Android Browsers video

Testing the new Vimeo Universal Player

On Tuesday Vimeo released their new Universal Player in an attempt to serve up videos to the ever changing landscape of web enabled devices (ie. iPhones, Androids and iPads etc). As we all know video on these small devices has been a bit of a struggle, especially with Apple flat out refusing to support Flash of any sort. Vimeo, like YouTube, is now turning to HTML5 video to try to combat this issue.

The new Universal Player uses an iFrame along with some fancy code to serve up the appropriate type of video file to different devices and browsers.

UPDATE 2: It works… ish

I’m getting sporadic reports of everything from “it works, what the hell are you on about” to “I can’t see the iFrame”. It seems that the videos (from a Plus account with Mobile version activated) works properly on iPad, iPhone 3GS and 4 as well as Android devices running 2.2 (Froyo). On my Rogers HTC Magic which still runs 1.5 due to Rogers’ complete disregard for customer satisfaction it does not work. In the native browser the video still shows up with buttons but nothing happens when you click the buttons. In Opera Mini the iFrame doesn’t even show up. It looks like growing pains and one could argue that backwards copatibility to smartphone firmware which was obsolete a year ago is a bit excessive, but then people with Android devices have very little choice when it comes to their carriers refusing to roll out updates. Until I hear otherwise I’m going to write Vimeo videos not working on Android 1.5 down to outdated firmware and put it on the long list of reasons why Rogers needs to get their act together.

UPDATE: Plus users only (and you have to activate the feature)

A bit more digging lead me to this page where I found that the new Universal Player is only universal for Plus users. If you have a regular old non-paid account your videos won’t play on mobile devices. What’s more, to get the feature to work you have to first activate Mobile Versions in your account. I tried doing this through my web browser but the feature was nowhere to be found. When I logged in using my phone and went to My Videos there was a huge button to activate Mobile Version. I’ve now clicked the button and it says “Mobile versions of your videos are being made right now. Check back here later!” No idea how long the conversion will take.

The good news is that once Mobile Versions has been activated it automatically applies to all future videos uploaded as well. The bad news is, like I said, that it only applies to Plus users. The Q&A on the blog post indicates that the feature might be released to everyone some time in the future so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for another update once the videos have been converted properly.

But does it actually work?

I’m working on a large project with a lot of video integration and we needed to find a solution so that the videos would show up on the iPad and iPhone in particular. In the old days (3 days ago), Vimeo videos didn’t work on these devices but the new Universal Player looked to solve these problems. Or rather, it solved the problem for the iPad. On the iPhone (and Android for that matter) it doesn’t work and causes some weird effects (if you have one of these devices you can take a look for yourself by opening this post and playing the video above):

The video iframe is severely cropped vertically and does not play. No matter what I do. And no, it’s not a matter of bad code or an uncompliant server. I’ve tested this on 5 different servers, in different sites, and with different configurations. The videos do not play in the native iPhone browser nor in the native Android browser or Opera Mini on Android. All I get is the cropped (and very wide) frame with the video thumbnail and a play button.

I want this to work, but as of right now, at least as far as I can tell, it doesn’t. If you have a different experience, please drop a line in the comments.

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Rogers treats Android as an unwanted step-child

UPDATE AUGUST 24, 2010: Rogers rep Mary Pretotto posted an update on the 2.1 OS upgrade for Rogers HTC Magic+ on stating that the 2.1 upgrade has finally passed Rogers’ testing process, has been sent to Google for approval and will be available for an over-the-air update “soon”. The explanation for the long silence is that “we found an issue that required it to go back to HTC for further development” but that now “I’m happy to report that we reached a milestone yesterday and the 2.1 OS for Magic+ was approved by Rogers.

The nagging question remains why Rogers has been keeping their customers in the dark about this process until this point. There is no good reason for this silence and it has lead to an uproar in the community and a lot of people, me included, seriously considering bailing on them all together and moving to a different carrier. More than anything this whole story has been a study in media and customer mismanagement and I’ll probably use it as a cautionary example of such in future presentations on how to use social media technology to further your business.

