Friday, October 22, 2010

Android emoji app released: KeitaiMail lite

It is surprising that there is still no native support for emoji in Android, especially since emoji are part of the unicode standard and are also available in the PC version of Gmail (go to the labs section to enable it). At some point, expect support for emoji to show up, perhaps even as soon as the next SDK. In the mean time,  KeitaiMail is a new android mail client that enables emoji support for Gmail.

Keitai Mail has English and Japanese localizations, and perhaps German as well (since I think the dev is German). There is a lite version that is free but ad supported, plus a paid version that adds copy and paste from emails, view emoji descriptions (for now only in Japanese, according to the developer), and custom emoji/icon sets. There is also a paid SMS app. Both paid apps are ¥225.

KeitaiMail is currently a beta version, according to the splash screen displayed as the app starts up, which takes longer than average. Being in beta, I can't recommend purchasing, but his app has a lot of potential until google gets its emoji act together, though it is still a bit rough.

Unfortunately, it didn't work at all for me and my Gmail account, but a recent commenter, who turned me on to the app, mentioned that it worked OK for her. To be fair, problems are to be expected because, let's face it, all IMAP clients on Android suck. Period.

The default client is horrible, doesn't work for me at all with my work account, and only supports polling. K-9 Mail, based of the open source default client, is much better and does indeed include push, but still throws up a number of errors for me, tends to copy the same message MANY times into my drafts folder, and will chew through a battery faster than a dog can do the same to one's favorite pair of slippers (even when only using push, or poll at hour intervals) - which is perhaps the reason for the name...?

OK, on to the setup of KeitaiMail.


Here are some of the rough bits that you can probably expect to be cleaned up in later releases.

It doesn't play well with the Simeji keyboard, which is probably the fault of both apps. Pressing the menu button while the Simeji keyboard is displayed is supposed to bring up navigation keys and a softkey for hiding the keyboard. This doesn't work when using this app. Alternatively, pressing the back button on hides the Simeji keyboard, but in this app, it moves you back to the next screen. As a result, most of the following screenshots will have the keyboard displayed because for the life of me I couldn't make it go away. In addition, pressing the back button from the inbox screen restarts the app, rather than taking you to the home screen.


Setting up an account was problematic for me, which is something the developer has addressed on his blog. I first tried using my full email address as username, which resulted in this:


I checked the password and tried again but to the same result, so I deleted the @gmail.com part of my address, as suggested by the developer.


While this didn't return any errors, the mail app continually tried to connect but with no luck. This continued for about 20 minutes until I killed it.


The settings are very sparse, containing only options for how many messages to fetch and how many to display. The other settings are for the custom emoji sets, but this functionality is not available in the lite version. There are no options for setting the client for IDLE (mail push) or polling the inbox, and there is no information about which it is actually doing. I guess it is polling, but at what frequency is unclear. In my experience, setting the frequency too high will kill your battery.



The Japanese localization is very good but it is primarily written in teinei-go, which is something that I don't think I've seen before. Also, I am used to seeing 版 (han) used more often as "version" rather than 板 (han), for example ベータ版 (beta version).

So, I tried to compose a mail. First, since all the carriers use different emoji, you must select the carrier to which you are sending mail. Then enter the recipient's email address. KeitaiMail doesn't provide an option to select from your contacts and didn't register itself as an app for sending mail. This means that when I clicked on an email address while viewing contacts, composing mail with KeitaiMail was not an option and I had to manually type out the address. I was able to compose a mail with emoji, but it failed to send, unfortunately. Finally, I disabled AdFree to see if it had an effect, but was still unable to send or receive mail. Oh, almost forgot, it seems that a description is given for emoji in the lite version. In the below image, when I clicked the sun emoji, 太陽 appeared at the top. Pressing the same emoji again inserted it into the message.


Lots of potential with this, but it needs a bit of work to iron out the kinks.

10 comments:

  1. I thought a long press on the menu button hides the keyboard, no matter what keyboard app you use?

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  2. The app looks nice...might try later.
    I used to use the droidsansfallback.ttf with b&w emoji until I stumbled upon this site
    http://blog.takuo.jp/2010/07/android-mmsapk-softbank.html

    ...flashed the one for CM6 with the update_fallback and everything works with just the mms app.
    ...using CM6 209 nightly btw.

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  3. Thanks for the link! I'll give it a good look in the next few days but it seems promising.

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  4. Hey there.

    I am the developer of this app (no German localization, but yes I'm German, how did you guess?)
    Thanks for your "review". It actually sounds pretty favorable considering that you had many issues with it ;)


    I only now found this blog post. I'll address your issues:

    1) Long startup time: Since all encodings/decodings to the various Japanese characters encodings (ShiftJIS, JIS, Unicode) including emoji have to be done manually, depending on carrier, it takes a long time to load the data. There IS a way to address this via native libraries or maybe through hacks with the inbuilt Java encoder/decoder, maybe at a later point. I myself am on an HTC Hero, so it's slow for me too. I tried it on Xperia 10 and Desire, both loaded pretty quickly in comparison.

    2) Polling / Push: Point 1) is the reason KeitaiMail offers neither. I could force it to have all data present as a service but that would eat up RAM and annoy the hell out of people with old devices. So at the moment it's only an auxiliary app: You get an email notification see that it has emoji (or guess because you know the sender uses emoji a lot) and then open KeitaiMail and check your mail.

    3) ライト板 is of course wrong.

    4) E-Mail: I fixed this issue. You should be able to enter fully qualified usernames now.

    5) Endless fetching: A bug in the older version caused the fetching to go like this. Fetch ALL message information from the inbox and then fetch the last n (whatever you specified) messages. This caused endless fetching. I fixed this two weeks ago. It should fetch a lot faster now!

    6) Simeji: I hadn't tried out with Simeji before, but just now I installed it and it worked fine. Back button would hide the keyboard and all... maye a different version... are you still on 1.5 (Cupcake)? The only other app I encountered issues with is Swiftkey, which would erase emoji after you enter them.

    7) Sending didn't work... hmm, that shouldn't happen. It can take a little if you have bad reception, but 30 seconds max, even then.


    The big issue for me is, that I get hardly any feedback or bug reports, just bad ratings on the Market. I'd really like to make it work for everybody, though.
    So feel free to give it another spin.

    Cheers,
    Max

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  5. Oh, I forgot to address one thing:

    The bug with the app restarting is somewhat related to an Android bug (http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=2373 and http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=5277)

    Usually this wouldn't cause restarting, but because I need the data preloaded I force a reload everytime the app is brought back from a saved state (which means the data is not in RAM anymore), this bug causes a restore of app state instead of going out of the app.

    This issue should only occur when you update the app.
    There's an easy but annoying fix: After a phone restart it should work as expected.

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  6. Hey thanks for the responses. I'll download again and give it a try. Now that I think about it, I see that this is not a client. I just assumed it was.

    It might be a good idea to edit the description on the market to indicate that. Could be part of the reason for bad reviews is that people don't realize what it is and is not supposed to do.

    I am using 2.2, but when I tried this out, I can't remember if I was using CM6.0, 6.1RC1, or the T-Mo 2.2 ROM with a CM kernel. I should have noted that. Oops.

    Oh yeah, I figured you were German from the package name ;-)

    de.maximilianscherr.android.keitaimaillite

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  7. whatss the name of the app

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  8. Is this app still available? I can only seem to find KeitaiMail which is 1.99 Euro!

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  9. It would appear so. androlib says "This application seems to be removed from the Android Market."

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    ReplyDelete