Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My "Go To" Apps for the Decade... Part 1.

Yeah, why not a "decade list"?  The iPhone is has been with us for 2.5 years, we have had Apps for 1.5 years.  Below is a list of Apps I use daily, having ubiquitous access to their functionality is a game changer.  In the early 90s Bill Gates preached "information at your fingertips", ironically Apple's iPhone platform is delivering... information at your fingertips.. and a whole lot more!

In no particular order:
  • Evernote:  access to everything!  Used as a "shoebox" for pieces of information, Evernote truly represents "information at your fingertips"!  A+++  (and they keep adding functionality.. the latest release lets you pick and choose what you want to store locally on your iPhone)
  • TWC Max:  I recently switched to The Weather Channel App from Accuweather for 3 reasons - the 36 hour forecast, Explore Map -with configureable overlays and traffic cams.  Solid weather... at your fingertips!
  • Facebook, Twitteriffic Pro and NetNewsWire - I gouped these three together because they all give access to feeds of one type or another - all are solid applications that I access multiple times a day.
  • Instapaper Pro & FileMagnet: Both application have a killer feature... "tilt to scroll".  I use FileMagnet to store PDF files, usually manuals that I want to read/browse, on my iPhone.  Instapaper Pro is the perfect application for a smartphone!  "Read Later" - mark any webpage from any browser, desktop or mobile safari and then sync Instapaper and.. presto... the webpage is on your iPhone distilled to an ideal format for reading on the limited space of a smartphone screen.
  • Google Mobile App, reQall & Dragon Dictation: voice, voice, voice..
  • Navigon, Maps, MotionX-GPS - Navigon has replaced my Tom Tom GPS in the car and my Garmin handheld for hiking/biking.  Navigon with the optional traffic service has proven it's worth and the new upgrade gives access to search Google for POIs.  MotionX-GPS is a GPS logger with many uses...
Wow.. I have several more Apps to cover in Part 2.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dragon Dictation is a killer app

After a couple weeks of use I have found Dragon dictation to be one of my most used application on my iPhone. Voice recognition is fast and fairly accurate. The UI for working with the text is well thought out and easy to use. I highly recommend getting this application.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Gift from Evernote! A New version 3.2 on Christmas Eve

Evernote has given us a significant upgrade to the iPhone client.  Evernote 3.2 for iPhone adds the ability to select folders and store them locally on the iPhone (for premium users), giving you access to your notes when you have no network connection.  Notes created on your iPhone in the Evernote client are stored locally by default. 
Editing rich-text notes!?  ... not quite yet, but in 3.2 you are given the option to append or to "copy", with copy, a text copy of the rich text note is created and you then edit the new text copy.  The original rich text note is not lost, it is sent to the trash bin where it can be recovered.
Another new addition is the ability to search while the application is syncing notes, pre 3.2 I found it very annoying.. to launch Evernote with a search in mind, then have to wait for syncing to complete before I could proceed with the search... annoyance fixed!  Thanks Evernote.  Speed has been addressed as well, launch on my 3GS is now almost instantaneous.
Overall, it looks like a very good incremental upgrade to what I consider an incredible service!  Evernote is my brain!

Monday, December 14, 2009

i.TV version 2.1.1 - Replaces multiple Applications

i.TV is not a new application, it has been on the App store for a long time, but there is a new release 2.1.1 that was published on 12/11/09.  The new release caught my eye, I read the release notes and realized this one application.. if it does all that is promised.. will replace at least 2 separate applications on my phone.
After three days of use, I can say that it works as advertised, plus it has added a Roku remote and offers functionality for ATT's U-Verse that I was missing.
  • i.TV replaced my dedicated Netflix queue manager.
  • i.TV replaced my dedicated Movie application.
As i.TV is basically the swiss army knife of entertainment, if offers an excellent Netflix queue manager and provides all the functionality of a movie app.
i.TV now includes a remote for TIVO and Roku, I can vouch for the Roku remote.. works great!
As an ATT U-verse subscriber, iTV is a godsend... I can now ignore ther terrible U-verse guide... and setup favorites on my iPhone and sort by show subject!

i.TV is free, it does have in application advertising.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Triumverate of Productivity

Three Apps that are either new or recently updated... I am finding these apps useful for data capture.
  • Dragon Dictation (Free) - great for composing a quick email, text message or twitter message.. while driving!
  • JotNot Scanner ($4.99) - turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner.  Support for multiple page PDF creation, share to Evernote and webDAV.  The new version includes a form of camera stabilization (SW implementation).  Very good results.
  • Dan Bricklin's Note Taker ($1.99, there is a free lite version) - Data entry via your finger!  It works.. try it... the only think missing.. OCR to convert the image to text.  As it stands now, this app will be useful for quick notes.
Good stuff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NetNewswire 2.0 Now on the App store

Check it out!
First Impressions... Lightening fast!


-- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, September 14, 2009

NetNewsWire for iPhone

NNW for iPhone 2.0 has been submitted to Apple for review. Now it's a waiting game... 3 days or 3 weeks! Hurry up Apple, it is time for a new RSS reader.


-- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, September 11, 2009

Great New Website: First & 20

Are you looking for new useful applications for your iPhone? Firstand20.com might be the answer. It is a website of iPhone homescreens from tech dignitaries, complete with explanations of why and how they use those applications - in all, it makes for a good read. The tagline on the website says it all:


— "A Collection of iPhone Home Screens — from some very talented designers, developers and tech writers"





Good stuff, you can see what tools others are using...

FYI.. along the same lines.. below is my homescreen:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Highly Recomended: Macworld's App Gems

For regular readers of this blog.. I highly recommend App Gems from Macworld ($1.99). Intelligent reviews of iPhone/Touch applications. The essentials tab is very useful, breaking applications into smart categories and covering the cream of the crop in that category.
Monitoring new applications on the App Store is too over-whelming at this point.. App Gems is here to help!

New iPods Today?

I have not seen this mentioned in the rumor mill... but I would like to see GPS added to the iPod Touch. Making it an ideal GPS track logger.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

InfoWorld's App Finder

InfoWorld is billing their new web resource as the "no-junk" business iPhone apps finder. An interactive catalog of iPhone applications designed for businesses, professionals and IT staff. It sounds good to me!
InfoWorld App Finder

SmugMug Users Checkout Blossom

If you are using Smugmug to store and share your digital images and video clips, do yourself a favor and pick up Blossom SmugMug Mobile ($2.99) by Kupuk. With Blossom you can browse your SmugMug albums blazingly fast on your iPhone.
Blossom makes easy work of sharing your SmugMug photos on Facebook and Twitter as well as saving the image to your iPhone's photo roll.
The latest release added functionality to play your smugmug video clips on the iPhone as well.
The quality of the images and videos is excellent, viewing videos via 3G is possible and is quite quick.
Blossom is now my go to application for showing off my SmugMug galleries, 3 dollars well spent!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Evernote for iPhone 3.02

More Evernote goodness! A new version 3.02 just hit the App Store. Bug fixes & speed enhancements, launch time is noticeably improved. Launching into a new note is almost instantaneous.
Another use I found for the 3GS and Evernote... Weekly or monthly recording of the odometer mileage reading on your auto(s). Just take a quick photo of your dashboard tag your note and let Evernote do the rest. You now have a mileage history at your fingertips.


-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is That a Scanner in Your Pocket?

The iPhone 3GS's autofocus camera and macro capability allow you to take crisp clear pictures of all types of text documents. We are starting to see applications that take iPhone document imaging a step further. OCRTOOL ($4.99) is an application that showed up on App Store last night. The description is vague, there is no URL for the developer (listed as mkanda). I took the plunge and purchased it.


OCRTOOL leverages the camera or you can bring an image in from your photo albums, the concept is simple: take a picture of a document and OCR it on your iPhone, then copy & paste the resulting text into a document editor or email it to yourself. My testing so far, the application has failed miserably. The screenshot below shows what the results were for a 14 point single word image. Result were slightly better with 11 pt font from a memo on a 8.5x11 sheet of paper, although the output was not usable. Maybe future version will show improvement.


Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 3GS is an excellent acquisition device - yes, that is a scanner in my pocket (and/or a fax machine!), you just need to know its limitations and how to work around them. For example, if you have OCR software on your syncing computer then use your iPhone as an acquisition device, take a picture, then sync the image to your computer and process OCR using your desktop software. Or if you are interested in archiving the document for retrieval, take a photo of the document, then email it to your Evernote account and let Evernote work their OCR magic in the background and index your document for easy retrieval.

