For everything that we love about Android – openness, customization, large selection of devices, etc. – there are things that we hate about it, too, like fragmentation and manufacturers pre-loading devices with crapware and (some) custom UIs. It seems, though, that Google is looking to change all of that. Insiders from companies “in the Android ecosystem” have told Businessweek that Google is starting to crack down on changes that manufacturers are allowed to make to Android. This includes more than just interface tweaks and added “features”, and it is said that Google wants to be more selective with hardware, as well.
Bloomberg is reporting that Google intends to test out the still nascent NFC (near field communication) technology by allowing shoppers in New York and San Francisco to pay for their purchases using only their mobile devices.
Apparently, Google is planning on buying thousands of special cash-register systems from VeriFone Systems Inc. and installing these at retail outlets in the two metros sometime in the next four months. Then customers with NFC enabled mobile devices can pay for their purchases by tapping in on these special registers.
The popularity of this project will largely depend on how fast hardware manufactures are able to develop mobile devices with the NFC technology.
Pocket-lint has been told that the Viewsonic ViewPad 4 smartphone will be the first device with Android 2.4 when it launches in April of this year. Android 2.4 was confirmed over a month ago; however, this rumor lends credence to the fact that the update will not be a major release. Instead, the update will augment Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), allowing dual-core apps specifically designed for Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) to work on single-core devices.
Earlier last week, we heard that Honeycomb was designed exclusively for tablets and not for smartphones, though some of its features will be carried over to smartphones. This appears to be in line with Pocket-lint's rumor today.
According to Don Kellogg from the Nielsen Company, 31% of all mobile phone users in the U.S. own some type of a smartphone. More interestingly, it appears that the race for market share in the U.S. by the leading smartphone platforms - Android, iOS and BlackBerry - is in a dead heat.
We have already learnt from analysts at Canalys that shipments of Android-based smartphones globally commanded a 32.9% share of the market, followed by devices running Nokia's Symbian OS at 30.6%, Apple's iPhone OS at 16%, and RIM's BlackBerry OS at 14.4%. Nielsen's report today shows that RIM and Apple are still fairly popular in the US, being on equal terms with Android in terms of market share.
If you were simply dying for a Lotus Notes solution on Android like me, today is your lucky day! IBM has introduced a version of it's Lotus Notes Traveler software for the Android OS. The free software is designed to give Lotus Notes customers two-way, over-the-air synchronization of information between their accounts and mobile devices via the Lotus Domino server. The new app impressed with:
- Remote wipe support for stolen or lost devices
- Automatic, over the air synchronization of notes, calendar, and contacts
- The ability to read encrypted email.
- A free mobile solution for Lotus Notes customer
So, anyone out there as excited as I am?
Word on the street (and by “the street,” I clearly mean TechCrunch) is that the next version of Android, (Gingerbread, which is rumored to be coming in 4Q2010), will focus on refining the UI. It may seem like a waste of time, as most Android phones today run a custom UI (HTC, Motorola, etc) – but that’s just the point. By stepping up the default UI, handset makers (hopefully) won’t feel the need to layer on their UIs.
As things stand now, proprietary UIs mean handset makers have to modify the stock Android build, test the build, fix bugs, and retest before finally pushing the build out as an update in order to keep the UI.