Mobile Tech Manor #89: Android and Flash

My favorite day of the week — Friday — is here so I get to share the past week at Mobile Tech Manor with you for the 89th time. My how time flies when you’re having fun. This week was incredibly busy with some outstanding gadgetry and new software hitting the Manor. I adopted one of the programs I mentioned last week into my daily routine and it’s working out very well for me. I read some great e-books when I wasn’t playing with gadgets; of course I read them on gadgets.

I’ll have the frozen yogurt, please

The dominant activity this week at the Manor was the major topic of the week, too. That would be Android 2.2, aka Froyo, as Google launched it officially yesterday. I’ve been playing with a Nexus One that Adobe (s adbe) and Google (s goog) were kind enough to send me late last week. This Nexus One was not a standard model, it was outfitted with Froyo and Flash Player 10.1. That’s what I was evaluating, and the reason they sent this to me.

After using this for a week, I am more impressed than ever with both the Nexus One handset and the Android platform. It’s exciting to see how fast Google is advancing the platform, and I believe we’re in for great things from them for a long time. Phone development normally takes a very long time from design to delivery, so it is nothing short of amazing to see how far Android has come in a mere 18 months. It’s the smartphone equivalent of going 0-60 in 2 seconds; you better not get in the way.

Froyo is so much faster than Android 2.1 that it makes the Nexus One a super-fast smartphone. I did a lot of side-by-side comparison of this with the Droid Incredible that Verizon (s vz) sent over, and I do believe the Nexus One with 2.2 is faster than the Incredible with 2.1. That’s significant because until seeing how fast 2.2 runs, the Incredible was easily the fastest smartphone I have used. Now the gap is so close it’s hard to call. The Nexus One with 2.2 is a touch faster than the Incredible in standard operations.

The browser in 2.2 is much faster than the previous version, and that’s where Froyo shines. Even the most complicated web pages load in just 2 or 3 seconds, sometimes even faster than on the desktop. Things just pop. I would love to see Froyo released for the Incredible, that would be interesting to see as I believe the handset itself is faster than the Nexus One normally. There are very good times ahead for the Android world.

What we need to see is how Android 2.2 gets rolled out to existing handsets. I’m already getting blasted by owners of various Android phones wanting to know when their handset will get the update. The truth is I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone does yet. The phone update process hasn’t changed — Google released Froyo to partners, OEMs decide if they want to release it for a given phone and then the carrier has to bless the update and actually roll it out. I suspect that many existing phones will never get Android 2.2, and that will be a pity.

Android 2.2 is absolutely required for Flash 10.1 to run according to Adobe. No phone running earlier versions of Android can even run Flash. My time with Flash this week has me impressed with how well it works with Froyo and it is significant enough for Android phone owners to be justifiably upset if their phone can’t run it.

It’s a safe bet that the Nexus One will get Froyo, and soon. It’s Google’s own phone and they almost have to put the latest and greatest on it. It’s not so clear for any other handset on the market. Sprint (s s) is about to launch the phone I’m excited about, the EVO 4G, and it’s going to launch with Android 2.1. That means no Flash, and it’s not clear when, if ever, the EVO will get the 2.2 upgrade. It’s that old fragmentation issue again.

Daily outlining

I hate outlines. I hate making them, I hate reading them, I hate trying to turn them into something more useful. The problem is I need them, as I handle a lot of writing projects that need careful organization and planning. This week I made a concerted effort to replace the dreaded outlines with something better, and I succeeded.

Last week I mentioned iThoughts HD for the iPad, a mind mapping app that is working well for me. I decided to incorporate it into my daily routine to maximize its utility for my work. I am a very visual person, and having a mind map in front of me helps me create and plan so much better. What I’ve been doing is having a map going in iThoughts on the iPad, and leaving the iPad open on the desk propped up at a nice viewing angle. I have the map for the current project right there beside my computer screen, so I can refer to the map as needed.