Bottom Line: OCRTOOL is not recomended at this time, but I suggest you think through how your iPhone can augment your current imaging tools and workflow.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trying out Blogpress

Blogpress is available for $0.99 on the App Store. Blogpress offers landscape editing, picture posting and rich text formatting.
Landscape editing functions as expected, it is a great feature to have in a blogging application (iBlogger is missing it).



Adding an image is straight forward, although there is no option to rotate an image.
I was hoping that the rich text editing would offer basic formatting, bold, bullets, etc. Maybe the next upgrade. At 99 cents ( limited time price) this app is a worthy competitor.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Excellent Macworld Review of Instapaper 2.0

If you are looking for a good explanation of Instapaper, this review is worth reading. The 2.0 upgrade is very good.

Macworld Review of Instapaper 2.0


NYT Article - Organize With iPhone

There is a decent article at the New York Times today. Using the iPhone to help organize your life. The article covers To-do list managers, the author favors ReQall. Also covers file sharing and eating... An interesting mix of topics.


NYT Organize with iPhone


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blogging from the 3GS

Blogging from the iPhone. Sure the Home Screen blog is all about getting the most out of your iPhone, so why not leverage all of these great apps and begin blogging mainly from my shiny new 3GS?
The last last post (DTG 1.1) was done using iBlogger. The plan for this post is to compose in DTG (I love the landscape keyboard), then copy & paste into iBlogger for uploading..
There are a few things I need to test with my production pipeline, such as:
Will formatting, such as bullets and bold copy over from DTG to iBlogger? [update, the answer is no... No formatting transferred and iBlogger is lacking in the formatting department.]
Are there other alternatives on the iPhone for blogging? Time to search the App Store.

Documents To Go version 1.1

Dataviz released DTG VERSION 1.1 today.
- System wide cut, copy & paste.
- Zoom editing, along with the option to dismiss the menus for more editing screen space.
- Email your word doc from within the application.
I tested all three of the above, they are all welcome enhancements. DTG is becoming a very good iPhone word processor.
Excel editing was not included in this upgrade, nor opening email attachments directly into DTG.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

ReQall 3.0 Update

ReQall the voice activated to-do list for the iPhone was updated to version 3.0 this week. The highlights of the update include:
  • Push notification - ReQall does not need to be running to receive to do reminders. This enhancement has worked flawlessly over the past few days.
  • Eyes-Free Recording - similar to the voice activation in Google's iPhone application, once ReQall is running raise the phone to your ear and it starts recording. I find that I update a lot of to-dos during my morning commute, I look forward to testing this feature.
  • Data Detectors -If your to do note has a telephone number, email address or URL in it, tap on it and you are taken to the appropriate application to make a call, send an email or surf the web.
  • Memory Maps - this is the wow feature, but not real sure how useful this is, at least for me. ReQall is integrated with maps, allowing you to see the location of your to-dos on a map.

This is a solid upgrade for ReQall, for me push notification is the highlight of this upgrade, the other popular To-Do applications have also been updated with push notification including Things & Remember The Milk. We are starting to see applications take advantage of OS 3.0.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Upgrades... Galore

Since the release of OS 3.0 many of the applications I use frequently have been upgraded. Below is a quick list:
  • Instapaper Pro 2.0: Upgrade includes folders to increase organization, speed enhancements and a social networking component leveraging "starred" articles.
  • AccuWeather.com 2.0 (free): This is a major upgrade, providing 15 day forecasts and 15 hours of hourly forecasts (both increased from 5).
  • 1Password Pro ($4.99 special): This is a paid upgrade from 1Password (free), the pro version incorporates copy & paste of passwords - especially handy of you are using secure passwords. One caveat, if you are a 1Password user and you upgrade to the Pro edition, you will need to re-sync your data into the Pro version.
  • Analytics App 1.3 ($5.99 new, free upgrade): Dig deeper... tap on items to see detailed reports. Increased speed, and removed the graph for the Today view.
  • AP Mobile News: added push notifications.. which work on my iPod Touch more consistently than on my iPhone 3GS and added weather by accuweather.
  • And one new FUN application: Check out Sonifi from Sonik Architects ($4.99). Remix a BT track... this is like carrying a pocket version of Ableton Live.
  • New Application: If you are an ATT U-verse subscriber (TV), check out the ATT U-Verse application, you can add & remove shows on your DVR, setup up your favorite channels and use your iPhone as a pocket guide! This application gives you quick access to the U-verse channel guide. I would like to see them add landscape view on the guide.

Upgrades known to be in the pipeline: NetNewsWire, DocsToGo, Noise.io Pro

Monday, June 22, 2009

Instapaper 2.0 to Add support for Folders

While the iPhone application for Instapaper Pro is being held up by Apple's App reviewers, Marco Arment (developer for Instapaper) has launched the new Instapaper website. Which now supports folders (the number one requested feature), making it easier to organize your offline reading.
When creating a new folder, you can choose an organizational folder that contains "Another Users starred items", thus adding a social networking component to the folder enhancement. For example you can create a fold that contains articles that have been "starred" by Marco.
All of this functionality is now available on the website, and will be available on the new iPhone application as soon as it is approved by Apple. For now, Instapaper Pro 1.3 is available for $4.99 (half price) at the App store (free upgrade to 2.0). As a user of Instapaper - $4.99 is a steal!

Oleophobic Coating - FTW!

Yes the new iPhone 3G S is fast, the camera is improved and the voice control is a welcomed addition. Two days in as a new user of the iPhone 3G S, I must say the enhancement I first noticed is the oleophobic screen. The oleophobic screen is said to be finger print resistant, and it is, it is a definite improvement over the screens from the original iPhone and iPhone 3G.
The feel of the new screen is different from the previous screens, not bad, just different. Bottomline, the new screen is a step forward, showing fewer greasy fingerprints and providing a surface that wipes clean easier than the previous screens.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AP Mobile News 3.0

A new version of AP's Mobile News hit the App Store last night. The application is a mixed bag, the interface is still extremely busy! But... the new version has a very cool interface with Evernote, meaning you can send any article over to Evernote for safe keeping.
AP Mobile 3.0 also leverages Apple's notification infrastructure, I received my first notification today - it worked as advertised "breaking news."
AP needs to tone down the UI and they will have a solid application on their hands!

Evernote' s New version 3.0 iPhone Application

First off, the landscape notes view in Evernote 3.0 is stunning, you can scroll through icon sized images of all your notes with a few flicks of the screen.

The first thing you will notice when you open Evernote 3.0 the first time is that all of your notes load in a "All Notes" modes, no more loading and scrolling through 25 notes at a time. In portrait view there is an "Index Bar" floating on the right side of the screen (the index bar is along the bottom of the screen in landscape view), the index bar can be configured on the fly to group notes by: created or updated date, title (alphabetically), city or country (assuming your notes are geo-tagged), or by notebook. I have 300+ media rich notes and resorting by the grouping took less than 2 seconds - very impressive. To select the grouping press the "i" icon to the right of the search field. I found the notes grouping to be a good default view for the iPhone - mimicking the desktop view.
Search and advanced search have had their interfaces cleaned up and advanced search now offers an "Other" category that lets you filter by source, such as "Emailed to Evernote" or mobile, etc.
All is not perfect with this upgrade though, you still can not edit notes on the iPhone that contain "stylized text" or images - hopefully Evernote will find a solution for this with the new tools provided in iPhone os 3.0. Also, the voice note functionality has been reworked, the new interface is nice - fewer clicks to begin recording, but the sound quality of the recordings is poor. To compare, I used Apple's new Voice Memo application and emailed the recording to Evernote, the sound quality was superior to the recording from within Evernote - noticeably superior.. so much so, that I plan to use Voice Memo and email the audio file to Evernote, until the quality issue is addressed within the Evernote application.
For your notes that are geo-tagged, such as notes created on your iPhone 3G, you can now view your notes on a map. This feature is acccessible by pressing the push pin left of the search field. I am not sure how useful this will be for me, time will tell.
All in all, Evernote 3.0 is a great upgrade - highly recommended, I look forward to using Evernote 3.0 on the 3G S - the increase in speed should improve productivity, not to mention the improved autofocusing camera!
If you are already an Evernote user, there is no reason to skip this upgrade, if you have not used Evernote, now is the time to jump in! Evernote on the iPhone is like carrying a room full of filing cabinets in your pocket! In a word.. AWESOME!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Evernote for iPhone 3.0 - NEW RELEASE

There is a lot of big news today, Evernote has a new iPhone client that is iPhone OS 3.0 specific. go to Evernote's Blog for more information.
More info as soon as I get my hands on this important productivity update!

