The Man on the Bus and the Android Duplicate Apps Problem

On my bus home tonight a man approached many of the pas­sen­gers and asked them if they knew how to use What­sApp. It seemed to me that he had learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, and I asked if I could help. He passed me his phone, and I saw that he was try­ing to install What­sApp, so I opened the Play Store, found it, and clicked the but­ton to install it. But it wouldn’t install; the process start­ed, then stopped, with­out expla­na­tion.

I jumped into the set­tings, and worked out that there wasn’t enough stor­age space on the phone. It was a mid-range Sam­sung device, with 8GB of stor­age, but it came pre­in­stalled with two of every­thing: browsers, office suites (Google and Microsoft), email clients, pho­to man­age­ment… every­thing. And none of it could be unin­stalled.

This is a con­se­quence of Google’s con­di­tions for get­ting the best from Android: if you want to use Google Play Services—which now brings many core fea­tures of Android that are no longer includ­ed in the Android Open Source Project—you have to install Google’s core apps. And as Sam­sung make no mon­ey from Google’s core apps, they also install their own alter­na­tives and pre­sum­ably take pay­ment from com­pa­nies like Microsoft to also pre­in­stall their soft­ware.

What this meant was that, after the core sys­tem files and all the pre­in­stalled apps, the phone was left with about 1GB of free stor­age. And pret­ty much all of that was tak­en by Face­book and Mes­sen­ger.

In the end, I delet­ed a load of data from Google Maps, which cleared up just enough to install What­sApp (but may cause him some future prob­lems, for all I know). I only hope he doesn’t want to take any pic­tures or down­load music, because there’s lit­er­al­ly no stor­age avail­able to do that.

What a sad, sil­ly, user-hos­tile sit­u­a­tion. Com­pet­ing busi­ness mod­els end up screw­ing the per­son that owns the phone, and many people—like Muham­mad, the man on the bus—are left with no idea why, or how to fix it.

It was a stark reminder to me of how much is tak­en for grant­ed when the needs of busi­ness are put above the needs of peo­ple.

Ten Years In: Finding Balance to Enjoy Twitter

Last week saw my 10th anniver­sary of being on Twit­ter (as @stopsatgreen). That’s a long time, but I’m still there and still active because I still get huge val­ue from it. I don’t want to down­play that, for some peo­ple, Twit­ter became very tox­ic and com­pelled them to leave; but for me, no oth­er net­work has come close to match­ing the expe­ri­ence it pro­vides.

Over the course of my ten years I’ve devel­oped a few rules that help me con­tin­ue get­ting the most from Twit­ter; keep­ing my time­line fresh,  inter­est­ing, and valu­able. I’ve shared them here on the off-chance that they’re use­ful to you too, dear read­er.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Ten Years In: Find­ing Bal­ance to Enjoy Twit­ter”

Thinking Out Loud: Understanding Voice UI, and How To Build for It

At work, we talk a lot about ‘voice’; what is it good for? Is it the post-mobile plat­form? And our clients ask us a lot about ‘voice’, and how to build a brand­ed app. But I’m not sure every­one is talk­ing about the same thing; and I’m just as unsure that any­one knows what makes a real­ly good brand­ed ‘voice’ app. I mean, I’m fair­ly sure I don’t.

This arti­cle is my attempt at defin­ing what we’re talk­ing about when we talk about ‘voice’; and, based on my expe­ri­ence as a user and devel­op­er of ‘voice’, try­ing to nail down some of the oppor­tu­ni­ties for brand­ed third-par­­ty apps.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Think­ing Out Loud: Under­stand­ing Voice UI, and How To Build for It”

Staring At Their Screens

One com­mon phrase that’s guar­an­teed to rile me is when peo­ple are accused of ‘star­ing at their screens’. It’s usu­al­ly pre­fixed by ‘mind­less­ly’. This accu­sa­tion is espe­cial­ly often made of peo­ple on pub­lic trans­port or in cof­fee shops, not inter­act­ing with each oth­er but instead ‘star­ing at their screens’.

This morn­ing I did a quick stealthy sur­vey (OK, I looked over their shoul­ders) of my car­riage on the train to see what peo­ple were doing with their phones. Here’s the list—bear in mind that some peo­ple did more than one activ­i­ty:

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Star­ing At Their Screens”