Diary of a CrazyFrench

Monday 1 July 2013

Exempi 2.2.1

Just a quick note to announce that I released Exempi 2.2.1. It was long overdue. It is mostly a couple of bugfixes.

Note: so that there is no misunderstanding, since people see this on Planet Mozilla, this is not a Mozilla project. But it is completely Free Software.

Here is the short Changelog

  • Bug #54011: Use POSIX API for files on MacOS. (Misty De Meo)
  • Bug #58175: Replace OS X FlatCarbon headers. (Misty De Meo)
  • Added a manpage for exempi(1).
  • Added the -n option to the command line for arbitrary namespaces.

Next release will be 2.3.0 and will integrate the latest Adobe SDK used in the Creative Cloud.

Your next mobile app should be web based

There is no question about that.

I just switched from an Android phablet made by Samsung, device I came to hate for many reasons, to a Firefox OS Geeksphone Keon. That was my second Android phone, I switched because I got it for free[1], needed a carrier that worked better than the failure that is WIND Mobile on which I was using my Nexus One[2] and said Nexus One was just abandoned in OS upgrade by HTC AND Google after 22 month. I have to admit I missed the Nexus One, still, as Samsung didn't make Android better, quite the opposite.

Back to the point. I got that Geeksphone Keon, provided by my employer: Mozilla.

This is not a review of the phone, BTW, and all of this also applies to the just released Firefox OS phone in Spain.

On my Android phablet[3] I used 4 applications: the web browser, a twitter client (not Twitter's own though), Instagram and Foursquare.

On my Firefox OS phone, I had to scrap the last two. Why? Because despite requiring an internet connection and having some sort of web interface, their are unusable on the web.

Web browser

On Android I used Firefox for Android as my web browser. It is currently the best solution for web browsing is designed to protect your privacy and to run on more devices than Google's own Chrome. Call me biased if you want but truth is I have been using Firefox on the desktop too.

Firefox OS web browser is basically the same thing.

Twitter

Twitter is a bit hurtfull. It is designed from the ground up to be used as a web application. Twitter has a mobile version that is meant to work well on small screen. They even have a packaged version for the Firefox OS Marketplace. Where it hurts is that Twitter web UI remains awful, either deliberately (given that the iOS client is awfull too) or because we got spoiled by third-party clients. On Android I was using Twicca (no source code) or Twidere (broke a bit at one point), but it should be noted that Twitter gave the finger to third parties when they added restriction on the development of client ; as well as bickering with Instagram to not show their content inline.

They get almost full marks for being a web app and treating it as first class.

Foursquare

On the desktop, if you go to Foursquare you get a decent web application, albeit you can do the major feature that Foursquare calls for: check-in.

On mobile, if I visit the website on Firefox for Android I get prompted to download an app.

On Firefox OS it is worse. Looks like their detection fail and they offer the desktop website that is mostly unusable on such a small screen. I filed bug 878132 for our tech evangelism to eventually have a look at.

Seems like they didn't go all the way to make it relevant on mobile web. Sadly. What was an experiment I started by the end of last year when I signed up for the service stopped here right at Firefox OS. It seems that I don't need it. They lost a user.

Instagram

This one is the worst of the worst. First and foremost their web interface for desktop is very limited. Secondly, it doesn't scale at all on mobile - some content scale better than other. Third, they bickered with Twitter so that their content is not viewable inline.

Why does that last one matter? Try viewing the instagram content in the Twitter mobile web client.

I give a F as a mark.

Conclusion

Simply make your mobile app web based. It will run on iOS, Android, Firefox OS, Blackberry, etc. and people will be able to follow when they change phone and you won't need to spend a lot of resources for each platforms.

Also if you really want to have a packaged app, remember there are technologies like PhoneGap whose purpose is exactly that.

Notes

[1] minus the money I had to spend for unlocking it, thanks to consumer protections that don't exist in Canada

[2] first and foremost I didn't have service at the office downtown. second I was in the process of moving to Montréal where they don't have service anyway

[3] in case you didn't realize I call it phablet because it is a small tablet that one can use as a phone. Too big for your pocket, too small to be a good tablet, the worst of both worlds. It would never have been my choice ; but one doesn't simply look into the gifted horse's mouth.