Tuesday, June 30, 2009

eBuddy - FREE IM App With Push!

I have been using the free AIM app to do instant messaging with push notifications on my iPhone 3G. However, I'd like to use other instant messaging platforms like MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. Palringo is a great alternative, but it doesn't support push (yet).

eBuddy [iTunes link] could be the answer I'm looking for. It supports AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, Facebook Chat and ICQ. If you're familiar with the free version of AIM, it's very similar in form and function. It has the bare essentials along with some custom emoticons. It does not feature picture messaging or voice messaging like Palringo.

The one thing I liked about the AIM app is that your push notification includes part of the IM that it's pushing and the screen name of your buddy. eBuddy has a more generic notification saying that you have received an instant message. However, the eBuddy app actually opens faster than AIM when you want to view your IM in full.

Like Palringo, you have to register with eBuddy with a screen name and password before you can use the app. It's FREE so try it out!
UPDATE: The eBuddy experiment has failed. After exiting the app, eBuddy will only let you stay logged in for up to 30 minutes. If you're not logged in, you can't get push notifications. AIM allows you stay logged on for up to 24 hours. All you have to do is log in once a day to be perpetually online on AIM.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Push Notifications: The Next Step In The iPhone Evolution

I just received my second push notification today from AP Mobile and I hope it will be the start of many more to come in other apps. AP Mobile pushes breaking news stories to your sleep screen. It appears just like an SMS message The first one came on Thursday but it was for some forgettable news story so I dismissed that one as a test.

Push notifications [video] allow the iPhone user to get alerts from your apps when you're not in the app. This is important because the iPhone does not allow you to be in more than one app at a time.

The Palm Pre has distinguished itself from the iPhone by allowing its OS to be in multiple applications at the same time. However, early reviews show that the battery life of the Pre is not good. Using multiple applications compound the problem. That's exactly why Apple did not choose to go that route.

Push notifications are not only good for breaking news, but will be used more for instant messaging applications. None of the IM apps right now take advantage of push, but soon they will. When they are enabled, you will be alerted when a new IM comes in.

I hope developers find creative ways to use push notifications because I feel it will again change the way we use our iPhone.

AppAdvice has a list of apps that use push notifications or will use push in a future update. I hope this list grows!

Friday, June 19, 2009

iPhone 3G S Line At Kahala Mall On iDay 3

This is the Apple Store where I bought my iPhone 3G last July. Nearly a year later, the iPhone 3G S is on sale and the line is nowhere near the craziness that was iDay 2. From the reports around the country, it seems that the online ordering and the preorders have really helped to cut down on the horrid lines from last year. In the UK, the iPhone 3G S is expected to outsell the 3G on its first day despite shorter lines.

I made the panoramic photo above on the iPhone 3G using the app Pano.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

First Voice Turn-By-Turn Nav On iPhone Requires Monthly Fee

For those who have been waiting for a voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone, the wait is finally over. But, I have a feeling that most will pass on this one.

Networks In Motion, Inc. has come out with Gokivo + Yahoo Local Search for only $.99. The catch is that there is an in-app subscription of $9.99 a month. It also requires iPhone OS 3.0.

Personally, I'm waiting to see what the price will be for the Tom Tom For iPhone. As long as there is no monthly subscription, I'll probably get it. I'd rather pay a $40 one-time fee than a $9.99 a month fee.

It will be interesting to see which developers will get into the GPS navigation app business.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AT&T Gives In To iPhone 3G S Upgrading Furor

Evidently, the anger over many iPhone 3G users not being able to upgrade to the latest 3G S coming out Friday came to a head on Wednesday.

AT&T announced it would relax its upgrade policy for iPhone 3G owners who would be eligible for an upgrade this July, August and September. That means they can buy an iPhone 3G S for the subsidized price starting Thursday.

UPDATE: I've been told by iPhone 3G owners who had their device for about a year that they were able to upgrade to 3G S. If you've been paying $100 or more (before taxes and fees) a month, you're eligible.

This doesn't affect me at all, since I'm not eligible until March 2010. But, I suppose it satisfies a lot of people who will become eligible in the coming months (I guess they can't wait, can they?).

iPhone OS 3.0: First Impressions

This is by no means a comprehensive review of the iPhone OS 3.0, but rather a first impression.

Cosmetically, there isn't much difference. What you might immediately notice is that a new Voice Memos app is forced onto your front page. If you had that page full, it
kicks the last app to the second page with ONLY that app. The third page continues the rest of your apps. For a while there, I thought it had deleted all my apps from the second page. Thankfully, that wasn't the case.

Speaking of the Voice Memos app, I found it to be a pretty cool app even though I'd probably not use it much. It's easy enough to record and play it back. There's a nice VU meter that enhances the experience. What's actually impressive is that you can trim the ends of your audio memo. It's very intuitive, just like the iPhone 3G S video trimming. You can then e-mail your memo, send it through MMS (when it's available) or sync it with your computer through iTunes.

