Архив за месяц: Декабрь 2011

A Web Of Apps

iPhone Apps

It is remarkable to think that we’re in the early days of the app era, when there are already close to 600,000 iOS applications and nearly 400,000 on Android (source: Distimo). The growth of these app ecosystems has been rapid, exponential and shows no signs of slowing down. As well it shouldn’t: the untapped, addressable market for mobile apps involves hundreds of millions of users.

And yet, app discovery remains a challenge. Whether in an app store, on the device itself, or via a third-party service. Whoever cracks the nut of app discovery will have the potential to be the next Google: the search engine of the modern age. The search engine for a web of apps.

App discovery is a key focus for a number of startups. Off the top of my head: Chomp, Quixey, Xyologic, Appolocious, AppsFire, Kinetik, and Crosswa.lk are approaching the challenge of app discovery in new ways. (And yes, you too, millions of companies I neglected to mention).

While that’s a rich topic for examination, it’s not one that can be summed up in a single post. So for today, one aspect of building a web of apps: connectivity.

Why do I keep referring to a web of apps? Apps are not like the web – they are not hyperlinked creations that allow you to move seamlessly from one operation to another…or are they?

Perhaps not yet. But they could be, if more developers chose to implement this functionality. Using something called “app URL schemes,” apps can communicate with each other. For example, on the iPhone, iOS developers can call up the built-in apps, like the Messaging app, Email app and the Phone app. Apple’s URL schemes are published in developer documentation, but all apps have URL schemes available.(On Android, something similar can be accomplished via “intent filters.”)

Apps can launch other apps. Apps can connect to other apps.

It’s still somewhat rare to see this in action, but it’s starting to happen. Facebook is probably the most high-profile example of this. In the iOS app, on the left-hand side an “apps” section will link to Facebook apps which also exist as iOS applications. Tap the app in the list and Facebook launches the app on your phone. If you don’t have the iOS version installed, it launches the App Store instead.

Clever.

Facebook as a portal to the mobile “app web.”

But there are lesser known use cases, too. For example, PhotoAppLink, an open source initiative that aims to simplify photo editing by tying multiple photo-editing apps together. Currently, in order to edit a photo in multiple apps, you have to save the edited photo to the camera roll each time as you move in between applications. But with PhotoAppLink-enabled apps, you simply select another app to use from within your current app.

Another example (actually, a potential example): the educational startup KinderTown offers an iOS app that’s a actually a curated version of the iTunes App Store. Designed to help parents discover kid-friendly, educational apps, KinderTown directs you to the iPhone’s App Store for downloads when you tap the app in question. Imagine if it could also help you find, filter and launch the apps you already have installed on your phone instead of just those you’ve newly discovered.

Meanwhile, at AnscaMobile, a recent tutorial for developers took the concept of app URL schemes a step further. Being able to launch an app using a URL scheme is great, wrote Jonathan Beebe on the company blog, but what’s even better is being able to tell your app to do something in response to being opened via a URL scheme.

“Think for a moment just how powerful this can be,” he says. “You could tell your app to do different things, or start in a different state depending on the URL string that was used to launch your app.”

Indeed, powerful stuff. And sadly under-utilized.

The possibilities for inter-connected apps using app URL schemes are endless, but actually connecting them together is still a challenge. The problem stems from the fact that there isn’t a simple way to discover the custom URLs for the apps you would want to link to.

This summer, a company called Zwapp attempted to address this situation by launching OneMillionAppSchemes.com, an initiative which aims to open source the unpublished custom URL schemes for iOS applications. Using a downloadable tool, Zwapp scans your iTunes library to locate the custom schemes for your apps then uploads those to the website. The goal, as you may have guessed by the name, is to collect one million of these app schemes. It’s not quite there – only 15,066 have been submitted to date.

Despite the Zwapp’s outreach and call-to-action in the app developer community, what it has implemented is really more of a hack – a way to workaround for the fact that there aren’t better tools available.

Whether the usage of URL schemes will ever really take off is unknown. While it’s one thing to launch your own app in creative ways, developers seem to balk at the concept of linking out to other apps. (Send my app’s users, which I fought so hard to acquire, to another app? No thank you!)

But just like hyperlinks allowed users to begin surfing through what’s now a seemingly infinite number of pages on the web, linking apps could prove to be a way to  overcome today’s app discovery challenges, too.

Top image: Daniel Y. Go


A Web Of Apps

LG To Debut Second Intel-Powered Smartphone At CES 2012

lg-intel

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” It looks like LG and Intel have taken that old adage to heart, if a new report is to be believed. The Korea Times reports that LG will debut an Intel-powered smartphone at CES 2012, but the bigger question is whether or not the device will ever make it to market.

