From Google TV to Android TV

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I was curios to find how Google plans to restart the Google TV project, so I checked the developer sites for Google TV and Android TV to find some differences. Android TV seems to be a simplified Google TV built along the lines of Apple TV.

Android TV

Google TV

1. Navigation: from keyboards and mice to remote controls

“Google TV devices always include a keyboard and a pointing device that controls the cursor. Many users will have these next to them as they view TV. The two may be combined into a single physical device, and this device may also include a mouse controller.” Android TV has a more limited scope: “On a TV device, users navigate with controls on a remote control device, using either a directional pad (D-pad) or arrow keys.” While keyboards are still supported, they’re no longer that useful.

2. Avoiding text input

While Google TV devices included keyboards, Android TV recommends developers to avoid text input. “Avoid making users enter text whenever possible, and use voice interfaces when you require text input.”

3. Avoiding text altogether

Google TV’s dev pages suggested to “limit each paragraph to no more than 90 words and break text into small chunks that users can quickly scan”. Android TV’s guidelines tell developers to “avoid using on-screen text to convey information and purpose. Tell your story with pictures and sound.”

4. From computing to content consumption

Google TV included a browser with Flash support and encouraged developers to optimize their sites for the platform. Android TV tells a different story: “The TV is an entertainment interface, not a computer or mobile device. Optimize for activities that put content at the center: from the casual posture of movie-watching, to immersive gameplay, to hanging out with friends in a living room.” And another thing: “We discourage including web browsing in games for Android TV. The television set is not well-suited for browsing, either in terms of display or control scheme.”

5. Simplicity

One of the main issues with Google TV was that it was complicated to use. “Android TV is simple and magical. It’s all about finding and enjoying content and apps with the least amount of friction.”

Google TV’s goal was to bring the Web to the TV. That didn’t work well: content providers blocked Google TV, input devices were clunky and people didn’t like browsing the Web on their TVs. So now Android TV tries to bring the Android ecosystem to the TV: the focus is on content, immersive interfaces and simple navigation.

Here’s the 2010 introduction video to Google TV:

July 7th 2014 Android

Samsung Gear Live Review: Samsung’s Smartwatch First Mover Advantage Helps Its Android Wear Effort

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IMG_9828 Samsung is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch, and the company arguably has a head start since it’s been making its own smartwatches since last year. The Gear Live owes much to its predecessors, which have run both a modified version of Android and Samsung’s own Tizen, but it manages to feel like much more than an older sibling’s hand-me-downs.… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile

LG G Watch Review: This Early Android Wear Watch Could Use A Bit More Time To Bake

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IMG_9834 LG is one of the first to market with an Android Wear smartwatch. Their hardware runs on Google’s smartwatch platform, which is pretty locked down in terms of what kind of customizations Google allows OEM to make. But there’s still plenty of room to shine – and fall short – when it comes to hardware design. LG’s watch seems to have missed the mark in some key… Read More

July 4th 2014 Android, Google, Mobile

A Look Back at Google’s History of Social Media Failures

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In some alternate social media history, the term Crush List is a verb—meaning to elevate a friend to the most prominent position within one’s social network. And somewhere MySpace founder Tom Anderson is cursing the name Orkut Buyukkokten—not Mark Zuckerberg. And in this reality, social media giant Google has more than a billion people on Orkut, the service that defined the next great Internet era after search.

Orkut’s official release date was January 2004; Facebook’s was February that year. In this reality, this week, Google announced it would shut down the network.

The loss of Orkut is yet another sign of how social still vexes Google, a company that tinkers with autonomous cars. Sure, it has Google+, but even that strategy has its troubles to the point that tech blogs are reporting on its imminent demise, too.

With Orkut gone, it’s a good time to reflect on Google’s contributions to social media:

Orkut almost had its moment. Just ask Brazil and India where the site actually introduced the masses to social networking. In Brazil, Orkut reached 30 million users at one point. Then Facebook entered the market in 2011, ahead of its eventual IPO, and Brazilians never looked back.