My writing projects are progressing at a rapid pace as the creative process is in overdrive. I am no longer thinking about the planning tools, I am simply creating as needed. This has been so liberating I can’t stress it enough. Since the mapping tool is on the iPad, I can do the planning for a project anywhere. I’m finding it’s productive to step away from my desk at this time and that has helped me do the groundwork for the projects much faster. My stress level is way down, too.

Play time

I remember sharing my reluctance to start gaming on the iPad for fear I’d be buying a lot of games. I was right. The iPad is an outstanding gaming device and once I opened Pandora’s box it was too late. I proved that this week by getting two more games: Dungeon Hunter HD and Brothers In Arms 2. Dungeon Hunter is a typical slash/RPG set in a kingdom where magic and demons are the main course. The game is fun to play, although a bit repetitive as these types of games often are.

BIA 2 is a first person shooter set in WWII. It has great graphics and the story seems to be decent, but I can’t get going with it. The onscreen controls are awkward, and even detract from the entertainment value of the game. It’s quite frustrating, as I desperately want to play what looks like a cool game. I insist on having fun with games, however, so it’s been mainly sitting on the iPad.

A better browser than Safari on the iPad

I have been impressed with Mobile Safari on the iPad since I bought it. The browsing experience is good, and while it falls short in features compared to the desktop Safari, I have been happy with it. Then I picked up iCab Mobile ($1.99) and to my delight discovered it was much like Mobile Safari, only better in areas that make browsing more enjoyable.

I am going to review iCab Mobile soon (maybe today), but let me put how useful I find the app in perspective. It has replaced Safari in the iPad dock, and that is the highest honor any app can obtain. I find the tabbed browsing, extensions and full-screen mode to be great. The attention to detail in the app is superb; the app ran a server to connect wirelessly with Safari on the desktop to instantly import my bookmarks. I don’t say it often (or ever) but I can’t think of any iPad owner that won’t benefit from iCab Mobile. Every iPad owner browses the web, right?

e-Books of the week

I read three great e-books this week, all using Kindle on the iPad. First up was 9th Judgment by James Patterson. This new chapter in the Lindsay Boxer series was typical Patterson and I literally tore through the book. It’s a must read if you’ve read the other Women’s Murder Club novels.

This week I read, or rather re-read a great collection of short stories. While happy to race through Thriller 2 edited by Clive Cussler once again, I was less than happy to pay for the privilege again. This is why I bought all of my e-books for years from eReader, as it was prudent to have my entire e-book library in one place. Occasionally I would see a book I wanted to read, and when I went to make the purchase eReader would inform me that I already owned the book.

I read so many books (over 500 in my e-book libraries) that it is inevitable I am going to buy a book I’ve already bought and read. This happened with Thriller 2. I had read it over a year ago when I purchased it from eReader. This time I bought it from Amazon for the Kindle and it didn’t take me long to realize I’d already read it. Thankfully the book is outstanding, so I minded paying for it twice a bit less than I would a lesser book. I was impressed anew by the story in the collection by online friend David Hewson.

The prospect of this has been bothering me ever since I’ve been spreading my e-book purchases around. I still buy books from eReader, but I also buy a lot from Amazon and a few from the iBookstore. There’s a couple at Barnes & Noble, too. Now that they are spread out, no one is watching my back to see if I already own (and have thus read) a book at purchase time. Reading e-books is something I do for fun, and I refuse to turn tracking my library into work. No setting up nor maintaining a database or spreadsheet, that’s no fun.

Here’s what I would love: an app that would check all of the main e-book stores and pull my libraries automatically into a central database for me. I could have it link up to my libraries as needed, and have a single place I could easily check at book purchase time to see if I already owned it. That can’t be that hard an app to write, and I would gladly pay for such an app. Any takers?

The third book I read I just finished last night. If you follow the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child then you simply cannot miss the latest — 61 Hours. This book is so good I read it in less than two days; I couldn’t put it down. It’s the best Reacher novel so far, and that’s saying a lot.


That’s the week; a busy one as you might guess but a very fulfilling one. I hope you come back next week to share the happenings at Mobile Tech Manor with me once again.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Irrational Exuberance Over E-Books?