In a fit of masochism, I decided that Iâ€™d carry only an iPhone 5 for some undefined period of time, to see how the other half lives. (Iâ€™ve previously done this with Windows Phone 7.5, and found the experience to be interesting and enjoyable.)
After 5 days with just iOS 6 on an iPhone 5, I have a few positive observations:
iPhone 5 is a magnificent piece of hardware. It is easily the nicest phone I have ever held. Iâ€™ve used faster phones, phones with bigger screens, and phones with better operating systems, but from a whole package perspective, iPhone 5 is very, very nice.
iOS6 is very nice. Iâ€™ve been mostly away from iOS for several years, and am pleased to say that the notification changes that iOS5 made are a huge improvement in usability.
As one who is pretty firmly ensconced in Googleâ€™s ecosystem, I have to say that life with an iPhone is pretty significantly better these days with regards to getting done all the things I need to. Chrome, GMail, Calendar, Contacts, Drive, Voice and even Latitude â€œjust work.â€ Hats off to Google for doing this work, and hats off to Apple for not being a dick about letting them do it.
I can say unquestionably that iOSâ€™s approach to multitasking here is far superior to Androidâ€™s in about 95% of cases. For nearly every app I use, having the state suspend and then wake back up on demand is sufficient, and battery life is indeed quite a bit better for normal usage as a result. (Of course there are some classes of app that just have to run in the background, in which case Androidâ€™s mechanism is better, but Iâ€™ve yet to feel like I needed to have an app like that here in iOS Land.)
Webapps on iOS are fantastic. This is easily the best platform Iâ€™ve encountered for making web applications seamlessly integrate into the â€œnativeâ€ experience.
As expected, I do have some negative observations, but even I am surprised at how few they are:
Inter-app communication is effectively impossible. If you want to, for instance, open a link a friend sent you in Chrome, it requires copy/paste gymnastics. If after seeing the link, you want to share it on Google+ or LinkedIn or myspace or Friendster, it also requires complicated copy/paste gymnastics. Androidâ€™s approach here is to allow any app to send content to any other app, fostering a much more interaction between users. iOSâ€™s seems to be focused more on making deals with Facebook and Twitter to foster more money changing hands.
The app update cycle, while fostering the idea that developers release more polished functional apps in the first place, makes rapid iteration pretty impossible. Googleâ€™s iOS apps are some of the best around, but the fact that their Google+ client is at least 3 functionality releases behind Androidâ€™s seems pretty squarely to blame on the hassle of getting updates approved.
All in all, Iâ€™m pretty pleasantly surprised at how easily this die-hard Android (and Google experience) user has been able to transition into using iOS, and how little pain the transition has actually caused.
[Disclaimer: Google has treated me very well over the last several years; I am decidedly 'pro-Google.' I'm also almost entirely 'anti-Microsoft.' However, this article is not about those things. I just want to admit my bias up front.]
Bing says: 'Nuh uh. That is not the case. Oh, and also: Google makes billions promoting spam." OK, that's helpful.
Later, in effort to address the bad PR resultant from the buzz around the issue, Bing responded making the claim that 'user data' is responsible for the common search results. The idea is that Bing promotes results that people are actually clicking on, and that the Bing Toolbar is doing some magicks to improve their search rankings. They say the reason that the gibberish queries show up in their results is just because Google engineers actually clicked the resultant links... and then the magick happened. A number of different factors are taken into account by the Bing Toolbar to influence how clicked links should affect Bing's search results, and apparently several of them only seem like they're just being copied directly from Google.
That's fine, but if the gibberish search terms aren't present in the urls Google randomly selected for their tests -- and they're not -- the only way Bing would have any knowledge of the queries is if the Bing Toolbar is recording not only the click, but the Google search queries used to find that link in the first place.
Bottom line: if Bing is populating their search database by indexing the results page a user got from doing a Google search, those results did in fact come "directly from Google" like Google claims. Whether or not there's anything wrong with collecting 'user data' about what information users search for (and find) on competing search engines is another issue entirely, but Google's claim here absolutely holds true.
Bing is using Google's search results to affect the results they return when users search Bing. And they need to come out and say it rather than denying it and then trying to change the subject to Google's spam-promotion business model.
Either the results came from Google or they didn't. (They did.)
