gTasks Syncs Google Tasks to Your Android Phone [Downloads]

Android: If you're an Android user who's keen on Google's Tasks to-do manager, a beta application can give you offline access and syncing to the tasks you've stashed away in Gmail, Google Calendar, or iGoogle.

Google Tasks still has a ways to go in becoming a universally useful to-do manager, but if you've got a Google-syncing phone in your pocket, and can't quite swing the $25/year for Remember the Milk's great app, it might just be the best task manager you'll actually use. gTasks beta is a really, really simple view at your tasks, offering the task name, notes, and due date for each. You can manage your tasks offline and sync your changes to Google, and ... that's about it, for the moment. Then again, Google Tasks itself doesn't offer a whole lot more functionality, even in its Android-friendly mobile version.

gTasks Beta is a free download for Android phones with Google syncing (a.k.a. with the "Google Experience"). Thanks Neil!



Information That Can Save Lives, Your Own Included. There’s An App For That.

This is one mobile application I think everyone should have installed. And be recommended by them to all of their friends and relatives to boot.

Meet iMobile Care, a potential life-saver that you can carry around in your pocket.

Launched at the beginning of this month, the app is primarily a reference guide that lets you obtain essential information about medical conditions and situations quickly and easily. The tool allows users to get a visual and textual explanation of how deliver aid and care during emergencies and events such as accidents, bites and stings, choking, injuries, poisoning, burns, and many other critical situations.

But billed as a mere mobile first aid guide even by its own makers, it’s actually much more than that. And I’m not saying that because you can make fart noises with it (you can’t), but because iMobile Care also boasts a number of location and personalization features that could well make the difference between life or death for yourself in the situations described above.

I purchased and installed the iPhone app, which allows me to have the app automatically pinpoint my location if I choose to configure it that way. In addition, I can provide additional, optional data like my blood type, address, primary contact in case of emergency, any medication I use, allergies I have, and more.

As you can see in the screenshot above, the app lets you call your local emergency number – which it automatically fetches as soon as you set your country – and access your camera or photo library in just one click. This can prove very useful e.g. in case of a car accident where you can provide much more information about the situation with one image than with a thousand words (and much faster too).

You can also sound an SOS alert from your phone in case of distress, and provide additional information for when you switch it on, all of which you can store in advance to make sure you don’t lose time explaining your situation (provided you’re even capable to do so at that point). Here’s an example of how that might work:

VisionSync, the company behind the app, is careful enough to clearly state it doesn’t substitute for care that well-trained first aid personnel can deliver and that it works best for users who have gone through the various conditions and situations located on the iMobile Care app prior to them actually occurring.

We should probably also point out that the company’s privacy policy shows that they cannot guarantee the absolute privacy of the data you provide, which can include confidential information like medical history, conditions, medications, and location. I purchased the app and I’m willing to take that risk because I think the advantages outweigh the potential disadvantages, but you may feel different about that.

iMobile Care is available for the iPhone ($2.99 – iTunes link) and smartphones running Android. Support for Blackberry devices and Windows Mobile-equipped phones will be added in the near future.

Cheesy video with more screenshots:

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A Chink In Android’s Armor

75 million phones running the Android operating system will be sold in 2012, says research firm Gartner, making it the second most popular mobile OS after Symbian.

This makes sense, because the operating system is free (unlike Windows Mobile), and it gives mobile carriers and handset manufacturers who aren’t Apple and RIM (the closed off guys) the ability to create a smartphone that someone may actually want to use. I’ve switched to Android now based largely on deep integration with Google Voice. And that is despite the fact that Android is still just an infant. Version 1.5, which most people are using, has an imperfect user interface and is somewhat laggy on today’s hardware.

But hold on. There’s just one problem. Android, an open source operating system, must avoid the fate of J2ME, an open source mobile applications platform. Open source is great, until everyone splinters off into their own world. That’s what happened to J2ME, and a number of frustrated Android developers are now saying that there is a risk Android will follow the same path.

New Android devices are being announced and shipped in bunches. HTC, Samsung, Dell, Verizon and others have phones on the way. Each has different hardware, and different software, than the others.

We’ve spoken with a number of high profile Android application developers. All of them, without exception, have told me they are extremely frustrated with Android right now. For the iPhone, they build once and maintain the code base. On Android, they built once for v.1.5, but are getting far less installs than the iPhone.

And now they’re faced with a landslide of new handsets, some running v.1.6 and some courageous souls even running android v.2.0. All those manufacturers/carriers are racing to release their phones by the 2009 holiday season, and want to ensure the hot applications will work on their phones. And here’s the problem – in almost every case, we hear, there are bugs and more serious problems with the apps.

There are whispers of backwards and forwards compatibility issues as well, making the problem even worse.

