Why Android desperately needs a billion dollar success story (@andrewchen)

But a critical component, of having more apps, isn’t there. Remember how there was always some key games that’d run on Windows that wouldn’t exist on Mac? Or how there were a bunch of business applications that would only run on Windows? That meant that the Windows platform had the virtuous cycle between developers and users to drive total domination.

But Android is not Windows. When you look at the current mobile ecosystem, iPhone has more apps. It has better apps. It gets the designery, well-funded startups to build iPhone-first. Consumers and developers, together, will continue to choose the iPhone until that network effect is broken.

Huawei boss says Tizen has ‘no chance’ of success (@engadget)

According to the executive, unnamed mobile networks had asked Huawei to make Tizen smartphones, but Yu feels that the platform has “no chance to be successful.”

That leaves the company with Android as the only thing its handsets can run, and when asked about this potential over-reliance on Google, Yu admitted that he’s concerned, but has “no choice.”

Can you really argue against that? Every Android OEM from Samsung on down is in this situation.

iOS First. Android Much, Much Later (@semil)

Product-market fit is elusive in general, and acutely so on mobile, where distribution pipes are either constrained or flooded. I’m seeing too many teams building for Android too early. Unless there is a huge foundation under the iOS apps, building for Android is likely only to result in a few spikes in user growth and then a lifetime of hair pulling — too much for a small startup to handle. 

This is going to upset Android loyalists but but I think Semil’s right here. For most SV startups and those targeting primarily a Western audience, this is all true. You can always start with a baseline of iOS users and then scale from there, even if it’s a social/communications app which, at scale, you anticipate having say about 75% of your users running Android. The only exceptions to this might be localized apps that are targeting a developing market in particular, in which case the amount of iOS users will be so small as to be meaningless for testing purposes.

Blur: A Launcher Replacement That Turns Apps Into Google Now-Style Homescreen Pages (@androidpolice)

Developer Klinker Apps, the folks behind the Talon Twitter client and the EvolveSMS messaging app, have just released Blur, a free launcher replacement that takes the approach introduced by the Google Now Launcher and opens it up to other apps. With Blur, any app that adds on support for the launcher can have its own dedicated page that rests right on a person’s homescreen. In practice, this means users can swipe to the left to access their Twitter feed, text messages, a basic calculator, or a dedicated Google Now page that the Klinker brothers MacGyvered to imitate the GNL. More pages are hopefully on the way.

This is something that, as an iOS user, I can genuinely point to as a moment of jealousy with respect to Android. Having the ability to replace the home screen with some kind of swipe-able selection menu, without jailbreaking, sounds fantastic. The whole process of endlessly having to press the home button, find the app etc. gets old after a while and some kind of one-swipe solution to alleviate that would be amazing. The fact that Android gives you the ability to customize these launchers to your satisfaction is at least one advantage it has over iOS, IMO.

Samsung brings Tizen to original Gear smartwatch (@cnet)

Samsung on Monday said it’s now offering owners of the original Galaxy Gear the choice to switch over the smartwatch’s operating system to the company’s own Tizen software from Google’s Android. While the change is optional, the switch conveys the South Korean company’s interests in bolstering Tizen so it can reduce its dependence on Android.

I’m sure Google is super happy about this.

Android Wear: Nice to have, but not a must-have yet (@gigaom)

Android Wear solves the “2-foot problem,” if there is such a thing. Everything the watches do can be done with the smartphone that’s just two feet away from your wrist and in your pocket. For that reason, the devices right now are more of a convenience than a necessity.

On Google’s Design of the “Roboto” Font for Android (@nymag)

Nice piece on the evolution of Google’s typeface philosophy for Android and the latest changes to Roboto. Lots of font nerdery (with visuals!) for those of you into that kind of thing. Even if you’re not, it’s an interesting question to ponder: one of many problems that Android’s fractionalization represents.