Bento Template Exchange

Go to Filemaker.com to access the new Bento template exchange. Filemaker has added several new templates that they have developed and there are now a handful of user developed templates as well. I suspect this repository will grow over time and provide some great ideas for use cases.
Once you download a template, you can tweak it to meet your needs (using the Bento desktop application [Macs only]) and then sync it to your iPhone. Again, making the iPhone a very good data capture device for the data centric world!

Documents To Go - Thoughts

After using DTG for a couple of days, here are some random thoughts!
  • Desktop syncing is great, 2 way syncing for documents in progress is a feature missing from other iPhone word processors. This allows you to leverage your iPhone to work on a document that is already in progress on your main computer. allowing you to make use of idle time. Then sync those additions back to your main desktop for completion on a full size system. Desktop syncing will be a big advantage when spreadsheet editing arrives.
  • I miss access to iDisk, at this time DTG provides access to files that are setup for desktop syncing and files that reside on your iPhone (local files), hopefully with a future release Dataviz will add access to files stored in the cloud.
  • Text entry... external keyboard please! OK, this is not an issue specific to DTG. With a foldable stowaway keyboard and DTG or Quickoffice it becomes feasible to leave the laptop at home.
  • I like the ability to zoom in and out while in text entry mode, this is missing in QO. Numbered lists are available in DTG and not in QO. Typing does seem snappier with Quickoffice, especially in widescreen view.
  • Good & Bad, with DTG you have access to the menu bar when the online keyboard is being used, with QO you need to stop text editing with the keyboard (close the keyboard) to launch the formatting toolbar. I like having access to DTG's toolbar all the time, the downside is that it takes up valuable screen space.
  • For a 1.0 release, I am impressed with DTG. I will continue to compare and contrast DTG and QO.. trying to decide which platform to land on... at this point, I am leaning towards the DTG text editor, mainly because of desktop syncing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Documents To Go for iPhone is Available in the App Store


DTG Is now available (special 2 week introductory pricing $4.99, or $9.99 with Exchange integration). This first release has DOC editing only, xls editing is a promised free upgrade. Powerpoint is veiw only, with no mention of future editing capabilities. Additional info soon.

DTG's word processor edits/creates doc, docx, rtf & txt files. The toolbar and screen layout are user friendly, I am finding the learning curve to be lower than that of QuickOffice.

For A comprehensive review of DTG



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

iPhone 3G S - The perfect Evernote Capture Device?

Yes, the new iPhone 3G S is reportedly twice as fast as the iPhone 3G.. this is good news. But to an Evernote junkie, the real news is the improved camera! Improved light sensitivity, improved auto-white balance, macro focusing to 10 cm (~4 in) and autofocus which is controlled by touching the screen, all of these new features/improvements are great news to Evernote users. You will now be able to use your iPhone as a capture device, think portable scanner - take a picture of any document, anywhere, upload to Evernote for safe storage, OCR and easy retrieval. I can't wait to test the camera, hopefully the improvements are as significant as touted in the keynote.
The camera improvements will also be a boon for "pricing applications" - you will now be able to focus in on pricing barcodes.

To me.. the camera is the big news!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Finally... It's iPhone Day! ... Maybe...

Here are my predictions for the WWDC keynote today... at one point during the keynote.. we all will be wowwed.. and for those of as that have been following all of the rumors for the past several weeks... at the end of the day there will be a little dissappointment as well!

Update.. Still no Dataviz Documents To Go on the app store, there is speculation on Dataviz's Facebook fan page that DTG might be shown/released today as a part of the WWDC keynote... keep in mind this is user speculation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

iTunes 8.2 - Touch OS 3.0 Very Soon?

Monday 6/1 saw the release of iTunes 8.2 via software update, the release notes state: "iTunes 8.2 now supports iPhone or iPod touch with the iPhone 3.0 Software Update". With this news, I think we will see the release of the 3.0 iPhone OS at WWDC next week.

New hardware is a little harder to predict... maybe an announcement at WWDC, or maybe Apple will wait a couple of weeks and announce at a press event... either way, it should be a fun summer!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

QuickOffice Suite 1.2 Upgrade

This weekend saw the release of Quickoffice 1.2, an upgrade that addressed many of the usability concerns of the previous versions of Quickoffice. Such as: Auto-correction (predictive text) in Quickword, auto-capitalization, find text; in Quicksheet - copy & paste of cells, columns and cell ranges, landscape editing and set/remove cell borders to name just a few.
There is a complete listing of the new features in the description on the app store. Copy/paste in Quicksheet and predictive text in Quickword are the features I have been waiting for! Combined with the absence of Documents To Go from Dataviz has me pulling the trigger on the $19.99 purchase of QuickOffice as soon as I am done typing this post.
The ability to edit DOCX & XLSX (2007 MS Office format) files is promised for the next upgrade, as is access to iPhone email attachments.

It looks like the developers of Quickoffice suite have been busy.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Replace your Laptop with an iPhone?

Not yet... Although I use my laptop far less than I used to... my iPhone has become my main window into Twitter (via Twitterific), keeping up on RSS feeds (via NetNewsWire) and personal email.

Yahoo! Tech has an interesting study: How much work can you do on an iPhone?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Documents To Go for iPhone... tic.. toc..

With 2 weeks remaining in May, theoretically, we should be seeing Documents To Go (Dataviz) on the AppStore soon. There is no new information on Dataviz.com nor on Dataviz's Facebook fan page, other than more than a few posters beginning to express their impatience.
For those folks that were not Palm users, Docs To Go was (and is) arguably the office suite product of choice for the Palm OS.
There are a lot of us waiting to see if Dataviz can deliver for the iPhone OS. Dataviz has had almost a year to work on their office application, thus expectations are high, hopefully this recent silence from Dataviz is a last minute coding crunch, taking from and learning from the mistakes that the QuickOffice team has made.

[UPDATED] : Dataviz sent DTG to Apple on 5/19, approval usually takes ~8 days, we should be seeing Documents To Go for the iPhone today or tomorrow. On the Dataviz Facebook fan page, they are promising very good pricing on their flagship application.

AP News Version 2.0

AP Mobile News has morphed into AP News 2.0 (Free) and is now available on the AppStore. AP Mobile News was one of the first applications available on the AppStore and has been a stalwart for news delivery on the iPhone. Over the past several months the Mobile News application has started to lag behind, as USA Today launched a colorful application, NYT updated their application, AP's chief competitor, Reuters, released News Pro and WSJ launched an iPhone application giving free access to their paid content. All of these applications offered features not available in AP Mobile News 1.x, things like landscape viewing, customizable front pages, location specific weather, Facebook/Twitter integration. AP News 2.0 offers all of these and more (see list of new features below).
The first time you launch the AP News you select your region, location (for local weather & news), and then you are given the option of configuring your front page with a myriad of options. Moving into the application, there are settings for font size, number of stories for each heading (1-5) and the UI has been cleaned up. One thing I found annoying, stories can be read in landscape mode, yet the front page (entry page) is viewable in portrait mode only, thus when you are reading in landscape and return to the front page to select another article, the screen rotates to vertical requiring you to re-orientate your device. Other than this, I am impressed with version 2.0, presentation is good, content is great, overall... 2.0 is a worthy upgrade.

Things I look for in a News Application:
  • Search.
  • Ability to Save articles.
  • Ability to share articles.
  • Local news stories.
  • Rating and viewing of popular articles.
  • Readability - font customization, landscape viewing.

AP News has all of the above... the things I would like to see in version 2.1:

  • Tilt scroll
  • Options for dark background/light text.
  • Landscape viewing across all screens.
Below is a listing of the new features as listed on the AP blog

AP Mobile v2.0 Features include:

  • Front Page, a simple way for you to choose your news.
  • Choose Your News. Customize the application by switching on and off categories that interest you.
  • Customize the number of stories that are shown on the Front Page.
  • Select your region for region-specific news.
  • Added localization for French and Spanish.
  • Added current weather and five day forecast.
  • You can now choose which local papers show up in your weather tab.
  • Changed application icon.
  • Increased content (Health, Science, Press Releases).
  • Control the size of the font you use to read stories.
  • Read stories vertically or horizontally.
  • Send to AP allows you to send breaking stories directly to AP from your phone.
  • Send stories directly to Twitter and Facebook.
  • Fixed photo viewer. Photos can now be stretched fullscreen.
  • Improved rating UI
  • Read more than 10 stories in feeds.
  • Major increases to stability.
  • Fixing many small bugs.

