Posts Tagged Android

BreakingNews.ie Android App Review

If you’re a smartphone user, you probably have your phone full of apps that enable easy and quick access to your most loved sources of information. I know I do and one that I was delighted to see released was BreakingNews.ie’s Android App.

Typically, I had my mobile phone’s internet browser set to my Google IG page which listed my favourite news feeds on the homescreen when I opened it. I found after much use, I noticed that out of all the feeds I had listed, the one I used most was the breaking news feed.

The only problem with this that was that the content wasn’t mobile friendly when you visited the BreakingNews.ie website and therefore it was a bit annoying trying to navigate and read content.

After checking out the news again last night on my mobile, I noticed that BreakingNews.ie had gone “mobile” with their website, which was excellent. And to make things even better, they were advertising the fact that they now had an Android and iPhone App to boot! So off I went to download and install!

After installing the app, I fired it up and instantly noticed that the app was most likely developed with Titanium’s Appcelerator Development Platform – the “Restart is Required” message was a dead giveaway as it is a major bug bear for many Titanium mobile app developers on Android.

This is where I began to get worried about this app. A quick search on Google would have given the developer some very easy solutions to implement that would remove this message, but it appears they didn’t even bother looking into resolving this. Once I see this sort of laziness, I expect their to be more issues to come within the app.

And as expected, when the app restarted, I was instantly shown a runtime error. I’m given two options, Kill or Continue. If I wasn’t familiar with this error (as it’s not a “force kill” error that you’d come to expect with Android) I probably would have chosen Kill. This would have left me in an endless loop as the application would repeatedly restart until I choose the other option. I knew that I should be safe enough to choose Continue, so I did and continued to play with the app.

Again, it becomes blatantly obvious that the developer was either purely lazy or just had no inclination at all as to what way a user expects from a mobile app.

They presumed that people just want to see the latest articles when they land on the homescreen of the app. I sincerely doubt they did any sort of user testing and just went with their gut on how it should be presented. For me, I would expect the app to allow me to view a choice of categories from the homescreen or even given the ability to choose the categories that I would like to appear on the homescreen. Instead, I just get all the latest news articles in a list.

There is a “menu” button at the top left of the screen which allows you to choose from a radio buttoned list of categories, I’m not sure if this is just to select your default category or just choose a category from which you wish to view articles from. Either way, when you select an option from this list, you get a runtime error.

After playing around with it a bit more, in the hope that the app would improve (in some way), I noticed that they had another menu from the “menu” button on Android. Typically I would associated this with either extra settings or a refresh. In this case, it’s being used as a navigational tool. When you click this, it allows you to choose “News Menu” which brings you to a page which I feel in this app’s case really should be the homescreen.

As I continued through the app I received a number of “Force Kills”, which I just couldn’t take anymore of. I had to uninstall it.

This app could have been very useful to me, but unfortunately it’s just not. Apart from the errors, the user interface leaves a lot to be desired. They could really do with adding a widget or notification system to notify you over your preferred latest stories and make it worthwhile installing on your phone.

Let’s face it, all it’s doing for me at the moment is giving me an alternative way of viewing their news articles other than my browser. That’s just not enough to warrant installing an app on my phone. The space and memory on my phone is just too precious for me to give up for a pointless app.

In fairness to BreakingNews.ie – most news apps in this space leave a lot to be desired. I could name a number of apps that just don’t get it right, even the mighty Sky leave a lot to be desired with their apps.

In BreakingNews.ie’s case it’s as if a web developer has just decided one day that they can develop mobile apps. They expect the user experience to be much like the web but it’s really not. Mobile is different, people engage differently and expect a lot more than a web page from their mobile app.

At the moment there is very little reason for me to move away from using my browser to access this site. Their app is pretty useless to me. In fact, I have more control with a browser and their RSS feeds!

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Google Suspended my Android Market Developer Account

For the past month, I’ve been developing Android Apps to see if there is any opportunity for an Irish company to make a decent living via creating and selling apps through the Android Play Store.

