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Steve Wozniak Predicts Android will Dominate Smartphones

Steve WozniakUh-oh, it looks like Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have just saved a postage stamp for this year’s Christmas card mailing: A Dutch newspaper is reporting that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is predicting that Google’s Android will become the dominant smartphone platform.

Engadget is reporting
that the other Steve, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, recently did an interview with Dutch language newspaper De Telegraaf over in the The Netherlands, and as always the eccentric hero to tech geeks everywhere had a few choice bits to reveal.

The most controversial comment has to be Woz’s statement that Google’s Android is likely to become the dominant smartphone platform, mirroring how Microsoft trounced Apple on the PC with Windows. Despite boffo sales on the iPhone, Android is already making its mark on an insane number of devices across every carrier and multiple manufacturers, so the comment certainly has some merit.

Woz notes, however, that the iPhone “has very few weak points. There aren’t any real complaints and problems. In terms of quality, the iPhone is leading,” while noting that Android devices have more features overall and offer more choice for people. As a result, he believes that Android will ultimately match iOS in terms of quality, consistency and user satisfaction.

Also revealed in the interview was the admission that Apple “had collaborated with a well-known Japanese consumer electronics company in 2004” to develop their own smartphone, years before the iPhone we all know and love was launched in 2007. Apparently, Apple was satisfied with the unreleased device, but kept pushing for “something that could amaze the world” — which they clearly succeeded at doing.

The Woz also had his own version of “one more thing,” closing the interview with a jab at Nokia, calling the company “the brand from a previous generation” and suggesting that the Finnish device maker introduce “a new brand for a young consumer.” Well played, Woz — after that Android comment, we love you again.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

(Image courtesy of Engadget)



Analyst Predicts Android Tablet Dominance

We’ve gotten accustomed to take the words of Gene Munster, Senior Research Analyst at Piper Jaffray, with a grain or block of salt or two upon occasion. There have been a couple instances where his numbers sound like they were arrived at by reaching into a hat and pulling something out. His latest analysis though, sounds right about dead-on.

In a recent sit down with Business Insider, Munster talked tablets, and made what don’t seem like remarkably wild predictions. The two talked how the tablet market is going to essentially burn the netbook market to the ground, pummel the laptop market, and even give the desktop market a big of a shake up. Strong words, but with the iPad adoption rates smoking that of the DVD, not all that far out there, we think.

android is coming

Image Source: New Hi-Tech

Of course, Apple isn’t the only player in the game. What Munster predicts is that the iPad tablet story will play out like the iPhone saga. A year, maybe a little more, of complete Apple dominance with their head start on the game. Then comes the shift. It’ll probably start slow as other manufacturers fumble around seeking out the sweet spot in form factors and features, but things will pick up when they find their footing.

Munster doesn’t see much of a future for Microsoft in this realm, pitting Google in that role, as Android-licensed tablets flood the market hitting every price point, size, feature, and taste out there. While you can only get one iPad (with slight variations on size and connectivity), Android tablets will be bigger, smaller, thinner, more colorful, and so on. Simply more choices will appeal to more people.

Like we said, we don’t necessarily buy everything Munster sells, but this story sounds all too plausible.


Android Thriving with Verizon Shows iPhone Can Too

It could be argued that thanks to Apple’s exclusivity deal with AT&T, Android handsets became the People’s Sour-Grapes iPhone. For individuals already locked into other networks or unwilling to take on a contract with AT&T, Google’s open-source mobile OS, when paired with the right hardware makes for an excellent alternative to Cupertino’s trendsetting handset. According to some increasingly credible rumors, the American cellular landscape will be undergoing a significant change in the early months of 2011: AT&T will no longer be the only game in town in you want to get your mitts on an iOS powered smartphone, as Apple is purportedly ready to unveil a iteration of the iPhone that will function on Verizon‘s network in early 2011. Despite the fact that the iPhone’s primary competition of late has come from companies selling hardware with running one flavor of Android or another, the Cupertino-based tech company owes a debt of gratitude to Google: Without Android handsets gobbling up data like it was going out of style, Verizon wouldn’t have been able to anticipate whether or not their network in its current state could sustain the added user demand that will come with the company’s introduction of the iPhone.

Thanks guys!

In a story posted this morning, The Wall Street Journal details how after observing Android’s performance on their network, Verizon’s infrastructure geeks feel they can confidentially roll out new Apple hardware without fear of the same poor performance that was suffered by iPhone users back when the handset was first launched on the AT&T network. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Verizon’s Chief Technology Officer Tony Melone stated that he felt that if his network could sustain the data load that came with the introduction Android handsets, then Verizon would most certainly be ready to bear the impact of the iPhone arrival as well. “The Android experience gives me confidence we can engineer a great data network. We are planning for growth,” Melone said. “We build capacity, cushion and contingency.”