Note of Caution from AP:

Please note: some users are experiencing difficulties updating their application to 2.0. This happens on first running the application as the application registers with our back-end servers. If this happens to you, we suggest you delete the application and when you have a strong WIFI signal re-downloading the application and running it again.

Link to a Review on TUAW A fairly critical review of AP News 2.0.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The iPhone & Politics!

Visible Vote Mobile (free) is a polling application that gives you insight to how your legislators are voting on bills. You start by entering your email, zip code and state, the application identifies your Senators and Congress person(s), then you "vote now" by basically reading through the unanswered issues - simplified versions of complex bills that are topical in nature, such as the "Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights", vote yes or no. A vote summary screen provides a "percent agree" with your specific legislators.
From within Visible Vote Mobile you can send an email to your legislators choosing one specifically or multiple. The makers of Visible Vote claim to send a weekly synopsis of the information they have collected from their users to the legislators.
In addition to the iPhone application there is also a Visible Vote application for Facebook.
Personally, I find the iPhone application adequate, the "Issues" are summarized accurately for the lay person, if you require more information, jump on the internet and dig into the proposed bill. One thing I have found, the bills of today are so broad, voting yes or no is difficult as you are often conflicting with prior votes.
Overall, Visible Vote keeps you informed of important legislation, gives you insight into how your legislators are voting and gives you a preliminary tool to take part in the democratic process. Not a bad start!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The 2.0 Parade Marches On...

The release of the All Things Digital iPhone (ATD) application carried with it some important news for NetNewsWire (NNW) users. Apparently the ATD application leverages the framework from the forthcoming NetNewsWire 2.0 iPhone application. Brent Simmons is the brains behind NNW, here is a tweet from him (5/18/09): "All Things Digital app released: http://twurl.nl/bc7rqm Built on our iPhone media app framework: also the basis for NetNewsWire/iPhone 2.0." Simmons also tweeted "Created Twitter accounts for NetNewsWire: @nnw_iPhone and @nnw_Mac. Can’t do support via Twitter, but can provide news." Prepping for a new release?
Thus.. it looks like a 2.0 release for NNW-iPhone is imminent. Great news for all of us that have been using NNW since day one as our RSS reader of choice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

All Things D - iPhone Application

Several weeks ago the Wall Street Journal iPhone application was launched, providing free access to what is normally paid content on the WSJ website. One of the kudos for the WSJ iPhone application is that it included content from the All Things Digital website. Now you have another outlet on your iPhone for the content of the All things Digital website, as WSJ released the All Things Digital (ATD) iPhone application (Free).
At first glance, the content appears to be the same, although broken down by author in the ATD application (I suspect that ATD has greater depth of content), Walt even has his own icon, as does BoonTown and John & Peter on the main page. More... includes the following subheadings.. Search, Voices, Video, Digital Daily, MediaMemo, Personal Technology, The Mossberg Solution, Mossberg's Mailbox, Mossberg, Photos, and D5-D7 conference entries.
Only time and exploration of this brand new application will tell if it is worthy of a separate icon on the "News homescreen" - in addition to the WSJ application, space is getting tight! According to the launch article, the new ATD application was developed by the folks at Newsgator and the application integrates with Twitter and Facebook.
Initial usage shows that the videos play over 3G network and seem to be centric around the D conference, as do the photos. There is in-application advertising, a lower third overlay that shows for a few seconds when opening an article, then slides away. The ATD application supports landscape viewing and provides for customization of the main menu bar.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Trails for iPhone... FTW!

I have been using Trails for iPhone since version 1.0, but recently gave Motion-X GPS and Ascent Mobile a trial run for tracking walks/hikes.
I use the Ascent desktop software, thus it seemed like a natural fit to use the recently released Ascent mobile application, but this version is just too new and as a tracking application it has too many features missing, such as the ability to pause while recording a track. You must stop recording and then launch a new track with Ascent Mobile, this is a deal breaker.
Motion-X GPS does not offer the GPS accuracy obtained with Trails, launch time is a bit slower and GPS acquisition lags behind Trails. Also, Motion-X GPS does not have the tracking configuration features offered by Trails, such as specific settings for hiking, Jogging, cycling and car.
Bottom line, I returned to Trails, the new version 2.0 adds map caching for offline map usage (no data connection required), topographic maps and landscape graphing. The track summary page has been redone and gets an A+ for display and usability! Use of Trails is straight forward, swipe to pause, swipe again to re-start. The perfect iPhone Pedometer!
My workflow:
1. Record activity with Trails for iPhone.
2. Email GPX file to self.
3. Drop GPX file in Ascent for Mac, for reporting and analysis.
4. I can then sync activities back to Ascent Mobile on the iphone, allowing me to carry around my activity diary!
Thus, Trails is my acquisition device and Ascent is my reporting application. The best of both worlds!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back to Twitterific

After a couple of months of using Tweetie on the iPhone, I am back in the familiar confines of Twitterific, Twitterific 2.0 specifically. While I enjoyed the trending and search features of Tweetie (both are now available with Twitterific 2.0), I never really got comfortable with Tweetie for viewing posts. My biggest issue was the need to flick-scroll to the bottom of the screen and try to remember which tweet I left off at. Twitterific 2.0, as well as earlier versions, load the new tweets above the tweet you left off at - which is displayed front and center... you just pick up where you left off at. For me.. this is the key feature to any Twitter client!
Twitterific 2.0 FTW! Highly recommended.. There are many reviews on the web going into details of all the new functions.. if you are on the fence, I recommend reading a couple. Bottom line, for $3.99 the Pro version of Twitterific is a steal!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creating Music on Your iPhone

A hobby of mine is creating music on Apple products, Logic, Ableton Live & Garageband on the Mac and now leveraging the many Touch OS applications on my iPhone & iPod Touch.

Touching briefly on a few of the better applications available:


  • Beatmaker - think of this as a loop/beat version of Garageband.

  • Noise.io - a full featured soft synth that has a link with Beatmaker, allowing you to use content you created in Noise as loops in Beatmaker.

  • BassLine, iSyn & Technobox are all variations of a synth & sequencer. iSyn is a lot of fun.

  • iDrum, MegaSynth, Jasuto, NlogSynth are all virtual instruments.

If you are musically inclined, or just like to noodle around there are alot of great options.

A good blog to add to your RSS feed if you are interested in music creation applications for the iPhone/Touch is: Palm Sounds.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wundermap! An Interactive Weather Touch Map

For your very own Interactive Weather Touch Map... go to: i.wund.com using Safari, this will take you to the Weather Underground's iPhone optimized website. Search for the location you are seeking weather information for, then scroll down to the button: "View Full Screen WunderMap".


A new browser window will open with a radar weather map that takes full advantage of your iPhone's Touch OS. You can scroll around the map by dragging with your finger, use the pinch gesture to zoom in or out and rotate your iPhone for landscape viewing. This is the best implementation of a radar weathermap I have seen so far. You can bookmark the map to your bookmark list or to a home screen, the weather map will update when you launch it.







You also have the option of displaying Satellite VIS (cloud cover) or Satellite IR4 (detects clouds day & night) maps as well.

While this is a webapp, it outshines the mapping capability of any of the native iPhone weather applications.. or at least the ones that I have used. After checking this out, you may find yourself bookmarking the icon to your home screen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bento! Apple's Personal Database Comes to the iPhone!

And it syncs with the desktop version of Bento.

Bento for iPhone ($4.99) is now available on the App store. Bento for iPhone comes with 25 ready to use templates, supports 15 different field types and integrates with the other iPhone applications such as Contacts, Safari, Mail and Maps. As mentioned above, Bento for iPhone syncs with Bento 2.04 for the Mac.
I think this is great news and look forward to exploring the power of this new application. Without reading too much into this release, I hope that this is a sign that Apple is working on porting some of their OS X applications for the iPhone. I know I have been waiting on iWork for iPhone and Garageband/Logic for iPhone.
More details as I explore Bento for iPhone.

Monday, May 4, 2009

EA's Tiger Woods Golf and Myst released for the iPhone

Over the weekend two of the gaming big boys were released for the iPhone. EA's Tiger Woods golf ($9.99) weighs in at 160 mb. Graphics and game play are excellent. If you are a fan of the Tiger Woods golf series, this is a great way to carry it in your pocket.
Myst is 700+mb and requires 1-1.5 gb of free space to install. Sounds impressive!
This week:
Waiting on Twitterific 2.0 to be approved and Instapaper 2.0.
It should be a good week!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quickoffice Suite for iPhone

From reading the reviews that are beginning to show up on iPhone blogs, a couple questions have been answered:
  1. Quicksheets does NOT have cut, copy & paste.
  2. A new point release update has added email functionality.
  3. The update did not address the auto-correct oversight.

