Oreo: Coming Soon To A Phone Near You?

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Oreo: Coming Soon To A Phone Near You?

It’s been just over 10 months since Android’s newest version (Oreo) began rolling out to devices. Almost a year, so let’s take a second to see how it’s doing. Well…it may be performing really well in terms of quality, but quantity is lacking.

How bad are we talking?

Every month Google releases Android’s distribution numbers showing how many devices are running each version of their operation system, and according to July’s numbers this year Oreo is active on 12.1% of active devices. As a point of reference, that puts Oreo at the 4th place position behind Nougat, Marshmallow, and Lollipop. There’s no denying this is a pretty sluggish speed for rolling things out (but to be fair it’s 0.4% ahead of where Nougat was during it’s growth phase).

So the trends show that new Android versions typically take more than a year to become the most used release, but this begs the question of why? Oreo offers some pretty cool new features such as picture in picture app usage and notification channels. Apart from battery life there aren’t too many reasons user’s would want to avoid upgrading to the newly offered software. But the issue is that it’s not actually offered to all users. There have been rollout calendars following which phones have adopted Oreo since it’s release, and the list of devices has grown slowly up until this month.

It’s Not The User’s Fault

A large part of why device updates are so slow is how fragmented the Android market currently is. Manufacturers often won’t bother with updating older pieces of hardware because it takes time and energy on their part that isn’t being put towards everything new. The end result is user’s being left high and dry. Even some new devices are hesitant to adopt the new software until it’s tried and true. User’s are able to flash their devices and test out other softwares if they so desire, but it’s not exactly mainstream to do so (as cool as it is!)

The bright side is that if you look at things over time they’re starting to ramp up exponentially. 5 months ago Oreo’s adoption rate was hovering around 1% (5 months after it’s release). Things were looking abysmal then even compared to other version’s growth rates, but thanks to a wave of updates this past month things are starting to look back on track.

Statistics Aren’t Perfect

It’s also important to note that the Android Developer dashboard I linked above relies heavily on Google’s Play Store to collect its data. This means that not every device running a version of Android is actually being accounted for in these numbers. The Play Store currently isn’t available in China (A $35 billion/year app market to be missing), and there are a few other factors at play attributing to uncounted devices. All the same it’s clear that Oreo is at about the same speed of rolling out as Nougat was, and we’ll likely see it enter the top 3 within the next few months. I for one am already looking forward to Android P though 🙂

Have you gotten Oreo on your device yet? What are your thoughts on either it’s performance or it’s rollout speed? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

 

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