If nothing else, those hoping to see the iPhone on the Verizon network in the new year can take comfort in the fact that should the handset arrive, the company is at least planning ahead for it. That’s got to count for something.


Follow this article’s author, Seamus Bellamy on Twitter.



Android Apps Sending Covert Info to Advertisers

Everything has a price–at least for Android users. According to a joint study conducted by Duke University, Penn State University and Intel Labs, a number of purportedly free application designed for the OS are in reality forcing users to unknowingly pay through the nose. The Android users weren’t sending the developers any money, but rather, an alarming amount of personal information such as precise GPS locations and phone numbers.

The researchers came by their information after developing a piece of software called TaintDroid (awesome name, no?) When deployed on an Android handset, TaintDroid sniffs out seemingly harmless applications that in actuality pack a whole lot of nefarious intent; locating those that are leeching personal information such as SIM numbers, user contact lists, SMS messages and other private bits and pieces to remote servers.

Given the open-source nature of Android, Google was careful to implement a number of security safeguards against exactly this sort of behavior. The company also encourages software developers to make their privacy policies readily available to users so that they know what they’re in for. With this being the case, how is it that the applications are able to send out your deepest, darkest phone secrets to parts unknown?

Well, You most likely gave the applications permission to do so.

For example, a lot of applications will politely ask whether or not they can use your GPS location for the sake of a better user experience. By clicking yes, you’re not only giving the application permission to do so, but also, theoretically, you’ve granted a go ahead to allow that app to fire off morsels about where you are anytime it pleases, even if that information isn’t being used to enhance the application’s feature set. Now that’s underhanded.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TaintDroid research team’s findings, they’ll be revealing all of what they were able to dig up at next week’s USENIX OSDI Conference in Vancouver, Canada.



Follow this article’s author, Seamus Bellamy on Twitter.



Why the Verizon App Store Could Save Android Without Hurting iTunes

I’ve been a Verizon customer for ten years now, since before you could purchase a monthly texting plan and unlimited minutes. I was with the company when they switched from black-and-green cell phone displays to color ones, and when Motorola was still considered one of the top tier mobile handset manufacturers. I remember my first phone with a color display–the Motorola T720i–and marveling at the phone’s texting and mobile web capabilities (back then, it only cost a month to get on Mobile Web). But then, as the phones became more colorful, and might I add “smarter”, Verizon introduced its own app store of sorts, called Get It Now. 

This “app store” was chock full of downloadable ringtones and instant messaging software, and games from well-known publishers like EA. It also introduced the idea of paying for specific software for your mobile phone that could enable your little device to do more than you thought it was capable of. At the time, it was a great idea to put this kind of expandability on a phone–the kind of handsets that we would refer to now as “dumb” phones. But as the cell phone market grew–and when Apple stormed the market with its very own app-enabled phone, the iPhone–Verizon had to up the ante a bit. When it introduced Android phones into its handset family late last year, those of us holding out were pleased to hear that our loyalty was honored with an operating system that was open source and an app store that wasn’t as closed as Apple’s.

But we were soon disappointed when we realized that Verizon hasn’t changed its ways. If you’re an avid listener of our weekly podcast, you might already know that I’m an Android user myself, and am smitten with the hardware performance of my HTC Incredible, call quality included. But while the cell service hasn’t let me down, the news that Verizon is planning on force feeding its own app store on its smartphone users rubbed me the wrong way at first. Why does there need to be two app stores on my phone? I’m fine with the Android marketplace and I know how to navigate it so that I stay out of trouble. Why do I have to have this extra icon in my app list when I’m not even going to use this thing? 

What didn’t occur to me is that I’m not really the typical Verizon customer. It’s my job to know these app stores from left to right, but there are a ton of Verizon users out there who are just entering the smart phone market. The minute they step into the Android Market, things get pretty shady. It’s like picking up furniture from off the street–you never know if you’re bringing home bed bugs or some other sort of nasty critters. And then if you place that nasty couch in your home, the bed bugs spread everywhere, and pretty soon you’re writhing on the floor, desperately trying to scratch the itch. In Android’s case, you never know if you’re downloading an app that’s hiding something malicious, and you might even come across something that could actually do some everlasting damage to your phone. 