Quickword is now available as a stand alone application, priced at $12.99.

I have waited this long for an office suite on the iPhone, I think I will wait awhile longer to see what Dataviz has to offer with Documents To Go for iPhone, when I was a Palm user, DTG was my office suite of choice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evernote for iPhone "101" Favorites

The Evernote iPhone application gives you access to the data you have stored on the Evernote "cloud" - thus by default, all of the data - sometimes gigabytes worth of data - is not stored on your iPhone. Typically this is a good thing, as you are not using up the limited storage space on your iPhone, but what about those instances where you do not have access to the cell network or wifi? (think - air travel)
Evernote for iPhone 2.0 has this situation covered, by using "Favorites" you can selectively choose the content you want stored locally on your iPhone. To leverage the Favorite functionality:
  1. Open the note you want to store as a favorite.
  2. Touch (select) the "circle-star" in the upper left corner, when selected the icon turns blue - placing the note in your favorites folder and hence, stored locally on your iPhone.
  3. To see you favorites, select the "Favorites" icon from the menu bar. (Note - the new note is placed at the bottom of the list by default).
Once you are viewing the list of your favorites, you can manage the order they are disolayed or delete notes from your favorites folder by selecting the "Edit" button.




Monday, April 20, 2009

Tilt Scrolling... For the Win

If you have not used an application that has "tilt scrolling"... you are missing out. Tilt scrolling enables smooth, touch free scrolling of long articles... basically tilt your iPhone to scroll up or down the article you are reading. After about 30 seconds to adjust.. you will wish every reader application had this feature.
For me tilt scrolling is now a must have, I was introduced to tilt scrolling while using Instapaper Pro, the excellent off line web reader. Instapaper will change the way you read web articles on the iPhone, any article that is more than 2 or 3 paragraphs I mark for "read later" and read it in Instapaper text only view. Instapaper gives a full screen view of the text in your font of choice with light background or dark background (your preference) and you can scroll handsfree... no more flipping each page with a finger swipe. I can not recommend Instapaper Pro enough, this is a must have application + service at 3 times the price!
I just discovered that FileMagnet ($4.99) also incorporates the tilt scrolling feature. FileMagnet is an iPhone file moving, storing & viewing application. FileMagnet is compatible with all the common file formats: PDF, DOC, iWorks 09, pics, movies, etc. Moving the files from your desktop to your iPhone is simple, just load the desktop software... no typing IP addresses. The number one reason I just switched to FileMagnet, I can now read my lengthy PDF document with tilt scrolling on the iPhone, no need to lug a laptop around!

Applications I would like to see tilt scrolling implemented in: Kindle for iPhone, Evernote, Tweetie, News apps (USA Today, NYT, AP Mobile News & WSJ), Apple's Photo albums and Safari.

... Tilt Scrolling... "Try it, you'll like it."


BONUS Tip: Give Me Something to Read

Quickoffice Mobile Office Suite Released

April 18 2009 - The iPhone finally has an office suite, Quickoffice Mobile Office Suite (Word, Excel, Email & WIFI) $19.99. I did not instantly purchase Quickoffice, there are a couple of concerns I need to clear up before dropping $20 on Quickoffice or deciding waiting on the release of Datavis' Documents To Go.
First from reading and re-reading the description of the app, there is no mention of cut, copy and paste for Quicksheet, to me the absence of cut, copy and paste in a spreadsheet is a show stopper. Per the description, Quickword does have cut, copy & paste, but the first user review claims that Quickword omits auto-correct, auto period/capitalization and/or a spell-checker - again, if this is correct, this is a show stopper for a modern day text editor. Another concern, Quickoffice does not appear to have a Powerpoint viewer/editor, from what little information that is available for Documents To Go, DTG appears to have at minimum a PPT viewer. If you happen to use iWork 09, Quickoffice mobile suite is currently not file compatible with Pages or Numbers.
In conclusion, there are just too many questions to be answered before purchasing Quickoffice, especially considering that DataVis and possibly Microsoft are waiting in the wings with office suite applications for the iPhone. At this point I am going to wait to read the blog reviews and user reviews.
[UPDATED - Sun 4/19] - There are now several user reviews (12 reviews... only 2 are 4 stars or above) on the app store for Quickoffice 1.1.0, a new issue is discussed... Quickword does not provide a process to email documents, nor can you edit documents (.doc or .xls) that are attached to email on your iPhone. You have to move files on and off your iPhone via wifi from you desktop or leveraging Quickoffice's link with MobileMe. Still no mention of Quicksheet... does it have cut, copy & paste?
UPDATE - Mon 4/20] - Value proposition... I am OK with spending 20 dollars on an iPhone application, if the application fills a need and is a "go to" app on my iPhone, to me, $20 is a bargain. A "go to" mobile application will have higher usage than its desktop counterpart. That being said, for Quickoffice Mobile Suite, issues aside, it is hard to justify the $20 if you purchased Quickoffice Mobile Pro (now Quicksheets) for $9.99 a month ago. The suite product is essentially the same as Quicksheets with the addition of Quickword. Essentially you are paying $20 for Quickword. Buyer beware.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Offices Galore?

For the record:
  • Quickoffice Inc has promised to ship their flagship software Quickoffice for the iPhone by the end of April.
  • Datavis has countered, stating that Documents To Go for the iPhone will be released in May.
  • There are rumblings and rumors from Redmond that Microsoft will release an iPhone version of MS Office.
  • And, we can only hope the Applie is working on an iPhone version of iWork.

So, during the next month we may finally see a full fledged office suite for the iPhone. Then with OS 3.0 we will hopefully see external keyboards for the iPhone... then we can leave the laptop at home!

With regards to the office suites, portability of documents is key, seamless synching from you desktop to the iPhone. Most people are not going to create a spreadsheet from scratch on the iPhone, the doc will be created on the desktop and referenced from the iPhone with the ability to edit. Also, note to Quickoffice... a spreadsheet without Cut, copy and paste is not real useful. I have been trialing Quicksheets, and re-entering formulas is not a lot of fun. There are better options: Spreadsheet, Plus, etc.

It will be interesting to see what the shipping products look like... time will tell.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dictionary.com for iPhone v 1.0

Just over one month ago I reviewed Wordbook, my review of Wordbook was positive and I ended up recommending that you add Wordbook to your iPhone. I standby that recommendation, but as usual, the iPhone application landscape is changing. The popular developers behind the website dictionary.com have just released the iPhone application Dictionary.com for iPhone (free).
Dictionary.com for iPhone has 275,000 definitions and 80,000 synonyms loaded onto your iphone in the 35 mb application. One of the advantages that Dictionary.com has over Wordbook is that you do not need a network connection to access the dictionary data. Dictionary.com for iPhone is no-nonsense, there is a search page for Dictionary and Thesaurus, a Recent screen - where entries are identified as Dictionary, Thesaurus or Word of the Day and a Word of the Day screen. By comparison, Dictionary.com does not have as many extra features as Wordbook, specifically the external links to Wikipedia or the crossword solver to name a few. Dictionary.com requires a network connection for Word of the Day and audio pronunciation. Audio pronunciation on Dictionary.com is vastly superior to pronunciation on Wordbook.
Conclusion, I plan to keep both applications on my iPhone at least for awhile, I like the idea of having all the data on the phone for offline work, and the definition/synonym screen layout and linking is cleaner in Dictionary.com than in the Wordbook application. That being said, the external linking afforded by Wordbook is useful from time to time. Keep them both! Then decide.

Updated Google Calendar for iPhone [Updated 4/8/09]

Wow, Google has completely re-architected the gCal and gMail mobile websites. Resulting in better performance, a refreshed user interface and great new gCal functionality on the iPhone. Google claims "the full impact of this new architecture isn't visible yet, but it will enable us to significantly improve performance and quickly roll out new features in the near future."

The new code requires iPhone OS 2.2.1 or higher, with aggressive caching, gCal and gMail will be usable even with inconsistent data networks.

Google calendar on the iPhone now allows you create, edit and delete events and meeting requests right from your iPhone. The interface is clean and intuitive, gCal is giving iCal a run for its money on the iPhone. This is competition that is good for all of us. Go to: google.com/calendar/gp from your iPhone browser to see your schedule, edit an event, add or remove guests... all from your iPhone.

If you are a gMail user, the new web interface matches Apple's mail.app on the iPhone, allowing batch processing of emails with a search feature that is missing in the mail.app (until 3.0 arrives).

