Archive for the iPhone Category

iPhone OS 3.0: A revolution?

Posted in iPhone, Technology on March 18, 2009 by cdamion

Apple last Tuesday showed a lot about the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0. It’s a BIG evolution of functions that will upgrade iPhones and iPod Touches to a new level.

However iPhone OS 3.0 doesn’t bring us anything that wasn’t already wanted, asked and re-asked by customers ever since the original iPhone came out. No big science here. In fact there are several things that were asked and that it doesn’t bring.

But I believe that OS 3.0 is in fact bringing a Revolution, and that revolution has a LOT of value.

What is that revolution? It’s the fact that for the third time in a row, Apple is offering a complete and free upgrade to ALL it’s iPhone customers (and a paid one at 9,99€ to iPod Touch customers).

Why is this so revolutionary? Well, quite simply because Apple entered the Smartphone business after more than a decade of its existence (Palm, Symbian, Windows Mobile, RIM, etc). In this decade a LOT of hardware and O.S. generations passed, however the companies involved never gave its customers a consistent promise and delivery of software upgrades for previous hardware generations. The model has always been: hey, you want to have this new UI for the media player, hum? Well them buy a new device that comes with O.S. version 6.1.23 blah blah blah.

That and the fact that UIs were boring were the reasons why I stopped using Smartphones years before iPhone came out.

Apple’s iPhone market model

The market model that Apple uses for the iPhone is very interesting:
1) Customers feel confident in buying an iPhone because they now know that anything they buy will be software updated for several years, and with Apple, software is what is important.
2) Developers gain because they never have to worry to develop for several iPhone O.S. generations, because the iPhone customers will mostly all have the latest O.S. version.
3) And finally, Apple wins because this model guarantees that they will have a consistently growing client base for its very lucrative iTunes Store which sells Musics, Videos and Apps.

So … Everybody wins.

Why didn’t this model exist before, given that the Smartphone business has existed for so long?

The answer is simple: only Apple thinks its products like Software and not Hardware. Software is what Apple gives its customers, the Hardware is only there to serve the Software part.

All other Smartphone manufacturers are focused on selling Hardware, for them it’s always more memory, more MHz, more MPix on the Cameras, GPS of newer generation chipsets, etc, etc, etc. However the Software NEVER explores that Hardware to 10% of its capacity, so it’s all a boggled experience. But it’s that boggled experience that justifies selling the next Hardware with more memory, more MHZ, and blah blah blah again ad again in a never ending loop.

I’m wrong when I say that if they don’t adapt to the model Apple is creating they will fall? I don’t know but I really hope they learn and adapt so their competition takes Apple to innovate more and more in the near future.

The other smaller revolution: Background Push Notifications. What is this and why is it a revolution?

Again, it’s simple: up until now every Mobile OS manufacturer has only thought of giving the ability to have several apps running at the same time. They consider this as the ONLY working model for these devices.

However there are problems with this approach:
1) More expensive devices to manufacture because it needs much more memory to run several Apps at the same time, leaving less money to invest in software…
2) Much bigger battery discharge when apps running in the background, the device cannot enter a reduced power stage…
3) Bigger probability of inconsistencies appearing in the OS because if any of the running apps generates a serious error all the OS would suffer…

Apple chose to think about this and generate a way to go around these problems.

Then it came up with Background Push Notifications. It is an Apple Service that can be used by iPhone programmers to put in their apps some code to send messages to Apple Messaging Servers. These messages can be Text, audio or a badge. The message is delivered to a small messaging listener that is always running on the iPhone OS that will then update the Icon of the App that is supposed to received the message. This way the iPhone user will know that any given app has a message to show and it just needs to open the app.

There are some drawbacks to Apple solution though:
1) A Web Radio, for instance, needs to be always running to be receiving the music, so without background running that function is off.
2) Some other thing I don’t remember now… dependency on Apple’s servers, perhaps?

In time maybe a mixed model will be offered by Apple to serve each app with its ideal function mode, who knows for OS 4.0?