Dodgeball was a social media acquisition from 2005, brought to you by the co-founder who eventually built Foursquare. Dodgeball was an early attempt at location-based social media for stalking your “crushes.” Those were likely the same people you Crush Listed on Orkut.

Latitude. Like one Dodgeball failure wasn’t enough, Google folded it into Latitude, then closed that location-based service last year.

Google Buzz was a disaster from the start, and it led to one of Google’s bigger regulatory smackdowns. In 2010, Google tried to launch this turnkey social network that could immediately compete with Facebook and Twitter. Google basically tried to force feed a social network to gmail users, whose online contacts became their Buzz connections. Buzz became a privacy nightmare even in the social media realm, and the service was shut down in December 2011.

YouTube represents one of Google’s best opportunities in social media, if it can get its users to register and log in. Of course, even that stirred up user outcry, which is pretty easy to do on the video-sharing site. Last year, Google instituted new policies that made YouTube visitors sign in with Google+ if they want to leave comments. It’s the kind of forced integration that has many Google users wary of its namesake social network.

Google+ is the social layer that connects Android and search and YouTube and all of Google. There are questions about the viability of the stand-alone social network, but as this single log-in provider—an ID badge—it is considered Google’s great unifier. Google+ did recently lose its top executive and advocate Vic Gundotra, and Larry Page said he is still committed to the actual network, even though Google is clearly scaling back some of its presence. Google said at its developers conference last week that some Google+ information and profile photos would not show up in search results anymore.

Waze, Twitch and the future of Google in general will be social. Google bought the social-mapping site Waze for more than $1 billion last year. UPDATE: And there have been reports that it is interested in buying video-game streaming service Twitch, a popular source of teen entertainment. On Tuesday, Google did buy the music service Songza. Despite a history full of failed projects and brief moments of user tumult, Google will acquire a social presence where it can and weave one into all other properties—YouTube Music, Hangouts messaging, payments, shopping and gmail. 
 






Understanding Android Wear

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Android Wear watches work best when paired with phones running Android 4.3 or later. You can also pair them with tablets, but they’re more useful as phone companions. Android 4.3 brings support for Bluetooth 4.0 and that’s the reason why it’s required.

There’s no app store for Android Wear: the watch will show information from the apps you’ve installed on your phone. Android Wear has a simple interface for displaying notifications, Google Now cards and a few customization options. Watches don’t make sounds for notifications, they only vibrate. You can only use voice input and this works when you are online.

So what happens when you aren’t near your phone or you unpair your watch from your phone? You can still use some basic features: tell the time, alarm, stopwatch, timer, view calendar for today, step count, heart rate (if supported), change watch face and enable airplane mode. Basically, it’s a combination of watch, timer and pedometer.

Android Wear watches don’t bring any new feature, they’re just a more convenient way to access your notifications and Google Now cards. A second screen for your phone that displays useful information, so that you only use your phone when it’s necessary. It’s also a way to quickly find information or perform simple actions like setting reminders, controlling music, taking notes or replying to texts and emails – all of them using your voice. “OK Google” is the magic hotword.

Android Wear’s tagline is “information that moves with you”. The first two Android Wear watches from Samsung and LG cost from $199 to $229 and don’t have impressive specs. Battery life is limited to 1-2 days and that’s one of the most important things that need to be improved. Unlike Samsung’s Gear watch that runs its own software, they don’t have a camera and they don’t let you answer phone calls.

Computing devices get smaller and smaller, they’re powerful because they’re always with you. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that Android Wear watches aren’t standalone devices, they’re only companion devices. They’re water resistant, so they’re better suited for an active lifestyle.

Google Now and Google Voice Search are great for interacting with a simple device that has a small screen. Hopefully, Android Wear forces Google to add APIs that allow other apps to add Google Now cards and voice actions.

