Archive for Mobile

iPhone 5 – 48% better than the iPhone 4S

// September 13th, 2012 // No Comments » // Mobile

Watching the iPhone 5 launch last night I was overwhelmed by how much better it was than the 4S, and thankful that at last Apple had eschewed the hard to quantify “new features” (sometimes labelled “innovation”) in favour of easy to quantify incremental changes across the board.

So I set about calculating how much better it is – and in doing so, scientifically discovered that it is not just 25% better (as the inrementing of model number from 4 to 5 would have us believe), but a whopping 48% better. Here’s the data:

Feature iPhone 4S iPhone 5 Improvement
Phone model number 4 5 25%
Processor model number 5 6 20%
Colours of case 2 2 0%
Types of aluminium casing 1 2 100%
Screen diagonal 3.5 4 14%
Visible rows of apps 4 5 25%
Cellular network types 6 8 33%
WiFi network types 3 4 33%
iSight Megapixels 8 8 0%
Facetime Megapixels 0.3072 1.2 291%
Talk time 8 8 0%
Browsing time 15 18 20%
Standby time 200 225 13%
Number of microphones 2 3 50%
Speaker transducer magnets 2 5 150%
Max storage size 64 64 0%

iPhone 5 - this changes everything. Very, very slightly.

Android ADB Drivers for Cheap No-Name Tablets

// July 8th, 2012 // 1 Comment » // Dev, Mobile

I’ve recently purchased a Wise Tech Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 7″ tablet from Amazon, for the princely sum of £80 – I opted for the 1.5GHz 1Gb RAM, 16Gb storage version, you can spend less for a lower spec device still quite capable of running ICS. I had three main aims:

  1. Acquire a cheap ICS device for personal development, as the emulator is just too damn slow and I can’t really justify taking work phones home all the time;
  2. Get to know Android 4 as an end user (I use Windows Phone 7 as my main phone platform, an iPad for casual browsing and other tabletty jobs, and an iPod Touch for music but after my earlier experiences I haven’t encountered Android by choice for some time);
  3. Get a spare tablet, for when the iPad is in demand with guests or girlfriend.

The WiseTech tablet handles the second two admirably – for the money, it’s pretty amazingly good. I won’t be stopping using the iPad any time soon for tabletty things when I have a choice of device, but it can handle most things I need it do when needs must. The only bad thing I can say about the hardware is that the screen is fuzzy and a magnet for fingerprints – other than that, the multitouch is responsive, the processor fast, ICS isn’t nearly as bad as the previous versions of Android, and it comes with Google Play (the amiguously renamed Android Market) so you can download any apps you want.

The biggest frustration is the lack of ADB (Android Debug Bridge) drivers, without which it is fairly useless for development. My Windows 7 PC easily recognized the tablet as a USB storage device but refused to recognize the device for ADB and wouldn’t consider the generic ADB driver as appropriate, also refusing to make use of the other “named manufacturer” ADB drivers I already had installed.

Google’s advice is to try downloading the OEM driver from the manufacturer, at which point you hit a slight problem – who is the manufacturer? The box and slim manual are conspicuously unbranded, with no clues to follow, and the device itself only reports some pretty cryptic hardware IDs. Wise Tech seem markedly absent from Google’s OEM list, and also don’t appear on Google search results (part of my motivation for writing this post is to make something appear for those who follow me!).

Figuring that the rival devices I also considered – such famous names as the CloudNine Neuropad, the LB-01, the TabTronics M009s and the Ployer MoMo9 – probably all came from the same no-name Chinese or Taiwanese factory and possibly even the same mould, I started googling those names to and eventually ended up here.

In a nutshell, if you have any manufacture-less cheap Android phone or tablet and you can’t get Windows to recognize any drivers, try installing the PDAnet application and you’ll probably find that it includes an installation of the generic ADB drivers that work for your device. At which point these £60+ tablets really open up a world of very cheap development.