For now I’m happy but anxious waiting for the upgrade that will arrive in the summer.

What other great new things will be offered in iPhone OS 3.0?

Apple says more than 100 new features:
1) Cut, Copy and Paste (finally) with Undo and Redo, with what seems to be the most interesting implementation I have seen so far in any mobile OS.
2) Turn-by-Turn GPS that will at last give Tom Tom and other GPS software companies the ability to launch their products for the iPhone 🙂
3) Notes Synchronization with Desktop Apps…
4) To continue soon …

Keep coming, more updates to this article soon…

StuffRadar2 Review: Your Media Library in your iPhone

Posted in iPhone, Technology on February 23, 2009 by cdamion

Ever been in a store with great discounts in DVDs, Books and CDs looking at something at a incredible price but you couldn’t remember if you already had it?

For these situations you could just take out your iPhone / iPod Touch and open your Media Library to search for it. If you had a good Media Library on the iPhone… well, now you can.

By the end of January Synium released the version 2 of StuffRadar for the iPhone. I’ve been using this app since its initial release in Aug 2008 but it was plagued by a serious bug that made it loose entries. Several attempts were made to solve these issues but that wasn’t the case.

Finally comes StuffRadar 2 that I was glad to verify that no longer looses entries and becomes a serious usable app. Best of all several improvements were added that gave it a new value. More on them later.

StuffRadar2 is sold on Apple AppStore for 6,99€ which given the quality and value of the application I consider well justified.

The purpose of this app is to keep a detailed record of your Movies and Series (VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc), your Books and Magazines, your Audio CDs and your Games. By detailed record I mean image and most of the information found on any Amazon. You can also have a WishList of Stuff you don’t have but want, and change items from here to the Library when you buy them.

On Settings you define which Amazon store you want to use for searching items (options are USA, United Kingdom, France and Germany). I always set mine on United Kingdom and when something isn’t found change it to France. This way I can find almost everything.

To add one item you can search Movies by Actor, Director or Movie name, or Audio CDs by Title or Artist name or Books by Title or Author name or Games for Title or Publisher name. The search gives a Listing of items from where you can check one or more to add to the Library or WishList.

There is also a way to import listings of items from files exported by other applications. Since it was only added on version 2 and I already had all my Media on the Library I didn’t use this function extensively. I added some Books this way and it worked alright after setting the exported file to TXT with column separator “;” and list items separator “,”.

Although opening the app takes longer than wished (around 30 seconds), after that all the interface is very responsive and scrolling the Lists is very smooth even with over 700 titles on DVDs like in my case. There’s even a Coverflow screen when you rotate the device although it’s not as smooth as Apple’s Coverflow, but it’s perfectly usable.

Included new in the version 2 came a excellent way of Browsing the Library from your PC/MAC browser, a WebDAV server  implemented on the app. It shows a URL that you can use to access the app from any computer browser in the same WiFi network. You can even protect the access with User/Password.

From the Browser it’s possible to make Backups of the app database, Restoring those Backups, as well as importing items from files exported from other applications. 

 

 

I must say: this Backup/Restore function gave me a very new confidence on this app because it took me a lot of time to input all my items (it was done one by one, there was no import then). 

There’s not any app to sync on the PC/MAC but the Browser Viewer and Backup/Restore options kind of replaces part of that function. I would like that application to exist though. Even greater would be to be able to sync with a very good MAC app called Delicious Library.

There’s not much more to say, the application is simple, but generally good apps are. All in all is a great app that will be with me always. I highly recommend it.

Reasons to Jailbreak the iPhone/iPod Touch are plenty… Would you?

Posted in iPhone, Jailbreak, Technology on February 22, 2009 by cdamion

I finally got around to studying what Jailbreak is all about. I must say: I GOT IMPRESSED!!!

It’s incredible what a few very strong minded and gifted persons can do to a device that was developed by a Hardware and software giant like Apple. After jailbreaking the iPhone and installing a few apps the result is SO MUCH MORE than what Apple gives us… it’s just unbelievable but true. Congratulations to the community! You guys are AWSOME!!!

