Posts Tagged: Google

Over the Air Updates, Too Much Kit, & Mobile UX

Forgive me for last night’s storytelling rant/praise about Over the Air updating of one’s mobile / smartphone. But one point that I would like to pick out from the story’s threading is that of ease of use for the customer.
Many in the mobile and computer technology space complain about how users do not update their computers, mobiles or software thus making it more complex, difficult, and at times more expensive for creators, designers, and developers to provide great experiences (giving the the stink eye to IE6). But we can’t complain if we are part of the problem in making updating difficult or more complex than it needs to be.
Apple has solved the problem of updating by making syncing between one’s iPhone/iPod/iPad as close to automatic as possible when you dock or plug it into your computer. But it creates another problem in that one need’s to have access to a computer to update or sync one’s Apple mobile products and it can also create problems if you don’t want a full sync or update. I have heard quite a few friends complain about both, either not having a regular computer or by syncing unique data on the mobile is wiped out by the sync. Apple makes it very easy but they have control over how the update happens.
Google’s Android has solved the problem by making all their updates to any Android phone happen over the air. As I detailed out last night, Android puts a little notice up in the top tool bar that updates are available, the user can then click on the tool bar and a drop down menu will give one the alerts as to which software and/or firmware has updates available. Google makes updating very easy and gives the user the control on when and how much they want to update.
My complaint of the last four years about Nokia’s Symbian S60 devices and updating is that the updating can only occur when one has the mobile phone attached by USB cable to a Windows PC/laptop. If one does not have access to a PC or one does not wish to find a PC to update one’s mobile, then one goes without. Once one gets a PC of which to conduct the update on, it becomes a multiple step update process that usually includes updating the Nokia Updater software and then updating the phone. Most of the time this takes at least 3-5 times longer than an Apple or Android update. Unnecessary kit, steps, and time just to update.
What was so exciting to me and praiseworthy yesterday was that the Nokia N900 with the Maemo linux-based OS uses the Android model of OTA (Over the Air) updates. The user clicks on the alert in the top tool bar, one chooses the updates that one wants to have updated, and as long as one has data connection it will update. As stated last night, this whole process for a major firmware update took less than 10 minutes. It was truly efficient.
From the user experience perspective, we as creators, designers, and developers cannot assume what the user will have for ‘kit’ or a computer to update with and what access to connection they will have. Thus I suggest the following for updating of software and firmware on mobile phones and computers:
1) Let the device that needs to be updated be the only device involved. If a mobile, don’t force the user to find a computer to conduct the update.
2) Make the available updates be readily noticeable to the user on the front or home screen of the device.
3) Allow whatever connection is most convenient for the user to do the updating. If wifi, then let the wifi do the job. If data connection through a mobile carrier, then let the sim chip do the job. Don’t force it to be through the mobile carrier as some folks have very spotty 2G& 3G connections. Don’t let the user fear that a spotty connection will brick the device. Conversely, if it doesn’t work for the user to do the update only through a mobile connection, then give them steps to get around this.
4) Allow the user to choose how little or how much they want to update. If a major firmware update, then say so in plain language, not the internal language of your company or specialty.
By taking these four steps we can encourage users to update and make the update painless. Painless updates that just work make for a good user experience, excitement for new features or bug fixes, and in the end for brand affection and loyalty.

Mobile in 2015 and Charlie Stross on Apple and the Cloud

If you don’t already read it, I recommend putting Charlie’s Diary in your feed / RSS reader, as Mr. Stross is erudite and can pin any bug through the carapace with wit & speed.
Mr. Stross recently tackled “The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash” wherein he talks about how Mr. Job’s severe control addiction appears to have several strategic as well as personal reasons:

“It’s probably no exaggeration to say that Apple’s draconian security policies are among the tightest of any company operating purely in the private sector, with a focus on secrecy that rivals that of military contractors. But even so, the control freak obsessiveness which Steve Jobs is bringing to bear on the iPad — and the desperate flailing around evident among Apple’s competitors — bears some examination. What’s going on?
I’ve got a theory, and it’s this: Steve Jobs believes he’s gambling Apple’s future — the future of a corporation with a market cap well over US $200Bn — on an all-or-nothing push into a new market.”

