Netflix, for one, offers an app for Windows Phone and for the iPhone, but not for Android. Why? Windows and the iPhone offer a common security platform across their devices, meaning that Netflix can develop a single app for all models. Because Android is implemented in so many different ways, however, Netflix has been forced to create specific versions for each phone, which has slowed down its Android development.
- Farhad Manjoo, Zune: The Phone?
I still see Windows Phone 7 as an appealing platform for developers, if the reach is there. It’s a big and complicated “if” because even with all the advertising dollars spent, the distribution is still absent. In fact, I don’t know a single person that isn’t a developer who has a WP 7.
Providing a strong development platform only matters inasmuch as there being a strong financial incentive to develop for it. And for that to happen, WP 7 devices need to be in many more pockets.
“We’ve been in a crazy, experimental overload period with online social media for the last two or three years — but I think people are now beginning to figure out a more balanced role these tools play in their lives,” he said. “A lot of people I know are reaching that inflection point with social tools.”
- Clive Thompson
Nick Bilton had a nice thought earlier this month—One Step Back From the Digital World—that included some anecdotes about how we, as a society, are adopting to our hyper-connected world. I saw the writing on the wall (not the Facebook but the proverbial one) quite some time ago but we’ve come so far since that time, especially with the advancements in mobile devices and mobile software these last few years.
What I found interesting about this particular quote is that we sometimes forget we’re still at the beginning of our always-on existence. We really don’t know how hyper-connectivity is affecting us, we can only surmise. While perhaps not knowing exactly how it’s changing us, there’s at least an admission that there indeed is an affect…and a desire to reduce it.
There’s been a new trend with iPhone apps to use more sophisticated custom tab bars. In case you don’t know what a “tab bar” is, it’s historically been the black bar at the bottom of the screen, which provides the main navigation for the iPhone app. Apple is fairly specific about the functionality of a tab bar and provides the following specifications in the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines:
A tab bar gives users the ability to switch among different modes or views in an application, and users should be able to access these modes from everywhere in the application. However, a tab bar should never be used as a toolbar, which contains buttons that act on elements in the current mode (see “Toolbars” for more information on toolbars).
So, what makes a tab bar custom? There’s no exact definition but generally, it’s anything that veers outside this description or clearly tries to reinvent the standard tab bar implementation available in most iPhone apps. Let’s take a look at some of the latest trends and see what we can learn from them:
One of the more elegant custom tab bars is in the extremely polished and fun Airbnb app, which provides a marketplace for homestay. According to Andrew Vilcsak, Airbnb’s mobile platform lead and the iPhone developer who brought it to the App Store, it took five months to build the app and “hundreds of hours of work” to build the custom tab bar.
Differentiators: Textured background, tab selected indicator, icon inactive state
Glassshouse Apps’ Gift Plan also showcases a unique custom tab bar. As Milind Alvares notes, they “remixed [the tab bar] into a scrolling ticker.” In the initial release, tapping a tab would move it to the center. It’s obvious Milind was not a fan of this functionality and it’s no wonder that it was made optional in version 1.1.
Differentiators: Sliding tab selected indicator, tab bar height, icon active state coloring
While both apps have custom tab bars, each are still familiar to users, keeping the somewhat standard blue highlight for the icon active state when the tab is selected. This provides a nice balance of being innovative yet familiar, adhering to Apple’s guidelines. But then we have…
Instagram, Path, and Gowalla
Instagram and Path are two of the hottest apps in the App Store, focused on new ways to do photo sharing. Gowalla has been around for quite some time but recently launched Gowalla 3, which supports multiple check-in’s and an overall, slick new design for its iPhone app.
All of these apps do something distinct, following Instagram’s lead: they place buttons in the middle of the tab bar. Now, this seeming no-no has gone over fine with Apple, who rewarded both Instagram and Path with the title of, “App of the Week” in their short histories. But it leads one to wonder, will they revise the guidelines, which reads, “However, a tab bar should never be used as a toolbar, which contains buttons that act on elements in the current mode.”