Let me tell you from firsthand experience, the idea that you may have “bricked” your phone because of software will bring you to tears. I’ve always appreciated the fact that Apple requires you to sync your iPhone with iTunes because if things go bad, you always have a backup waiting for you on your hard drive. But in my case, if my phone goes kaput, all I’ve got are my contacts and recent calls saved in Google’s cloud–my apps are all gone. To add insult to injury, there is no Android Marketplace account that keeps track of the apps you purchase because developers use Google Checkout. So without the iTunes backbone, I am virtually alone in this ever expanding marketplace, and I can’t even tether the thing for free. 

So this is where the Verizon app store could actually save Android because it can offer a regulated marketplace where the transactions are actually accounted for. No longer will Verizon Android users purchase apps from unknown developers. Instead, Verizon will make sure that these apps are fit for the phones they’re selling, and account for the cash passed between developer and consumer. The Verizon app store would only work on handsets stocked with Android 2.2, but it would be a great entry point for new smartphone users who are terribly afraid of contracting a virus on their pricey handsets. I wouldn’t put it past Verizon to overcharge for these applications, anyway, but at least they could be trusted. And like Apple’s App Store, that means that someone would be looking to make sure that the apps in the store aren’t completely a waste of time–if you thought Apple had a problem with Fart apps, you haven’t seen the myriad of lame soundboards and “skins” that are infiltrating the Android Marketplace. By comparison, the Apple apps that are approved are better because there is someone on the other side saying, “We have enough of these silly apps. Let’s try some other kind of silly app from now on.” There’s no one to do that for Android, and I am not at all amused with the variety of Peter Griffin soundboard apps available right now. 

There is one major problem I foresee from a Verizon app store, however. Currently, there’s a Verizon apps section in the Android Market, called Vcast Apps. The page includes suggestions from Verizon of Android apps that you might want to download–like Skype, the official Twitter app, and Layar–and a few of Verizon’s own proprietary applications that were annoyingly installed on my Incredible when I updated to Froyo. One of these apps includes Verizon’s own navigation app, which I’m too afraid to even start up lest I incur an extra charge on my already expensive monthly bill. On the older Verizon phones, navigation was also available, which makes sense if you’re stuck with a sort of “regular” phone (as I like to call it these days) and want to opt in for that feature. But for a platform like Android that already comes with a very powerful navigation system (with turn-by-turn directions, even), why bothering offering another?

Well, I’d wager that it’s because Verizon wants to make money off of consumers that don’t know any better. It’s an extra for Verizon’s navigation application to work; Google Maps is free with any data plan. I think Verizon is afraid of losing its monopoly in this open Android market and not being able to profit from it. It’s not necessarily that the app doesn’t work as well or that it is any better than what’s offered for free, it’s that Verizon wants you to pay them so that they can have a little more control over your phone. 

Android is an open platform and I doubt Google will ever bother to fight with carriers because of its open nature. They probably just care about getting their software on as many devices as possible. Great for them, but bad for the average consumer, who may not be aware that based on their carrier they may not be getting a very “open” market place after all. This is why I prefer Apple’s infrastructure. They’ve got a piece of software in iTunes that, even with its flaws, keeps your phone tied to your computer so that your data is never lost. And, their regulated App Store means that I don’t have to sift through pages of crap apps looking for what I want. Apple is smart enough to offer up the right kind of competition by allowing in more than one type of app, so even if there are a variety of flashlight apps to choose from, they all offer something a bit different. With Android, it’s the carriers that have control–essentially, The Man–and with the iPhone, your App Store is run by Jolly Ol’ Father Apple (Um, Steve?). 

Verizon obviously wants the iPhone to steal AT&T customers away, and they know that this is only slightly possible because they, purportedly, have better service (this is all depending on your coverage area, but roll with us here). You can bet that Apple won’t be lenient about letting Verizon tromp over its App S
tore the way it has with Google’s Android Marketplace. Just like with AT&T, Apple will play hardball. But, this is a good thing. It’s not that we can’t expect Verizon will have these exact same apps in the App Store if Apple does release a CDMA iPhone (all of which will undergo their own arduous App Store approval process), but it means that Verizon will have to figure out a way to move away from their old habits and become accustomed to the new reality of app marketplaces.

If Verizon moves away from this model, then it will be easier for the carrier to compete in the smartphone war. After all, who would consider switching to Verizon if it meant that their iPhone was going to be filled with proprietary apps? All they care for are the ones that Apple gives them. If the CDMA iPhone stays the same as its predecessor, then Apple fans will have more of a reason to head to another carrier because it will be just the same as AT&T’s. And Verizon loyalists will jump for joy because finally, their carrier isn’t offering a phone that’s bloated with proprietary apps.

So tell us, readers. How would you feel if Verizon put in their own proprietary apps on your iPhone? Would you still be inclined to switch carriers? Do you still think a CDMA iPhone is even in the cards at this point?

