Irina Sandu

on mobile and Mozilla

Month: March, 2012

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 13

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • The Dolphin browser now has a Chrome extension to sync bookmarks
  • Opera released Opera Mini 7
  • Device updates to ICS are slow to be deployed
  • The Play Store has been introduced into the Google black navigation bar
  • Reports of Chome OS being tested on ARM architecture
  • Windows Phone app development encouraged with $24 million from Microsoft and Nokia
  • Nokia Lumia 900 to enter US market with mid-range pricing
  • LTE phone shipments to grow tenfold in 2012, account for 10% of smartphone shipments
  • Baidu search engine is rumoured to be introduced to iOS along Google
  • FTC calls for Do Not Track option for mobile apps

 

The Dolphin browser launched their first Chrome extension – Dolphin bookmarks. It allows syncing of bookmarks from the mobile browser to Chrome through Dolphin Connect.

 

Opera released an update to version 7 to Opera Mini for Android. The new browser added a Find in Page feature, support for Android Beam, now allows for more Speed Dial buttons than the previous 9 and boasts improved tab management and hardware acceleration – OpenGLES support. The release of version 7 for Android comes after a month of it being submitted to the Apple App Store. The company also announced 160 million users of Opera Mini.

 

Updates to the latest Android version, released in December of 2012, are slow to be deployed. Android handset manufacturers have not upgraded the majority of their top-of-the line models to Ice Cream Sandwich in the first quarter of 2012, which is ending this week. According to Computer World’s analysis, the top 3 vendors, Samsung, HTC and Sony have yet to roll out updates to a variety of devices for which they have confirmed updates and which are expected in Q2 or Q3 of this year. The article acknowledges that the delivery of updates is not solely dependent on device manufacturers, but that network operators can also delay the process. For a list of expected models to be updated, Computer World has made a list.

 

Google has introduced a link to the Play Store into the black Google navigation bar present across the company’s web properties. Placed between Maps and YouTube, the Google Play Store has a prominent 5th place when reading from left to right.

 

A version of Chrome OS code-named “Daisy” is being tested on Exynos chipsets featuring ARM architecture, according to the Google Code issue tracker. There were also reports of a Tegra testing base, which might lead to the speculation that Google is preparing Chrome OS to work on a wider range of SoCs than the currently available Intel Atom series.

 

Microsoft and Nokia are investing up to $24 million to facilitate growth of the apps ecosystem for the Windows Phone platform. The funding will go into a mobile apps development program at a university in Finland which starts in May 2012.

 

The Nokia Lumia 900 has been priced at a $99 level with a two-year contract for the arrival to the US in April, further positioning the brand and the platform that it uses into the middle-range, and moving away from the highly competitive high-end area.

 

LTE phone shipments are expected to grow tenfold in 2012 and reach 67 million units for the year, after scoring 6.8 million in 2011. The drivers for the technology are expected to be the US, Japan and South Korea. Out of the 650 million smartphones expected to sell in 2012, LTE-equipped ones will amount to 10%.

 

There are rumours that Apple might integrate the Baidu search engine next to Google in iOS products sold in China. Neither Baidu or Apple has confirmed the news. The search engine has been already added in the Safari browser for the latest version of Mac OS X, Mountain Lion.

 

The US Federal Trade Commission is calling for mobile app developers to provide an easy-to-use “Do Not Track” option by the end of the year. The move comes from a desire to better protect consumer privacy and after several app venors were caught accessing and using user information from their smartphones without their permission.

Firefox for mobile – tracking progress

Below are highlights of the work performed last week in Firefox for mobile on our way to releasing native-UI Firefox for mobile. Not all of the features below will make it into the first release, some are being prepared for the consequent updates. We are currently at 64 blockers for the native-UI beta and 62 for the final release.

  • We have made improvements to the experience of importing a profile into Firefox. The new design adds more explanation on what is happening and confirms to the user that profile migration is taking place – bug 729532

  • We are discussing the behavior for playing plugins. The intention is to have Tap to Play, but we are not yet set on settings for the feature, such as “Always for this page” or “Never for this Page” – bug 736278
  • At the Firefox Developer Tools work week that happened in London last week we discussed about enabling remote debugging for Firefox for mobile.
  • We are beginning work on the tablet version that corresponds to the native-UI Firefox on phones. The UX team has created the first drafts for adapting the new design that we have to larger screen sizes.

