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Android Handhelds Portables

Android 3.0 Is Trickling In, But Are the Apps? 231

jhernik writes "As tablets based on the new Honeycomb version of Android appear, critics have questioned Google's moves to enforce a standard Android platform, and said there may be as few as 20 'real' apps for the devices. Motorola's Xoom tablet is due to appear in the UK next week, along with the Eee Transformer, but their ability to compete with the recently-launched Apple iPad 2 may be hurt by the shortage of tablet-optimised Android apps. Meanwhile, reports that Google wants to standardise Android hardware are causing alarm."
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Android 3.0 Is Trickling In, But Are the Apps?

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  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @02:28PM (#35680416)
    Whoever didnt see that coming a mile away was a fool. Google has the perfect bait and switch. Give them a popular OS for free they can do whatever with - let adoption soar. Now, google can start to dictate terms. Hopefully they can get manufactures pushing updates sooner, stop the stupid look and feel customization, etc.
  • Re:What's different (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @02:32PM (#35680496) Homepage

    Most iOS apps I have seen are identical between their tablet and phone versions.

    It's when they don't have a version for the iPad that you really see the difference.

    You can zoom it so it fills the screen, but it ends up being an app that only works in portrait mode, has clunky, poorly rendered buttons, and generally feels different to use. You can usually see the big jaggies around the edges of things and sometimes a button ends up being ginormous as it was sized for a small, hand-held.

    If someone doesn't include the higher-res graphics, it's quite obviously an app meant for a phone.

    Can't speak to Android, but I can say that an app meant for a phone doesn't always work as well as you'd like on a tablet.

  • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @02:36PM (#35680560) Homepage

    I don't think Google's trying to standardize hardware as much as they're trying to create a hardware baseline for software releases. It makes sense. There's no reason one should expect last years hardware to run next years software. You get caught up in that messy Microsoft sphere if you do that where you have to bloat all your software to make sure it works with old hardware and new hardware alike. This has been Microsoft's approach with Windows Phone 7 and, while WP7 sales have been lackluster, the hardware baseline itself has been working very well for them. There's less emphasis on comparing hardware specs in the phone and more emphasis on picking the model that you like the best, which is the way that the entire industry is moving relatively quickly.

  • by mrnick ( 108356 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @03:05PM (#35680998) Homepage

    This is just another example of Google trying to keep control of an OSS project. Ultimately the truth is they cannot. If they comply with the OSS licenses in play they have to release it and this will allow ANYONE to use Android as a platform. With that said they can keep people from using the trademark "with Google" off such devices (who cares?). If Google wanted to keep things closed they should have forked something with a BSD style license, like Apple did. It looks like Google wants to eat their cake and have it to... But a company cannot advertise based on being "open" and do everything to keep things under their control at the same time without looking like a hypocrite to the OSS community. Google wants to try and ensure their paying customer that they are getting a superior product without earning that respect, like Red Hat has.

    How do they realistically expect to control the hardware platform when ANYONE can install Android on any device? Honeycomb may be optimized for tablets but no doubt we will see smart phones running it. I for one am happy as this will be another opportunity to show our Google overloads that we don't care about the "with Google" trademark.

  • Re:What's different (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crazycheetah ( 1416001 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @03:07PM (#35681024)

    I do own a Xoom and I don't have the problem to the degree that you're stating. Mind you, I probably use more apps that just use Android's normal UI drawing mechanisms, which is what scales just fine. There's no pixelation or anything. It is a little weird to have a list that fits on a phone screen taking up the whole tablet screen, but it doesn't look horrible.

    There are apps that are ridiculous and won't scale. Some of those are for better reason (Pandora, for example, I can understand, as that's a little more challenging to make scale up to the larger screen without further work), but some of them are just stupid. app has a clunky interface that takes twice or more longer to load and interact with anyway, and that probably looks like shit on the Xoom--I haven't tried, because I've honestly avoided apps like that on the Xoom and have tried to stick to apps that I know should have reasonable expectation of working without problems, and those apps work great.

