Archive for January, 2010

Android Turns Up The Music

January 28, 2010


From the minute it was introduced, Apple’s iPhone was destined to be a mobile music powerhouse given the device’s dual-role as an iPod. Competing smartphones have struggled to make that same mobile music connection, despite having many of the same applications and capabilities.

Supporters of phones based on the Android operating system from Google are getting some help in this matter through a number of recent partnerships designed to streamline their music capabilities. T-Mobile, the first U.S. wireless operators to embrace Android phones, is working with music management software company DoubleTwist. Under the deal, T-Mobile will both embed the DoubleTwist software in upcoming Android-based devices – including the new myTouch Fender special edition phone – as well as encourage existing Android users to download the technology.

DoubleTwist operates much like iTunes in that it’s used to create playlists, transfer files between devices, and otherwise handle all the music management functions needed on a mobile phone. Android devices have no default music management software, leaving users on their own to figure out how to interact with music on the phone.

DoubleTwist has emerged as a popular iTunes alternative for service providers. It earlier struck a deal with Amazon to provide its technology to users of the retailer’s MP3 store. Android users can also download a mobile version of the Amazon MP3 store to buy and download music but, again, it relies on users to find and download the app on their own.

In Europe, mobile entertainment firm Aspiro created an app to bring its music streaming to Android devices as well. And of course Spotify offers an Android app to provide paying members access to its on-demand streaming service.

While many streaming music services like Pandora have found huge success on the iPhone, others like DoubleTwist are finding more success on rival devices by offering them the capabilities needed to compete against Apple. Myxer for instance found that both Android and BlackBerry owners are far more active visitors its mobile content Web site than iPhone users. The company-which sells ringtones, videos, games and other entertainment content-says it saw seven times as many downloads to Android-based devices than iPhone in the fourth quarter of last year. The BlackBerry Curve is the top phone on the company’s site, responsible for 10% of all visits over the last two years. All BlackBerry devices combined represent 67% of the company’s traffic.


[via Billboard.Biz]


How to Enable Multitouch on The Google Nexus One

January 24, 2010


Developer Cyanogen has modified Google’s Android 2.1 mobile operating system to endow Google’s Nexus One smartphone with multitouch, which lets users navigate the device with more than one finger at once. The absence of this function has been a the source of great consternation for some users, and many speculate the reasons are legal in nature. Some believe Apple has locked down multitouch patents and guards them. Erick Tseng, product manager of Android at Google, attempted to clarify Google’s position when in an interview with Engadget.

A developer has modified Google’s Android 2.1 mobile operating system to endow Google’s Nexus One smartphone with multitouch, which lets users navigate the device with more than one finger at once.

Wired found out that Steve Kondik, whose developer handle is Cyanogen, Jan. 21 released files and code to enable fellow developers to add multitouch to the device.  
Google began selling through its Webstore Jan. 5 and users quickly noticed that multitouch was not active on the device. Pinch-to-zoom, popularized by Apple’s iPhone, is the most common multitouch use case.

Many Android smartphone users want their Android devices to be the iPhone without actually being an iPhone. In other words, they want a quality smartphone that isn’t made by Apple and ruled by its Draconian application farm.

Some Android devices, such as the Android 1.6- based HTC Droid Eris, was released to the market with active pinch-to-zoom capability. However, neither the Android 2.0-based Motorola Droid nor the 2.1-based Nexus One were released with active pinch-to-zoom.

The absence of this function has been a the source of great consternation for some users, and many speculate the reasons are legal in nature.

Some believe Apple has locked down multitouch patents and guards them. However, Google Android creator Andy Rubin has said Google would consider activating multitouch on the Nexus One in the future.

Multitouch on the Nexus One looks like this.  However, there are two caveats to Kondik’s solution, one trivial, one serious. Kondik said hackers who modify their Nexus One will initially lose their bookmarks and browser settings by doing this. Second, hacking the phone could also void its warranty.

Phone makers don’t like it when their devices suffer jailbreaks. Google, which is imposing a $350 equipment recovery fee for Nexus One owners who buy the phone and cancel their T-Mobile service within the first four months, is likely no exception.