  • We are making changes to the Crash Reporter to make it cleaner and more consistent with the rest of the Android UI. Having the browser crash is unpleasant, so the role of the Crash Reporter is to help the user find her way back to where she was in no time – bug 736599

  • The bug to have an experimental ARMv6 build of Firefox has been declared FIXED. \o/ Next step is to start producing Nightly builds for testing on a variety of ARMv6 devices. They will not be ready for mainstream users, but they are a step in the right direction – bug 723946
  • The patch to use https by default when searching with Google has been included in Firefox 14, which is now in the Nightly channel, both for mobile and desktop – bug 633772

Further reading: Chris Lord wrote an overview of the state of the Firefox mobile platform.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 12

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

  • ICS 4.0.5 update rumoured for the Galaxy Nexus
  • China now leads the world in iOS and Android activations
  • Samsung Galaxy S III said to launch in April
  • Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 Tango for the Chinese market
  • Nokia is working on a Windows 8 tablet
  • Dolphin browser has a new website
  • Some free Android apps use more energy to display ads than  for core function
  • Android and iOS have taken over the majority of revenue in the US portable gaming industry
  • Sony releases open source code for Xperia S ROM
  • Sony release new “floating touch” screen technology

An update of Ice Cream Sandwich to 4.0.5 is rumoured to be shipped soon for the Galaxy Nexus. It is expected to fix issues with data connectivity and patch a common issue where the phone would reboot.

China has overpassed the US and now leads the world in new iOS and Android activations, reveals a report from Flurry Analytics. In January of last year, the U.S. accounted for 28% of the world’s total iOS and Android activations, while China accounted for just 8%. By February 2012, China surpassed the U.S., and is now on track to account for 24% of activations by the end of March, while the U.S. drops to 21%.  China is a booming market, on the brink of approaching 1 billion mobile subscribers,  but with a relatively low penetration of 3G connections of 144 million subscribers and with 4G spectrum auctions yet to be held in the country.

The Samsung Galaxy S III will likely be launched in April, according to a Samsung executive. The device, rumoured to be featuring a 1.5 GHz Exynos quad-core CPU, is said to be prepared for marketing activities at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where the company is a sponsor.

Microsoft has officially launched its Windows Phone 7 platform in China, where it showed a new version, code-named Tango, aimed at the lower-end of the smartphone market. For entrance in the Chinese market, the company partnered with Nokia, HTC, Samsung and ZTE.  The first device is the HTC Eternity, a 1.5 GHz single core, 512 MB RAM, unlocked phone featuring apps customized for the Chinese market.

A Nokia executive has confirmed that the company is working on a Windows 8 tablet. The rumoured launch date is Q4 of this year and features to include a 10 inch screen and a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chipset.

The Dolphin browser has a new website and blog.

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana in collaboration with Microsoft Research conducted a study of battery use in 6 popular free apps on Android and Windows Mobile. The phones used in the research are HTC Magic on Android 2.0, HTC Passion on Android 2.3 and HTC Tytn II with Windows Mobile. Their findings say that up to 75% of the energy used by the free apps is spent serving ads or tracking and uploading user data. Some of the more popular apps investigated used between 10% and 30% of total energy used for the core function.

Android and iOS have taken over the majority of revenue in the US portable gaming industry, reveals a report by Flurry Analytics. Nintendo, the dominant player in 2009, is estimated to have went down to 36% of revenues in 2011, in favour of Android and iOS, which combined took over 58% of the gaming-related revenues last year. The US market accounts for 47% of overall iOs and Android app sessions, as of October 2011.

Sony continues the industry trend of opening up Android devices with unlocked bootloaders and instructions on building custom ROMs. The company released the open source code archive for building a kernel for the Xperia S device, which runs on a Snapdragon S3 chipset, together with instructions on how to flash the device and be on your way to building a custom ROM.

Sony implemented a new touch screen technology for its Xperia Sola device, called “the floating touch”. It allows the user to interact by hovering across the screen, without touching it. This is possible due to the integration of 2 types of capacitive sensors. When in hover mode, the screen is not multi-touch enabled, but this is activated when touching the screen. The company showcased use of this technology for Web browsing, where the user can move the “cursor” by hovering and then touch the screen to tap on a link. The device will launch globally in the second quarter of the year.

Firefox for mobile – tracking progress

The reset for the native-UI Fennec has put the mobile team on a fast-paced development effort to rebuild front-end functionality for Firefox for mobile. As I wrote last week, this new version is scheduled to go to beta pretty soon. For this special release we have went away from the train model of regular Firefox releases and went to a system where we have release criteria and functionality for the product.  These are represented in Bugzilla by release blocker bugs. Here are some highlights of progress made in the last week in Firefox for mobile – for the first native UI release and beyond.

