Tag Archives: Phone

Android Oreo Serves Up the Sweets

Android Oreo

Like the candy, Google’s newest delectable dessert-themed operating system Android 8.0 Oreo offers the best of both worlds: crunchy cookie goodness of versatile functionality and the creamy frosting of beautiful UI and presentation.

PROJECT TREBLE 

Project Treble is one of the major aspects of Android Oreo that makes it a full 1.0 update. Project Treble is designed to reduce device fragmentation by making it easier for hardware manufacturers to issue updates on Android devices. The architecture redesign modularizes the Android OS away from the drivers and other hardware-specific code. By making it easier for manufacturers to update Android devices, Project Treble makes accessing the latest Android OS from your devices  easier than ever.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE BLUETOOTH AUDIO

Android Oreo is loaded up with BLUETOOTH 5 and LDAC, making Oreo capable of supporting audio quality that surpasses what the vast majority of high-end audio equipment can reproduce.

LDAC is a codec that supports the transfer of 24 bit, 96kHz audio via Bluetooth. The closest competitor is Qualcomm’s aptX HD which supports 24 bit, 48kHz technology. LDAC was created by Sony, who donated the codec to Android for Oreo as a part of the core AOSP code for other OEMS to implement.

Whereas previous iterations of Bluetooth offered a range of 50m-100m outdoors and 10m-20m indoors, Bluetooth 5 can reach up to 200m outdoors and 40m indoors. Additionally, Bluetooth 5 BLE doubles Bluetooth 4.x BLE’s data transfer rate with up to 2Mbps. The kicker is: Bluetooth 5 actually utilizes up to 2.5 times less power while increasing range and speed.

BATTERY LIFE

The Android Oreo update includes multiple initiatives designed to improve battery life. Background execution limits have been enacted to limit requests to scheduled windows of activity, resulting in longer battery life and less strain on the device by inactive apps.

Android Oreo places two major limitations on what apps can do while users aren’t directly interacting with them:

  1. Background Service Limitations limit the use of background services by idle apps. This does not apply to foreground apps, which are defined as apps with visible activity, apps with a foreground service, or apps that are connected to another foreground app.​
  2. Broadcast Limitations prevent apps from using their manifest to register for implicit broadcasts. Apps can still use their manifest to register for broadcasts at runtime and for explicit broadcasts targeted specifically at their app.

For the most part, app developers can work around these limitations using JobScheduler jobs. Android has also made several improvements to JobScheduler.

Background execution limits will have a major impact on the functionality of existing and future apps, check out a full breakdown of the new functionality directly from Android.

Additionally, Android Oreo comes with Vitals. Vitals is an initiative by Google that improves system performance and stability by offering developers various tools to monitor app usage on a device. Vitals enables developers to  optimize their apps for improved battery life and performance.

UI

Google’s strategy with OS updates has become more and more minimal in recent years. The last major visual OS overhaul was enacted by Google in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Android Oreo does not change the name of the game, but offers a variety of UI improvements.

DOWNLOADABLE FONTS: Android 8.0 Oreo offers support for apps to request fonts from a “provider” application, reducing the amount of disk space spent by apps on storing font libraries individually.

NOTIFICATION CHANNELS: Notifications have always been one of the strong suits of Android Operating Systems. With Android Oreo, app notifications must be sorted by the developer into channels based on type, so that the user can then customize what types of notifications they would like to receive and how they receive them.

For example, users can modify characteristics of notification channels that apply to all notifications in that channel, including:

  • Importance
  • Sound
  • Lights
  • Vibration
  • Show on lock screen
  • Override do not disturb

PICTURE IN PICTURE MODE: Oreo ports Android’s famous “Picture-In-Picture Mode” for phones and tablets. Picture-In-Picture Mode allows users to view multiple apps at the same time. It is most handy for watching video or having a video call while using another app.

TAKEAWAY

Overall, Android 8.0 Oreo delivers the goods. It’s sleek, supports the best audio quality available, allows more UI customizability, saves battery life, and it’s a major step toward conquering device fragmentation which has plagued Android since its inception.

How To Design Battery-Efficient Geolocation Apps

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The ability for smartphones to offer location services fostered major opportunities for app developers looking to create new apps and enhance functionality of existing apps. Tinder, FourSquare, & Waze use geolocation in the center of their functionality to great success. In combination, these three apps can help a user determine a dinner companion, restaurant of choice, and route to the restaurant. By delivering location-sensitive information to users regardless of where they are in the country, these apps appeal to massive audiences.

Programming geolocation services into an app will have a major impact on the overall quality of the app—and it’s easier said than done. Inefficient geolocation services drain device battery life and deliver inaccurate location data. When apps drain battery life, users uninstall them. In order to determine the best method of programming geolocation services, it is vital for app developers to know who is going to be using the app and how they are going to use it.