If you are a gCal or gMail user, this is great news and worthy of a shortcut being added to one of your home screens (Note: the Google mobile app has been taking me to the old version of gCal, it looks like Google will need to update the mobile app).

[Updated 4/8/09 11AM EST] The speed enhancement to Google calendar & Gmail are noticeable. I did notice while using the new Google calendar that there is still an important item missing. When creating a new appointment/event on the iPhone, you can not assign the event to a specific calendar, the event defaults to the "default calendar" - which happens to be the first calendar you created when initially setting up your Google calendar. In my opinion this oversight creates a usability issue, failing the RWU test. As it is Google calendar functionality is limited on the iPhone, you are better off creating events/appointments on your desktop, where you can assign them to a specific calendar.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quickoffice beats Documents To Go to Market?

Quickoffice is showing Quickoffice for iPhone at CTIA this week, and has announced an April 2009 launch date. Quickoffice for iPhone will provide editing of Excel and Word documents. Essentially this suite is made up of three applications:
  • Quicksheet
  • Quickword
  • Quickoffice Files.

Note, if you have Quickoffice's MobileFiles Pro, there is a new update that changes the name to Quicksheet. It looks like Quickoffice adds Quickword and cut, copy & paste... it is unclear if cut, copy & paste will be added to Quicksheet... time will tell. It looks like the office suite is finally coming to the iPhone.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Evernote for iPhone updated to 2.0

Evernote (EN) is an application that I keep front & center on my main home screen. I use Evernote daily, as an extension of my brain, the iPhone version in combination with the desktop clients combine to provide... "information at your finger tips." If you have not tried Evernote, I recommend that you check out Evernote's blog for a peek at the power of this application.


It has been several months since the Evernote iPhone application has been updated, the Evernote folks hinted at an imminent upgrade on a recent podcast. Well, low and behold, there it was on my App Store Updates screen.. Evernote 2.0! Let's review the enhancements/changes:

  • LANDSCAPE Mode (See screenshots below)! Just flip your iPhone! You can now create & edit notes in landscape view using the larger landscape keyboard. You can also view the listing of your notes in landscape mode in a cool new thumbnail view. After an evening of using Evernote in landscape mode, this is a great enhancement, browsing through notes in the new thumbnail view feels natural and editing with the larger keyboard is a godsend.


  • The "Favorites" functionality in the Evernote iPhone application allows you to selectively tag notes that you want to carry with you on the iPhone that will be available at all times, even without a network connection. With the new EN version, the favorites folder has been updated to allow you to edit the order that your notes are displayed. The developers also claim to have implemented "better offline support for favorites, including improved access to attachments." I have not had a chance to open an attachment yet (sans 3G/wifi access), but I do find the custom sort order a worthy enhancement, especially given how the favorite folders tends to grow with use.

  • Numerous bug fixes and cosmetic improvements. The startup time has been improved and it is noticeable, geo-tagging accuracy has also been addressed, as has the stability of the built in browser.
The enhancements listed above are welcome and make for a worthy upgrade. One enhancement I have been waiting for is the ability to edit notes with "stylized text." This issue was not addressed with the 2.0 upgrade. The workaround is to make sure that any note you are planning to update using both the iPhone EN editor and your EN desktop clients, do not stylize your text or add photos/audio/video to the note while editing in your desktop Evernote client.




Highly Recommended

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Home Screen Lite on Tumblr

This is an experiment, using the Tumblr iPhone application. I will be posting regularly (maybe even daily) to theHomeScreen-Lite.tumblr.com with quick snippets on information/opinion regarding the iPhone. Think of the Tumblr site as a lite version of this site.
The interesting thing with the new Tumblr site... it will be 99.9% composed using the iPhone. I setup the site using a laptop... and the plan is to use only the iPhone moving forward.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

v 3.0: Comparing Reality (or what was demoed) with my Wishlist!

On February 17 I put together an iPhone OS 3.0 wishlist and posted it to this blog, let's see how I fared by comparing the announcements from yesterday's (3/17/09) Apple Press conference.

Going Through my 2/17 Posting:
  • Copy/Cut & Paste, Check! This was a no-brainer, Apple had to add this at some point (it should have been in v 1.0). I think all iPhone power users are relieved that we will finally have this basic functionality.
  • HomeScreen/Application Management. No Announcement, there was no mention of this during the press conference, it is possible we will see this as one of the 100 or so user improvements that were not discussed. As developers have loaded the beta copy of 3.0 on their phones, word is that there are a lot of new features that were not covered in the press conference. Although, it seems like a new Springboard would have been a big enough item that Apple would have demoed it. I guess we will have to wait until summer to find out. [Note: v 3.0 will implement system wide "Spotlight" search functionality, if the iPhone's Spotlight can be used like OS X's spotlight to launch applications, then application management may not be as important. Just launch Spotlight and type the first few letters of the app you want to launch.]
  • Text to Speech at the OS level. No announcement, I think full TTS will require a bump in hardware, we may not see a move toward text to speech on the iPhone until processor upgrades. There was no specific mention of this capability at the press conference.
  • User Selectable background processing. NO, this was the big rumor prior to the 3/17 press conference, I think the rumor got a lot of people excited, including myself. There are times where I would want to selectively choose to keep an app open as a background process, even at the expense of decreased battery life. It appears that Apple is not ready to give us this option yet, during the press conference, background notifications was discussed and demoed, while several reasons were given as to why you would not want true background processing.. so, NO selective background processing this summer!
  • External Peripherals - Blue tooth or via the dock connector. CHECK! with some reservations, I am looking for an external keyboard! At first glance, this announcement seems to imply we will be seeing external keyboards this summer. But during the Q&A, Apple was asked specifically about the availability of a bluetooth keyboard, the iPhone OS is currently lacking human interface device (HID) drivers, Apple seemed unwilling to commit to HID drivers for 3.0. I do not think we can assume that external keyboards are a slam dunk, we will have to wait and see. FYI, I favor an external keyboard that connects to the dock connector over bluetooth connectivity, mainly for power consumption/battery life issues.
  • System Settings Profiles. No announcement, again, we will have to wait and see if the settings application has any new functionality that was not mentioned in the press conference.

While reviewing above, there is only one definite out of the original 6 wishlist items, not a great batting average, but I am still excited about v3.0. Apple touched on a few other items that will be great for iPhone users: Spotlight search, landscape keyboard, improved calendar functionality, call logging, MMS, peer to peer between iPhones, turn by turn GPS, push notification, developer access to over 1000 new APIs, tethering, Safari improvements and interaction with accessories. It is looking like 2009 will be a great year for continued enhancements to the iPhone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Update iStayFit continues to improve!

The last time I mentioned iStayFit on this blog, version 2.4 was the flavor of the day. Since then there have been 4 releases, culminating in version 3.0 being released last week...


  • Version 2.5 added 34 new stretching exercises... a good place to start if you want some ideas for stretching.
  • Version 2.6 added the ability to change the log date in order to enter previous workouts
  • Version 2.7 added the ability to create free form workouts on the fly. Thus, if you are wandering around the gym, you can create your workout while you are at each station. This feature was requested by users on the iStayFitClub forums and the developers responded quickly to the request. I can vouch, free form workout, leveraging the ability to search across all exercises from one list works well. The only issue I had was that the onscreen keyboard used for searching sometimes obscured the bottom search result and I could not find a way to dismiss the keyboard.
  • Version 3.0 saw the addition of a scheduling function. Allowing you to setup a workout schedule. The scheduling function is full featured, allowing up to 2 schedules per day, thus you can separate out your cardio and weight workouts. Setting up a workout schedule is straightforward, see this link for more information.


The addition of free form workouts and scheduling are two big items that add to iStayFit's usefulness.

Interestingly iFitness ($1.99) seems to be the big seller, as it is usually in the top 5 in the Healthcare & Fitness category, I have not used iFitness since my initial trial (Dec 08), but from researching the current reviews and the iFitness website, it appears that iStayFit maintains the lead in functionality and flexibility for the gym rat or the novice! Maybe the lead that iFitness maintains it is price driven.


iStayFit v3.0 Highly Recommended

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WordBook: Do it All Dictionary!