For as much as I enjoy owning a good Apple MacBook Pro computer, as the hardware is so very nicely designed and the OS is not Microsoft (this is a theme for me, not MicroSquash, see other blog posts). But the last few years of watching what had been a potentially interesting mobile platform, the iPhone, turning into a closed cult that now involves cops, I must say I am more than turned off.
As my readers know, for my mobile devices I prefer Nokia (such lovely hardware & great camera phones) and Android (such lovely software) and I am eagerly awaiting the Meego linux based mobile platform that Nokia & Intel are currently working on. I am also excited right now for Nokia’s open Maemo and future Meego, as there is plenty of room for a web designer / photographer / developer hybrid, like me, to develop mobile applications in python.
I want great hardware and an open software architecture as well as a whole open ecosystem that welcomes a variety of creative folk to get involved. The future as Mr. Stross envisions where Apple will go in his article makes me sincerely hope that Nokia will make several more iterations of the lovely Booklet with Meego as the linux based OS rather than the current Windows 7, so that I won’t have to be stuck in a distopian Job-sian closed cloud-based future for my work and main machine.
As for mobile devices in 2015, I sincerely hope that there will be a diversity of open architectures & ecosystems that inspire creativity, connection and ease of use rather than another great computer world battle that is Apple v. Google or some other such nonsense.
As for other things I hope for in a mobile ecosystem in 2015:
1) I hope that all devices will come with their own solar battery charging array where the solar cells are on the case of the device so that you can flip it over and it will charge while it is not being used.
2) I hope that I will have a small handheld mobile device that will fit in my pocket or hand and it will have a fold out screen that will when full out will be the size of a sheet of office paper be it 8.5×11″ or A4.
3) I hope that the OS and software that will run the mobile devices of 2015 will not be a closed system, not just in concept & app store but also not in execution. I hope that Palm’s WebOS idea set will be propagated across the mobile landscape so that folks with training in web design & development will be able to code mobile apps and not just C++/Java/Cocoa/Symbian folk.
I hope this because the mobile and telecom worlds have been quite closed due to carrier strangleholds and the high barrier to entry for mobile applications, whereas the web world has had a large flowering of creativity and innovation because the barriers to entry were quite small. If the barriers to creating apps and sites for mobile are low, then in 2015 a 19 year old could create the mobile version of a future Facebook to scratch an itch in his or her community.
4) I hope that carriers will not continue to have such a vise grip on the North American market, but as I suggested in my thesis, that I can buy my mobile device from any number of stores and buy the ‘gas’ / connectivity from any number of other separate operators/carriers.
5) And then I have a ton of hopes for cameras with complete connectivity in 2015, but I won’t go there now… ;o)

Google Buzz, I Like It

Contrary to all of the uproar this past week, I like Google Buzz, but with a reservation or two.
I like that Buzz is a version of Jaiku, which I love love love, that is attached to my Gmail & Latitude on my mobile phone. I like that most of the people I liked best on Jaiku are already on Google Buzz and are already my friends due to being in my address book. I really like that I am not limited to 140 characters, as I am on Twitter, and that to interact with Google Buzz I just need to log into Gmail.
Google did ask if I wanted to have Buzz attached to my Gmail account and I said yes. Google also asked if I wanted my Google profile public, which I edited and then made public and searchable.
My only but about Buzz is that it would have been much better if Google Buzz had asked if I wanted to make all my address contacts and Google Reader follows to be my friends in Buzz. I would like to have opted-in rather than logged in with over 100 people I was following automatically! 100! Woah!
I can’t really go unfollow them now. And by automatically having me follow the folks in my address book who are on Buzz, it took away the fun game of joining a social network where one has to search for one’s friends or other interesting people. Google took away the exploration phase.
Google, please allow for optin, not opt-out. And don’t forget to let us explore to find our own friends rather than finding them for us.

The Google Nexus One Phone, The Gushing Geysers of Hype or is it Hope?

The geyers are a’ gushin’ on the Google Nexus One reveal this morning:
The Atlantic Wire filtering Engadget & TechCrunch’s reviews : Nexus One: The Summary Judgement
ars technica : Google’s biggest announcement was not a phone, but a URL
Frog : Why Google Had to Take Control of Android with Nexus One
Tuttle LA’s own Matt Kapko at The Eye on Mobile: Google is in the trenches while Apple is in our pockets
TechCrunch : Apple And Google Just Tag Teamed The U.S. Carriers
Quote from the last article:

“Think about your cellphone and cellular service five years ago. Both were likely horrible. But you were content in your misery, because you didn’t know any better.”

Actually, TechCrunch, no, five years ago – Jaunary 2005, I had AT&T’s data all to myself and a Nokia N7610 with email, a web browser, a cameraphone, and Lifeblog; I was not miserable and the combo was the opposite of horrible. It didn’t get horrible until late 2006 when (Cingular) AT&T in LA started degrading in its service. Then again, I have not owned a phone that was branded by a carrier since 2004. Since 2004, all of my phones have been unlocked and unbranded, praise be to Amazon and Nokia.
My own toddle down memory lane aside, I will be watching what Google does with their own Android mobile. I won’t be spending $529 to buy this nexus one, when I do have that amount extra, I will be buying Nokia N900 Maemo mobile as I love that it has python natively on the mobile, Maemo is more open from the dev point of view, it has a qwerty keyboard and the camera kicks bootay.
Even though I am not ready to part with $529 for the Google Nexus One, I am very excited that Android is continuing to mature as a mobile OS and that Google is taking more control of the product. If I were forced to choose between the Nexus One and the iPhone 3GS for my next purchased mobile, I would definitely choose Google over Apple.

