Remember when the iPad first came out in 2010, and the first thing everybody said was it was doomed because it didn’t have Flash? Well, it turns out most web site owners were able to accommodate this requirement, and these days even Android tablets and phones lack the once ubiquitous browser plugin. Yet, if you’ve ever browsed the web on an iOS device or an Android device (the chances are you have) you’ll know that in the vast majority of cases, everything has continued to work as normal. Staples of the Internet from BBC News to YouTube keep on working – when it comes to video at least (if you want to run Farmville sans plugin then you’re out of luck).
So when setting up my MacBook with a clean installation of OS X 10.9, I decided to see if it was possible to live without Flash. My guess was it would be, and why not? One less thing installed on your system means a reduced attack surface for malware, fewer processes running and hence better longer life, and in my experience, fewer browser hangs. I was wrong however – instead of using “feature detection” (as good web developers should) to determine whether the browser supports the Flash alternative to video, “HTML5 Video”– it seems the vast majority of sites employ user agent sniffing and will only show you the non-Flash version if you’re on a known mobile device. I kept on being asked to install Flash, even though my iPad works just fine without it. User agent sniffing is the reason why sites designed for IE6 will ask you to “upgrade” if you visit in IE11 –I can forgive any web developer working back when IE6 came out in 2001 for following what was then a standard industry practice, but User Agent Sniffing is now generally considered outdated, so why are so many sites still doing it when it comes to playing video?
Wow, as someone who is always loosing my keys this looks right up my street. I look forward to trying it.
Interesting that they only support iOS at the moment, and say that lack of Android support is because of their unstable Bluetooth 4.0 stack.
The Tile App
Tu Go is a a great idea. It can turn your iPod, iPad, laptop, or Android Tablet into a phone. Call people as if you’re calling from your mobile, and have up to 5 devices ring when you receive a call, send and receive SMS messages and see a list of voicemails.
Unlike Skype, there’s no ‘free’ calls if you call someone else using the app, all calls are charged as if you made them on your phone, as are messages.
To me this is less of a challenge to Skype, but might have more of an impact on people using iMessage, BBM or Google Talk for messaging across their devices. Now instead of being locked into your device operating system vendor’s ecosystem (iOS, Android, Blackberry), you can be locked into your network operators (albeit far more interoperable) system instead. This is a nice idea, since SMS messages sent from this app can still be receive by someone with an old phone. I do like iMessage, the typing indicator is particularly useful for knowing whether to keep you phone out because you can see the other person is about to respond but I am seriously considering switching to this since my contract gives me unlimited SMS anyway.
It remains to be seen how this app will affect battery life. On iOS at least, VOIP apps get launched on system boot and can poll their sever a minimum of every10 minutes. On Android anything goes with regards to background activity. Of course users without a cellular network connection (most iPads sold) will only be able to receive calls when they’re in a WiFi area. If it had a big impact, I probably wouldn’t use it.
What this does blur the line between what a phone is, and what a tablet is. How long before we just buy a device with a 3G/4G connection, and download our favourite VOIP app for making calls with? With a Bluetooth headset, could the iPad mini be your next phone?