DeviceReady: Test Your Android App Across 25+ Devices

I keep hearing from lots of folks that Android fragmentation is a big problem. When developing apps for Android, you have to consider the various devices, versions of operating system, form factors, etc. Sounds like a nightmare.

I've been thinking lately about one possible partial solution:

A service that enables Android app developers to submit their app and get screenshots of how the app looks and performs across the most popular Android devices.  Not an emulator.  Your app running on each of those devices.

Like Selenium + Browsershots for Android.

To test the concept, I quickly came up with a name (DeviceReady), threw together a landing page using Unbounce, shared the idea on Hacker News, and purchased about $75 worth of Google Adwords.  The results after 3 days:

Pretty good, right?

I think this is a winning idea because:

  • A company serious about their android app really should test it across dozens of devices.
  • Presumably they are spending a lot of money building and testing their app.
  • The cost of the service, at, say $100 per month (5 submissions) or $25 per submission would be negligible.
  • It is unreasonable to think that a small or mid size android dev shop (most of them) would buy dozens of handsets and manually test on each.

Idea: Building a Better World Meeting Planner

I'm often having meetings (phone calls, really) with folks on the other side of the planet (Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.). Rather than thinking too much and trying to convert time zones in my head (and inevitably screwing things up), I turn to sites like The World Clock Meeting Planner.

There, I enter my location (Los Angeles), the location of the person with whom I'm meeting (say, Sydney), and it shows me a really useful grid:

Results from The World Clock Meeting Planner.

The green indicates the "safe zone" for scheduling a meeting (the typical working hours, 8AM to 5PM, for each location). So, at a glance, I can see that, say, 3PM to 5PM Los Angeles time would likely work for me and the person I'm meeting with that's in Sydney.

Really useful, but not great.  I'd like something that's better.  Specifically:

  1. Remember my location! Every time I visit World Meeting Planner, I have to re-enter my city (Los Angeles). It should fill this in by default.
  2. Remember my history. While it's I might meet with folks across hundreds of different cities and time zones, it's unlikely. Remember the locations that I've used in the past, and suggest them to me (like a sidebar that allow me to choose a location I've previously used with one-click).
  3. Autocomplete. Allow me to type the first few characters of "Sydney" or "Auckland", and complete it for me. Don't make me scroll through a big ugly list of possible locations!
  4. Be flexible with location names. Let me type "Sydney" or "Auckland" or even just "New Zealand". If it matters (it may or may not depending on the timezones and time of year), force me to choose a specific city or time zone.
  5. Ideally, integrate with Google Calendar. Create a Google Calendar plug-in* or browser extension extension that improves the UI when creating a new calendar item. Allow me to choose a number of locations and see the "safe zones" for meeting. As above, remember the locations that I've used in the past.
Adding an event in Google Calendar. Aside from the fact that this UI could use a lot of work, it would be great to have an integrated world meeting planner.
* Does Google allow plug-ins to Calendar or Google Apps? Does such an infrastructure exist? If so, any good options for monetization? I'm sure something like this could be created and monetized for mobile devices, but what about the desktop?

GeoClock: Ambient World Clock (Physical Device)

Here's an idea for a physical device that's "on the shelf". From January 2007.

Back in 1999 I worked for Bertelsmann Ventures (now BV Capital) in Santa Barbara, California. The office was in a really cool location (just off State Street), on the second floor of a really great building (above the Wine Cask restaurant). Lot's of dark wood and character.

One of the partners had a really neat looking world map hanging on the wall of his office. Later, I found out it was a GeoChron, a special kind of world map that displays the time, anywhere in the world, at a glance. It also shows you where it's dark and where it's light (the declination of the sun)

The GeoChron is a really interesting device. It's completely mechanical (not digital), hand made, and is rather expensive (prices range from $1,700 to $3,000). Here's more information, directly from the manufacturer:

The Geochron is the only instrument of its kind to simultaneously exhibit the current time anywhere in the world as well as displaying where the sun is rising, and when it will set. Each gear is individually hand-cut to ensure optimum synchronization. Each world map is made using state of the art lithography printing which uses specially formulated inks designed to make the map resistant to ultraviolet light.

