Firefox Jumps on the Mobile OS Bandwagon at MWC 2013

Bookmark and Share

At Mobile World Congress, a bunch of people with ties huddled into a room in Barcelona, Spain to hear what Firefox had to say.

Firefox announced Firefox OS, a new mobile operating system that will inevitably compete against Apple, Android, and the other big names. I’m not going to go into super specific details, but here’s the important stuff:

Firefox OS has secured shipments on many different devices (many of them very cheap) from LG Electronics, Alcatel One Touch, and some other unheard of companies. It won’t be coming to any devices in the US until 2014.

The big headline of Firefox OS is that they’re ditching a typical app store and instead hoping to have an “open market” of HTML5 based apps. In essence, the OS is basically a web browser. “Apps” are actually just links to websites.

Essentially, I think this is a good idea that will succeed in foreign markets but not in the US.

I’ve covered the quality+userbase=userbase++ concept in my post about Google+. In case you didn’t read that, basically, any social networking site’s best feature is more users for people to socialize with. When you have users, other users want to join, and your user base will exponentially grow. This same system can be applied to app stores. For your phone to be successful, you need apps. For developers to make apps for your phone, there need to be users. For there to be users, there need to be apps. The more users you have, the more apps you have, the more users you have, the more apps you have, and so on.

Firefox OS has the edge here because the “apps” are all HTML based (websites). This means that anyone who has ever created a website has the knowledge to create an app for Firefox OS – so there are already 8 million developers for this OS. Removing the learning curve of a new language and new library for a mobile OS will make it much more compelling to developers and, in turn, more compelling to users.

Phones running Firefox OS are going to be released mainly in China and developing cell areas for a fairly cheap price. As a result, I think it will succeed in those markets where iPhones and Androids are often too expensive. I don’t think it’s going to succeed in America as the competition from Microsoft, RIM, Android, and iOS is very hot.

Overall, I think that Firefox OS is a controversial approach to the Mobile OS – websites as apps – and will thrive in less modernized countries, but fail in others.

 

Instagram Announces Web Profiles

Bookmark and Share

Instagram, the mobile photo sharing network that was recently bought by facebook for a large sum, has now announced a web-based interface.

In the past, to view someone’s instagram profile, you needed a mobile device with the Instagram app installed. There were many online profile alternatives that were based off of Instagram’s API, but none of them were worth writing home about.

With this update, you’ll be able to find a facebook-like profile of someone’s instagram account by simply visiting instagram.com/username.

Source: Instagram

Even more importantly, Web Profiles also brings instagram to the web. It will now be possible to like and comment on photos as well as follow other users with the new web interface, and will eliminate the mobile-exclusivity aspect.

Just like the web profile, this has been done in the past with the Instagram API – in fact, quite well in one case. However, the Instagram-made site is bound to be impressive and a nice addition to the Instagram portfolio.

One thing worth mentioning is that the updated site will still not support photo uploads from a computer as “Instagram is focused on the production of photos from mobile devices” (Press Release). I don’t believe that the functionality will ever exist for this reason, however there are ways to upload a photo not taken with a mobile device to Instagram (such as dropbox).

All of these features will be rolled out to different accounts over the course of the next week.

My account has not gotten the update yet, but feel free to check by going to http://instagram.com/maxswisher.

Also, follow me on instagram! @maxswisher

 

Samsung owes Apple a LOT of Money

Bookmark and Share

If you think that Apple is too pricey for charging $1000 for a bottom line laptop, get a load of this.

After a long, heated dispute on patent infringements that took a staggering 21 hours in court, Apple’s bill for Samsung comes out to $1.049 BILLION dollars.

To put that in perspective, the US treasury’s cash balance is around 75 billion. Samsung owes Apple around 1.4% of the worth of the US treasury.

But what for? I could go through the entire list, but it basically comes down to Apple’s design patents from device exteriors to the packaging of a plethora of Samsung’s products.

