Angry Birds highlights Android device fragmentation

Angry Birds.As cell phones continue to become more and more like what we used to know as a PC, we’ll start to see more of the problems crop up that the PC faced. Chief among, it’s becoming clear, is fragmentation. With the advent of operating systems like Android and Windows Phone 7, handset manufacturers are increasingly under pressure to put out better handsets.

With the iPhone, everyone has the same hardware, and because Apple earns profits from both the hardware and the software and controls the production of both, there’s no real rush to make a new handset. The hardware manufactures for Android and WP7, on the other hand, are in a sort of arms race. Every month it seems there’s a newer, faster Droid on the market. Something with a better camera. Something that runs Flash. Something with more RAM. Something better. That race is leading to a serious fragmentation, at least with Android, and it’s affecting the user experience.

Angry Birds has become one of the most popular games across several mobile platforms, but the developer has struggled to keep its product functional on all Android devices. The developer, Rovio Mobile, said that it will be creating a second version of the game for lower-end Android handsets, citing “severe performance issues.” While this isn’t a huge issue now, imagine two years down the road when there will be ever more hundreds of thousands of apps and a marketplace cluttered with new and old handsets. It will be a mess.

Of course Apple isn’t totally exempt from this issue. Its own handsets have changed significantly year after year, giving way to some high-performance applications that simply won’t run on the original iPhone or even the iPhone 3G. As time wears on, though, I would expect Apple will see significantly less fragmentation than the operating systems with secondary hardware manufacturers. There have been rumors though, that Apple is creating an iPhone “Lite” as well as the current iPhone 4 and a CDMA version of the phone for Verizon. Sounds an awful lot like fragmentation to me.

The case for a January Verizon iPhone

Verizon iPhone.There have now been countless news stories regarding the January release of a Verizon iPhone. Everyone’s been waiting for it, but does January really make sense? Not to me. Not to a lot of people. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball thinks differently, though. He’s got all kinds of reasons that a January Verizon iPhone release makes sense.

My biggest issue is timing. Verizon’s going to miss the holiday season, which is a big miss. There’s also the fact that Apple has announced a new iPhone during each of the past couple summers. So consumers will have six months with their new toy before a new one comes out?

Gruber addresses my concerns, and plenty of others, in a post that actually has me believing it will happen. Here’s the part that makes the most sense:

Bottom line: If Apple’s goal is to accelerate iPhone market share, particularly in competition with Android, then they should finalize a deal with Verizon soon. And if they’re going to do it soon, that means CDMA, not LTE.

A lot of people, myself included, haven’t considered that LTE isn’t going to be nationwide. It will be out in some cities, tested in some cities, and completely overloaded in some citites. In short, most of America isn’t going to see LTE for a while, and Apple can’t wait that long to try to get Verizon customers off Android. I know I’ve thought a time or two about jumping the AT&T ship and just getting on to Android. The App Store kept me around, but it’s only so long before Android has everything I want (they just got Angry Birds!).

Samsung’s Galaxy was looking pretty good until…

Samsung Galaxy…this. See what I’m talking about? How about that 799 Euro price tag. That’s like $1,000 people. For a tablet. For an unproven tablet running Android (which doesn’t cost anything to license, by the way) that’s one hell of a price tag, and it points to one thing: contracts.

A Samsung exec told the Wall Street Journal that the Galaxy would cost somewhere between $200 and $300, which means the rest will have to be covered somehow, presumably via contracts. There is the remote possibility that Amazon got the price wrong – way wrong – but I doubt it. If Samsung is really going carrier contract for the Galaxy, you can bet the only people buying will be very serious Android enthusiasts, likely people hoping to root the device (which could justify the price tag for some).

App Inventor gives non-programmers a toolkit for making Android apps

Google unveiled a new Android product today that is bound to make all of the wannabe app developers in the world happy (that’s not meant to be disparaging – I’m a wannabe myself). It’s called App Inventor, and it’s basically a GUI for designing Android applications.

For the best idea of what this thing is, check out the video below. While “hellopurr” may not be the most creative use, I’m sure the creatives of the world can come up with some pretty cool stuff. This thing alone makes me wish I had an Android phone. I love the iPhone, and the iPhone 4 has been really good to me unlike many others, but the way this opens up the Android platform is really cool. Sure, a lot of the applications that get made will be really, really crappy. But there will be good ones, and who’s to say the good ones can’t get picked up by more prominent developers and given full support?

On the whole, I think this is a great play by Google and will certainly give them even more cred with the nerd world. Nicely done.

What does tomorrow mean for Apple?

Moscone Center WWDC 2010.

Tomorrow marks yet another Apple WWDC. Another day surrounded by the anticipation of a new iPhone. I expect this year is more than a landmark hardware launch, though. This will likely be the year Apple makes a serious attempt at the cloud, an area of the market where Apple is starting to fall seriously behind Google and the Android OS.

First off, the new iPhone is a big deal, not just for us but for Apple as well. The phone leak was so big to Apple, in fact, that it refused to invite Gizmodo to the event in light of the investigation. The newest iteration of the iPhone will be the most advanced phone to market. Though we don’t know specifics, it looks as though the phone will support video conferencing, capture HD video, offer a faster processor, more memory, and of course, iPhone OS 4.

It’s OS 4 that will help Apple catch up to Android. The latest Android updates include support for streaming music from your desktop to your phone. It also allows you to push websites, applications, and maps and directions straight to your phone. Apple and the iPhone are way behind in cloud support. The best you have there is MobileMe, which requires a subscription and really only allows you to find your phone if you lose it. Apple’s Lala acquisition could mean good things here.

The one thing you shouldn’t expect tomorrow is a Verizon iPhone. Though we’ve heard rumors since the iPhone launched, it’s unlikely we’ll see anything this year, or even next. I was wholly convinced that we’d get a Verizon phone around the time my 3GS contract expired but recent Verizon comments have made it clear we won’t see one soon.

On the whole, tomorrow is Apple’s chance to position itself in the market. When the 3GS launched it was clearly the best phone on the market. Things aren’t so clear anymore, and the Android devices coming in the near future hold a lot of advantages for tech-savvy buyers. It’s going to take a lot for Apple to outperform the latest version of Android. We’ll see if they have it when Jobs takes the stage for the keynote at 10 PST tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Adam Jackson / Flickr