  • We merged the Maple branch to mozilla-central, bringing GL layers support into the nightly builds. This makes Firefox crisper and snappier. – bug 725095
  • We started work on a Reading Mode to enable easier reading for various form factors. It will automatically adapt to screen size. – bug  696921

  • There is a long and interesting discussion about video codec support on mobile. The bug number is 714408, but the discussion is on the dev-platform list.
  • We plan to include support for more types of bookmarks. We currently have standard bookmarks and folders, but we want to also add separators, livemarks and queries. Waiting for UX designs first. bug 737024 
  • Users will find the button to activate and set up Sync right from the default home page. bug 737024

  • We started work for WEBAPP intent, to achieve parity with the XUL version. This is not a blocker for release. bug 737050
  • We improved the menu for picking and capturing media (pictures, videos), so that we don’t have 2 different buttons: one for choosing a file and another one for taking the picture / video. The less taps to do something, the better.  bug 730289
  • We added the Options menu for add-ons in the same place in the Add-on Manager, for easy customizations. The menu is visible only when the add-on is enabled.  bug 696533 

  • We are working on the ability to delete individual form entries from history. When Firefox has multiple form entries stored from past usage, but one of them is no longer valid, the user will be able to tell Firefox to forget it. bug 735740
  • We are also discussing whether to continue supporting Android v 2.1 (Eclair). Currently, 1.76% of Firefor for mobile users are on this platform and 6.6% of the overall market. bug 662891

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 11

 

 

Every week I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

  • Chrome for Android updates include support for Android Beam and availability in more countries
  • The Android Market was renamed to Google Play; now restricts use of 3rd-party in-app payment processors
  • Ice Cream Sandwich updates rolling out to flagship Samsung and HTC devices
  • The Google-Oracle trial concerning Java use in Android to start in April
  • Opera adds Opera Mini Next as version for early-adopter feature preview
  • Opera Mobile 12 adds WebGL and Camera API support
  • Opera shows MIPS- and Intel-based versions of its mobile browser
  • Android tablet sales will take over iOS by 2016, according to data released by IDC
  • Latest iPad features a new display and a better camera; Samsung exec said to have confirmed an upcoming iPad Mini
  • The Internet of Things arriving with new ARM processor designed for appliances
  • The EC is questioning 5 telecom operators on standardization

 

Chrome for Android has been updated twice since the first release on the 7th of February. Besides bug fixes, the updates include support for Android Beam, Android’s NFC app, and availability in additional countries. The browser can now be downloaded from 32 countries and is available in 7 languages.

 

Google integrated the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore into one product called Google Play. Positioned as an entertainment venue, Google Play aims to provide for a more connected and powerful experience. Users can access their content on any device, through “the power of the cloud” and they can easily share it with other people.  The rules for apps distributed through Google Play have been changed to prohibit in-app payments through payment processors other than Google Wallet.

 

After much-debated delays, the updates to Ice Cream Sandwich are being announced and rolled-out to Samsung and HTC devices. The Samsung S II pool is being updated starting with this week and the Korean OEM confirmed roll-outs to more flagship devices, including the Galaxy Tab 10.1. HTC also announced a list of its 16 most popular devices that will be getting the latest Android version.

 

The trial between Google and Oracle concerning the use of copyrighted parts of Java technology in Android is set to start on the 16th of April and last for about 8 weeks. The stakes of the trial are a possible injunction of Android products, if Oracle wins, although a pre-trial settlement is also possible.

 

Opera Mini Next is a version of the Opera Mini browser which gives a preview into what’s to come in future versions of Opera. Advanced users have the chance to test new features that are still under development for the next release of Opera Mini. The first release introduces a Smart Page which features access to social networks and the latest news, but is only available in the feature phone version. Android users of Opera Mini Next will see a revamped Speed Dial page, with an unlimited number of shortcuts and will also benefit from hardware acceleration.

Opera Mobile was updated to version 12, which adds WebGL support on Android and support for the camera API.

 

Opera showed the Opera Mobile browser run on MIPS-based Android 4.0 tablets. MIPS-based Android hardware does not have a significant share of the market and it is considered to be mostly available in China.

 

Opera Mobile for Android now has an experimental build that runs on Intel architecture. The first release runs on an Ice Scream Sandwich tablet, powered by an Intel Oak Trail processor.

 

Android tablet sales will take over iOS by 2016, according to data released by IDC. The research company puts total tablet sales for this year at 106 million, 56% of which on iOS and 44% on Android. In 2016 there will be 198 million tablets sold, 50% running on Android and 47% on iOS. The report does not forecast a significant marketshare for any other platform, such as Windows 8.

