Category Archives: android

Native apps in their infancy

In the face of the popular, simplified, ideas about HTML5 as the saviour of mobile development, it is begininning to feel hard to defend the definitely old-school-style of native development for iOS and Android.

The steps in development seem not to have really progressed that much since the dawn of time ; Want a User Interface ? Code, comment, compile, link, test, check-in … same as its ever been. Eclipse and other IDE’s are great tools, no doubt, but they are still hard-core programmer tools, requiring complex setup and requiring deep understanding of the tool itself to make them really hum. Xcode meanwhile faces few of the issues that Eclipse does, but the creation of a UI for an app, and the tying of that UI to the code is no less complex.

Where are the tools that allow the really easy visual design of native User Interfaces with integration to visual design tools ? Why is it so complex to just get started – particularly with iOS developer certificates, provisioning profiles and the rest – and why is the process of pushing an app out to through the app stores a pain ?

My hypothesis is that the processes and tools are at the end of their very first iteration (or errortation as a a colleague used to say), however I’m worried that a closed shop such as Apple will be slow to see or address the shortcomings of their toolset while they are reaping the rewards from the iTunes store. There might be a high technical hurdle to iOS coding, but it is still resulting in many thousands of apps being created on a daily basis.

I don’t have a specific view on what the next iteration of tools might bring, but frameworks with a generative nature like rails, and languages/environments like Scratch hint at a different way of doing things. Nothing particularly new about either of these, but I would like to see more smart tools that take away the drudgery and bring a new accessibility that means the number of apps will multiply exponentially from where it is now. Tools that will support the coming boom in DIY devices and 3D models from maker-land.

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HTC Salsa apps limit

I have a new HTC Salsa. Black.

It really feels like the successor to the HTC Legend – similar size and handling, with a less pronounced kick up at the end of the body, which, when you are on a call, ever so slightly curves the mic towards your mouth.

The feel of the phone is great, and the addition of a prominent and featured Facebook button (the only hard button on the front of the device) seems like a useful idea.

In practice, I found that I don’t really use the Facebook button. It functions differently depending on the context … if you are looking at a photo and press the F button, it uploads the photo, if you are listening to music and you press F, it posts the track, artist name and album artwork. If the phone is idle, then a quick press of the F button lets you post to your wall. All of these seem great, but for some reason I am just never compelled to use it even though like a lot of people, I spend a lot of time on FB.

Some of the other integration with Facebook is more useful – such as notifying you with suggestions of contacts that are on your phone, and on Facebook – prompting you to link the two contacts together. This works really well, but I’m not sure this is new to the Salsa – I think this was the same on Legend and other HTC’s.

I have come across a fairly annoying limitation with the Salsa/Android. The phone only has 150Mb of internal memory, which is largely taken up – about 2/3 – by factory installed apps from HTC and Google. This only leaves about 50Mb for apps, which might sound like a lot (and would be plenty if any app could be copied off to the SD card), but in practice it fills up very very quickly. Install Google maps updates, Facebook, Foursquare, Angry Birds ¬†and Shazam and you’re pretty much out of room.

This is such an annoying miss by the Android creators. Apple have made memory management a thing of the past, whereas for Android its left to the user to manually copy apps back and forth out of internal memory onto SD. A really poorly executed experience, which will limit apps takeup for owners of this phone.

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