inches or larger. By Google’s count, only 0.9% of activated in-use devices are tablets. Multiply that by the 135 million total Android “devices” that Larry Page announced last week during Google’s quarterly analyst call, and you get 1.21 million tablets. Compare that to the 28.73 million iPads Apple sold through the end of June.

This is not a small difference in sales, this is a huge significant difference in sales.

The reasons are probably varied, but price isn’t going to be a big reason. People buy the iPad for many different reasons and to say that the iPad is too expensive or overpriced says more about you than it does the iPad.

ITV Player for Android

I recently discovered that there was an ITVPlayer App for the iPad and the iPhone I also on looking on the ITV site there is also an ITVPlayer App for Android.

I was never really impressed with the BBC iPlayer App for Android that I installed on my Google Nexus One.

The main problem is you don’t get the smooth playback that I get on the iPhone or the iPad. If I play videos direct from the phone I do get smooth playback, so I don’t think it’s an underpowered hardware issue.

I have exactly the same issue with ITV Player. Both apps I find result in audio sync issues. However when playing the same programmes on the iPad, the iPhone or my computer I don’t have the sync or buffering issues.

As I said before I don’t think it’s a hardware issue, identical mp4 video files play just as well on the Google Nexus One as they do on my iPhone. I often use the same file to show the difference in screen quality between the Nexus One and the iPhone 3GS (and now the iPhone 4).

It would appear that my Google Nexus One doesn’t like streaming video. It’s not the connection as I am on wifi and my home broadband is quite fast.

So a question, is it just me and my phone, or are others having similar stuttering, audio sync and buffering issues?

Back to the Future…

Check out this quote.

Checking out your favorite movie during a road trip. Downloading and listening to the latest hot tunes at the coffee shop. Surfing the Web at the beach while your friends surf the waves. More than ever before, people around the world are demanding simpler, more convenient ways to access and enjoy their favorite digital content while on the go.

Sounds like the iPad doesn’t it?

So was this quote about the iPad?


It was from March 2006, five years ago, before the iPhone, before the iPod touch and four years before the iPad.

The quote above was from Intel about the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). Back then they also said:

The Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) addresses these needs with small, stylish products you can carry with you everywhere you go. The UMPC devices offer ultra-portable sizes and long battery life, plus full PC and Internet capabilities, so you can access your favorite web pages anytime, virtually anywhere!

I remember back then really liking the concept, so much so that I ordered the Sony VAIO UX1XN, which was a great little UMPC computer that fulfilled the dream


So what happened to the UMPC?

Well it wasn’t killed by the iPad, no it was well dead by the time Apple released that. No it was the netbook and more specifically the Asus EeePC. What happened was that when companies like Sony started releasing products like the UX1XN, and Samsung their Q1 they charged a premium price. The UMPC was not a cheap product, it was much more a luxury. The price did drop quite quickly.

When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. This was a lot of money for a device the size of a PDA (even if it could run Windows Vista).

In July 2007 I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. Such reductions usually imply that a new model is just around the corner.

On Amazon in August 2007 you could get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.

In October 2007 it was just £999 at the Sony story and only £899 on Amazon.


Today used models can be have for less than £500 on Amazon, which is the same price as an iPad!

So when the Asus EeePC was launched with a £200 price tag, the concept of the netbook was launched and the UMPC effectively died. Companies did try and compete by reducing prices, but in the end it was impossible to compete on features and low prices were what people looked at.

Pricing wasn’t the only flaw, there were some others. One of the main drawbacks was battery life, iPad users who probably don’t even worry about it today would gasp at the 1½-2 hour battery life with those UMPC devices. These weren’t devices you would use all day, much more a casual device that always needed to be close to it’s charger.

I remember taking the UX1XN to a conference in Cardiff and back then said

It’s small enough to be unintrusive, unlike a laptop which can be a bit of a barrier, it has two cameras which enable me to send images to Flickr or take short video clips, and the keyboard is usable unlike the fiddly mobile phone type split keyboard of the Q1 Ultra. You can also use it without needing to put it on the table or on your lap which makes it ideal in the conference hall or break-out room environment.

I wouldn’t want to write a long blog entry (like this one) on it, but for entering URLs or posting tweets or jaiku postings, I think it will work just fine.