 

Apple announced the newest iPad, which boasts an improved display, a 5MP camera and LTE-capable antenna. It runs on a dual-core A5X chip with quad-core graphics and probably 1 GB of RAM. The device will be available for purchase starting with this week. A Samsung executive is said to have confirmed the preparations for a Mini version of Apple’s iPad, which will have a 7.85-inch screen. Samsung has insight into Apple’s plans because it is one of the main providers or hardware parts for the Cupertino company. Apple reportedly employs 73 Korean-American contract attorneys and 20 document reviewers.

 

The Cortex-M0+ is a new entry in ARM ‘s series of processors that are optimized for extremely low energy consumption and fit for microcontrollers that can be used for both sensor and control systems. The 32-bit processors use one-third of the energy used by 8- or 16- bit processors. ARM is aiming the new microcontroller at small wirelessly connected devices providing communication, management and maintenance functions. While not intended for mobile phones, this development paves the way for the Internet of Things, which is expected to produce up to 2.3 billion Machine2Machine wireless connections by 2020, according to numbers from the GSMA.

 

The European Union competition authorities are questioning five of Europe’s biggest telecommunications companies to see if a series of meetings they held since 2010 on strategy and technical co-operation constituted collusion. The requests for information relate to the manner in which standardization for future services in the mobile communications area is taking place. The operators in question are Vodafone , France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefonica.

 

Firefox for mobile – tracking progress

The reset for the native-UI Fennec has put the mobile team on a fast-paced development effort to rebuild front-end functionality for Firefox for mobile. This new version is scheduled to go to beta and then final release pretty soon. For this special release we have went away from the train model of regular Firefox releases and went to a system where we have release criteria and functionality for the product.  These are represented in Bugzilla by release blocker bugs. Here are some highlights of progress made in the last week in Firefox for mobile – for the native UI release and beyond.

There were 68 blocking bugs for native-UI Firefox and 43 for the beta release at the time of publication.

  • We added the Bookmark Link feature to the context menu in the native UI version. – bug 728782

 

  • We made progress on ARMv6 support. Major crash bugs have been fixed and now we have an experimental build with basic functionality. So far tested on the Samsung Galaxy Ace, Samsung Galaxy III and Galaxy Gio. If you have an ARMv6 Android you can help us test. There is a thread on mozilla.dev.platforms.mobile on this topic. This is not a blocker for the release. – bug 697205
  •  We are making progress on getting the viewport handling working properly for the maple build. Patch number 16 has been filed and counting. This is a beta blocker. – bug 732564
  •  The feature to view and open tabs from other computers has been added to the native version, to match the capability of the XUL-version. – bug 708266

  • We now have somebody assigned to make sure that when the user taps into a field the browser zooms in the area. This is a blocker for the final release. – bug 725018
  • Aurora and nightly users now get a notification that they can switch off the Telemetry function. The function is on by default for Aurora and Nightly, and off for the stable release. –  bug 725987
  • We have been making progress towards the merge of the maple build to mozilla-central. 5 blockers to go. – bug 725095
  •  When pressing the system Back button in a popup window the window now closes. – bug 731610
  • Pressing the system Back button when in a menu reverts Firefox to the tab that was viewed previously, instead of exiting the browser. – bug 699052
  •  Zooming is now disabled when a video is in fullscreen mode. – bug 702907
  •  Going Back when on a web page now returns the user to the same scroll point where she was. – bug 708795
  • When a user taps on an empty input filed, a popup will appear with previously entered content in that field, to minimize keyboard usage. – bug 711177
  •  Notifications inside the browser now have the ability to feature links in their text. – bug 725990

The mobile phone is your personal dashboard

The key to success in today’s mobile ecosystem is integration, is the message that Stephen Elop, Nokia’s CEO, shared during the keynote at MWC. A summary of the major trends in mobile computing shows that first there was a race for which phones got data capabilities; once that was mainstream it was on to a operating system race and the advent of installable applications gave birth to mobile ecosystems. Yet an ecosystem is only as good as it manages to seamlessly and coherently integrate all of its moving parts. The user needs a clear view of everything that is being tracked on this device: from past calls to shopping lists and intuitive management options for all the important details of his life.

Design is a key element that drives integration and creates a user’s personal dashboard on his mobile phone. The variety of sensors and increased computing capabilities are leveraged by application creators in a multitude of ways. Users are extending the uses of their smartphone from calling and SMS to navigation, payments, calendaring, emailing, entertainment, dieting, working out, treating illness and all sorts of activities. This variety brings complexity, so management and integration is important. This is the main thread in HTC’s strategy announced at MWC and presented on stage by Peter Chou, the company’s CEO. Instead of playing the numbers game and adding more cores and megapixels, HTC released a refreshed design for its next Android devices, that puts emphasis on ease of use and seamless integration. Called the HTC One series, the phones try to make design work for the user and create a more personalized dashboard.

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