Why Google+ Is Failing

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When I was at the Teens In Tech conference, a speaker told me this:

For your product to succeed, it either must be a new idea or be better than a previous one.

It makes sense – why would anyone switch to your product if there’s already one that does the same thing? Your product needs to have more to offer so people would actually have a reason to “convert.”

Unfortunately, there are few tech companies that succeed with new ideas – so a lot take old ideas and refresh them to make ‘em better. For example, every Apple product ever created; The iPhone wasn’t the first phone in the world – it was just better than the rest; The iPod wasn’t the first small music player ever created – it was just better because it could hold so many more songs and didn’t need CDs or Cassettes.

Okay, so lets take a look at Google+. It’s a great social network that has tons of new features that are definitely in demand. Who would wan’t multi-person video chat, along with a slew of easier to manage privacy features?

“Okay, so Google+ “better” than facebook – but why isn’t it succeeding?”. This is a question I’ve been asked many times.

Lets think about it in terms of a lamp (yes, the one on your desk). First, we have our facebook: A standard lamp with a normal switch that emits very bright light. Then, lets look at our Google+: A large, fancy lamp with pretty designs on it, a bendable neck, and voice activated controls – but we forgot to add in a socket for a lightbulb.

In this analogy, our Google+ Lamp is “better” than our facebook lamp – but it doesn’t do what people want to use it for (illumination).

Lets take that analogy back to Facebook and Google+. What is the real reason people ever go on facebook?

The real reason is their user base. There are very very few people who aren’t on facebook, and there are very very few people on Google+. Google+ has all the new doohickeys and thingamajigs, but it’s forgetting the light bulb (user base).

And because nobody is on Google+, nobody wants to join – they’re satisfied with Facebook and their 1500+ “friends.” What’s the use of having a ten person video chat if there’s not even ten people on Google+?

Google+ is a good idea, with a perfect execution – but the social networking field has been completely dominated by Facebook and Twitter. It’s unfortunately like this for many social internet startups: many of them rely on a user-base to be the least bit useful, and without a user base you won’t be able to expand your user base. You can get a user base by having a user base, because if you have a small user base people want to join to be part of that user base, which makes more people want to join etc.

Hence the reason most social startups fail. Gaining a user-base is a domino effect, with the first domino being a giant brick wall. You need to hope that something will come and knock it over, as getting the domino train started is definitely the hardest aspect of the whole process.

Galaxy Nexus? Lolwut?

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You may know about the long lasting line of Google’s special Google Phone called the Nexus. There was originally the Nexus One, then the Nexus S recently. Both of these were manufactured by Samsung, but Samsung’s name wasn’t really placed on it – just on the very bottom of the product pages.

But Samsung has taken a different approach this time – They’ve released a new Nexus phone that they are calling the Galaxy Nexus, following their popular like of Galaxy S phones.

Other than the new name, the Galaxy Nexus follows Google’s standard path of some great upgrades.

As far as hardware goes, it’s just like the Nexus S – but better. The Galaxy Nexus features a slimmer body, more vibrant screen, and a very nice camera – although specific megapixels are not supplied.

But the real upgrades are in the software. The Galaxy Nexus features the purest of pure Android 4.0 – which is a nice relief considering all other phones in the Galaxy S line are skinned by Samsung, causing them to be painfully slow and unresponsive.

Among Android 4.0′s new features (other than the painfully idiotic name of “Ice Cream Sandwich”) are Face Unlock, which allows you to unlock your phone with face recognition; Android Beam, which uses NFC to send websites, photos, contacts, and more to other phones; and your usual fixing of extra eye candy.

The Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have any pricing or supported networks, however a bit is given away with the following line:

Galaxy Nexus runs at 4G (LTE or HSPA+) speeds

Verizon is the only provider that currently has an LTE network, which means that the Galaxy Nexus will be on Verizon for the first time.

I’m definitely excited for this phone, and anyone in the Android market should definitely look at this phone.