More than one developer has told us that this isn’t just a matter of debugging their existing application to ensure that it works on the various handsets. They say they’re going to have to build and maintain separate code for various Android devices. Some devices seem to have left out key libraries that are forcing significant recoding efforts, for example. With others, it’s more of a mystery.

Imagine if Windows developers had to build different versions of their applications for different PC manufacturers. Or even different versions for various models by a single manufacturer. That’s what some Android developers are saying they are facing now.

Some manufacturers/carriers are opting out of the Android marketplace altogether, and only allowing custom applications on the phone. These devices can still use the Android robot logo, which is creative commons, but they aren’t able to use the Android text logo, which requires that they pass a compatibility test suite.

Developers are frustrated. And consumers will be confused when their “Android” phone won’t let them download their favorite third party applications.

When Steve Ballmer said open operating systems are hard, he wasn’t kidding. And Google, which is currently building two separate operating systems (Android and Chrome OS) doesn’t have 30 years of experience in getting it right.

But Wait…Keeping the Cart Behind The Horse

First of all, the compatibility between versions issue may be overblown. The reported problems have been limited to an Android developer contest, where developers were building on v.1.5 and being reviewed on v.1.6. We haven’t heard of any major app developers complaining of backwards or forward compatibility problems. Also, I’ve now upgraded my phone from 1.5 to 1.6, and every application continues to work fine.

The bigger issue of a general splintering of Android cross-partner may also be overblown. As I said above, the carriers are rushing to get devices to market by end of year, and they are pushing developers to ensure that their apps work. In most cases the test devices developers get aren’t running final software, and so the final devices at launch may not have these problems.

The real test will come in a month or so when sales of multiple devices running v.1.6 of Android ramp up. If apps are running bug-free cross-device without tons of developer frustration, Android may be looking good. But if developers are forced to create and maintain multiple versions of their apps for various devices, Android may be in trouble. The whole idea of Android is to let app developers build once and let users install on any Android device. Right now, it’s not a certainty that will happen.

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Android’s search gets a lot richer than the iPhone’s

bjornIf there’s one area where Google’s Android platform should blow Apple’s iPhone completely out of the water, it’s search.

So Google’s aiming to do just that with the Quick Search Box it released today for Android-based phones. It combines web search with search inside your phone. That means you can look up your personal contacts and do a generic Google search from the same place. It also learns from your prior behavior — if you’ve looked up a specific stock in the past, Android will pre-load the stock in the future as you type in its ticker symbol, and it will automatically refresh the price, too.

If you’re searching for information on the web, you don’t have to load a browser or the requisite app. Apple’s iPhone, in contrast, makes you load the weather app to look up local temperatures.

What’s also unique is that Android’s search pulls up data from inside apps. It doesn’t just look for titles of apps that match your query.

In fact, the designer behind Quick Search Box, Nicholas Jitkoff, is responsible for Quicksilver, a product cherished by Apple fanboys worldwide. Dubbed the “Mac Swiss Army Knife,” Quicksilver made it very fast to find any Mac program, file or folder with a few keystrokes and load it.

Too bad Google scooped him up first.


Android Gets Its Own Everything Search Box

We wrote about Google’s Quick Search Box (QSB) a few months ago when the product was officially launched. We found the Twitter plug-in particularly interesting because QSB was able to turn into a Twitter app that let you post Tweets from the search box itself. Now, Google is launching a version of QSB for the Android Phone which provides similar functionality from the phone’s home screen.

QSB on the Android aims to cut down on keystrokes by providing suggestions as you type and provides a single search box to let you search a variety pf content on your phone, including apps, contacts, and browser history, as well as content from the web, like personalized search suggestions, local business listings, stock quotes, weather, and flight status. And QSB is intuitive; the search box will pull up items that you search for and use most often.

On of the most compelling features of QSB for the Andoid is that third-party developers can include suggestions in search, letting outside information from any apps make into searchable content. So if the app is built with QSB support, QSB will index the content in the app and it will show up in the box. For example, you could search a Twitter app for Tweets.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that QSB for the Android has the ability to Tweet from the search box itself, but perhaps that plug-in will be added in the near future.

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From CTIA: The rise of open mobile (and congratulations Android team)

richard-wong[Richard Wong, a venture capitalist with Accel Partners, submitted this piece to VentureBeat.]

Moile has never been hotter with the iPhone, Android,  the explosion in mobile advertising, and the rise of mobile apps, but, you’d never know it walking around the mobile conference called CTIA, held here in San Diego today.

The CTIA show that once was the key meeting place for the mobile industry seems less and less relevant with each passing year.  We wrote about this trend in early 2008, calling it “the end of the operator ecosystem,” the notion being that operators were losing their dominant gravity in mobile, and the “off-deck” or “open mobile” model was exploding as the next key wave in mobile.   

