Ahmed Eltawil's Blog

Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

I remember when the world turned to micro USB ports as a new standard for cell phones and everyone, including myself, was glad to finally use a standard port. The conversion was quick specially with the cellphone manufacturers and consumers started using a single charger and the world seemed to be a better place.

But now, cellphones aren’t like before. They aren’t dumb phones with small screens that require little power. They are smartphones with larger than 3.7″ screens (now up to 5″ for smartphones and up to 10″ for tablets) and they get charged mostly everyday. Once you start holding your new smartphone to plug it in, you might start seeing a problem.

The micro USB port on your mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, is tiny. Once you’ve connected the cable it might feel loose and most of the times you could hold the micro USB connection while it’s connected to your mobile device and wiggle it from side to side. It’s not a solid snappy connection anymore.

To make my point even clearer, compare the thin micro USB connection with the iPhone’s 30 pin connection. Which one would you think has a better, solid and firm hold to the mobile device? Without any doubt, Apple’s proprietary connection wins this argument.

The problem is that our smartphones and tablets are large these days that they cannot continue using these tiny and flimsy micro USB connections. The industry might have to look for a new USB standard.

Am I the only one who isn’t excited about Google’s latest and official release of Android Honeycomb? I mean, I am happy that the Android tablet market will now start growing effectively while utilizing something specifically made for tablets rather than stretching out Froyo on tablets. But I still have a grudge.

Google still, and looks like will always, create unpolished and developer grade Android releases. Froyo was a major showcase for an unpolished interface and unthought through OS features. Honeycomb is now another example. Google has over complicated and feature-stuffed their latest release that I can seriously see it unusable as well as unattractive and confusing for the average consumer.

Seriously Google, stop hiring more and more engineers and developers and start hiring plenty more human interaction engineers and professional interface designers. Your customers will thank you.

Hey Google, guess what? Apple iPhone has Safari and Microsoft’s Windows Phone has Internet Explorer while Google’s Android has…some nameless generic webkit browser called ‘Browser’. But wait, Google already has a popular browser called Chrome, why not use the same technology that powers Chrome and the same name for Android? Anyone has an answer?

This has been puzzling me ever since Android was released without a Chrome mobile browser like the rest of the mobile operating systems. No doubt there will be advantages gained from using the same app for Android. Think about all your Chrome bookmarks on PC or Mac being automatically synchronized with your Android phone. That alone will give Android an additional reason to attract more buyers.

I am going to give Google the benefit of the doubt and assume they will change the ‘Browser’ to Chrome in their Android ‘with Google’ experience in one of their future builds. I don’t know about you, but it just makes sense to do so.

I have to admit, all the Gingerbread talk and rumors that circulated the web got me excited and eager to have it running on my Nexus One. But once Google revealed to the world the new Android release, my excitement mostly diminished.

The Gingerbread Android update is barely a cheap minor UI refresh to Froyo. Nothing major and nothing worth bragging about, as far as I am concerned. I am sure my Nexus One will be among the first devices to get the update yet you won’t find me jumping from joy as I play around with the new build.

One of the things that disappointed me is the fact that Android Gingerbread still won’t fully support the Arabic language. No Arabic keyboard and no full Arabic text display in the browser or within the SMS Messaging app. The Arabic letters will still be displayed separately in a non-joined format. I mean, how long has Android been around? It took Apple less than one year to fully support Arabic and a range of other languages on the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Android has been around for more than two years yet it fully supports just a handful of languages.

Another thing that disappoints me is the final finish of the Android UI. No matter how many times Google updates Android and releases new builds the user interface still feels like developer grade. I’ve heard these comments multiple times from twitter users and across many tech blogs where Google seems to afford $6 billion company buyouts yet they can’t afford to hire professional UI designers for Android. And it clearly shows.

While Google is still preparing to release Gingerbread,  I can’t resist thinking about the possibility of Google announcing a tablet with the new Android system release. I mean, Google did mention before that Froyo isn’t tablet ready, and that obviously indicates that they’re working on a tablet friendly Android OS. Which means that tablets and slate form factor devices is on their minds.

The question is: Is Google working on a tablet device running Gingerbread or are they waiting till next year for an even better Honeycomb flavor?

Almost any Android app these days seem to use the commonly seen tabs at the top of the app that helps navigate the user to different sections of the app. It looks nice and organized but it does have a major flaw.

The tabs on any iPhone app on the other hand are displayed nicely at the bottom of the app. Some Android developers even started bringing that same look to their Android apps, but that does take away from Android’s uniqueness. So what’s wrong with using the standard Android tabs you say? It’s obviously the size of the tabs.

Those tabs take a massive portion of the screen if you take into consideration how small most of those Android screens are. You’ll definitely know what I am talking about if you’re using a 3.7″ touch screen Android smartphone like the Nexus One I am using. Utilizing those big tabs in portrait mode is wonderful and extremely functional. But as soon as you rotate the device and use the app in landscape mode you’ll start to experience the nightmare. The tabs take more than a third (and sometimes even half) of the screen leaving you just barely enough screen height under the tabs to scroll through the listed items. That, in my opinion, is a design flaw.

On the iPhone, the section or navigation bar is taking up a small space on the app’s screen and it’s tucked neatly at the bottom of the app, sometimes you don’t even notice it’s there. I’d like Android to take a similar approach and start releasing controls in the SDK that doesn’t take up much screen real state. And while they’re at it, maybe add some polish to the most commonly used controls. Would love to see Android becomming a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

I always hated the fact that all Android devices had small screens. Most (if not all) came with a 3.2″ screen. That screen size is certainly small for a smartphone. Plus, the soft keyboard takes more than half the size of the screen leaving just enough screen to display 2 lines of text (in landscape mode). But then the Motorola Droid came along and pretty much changed how Android devices should look like.

Even though HTC tapped the Android market first, they totally screwed up with the screen size (at least in my opinion). Motorola got it right and now HTC will be following the same path by releasing other HTC Android devices with larger screens (3.5″+). The future for Android just keeps looking better.

In my opinion, for a device to be truly called a smartphone it requires 2 things: a large screen and a physical keyboard. The Motorola Droid has both features plus the good looks. It will probably take forever till we see a GSM Motorola Droid (Milestone) hitting a Canadian wireless carrier, but that won’t stop me from buying it unlocked whenever it comes out somewhere on our planet.


@AhmedEltawil

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