Meanwhile, Erick Tseng, product manager of Android at Google, attempted to clarify Google’s position when he told Engadget Jan. 19:

“When people say ‘why doesn’t Android have multitouch?’ it’s not a question of ‘multitouch’… I want to reframe the question. We have multitouch — what people are asking for is specific implementations in the UI that use multitouch, like pinch-to-zoom, or chording on the keyboard.”

Engadget’s Nilay Patel cut through the semantic tap-dancing, noting that the lack of specific multitouch implementations is still a huge issue and become a growing distraction for Android. In fact, he compared it to the brouhaha generated by the lack of copy-and-paste before iPhone OS 3.0 came out.

Some folks are just harder to please than others. Patel also asked the right questions about why Google didn’t use Motorola’s pinch-to-zoom code in the Droid, but used HTC’s code in the Droid Eris, only to not use it in its new Nexus One.

“Until someone can answer these questions in a reasonable way, they’re going to keep coming up over and over again,” Patel noted. “Google prides itself on transparency and openness, and a secret deal forbidding Android from having pinch-to-zoom flies in the face of that culture.”

Could be that Google has an agreement with Apple to not use pinch-to-zoom in certain instances, putting Google at a major disadvantage as it seeks to expand Android’s footprint in the uber-competitive smartphone market.


[via eWeek]


Nutsie brings iTunes to Android via the cloud

January 21, 2010


Version 3.0 of Nutsie, a mobile application soon coming to Android phones, is more than an anagram for iTunes.

Nutsie wirelessly syncs your computer’s iTunes library to your Android phone.

(Credit: Melodeo)

As I watched Melodeo engineering Vice President Bob Wise demonstrate the new Nutsie on a Motorola Droid at the company’s Seattle office on Monday, I had to wonder why Google doesn’t have its own Nutsie-like app.

The basic idea behind the current version of Nutsie is simple: you have a bunch of songs stored in iTunes on your computer that you’d like on your phone, but you don’t want to buy an Apple iPhone (perhaps because of AT&T). For $19.95, you can download the Nutsie app for phones running Google’s Android, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, and various other mobile platforms, then grab the Nutsie uploader for your computer, and it will automatically sync your iTunes library to your mobile phone. You never need to plug your phone into your computer, and any changes to iTunes are automatically synced to the cloud and then to your phone.

Nutsie also recommends other songs based on the contents of your library, then integrates those songs into your iTunes playlists. (This function forms the basis of Effin Genius, an iPhone app that creates playlists based on your library; Melodeo basically stripped the Serendipity feature out of Nutsie and made it into an iPhone app.)

There has been one big drawback to Nutsie: it required you to use playlists, and you couldn’t navigate to single songs, as you could do with iTunes on an iPhone. It was more like Internet radio than a true iTunes clone. This all changes with the new version of Nutsie, which is slated to come out for Android phones this quarter.

Whereas past versions uploaded only data about songs, then streamed copies of those songs from Nutsie’s servers, the forthcoming version is more like a digital storage locker: it will let users upload their entire iTunes library to Nutsie’s servers, then access that content from their Android phone. The playback experience will be almost exactly the same as if they were using an iPhone. Nutsie will also cache songs to the device, so once users have played a particular song, they won’t need to have an active Internet connection to play it again.

So why hasn’t Google made something like Nutsie an Android standard? Android’s music sync is one of its worst features–users have to mount the device as a hard drive before they can transfer files to it–and the onboard storage for the Nexus One is a paltry 4GB (expandable, but still).

If any company has embraced the cloud, it’s Google. So why not make local storage obsolete? Untether users’ music libraries from their PCs and stream them from the cloud instead. It would make sense for users and would provide a treasure trove of information about users–their musical tastes–to help Google target advertisements even more effectively.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. After all, Google has already added playable music streams to its search results, and Apple reportedly bought Lala in part to keep it out of Google’s hands. If it agrees, the question is, will Google build it or buy it?