Bootnote: the tablet worked first time when plugged into a Mac. But for the price premium of a Mac, I could have bought a Galaxy Nexus with its working driver set, and used that instead…

MEX Conference 2011

// May 22nd, 2011 // No Comments » // Dev, Mobile, Usability

Slides from my talk at this May’s MEX (Mobile User Experience) conference in London, where I gave the first presentation on the “Efficient UX Techniques for an Age of Network Austerity” pathway:

The slides walk through steps Masabi has taken to minimise dependency on network uptime in our travel apps, and why that matters.

The whole conference was incredibly well put together – props to Marek for that – and encouraged some stimulating debate through it’s unique interactive workshops. Nice food too! Highly recommended to anyone interested in mobile…

Masabists: Illustrating Gartner’s Q3 2010 Global Handset Shipment Report

// November 15th, 2010 // No Comments » // Mobile

This post originally appeared on the Masabists blog.

I created a quick infographic this weekend to illustrate the trends shown in Gartner’s recent Q3 2010 handset shipments report:

Gartner 2010 Q3 global handset shipments

The bluer a company is the more its market share is growing, the redder a company is the more its share is being eroded (even if handset shipments themselves are up) – which illustrates nicely the slow decline of the old guard, as a more diverse mix of companies invade the handset space. Fragmentation is here to stay.

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Passenger Focus Research Into Ticket Purchase Problems

// July 23rd, 2010 // No Comments » // Mobile, Usability

This post originally appeared on the Masabists blog.

Earlier this week Passenger Focus, the UK’s official rail watchdog, released their annual Spring Passenger Satisfaction Survey, and the press release focussed on some very interesting insights into the reasons why UK rail passengers shun automated ticket vending machines.

Passenger Focus

At Masabi, Passenger Focus’s earlier research into ticket maching usability was a key influence in the User Interface design of our mobile phone ticket vending app, and it was encouraging to see this new research appears to validate our approach. The report shows that users choose humans over machines for the following main reasons:

  1. “Incomplete ticket restriction information”
  2. “A barrage of information and choices”
  3. “Bewildering jargon”

“As a result some passengers would rather queue to speak to a member of staff, buy more expensive tickets than they need to or just give up and join the ticket office queue.”

Ticket Sales Usability

The UK has evolved a particularly complex fare structure, so a certain amount of complexity is innate in the system. The trick is to remove as much as possible, allowing the passenger to make an informed decision based on price and/or time preferences, without any arcane rail fare knowledge – I can say from personal experience that most ticket machines really do handle this badly.

By fusing real timetables with fare selection, the Masabi mobile rail ticketing app allows the passenger to visualise which trains each ticket will be valid on very rapidly, whilst also including a more detailed concise restriction description than most in-station vending machines. Timetables indicate which operator runs each train, a key point of confusion when many tickets are tied to a single operator.

The application can also adapt to the user, remembering favoured journeys and previously used payment cards (securely stored, and only reusable by re-entering the CVV number on the back). This personalisation helps eliminate the myriad of destinations thrown at the user of a vending machine, most of which will be totally irrelevant.

The application remembers recent journeys card-menu-with-visa

Queues

This year’s survey also looked at queue times in a number of regional stations – contrasting to last year, which focussed on the largest stations, almost all in London.

The industry lays down a maximum acceptable queue length of 3 minutes at off-peak times, and 5 minutes during peak times. Many stations, big and small, are still failing to meet these standards (click on graph to see a larger version):

2010 Passenger Focus queue times

Mobile ticketing offers a solution to this, providing a superior ticket purchase experience combined with informative timetables – all of which can be tested risk-free whilst queuing for a window or ticket machine.

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iPhone 4 Promo – Marketing Video or Satire?