A big flaw for me was the operating system, Windows Vista was rather too bloated for a device which lacked the power and memory of standard desktops and laptops. This would eventually be solved with Windows 7, but by that time the UMPC was just a distant memory. Microsoft really needed to do what Apple and Google have done and create a completely new OS that works on new formats for devices, but that wasn’t going to happen at that time.

Another problem were the touch screens, whereas big Tablet PCs required a dedicated stylus, the UMPC often resorted to a simple touch screen. However with an OS that really didn’t work with touch and needed a stylus, too often you found that neither worked satisfactorily and the experience was not nice.

However many people like me, saw that these early products, though expensive and having some flaws, they really demonstrated the potential of small mobile computers, something we now see in Apple’s iPad and Android tablets. Looking back at the UMPC we can see what worked and what didn’t, as a result when something like the iPad comes along that solves many of the flaws, price, battery life and OS, but still has the the main features of the UMPS, such as solid state drives (SSD), cameras, touch screens. You start to realise the influence of these devices on companies such as Apple and Google.

Many people see the iPad as Apple’s response to the netbook, I don’t, I think Apple looked at the original UMPC concept from Intel and went, “we can do that, and we can do that better!”

Android Desserts

Now I didn’t know this, but I guess it was obvious.

Firstly though I will admit when I heard the name Froyo I was a bit bemused, wasn’t sure what it was, thought it might be some character out of Lord of the Rings. It turned out that the name of the Android software update was in fact what they call Frozen Yoghurt.

I was well pleased when they upgraded my Nexus One to Froyo and quite liked the Gingerbread update when it eventually arrived.

However what I have only recently found out, is that there is a pattern to the android version names

Ice Cream Sandwich

Not it’s not that are all desserts, think that’s pretty obvious, but they’re also in alphabetical order.

Now I didn’t know this, but I guess it was obvious.

In case you were wondering there were no A or B desserts, but they probably had Alpha and Beta.

Airsync Androidness

I have had a Google Nexus One for a while now, but though I have downloaded many different apps, they’ve all had one thing in common, they were free. I realised that I had never bought an Android App for the Nexus One. This is very unlike my iPhone experience where I have bought quite a few apps.

So when it came to buying my first Android App, I was a little apprehensive. To be honest the experience was not very positive and could have been better.

So what was the app?

Well it was doubleTwist AirSync.

As well as letting me sync the Nexus One with my Mac over wifi using doubleTwist, there were two other features that made me think that this was going to be a worthwhile purchase.

doubleTwist now supports AirPlay for users who have upgraded to AirSync. Stream to Apple TV (music, videos and photos) and DLNA devices (music and videos). Beta support for Sonos.

When a supported device such as the Apple TV is recognized on the same WiFi network as your Android device, you can start streaming to it from the doubleTwist playback controls if you are an AirSync user.

So what went wrong, why was the process not very positive?

Well… after finding the app in the Android Market Place (which was easy), I tentatively clicked the purchase link.

It took me to a purchase screen and as I had used Google Checkout before it remembered my details. I paid for the purchase, I fully expected the app to download and then I could start using it. Well that’s what I expected, but that’s not what happened.

It didn’t download, all I got was a message that I was awaiting for the purchase to be authorised.

Initially I thought it was broken or had failed. However an e-mail from Google said that my purchase had gone through and I was charged for the App. Still the phone was saying that it was waiting for the purchase to be authorised…

It did this for a few hours before finally the app installed, I could use it, pair it and sync it with doubleTwist. No idea if that delay is normal and certainly I had not warning that this would happen. If I knew it was going to take hours then fair enough, however there was no warning or explanation.

So what of the app? I do like it and the ability to stream video, audio and photos from the Nexus One to my Apple TV is a real plus. Most of the videos I tried worked fine, but then they were encoded for the iPhone and I would expect them to work through the Apple TV. I was disappointed though that native videos i recorded on my Nexus One didn’t work. Well one did, but the rest didn’t. The one that did was a recent video, older ones failed to stream.

So I am pleased with the app, however less happy with the purchasing experience. Hopefully next time (and yes there will be a next time) it will be a more positive experience.