Google+ for iOS released, Welcome to Crash Central

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Google+ is Google’s stab at facebook that has some great new features that really puts it in the competition (read more here). The Android app was available immediately; the iOS app was supposed to come a few weeks after.

Well, it’s here. Unfortunately, it’s not worth getting.

You are greeted with a front page where you can view your stream, profile, huddles, circles, etc. Everything works until you hit stream; that’s where it crashes. It will give you a spinner saying that it’s loading… then it will keep spinning… and spinning… and spinning… and when you’re sick and tired of it, you just hit the grid to go back to the home screen. But it doesn’t go. So you hit it again. Same result. So you start frantically hitting buttons, but it’s not going to respond. Then, there’s the crash.

For now, this is all you’ll get. Jailbroken or not, iOS 5 or 4. The app is just a crasher.

Google introduces new look to Gmail, inspired by Google+

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Google has introduced a new look to Gmail that has tons of reminiscence from Google+.

Lets compare. Click the below image to open the screenshots in a new window.

If you look at the above screenshots, the first thing you may notice would be the sidebar. In both Gmail’s “Labels” and Google+’s “Circles”, you see that the selected item is highlighted in orange, both in the same font (highlighted in red).

Another similarity would be the buttons. Look at the “Share” button in Google+, then the “Search” and “Compose Mail” buttons in Gmail. You’ll notice that they are the same style and size (highlighted orange).

Last (and frankly least) the logos look the same (highlighted green).

Now lets compare the new Gmail to the old Gmail. Click the below screenshot to open it in a new window.

The buttons are different, and have no similarities to Google+. The selected label is simply bolded, where in the new theme they are colored orange in addition (highlighted red). In the new Gmail, messages are also farther apart (highlighted orange). I guess it gives a cleaner look, and it’s a little less dense on the eyes. In old Gmail, the buttons are less clean than in the new Gmail’s (highlighted green).

I know these are just interface changes, but it shows that Google is trying to really uniform everything around Google+ – even the top bar anywhere on google has been themed dark with orange highlights. Google+ is more than a social network – it is becoming a social Google.

Goodbye Blogger, Picasa

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Yes, google is retiring the Blogger and Picasa brands over the next 6 weeks, in a push to Google+.

Picasa is already integrated into Google+, and will probably end up as solely part of Google+ instead of a separate service.

But I don’t know what they plan to do with Blogger. It could possibly be integrated to Google Sites in some way, or it could just be called Google Blogs, or maybe they are going to also integrate it in some way with Google+.

Blogger was a wonderful name: founded a few years ago, then purchased by Google, then substantial growth since then. This very blog started on blogger until I moved to WordPress.

Not to be mean or anything, but I never liked Picasa. It was a clunky, badly integrated service that only made a little bit of sense. When I saw that Picasa was integrated into Google+ as the photo sharing service, I hit my head against the wall a few times. Although I love Google’s photo sharing efforts, I’m not too sad to see Picasa go.

As I said, the retirement will happen over the next 6 weeks. It will be interesting to see exactly how they plan on doing this.

Skype 5.2 released with group screen sharing

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Skype has released an updated version of their quite popular video sharing app which brings a couple of new features to the table, mainly group screen sharing.

Skype has always had the capability to group video chat, but group screen share is kinda new. It’s a welcome addition – I could see it coming in handy for many people around the world.

The only other new update is a mini-call-window, which will always sit on top of your other apps and allow you to watch/control your call whilst multitasking.  I could see this coming in handy, and I usually have to use a third party app like Afloat to keep my skype window over the others.

The new “Call control bar” is available free with the update to skype 5.2; group screen sharing isn’t. You need to have a subscription to Skype Premium, which will cost you $4.50 a month if you go for a 12 month subscription.

Interesting about the timing, didn’t Google just release Hangouts with Google+? In case you don’t know, Hangouts is google’s group video calling servgroup-video-sharing-460.jpgice that is integrated into Google+. A timing coincidence? I think not.

