Aug 10 AT 10:54 AM Anthony Domanico 36 Comments

Is Android’s focus on applications outdated?


Chris Weber is the President of Nokia and heads up their North America division.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Mr. Weber lamented that the model of applications as central to a mobile operating system is outdated, and that Google and Apple’s focus on the application in Android and iOS makes navigation of these platforms difficult. Mr. Weber’s foundation for this claim is the notion that users of Android and iOS need to download multiple applications to fully use their devices, resulting in “a lot of touching…as you [have to] press icons or buttons to activate features.”

The Nokia executive then went on to describe “the future” of mobile computing as found in Nokia’s live tiles and hubs approach, which it’s now developing in conjunction with Microsoft. Live tiles and hubs are the prominent features of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, and with a greater focus on social integration via your contacts list expected in the upcoming Mango update to Windows Phone 7, Nokia is embracing WP7 as the mobile operating system of the future.

Apparently Nokia fails to realize that these “tiles and hubs” are what we in the Android Community would call “widgets,” and we’ve had widgets since Android was first introduced as a mobile OS. The live updating tiles found in WP7 closely mirror the functionality of widgets found in the likes of HTC’s Sense UI, stock Android widgets, or Motorola’s “Don’t call me BLUR” MOTOBLUR UI (not to mention the thousands of widgets found on the Android market). These widgets also deliver live updating information on social networks, text messages, calendar appointments, and whatever else you’d need live updates for.

The only place in the entire interview where Nokia had a legitimate advantage over Android was when they demonstrated “Touchless Voice Control,” a feature in WP7′s upcoming Mango release that allows users to fully control their phones with their voice without having to launch an application or hit the search button. Though this feature can truly be dubbed a “game-changer,” we have no reason to suspect that WP7 will be the only mobile OS to have this feature for very long, and I think we may see something similar in Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” when it launches later this year.

With Windows Phone 7 failing to gain any traction in the crowded mobile market which has been dominated by Android and iOS, we tend to not think that these OS’s focus on applications is outdated by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, we always want to hear what you guys think. Should Google focus on building better widget functionality into the core Android OS? Does the notification bar handle live updates well enough? What improvements would you like to see within Android when it comes to live updates?  Sound off in the comments.

You can read the full interview with Mr. Weber over at VentureBeat, including an equally laughable section where Mr. Weber highlights how wonderful WP7′s cloud capabilities are compared to Android and iOS. Though it is a good read, I just don’t see anything more than a “Rah Rah WP7″ by a company that needs WP7 to succeed if they’re going to stay in business.

Source: VentureBeat

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • martin

    so the nokia guy was touting his companies way of doing things was better? what a surprise :/.

    i think google’s decision to decouple the apps from the major versions of the OS was a good idea. as long as the underlying version of android could support it, everyone would get the app update instead of having to wait for carriers to roll out the update, if they would even do that!


    Believe it or not , some will fall and some will follow..

  • codesplice

    The emphasis on applications as a means to extend the OS experience is by no means outdated – it allows each user to tailor their experience to suit what they want/need. It is a very modular approach and it makes a lot more sense (to me) than the alternative models.

    • anujahooja

      Exactly. People often forget that unlike iOS, Android apps can integrate themselves deep into the overall experience of the OS. They’re not just apps; they’re plugins, extensions, and widgets as well. So Nokia’s wrong – you’re _telling_ the user what they want; Android lets the user decide and focus on the integrated features that matter to them the most.

  • ed catlett

    I guess he hasn’t heard of widgets which do everything he is talking about huh?

  • TheDrizzle

    I’m all for looking at our phones in a new way, however what WP7 is doing with tiles is not new. All they are doing is cramming widgets together to make a homescreen. I hardly call this a new approach to mobile OS. If there was something substantial that made our app-centered philosophy obsolete, I’m willing to entertain the idea.

  • Dvogonen

    I agree that the application model is slightly outdated. But not the way the Nokia spokesperson meant. The WP tiles is just a slight variation of the iOS and Android app model. What is outdated is installing apps on devices. Over time the phones will surely go the same route as desktop computers; more and more functionality will reside on the Internet, rather than in the device. But this requires wider access to stable Internet connections and better browsers. Both these prerequisites are surely in the works, so the future is pretty obvious.

    • Bacon_hat_guy

      Well I hope you have acess to wifi 24/7 or an unlimited data on your mobile contract. Too bad the phone carriers are killing Apple and Google’s “cloud” aspirations while it’s still in the cradle.

    • JaToMa

      I don’t get it with this cloud. Why should I want my Apps in the cloud, all my data?
      * T-Mo will do another buggy backup and all my data are lost again.
      * I’m on a plane and want to access my last documents or mails -> but can’t no access to the internet.
      * I’m abroad with mobile data costing me 5€ per Mb (that’s 7$) thats 15€ for listening to just one of my songs in the cloud.