What does this “open mobile” thing mean?  Many of us who are mobile startup veterans often stood around at CTIA in years past, attending meeting after meeting to make sure we “got that Verizon deal” or “got that Vodafone deal.” These deals were transformative to our startup companies.  Companies of this ‘Soviet era of mobile,’ such as Phone.com or Infospace or Jamdat went public or were acquired for hundreds of millions on the strength of one or two key deals with operators.

ctiaThis is no longer the case. The industry is opening up in a very healthy way – many innovative startup companies no longer need to work with the operators to get going.  Many startups are now using alternative “offdeck” modes of distribution such as buying mobile ads from Admob or using appstores such as Getjar.com or Handmark.com as ways to distribute, rather than “getting the ‘operator’ deal’.

This is goodness. It speeds up the pace of innovation for mobile startups and raises the tide for everyone in the ecosystem, the operators included.  Similar to AOL’s walled garden on the Internet circa 2001, the phone operator’s walled gardens have been cracking for a while now. But at this CTIA, traditionally an “operator show,” the lack of interest by participants punctuates the crashing of those walls.  The industry owes a thank you to Steve Jobs for the iPhone and now the Android team for really kicking those walls over.

androidSo, some things that were interesting to me around the show that have helped drive this next wave:

The Android party is starting for real — The old mobile MENS club (Motorola, Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens), is being swept away for good, to be replaced by a new generation of smartphone innovators  (see The end of the mobile MENS club).  It’s hard to recall just a short 5-6 years ago, before the iPhone, and before Android, how much the industry was controlled by what Motorola and Nokia chose to put in their phones, and the rise of these “Open OS” players means that consumers and developers now have a much greater say.  Most of these Android announcements have been reported independently, but interesting to see them together and the only buzz on the show floor are people checking out these devices.

Let’s see, with T-Mobile already in the Android camp, and AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon announcing at this show the movement towards Android, that’s ALL the major carriers in the US moving to include Android. While its taken 6+ years, nice work Android team.  Watch for the announcements at MWC Barcelona in February next year for Europe.

Here are the links:

droid“Off Deck” ways to distribute - In addition to new handsets, a key reason why the mobile operators have largely given up on their “walled garden” approaches is the rise of alternative or ‘off-deck’ modes of distribution.  Mobile advertising player, Admob, publishes a report monthly on its metrics, and on Admob’s network alone, there were 10.5 billion ad requests in August as opportunities to advertise directly to mobile consumers without having to do an operator “deal.” When added to the impressions logged by the Nokia, Google, Jumptap and other ad networks, that’s a lot of impressions to reach consumers.

Similarly, Getjar announced over 50 million app downloads of mobile apps in August.  The Apple AppStore announced over 2 billion apps downloaded since its launch in July 2008.  Other innovators are now learning how to use Facebook, and Twitter as social media channel for app distribution.  Simply put, all of these “off deck” distribution vehicles allow startups to get moving without requiring a long sales cycle to negotiate an operator deal. So that’s why fewer and fewer developers are making the trek to CTIA to “pitch their companies to the operators.”  To be clear, I think the operators can still be a powerful accelerant, and companies such as NIM, or TeleNav have benefited greatly from their carrier deals. But, it can be a tough, high-friction way to get started.

Other announcements:

  • Yahoo Mobile home page — David Ko, head of mobile at Yahoo (and a super sharp mobile exec who took over from Marco Borreis this year), announced the new Yahoo mobile home page. This new strategy plays well to Yahoo’s strengths. in my opinion.
  • BestBuy launches mIQ -– This service will help manage mobile services. Will this really work at scale?
  • FCC & Net Neutrality — Boring, but very important for this Open Mobile revolution. Net Neutrality and “openness,” while value in Chairman Genachowski’s speech yesterday, were two of the key 4 points on the FCC’s mobile agenda.  While it will take a while to make all of this reality, the public policy posture, makes it harder to erect new barriers to innovation
  • The normal alphabet soup battles shaping up for next year around 4G — WIMAX, HSDPA, LTE laden conversations were rife, but most of that was pretty quiet this year….

I’m not covering the event comprehensively. I just picked out the things that were interesting from one person’s perspective.  Mobile has been a tough space for startups these past seven years, and perhaps some of us are overly optimistic, but I believe this wave of “open mobile” will create some major winners just as the Broadband internet revolution (and dot com crash) helped the rise of world beaters such as Google, YouTube, Facebook and others.

(Disclosure: Accel Partners, where Richard Wong is a partner, is an investor in mobile companies such as Admob, Getjar, MetroPCS, Mig33, and NextG Networks – among others)


Kill Tasks and Prune Home Screens to Keep Android Snappy [Memory]

We've been impressed with the speed increases that rooting and moving apps to SD cards can bring to sometimes sluggish Android phones. If you're not about to crack your phone's firmware, the AndroidGuys blog suggests a few optimization tips.

