Discontinuing StackAnywere

Last week the Stack Exchange team announced the launch of the new official Stack Exchange app for Android, complete with full write access including the ability to post and answer questions. In light of this StackAnywhere, Rectangular Software’s unofficial Android client for the Stack Exchange network, is now obsolete. As such, after nearly 3 years serving the Android users of Stack Overflow and its related sites, there will be no further updates to StackAnywhere.

We have removed the ad-supported Silver Edition of StackAnywhere from Google Play and made the ad-free Gold Edition free-of-charge to anybody who still wants to use it (it may still be of use to users of older Android versions that are not supported by the new official app). Thank you for using StackAnywhere and, in particular, thank you to those of you who showed your support by purchasing the Gold Edition.

Rectangular Software Delivers Simplicent’s Learn Pro Blackjack for Android

Following on from the success of Learn Pro Blackjack for iOS, Simplicent has today launched an Android version of its flagship blackjack training app. As with the iOS version, the Android app was built for Simplicent by Rectangular Software.

Learn Pro Blackjack Android Main ScreenLearn Pro Blackjack teaches users the fundamentals of Basic Strategy – the essential knowledge for maximising your chances of winning at the table. Blackjack typically has the smallest house edge of all the games at the casino, making it a better proposition than the likes of roulette, but only if you know what you’re doing. Basic Strategy is a proven set of rules that determine what you should do in every possible situation to give yourself the best chance of winning.

Learn Pro Blackjack combines a set of training flashcards with a comprehensive strategy test consisting of 340 scenarios. The app includes tailored Basic Strategy advice for each of four major rule variations (Las Vegas, Atlantic City, single-deck and double-deck), both with and without surrender, as well as additional tips to help you get the most from your gaming experience.

Learn Pro Blackjack runs on Android 4.0 and later. It is available now from Google Play and from Amazon.

Appmonger & Google Wallet – An Update

Google’s hitherto slow migration of Google Checkout users to Google Wallet appears to have accelerated massively this weekend – at least judging by the number of e-mails we’ve received about Appmonger no longer working. The problems that these users are seeing are the same as those that others have been experiencing since the transition began in April. At that time we took the decision to suspend sales of Appmonger until it was possible to make a version that would work with Wallet.

The good news is that Rectangular Software’s own merchant account has now been migrated, which means we finally have access to Google Wallet for testing. Hopefully we’ll be able to release an Appmonger update this week that works with Wallet.

In the meantime, if you were using Appmonger with a Google Checkout merchant ID and key, you can continue to do so as the Google Checkout API is still functioning (and presumably will until Checkout is shutdown in November). You will though need to have already made note of your ID and key because you can no longer access the Google Checkout website to retrieve them.

UPDATE (8th July 2013): Version 2.4 with Google Wallet support is now available from Google Play.

Smartphone Report Shows Increased Android Dominance, Continued Blackberry Decline and Improved Fortunes for Windows Phone

Kantar World Panel today published its latest smartphone market share report, this time showing sales figures for Q1 2013 in nine key countries. The numbers show an increased dominance for the Android operating system, which is number one in eight out of the nine territories, with Apple’s iOS in second place. The odd country out is Japan where iOS is a few percent ahead of Android. Android sales are a long way in front everywhere else except for the US where the race remains close. iOS share is down marginally everywhere but the biggest loser is Blackberry, which now accounts for less than 1% of the market in six out of the nine featured countries and has fallen behind the increasingly popular Windows Phone in all of them.

Here in Britain, Android phones were bought by 58.4% of smartphone buyers in the first three months of the year, with Apple devices favoured by 28.7% and Windows Phone in third place on 7%.  Across the five largest EU markets (GB, Germany, France, Italy, Spain) the picture is similar though skewed more in favour of Android, which accounts for nearly three quarters of sales in Germany and a massive 93.5% of Spanish sales.

Kantar is predicting further gains for Android in coming months due to sales of new flagship devices such as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

Appmonger Affected by Google Checkout to Google Wallet Transition

Google is currently in the process of replacing the Google Checkout merchant centre with the new Google Wallet. Some users have already received this update and are reporting that Appmonger is no longer working for them due to the changes.

Unfortunately we do not currently have access to the new Google Wallet merchant centre and are therefore not yet able to investigate what changes are necessary to get Appmonger to work with the new site. At the very least it appears that it will require changes to authentication and support for the new sales report format.

Until we are transitioned to the new service, which could take several days or more, this work cannot start. In the meantime we have temporarily removed Appmonger from the Google Play store to avoid selling to users for whom it will not work.

For further updates, please follow @RectangularHQ on Twitter or subscribe to this blog.

Users Prefer Native Apps as HTML5 Reality Falls Short of Promise

There have been a couple of interesting contributions in the last week to the ongoing HTML5 vs native mobile app debate. Firstly, Compuware APM published some research that indicates that 85% of smartphone users prefer to use native apps rather than mobile web apps. Secondly, the team behind the popular accounting software Xero announced that they are switching focus to native apps following difficulties in delivering an acceptable mobile web offering.

The Xero team were keen to exploit their existing web development talents when building a mobile version and acknowledge that this, not user experience, was their primary justification for choosing the HTML5 route. But when their efforts failed to yield acceptable results they changed tack:

Xero prides itself on not compromising on customer experience, and when it comes down to it, the question isn’t “How can we use our existing skills to build a mobile application?” but “What is going to enable us to deliver the best customer experience on the mobile devices that our customers use?”

This is a similar conclusion to that reached by Facebook last year when it replaced HTML5 with native on iOS.

