mwc 2015

The mobile world’s attention is turning to Barcelona this week, as it’s time once again for the annual Mobile World Congress, where the world’s mobile device and wireless service vendors parade their latest wares to nearly 80,000 attendees who come from all over the world. This week, we’ll keep you up to date on the developments at MWC, so be sure to check this blog daily!

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge unveiled at MWC

galaxy s6

As expected, Samsung unveiled their newest flagship phones at MWC, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which show the mobile giant switching to an all metal-and-glass body. The Edge is notable for a curved screen that wraps around the phone’s left and right edges, which allows for some interesting user interface ideas, including a mode that lets you read it from the side (very useful, if like me, you use your phone as your bedside alarm clock):

galaxy s6 edge side view

A number of early reviews have already been posted at Ars Technica, BGR, CNet, Forbes, TechRadar, and The Verge. For those of you wondering whether to get the S6 or S6 Edge, Gotta Be Mobile has put together a list of the six key differences between the two models.

no sir i dont like it

Ars Technica notes that some of the more technical users aren’t all that pleased with two things that Samsung took out of their latest flagships: the removable battery and the MicroSD slot.

Android head Sundar Pinchai’s keynote at MWC

sundar pinchai

The Verge liveblogged the keynote of Sundar Pinchai, Google’s head of Android, Chrome, and Google Apps, and whom Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek called “the most powerful man in mobile”. He talked about:

  • Google’s take on mobile: “We don’t just see phones, we see powerful computing devices. They are devices that connect to the cloud, which is where Google comes in.”
  • Google Translate on mobile. “We serve over one billion translations a day.”
  • Mobile, in general: “People spend more than 10 million hours on their phones a month. On Black Friday, 40% of transactions were done on mobile.”
  • Android, of course. 8 out of 10 phones shipped run Android, which he owes to its serving “an entire spectrum, all the way from entry level to high end.”
  • More than just phones: “We’re working on Android beyond phones and tablets, watches, televisions, cars. VR is going to be a hugely important area that’s using Android as its foundation.”
  • Extending the cloud: “There are 4 billion people in the world that don’t have access to connectivity. We want to do better with this.” He talked about three Google projects that aim to solve the connectivity problem:
    • Fiber: Municipal broadband internet and TV
    • Loon: A balloon-based network to create a mesh of flying cellular towers
    • Titan: A network of solar-powered drone aircraft to create an even more ambitious mesh of flying cellular towers

For more, see The Verge’s liveblog.

Lenovo showcases new tablets

lenovo ideapad

Lenovo used their time at MWC to showcase their upcoming Ideated Miix 300, an 8-inch Windows tablet with slightly better screen resolution than an iPad Mini that’s expected to retail for about US$150. It currently runs Windows 8, has 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage that can be extended with a MicroSD card, and is said to have 7 hours of battery life.

See us at MWC!

gsg at mwc

We’re in Barcelona to see what’s new at MWC, and to talk to people! In attendance are:

Want to meet up with us while we’re there? Drop us a line at

this article also appears in the GSG blog


A great “New Yorker” cartoon on emoji

by Joey deVilla on February 25, 2015

new to emoji

Click the cartoon to see the source.

Today’s daily cartoon in the New Yorker will resonate with more than a few people. As for whether the emoji is a booty call or death threat, I say “Why can’t it be both?”


The local mobile app development opportunity

by Joey deVilla on February 24, 2015

seems legit

I saw the sign pictured above yesterday while biking and had to take a picture. Signs like this are common in suburban Tampa, where I live, but they’re usually to announce that they’re hiring employees at the nearby fast food place (like the other signs in the photo), or a garage/estate sale, a foreclosed house that’s going for a ridiculously low price, or the services of someone who’ll fix or clean up your house or yard. This is the first time I’ve seen such a sign used to promote app development.