For one thing, they suggest grabbing a decent task-killing program to knock down the background processes you leave running when you quickly open and close applications. TasKiller Free and Advanced Task Killer both do a decent job. From personal experience, I find TasKiller's widgets, either as a single-icon, kill-all function or a horizontal "Task Bar," to be helpful enough to keep on a side screen for quick access.

Then again, another of AndroidGuys' recommendations is to keep your home screen as uncluttered as possible, as your phone has to re-draw icons, picture frames, and re-update widgets from multiple streams every time you dash back home. Finding a good, discretionary balance between helpfulness and speed will be a personal matter, but we can vouch for the helpfulness of skipping, for example, the music player widget. More tips and suggestions, including basic settings changes, are offered at the full post.

What's been the biggest non-root-related speed benefit you've seen on your Android phone? Tell us your tips in the comments.



Dressed To Kill: Modu 2 To Sport Android Jacket

Israeli modular phone manufacturer, Modu, looks to be shaking things up with its next modular gadget - Modu 2. In a recent interview with TechRadar, Modu CEO, Dov Moran, has let (some of) the beans spill on Modu's ambitions for its next generation of devices.

An Exhaustive Guide to Saving Your Smartphone’s Battery [Batteries]

Modern phones come loaded with bright screens, fun games and apps, and connections for 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Not coincidentally, they're constantly out of juice. Here's some of the best collected wisdom about saving your web-connected phone's battery life.

Photo by [177].

Universal battery tips

They're different in a lot of ways, but all smartphones can be made to be more frugal with their limited power reserves if you're willing to follow a few simple rules of thumb.

  • Follow the laptop battery rules: Your phone's lithium-ion battery benefits from the same best battery practices for a laptop. If your battery is new and decent enough, don't keep it plugged in all the time, or it dies the death of a thousand tiny discharges. Use the battery almost all the way when you use it, charge it when it needs it, and, if necessary, let it completely run down and recharge it every so often to refresh its own sense of longevity.
  • Keep it cool and out of pocket: If you're outside, don't leave your phone facing the direct sunlight. If you can pull it off without looking like a hyper-aggressive real estate agent, belt-clip your phone, or generally keep it out of your pocket and away from close quarters with your body heat.
  • Switch off 3G when it's unnecessary: It's faster than EDGE or GRPS and can deliver both voice and data in a continuous stream to your phone. It also uses up quite a bit more power. When you've got good coverage and plan to mostly talk, or just get occasional email updates, you don't need such wide wireless pipes. Switch to EDGE/2G usage in your settings, preferably with a widget or shortcut.
  • Switch off any unneeded service: Goes without saying for anyone who's learned the hard way. Having your phone constantly look for new Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi hotspots, GPS positions, and Exchange server emails that don't arrive at 4 a.m. will definitely kill your battery. Find the most convenient way your phone offers to turn these things off, or automate their use, and act on it.
  • Be frugal with background applications and notifications: It feels like living in the future when new emails, Twitter messages, Facebook updates, calendar appointments, and other minutiae are delivered minute-by-minute to your phone. Your battery lives in the present, though, and could use a break from your hyper-awareness. If you've got a phone that can keep multiple applications "open" for quicker access (Android, Pre, Windows Mobile), don't feel obligated to keep them present.
  • Use a black or dark theme: Except for the iPhone, most phones let you set your own wallpaper, and some give you the ability to "theme" your phone's entire look. It might be a minor point, but using a darker-colored theme doesn't make your backlight and screen work quite so hard, and saves your battery just a bit.
  • Fiddle with screen time-outs and brightness: Tweak how long your screen stays lit after a quick time check, modify how bright it must stay during the daylight, and you'll likely pull a bit more use time from your handset.
  • Use mobile site versions: Find and bookmark the mobile versions of the sites you always visit (often found at m.sitename.com, mobile.sitename.com, or, occasionally, sitename.com/m), and keep tools like the Google Mobilizer and Bing Mobile handy; they'll automatically pare down a page to its basic elements, and save your phone from having to burn its battery pulling down giant banner ads.

BlackBerry

If you're rocking a BlackBerry, chances are that disconnecting your network to save on battery life isn't an option. Instead, you might try a few of these tips. Photo by liewcf.

  • RIM's official tips: To summarize: Close your browser with the ESC key when you're done surfing, use shortcuts instead of Java-based menus, get crazy with the extensive settings, and use the Desktop Manager (now available for PCs and Mac OS X) to load media, rather than have your phone resize and compress it all.
  • Radio Saver and AutoStandby: Radio Saver turn off your phone's cell reception when coverage is spotty or non-existent, saving you from the dreaded drain of roaming for signal. AutoStandby, when it's on, drops your BlackBerry into a deeper standby state, rather than just sleep, if you'd rather get a bit more time from your phone than be constantly pinged. They're $2.99 each, which isn't cheap for a utility, but might be worth the coffee change if you're low on battery life or working on the edge of service.
  • The Boy Genius basics: Straight from the BlackBerry-toting, news-breaking blogger behind the Boy Genius Report, the basics on keeping your phone alive:

    Turn down brightness of the screen, turn the LED off, turn Bluetooth off, Wi-Fi off (when not needed).

