The History of Android

Android‘s box of sweets has gotten much more diverse since launching its first dessert-themed operating system, Cupcake, in 2009.

Mobile app developers [x]cubelabs have laid out a timeline of these versions — from Cupcake to Ice Cream Sandwich — in the infographic below.

What updates do you think were most influential? At what point did you decide that Android was or wasn’t the right OS for you?




Google Triples the Speed of the +1 Button

The +1 button is about to get a whole lot faster, thanks to an update Google rolled out on Tuesday.

“We’ve begun to roll out out a set of changes that will make the button render up to 3x faster on your site,” software engineer David Byttow said in a blog post. “No action is required on your part, so just sit back, relax, and watch as the button loads more quickly than before.”

In addition to the speed boost, Google also introduced new code that speeds up the +1 button via an asynchronous code snippet. The code allows a web page to load with the +1 JavaScript code in parallel. The result is another improvement in page load time. The code is available on the +1 configuration page.

The +1 button is Google’s answer to Facebook’s Like Button. Since its launch, it has quickly gained adoption, and one report even claims its more widespread than the Twitter Tweet Button.

15 Inch Mac Book Air

Apple is putting the finishing touches on a 15-inch ultra-portable MacBook Air/Pro hybrid that could make its debut this holiday season, according to multiple reports.

While Macrumors is scant on details about the next-generation Apple computer, it is likely to drop the optical disc drive and utilize a solid state drive instead of a hard disk drive. These are two of the MacBook Air‘s defining features.

A follow-up report from TUAW corroborates the Macrumors report. In addition, TUAW claims that the new device will be part of the MacBook Pro product line and not the MacBook Air family. It also claims that a 17-inch model is also being developed and that both models could make their debut during the 2011 holiday season.

Apple unveiled new 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs last week to critical acclaim. In addition to new Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, the refreshed ultra-portables contain Thunderbolt ports, backlit keyboards and OS X Lion. The tech titan refreshed the MacBook Pro line in February with faster processors and Thunderbolt ports.

If Apple really intends to slim down the MacBook Pro line and switch out the HDD for the SSD, it will have to find a way to keep the price down while giving customers comparable disk storage options. Or perhaps the 15-inch ultra-portable is the start of a new line of MacBooks that combine the portability of the Air with the power of the Pro.

We won’t know for sure until we get closer to the holiday season. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and try to get some answers.

Google+ reaches 20 Million Mark in 3 Weeks

Google’s new Social Networking site Google+ has reached a massive 20 million subscribers, as almost everyone wants in on the action.  Its just been a week since Google’s Larry Page said that Google plus reached 10 million. Page noted at the time that the service remains in a “field trial” mode, and with “a lot of barriers” to use it right now, but that the company is continuing to expand how many have access to it.

Despite its massive growth in its first three weeks, a population of 20 million is just a grain of sand in comparison with Facebook’s 750 million, half of whom log in daily.

HOW TO: Do a Clean Install of OS X Lion

OS X Lion is now available from the Mac App Store and we know that many of you are preparing or have already started downloading and installing the new cat.

Because installation takes place entirely from within the Mac App Store, the usual “clean install” option isn’t present. If you’ve followed our guide for preparing your Mac for Lion, you’re probably in good shape to proceed with an upgrade. If, however, you long for the ability to do a clean install without having to first install Snow Leopard and THEN install Lion.

If you want to create a bootable USB stick or burn a DVD of OS X Lion, read along.

A Facebook Game for Your Inner Serial Killer

Those of you who have a need to satisfy the Dark Passenger within — and who know what that means — will find relief in “Dexter Slice of Life”, a social game for Facebook that’s based on the decadently sinister Showtime series Dexter and its vigilante serial killer.

Showtime released a trailer and screenshot for Slice of Life, developed by Ecko Code, at Comic-Con. The game will be released in September.

The game will launch on Facebook alongside the Season 6 television premiere. Players will take on the role of Dexter Morgan — the serial killer of serial killers — and they’ll be tasked with stalking victims, satisfying the dark passenger, finding evidence and completing missions. It’s the first Facebook game to offer real-time stealth gameplay.