That particular issue, however, is being completely overlooked by people who are now getting caught up in the 'OK, so what?' argument.
This blog post (from a Microsoft employee) essentially says: "Google stole a bunch of features that Bing had; that's no different than Bing stealing Google's results. Since they're both stealing, it's ok." I say there's a big difference between copying UI features and copying actual content, especially when the only reason anyone uses your service is to access that content. It's not the same thing at all.
At this point it's pretty clear to me that because of the missing-the-point pro-Microsoft 'analysis' bloggers are doing, people now think the following things: "this is some big Google VS Microsoft issue," "Microsoft is just being attacked by Google for a PR stunt," "Google is just a big meanie."
Perhaps some (or all) of those things are true; even so, at the end of the day, the issue we're arguing is Google's claim that some of Bing's results are coming "directly from Google." That claim has been very effectively proven to be true. Yet Bing maintains that it's not -- and then talks about "making billions off of spam" to try to distract from the issue at hand.
If Bing wants to make the case that collecting 'user data' from all of a user's activity, including the searching they do on competing search engines (and the results the searches returned) is what they want to do and are doing, then I'd be fine with that. But instead they're just saying it's not happening. And that Google is a spam whore. Google may be a spam whore, but everything they've said in the last few days regarding this issue is demonstrably true. Bing, on the other hand, has opted for Jedi hand-waves.
I'll take an honest whore over an intellectually dishonest liar any day.
Hey Internet. Sorry to disturb you, but it's been quite a while, hasn't it. Sorry I haven't written, but there's been a lot keeping me busy.
How about a recap by way of quick reviews of a few of the gadgets I've acquired since last we spoke?
HTC EVO: Pretty nice Android phone, but too darn big for my tastes. The 4.3-inch display made for a device that was just too cumbersome to use as a phone, but not quite large enough to be a tablet. If you have big pockets, it's a nice choice.
Samsung Galaxy S Captivate: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Samsung screwed up the software so badly. Android 2.3 is just about out and Samsung still hasn't managed to release Android 2.2 for it yet. (It's a good thing some nice Samsung engineer leaked an early build of 2.2 about 3 months ago, or I'd be having serious 'behind-the-curve' withdrawals.) The 4.0-inch screen is a much nicer size than the HTC EVO's, making for a much more comfortable pocket phone, and easily my favorite of the various phone form factors I've used.
Sony Blu-ray GoogleTV box: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that Sony screwed up the software so badly. The Blu-ray player application feels like it was made by a completely different team than the rest of the system, which makes sense, since Google didn't make that part. The one area that this device shines, incidentally, is actually the one everyone made fun of when it was first released: the remote control. People laughed, but I can honestly say it's the single greates remote control I've ever used. I really miss it after returning the whole package to the Sony store. If you don't care about Blu-ray, I say save $100 and get the Logitech.
Logitech GoogleTV box: hardware's cheaper than the Sony, but some of the software is better. The built in Harmony universal remote system is really slick, and being $100 cheaper than the sony is a nice perk. The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is way too big to make for a comfortable control device, but as we've been using a vintage SGI Indy keyboard on our various computer-television-hybrid devices for a number of years (have you ever seen then length of the cord on those SGI Indy keyboards?? Not sure why SGI thought they needed that long of a cord, but I for one am glad they made that decision.) it is a step up. GoogleTV has some pretty neat potential, but it's a real shame Google hasn't released the SDK for it yet, or, at the very least, just allowed access to the existing wealth of Android apps in the Android Market. Apps will be where the platform shines, so it seems kind of crazy that they're trying to sell them prior to that. I guess it has Twitter, so what more could people really want, right? Also, it's a shame all the TV networks have blocked the damn thing.
Samsung Galaxy Tab: really nice hardware, but it's a shame that US carriers have the phone functionality disabled. (The one I've been using is unlocked and has full phone functionality, which is awesome. However, being a prototype, it's also got a really rickety housing that feels very fragile.) Darn fine device; great form factor. Goes great in my cargo pants, and after using it for a few minutes, using an iPad now feels like driving a boat. I'm not, however, completely sold on Android as a tablet OS just yet. This hasn't stopped me from using it all the damn time, I'm suspect that a web-based platform might make for a better experience.
