Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fluent News: Quick App Review

I discovered Fluent News a couple of weeks ago when I was telling a colleague that I wish I could find a great app that pulls together all the major news feeds into one. Given that app discoverability is probably the biggest problem with the app store model, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that an app like that already exists!

Fluent News is simple and elegant. It includes all the social networking links you'd expect, so if you find an article you want to tweet or email to a friend you're just a couple of clicks away from doing just that.

What I like most about Fluent News though is its speed. I understand the developers behind the app do some fancy content pre-fetching. If that means nothing to you, just give it a shot and you'll see what I mean. Click one article after another and you'll find they load much faster than any of the other news apps I've used.

I'm so hooked on this one that I now leave my iPhone on my nightstand so that I can catch up on the latest news after the lights are out and my wife is trying to fall asleep. Let's see you do that on a Kindle!

Monday, June 22, 2009

First Few Days with iPhone 3G S

I didn't initially plan to upgrade my 3G to 3G S but my wonderful wife surprised me with the upgrade as a birthday present last week. Even though I'd only had my 3G phone for less than 8 months I managed to get the 32 Gig 3G S for $299 as an upgrade to an eligible slot we have in a separate family plan. Here are a few of my initial observations after using the phone the past 3 days...

Speed. When I got my 3G S I asked the AT&T rep I'd really notice much of a speed improvement vs. my 3G phone. He said the only difference would probably be when I'm browsing the web. I've done a lot of web browsing the past few days and it seems just like my old 3G. Strike 1.

Battery life. Apple has been touting the improved battery life on the 3G S but there again, I'm having a hard time noticing a difference. In fact, I'm plugged in at an airport right now, hoping to get a full charge before I get on the next leg of my journey. I even turned 3G service off in the hopes that it would extend the battery life but the meter still seems to drop at the same rate my 3G did. Strike 2.

Voice Control. I initially considered this a gimmick that I'd rarely, if ever, use. Boy, was I wrong. I may never look up another contact in my address book. The darned thing is not only handy but it's also incredibly accurate. It's successfully retrieved every number I've asked for. That takes away 1 strike.

Compass. This is another gimmicky service I figured I'd never use. Wrong again. I've shown this one to 3 other people now and every one of them simply said, "wow." Like Voice Control, it's been extremely accurate for me. I can't wait to find myself in a location where I can really use it. Another strike disappears.

Video camera. I was really looking forward to this feature and so far, it hasn't disappointed. Like pretty much every other Apple tool, it works like you'd expect it to. Simple but effective. My only gripe is that there's still no zoom capability. As I mentioned in an earlier Tweet, this feature obviates the need for a separate quick-and-dirty video camera. (I wonder if Cisco is starting to regret their recent purchase of the makers of the RIP, er, Flip camera.) Seriously, if other cell phone makers copy Apple and start integrating a camera this good, well, why would you bother with a separate device?

The bottom line is a mixed bag. I'm thrilled that my wife got me a 3G S and, I suppose if you can also score one for $299 it's worth the price. And while I'd say the phone is as "insanely great" as most other Apple products, paying the non-upgrade price of $699 would simply be insane.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Resurrecting My iPhone

Earlier this week I ran into a major problem with my iPhone. Every time I connected it to my Mac it crashed iTunes. The problem started shortly after I deleted a bunch of old podcasts from my iPhone. The next day I also started run see a rash of dropped calls. That, coupled with the inablity to sync iPhone and Mac left me more than a bit irritated.

One of my first stops for help was an Apple forum where I posted my problem. I never heard back though, so I have a new apprecation for anyone who's skeptical of how "we are smarter than me." A couple of friends suggested I head over to the Apple Store and give the Genius Bar a shot. The closest one is about 20 minutes away though and I assumed they were going to tell me what I already determined: that I should just nuke the darned thing and start over.

So I saved myself a trip across town and proceeded to wipe out my iPhone. I almost choked when I saw the message indicating the wipe-out process will take about an hour. To be fair, that part of the process really only took about 25 minutes. When the screen said it was time to reconnect the iPhone to the Mac I took a deep breath...