For the 21.5 hour period, the jury was deciding on some “inconsistencies” on two of the products: The LTE-enabled Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Samsung Intercept. It was decided that Samsung would owe around $200,000 for the Tab, even though nobody formally noted any patent infringements.

About the Samsung Intercept, Samsung made some stupid error that isn’t really important enough to mention and they owe an extra $2,000,000 for that.

So finally, the long tale comes to an end, with an unfortunately typical ending: Money —–> Apple.

The Sphero

Bookmark and Share

When I arrived at my first CES, one of the first things that I saw and experienced in depth was the Sphero. They had a medium sized booth, with a little track and some ramps. There were all of these tiny little white balls rolling around on it, and I must say – it looked pretty cool. A chat and a demo later, I saw what it was. It was a little ball that rolled around and was controlled by your iPhone or iPad. That was about it. The people at the booth told me that they would be evolving it and making it into an API for any developer to use, and that the product would be sold eventually for under $100. The prototypes at the stand were functional, but barely. A small drop and they would fall apart. Upon pressing the “boost” button, they would go crazy and lose their bearings. Not to mention that those were all they had with them, so when one broke down beyond repair they were simply down one. It looked promising. The concept was cool, it seemed flexible, it could definitely be something cool. After all, it was just a ball – which left plenty of room for the imagination of customers and developers.

It’s one year later. I’m back at CES. Upon walking into the convention center, I can see a giant rotating sphere that seems to be a giant model of the sphero. Upon arriving under said banner, I saw something big – much bigger than the year before. The booth was much larger, there were tons of spheros everywhere, and there were video presentations on TV monitors and banners and everything. Much, much, MUCH bigger than last year. It looked like they had really grown. Here they had these balls that were made out of a very solid plastic, had inductive chargers, sphero logos embedded on each one, and none of them were out of control. Heck, they were rolling them down concrete stairs! I checked over and they had really gotten somewhere.

The Concept

As I said before, this thing is a ball. It now has open APIs that any iOS or Android developer can use to integrate the sphero with their apps. The range of applications has grown, and there are apps available that can make the sphero a fake golf ball or even take advantage of the sphero’s accelerometer and gyroscope to use it as a game controller. The range of applications is constantly growing, so buying a sphero isn’t just buying a ball – it’s like buying a phone, who’s functionality will keep growing with more applications and updates.

The Ball

The Sphero itself doesn’t take up much space. It’s white, hard plastic that has no spaces or anywhere that the plastic snaps together or comes apart. In fact, it doesn’t have a charging port. If one were to look inside of a sphero (which would be very difficult considering that they would need to saw or melt open the outer shell), he would find an array of devices. There’s some motors as well as a main motherboard which contains a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth card, and a bunch of other robotic computing stuff. They would also find the multicolor LED that lights up the ball in any color you want. The sphero contains a standard lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged through an inductive charger. For those of you who don’t know what an inductive charger is, it’s basically a charger that charges a battery through a material without having any physical contacts. These are sometimes found in electric toothbrush chargers, emergency flashlight chargers, and more recently on electronic devices such as the Palm Pre or the duracell powermat. To charge the sphero, just set it in its dock with the heavier part of the sphero on the bottom. Like magic, the sphero will start charging. Cool! To wake the ball up, just shake it. Yup. No switches here, just shake it as if it were a two week old container of orange juice and it will light up and be ready to play. Set it down on the ground, open up your iOS or android device, and start rolling. The sphero connects to your device through bluetooth. A user will notice a tail-like figure on the top of it. This shows the orientation of the sphero relative to the control mechanism in the application. If one picks up the sphero and spins it, she would notice that the mechanism inside would constantly adjust to maintain the set orientation. That’s part of the robotics at work. Overall, the sphero is one intelligent, intuitive ball.