    In my opinion, except for some that the developers just need to get on top of, the problem of apps looking shitty on the Xoom is mostly the fault of the developers who think they have to use their own shiny UI or try to make it look exactly like it looks on the iPhone (which is the only one that I can see their point, as the same interface across multiple platforms is a nice idea, but in my opinion, it's an idea that leads to more bad than good) and therefore run slow on Android and not allow Android to scale it automatically. I despise Apple's control over the App Store, but that's a very clear and obvious advantage to that control and disadvantage to Android's openness.

  • by goldcd ( 587052 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @03:14PM (#35681150) Homepage
    at Android development, one of the 'good things' seemed to be that you can write your app - and then provide different layouts based upon the screen resolution of the target device. Should mean a developer can very quickly tweak their app to benefit from the extra space given, if it's run on a tablet. I'm not for one moment suggesting that adding some better layouts to a phone app will suddenly transform it into an app natively designed for a tablet - but better than just scaling up.
  • by dara ( 119068 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @03:27PM (#35681392)

    I think Google made a mistake in buying into the idea that phones and tablets have be different at all. There is a big difference going from a desktop/laptop with a mouse and no touch screen, to a phone/tablet with usually no mouse and always a touch screen, but after that, do we really need the distinction? Wouldn't it be better if software (apps and the OS) allowed for a smooth transition across screen sizes from 3" to 10+"?

    I personally want a phone in the current dead zone (except for the Dell Streak). I find even 4.3" too small, but 7" is too big. 5", or even 5.5" is my sweet spot. What am I supposed to use - Honeycomb?, Gingerbread? Why the hell do I have to make a choice?

    Future smart phones are all going high resolution. Anything with a screen size of 4 inches or more is going to have 1280x720, 768, or 800 pixels at a minimum. 1920x1200 will probably push down to 7" devices. Software should be able to handle a range of screen sizes and resolutions and reflow text and icons (and allow lots of configuration to choose font and icon sizes and number of icons) to make working across this range not a big deal.

    And another thing, at this point I do expect that some reasonably specified current hardware (single core, 1 GHz, 512 MB RAM, etc.) should be able to be upgraded many years into the future. Sure certain features may have to be disabled, and configuration sliders controlling animation may have to be turned way back, but I don't want the core Android to turn into some behemoth that won't even run on hardware that is a few years old. I'm ready to hop off the iPhone train and a big reason is that Apple screwed my phone (3G) completely with iOS4 and isn't even trying to fix it anymore (no more updates for that phone). I'd rather Google didn't emulate Apple on that front also.

    I'm all for Google flexing some muscle against manufactures and carriers, both of which disappoint me orders of magnitude more than Google ever has. But a sufficient solution for me to the fragmentation problem is if they would push for a lot more Nexus phones and tablets available simultaneously. Just one phone at a time (and no tablets) isn't cutting it. At least one phone from each manufacturer on each carrier and a bunch of tablets would be more like it.

  • by SWPadnos ( 191329 ) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @07:01PM (#35683804)

    I hope Google *does* do something to standardize hardware. Specifically, they need to define a standard connector similar in functionality to what every iOS device has.

    The fact that you can make a set of speakers or a stereo dock with one connector, and have it work for basically every device out there, is a big win. I know there have been some issues with device thickness which required mechanical adjustments on dock devices, but the electrical connection is the same.

    It's hard to overstate just how useful that is. Imagine how great it would be if you could get a charger / speaker set / remote control / keyboard / USB adapter (ever wanted a host port on your device ...), etc, and have it work for any device you buy, from any vendor. There might actually be enough of a market so that independent manufacturers would make devices that are meant to work with Android.

    To make this work, it has to be done right. The connector spec has to include anything and everything that is likely to be useful, including some generic interfaces (like USB, HDMI, audio, charging, maybe even SATA ...). There has to be full OS driver support for every peripheral, including enumeration of handset/tablet capabilities and detection of attached devices and their capabilities.

    I can't even tell you how annoying it was to walk around at CES and see thousands of devices meant to work with iCrap, and basically nothing that was meant to work with Android devices (that wasn't made by the manufacturer of the Android device). It's even more annoying to go to an electronics store looking for something like portable speakers - about 95% of them have iPod docks, but less than half have a miniphone connector to plug into a headphone port.

    Get with it, Google. The software is about equal, but there will never be a "peripheral ecosystem" unless there are hardware connection standards.

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