    Also, keep it in a holster, since it will "sleep" (when inside it)

    No silver bullets there, but sound advice—especially on the holster bit.

iPhones

Apple's game-changing, full-web-browsing phone has had its battery life detractors from the get-go. Luckily, some have put their efforts into fixing that. Photo by Mat Honan.

  • Apple's official tips: To summarize: Don't get it too hot or too cool, turn off unnecessary services, "lock" it frequently, and let the battery run completely down, and then charge to 100 percent, at least once a month.
  • Gizmodo's suggestions: To summarize: Change from Push to Fetch email, turn off contacts and calendar sync if you're not a CEO, cancel scanning for new Wi-Fi networks, and avoid games with vibration and 3D graphics (except in seriously long airport lines).
  • Toggle networks with SBSettings jailbreak app: By default, the iPhone's on/off switches are tucked inside the settings, and the phone can only automate screen brightness. With SBSettings installed on a jailbroken phone (from the BigBoss repository), you can not toggle all your data connections on and off from a flip-down widget, and fine-tune other battery-grabbing aspects of your phone. See and read more about SBSettings at The Apple Blog. Thanks j_rich!
  • Use the battery percentage indicator: The standard battery indicator can leave you guessing as to how healthy your iPhone actually is, and sometimes misreports its state entirely. Enable a numeric percentage read on your lock screen by heading to Settings, General, and then Usage to toggle "Battery Percentage" to On.
  • Use Prowl, GPush, or very light Push for Gmail: We first showed you how to use Prowl and Growl to push Gmail to your iPhone, and it remains a more battery-efficient means of getting important email notifications, particularly while your main work computer is running. We also detailed a work-around with GPush that works at any time—when it works, period. Since then, Gmail has added official push support for instant email notifications, but it also makes manual email fetching more reliable, so users can set it to an hourly or manual interval to save on battery use. Thanks drjonze and wbullockiii!

Android

The current crop of Android phones have almost universally crummy battery life. Luckily, the system's open platform has given app developers lots of leeway to squeeze every drop out of them. Photo by sugree.

  • Automate your phone rules: When you're asleep, you want important calls to come through, but you don't need to check your email every hour. When you're at work, your screen doesn't need to be so bright, and you've already got net access. Using an app like Locale , you can make turning on and off your phone's most power-hungry features automatic, based on time of day, location, battery status, and other factors.
  • Learn to love APNdroid: It's more severe, but APNdroid is also the most sincere battery saver out there. Click its app icon, and your EDGE/3G cell networks are turned off, while your basic call connection remains in place. That's better than Airplane Mode, which totally renders you inaccessible, and, used wisely, you'll definitely notice the difference when you start charging every other day. Bettter still, it seems a Locale plug-in is in the works, so turning off your wireless access when it's not needed could become a no-brainer.
  • Keep the power widget handy: When your Android 1.6 (a.k.a. Donut) update arrives, you'll have a new widget available, "Power Control," that puts some important on/off switches—Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, auto-sync, and screen brightness—all on one horizontal strip. Keep it someplace handy on your home screen, and power down when you're at your most casual.
  • See what's eating your juice: Also new in Android 1.6: A percentage Battery Use chart you can access under About Phone in your Settings. It shows what's been pulling in power since the last time you charged your phone, which can help remind you of background apps and other power drains.

Windows Mobile

Older than almost all its siblings, but Windows Mobile has grown to incorporate all the same battery-killing background powers as its brethren. Photo by Titanus.

  • WMExperts' tips: To summarize: Avoid Wi-Fi whenever possible, dial down your email checking, and dig into your settings to modify screen time-outs and vibration frequency.
  • WMLongLife: Basically, this independent app switches your phone from 3G service down to 2G when it's in standby mode, so background data grabs and non-essential pings drain less battery. The developer also states it has a beneficial impact on, erm, other functions.

Palm Pre

Everybody who digs the Palm Pre mentions its "deck of cards" multi-tasking and Sprint's seriously speedy data networks. Yeah, you guessed it—both require a little power precaution.

  • Treonauts' battery tips: To summarize: Turn it off (or into airplane mode) when in very weak coverage, and follow the same kind of auto-check and background app recommendations made earlier in this post.
  • Battery Saver: This homebrew app is only really useful if there are parts of the day where another phone provides you with emergency contact—like at home, if you have an alternate line. If that's the case, though, turning your phone to airplane mode at pre-set parts of the day gives you the advantage of a quick power-on or contact check, while also saving on battery life.

