Nokia’s Lost Android Dream

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So it was a missed opportunity, and it is all in the news. Before Microsoft bought out Nokia, the latter had already been testing a slew of Android enabled phones with a dedicated eco-system similar to Amazon’s take on Android.

Looking back, I have to admit that I loved all the Symbian phones and two in particular were my personal faves, the Nokia 3660 and Nokia 6600. Now, we hear that Nokia might be no more, at least in Spirit, once Microsoft assumes control of the entity.

Before I got my iPhone, I had a N95—which I adored, and after that the Nokia 5800 before moving into iOS and Android. That said you could see how Nokia got it all wrong.

As much as I loved my phone, Nokia was destroyed by Elop, the CEO who abandoned all Symbian efforts and Meego initiatives for something he knows well…Windows Mobile.

What Went Wrong with Windows

When you are late to market, you sometimes have to pay to learn. And Microsoft is NOT  learning this one bit. For the record, Windows Mobile 8 & RT are significant departures from previous Windows Mobile OS systems. I once owned an O2 version of the XDA Mini. It didn’t work like a charm and faltered. Then I bought into the Samsung Omnia, a ridiculous Windows mobile OS killed it. Times were changing and Microsoft still didn’t get it right.

Windows Mobile 8 & RT with its slick Metro interface is fantastic. The concept on how it works is simple, just like iOS, the approach is flat. You can’t go wrong with something like this but Microsoft did screw it up. It was priced too close to Apple’s own iPhone. When the RT tablets came out, they priced it too close to the Apple iPads. Stupidity is indeed contagious if when you consider that Microsoft had a lot of catch up to do in the market.

The Japanese know that to command the attention of the masses you need software. And to get the people to develop software, you need to sell the hardware for cheap.

This sort of Loss Leader approach is what made the Playstation and Nintendo machines of their day the top of the heap. Remember that when the PS3 was launched, Sony sold it at a loss to encourage consumers to buy it, with that, they went into the software business with the numbers they needed to justify selling it at a loss. It worked. Nintendo did the same and corner the console market.

Dude, Where’s My Software!?

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The pathetic list of software on the Windows Mobile Marketplace is a sign of something gone wrong and here it is. Do you know it cost you US$1200 a year to sign up to be a Windows Mobile 8 Developer and have access to the MSDN support?

There is a free plan which includes the use of Visual Studio Tool Express but the developer license must be renewed monthly, at no cost. The highly restrictive free plan is limited to 5 PC  stations.  You can only list 5 free apps on the mobile appstore in one year and after that, it cost US$20 a pop for each additional free app you add to that list. MSDN is the developer network which you won’t have access to unless you pay that $1.2 grand a year.

In recent past, Microsoft charged US$99 for a windows mobile developer account but decided that it already makes enough money from the professional developers to forgo this part of the fee. Blackberry developers probably get the best deal with free membership and free listing with free tools. Blackberry also gives you the porting tools you need to make your Android app totally Blackberry compliant though I don’t see much benefit since you have Blackberry fragmentation to deal with.

Apple developers and Google Android developers have access to free software support as well as forum support without an afterthought. Google doesn’t charge you anything but a flat US$25 as an entry free to their domain. Apple’s iOS Enterprise Developer Program  maxes out at US$300 a pop. That’s a far fry from the US$1200 that Bill Gates Inc. charges. For smaller companies, you can subscribe to list any app on the Apple Appstore for US$99 a year.

Emulate Google Play Success

Sorry, Microsoft didn’t hear that. Google’s Android has garnered so much interest and success is due to one thing and that it’s devices are priced below that of iOS. The fragmentation that came along with it didn’t worry it as much as there was mass market appeal.

iOS was first to market, even though Nokia had for some time had its own store for Symbian apps, it never took off because it was in decline. Elop killed Nokia after taking it to Windows and that’s the end of the story.

The iOS success story is simple. Steve Jobs needed software for iOS and he made the tools freely available on the Mac when you sign up to be a developer. And the tools are pretty good too. When the hardware prove to be a hit, he had legions following him.

Google’s Android SDK is nothing to shout about but it works. Blackberry has the lowest point of entry for developers who want to go into Apps creation. Everything is free, to join and to list an app.

