The arrival of genuine homescreen 'widgets' in iOS (see the screenshots below) has prompted more thought about the concept and about which mobile OS has mastered them, if any. Symbian and Android both had home screen widgets in 2009, while Windows Phone reimagined the idea completely for its 'live tiles' in 2010. And, a decade later, the iPhone joins the widgets party. But have any of these mobile OS really delivered? I say no. Or at least, not yet, with iOS 14's new implementation looking promising for the future.
Recent Features - Windows Phone 7
Back in early 2010 I was part of a panel of people giving feedback on different aspects of phone functions, software and hardware, run on behalf of Nokia. The latter section was about handling a variety of unmarked (non-running) prototypes and saying what we thought about the physicality. Two, in particular, caught my eye, with QWERTY keyboards and slide'n'tilt displays. One went on to become the Nokia E7, running Symbian, the other (larger, which I preferred) went on to become the Nokia N950, running MeeGo. And now, in 2019, inspired directly by these designs, we have a new Communicator, shown off at MWC.
One of the reasons why there has always been a big debate as to what exactly constitutes "a smartphone" is that the definition itself keeps changing. Once we had dumb phones, then high end communicators and touchscreen multimedia gadgets for geeks, and then - by 2010 or so - enough people had what we had been calling 'smartphones' that they became mainstream and just 'phones'. But just what functions got added in each era, where are we now, and where do the different platforms stand?
The problem with the tech world is, from an operating system provider's point of view, that the goalposts keep moving. These perambulating pieces of wood killed Symbian, killed Blackberry, have almost killed Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile, and, one day, may even kill iOS as we know it today. With hindsight, it's all too clear, but at the time OS coders were making sensible choices.
With eight years since the classic Nokia N95 was selling in the mainstream, with one of the first five megapixel cameras in the phone market and the best, with 1/2.5" sensor and 'Carl Zeiss' optics, I thought it would be interesting to see how far the technology has come. After all, the Lumia 930 occupies pretty much the same photo-enthusiast consumer spot, at least in the Windows phone world, yet it outputs at a nominal 5MP still. But how different would the pixels themselves be, with eight years of sensor, optics and processing tech improvements under the 930's hood?
The subject here is Store bloat. And it's something which I've been ranting about now for four years, on various sites. Yet the people in charge of the main smartphone app stores haven't learned. In fact, if anything, they're getting worse.... at letting in 'apps' which mainly serve to dilute the world's overall impression of that particular OS and ecosystem. Here are three questions that the QA employees concerned should be asking themselves before hitting the 'approve' button.
Perhaps matching the debate on sealed vs replaceable batteries as a design trend for our time is that of sealed memory. In other words, flash storage for applications, files, documents and media, which is of a fixed size and with no options for user expansion. Is sealed memory ultimately acceptable and, if so, is it possible to calculate a healthy minimum for 2014 devices?
Most readers know me as someone prepared to enter into debate on the subjects of form factor and smartphone design, but also having my own distinct preferences. You'll remember an in depth feature I did on the subject of sealed vs removeable batteries? It's fair to say that, personally, I come down on the 'removeable' side of the fence - yet I find myself, in December 2013, using a sealed design for my primary device. In this feature, hopefully of interest to both AAS and AAWP readers, I examine my objections to 'sealed' and ask which of them, if any, are still showstoppers.
The battle to preserve personal and secure data across mobile platforms goes on. You may remember that I went on an exploratory trip around every secure database system recently, with no satisfactory conclusion. Is it too much to expect to be able to take my PINs, my ID numbers, my software serial numbers, my secrets, from platform to platform? It may be too early to call off the search completely, but a solution is emerging that looks future proof and promising.
Regular listeners to the 361 Degrees podcast will have heard many times of Rafe's legendary 'six year rule', when referring to smartphone platforms and ecosystems. With Blackberry seemingly imploding before our eyes, with Nokia having been snapped up recently by Microsoft and with Symbian increasingly being forgotten in the marketplace, I thought it worth both expanding on Rafe's rule of thumb and also charting it graphically. A mosquito lives for a week, a hamster for a year or two, smartphone operating systems about six or seven years, and (happily) human beings about 70 to 80 years. Life and death, all in 1000 words? It can only be an All About (sites) editorial....