      I prefer they put more memory in my phone, so that I can put all data I need on the phone. And only those data that I want to access on different devices I will store in the cloud.

      • PGrGr

        Because, JaToMa, with the functionality a well programmed HTML5 app can offer, you should be able to cache your data for offline usage. Whether this is done automatically by the app/website, or something which you have to do manually, is up to debate. As a prototype of this sort of model, I look at Spotify. I cache the music I want through my wi-fi connection at home or in my office, not using up any of my data allowance, then listen to the music on the underground, where there’s no mobile reception anyway.

        I admit that the infrastructure and the technology for doing away with apps completely is simply not there yet. Maybe in another 10 years, but this is the way the world is going.

  • Kev

    Motorola’s “Don’t call me BLUR” MOTOBLUR UI
    Hahaha why is that so funny to me? lol

    • Rev. Spaminator

      Reminds me of an old song..”Don’t Call Me Dude”

  • adamblue

    I’m a huge Android fan….and Android will be around for a while like Symbian was. Any manufacture can get an Android build and plug it into their hardware. WP7 is different, but is doing things right.

    Within the Music hub, I can listen to Slacker, iHeart Radio, etc. They can be separate apps, but can also all be accessed and integrated within the Music hub. Very streamlined. Same with pictures, contacts, etc. Microsoft explained this in their Mango reveal event and it really made sense. This is the future of app integration and Apple will surely follow.

    • PGrGr

      You mean “folders”?


      • adamblue

        Not at all. And this is the mindset that gets us no where.

        • Ex iOS user and Current Android fan

          I loved iOS and am loving the Android. But I do have to say that I think WP7 has got something. Surely it’s not mature yet, but the idea of integrating the widgets in one where all the social networking stuff plus SMS plus contacts (from your phone, gmail, outlook, FB, Twitter, etc..) are used and found in one hub is a very useful and, yes, perhaps even radical. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

          A lot of us Android users forget that not all mobile phone user market are tech savvy nor do they want to be. They want simple to use interface and want it to look good. That’s the typical user profile including my wife.

          She’s been in love with iOS for a while now, but when I saw the WP7 and then showed some videos of it to her, she was sold. If you read reviews of WP7 phones, you will find that this is not an uncommon thing.

          You and I might not like it because we like the customizability of Android, but for the average user, the ability to be able to receive and send messages to all their contacts via SMS or FB or email and whatnot is a very convincing argument, I think.

          PGrGr’s comment asking “folders?” just goes to show the lack of understanding of WP7 or rather the lack of willingness to learn about WP7 or any other OS for that matter perhaps. Liking what you choose is one thing, but ignorance is quite another. We often feel the need to defend our choices too the bitter end once we have made up our minds, this really “…is the mindset that gets us no where” as adamblue said above.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if iOS and Android start adapting some of the features or ideas from WP7. Yes, Android has widgets, but not like WP7.

          A user on Android will have to go to 3 different apps or widgets to read, check, and response to messages in SMS, email, and FB. On WP7, just one. Hard to beat that for the average consumer. If only the marketing was there. Not many people even know that WP7 exists, hence their ridiculously low sales compared to Android and iOS.

          My wife, however, is now considering scraping her plans to get an iPhone 4 and planning to get an WP7 instead.

  • aj

    I think nokia is outdated and so is windows phone. They need to be put away somewhere in an attic or shelf and left there to collect dust. Also i wouldnt say i necessarily want android to put all focus on live updates or widgets but slowly improving them to work flawless and more intuitively withe OS is what i would like to see

  • Marc

    Most of what I wanted to say has been covered in the previous comments. One thing that I wanted to say is that I do like the idea of “Touchless Voice Control” but don’t see it being all that practical in everyday life. Imagine sitting on a crowded subway or even in your office chair and speaking commands to you phone. Obviously there are enough obnoxious people out there talking loudly on their phones without the need to add people shouting commands at their phones.

    The other problem I see with this is what if you say something in casual conversation within an earshot of your phone? Something like, “I really should call (insert person here)” and the phone dials them. Without a button to press to activate voice commands, you would need a keyword to active it like the did on Star Trek. “Computer” “Call so-and-so”. I could see another mobile war develop from this, WP7 (Star Trek) vs. AnDroid (Star Wars)…. just go and watch the movie Fanboys. ;)

    • Tangent

      Their touchless voice control sounds like something you’ve been able to do on Android for a while now with Vlingo. Once you have Vlingo set to run in the background – it’s not always on due to battery drain – you can prompt it to listen for you commands with an attention phrase. By default it’s “Hey Vlingo”, although I think you can change that. “Hey Vlingo” isn’t exactly an everyday phrase so the odds of accidentally prompting your phone call somebody you’re just talking about are pretty slim.