Monday TidBits

I am currently buried under in work and thus don’t have any real photos to post from today and the two blog posts that live in my head about the Nokia N900 will have to wait for a day or so.
In the meantime, here is a few delightful links for you:
The Language of Food on Ceviche and Fish & Chips. A wonderful cultural historical linguistical exploration of vinegared meat from the Persia of the Sassanids to vinegared fish dishes of modern day Peru and the UK.
Tom Chi in his OK/Cancel form writing on how developers and designers need to work together and not in separated worlds in Bowman vs Google? Why Data and Design Need Each Other
These last two articles are on the differences between US/Nordic or Apple/Nokia in terms of advertising and approach written by Teemu Arina, who I met last year at Nokia Open Lab 2008, and Karri Ojanen, who I have not met but I love his name & admire his work. I have been formulating my own thoughts on the essential (good) differences between the design & advertising cultures of Apple v. Nokia which in many ways stem from the differences between Norther California and Finland culturally, and Teemu & Mr. Ojanen have beat me to the punch in: Interactive value creation, Apples and Nokias and with Digital (Advertising) in the Nordics.

Google Wave

I went to the Google I/O conference back in late May and by early June I was on the Google Wave Dev Preview Sandbox thingy. By and large, unless one of my tech friends was gushing about wanting to see Google Wave, I haven’t logged in in the last four months unless I was giving a demo.
Sorry folks, I am not and have not been participating in the rather fascinating, from an anthropological point of view, hysteria that has surrounded Google Wave the last few months. And that hysteria reached a crescendo in the last 24 hours.
Google Wave is interesting for its potential, not the beta form it is in now. The potential is a great interconnected collaboration tool, the current reality is IM on speed. And since I am not a fan of IM chat, I don’t log in much.
The other key thing is that unless your friends or colleagues are on the system, most of the power of what Wave can do is stripped away. It was great to be on it with thousands of other developers, but most of the conversations were around tech details.

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Open Windows

test pixel pipe pro.

Update from my computer later in the day, Tues 09.01.09 – I realize that lots of folk find Pixelpipe to be a great mobile blogging application, but I just find it moderately annoying, and the above photo is a great example of why.
To start out with, I was unable to get Pixelpipe to work on the Nokia N97. I was able to get it to somewhat work on the Nokia N95 & Nokia N79, but was not happy with it.
I do find that the Pixelpipe Android user experience is MILES better than the Nokia Share Online + Pixelpipe. Also, I will say that Pixelpipe’s support folk have been great to help me set up an “Atom” enabled pipe so that I can blog directly to this blog, rather than have the photo hosted on the Pp servers.
Today, I went to the Android Market (on phone app store) and purchased Pixelpipe Pro for $1.99 to see if the experience would be any better. In many ways, the user experience of Pixelpipe Pro is better, as there is a nice tabbed navigation allowing one to do tasks such has add a title, body copy, tags, a tab view the queue of photos or video going out, etc. I was not able to figure out how to do a minor task like rotate the image, so I exited out of Pp, went to the Android Gallery, rotated the image, saved it and then opened Pixelpipe again.
The above image now showed up as rotated and up I sent it to Pixelpipe. I was a bit frustrated here, as it did not allow me to choose to what location I wanted to send out to other than the tag version of indicating where it is to be sent. In the paid Pro version, I should be given a drop down menu of my pre-registered pipes and be able to choose one or more of them.
I sent the photo and did not see it show up on this blog within 10 minutes, so I thought we had a Pixelpipe failure, only to see it appear about 20 minutes later in the non-rotated version of the photo, even though I had saved the rotated photo and chosen that one to send in Pixelpipe.
Here is what I would like to suggest to Pixelpipe for their Pro version of the mobile app:
1) Allow the user to do all tasks and activities from the mobile app and not have to go to the website to set up pipes or manage them. All the settings and controls should be editable in the mobile app.
2) Allow the user to be able to do minor image editing tasks in the mobile app like rotate a photo or choose what size the photo should be sent at.
3) Allow the user to choose which Pipe they want which photo to be sent to in the mobile app without having to add tags.
4) Can Symbian also have a Pixelpipe Pro mobile app comparable to the Android Pixelpipe Pro that is completely separate of the evil Share Online? Please.