Tom Warren, The Verge, 5/1/15
After months of rumors, Microsoft is revealing its plans to get mobile apps on Windows 10 today. While the company has been investigating emulating Android apps, it has settled on a different solution, or set of solutions, that will allow developers to bring their existing code to Windows 10.
iOS and Android developers will be able to port their apps and games directly to Windows universal apps, and Microsoft is enabling this with two new software development kits. On the Android side, Microsoft is enabling developers to use Java and C++ code on Windows 10, and for iOS developers they’ll be able to take advantage of their existing Objective C code. “We want to enable developers to leverage their current code and current skills to start building those Windows applications in the Store, and to be able to extend those applications,” explained Microsoft’s Terry Myerson during an interview with The Verge this morning.
The idea is simple, the execution is a little more complex
The idea is simple, get apps on Windows 10 without the need for developers to rebuild them fully for Windows. While it sounds simple, the actual process will be a little more complicated than just pushing a few buttons to recompile apps. “Initially it will be analogous to what Amazon offers,” notes Myerson, referring to the Android work Microsoft is doing. “If they’re using some Google API… we have created Microsoft replacements for those APIs.” Microsoft’s pitch to developers is to bring their code across without many changes, and then eventually leverage the capabilities of Windows like Cortana, Xbox Live, Holograms, Live Tiles, and more. Microsoft has been testing its new tools with some key developers like King, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, to get games ported across to Windows. Candy Crush Saga as it exists today on Windows Phone has been converted from iOS code using Microsoft’s tools without many modifications.
During Microsoft’s planning for bringing iOS and Android apps to Windows, Myerson admits it wasn’t always an obvious choice to have both. “At times we’ve thought, let’s just do iOS,” Myerson explains. “But when we think of Windows we really think of everyone on the planet. There’s countries where iOS devices aren’t available.” Supporting both Android and iOS developers allows Microsoft to capture everyone who is developing for mobile platforms right now, even if most companies still continue to target iOS first and port their apps to Android at the same time or shortly afterward. By supporting iOS developers, Microsoft wants to be third in line for these ported apps, and that’s a better situation than it faces today.
Alongside the iOS and Android SDKs, Microsoft is also revealing ways for websites and Windows desktop apps to make their way over to Windows universal apps. Microsoft has created a way for websites to run inside a Windows universal app, and use system services like notifications and in-app purchases. This should allow website owners to easily create web apps without much effort, and list those apps in the Windows Store. It’s not the best alternative to a native app for a lot of scenarios, but for simple websites it offers up a new way to create an app without its developers having to learn new code languages. Microsoft is also looking toward existing Windows desktop app developers with Windows 10. Developers will be able to leverage their .NET and Win32 work and bring this to Windows universal apps. “Sixteen million .NET and Win32 apps are still being used every month on Windows 7 and Windows 8,” explains Myerson, so it’s clear Microsoft needs to get these into Windows 10.
Microsoft is using some of its HyperV work to virtualize these existing desktop apps on Windows 10. Adobe is one particular test case where Microsoft has been working closely with the firm to package its apps ready for Windows 10. Adobe Photoshop Elements is coming to the Windows Store as a universal app, using this virtualization technology. Performance is key for many desktop apps, so it will be interesting to see if Microsoft has managed to maintain a fluid app experience with this virtualization.
“A set of bridges to Windows 10″
Collectively, Microsoft is referring to these four new SDKs as bridges or ramps to get developers interested in Windows 10. It’s a key moment for the company to really win back developers and prove that Windows is still relevant in a world that continues to be dominated by Android and iOS. The aim, as Myerson puts it, is to get Windows 10 on 1 billion devices within the next two to three years. That’s a big goal, and the company will need the support of developers and apps to help it get there.
These SDKs will generate questions among Microsoft’s core development community, especially those who invested heavily in the company’s Metro-style design and the unique features of Windows apps in the past. The end result for consumers is, hopefully, more apps, but for developers it’s a question of whether to simply port their existing iOS and Android work across and leave it at that, or extend those apps to use Windows features or even some design elements. “We want to structure the platform so it’s not an all or nothing,” says Myerson. “If you use everything together it’s beautiful, but that’s not required to get started.”