// June 26th, 2010 // No Comments » // Mobile

Watching this video on the iPhone 4, I found I was constantly viewing it from two perspectives – firstly as a slightly overbearing  “it’s so cool” marketing piece that could only be made in America, but secondly as a deliberate deadpan satire about how you can con people into thinking so many very old and well established features are innovative.  3G, high res screens, and everyone’s favourite feature – video calling!  Mostly features that were disparaged by Apple until they finally caught up, incidentally – though I don’t think anyone else has tried to innovate a case that can block out radiation with a simple touch, they are breaking new ground there whatever Jobs says (unapologetically).  Maybe it’s just down to the trans-Atlantic difference in demeanour.

Apple have done a stellar job with the iPhone in a number of areas – user experience (some comparative Android thoughts coming up in a future post), popularisation of apps, and minimisation of fragmentation (but it’s there – iOS 4 is not available to first gen users, there is some feature fragmentation between each new model, and doubling the pixel size to run legacy apps on eg. an iPad certainly doesn’t always work, though technically it’s hard to see why).

Unfortunately they present it in such a myopic way that my gut reaction is to dislike them for it.

Fixing Eclipse Update Issues

// March 2nd, 2010 // No Comments » // Dev, Mobile

After a bit of a break, I’m about to start a stint of Blackberry development and really wanted to try out the new Blackberry JDE integration with Eclipse – something that promises to reduce the immense tedium of running Blackberry simulators somewhat. Anyone who has ever tried to do that will understand how valuable this could be, both financially (time is money after all) and to your sanity.

The plugin requires at least Eclipse 3.4, though, and I was stuck way back on 3.3. Eclipse was reluctant to update itself to any new version from any of the obvious “update” menu items, so I went for the simple brute force method:

  1. Zipping the old Eclipse app folder, then delete it
  2. Download the latest Eclipse, and add the latest version of whatever plugins are needed
  3. Reattach to the old workspace folder.

This initially appeared to work, but didn’t.

Ant Integration

The most visible problem was that Ant builds would no longer run. They’d start, and the red ‘stop’ button on the console would light up (indicating I could stop the running Ant process, not that it was stopped) but no logging at all reached the console. No dialogues appeared explaining the problem.

The clue lay in the workspace’s .metadata/.log file – there were two exceptions, at least one of which was being thrown every time I tried to run Ant:

!ENTRY org.eclipse.core.resources 4 75 2010-03-01 21:17:55.921
!MESSAGE Errors occurred during the build.
!SUBENTRY 1 org.eclipse.mtj.core 2 75 2010-03-01 21:17:55.921
!MESSAGE Errors running builder 'Preverification Builder' on project 'Framework'.
!STACK 1
org.eclipse.core.runtime.CoreException: Build state machine has not been initialized.

or

!ENTRY org.eclipse.ant.ui 4 120 2010-03-01 21:21:16.468
!MESSAGE Error logged from Ant UI:
!STACK 0
java.net.SocketTimeoutException: Accept timed out

Not, admittedly, much of a clue but enough to eventually track down the problem. Ant’s configuration – in particular, the locations of its jars – are stored in your workspace, despite it being a plugin integrated into Eclipse. If the location of Ant’s plugin folder changes, Ant stops working with this workspace.

To fix the problem, go to Preferences > Ant > Runtime. Remove all jars under Ant Home Entries, and then find the new versions in the Eclipse plugin folder (as an External Jar Location). Apply the changes, and your builds shoudl run again.

JavaME Emulation

The JavaME plugin is notoriously bad at introducing breaking changes whenever it updates. This time was no exception – my JavaME projects appeared fine in the IDE, but produced the following exception (to the console, at least) whenever a WTK emulator was run:

Running with storage root C:\Documents and Settings\Tom\j2mewtk\2.5.2\appdb\rms
Running with locale: English_United Kingdom.1252
Running in the identified_third_party security domain
java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: framework/midp/Application
	at com.sun.midp.midlet.MIDletState.createMIDlet(+29)
	at com.sun.midp.midlet.Scheduler.schedule(+52)
	at com.sun.midp.main.Main.runLocalClass(+28)
	at com.sun.midp.main.Main.main(+80)
Execution completed.