Microsoft: Penny wise and pound foolish

Microsoft thinks it needs a hardware manufacturer like Nokia to succeed in the mobile campaign. Sounds like a dream but they are thinking it might just work for them. Seven billion is small change for Microsoft. Nokia’s mobile business isn’t worth that much after the damage Elop did to the company. But Nokia held the trump card with 80 percent of the Windows Mobile Phone. No other manufacturer came close.

Even though Nokia is achieving limited success with its Lumia phones, it faces an Android onslaught. Elop could have done a deal with Google if he wasn’t reputed to be the Trojan Horse that Microsoft sent in. He could also have taken up MeeGo, a Linux based OS (which evolved to be Tizen OS). Instead, he took the backdoor route, that is move it back to Windows.

Looks like Microsoft is going to crash and burn in the mobile apps market, and they might as well take Nokia down that road with them. Sad end to a really great Brand and marks the end of Nordic entrepreneurial engineering prowess and design.

Camera360 updated with Neutered capture Resolution

camera360_iconAs a FREE camera app on the Android, there is nothing in my books that works better than Camera360 Ultimate. I have installed it in all my android devices and yes, it rocks but the latest update had me fuming.

For the last four months, I have used this on my Apple iPod Touch 5G and realize that there are distinct differences in how it was working. The Apple version of the app (also free) has captured widespread appeal because of its “real-time live view” function. This means that when you choose any effect, you can see it in real-time on what it actually looks like before capture—which unlike the Android version where you only get to see what the effected image would look like after having captured it. Thus the Android version still has some way to go before it gets to the stage of being on equal footing with the iPhone version.

New UI & Controls

I think the new UI is great. Slide the button to the left to get effect mode (filters) and slide right to get scene modes (for preset scene selection). Scene mode isn’t the same as you find in a digital camera, instead, it gives you access to  selection of preset scenes which you include part of the image.

There is also WB support now, whereas in earlier versions, this was not always available on all phones. The app has also been updated to support cloud integration and more social sharing sites beyond Facebook and Flickr to include Twitter too. But G+ support is still missing! The rests are of course China based SNS which you won’t be using unless you read and write Chinese.

Capture Resolution Problem

Sharing files are great but the captured image resolution now only supports up to 3 megapixels only on Android devices. I know this sucks but apparently the slew of new devices has made it difficult for the folks at Chengdu, China to have backward compatibility with all Android phones.

Frankly, I think that 3 megapixels is far too low. I think 5 megapixel should suffice and I have written to Pinguo Technology to change this. Now if you are only sharing your pictures online, 3 megapixel is ample. But if you are shooting to keep some of your photos for print later, then 5 megapixel should make the cut. By truncating it to 3 megapixel, your choices are restricted.

Conclusion

Yes, I am annoyed at the changes but it still remains one of the best FREE camera apps on the planet for your Android and iPhone. Yes, you may not believe me but you can go download it on your iDevice and use it and probably stop bothering to use any other camera app thereafter. I know I have.

**UPDATED** May 15 2013. 

Picture Size has been updated to 6 megapixel capture from 3 megapixel! 

 

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How to buy a Future Proof Android device

The guys at Apple magazine recently put a Samsung Galaxy S4 on its cover. For an independent magazine to do such a thing is tantamount to a sellout. Don’t matter if you are going to bash the device, it is never a good idea to put an Android product on an Apple Magazine, and here’s why.

It’s a hard look at future proofing your device, giving you the liberty to do more and have more fun. Apple iOS lost it. The innovation has come to a dead-end and you can safely predict the hardware spec on the next iPad or iPhone without gazing into a crystal ball. Apple has become very predictable in its choice of upgrades and you’d fall asleep once Tim Cook takes the stage. Apple Magazine could well be the next Android magazine if no new devices are coming out of Apple anytime soon.

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Tips for Choosing your Next Android

Smart Phones or Tablets? The choices are aplenty, but how do you buy one so that you won’t be out of date within 18 months? We all want a device for doing something we love and Android has it all, but how do you make sure you have a device that will last you the distance? With new models coming out every quarter, it becomes very difficult to choose one that will do the job without being outdated. Here is a list of things to watch out for.