Above: Instagram, Path, and Gowalla
Surely, Apple offers guidelines only. So, despite not following them in this case, Instagram’s button in the tab bar is likely here to stay. Although I disagree with that particular choice, in general, I’m happy to see this type of innovation occurring on the iPhone. For quite some time UX, UI, and design experimentation on the iPhone has appeared absent. If Instagram brought us anything, it was to try new things again…and for that, it’s a welcome disagreement.
Last week I got a Nexus S to replace the Nexus One that I have been using for the past year. I love my Nexus One and was hesitant to replace it but the Nexus S looks like the exact same phone, just better, so I went for it.
In general, he likes the upgrade. But my first read of it was that it seems like the Nexus S only offers marginal improvements. Coming back to it today, the collective marginal improvements appear to make the Nexus S a decent upgrade. That seems strange though for this being the new flagship “pure Google experience” device.
Over the weekend, I chatted with a Best Buy rep about the Nexus S. He said many are looking at it but few are buying it. I was thinking about upgrading my Nexus One but reviews like Fred’s make it less compelling. In any case, if you are thinking Android is your operating system, it’s still your best bet.
With no iPhone to offer customers, Verizon has turned largely to Google Android smartphones. On the surface, that strategy has paid off as Verizon continues to hold the top spot for mobile subscribers in the U.S., although AT&T is nipping on its heels. But detailed data showing Verizon’s smartphone sales surfaced this weekend, and if the information is accurate, paints a different picture: Verizon needs Apple’s iPhone, or else it risks losing its biggest carrier status.
Asymco’s Horace Dediu took the sales data a step further by comparing Verizon’s smartphone sales against those of AT&T’s iPhone. Assuming the ITG data is correct, Verizon’s strategy to offer several Android phones actually hasn’t competed well: add up the total number of Android phones Verizon has sold in the last few quarters and AT&T has still sold more iPhones. Even with a multi-device strategy based around Google Android, Verizon is losing sales ground to a device on a single platform.
In all likelihood, Verizon will indeed get the iPhone some time in early 2011. So, while these numbers are troubling right now, the tide could quickly turn when the iPhone is launched.
Whereas Verizon has invested in Android, AT&T really hasn’t. Although the network issues are not quite at the same fever pitch as they use to be, AT&T’s single defining phone will then be available on its biggest competitor. These numbers indicate that they won’t necessarily have an incentive to invest in Android but there aren’t many other options.
Overall, these numbers reveal that 2011 could be a tough year for AT&T, should Verizon finally get the iPhone. That would especially be true if it were an iPhone that also happened to run on a 4G network.
Could it be that the new jailbreaking process then, instead of making phones less secure, would actually improve their security protections? That’s certainly what it sounds like: “With ASLR, an exploit mitigation is added that is not available in factory iPhones and makes exploitation more difficult,” reads the session and speaker bio on the conference website. And it won’t end there. “This is only the first step,” the description reads, “more mitigations and a full reactivation of the codesigning protection are planed for the next months.”
It’s a thought that demands a pause. Stefan Esser will prevent this “more secure jailbreak” on December 14th, introducing a new tool called “antid0te.” Overlooking the jailbreak iOS community means ignoring some of the more cutting edge innovations happening. I can guarantee you that Apple’s paying attention.
In-between the launch of App Savvy, talks, interviews, and some very exciting client work, I’ve been tinkering in the workshop. I’m going to write much more about the making and motivation of my latest app—Rise Alarm—but for now, go check it out. It has a very unique experience, with the interface being driven by swipes. It also just so happens to be the most beautiful alarm clock on the App Store. I’m finally satisfied with a fun, quality alarm app that works 100% of the time (yeah, local notifications!).
By the way, there are also a couple of fun video trailers. The one currently featured on the homepage showcases the iPad version (part of Rise Alarm Universal) and an original song by my bud Liam McDonald (a talented yet undiscovered singer/songwriter). I could definitely hear this song in an Apple commercial. The original iPhone trailer is also still available and has a completely different style. At the end of it, you can hear the “Glow” alarm sound. Great alarm sounds are also a major part of what makes Rise Alarm different than other options.
Don’t take my word for it? Check out this initial glowing review on MacStories.