Archive for Google
In September, Amazon updated their Android app such that it was actually a completely functional app store. Flash forward to today, and it appears Google has made Amazon’s signature application un-findable using search in the Play Store (though the Amazon direct link does seem to work, for now).
There is a new app in its stead (we presume) called Amazon Shopping that looks pretty much like the old app did, minus the App Store bit.
The moral of the story, is that it appears as if Google wasn’t thrilled with Amazon making their digital catalog available for sale in this manner. When asked for a comment, Amazon noted:
“We launched a new Amazon App for Android Phones on September 9 that provides an award-winning mobile shopping experience, enables customers to discover and purchase all of Amazon’s digital catalog, and provides customers access to the Prime Instant Video player and unlimited streaming of over 40,000 movies and TV episodes. Google subsequently changed their Developer Distribution Agreement on September 25. As a result, we removed the app from Google Play and published the Amazon Shopping app. Customers who want the best Amazon experience on their Android phone, including access to Prime Instant Video and Amazon’s entire digital catalog, can still get the Amazon App for Android Phones at amazon.com/androidapp.”
Of course, the question that begs asking is if Amazon didn’t think it was doing anything sneaky or against the rules… why did they keep it so hidden?
Google hasn’t responded with a comment so far, but it has to be making Android fanatics a little nervous… the search giant seems to be locking things down in a way that labels them more like the thing they hate the most (Apple).
There isn’t an iOS user out there who hasn’t been attacked by an Android fanatic. It is unrestricted, they say. It is free, they say. It is so open, they say. It doesn’t come with the same strict (and unreasonable) rules that iOS does, they say. As it turns out, rising popularity has changed the game significantly… with an Android device now in novice hands more often than not. This reality has forced Google to realize that a little control over their operating system isn’t a bad thing, beginning with a tighter rein on the Play Store (making it look an awful lot more like Apple’s App Store).
Some of the recent changes are fairly harmless, like adding a page for your account that lists every app you have ever bought. Other are slightly more intrusive, like removing a selection of piracy-related apps (including: The Pirate Bay Premium, The Pirate Bay Proxy, The Pirate Bay Mirror, and the PirateApp) from the Play Store by citing violations of their content policy for intellectual property provisions. It gets worse: the developers responsible for those apps also received a policy strike that readies their accounts for suspension if there are repeated violations.
Of course, this attack against piracy shouldn’t really be much of a surprise. Earlier this year, Google added a content suggestion box to their search functionality that lets users easily buy or rent content found in their results. Around the same time, Google also made some adjustments that saw piracy sites losing rank –a move that hurt popular sites, but benefited those that were lesser-known.
Die-hards will still scream from the mountain-tops about how these changes aren’t a big deal if you are willing to jailbreak your device (or side load apps)… but many of the same things could be said for hacked iOS devices too. If you ask me, the real news is more about Google’s changing philosophy than it is about operating system capabilities.
What you won’t hear from those same people, is how Google pretty much rules the targeted ad game: selling your private information to make a little money (some of which goes to pay for patent licenses and other technologies that are required by their ‘free’ operating system).
So what bothers Android evangelists more: seeing Google implement screening processes for apps in their store, or realizing that Google being a little bit more like Apple is a necessary (and functional) evil?
Android users in China (now numbering in the ten of millions) will be happy to know that many of them will have access to Google’s app store (hopefully, at least). Though a specific launch date has yet to be discussed, Google is working with a legal team to get plans together (many of the core Google Play services, like Gmail and Maps, are currently being blocked in China).
Earlier this week, Google also announced that policies were changing for Chinese app developers –allowing them to make money from their paid apps being downloaded from 130 countries worldwide (China isn’t included in that list yet, but would be with a local-to-them app store).
Not everybody will be thrilled to hear this news, with several alternative Chinese platforms already in place to distribute Android apps; Google stands to make a lot of money (in their stead) considering the potential revenue stream from so many new users… but it will not be without considerable investments. Beyond legal considerations, Google has no infrastructure in China (think servers and bandwidth to begin) –all of which will be subject to the seemingly arbitrary Chinese regulations.