  • hldc1

    I chuckle a bit whenever I read something saying “Apps are outdated” or “Apps being phased out for move to cloud services”. If apps are outdated, what is the solution or next step in the evolution of computing? Numerous companies have been trying to move things to the cloud for years, but the fact remains that people oftentimes need to be within reasonable distance of a satisfactory wired or WiFi internet connection.

    As someone that lives in Los Angeles, I can say firsthand that mobile internet is quite sporadic. It is great downtown, but cellular service is not consistent in all parts of the metropolitan area. This is just one city. In addition, cell companies are continuously trying to find ways to charge more for less data consumption. So much for prices going down and the whole competition hoopla.

    How do you connect to the cloud when you can’t afford to connect to the cloud?

    Just my 2 cents…

  • http://Website Rocky

    There are pretty good comments made by people here. I just want to add inert point regarding the touch less control: Vlingo application already implemented the touch less control on android.

  • cityboytech

    I agree and it has crossed my mind multiple times. I think that once you download an app that enables a feature then you should somehow be able to use that feature without necessarily having to open the app. For example, tethering. If you download a tethering app (like PdaNet) then once you plug your phone into a laptop there should be an option to tether, in addition to mounting the drive and charge only options presently found in Android. The only time you should have to open these types of apps (the ones that enable new features) is when you need to adjust some settings

    • JaylanPHNX

      Many apps do this already, but many more don’t. Some don’t because of the app’s creator, some because Google won’t allow it. I think Google should expand this functionality as much as security will allow, while encouraging developers to take advantage of it.

  • sb

    Obviously Android has had voice control for years. Hit the mic in the search widget, then “Set alarm to 6 30″, “Navigate to Pacifica”, “Play the Ting Tings”, etc. I’m surprised at the number of Android users that still don’t know this.

    I seriously doubt touchless voice control will be a legitimate advantage. At best it’s a minor enhancement, at worst a serious irritant.

  • luiek20

    Sounds to me like Mr.Nokia is in denial when wp7 fails I can expect Nokia to hop on with android and have to eat its own words. OAN: don’t call Mr MOTOBLUR lol

  • David

    I could be off, but I think Vlingo offers something like voice control. Though of course having it baked into the OS so I could be very Trekkie and say “Computer, do this!” that would be very fun.

  • JaylanPHNX

    Yes, WP7 is moving away from apps. That’s why if you swipe over from the tiles, you have a huge list of…oh…those are apps. Just a straight vertical list of apps. Welcome to the, uh, future?

  • AndroidOrDie

    Wait… Nokia… the same guys who said that Android was “just a fad that would soon die out”? The same guys who categorically stated that they would never build an Android phone and then went on to lose market share to the point of irrelevance in almost every market they once dominated? I wouldn’t trust these guys to tell me the correct time!!

    And didn’t we already have the ability to control a lot of functions on our phones using voice commands?? Wasn’t that what Android 2.2 and Vlingo were about?

    • Anthony Domanico

      yes, but they’re taking it a step further by implementing full voice control. meaning he can control his phone without even touching it. Kinda cool, but not a “wow”

  • SliestDragon

    Meh, full voice control isn’t important to me. Maybe it would be during driving, but other than that its a gimmick. Just like 3D.

    • Anthony Domanico

      hmm… maybe 3D voice control is the answer?

  • muadhnate

    It still won’t sell any mobile phones for windows. I am looking forward to it as a desktop upgrade though. Prediction: windows licenses most of this new tech to google. But they better hurry up and patent it before Apple steals it and claims it as their own “revolutionary” idea.

    • muadhnate

      BTW Windows mango is pretty awesome.

  • Alan Paone

    I think what is outdated is microsoft pretending that android doesn’t exist. Remember when they had the funeral for iphone and blackberry? Notice how its way easier to make a useful widget than a live tile? Btw, neither is glace and go, android is stop, swipe glance and go, windows is stop, swipe, wait, tap, wait, read and go. In the mango unveil, they talked about how apps are siloed on other platforms, yet that only really affect the iphone where apps aren’t allowed to talk to eachother. On android, most of my apps are tied together and give me more functionality for each new app i install. With windows, you get about the same level of integration, but its harder for devs, and they lose a little of your app’s branding. On android you say, I want to listen to some pandora right now, on wp7, you just open the music hub. Power amp was a totally indie app that spread pretty much only by word of mouth on android, something that can’t happen in windows’ world without apps.

  • n00b2000

    Overall I’m a fan of WP7, though there are gaps in its functionality that prevent me from adopting it. I do like the hubs concept though – some people here are likening it to folders in Android, but I’d argue that it goes a little farther, basically integrating app functionality into the hub (folder) itself. But yeah, live tiles are just OS standardized widgets, and the app model is still the foundation upon which the system is built, which won’t change anytime soon.

  • Doods de los Reyes

    Is this some convoluted way of Nokia admitting that Windows Phone is not going to catch up to Android Market and App Store’s app offerings any time soon?