1. Quad Core Processor

Forget the dual core, you need at least four cores to run things smoothly. The Octo-core processors will eventually make its debut within the next 12 months so you need a head start with a quad-core device. By early 2014, Octo-cores will be standard fare.

2. 2GB RAM minimum

This is the actual RAM on board the device. Forget the 1GB RAM devices, those are out of date. You need more RAM because true multi-tasking is just not possible without it. 3GB or more would be ideal if you can afford to get your paws on that one. By end 2o13, 2GB will be outdated. Going into 2014-15, you need to have at least 4GB of RAM to stomach future apps. Coz apps are getting bigger and they need more room to move around. Custom Launchers too like Chameleon need lots of free RAM to look slick. Bane or Bonus, custom launchers are here to stay. Many don’t work well now because of a lack of free RAM space.

3. More Internal Storage Please

Given the size of these apps, you need more internal storage. The 8GB and 16GB devices are passe, you need more coz there are more apps now on Google Play than ever. To future proof your purchase, you need 32GB of internal storage in 2013. Double that to 64GB in 2014-2015. There is also the issue of bloatware, which of course will reside in internal storage when you boot up. Bloatware on carrier branded devices could cost you a few hundred MB of RAM space.

4. Expandable Card Slot is a MUST

Got a cool device but no slot for additional external storage? Then you are screwed! The humble microSD card is getting cheaper and coming in at 64GB, you would be a fool not to have one. The external storage card can be very useful if you happen to consume media like crazy.  Got a load of MP3? Some movie files in MKV? Bring it on. You store all your files here. For some Camera Apps, you can specify a directory within your SD storage where it will save all the files. The card slot is your ticket to mass media consumption. You need this to put your music or your porn regardless of what turns you on.

5. Eight megapixel is Enough

You don’t need a 13 or 12 megapixel camera, just 8 will be enough. The reason is simple. The bigger the megapixel, the larger the file will be. No point shooting something to share when you only need 5 megapixel at most. So 8 megapixel will be just fine for everything else. What’s more, you can’t possibly rely on that tiny BI sensor to deliver pro quality images for print. It is a different beast you need to capture those photos. However for a social media whore, dang….8 megapixel make me look good! Don’t be fooled into thinking about those 16 megapixel shooters— which will be standard fare in 2014. Stay safe, shoot with 8 megapixels my friend.

6. Get a Great Color Display

I was deeply disappointed with the Galaxy Note 10.1 as the display was pretty poor. I am also pretty disappointed with the Galaxy Note 8 display too. You gotta know that a good display makes it all the more pleasing to use and trust me on this one. I find myself using my Galaxy Tab 7.7 more than my Asus TF300 just because the display is so pleasing to look at. There are many to choose from FHD OLED, Super AMOLED, Retina Display, TFT, Super LCD3, etc. Which one suits you best? Well it’s really up to you. A better screen is a joy to behold.

The Last Word

I don’t believe that a gadget you buy will last you forever. Every 12 months or so, a new gadget arrives but there are some which cost more that offers some future proofing. For example, the Galaxy S4, with 32GB internal storage and 2GB RAM can last you into the end of 2015. But a 16GB version will be very restrictive and chances are you’ll ante up to a new device by end 2014.

Apple products fortunately are made to last longer because of its poor hardware upgrades. If you have an iOS device, chances are you can use it for a good 18 months before the hardware becomes restrictive. Today, we see iPads with 128GB of storage. Tomorrow, we can expect to see 32GB iPhones as standard. Rumors of a cheap iPhone does not make sense. If you have poor hardware, people will compare that with Android devices and choose something from HTC  or Asus. A cheaper iPhone already exist in the form of the overpriced iPhone 4s and 4. If you need a second phone, the iPhone 4 fits the bill. If Apple offers an even cheaper iPhone, it’s one that would look more like the 3GS—gutted to fit a new processor and limited 16GB RAM.

The second biggest market for the iPhone is China, but the China Appstore is one that doesn’t make any money for Apple because of the rampant fraud that goes on with Appstore credits used to buy online media and apps. It just doesn’t make sense to make a cheaper iPhone for just that market.