The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

The Hills Are Greener: Why Google Needs to Fix Android 4.2 Now

Nov 26, 2012

So, a while ago, I complained that Android 4.2, a new version of Jelly Bean, was really not needed at this point. And in a proud moment for punditry, I’m right. This is a version of Android that seems designed solely to hype up the Nexus 4 and 10 with new features, and for current devices, it really isn’t ready.

There’s new issues with the OS. There was the much-publicized December bug in the People app (still not fixed). There’s some curious design choices: the new clock font with different bolding for the hours and minutes display seems like a questionable decision after the original Jelly Bean clock worked as such an understated design, the new one sticks out like a sore thumb. That, and the new lockscreen widgets, while handy, are just not visually appealing. The new split dropdown notification bar is problematic: it’s just not a good thing on the Nexus 7, where now I have to drag down from the left side of the top of the screen to get my actual notifications, and the right side for settings. That status bar in portrait is too thin to actually do anything. Android Police has a great rundown of all the other issues that have been popping up.

Of course, a lot of this stands out because usually, Android updates have been a good thing, often making the device they’re installed on quite better, thanks to new optimizations along with the new features. But this update feels like it wasn’t quite ready for prime time, that Google wanted to release an udpate along with the Nexus 4 so that they could tout new features on the phone, and it just wound up not really being ready for the Nexus 7 in particular.

Compare this to iOS: a major OS upgrade has at times spelled doom for older devices (the iPhone 3G was not meant to have iOS 4 despite it actually being released for the platform) but lately, updates have had minor effects on devices, beyond the usual quibbles about battery life that usually come along with it. But the new feature usually outweigh any of the complaints that come along.

But the funny thing is that Google actually benefits a bit from getting to see how it’s performing in the real world: considering how long it takes for updates to circulate out amongst the manufacturers’ phones. So, in a way, this gives Google a chance to actually fix these problems before they hit mainstream consumers. After all, Jelly Bean 4.1 only just hit the Galaxy S III when 4.2 came out.

As well, this was a minor update, not a major one. But still, 4.0 to 4.1 was not the kind of overhaul that ICS was and it was still an improvement. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road, a reminder that while Android is generally getting smoother and better to use, there will be bumps in the road.

But these bumps need to be smoothed out, as the Nexus 7 was one of the more impressive Android devices out there because it was so smooth, and 4.2 has hurt that. Google needs to sort this out soon, especially as these are their flagship devices, the ones that guide Android as a whole.

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Losing Their Way With iOS 6 Maps?

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Losing Their Way With iOS 6 Maps?

Oct 1, 2012

Apple has a small mess on their hands with iOS 6's Maps. The issue is rather simple: the maps are a downgrade from Google Maps. Many of the maps are actually significant downgrades in quality and detail, with many locations misplaced. While there are new features like turn-by-turn navigation built-in and 3D fly-by maps, the public consensus is seemingly that they're a dud. CEO Tim Cook saw it necessary to actually apologize for the snafu, and actually recommended that users use third-party apps while they try to approve them.

Now, while this is something that is definitely bad for iOS users because they lose the native app integration of Google Maps, I think that trying to to mine it for Android superiority will only lead to diminishing returns. One, Apple will make it better. There are reports that they're even working to hire ex-Google-Maps developers to improve iOS maps right away. Of course, it will take some time before the maps reach the level that users were accustomed to; after all, Google's been at this for years.

The ultimate takeaway from this is that Apple is willing to truly go thermonuclear to separate from Android. And it's getting to a point where Apple is willing to hurt themselves by inconveniencing users in the short-term to try and get some independence. Long-term, will it be worth it? Definitely. Google is at a position of strength with Android to be able to offer a multitude of service to expand out the operating system. Apple enhancing the services they offer is a long-term strength for them. But in continuing their war on Google and Android, they need to be careful, after all: driving customers to a rival platform due to these kinds of failings may be how they ultimately lose their position of dominance. No one stays on top forever, and I get this inescapable feeling like these failings are where Apple's decline has begun.

98.8% of Android Devices Are Running Outdated Software When Over 25% of iOS Users Have the Latest Already

98.8% of Android Devices Are Running Outdated Software When Over 25% of iOS Users Have the Latest Already

Sep 24, 2012

Google really has something of a mess on their hands with OS upgrades. iOS 6 recently released, and after 24 hours, it reached 15% penetration rate among iOS users, and 25% after 48 hours. Jelly Bean, released in July, has a 1.2% penetration rate, many of whom are likely Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 owners. Ice Cream Sandwich is at 20.9% for all versions, and it was initially announced and released in October 2011. Gingerbread, released in December 2010, is on 57.5% of all devices.

Now, the Android situation is different from iOS, as Apple usually announces their major OS update and its new features several months before its final release, and Apple has fewer devices to support: including the iPhone 5 and iPod touch 5th generation, 8 devices in total will run iOS 6, compared to the thousands running Android. Granted, the onus for updates does fall on the hardware manufacturers to provide them, and carrier testing proves to be a roadblock, but it still means that users are overwhelmingly using outdated software. Heck, even Honeycomb, only available for tablets, is out-pacing Jelly Bean at this point, 2.1% to 1.2%.

That users are still buying phones with outdated software versions, as even the latest and greatest phones are a version behind, if not 2 versions at this point, thanks to the software customizations that manufacturers feel compelled to add, it’s a mess with no solution for Google other than to dominate with Nexus and AOSP devices, or to find a way to get manufacturers to release software updates sooner rather than later. Until then, with Gingerbread phones still being sold, Android remains a fragmented mess, and that’s bad for everyone who uses the platform.

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Cuts Off Ties to Google

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Cuts Off Ties to Google

Jun 18, 2012

Apple had their big World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this past week, and the big announcement from the show (besides the Retina Display Macbook Pro) was iOS 6. It’s another update in the vein of iOS 5, which adds a lot of small features that build up to a very useful cohesive whole.

However, the biggest and most buzzed-about change is that Apple ditched Google as their maps service provider in exchange for a licensed one from TomTom, that integrates their own 3D mapping technology.

It’s been a curious relationship between the two companies because of the fact that Google is a competitor to Apple as well. Or at least, they power the competition, and they’re the easiest arch-nemesis to focus on. Samsung may be huge, but are still a fraction of the smartphone market (though they too have an interesting relationship with Apple as Samsung produces displays for Apple devices) and just part of the Android dynamo.

Google remains a service provider, and yet, as the biggest competition to Apple, it was always curious that Google always had this hand in iOS that Apple didn’t have in Android, in part because the fact that Apple is such a vertically integrated company. Apple might be wise for themselves to make this shift as far away from Google as they can get, because if they are this enemy, still laying in bed with them is a mistake. Factors such as Google service integration won’t go away because Google’s hooks are too deep, but Apple has iCloud services set up for just that purpose, to start weaning people away from the clutches of Google, and into their own clutches.

The impact this will have on Google may be more behind-the-scenes than anything, purely revenue-based than anything else. They could try to match Apple’s mapping solution in terms of features and potentially outclass it, but there’s only so far that can go. In fact, as our own Jeff Scott notes, the iOS 6 maps are currently feature-deficient in some areas compared to the Google maps.

The move stings of pride as much as anything else – Apple may be doing some things differently now, but Steve Jobs’ vision still guides the company, and the anti-Android sentiment still plays out, in their tactics both in launching products and in the courtroom. Apple may just be trying to straighten out their relationships, now that they’re the big dog, and don’t want to be pushed around any more, though they still have many ties to those they simultaneously compete against.