Tag Archives: Android

Store Wars for the Game of Phones

Apple iTunes and Google Play together dominate consumer attention for application downloads. But when pitted against each other, they can get quite competitive!

App Store Stats

Stats say, Japan is amongst the top 3 countries for app download and revenue on both the stores. It is also amongst the Top 3 for the fastest growing markets for revenue. US and UK are also amongst the top 3 countries.

Google Play considers Brazil to be amongst the topmost countries to tap in terms of revenues expecting 88% growth.

India even with its large population would take some time to build a profitable market for smartphone apps because we still have a majority of our people using feature phones/low end phones.

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Reasons not to play a game on mobiles

I was looking at my devices today and tried understanding my game playing behaviour.

Out of the devices I use, my iOS device has more games than any other device. Next comes the Android and Symbian devices where I have some games installed, but have never played them (don’t know why!!). Out of all the current 100 iOS games, I only play around 4-5 very regularly and another 4-5 occasianally.

So what is it that gets me to download a game but not play it? I thought through some of the points and this is what I think.

1. Creative Inspiration – So we’ve played Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on the iOS platform. Now, do we really need a game with the mechanics of Fruit Ninja, bird characters from Angry Birds and a name inspired by Cut the Rope?.
If you’ve played “Cut the Birds” and you’ll know what I am talking about (the game is now taken off the App store and has another version Cut the Birds 2). One of the primary resons why games fail to connect with users is that they lack originality and just end up being poor imitations of successful IPs.

2. Herd Mentality – Farmville created history with online social gaming, but then more games decided to follow suit with farm themes or similar “Click and Collect” mechanics. And were they successful? Probably yes, but for how long is the real question! I don’t remember the last time I played a Facebook connected game because of the “Follow the Herd” mentality used while writing concepts.

3. Game Tutor – As a casual game player, I really don’t like a casual game constantly throwing pop ups at me to teach me how to play the game. It breaks the flow and can be very obtrusive. I think a casual game should be self explanatory or atleast with minimum non-obtrusive teaching.
Help pop-ups may sometimes be necessary for games, especially strategy and time management games, which are competitive and require a learning curve to progress, so I’m not completely averse to them.

4. Forgotten Icon – Many times when I reach out for my device to play a game, I notice installed forgotten apps. And then when I recall them after looking at them, I wonder if it makes sense to ever play them again.
Forgetting to play an installed app is nothing but a result of an average game-play, designed to be non intuitive, and not great enough to get us engaged after the first couple of minutes initial play.
Prototyping and testing an idea with people trusted for feedback is the best way forward. Being open to criticisms is only getting better at designing and developing a better game.

5. User Experience – I was playing a turn based game against the computer AI recently. I won’t name the game, but the mechanics were as simple as Tic Tac Toe. However, everytime I was to play a turn or the AI was to play a turn, I would have a big popup message thrown in front of me informing me that it was my turn or the computer’s turn to play.
This is an example of a terrible User Experience design because it ends up irritating me/the player with constant reminders during every turn. A definate reason for me not to replay the game.

6. Buggy Pop-ups – What happens when I am playing a game (Chess for example), and I play my turn before the game can alert me of my turn. Now the game logic gets stuck at this point where it has my turn pop-up to display on screen but knows in the background that it is the AI who will play next. My game hangs at this point and I’m stuck staring at a game screen where I can’t progress. I have to shut down the game and restart it.
Will i play this game again? Only if it has an addictive game-play and value for time.

7. Noisy Screechy SFX – One usually plays a game when they want to take a short break in-between or after work or sometimes as a part of their learning process. Poor sound effects or background music really make me shut down the game even if I really need to play it.

8. Where’s the Entertainment – Some games just lack entertainment. And I can’t define this any further. Game development is a coordinated process and going wrong in any of the phases can lead to a non entertaining game.

9. Non accessibility of content – Today most games are sold through mobile app markets. iTunes gives the easiest access to download games irrespective of the iTunes version or the device OS. Similarly Android too offers ease of use of the Android Marketplace. For the others, it’s not been very easy at all times.

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PhoneGap Framework for Mobiles

I recently spent some time studying the PhoneGap framework with the purpose of creating content for Android devices. PhoneGap is an Open Source Mobile Framework that allows developers to author native applications with web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript and CSS. PhoneGap currently supports 6 platforms including Android, iOS, Blackberry, Palm WebOS and Symbian WRT (including QT).

Working with the framework made me realize how easy it is for any web developer to target multiple mobile platforms without having to write the native code, and yet achieve cross platform compatibility with the same content.

In other words, the content layouting is flexible and can run across different screen sizes and platforms without having to change the any part of the core code.

The framework usage is very simple and well explained on the website. Once you are setup with the framework within your preferred development environment, the only effort goes in writing your HTML files and compiling the builds with the HTML assets to test on the actual device. PhoneGap also has its own API functions which makes use of features such as Network, Accelerometer, use of Camera, Events, Data Storage etc.

Performance wise, it is good, but animating too many objects around the screen drops the framerate. I tried running a game and got a FPS of around 7-8 on older Android devices and around 12 on the newer ones such as the Nexus One.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was integrating jquery for database interaction, where network calls constantly failed. It was later understood that PhoneGap takes a little time to load, so if the device is not ready and the API calls to the network are made, then the network calls fail.

 

From the code above it is noticed that in order to use PhoneGap we have to load the phonegap.js script into the HTML file. This is one of the 2 code bases required for calling any PhoneGap functions (the other code base is native and is compiled when building the device build).

When the HTML loads, the first function called is the onLoad() function which checks whether PhoneGap is fully loaded. This check is done using the onDeviceReady event.

