cross platform adventures – developer upgrading your O/S…

So as most readers of this blog know – our little skeleton team at echoecho are clearly gluttons of punishment because we are a seed stage startup creating an LBS solution on 4 (soon to be 5!!!) platforms.

They are

  • iOS
  • Android
  • BlackBerry
  • Symbian/QT –😉
  • Windows Phone 7 (under active development – Mango only)

It’s enough of an adventure doing a startup in general – on ONE platform – but doing it on 5 is enough to humble the most hardcore dev wizards. So I’m rightfully proud of what our team has accomplished (and soon – everyone will see it…) – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For reasons very familiar to any developer trying to access the address book on a phone (see – WhatsApp, GroupMe and a fair few others) Microsoft made that task near impossible with the first version of WP7. Fortunately this oversight was fixed with the latest Mango update. Thanks to some enthusiasm and direction from @claire0h and a few other like-minded folk at Microsoft the other day I received a brand new set of WP7 handsets.

But interestingly when I turned them on they weren’t running Mango…yet.

ok wait…let me back up a bit.

We’ve learned a shitload of cross-platform development lessons along the way (the largest actually being UI/UX related) but interestingly comparatively little is written about the details of always chasing the latest version of an O/S on your mobile devices – which of course as a developer you have to do – to stay one step ahead of…errm…the customers😉

So for everybody’s benefit here’s a little story about iOS vs. WP7

Now I need to state for the record here that I’m a PC guy through and through. I’ve always been a fan of Windows and while I appreciate the product design of Mac hardware I’ve always considered it overpriced etc etc. And in point of fact I’m a huge fan of clean and simple UI – and certainly even the first version of WP7 delivered that – in spades. So our decision as a company to develop echoecho for WP7 was made without hesitation – the fact that echoecho is specifically about being useful and fast in solving real problems – as opposed to bells and whistles and Mayorships and Badges – really lends itself to the clean lines of the Metro UI on WP7.

However – the experience of being a dev on WP7 isn’t always seamless (@BrandonWatson) take note of this – because there’s gotta be easier ways to getting things this done – so that even more devs will jump on the platform.

Finally – I get to the point of this article😉

Today’s class problem is upgrading two different manufacturers handsets to the latest (developer only) versions of the o/s.

On the one side you have Apple – where if you have never used the latest O/S (iOS 5.0) before you essentially do this:

download itunes beta

Download itunes latest beta.
Download iphone latest beta (for whatever handset version you have)
Flash latest iphone beta onto your phone with latest itunes.

Simple enough. Assuming you have a fairly fast internet connection 20-25 minutes-ish in total.

Even better is that once you have done an update of iOS 5.0 (early beta) updating to latest betas is even easier – it’s all done over the air like this:

ios over the air update

So now let’s see what happens with Microsoft/WP7

(to be fair to Microsoft – they are not manufacturing these phones – whereas Apple of course is – but still)

First of all a warning in the documentation:

Microsoft is unable to assist developers who “bricked” their phone because an instruction step was skimmed or skipped.

Fair enough. We’re all devs – and we should know better than to cut corners and skip over instruction steps😉


But now begins a fairly long process of backing up + updating + re-registering phones – without boring every non-WP7 dev with the entire story there are at minimum 25 steps required here.

I followed each of them carefully – and in the end it all worked but I would like to draw your attention to step 9, 10, 11, 15 (note that these are by my count – Microsoft splits them into multiple chunks)

Step 9: Uninstall previous versions of the UpdateWP software, if it exists. Check to see if you have an older version of UpdateWP already installed in your Zune directory ({ProgramFiles}\Zune) – If you have either an UpdateWP.exe or WM7Update.dll file – delete them.. Install the new UpdateWP software

It’s not the clarity of the steps that I take issue with. They are clear enough. It’s that we are in 2011 – dealing with 64-bit versions of Windows 7 running on Quad-core CPUs as part of a dev kit for the latest smartphone platform on the PLANET – yet we’re still deleting *.exe and *.dll files manually.

Step 10/11: Connect your phone to your computer. If Zune is running, close the Zune client software.

Errm..ok. Fine. It takes one-click to close the software – but errm – can you not TELL that it’s running and therefore just close it for me??

And finally…

Step 15: Your device will then update to build 7.0.7712.0 (duration: ~70 minutes)


Seven – Zero….70 minutes.


That’s it. Clearly lots of room for (ahem) improvement in efficiencies here.
It’s a lovely o/s (massively less hampered by the Mango features – and we’re really looking forward to pushing the boundaries on our echoecho implementation there) and of course it’s easy to pick stuff apart on any system – but we’re in the trenches here making this stuff work on a daily basis – and hopefully if feedback like this is listened to it will make the whole platform a smoother experience for everybody.

a little announcement – ahead of a BIG one next week ;)

Nick Bicanic (Founder/CEO) of echoecho is speaking at the ever so cleverly named LocationPalooza on thursday at 4:30pm (until 7pm etc)

More details are provided at the WCA website – link above – just click on the bit that says…YES….LocationPalooza😉

Bryan Trussel (CEO of Glympse) will be there – as will @gadgetman (Marc Kleinmaier) and bunch of other G-eo, M-obile, S-ocial tweeps.

See you there if you’re in the bay area.