Skype is trying to keep ahead of everyone else with new features, but because social networks are so popular and you already have lots of contacts added, they are going to get an advantage over proprietary networks such as skype.

Where’s realtime search?!

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If you do a Google search for a topic that is fairly popular on twitter, you will usually see something that looks a bit like this:

And the list of tweets will update in realtime.

Also, you would find a “Realtime” in the left sidebar.

Oddly, that’s all gone! You will no longer see anything in real time, and the realtime search is gone from the left sidebar.

There’s a ocuple of theories that could be cause for this. First off, it could be that google is planning on integrating Google+ into their realtime search – but that wouldn’t mean they’d need to remove it.

The other possible reason is that google is trying to back off from twitter, considering that they now have a competition going – but until Google+ is fully available, they shouldn’t have any reason to want to hold grudges.

Realtime search may be back sometime in the future, but with Google now as a social service, Realtime Search may never be quite the same.

 

Search Google – now with your Voice

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Google's Voice Search integrated into the web

Since its debut in 1997, Google Search in general has grown in size and strength.

Since then, the keyboard and mouse have always been a primary tool in searches.

In 2008, the Google Mobile App was released to the Android and iOS operating systems, allowing native and mobile searching of the web.

A few months later, they integrated a new feature that they had been working on into the mobile apps called Voice Search. Voice search was a new idea on how to revolutionize searching. But most Google searches were done on the computer, so even if everyone used voice search on their phones, more requests would be made from a keyboard.

Google took a surprising 2½ years to make their next move. Then about a month ago, they released Voice Search online, using the same microphone input as Gmail chat. However, they confined it the Chrome as an experimental search feature.

I think that Google really has enough “innovations” that they’ve given to us and that using a keyboard is just fine for searches. Personally, I talk faster than I type, but I am so used to typing that a switch to talking instead is actually harder, at least for a while. I see where they are going with the user-friendly ideas, but this is one of their kind of unnecessary ones. The recognition accuracy is ok, but as I expected it doesn’t work well with names, even of well-known people.

If you want to try it out, head on over here in Google Chrome and hit Try It Out.

Google+ iPhone App Awaiting Approval

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Google+ is already available via the web and an Android app, and now Google has submitted their iPhone app to Apple for approval into the app store.

Everyone knew that Google was going to develop an iPhone app for Google+ eventually, but we weren’t aware that they had already created a full app and submitted it.

If all goes well, the app will be available to iOS users in about two weeks.

But…

Who was here for Google Voice?

You may remember that the Google Voice app sat waiting for approval for months, and was eventually rejected.

Then google resubmitted it, this time not so happy. Apple finally approved it, and I currently have Google Voice on my iPhone.

I hope that Google+ doesn’t end up going down this same disapproval tunnel…

Only time will tell if Apple wants to really battle Google in this way, which could be cause for some kind of lawsuit from Google.

(Personally, I just want to get Google+ on my iPhone, lawsuits not necessary)

(via Mashable)

 

HTC Droid Incredible – RED COVER!

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I was recently stalking around the HTC Incredible site, and I came across a page where you can order HTC-made battery covers – in different colors! You can order a red cover or a white cover.

From the images, I expected the surface to be like the stock cover – that soft platsticy rubber. However, the cover is actually glossy! It feels nice in the hand, and I like it a lot. It also makes the phone look quite awesome, as the volume buttons, USB port, and power switch are all still black. It gives the phone a very cool multi-colored look – and imagine the look on your friend’s face when one day you have a white phone, the next day a red one!

This is a great way to customize your phone, as you can change the color of it without breaking anything or adding a bulky case.

You can order either color for $16.99, which is EXTREMELY expensive for a little piece of plastic. It probably cost less than a cent to make that cover, so that’s QUITE the nice margin you got there, HTC! $16.98 in profit. Wow. That’s 99.95%!

