Posts Tagged Android

What Could Google Do – Friend Rank

I was listening to This Week in Google where Jeff Jarvis, Gina Trapani and Leo Laporte were discussing the issue of Google’s social strategy. The main point of discussion was what Facebook and Twitter are doing. Facebook has more than half a billion users but still not able to provide proper recommendations, while Twitter had over 180 million users and it has an excellent recommendation system. The topic that skimmed up was it’s not the users that matter, it’s the relationships that matters the most for any social strategy.

On the other side, Google has a lot of users but not a successful social strategy. Google has shown it’s capabilities by providing us ‘Priority Inbox’ which is a testimonial that with enough data, Google can mine excellent relationships and eventually recommendations. How does Google get into the game? They have money, engineering capabilities but a lot of failed social attempts too. One thing is they can harness the fire hose provided by Twitter but that would not suffice all needs of Google.

One of the options is for Google to have it’s own Social Network (Google Me?), but we know form past experiences (Orkut, Buzz, Latitude) that Google cannot build a good social network. Then how do they get all the data they want? At that time I wondered what if we bring Android into the picture. One of the most fascinating things about Android is it’s contact sync. Google syncs all the contacts from Phonebook, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and other application into one phonebook. They do an excellent job of figuring out which users/handle/userid belong to same person and bundle it together.

I see it as opportunity for Google; by capturing a large market in Smartphone they have a system where they can capture a lot of data with just one primary key – gmailid. With more and more usage of mobile platform people use twitter, Facebook, Skype and voice calls, all from one device. If that device is capable of capturing all the data and building a social graph internally then I see Gold for Google. Google can have it’s own ‘Friend Rank’ algorithm which will rank friends based on number of calls, frequency, twitter replies, wall posts, picture messages, email threads and many more small parameters. Once friends are ranked, that data can be passed to Google servers. And that data can be utilized to provide better “social” search results.

Main part about this is privacy implications. That is why I think building of Social Graph has to be done on mobile. That data should not be sent over airwaves. Once the platform calculates the graph, it can store on Google servers, as reverse engineering of that graph is not possible. It’s just an idea, where I think Google can be headed to.

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Swype – Revolutionize The Way You Type

Swype is the virtual keyboard device that replaces the original keyboard that comes along with various mobile devices. I have been hearing about Swype from Gina Trapani for long time but always thought, how great can one keyboard be over the existing one. I had to try for myself and in just 2 tries I fell in love with this brilliant piece of software.

Typing on mobile devices has never been my strong point, I would always spend a lot of time figuring out where the keys are and a simple text message reply will take up to 4 minutes. T9 was a great help and I still consider it better then most of the physical qwerty keyboards that come along with mobile devices. iPhones soft keyboard was improvement over all and Android’s keyboard was better but Swype takes the experience to a new level.

Swype is developed by the same person who developed T9. In Swype you do not lift your fingers to type but move them in a pattern such that it joins all the letters of intended word you wanted to type. Swype recognizes the pattern and types in that word for you. One does not have to necessarily spend extra time on the character he wants to input, just swiping over it does the trick. 

what-is-swype

By eliminating the time spent on lifting the finger and putting it back, a greater amount of efficiency is achieved. Tracking of the path need not be accurate, Swype uses its extensive database of words to give you a closest match and its substitutes. It has increased my typing speed by more then twice and it promises to take the typing speed up to 40 words per minute. Just try this once and you will fall in love with the new way to type.

This also demonstrates the importance of open platform. Swype started developing for Windows phone first and now has included Android phones to its portfolio. By replacing the normal keyboard, my productivity on N1 has improved drastically. I believe, these kind of revolutionary products will push the Android platform ahead of iOs platform. 

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Nexus One Review

I have been using Nexus One for over a month now and it seems right time to do aNexus One review. I did not want to review it soon, because as a smart phone it has too many functionalities and all those have to be tested thoroughly before giving a verdict. My main purpose was to fill the void between my McBook pro and mobile browser (iPod touch) during business travel. I planned to use this as replacement for a netbook and it seems N1 fits perfectly into it.