Location can be determined by a smartphone in a number of ways. The most widespread include:

GPS: All modern iOS & Android smartphones are equipped with GPS technology. GPS can use at least four satellites to determine a user’s location within about 60 feet.

Cell ID: When GPS isn’t available, phones can use Cell ID, information from cellular towers, to determine location. Cell ID is ideal in big cities with vast amounts of cell towers. Serial fans should be familiar with how cellular tower information can be vital in identifying one’s location. GPS & Cell ID can also work in conjunction to deliver a more precise GPS location.

Wi-Fi: Devices can detect Wi-Fi networks in the same way they can detect cellular towers, but Wi-Fi is more precise as Wi-Fi networks cover smaller regions. Devices can use RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) to refer signals from the phone with Wi-Fi points database. Devices can also use the user’s frequently visited places, a profile or wireless fingerprint based on locations in Wi-Fi networks frequented by the user. Wi-Fi can identify a user’s position within 2 meters of accuracy.

The decision of how an app should prioritize these three methods to determine location is a vital one. If users are located in the city, that means both dense Wi-Fi router and cell tower coverage will open up options. If the app is being used primarily in a domestic situation, Wi-Fi might be both the most accurate and efficient method. Apps designed for rural areas may have to use Wi-Fi due to lack of cell towers.

Geofencing Graphic from Applidium

GEOFENCING

Geofencing utilizes a device’s GPS to determine a user’s distance from a particular point. Geofencing can sense when a user enters within a set radius defined by the coordinates of its center. Geofencing will sense when users are inside or outside of a retailer and offer action prompts for either space. There are three types of geofencing:

Static geofencing is based on a user’s position in relation to a specific place. For example, a retailer app sends a message to users who pull into the parking lot of a mall containing the retailer.

Dynamic geofencing takes into account both a user’s location and a changing data stream. For example, a parking app sends the user a message about a recently evacuated parking space that the user is approaching.

Combined geofencing determines when a user enters into a location in relation to other users. For example, apps like Yelp, Facebook, or FourSquare send notifications if a friend checks into a nearby merchant .

CREATING BATTERY-EFFICIENT APPLICATIONS

Making a geolocation app battery-efficient is one of the biggest challenges  app developers face in the programming stage. Developers must create a comprehensive strategy based on their audience.

ACTION THRESHOLDS: Defining accurate action thresholds and use-cases for an app’s geolocation services will dictate its level of battery-efficiency. The more precise your location accuracy requirements, the greater the battery drain. Action thresholds and use-cases define how an app is intended to be used, allowing a framework for developers to enact an efficient model of internal processes for location determination.

COMPREHENSIVE TESTING: Testing the app aggressively to gather a large amount of data is the only way to know the most efficient action thresholds. The more the developer understands how an app is being used, the more they can refine their programming. After release, continuing to gather analytics from user behavior and refine tactics based on how users are getting value from the app becomes a crucial ongoing process.

POLLING FREQUENCY: One of the major variables dictated by action thresholds is polling frequency. The more an app polls for locations, the better its location accuracy. The necessary level of location accuracy varies depending on the app. The precision of location accuracy necessary for an app to be functional can vary. A restaurant app, for example, might be able to get away with accuracy from 200 meters to a few kilometers, while an app that locates friends might need accuracy within 10 – 20 meters.

Evaluating the most efficient polling frequency requires thorough use-cases and some creativity. Programmers can design algorithms to reduce polling frequency if an app hasn’t changed locations for several minutes. Programmers can also analyze the speed of the device and use this data to change polling frequencies. A developer may elect to increase polling frequency as a car accelerates to ensure they maintain location accuracy within a selected radius.

DEFERRING TO OS: Many major mobile platforms will share geolocation information at an operating system level. As a result, any app that is listening can receive location updates requested by other apps. By deferring to other apps already polling for location data, apps can minimize battery drain while still retaining acceptable location data.

Check out Apple and Android’s developers’ sites for more information on best practices for programming location services.

Scopes: How Ubuntu Is Changing the OS Landscape by Eschewing Apps

In the world of operating systems, Android and Apple reign supreme. According to leading research firm Gartner, about 97% of new smartphones sold are either iPhone or Android devices. While Windows, Firefox OS, and Blackberry all attempted to take a seat at the OS table, no company has been able to top Android & iOS. With the landscape more fixed than ever, Ubuntu has entered the arena with a different strategy which may break through the noise and catch on.

Ubuntu managed to stir up publicity in 2013 when they launched the largest crowdfunding campaign of all time through IndieGoGo—and failed. They attempted to raise $32 million in one month, but only hit $12.8 million and received none of the funds. Regardless, the stunt captured the attention of many and helped make a name for the young company.

