I have three predictions for the coming year: Prediction #1: I have seen the future, and it is Android. Or rather, the Android model is going to be the model that “wins out.” Right now, especially for those who tote iPhones around, that might be difficult to see or understand. The iPhone seems like a device which embodies all the mobile 2.0 ideals I first wrote about in 2006. It provides access to a wealth of applications and services. It’s easy to use. It’s connected. It has created new product categories (apps) and new routes to market. But, as iPhone detractors often point out, it’s a closed ecosystem. I submit that no matter how “insanely great” the iPhone is, the ecosystem that Apple has created around it cannot scale. So, we are back to another prediction I made, at 2008’s Future of Mobile conference: Android will be to the iPhone what the PC was to the Mac. Why? User choice. You can download and install an app on an Android phone without buying it from Android Market. You can download it directly, or from an alternative app store such as GetJar. I predict 2010 will be the year that Android apps will begin to rival iPhone apps – maybe not in terms of sheer numbers, but in terms of consumer and developer mindset. This will be the year in which “download our Android App” buttons will join “download our iPhone App” buttons on sites across the Web. Don’t believe me? Check out this interesting data point …

Three Predictions for 2010 Read more »

Since upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software, I’ve dived into Apple’s app store and I’ve been making a point of trying out apps from across the store but focusing on content creation tools (such as the excellent WordPress app which I’m using to write this post). At the same time, I’ve continued to make use of all the great iphone webapps and mobile Web sites I’ve come to know and love. Increasingly, across many platforms (not just iPhone) application developers and content providers will  face this choice: to build a webapp or to build a native app. There are advantages to both approaches, and some work that’s just getting started that I believe will significantly change the face of mobile development over the next 2 years. The rush of content and application developers to develop iPhone apps has been impressive and somewhat predictable. The app store is the next big thing. Google, Microsoft and others are now jumping on the bandwagon (probably much to the dismay of the folks at Handango who can rightly claim they’ve been doing an app store since before app stores were cool). Many of the apps in the Apple app store are really good and could not (currently) be written as web apps because they either take advantage of device capabilities (such a location) or because they need direct access to graphics or sound capabilities (3D gaming) not available to the browser engine. However – discounting this need to access the platform functions, there’s nothing about, say, the iPhone Facebook …

Mobile Web Apps will Beat Native Apps Read more »

I’ve been following with some interest the press surrounding the 100th anniversary of the Model T, the original “people’s car” that is credited with creating the automative industry as we now know it. The Model T is famous for a number of reasons, but one thing I hadn’t quite appreciated was how versitile and extensible (to use a modern word) the car was. A whole after-market industry grew up around the T, letting people transform it into sports car, a truck, a tractor, a harvester – whatever task required motive power. This factor of openness and extensibility, combined with mass-production and low cost, helped to make the car a success story and created a new industry. The slightly more modern equivelent might be the IBM PC. But this left me wondering: what is the mobile computing equivelent to the Model T? What is the Model T of the mobile Web? Though I love it, I have to say the iPhone ain’t it. It fails on both the low cost and the extensibility criteria. The OLPC device fails on mass-market grounds. What we need is for someone to come along and deliver a mass-market, low-cost device that is extensible and open but which has enough ease and simplicity of use that it is embraced by the great public and enough oomph to be a mobile Web workhorse. There is a gigantic vacuum in the mobile industry right now with this exact shape. Candidates include Google’s Android, Limo devices, next-generation Nokia devices based on the new Symbian Foundation and …

What will be the Model T of the Mobile Web? Read more »

So what does WordPress’s application for iPhone give you that sets it apart from just blogging through the browser?First and foremost, it allows you to blog while off-line. I’m writing this while sitting in the Tube, under the streets of London where network signals are not in abundance. Having the option to compose offline and then seamlessly publish could be a boon to people like me who often find themselves offline. The mobile app also let’s you take photos, a feature that I am testing in this post, so more on how well that works later. [Update: there was an error sending the picture so some bugs still need to be worked out.] On the downside, the app doesn’t have any spelling tools (actually a problem with all iPhone apps). The auto-correction software built into the iphobe can be both a blessing and a curse in this regard, both fixing up obvious mistakes and introducing insidious errors you don’t catch until it’s too late. (iPhone 2.0 has started to auto-correct ‘its’ as ‘it’s’ which can be particularly problematic). One wish-list item for me would be geo-tagging of posts using the Skyhook-supplied location platform demonstrated at this month’s Mobile Monday London (and built in to the iPhone). I doubt even Skyhook, though, could locate me 200 feet below Tottenham Court Road. One more note on location: all iPhone apps now prompt the user for permission when they try to locate you. I believe this is a function of the underlying software – and if that’s the case …

Offline Blogging and Location Read more »

I’m writing this post from the new (free) WordPress iPhone application. Is it the holy grail of mobile blogging? That remains to be seen, but it certainly was easy to install and get up and running (with my own installation of WordPress 2.6 that I have running on Torgo.com). The text creation capability is the same as email and like email there is no way to turn the unit on its aide to get a bigger keyboard. The new 2.0 keyboard seems more accurate and swift than the previous rev though. More on the iPhone update in a later post. Ta Ta for now.