Advertising sucks in general, but we recognize it as a necessary evil in a lot of situations –not the least of which being a means to raise the funds required to keep the Internet going (or at least the content contained ‘within it’). Now, what if you could visit your favourite sites, and instead of seeing an advertisement block on the screen and being encouraged to click on it… you could just donate a little money to the site and not go through that dance? Google is betting you might just take them up on that offer, creating a new service that does that exact thing: Google Contributor.
Contributor is being labeled as ‘alternative monetization’, allowing us to designate a monthly fee we are willing to sacrifice in the name of Internet content with the promise of not having to see Google ads (though you will still see a pixelated box in the space where the ad would have been displayed).
Contributor is currently in beta, with participants getting involved by invitation only. During this phase, there are 10 publishing partners (like Mashable, Imgur, and WikiHow) with an opt-in dollar amount of $1, $2, or $3.
I’m not sure I see Contributor as a viable alternative to advertising… at least not in it’s current form. I would wager that most seasoned web surfers are already quite familiar with tuning out advertisements. Now, if I could see an ad-free version of the site (where the entire screen real estate was given to the content I’m actually interested in seeing), I’d be much more likely to toss in a few dollars.
While it may seem that the news is primarily for developers, Google’s announcement that Google Play services is receiving a series of updates is good news for everybody –more features and more functionality all around!
The Google Maps API now includes a toolbar that provides users with turn-by-turn directions quickly to a selected marker. With the updates, Google Maps will offer a ‘lite mode’ that makes it easier to show locations in a list mode when it makes better sense (think of it like a thumbnail).
Google Drive will support public and application private custom file properties, allowing for developers to deliver quick searches and create apps that can save data that will persist. In addition, developers will have more granular control over when files are uploaded (like when a device is next plugged in or connected to Wi-Fi) –plus giving the ability to cancel an in-progress upload.
Google Wallet is reading to allow for “Donate with Google” buttons in addition to the existing “Purchase with Google” option.
For those of you using Google Fit, developers will now be able to create more effective apps that can add activity segments supporting pauses and multiple-activity workouts.
Apparently this list of updates will be realized gradually over the next few days, so we don’t have long to wait for all of these good things!
According to the latest comScore metrics, Android is in the lead as the dominant smartphone platform in the mobile marketplace. With 52.1% of the market share, Android is a fair step ahead of Apple who is lagging behind at 41.7% (third place went to Microsoft at a pitiful 3.6%, with fourth landing in BlackBerry’s lap at 2.3%).
Android didn’t lead every statistic, however… with Apple leading the pack as the top smartphone manufacturer (based on 174 million people with U.S.-owned devices), securing 41.7% of that market share as well. By comparison, Samsung is next in line with only 29.0% –leaving LG to secure third place with 6.9%.
While it may seem a little difficult to understand how Android can lead in the platform category while lagging in the hardware division –it’s due to the range of OEM manufacturers. Samsung may be making the most sales, but others like LG, Motorola, and HTC are also delivering a large number of units that contribute to the overall total number of smartphones.
The comScore report also identified the most downloaded smartphone apps (for U.S. smartphone mobile media users, aged 18+ on both iOS and Android platforms): placing Facebook on top, followed by YouTube in a distant second place.
Boasting themselves as a leading Internet technology company, comScore “measures what people do as they navigate the digital world – and turns that information into insights and actions for our clients to maximize the value of their digital investments.”
Already having Gmail under their belts didn’t stop Google from continuing to rethink email. Apparently it was years in the making, but only now is Inbox a reality (promising to give you focus on the things that really matter).
In a blog post announcing Inbox, Google employee Sundar Pichai described the service:
“With this evolution comes new challenges: we get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done.
If this all sounds familiar, then Inbox is for you. Or more accurately, Inbox works for you.”
Key features of Inbox allow you to better organize your email categories using bundles (grouping together things like bank statements or utility bills), highlight key information from important messages (with examples like flight itineraries or event information), and reminders (letting you focus on your priorities so that you don’t need to keep track of tasks and appointments, complete with a Snooze feature). Also included with Inbox are what Google calls Assists, described as little bits of information that make your life easier. As an example: if you make a restaurant reservation, Inbox will add a map to your confirmation email.
