Why is Android Still the Second Platform Developers Work On?

“On a Galaxy S4 with Samsung’s Multi-Window feature enabled, Emu’s popup windows are squished by the keyboard. This doesn’t happen on the Galaxy S4 sold by Google, without Samsung’s software modifications; or with the Multi-Window feature on the Galaxy S3. We’ve investigated, but because it relates to Samsung-specific functionality, we probably can’t fix it without direct cooperation from them.”

and…

“On some Galaxy Nexus phones, when you’re listening to Pandora and get a notification sound from Emu, Pandora’s volume drops. This doesn’t happen with other apps’ notifications, nor does it happen with streaming apps other than Pandora, nor does it happen on any other device.”

This is what you get for all that flexibility that you try to achieve in coming up with different shapes and sizes. 

However if this was the route Google was going from the beginning, it made sense they came up with someone kind of framework like iOS's Autolayout where you design your app in a universal mode and it works on your iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, 6, 6+ and your iPad Mini and iPad.  

This is such a fascinating read. 

Deep linking & search in iOS 9 will change everything

In iOS 9, apps are cohesively linked together via deep links and the experience feels magical.

I can't wait for this feature. Also, when I tested this out on iOS 9; I was amazed that Apple changed the animation for this feature. It is no longer a circular swap; but a simple slide over.

Apple calls this Universal Deep Linking. It will have a profound impact on the iOS ecosystem and more importantly on mobile search.

No doubt about it. And this brings me to search. 

While it’s great that apps can link to each other in a way that we’re all used to, via web links, what’s more important is the implication of deep linking on mobile search. At the moment, any blue link you tap, whether on Google Search App for iOS or Google.com, is mostly web content that Google has crawled. But we live in an age where a large chunk of interesting content also lives inside of apps, completely inaccessible to Google or anyone else for that matter.
This week, Apple laid out a set of powerful APIs that are intended to solve this problem. The first API lets an application developer tell iOS about her content. The developer specifies the content, the keywords associated with that content, and a deep link to that content. Once she does that, iOS indexes the content and gets it ready for a potential search by a user.

This is big. With this feature on iOS, I could simple type what I'm looking for and it will show me the results in the app (of course it is up to the developers to build this). No more Google search and no more thinking will this app have their content on web so that it is indexed. Wonder what will this do to SEO. Will there be another world of simplifying stuff so that it shows up in search? Guess we will have to wait and watch.

Oh and with this the original 0 screen is back :)

iPhone the 800 lbs Gorilla

Apple sold 346 Million iPhones worth $214 Billion in the past two years. At the same time, Apple sold 36 Million Macs worth $46 Billion and 138 Million iPads worth $61 Billion. That means the combined sale of Macs and iPad is still half of what the iPhone brings in for Apple.

Apple Computers Inc.

Here is a great article by Jason Snell on SixColors.com and this quote stands out for me in the article:

I believe Apple is truly a company that is always looking at the big picture, I really do. The iPhone and iPad and Mac all work together, using iTunes and iCloud and even Apple Pay as infrastructure, in a harmonious way. But at the same time, it’s hard not to look at the size of Apple’s iPhone business and wonder how the success of the iPhone affects Apple’s decision-making.

Apple did have a great quarter, one of the best among any company in the world and just to iterate what that means here is a beautiful article by M.G. Siegler - Apple, The Oil Company?

Not to say that Apple is ignoring the other aspects of their business but the iPhone definitely stands out in that pie chart.  And it truly makes sense for Apple to concentrate on the iPhone, however I think Apple is now at a very comfortable position. A position where they can still concentrate on the iPhone and create new eco-systems around the iPhone. Samsung tried doing this and failed miserably with the Samsung Gear watch. But Apple instead of rushing into releasing a watch, took their time, have thought about the product and is now laughing after 2 generations of Samsung Gear watch. 

Another quote from Jason Snell’s article:

For the iPod to become a hit product, it had to connect to both Macs and PCs. Apple initially didn’t support the PC, then did so reluctantly (with third-party jukebox software), and finally did so through iTunes for Windows, which Steve Jobs famously likened to a glass of ice water to people in hell.
For the Apple Watch to become a hit product, it just needs to please a bunch of iPhone users. The iPhone market is large enough that the Apple Watch doesn’t need to stake out new ground for Apple, at least not yet. (I don’t think the Apple Watch will ever connect to Android devices, but it’s possible that one day the Watch might be such a device unto itself that it simply won’t care if you have a phone nearby, or what’s on it.) It’s going to be years, if ever, before the Apple Watch becomes a product that isn’t made for iPhone users.

