Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.
The Android Market continues to struggle in providing a great end user experience. To illustrate, here’s what I went through when purchasing Carcassonne tonight:
It’s fairly amazing that my own app (ExpenseClam) receives any purchases at all given the difficulty involved!
I should add that it was worth persevering – the game is rather good!
Yesterday I released ExpeneseClam, a business expenses tracking app for Android. Recording expenses on a smartphone can be a painful experience, typos are common, expense claims are not always made in chronological order, and there is usually little time to note down how much a taxi cost. ExpenseClam has a number of features to help make this easier. Simple things like auto-suggesting expense descriptions based on the amount entered can make it much quicker to record common recurring expenses.
One of the niftiest features in ExpenseClam is something that you will only stumble across if you travel a lot: it auto selects the default currency for a new expense based on the country you are in. This is done without needing user permission to determine location, carry out reverse geocoding or even internet access.
The secret sauce is Android’s TelephonyManager and it’s method getNetworkCountryIso(). This method returns the ISO code given by the mobile operator for the network that you are connected to (the Mobile Country Code). From this a Locale object can be created, which then allows the Currency instance to be created. None of this requires network traffic and it takes very little processing power to complete.
Changes in the default currency only happens when the country changes. This is to avoid frustrating users who have to enter expenses in a different currency to this default. The country derived currency is however prioritised in the list of currencies to make selection easier for what is likely to be a common choice.
Does the “Android Monopoly” really provide a challenge to the traditional OEMs? Is the answer to use virtualisation on the handset and put Android in a virtual machine sandbox while the OEM’s own O/S runs underneath it? That’s Andreas Constantinou’s proposal in his latest blog post at VisionMobile. I’m not so sure. Firstly let’s take a brief look at the history of the OEMs he identifies as losing out due to the success of Android: Motorola and Sony Ericsson.
Motorola’s success story pre-Android was the Razr. This was a huge phone in 2005 and dragged Motorola into second place behind Nokia. The success of the Razr had little to do with the software that it ran, and a lot to do with the very distinctive and stylish design. Motorola failed to innovate effectively off the back of this however, resulting in a whole series of similar phones and declining market share. It is only with their adoption of Android that Motorola has been able to rescue themselves from terminal decline in the mobile market. The Droid series of phones built for Verizon have been very successful for them, bringing the company (now split off as Motorola Mobility) back from the brink.
Sony Ericsson’s history contains more highlights than Motorola’s, but is also a mixed record. They have used a number of operating systems over the years, with Symbian (using the UIQ interface) and Windows Mobile both playing a part. Sony Ericsson has been able to differentiate with their Walkman and Cyber-shot brands, both of which relied more on innovation in hardware than software. Sony Ericsson have produced a range of Android smart phones, which has done much to restore their financial health (to the tune of €1.1bn).
Hardware has always been a major differentiator between mobile OEMs, marking a significant difference between the mobile and personal computing industry. This traditional strength is not undermined by Google being the driving force behind Android. OEMs adopting Android get for free the things they have traditionally struggled with: a best-in-class smart phone O/S, app store and cloud services. This allows them to focus on the part of the equation where they have seen past successes and that aligns to their core competencies.
The announcements coming out of Mobile World Congress this year (and CES before it) shows that there is plenty of room for innovation in hardware and software:
If Google is restricting what OEMs can do on the hardware and software front, I don’t see much evidence of it in the products that they are announcing, or an opportunity to do more by using virtualisation.
Email: colin at owlfish.com