ChromeOS: nice hardware but -- wait. I haven't actually seen hardware yet. But I've been running ChromeOS on one of my netbooks for a few months and really, really like it. I tend to use web-based services unless I absolutely have to use a native application, so a web-based OS is a natural fit for me. Combine that with yesterday's Chrome Webstore launch, and it's now an attractive platform for people who are far, far less nerdy than me. If you're having trouble imagining a web-based OS, take a look at the Chrome Webstore and install a few apps. Then imagine your computer is faster with longer battery life and not encumbered by nonsense like virus checkers and printer drivers; now you can start to imagine what ChromeOS is like.
Apple 13" Macbook Pro: really nice hardware, but it's a shame Apple screwed up the software. OS bitching aside, the Macbook Pro is easily the finest piece of computer hardware I've ever owned, and nearly a year of living with Windows 7 made making the switch to OSX far less painful than it would have been going straight from Linux. I'm not completely sold on OSX, but for my usage, it's pretty shocking how much more productive I am than I was on Windows. Having a real UNIX system under all that shiny bounciness is something I didn't realize I missed until I had it back. I think I may write a post about my (most recent) Mac switch instead of going into detail here, as this quick little post has gotten kind of out of hand.
Hopefully it won't be several months before we speak again. Don't be a stranger.
Google I/O was amazing, and I'd like to share the most important things I took away from it. Well, except for the free Motorola Droid and Sprint EVO 4G that I took away from it -- I'm not sharing those. :)
The big news was Android 2.2, which in addition to amazing stuff like wirelessly streaming your iTunes library, also leverages a clever bit of behind the scenes magick that enables a 3x-5X speed increase on the same hardware running 2.1. They demoed this a few times with very dramatic results. It is way, way faster. This huge performance gain shatters one of the main reasons I've been maintaining that Flash on Android is simply not going to be usable; in fact, much to my chagrin, I have to report that Flash works very, very well on Android.
Speaking of Flash, there was a demo of what I believe to be the fabled "Flash killer" everyone has been hoping will come along to eventually put us out of our miseries. Many have tried (and failed) to come up with a Flash killer, but this time they have -- in my opinion -- actually done it. The surprising thing to me isn't that someone has managed to do it, but, rather, that it's Adobe themselves that are responsible. Adobe demoed the new integration between Illustrator and their new CSS-editing powerhouse version of Dreamweaver, effectively creating a very "Flash-like" experience of animating and interacting with elements using entirely open HTML5 and CSS based technology. In a couple minutes they created some remarkably interactive animated stuff with just a few clicks in Illustrator and Dreamweaver, outputting web content that will work in any modern browser without any annoying plugins/runtimes. Adobe has seen the benefit of making open tech take the place of proprietary black boxes, and are embracing it head on rather than fighting it off. Kudos, Adobe.
All that nerd stuff aside, the big exciting thing is GoogleTV. Many have tried to merge the web and television in the past, with downright comical results, so any additional attempts to achieve it are going to have to really 'wow' people. Google has now taken up the challenge, and I think they're really onto something.
Without going into too much detail, here's what they've done: searchable television. No more annoying guides showing you what's on right now; with GoogleTV, you can search for stuff to watch just like you search the Internet. You get a search bar, you type something into it, and you get results. Those results could be things that are on right now, they could be things that your DVR recorded for you, they could be things that are on in the future (and clicking them will make your DVR record them for you) or they could be things that are available to stream right now via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or any site that you can stream from in your computer's desktop browser. Because GoogleTV is a browser, complete with the Flash plugin required to view most of that streaming content today. In addition to watching television content like this, GoogleTV has access to the Android Market, giving you access to the same thousands of applications you can run on your Android phone -- on your TV.
There are a lot of other cool things that GoogleTV can do, but the main selling point is that you no longer have to care where your television comes from. It could be live TV, something from your DVR, something from Hulu -- it really doesn't matter, and you don't have to think about it. You just know you want to watch 30 Rock, so you simply type "30 Rock" into your fancy GoogleTV remote and get a list of episodes to watch.
There were many other exciting things, but many of them may still be too nerdy to be interesting to most people, so I'm just hitting the points I think people will care about. Android is now really, really fast and can deliver a fantastic Flash experience (if that sort of thing is your bag), which could be a viable alternative for those who want an iPhone/iPad but complain that they can't view Flash. GoogleTV may well change the way television is watched -- and maybe down the road be able to help shake up the control cable/satellite providers have over bundling content we don't want with the content we do.