Aside from the high price, there’s no shipping, which should make you feel a little better. You can order one for yourself here. Enjoy!

INSTALLING ROMS ON YOUR DROID INCREDIBLE: FULL GUIDE

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1. Background check and root

If you haven’t yet, click here to read the guide on rooting your droid incredible.

2. Find some ROMs

The first thing you need to install a ROM would be the ROM itself (go figure).

If you have a droid incredible, I highly recommend downloading the fusion ROM from this post. Fusion is an extremely well-done and compatible ROM based off of CyanogenMod7 (another ROM), so you’ll get the dimension-opening power of 2.3.2 gingerbread.

If you don’t want this ROM, you can always do a google search. Not too hard, eh?

2. Download the ROMs

With the example I’m using (fusion), there are two ROMs. It includes first the base gingerbread ROM, but on top of that it also has a ROM for the Android Market, Gmail, YouTube, and Maps applications, as they do not come by default on the Android base operating system.

For now, I am only going to discuss installing the base, but for other ROMs it is sometimes the same situation with the two seperate ROMs. So later on I’ll discuss installing the gapps (dev talk for Google Apps).

There are two ways you can get the ROM to your device.

The first one involves your computer. Download the ZIP file(s) onto your desktop, then plug in your phone and move the zip(s) onto the root of your SD card.

The second way requires an app called Root Explorer (I discussed it in the guide to rooting). On the phone itself, use the web browser to download the ZIP file(s). Then, open up root explorer and navigate to the downloads folder (probably on your sdcard). Then, tap and hold the zip and select move. Navigate to the root of the sd card and tap paste. (Do this with the second ROM if you have one).

3. BACK UP!

This is an extremely important step to this, because if you forget to backup then you will never be able to restore your phone to the condition it was in when you rooted. That means that the HTC sense operating system that came on your phone will be GONE.

So, you’ll need to boot into recovery and backup.

Turn off your phone and turn it back on while holding the down volume button. It will boot into HBOOT, a diagnostics screen. Once it is done checking for update images on the SDcard, use the volume and power buttons to navigate to and select RECOVERY in the menu that you see.

It will show the HTC booting screen, but then boot into recovery (with very small fonts, I might add).

In this screen, scroll down and select backups (you can now use the optical trackball to do this). Then, select create a backup (or something like that).

It might take a while, but eventually a backup should be made of all of your stuff on your phone. So we shall now proceed to the next step.

Install the ROMS

Now is the fun part.

Boot back into the recovery screen by holding the down key and the power button at the same time.

Then, hit Wipe Data/Factory Reset.

This will wipe all of the data off of the phone.

WAIT WAIT WAIT! I STILL WANT MY BACKUPS!

Calm your caps lock keys, wiping the data from the phone doesn’t wipe out the sd card, which is where the backups are.

Now, select install zip from SD card.

Select choose zip from SD card

then, select the zip that you either downloaded or transferred over.

Then, select the yes, and magically, the ROM will install.

Wait a while, and it should be installed and working!

Upon first boot it will take a very long time to load. It has to configure everything and get it working. But every time you reboot the device the reboot time should be less and less until it is less than 30 seconds.

Anything else?

You might have downloaded 2 zip files to your SD card which you downloaded from the site that gives out the ROMs. This is probably because one of them is a Google Apps zip.

Make sure that before you move the two zips on to the sd card, you name them so you can tell which one is the base OS and which is the Gapps. (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to click here and read up on your background info.) Make sure that first you install the Base OS zip, then, after it’s done, select Install zip from sdcard once again and select the gapps zip. Make sure that you don’t hit wipe data/factory reset, because what that will do is wipe out the base OS so you only have gapps and nothing to run it on. Not too functional if I may say so myself.

Where to find these ROMs?

As I said, the best ROM for the Droid Incredible at the moment is the Fusion ROM.

But there’s other ROMS too.

One of the most popular is CyanogenMod. They’ve been releasing ROMs with upgraded features since the dawn of time (or android).