Unbundling innovation: Samsung, PCs and China (@benedictevans)

But what’s happened for PCs and smartphones and, to a large extent, mobile networks is that it’s that top layer of the stack, that the PC and Android OEMs  and operators struggle to play in, that’s where most of the differentiation happens. That’s the stuff that makes the difference between a commodity and something unique. This is obviously something of a wrench. After all, especially for the phone companies and mobile operators, this is what they always felt they should be doing, and now other people are doing it instead, free-riding on top of their work and their investment. 

Dear Google: don’t screw up Android (@verge)

Even with the lingering high reputations of Nokia and BlackBerry in the country, the new Google phone is attracting buyers with a superior user experience and broader ecosystem. Whereas previously the manifestation of Android in developing markets might have been some Gingerbread monstrosity defaulting to Baidu as its main search engine, Google can now offer its finest software across the widest price range ever.

The death of the featurephone in the UK – and what’s next (@guardian)

It’s true: that’s what has happened. In the UK (and US, and other countries), smartphones are approaching “saturation” – the point where there are no new users to be converted to using them. But when is saturation going to occur? And how many people will it involve? Thanks to data shared exclusively with the Guardian by Kantar ComTech, we can look at how the proportion of people with smartphones has grown over time – and make some predictions about when, and at what level, “saturation” will be reached.

Invaluable (@asymco)

Horace Dediu:

To earn profit is hard, to do so in an outsized way is very hard and to do so with consistency shows a defensibility of market access that is rarest of all. The only cases where this typical is in a monopoly or protected market situation (aka cronyism.) Apple’s lack of market monopoly coupled with a (near-) monopoly in profits can only be explained by disproportionate value creation.

And as long as that value creation continues, I can’t see market share of the smartphone market as a whole being something that concerns Apple, even if Android continues taking a larger and larger share. (they very likely will)

Cards, code and wearables (@benedictevans)

This question of where the code lives also of course applies to TVs and to cars as much as to wearables. With AppleTV and Chromecast and Carplay, Apple and Google are saying that though everything is becoming a computer, actually the ‘smart’ part should be concentrated in the smartphone or tablet – something that’s easy to update, that’s replaced every couple of years, and that has a rich touch interface, and everything else should be a dumb sensor or dumb glass or both. And so the apps should only be in one place, and whether it should be an ‘app’ in a strictly technical sense is also up for debate.

Hangouts and SMS (@fredwilson)

From day one of using Hangouts as my default SMS app on Android, I have been unhappy. Hangouts is a slow and clunky mobile app. That’s the antithesis of what an SMS app should be. Its unclear how to do all sorts of things in Hangouts like find a contact and send a message. And I’m always finding myself being pushed to do a Hangout when all I want to do is send a text.

The Framily Cloud (@benbajarin)

While this is the most elegant solution I have used to date to solve this problem it still feels like a wireless version of sneaker net. Ideally, a friends and family network will not just have a better way to share media, but also to collaborate on it. There are still walls between my ecosystem and the ecosystem of others. This is true of iOS ecosystems as well as Android ecosystems. Yet there are very good reasons to let my cloud ecosystem work more closely with my family and friends ecosystems.

No, Google’s Sundar Pichai Didn’t Say Android’s Openness Makes It Less Insecure (@techcrunch)

From TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm:

A local site quoted Pichai as indicating that Google’s Android operating system was, to quote one reblog of the comments, “not designed to be safe, it was designed to be open.” Naturally, something of that nature caused a stir. Google admitting that Android is inherently insecure due to its core tenet of openness?

Unsurprisingly, that’s not what Pichai actually said. In fact, he made the opposite point, arguing that Android’s openness actually makes it more secure, not less.

An English-transcript from Google follows.

Of course that doesn’t mean Android’s fragmentation doesn’t present issues, particularly with OEMs who ship some new phones with previous versions of the OS. Sounds like the desktop world, doesn’t it?