The Interface

Sphero provides a few apps to demonstrate the basic functionalities of the sphero. The main app, Sphero Drive, simply allows the user to drive the sphero around. Here you won’t find any steering wheels or throttle nonsense – just a circle with a little sphero-shaped control in it. This eliminates the confusion that often comes when you’re driving a device towards you. With a steering wheel, it ends up becoming reversed, but with this interface, it’s not a problem. Put two fingers on the screen and rotate them, and you’ll see a blue dot on the sphero. Point it right towards yourself, then pushing the sphero in the app forward will cause the sphero to roll forward. Pushing it right will make it roll right. It’s as simple as that.

Apps

At the moment, Sphero has been releasing many different apps. One of them is the standard “Sphero Drive” application that I was mentioning up there. Others like Chromo use the sphero as a controller, and one app allows the user to play golf with it. At the moment, there are many different applications being developed and there’s always new ones available. Conclusion The Sphero is available from both Sphero’s website and now many brookstone stores for $130. I will say, that it is not a cheap toy – but think of it as a console, where there’s always new games out that you can buy. If you’re a developer, you can use Sphero’s open API to integrate it into your applications for free. Check out the sphero website for available apps, purchasing the Sphero, and using their free API. http://gosphero.com

P.S. Thank you Sphero for sending me the finished product!

Sales of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus are Illegal.

Bookmark and Share

Seriously people, I’m not kidding.

The phone that I just recently purchased (and love) is now illegal to be sold in the United States.

The culprit? Apple, as expected.

Apple filed a boatload of patent infringement lawsuits against samsung, and where there’s money there’s power. Apple won the lawsuit against Samsung with flying colors, and now the sales of the flagship android device are banned in the United States.

I’m one of those people who thinks that Apple is using its patents too harshly against the competition. It’s like a towel company saying to another towel company “HEY! We have white towels! You’re not allowed to! We’re the only ones who can sell white towels!!”

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Apple has fought (and mostly won) many different lawsuits with Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and every other company who dares set food in the world of creating a smartphone that could possibly compete with the iPhone. Apple went against HTC for the user interface. Motorola initiated the lawsuits against Apple saying that they infringed some their, then Apple said that Motorola infringed THEIR patents, then Motorola said that Apple infringed MORE patents, and the story goes on. In fact, nobody really knows what the patents were about in te first place.

The list goes on. In fact, there’s an entire wikipedia article full of them!

I don’t like the way Apple does things. That’s for sure. Profitable or not, it’s just not fair.

Iranian? Good Luck Getting your Apple Product

Bookmark and Share

Well, isn’t this surprising.

An 19 year-old student and her uncle were at an Apple Store shopping for an iPad and iPhone at a mall in Georgia. They were talking in Farsi, and when an Apple employee overheard she said “I just can’t sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations.”

Leave it to Apple to discriminate not only against other platforms, companies with similar home screens, or any other firm that dares to threaten their authority, but also against people from different parts of the world.

Apparently, this isn’t the first time that this has happened at an Apple store. Another customer, Zack Jafarzadeh, went with his friend to a different Apple Store and received similar treatment. “We never talked about him going back to Iran or anything like that. He was just speaking full-fledged Farsi and the representative came back and denied our sale,” said Jafarzadeh to WSBTV. “I would say if you’re trying to buy an iPhone, don’t tell them anything about Iran. That would be your best bet.”

It gets better. An Apple Store manager told a news team from WBSTV about their policy, which said the exportation, sale, or supply of Apple products from U.S. to Iran is not allowed without prior authorization by the federal government. The manager explained Apple Stores have to “rely on customers to be honest.”

And here’s the best part. An Apple Store employee apologized and recommended that they buy their products online. Hah!

So when a US citizen and her uncle come into an Apple store speaking Farsi, they aren’t allowed to buy anything and are basically instructed to purchase the products as long as no Apple employees need to look at them.