Dictionary, Thesaurus, word of the day, audible enunciation, crossword dictionary, anagram dictionary and a crafty customizable link to 5 web resources such as Wikipedia, Google and Answer.com. I highly recommend WordBook ($3.99) from TranCreative Software.
This is the "swiss-army knife" of english word definition. For me it replaced a pricey brand name dictionary (with a bad UI) and a free thesaurus application. Search is quick and flexible, updating the word list as you enter each letter, the dictionary is purported to have the equivalent of over 1800 book pages of information, this source of the content is Princeton's Wordnet database (a free DB that can be accessed via a web browser, with WordBook you are paying for the application's UI). After 3+ months of using WordBook I have had success with all word searches.
The user interface is straight forward with a content window, linked content is identified as blue text, the font is readable and its size is adjustable via settings. There is a standard iPhone-esque icon bar along the bottom of the screen, giving you one touch access to "Featured" (words of the day), "Favorites" (you can mark any entry as a favorite - viewed here, also you can view your word search history here as well), "Search", "Definition" and More... (Crossword & Anagram dictionaries, Pronunciations table). Once you have a word selected there is a button bar across the top, that provides access to Dictionary, Links, Thesaurus and Web. There is also a sliding tab that opens when touched, giving you the ability to email the definition or use the customizable web links. The web links are a great idea that increases the usefulness of WordBook by extending its feature set via online websites, for example you setup an URL to a medical dictionary, with a quick touch the word you are searching is dropped into the web resource seamlessly inside of WordBook's browser. While WordBook leverages the web to enhance its own content, an internet connection is not required to run WordBook, as 200,000 entries are optimized and loaded onto your iPhone for access anytime your iPhone/Touch is powered up.
In my opinion this $3.99 application holds up well against the $20-30 dictionary applications in the App Store and surpasses them in fuctionality. WordBook is worth checking out! This is a Real World application!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yahoo's Inquisitor for the iPhone

Inquisitor is now available for free on the App Store. At first glance, it seems to be Yahoo search done right. I used it for a few searches this weekend and was impressed with the results along with the display and UI. More details to come as I dig into the application, including how it compares to the Google iPhone search application.

[Updated: 3/10/09 - See this excellent review of Inquisitor: http://www.iphonejd.com/iphone_jd/2009/03/review-yahoo-inquisitor.html I agree with the review 100% ... Inquisitor is good, will it replace Google mobile or Vlingo as you "go to" search application? Or will it be used as an adjunct... or ultimately deleted to make space for another application?]

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kindle for iPhone - Old News by now.. A quick list of First Impressions

Instead of rewriting the review that has been done 10 times over already.. here are the links to excellent Kindle for iPhone first impressions. Followed by my Pro & Cons.

Pro:

  • Gives you access to Amazon's Kindle ebook content (240,000 books).
  • If you own a Kindle, can take advantage of Whispersync, never lose your place from device to device.
  • iPhone more portable than Kindle.
  • Adjustable font size, color viewing and backlit with adjustable brightness via iPhone settings.

Con:

  • Can not access Newspaper/Magazine content.
  • Can not purchase books from within the app, must drop to web, the Amazon Kindle book site is not iPhone optimized.
  • Vertical orientation only, no landscape viewing.

In version 2, please give us newspaper & magazine content, tilt page advance as in Instapaper Pro and landscape viewing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Night Camera Brings Usability Features!

Night Camera ($0.99) from Sudobility is an iPhone application that is designed to "prevent the blur in the first place", as stated by the developer. Night Camera will not automagically increase the size or resolution of the iPhone's photo sensor, nor will it decrease the noise profile, or increase the dynamic range of your photos. Night Camera will not turn your cell phone camera into a digital SLR!

But... it does improve upon the "capture" functionality of Apple's Camera application. There are two options that I am particularly fond of:


  1. Fullscreen Shutter - allows you to use the full screen as the shutter button, this is a huge improvement over the shutter button used in Camera.

  2. Stable mode - uses the accelerometer to trigger the shutter when it detects that the camera is stable (3 sensitivity settings). This is ideal for shooting photos of stationary objects, if trying to take a picture of your toddler, you may become frustrated missing the shot or blur from the moving object as the shutter speed is still very slow in low light situations.

Night Camera also provides a timer option and auto shutter - meaning the camera will take a picture once the application is launched. You can also set an option to have the image auto saved, thus dismissing with the review and save procedure.


For me, the Fullscreen shutter option is worth the price of admission. In real world usage, I find that I use my iPhone camera to take pictures of products in various retail settings for further analysis when I return home. For this usage, I set Night Camera to Stable mode with Fullscreen shutter on, since the product is typically stationary, the Stable mode assures that camera shake will be minimized, resulting in a sharp image. If I am taking a quick snapshot of my 2 year old, I turn off stable mode and go into Standard camera mode and leave Fullscreen shutter enabled.


In conclusion, I have relegated Apple's Camera application to screen NINE and moved Night Camera to the HomeScreen, in essence replacing the build in Camera application.




Friday, February 27, 2009

TV.com - CBS News To Go, & CNET!

The "news on demand" landscape on the iPhone is changing daily. The latest entrant is TV.com, an application that streams video and audio to your iPhone, think of TV.com as a refined version of Ustream exclusively for CBS content. The TV.com application provides access to a large segment of CBS programming, including the CBS network, the CW, Showtime, CBS Sports mobile, ET, CBS radio, The Insider, CNET and CBS News.
For this blog post I will zero in on CBS News and CNET content. First off, the UI is easily browsable with the ability to create your own feed. This is easily accomplished by tagging the content you are interested in, for instance CNET Apple Byte, CBS News Headlines Now & Letterman's top 10, once tagged the application will refresh the content under "My Feed", giving one button access to the content that interests you. Navigation is intuitive, making use of a back button and application wide search.
Stepping back, CBS News content is broken down into the following subcategories: Early Show, Headlines Now, Katie Goes Mobile and Politics on Mobile, most of the clips are 1 to 3 minutes in length. The clips are sorted with the newest content on top, scroll to browse.
It is good to see CBS leveraging the CNET acquisition, CNET programming is front and center with the following categories: Apple Byte, CES, CNET Live, CNET Top 5, Car Tech, Daily Debrief, Download First Look, First Look, Holiday, Insider Secrets, Loaded, Mailbag, Planet CNET, Prizefight, Product Spotlight, Quick Tips and The Buzz Report. I must say, TV.com is easier to navigate then the CNET website is to access their broad array of content.
Content is plentiful, so how well does the application work? Initial testing, via wifi, steaming is great with no stuttering or skipping, buffering is almost non existent and the picture looks good on the iPhone screen. I plan to test today via 3G. Initially the application is fairly stable, with one crash during ~2 hours of heavy usage.
Conclusion, I look forward to exploring this application over time specifically focusing on the timeliness of the news. My initial impression is positive, having quick access to CNET content is a plus.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rocketron - Hands on Part 2

Two more days of using Rocketron...
Content: Rocketron's news content is updated continuously, and unlike the NYTimes application, there is no long extended wait for the content to update, somehow it seems like Rocketron is updating in the background - I like this magic! There is a refresh button in the upper right corner of the UI, it is used to update the content while you are perusing news articles. One nice touch I did not notice during the first day of use is that each article is time stamped and displays how long ago it was added (days, hours, minutes), making it easy to determine freshness of the news. Although interestingly it does not appear that the articles are sorted and displayed with the newest content always at the top of the page, it looks like there is an algorithm placing the popular/important articles as the headliners. Thus, you may find an article with an age date of 4 hours ago, followed by an article that is less than 10 minutes old. I guess if I had it my way, I would rather have the articles sorted strictly by post time, with the freshest at top, this consistency would make it more difficult to overlook/miss an article.

Sound quality/Listenability: First off, the text to speech is very good, with some inflection added, pausing at sentence breaks and decent reading of numbers. This technology has really improved over the years. Don't get me wrong, it is still apparent that this is computer generated audio, but it is nowhere near as monotonous to listen to as TTS was just a few years ago.
In my last post I mentioned that the audio seemed fuzzy/lispy via earphones, it is interesting, it seems like after the first 30-60 seconds of listening the "lisp" goes away? Not sure if it is acclimation or somehow the audio improves? Either way, it is not a show stopper.

General Use: Beware! If you are using Rocketron to read the news traditionally, be aware, that each time you launch a new article a short audio advertisement will play through the external speaker of your iPhone if you do not have headphones attached. This could be disruptive depending on your environment! It is easily remedied by turning the volume down on your iPhone.
I do not have feedback on the "customization" feature, I added a couple of terms to "news I want" and "news I don't want", but it is difficult to tell how well the filters are working, I guess time will tell. The stability seems to be good for a 1.0 release, I did have one application crash when launching an article, upon relaunch of Rocketron everything seemed OK.
Since you need to keep the iPhone from going to sleep while listening to Rocketron news, you will see a drain on your battery, this impact can be lessened by dimming the screen brightness or if using Rocketron while driving, getting yourself an iPod power adapter for the car.
A unique and useful feature of Rocketron, is the ability to record your feedback and send it back to the Asyncast from within the application with the touch of a button, the feedback process is well implemented on the About page of the application.
I have not yet had a chance to trial Rocketron on my wife's first generation iPhone via the Edge network, I hope to do that soon. Overall, I plan to keep Rocketron on my iPhone and move it to my news screen with the USAT, AP and NYT news applications. Rocketron will be my "go to" news provider when I want news on demand while driving!