Correction, 4:48 p.m. PST: This post mischaracterized how the upcoming version of Nutsie will function. It will upload songs directly from users’ computer-based iTunes libraries to Nutsie’s servers, then allow users to access those songs from their phones.

[via cnet]


Apple & Google Collision Course

January 21, 2010


Apple and Google, once close allies, are battling on a growing number of fronts


Apple has ridden the iPhone to 14% of the smartphone market in three years. Google’s original plan to let hardware partners make phones running its Android software has garnered only a sliver of the market. So Google, risking the ire of Android phonemakers, is launching its own Nexus One phone.


The 125,000 apps iPhone users can download bolster the popularity of Apple devices and give it influence over how people use their phones. Rather than use Google’s search, iPhone users can fire up the New York Times app for news or Yelp for local restaurants. Google is well behind with 18,000 Android apps.


Google’s core business is advertising, with virtually all of its revenue coming from the text ads that pop up alongside search results. Apple aims to break into the mobile advertising business Google has been eyeing by creating new ways to advertise within apps on the iPhone and other Apple devices.


Apple still gets almost 40% of its revenue from Mac computers running its operating system. Now Google is developing Android to run competing machines and has designed a separate operating system, Chrome OS, for simpler computer Web surfing. Both companies will soon back tablets, too.


While Apple has become the world’s largest music retailer, Google just began using its search engine to direct people to Apple rivals to play and buy songs. Google owns YouTube, and Apple is adding more video to iTunes, reportedly including a push to offer cable-like subscriptions to shows from CBS, ABC, and others.


Apple and Google, with $23 billion and $22 billion in cash and short-term securities, respectively, are competing increasingly for the same startups. Google won out in bidding for the ad service AdMob, then Apple outbid Google for the music site LaLa Media last year. Apple is adding people and processes to better compete for deals.


[via BusinessWeek]


Windows Stationary Usurped by Linux Android, Moblin

January 21, 2010


Windows Mobile is too late with too little…..

There I was, sitting in Las Vegas Airport after CES. The WiFi in the airport is now ‘sponsored’ by Google. Indeed when I brought up my favorite time-killing web game, the Nexus One had the primary GoogleAds position, waiting for me to click. As I’m currently looking at my bricked HTC Touch Pro, I easily resisted. Others have not, and are buying. What they say afterwards in some cases has been negative, although it’s otherwise being well received.

Data suggests that Google’s Nexus One didn’t have the sales explosion that Motorola’s Droid did during the opening week campaign. Worse, Google’s been slammed about problem with its US carrier partner, T-Mobile. Google will learn. One gets the feeling that the relationship with T-Mobile was a given, as AT&T wouldn’t carry the phone, and AT&T is the only other viable GSM partner in the US.

LG announced that more than half its new smartphones will use Android, the common operating system among the Nexus One, Droid, G1, and so on.

Windows Mobile seems like Windows Stationary, as Microsoft’s Version 7 of its operating system seems to be MIA. In the interim, the business ecosystems of the iPhone and Android and even Moblin continue to grow and perhaps flourish. Capturing huge marketshare is what Microsoft is all about, so I find it head-scratchingly strange that Windows Mobile is so far behind.

What will happen? Microsoft will have lost mindshare, just like Apple’s loss of mindshare over its late release of its iSlate. This is curious– two venerable leaders, known for building ecosystems and fulfillment mechanisms, left in the dust. They’re not going to like that.


Will Android Pay for Google?s Moves in China?

January 20, 2010


British scribe Paul Carr is not one to mince words. For him, Google’s newfound morality around censorship and China is too little, too late. Four years too late, to be precise. And I agree with him — up to a point. Morality has to be absolute; it cannot be used as a tool of convenience. That said, and despite being a born cynic, I’m actually unable to view Google’s decision through the same lens.

I mean, if as a society we’re all too ready to forgive steroid-enhanced baseball players when they come clean, how is that we can’t give a company a second chance when it finally decides to do the right thing? Moreover, the company is risking a lot of money by adopting what Carr describes as “scorched earth diplomacy” — especially when it comes to Android.