Microsoft still has the tricky mix of ported apps to contend with, and that could result in an app store similar to Amazon’s, or even one where developers still aren’t interested in porting. This is just the beginning, and Windows universal apps, while promising, still face a rocky and uncertain future.
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: API, SDK
Monica Alleven, FierceWireless, 4/24/15
Finally and officially, Google has unwrapped its “Project Fi” MVNO in partnership with Sprint and T-Mobile US.
Currently, the service work only with a special SIM card for Google’s Nexus 6 smartphone, which was designed by Motorola Mobility, and the service is by invitation-only at this stage.
But it’s got some snazzy technology that the industry has talked about for years but struggled to take mainstream. Google said its technology intelligently connects customers to the fastest available network at their location, whether it’s Wi-Fi or an LTE network. Project Fi automatically connects users to more than 1 million free, open Wi-Fi hotspots that Google says it has verified as fast and reliable and that Google will encrypt once a user is connected, reports DroidLive. The system uses a virtual private network (VPN)–no password required, which is a key part of making the service consumer-friendly.
If a customer leaves an area of Wi-Fi coverage, Google says calls will seamlessly transition from Wi-Fi to cellular, and the customer’s phone number lives in the cloud.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Cloud, LTE, Sprint, T-Mobile, WiFi
Lynn La, CNET news, 4/23/15
Curious about Wi-Fi calling and what it entails? CNET has the rundown on what you need to know
In addition to offering customers a cheaper alternative to their phone plans, one of the main draws of Google’s newly launched Project Fi service is that it will seamlessly switch a user’s phone service from cellular to Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi calling is nothing new; apps like Skype, Google Hangouts and WhatsApp make it easier for smartphone users to place calls over the Internet and forgo mobile networks altogether. But as this option becomes increasingly more beneficial to users, carriers have shown increasing interest in adopting Wi-Fi calling themselves. Whether it’s because they want to bolster their network coverage or improve user experience, some US carriers already provide the service, and now Google has jumped into the ring as well.
To help you make sense of what Wi-Fi calling is, why it’s important, and what you can use it for, CNET put together a handy guide to walk you through everything you need to know.
Editors’ Note: This piece has been updated on April 22, 2015 with clarification from T-Mobile and information about Google’s Project Fi initiative.
What is Wi-Fi calling?
Instead of using your carrier’s network connection, users can make voice calls through a Wi-Fi network. That can include a Wi-Fi connection you have set up at home, or whatever Wi-Fi hotspot you happen to be on when you’re out and about, such as a cafe or library. In most ways, it’s like any other normal call, and you still use regular phone numbers.
Why would I want that?
Wi-Fi calling is especially useful when you’re in an area with weak carrier coverage. For example, when you’re traveling to the residential countryside, or you’re in a building with spotty reception. You may already be familiar with using Wi-Fi to send messages when SMS texting is unavailable (apps like Kik and Facebook Messenger provide these services) — and the same applies for when you’re trying to place a call. With Wi-Fi, you can call a friend up even if you’re in a dingy, underground bar (assuming you can connect to the bar’s Wi-Fi, that is.)
Isn’t that what Skype does?
In a way, yes. There are various services including Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that provide what’s known under the umbrella term as “voice over Internet” to make calls with either a Wi-Fi or data connection.
Carrier-branded Wi-Fi calling is a bit different, however. It’s baked directly into the phone’s dialer, so you don’t need to fire up an app or connect to a service to use it. You can set it as your default way of placing a call, or if you lose phone signal, it will automatically switch to Wi-Fi calling.
Because the service is built-in, that also means you don’t need to add contacts to a service as you do with Skype. You’ll have access to your existing phone book, and your friends can receive your Wi-Fi call without needing to download a third-party app. With no contacts to add, carrier Wi-Fi calling requires little effort to set up.