In terms of eco-system, there is already Apple Pay which is amazing, Car Play has had good reviews and the Apple Watch is set to come out in April 2015 and then there are many more areas where Apple can go.

Apple TV could be the next hardware to be integrated with the iPhone. I don’t know if Apple would ever build a TV from scratch of will stick to the current model (box that connects to your TV), however if my Apple TV can understand gestures and voice input viola. Today my iPhone connects to my Apple TV but has very basic functionality. Why not handing off a TV show that I was watching on Netflix or Hulu on my iPhone/iPad to my TV when I want to. Why can’t I create and manage my queue on my iPhone or iPad and watch it later on Apple TV. Allow me to answer a phone call while watching TV when my phone isn’t close enough (I’m just lazy to get up and grab it). The possibilities are endless.

Home security - iPhone or iPad can be at the center of it. There are 3rd party apps that already do this. There are a ton of accessories that you can use it along side your iPhone or iPad to track your health, to take great pictures, to measure moisture, to take temperatures, etc.

The possibilities are endless.

Ever since I have owned an iPhone, if there is an accessory or gadget that works with my iPhone; thats half of my decision make done. The remaining depends on how good the product is, quality, aesthetics, integration etc.  And when Apple builds something, it takes care of all that.

I think the stronger & bigger that gorilla is, the better.

Microsoft Outlook for iOS - a job well done!

Acompli released an Outlook like app last year and Microsoft did not waste much of a time in snapping up this company. The result, Microsoft official Outlook for iOS app and in quick time.

Microsoft launched Office for iOS and Android sometime last year.  The lack of Outlook as an app was one of the issue that the company face and turns out, with Acompli, they managed to fill that annoying gap. 

After installing the app, it just feels like I'm using the Acompli app. For now it feels that Microsoft has just rebranded this app to Outlook, made a few updates and launched it. Most of the updates are integrations with Microsoft's own offerings (OneDrive is now available as an integration). Hopefully Microsoft continues to support Dropbox and Google Drive or other external cloud storage services in the future.

Microsoft's general manage of Office, told the Verge, "We have been and we'll continue to update the app weekly".

Some time back I wrote about the Acompli app while I was on the look out for a decent Calendar app. My feedback still stands the same for the Microsoft Outlook app, however after the rebranding, my perspective for the app changed. I'm looking at this app more from an email client perspective and less from a calendar app perspective. And so far as an email client, it does a great job and at the moment I can comfortably say its one of the best email clients for the iOS - yup, time to replace that slow and weird Gmail app on your phones.

I still continue to use Mailbox simply because I use this app on all my drives - iPhone, iPad, MacBook. With Microsoft Outlook available for all these platform as well, I'm still not sure about their Desktop app. I'm keeping my options open. 

With the launch of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft has been pushing its Office productivity software to iOS. There is a "preview" version for Android available for now and this only confirms that "iOS first" still holds true.

Google's New Chrome update is interesting...

I don't use Chrome browser at all. But I have it installed on my iPhone and MacBook - well its work related.

Every once in a while Chrome gets an update on my iPhone and I make it a point to check only if there have been new additions or changes to the browser. Today when I checked my App Store updates, Chrome was on the top of the list and the first update said "New look with Material Design bringing bold graphics, fluid motion and tactile surfaces". I had to check it out.

The one thing that struck me right away was the missing address bar. At first it put me off but then it made complete sense. Also, the title of this blog post has the word "interesting". I realized after using this browser for a few minutes that I was enter a search more often then entering entire URL addresses (I do that out of habit). Because now I wasn't tapping the address bar, but Google's search box. 

Google would like more people searching for websites then entering actual website addresses, because even though the search result will provide the website users intended to browse as the first result, chances are its a promotion. 

How Broken is Discovery on the App Store? This Broken

Marco Arment writes about search for apps in the AppStore:

Ged Maheux searched the App Store for “Twitter” and found Twitter clients ranked horribly below a bunch of spam and garbage apps, most having little to nothing to do with Twitter.
You can see similar ranking problems with almost any common search term. I searched earlier today for an iPad Instagram client — the iPad App Store search list for “Instagram” is just as spammy and unhelpful as this. I was only able to find what I was actually looking for by searching Google and asking people on Twitter.

And John Gruber Points out:

That this is still the case in 2014 is a worrisome sign.

Thoughts On iPad Sales

The great thing for consumers is that the iPad is built so well, people don’t feel the need to upgrade them as often. Apple also ensures the new iOS is compatible with a couple of generations of iPads and developers often do the same with their apps.

Absolutely! Apart from the Touch ID, I really haven’t felt the need to upgrade my iPad Air.