R E C O M M E N D E D

Monday, February 23, 2009

Using Rocketron - Hands On

A couple of hours of using the Rocketron iPhone application, hear are a few findings:
How it works:  The Rocketron iPhone application requires a persistent network connection to stream the text to speech (TTS) audio, thus the TTS conversion is processing on Rocketron's servers and streaming to the iPhone for playback.  Per the Rocketron FAQ, the Rocketron application requires a 3G or Wifi data connection, I can vouch that the streaming audio works fine with 3G (10-20 sec initial load time) and Wifi (no perceivable load time) - I plan to test with an edge iPhone tomorrow.
Audio quality:  On the way home from work I played Rocketron audio through my car stereo, the audio quality was fine for spoken word.. AM type quality with no drop outs, the only complaint I had was that the 5-10 second commercials that play between articles are noticeably louder than the TTS audio - I hope the folks at Rocketron address this, the ads themselves are not that annoying.
Once home, I listened via a standard set of Apple earbuds, the audio was fuzzy with the esses lisping, I plan to do more testing - as it was tonight, it was close to unlistenable for more than an article or two at a time.
Play Mode: Gives you quick easy access to the audio articles, the text of the article is not displayed... this is the "driving & jogging" mode.  You choose a category and touch the big play button, you can skip to the next article just as easily by touching the equally big "next article" button.  
I used "Play mode" during my test drive home from work all was fine until I had to stop at the super market, thus, I shut down Rocketron, unfortunately I found out that the application/server did not queue to the article where I had left off, play mode re-started at the top article again, forcing me to have to manually skip forward through the articles I had already listened to - not a huge deal, but Apple has really spoiled us with audio books on the iPod.  Since you are logged onto the server every time you launch Rocketron it seems reasonable that a future enhancement will be to queue up at the article you left off at - sounds like a great 2.0 enhancement!
Content:  Reuters, News corp and the UPI appear to be the main sources of articles for Rocktron.  Articles are added throughout the day at a leisurely pace, at this point it does not look like you will be using Rocketron for up to the minute breaking news stories.  So far no complaints with the content, although it would be great to have this technology available for the NYTimes Op-Ed articles!
Customize:  You can also "customize" your news feeds by feeding "News I Want" terms and "News I don't want" terms into your settings.  An example I am testing, I placed "baseball" into the "News I don't want" setting, in theory articles about baseball should be dropped from my feed.  This is something I plan to test over time and report back the results.

I have not moved this App to my "News screen" yet or even decided if it will find a permanent home on the iPhone, but after a couple of hours of using it.. I am liking it, and given the price, I recommend giving it a try... Back to testing!

Rocketron - Listen to the News on You iPhone!

For those of you who have been following my iPhone rants over the past few weeks... you know that I am looking for Apple to add a text to speech (TTS) engine to the Touch OS 3.0. Yes, I want my iPhone to read to me when it is inconvenient for me to read from the screen.

I may be getting my wish piecemeal! A new news gathering application called Rocketron 1.0 (free) is now available on the App Store (the name is unfortunate, sounds more like a gaming application!), with Rocketron you can listen to and/or read read your daily news!

Initially, the application looks promising, the developer touts the following on their website:
  • Get the latest headlines for World, US National, Business, Politics, Entertainment, Sports, and Technology.
  • Hear any article in spoken form, just press Play.
  • Play Mode is like an iPod loaded with news! Skip and repeat individual stories, and change news categories faster than switching albums.
  • Customize your news by specifying “News I Want” and “News I Don't Want.”

My daily routine includes browsing news from the NYTimes, USA Today and AP Mobile News applications, at first glance, it appears that Rocketron has solid news content, at least on par with USAT. The interface is logical, select a category, (World, Sports, Tech, Business, etc) then select an article, after a brief advertisement the text article appears, to have the article read to you, touch the "Play article" button, wait 10-15 seconds and the article is read to you - the reading is on par with OS X's Alex TTS reader. In other words, listening to a 10,000 word thesis is probably beyond the scope of this application, but listening to a typical news article is tolerable. Rocketron also has a cool "Play Mode" I suspect that this feature will be great for use while driving. In the 5-6 articles I have listened to so far, I did find that you should go into the iPhone settings and set "Auto-Lock" to never, otherwise Rocketron will stop reading to you when the screen blanks.

I am looking forward to using this application over the next few days.. and sharing my findings, for now the price is right! The content looks solid... and the TTS is tolerable... initially it looks like a step in the right direction!









Thursday, February 19, 2009

iPhone as Geologger? Tidbits Uncovers a mystery?

Our friends over at Tidbits.com have uncovered behind the scenes coding in iPhoto '09 that leads one to think that Apple has some GPS tricks up their sleeve for the iPhone. I had an earlier post with regards to using the iPhone, Trails and Maperture Pro to geotag your photos. It looks like Apple might be toying with the idea of leveraging the iPhone and iPhoto to tag your photos from your personal camera. Interesting stuff.. Thanks Adam and crew!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update: Dataviz Tardy with Documents To Go for iPhone!

As mentioned in a couple of posts below, I have been anxiously awaiting Documents To Go for the iPhone. This was supposed to be the week.. at MWC '09, but, our friends over at iPhone J.D. found a reference to DTG on an Italian website, it looks like we will be waiting awhile longer! Maybe Apple will release iWork for the iPhone in the mean time! We can hope!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MWC '09 - My 2009 (Touch OS 3.0) Wishlist!

Mobile World Congress is running from Feb 16 thru Feb 19 in Barcelona Spain. Apple does not plan to have an official presence at the world's largest mobile communications trade show, but there are sure to be announcements that will either directly or indirectly impact the iPhone user/market. For instance, Dataviz is rumored to be set to announce the availability of Documents To Go for the iPhone. Documents To Go is essentially Office for handheld platforms. I used it extensively on the Palm OS and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival on the iPhone (or for Apple to release iWork for the iPhone). Besides a usable office type application (Word, Excel, PowerPoint compatibility, editing and syncing), what else would is needed to boost productivity with the iPhone in 2009?

My wish list for 2009, peripherals and Touch OS 3.0:


  • Copy/Cut & Paste. Several applications have included this functionality within the application. The iPhone Spreadsheet "Plus" has copy and paste and it is a pleasure to use.. Apple we need Copy & Paste at the OS level across applications.

  • HomeScreen/Application Management. Ever try getting from the homescreen to screen six, seven or eight quickly? No a lot of fun. I am not sure what the answer here is, maybe nested icons that open a new screen directly from the main homescreen. Hopefully Apple has some UI magic up its sleeve to provide the iPhone power users with a better experience.

  • Text to Speech at the OS level. I mentioned this in a previous post, since then Amazon has announced the Kindle 2 with text to speech. The idea of opening an article in Instapaper, Safari, AP Mobilenews or having newsfeeds/twitter posts read with the touch of a button is very appealing, perfect for the car or gym. Hopefully the Amazon Kindle 2 will push Apple to a degree.

  • User Selectable background processing. This is one rumor that is making the rounds with regards to Touch OS 3.0. The idea is that you select one or two additional applications that are allowed to run in the background, similar to Apple's mail.app, the iPod application or the Nike+ application on the Touch G2. I hope this rumor has some substance behind it! I would use it to set Trails to geotrack my location when shooting photos, and not have to worry about the phone state.

  • External Peripherals - Blue tooth or via the dock connector. Specifically an external portable keyboard, either wireless or connected to the dock connector! I have no problem with the onscreen keyboard for emails, texting or twittering. But the idea of editing an Excel or Word document in Documents To Go with half of the screen real estate occupied with a onscreen keyboard is not appealing. Palm had a fold able portable keyboard that connected with their Tungsten series of PDAs in the early 00s... I wish Apple would follow suit! Soon... Increased screen real estate for editing and true touch typing! Leave your laptop at home.
  • System Settings Profiles. The ability to create & save profiles with specific system settings, for instance: dim screen brighness, shut down wifi and shut down the cell radio all with one selection. The current state, a user must go into Settings and set each item separately, and then reset to the prior state.