And finally, Pichai discussed why Android might be a larger target for abuse. Studies have indicated that something akin to 99.8 percent of mobile malware targets Android. This matters as Android now occupies in a great many ways the old market position that Windows held onto for decades, that of being the defacto platform in terms of unit volume.

Samsung Galaxy S5 to Include Home Button with Integrated Fingerprint Sensor (@macrumors)

Samsung’s upcoming flagship device, the Galaxy S5, will indeed ship with a fingerprint sensor, reports Samsung-focused blog SamMobile. Contrary to earlier reports which hinted at a fingerprint sensor embedded into the display, however, this latest report claims the Galaxy S5 will adopt Apple’s model by integrating the sensor into the home button.

Requires a swipe as opposed to Apple’s TouchID but essentially the same use case.

Secret Ties in Google’s “Open” Android (@bgedelman)

Not quite as open as you may have been lead to believe.

“Devices may only be distributed if all Google Applications [listed elsewhere in the agreement] … are pre-installed on the Device.” See MADA section 2.1.

The phone manufacturer must “preload all Google Applications approved in the applicable Territory … on each device.” See MADA section 3.4(1).

The phone manufacturer must place “Google’s Search and the Android Market Client icon [Google Play] … at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen,” with “all other Google Applications … no more than one level below the Phone Top.” SeeMADA Section 3.4(2)-(3).

The phone manufacturer must set “Google Search … as the default search provider for all Web search access points.” See MADA Section 3.4(4).

Google’s Network Location Provider service must be preloaded and the default. See MADA Section 3.8(c).

In other words, apps are bundled together and Android OEMs (and in turn, consumers) have no choice but to accept the entire bundle, the way Google wants it presented on the screen or they lose all of Google’s services.

Gee, that wouldn’t sound just like the cable companies foisting bundles of channels nobody wants on consumers, right? Nah.

Edit: Kevin Tofel of GigaOM wrote this piece as a retort:

Much as Google licenses its mobile apps, Microsoft licenses Windows and Windows Phone. Companies pay Microsoft to put this software on their devices. And Microsoft has minimum requirements for each, just as Google does.

Why does Microsoft do this? For the same general reason that Google does: To create a minimum common hardware denominator that guarantees a certain user experience. If Microsoft were to let budget handset makers put Windows Phone on junk hardware, it would make Windows Phone itself look like junk.

Hardware standardization is one thing. Forcing the entire Google app bundle (the way they want, with preferential screen real estate) as a condition for running Android or ANY of Google services is a little bit different. It’s been done before, of course. But nobody could realistically argue that it’s preferential for the consumer.

Hypocrisy From Google on International Android Apps Offering Alternative Payment Options?

From Goran Kukurin, an independent app developer (via Hacker News):

I wanted to share with you my story, maybe it will help somebody to prevent removal of your app by Google, without any notice, from Google Play.

The official reason was a violation of a developer distribution agreement – we have offered to our users a possibility to remove ads by buying a registration code via PayPal. Buying Ad-free version via Google play store was not possible, because our country is not on the list of supported locations for merchants which are allowed to sell paid applications on Google store. What was most confusing to me is that a similar buying process (purchasing the registration code outside of Google play) uses one very popular app on Google Play. That app is marked as “editor’s choice” and “top developer”.

The rulings are arbitrary and apparently hypocritical. And no right of recourse or support for developers from Google on ways to suggest the issue, alternatives etc. Just proclamations via e-mail.

h/t Hacker News

Hypercube: Re-Inventing the Android Home Screen (@hyprcb)

c/o Hypercube

Obviously, there are lots of people trying to do this for Android. But if anything else, just read their blog (Tumblr) posts, particularly if you touch UX in any way on a founding team. Fascinating insights into what it takes to re-imagine a mobile UI from the ground up. They even built their own smartphone prototype using an Arduino board and some other parts. Watching them iterate in almost-real time is a treat. More startups should give people a peek under the hood like this.