The fix turned out to be simple – delete the project, and check it out again. The new version will start with fresh metadata that works with the new plugin. Not very nice, but hardly fatal (if you’re using version control).

Incompatible Plugins

At the end of this, I discovered that the Blackberry JDE plugin does not support the very latest Galileo, so it was all a bit of a pointless exercise. Such is life in mobile development…

Portfolio: Masabi Rebrand

// December 10th, 2009 // No Comments » // Mobile, Web

My company has gone through a complete transition over the second half of 2009, moving from a general mobile application consultancy to a product-based transport ticketing vendor. This new focus merited a total branding overhaul as our old look, with its black background, was more appropriate for our legacy marketing and gaming background.

The new font and colour scheme were designed to evoke the feel of the old British Rail branding, whilst the logo resembles the front of an Intercity train:

Masabi's new logo - The Ticket Machine In Your Pocket

The new tagline – “The Ticket Machine In Your Pocket” – came out of a brainstorming session during the excellent g2i (Gateway to Investment) course we took part in, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in grooming their company for funding, or just understanding when a startup needs funds and what to expect from investors. It’s sponsored by the London Development Authority but run by industry professionals, offering top quality advice and opportunities where all participant’s interests are aligned – far better than the fee-based ‘advice’ and ‘connections’ that are so easy to come by.

The front page embeds a video of the product in action which really explains the underlying concept nicely – the photos I took during the video shoot now form a great resource of imagery for company documents and presentations:

The site structure is intentionally simple: it features simple product tours aimed at Passengers and Train Operating Companies:

The news section manages press releases and external coverage, alongside a social media feed integrating the company’s Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and SlideShare channels:

There is also a live feed showing the next event Masabi will be presenting at driven by our Google-based events calendar, with an integrated view on the site:

The company blog was migrated over from the Blogger account of the old site; a redirect plugin was set up to ensure legacy URLs continued to work:

The site also has all the obvious bells and whistles like Google Maps integration to find the office, and directions from the nearest tube stations etc:

Masabists: NFC Roundup 2009

// October 25th, 2009 // Comments Off // Mobile

This post was originally featured on the Masabists blog.

After many trials, NFC has been on the cusp of launching in Europe for some time now. It is regularly brought up in conjunction with mobile ticketing, which has been one of the key use cases always quoted for the Felica NFC system available in Japan for some years now.

The potential is huge, and at Masabi we greatly look forward to the day we can start using it for transport ticketing – but where do we stand, in late October 2009?

UK Operator Support

O2 last did an NFC trial in 2008, and almost exactly a year ago they stated at a Mobile Monday NFC event that it had gone so well they were looking to run another trial at some point in the future. We haven’t had that trial yet.

A mobile phone feature requires operator subsidy to gain traction, because no manufacturer will foot the bill for the electronics on their own. Therefore, the number of NFC-enabled handsets currently available from each UK operator tells us a lot about where NFC lies along the feature adoption curve:

  • O2 – 0
  • Vodafone – 0
  • Orange – 0
  • T-Mobile – 0
  • Three – 0

Carphone Warehouse, the UK’s biggest indepedent high street retailer, also currently sell no NFC-enabled handsets.

NFC-Capable Handsets

GSM handsets with NFC launched by handset manufacturers:

NFC Predictions

Which year will NFC take off?

How big will the market be?

  • “by 2012, some 292 million handsets — just over 20 percent of the global mobile handset market — will ship with built in NFC” (ABI Research, Apr 2007)
  • Mobile phone based contactless payments will facilitate over $36 billion of worldwide consumer spending by 2011.” (Strategy Analytics, Oct 2006)

It’s easy to be cynical about 20% of handsets having NFC in 2012, as we start to roll into 2010 without any NFC handsets on sale – but once NFC handsets start shipping, how quickly could they be adopted?

Phone Feature Adoption Curve

In 2000 Sharp launched the world’s first camera phone, which was a bit of a novelty. By the end of 2003, 25-35% of handsets had some sort of camera on them. By 2007, M:Metrics stated that 75% of UK handsets and 51% of US handsets had cameras – 7 years after the first launch.