Ubuntu has made waves in the tech world with an innovative strategy which eschews traditional OS models. Instead of apps, Ubuntu uses Scopes. Scopes are home-screen dashboards which present content from various sources alongside each other on a page. For instance, the music Scope puts songs stored locally on the device side-by-side with Youtube, Apple Music, and other music library services. The video Scope allows users to search for a title and see where it is available for viewing rather than forcing the user to to search individual video streaming libraries like Netflix and Hulu. Instead of forcing the user to search for content within a specific app, Scopes present the content from all providers that have it available.

If apps are folders in a computer, Scopes allow the user to search through the entire local storage disk rather than have to check each individual folder. The philosophy is intended to provide a more intuitive user experience. When a user wants to find content or information, they care less about where it’s coming from than receiving the content with the highest quality attainable.

Check out this awesome video walkthrough of Scopes functionality to better understand how they work visually:

Scopes are easier and less time-consuming to design than native-apps. Scopes also appeal to mobile developers as they offer more discoverability for their companies than apps in the app store. The lack of division in presenting search results ensures the best content will rise to the top, rather than the most popular brand. Given the lower price of entry and the innovative approach, Ubuntu parent company Canonical has managed to bring name-brand content providers to build Scopes, including Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Yelp, SoundCloud, and more. Communities are also developing Scopes for other apps, including Dropbox and Spotify, using their APIs.

Meizu launched the Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition in February 2016. They currently have four phones on the market, including BQ Aquarius E5 HD, and the previous versions of either device. Windows 10 with Ubuntu recently went into public preview. Going forward, Ubuntu must become available on enough devices to gain traction and popularity if they want to compete with Android & iOS. Given the amount of resources at their disposal and the clear innovation on display in Ubuntu’s philosophy, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple or Android took a shot at figuring out a way of applying Scopes within their OS.

Samsung and Microsoft Team Up for Galaxy S6–What It Means for Apple, Android, and Windows

Samsung is looking to step up its smartphone game.

Recently, there have been reports that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge devices will come pre-packaged with Microsoft apps despite running on the Android OS. Coming only a few weeks after the two tech titans settled a royalty dispute out of court, the move is sure to raise eyebrows–especially those at Android.

At the Mobile World Congress, Samsung revealed the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will come bundled with Skype, OneDrive, and OneNote applications preinstalled in a “Microsoft Apps” folder. The Galaxy S6 also comes with 115GB of free OneDrive storage for two years as part of a new partnership with Microsoft. It’s possible Samsung may also include Microsoft Office mobile with their phones, but they did not reveal this during the demo.

Windows Central alleges Samsung is looking to make more phones on the Windows OS in 2015. They have had limited success doing so in the past, but perhaps the reputation for efficiency of the Windows OS is drawing them to expand their repertoire, or perhaps they intend to create more affordable hardware on Windows.

Samsung has been attempting to reduce their reliance on the Android OS for some time now. They created Tizen, their own operating system, back in with the intent of competing with Android, iOS, and Windows. After several delays, Samsung recently launched their first smartphone utilizing Tizen: Samsung Z1, to middling results.

For Apple, the move certainly increases stock in Samsung’s direct iPhone 6 and 6 Plus competitor, but regardless, there’s no denying Samsung is shamelessly playing catch-up. The S6 features an updated fingerprint scanner and Samsung has recently announced their Apple Pay competitor: Samsung Pay.

For Microsoft, this is a huge win. The move represents Microsoft’s first time striking a deal with a non-Windows phone to preload any of its apps.

If you’re an Android fanboy, this cannot be pleasing. Although plenty of iPhones receive installs of Google Maps and other Google apps, they do not come prepackaged. Microsoft effectively poached a major Android device, and there’s virtually nothing Google can do about it.

Of course, we won’t know the ultimate impact until the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are released in April. Until then, we’ll chock it up to a win for Microsoft.

Mystic Media is an app development, web design, and strategic marketing firm located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact us today by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

Not Too Pushy: 5 Rules for Pushing App Notifications Without Annoying the User

An application can do great things for a business. It’s a gateway into a digital experience catered to a brand, an opportunity to ingrain a brand into the user’s daily life. Push notifications allow applications to send messages with pertinent information to the user. Some are silent and simply light up the phone screen with a notification, while others vibrate to physically notify the user of more important, time-sensitive information.

The problem is: push notifications are… well… pushy. They can be annoying. It takes a mere Twitter search to prove that when users get annoyed, they take to social media, which is bad for business.

And yet, studies show when push notifications are turned on, they average 88% more launches than those with push notifications disabled. Some studies show up to a 540% increase in daily app opens.

Thus the conundrum becomes: how does one balance between being overly pushy, and not pushy enough? Although each case is subjective, we put together some guidelines for app developers and businesses looking to boost app usage without alienating customers.