I'm off to lovely San Francisco to take part in Google I/O. I was going to use the latest in technological innovations to embed a Google Wave here into which I could post live updates, but I couldn't figure out how. Sorry.
The Google Wave team is sure going to hear from me at I/O...
I've been thinking a bit about Google Buzz since a few days before it was announced, and I really think it has the potential to be huge. Especially when one takes into account all the stuff the API already does, and all the things it promises to be able to do in the near future. Having one open spot to have masses and masses of interesting content aggregated to you from your Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Livejournal, Blogger and Wordpress contacts is pretty cool, but when they're able to pull in all comments via Salmon, pretty much anything anyone ever directs towards you on the Internet will be accessible there as well.
Post a comment on some random stranger's blog? If it gets a reply, it'll (one day) show up in your Google Buzz. That's pretty darn cool.
Magical utopian fantasyland aside, the current implementation of Buzz leaves much to be desired.
Problems I've encountered in order of annoyance:
No love for Apps for Domains accounts. I have used my email@example.com account as my Google account for the last several years, but it doesn't yet have access to Buzz from within Apps for Domains' GMail client. Which means if I want to play with Buzz on my PC, I have to use my otherwise-unused firstname.lastname@example.org Google account. (Actually, that account is used for my Google Reader subscriptions, which will brings me to a future point.)
GMail clutter. I haven't yet figured out the magics that determine when something shows up in your GMail inbox as well as in Buzz, but some things do. Other things don't, however, which makes it far more annoying. Sure, you can set up a filter easily enough to hide those from your inbox, but I'd really like to know how it determines what should go in your inbox in the first place. Is it just replies to Buzz posts older than a certain age? Who knows. In any case, I'm sick of getting email notifications of things I've already read in Buzz.
I frequently share interesting things I see from my Google Reader account. Over the years I've amassed quite a few cool people that also share cool things, and often encounter really cool stuff I wouldn't have otherwise. I've always been bummed that most of the stuff I share is pretty much unfindable by those who don't use Google Reader -- and there are more that don't than there are that do -- which seems to have been solved by the incorporation with Buzz. However, my Google Reader contacts are now full of people I've added on Buzz, often who share things in which I have no interest. Even the things that I do have interest in are frequently seen in my Buzz stream before I find them again in my Google Reader. There needs to be some better communication between the two so that I don't always end up seeing everything everyone shares in two different places. Add GMail clutter to the mix, and I often see the same content in three different places.
The promised ability to learn your preferences and hide people's sandwich updates seems to be vaporware. I can't find any way to mark things as being uninteresting, thus Buzz never knows what I find uninteresting. Where is this promised functionality? (I did notice, however, that it hid a whole bunch of "this is my first Buzz!" posts from me, so it's obviously somewhat functional. I just want to be able to make it hide other things as well.)
I have great hope that Buzz is going to make many, many irritating things a much nicer experience than the Twitters and Friendfeeds and Faceooks currently offer (primarily because it promises to be able to put all that content in one nice place to which I can interface in unlimited ways ) but I worry that people are going to be annoyed to death before it gets to that point.
Even with these annoyances, however, Buzz is still infinitely more usable and less annoying that Google Wave, though. I can actually see myself using Buzz.
If you're not already following me on Buzz, you can do so by adding email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. (Due to the aforementioned schism between Apps for Domains Google Accounts and GMail accounts.
Want to play with Google Buzz before they get it rolled out to your GMail?
The magic of Google Chrome can hook you up.
Create a shortcut to Google Chrome on your desktop, righ-tclick on it, select Properties, and then paste this after everything in the 'Target' field:
--user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 2.0.1; en-us; Droid Build/ESD56) AppleWebKit/530.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/530.17"
(That's two dashes before user-agent, not a hyphen. I can't figure out how to get my auto-formatting to display it properly. Also, you might need to replace the quotes with non-"smartquotes." Smartquotes are DUMB.)
Then go to m.google.com and click on Buzz. This will, however, make all pages Chrome loads behave as if you're browsing them from a Motorola Droid, so it's advisable to make another desktop shortcut with user-agent="" to reset everything.
If you haven't heard, there's been a bit of a dust-up today between Google and its throngs of Android phone users. If you have heard, chances are you heard it post-spin, where Google is painted as being this horrible evil dictator, violating the 'spirit of open source.'