The game will mirror the events of each new episode. In fact, “Dexter Slice of Life” players can expect to awake to updates Monday after each Sunday evening airing.

Ecko, a game publisher for more than a decade, has no intentions of disappointing Dexter fans. To that end, his team will use a variety of social media analysis tools to figure out the story lines, characters and show moments that are resonating with fans in real time. The idea, says Ecko, is to blur the lines between the show’s content and gameplay.

“This is a living, breathing narrative-based consumer product, no different than the show,” says Ecko. “[Fans] want it and expect it to be as good as the show.”

“Slice of Life,” inspired by Zynga’s social games, takes the casual genre to the next level. Ecko calls it “Cas-Core gaming” — a blend of casual (because it’s on Facebook) and hardcore games (because all the game assets are built in a 3D massively multiplayer online client).

Some trivia for non-fans: “Dexter Slice of Life” gets its name from the name of the boat the show’s lead character uses to dispose of the bodies he kills and dismembers. Something tells us this game won’t be much like your typical casual game.

Check out the game trailer above and the screenshot below, and let us know your thoughts on the soon-to-be released Facebook game.

Top Tips For Optimising Your Online Presence

It can be fairly straightforward today to create an online presence for your company and this can even be done overnight (albeit in a simple manner), but what is more challenging to digital marketers is making the most of their online presence and using it to increase revenue and build brand awareness.

Here are a few of my top tips to help your company get the best results it can:

The Customer
Most importantly, remember that websites are all about enhancing the customer experience so that customers engage more effectively with your brand. View all visitors to your website as customers (regardless of what you sell) and ensure you have the necessary services in place to make them happy. The best way to do this is to live test different strategies to see the real-time results. This way you can effectively see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

It’s also important to consider what your competitors are doing online. Take a look at their online presence (such as website, Twitter, smartphone app, eBay store, Facebook, mobile site) and channels they are using to push their brand and sales. Take note of what you think works well or doesn’t work well and why. Also, analyse the channels that are being used and identify how well they engage with the customer.

Be App Savvy
With the rise in smartphone apps, it is easy to get distracted and dive head first into the ‘cool’ channels such as building an all-singing all-dancing app. But often it is more important – and cheaper – to concentrate on other online areas first. There is no point building an expensive app and then having a poor online presence elsewhere because the app can end up being a burden. Mobile websites can be a more important resource than apps depending on your industry. For example, increasing numbers of web users are banking online, but it’s no good having a smartphone app allowing customers to check their account balance if the counterpart mobile site isn’t accessible enough to allow user-friendly money transfers.

Web and mobile analytics are essential to monitor the success of new and existing channels. It sounds obvious, but there is no point in having an online strategy if you don’t monitor it. There is plenty of insightful data out there and it’s important to make the most it by analysing what the data reveals about visitor habits. This data will tell you a lot about what areas you need to improve, add or promote, and just how customers are engaging with your brand.

Decide on a Social Media Strategy
It can be too easy to set up numerous accounts across numerous networks and leave them to go stale or only update them occasionally. Think about how you will use Twitter as a marketing tool. Will you use Twitter primarily as a marketing tool, or will it be used for sales and customer service too? Also, investigate the best ways for your company to make the most of social commerce – an area which is set to be a rapid grower in 2011.

Stay Ahead of the Game
Finally, don’t forget that online channels are continually changing. Don’t assume that one update here and there once a year is enough. Regularly track how your online strategy is faring and explore any new developments that might be relevant.

Mobile Hacking: How Safe Is Your Smartphone?

New instances of phone hacking seem to emerge from Rupert Murdoch’s empire on a daily basis. But are the reports of interest beyond Murdoch and his detractors? Should you, as a consumer, fear that your phone will be hacked?

Not yet. Experts say that it’s still fairly easy to hack into your phone, but unless you’re a celebrity, you’re unlikely to be a target. Don’t get too comfortable, though. The era of safe mobile computing may be coming to an end as smartphones and other mobile devices become more popular than PCs.

For the moment, however, phone hacking is the farm team version of big league PC hacking. Methods — particularly in the case of the Murdoch charges which stretch back a decade in some cases — are pretty old school. Robert Siciliano, a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert, says probably the most prevalent way people hack phones is via “social engineering,” a.k.a. lying. For instance, a would-be hacker might call you and pose as the phone company saying they need to update your account and need your password. Or the hacker might get enough of your information to call the phone company and pose as you.