LG and Intel’s first mobile partnership yielded an Android smartphone running on Intel’s Moorestown chipset for CES 2011, but the device was ultimately scrapped. The reason for its premature demise? As the story goes, the device died because of it’s “lack of marketability.”

LG’s brass certainly thinks their Intel smartphone is viable — according to one of the Times’ executive sources, the device could be released as soon this March. Still, the original LG-Intel phone was pegged with a 2011 release date, so take those claims with a grain of salt for bow.

Hopefully LG’s second swing at an Intel-powered phone fares a little better — it’s said to run on Intel’s next-generation Medfield system-on-a-chip, and early tests have yielded some pretty impressive benchmarks when compared to NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8260 SoCs.

Of course, the real competition is yet to come, as nearly every player in the mobile chipset market is hard at work on their next-generation platforms. Intel has a lot of brand recognition when it comes to PCs, but their lack of presence in the mobile market to date could mean that Medfield could drown in a sea of established ARM-based chipsets.

That’s why the partnership with LG is so critical — despite their handset division spending a few quarters in the red, LG is still the number two handset OEM in the U.S. Having a major hardware vendor taking a chance on their new platform could establish Intel as a real player in the mobile space, and right now Intel’s mobile efforts could use all the visibility they can get.


LG To Debut Second Intel-Powered Smartphone At CES 2012

Casio’s New G-SHOCK Connects To Smartphones, Shows Incoming Calls, Emails, SMS

g-shock

Casio Japan is planning [JP] to roll out the G-SHOCK GB-6900 on March 16 next year, a wristwatch that connects to certain smartphones via Bluetooth LE (LE=low-energy, a standard that’s baked into Bluetooth 4.0). The device will be compatible with the Medias LTE N-04D Android phone from NEC  (to be released next year) and NEC’s Medias PP N-01D.

Casio says that the G-SHOCK not only synchronizes the time with the phones but also shows incoming calls, emails, or SMS on its display. Users can also switch their handsets to vibration mode by pushing a button on the watch or set alarms.

The watch isn’t the first that connects to phones, but the main selling point here is the Bluetooth LE feature (in fact, it’s the first watch with Bluetooth 4.0 on board): Bluetooth LE consumes a fraction of the energy of other Bluetooth versions. In the case of the G-SHOCK GB-6900, Casio says users can expect a battery life of about 2 years with one conventional CR2032 button battery.

The company initially planned to start selling the watch in December but had to push back the release date to March 16 because of the floods in Thailand (which dampened production). It will cost 18,000 Yen (US$231).


Casio’s New G-SHOCK Connects To Smartphones, Shows Incoming Calls, Emails, SMS

Телеведущая Татьяна Лазарева призывает россиян не смотреть обращение Медведева

Известная телеведущая Татьяна Лазарева призвала сегодня читателей своего блога бойкотировать новогоднее выступление главы государства Дмитрия Медведева. «Спустя одну минуту после начала президентского обращения к массам нужно выключить телевизор», — написала она, добавив, что этот бойкот позволит «заискрить» не только цифру просмотров выступления, но и «какие-то до того неизведанные участки мозга отдельных людей». «А там, глядишь, от искры и весь мозг бы занялся», — заявила г-жа Лазарева.
Телеведущая Татьяна Лазарева призывает россиян не смотреть обращение Медведева

The Gizmon iCA Might Be The Ultimate iPhone Camera Case

ica

There are iPhone cases and then there are…more iPhone cases. There are probably close to a gazillion different iPhone cases available now. But none are as elaborate as the Gizmon iCA — at least none I have seen. The case — if you call it just a case — is made of 32 different polycarbonate parts, it features a conversion lens mount with additional optional lenses, and adds a working shutter button and optical viewfinder. There is even an optional faux pancake lens for additional street cred with the camera nerds. It gets better, too. No, seriously, this contraption is genius.

The case is available in white, black, and retrotastic orange. Both corners feature eyelets for a neck strap because, you know, if you have such a case, it deserves to live outside of a pocket. There’s a tripod mount even a mirror inside the fake lens for self portraits.

Four Corner Store currently sells the Gizmon case in the States along with a host of other unique photography-themed items. The iCA alone cost $65 with the strap running an additional $30 and the lenses costing $45 for either the macro or fisheye. It’s really a fair price to pay to dress your modern smartphone as a sexy rangefinder.





The Gizmon iCA Might Be The Ultimate iPhone Camera Case