Google Fined…For Giving Users Google?

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Google Fined…For Giving Users Google?

 

Almost everyone worldwide knows about the divide between Android and iOS.  How could you not? We hear people brag about how their operating system is in every way superior to the other and people are fools for giving business to the other end of the spectrum.   But competition happens on different tiers and the E.U. recently decided that Google has been unfairly monopolizing the market.  The cost of this? $5 billion.

Some background:

The E.U has fined Google a record €4.34bn for its use of the Android operating system to “illegally cement its dominant position” in search.  The argument goes that while Google has competition on the highest tier of competition (Android vs iOS), once a user chooses to purchase an Android phone their options are severely limited.  As a phone manufacturer if you want the Google Play Store on your phones (which you definitely do), then you also have to take the Chrome browser and Google Search along with it.

Google operating systems coming preloaded with their own associated software…sounds unfair right?  Margarethe Vestager, The European Commissioner for Competition, says that it is.  Vestager argues that Google’s withholding of the Play Store except as a package deal essentially locks down the market for other search engines.  Google has also made payments to large manufacturers as part of an agreement to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on their devices.

The commissioner has acknowledged that Android in no way forbids users from downloading other browsers if their interested (last year Opera Mini and Firefox were downloaded more than 100 million times).  She asserts that this is far too small though since few people take the action to actively change their default settings.   Google holds the real decision making power, a sign of monopoly, not free markets.

Google’s response:

So we have competition at the operating system level, and competition at the browser level.  Google has responded saying that there’s a level far more important to the world: the app level.  While the Google Play Store is owned by Google, millions of developers contribute and share their creations on it.  Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, released a written statement yesterday explaining how unjust the E.U. sanction really is, as Google has taken steps to encourage a competitive market.

“Rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition and Android has enabled all of them,” he wrote.  With such a small barrier to entry for developers/companies who want to share their apps with the world, Android should be seen as a free market advocate, not a giant that is terrorizing our decisions.

This is where tiers of competition become crucial in the discussion.  Does google have a fair amount of competition as an operating system?  Do they have competition as a search engine/browser?  Does their Play Store have other serious contenders trying to take its place?

How hard is it to Switch?

Sundar pointed out (with a short video), that user’s can delete their default browser and download another (such as Opera Mini) within 30 seconds.  Hardly a barrier to entry in terms of difficulty.  The monopoly discussion then becomes is it reasonable to ask users to take this course of action to be presented with other options.  100 million people is a lot, but out of 2 billion worldwide android user’s it’s not a majority.  Still, if users want to find another service, the options are there.

As crazy as it is, $5 billion is a raindrop in Google’s budget.  But it’s not really about the money (yes it is…), it’s about the image that Android upholds.  As a developer that has shared my creations on the Play Store I’ve seen it encourage users to build and share with the world.   Google is an industry giant, of that there is no doubt, and Sundar signed off saying that they intent to appeal.  Stay tuned and we’ll be sure to write about where things go from here.

What are your thoughts on Google’s role as a Monopoly terror or a free market advocate?  Let us know in the comments below!

Apps Need Room To Breathe!

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Apps Need Room To Breathe!

Android is a complex operating system.  There’s a lot more variable when developer for Android.  Things are unpredictable when it comes to knowing what phone your user will be on.  There’s literally no limit to how many different kinds of phones could be running Android on a given day.  If you don’t know what you’re doing this can be dangerous for your layouts.

How so?  Doesn’t everything work the same from phone to phone?  Well, no actually.  Things function very similarly, but different phones have different characteristics that can drastically change a user’s experience.  Take screen size for example.  You could design an app and have one user download it on a phone with a 4’’ screen and another on a 6’’ screen.  This may not sound like a huge difference (2 inches is rarely a big decider life), but when it comes to a screen size that’s literally 50% more screen space on one device than another!

How things can go very, very wrong:

If you don’t take different screen sizes into account, then users will most likely miss out on important info. When you’re first learning about how to develop Android apps you’ll most likely use LinearLayout a lot to organize your apps.  This layout takes one view (text, image, button, etc.) and then lines up the next one in a list side by side.  Or you can change it to go vertically.  Either way the end result is a neat row/column of views.  Here’s an image to help you visualize:

But what happens if when your developing you only test the layout on your phone (let’s assume its huge).  Things may look great to you, but when you publish the app and someone with a smaller phone uses it this is what they might see:

How we can prep for things to go very, very wrong:

Trust me as I made this mistake on the first app I ever published: It’s not a fun mistake to make.  Your app is a work of art.  It’s something that you created from nothing and want to show off to your friends, family, and the world.  So when you have someone download it and instantly their greeted with a funky looking layout…well it’s not the best feeling.  Luckily, we can learn from our mistakes and prep for them in the future!

There are situations where you want to use LinearLayout and there are situations where its best to avoid it.  Sometimes you may want to keep the row/column but add scrolling capability to it instead.  Android developers have experienced all these scenarios, and that’s why there’s more options than just LinearLayout.

Layouts like ConstraintLayout and RelativeLayout allow you to position views in relation to one another as well as to their parent.  So you could position pictures on your screen to “attach” to the right or left side, and make your layout look a lot more professional.  That’s of course just the tip of the iceberg though.  There are different screen densities to account for when choosing what images to use.  And you can also have portions of your screen appear/disappear by using fragments. Don’t worry we’ll have posts on both of these topics coming up soon!

If you’re interested in learning more about styling your apps for different screen sizes and how to make your layouts ready for professional use, checkout Phonlab’s Android App Developer course!

 

Google Pay: Caring Is Sharing

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Google Pay: Sharing Is Caring

Earlier this year Android Pay and Google Wallet combined forces to create Google Pay, a one-step payment process for Android users.  The app has featured online payments with certain websites/apps by initially linking a credit card and then checking out in the future with one click. More technologically impressive it uses NFC (Near Field Communication) to allow users to hold up their phone at a cash register and buy things in person too.

Google Pay seeks to make users lives easier by removing the hassle of reaching into you wallet/entering checkout info every time you buy something.  Yet the adoption rate for it has been…sub-optimal.  So far we’ve seen about 6% of total smartphone users give Google Pay a try.  It’s a growing number, but it’s still not very big.  If it’s because Google Pay doesn’t do enough for users, then it may start growing faster.

So what’s new?

Today Google announced some new features for the app that make it more useful.  The biggest of these is that you can now use Google Pay to send money to friends.  With apps like Venmo, PayPal, and the CashApp this is nothing new, but it’s necessary for the Google Pay to become relevant as it’s one of the primary ways younger generations pay one another.

And if you haven’t used cash sharing apps like these before GET ONE.  They’re essentially the staples easy button for splitting bills at restaurants and paying back friends.   Google Pay has a challenge of gaining traction in this sector since there are already a few established apps and sharing apps are only as useful as their adoption rate.  But then again, it’s Google and they choose what apps comes preloaded on Android phones.  Chances are they’ll be alright.

But wait there’s more!

Another new upgrade for the app is that it will be supporting boarding passes and event tickets.  Companies like Southwest and Ticketmaster will be incorporated into the app to allow users to take one step closer to a one-stop shop.  These tickets will update with real time information if something like a flight delay takes place, and they’ll work alongside any loyalty cards you have.

The updated Google Pay app is rolling out today, but it will be a few weeks until it reaches everyone who uses it.  The long term goal is clearly for Google Pay to become your go to app for any circumstances. I’m certain we’ll see some more new features come up in the news soon, and I’m also sure you’ll be able to read about them here!

What are your thoughts on Google Pay’s changes?  Is it still lacking something essential for success?  Let us know in the comments below.

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