Steve Santorelli, director of global outreach at the Internet security research group Team Cymru, and former Scotland Yard police officer, says that the Murdoch phone hacks probably didn’t even take that much effort. It’s likely, he says, that the victims left a default password provided by the carrier on their phone and the hackers merely guessed correctly. Santorelli says that some carriers still use default passwords. Lesson: Change your passwords often.

There are, of course, more technologically savvy ways to hack your phone as well. A would-be hacker, for instance, might get a bit of information about your account and send a phishing email purportedly from your carrier asking you to log in. At that point they will have your password and other sensitive information. Smartphones also provide an opportunity to install monitoring software. iPhone owners are probably the safest in that regard, unless they jailbreak their phones, Siciliano says. Android users are less secure since publishers can upload their apps directly to Android Market. In March, hackers added malicious code to 58 Android apps, infecting 250,000 phones. “Android is more vulnerable because it’s a more open system,” says Siciliano. “While Google does vet its apps, some do slip by that are malicious.”

Once an app is installed, it can record all your calls and texts and, depending on what kind of apps you have and what you do with your phone, possibly get personal data related to banking and credit cards. There are other possibilities as well. A hacker could commandeer your phone into sending thousands of texts or making calls beyond your monthly minutes, causing you to rack up huge bills.

Such attacks are still pretty rare.”The low hanging fruit is still the PC,” says Siciliano. “If you are a criminal hacker, Microsoft’s OS is the most hacked software on the planet.” Yet that could be changing quickly. A recent survey by Flurry showed that consumers are now spending more time on mobile apps than on the web. Another by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers estimated that combined tablet and smartphone shipments eclipsed those of desktops and laptops this year for the first time.

Security firms have taken notice. Market research firm Infonetics predicts sales of mobile security software will grow 50% each year through 2014, when it will hit $2 billion. AT&T also plans to start selling a security offering to customers next year.

In short, sometime soon phone hacks may not just be Hugh Grant’s problem. Says Santorelli: “If I had money right now, I’d bet on the Russian mafia. Mobile hacking is going to be huge.”

Microsoft Redesigns Bing Maps Interface

Microsoft has rolled out a redesign of the Bing Maps interface, consolidating most of the task and navigation options in a control bar on top of the page.

You can now use the top bar to change the type of view, activate traffic information and streetside view, get directions, load map apps, and print and share the current location on the map. Some options and controls are also still available in the sidebar on the left, which can be opened and closed at will.

The new interface will change according to where you are; for example, if you’re accessing Bing Maps from the UK, you will see an extra “London Street Map” option in the top bar.

Finally, if you use a browser that supports the W3C Geolocation API (such as the latest version of Firefox), you’ll see a button called “locate me” that looks like a target, located at the top left of the map. Click on it, and the browser will center the map to your current location.

How do you like the new Bing Maps interface? Do you like it more than Google Maps?

Google+ About To Hit 10 Million Users

Google’s social network, Google+, might be one of the fastest-growing networks ever, having already reached 10 million users according to one estimate.

Paul Allen, of — not to be confused with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen — has developed an interesting methodology to calculate the number of Google+ members.

He sampled a number of surnames from the U.S. Census Bureau data and compared it to surnames of Google+ users. By comparing surname popularity in the U.S. with the number of users on Google+ with each surname, he can guesstimate the percentage of the U.S. population that signed up for Google+. Finally, he calculated a ratio of U.S. to non-U.S. users to generate an estimate for the number of Google+ users worldwide.

The result? Google+ has approximately 9.5 million users worldwide, with 2.2 million joining in the past 32 to 34 hours, according to Allen’s estimates.

This is amazing growth even for a giant such as Google: We cannot remember any social network reaching so many members so quickly after its release.

Coming from a third party, the data is obviously unofficial (we asked Google for comment on these numbers, but haven’t heard from them) and should be taken with a grain of salt. If they’re true, though, they indicate that — after so many stumbles — Google might finally be conquering the social networking arena.