As we’ve mentioned previously, one of the key promises of HTML5 is that you can build one app that works everywhere. If you’re targeting multiple mobile platforms this is supposed to make it easier as you don’t have to duplicate effort by creating native apps for each operating system. What’s interesting about the Xero announcement is that they’ve acknowledged that the reality is somewhat different. They’ve concluded that with the current state of the tools and mobile web browsers they would have to put in more effort than it would take to build native apps:

…the lesson we’ve learnt over the last 12 months has been that the cost in time, effort and testing to bring an HTML5 application to a native level of performance seems to be far greater than if the application was built with native technologies from the get-go.

Current trends show that the mobile market is consolidating on just two major platforms, with Google and Apple squeezing out BlackBerry, Microsoft and others. That makes focusing on just the big two a viable mobile strategy. And if there are only two platforms that really count then, as things stand at present, native apps are the way to go.

The picture will of course change as the HTML5 ecosystem matures but for the likes of BlackBerry and Microsoft that can’t happen soon enough. Right now developers may well choose an excellent experience for ~90% of users over a mediocre one for everybody.

StackAnywhere 1.1 Released

StackAnywhere 1.1Today sees the release of a long-awaited update to StackAnywhere, the Android app for the Stack Exchange network (which includes sites such as Stack Overflow and Super User). This version brings the UI up-to-date for Android 4.x users and also moves the app onto the latest version of the StackExchange API. As well as dozens of minor fixes and refinements included in version 1.1, the move to the latest API opens up opportunities for new functionality in future version versions.

As prevously, StackAnywhere is available in two editions. The ad-supported Silver Edition is free to download and use. If you don’t want to see any adverts in the app, you can upgrade to the Gold Edition.

Android & iOS Account for 91% of Smartphone Sales

For much of the last few years the smartphone market has been a three-horse race with Apple, Google and BlackBerry battling for supremacy. Google’s Android has held the lead in recent times while BlackBerry’s market share has continued to dwindle. Figures published yesterday by IDC show that although BlackBerry is still in third place, its share of new devices sold is down to just 3.2% and it remains to be seen whether its new X10 and Q10 devices will do anything to reverse that slide.

With Microsoft (2.4%) so far failing to make a big impact with Windows Phone there are now only two big players in terms of mobile platforms: Android (70.1%) and iOS (21.0%). This is the continuation of a trend previously highlighted on this blog in the discussion of the pros and cons of HTML5 versus native apps.

There are two important caveats in this latest data. Firstly it should be noted that these figures are for sales of new devices. Actual smartphone ownership figures lag behind as devices purchased in the last couple of years remain in use. Secondly, these are worldwide figures and while they are broadly representative of trends across much of Europe and Asia, there are markets where the picture is markedly different. For example, while the same duopoly exists in the United States, the relative shares are very different with Apple’s iOS in pole position (51.2%) and Android in second (44.2%).

Slow Update Cycle Handicaps Android App Developers

iOS 5.0 and Android 4.0 were unveiled a week apart in October 2011. 15 months later the Apple offering has achieved near universal uptake (over 96% according to some third-party figures) whereas the majority of users of Google’s OS are still waiting. Many will never receive an upgrade for their current devices.

With less than 40% of Android users running Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) or Jelly Bean (Android 4.1/4.2), app developers find themselves having to support outdated versions of the operating system in order to reach the widest audience of Android users. To be runnable by 90% or more of users, an Android app must run on Android 2.2 (Froyo), an OS that is four months short of its third birthday. iOS developers on the other hand need only support a 10-month-old version (iOS 5.1) in order to reach the same percentage of users.

This pattern seems set to continue (iOS 6 already has twice the penetration of Android 4.x despite being only four months old) and while it does Android developers will not be able to rely on recent OS features if they intend their app to be usable by the majority. In contrast, an iOS app developer can happily forget about the limitations of all but the last couple of versions of the platform, which leads to a much more straightforward development process with far fewer workarounds and compromises.

With many Android device manufacturers failing to provide updates for older phones, existing Android users are typically only getting the new OS when they upgrade to new hardware. At that pace it is likely to be mid 2014 before app developers can consider dumping Android 2.x completely.

Improved Order Reconciliation in Appmonger 2.3.1

Following on from last week’s 2.3.0 release of Appmonger, the Google Play app seller’s app, today we’ve got some more improvements. As well as some refinements to the previous Android 4.x support there is also a new option to override your device’s default time zone and display reports using the time zone of your choice. However, the change that will probably of interest to most users is the improved order reconciliation.

Order reconciliation in Appmonger is the process by which previously downloaded orders are updated when more accurate financial information becomes available. It is necessary because the near-real-time data from Google Checkout that Appmonger uses only contains amounts in the buyer’s currency. Appmonger therefore uses third-party exchange rates to estimate the amounts in the seller’s currency. The small inaccuracies introduced by this process accumulate over time and make the overall reports less accurate. Fortunately Google Play’s monthly payout reports provide a second source of data that we can use to correct these figures. The Appmonger reconciliation process checks for new payout reports and uses the data to update its local order records.

Unfortunately, before today the reconciliation process was not a complete solution since the orders in the Google Play payout reports do not map neatly to the data in the Google Checkout reports. Those orders in the payout report that reference the Google Checkout order ID could be matched, but there were many others that could not be reconciled. Version 2.3.1 of Appmonger fixes this by making sense of the various different types of ID used in the payout reports. Some of these refer to a merchant ID that is present for some but not all orders in the Google Checkout data. In order to make the necessary connections Appmonger now stores this merchant ID when it is present. This means that if you want the new version to reconcile your previously downloaded orders, you will need to delete the app’s data and download them again so that this extra information is obtained.

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