Twitter Paranoia

November 27th, 2014

twitter.pngPeople seem to be over-reacting to the news that Twitter will be using what apps you have installed to tailor content. Stefan Constantine has an interesting view on this…

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However, what people haven’t picked up on yet is that Twitter already potentially has access to much more data on them through Crashlytics, now owned by Twitter, that is increasingly becoming the default crash reporting solution for many apps… and end-users can’t turn that off.

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Tablet Growth Slowing

November 25th, 2014

idc.gifIDC have new research showing that tablet growth is slowing significantly. It also shows Android is expected to have 67.7% market share this year and iOS 27.5% market share. IDC explain that the decrease in tablet shipment growth is being caused by people holding on to their devices. Ironically, this is due to OEMs updating the OS to keep it fresh, especially on iOS.

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I also suspect tablets aren’t replaced as often as smartphones because they are not tied to carrier contracts. The carriers are good at promoting replacement at the end of contracts. Also, they tend to not have as ‘wild’ a life as phones and are less likely to to need replacement due to being damaged or stolen.

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Security Incentive For Device Upgrade

November 21st, 2014

android.gifTwo Android security problems have hit the news over the last few days. The first is a problem with java.io.ObjectInputStream on ALL devices prior to Lollipop. It’s not a problem in itself in that the user needs to somehow accidentally install a malicious app. The second is one such app, NotCompatible, that has been around a long time but has recently made the news due to some posts on popular sites.

The thing is, the user has to actually say yes to downloading and installing an app when they are web browsing. A bigger question is why Android’s anti-malware tool, Bouncer, hasn’t detected this side-loaded app. I suspect it has. Bouncer has only worked on side-loaded apps since Android 4.2 and I suspect the majority of infected devices use earlier versions of Android.

The best defence is probably to only use devices running Lollipop. As I have previously observed, in some ways it’s odd that one of Android’s failings, that of slow or non-existent OEM OS upgrades, might cause more people to buy a new device to be on a more secure Android version, which, in turn, will reduce OS fragmentation to the benefit of the platform.

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Web Access From Devices

November 20th, 2014

scientiamobile.pngScientiamobile has a new free MOVR report (PDF) for Q3 2014 showing device usage trends, particularly related to web access from mobiles. There’s lots of data on form factors, top smartphones, top tablets, top OSs for browsing across different continents. A chart that caught my attention was one that showed the use of WebViews within apps to view web pages…

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Why does Android have a much higher proportion of web page views from WebViews? I’ll be contentious and guess it’s because developers put in less effort on Android. WebViews are the quick and easy route to getting an Android app with the compromise of poorer usability. I guess it’s because companies/developers tend put less effort into Android apps than iOS apps.

On a recent project, I argued (unsuccessfully as they are still there) that WebViews make a very poor substitute for real screens (Android Activities). Without a lot of effort creating a responsive server-side, the web pages don’t look like app screens, the app vs web navigation breaks down, you get links rather than buttons/list items, you open up many complex security vulnerabilities and content authors end up thinking it’s ok to add arbitrary server-side content. For example, I saw content being included that had sharing buttons and feedback forms that looked alien in the app and didn’t work well. It made me uncomfortable that the app I had written had become something I wasn’t proud of.

Meanwhile, Google are trying their best to make Chrome and by implication, WebViews feel more like the platform you are running on. This started with Material Design which they hope will unify the look and feel cross platform. Google are pushing to reduce the distinction between app screens and web screens. The Lollipop Launcher (Home screen) includes cards that can be web pages. Chrome Developers Tweeted from the Chrome dev summit yesterday…

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Google are also working on Chrome rendering performance, push messaging, Bluetooth, notifications, access to camera, geofencing and background sync as well as corresponding web site permissions to control access to these new features. All these things will eventually help the web become more like an app.

However, all this is very Chrome centric. Consistent design and available functionality will only work if you use Chrome and implement Material Design cross platform and even if you did, Material Design web pages aren’t going to look good on iOS. Even the example in the above tweet shows a Navigation Drawer (hamburger menu) on the right hand side in the wrong place. In reality, Android Chrome users are more likely encounter iOS idiom-based web pages with disclosures than Material Design web pages. I anticipate the web and WebView content/functionality will continue to be an idiomatic mess. 

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Wearables Bigger Than I Thought

November 19th, 2014
canalys.gifI have been watching wearables, from the sidelines, with the view that it’s probably not worth investing effort in this area until volumes prove it’s something people actually want. Well, today I was surprised to learn from Canalys that nearly 5 million smart and basic wearable bands were shipped in Q3 2014. This a large number given the platform is so young. The Moto 360 represented 15% of the market. Samsung took 52% market share.
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That’s 5 million in one quarter. Certainly over 20 million over the next year. Suddenly, wearables seem to have more traction than I had envisaged. Wearables are bigger than I thought - in more ways than one.

Forked Android Growth Slowing

November 18th, 2014
abiresearch.gifABI has research that shows forked Android growth is set to slow in 2015. China’s growth is slowing and Google’s Android One initiative is "seeing some significant wins among Indian manufacturers like Micromax, Karbonn, Spice, Intex, and Lava, as well as some of the more International Chinese brands like Lenovo and Alcatel."

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This is good news for developers as, in time, it will reduce the number of devices that don’t have Google Play Services. Google Play Services is becoming more and more important to developers as components get unbundled from the OS into Play Services and the Play Store.

It seems Android One will be more successful than I expected. I was sceptical. Getting ‘low cost’ OEMs to use Android One is being driven by the availability of low cost reference designs from Qualcomm and MediaTek. In the distant past we saw similar efforts by Symbian and Microsoft meet with only partial success. This time it seems Google has the momentum to see this strategy through. 

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Majority of Top Paid/Popular Apps Have Been Hacked

November 17th, 2014

arxan.pngArxan has a free State of Mobile App Security research report (pdf) that claims a very large proportion of the top paid/popular Android and iOS apps have been hacked. Hacked apps either have IP stolen that’s used in other apps, have clones created or the apps are modified to remove payment mechanisms.

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Android White Box Tablets

November 13th, 2014
strategyanalystics.gifStrategy Analytics has new Q3 2014 research on World tablet shipments. Android reached an all-time high of 72% of the market while iOS declined 13% to 22.3% market share.

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29.9% of Android’s 72% market share is "white box" manufacturers. A white box tablet is produced by a company (the manufacturer or ODM) that other companies (the vendors or OEMs) re-brand to make it appear as if they made them. These are a big threat to the well-known brands and are increasing being sold by retailers under their own made-up brand names. Many work very well and I have even used some as a basis for client, vertical single-use ‘kiosk’ style products. The down side is that the OS rarely, if ever, gets updated and for developers there’s usually a lack of Android adb drivers.

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