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 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 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: 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.