What carriers and phones support this service?
Of the four major US carriers, only T-Mobile and Sprint provide built-in Wi-Fi calling. Though no official timeline has been set, Verizon and AT&T have confirmed plans to offer the service, with the latter stating it will launch sometime in 2015. In addition, Republic Wireless provides Wi-Fi calling by default on its handsets, and users get support from Sprint’s network if connection is unavailable.
Currently, T-Mobile has 18 smartphones that support this option, including the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Edge; the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S, and 5C; the HTC One M9; the LG G3, G2, and Optimus L90; and the Microsoft Lumia 640.
As for Sprint, Wi-Fi calling is available on the iPhone 6 Plus, 6, 5S and 5C only if its iOS software is updated to v8.3. A number of Android devices have the service as well, but to see if yours has it, you’ll need to check through the handset’s Settings menu.
Does it cost more?
It doesn’t cost any extra as such, but making calls over Wi-Fi can come out of your regular minutes allowance depending on your carrier, your phone plan and which country you’re calling to/from. Under T-Mobile’s specific “Simple Choice Plan,” for example, Wi-Fi calling does not impact minutes. But be sure to check with T-Mobile and Sprint’s policies to see if any of their potential restrictions and charges relate to your situation.
If you’re running out of minutes, then using services like Skype or WhatsApp will help you avoid incurring any additional charges.
Can I use it overseas without paying huge amounts?
Again, that depends. T-Mobile lets you make and receive Wi-Fi calls for free between 120 countries. Sprint customers won’t be charged for calls made to, from, or between the US, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but they will be charged “international calling plan rates” for other countries. Republic Wireless only supports Wi-Fi calling for the US and Canada. Other than that, the carrier has no international support, which includes no support for Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.
If you’re going abroad and want to keep in touch, its best to stick with Skype and WhatsApp when you’re connected to a building or hotel’s Wi-Fi. You can use data, but remember that it will cost you a lot if you’re roaming on cellular networks. If you don’t have a roaming plan, make sure you only use Wi-Fi and turn off data roaming in your Settings before heading out.
Do I need a fast Wi-Fi connection?
Though the higher throughput you have the better your connection will be, a minimum of 1Mbps should be enough to patch a solid call through. Republic Wireless reports that it can hold a call with 80kbps, but the quality may decrease and you’ll experience more dropped calls as well.
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: HTC, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, WiFi
Phil Goldstein, FierceWireless, 4/21/15
Will Comcast, Cablevision, Google and other companies take a “Wi-Fi first” approach to compete with traditional wireless carriers on a large scale across the U.S.? Probably not, according to BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk.
MVNOs and MSOs are taking more of a liking to using Wi-Fi as the primary means of connectivity and falling back to cellular only when Wi-Fi is not available. Some, like Cablevision’s Freewheel service, rely solely on Wi-Fi. Google’s forthcoming MVNO will reportedly flit between Wi-Fi networks and the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile US, depending on which one provides the best signal.
The Wi-Fi-first movement “has gained a lot of proponents, but it’s debatable whether cable operators can offload enough traffic to enable a viable strategy,” Piecyk wrote. Indeed, he noted that Telenet, which is 57 percent owned by Liberty Global, has one of most successful Wi-Fi-first strategies, with nearly 1 million customers and over 20 percent EBITDA margins. The company has deployed more than 2,000 carrier-grade Wi-Fi hotspots in Flanders, and it signed an MVNO deal with Mobistar for usage outside of these Wi-Fi hotspots.
Despite the success of that strategy, Telenet decided to buy KPN’s Belgian mobile unit BASE for $1.42 billion (€1.325 billion). “As we will gain owner economics in mobile, this transaction will allow us to continue to meet changing customer demands,” Telenet CEO John Porter said yesterday on a call with investors, according to BTIG. “By acquiring Base we will have more control over future investments and product innovation and will be less exposed to variable data costs, giving us increased long-term financial certainty.”