Inbox is currently in a beta phase, with used only gaining access via invitation; there is no word on when it will see open release.
Those of you who love Gmail just the way it is may need to be a little concerned: Google has a history of abandoning projects in lieu of new ideas (speaking as somebody who still feels the sting of Google Reader having been discontinued)… and it is easy to see that they have several services starting to overlap (Google Now has a lot of similar personal assistant functionality).
According to the latest statistics released by Chitika, the LG user base has exhibited the greatest usage share growth as compared to any of the competing Android brands since June 2014. With a 1.7 percentage point gain and representing over 10% of the total North American smartphone and tablet Web traffic, LG should be counted as a significant player in the mobile market.
Samsung can rest easy for now, sitting comfortably at the top of the heap with 57.4% of the current Android market share –but it would be wise to keep at least one eye on their competition given their less substantial 1% gain since June 2014 (despite the release of an entirely updated line of mobile hardware during this period). Amazon is sitting precariously in the third spot (with a meagre .5% lead on Motorola), likely due in large part to their Fire tablets as opposed to their unremarkable smartphone sales.
Google was down this quarter, falling to just 3.6% –but these numbers should look a little better shortly with the release of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices.
Chitika’s report also indicated that smartphones continue to dominate the mobile Web traffic, with very little growth in this area being observed in the Android tablet space. Some speculation suggests that this is due to Apple’s dominance in the tablet arena, but it may also be due in part to the next-generation phablet type smartphones prompting users to invest in large-screen, smartphones instead of a tablet.
Founded in 2003, Chitika is an online ad network that boasts the delivery of “over four billion strategically targeted ads each month to a network of over 300,000+ sites.” Together with high profile advertising partners like Yahoo!, Chitika has developed proprietary optimization technology that promises to display the right ad, at the right time.
It is with great enthusiasm that Google released their next generation Nexus 6 smartphone yesterday. Being labelled the next in a line of phablets, the Nexus 6 is a very large mobile device that straddles the line between smartphone and tablets. Packed with features, the Nexus 6 promises to stand up proudly against the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus.
Design and Display
It can’t be said that the Nexus 6 is a light smartphone, and coming in at 6.49 ounces (184g) is will feel quite substantial. By comparison, the Galaxy Note 4 is 6.21 ounce (176g) and the iPhone 6 Plus is the lightest at 6.07 ounces (172g). It is also the largest of the three phablets, with a full 6-inch display with a 1440×2560 pixel resolution and 493 ppi density. Also a very attractive feature is that the Nexus 6 is splash resistant (without needing to wrap it in a case) –other Samsung products can boast that, the Galaxy Note 4 isn’t so lucky.
The camera in the Nexus 6 is competitive with a dual LED flash, but only measures 13 megapixels (where the Galaxy Note 4 has 16, and iPhone 6 Plus lags quite a distance behind at 8).
Running the latest Android Lollipop, Google maintains their top spot as the manufacturer with the truest Android smartphone.
Powered by a quad core, 2700 MHz, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, the Nexus 6 should still be comparable the 8-core, 1900 MHz ARM processor found in the Galaxy Note 4 –though on paper Apple’s processor seems quite a bit behind both devices by only being dual core and 1400MHz. With that said, many of the performance tests being run are placing Apple’s smartphone performing ahead of Samsung’s, so these specifications on their own don’t carry much real-world weight or meaning. The Nexus 6 comes with 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, but unlike the Galaxy Note 4, cannot be expanded with additional storage (using microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC).
Google claims that the Nexus 6 will deliver 24 hours of talk time. They also say you can expect 13.8 days of stand-by time. In other news, pigs can apparently fly. I’ll believe that these batteries perform this well when I experience it for myself, but I do trust that it’s better than most of us are used to… especially if you turn off the Ambient Display.
Unlike any of the competition, the Nexus 6 does lead the pack in the power arena by offering built-in wireless charging… and using Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, a quick 15 minutes of charging should get you about 6 more hours of use.