That couldn't be further from the truth. Here's what's actually going on.
Google's Android phone platform is, in fact, an open source operating system. Any phone manufacturer who wants to license Android for use on their handsets can do so, completely free of charge -- but there are a few caveats. Anyone deploying an Android device has to choose between a few different Android packages, including the "with Google" option, which allows the manufacturer to use Google's good name to promote their device. However, the "with Google" package requires that you deploy all the software the way Google demands. No deleting GMail and including Hotmail instead, for instance.
If the manufacturer does want to remove GMail and include Hotmail, they can still totally do that -- they just can't use Google's name to advertise their product. Oh, and they also can't include some of Google's popular apps.
While the operating system is open source, some of Google's applications are not, and are rather restrictively licensed, giving Google a bit more control over how they are used. The idea is they don't want someone's crappy modified Android install soiling their good image.
Very soon after the first Android device's release, clever hackers figured out a way to bypass the security T-Mobile included on it, allowing them to install custom installs of Android, based on newer, better code than what the devices were originally shipped with. Sure, that newer code would eventually be handed out to all devices, but many of us nerds are rather impatient, and would rather use it now. Crashes and all. So a sort of "community" of hackers was born, eventually culminating in several really popular Android distributions that included all sorts of really awesome functionality that was either not "prime-time"-ready -- or was flat out barred from inclusion by the carrier. (In this case, T-Mobile.)
This has been going on for roughly a year now, and several people have risen and fallen as the de facto "ringleaders" in charge of assembling the components into updates that mere users can apply to their phones. Many of these updates happened to include all those applications that Google has specifically licensed to be only distributed by those that comply with their licensing demands, and today finally caught the ire of Google.
Google has sent a Cease & Desist letter to the maintainer of arguably the most popular of these Android distributions, citing his inclusion of applications to which he does not have the proper license for distribution as the activity that needs to be ceased. He's no longer able to include GMail, Google Maps, etc., in his releases, which arguably makes his builds extremely undesirable for most users.
As you might expect, people understand this licensing issue, and completely realize that it's not good to be in blatant violation of an application's distribution license. Just kidding! In actuality, people are going "ape shit," threatening to buy iPhones, yelling obscenities at Google, and being all-around poor sports about the whole thing.
"Google is violating the spirit of open source!" cry many.
Online petitions have been made. There's an "app" in the Google Market which is currently the most popular Market download of the day, that essentially demands that Google re-license these apps so that people can continue to use them however they want. Facebook groups demanding the same thing are thriving. Twitter has gone nuts.
There's a funny thing about the "spirit of open source," though: many, if not most, open source projects are licensed in such a way that the code cannot be used in commercial applications without following the requirements of the license. It is never OK for someone to violate the license. When, as invariably happens, some company does violate the license, people go nuts. Likewise, nobody ever expects to be able to include someone else's proprietary functionality in their open source app. Yet, in the "spirit of open source," Google should just throw out their licensing altogether so that these whiny, entitled, whineyfaces can continue to use them on a distribution of Android that won't, and cannot license them properly?
That's a bunch of crap. Google is in a bit of an awkward position, having angered a significant amount of its Android user-base, but they are completely in the right here. Does it suck? Yes. But should Google be expected to give away everything for free just because people have been using it illegally for a year? I'll leave answering that as an exercise for the reader.
(If you'd like to check your answer against the correct one, here it is: "No.")
UPDATE: Some are suggesting that Google's inclusion of proprietary apps in an open source environment is a bad thing. This may well be the case, but you knew about it before you bought an Android phone and/or started developing for the Android platform. You chose to accept that fact, and now you have to live with it. Google didn't suddenly remove the apps from the source tree and 'closed source' them; they were closed source from the start.
UPDATE: Someone made this silly Hitler-meme-video, effectively illustrating the attitudes of these whinyfaces:
Like most of the stuff I've done on android, my most recent app, "Send RSS to Google Reader" came out of being frustrated that Google's Mobile Browser wasn't smart enough to detect RSS feeds, and also wasn't smart enough to allow you to subscribe to them in Google Reader's Mobile interface, except by doing some cut-and-paste gymnastics.
