Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

Android Fragmentation – Your Options

If you’re developing for Android, this picture from Open Signal Maps (portfolio co) is only the start of your problems. Fragmentation permeates every level of Android devices: 400+ devices  with varying screen sizes and resolutions, OS- various versions running (few of them up to date), Silicon – ARM 5, ARM 7, etc. Not so much fun…

Why go through the pain? Well, Android is ramping 6x faster than iPhone. The iPhone is great, but the large mass market is Android. You’re going to have to be there.

There are a few things you can do to make your life easier if you’re resource constrained:

1) Study the OSM map. Pick the top 5-10 handsets to focus on. Develop for them only.

2) Draw a line in the sand. Instagram did this when they launched on Android this spring- they simply didn’t support a range of Android handsets based on an OS line (2.2 and above, thank you). Apple is notorious for doing this as well. Follow their leads.

3) Use testing tools. TestdroidDeviceAnywhere, Perfecto Mobile, etc. These tools allow you to do more testing than you normally could in house and possibly on handsets you’ll have difficulty getting. Use them (they’re inexpensive, or free).

Good luck coding!

Filed under: Android

The Invisible Internet

One area I’m thinking about these days is what I call the “Invisible Internet”, so I thought I’d put a post out there in case there are apps and products I should be looking at. Feel free to reach out if you’re building a company in this space…

Big data is gaining a lot of interest from VCs. e.g. companies that can crunch data and find patterns for large corporations. I’m interested in Big Data for the Little Guy. We invested into Worksmart Labs, who make a great product called Noom. Noom is a pedometer for your Android device. It’s fantastic because once you’ve installed it, you don’t need to do anything else to gain benefits from the app: it sits there and watches you, tracking every step you take. Of course, you probably installed it because you want to know how much exercise, walking etc you’re getting. But that’s the beauty of it – it just sits there silently tracking you. Piling up that data, zero effort from you (except the walking).

I have a withings scale at home, which works on the same principle. I weigh myself every day, but my withings account captures all the data and starts crunching. Fitbit has just announced its wifi scale as well. Strava.com is a cycling site that compares me to others, crunches my data to tell me how hard any given ride was (Strava’s Suffer Score). I love it.

Clearly, wireless healthcare is an area where I’m seeing the Invisible Internet become productized, but there are other areas as well – self writing journals that track where you go, smart home applications that monitor your energy consumption, etc.

Maybe it’s age, but more and more I’d prefer my apps just figure out what it is I’ve done, and what it is I want vs having to work on getting the information in and out of them – I want to be surprised and delighted by insights or information that I would have missed out on otherwise.

I hope to see more of these apps in the future. Or maybe not ;-)

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, Artificial Intelligence, Cycling, iOS, iPhone

Favorite Apps from 2011 – iOS and Android

Here they are, in no particular order…

Day One

Day One

Day One offers a well designed journal app. Twitter and Facebook are great for shouting to the world, but sometimes you’d like to keep your thoughts to yourself. Day One is a great app that lets you do that. You can set a reminder for any given period – I have it set weekly, and I type a few lines about what’s happening. Available for both iOS and Mac OS X.

Strava
I’m a cyclist. Strava is hands down the easiest to use app I’ve come across. It works on your iPhone, your Android device and also can handle data from your Garmin. If you cycle and want to track your training, and see how you compare against yourself and others- grab this now. It’s free, although if you love it, I’d recommend you upgrade to their Premium service. Available on iOSand Android.

Wikinvest
I have an account with Etrade – logging into their mobile app is a pain. Wikinvest lets me keep an eye on my portfolio and the news- all protected with an easy to use 4-digit pin code. Available on iOS and Android.

Livestrong – My Plate
Strava is a great place to track your cycling, and My Plate is a great place to track what you’re fueling yourself with. This is the best site I’ve found to get a good picture of what I’m eating – and has a large enough database to auto populate with what you’re eating – so you don’t have to enter too many details. Once you’ve used the app for a week, it understands what you normally eat, so those foods are right at your fingertips. It costs $2.99, but is worth it. Available on iOS and Android.

