It seems Google has finally realized Android is a viable competitor to the iPhone — it did outsell the iPhone in the US in Q1 2010, after all — and it has awoken from its slumber looking for a bite of Apple. At their I/O conference today, Google unveiled the details of their upcoming 2.2 version of Android, codenamed Froyo, and there’s plenty to get excited about.

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It's hip to use Square

Sci-fi convention vendors, street mimes and hot dog cart owners, rejoice! Square, the mobile credit-card-swiping system announced late last year by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is now open for business. The rare company whose name, logo and product are all the same thing, Square offers a slick and simple method for accepting credit cards through an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, no merchant account or confusing accounting scheme required. That’s right, you can now accept credit cards as a buy-in at your weekly poker game, and when someone says, “Dude, I’ll give you twenty bucks for that t-shirt,” you can say, “Visa or Mastercard?”

Everything about Square screams simplicity, from the cute little card reader you plug into the headphone jack, to the service itself, which sports a beautiful and incredibly straightforward user experience, to the fee system — 2.75% + 15¢ per transaction for swiped cards, period. It also does lots of things the traditional credit card process should do, like email receipts and show the merchant a photo of the card holder for verification. You’ll want to get one just to try it out, and there’s really no reason not to — the reader, app and setup are all free, and available today. Now you just have to come up with something worth buying.

» Square Web site (and Fast Company, via Gizmodo)

In a case of selective fact-picking reminiscent of the most bitter divorce battles, Steve Jobs posted an open letter today about Apple’s ongoing hate-hate relationship with Flash. Among the juiciest tidbits is this statement about Flash’s openness:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Substitute “Apple’s iPhone” for “Adobe’s Flash,” and you’ll have a similarly true statement. More funtastic highlights after the break.

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The Lovers: HP buys Palm

April 29th, 2010

The excitement never ends these days in the mobile realm, and I’m not talking about the iPhonegate scandal — you know, the one providing Gizmodo so much free publicity that Gawker publisher Nick Denton is probably thinking he should get his bloggers to break the law more often. To start with, let’s look at the lovers: HP and Palm, who will be joined in corporate matrimony this summer. (Awwww!) Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the fighters, as Microsoft moves against alleged patent infringement by Android.

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iPad pre-orderers, if you’re like me, you’re in a funny predicament this week. I pre-ordered the 3G iPad a few weeks back, along with the standard black folder/easel case (because while it may be an overpriced piece of plastic, you’d be crazy to go commando with your shiny new toy). The 3G iPad goes on sale Friday, and preorders are shipping now (or shortly). The thing is, Apple shipped the case separately several days ago, and even with slower shipping, it arrived today, at least two days before the iPad will arrive. So, then: what can you do with the case while you wait for the iPad?

  1. Fancy display case for your iPhone 1G, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch
  2. Convenient foldable serving tray for Freschetta brick oven pizza
  3. Great way to prop up your old-fashioned paper books while reading
  4. Emergency hair protector for sudden downpours
  5. Impress your friends with “magic disappearing iPad” trick
  6. Tell curious onlookers you left your iPad in your other pants
  7. High-tech cover screen for stylish Dungeon Masters
  8. Print out iPad photo, glue to plywood sheet, insert in case and sell it on eBay
  9. Stand on roof with friends and fling it for distance and accuracy
  10. Leave it in the box and wait for the damn iPad

In a less-than-shocking turn of events, Adobe’s Mike Chambers announced in his blog Tuesday that Adobe will cease its efforts to bring Flash-powered apps to the iPhone, following the release of Flash CS5:

While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms (of the iPhone SDK), it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5. Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications (100+ on the store today) created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store.

We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5. However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature.

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Well played, Apple

April 20th, 2010

Only one thing is definitely true about the headline-grabbing melodrama going on over at Gizmodo: it’s all good news for Apple. It doesn’t even matter whether the alleged iPhone 4.0 prototype really was left in a bar by an overserved young Apple engineer — they’ve garnered a huge amount of attention throughout an entire news cycle, without actually revealing anything definitive (only a new piece of hardware that may or may not be the actual iPhone 4-HD-whatever), while sowing just enough doubt to keep some of the wavering faithful from leaving the fold for one of the sexy new Android phones like the Droid Incredible (arguably worth a few lost sales between now and June). And there’s still plenty left to reveal in June, including the actual screen resolution, front-facing camera (or not), and whatever else Gizmodo didn’t uncover. And they get valuable early feedback on the design — whether or not they could or would ever tweak it based on such feedback — while still being able to claim it’s not the final unit. And, hell, they could probably still even sue Gizmodo if they wanted, if the whole thing started to look too perfect.

Fake? Leaked? Stolen? Red herring? It doesn’t even matter. Apple wins.

The Mobile-Hostile Web

April 18th, 2010

We have often looked at sites that are usable on, if not designed for, mobile use as “mobile-friendly.” It’s time we started looking at sites poorly suited to mobile use as mobile-hostile. Customers will soon start viewing the companies that field them as mobile-hostile as well — which is to say, willfully out of touch with their needs, and pretty much asking smarter competitors to lure them away. Below, a rant about the subject, the beginning of a thrilling two-part series.

Part One: The Comcast Ordeal
The target of my displeasure today is Comcast. Look around the Web, and you’ll find no shortage of reasons people complain about Comcast, but they’re my best option for Internet access. Like many service providers, Comcast is in the difficult position of being noticed only when they do something wrong; however, that simply means they have to try even harder to address customers’ needs when things do go wrong.

My Internet access was down this morning, and after trying every usual trick on my end, my next step was to contact Comcast and see if anything was amiss on their end. First, however, I figured I should check to make sure I hadn’t simply forgotten to pay my bill (I’m human, it happens). I logged onto Comcast.com on my Palm Pre, and was immediately greeted with a clunky, cluttered screen that loaded like the bits were being flown in via carrier pigeon. Zooming in past the “You need Flash to view this” placeholder taking up half the screen and the 15 assorted offers gracing the home page, I found “Pay Your Bill Online,” and after three more screens and another couple of minutes of typing and loading, I was on my account page. I tapped the button to pay my bill, and that’s when the real fun began.

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Apple is certainly no stranger to hype — Steve Jobs has built its recent success on a giant, lofty cloud of it. But the “magical, revolutionary” iPad raised hype levels to previously unseen heights. Which reminded me of another product that was preceded by hyperbole and secrecy, only to be greeted with howls of derision upon its unveiling. The similarities are difficult to ignore…
 

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Engadget is reporting (based on a post on PhoneGap developer Jesse Macfayden’s blog) that Apple has confirmed that apps created with cross-platform dev tool PhoneGap will not be rejected based solely on their use of the tool.

Apple’s recent change to the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK agreement has had the development community in a tizzy for the past week — tools such as Adobe’s Flash-based Packager for iPhone, Novell’s C#-based MonoTouch and 3D game development tool Unity all seem to be forbidden under the new terms.

However, the fate of other tools such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator’s Titanium has been unclear, since they use Javascript, HTML and CSS to create native code. PhoneGap now appears to be in the clear, but Titanium functions differently, and the differences could be a problem for Appcelerator.

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