The first version required that you actually display an RSS feed (or find the link to it yourself), and then use the Android Browser's "Share this page" functionality to pass the url on to Google Reader by way of my little app. This was incredibly cumbersome.
Now, thanks to some Yahoo Pipes magic behind the scene, you can be viewing any web page, hit the 'Share this page' menu item, select "Send RSS to Google Reader" and it will auto-detect any RSS feeds that happen to be part of the page. If there is just one, it sends it over to Google Reader Mobile where you can subscribe with a single click. If there are more than one, you are presented with a list of them, and can click any one of them to send it over to Google Reader Mobile.
Got an iPhone and hate how difficult it is to place Google Voice calls now that Apple has removed all the dialer apps from the App Store? Check out this "simple" howto:
This is a more thorough explanation of a previous post. In lieu of an GV app, I figured out a quick and easy way to dial your most frequent contacts using no more than 2 clicks. All we're doing is adding a bookmark to your iPhone home page that links to a contact's unique URL in your GV address book. Ready?
Load up the mobile GV site (https://www.google.com/voice/m). It works fine in Firefox -- it doesn't redirect to the non-mobile version like other Google sites.
Find your desired favorite in your contact list. Let's use "Mom" for our example. Each contact has its own unique URL - something like https://www.google.com/voice/m/contact/793238491687864. Copy this link to your clipboard.
Use your favorite photo editing software to find the perfect headshot of mom. Crop it so it's EXACTLY a square (I use Picasa).
Resize mom's picture so it's 57 x 57, and save as a PNG to your desktop. (I used http://www.resize2mail.com/advanced.php)
Fire up http://webclipicons.info/ Upload your 57 x 57 PNG, give it the shortcut name "mom" and paste the GV unique contact URL from step 2 into the "shortcut URL" prompt. Put in your email address, and uncheck "make public." Hit "create shortcut."
Check your iPhone email. You should receive a message with link -- click on it. Safari should launch. Bookmark that page to your home screen. Your mom's smiling face should appear along with your fart and other useless apps.
When it's time to call mom, click on her face. Her contact page in your GV account will load in Safari. You can then call or SMS any number that you have stored for her.
While I've made some round-about howtos for accomplishing time-saving things, this one made me laugh out loud. That's a helluva lot of work for initiating a call.
A much BETTER solution can be accomplished in just 3 steps:
Now there's no official or unofficial Google Voice dialers. Nice one, Apple.
While it's still possible that an official Google client may turn up at some point, it's not looking promising; Apple says that the reason they pulled the apps is that they 'duplicate functionality already found in iPhone,' namely 'dialing.' When Google submits their official app, it will also be 'dialing'; consistency says that'll be rejected as well.
Lucky for us, consistency is not high on Apple's list of things to worry about. You may remember from the other day when they said they rejected Google's Latitude app because they thought another app that draws maps would be 'confusing.' Yet the market is still chock full of GPS/mapping apps. Apps that, as far as I know, nobody's ever been confused about.
It's pretty clear that Apple doesn't want any more Google present on its iPhone platform than there already is. If you want some more, you're going to have to pick one of the many other platforms that doesn't reject innovative apps.
UPDATE: Sean Kovacs, author of GV Mobile, one of the "unofficial" Google Voice apps which Apple pulled from their market, is now available via Cydia if your iPhone is jailbroken. Compelling enough reason to finally jailbreak?
I've just discovered something kind of cool: if you want to place and receive free Google Voice calls via your computer, leaving your phone out of the loop altogether, it's now possible to skip the installation of Gizmo, relying instead on the functionality already present in GMail.
I was playing with the settings for Gizmo while trying to improve my method of making free, minute-less VOIP calls from my Android phone and noticed that it now has the option to forward some or all calls to your Gizmo number over to Skype or Google Talk. If you opt for Google Talk -- and if your operating system supports it1 -- you can answer/place calls just using GMail's chat system. It's as easy as when you try to find o2 Mobile Phones, there's nothing complicated about opting for Google Talk. No otherwise-unused software to install at all.
1a) Create a Gizmo account here (if you don't already have one)
1b) Configure Google Voice for use with Gizmo following these instructions (if you haven't already done so)
3) Scroll down to the 'Forwarding' section. It looks like this:
4) Select 'forward all calls' and put in your GMail username in the appropriate field and Click 'Save.'
That's all the configuration that's required.