J.P. Morgan estimates that Google’s move is going to cost it some $600 million in 2010 revenues. UBS puts the sales loss forecast in the $400-$500 million range. Others estimate that it could be even lower — between 1 and 1.5 percent of 2010 revenues. Citibank, meanwhile, believes that nearly 1 percent of Google’s profits are at risk.

The wide variance in the loss estimates makes clear that no one really knows how big a financial gamble this decision is. And that alone makes it a brave move.

But while many argue that it isn’t logical for a publicly traded company to take a stance that’s going to hamper its ability to capture the opportunities offered by such a fast-growing Internet market — China currently has 298 million Internet users (and 99.4 million connections) representing just 22 percent of its population — as far as I’m concerned, the biggest impact of Google’s decision will be on its mobile efforts. With more than 638 million wireless users (according to Telegeography), China has already emerged as the world’s largest mobile market. Sales of mobile phones in the country are expected to grow 21 percent this year alone.

The bottom line is that Google’s decision to take on the Chinese political establishment means that it no longer controls Android’s destiny in China. In theory, Android is open source and as such, handled by the Open Handset Alliance. But in reality, it is closely associated with Google. For starters, the banning of would close a marketing channel for Google’s Nexus One device, if and when it was launched in China.

The country was well on its way to helping Google grow Android. Chinese handset makers such as Huawei and ZTE have been some of the earliest supporters of the upstart OS. China Mobile already sells its own version of an Android-based phone system called OPhone. Motorola is making a big push into the Chinese market with smartphones based on the Android OS. And China-based Lenovo has developed numerous Android-based products, including the LePhone. Any undue pressure from the establishment would mean that most of these companies would have to abandon Android in favor of other mobile operating environments.

Google’s willingness to risk not only its present (search) but also its future (mobile), shows that as a company it’s willing to go where no Western company has gone before: in China’s face. The next few months will determine whether Carr is being too harsh or I am being too generous in our respective judgments. For now, at least on this one decision, I am on the side of Larry & Sergey.

[via GIGAOM]


Android malware: How open is too open?

January 14, 2010


Poor governance could allow malware to run amok in smartphone app stores, eroding customer confidence

As competition heats up, smartphone vendors are scrambling to woo developers to their respective OS platforms. But some developers are more desirable than others. The discovery of suspected malware in the Android Market online app store is evidence that mobile platforms are becoming as attractive to criminals as they are to legitimate software vendors.

More than 50 Android apps have been flagged as potential hazards since December, all of them published by a developer identified only as “09Droid.” The apps were advertised as online banking tools, each targeted at a specific financial institution. Their true purpose, security researchers now believe, was phishing and identity theft.

[ Stay up on tech news and reviews from your smartphone at | Get the best iPhone apps for pros with our business iPhone apps finder. | See which smartphone is right for you in our mobile “deathmatch” calculator. ]

Google has since removed the 09Droid apps from the Android Market, but the fact that they were listed in the first place raises serious questions about the safety of the app-store software delivery model, as practiced by Google and other vendors. If mobile infrastructure providers don’t act quickly to restore customer confidence, this incident could cast a lasting pall over the mobile apps market, even as it’s just getting started.

Apple: Hero or tyrant?
While all smartphone vendors offer online markets for third-party software, their approaches to security vary. Apple’s App Store was the first such market and it remains the largest, with more than 100,000 apps available for download and 3 billion apps sold since the store opened in 2008. It also has the tightest security model. Software is carefully vetted by Apple examiners before being approved for sale on the App Store, and the process is no mere rubber stamp. Indeed, the company’s intransigence on some issues has inspired much puzzlement and lively online debate.

That’s not to say there have been no malware incidents on the iPhone platform. One early example changed iPhone users’ wallpaper to a photo of ’80s singer Rick Astley. Since then, security experts have discovered at least one case of malware in the wild that can steal contacts, e-mail, and other data from iPhone handsets. But these exploits only work on “jailbroken” iPhones, so called because they have been intentionally hacked to accept apps from sources other than the App Store. Because of the obvious security risk, jailbreaking an iPhone voids its warranty.