Follow this article’s author, Florence Ion, on Twitter.


Unreal Engine SDK Coming Soon to iOS, Android to Follow

As we previously mentioned, the Unreal Engine that powers many console-quality games, like Gears of War, was going to make the move into the hands of iPhone and iPad developers, allowing game developers to create graphically-rich games for iOS devices. But as Know Your Mobile reports today, the UDK (Unreal Development Kit) may make it’s way into the hands of iOS developers sooner than we though.

According to the blog, iOS is Unreal’s main focus right now, but they’ve also demoed the Unreal Engine on the Android platform, and said that the company would “eventually” release a version of the UDK for Android developers.

It is still unclear exactly when the UDK will be available for iOS developers, but it will no doubt mark a new era of mobile gaming when it is available.

The Unreal Engine on mobile devices means that developers for both mobile operating systems will be able to create beautiful, console-like applications for game play anywhere. Unreal recently unveiled the Unreal Engine on iOS devices by placing Epic Citadel on the App Store.

Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.


Tablet Optimized Android OS Could Be In The Cards

One of the great things about Google’s Android OS is that with its open platform, hardware manufacturers can slap it on any device they darn well please. They can modify it to suit their needs and skin it to their heart’s content.

But this is also one of the rotten things about Android. If pushed too far, the OS might still boast top-level functionality, but can often lose much of the stability and flexibility it had when Google let it out of the gate. If you cram Android into a device it’s not meant for–a tablet computer, for example–plenty of important features, such as the ability to use third-party applications available in Android Market, will simply refuse to work.

We’re sure you’ll agree that this sort of thing simply won’t do. Fortunately, our sister site TechRadar has some good news for those of you eagerly waiting to tap and swipe your life away on something other than an iPad. Google has indicated that a tablet optimized version of Android is in the works.

While Google hasn’t been caught speaking directly about the fact that an Android solution for tablets will be available soon, TechRadar has managed to connect a few dots for us. Google has indicated that they’re looking to produce a new version of Android for tablets that will provuide users with the “right experience” when shopping at the Android Market. The search engine giant figures that the best way to sort the problem out is to provide manufactuers with an OS solution geared towards use on a tablet computing device, rather than simply “blowing up” the mobile version.

There is no word on when an official announcment might be made by Google, but we’ll defintely keep you posted, at least to poke some fun at it.



iOS Web Browsing Tops Linux in July, Android Far Behind

Click image to embiggen

Net Applications is reporting today that in the month of July, iOS devices (iPhone, iPod touch, and the iPad, collectively) dominated over the lower portion of the OS trends. In August, iOS shot ahead of Linux with 1.13% to 0.85% respectively. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that iOS is now bigger than Linux when counting by web browsing.

In a graph posted to Net Applications, it can be seen that Linux users are very loyal, as the usage percentage has remained roughly steady since October of last year. The graph, however, tells a different story about iOS. It clearly shows that iOS is on the rise, and has been rising even more steadily since the announcement and release of the iPad in April (Wi-Fi only model) and May (3G model).

What about Android? 9to5 Mac reports that the Android OS accounts for only 0.2% of web browsing.

Net Applications vice president, Vince Vizzaccaro said, “Whatever the sales are, we’re seeing iOS totally dominate the market on the Web. iOS has nearly a 6:1 advantage over Android.”

With the recent Apple Music Event, Apple unveiled a new iPod touch with FaceTime integration. This may mean that iOS market share on the web could increase throughout the rest of the year.

Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter


Mozilla Fennec for Android Now Available for Download

For those of you who prefer to rock an Android handset over Apple’s brand of smartphone sexy, prepare to be giddy: Mozilla has announced the immediate availability of Fennec (Firefox) alpha for Android, bringing with it improved performance and responsiveness that even occasional on-the-go users are sure to enjoy. The alpha version of the software marks Mozilla’s second update to Fennec for Android since April and brings us one step closer to the much anticipated beta version of the software.

In an interview with the folks at TechRadar, Mozilla’s representatives stated that a full, bona fide version of Firefox would be available to Android users in the later this year. Currently, the browser’s developers are hard at work crossing their eyes and dotting some tees as they pay close attention to some of the finer details of the software, including how it handles video, zooming and scrolling.

While we wait for that release, there’s no reason why Android loving road warriors can’t add some awesome to their browsing experience right now. The Fennec alpha comes complete with the ability to include add-ons, such as a Twitter client to your browser, for a richer web experience.

For those interested, the Firefox Fennec alpha can be downloaded here.


Follow this article’s author, Seamus Bellamy on Twitter.