But what is there to gain? It’s so much that it’s almost difficult to transmit…

I Think I’ll start with a few topics to get your curiosity going:

  • Copy and Paste support (Clippy and hClipboard)
  • Background running of Third party apps (Backgrounder)
  • Dock that allows us to open apps without exiting other apps (Dock)
  • Notifications on Top Bar for SMSs, MMSs, Mails, IMs, Calendar, Calls, Silence ON, etc (StatusNotifier)
  • Use iPhone as a WiFi Router to give Internet from the 3G Carrier to a Notebook (PdaNet)
  • Configurable Themes for the Screens, Icons, Backgrounds, Text, etc (Winterboard + Themes)
  • Organizing Icons into Folders (Categories) 
  • Use one Icon as a Stack (Stack)
  • Hide unwanted Icons (Poof)
  • Video Recording (Cycorder)
  • Security applications that activate contact, gps information and backup functionalities when the iPhone is stolen or lost (Cylay)
  • still much more to go… 

 

Do you guys know the website http://pleasefixtheiphone.com/? It’s all about users voting for requested features on iPhone/iPod Touch. Here it’s notable what users found more important because there are thousands of votes on the requests. 

Request 1) With more than 46000 votes comes MULTITASKING, that is running apps on the background. With a jailbreak iPhone you can, just install an app called Backgrounder.

Request 3) With over 43000 votes comes COPY AND PASTE. Again, wish granted for Jailbreak devices. There are two good apps for this: Clippy and hClipboard. Both of them attach to the keyboard ad work great. I think I prefer Clippy though.

Request 7) With over 29000 votes comes the request for Full Arabic support. With jailbreak there are advances in Arabic support but I didn’t really understood if they are Full support or just advances.

Request 8) With over 24000 votes comes VIDEO RECORDING. With a Jailbreak iPhone you can install Cycorder which records video and compresses it in real-time as it is saved. Very nice.

Request 10) With over 21000 votes comes being bale to HIDE UNWANTED ICONS from iPhone. With Jailbreak you can install an app called POOF which does exactly that. Wish granted.

Request 16) With over 20000 votes comes the request for the ability to use iPhone as a tether device to give Internet access to a computer via WiFi. Again wish granted using a Jailbreak app called PdaNet.

So, from the 16 most voted requests, 6 very important ones are solved exclusively because of the effort put to Jailbreak and develop solutions for Jailbreak iPhones and iPod Touches. In my book these guys are helping Apple.

A lot more things are possible on Jailbreak iPhones/iPods Touch, but just a few of the ones mentioned here are enough to justify it.

Apple App Store and App usage

Posted in AppStore, iPhone, Technology on February 22, 2009 by cdamion

There are recent news regarding BIG App Store downloads but poor downloaded app usage. We can see these reports everywhere, here’s a link for a good article: http://www.macworld.com/article/138959/2009/02/app_usage.html.

Well, I think that these reports are presented in the wrong perspective. It may be true that many apps are seldom used but one needs to take into account what the apps downloaded are for. These articles are not doing that. What do I mean? For me downloaded apps are in three groups regarding its usage:

1) The ones that turn out to be used everyday –> 

Everyone knows that the apps that we use everyday or almost everyday are much less than the ones that we downloaded. In my case there are a few like Things, SplashID, BeejiveIM, Zenbe Lists, StuffRadar, LogMeIn, Instaviz, iOwn, AppSniper and a few others.

2) The ones that are installed but seldom used –>

But are the others forgotten? Were they a waste of time and money? NO! WHY NOT? Because many of them they may be seldom used but are important as well.

For instance, I have one app I like called GasHog. It’s a very good app where I can register every-time I put gas on my car. Fortunately I only need to do this every two or three months. So If I use the app only for that, since I bought it I used it at most 5 times. But is it less valuable for me because of that? No! It’s very valuable because over time I will have every record of my money spent on Gas, and how much mileage did that gas give me.