If you swipe to the left on the home screen, you can use Spotlight Search to search for just about ANYTHING on your iPhone. What it's really useful for is to get to that app that's on your 11th home page. If you're on the first home screen, hitting the home button will also take you to Spotlight Search.
The feature I was looking most forward to was push notifications. This allows apps to notify you of an alert even when you're not in the app. Now, the Notifications setting doesn't automatically appear in Settings for 3.0. To enable it, you will need at least one app that utilizes push notifications and enable it in that app. So far, I have found one app that I already have that uses it: AP Mobile. It's free, and it's a good way to get yourself familiar with push notificiations. AP Mobile pushes breaking news to the screen of your iPhone. I haven't received one yet, but I'm hoping I will soon.

The overall navigation of the screen seems to be slightly faster, although some have reported lag. Usually a hard reset of the iPhone should fix that.

One little-known feature of 3.0 is the "HTTP Adaptive Bitrate Streaming." This makes live video a better experience on the iPhone. The first app to make use of this is MLB.com At Bat 2009. Starting tomorrow, certain games will be televised LIVE on your iPhone! The games up will be the White Sox vs. Cubs and the Tigers vs. Cardinals. I'm stoked since I'm a big Cardinals fan! This really puts MLB.com At Bat far and above ANY other sports app on the App Store. This app has already featured live streaming audio, saved videos of the major plays of each game, live pitch-by-pitch summary and a large amount of stats which will make your head spin. Super good deal for $9.99.

UPDATE: Actually a couple of games were televised live on the app on Wednesday. I caught the Dodgers vs. A's game but there was no sound and the video was crappy for Wi-Fi. I'm not sure this is indicative of how it will be tomorrow when it is supposed to launch officially.

If you want a free sports app, try out the U.S. Open Golf Championship app. It also starts on Thursday and features live video. If it's anything like The Masters app, it will be a great experience.

As I go through the different 3.0 features, I'll be posting my finds here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Documents To Go® for Your iPhone™ or iPod touch®

I just bought Documents To Go for your iPhone or iPod Touch from the Apple App Store. It gives you the ability to create, read and edit Microsoft Word documents. You can also view Excel, Powerpoint, .pdf and other types of files. There's two versions: one for those who use MS Exchange e-mail with their iPhone and those who don't. At launch, the Exchange-supported app is $9.99 and the non-Exchange version is $4.99. I don't have MS Exchange capability so $5 was hard to pass up.

I'll hold off on a full review until iPhone OS 3.0 comes out tomorrow. Right now, I can say it's NOT an MS Office Suite. But, for some it could be very helpful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why The iPhone 3G S Upgrade Is Not Worth It

I have the 16GB iPhone 3G, which is the best iPhone you can get at the moment. On Monday, I carefully sifted through all the new features on the iPhone 3G S coming out next week Friday and decided that it would NOT be worth it for me to upgrade. Here's why:

First of all, Apple and AT&T are not giving current iPhone owners who are not eligible for an upgrade a discount on the new iPhone. 3G owners who signed a two-year commitment are definitely not eligible since less than a year has elapsed. I bought mine on July 11, 2008 and AT&T says I will be eligible for an upgrade by March 12, 2010. I might as well wait until the next iPhone comes out in June or July 2010.
If I REALLY wanted to get the iPhone 3G S, I would have to shell out $499 for the 32GB version or $399 for the 16GB version AND sign a new two-year contract. Paying $200 more and being ineligible for next year's iPhone is a double-whammy.

Secondly, I really don't NEED any of the new features that are exclusive to the 3G S:

  • Faster processor - Great new addition to the 3G S. But, I'm not willing to pay top dollar for it.
  • Video recording - Nice feature, but I already have a real video camera that I would use for serious video.
  • Better camera - Again, nice features. But, I have already adapted myself to the current iPhone camera and learned to take great pictures.
  • Built-In Voice Control - I have already have an app that does something very similar. I hardly use it anyway. So, I wonder if I will really use it on the 3G S.
  • Increased Memory - This is the feature I would REALLY love. But, I wouldn't pay $499 for it.
  • Digital Compass - Useful when using with Google Maps and that's about it. I wouldn't brag to friends about this one.
  • Marginally Better Battery - I have a portable iPhone charger that I can use when I'm in a bind. I am also able to charge my iPhone in both of my cars.

Lastly, next week Wednesday's iPhone OS 3.0 release will affect me MORE than any of the exclusive features for the 3G S. I have been waiting for most of these features and I will be getting them for FREE. iPod Touch users will have to pay $9.99.

So, I believe that the 3.0 upgrade is actually BETTER than the 3G S upgrade.

Monday, June 8, 2009

iPhone 3G S & iPhone OS 3.0

iPhone 3G S

Another year, another iPhone. The 3rd-generation iPhone is the iPhone 3G S. Apple says the "S" stands for speed. Whatever.