When the device is ready, an onDeviceReady event is fired. The next step is to check for network. This too is done using the PhoneGap functions – NetworkStatus. If the network exists, then the network related calls using jquery are used, otherwise an alert is sent to the user informing of no network.

I’ll soon be uploading a PhoneGap Android app, and will share the link for downloading when ready.

Mariam

 

Adobe AIR 2.6 for Android

Adobe recently announced the availability of Adobe AIR 2.6 for Android smartphones and tablets. AIR 2.6 for Android adds support for Android 3.0 and the latest Android tablet devices, including the Motorola Xoom, as well as improvements to performance and GPU-based rendering, updated Android gesture support, and improved handling of HTML content within AIR apps.

AIR 2.6 for Android can be downloaded from the Android Marketplace and is available on devices running:

  • Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Android 3.0 (Honeycomb)

A list of mobile devices that meet the AIR system requirements can be found at http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/certified_devices/.

AIR 2.6 for Android have performance improvements which include:

  • Up to 20% faster scrolling performance
  • H.264 video decoding at 30fps
  • GPU-based animation and games at up to 50FPS

AIR 2.6 for Android also have functional improvements which include:

  • Support for the latest Android system gestures
  • Bitmap Capture for StageWebView, which provides tighter visual integration between Flash and HTML content
  • Asynchronous Bitmap Decoding, which improves the performance of transitions in image-intensive applications

Applications developed with the Adobe AIR 2.5 SDK are compatible with the Adobe AIR 2.6 runtime.  Adobe is on target to deliver the AIR 2.6 SDK and desktop runtime before the 2nd half of 2011.

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FITC Mobile 2010

I’ve been reading about the FITC Mobile Conference recently, and am glad to know that it is back in it’s second year in Toronto, Canada. The event is scheduled to be held between 16th-18th September this year.

FITC is slated as one of the only events covering all aspects of mobile content development, such as iPhone/iPad, Android, Flash 10.1, Windows Mobile, HTML5, Unity, Marketing, Usability, and other relevant topics in the mobile world.

The event will have a good mix of technical and non-technical topics as well related to marketing, funding, and other business aspects of mobile development. Besides presentations, the event will have pre-conference workshops, demonstrations, and panel discussions for those attending.

You can go and check the event link to know more about the speakers and the companies presenting. It’s quite an impressive list.

Currently FITC has an Early Bird offer on the conference and pre-conference workshop ticket prices.

They have also offered a further discount of $50 on any event ticket. Please message me if you want to attend this event and avail the discount, and I will send across the code.

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Android 1.6 SDK released

The Google Android team recently released the 1.6 version of their SDK which has added features for both users and developers.

Some of the new platform features for developers include a multi-lingual text-to-speech functionality, a new gesture framework, support for more screen resolutions as well as support for CDMA, thus scaling the number supported devices.

After receiving a lot of flak for their Android Market, Google has some new added updates for this as well. The Android Market would now allow choosing of an application based on a category, and then breaking that further down into titles of Top Free, Top Paid and Just In. Finally, allowing screenshots and reviews of the application in the Market too. Hopefully this would reduce some of the minus ranking the Android developer community had given to the Android Market with respect to visibility and sales.

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Flash Player on the Android Platform

(Via Mark) In an announcement by Adobe and their partners HTC, the companies shared the news of extending the Flash Platform to Android devices today.

The Flash runtime for Android is supposedly still an optimised version for the mobiles, but the first in line (the HTC Hero) would have the complete capability to run Flash videos as well as support streaming audio and ActionScript 2.0. Adobe does mention extending the full Flash player to the Android platform, but that would only happen sometime in near future. My guess is, with the Flash Player 10 for smartphones soon being available in beta for us during MAX this year, this Android smartphone should not be far behind.

What’s also a great for developers is, HTC is now a part of the Open Screen Project initiated to reach the maximum platforms and devices with the Flash player.

You can view this video showing demos of websites on the Android handset. It is very clear from the video that a lot of the web based Flash content which was earlier not viewable on devices would now be available. A clear instance are gaming websites like AddictingGames or Kongregate whose games (AS 2.0 based) would now be playable without porting it as a separate mobile build.

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Flash Player 10 on Android, Windows Mobile & Symbian

Flash Lite has evolved greatly over time making way for bigger and better opportunities for development. Beginning with version 1.0 to version 3.1, Flash Lite has come a long way. And demoed recently during MAX 2008 in San Francisco was the actual Flash Player 10 (not subset) on the Symbian OS, Windows Mobile and the Android.

Symbian and WiMo are platforms that Flash Lite developers have worked on in the past, so having the complete Flash 10 functionality working on mobiles will be only be a boon. However I still am skeptical with a couple of questions like

  1. will the Flash 10 player on mobiles support the complete AS3 API including the 3D Effects, Custom Filters, Advanced Text etc,
  2. would the player be implemented in a browser, standalone and the others,
  3. will it support backward compatibility with Flash Lite version etc.

I guess we’d know this, as more information will be made available by Adobe with the player development.

But what took the cake for me was the announcement of supporting Flash on the Android platform. It is great because Adobe is realizing its goal of supporting Flash on so many different platforms, thus escalating the Open Screen Project to a success. Adobe demoed on the the Android G1 features like full zooming, panning and interactivity, which means the users saw a whole segment of web content typically inaccessible to mobile browsers till now.

Of course like the other platforms Adobe did not provide a proper release date for this too, but the very fact that their developers had a demo to showcase during MAX leads us to believe Flash on Android will be a solid reality in the very near future.

So as Kevin Lynch said “We need to start thinking mobile first, rather than as an adjunct to the big screen experience… “, which is so true..Cheers to Flash on Mobiles.

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