This is how Apple rolls, everybody. I could be annoyed at the employees, or the manager, or the Store, but really, Apple is to blame. The same thing can happen anywhere in the US, as long as Apple decides that selling an iPad to a US citizen that speaks Farsi is breaching a US law stating that it is illegal to enter Iran with “laptops or satellite cellphones” without U.S. consent.

Android, anyone?

Instagram Bought by Facebook for $1 BILLION

Bookmark and Share

Remember Instagram, the fun little quirky photo sharing service that just released an Android application?

As you may know, they’ve been growing in size since their launch and Instagram has become an extremely large and popular service.

Because of this, it was inevitable that they would eventually be purchased by an extremely large company… and who better than facebook?

First of all, $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money. A LOT. I didn’t really think that Instagram could be worth that much.

Second, a little note to Zuck and the whole facebook crew: Please, please, please, please don’t screw this up. Please don’t force it to be built in to the facebook interface. Don’t try to stick instagram into facebook, you’d be doing everybody a disservice. Also, don’t just get rid of the entire thing to eliminate competition.

We will have to see what Facebook is hoping to do with this photo-sharing giant, and I honestly hope that they don’t screw it up.

Instagram for Android

Bookmark and Share

Finally. At long, long, long, long, long, long, long last. Instagram has released their official Android Application.

In case you don’t know, Instagram is a photo-sharing platform which incorporates different fun-style effects and third party sharing into the mix. It’s been available for the iPhone since late 2010 and has collected over 30 million users. Yeah. Whow.

There were many speculations of an Android App over the past while, but no confirmed release date.

Now that Instagram has released their Android version, they are well on their way to a giant user base. After all, Android does have more of a market share than the iPhone.

As far as the application goes, it’s the exact same as the iPhone with one important exception: The android application does not have the tilt-shift function, a popular option among Instagrammers. (Tilt-shift is where a selected part of the photo is in focus and the rest is not.)

If you are an android user longing for some instagrammal love, click here to download the free app for android. Enjoy!

Otterbox Defender Series for Galaxy Nexus

Bookmark and Share

Over my years of reviewing and testing, no other case company has ever been able to  replicate the protective properties of Otterbox’s cases. When I plan on dropping my phone off of a two story building, they’re the only ones with a case I can trust.

That’s why when I got my Galaxy Nexus, I knew that the case I would be getting would be from otterbox. Here’s my scoop.

Design

The case consists of two main parts: an outer silicone skin, and an inner hard plastic shell (with a screen protector built in).

The outer silicone skin has a nice grip and absorbs a majority of the initial shock if you happen to drop the device. It has openings for all ports, so you can attach everything you need without having to ever remove the case. This is a nice feature, although it does add more parts and complexity to the overall design of the case.

The Flaw

The inner shell is the hard layer of protection for the device. It has two parts: a bottom and a top section, which snap around the phone. This is where the only problem with the case is.

A "practically indestructible" case?

The top section is a frame around the screen (with openings for speakers, cameras, lights, etc.) which also has a screen protecter glued in. This means that you need to clean off the screen protector of the case in addition to your phone’s screen and try to get them together before any other dust settles. The only issue with this is that if any dust settles after you’ve snapped it on, good luck getting it off – without breaking it, that is. After my first attempt at putting it together, I noticed a bunch of dust particles under the protector. So I take the case off, but the tiny snaps on the edges that hold the case together aren’t willing to let go. In the end, I need to pry them apart to even get to my phone. This bent the frame a bit. On my second attempt at taking the case off, I tried to use a key in the tiny slots next to the snaps. I ended up cracking the frame, and it still took a good ten minutes for me to get the case off of the device.

Conclusion

Otterbox was always (and most likely will always be) known for it’s super-protective lines of cases. At $50, the materials are not very well-built and are extremely prone to cracking and bending. Although it may protect your device, the case is oddly fragile for its super-hefty title. I can’t say I don’t recommend this case, as the protection it offers is above-par, but I can’t highly recommend it as it is fragile and the plastic materials are prone to breaking and bending.