Hats off to Mary Pretotto for staying with it through all the angry tweets she’s gotten over time, but there is something seriously wrong with the way Rogers thinks about communication with their customers and if anyone higher up in the system has their witts about them there should be a policy change and probably a shakeup in management as well. Someone made the decision not to inform the customers about the progress of this update and as a result Rogers lost not only credibility and loyalty, but clients.

Update July 14: Rogers just announced that Rogers has indeed received the “draft 2.1” software from HTC and that it will be rolled out “end of August”. First off that makes Rogers Management office look like they have no clue what’s going on and secondly it shows that they are dragging their feet. I think it’s time to start sending angry letters to Rogers to let them know how we feel about being given the runaround.

I realize this issue (cell phones and carrier behaviour) is a bit off-topic from what is generally posted on this blog, but this issue is something I’ve been mulling over for some time now and I feel it’s time to share what I’ve discovered with the world.

Last year my wife and I became the proud owners of two sparkling new HTC Magic phones from Rogers. The Magic was the newest and greatest Android powered touch-screen phones at the time and we were hugely excited to get them. The phones worked great and although the user interface felt a bit basic compared to other more refined user experiences we were happy in the knowledge that as Android phones the firmware (or Operating System) was in a near constant state of development and that in short order new firmware would be rolled out and the experience would improve.

Which is what would have happened had it not been for the fact that we are in Canada and our phones are running on the Rogers network.

Upgrade? What Upgrade?

Things started to go sour in late 2009 when Google rolled out the Android 1.6 firmware (the phones were originally running 1.5). Subsequently the hardware manufacturer HTC rolled out a new handset with the Sense user interface and all of a sudden our baseline Magics were starting to look really old and outdated. “Fret not” we were told, “Sense runs fine on the Magic and HTC will make it available in short order”. Or so we were lead to believe. Then came the crushing news that for unknown reasons Rogers had decided that the 1.6 upgrade with Sense in tow would not happen. There was no official reason given but rumours indicated that Rogers wanted to build in custom branding in the operating system but didn’t want to pay HTC to do it. Rumours, OK. I have no idea if that’s the case. The only word from Rogers was that no 1.6 would be released and the next release would be 2.0 “some time in the summer of 2010.

Regardless, the upgrade did not arrive and as we watched our European and American friends get the upgrade we, the people of the Android Nation of Canada started getting really pissed. So much so in fact a campaign was started to force Rogers to roll out the 1.6 upgrade, spearheaded by the I Want My One Point Six website. But it felt like the message was falling on deaf ears. Maybe Rogers was testing out some new noise cancelling headphones or something.

Upgrade, or else!

Then all of a sudden out of nowhere Magic owners across Canada got a weird text message saying they needed to upgrade their phones to the new Sense user interface immediately or lose data access. If I remember the message arrived on a Thursday and the cut-off point was the following Monday or Tuesday. At first it looked like a weird change of heart but then it turned out the 911 features in the Magic phones were completely screwed up and the upgrade was necessary to fix the issue.

And true to their word, a few days later all internet service was cut from the phones and we were forced to do manual upgrades. Which deleted a whole pile of data and caused major headaches for a lot of people. But in the end we got our Magics upgraded to Sense so everything was fine.

Rogers, realizing they screwed things up for a lot of people, relented by offering up one month of free data for all Magic users. Good on them.

But then people discovered that the upgrade was purely cosmetic. Even with Sense the Magics were still running 1.5. Which was weird because only months before Rogers had argued Sense could only be installed on 1.6 and that’s why we wouldn’t get it.

Something was definitely rotten in Denmark.

2.1 is coming… in the summer… or something

So the debacle continued: Magic owners kept asking Rogers why the phone was still on 1.5 and Rogers kept saying the 2.0 upgrade would come some time in the summer. Which still made no sense at all. No explanation was ever given as to why the 1.6 upgrade was not released. The problem compounded when app vendors started writing apps that only work on 1.6 and higher and the frustration grew and grew.