1. Make Them Customizable

This is easily the cardinal rule. Do not push your push notifications on the user. Allow them to choose both whether and which push notifications to receive. Give the user options for how frequently they wish to receive notifications and/or what prompts them. There’s no excuse for an overly pushy app and it will be uninstalled.

2. Silent Notifications Work Too

Silent push notifications light up the phone screen with neither a sound nor a vibration. They are great for games, a tempting little offer which may catch the user’s eye when it lights up and lingers on the screen until the smartphone is next unlocked. Diversifying your notifications only makes for a more tolerable digital experience.

3. Analyze Customer Data

App developers have a host of awesome data at their disposal which ought to be utilized in tweaking their apps. If you notice customers often opting out of certain types of notifications, do them a favor and get rid of them. Or make them sign-up for them rather than giving them the work of having to opt-out. As they say, the customer is always right.

4. Geo Detection Is Your Friend

Geo Detection technology allows retailers to detect when a customer last visited their store or when a customer is nearby. Retailers can use Geo Detection technology to put out blasts to all customers in the area of special offers and coupons. For more information on Geo Detection notifications, check out this awesome article.

5. Offer Value

Seamless and GrubHub offer silent push notifications which, when swiped, give the user a discount on their order. Customers are more likely to read push notifications if they know there’s something in it for them. Push notifications are your friend, make sure they are your customer’s too.

Mystic Media is a web and software development company with expertise in iOS and Android application development and strategic marketing. Follow us today on Twitter (@mysticmediasoft), like us on Facebook, and contact us with any questions by clicking here or by phone at 801.994.6815

Making the Most of Your Tablet Design Part 2: Custom Device Design

In Part One of our two part series on tablets, we explored the top tablets on the market in 2014 and what they offer to both consumers and developers. This article, explores the perks & advantages of custom device application design and optimization.

Companies design applications to connect with their consumers–to attract eyes to their company or product. As developers, we don’t focus on what device the consumer uses, the goal is to hold the user’s attention and potentially engrain our client’s brand in the consumer’s day. When developing an application, one must remember that each device has its advantages and disadvantages, and one cross-device layout doesn’t always get the job done. By optimizing a mobile application separately for phones and tablets, it portrays your company in the best light and engages the end user with the best possible user experience.

As discussed in the previous article, tablets vary in numerous factors, most notably operating system, processing power and screen size. When optimizing a mobile application, there are a few options. Developing an application optimized for smartphones creates an app which can be used to its fullest potential on any smartphone, but the app’s functionality could suffer on a tablet. Developing a tablet-only application optimizes the app for tablets, but again, it will not work nearly as well on a smartphone.

The third and best option is to optimize the app separately for both phones and tablets. Although creating a phone or tablet-only optimized application is cheaper, when the design is optimized for each screen size and device type, your app always looks great, sacrificing neither functionality nor usability on any given platform and ultimately providing the best possible user experience. At Mystic Media, we recommend investing in both phone and tablet versions of your application to maximize the quality of the app, and vicariously the perception of your company.

Phone only applications can be fixed to have multiple viewing options. We all have seen and experienced the 1x & 2x buttons on iPads, which allow you to adjust the size of the application based on what device you are using. While this seems a reasonable solution in theory, in practice, it appears shoddy and cheap. When one application attempts to optimize only for a phone and utilizes the same general framework for tablets, it often ends up mediocre on the tablet. For big companies, it’s not up for debate–they recognize the importance of appearing on the cutting edge so they invest in multiple device applications

Take a look at the Youtube mobile app. Their iPhone & Android apps limit the app to display vertical orientation on phones, but on tablets they optimize the design to display both vertical and horizontal orientations based on the angle at which one holds the device. By optimizing the design of the app to change based upon the screen size and device orientation, Youtube allows for a customized feel and content placement on all devices, ensuring the end user will spend more time on their app increasing the quality of the user experience.

Device optimization is worth the time and money because it allows the mobile application to live up to its fullest potential functionally and is aesthetically pleasing on every screen. In addition, marketing your app in both the phone and tablet categories within the app store gives your app a major boost in visibility.

When developing an application, the number one goal is to avoid looking amateur. If the application looks amateur, it turns off the user, consequently causing less downloads, uses, and of course,money. In the spirit of app store optimization and attracting downloads, it is critical to maximize the exposure to your mobile application. Having a bad application is worse than having no application—it can degrade the business in the eyes of your customers and potential users. Rather than squander your time and money on a cheap app, satisfy and impress your customers by developing a multiple device optimized application.

At Mystic Media, our team is equipped with all the tools to develop your app, optimize it to devices, and even develop market strategies. We have the knowledge, the work force, and the work ethic to design your mobile app to its fullest potential. Contact us today by clicking here or give us a call at 801.994.6815