To start with hardware, the most striking feature of N1 is its beautiful screen. N1’s AMOLED touchscreen emits such beautiful colors that its a pleasure to watch videos and photographs. Unlike the iPhone screen, it gives much better contrast and blacks come out really well. One would expect phone to be heavy with a 3.7 inch screen but surprisingly HTC did a wonderful job. If one is transitioning from other smart phone they will feel the difference on how lighter phone this is. First thing that I noticed as soon as started my phone for first time was the snappiness, the reaction time between the action and command. It was brilliant and that is the result of 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor, which combined with 512 MB RAM makes phone very responsive.

At the end of screen we have four soft touch buttons, which come very handy for menu access, going back, reaching home screen and most importantly search functionality. These four buttons are tremendous leap for a multitouch screen phone. One might consider they are not needed when everything can be achieved with multitouch, but to experience the impact one has to use N1 and they will feel the difference. I believe Google took this idea from Palm Pre, but this is a brilliant addition to N1. Then at the bottom we have a trackball, which I do not use frequently. I wonder why would we need a trackball for such a device, might be some functionality but I don’t get it. The only use I have for trackball is its notification light.

Moving on to the Android OS, this is where Google shows its true strength. This phone is not as intuitive to use as iPhone, but by taking that away Google has provided such a wide set of functionality that every day one discovers new features. This OS is power packed with tweaks, shortcuts, and multiple ways of doing things that it takes few days to get used to the phone. But once a person is used to phone, its features look much more powerful then what iPhone provides. Android brings multitasking along with it and that adds a lot of complexity to the system, but Google overcame that with a brilliantly designed notification system. The way notification system is designed, my first reaction to it was, why don’t Microsoft and Apple make operating systems like that. Why have windows and all the complexity when things can be done in a much simpler way.

The phone comes up with a set of preloaded applications from Google, most notable are Voice Search, Google Goggles, Navigation, Amazon MP3 Store, Voice dialer, New and weather app and a browser. All of these apps are very well developed and I tested them in various scenarios and found them to be very useful. Navigation system is brilliantly designed and when first times one see Google maps changing to street view when we reach destination is amazing. Google has used its web services very well and combined a of them together to provide N1 users a perfect experience. Browsing apps also have been made very smooth and aesthetic by a roll down approach, rather then a card based approach as seen in most smartphones. Another good part about the N1 is, integration with Google services. One just has to provide his gmail id and everything is setup for him. Picasa albums are directly synced, Gtalk configured, contacts synced and phone is ready to go. Syncing contact has been revolutionized in N1 – Google takes contacts from Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and phone book and collates them together to provide all the information about the person. So lets say if I want to call X and I open the contact, I will not only get details about his phone number, email address but also his latest tweet, photograph etc. This just makes life so easy and one does not have to waste anytime for fixing contacts, removing duplicates etc.

Moving on to less used features. I rarely use the camera that comes with N1, its a very good 5 Megapixel camera but I have a bias. I do not like any other camera then a DSLR, I just want to have much more control over my settings. Browser – I do not know what browser it is, but I have not used it much. All the services/information I need are provided by apps from market place and direct search.  One more complain I have from N1 is low ringtone. That is caused by the placement of the speaker on back side, if the phone is in cover, its very hard to hear the ringtone. One has to replace in built ringtones with a louder one.

Battery life, which is the main issue with all the smartphones is an issue with N1 too. But one can improve the battery life of phone easily. N1 provides a task manager where one can see how much battery an app is consuming and with that information one can kill the applications which are battery exhaustive. By following simple things, I have increased battery life from 1 day to almost 2 days.

Overall, I would give it very high rating. Its a smartphone with very progressive approach and frequent OS updates helps improve its performance. An open market place gives N1 tremendous strength. I get most of my updates/hacks about N1 from few people I listen to regularly. For hacks and increasing productivity on N1 I follow Gina Trapani and Leo Laporte, they give so many tips on This Week in Google that every times I listen to show I end up improving my phone. For applications I rely on Jolie O’Dell and her updates on Mashable.

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