Piecyk wrote that the BASE deal “could provide an early warning to cable operators in the United States that believe they can rely on” a Wi-Fi-first or Wi-Fi-only strategy. He noted that achieving a robust Wi-Fi footprint is a bigger challenge in the United States than Europe because the United States is so much bigger geographically.
“We believe that American consumers have a greater expectation and willingness to consume data in broader geographic areas, largely because they have purchased data in large buckets from the beginning,” Piecyk wrote. “Conversely, the European customer, which has a high mix of prepaid users, has historically had their usage metered, whether for voice or data usage. Vodafone, with its Red plans, and other operators are trying to shift customers to data buckets to stimulate higher usage, but searching for available hotspots might always be a consumer activity more common in Europe than the United States.”
If a Wi-Fi-first model does not satisfy the goals of Comcast or Google, Piecyk wrote, “an acquisition of T-Mobile or Sprint might be an alternative solution.”
“We recently downgraded Sprint over confusion about its strategy, but we can’t rule out SoftBank’s CEO Masa Son’s willingness to sell what has been a disappointing investment,” Piecyk added. “Masa might also be frustrated with his inability to purchase T-Mobile based on the pushback by regulators. We are well aware of Masa’s 300-year plan and the great respect that investors have for him, but we would still not rule out Sprint’s sale. Conversely, an acquisition of T-Mobile would immediately put a focus on Dish, which owns the additional spectrum that would be of intense interest to any large cash buyer of T-Mobile.”
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Sprint, T-Mobile, WiFi
, Engadget, 4/21/15
Google announced in February that it would start highlighting mobile-friendly sites on phone searches — today, that update is finally here. Now, when you search Google on your phone, you’re more likely to see results that are optimized for smaller screens, rather than desktop sites that require a lot of tapping and zooming. Basically, it’s a kick in the pants to lazy web developers who haven’t yet catered to the growing number of mobile internet users. The update only applies to phones — not tablets — and Google notes that it affects individual pages, not entire sites. It also won’t stop desktop sites from showing up in mobile searches if they rank highly enough. You can test the mobile friendliness of your site with this test, or by running the Google’s Mobile Usability Report on your site. Naturally, if you don’t spruce up your site, you can expect a drop in mobile traffic from Google.
In: Android, Mobile Technology
Frederic Lardinois, TechCrunch, 4/17/15
Google’s mobile search results on Android will now prompt you to install mobile apps that feature content relevant to your search query. This essentially turns Google’s mobile search results page into an app discovery service and will likely be a major boon for mobile developers.
Given the overall shift to mobile, good content now often lives inside of apps, where search engines can’t typically find it. To fix this, Google introduced App indexing in late 2013, which let the search engine index content from a select number of apps and link to it from its search results pages. In this first version, users had to have the apps already installed on their phones, though. Over time, Google will open this program to all developers; earlier this year, it started highlighting content from apps in its Google Now Cards.
Today’s update takes the concept of App indexing to its next logical step by helping users find relevant content in apps they don’t already have on their phones.
The App Indexing project now features more than 30 billion deep links — a number Google shared for the first time today, though the company wouldn’t disclose how many developers have implemented this feature in their apps.
Here is what all of this will look like in practice: say you are searching for a recipe and Google’s algorithms determine that there is an app that has just the right recipe for black forest cake for you. You will now see a carousel with relevant apps and a prominent install button right next to them. From there, you’re taken to the Google Play store to install the app. Once the app is installed, you simply click “continue” and the app will open with the content you were looking for.
This is going to be a huge deal for mobile app developers. App discovery, after all, is still very much an unsolved problem and anything that gets an install button for a relevant app in front of more people (especially if there’s no need to pay for it) is a good thing.
“The goal is for developers to continue to create great content in apps and create deep links into that content so users who have particular questions can directly access that content,” Rajan Patel, a Google principal engineer on the team responsible for this project, told me.
Patel also told me that the team is looking at how it can grow this project beyond Android, but he couldn’t share any specifics at this point.