But Apple’s model is not without its critics. As the number of developers submitting software to the App Store has increased, the approval process has slowed, leading some developers to accuse Apple of undermining their time-to-market advantage. And some iPhone owners insist they have no choice but to jailbreak their phones, claiming Apple blocks legitimate apps from the App Store for arbitrary, specious, or obscure reasons.


[via InfoWorld]


CES: Smartphone touch-screen analysis tests finger fidelity

January 12, 2010


Touch-screen comparison between the iPhone, HTC Droid Eris, Motorola Droid, and Nexus One. Click for larger version.

(Credit: Moto Development Labs)

Moto Development Labs devised a simple method of analyzing capacitive touch screens using drawing programs. They put the iPhone, the Nexus One, the Droid, and the Droid Eris through the paces and proved not all touch screens are created equal.

Using only your fingers and a drawing app, Moto shows how you can test out the accuracy of your smartphone’s touch screen. The test is simple: draw some slow, steady lines across the screen with your finger. If they’re smooth and straight, your touch screen is tracking with relative accuracy. If they’re wavy or jagged, your phone might not be giving your fingers the attention they deserve.

Moto’s test showed the iPhone tracking the most accurately of the four, with smooth, straight lines. The Motorola Droid fared worst of the bunch, its crossing lines tracking so jaggedly that the screen looked like a jigsaw puzzle. The Eris and the Nexus One landed somewhere in between.

If jagged lines are the symptoms of a subpar touch screen, Moto suggests that the affliction can be any combination of too large a sensor, too low a touch-sampling rate, or too inaccurate an algorithm. [Moto Development Labs – Thanks Sabrina]

DIY Touchscreen Analysis from Moto Development Group on Vimeo.

[via cnet]


Freescale Unveils Sub-$200 Tablet Computer

January 7, 2010


Bigger Than a Smartphone, Smaller Than a Notebook, But Will it Catch on?

For months, analysts have said that this would be the year of the tablet computer and just one week into 2010, it looks like their predictions may be coming true.

Photo: Products at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

(Business Wire Photo)

On Monday, while Apple fans continued to trade rumors about when the company’s long-awaited tablet would debut, Freescale Semiconductor got down to business.

In advance of the Consumer Electronics Show this week, the Austin, Texas, company announced its own touchscreen tablet that it calls the “future of the smartbook category.”

At 7 inches, Freescale’s tablet is smaller than the 10- or 11-inch model expected from Apple and others, but the smaller size comes with a big payoff: A $199 price tag, instead of the thousand-dollar (or more) price tag that will likely accompany Apple’s. | The company said its lightweight device provides four times the viewing area of a typical smartphone, but is about one-third the size and volume of the average netbook.

The tablet is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled and can be fitted with a modem to run on 3G networks. And it’s ready to serve a wide range of on-the-go needs, from Web browsing and office applications to social media widgets, picture taking and more.

Though Freescale will demo the device, which runs on both Android and Linux operating systems, this week at CES, it won’t be ready for mass consumption until the summer.

[via ABC news]


Google Will Free Android OS Users from Limit on Number of Apps Installed

January 7, 2010


Currently, Android OS-based smartphones can only run software stored in their internal memory, which severely restricts the number of apps that can be installed. Google intends to remove this limitation, though.


Android devices have slots for removable memory cards, but these can’t be used to hold software that’s been installed on the device. Instead, apps go into a small internal partition that’s not directly accessible by users. This was done to prevent users from easily pirating software, but it also restricts the number of apps that can be installed.

After yesterday’s unveiling of Android OS 2.1, Google’s revealed a plan to allow users to install software onto a removable memory card in an encrypted form. This will both prevent easy piracy while also allowing users to store many gigabytes of app files.

At this point, it’s not clear when this feature will be add to the Android OS. The fact that a Google executive is willing to talk about it in public is a sign that it could be relatively soon, though.