Once upon a time, a company called Apple came out with a great concept: a breakthrough consumer device with a new user interface that left the competitors in the dust. It brought UI to a whole new level by introducing a new visual and gestural language which greatly increased ease of use. In doing so, it lowered the barrier to entry for the general public, created new markets for its products and a revolution occured. Sound familiar? It should. I’m talking about the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. The new visual language of pointing, clicking, dragging and using overlaping windows gradually became the dominant UI paradigm. But here’s the problem: other companies stole Apple’s great ideas (which Apple had actually stolen from Xerox but never mind). What could have rocketed Apple to market dominance instead became a commodity that anyone could implement. Flash forward to 2007. Apple again comes out with a new UI paradigm, together with a visual and gestural language, and they release it as part of a breakthrough consumer device; the first of a series of devices in different form factors which they think will undo the last 20 years and rocket them to dominance of all things digital. But this time, they’ve got an ace up their sleeve: a string of patents. As Wired reported in February, Apple is trying to patent the gestures that make up the iPhone UI – the iPhone’s equivalent of “point and click.” In fact, if Apple’s efforts succeed, I think they will be shooting themselves …

Beyond Point and Click Read more »

Great blog post at the New York Times last week about the disproportionate percentage of iPhone users (84.8%) who use the iPhone regularly to access the Web (compared to users of other smart phone devices). Mark Donovan of M:Metrics is quoted in the article saying that this is because the iPhone is particularly well suited to “people who are jacked into the Internet all the time.” Doesn’t putting the Web front and center on the device, bundling the device with very Internet-friendly price plans, and making the thing so damn easy to use have just as much to do with it? It’s no surprise to me that Google has seen 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile handset (as reported in the FT last month). I’ve spent the last 3 years in lamenting the fact that device manufacturers make it so difficult to find the place to enter the URL into the browser that most people simply give up. My three year old daughter picked up my iPhone for the first time and within seconds she had brought up the browser, found the space to enter a URL and had started typing away. That was a an ah-ha moment for me about the iPhone’s usability. Mark kind of implies that iPhone owners are using the mobile Web because only because they are naturally predisposed to such use. My gut feeling is that the iPhone is actually “crossing the chasm” into the general public. There is a latent demand for the mobile …

iPhone Spurs Mobile Web Usage Read more »

[ad] Why, in this day and age, when they can send a man to the Moon, is it so frickin’ difficult to tell what time it is? Specifically, what makes it so seemingly difficult for mobile devices, which are connected to a public network, to tell what time it is? Surely mobile connected devices should be our most trusted time sources. The network they’re connected to is constantly pumping out a time-sync. So what is the problem? Three examples: I normally carry around a couple of devices. Most recently, these have been consistently unreliable sources of the time. The Blackberry has two time-sync options: network and “blackberry.” Neither of them ever yield a correct time (as measured by my Mac, whose time-sync works flawlessly when measured against the BBC). The N73 also has a “network sync” option which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I have often found that the time is wildly off – by as much as a few hours. It also doesn’t help matters that a change of this setting requires a reboot. I have to manually set the time zone on the Blackberry but the Nokia N73 somehow can figure that out for itself. I just came out of the other end of the Channel Tunnel and my iPhone hasn’t picked up the fact that I’m now in Central European Time – so it’s still showing an hour behind. In this fast-paced world, it’s more important than ever for your device to know the correct time. This becomes especially important when you’re sharing …

What Time is It? Read more »

Yes. Believe it or not, there is something that has overshadowed the launch of the iPhone around the world. It is the story of the developer community that has come together around the iPhone to create a whole ecosystem of applications and clandestine methods for loading these applications onto this platform. In a matter of months, loosely organized individuals and companies with names like Nullriver, Conceited software, drudge and “Erica,” have managed to unravel the turtleneck of iPhone security and in the process they have created something entirely new in the industry: a mass-market mobile phone platform that is completely open to the application developer community. They have also created application loading tools for over-the-air installation which have no rival in terms of their sophistication and ease of use. Indeed, there’s no tip-off, except for the author names, that the software you’re using wasn’t developed and pre-installed by Apple – they’re that good. Along the way, we now have a few new words in our mobile lexicon. Of course, there’s “brick” as a verb, as in “to brick your phone.” Of course, most iPhone users who found their phones bricked after the first software update have since “de-bricked” their phones through various widely available methods. There’s also “jailbreak,” which has come to mean to enable third party software to be loaded onto an otherwise closed platform. A platform so prepared can be called “jailbroken.” The rest of the lexicon is still being worked out. The popular press can’t seem to figure out the difference between SIM-unlocked …

The Biggest Mobile Story of 2007 is not the iPhone Launch Read more »

A week ago when I was in San Francisco, I picked up an iPhone, with the intention of unlocking it when I got back to the UK. When the software update came out (and the iBricking started), however, I decided to activate it in on the AT&T network (allowing me to use the device) and then deactivate my AT&T account by phone within the 30 day grace period. So now I have essentially a Web pad / music player device. Why not go for an iPod Touch? Well, I still hope to unlock it and get it working with a Voafone SIM but until then I can also use the Apps that the Touch doesn’t have like Mail and Google Maps. But mostly I’m interested in how the browser performs. What are my initial impressions after a week with the iPhone? In general, I am very impressed. Breakthrough device. Blah blah blah. I’ll refrain from gushing. I am deeply concerned about the whole locking fiasco. I don’t think Jobs is in the right. Apple should allow and encourage third party development to thrive on this platform, and they should allow you to buy the thing unlocked or at least activate it without attaching to a mobile operator, especially considering the price you are paying up front for the device. It seems to me that this is a strategy that has evolved from the iPod platform – a platform which Apple is used to controlling with an iron fist. But iPod is an embedded OS. The iPhone …

So the iPhone Read more »