August 22, 2010 A smartphone retrospective

This is what high-end smartphones looked like in 2007:

Smartphones were an established consumer-electronics market with devices that people thought were pretty cool, but often frustrating and with serious shortcomings and design flaws.

Then this happened:

Other manufacturers had…

November 30, 2009
A Guide to Mobile Web Design Tips and Tricks

A very handy article listing many mobile development resources. They vary from beginner to advanced so you are likely to find something appropriate. I have used many of the resources myself in the past to learn more about creating mobile websites; UI/architechture, best practices, design, buildout, testing etc. It is important if you want to make a usable mobile version of your website that you do some research as converting to mobile is not at all as simple as removing images and making everything list vertically.

November 20, 2009
Google News Revamps Mobile Site for iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre Users

Google News Revamps Mobile Site for iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre Users

November 18, 2009
RealWire | GoPayforit Launches Mobile, Small Payments Service in the UK

Worth keeping an eye out for this one.

November 18, 2009
**Yahoo Shuts Down Yahoo Go; Will Continue Building Smartphone Apps **

"Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) will shut down its four-year-old Yahoo Go service at the beginning of next year, so that it focus on building services in the browser and applications for high-end smartphones, like the iPhone and Android…"

Read the whole article on  Moconews

**Yahoo Shuts Down Yahoo Go; Will Continue Building Smartphone Apps **

"Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) will shut down its four-year-old Yahoo Go service at the beginning of next year, so that it focus on building services in the browser and applications for high-end smartphones, like the iPhone and Android…"

Read the whole article on Moconews

November 13, 2009
The Palm Pixie

The Palm Pixie

November 13, 2009
Artists Will Define Mobile Entertainment, Not The Folks In Suits | mocoNews

"In mobile, the potential of the medium was first teased with the ringtone (a legit consumer phenomenon) and now again with the App Store…but these are still early stages of what Sarkar characterized as Alien (as in the movie) Evolution…" -Sam Sarkar, a senior exec for Infinitum Nihil, Johnny Depp’s production company

November 9, 2009
iPhone Superguide comes to the App Store... eventually


Jason Snell at Macworld had a sad but unsurprising amount of trouble getting their app approved that contained “iPhone” in the title and a photo of an iPhone in the icon. (Mentioning or depicting the iPhone at all is problematic.) I’ll steal the same quote as Gruber:

He also said something that really irked me. He suggested — again, perfectly politely — that if we had a problem with our app rejection, we should just reply to the rejection, because app reviewers pay attention and respond to complaints. I had to explain to him that we had entered into a back-and-forth with our reviewer. It just hadn’t helped — it was like talking to a brick wall.

I haven’t written about the App Store for a while, mostly because there’s not much more to say these days. Very little has changed.

Average app review delays are getting longer, exacerbating nearly every problem. The rankings are still gamed like crazy using tricks that Apple can easily prevent, the store is still a technical embarrassment, reviewers are still brick walls, and good apps by good people still get rejected for arbitrary reasons with zero recourse.

App review is broken, and it will never be fixed.

It can’t be. If Apple is reviewing apps, they can be held liable — by both the law and angry people — if something bad makes it into the store. They need to err on the side of caution and make sure everything that gets into the store is extremely unlikely to cause legal, PR, or trademark problems. (Developer complaints are very tiny, isolated PR problems. Baby Shaker was a huge PR problem.) Apple must review apps for the iTunes Store.

And as long as they’re reviewing every app, they’re going to keep causing these problems. It can’t be done well. (Especially by secretive, hostile, paranoid Apple, of all companies.)

There’s only one solution to this, except the frustrating status quo: To allow developers to bypass the iTunes Store by enabling external app installation.

If you want to be in the iTunes Store, with all of that free exposure and publicity (…we’ll just pretend that it actually happens for most people), you go through the app review process and deal with all of its associated bullshit. To many developers, this will be worthwhile. (I’d still do it.) Apple would still get their commission on any sales from the Store, and this would still represent the vast majority of sales for most apps.

