Mozilla’s love of web apps is more than obvious; we just haven’t had a real chance to try the Firefox Marketplace that represents a large part of the company’s app strategy. The doors are at last open for a peek, although Mozilla has chosen the unusual path of giving mobile users the first crack: Android users willing to live on the bleeding edge of an Aurora build of Firefox can browse and run those web apps in Mozilla’s store. Everyone else willing to venture into the Marketplace will have to wait until their own Firefox builds receive a matching update, including that rare group with access to Firefox OS. We’re not quite in a rush to try a first wave of apps in an alpha-grade browser. Should you be the sort who thinks that even beta releases are too sluggish, however, your gateway to the Marketplace awaits at the source links.
Earlier this morning, Google did the iOS crowd a generous favor by flipping the switch on its Street View service to help alleviate some of those Maps troubles, so it’s only natural to take care of the Android faithful as well. With that in mind, Google has updated its Gesture Search to be fully compatible with the ASUS-built Nexus 7, as well as improving the application’s UI, boosting search performance, adding support for more languages and allowing contacts without digits to now be searchable. The new version of Gesture Search can be downloaded now via Google Play, straight from your device or by simply using the link down below.
Sandia Labs’ MegaDroid project simulates 300,000 Android phones to fight wireless catastrophes (video)
We’ve seen some large-scale simulations, including some that couldn’t get larger. Simulated cellular networks are still a rare breed, however, which makes Sandia National Laboratories’ MegaDroid project all the more important. The project’s cluster of off-the-shelf PCs emulates a town of 300,000 Android phones down to their cellular and GPS behavior, all with the aim of tracing the wider effects of natural disasters, hacking attempts and even simple software bugs. Researchers imagine the eventually public tool set being useful not just for app developers, but for the military and mesh network developers — the kind who’d need to know how their on-the-field networks are running even when local authorities try to shut them down. MegaDroid is still very much an in-progress effort, although Sandia Labs isn’t limiting its scope to Android and can see its work as relevant to iOS or any other platform where a ripple in the network can lead to a tidal wave of problems.
When Huawei revealed its new MediaPad 7 Lite slate, it wasn’t generous with the details, but now we’ve got a few more to share with you. The final specifications are out, so we now know for sure that the ICS tab will arrive packing a 7-inch IPS display (1,024 x 600) supporting 1080p, a 1.2GHz Cortex A8 processor, 1GB RAM and 8 gigs of storage, expandable via microSD (up to the usual 32). To keep you connected, you’ve got Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi of the a/b/n varieties, or the option of sticking a SIM in it for HSPDA 3G speeds on the move. The cameras are nothing to shout about, but 3.2 megapixels on the back and 0.3 on the front will probably do for the odd Skype call or emergency picture. We can’t see how much later into August you can get, but the PR states shipping will begin then, to South Africa, China, Russia, the Philippines and Taiwan, and to Indonesia and Malaysia in September. Seven inches just not enough? Then how about its keyboard-endowed bigger brother?
Firefox 15 is barely fresh off the vine, and we’re already looking at a beta version 16 for both desktop platforms and Android. Mozilla’s test release builds in the first support for web apps that play nicely with the Mozilla Marketplace; as long as titles have a slight amount of extra formatting, they can slot into Firefox without hiccups. More treats exist if you’re running certain platforms: the Android crowd receives a Safari-style Reader Mode that strips out the fluff from pages, while Mac users see the once test-only VoiceOver support flipped on by default to improve accessibility. Even developers get a little something special through a quick-access toolbar and more readily accessible CSS4 scripting. If any of this sounds tempting, there’s a pair of source links waiting for your attention.
The stock Nexus 7 peaks at a 1.3GHz clock speed when it’s at full burn. That’s certainly good enough for the $199 price tag, but eager adopters have just hit a new record in trying to wring out even more of a bang for the buck. Courtesy of a custom Elite kernel from XDA-Developers‘ Clemsyn, the Tegra 3 in the mini tablet will scale all the way to a heady 2GHz. You’d be right in suspecting that it leads to some dramatic speed boosts: the Nexus 7 at this pace can put a Transformer Prime to shame in common benchmarks, let alone most smartphones. Reaching the loftier heights of performance does require nerves of steel, however. The Elite kernel is very much a rough build that the creator doesn’t yet trust with the public, and NVIDIA’s processor is already known to get toasty under significantly added stress. There’s hope a refined kernel will make for a safer venture into unknown territory. If you can’t wait to throw at least some caution (and the warranty) to the wind, though, hit the second source link for code that will reach a slightly less melt-prone 1.8GHz.