One other example: I have ICE. It’s an app where I put my important medical data, my emergency contacts, my identification. The purpose of this app is to give information about me that is important in the case of any serious emergency. Do I want to use this app? NO!!!! But is it not valuable? Of course it is! This one app I only used two or three times.

I have several other apps like this one (CalcConv, ICE, WineSnob, Carpenter, etc), seldom used but valuable. I mean, that’s what they were made for, and that’s why I bought them. So they are on my iPhone until I use them. Their main purpose is to give my iPhone functions and capabilities that I want if and when I need them. 

3) Apps that are experimented but turn out to not be useful, have bugs that make them unusable, or are just not preferred over others that do the same thing, so they are uninstalled –>

Of course there are other apps that I download, try them one or two times and them decide to uninstall. Just like that. But is this bad? For me it’s a good way to keep the iPhone always fresh, new and interesting. That’s something that VERY FEW other competitors can claim, but iPhone has it because users can keep experimenting with new apps everyday if they want. This isn’t even expensive: I bought one app called AppSniper where I keep taps on my preferred apps still not bought. Whenever there’s a change in its price the app tells me and I keep buying promos very cheap or free.

So a lot of apps are seldom used. BIG DEAL! That’s what keeps my iPhone interesting. Good one for Apple.

Instaviz Review: Great Graphs on iPhone

Posted in iPhone on January 23, 2009 by cdamion

Instaviz is a graph builder of sorts. As all good apps for iPhone its strength is ease of use. As a Graph builder it doesn’t have the multitude of figures that Visio has, however what it has are forms that can easily be made with our finger on the iPhone screen. 

The developer has a website dedicated for this app where there are some useful tips and a video in http://instaviz.com/. Check it out after reading this if you get interested. The app is available on Apple AppStore and now it costs 7,99€ but if you are used to make graphs all the time, I can guarantee that is well worth the price to be able to do graphs on the go.

The Instaviz application is very simple. Contrary to the simplicity of the app interface are the results of its usage. As you can see from part of some Graphs I made on the images below, the Graphs can be big and complex, and I mean BIG.

One of the strong points of Instaviz is exporting the Graphs. The solution here is almost what I call perfect: the app connects to any WebDAV server (in my case MobileMe) to where it exports two files, one GV and one PDF. From there on I just Log into my MobileMe account and download the PDF file. I can even get those files on the iPhone and share them on the network because I have MobileFiles Pro that downloads files from WebDAV servers and shares them on the iPhone via a local WebDAV server on the WiFi network.

The graph is made of nodes which are geometrical figures designed with our finger on the iPhone’s screen. using our finger we also connect two nodes at will by just moving the finger from the first to the second node. This makes for a very simple and incredibly fast way to construct our graphs: it’s so practical and easy you just need to try it to get caught.

For each node we can write text (made up of one or more lines) and we can choose the text color and font, as well as the node background color, line color, line width, etc. For each line connecting nodes we can also add text (one or more lines) and we can again choose colors and styles.

For me the biggest thing about this application is the speed at which we can create our graphs. Creation is easy and fast, adding text and style is also simple and fast, and if we don’t care for changing colors and styles (on nodes, lines and text) then it is ultra-fast. Faster than anything ever on any Desktop Graph application.

 The database of the application is backed on the iTunes, and there’s an free application called Instavue (download from http://instaviz.com/instavue/) that opens the Instaviz database from iTunes backups and allows us to see and export those graphs.

Mostly I’m very happy with this app, it gave me a new level of productivity in graph creation and I can now do them everywhere!!! One thing I would like added is more control over the arrangement of the nodes and scrolling being simpler on big graphs.

There’s also a mailing list dedicated to this application instaviz-users@pixelglow.com. You have to register to it of course to be able to receive and to post. Pixelglow is very present in this mailing list which is great.

Hope to have been helpful.

Organizing your iPhone screens

Posted in iPhone, Technology on January 22, 2009 by cdamion

PatrickJ from justanotheriphoneblog.com has posted a good article that is meant as a complaint to Apple regarding the iPhone’s poor organizing skills for its screens and apps.