But there would be another way to get your app onto people’s phones: allowing them to download the app’s .IPA file from your website and drag it into iTunes, the same way they can import external music and movie files. In that environment, you’re on your own for payment processing, piracy control, and installation support, just like desktop software, but you bypass App Review entirely. You can develop any kind of software and update it whenever you’d like, but you can’t use in-app purchase. The iPhone OS enforces the same technical restrictions as it does today to prevent apps from running in the background or reading private data. You get no free promotion, but you get to keep whatever portion of that 30% commission is left after your hosting and payment-processing fees.

The upside for Apple: No more bad press about bad rejections (or bad approvals). Remove one of the Droid’s highly publicized advantages. Stay off the radar of the FCC (and maybe DoJ). Keep developers happier, get better apps, and strengthen the entire platform.

The downside for Apple: Less commission revenue and less control.

And therefore, despite all of the advantages, it will never happen.

November 3, 2009
Nokia saddens N-Gage fans.

Nokia discontinues N-Gage and announces the Ovi Store.

November 2, 2009
AT&T vs Verizon coverage



Working at Tumblr, I’m the only person in the office without an iPhone.  I own a BlackBerry Curve 8300 and it’s a perfectly fine phone, but its features are incomparable to those of the iPhone.  The only thing keeping me on it is Verizon.  Unlike everyone else here, I get reception at work.  I also get reception everywhere in NYC.  Hell, I get reception virtually everywhere I go.  They don’t, and they probably never will as long as they remain on AT&T (at least in the NYC region).

I was a loyal Verizon customer before moving to the iPhone in late 2007. I frequently travel to the fringes of cellular reception areas, including many areas with zero coverage from any carrier. I’ve found:

  1. AT&T isn’t as bad as many people think.
  2. Verizon isn’t as good as many people think.

Often, I’d be in the car with my iPhone and Tiff’s Verizon phone on a long trip. I found that, in various travels through extremely rural New York and Pennsylvania, neither Verizon nor AT&T had noticeably better coverage. Usually, either both or neither would work. Occasionally, the Verizon phone would work and the AT&T phone wouldn’t, but the opposite was true just as frequently.

New York City’s population density and abundance of huge metal buildings is challenging for any popular cellular network. It’s not a question of adding more towers — the problem is likely to be that there are so many towers to provide the necessary capacity that they overlap too much and interfere with each other. The bands are full. We’re saturated.

AT&T’s data network is definitely slow and congested here. So is Verizon’s voice network. I dropped plenty of voice calls on Verizon, and frequently had trouble placing or receiving calls even with full “bars” — the telltale sign of CDMA tower congestion. Tiff had the same problem, so I know it wasn’t just my phone. I also used two different Verizon phones in New York — one, the E815, known for having amazing reception — before switching to the iPhone. And I’m still a Verizon customer for my EVDO USB stick.

AT&T already expanded capacity onto the 850 MHz band in some big metro areas over the last few months. It helped, I think, but not enough to beat Verizon’s wide-open data speeds. But when Verizon finally gets some smartphones that normal people will actually want to use for mobile web browsing and music streaming, their network will buckle under the same pressure. In that way, it’s actually in Verizon’s customers’ best interests that the Droid doesn’t sell very well.

Due to the congestion, neither carrier is particularly good or reliable for voice. But today, Verizon is much better for data in Manhattan than AT&T.

The fastest and most reliable network in Manhattan for both voice and data is actually Sprint, because it has a very advanced EVDO deployment that’s used by almost nobody, relative to Verizon or AT&T, and therefore suffers none of the congestion problems. But Sprint has its own problems: in addition to mediocre device selection, the coverage isn’t as good as Verizon or AT&T. First-party tower preference kills most of the advantage of being able to roam onto Verizon’s network.

So it comes down to your needs. For me, my phone is a personal computer most of the time, and it’s occasionally used to make or receive phone calls. Most data is downloaded over WiFi, with occasional small transfers over the cellular network. Network flakiness hurts me less than device flakiness. For me, therefore, the device is much more important than the network, because I’m using the device much more than I’m using the network.

If you make a lot of phone calls, use a ton of cellular data, or frequently travel to Vermont, and will accept more shortcomings and limitations in your device to ensure the use of a better data network, you should consider Verizon. But if your phone is more of a pocket computer than a mobile telephone, the iPhone is the only way to go.