If your company doesn’t have a camera with WiFi sharing somewhere in your lineup, many will say you’re not even in the photography game. Fujifilm is definitely playing: welcome the FinePix F800EXR, its first camera with wireless sharing as part and parcel of the experience. Its centerpiece is a free Photo Receiver app for Android and iOS devices that will catch as many 30 images at a time from an ad hoc WiFi camera link. The matching (if unceremoniously named) Camera Application can return the gesture by geotagging shots as well as finding existing photos on the map. Fujifilm will even pre-Instagram the photos through six new on-camera filters for those who can’t stand posting images online without at least some Lomo or tilt-shift effects thrown in.
As for the actual camera part of the camera, Fujifilm is keeping afloat in the competitive waters with a 16-megapixel, CMOS-based EXR sensor that can widen the dynamic range or lower the noise if sheer resolution isn’t all that vital. An equally noteworthy 20x (25-500mm equivalent) lens out in front will zoom in a lot closer than any phone camera — well, most of them. We’re otherwise looking at the technology we’d expect in a point-and-shoot of this class, such as full-resolution burst shooting at up to eight frames per second, 1080p video and a RAW mode for image quality sticklers. Stores should have the F800EXR in August for about $350, or about as much as the Galaxy Nexus that just might serve as its companion.
Facebook App Center goes globetrotting with 7 new countries, blankets all of the English-speaking world
Facebook’s App Center is having its passport stamped quite a lot lately. Just days after the HTML5 app portal set foot in the UK, it’s making the leap to seven more countries. Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey will all get a crack at using web apps both on the desktop as well as in the Android and iOS native clients. The new group is coming onboard in the next few weeks. In the meantime, countries where English makes a frequent appearance — Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the US — now supply the App Center for every single user. To help speed along the virtual customs claims, Facebook is trotting out a translation tool to get developers on the right track. It shouldn’t be long before App Center is a mainstay of the entire Facebook world, even though we may end up cursing the company after hour three of a Jetpack Joyride marathon.
Adobe confirms it won’t support Flash on Android 4.1, stops new Flash installs from Google Play on August 15th
Adobe was very public about dropping mobile Flash last fall. In case that wasn’t clear enough, the developer just drew a line in the sand: Android 4.1 doesn’t, and won’t ever, get certification for Flash. The company is stopping short of saying that Flash won’t run, but it’s evident that Adobe won’t help you if the web browser plugin doesn’t install (or breaks in spectacular fashion) on that Nexus 7. Just to underscore the point, the firm is also halting new installations of Flash from Google Play as of August 15th. Security updates and other vital patches will continue on for existing users. Any fresh downloads after that fateful day, however, will have to come from Adobe’s mausoleum for old versions. The company had already said that HTML5 was the way forward on phones and tablets — now we know just how quickly it’s backing up that claim.
Virtually every corner of the Google universe is being touched at Google I/O, and that now includes Google Drive. A version 2 update to the Drive SDK gives Android and iOS developers the option of building the cloud storage into their mobile apps, whether it’s downloads, uploads or on-the-spot edits. The programming interface has likewise been expanded as a whole to handle everyday file duties, such as conversions, copying and revision handling. Web-only users are taken care of with support for embedded shares and opening Google documents in any given software that will take the exportable formats. The updated Drive SDK is ready to go, with a flood of apps either coming or already here — if you want to hop on the bandwagon, just take a peek at the source link.
Here’s a bit of a surprise that slipped under the radar during the Google I/O keynote: Google Earth for Android has been updated to 7.0 to take advantage of the new 3D map technology it unveiled at another special event just a few weeks ago. As a refresher, the visuals are automatically created from 45-degree aerial imagery and can pick up 3D elements as subtle as trees. Before you go racing to your hometown to see how it looks in 3D, be aware that just a handful of cities and regions exploit that dimension. Besides San Francisco Bay, the full coverage extends to Boulder, Boston, Charlotte, Lawrence, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Cruz and Tampa in the US, with Rome being the lone international hotspot. If that’s too few places to visit, there’s always the addition of guided tours. Android users can head over Google Play to get the update today; iOS users shouldn’t fret, as they’ll get the new maps soon.