Here's the laundry list of features that will ONLY be found on the 3G S:

  • Faster processor - Quicker overall OS speed. Apps launch faster, web pages render quicker and games perform better. Apple says it's 2x faster but I'd take that with a grain of salt until I see a real demo.
  • Video recording - VGA video recording up to 30 fps with audio. Simple trimming program for minor edits.
  • Better Camera - 3 MP camera (which is an odd number; I usually see 3.2 MP) with autofocus and a tap to focus feature. Sorry, no flash.
  • Built-In Voice Control - Sure there are free apps available right now that do something similar. But it is nice to have this feature built into the OS. So, you can control your phone and iPod with simple voice commands.
  • Increased Memory - Onboard RAM now tops out 32GB instead of 16GB.
  • Digital Compass - A compass is a compass. However, it is really useful when using Google Maps. The map will reorient itself when you turn so it is easier to use.
  • Marginally Better Battery - The Apple website compares the battery life between the 3G and the 3G S. Better is always better but it's not a dealbreaker.
Here's a video of how the iPhone 3G S works:

iPhone OS 3.0

Now, the operating system that comes with the 3G S is iPhone OS 3.0. Current iPhone 3G users can get the upgrade for FREE. iPod Touch users can get the upgrade for $9.99.

Here's what 3.0 offers:
  • Cut, Copy & Paste Between Applications - Finally! A feature that should have been there since day one is now a reality. Watch the video above for a really cool demo of the this function.
  • Landscape Keyboard - You can now use the landscape keyboard in e-mail, SMS, and notes as well as Safari. Again, this should have been in the OS last year.
  • Spotlight Search - One search function looks through your contacts, email, calendars, and notes, as well as your iPod.
  • Voice Memos - Hey! You didn't need to buy that voice recording app. It's free in 3.0!
  • Improved Calendar & Stocks - Seems to be more cosmetic than anything but we'll find out next week Wednesday.
  • Buy Movies, TV Shows & Audiobooks Straight From Your iPhone - I never had the need to do this but it's nice to have the flexibility. You never know when you all of a sudden want to watch "Fanboys" at your local Starbucks.
  • Stereo Bluetooth - Thank you! This will allow me to play songs on my car stereo straight from my iPhone. It would be cool to get stereo Bluetooth headphones as well but I'm in no hurry.
  • Push Notifications - Again, thank you! This feature would makes running multiple applications virtually obsolete and it would actually make IM apps usable now. Here's a video explaining how push notifications work.
  • Peer-To-Peer Networking - You no longer need a Wi-Fi network to communicate with another iPhone. You can do it over Bluetooth. Here's a video on how peer-to-peer works.
  • Upgraded Notes & YouTube - Notes will now sync with your computer. You can also now login to YouTube in the native app.
  • MMS & Tethering - MMS will be available on AT&T in the late summer. Tethering will be available "later."

I'm sure there's more features I'm missing, but those are the major ones.

I currently have a 16GB iPhone 3G and I will NOT be upgrading to the 3G S. I'll explain my rationale in my next article.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Sims 3 for the iPhone/iPod Touch

Let me start by saying that I am a Sims veteran. I have played just about every expansion pack for the first-generation Sims game and I have played the second-generation version of the Sims to a lesser extent.
I loved the first Sims but was less impressed with "The Sims 2."
Still, I was very excited to see yet another reboot of The Sims aptly named "The Sims 3." [iTunes link] And now that my preferred platform is now the iPhone, I was even more excited to see what Electronic Arts could do on a mobile device.
Although the iPhone/iPod Touch version of "The Sims 3" won't come close to the versatility of its desktop counterpart, I feel the iPhone version is just as fun and addictive.
The iPhone version is less customizable than the desktop version. There's less choices for the look of your Sim, less furniture for your home, and you can't build invidiual walls or tiles. I didn't
mind this so much, because one can spend HOURS on the look
of your character and the look of your home. So, I welcomed the simplicity.
However, there are some gameplay elements that are probably unique to the iPhone version.
When cooking, you need to shake each pot by clicking on it and shaking your iPhone so your food doesn't get overcooked. Although mundune, I found this to be a nice side game. But, the one thing that frustrated me about cooking is that you now have to buy recipes and EACH INGREDIENT for your recipe. I guess reality has its price.
The BEST side game, though, is the fishing one. Trust me.
Another new element to this latest Sims is the list of goals. Many times it has you doing crazy things like sleeping in other people's beds and using other people's showers.
Well, my character right now is mayor of the town; I'm engaged to my live-in girlfriend; and my fiancee HATES my boss. My current storyline is VERY interesting.
At $9.99, it's a must-have for any Sims aficionado. First-time Sims players will have an easier time getting started on the iPhone version rather than the desktop one.