It is indeed an annoyance and one that should not be dificult to correct, so why hasn’t Apple given us something already?

One user (ssschmidt) commented on the blog a technique that I tried and liked it. It involves leaving some slots on the bottom menu bar free to put app icons to pass to other screens. here’s my take on that:

But this isn’t a solution, it’s the only option to simplify accessible to us. Fortunately, some very good iPhone users/developers are resourceful and with a jailbreak iPhone there are by now several alternatives.

Note: I don’t know them yet because I haven’t jailbreaken mine yet. I don’t trust iTunes restores and I still have some important apps that don’t have other means to restore. Luckily the most important one of these (StuffRadar) is getting a backup/restore solution of its own soon. So jailbreak is near.

Anyway, coming back to the subject at hand, I have an idea regarding what it could be a solution. As a point to  simplify Apple work this one does not involve changing the iPhone UI because it is based on iTunes. I already sent Apple a feedback mail some time ago about this.

So…

Managing IPhone apps on iTunes is for now a non existing art. I mean, what can we do with just a list of icons and names?

What if:

1) We could manage the icons on iTunes with the same configuration of our iPhone screens?- There would be space to see several screens at once and drag icons from one to anyone other with the mouse.
– There could be a buffer area to put apps on hold until we drag them to the desired screen.
– There could be an area to drag apps to uninstall them. From this area we would drag icons to the desired iPhone screen to install them.
– There could be some auto-arrange rules defined by us like classify apps from 5 to 1 stars and put them on order of preference, or organize them by type (games, utilities, productivity, etc) where we choose which type to each screen, or even mix these rules. The rules could be saved like playlists and chosen later at will.
– Of course this organized screens would pass to iPhone by sync.

2) Also Clicking on any icon should open the app store on that app. Sometimes I don’t remember what a given app is and the info on iTunes is null. I have to manually search for that name on the app store.

I don’t think this would be dificult to implement on iTunes. Most of this work it’s already done for the Music Library management.

What do you think? Would this help you?

Things Review: a simple, beautiful and useful Task Manager

Posted in iPhone, Technology with tags , , on January 20, 2009 by cdamion

I come today with my simple Review of one of my favorite iPhone apps: Things Touch from Cultured Code, also know as TT.

I want to call the attention to one detail: I will only review here iPhone apps that I am really using on my everyday life, and only after using it for several months to get a feel for its stability and usefulness over time. If a app is good and useful then it will stick and improve my life. Only in that case will it appear here.

What is Things? Well, simply it’s a Task Manager. We’re used to complicated software for this function, but where Things is strong is in simplicity and ease of use.

Things has some little solutions that make it flexible and simple.
– There’s a location called “Someday” where you can put Tasks just to be identified but that are out of the way of your scheduling.
– There’s a location called “Inbox” where you can add Tasks without the need to organize them immediately.
– You don’t need to assign Tasks to Projects or Areas.
– You don’t have to assign due dates to Projects and Tasks if you don’t have it, etc.

It’s great that there is a OS-X version, called Things Desktop (or TD) that syncs with the iPhone app.

It’s also very refreshing to use an app that is both good looking and useful. I have been using this app for three months now, and I keep finding Projects and Tasks to add to better organize and manage my life. A good part of my work assignments and projects as well as my areas of interest are now in Things, and I believe in time all will fall within.

Having all this information at hand to consult and modify on a small device like iPhone is no small feat. For now however, the search function has to be made only by filtering Tags. A complete search will appear on a later version, it’s not yet available on TT.

Things is all about Tasks. A Task is the smallest piece of information we can add to Things. A task has
– a Title,
– one or more Tags to classify it,
– a Note that can be any size we want,
– a due date (which can be made recurring in TD, however that it’s not yet supported in TT) and
– the behavior the Task has regarding Today and Scheduled locations on the app (see below).

