Side By Side Android Comparisons

Many AndroidsEver wonder just how many different Android supporting phones are out there? With more than one manufacturer it’s hard to keep all the names straight, let alone all their corresponding stats. Well, here’s a few sites to help you get a handle on the Android hardware world.

Wikipedia has a page titled “Comparison of Android Devices” that lists phones from Acer, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Sony Ericsson and “other manufactures.” For each phone featured the page details its name, release date, Android version, display details, inputs, networks, connectivity, CPU/GPU/Chipset, capacities, camera details and any special features or notes. More than 100 phones are listed. It is Wikipedia though, so don’t consider this an end-all-be-all list. Or, as our Direct of Sales Engineering Chris Monroe (who helpfully pointed out the sites for today’s post), puts it, “I know Wikipedia is not always the most accurate and up to date site [but] the page has an excellent breakdown most if not all devices that support the Android OS.”

The other site Chris came across is actually a lot of fun to play with. Android Phones Arena gives you a device breakdown by year. The main page offers a synopsis of what was going on in the world of Android during a particular year for 2008-2012. Once you select a year you see a nicely laid out chart that includes an image of each device followed by the state of its creation, manufacturer, release date, network, carriers, price, OS version, screen size, screen res, touchscreen and keyboard details, processor, memory, memory slot info, camera details, battery information, color availability, dimensions, weight and whether or not it included Wi-Fi, bluetooth, GPS and  compass capabilities. But what makes this site particularly fun to play around with is the ability to filter the devices not only by year, but by phones that are “available,” “confirmed” or just “rumored.” And as long as the site keeps being updated it’d be the perfect window shopping tool!

So there you go! They may not be perfect collections of all the talked-about, currently available and discontinued Androids out there but these two sites at least give you a good starting point. Have fun!

Apps You Can’t Test (On Windows Phone)

It’s no secret that the vast majority of apps exist in within the app stores of iOS and Android. It’s somewhat of a secret, however, that most of the major apps are also available in the Windows Phone marketplace. Not all, but most. To help get this point across, CNET.com recently posted the following chart:

As a WP7 user, I should point out that Google Maps is available (I have it on my device) and that Gmail can be synched with the Linked Inbox. The one that kills me is Pandora.There’s no excuse for that. Anyway….

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uTest Infographic: Which Android Devices Rock Apps

Do you play games on your SEMC Xperia Play? Are you a news junkie with an LG Optimus 2X? How do sports apps work on your Samsung Infuse 4G? Ever get frustrated with the music app on your HTC Thunderbolt? In our newest uTest Infographic we let the Android Market app reviews do the talking to find out which devices reign supreme (and which fall flat) in the  major app categories.

uTest Infograpich 2012

Head to Head App Testing

Head to HeadWhen you’re testing a mobile app, you’re looking for things like functionality, usability and security. You probably form your own opinion of the app and maybe even compare it in your head to other, similar apps – but that’s not an official, reportable part of testing. Well, today we’re going to satisfy that human need to compare things.

Let’s start with PCWorld‘s comparison of mobile search apps from Google, Bing and Yahoo on Android. Here’s what they came up with:

Interface, Tools, and Navigation

Bing’s Beauty
Bing’s appeal is obvious from the moment you launch the app: Its full-screen interface is gorgeous. The app highlights the same image of the day on the desktop version of Bing. A list of search options runs down the screen, allowing you to choose from among images, videos, maps, local, deals, movies, news, shopping, and directions. …

Every Bing screen includes a search query bar at the top. You can enter a query by typing it, or you can press the microphone icon and then enter the query by voice. Bing’s voice recognition software worked flawlessly (as it did on the Google and Yahoo apps as well). Once you begin typing, Bing automatically pushes you to its search page, which displays suggestions as you type. This text-heavy page lacks the visual grace notes that Bing sports on its other pages. …

Overall Bing was most notable for delivering a slick, intuitive mobile search interface.

Favorite interface: Bing. With its mix of beauty and intuitive navigation, Bing looks great and is easy to use, too.

Read more…

What Do You Think of Custom UIs?

Let the debate beginThe debate about the benefits and challenges of custom UIs isn’t a new or revolutionary topic. On the plus side, they let users have more personalized control over what their phone looks like. On the down side, different UIs make it difficult for developers to anticipate how an app will function for any given user. There have been steps taken – like making a certain set of keys or icons mandatory on all UIs – to make things a little more uniform, but the larger question remains. Are custom skins worth the trouble they cause? As testers, I want to know what you think about this issue. I’m also curious about issues you’ve encountered while testing with a customized device. Any good stories to share with us in the comments?

To get your mind going, here’s Bonnie Cha of CNet with her two cents and a look at how a few different operating systems handle the issue:

It’s an issue that comes up most often with Android because of all the custom skins. Unless they’re offering a pure Google experience device, manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola, and HTC are free to skin their smartphones and tablets with their personalized versions of Android. On the one hand, there’s value in the openness of Android, as it gives companies the opportunity to innovate and hopefully make the OS better.

I also understand why manufacturers do it. With limitations on what you can do with hardware design and specs, tweaking the software is an easy way to differentiate oneself from the competition.

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Devs Turned Off By Android Fragmentation

Developers losing interest in AndroidRemember that “deeper look at Android fragmentation” from a few days ago? Well, it’s looking like that fragmentation is beginning to cost Android some developer interest. According to a survey conducted by Appcelerator and IDC during January and February interest in developing for Android is slipping (at least among the 2,200 survey respondents). From TechNewsWorld:

Results show that interest in Android phone app development fell by nearly five percentage points over the past quarter to about 79 percent. Interest in Android tablets fell just over 2 percent to about 66 percent.

