Tag Archives: android

Not so smart phones

The flood of new so-called smart watches continues. Some people seem to love theirs, others remain to be convinced.

Count me in with the unconvinced, though only because the current ones seem to be poorly conceived.

Marco Arment says:

Portability is critical to modern device usefulness, and there are only two classes that matter anymore: always with you, and not… Smartphones dominate always with you.

I think this gets to the heart of why the current range of devices — both those for sale and also those just announced at CES — just are not very compelling.

Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that most of them look awful.

Actually, no. Let’s not. You can’t sell a device for hundreds of pounds, one designed to sit on your wrist, replacing the only jewellery that many men wear, and make it look like a digital watch from 1981. I half expect the next smart watch to have a calculator keyboard on like the old Casios.

(For what it’s worth, I think new Pebbles are a big step forward over the original version. Unfortunately I like my super-thin Skagen so I’d still consider it a long way from acceptable.)

But yes, let’s assume the form-factor was more pleasing. Then it still doesn’t work. They’re not replacing anything. They’re accessories for an already expensive and always-with-you device. Sure, looking at your wrist is easier than getting your phone out of your pocket, but is it really that much easier? Is it several hundred pounds better? Is it worth the hit on you phones battery life and the inconvenience of yet another device to charge? I think most people will conclude, no.

So in summary, I think that smart watches have two main problems:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. They’re companion devices

The first is solvable with advancing technology and a degree of taste. The latter means that not every manufacturer will solve it but once the components become small enough putting them in an attractive case becomes possible.

Moore’s Law can partly solve the second point, too, but it’s not enough on its own. You’d also need changes in the way you interact with the device if it’s to be a full replacement for a smartphone.

I don’t think the answer to that is speech. Sure, Siri will get better, but there are places where you can’t or wouldn’t want to talk to your devices. And it would be hard to do an Android and get bigger and bigger screens — at least until we evolve to have bigger fore-arms.

Instead, I wonder if smart-watches are really a bit of a technological dead-end. If over time components tend smaller and smaller, then why stop at wrist watch size?

The other side of the equation is the smart phone. Is it really the best form-factor that we can possibly imagine? Do we use smart phones because they are the best place to put small computers, radios and piles of sensors?

Or put another way: if you could have the same functionality that’s currently in your smart phone in the form of a watch, would you take it? If you could take all that functionality and not even have to wear a watch, would you take it?

The smart phone is a great compromise. It’s small and with you most of the time. But you still have to carry it. You can still easily lose or drop it and break it.

Smart watches and Google Glass try to solve these problems but, as Marco says, they do so with some pretty serious draw-backs. The smartphone is better for most people right now but that won’t always be the case.

No Massive Google Play Privacy Issue

If you follow any iOS technology blogs you might have seen this recent scandal:

If you bought the app on Google Play (even if you cancelled the order) I have your email address, your suburb, and in many instances your full name.

This, they say, is bad because this is not what happens with Apple’s App Store.

However, I don’t think Google are doing anything weird here, and I say this as someone who is not a fan of Android. The commercial relationship between developers and Apple is different from the relationship between Google and developers ((Please let me know if I have any of this wrong. I don’t develop Android software but this is my understanding of how it all works.)).

In Apple’s case, the developer has a single customer (Apple). You licence your code to Apple and Apple sells your app. The end users relationship is with Apple, not the developer. You get royalties, much in the same way that you get royalties when you publish a book. I’m still waiting for my million dollar advance from Apple, but the principle is the same.

Google plays a different role. They’re just an intermediary. The customers buys the app directly from the developer (using Google Wallet). This is why the developer has access to email, location, etc.

Saying that this is a privacy issue is like paying for a latte with a credit card and complaining that Starbucks now has your Amex number and name. Of course they do.

There are always stories of disreputable restaurants skimming credit cards and defrauding consumers. The trick, insofar as there is one, is not to eat at those restaurants. Similarly, if you think a developer is likely to use your data in an underhand manner, don’t download their software. It’s that simple.

Should Google be more upfront about who gets what details? Possibly. It never hurts to be open and honest — dare I say, not evil — about privacy matters. But I don’t think what they’re doing is inherently bad.

My delicious.com bookmarks for January 10th through January 30th

My delicious.com bookmarks for April 12th through April 14th

  • Mobile Multitasking – "The new way is to rethink the fundamental deal for processes. In the old model, processes that have already been launched get priority — once running, they stay running. In the new model, the user’s intentions get priority. You press the home button, you’re going to see the home screen in a moment, whether the app that was running was ready to be closed or not. If you want to open another app, it’s going to open immediately, even if the system has to pull the plug on an app in the background to free enough RAM."
  • Please Make the iPhone Weather Application Location Aware – As per subject line…
  • iPhone OS 4 and Multitasking – What multitasking on the iPhone really means. It's all kind of moot for me anyway since I can't run OS4 on my first generation iPhone!