Then in the spring Rogers announced that they would release 2.1 “by the end of June”. That was still months after everyone and their dog who lived outside of Canada would get the upgrade, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Or so we thought.

With the end of June comes … nothing!

As June started getting into the double digits a lot of Magic owners were starting to get anxious. Not only was there no word on when 2.1 would actually be released but Google was rolling out 2.2 while we were still stuck in 1.5 land. The heat only increased when, after brushing off hundreds of requests for info, Rogers’ Twitter customer rep @RogersMary informed everyone that Rogers would receive the HTC version of 2.1 by the end of June and that the firmware would then undergo “testing” before being released. In other words there would be no end of June release of 2.1. This was further compounded when it was announced that both American and French Magic owners were getting the 2.2 release.

Things were indeed rotten. In Rogers headquarters. And that brings us to today.

Who cares about moneybags customers anyway?

Needless to say at this point we are all fed up. Not only are we still running software that is now over 1 year old and 2 generations behind (just imagine what would happen if Rogers did the same to iPhone owners. Wait, who am I kidding. That would never happen) but the complete lack of information from Rogers on the topic is mind boggling. One would think that a company that prides itself on being “committed to Android” would care enough about their customers to tell them why they are stalling the firmware releases. Or at least announce when the firmware will be released. But I guess that’s too much to ask. As of right now there is no official word on when or how 2.1 will be released other than that it will be done “once it is finished”. This in spite of HTC rolling out both 2.1 and 2.2 to other carriers in other countries.

To put it plainly, this whole situation stinks of corporate greed and negligence. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out this lack of upgrading is actually some sort of convoluted plan to get people to buy new phones. Again, just a theory.

“The information will be released when the software is released”

So, being totally fed up with this mess I called Rogers Customer Service and asked to speak to someone in charge. The Customer Service Representative told me that I was the 3rd caller in the last hour to ask about the upgrade. One would think Rogers would take that as a warning sign. But that would mean they actually care. Which as far as I can tell they don’t. But I digress.

I was passed on to Rogers Management Office and after about 15 minutes someone actually came on the line. Her name was Rokhaya. And she did not appreciate my business.

After a lengthy round of questions turned discussion turned arguments I asked her three simple questions:

  • When will we get information on when 2.1 will be released?
  • Why is there no information about the 2.1 release or why it is being delayed?
  • Can you confirm that Rogers has received the HTC version of 2.1 for testing?

The answers were truly astounding:

When will we get information on when 2.1 will be released?

“Right now as far as we (the employees) know we don’t have any information to release to our customers. That information will be released when the software is released”. (direct quote)

Why is there no information about the 2.1 release or why it is being delayed?

“We have no obligation to release such information to consumers. That information will be made available when the software is released”. (again, direct quote)

Can you confirm that Rogers has received the HTC version of 2.1 for testing?

Rokhaya: “I can not provide you with any such information. There is another representative here who can answer this question but he is currently on another call”

Me: “Can you get him to call me back with that information?”

Rokhaya: “He will not call you back because you are on a call with me.”

Me: “Ok, can you ask him and then call me back?”

Rokhaya: “No, I will not call you back.”

Take your consumer rights and shove them!

My conclusion after this rather surprising conversation should be that Rogers does not care about their customers. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume instead that this is a systemic failure in which information is not moving freely within the company. It is quite clear that someone has decided that Android, or at least the Magic, should not get first-rate service and should be treated like an unwanted step-child. Who knows why that is. It is also clear that when it comes to informing the consumer about what is going on the Rogers policy is “The consumer does not have the right to know.”

I’ll be more than happy to revise that stance if Rogers provides me with answers to the above questions, answers that should be pretty easy to obtain and just as easy to release. In fact, answering these questions will undoubtedly calm down the furore that is currently brewing over this issue on the web.

Right now Rogers is doing exactly what I tell people not to do: Ignoring customer complaints and losing control of the discussion. A simple firm date, confirmation of receipt of the HTC upgrade or even and explanation of why the upgrade is taking so long would do wonders. Because right now the best option seems to be sending the phones back and going with a different carrier.