After weeks of research, I opted to develop apps for the personalisation category of the market as it appeared that this area was the one that most people who used the Android market were likely to part with their cash. It took a couple of weeks to get going, but when it did, I was very impressed.

When I finally figured out what would sell, I was making over €100 per day. This run lasted for a solid 12 days. I was very content that there was a living to be made out of the market, but it was still such early days that I was still pretty much testing the water.

Unfortunately, my run ended late last night. I got an email from Google which said:

“Your Android Market developer account has been suspended due to prior developer account suspension violations of our developer agreement and policies. “

One of my strategies was to offer free apps, which I would use to cross sell my paid for apps. This was ultimately what I thought led to my account being suspended.

I had stupidly used a copyrighted image in one of my free apps. Thinking that because my free app was benefiting no-one monetarily, I thought it would be OK. But I was clearly wrong. My free apps were suspended.

Well that is my assumption of course. Because three of my free apps were suspended prior to me receiving the notification of the account suspension. When I received those suspensions, I spent hours making sure my other Apps were 100% compliant with the Android Market Developer agreement and policies.

However, it turns out that I was not in fact banned for this – but in fact, it was that Google believe I have had other accounts suspended in the past (which I don’t) and I was trying to beat the system by creating another account.

Looking around the web for others who were banned, it seems that Google have a very strict, no retribution policy. It appears that it’s a waste of time to even question the reason for this suspension as I’m unlikely to get a response. Of course, I have tried to get in touch, to no avail as of yet.

But what does that mean for anyone trying to make a serious go at becoming an Android Developer?

In one foul swoop your whole business could be taken from under you, without any explanation from Google. Google don’t seem to offer you the chance to prove your innocence, nor the opportunity to change anything that is against their  Android Market Developer agreement and policies.

The fact that they believe my account is another account by someone who was suspended before is quite frightening. I have an idea how they have come to that conclusion – but I will keep that to myself until I know they are not willing to discuss it with me.

The sad reality is that I had hoped to build a business in this area. Creating jobs and an export market for the haggered Irish economy.

I would be extremely worried and cautious as to how viable it actually would be when you take these actions into consideration. Can you imagine walking into your workforce following a suspension by Google and saying “You’ve lost your jobs, Google has suspended our account because they believe we had an account before… Oh and they won’t respond to our requests to reconsider.” ??

The initial attraction to the Android market for me was its openness. Unlike the Apple App Store, you didn’t have to go through an approval process before your app appeared on the market. This was appealing as it allowed you to test the market before putting a huge amount of effort into something that just isn’t going to work.

Of course, from a user experience, the Android Market process isn’t ideal. It means that there is a lot of low quality apps available on the market. But on the other hand, it also means there are a lot more free apps available.

I’m now at a cross roads. I’m half way through an app that I believe will do really well on the Android Market, but not sure if I should change my focus now to iOS. Obviously, I can’t open another Android Developer account so I will need to partner up with someone on that front – but it really has left me with a dilemma.

Another issue is the fact that they didn’t just ban apps they felt were in violation, but also apps that were perfectly legit. I had some basic apps outside the personalisation category that were doing quite well and now they too are not available.

How Google think this is a good way to treat their Android Market Developers is beyond me. They should at least offer an appeal process or change their terms and conditions to allow people open more than one account.

Maybe if they brought in an approval system similar to the Apple App Market it would prevent users uploading apps that they shouldn’t be.

Either way, I’m extremely dismayed by the whole episode. It would be really nice to get some feedback from Google and find out exactly where it all went wrong. We can only learn by our mistakes!

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10 million UK consumers have used mobile commerce, problems? Of course!

iPhone & Intel Mobile Device

Image by Frank Gruber via Flickr

When a survey commisioned by Tealef, showed that 10 million UK consumers have used mobile commerce to order products or services through their mobile device I was impressed. I maybe should have been shocked that up 83% of those surveryed had a problem when using their mobile device to order, but I wasn’t.

