Google: App Inventor for Android

App Inventor is a Google software that allows anyone to develop simple Android apps. “To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.”

App Inventor lets you create applications that use advanced features like GPS or sending SMS messages. “You can build an app to help you remember where you parked your car, an app that shows the location of your friends or colleagues at a concert or conference, or your own custom tour app of your school, workplace, or a museum.”

Google says that the software has been successfully tested in several schools across the US. “App Inventor for Android gives everyone, regardless of programming experience, the opportunity to control and reshape their communication experience. We’ve observed people take pride in becoming creators of mobile technology and not just consumers of it,” says Google’s Mark Friedman.

You need an invitation to try App Inventor, but you can complete this form to get an invitation.

“The App Inventor project is led by MIT computer scientist Harold Abelson, the founding director of the Free Software Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Creative Commons who’s now on sabbatical at Google,” reports the Register.

“The Google project, Mr. Abelson said, is intended to give users, especially young people, a simple tool to let them tinker with smartphone software, much as people have done with computers. Over the years, he noted, simplified programming tools like Basic, Logo and Scratch have opened the door to innovations of all kinds. Microsoft’s first product, for example, was a version of Basic, pared down to run on personal computers. The Google application tool for Android enables people to drag and drop blocks of code — shown as graphic images and representing different smartphone capabilities — and put them together, similar to snapping together Lego blocks. The result is an application on that person’s smartphone,” notes the New York Times.

App Inventor is especially suitable for Android because Android apps are collections of reusable intents. Even if you build a simple application, you can easily make it more powerful by using components from other applications.

{ Thanks, Kevin. }

Google Labs: App Inventor for Android

App Inventor is a new tool in Google Labs that makes it easy for anyone—programmers and non-programmers, professionals and students—to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices. And today, we’re extending invitations to the general public.

For many people, their mobile phone—and access to the Internet—is always within reach. App Inventor for Android gives everyone, regardless of programming experience, the opportunity to control and reshape their communication experience. We’ve observed people take pride in becoming creators of mobile technology and not just consumers of it.

For the past year, we’ve been testing App Inventor in classrooms around the United States, and we’ve found that it opens up the world of computer programming to students in new and powerful ways. David Wolber, professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco and part of the initial pilot program, says “students traditionally intimidated by technology are motivated and excited to program with App Inventor.” One student from Professor Wolber’s class told us: “I used to think that no one could program except CS people. Now, I’ve made dozens of applications for the Android phone!” Another student, who struggles with dyslexia, was inspired by App Inventor to take more computer science classes and is now learning Python. Check out this video to hear more about App Inventor for Android at University of San Francisco.

Visit our site to learn more about App Inventor and see sample apps. To request an invitation, fill out this form and you’ll soon be on your way to building mobile applications. And check out the video below to see how it works. We can’t wait to see what you create!

Posted by Mark Friedman

Google Search: Now Google Indexes Mobile Apps

Sometimes, when you use a smartphone, the best search result is not a web page, it’s an application. That’s probably the reason why Google added an OneBox for iPhone and Android apps. If you enter a query that includes keywords like “download”, “application” or “app” on an iPhone or on an Android phone, you’ll see a list of results from Apple’s App Store or from the Android Market.

“You can tap these links to go directly to the app’s Android Market or iPhone App Store page. You can also get a quick look at some of the app’s basic details including the price, rating, and publisher. These results will appear when your search pertains to a mobile application and relevant, well-rated apps are found,” explains Google.

Maybe Google will develop a full-fledged search engine for mobile apps, index reviews, show recommendations and allow developers to advertise their applications.

BOKU Launches 1-Tap Mobile Billing for Android

BOKU launches Android SDK with 1-Tap™ technology.

They’re testing some cool features that can help you monetize your mobile apps.  Check out the benefits:

  • Seamless in-app billing
  • 1-Tap™ mobile billing in 60 countries and 198 carriers
  • No user registration or login necessary
  • Potential for increased revenue and conversion
  • Easy mobile integration – just drop in our SDK

You can learn more over here:

… and see what other folks are saying like this piece in Techcrunch:

Let us know what you think and we look forward to working with you.

Android 2.2 allows developers to create applications that can receive messages from servers

One of the most interesting APIs in Android 2.2 allows developers to create applications that can receive messages from servers. “Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) is a service that helps developers send data from servers to their applications on Android devices. The service provides a simple, lightweight mechanism that servers can use to tell mobile applications to contact the server directly, to fetch updated application or user data.”

