Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Widgets on Android: Simple, powerful and beautifully formed

Today I have Google Joy and more specifically Android Joy. I was reading the Android Developers Blog and the latest article was on the topic of Widgets.

I reached the end of the article and set about creating my own Android home screen widget. It had to go off to Twitter, retrieve the latest status update for @flashy1980, a colleague and good friend, then display it on my home screen. In a period of time less than or equal to 20 minutes I was wondering around the office with a slightly inane grin on my face, showing off my first Android widget.

Some say I'm biased, and I am, I really am, but I love Android. I'm off to play some more with the Widgets API now. Source code for Google's example Widget that I based mine on is here

NB: you need version 1.5 of the Android SDK to create widgets and they only run on a device with a 1.5 firmware. I've installed the 5.0.2Hr3 firmware from the Sapphire-Port-Dream project. Many thanks to @Haykuro for all his firmware efforts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The increasing complexity of mobile app stores, a developers view

Can manufacturers learn from the success of others, or do they always think they can do bigger and better? Apple innovated a beautifully simple end to end business model with a single piece of hardware running objective C apps. The genius of the iPhone app store is in its simplicity, 1 phone, 1 screen size, 1 feature set, 1 integrated way of purchasing and it was preinstalled on all devices from early on.

The second store to open up was the Android Market, it's based on the Apple model and is initially successful. It remains to be seen if this initially simple concept can stand up to the oncoming added complexity of new Android devices being launched with different hardware specs. Certainly Android developers will need to better consider screen resolution and whether a device has a 3D chip, a hardware keyboard, touchscreen or a trackball. It is all starting to get a little more complicated.

Then Blackberry joined the game. The Blackberry AppWorld is a trickier proposition for developers. There are 4 main different screen resolutions to worry about and the Storm of course is touchscreen while the other devices aren't, some have GPS some don't.

Nokia is now almost ready to go live with its offering. Looking at the Ovi store, it is a whole new level of complexity for the poor developer. For a start the uploads can be: Flash, Themes, Ringtones, WRT Widgets, Java apps or Symbian apps. Each of which work on some phones but not on others and for each type there are multiple screen resolutions, operating system varients, feature sets and signing requirements. On top of all of that the Ovi store isn't preinstalled on any devices yet, although the N97 is very likely to be the first.

From simple to complex in 4 steps. I hope no one else has an even more complicated model up their sleeves. What if Nokia had gone for an N97 only app store, pre-installed on all N97's from launch? A simple proposition that is easy to understand. Build up the base and then expand into a thriving environment on other devices. It remains to be seen if the Ovi store will attract the fanactical user base required to breathe life into it and motivate developers to get coding. Personally I think it will grow slowly and survive only due to being presintalled on a lot of high volume devices over the coming year, we shall see.