You should have no complaints in this arena, with the Nexus 6 offering GSM at 850/900/1800/1900MHz, CDMA band classes 0/1/10, WCDMA bands 1/2/4/5/8, and LTE bands 2/3/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/29/41.
Aside from cellular options, Google equipped the Nexus 6 with 802.11ac Wi-Fi using a 2×2 MIMO antenna, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and NFC.
Before you salivate yourself into needing a fresh shirt, brace yourself for the $649 USD price-tag found on the unlocked model. Not surprisingly, many Android purists are already expressing their outrage at the cost –especially when previous Nexus smartphones only rid our wallets of $349 USD. While this increase is difficult to accept, it’s necessary if Google is going to produce the kind of hardware that will have the chops to compete with the quality options being released by the competition. Of course, the Nexus 6 looks to be worth every penny… but it means that carriers with contract-signing incentives will play a much more significant role in the success of this device (like they already do for the high-end hardware coming from Samsung and Apple).
Pre-order for the Nexus 6 will begin in late October, with full retail availability beginning in November.
Usually when Google takes aim, the target is Apple –this time, Amazon is more clearly locked in their sights. Google’s Brian Elliott, Head of Partnerships at Google Shopping, announced this week that they would be rebranding their services as Google Express and expanding to three new cities: Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C (not to mention the fact that they added 16 new participating merchants to their roster with familiar names like: Barnes & Noble, PetSmart, Vitamin Shoppe and Sports Authority).
Much like Amazon Prime’s Same Day delivery service, Google Express intends to bridge the gap between shopping at your favourite local stores and the convenience of being able to do that online. To this end, I’m certain it isn’t a coincidence that Google has undercut Amazon’s $99 annual membership fee by charging $95 for their equivalent (after three free months during which you can give it a try). You can of course pay by the order as well, but it adds up quickly with a $5-$8 surcharge applied to each.
So what privileges does this membership provide? It’s all about same-day delivery… at least as long as you are one of the lucky 7-million people who happen to live in the right city and want products from the right stores. Truth is that things are rather limited right now, but it’s a good start.
Analysts are busy trying to figure how less retail foot traffic affects businesses, with many suggesting that it won’t eliminate the need for employees, but rather change the type of work that needs doing (picking and packing orders instead of dealing directly with customers).
For those of us already delighted by online shopping, Google (and others) embracing rapid shipping practices demonstrates positive forward momentum. It also means that one day, sooner than later, I may not have to leave the house to brave huge retail outlets (and their parking lots) for boring things like toilet paper and laundry soap.
Despite the fact that all reports indicate Android dominates the smartphone market, being able to brag having an over 80% share, app revenue continues to lag behind Apple (by a shocking average of almost $4 million dollars per day). Understandably, Google would like to do something about that imbalance –especially with such a firm position as Android’s biggest cheerleader.
You’ve likely heard that there are statistics for anything, and generally they don’t mean much. In this case, the details aren’t known but would tell us a lot. Are there fewer paid apps in the Google Play Store as compared to the Apple App Store? Does the average price differ between the two stores? These and more questions abound.
One option Google is courting appears to be the idea of offering a trial version of paid apps and games. This would allow users to take things for a test drive before taking the plunge (even if it is just $0.99). My immediate question is how this might work. Most reporting on this news are suggesting Google would offer a smaller, specific portion of the app or game –making it a smaller download than the full version, and offering demo-like functionality.
This would be a mistake.
I don’t want to deal with or download an app twice. Even though the idea of a quick download and peek sounds romantic, it also seems like a lot of hassle –especially for something that may cost a dollar. Generally speaking, most apps aren’t that large anyway. Plus, a subset of the full functionality may not actually give an accurate forecast of what it would be like to use.
Is there a way it could work? With Google offering refunds when you dislike an app (if you decide quickly), I’m not sure it’s really necessary to offer a trial, but there may be marketing appeal for saying it’s available. I suppose I could be persuaded to support an expiry function, forcing you to either make the purchase or delete the app after a specific period of time… but only if it’s virtually effortless to do so.
None of this addresses the fact that Apple is already making far more money in their App Store than Google without offering this feature. Perhaps Google should consider other ways of monetizing apps that more closely mimic the competition they are trying to dominate.