Even with the speed of adoption of people using mobile devices to purchase items online, many of the platforms or websites simply don’t take into account the usability issues when using a phone to shop. A lot of the larger retailers who have mobile websites have done a good job at presenting the information in an easy to use format, but fall down when it comes to paying or logging into a website.

One pet hate of mine for a lot of mobile websites or apps is the inability to recover a forgotten password. In most cases, the forgot password option isn’t available on the mobile version of the website. This is clearly a security issue in that you could pick up someones for, log on to any site, run the forgot password tool and have the password emailed directly to the phone and volia, you’re in and have the password to probably everything the poor person uses for his life secrets!

But we all know there are simple ways around this. But it seems to be easier for most to ignore this or build in a mechanism for it. That may well be because they’re not sure if mobile is the way of the future. They’re going through a stage of “let’s suck it and see” before putting too much effort into changing how things work.

The problem with that approach is that we are left with a lot of consumers who will end up becoming dillusioned with the whole concept of mobile commerce. If it becomes too labourious to order something through a mobile device, wouldn’t you just prefer to go back to using your PC to order instead?

And that clearly appears to be what’s happening according to this study. A massive 29% of people surveryed abandon the transaction to complete later on their PC! 16% would more likely prefer to use their PC in future and more worryingly, 13% are likely to abandon the transaction altogether and try somewhere else.

I know personally these statistics are not something that are strange to me. As recently as last Saturday I went to put a bet on the Grand National and decided to try out the Paddy Power website. As someone who doesn’t bet very often, in fact once a year, I had completely forgotten the username and password associated with my Paddy Power account that I had used, well last year! Since there was no option to retrieve my password on the mobile device, I had to take out the laptop and retrieve my information from the main website.

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have bothered at all because I certainly didn’t win! :)

I really can’t blame retailers for getting things wrong on this front – it’s a brand new medium that hasn’t been fully tested. We can only use our experience on how people interact with a browser on a laptop and try to second guess what people will want on a mobile device. We need much testing to really see what makes people tick on a mobile device.

There is one key point in all of this, a lot of people using a mobile device to access the Internet or online stores have probably never even used the Internet or shopped online. This is a brand new experience for them and we should all take this into account when developing our mobile websites and apps.

 

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Mobile Optimised Website for just €299 (ex VAT)

It may not come as a surprise to many, but the recent growth in mobile web browsing has increased at such a rate that it has taken many by surprise. One leading mobile web browser company, Opera, announced that there was huge growth in people using their mobile to access the web over the past year. In fact, Opera stated in their report that the increase was as much as 84.7% compared to the same period last year.

Opera Mini is just one browser used by owners of Smart phones so it doesn’t give a full picture as to the extent of mobile usage for web browsing, however, it does give a good indication of the trends of mobile users. Another interesting statistic from Opera’s report was that in December of this year, 7.4% of all US users of Opera accessed the Amazon.com website on their mobile phone.

This is clearly only a small indication of the change in user behaviour when it comes to browsing the Internet. Other web giant, eBay, announced that their mobile sales trebled to $2bn in 2010. Marks and Spencer also announced that visits to their website by mobile device users hit 1 million+ uniques per day in December. Back in October they announced that their mobile phone orders had hit 13,000 in just four months.

There is clearly an opportunity here for business to make sales or promote their business through mobile devices, but the problem is that most websites are not built to work with mobile phones.

In fairness to most mobile phones, they have decent web browsers that make navigating even the most non mobile friendly website easy enough to navigate, but is this really good enough? Shouldn’t it be easy for your potential customers to navigate your website at ease on their mobile device?

To help Irish businesses get a good mobile presence with their website, we’ve decided to do a special offer on the creation of Mobile Friendly Websites for a limited period only. For just €299+VAT we will create a mobile optimised version of your website (max 10 pages).

If you are interested in this offer please contact us at +353 1 2190223 or email info@2bscene.ie

Visit our mobile optimised website at m.2bscene.ie (or use the QR Code to the right with your mobile)

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