Symbian (Help Wanted)

To be honest, the vast variety of Symbian phones with customized firmwares give us pause at offering a standard set of apps or recommendations for bettery battery life. That said, if you know of a tip, trick, or app that saves battery life on Symbian phones, tell us in the comments. We'll update the post here to reflect the best suggestions.


Hopefully you'll find something useful in these tips to give your mobile data hub a bit more life from each charge. Did we miss anything major? By all means, tell us about it in the comments, and share your own battery life discoveries.

Blackberry App World More Expensive Than iPhone, Android App Stores (Report)

We’ve covered a couple of Distimo reports in the past because they provide us with some valuable insights on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market based on the startup’s in-depth analysis of publicly available data. Now the company has added RIM’s Blackberry App World store to the fray, which gives us even more data points to compare the rivals’ app pricing and whatnot.

In the latest report (September 2009), Distimo notes software programs for Blackberry devices are considerably more expensive than comparable apps for competing devices/platforms.

In fact, the average price for apps is more than three times higher than the one for similar apps in the App Store and Android Market, which is sort of unbelievable. There’s not a single category where the average price of an app is lower than its equivalent on the latter two application storefronts, and the more serious, business-related tools are definitely much more expensive. Just look at the difference in fees for apps in such categories as Finance, Productivity, Reference, News, Utility/Tools and particularly, Navigation/Travel in the chart below.

Research In Motion has traditionally targeted more of a business audience with its product line, but is that enough of an explanation why developers are pricing their mobile software programs so much higher than their equivalents on the competing platforms? Or are Blackberry users simply more willing (and able) to pay for apps? If so, than the higher pricing is merely a result of simple relation between offer and demand.

Either way, the difference in pricing is quite clear.

The chart also shows pricing of apps for the most popular listings in Apple’s App Store and Android Market are rather similar, with only Social Networking, Navigation & Travel and Productivity showing a bit of difference in asking pricing.

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MOTO Dext Hits Orange UK Oct. 7 [jkOnTheRun]

We excitedly reported that the Motorola Cliq would be the company’s first Android handset. We showed you the cool MotoBlur interface that would keep you in touch with all your peeps. It turns out that technically it’s not true that the Cliq is Motorola’s first Android handset, as it is not scheduled to be up for pre-orders until Oct. 19 by T-Mobile. Word has just appeared that the Dext, as the phone will be known outside the U. S., is going up for sale on Orange UK on Oct. 7.

That’s only a couple of days away so it looks like the Dext will show up before the Cliq. That would technically make the Dext Motorola’s first Android phone. Confused? These sort of things happen all the time in the crazy world of the smartphone.

Motorola-Dext-Orange-UK-October-7

Step-by-Step Installation of CyanogenMod’s “Legal” 4.1.99 Android ROM [Firmware]

As promised, custom ROM builder Cyanogen has delivered an unofficial firmware with speed enhancements, system and app backups to SD cards, and a few other great tweaks—without the copied Google apps that caused a cease and desist last time around. It's definitely a bit more tricky to install this time around—you'll need to install Recovery Flasher for root access, then install an HTC developer's build, then install CyanogenROM, and finally run two quick terminal commands.

Luckily, the Simple Help blog has a step by step, screenshot-stuffed walkthrough of the install process for a G1 phone, and commenters suggest it can be pulled off just as easily on a MyTouch3G (holding Menu to bring up a soft keyboard when needed). As always, back up your phone before blazing forward, and know that you're in murky territory when it comes to warranties and tech support. That said, tell us what you like, and any tips you've got, about this build in the comments.



Flash Arriving by Year-End on Every Smartphone Except iPhones [Smartphones]

Adobe has promised betas of a mobile-ready Flash 10.1 for Windows Mobile and Palm Pre late this year, and early next year for Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry phones, as well as NVIDIA-powered netbooks. The only hold-out? The iPhone, of course.

Adobe describes Apple as "closed device" and continues to offer a fig leaf, but given Apple's general stance on opening up new development platforms on their device, it seems a tad unlikely. As Gizmodo points out, though, that might become a selling feature for those annoyed by memory-hungry Flash apps and advertisements.

More notable than even the ability to watch YouTube and Hulu clips on your phone, though, is that Flash 10.1 will support graphic chip acceleration on systems with NVIDIA graphics cards, allowing full-screen viewing on netbooks whose processors might otherwise choke, and giving laptop and desktop users perhaps a bit more performance from low-quality clips. Adobe AIR, the cross-platform app engine that powers apps like TweetDeck, will also see improvements with the release of Flash 10.1.