People treat their iPad purchases like they treat their computer purchases. They expect these devices to last longer and do more than an iPhone. In a lot of ways, it’s a bizarre thought because of the similarities of the devices, but I believe this is what’s happening.

Couldn’t agree more. I had the first generation of the iPad when it was launched in 2010.  I upgraded myself to the 3rd Generation when the retina screen came out and then to the iPad Air. The only reason I upgraded to iPad Air was because the demand for the iPad went up in my house when my son found it fascinating that he could touch stuff on a glass piece and things happened.

How Overcast asks for reviews

My strategy to get good App Store reviews is simple:
  1. Make an app good enough for some people to love it. By nature, you’ll lose some people along the way, but that’s OK: an app that strives to satisfy as many people as possible will usually only get people to kinda like it, not love it.
  2. Accumulate a huge surplus of goodwill from those customers with a combination of step 1, usefulness, delight, and adding more functionality over time.
  3. Make it easy to rate the app with a button that’s never annoying or in the way, like in the Settings screen.
Overcast barely “asks” for reviews at all — it simply includes this section in the Settings screen, and not even on top.

And I have given a good rating to Overcast. Great App. Great Service.

Why is an Eco-System important for User Experience?

Every couple of years I end up upgrading my phone (this year its the Apple’s iPhone 6). Often is the case that I have upgraded my phone in the store and for some god forsaken reason the store representatives would open the box and turn on the phone and set it up for me.

With an Android phone you have to be extremely careful with these store representatives.  They go through the setup wizard for you where many of the carrier services are enabled, which you have no idea about them.

This part of the upgrade I don’t like.  It just infuriates me.   Being a product designer, I like going through the complete experience - Opening the box to going through every detail until the battery warns me at the 20% mark. This is definitely a couple of hours.  Mind you these details are nothing but the same setup as my previous phone, but an upgrade would mean a chance to clean up my phone.  Remove the apps that I don’t want and set up, re-arrange the ones that “I think” I will use regularly.

This year was no different except for 3 details.

  1. I ordered my phone online and it was delivered to my doorstep on a Saturday morning for me to go over every single detail in peace.   
  2. It so happened that both me and my wife were up for an upgrade - so this time not one but two phones were being set up, at almost the same time.
  3. The most important detail - I spent about 3 hours setting up my phone before I retired; compared to my wife who was up and running in about 20 odd minutes. 

What the...!?

The reason I spend a long time setting up my phone is because I am going through all possible detail that I can lay my fingertip/thumb on.  This allows me to see if any defaults have changed, since with almost every upgrade comes a new OS (these days).  I check if there has been any major changes in the design patterns or any new entires in Settings.  Yes I do restore my phone from iCloud, so my data is there; intact with the “Others” section completely gone; however I still have to go and log into every single app that I use on my phone.  Many apps have integrated Facebook/Twitter login - so once I have logged into these applications in my settings, most of my apps are up and running (but not many).  Now with competition building up I have to enter my password about 5 - 6 times at least before all my apps are running.  

The iPhone comes with a bunch of apps however some of them I seldom use.  Some of the apps that I have replaced:

  1. iCloud; this does the restore as well; well I can’t really replace this but I do use other cloud services for a lot of other things.
  2. Mailbox has replaced my default mail - requires Dropbox login. 
  3. After a very long time I have gotten back to using my native Calendar app; however until then I had been using Fantastical Calendar.  The sad part is I did restore my data from iCloud and this does restore my calendars that I’m using on my Mac; however I have to login to each online account (Gmail, Work) to set up my other calendars.  
  4. Evernote; One Note and now Vesper replaces my notes application.  All of these requires a login.
  5. Wunderlist for reminders app - It requires me to login (although I have been thinking of moving back to the native Reminders app)
  6. Spotify & Pandora for music - requires login.
  7. Dropbox (for documents) & OneDrive (for pictures & videos) - requires login.  Although once I have logged into Dropbox, Mailbox just works.  But OneDrive does require login.
  8. YouTube - Well I have to use at least one Google service, which then logs me into every single google service.  
  9. Overcast replaces my podcast application - requires login.
  10. I use Manual for iPhone to replace my camera, however this does not require a login.  Its one of the best application that is seamlessly integrated with the photos app.  However, VSCO cam requires me to login.

Apart from this there are also a list of other applications requires me to login or at least use the Facebook/Twitter integration.  This is again about 5-6 application that require a separate login.  There are also many other apps that do require me to login, however I leave it until I have to use it.  Because by now I am completely exhausted going back and forth between 1Password and individual apps, copy-pasting my password.  Thank you “Touch ID”.

There it does take a few hours to set up my digital eco-system and ensure everything is in sync and harmony and I can enjoy my services and have information at my fingertips (almost every time).