It’s seems like only yesterday we were all crowded around our laptops, watching a live stream and getting amped for Ice Cream Sandwich. Truth is, that was six months ago now and, while most of the Android running public still hasn’t been blessed with 4.0, it’s already time to make the leap to 4.1. Today Google officially took the wraps off Jelly Bean, the next evolution of its mobile platform and while it’s not quite the revolutionary shift that was Gingerbread to ICS, it still marks an important improvement for the ecosystem. One of the biggest features is Project Butter, a deep-diving effort to improve performance and response time. The whole system hums along at 60fps now, and while the difference of a few milliseconds might sound like small potatoes, it becomes glaringly apparent the moment you run Jelly Bean next to an ICS device. Animations are smoother and quicker. The CPU immediately ramps up the moment a touch is detected to ensure speedy response.
The home screen has also been tweaked, adding some nice features like dynamically resizing widgets, so you no longer have to place it, resize it then move it to where you want if there isn’t enough room. If there is room, but your app icons are merely in the way, the widget will automatically push them to the side. And, in a nice, slick touch, apps and widgets can be removed by flicking them off the screen. Another extremely welcome touch is the addition of offline voice input. Now you can tap the microphone and dictate a message even with the phone in airplane mode.
The camera app, which was already a highlight of ICS, has gotten even better in 4.1. Now, the gallery is slickly integrated, allowing you to quickly pull up the photo you just took with a swipe to the left. You can keep swiping through your images or even pinch to zoom out and view all your images in a filmstrip view. Deleting images is as simple as swiping a pic off the screen and, if you’ve manage to accidentally remove one, a quick tap of the undo button restores it. And, speaking of images, you can now share them and video using Google Beam, and Android now supports pairing with Bluetooth devices with the assistance of NFC.
Fiddling with updates this evening? If so, you may notice your Gmailapp begging for a refresh, as Google has revised its famed email program to bring the Ice Cream Sandwich experience to Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) users. Specifically, it’ll allow you to swipe to move between newer and older conversations, tap to access Recent labels, set custom notifications for individual labels and sync the last 30 days of messages so you can read and search messages faster both online and offline. As for Android 2.2 and 2.3 users, they’ll see a new labels API for third-party app developers as well as nondescript “performance improvements.” If you needed any help, the download link is waiting there in the source.
Google’s SVP of Mobile just provided us with another glimpse inside the horse’s mouth, claiming that Android scored 3.7 million new device activations over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To put that in context, Flurry reported that total Android and iOS activations on Christmas Day alone totaled 6.8 million. If we can accept a very high margin of error, and if we assume that the vast majority of Rubin’s activations were on the 25th, then we might extrapolate a roughly even split between the two rival platforms. Considering where Android was just a couple of Christmas’s ago, it’s no wonder that Mr Rubin is in the tweeting mood.
Still tempted by the fruit of another? If you’re looking Microsoft’s way, but aren’t quite ready to toss your adoration for iOS or Android aside, the coders in Redmond are giving you an alternative to quitting cold turkey. By visiting http://aka.ms/wpdemo on one’s iOS or Android browser, you’ll be immediately tunneled into a emulation of Windows Phone 7. We gave it a test run here at Engadget HQ, and it seems that every tile and swipe save for Apps runs properly. Can’t say the fonts and such looked as smooth on our Galaxy S II as they do on the Radar, but it’s a solid effort that’ll definitely serve you well if you’re considering the switch. Just don’t try to flip the demo horizontally — that’s clearly a no-no.
Windows Phone 7 emulator within Android 2.3′s web browser
At AsiaD this week, Google’s Andy Rubin noted that there were at least six million Android tablets in use. That number included only those running Google services. One could question whether the briskly selling Nook Color — which is not open to Android apps at large — is relevant to that tally, at least from a developer perspective. It will certainly be the case, though, that the Kindle Fire — also expected to be a hot seller — will be an important addition to the number moving forward.
Still, Rubin conceded, it was a tally far behind that of the 30 million cumulative units of the iPad, which broke open the modern-day tablet category, extended its lead with the iPad 2, and will likely see another revision this coming spring. When Apple introduced its tablet device, it set a precedent for third-party developers by rewriting core applications to take advantage of the iPad’s larger display with “HD” versions. And while there are still far fewer native iPad apps than iPhone apps, Apple is far ahead in the race for native tablet software.