A quick search on the phone number led me to a local company’s website, which closely follows the template used by this site, this site, this site, this site, this site, this site, and this site. If you want to find even more sites using the same approach, formula, and even working, just do a search with this query: “bar & club apps” examples. They all promote a service that purports to enable you to build a beautiful mobile site or app without having to do any programming, available in three monthly plans — mobile site only, native app only, and both — all of which go for less than $100/month. All of the apps they use as examples have functionality that you can cobble together after reading “Teach Yourself Mobile App Development in 24 Hours” and appear to fall on the bad side of Sturgeon’s Law.

The existence of so many of these crap-app franchises suggests that there are opportunities for indie app developers in small- to medium-sized markets.

We’re still at the point where it’s unusual for a local business to have its own app and where an app would make them stand out. If you can:

  • Build a set of modules that would serve the needs of most local businesses — a “how to find us” screen, a “contact us” screen, a “menu of our products/services” screen, and so on (look at any of the crap-app sites if you need ideas) — so that building an app for them is largely assembling and customizing these modules,
  • do better application, user interface, and graphic design than what you see coming from those crap-app factories (not that hard), and
  • reach out to local businesses (this is actually the hard part)…

…then you’ve got the makings of a killer side (or main) business that these crap-app makers would be hard-pressed to beat.


This kid’s a future mobile developer

by Joey deVilla on February 20, 2015

future mobile developer

Click the photo to see it at full size.

He’s got that mix of love for mobile, cleverness, and laziness that the job requires.

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3 out of 4 americans

Around this time last year, Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report estimated that 65% of Americans — about two-thirds — owned a smartphone. Data from comScore’s MobiLens and Mobile Metrix surveys shows that this percentage has grown, with an estimated 75% of Americans owning smartphones during the period from October through December 2014.

top us smartphone oems dec 2014

The top smartphone vendor for that time period was Apple, who claimed 41.6% of America’s smartphone subscribers, followed by Samsung, with 29.7% of the market share. The next three OEMs, LG, Motorola, and HTC, trailed distantly with single-digit shares of the market, and the remaining vendors accounted for the final 11%.

top us smartphone platforms dec 2014

Android was the number one platform with 53.1% market share, followed by iOS with 41.6%. The two top players dwarfed the rest of the field, which includes Windows Phone at 3.4%, BlackBerry at 1.8%, and Symbian just hanging on with one-tenth of one percent of the market.

top us smartphone apps dec 2014

Facebook was the app most used by Americans, reaching 70.2% of the app audience, with a nearly 20-point lead over the runner-up, YouTube, with 52.5%.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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date and time

swift kickIn previous installments in this series, we’ve covered:

In this installment, we’ll make getting the time interval between two dates — which normally involves a lot of typing — a little more Swift-like.

One common date arithmetic operation is to determine the interval between two given dates. This is usually a clunky two-step process based on NSCalendar‘s components method, which expects at least three parameters:

  • The time components you want the method to return, such as years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. This is expressed by ORing together NSCalendarUnit values, and
  • the two dates, in NSDate form.

Let’s look at how it works. First, we’ll need a couple of dates. Create a new playground and put the following code into it:

In your playground’s sidebar, you should see the string representations of those dates:

  • goHomeYoureDrunkTime should display as something like January 1, 2015 at 3:45 a.m., and
  • badPoetryDay should display as something like August 18, 2015 at 4:20 p.m..

Let’s find out how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds there are between goHomeYoureDrunkTime and badPoetryDay with the following code:

You should see from difference that there are 229 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes, and 40 seconds between the two dates. We did a lot of typing to get this result, and there should be a nicer way to do it. How about this:

With this code, we’ve overloaded the - operator, so that when both its operands are NSDates, it returns an NSDateComponents instance specifying the days, hours, minutes, and seconds between the two. I could’ve coded it so that it also returned the time in terms of months and years, but the size of those units vary depending on the month and year, while days, hours, minutes, and seconds always represent the same amount of time.

dates and times in swift - smallRelated articles

A very brief introduction to date formatting in Swift and iOS: The oversight in a mostly-good book on Swift programming led me down the path of writing articles about dates and times in Swift, starting with this one, where I look atNSDateFormatter.

How to work with dates and times in Swift, part one: An introduction of Cocoa’s date and time classes, and how they work together. This article covers UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), and the key classes: NSDate, NSCalendar, NSDateComponents.

