Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

File Under: Mobile

Google Throws iOS a Bone With Street View for Mobile

The Wired Offices in Google Street View on iOS 6. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Disgruntled iPhone users pining for the good old days of Google Maps have one small thing to celebrate today — Google Street View is back.

No, Google hasn’t released a Google Maps app for iOS 6 users, but the company has added Street View for mobile browsers. Today’s update for Google’s web-based mobile maps includes a Flash-free version of Street View that works in mobile web browsers, including Mobile Safari, which gives iOS users an easy way to access Street View.

The performance of Street View in Mobile Safari is not quite up to par with the native Google Maps app that Apple sacked, but, provided you have a decent network connection (3G worked just find in our testing), it works well.

To use the new Street View, point your mobile browser to maps.google.com and search for a location. Then click the familiar “pegman” icon at the bottom right of the screen to bring up Street View.

It remains to be seen if this is just a nice new feature for the mobile version of Google Maps, or the first step in a long-term strategy for Google Maps on non-Android devices. Will Google build out its web-based offerings, which work in any browser, and skip the native app on platforms it doesn’t control?

Google Maps in mobile browsers still lacks voice over turn-by-turn directions, but the difference between web and native Google Maps apps is fast disappearing. Mobile bandwidth keeps increasing and mobile devices keep getting more powerful. Couple that with emerging HTML APIs like WebRTC, which gives browsers better access to your mobile device, and a platform-native Google Maps app feels less and less necessary.

File Under: Mobile

Create an ‘Open Device Lab’ With Help From LabUp

One of the biggest roadblocks to building a website that works well on any device is that you need to test it on, well, every device. Collecting every new device that gains a foothold in the worldwide market is beyond the budget of most web developers, which means we use imperfect methods like emulators or test on a limited set of devices.

But there’s a better way — just head to your local Open Device Lab (ODL).

Open Device Labs are places anyone can come and test their websites on dozens of devices. The idea started in Europe, but there are now several Open Device Labs in the U.S. as well. You can check this list of Open Device Labs around the world to see if there’s anything nearby.

Nothing near you? That’s where the newly launched LabUp! wants to help. LabUp is helping to get even more ODLs up and running. The site aims to be a centralized place for listing open device labs and a resource for anyone looking to start up their own Open Device Lab.

Here’s how LabUp! describes itself:

LabUp! is here to help people around the world in establishing nonprofit Open Device Labs which helps others access a large number of mobile devices for testing, leading to an ultimate improvement of the mobile web and app experience both for developers and consumers.

For more info on how you can help, or how to set up your own local Open Device Lab, head on over to LabUp! and be sure to follow @LabUpOrg on Twitter.

File Under: HTML5, Mobile, Web Standards

New HTML Tricks for Web Developers in Apple’s iOS 6

Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Apple’s recent iOS 6 update added some nice new web standards support to Mobile Safari, the default iOS web browser for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Apple’s documentation remains sparse and occasionally outdated, but luckily Max Firtman, author of O’Reilly’s Programming the Mobile Web, has a very thorough rundown of everything that’s new in iOS for web developers.

By far the biggest news is support for file uploads and camera access using a combination of the File API and the HTML Media Capture API. To let users take a picture from your web app, you’d use a file input tag something like this:

<input type="file" accept="image/*" capture="camera">

Mobile Safari’s Media Capture support is incomplete so it will ignore the capture attribute, as well as any value for accept other than image or video, but at least web apps can now capture and upload images from the iPhone’s camera.

I put together a quick demo page of Mobile Safari’s Media Capture support so you can see the new interface in action. The first two examples on that page work, the third audio example does not. You can see in the demo that Mobile Safari helpfully shows a thumbnail of the image prior to upload. It’s also worth noting that Mobile Safari supports the multiple boolean flag for uploading more than one image at a time, though in that case you lose the ability to access the camera.

For more on what to do with those images once the user has selected them, check out the Mozilla developer network, which has an excellent tutorial on using the File API.

Other highlights for web developers in the new Mobile Safari include support for the Web Audio API (great news for anyone building mobile, web-based games), increased application cache sizes (now 25MB), a faster JavaScript engine and some new CSS tricks as well — CSS Filters, CSS Cross Fades and the not-yet-a-standard CSS Image Set we told you about earlier. Be sure to read through Firtman’s whole post for all the details.

While there’s plenty to like about the new Mobile Safari there are some things missing, like support for WebRTC and getUserMedia, WebGL and sadly our least favorite bug — the Viewport Scaling Bug, which causes Mobile Safari to incorrectly reflow content when rotating from portrait to landscape — seems to still be hanging around. As always there’s a JavaScript workaround available.

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

New Opera Mini 7.5 Introduces ‘Smart Page’

Webmonkey is in your Opera Mini Smart Page, making you smarter. Image: Webmonkey.

Opera software has released Opera Mini 7.5 for Android.

To update or install Opera Mini on your Android device, head on over to m.opera.com or Google Play.

The latest version of Opera’s lightweight, speedy mobile browser — not to be confused with the much more full-featured Opera Mobile — adds a new feature, the “Smart Page,” for what Opera calls “social snacks.”

The new Smart Page is a social media and news aggregator, offering one-stop access to your friends’ updates from Facebook or Twitter, as well as news from the websites you visit most frequently.

Because Opera Mini proxies your internet connection through Opera’s servers, making page downloads considerably smaller and faster, the company can use the sites you’ve visited to compile what amounts to ad hoc feeds for your most visited sites. As with all things automated, the more you use Opera Mini the better your news results will be.

Opera Mini is also available for iOS and other platforms, but so far this latest version is only available on Android. An Opera spokesperson declined to comment on when other Opera Mini releases might be updated.

To see the new Smart Page feature in action, check out this video:

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox for Android Goes Tablet-Native

Firefox for Android. Image: Scott Gilbertson/Webmonkey

The latest version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser for Android devices is now available in the Google Play Store.

This release continues Mozilla’s move away from the unified Firefox look to one that uses native Android interface elements.

The new native interface for Android tablets means faster start-up times and a much speedier Awesome Bar for searching, but it also means the browser is a bit more Android-y and a bit less Firefox-y. For most Firefox fans that’s probably just fine; the significant speed boost more than makes up for the fact that the mobile version looks a bit different than desktop Firefox.

The latest Firefox for Android packs in some other welcome new features as well, including the ability to import bookmarks and browsing history from Android’s stock web browser, a new setting to clear specific types of private data and a much-needed new “find in page” search tool.

This release also includes much of the new web standards support found in Firefox for Android’s desktop cousin, also released today, which means that CSS word-break and other new features will work on mobile devices as well.

For a complete list of new features in Firefox for Android, be sure to check out the full release notes. And while Firefox for Android has been pretty stable in my testing, there are still some known issues, including one bug that occasionally causes the screen to go wonky (“yield unexpected behavior,” in Mozilla’s words) when changing from portrait to landscape and vice versa.