An hour or so later, after all the data from my last backup made it to my iPhone I was up and running. I figured I'd have to spend the rest of the night reconfiguring all the various email settings, phone favorites list and other preferences I'd set up over the past 7 months.

Guess what? The restore process took care of all of that for me. Every single bit. When the phone came back up my email settings were already in place. My Yankees wallpaper was back where it belongs. My AIM and Twitter clients were all loaded with my IDs and passwords. It was truly remarkable.

Although I'm still scratching my head over how I got into this mess to begin with, I have to tip my hat to Apple for creating such an outstanding recovery process. If you ever have to go through this, don't sweat it...Apple's got your back(up)!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My iPhone Crashes iTunes...

After about 7 months of relatively flawless service from my iPhone and iTunes, I woke up today and discovered that anytime I connect my iPhone to my Mac, it crashes iTunes. I've tried rebooting both devices and have done a number of hard resets on the iPhone. No dice.

Does anyone have any advice on how to resolve this?...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TwitterFon: Quick App Review

I can't tell you how many Twitter apps I've tried on the iPhone. I went through at least 5 or 6 before I got to TwitterFon, which I've now been using for the past several months. Does it have every single feature you could imagine? No, but I'll bet you'll find it has everything you need.

What do I love about TwitterFon? First, it's free. OK, I'm a cheapskate, but still, TwitterFon stacks up well against any of the paid Twitter iPhone apps. Second, it's fast. No matter how many tweets I'm behind it seems to load them in no time at all. Next, as with all good iPhone apps, the user interface is intuitive. The developers managed to put all the right controls on one screen without it seeming overly crowded. Then there are the nice, subtle touches, like how you can quickly get to a hot Twitter topics list from within the search screen.

Others have complained that TwitterFon doesn't support multiple Twitter accounts. I suppose if I was working with more than one Twitter account that would be a drawback, but I only have one.

If you're looking for a great, simple and free Twitter client for your iPhone you can't go wrong with TwitterFon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MLB's At Bat 2009: Quick App Review

I'm a baseball nut, I admit it. Until recently I had only bought 3 or 4 iPhone apps and the most expensive one was $1.99. I had been using MLB's At Bat 2009 Lite edition before opening day and I didn't even flinch at the thought of paying $9.99 for the full-fledged version. I'm glad I pried open my wallet for this one.

The pitch-by-pitch, in-game interface is nice and all, but the killer app for At Bat 2009 is the audio feed service. No matter what game I want to follow I always have the choice of not one but two radio feeds from it (home team or away team). So when I'm catching up on the Yankees game I can always be sure to hear the wonderful John Sterling as well as the annoying Suzyn Waldman. (See? She even spells her first name annoyingly! She's begging to be parodied on SNL, if she hasn't been already.)

I've been on the road a bit since the season began and I'm happy to report that the audio feeds have been terrific. I've tried them via 3G and wifi and couldn't tell the difference between them.

The video features are nice for highlights but I have to admit they're awfully grainy on 3G but spectacular if you're on wifi. But if you're committed to running wifi while using this app I hope you're close to a power source. The audio streams for At Bat 2009 will suck your battery dry faster than you can say "Batter Up!".

Overall though, if you're a fan of the game this app is a must-have.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The iPhone "Gold Rush" Indeed!

Here's a great recent NY Times article about developers looking for the pot of gold at the end of the iPhone rainbow. It's wonderful hearing stories like this where a developer working for a struggling company moonlights and comes up with a game that generates a significant, six-figure bump to his income. Unfortunately there just aren't enough of these stories, especially when you consider the App Store currently features more than 25,000 products. The odds of getting rich are better than they are for buying a Super Lotto ticket, but then again, how much work is involved in paying a buck to the lottery?!

One of the things that's got to change here sooner rather than later is better discoverability. Sure, there are 25,000 apps but how many have you looked at? And even though featured lists, new release lists and other methods help increase discoverability, if you're like me you figure there are probably dozens of apps you'd be interested in but you haven't come across them yet.

I wonder if Apple will do something to better address this problem or will a third-party intervene with a clever solution?...