Oh wait – it’s in Sunnyvale at the Nokia HQ.
Yeah. That’s it.

an interesting example of why it’s hard for blackberry to succeed in LBS ;)

I think I blogged about this before – but I’m at the RWW 2way conference today – testing some new stuff on our blackberry build – and check this out…

blackberry vs. iphone

Just to be clear what we are looking at here.
I am indoors at Columbia University.

The RED dot is a BlackBerry Torch. The BLUE dot is an iphone 3Gs. (I am very indoors – i.e. not near a window – neither device has a GPS lock)

The size of the circles is the accuracy (or the so-called circle of confidence)

So the big question is WHY is the BlackBerry Torch 9800’s circle so damn huge?

The answer is deceptively simple.

The BlackBerry cannot see wifi for purposes of location. The iphone can.

It’s not because the BlackBerry wifi is not on – it IS – and in fact the BlackBerry is using the wifi for data connection – it’s just that the BlackBerry cannot use the wifi for location detection – so the huge circle you are seeing is the cellid radio tower data.

It’s kinda sad that the iphone which is over 1 year older than the 9800 Torch – still kicks its ass in indoor location detection. I know there are some complicated java virtual machine reasons as to why this is not possible – but it’s still kind of sad. If you think about it a BlackBerry core strength was (and arguably still is in many places) – the enterprise – and business meetings mostly take place INDOORS😉

a cool testimonial ;)

So we’ve been busy with lots of different things (closing our Seed Financing round, building new features, removing bugs etc etc) but this pair of testimonials recently arrived in our inbox. They brought a smile to our faces so I thought it would be good to share them….

Alice (from London) says:

I set Gavin up with a colleague from work. They met up on Saturday night. I wanted to see if they, er, ‘got along‘. echoecho revealed a success! Gavin was in Clapham (right where my colleague lives) on Sunday morning!

Separately to Gavin, Claire phones me up on Wednesday night, she’s incoherently drunk, no idea where she is, tells me she has puked on herself! I’m worried so i send her an echo. She’s in Shoreditch, down an alley! I send her boyfriend to sort her out. She eventually gets home safe.

Though echoecho was not designed to help you stay informed on your friends’ romantic activites – it’s good to know that both Gavin and Claire (and Alice) were helped out by echoecho


Actually joking aside – being able to FIND your friend even if they have no idea where they themselves are (as was the case with Claire and Alice above) is one thing we’ve very much kept in mind when we designed how easily and quickly users should be able to interact with echoecho.

While this is clearly not the only usage – it is an interesting example of a “where are you” problem that needed solving quickly and easily…

The Atlantic gets why echoecho is the best way to share location…

Nicholas Jackson writing for The Atlantic has some solid points about echoecho – he says echoecho is

“a simple application that provides an easy work-around to that most basic of Foursquare’s problems”

Nicholas also goes on say

“I’ve never been a proponent of Foursquare: I’m not excited by the possibility of one day becoming the virtual mayor of my neighborhood watering hole. And I don’t like badges. (Didn’t even like them when I was a Boy Scout.)”

But that side-swipe at the overall value provided to real people by some geolocation apps belongs in another blog post😉

NewsGrange likes echoecho ;)

Sorry for the delay in some of these updates – we’ve had a crazy few weeks – new builds getting pushed out on Android and iPhone – a completely BlackBerry UI overhaul has begun (when finished – it will put the BlackBerry app in line with the new UI of iPhone/Android) – but the good news is that people are paying attention.

Tech blogger Frederic Lardinois (post his RWW days) has a new tech blog called NewsGrange.

He wrote a cool write-up about our new UI – he’s a huge fan of simplicity and usefulness (more on usefulness in a future blog entry).

Frederic says:

“Echoecho is one of the most useful location-based apps on the market today. When you hear the word “location-based app,” chances are you are thinking about services like Foursquare and Gowalla. While these can be fun, their utility is rather limited (unless you really feel the need to collect virtual badges). Echoecho, on the other hand, was built from the ground up to solve a simple problem: finding out where your friends are.”

Generally we’re seeing a trend in mobile apps (not just geolocation) away from frivolous apps that allow you to do…welll…pretty much nothing – and towards applications that are designed to solve real problems for real people.

We’re happy to have Frederic on our side😉

Hide and seek – does Google Latitude really want me to share my location…

“People don’t care about privacy” is a common refrain heard amongst social media pundits (most recently this morning by Jason Calacanis – in the latest @launch missive about Color.


Well we’ve done a lot of work on tweaking aspects of echoecho’s new OOBE (out of box experience) and this subject came up quite a lot.
Today we noticed that Latitude’s first screen on the iphone application says the following:

latitude OOBE

Let’s think about this for a second.
This is an application for sharing your location.
But 2 out of 3 bulletpoints on the one-and-only instructional page that comes up when a user first launches the app – describe how to STOP sharing your location.

Clearly we’re not the only ones who have noticed that a lot people are quite uncomfortable with real-time tracking of their location.

And by a lot of people – I don’t mean hyper-social early adopter check-in maniacs or social media professionals or d-list celebrities.

I mean everybody else.

In the real world – that’s 99.9% of people.

For sure it’s true that removal of friction in sharing (be that by the evolutionary path of blogging, twitter, facebook, instagram, path or otherwise) has interesting implications to consider.

But sharing your precise location is very different from sharing a photo, sound bite or funny lolcat.