In: Android, Mobile Technology
, Gizmodo, 4/16/15
I lose my phone in more stupid places than I can possibly count. I seriously considered installing a landline so that I can call my phone the three times per day it goes missing. But Google just made something even better. Type three magic words into search, and you’ll find your missing handset.
Type “find my phone” into Google, and provided you’re logged into your browser with the same Google account as your phone, you’ll instantly get a map of its location, along with the option to ring it.
To get at more serious settings — like the option to wipe your phone, before anyone can Facebook those nudes — you’ll still need Android Device Manager installed. But if you’ve lost your phone down the back of the couch (or had a particularly immemorial night out), a Google browser is all you need from now on.
In: Mobile Technology
Julie Bort, Business Insider, 4/16/15
Last month, Microsoft announced an interesting deal to pre-load three of Microsoft apps onto Samsung’s new flagship Android phone, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
But it looks like two of the nation’s largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, were not totally cool with the arrangement, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The apps in question are Skype; Microsoft’s note-taking app OneNote; and Microsoft’s cloud storage app OneDrive.
Verizon’s S6 phones won’t include the Microsoft apps, sources tell the WSJ. And the ones sold by AT&T will include OneNote and Skype but not OneDrive.
If users want them, they’ll have to download them from Google’s app store.
Microsoft, naturally, would prefer that the apps wind up automatically in front of all those people who buy Samsung’s Android devices.
In fact, it also struck up a deal to include Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, as well as OneNote, Skype and OneDrive preinstalled on Samsung tablets as well as a bunch of other devices by nearly a dozen other Android device makers.
Spokespeople for Samsung, Verizon and AT&T wouldn’t explain to the WSJ why they won’t pre-install the apps. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment, but the company didn’t illuminate why in its comment to the Journal, saying it’s “working with its partners” to “bring the best of its productivity services to everyone.”
However, we do know that smartphone users are not especially keen on having a bunch of pre-installed apps on their phones, just like PC users are not thrilled with a lot of unasked-for apps on their computers. That kind of thing is often called “bloatware.”
Samsung had promised users it was going to let people delete unwanted apps from its Android devices. And according to a developer who claimed to have an early version of the S6 Edge, Samsung seemed to be serious about that promise.
The developer’s phone was letting him delete just about all of the pre-installed apps, including Gmail, Drive, even Google search, pictures posted by the developer showed.
Google doesn’t sell the Android operating system. It gives it away to device makers and makes its money on search, shopping and other apps baked into Android. So if users delete its apps from Samsung phones that would not make Google happy.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: AT&T, Samsung, Verizon
Anne Morris, FierceWireless, 4/13/15
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE Advanced (LTE-A) are among the hottest mobile network trends right now for operators, and deployments are rising across the globe.
According to the latest update from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) on LTE, mobile operators are increasingly embracing the benefits brought by VoLTE such as HD voice, which they can exploit as a way to further differentiate their services.
Alan Hadden, VP of research at the GSA, said: “Interest in VoLTE has surged and over twice as many operators are investing in VoLTE compared to a year ago. Sixteen operators have launched HD voice service enabled by VoLTE in seven countries, compared to only three launched in March 2014. Many more launches will happen in 2015.”
Meanwhile LTE-A deployments are continuing apace, with 116 operators–equivalent to around 30 per cent–investing in carrier aggregation technology. The GSA noted that 64 operators have commercially launched LTE-A services in 39 countries. The total number of LTE launches now stands at 393 in 138 countries, prompting the GSA to raise its year-end forecast to 460 commercially launched LTE networks in 2015.
In terms of spectrum, the most widely used spectrum for LTE network deployments continues to be 1800 MHz (3GPP band 3). Some 176 LTE1800 networks–almost 50 per cent higher than a year ago–have been commercially launched in 86 countries. The 1800 MHz band is used in 45 per cent of LTE network deployments. In addition, 43 per cent of LTE user terminals are able to operate in the 1800 MHz band. The next most popular contiguous band for LTE deployments is 2.6 GHz (band 7), which is used in almost 25 per cent of networks.