Tasks can be alone, assigned to a Level of Commitment, grouped into Projects or grouped into Areas (Areas are not yet available on TT1.3, they will be introduced on TT1.4 – however since TD1.0 has them I already know how they will probably exist on TT1.4 so this is passed here). These concepts are explained later in this review.

Searching for a specific Task is easy, even without the named search, because there are two things we can use to filter Tasks. For one we can choose just to see Tasks on a given Project, Level of Commitment or Area. For two we can filter those Tasks by selecting one of the several Tags used to classify them. So, given this, organizing Tasks on Projects or Areas and classifying them with Tags is very important.

Cultured Code is also very good documenting its products. Here’s a page from its Things Wiki explaining tags: Tagging Basics.

The software has three major areas:
– Levels of Commitment,
– Projects and
– Areas, as said before, in the current TT1.3 Areas are still not available, they will be introduced on TT1.4.

Levels of Commitment

This is where we assign our level of commitment to Tasks. There’s
– Inbox (tasks added and not yet organized),
– Today (Tasks to consider today),
– Next (All uncompleted Tasks appear here),
– Scheduled (Tasks that the we decided to have a lesser level warning) and
– Someday (Tasks that you want to do but have not the time now).

Here’s a page from Cultured Code Things Wiki explaining each of the locations I talked about: Managing Your Levels of Commitment.

Projects and Areas

There are some basic differences between Projects and Areas that are easy to follow.

Projects are by nature a time limited set of tasks that pretend to attain a known objective. So it is in Things also, despite here there’s no need to assign due dates if that is still not known.

Projects are a good way of grouping Tasks working for the same objective. In the future will be possible for a Project to contain other projects, but for now it’s just Tasks.

Areas are areas of responsibility, which means things that don’t have a defined time limit, in my case I use one Area called Banking, one other called Work, one called Health, and some others. Since Areas can contain Projects I can organize my Projects by Area of responsibility. For instance all my Projects from Work are on my Area Work. It’s simple.

Once more there is a good description of Tags, Projects and Areas as well as their differences in Cultured Code Things Wiki site: When to Use Tags Projects or Areas of Responsibility.

Finally taking the information out of TD and TT. From TD is simple, there’s a print function that works fro whole Projects, whole Areas or single Tasks. From this print we can save PDFs which is an OS-X feature by default in all applications. Unfortunately from TT there’s only the option to e-mail one task at a time, and it generates a text e-mail which is good, but not as useful as the printed report. Exporting PDFs from TT to MobileMe would be highly desirable, but as far as I know, it’s not yet in the TT roadmap.  

Conclusion

My value to this app is:
– 9/10 STABILITY: TT and TD are very responsive, very stable.
– 10/10 USEFULNESS: Things is very useful when we find a way to really put our information inside. 
– 10/10 SUPPORT: Cultured Code is constantly working on TD and TT, improving it and giving us new features. What’s great is that they manage a forum where its customers can talk about its problems, ask for features, and the CC guys really go there, listen and help.
– 8/10 NEW FEATURES: Cultured Code is always working on improving Things TD and TT, and they really listen to customers requests. There’s no 10 here just because good design takes time, CC does it, but we customers have to wait.
– 5/10 EXPORT: From TT only exporting simple unformatted text to e-mail and only one Task at a time is a shortcoming. Exporting good looking formatted PDFs from Single tasks and from Complete Projects or Areas to MobileMe iDisk would greatly improve TT.
– 7/10 BACKUPS: I feel confident and secure about my data in Things because it is always in two places (TD on my MacBook and TT on my iPhone) and also because it’s easy to make backups of the database on MacBook (it’s a XML file). 
– 7/10 SYNC: Sync TD to TT and vice-versa works great, however it only works for now on the same WiFi network. It’s being implemented Sync with MobileMe also (over the air to MobileMe cloud).
– 2/10 DATA SECURITY: There’s no encryption on the database file, and no PIN/Password to open the app on iPhone or on OS-X. Both devices are protected by their login methods, however, for good security measures, sensible information should not be introduced in Things. This kind of information needs a data vault app.