In stark contrast, my wife is a true Apple Eco-system user.  All she does is enters her iCloud password when she is setting up her phone.  After the initial restore, she enters password for Gmail (that sets up her Google account) and Facebook and she is ready to use her phone.  

It took her 3 passwords (at most).

She has more apps compared to me, however most of the services she uses are integrated with Facebook or Google. She does not go through the ordeal of setting up different cloud services to do different things.  

This is when I realized - there aren’t many users like me.  However there is a huge population of users just like my wife.

Which eco-system is good?

There is a reason why I did not say which eco-system today is the best.  When talking about Eco-systems, three of them come to my mind: Apple, Google and Microsoft. 

Microsoft has a good enough eco-system if you are using a Microsoft Windows phone, but considering their market share, I would concentrate on the remaining two eco-systems that I have used; Apple and Google.

When Tim Cook was interviewed by Charlie Rose, there was a reason why Tim Cook mentioned Google as their arch-rival leaving out Samsung completely (Samsung’s last 3 quarters tells us a decent enough story). 

Google dominates almost every Hardware out there including Apple products.  Google’s Android is a smartphone OS, however that trend is changing and almost everything that connects to the internet and has an interaction runs a fork of Android - TV’s, Watches, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Home appliances specially after Google acquired Nest. 

Apple on the other hand continues to distant itself from Android.  A few years back, people said Android would crush iOS and that profits, apps, revenue and consumer would all go to Android.  Well there are more and more apps today that are iOS first and very soon moving towards iOS only.

Apple has been slow in catching up with features to match Android and there is a reason for this.  All these years they have been concentrating on building that eco-system. The more features Apple introduces fits in seamlessly with their eco-system.  Touch ID is a great example; I already have started hating my iPad Air. One of the ways an eco-system progresses is when developers can sell software and make money.  Without an ecosystem, the platform stops evolving rapidly - we learnt this from the Mac/PC war and now its very evident from the apps that we see on iPhone compared to Android.  The problem with Android isn’t market share, heck they have 80% of the market share; however Android first or Android only is still not a thing and is by far from being a reality.  Fragmentation takes a toll on Android today.  It used to be that anyone could fork Android and built their own stuff, however Google off late is making Android more exciting by putting stuff on Android; new features, new design, new interaction paradigm to take care of non-smartphone devices to name a few. They are now more serious about building that eco-system then ever.

Lets talk about mobile payment. Apple pay is years ahead of Google in every regard.  Sure Google was the first that came out with mobile payments, but it never took off.  I don’t remember anyone telling me or explaining me their experience with Google wallet, but with Apple Pay, I hear a story almost every day and its about a month old today. The potential of Apple Pay is mind-boggling. With Touch ID integrated, I can already imagine withdrawing cash (if required) from ATM’s or using it on Subways on my daily commute. 

NFC came to Android phones about 3 years back, but I haven’t seen a practical use case yet. Samsung implemented a feature where you could tap your phone with HomeSync and it would connect HomeSync with the same WiFi network.  Well HomeSync never took off and the ones that were out there, no one knew you could tap to connect WiFi.  Most users just took the traditional route of entering their WiFi passwords after connecting their phones to the device.

Android has everything that iOS has to offer; maybe even more; however the user experience isn’t.  

With iBeacons apple created a whole new market. Now the moment I am close to a Starbucks or near a movie theatre I get relevant app short cuts on my lock screen.  I won’t say its 100% accurate, but it works 9 out of 10 times.  The one odd time, I would want to use a different app, but its pretty accurate with the options. So instead of relying on my GPS and WiFi that drain battery, iBecons shows me intelligent shortcuts on my lock screen. Bluetooth LE, iBeacon, NFC - these short range technologies integrated in devices and ecosystem allow us to connect with the nearby world. 

Wearables - weather you like it or not; the next 5 years you would have an array of wearable options to choose from.  The smartphone war is definitely bringing new platforms to the market which will impact Apple’s and Google’s evolution.  Right now they use smartphone as a medium, very soon they would be their own standalone system which will certainly have its own space in the much larger Ecosystem that these companies are building. 

Ecosystem is not only about how devices are integrated with each other or how well they communicate with each other.  Personal preferences and how users interact with their devices is also part of it.  This could be data that you exchange or the data that you consume using these devices.  Google already knows who you are and to a certain extent they have a pretty good idea what your preferences are. How these personal preferences blend into the ecosystem is important.  Introducing a new gadget or discarding a gadget from this ecosystem should not affect me as a the user.  In fact this would basically give Google and Apple a very good idea of what new devices to introduce and what older devices to discard.