However, after a little mixup with google, they are no longer allowed to have Gapps on their OS. So you’ll have an android phone with…. no android market. Or gmail. Or youtube. Have fun!

One of the easiest ways to find ROMS for your droid incredible is to just google it.

If you google Droid Incredible ROMs, a large amount of different websites will show up. If you are too lazy, here’s a direct link to that google search for ya. You’re welcome.

Rooting, Recovery, and ROMs: What it’s all about.

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So you’ve got an android phone.

And you can use the stock operating system with all of the manufacturer’s skinning and apps and versions and keyboard and everything.

Congratulations.

But if you are feeling a bit ballsy, then you can really take your phone to a true mobile computing level.

Here’s the steps to this.

  • Root
  • Install a recovery
  • Find ROMS
  • Make backups
  • Install ROMS
  • Use Wireless Tether

Lets explain what all of this is.

Rooting

Rooting means that you can create a way for apps to get superuser access. This is handy for getting to wifi, modifying files, or installing ROMs.

Recovery

For the Recovery, that will usually be installed when you root the phone. The recovery is where you can make and recover backups of the phone, install ROMs, and a slew of other stuff that might come in handy (but could also kill your phone).

Backup

Once you have the recovery installed (you can’t have the recovery without the root FYI) then the first thing you need to do is make a backup of your phone.

This is pretty easy. Just boot into Recovery (just hold down volume on boot and select recovery when given the option), Select backups, and select make a backup now. Your screen will flash many random things, and no matter how long it takes, don’t force shut it down or take out the battery. It will almost always finish.

ROMs

Once you have a backup of your normal operating system, you can go crazy with other ROMs.

ROM stands for Read Only Memory. In android poweruser terms, it is an operating system that can be installed on the phone using the recovery mode.

You can find many roms on the internet all over the place. XDA-developers is a great place to get ROMs. Sometimes a ROM will even be for the next Android version that htc hasn’t released yet.

When you download a ROM, it will come as an easy to handle zip file. And from here it’s simple.

Plug in your phone to your computer and mount it as a disk drive/USB Mass Storage. Then, just click and drag the ROM from your computer onto the root of the SD card. Eject and unplug the phone, then reboot into recovery.

Select install zip from sdcard and select the name of the file that you moved over. Then, choose the yes among the long list of nos to confirm you really want to install it and whabam, you will be installing a new operating system.

Then, reboot your phone, and you will be with your brand new OS that you yourself downloaded from the internet and installed on your phone.

Unfortunately, this process is different for every android phone. Sometimes there is a one-click root. Sometimes you have to use a command line application to open a port on the phone and install the root like that. But once you have gotten the phone rooted, installing zips is a piece of cake.

Wireless Tether

Aside from installing ROMs, another thing you can do is install and use apps that usually wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t rooted.

The one example I am going to use here is called Wireless Tether. And basically, it’s just that.

You can make your phone into a wi-fi hotspot with no hassle, just using verizon’s mobile hotspot plan. But that will cost you an extra $20 a month and you have a 5 GB limit before you start getting overage fees. Ouch.

With Wireless tether, you can connect unlimited devices, the data comes out of your data plan for your phone, and that also means there’s no overage fees.

Once you are rooted, just search for Wireless Tether in the android market and you will be able to install it on your phone and use it. You can change the SSID of the WiFi network, and you can even enable encryption and a password on your network. In addition, it allows you to use access control, where you can disable a device’s access to the network. Very handy sometimes.

Do it yourself

So that is the whole concept of rooting, recovery, and roms. You can find roms for things using google: Just do a search for “[your phone] 2.3 ROMS” or “[your phone] Cyanogenmod” and you should have plenty of luck. If you want to find out how to root your phone, just do a google search for “[your phone] root” and that should turn up some helpful results.

If you have a rooted droid incredible, click here to learn about the stable and functional gingerbread rom by WeDoDroid.