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If it’s good enough for Gina Trapani, it’s certainly good enough for me. Sorry Apple fans (I know there’s at least 2 reading this blog)… I use and spend more time in Gmail more than anything else (yes, even Facebook!), so if an Android phone is better for that, then it’s not even really a question. Here’s Gina’s quote:
I’m a heavy Gmail user, and Android’s Gmail interface far surpasses the options on the iPhone. Reading, searching, labeling, and otherwise processing my email is the most important thing I need to do on my smartphone besides make calls, and it’s simply easier in Android.
Okay, this may not change your life, but for me it has quite literally brought about a new found sense of ease and happiness while listening to audiobooks.
If you use the Audible app for iOS (or Android I would assume as well) and you use it on your smartphone while walking around or doing chores or whatever, then you’ve probably had someone say something to you or a train or a loud truck go by that causes you to miss part of the book you’re listening to.
Arg! and Be quiet! Can’t you see I’m listening to an audiobook! Do not disturb!
Anyway, until a week ago, I was not aware that you could actually change the behavior of the “Control Center” for Audible. What does that mean? The Control Center is evidently the name for the lock screen that you get when you’re listening to music or an audiobook or some other app that uses what I can only assume is the Audio API. This is what it would look like if you’d just started listening to No Return by Zachary Jernigan (on sale for a ridiculous $4.49 on Amazon/Audible at the time of this writing):
What is the behavior you could (and probably should) change? Well, there’s those arrows to each side of the Play/Pause button. If you’re listening to music, it’s pretty obvious that they’ll go back and forth in your playlist. But for an audiobook? You’d probably assume they’d go back and forth between chapters (and you’d be right). But chapters in audiobooks tend to be long. I’ve never actually wanted to skip ahead or back a whole chapter. (Maybe someone else has) But if you go to the Settings in Audible and scroll down a little, you’ll see a setting for the Control Center. In the screenshot below it’s already set to Jump Seconds, but as mentioned, the default is Chapter Skip.
Hit that Chapter Skip and you’ll get the next screen where you can change it to Jump Seconds. Then you can go back and customize how many seconds you want the app to jump forward or back. (I like 20 seconds, obviously. I listen at 1.25x usually and 30 seconds is a bit too far for most interruptions or external noises. 20 seconds at 1.25 speed is really only 16 seconds and if I were listening to a book where I had to 1x it, I’d probably change that setting to 10 seconds instead – 15 seconds would probably be ideal in that case, but it’s not an option).
That’s all. Now you can back up quickly and efficiently without having to unlock your phone. Life: changed. You’re welcome. 🙂
But none of the recently announced innovations are making my eyes light up like a kid first gazing on his Easter basket.
First, from the Gmail Blog: Nested Labels and Message Preview. The Nested Labels thing actually did have me excited as though it were a chocolate egg or perhaps a Peep. But then I read this:
Please note that this lab doesn’t play nicely with the “Hide Read Labels” lab. You might not get exactly what you expect if you have both labs enabled; for example, the collapse/expand icons won’t always appear when they should.
and all the twinkle in my eyes was snuffed out. I tried it out and found it to be true. It didn’t work.
Honestly, the “Hide Read Labels” lab experiment is more important to me than sub-labels ever could be. Since I make extensive use of the keyboard shortcuts, I can navigate to any label I want with a simple “g + l” or “/” and the name of the label. I use the “Hide Read Labels” so that I only see labels with unread messages, which gives me a visual indicator of what has been filtered out of my Inbox and placed under another label for later viewing. Thus instead of viewing 44 labels, I can collapse my chatterbox (which I don’t use anyway since I have Trillian) and see my Calendar Gadget. Viewing Unread Messages and Upcoming Events is easily of more value than being able to have labels under other labels. Of course, the whole labeling system was designed so that you don’t really need nested labels at all. I know there are people who have not given up the folder hierarchy mindset, but it’s too bad that they’ll have to give up their hidden read labels in order to get it.
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I declare that emphatically because I want it to be so. I’m sure I’m not the only code monkey out there praying that “write once, run anywhere” doesn’t leave us like ###… Even now web developers have to test across at least 3 different browsers,* but at least things are trending towards standardization and it’s becoming easier to create a web app that will behave the same independent of a user’s choice of browser.
Smartphones pose a serious threat to that ubiquity in the same way that the differences between Windows, Mac OS, and Linux made developing desktop apps an elephant-sized pain in the ass. Web developers have long wished and advocated for browsers that run everything the same way. While that is probably never going to happen, the difference between developing for IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera is much (much much) smaller than the difference between developing for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
if (Portability > Usability) then ?
There is a reason that desktop-style web apps are popular. Yes, people still use Outlook, Thunderbird, and many other fat desktop clients for email, but there’s a reason that there’s 300 million people using Yahoo Webmail, Gmail, Hotmail, and AOL Webmail (I extrapolated that number from these percentages of market share), and that given the choice, 49% of people choose Gmail as the best email client. There’s also a reason that Google has basically given a big fat middle finger to native iPhone apps with their Gmail client in HTML5 (and now Google Voice web app, also in HTML5). There a reason that there’s a lot more “mobile touch” web sites than there are iPhone and Android apps. There’s a reason that I get practically all of my links from Read/Write Web and not Read/Write Native Smartphone App.
That reason is Portability. That is: I can run a web app from anywhere on anyone’s computer (or phone) as long as I’ve got internet access. So, while a client like Outlook or Thunderbird offers a slightly faster response time and some extra features, if you use one of those and don’t use a web-app version in addition to the desktop client, you suddenly sound like someone who doesn’t really know how the internet even works (do you really want to be the person who says: “I have to check my email on my home computer”?)
And for the second part of the equation: Usability – the gap between web app and desktop app is getting smaller every day. Web developers continue to push the limits of what web-based applications can do with respect to speed and user interfaces. Sure, web apps (even the good ones) are slow compared to native apps when they’re running on a (relatively) slow phone with a (relatively) slow 3G internet connection. But the speed of the phones and the connections is improving even faster than the speed of the apps themselves.
So, now take the difference in Portability (we’ll say this difference is a fairly large positive in favor of web apps) and add the difference in Usability (we’ll say this is slightly negative with respect to web apps) and then add in the fact that you can write a web app in one language and have it run on every single phone and computer with internet access and see if you don’t come out with a conclusion that says: HTML is the Future.
And, if you want some awesome tips for developing in HTML5, check out Alex Bosworth’s post.
* Yes, all you Opera and Safari heads, I said at least.