Promises of multi-platform support "by the end of this year" might not be bank-able, but it's reassuring to hear Adobe's firm expectations on all but one platform. Tell us what you'd like Flash to do, or stay away from, on your own smartphone or netbook in the comments.



Evernote Beta for Android Makes for Easy Note-Taking [Downloads]

Android: It's not quite up to the iPhone's standards, but a free beta test relese of Evernote gives Android users text and audio notes, picture and file uploads, and fairly quick access to their online brains.

The app's not in the market at the moment, so you'll need to hit the Evernote Forums and either load a URL on your phone or download an installer package to your SD card. Once installed and authenticated with an Evernote account, the app presents four standard note input options from its home page.

Audio recording is a pretty simple two-button affair, but I encountered two crashes in testing out recording and uploading a half-dozen times. You can upload pics from the camera or stored gallery shots, and quickly synchronize a text note as well. You could, of course, do all this from your personal Evernote email address as well, but the app's input lets you tag, organize, and add notes to your submissions. Accessing your previous notes is unfortunately done through a browser launch, as are a few other functions of the app.

The "Beta 1" of Evernote for Android is a free download, requires a free Evernote account to use. Thanks Patrick!



Talking RSS Reader Does Just What it Sounds Like [Downloads]

Android: If you're unable to read your Android device's screen, either temporarily (while driving) or permanently, the free Talking RSS Reader can jump into your Google Reader account and read the news to you in a synthesized voice.

There's very little that gets in the way of the program's operation, as the only controls are hitting the Menu button to access your Reader feed list, scrolling up or down to find a place to pick up reading, and hitting Back or Forward to move between feed items. The voice is a fairly standard, slightly advanced Speak & Read-type tone, but it's not too hard on the ears if you're listening to feeds while tackling other tasks. If you were really busy, it might be a good way to keep up on heavy Twitter users, or even email feeds if you can grab them.

Talking RSS Reader is a free download for Android devices only.



Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile All Getting Updates Soon [Smartphones]

If you're rocking a G1 or myTouch 3G, a Palm Pre, or a Windows Mobile device, you're due for an OS upgrade fairly soon. Android 1.6, a.k.a. Donut, Palm's WebOS 1.2, and Windows Mobile 6.5 are all set to drop.

The biggest change is Donut, which Android and Me reports is already hitting some T-Mobile USA users. Android 1.6 offers a few new features, like a power bar widget to manage phone services and new phone software, along with performance gains and support for soon-to-come CDMA phones on Verizon and Sprint networks.

Palm's WebOS 1.2 includes support for credit card entry in the app market, synchronization with LinkedIn, and other updates noted at Palm's blog. On the Windows Mobile side, 6.5 won't likely be available to many older phones as an upgrade, but new models, sporting a revamped interface and Flash Lite support, arrive Oct. 6.

What upgrades or changes are you most looking forward to on your non-Apple smartphone? Share your wishlist in the comments.



Android 1.6 Rolling Out Now? Donuts for Everyone [jkOnTheRun]

Word is leaking out that the next version of Android may be rolling out soon, and for the T-Mobile G1 at that. Updates are then slated to start for the newer MyTouch 3G a day later. This update is version 1.6, or affectionately dubbed Donut by the Android team. Past experience shows that T-Mobile rolls out the pushed update in tiers to keep the process smooth, and all qualified handsets should get the update over a week or two. Would you like coffee with that Donut?

android_donut1

Five Features We Want to See in Android [Lifehacker Wishlist]

As with our Ubuntu wishlist, we can't actually tell everyone contributing to Google's open source Android mobile phone software what to do. All we can do is suggest five things that would make its smartphones even smarter.

A better keyboard

A good handful of developers and handset makers have taken steps to improve Android's stock virtual keyboard. Some have suggested it's really an issue with hardware responsiveness. Either way, Lukas Mathis does a masterful job explaining exactly what's wrong with Android's keyboard, as compared to the iPhone, which has had a few years to mature and iterate:

Typing on the iPhone ... works perfectly well, perhaps better than on a physical keyboard. Doing the same thing on an HTC Magic is often annoying and wrought with errors.

We'll leave the physical keyboard debate out of this. The virtual keyboard is the route more handset makers that aren't BlackBerry seem to be taking. What's more, for a device that's supposed to give you premiere mobile access to Google searches and information, having a device punish you for trying to type with one hand is off-putting. Handset makers need to widen the screens, and Android's developers need to learn how to better anticipate what a user is trying to type.

A web-based Market with great search

When you think about Google's origins and mission of providing good information to the masses, it's hard to square that against how the Android Market is organized. On the phone itself, everything is an App or Game, broken into a few sub-categories. On the web version, you can browse the Featured, Top Paid, and Top Free sections, or browse the hopelessly stuffed sub-categories—without any search function.