If you want to pick one up for yourself, click here to be redirected to the Otterbox page.

P.S. Thank you otterbox for sending me this awesome (but fragile) case!

The Galaxy Nexus Problem: Battery Life

Bookmark and Share

I’ve always been wondering what the big problem with the Galaxy nexus is. It has an amazing dual core processor, a glorious screen, flawless software, and LTE speeds. The camera is less than impressive, but it’s really not that bad.

But now, I’ve found the issue. Battery Life.

The Galaxy Nexus lasts for about 3 hours and 40 minutes. That’s a new record for the shortest battery life of a smartphone. Ouch.

Apparently the issue is actually related to software, where android 4.0 is keeping the CPU from sleeping. While verizon is busy trying to work out those kinks, they’re selling an extended battery for 50% off (not $25 from $50). I’ve ordered one and am awaiting it in the mail.

The only fear of mine is that Verizon releases an OTA (over the air) update for the phone that fixes the issue, then I’m not able to download the update because I’m rooted. This was the case on my Droid Incredible, but from what I’ve read it shouldn’t happen with the Nexus. I’ve also read that I’ll need to re-root, which shouldn’t be a problem.

Of course I’ll keep everybody in the loop about rooting and OTA updates, but until then be careful when buying a Nexus – you should probably get an extended battery as well.

Android Wifi Tether Now Working on Galaxy Nexus

Bookmark and Share

The only real reason I ever root my phone is to use the Wifi Tether app. Wifi Tether is a free application that allows you to get the internet from your rooted android phone onto your computer, without having to pay for Verizon’s ridiculous tethering plans.

Right after I rooted, I installed Wifi Tether and was disappointed when it gave me an error and didn’t work. I went to their Google Code page and there was already a very popular thread about it’s dysfunctionality on the Galaxy Nexus.

Well, rooters unite – Wifi Tether has just released an experimental pre-beta version that has support for the Nexus. Although it’s considered “experimental,” I’ve had absolutely no problems with it and I’m loving the 4G speeds. It’s like having a 4G Mifi with no data limits and a much cheaper data plan ($30 a month!).

Click Here to download the app. I recommend browsing to this page on your phone (here’s a shortlink to save you a little bit of time: http://wp.me/p1GtXy-vW) and hitting that download link.

Once it’s downloaded, go into Settings > Security and check the box that says “Install Apps from Unknown Sources.” This will allow you to install the apk file you just downloaded.

Now open your downloads and tap the apk file I told you to download up there, and you will go through a quick install process.

Open up the app and you’re ready to tether over 4G speeds!

If you’re not rooted yet and would like to be, click here for my post on how to root the Galaxy Nexus.

Enjoy your 4G Tethering!

Verizon Can’t Get it Right

Bookmark and Share

One of the most anticipated phones if the year is the Galaxy Nexus. It boasts a ton of new features, courtesy of Andoid 4.0.

One of Apple’s strongest points is how they release their phones. They send out an invite to an event, then at the event make a clear availability date. This causes people to get excited for the product and even line up for it.

Verizon took a different approach. They added a release date of Dec. 9 to the stores’ databases, and never made an official announcement. Everyone gets excited for that day, but Verizon has decided to stamp that down as well. Verizon took down the date from the databases and replaced it with “Launch Date Coming Soon.”

I don’t understand what Verizon is going for. Are they trying to get hype? Are they attempting to draw more in with their deadline extension? Or are the marketing people really just that clueless?

Many people have their two year upgrades coming up and would like to upgrade to the Nexus, but with so much waiting and games people are beginning to lose patience with Verizon. It’s not sure whether the phone isn’t actually going to be released on the 9th, and other sources are saying that it could be on the 13th. Who knows?

Verizon either needs to stick to the leaked dates to encourage more hype assurance or just give us a solid, set release date.