Meanwhile, iOS remains the leading platform for devs, with 89 percent of respondents to the survey saying they were very interested in developing for the iPhone and 88 percent wanting to create apps for the iPad. …

“Fragmentation is a major issue for Android, and so is commerce friction,” said Simon Khalaf, president and CEO of Flurry Analytics. “Developers are shying away from [the OS] because of these two [factors].” …

Although iOS remains the leading target for devs and HTML 5 is gaining strength, devs fleeing Android are not necessarily gravitating toward either of these two, Appcelerator’s King stated.

“We didn’t see additional growth in iOS interest, and it’s not towards HTML 5, so perhaps [the movement is] just away from Android,” he speculated. Appcelerator believes that a move away from Android could benefit Windows Phone 7 and floundering BlackBerry maker Research In Motion.

However, Flurry Analytics’ Khalaf believes iOS and Amazon, with its Kindle Fire, will benefit from the developers fleeing Android.

“Amazon has solved fragmentation and doing commerce for Android and is attracting developers, and Appl doesn’t suffer from that [fragmentation] issue,” Khalaf said.

Read the full article at TechNewsWorld >>>

A Deeper Look at Android Fragmentation

Android OS VersionsThere are seven different Android OS versions in the world right now and Gingerbread still dominates the scene, despite the presence of two newer versions. We’ve covered this before and it’s fairly common (and easily attainable) knowledge in the development and QA world.

But just how bad is the fragmentation? What happens when a new version is released? Does the Android landscape get more fragmented with each new release or are older versions phasing themselves out? How quickly does a new version catch on? That’s what pxldot wanted to find out. Here are some of the findings pxldot came up with after taking a deeper look at Android fragmentation:

While it may be interesting to see how versions wax and wane over time, it’s a challenge to pin down exactly how “bad” the fragmentation is at any given time. In order to develop a model that measures this, we have to define what makes a particular version distribution better or worse than another. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the model I would propose is based on two tenets: the more handsets on the most recent version, and the less divided the remaining installed base (aside from those on the most recent version), the better. Using these two factors I built a formula that provides us with a value of how “bad” Android fragmentation is; it can theoretically go from 0–12.5, with higher numbers indicating “worse” fragmentation. …

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iPad Still Top Tablet … For Now

IDC Tablet PredictionsThe iPad continues to dominate the tablet market and its sales are still increasing more quarter-over-quarter than Android tablets. But with the increasing number of Android tablets hitting the market and the popularity of the Kindle Fire, IDC projects that Android-based tablets will catch up and overtake iOS’ lead in the next four year. TechCrunch highlights some numbers from the new report:

While Apple will continue to be the single biggest tablet maker on the market, Android, collectively, will continue to hold its own against it, with some notable devices like the Amazon Kindle Fire doing particularly well. But it will not be until 2016 — four years from now — that IDC thinks that Android shipments will outnumber those of iOS.

Even though the Kindle Fire was available only in the U.S. in Q4, IDC says that the $199 device accounted for 16.8 percent of all tablet shipments in Q4 2011, or some 4.7 million units, making it the largest “Android” vendor. …

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Android Testing Challenges From Netflix

We write a lot on the subject of mobile testing challenges specific to Android – with its countless devices, OS versions and other permutations. But for some reason, it means a lot more coming from a company like Netflix…

Amol Kher – the Netflix Engineering Manager in Tools for the Android, iOS and Apple TV teams – recently penned a terrific blog post on their first-hand experience testing their app on Android. I highly suggest that you read the post in its entirety, but here are a few of my favorite parts:

On their testing challenges:
“When Netflix decided to enter the Android ecosystem, we faced a daunting set of challenges: a) We wanted to release rapidly every 6-8 weeks, b) There were hundreds of Android devices of different shapes, versions, capacities and specifications which need to playback audio and video and c) We wanted to keep the team small and happy.”

On automation:
“You probably guessed that automation had to play a role in this solution. However automating scenarios on the phone or a tablet is complicated when the core functionality of your application is to play back videos natively but you are using an HTML5 interface which lives in the application’s web view.”
On device priority:
“To put it other way, when it comes to watching Netflix, any device other than those ten devices can be classified with the high priority devices based on their configuration. This in turn helps us to quickly identify the class of problems associated with the given device.”

On their testing team:
“We keep our team lean by focusing our full time employees on building solutions that scale and automation is a key part of this effort. When we do an international launch, we rely on crowd-sourcing test solutions like uTest to quickly verify network and latency performance.  This provides us real world insurance that all of our backend systems are working as expected. These approaches give our team time to watch their favorite movies to ensure that we have the best mobile streaming video solution in the industry.”

Read the rest >>>

Android Instagram Coming Soon (with testing challenges)

The makers – and users – of Instagram are about to get a real-life lesson in cross-platform development. That’s because the popular iPhone application will be released in the Android marketplace “very soon.” This news was made public at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Here are the details via Wired.com:

In a fireside chat Sunday at South by Southwest Interactive, Kevin Systrom showed a glimpse of the upcoming version of the app, which is currently being tested in a private beta. Smartphone photogs who use Google’s mobile platform rejoiced.

The arrival of the new app will end months of frustration for photographers who carry Android devices and can’t participate in Instagram’s white-hot world of social photography. Instagram earned the honor of being Apple’s iPhone app of the year for 2011 and has quickly amassed a tight-knit community of smartphone photographers who enhance their square-shaped images with an array of retro-style filters.

Android phones provide a fundamentally different user experience than iPhones. For example, Android smartphones have either three or four permanent navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen, whereas the iPhone has a single home button, with all other navigation performed within various apps.

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Of course, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the testing challenges that the Instagram team encounters. Should be interesting.