July 1st 2014 Android

Twitter Rolls Out App Install & Engagement Ads Globally

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Twitter, looking for a bigger piece of the lucrative mobile app install business, announced today the official global launch of its mobile app promotion suite. The ad product, in beta testing with companies such as Lyft and EA for the last six months, enables the placement of promoted tweets that…



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July 1st 2014 Android, Mobile, Twitter

The New Android

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Somewhere between the new gadget releases and the new Android flavours, there’s a new Android and it doesn’t look like the old one. The old Android was about developers and customization, the new Android is about users and user experience. To control the user experience, customization will take the back seat.

ArsTechnica reports that Android TV, Android Wear and Android Auto won’t allow hardware manufacturers to change the interface. The software will be updated by Google and manufacturers will only be able to add some apps and some hardware features.

“The UI is more part of the product in this case,” said Google engineering director David Burke. “We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same… The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”

Much like Chromebooks, the new Android devices will be frequently updated by Google. Even if you’re buying a Chromebook from Samsung, HP or Acer, you’re getting almost identical software and similar user experience, but slightly different hardware.

Back when the first Android phones were released, Google was more focused on adding features and APIs and cared less about user experience. Manufacturers had to create their own apps and skins to sell phones. This fostered a vibrant ecosystem, but also created problems: devices are slow to update, Google’s guidelines are sometimes ignored by manufacturers, user experience suffers. Apple started with the user experience and added the missing features later, Android started with the features and improved the user experience later.

“The new Android projects Google talked about at I/O this year circumvent the [fragmentation] problem entirely by not offering that kind of freedom to OEMs in the first place. That might make it more difficult for them to differentiate their products from one another, but it saves them a ton of development work and gives users more consistent, more secure devices that all pick up new features at the same time,” concludes ArsTechnica.

They’re more like Windows Phone devices. Strict guidelines, consistent interface and branding.

June 30th 2014 Android

Google Play Services Delivers Security Updates

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One of the most important new features announced at Google I/O was that Google Play Services will deliver security updates.

Google Play Services started as a way to solve Android’s fragmentation problem: instead of adding APIs to new Android versions, they were added to Play Services, which was bundled with almost any Android device and updated automatically by Google. Play Services became a clever tool that allowed Google to add new features to Android without waiting until phone manufacturers update their software.

Now it looks like Google can deliver timely security updates using the same software bundle. Apparently, Google uses a “Dynamic Security Provider, which offers an alternative to the platform’s secure networking APIs that can be updated more frequently, for faster delivery of security patches.”

Google Play Services is updated every 6 weeks and about 93% of the Android devices have the latest version. “By updating this application, Google can keep as many Android devices and Android users up to date with software, services, and security issues,” mentions Ewan Spence from Forbes, who suggests that Play Services is also a way for Google to control the Android platform and make it more difficult to fork Android, since Play Services is not open source. “By being in complete control of the access to Google Play Services, and by association the other closed source apps that consumers feel are integral to the Android experience, Google acts as a gatekeeper to the successful Android world.”

June 28th 2014 Android

Google’s Android Draws Fresh Antitrust Complaint In Europe

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Google must feel like it’s Groundhog Day. Another antitrust complaint has been filed against the company in Europe. This one is focused on Android and third-party app stores. There are also older complaints about Android before the European Commission (EC). According to an article in the Wall…



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June 18th 2014 Android, Google

Chrome Web Store Links to Android Apps

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Chrome Web Store now shows links to Google Play for apps and extensions that are also available for Android. For example, Pocket’s page includes this message next to the number of users: “Available for Android. Get it”.

You can also find Chrome apps and extensions that are available for Android:

Google Play doesn’t show links to Chrome Web Store apps, at least not yet. It will be interesting to see if Google plans to keep a separate store for Chrome or merge it with Google Play. When Google rebranded Android Market, I speculated that Google Play will become Google’s unified store for digital content.

{ via Chrome Story }

June 4th 2014 Android