Now when someone calls your Google Voice number, in addition to your phone ringing, your GMail (or Google Talk desktop client) will beep at you telling you a call is incoming.
If you want to place a call, you just need to use Google Voice's web interface. Click 'Call,' put in the desired number, and then select your Gizmo number as the callback number. Your GMail will then ring. When you answer it, you'll hear the number you just dialed ringing.
1: Unless you're a freak like me running some crazy non-Windows, non-Mac operating system you'll be fine. If you are a freak like me, you can either keep using Gizmo, or have Gizmo auto-forward your calls to Skype and do it that way.
For weeks now, there've been a number people on Twitter and blogs expressing disappointment with Google over leaving out iPhone when it comes to many of their key properties. One such article, by social media rockstar Wayne Sutton, does a pretty good job of summing up the feelings of many in the iPhone community, but unfortunately, manages to completely get the wrong end of the stick. He seems to be under the impression that Google just doesn't feel like putting out apps for iPhone, forgetting that it's Apple themselves who are both the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper when it comes to what iPhone users get to run on their handsets.
Meanwhile, just yesterday Google "finally got around to" -- if you listen to the chatter on the Internet, anyway -- releasing their Latitude for iPhone app -- which is actually not a native app at all, but instead a web app that runs in Safari -- along with a lengthy article on their mobile blog which makes it crystal clear that it's Apple with whom we should be disappointed, not them.
We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.
I've been saying all along that it was Apple's 3-month+ wait approval queue, and/or the nature of Maps.app as a "core" app (that can only be updated via a firmware update) that's the holdup, but it never occurred to me that Apple wouldn't want Latitude on iPhone at all, which seems plainly clear now.
The brewing speculation suggests that Apple's $99-a-year MobileMe service, which has some location aspects to it now, is going to be expanding to more directly compete with Latitude, Loopt, and other such social/location apps, and thus doesn't want the early -- not to mention free -- competition from Google. This is purely speculation, but it's based on the past times that Apple has rejected iPhone apps with features that they themselves were planning to implement, so I'm going to place my bets squarely on that being truth. We'll have to wait and see.
This rejection now makes it pretty clear that the other native Google apps that people like Wayne are eagerly awaiting are simply never going to come. Sorry, Wayne :(
The upside to all of this, though, is that, judging by the comments on Google's Latitude for iPhone announcement post, iPhone users and developers alike are starting to become more aware of how bad an idea it is to tie themselves to a platform that's actively stifling the innovations its users want. How much time and money did Google spend writing a native Latitude app for iPhone that will never see the light of day? Now imagine it was your time and money down the crapper. Fun.
If you're dying for a native Latitude app on your iPhone, you shouldn't give up completely; Apple does have a bit of a track record of caving on stupid decisions under pressure from large vocal minority groups, so it's possible that they may one day let Google put a native maps app on iPhone. It's not very probable. There is only Zuul.
I pretty frequently monitor what people are saying about Android on Twitter, and something I've seen recently is people lamenting the imminent death of Android now that Google's apparently shifted their interest over to a newer, shinier platform that might directly take on the behemoths in more oft-used hardware platforms, namely 'netbooks.' I've got a few thoughts.
1) Android is not under any threat of extinction as a result of this. One of the common things people are saying is variations on the theme of "Android hasn't had a chance to become successful, and now they're replacing it." That's just silly.
Android is, by practically every metric, a rousing success for the little time that it's been on the market. Worldwide, there's like 3 different phones available running it, most available for fewer than 3 months to date. The oldest Android phone is like 6 months old. Already a variety of carriers have committed to 18 different Android devices on the market before the end of 2009.
Has there EVER been a year that 18 different handsets have been released running Blackberry, Windows Mobile, MacOSX, or ANY other 'smartphone' operating system? Even if you combine all those operating systems together?
The relative clunkiness of HTC's first Android phone (the HTC Dream, which T-Mobile sells in the US as the 'G1') hasn't stopped it from being amazingly successful, outselling any other T-Mobile device. (I know, faint praise...) The HTC Magic (or T-Mobile 'myTouch 3G') is poised to more directly compete with the likes of iPhone in form-factor, sexiness and speed, and it comes out in like a month. It's already been successful on other carriers outside the US. Also, HTC's been making waves with it's new 'Hero' device, featuring a significantly sexier new 'Sense' UI [youtube] atop Android, and Sony Ericsson just released a peek at their new 'Rachel' UI [youtube], also running atop Android. Both of these UIs are eliciting squees of praise on Twitter, many people declaring that they'll ditch their iPhone for them in a second. (Check out those linked videos, maybe you'll see why.)