Money - Your sweetest accounting application

Money
Keeping a handle on your finances isn’t easy. Mint.com isn’t available in Europe, so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at – and testing- various financial applications. Money from Jumsoft is by far the best in my opinion. The apps are simple and well designed, and syncing between my iPhone and Mac desktop has been seamless. The apps aren’t cheap – but, I knowing where my money goes (I know, into these apps…). It also handles non-US currencies just fine (which is not always a given). Available on iOS and Mac OS X.

Gmail app (iOS)

I’m not 100% happy with the Gmail iPhone app, but I’ve been using it since launch and I will say I like it. A lot. A native app would be much better and more responsive, but the functionality offered by a Gmail app is fantastic. I do prefer the Gmail app over the native Mail app for managing my gmail account. Available on iOS and built into Android.

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, iOS, , ,

If you can’t take it with you, it’s not yours

I picked up an Android device earlier in the year – I’ve been watching the platform and app ecosystem develop, and decided it was time to make the jump…

That’s a huge deal for me, the Apple Fan Boy, bought a non-Apple piece of hardware. Turns out, the hardware switch wasn’t as critical as the software switch. And I don’t mean the OS.

I stopped buying any content from Apple a long time ago. Sure, I used iBooks to test it out, but that’s all. No Apple content lived on my iPhone. When you buy digital content from Apple, you don’t actually own it, so getting your iTunes library, iBooks library, etc onto an Android device is a no go.

Having options (for portability) is very important; owning your data (or content) is more important. And, as we all know, if you can’t take something with you, it’s not yours…

In many ways, I now care less and less about owing content, and more about content portability, or more importantly accessibility. Cloud services like Spotify and We7 have made my music life so much easier. Password = Music. What could be easier?

Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader is all about accessibility (and circumnavigating the 30% Apple App Store tax). Via Amazon’s Cloud Reader, Password = Book Collection. On my iPhone, iPad, Android and Desktop. Easy.

Photos are slightly better than purchased content, but Apple still makes your life difficult. Photos on your photo roll in iOS will live there (mostly) thanks to restrictions by Apple. The new iCloud sync means they get backed up, but online access/sharing would be better. Password=Camera roll restore, which great, but… for Android, Lightbox is pioneering the way with an awesome “connected photo roll”. Lose your phone, log back in, and all your pictures are there.  And there’s a great online gallery where you can edit and share, so Password = Photos. Easy.

Everything else I use lives in the cloud anyway…  which I can get ubiquitous access to. The implication there is, data security will mean everything in the future. Both Google and Facebook (!!) will allow you to export and backup the data you’ve stored with them. Definitely a good alternative if you’re storing all your pictures and memories online.  Look for a future post  on data security-“it’s 4am, do you know where your data is?”.

Filed under: Android, Apple, iPhone, Mobile, Music, Software, Technology

Neer- finding your friends

Public disclosure before this post even begins: I work for Qualcomm, and Neer has been developed by Qualcomm Services Labs.

Qualcomm has launched a new app on Android called Neer, which I think is pretty cool… I posted a few years ago that the future of the internet was about privacy-  and Neer delivers exactly that.

Think of Neer as the Anti-fourquare (soundbite thanks to TechCrunch). With Neer, you establish locations that are relvant to you: Work, Home, Gym, Park-  or whatever- and then Neer updates your contacts when you enter and leave those locations. You get updates when your contacts do the same…

It takes away the constant pinging associated with Fourquare and the creepiness of Google Lattitude. For me, I’d love to be able to glance at my phone and see where my friends and family are at any given time. Of course, this built for real friends (and family)- the ones you invite over for dinner; not the 2,300 people that follow you on twitter or foursquare, etc.

If you’ve got an Android phone, go download Neer; if you’ve got an iPhone, apparently an iOS app will be available soon.

Filed under: Android

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