To try the new APIs, you can install an Android app and a Chrome extension that let you send a link from the browser to your phone and automatically open the URL in Android’s browser. Install the Android application, register your device and enable “launch browser/maps directly”. Then install the Chrome extension, click on the icon and log in to the same Google account used in Android. Now you can send links to your phone by clicking on a button in Google Chrome.

The application requires Android Froyo, which is only available for Nexus One at the moment.

Adobe launches a PDF reader for Android

After releasing Flash Player for Android, Adobe launches a PDF reader for Android. The applications is available in the Android Market and it can be installed only if your phone runs Android 2.1 or later and it has at least 256 MB of RAM and a 550 MHz processor.

Nexus One already comes with a document viewer based on Quickoffice, but the application doesn’t do a great job at previewing PDF files. Adobe Reader for Android opens PDF files much faster than Quickoffice and it has a better zooming feature.

“Adobe Reader for Android offers multi-touch gestures, like pinch-and-zoom, as well as double-tap-zoom, flick-scrolling and panning. We’ve also added a reflow mode, which will take text-heavy documents with wide margins, and automatically wrap the content for easy viewing on smaller screens,” explains Adobe.

The application doesn’t include basic features like search or support for password-protected files, but it’s snappy, documents are readable and the applications opens in full screen. There aren’t many free PDF viewers for Android and Adobe’s application is clearly the best right now.

Flash in Android2.2 Froyo

Google has started updating Nexus One phones to Android Froyo and the update file is already public. I updated my phone using a pre-rooted version from Modaco which doesn’t require the stock recovery image.

Even if it’s not included in Android, the Flash runtime is one of the few applications that require Android 2.2. Right now, you can install from the Android Market the first beta release for Flash 10.1.

Whether you love it or hate it, installing Flash changes the way you look at a mobile phone. HTML5 may be the future, but a lot of websites use Flash for playing video, music, games and interactive content. Instead of getting messages that recommend you to install the Flash plug-in, you’ll see the actual content.

The trouble with Flash on a mobile phone is that most Flash content is designed for a computer and it’s difficult to use on a device with a small screen. Video players have small buttons and it’s challenging to click on one of them, some websites serve high-quality videos that aren’t appropriate for a slow Internet connection, clicking on a Flash object is a disrupting experience because you might open a new page, pause a video or display the Flash content in full-screen.

I’ve tried to open many sites that use Flash and the experience isn’t smooth. Animations are sometimes choppy, web pages load much slower, scrolling web pages that use Flash is slow and there’s a lot of lag when zooming a page with Flash content. In some cases, the browser is no longer responsive for a few seconds and you need to wait until you can switch to another page. Fortunately, Adobe managed to optimize the code and using Flash doesn’t drain your phone’s battery much faster.

The version you can install from the Android Market is not the final release, but don’t expect too many changes until next month. It’s nice to have options, so I recommend to install the Flash runtime and to change the browser settings so that plug-ins are loaded “on-demand”. This way, web pages will continue to load fast and you’ll only display Flash content when necessary.

Android Froyo, with some sprinkles, Android 2.2: Froyo Is a Major Update

Since launching the first Android-powered phone with T-Mobile in October 2008, we have worked with operators, handset manufacturers and developers to make Android one of the most useful, innovative mobile platforms available.

Google announced today Android 2.2, a major update for Google’s mobile operating system. There are many changes and a lot of new features that are really useful.

Android now uses a just-in-time compiler that improves the performance for some applications, especially for games. “The new Dalvik JIT compiler in Android 2.2 delivers between a 2-5X performance improvement in CPU-bound code vs. Android 2.1 according to various benchmarks,” says Xavier Ducrohet.

Android’s browser includes the V8 JavaScript engine created for Google Chrome, so web pages that use JavaScript heavily will load much faster (some benchmarks show a 2-3X improvement). Google claims that Android’s browser is the fastest mobile browser available today.

Developers have a new API for app data backup, which is really useful if you want to switch to a new Android device or you want to install a custom version of Android. There’s also an extremely useful messaging API for sending data to an Android phone from another device. For example, you’ll be able to send a link from your computer to your Android phone and the phone will automatically open the browser and navigate to the web address. You can also send files and install applications from your computer over the air.

Android Market will have a web interface, applications can auto-update and you can quickly install all the updates, instead of manually installing each update. Another change is that applications can be moved to the SD card. Google also announced that it has acquired SimplifyMedia, a company that developed some cool applications for streaming your music.

Android 2.2 has built-in support for tethering and it can transform a phone into a portable hotspot. Android Market includes some great applications for tethering, but it’s nice to see that’s now a built-in feature.

