One Way Google’s Android is More Closed to Consumers than Apple’s iOS

Developing for smartphones has shown some interesting differences between Android and iOS – beyond the obvious. Android is touted as being “open”, but in reality while the source code is “open”, consumer access system updates is vastly more closed than iOS.

Let’s take the tweakers, modders… and other enthusiasts out of the picture for the moment, as they aren’t the majority of consumers. When Apple releases a new version of iOS, it’s available to all, regardless of carrier. For example, iOS 6 was announced on September 12 and then released to the public on September 19, 2012. iPhone owners did not have to wait for their carrier to remove features, block functionality or install junkware. The OS update was available to all with supporting hardware.

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Tips for Using SVG in Mobile Websites

A few months ago I designed and helped build a mobile website. A goal of mine was to create a fast loading, resolution independent interface. SVG has been around for over 10 years, but using it is still quirky. For example, Google decided to save 1MB by excluding SVG support from Gingerbread, and that has proven to be a painful decision for mobile developers.

While there are more complicated workarounds, I tried to make things as simple as possible. Here’s a couple tips I learned that I didn’t find elsewhere.

Scale down background images. Although you can set a SVG image multiple ways, if you set it as a background image, the default android browser will not properly upscale the images. So make them large in your SVG file, and shrink them down in the UI. Fortunately, increasing the size of the image(s) does not increase the file size.

Some have suggested changing the SVG files internal dimensions from px to a realtive value such as ems. However, in my tests this doesn’t help with the default browser in Android, even in Jelly Bean. Continue reading

How to setup IMAP with Comcast (Xfinity) email on Windows or Mac OS X

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) has been around since the 1980’s, but Comcast has never supported it with their comcast.net email accounts. IMAP has many benefits over POP, but I won’t go over those here.

Windows 8’s native email client doesn’t support POP, and this has finally been enough for Comcast to venture into supporting IMAP. Currently support is only in beta, and you only have the option of POP or IMAP – not both like most email providers have offered since the 80’s and 90’s.

How do you get IMAP? You sign up for the IMAP Trial from XFINITY® and cross your fingers that all goes well. The page does say “This page is for those subscribers that use Windows 8″ but if you read the terms, it’s not platform specific so Windows 7 and prior as well as Mac users can take advantage of IMAP as well.

Building Websites for Mobile is Very Important – A response to: “Time to Stop Building Mobile Websites”

(The following is a response to a guest blog post on Forbes.com titled “Time to Stop Building Mobile Websites“)

When I first read the headline of the Forbes guest post, I was puzzled. It’s akin to someone writing an article titled “The Titanic Never Sank.” It’s an inaccurate, sensationalist headline. The article also contained a fair amount of false information. The core message is good, but unfortunately the author made some extremely inaccurate claims when trying to prove his point. I’m going to address those points – both their fallacies and core facts.

Step 1 in building your mobile website is to determine your target audience

Focusing on mobile as a separate channel is a distraction that turns the platform into an either/or proposition that hurts results.

First off, it completely depends on the goal of the website. Many successful founders will even suggest some companies focus on mobile first and not even bother with a desktop presence. Secondly, some websites have functionality and flows that simply do not translate well to mobile. Third, it’s simply not feasible for larger websites to quickly rebuild from the ground up to offer a mobile presence via a responsive site. In the short term, providing a specific mobile version is suitable while the main site is overhauled. Claiming that not building a responsive site “hurts results” is an extreme overgeneralization that should simply be ignored.

The most important aspect of building a mobile website

“Mobile” as a separate marketing channel existed for about six months – somewhere back in 2009. It had an extremely short lifecycle because technology and user behavior caught up, waved a cheery hello and then raced right by.

I’ve been building mobile sites since 2001. I have no clue where the 2009 date comes from, but it has nothing to do with mobile sites not previously existing as a “separate marketing channel”.

The mobile and traditional Web separated initially because of slower processors, slower connection speeds and lousy displays. That distinction is disappearing – fast. […] The only difference? Screen size. My phone still has a relatively small screen.

You need to think about form factor in your marketing, not mobile versus desktop.

That was true, back in 2001. As far as modern smartphones go, that hasn’t really been the case for years. There were methods to deal with slower processors, connections and screen sizes… all since at least 2001. In many cases, the displays on smartphones are higher quality than those on desktop computers (eg IPS vs TN panels.) Mobile devices clearly have smaller physical screens than most desktops or laptops.

However, the biggest distinction isn’t even touched on – usability. How a mobile device is used is vastly different than a desktop computer. The idea of “Think form factor, not mobility” is very misleading at best. Again, one has to look at the target for the site – will they be using the site on their smartphone while sitting at their desk? Most likely not. They will be using it as a mobile device. Their connection may not always be great, the lighting conditions may not be as controlled and the environment in which the site is used may be much more chaotic. Because of this, how data is passed and stored needs extra care. How much contrast you give a design is also important, as is font, graphic and button size to name a few. It’s not just about the size of the screen, it’s about how and where the site is used. Continue reading

Android Browser Testing with the Android SDK & Emulator

It’s becoming increasingly important to be able to test your website – be it a standard version, responsive or a mobile specific version – on multiple devices. All of the major smartphone makers use Webkit (the basis of Chrome & Safari), except, of course, Microsoft.

Quite often websites will display the same in Google Chrome as they do on Android. However, sometimes they do not. Also, sometimes interactivity needs to be tested to see just how well it works on a touchscreen. Using the Android SDK helps you do that without having to have a huge range of devices with multiple versions of the Android OS at your disposal.

Step 1: Downloading and Installing the Android SDK

Download the SDK from the Android developer site
Read the Installation instructions – the page will change depending on which OS you use it for. I’m on a Mac, so I see the Mac instructions.

Personally I put the unzipped folder into my /Applications/Utilities directory.

Step 2: Preparing the Emulator Continue reading