In sub-1 GHz spectrum, the 800 MHz band (band 20) is by far the most popular choice for LTE with one in five operators globally currently using this spectrum.
The GSA also highlighted the increased usage of the 700 MHz band (band 28) for LTE: 10 operators have commercially launched LTE using this spectrum. Indeed, the Asia Pacific Telecommunity 700 MHz or APT700 band plan is hailed as a key coverage band for LTE with near-global market potential.
To date, 42 countries have allocated, committed to or recommended APT700 band 28 spectrum f or LTE deployments, in markets approaching 4 billion people, the GSA said. In addition, 76 APT700 user devices including smartphones, tablets, CPEs and MiFi hotspots have been announced.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: HD Voice, LTE, MiFi, VoLTE
Phil Goldstein, FierceWireless, 4/13/15
Wi-Fi calling service is coming to Apple’s iPhone. The carrier said that starting today, Sprint customers with an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5s and 5c will get access to the feature via an over-the-air software update that will be distributed over the next week.
Sprint said that with the addition of the iPhones into Sprint’s roster of Wi-Fi calling devices, Sprint now has more than 25 smartphone models and more than 15 million customers with the ability to use Wi-Fi calling. Sprint has around 56 million total customers.
“Wi-Fi Calling is like a major expansion of our network, allowing Sprint customers to get coverage anywhere they have Wi-Fi connectivity,” David Owens, senior vice president of product development for Sprint, said in a statement. “Traditional wireless technology has some limitations in places like basements and high-rise office buildings. Wi-Fi expands our customer’s connectivity in a big way. The addition of Wi-Fi Calling for iPhone customers is just one more example of how Sprint is getting better every day.”
A key benefit for Sprint customers is that they can make calls on Wi-Fi networks if they don’t have a cellular signal. Customers can turn on Wi-Fi calling as an option in their settings when they have downloaded the software update.
Sprint spokeswoman Michelle Leff Mermelstein told FierceWireless that Wi-Fi calling on Sprint phones accesses the device’s native dialer. However, she noted that Wi-Fi-to-cellular handoff is “not smooth” and that if a customer initiates a call in a Wi-Fi coverage area and then leaves Wi-Fi coverage the call will likely drop.
Taqua and Kineto Wireless were the vendors for the launch of Sprint’s Wi-Fi calling service in 2014. Kineto’s Smart Wi-Fi client lets Sprint subscribers to use their voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. Taqua’s virtual mobile core system enables a handset to select between Wi-Fi and cellular, using the strongest signal for voice calls as well as messaging. Taqua acquired Kineto last year.
Sprint’s Wi-Fi calling supports calling from more than 200 countries and territories, but is not supported in certain countries, including Australia, China, Cuba, North Korea, India, Iran, Singapore, Sudan and Syria.
T-Mobile US has seen strong adoption of its Wi-Fi calling feature. According to Grant Castle, T-Mobile’s vice president of engineering services and QA, the operator now counts 7 million users of Wi-Fi calling. T-Mobile supported Wi-Fi calling on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when they launched last fall. T-Mobile also says its solution supports Wi-Fi-to-cellular handoffs.
Last fall T-Mobile made a big push for Wi-Fi calling by letting customers upgrade to a new Wi-Fi capable smartphone if they didn’t already have one. In addition, the carrier began offering Simple Choice postpaid customers a free proprietary “Cellspot” Wi-Fi router for their home to enhance their in-home coverage.
Verizon Wireless plans to introduce Wi-Fi calling in the middle of this year. The carrier’s VoLTE service is available nationwide but only on 16 devices.
Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T’s Mobile & Business Solutions Group, said last September that AT&T will launch Wi-Fi calling in 2015 but that the carrier will use it only as a complement to VoLTE or 3G-based calling. In December, AT&T announced that it had deployed VoLTE in parts of the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.