In actually using the phone, people search with a tag and functionality mindset. "I need a highly-rated free Twitter client," or "I need a screen widget that shows a calendar." As it stands, you can search descriptions from the phone, but you have to scroll lots of results on a tiny screen, with no sorting tools. You can sometimes find an app's "QR code" on the web and point your camera's phone, with a Barcode Scanner app running, to link to the right spot on the market, and—wait, no, this is ridiculous, and we're in CueCat territory.

In other words, Google needs to forge a smarter link between a great web-based Market and individual phones, and improve the search and sort abilities on Android phones themselves.

A serious hardware contender

Even the best-reviewed Android phone out right now, the HTC Hero, suffers from the same middling processor and laggy operation as its predecessors. That's not to say it isn't perhaps more functional and fun than many other web-enabled phones out there, but we haven't seen what Android can really do when it's allowed to move into the passing lane.

Not to be lazy, but writer of things Mac and design John Gruber already pointed out what Android device makers can do to make users happy, get attention, and even push Apple as a real competitor. Simply put, build a top-shelf device, don't be afraid to charge for it, and don't try to eat from the same piece of pie as the iPhone:

Consider trade-offs that Apple is unlikely to make, like, say, device thickness. Beef your phone up with a bigger (and, yes, slightly thicker) battery than the iPhone's and then make battery life a major selling point. Something along the lines of, "The iPhone's battery life is fine for casual users, but serious users need more than just a few hours."

A syncing, Chrome-powered browser

Android's built-in browser is based off the same WebKit roots as Google Chrome (and Safari), but it doesn't move one-fifth as fast, even on a Wi-Fi connection. That might be a hardware issue, and so may improve soon. One thing it doesn't do, though, is allow you to import bookmarks from a file, or otherwise match them to another browser you've already filled with your web preferences.

The most exciting part of our interview with Mozilla Mobile VP Jay Sullivan was when he mentioned how Fennec, a Firefox-based mobile browser (that might land on Android someday), will give Firefox users the ability to sync browser history, passwords, bookmarks, or even the last set of tabs opened. Google can likely go beyond these basics, and should. The only thing better than a fast and snappy browser is one that's a simple extension of your already-snappy desktop browser.

Open up, or just be nice, to modders

Earlier this month, Google sent a cease-and-desist letter to the coder behind CyanogenMod, a totally unofficial, but pretty awesome, custom ROM. It offered features from the next build of Android, much-needed speed optimizations, a few cool secret abilities, and generally made nerdy, tech-savvy Android owners excited to have their phones. It also copied a few of Google's proprietary apps to make the phone fully functional. It seems like the issue has settled down, and Cyanogen is even getting help from Android developers in forging his next project, and that's pretty encouraging.

Know who some of the most enthusiastic, and evangelical, Xbox owners are? Those who manage their entire home entertainment lives Xbox Media Center. Before the app store, and, to a lesser extent, after it, the iPhone cultivated a similarly dedicated group of "jailbreakers." Most of the folks who would dare to "flash" a phone, or even get that far into the process, know the risks of doing so, and take their lumps when things go wrong. At worst, they do little to no harm to the average customer who sticks with the system and updates provided by their carrier. At best, their enthusiasm and unofficial discoveries generate a good deal of publicity and bragging rights for the platform. It seems like Google's taken a soft stance on modders so far—let's hope it continues.


What needs to be changed or added on the Android platform, not just an individual phone, to make it truly great? Give us your own wishlist in the comments.

Update: Pandora Android Mystery Solved — Some Apps in Market Only Available on Official OS Builds [jkOnTheRun]

android_hero_thumbI am happy to report that my inability to get Pandora running on the HTC Hero phone I am evaluating has been solved. To recap, Pandora would not appear on the Hero in the Android Market, even though the app is there and could be downloaded on other phones. The community jumped all over this problem, including reps from Pandora and Android, and I now happily have Pandora running on the Hero. The solution involved Pandora supplying a direct download link to me that bypassed the Market.

The reason the Hero couldn’t see Pandora in the Android Market is best summed up by a comment left here by Dan Morill of the Android community:

Pandora has marked their app as “copy protected” in the Android Market. One effect of this is that the app will not be visible to phones that are not recognized as running a final shipping build. (Developer phones are likewise not considered shipping builds and don’t see copy protected apps, so my fellow commenters are essentially right.) Since your Hero is not available in the US, it more or less by definition isn’t shipping, and so most likely HTC has not provided us with the info we need to make copy protected apps visible. Once the Hero is finalized and shipping, copy protected apps will most likely appear.

This seems to be what happened, the Hero I am evaluating was supplied by HTC and while it appears to be a final commercial version of the phone, HTC and Sprint may not have informed everyone that it is no longer a “preliminary” version. I was not aware that apps could be submitted to the Android Market as “copy protected”, which has implications for unlocked phones and those running modded OS builds that have been in the news of late.