Arguably, cameras are a more obvious feature for a mobile handset than NFC.

The first handset commercially available outside Japan with integrated NFC was the Nokia 6131NFC, launched in 2007. At the end of 2009 we still have no operator subsidised NFC handsets, which suggests there is little chance of matching the camera adoption rate, with 25-35% at the end of next year.

From this quick comparison, we can assume that we are either still sitting before the start of the NFC adoption curve, or the NFC adoption curve is very much flatter than that of phone cameras – more like mobile TV, say.

Conclusion

When it comes, NFC has some great potential in niche markets like mobile ticketing. At Masabi, we’re greatly looking forward to it. But right now, as a company principally interested in mass-market technology, we’re not holding our breaths.

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Masabists: Hacking AdMob Stats

// September 3rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Mobile

This post was originally featured on the Masabists blog, and was voted joint top post in Carnival of the Mobilists #190.

Handset statistics are notoriously hard to come by – only the operators know what handsets are actually being used by all customers on their network, and they won’t tell. Every other purveyor of statistics has an inherent bias, which makes them more attractive for some analyses and less for others. For example:

  • GetJar make comprehensive statistics available for who is downloading applications from their site and have huge cross-operator volumes of downloads
    • …but many of these are downloaded via the web and synced through a cable, a highly unusual activity for most mobile users
    • …which puts a huge skew on the data – I’m pretty certain Amoi aren’t actually larger in the UK market than RIM’s Blackberry.
  • Bango publish a Top 20 handsets list every month or so, with a skew for their operator relationships
    • Top 20 is great but there are plenty of handsets below that which are still worth supporting
  • AdMob have some immensely detailed metrics reports, but again the operator partner skew was always very visible
    • I’m just not convinced that anything by ZTE is actually in the Top 10 most popular UK phones!
    • I’m also unconvinced that the iPod Touch is much more popular than the iPhone…

User Profiles

All of these statistics have great value, but none of these companies can actually give an overall picture fo the entire market. Each set will be skewed heavily based on the type of user attracted to the service and the operator relationships that service has. To find out the overall market picture fudge them all together and treat with care – but by profiling each site you can find out more useful information for specific needs.

AdMob, as the main provider of mobile web advertising, offer a very good view of the mobile data user, who would also be an obvious early adopter of any mobile service requiring net access, be it web-based or a networked application.

Traditionally, AdMob have just given a Top N list of device models and some aggregate manufacturer numbers, which were never enough to tell anything useful – their strong relationship with MVNO Three clearly led to some very obvious weird “popular” handsets showing up and called all of the data into question.

I had always dismissed them at this point and moved on. Fortunately, though, when you look inside the reports they publish per-operator statistics for each manufacturer – so we can actually derive some meaningful national conclusions!

Hacking The Stats

So – why hack? Don’t we have everything we need?

Sadly not – the July ’09 report is a very nice professional PDF given graphical summaries of the manufacturer breakdown per-operator, as a series of proportions in stacked columns:

AdMob handset statistics - UK operator split

Whilst it is flattering, as a Jersey boy, to see Jersey Telecoms given equal weight to Vodafone, I have a sneaking suspicion that the entire population of Jersey is equivalent to a rounding error when counting Vodafone’s UK customer base.

What we need is to convert these into national numbers, by weighting all of the proportions by the size of the operator. The only way to do this with the public information is to screenshot the graph from the PDF at the largest size you can get it, and count the pixels for every bar – tedious, but luckily for you I’ve done it for you.

Telecoms Market Research provide some useful figures from Q1 2008 for each operator (not up to date, but close enough for these purposes):

Once we aggregate all of these weighted proportions, we end up with the following rough proportions for manufacturers among early mobile web adopters:

Handset manufacturer proportions for mobile web users in UK June 2009, derived from AdMob statistics

It won’t help everyone, but hopefully it is of some use for anyone struggling for some statistics!

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