Fast forward to January 2007. Digital picture frames were a big consumer craze. These were $100 to $200 devices that would sit on your desk and show you a slideshow of photos.

I thought there might be an opportunity to create modern version of a GeoChron, one that would be perfect as an executive gift or desktop accessory. I called it GeoClock.

My "GeoClock" design. It says "ambient" in the top-right corner because I pitched the device to David Rose, CEO of Ambient Devices. David had experience designing, manufacturing, and distributing hardware devices at retail stores. I sent him a "prototype" which was an off-the-shelf digital picture frame with a number of still images in sequence, "faking" what the real product would look like.

I figured I could sell this thing for $200 to $300 dollars. I didn't know much about the hardware costs, but I assumed that the components were very similar to the digital picture frames: a display, some kind of processor, some memory. And of course, some custom-developed software that would render a picture of the earth, draw the declination of the sun, refresh the display every x seconds, etc.

Here are some additional thoughts that I captured in a short presentation:
GeoClock Overview

Has the time for a product like this passed?  It seems like digital picture frames came and went. I assume it's because 1) they're rather wasteful (always on, drawing power) and 2) the image they produce fades and degrades over time.

Clearly this would make a great app for Android, iPhone, iPad.  A quick search in the Apple App Store lists a number of them with similar features.

Idea: Platform For Online Marketplaces

A platform for online marketplaces could be huge given all of the hype regarding "Reverse-Auction" style transactions.

The platform would allow buyers to specify items they are looking for, and sellers would place bids/quotes on these items.

The buyers would choose the seller that offers the best prices, guarantees, shipping, etc.

Like Moai Technologies Auction platform, this tool would be the transaction enabler for Online Marketplaces.

When the seller replies to an item, the tool would be smart enough to ask the seller the most important information regarding the item (for example, a television: screen size, PIP, remote control, etc.).

When viewing the bid, the buyer would see all of the most important features, as well as the asking price for the exact items from the top sellers in the market (for example, curcuit city, best buy, etc.). This would justify the value of the offer.

The tool would create a profile for sellers, including ratings and past-buyer comments.

It would be used to develop the now super-hyped reverse-auction style marketplaces; everything from:

  • Labor Brokering
  • Consumer-goods
  • Any business where there are multiple suppliers of similar goods/services (especially of commodity items)

Although there will ultimately only be a few successful reverse-auctioning sites for each market (historical examples for Auctioning model include: Ebay, ubid, Yahoo Auctions, etc), this tool has high short-term value as an easy way for different players to jump into the market quickly.

It's the equivalent of the "tool supplier" during the "Gold Rush" analogy, where the majority of the Goldminers made very little money, while the "tool supplier" did very well.

Idea: Mobile Telephone Style Marketing for Photography

Mobile telephone network companies (Sprint PCS, Pac Bell, LA Cellular) charge little or nothing for their hi-tech phones so long as their customers sign a lengthy contract (1 year +) for their phone network.

Film Developing providers, such as chain stores like WAL-MART, K-MART, RITE-AID, etc could charge little or nothing for appealing film cameras so long as their customers sign a lengthy contract for film developing with them.

Getting cameras in the hands of users can increase the potential that they take pictures, and the providers could increase revenue in film developing just like cellular telephone providers have increased revenue with more network use (more calls made). This also greatly increases the "walk-in" sporadic business of the chain store, as both dropping the film off and picking up the photos are a store visit (which is probably why most stores offer the service to begin with).

The problem with the idea is that the film developing providers have no way of enforcing that users develop their film only at their stores. However, the same problem exists with the Free/Cheap PC idea, in that the end users don't have to use the set-up ISP or start page portal.

The film development providers can enforce a certain number as the "minimum allowable film development" per year.

This idea assumes that photo-processing is something that chain stores anticipate existing for years to come. However, new digital means may allow end-users to "process" photos on their own. Ideally, no processing would be required in order to capture photos.