How to work with dates and times in Swift, part two: Calculations with dates: Now that we’ve got the basics, it’s time to do some date arithmetic: comparing two dates to see which one is the earlier and later one, finding out how far apart two dates are, and adding and subtracting from dates.

How to work with dates and times in Swift, part three: Making date arithmetic more Swift-like: Cocoa’s date and time classes have an Objective-C heritage, which in the Swift context, feel kind of clunky. In this article, I look at ways — and by ways, I mean helper functions and class extensions — to make date calculations feel more like Swift.


never mind the bollocks

Here’s a story that anyone who’s taking part in any of the activities of Tampa Bay Startup Week — or wishes they could take part — should read. It’s a story about a seemingly insignificant gathering of like-minded people, and how the ripples of what its attendees did can still be felt today, an ocean away…

johnny rotten

Johnny Rotten in 1976.

It’s June of 1976 in Manchester, England, and a small group of people gather in a tiny venue called the Lesser Free Trade Hall to see a band play. There’s nothing really remarkable about this group of 42 people, and that evening’s featured musicians are unknown at the time.

The band calls themselves the Sex Pistols.

sex pistols 1976

Glen Matlock, Johnny Rotten, and Steve Jones in 1976.

As I mentioned, there were no famous people in the crowd at this show, or at the follow-up show that happened about a month later. The Sex Pistols had not yet caused an uproar throughout Britain with songs like Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen, and it was well before they invaded the US in 1978.

Attendees ranged from the local mailman to a few rebellious school children. But a handful of others in that small audience became some of the most influential people in independent and now mainstream music.

A gig attended by a few dozen in a venue that could easily hold hundreds would normally be considered a flop, but turned out to be anything but an ordinary concert. The influence of the Sex Pistols and the punk rock movement they helped kickstart can still be heard today in every band that features a spikey-haired youngling beating rapid power chords on a guitar. Johnny Rotten would later found the more experimental Public Image Ltd, and manager Malcolm McLaren would cast his musical net even wider, branching out into disco, funk, hip, electronic music, world music, and even opera.

That “handful of others” in the audience were just as important. Among them were:

These output of the bands that arose from this one gig would help define alternative rock and its subgenres, from punk to goth to synthpop to grunge, for decades to come. All this came from a concert that almost nobody cared about at the time, attended by people nobody had heard of at the time.

“The gig that changed the world,” as alt-rock aficionados sometimes call it, did so because it brought together people with similar interests who were passionate about what they did. Its attendees saw that popular music was changing, and after being inspired by a group of troublemakers, decided that they could be part of that change. They went on to create music their way, and make their mark on the world.

tb startup week organizers

The people behind Tampa Bay Startup Week (pictured above) may not look punk rock, but they’ve most certainly got its DIY, “we have an idea and we’re going for it” spirit. Like the Sex Pistols, they’re a band of troublemakers putting on an event on a shoestring budget (yes, Chase is sponsoring, but without them, the budget would likely go from shoestring to none), and at the moment, it isn’t being noticed by most of the world outside “the other bay area”.

Like the music scene in Manchester the mid-1970s, the work-life dynamic in Tampa Bay in the mid 2010s is undergoing some big changes:

If you look carefully, you can see the initial rumblings of change here, from the One Million Cups gathering that takes place every Wednesday to all the local interest in The Iron Yard to places like The HiveTampa Hackerspace, and Eureka! Factory to the ex-Marine who’s doing good and helping your beard feel good at the same time. I see a lot of the necessary ingredients for change here that I saw in Toronto in the mid-2000s, and so does GeekWire…and with a subtropical climate to boot!

I hope that like those 42 people who attended that Sex Pistols concert in 1976, that some of the people at Tampa Bay Startup Week’s events will get inspired, start their own businesses, and shake the universe.

(I’ll be at tonight’s tech cocktail mixer with my accordion. If you ask, I’ll gladly play you my rendition of Anarchy in the UK.)

Upcoming Tampa Bay Startup Week events



This article also appears in my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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