Yesterday, Canonical, the people behind the development of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution for desktop and laptops made an announcement that they would be putting Ubuntu on phones later this year or early next year. This will mark a significant change in the development of Ubuntu Linux specifically and Linux in general.
While this is not as revolutionary as when the first iPhones hit the market, it is important to note that the release of Ubuntu for smartphones will be an interesting development in the market segment. Provided the user interface is of as high quality as that on iOS and Android, it can provide a significant alternative to not only iOS and Android devices, but also the range of Windows Phone devices that are fighting for market and mind share in this segment.
This may sound like a wild imagination, but a smartphone that would support multiple user accounts could be an interesting change from what is currently available. This could facilitate several spaces in which a user could run applications. For example, one space could be dedicated to running experimental software, another for running day to day smartphone tasks and yet another could be for running corporate applications for work.
What could also appeal to the developer community could be the mention of some sort of control of device configurations so that the market becomes more addressable. I am not sure how this might translate into reality, but I can see that the benefit of developing for iOS and Windows Phone is the limited number of screen resolutions and device configurations that a developer has to address.
This year will prove to be an interesting one for developers as the Mozilla Foundation is also readying their own Gecko-based phone.
I have been an Android enthusiast since I got my first Android phone, the HTC Legend. Even though I am a big fan of Apple computer hardware, I have found that Apple’s iPhone and iPad a little less inspiring. As for smartphones in general, though, it is the apps that makes a platform useful and usable. I would like to list some of the apps that I use often. I will list them here, but not in any particular order.
- Facebook A lot of my friends are on Facebook so it makes keeping in touch and staying social an easy task. It has gotten a little faster since the last update, but it used to be infuriatingly slow, especially for photos.
- Facebook Messenger If a lot of your friends are on Facebook, there really is no point in finding out their phone numbers and then sending them text messages. Why not just use the Messenger as your text message replacement. It will also save you money if you text a lot, as long as your phone or tablet has a reasonable amount of data included per month.
- Chrome One of the things I really liked about Android was the ability to have your bookmarks synced across the different devices. Using Chrome, I can have my bookmarks synchronised across my Windows 7 desktop, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Android Phone and Android Tablet. I can discover an interesting resource while I’m on the move and I can bookmark it for reading later when I get home. The other thing I like about Chrome is its speed.
- Evernote Do you need to keep a note of things on a regular basis? Evernote is the application that I use on a regular basis to keep track of little tidbits of information. If there’s anything that is a little sensitive, you can also encrypt them for extra security. This app can keep text, recording, images and just about anything you throw at it as notes that get synchronised to all your other devices. I can write a shopping list on my Macbook Pro and then walk out with my phone to use the list which auto-magically appears on the Evernote client on my phone.
- Skitch Is a useful app for making diagrams, notes and other graphically-oriented notes. You can annotate images, screenshots or acquire an image using the camera. I have used it to explain concepts, create simple flowcharts, wireframes and other graphically-oriented tasks.
- StumbleUpon A perfect app for those who like to discover new websites. This app will take you to many different sites recommended by other uses in categories. All you need to do is create an account and pick your categories. It is much better in app form than as a browser toolbar.
- Autodesk Sketchbook Express If, like me, you like to sketch on the go or when inspired, you can use this app to create your sketches. It supports layers (like photoshop) and it has support for many different types of brushes. The only thing that it does not have is pressure sensitivity, due to the nature of the touchscreen on the devices.
- Astro File Manager Unlike IOS devices, Android devices have an actual file system, which is Unix-like in structure. Astro has a lot of tools to help you move, copy or organise your files on your device. It also has support for Samba shares, FTP and Bluetooth transfers through extensions.
- Barcode Scanner This is one of the basic apps to use for scanning barcodes and QR codes. There are plenty of them in the Google Play Store, but this is one of the better ones (ad free and no nagging).
- Google Drive I use Google Docs a lot for writing documents and sharing them with people. I use Google Drive on the go so I can read, edit and maybe write a little on my tablet or smartphone.
- Dropbox I use Dropbox to set my photos to upload as I take them on the phone. This is also a handy way to move files if you absolutely have to only use network connections.
- WordPress Wordpress is very useful for updating your WordPress blogs on the go. What more can I say?
In the last few months, I have noticed that a lot of the websites that I have visited have been offering apps. It gets quite annoying after a while, as every time I visit the website, I am greeted by a modal pop-over asking me if I would like to install their app. The pop-over, invariably has a very large button to take you to Google Play Store (formerly known as “Android Market”) with a quite small link underneath it with a “continue to website” text. Continue reading