The Android world is just beginning to heat up, but it's already pretty hard to say that it's not a success, and that there aren't people dying to get their hands on devices.
The preponderance of dedicated apps to read the content from popular sites like Digg, Reddit, MetaFilter, etc., in both Android and iPhone's application stores, is testament to this. It's simply faster to pull down a limited feed containing only the data and render it using a native applicaton than to try to let a web browser display the whole page. Even iPhone specific pages are often slower and more cumbersome to use than a native iPhone application dedicated to the same purpose. That's just the way things are now.
3) In even the best case scenario, adoption of ChromeOS is going to be extremely slow, at least to start. I mean, how many people do you know that have even installed Google's Chrome Browser, let alone an entire new operating system? I just don't see the average Google user -- fanboy or not -- completely switching to a OS that only runs all the web apps they're already happily using on Windows. It's just not going to happen.
4) Where ChromeOS stands to make waves, however, is preloaded on hardware. Low-cost netbooks and laptops that are already installed, already configured, without having to include the cost of a windows license, or worry about viruses or any nonsense like that will benefit greatly from having Google's name attached.
There's been much talk of netbooks pre-loaded with Android, but at the current state of things, that's just not really feasable. Most of the Android applications in existence are designed for use on small, touchscreen devices without keyboards. The web browser is a RELATIVELY capable browser for a MOBILE browser, but you're not going to want to run Google Docs in it.
My netbook currently runs Linux, I'm using Chrome right now, and I do all my work in Google web apps. It works fantastically well. Except for one little thing:
5) The Linux version of the Chrome browser is a LONG-ways from ready for general use. It's very fast, does many things very well, but can't do most of the things you'd expect from a browser. You know, like bookmarks, printing, stuff like that. Looking at the state of things now, there's simply no way they're going to parlay the Linux version of Chrome into a full fledged operating system any time soon, let alone tackling the other things people are going to want to do, be it printing, scanning, etc.
Android is a full-fledged operating system RIGHT NOW, and there will likely be 20+ devices -- not even limited to phones -- on the market by the time ChromeOS even begins to be seen by the public. So don't go abandoning your Android development any time soon; there will be plenty of need for your apps for a long while to come.
Today, after some tinkering, I accomplished something of which I've long dreamt: placing a Voice-Over-IP call, from a real phone number to a real phone number, from my Android phone, using only my 3G/EDGE data connection. No plan minutes or hosted PBX phone service involved.
Here's a brief how-to (that's not even dependent upon having an Android phone):
1) Get Google Voice. (This step is going to be kind of a buzzkill for most people, as Google is still in some sort of indeterminate closed beta with the Google Voice system. I'm not exactly sure how I ended up with access, so I don't know what to tell you to do to get it too.)
3) In your Google Voice settings, add the 'SIP' address that Gizmo gives you to your Google Voice account, selecting 'Gizmo' as the type of number. (Detailed instructions.)
4) Install a Gizmo-compatible client on your phone. The folks at Gizmo have written clients for many popular phones. You can get one at http://gizmo5.com/pc/products/mobile/. If your phone supports 'J2ME,' then chances are they've got you covered.
(On Android, I installed 'sipdroid,' which isn't a Gizmo-specific application, but one that can handle any Voice-Over-IP service. (You can find sipdroid in the Android Market, but that version only works via wi-fi. Get the full version which supports 3G/EDGE calling via their site.) Configure it using the info from the Gizmo support page.)
5) Use Google Voice's web interface to tell it to call whatever number you want, selecting your Gizmo number as the one to ring when connecting. (Gizmo offers incoming calls for free; telling Google Voice to initiate a call and ring your Gizmo is technically an incoming call, even when you're calling a friend.)
6) Tell the Gizmo client on your phone to answer the call. You're now connected, and you're not using any minutes.
A nice side-effect of this Gizmo compatibility is that you can run Gizmo clients on any computers you have around. When someone calls your Google Voice number, all the computers will 'ring' as well as your cellphone, so you can answer it from one of them instead. More minutes saved.