You can add multiple languages to the keyboard and switch between them by swiping across the space bar, there’s a new UI for the camera, there’s support for Exchange calendars and remote wipe, LED flash for the Camcorder, support for sharing contacts with other phones and much more.

Flash 10.1 is now available as a beta application in the Android Market, but it requires Android 2.2. Nexus One and Motorola Droid will be updated to Froyo next month. The other HTC phones launched this year will be updated in the second half of the year. “This includes popular models like the Desire and Droid Incredible as well as hotly anticipated phones like the Evo 4G, MyTouch slide and upcoming models.”

They’ve been thrilled by the adoption of the platform over the past year and a half. Every day, our partners sell more than 100,000 new Android-based handsets, and there are now more than 180,000 active Android developers who have contributed more than 50,000 apps now available in Android Market—up 12,000 since last month alone!

Today at I/O, their annual developer conference, we announced Android 2.2. Codenamed Froyo (for frozen yogurt), this seventh update to the Android platform brings some great new functionality to users (things like making your handset a portable hotspot and support for Adobe Flash within the browser), along with new tools for developers. Read more about the specifics of Froyo on our Android Developer Blog.

Posted by Andy Rubin

Android Stats

Less than a week before Google I/O, the conference where Google is expected to unveil Android 2.2 (FroYo), it’s clear that Google’s mobile operating system is no longer an experiment. Android is now a popular software that runs on millions of devices and it’s part of a growing ecosystem.

Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, said that “65,000 mobile phones powered by Google’s Android operating system are being shipped every day” and that “Android is now being used on 34 mobile devices in 49 countries”.

According to a NPD research, Android is the second most popular smartphone operating system in the US in terms of units sold in the first quarter of 2010 (28%), after Blackberry OS (36%). Apple’s iPhone OS dropped to the third position (21%).

Cédric Beust, a former Google engineer who worked on the Android team, says that Android’s growth is surprising:

“I don’t know what’s the most surprising: how ambitious that goal was four years ago or how far Android has come today. It’s hard to believe that Android shipped its first device about a year and a half ago and at that time, Apple had already sold more than ten million iPhones. Who would have guessed that it would only take Android eighteen months to catch up and pass the iPhone in market share? In this short period of time, we’ve gone through four major releases (and many, many minor ones, some of which you probably never even heard of), and each new version has been a major milestone that got everyone on the team incredibly excited. FroYo is no exception, prepare to be blown away by what you will see very soon.”

It’s interesting to see that carrier distribution and promotion continues to be very important. The most popular Android phone, Motorola Droid, has been aggressively promoted by Verizon. Nexus One has been sold online by Google, but the results are underwhelming and Google plans to close the online store.

Next generation TweetDeck on Android

TweetDeck is broadening into the mobile world. Maybe you’re already rocking out with TweetDeck on the iPad or DMing your mates on TweetDeck iPhone. If you’re REALLY in the loop you’ll know that we’re also working on a mega-project to bring the next generation TweetDeck to Android (more on that soon).

Really though, that’s not enough. There are hundreds of millions of you out there happy with your BlackBerry, Palm, Windows Mobile or handmade, jewel encrusted Linux smartphone. You need TweetDeck on your mobile and you need it now. We hear you.

Several months ago we embarked on a secret mission to develop a cross-platform full-featured mobile TweetDeck. We looked at a lot of options and after much deliberation decided the best way forward was to build an amazing version of TweetDeck to run on mobile web browsers.

The trends are clear. Mobile web browsers are becoming more powerful and standards compliant. HTML5 is looming on the horizon, tempting us with all sorts of web-based goodness. Mobile internet access is getting better, faster, cheaper. But that’s just the beginning.

Battery life is a big issue on all mobile devices but especially older platforms. Using TweetDeck Mobile Web means you can check out what’s going on when you want to and not have an app using valuable resources constantly in the background. Not only will this be easier on the battery but your phone will perform better in general.

Accessibility is another big issue. Using TweetDeck will be as easy as going to our url in a browser. Now you can check out the latest hashtags on your friend’s phone without enraging them by installing software that runs forever in the background. We’ve designed TweetDeck Mobile Web to work on really slimmed down devices, so pretty much anything with a web browser will do.

Finally, by focusing our efforts on a single web based product we can provide the attention and resources to really make the experience shine. Web-based development is efficient and lean so you can expect new functionality to come fast and furious.

And rather than settling for a lowest common denominator approach, we plan to create style sheets and Javascript dedicated to each platform. This will provide an experience enhanced for each mobile browser. We’ve started by optimizing for BlackBerry devices but would love to hear from you about which platforms we should be polishing next.