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amyj has written 11 awesome app reviews.

Pitt Power


On August 20, 2009

 A city cannot live on ice hokey alone. In the off-season, folks in Pittsburgh now have their own app to help maintain metropolis where the Three Rivers meet.

YinzCam and the city of Pittsburgh worked together to create iBurgh, a city-government-focused app. The iBurgh app is free and allows its users to connect with Pittsburgh’s 311 system. Using a geotagging system, civic-minded citizens can take pictures of fallen trees, worrisome potholes, and other public trouble spots, which are then processed and mapped by the app for repair by the city.

According to an article by Debra Diamond Smit at, the app is a national first:

"For the past few months we’ve been in a race against Boston, D.C., New York City and San Francisco to be the first city in the country to apply a mobile application to local government," says Councilman Bill Peduto, the driving force behind the push to partner with local tech companies and make the city the first e-democracy in the country. "This starts the process to not only expand our ability to communicate with local government, but empower people through an emerging industry that will start here. Pittsburgh will be the home of e-democracy."

First started as a research project at Carnegie Mellon, YinzCam is headed up by  Priya Narasimhan, the director of Carnegie Mellon’s Mobility Research Center. The group’s previous focus was in-arena events mobile technology. The team of sports fans launches their first effort during the 2008-9 NHL season as well as the Eastern Conference playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins first success came with the pilot of YinzCam, which allowed fans a close-up look at the action on the ice as well as player info and other stats.

What’s a Yinz? The people at YinzCam note: “The term "yinz" is the Pittsburghese derivation for the original Scots-Irish term "you ones," and is commonly used to represent the plural form of "you."

What government activities would you like to take care of via iPhone?

A Face Lift


On August 19, 2009

 Looks like Facebook is about to move up and out of the number-10 spot on the Top Free Apps list at the app store—the 3.0 update for Facebook has been sent to Apple for review. According to the developer, Facebook’s Joe Hewitt’s Twitter account, the app was submitted Aug, 16.  Hewitt also uploaded images of the new version on the app’s page on Facebook.

In the updated version, the social media hotspot will offer a broader variety of services that more closely resembles the web-based product, including a new News Feed, a Like option, and an Events feature (including the ability to RSVP).

Just in case that’s not enough, work has already started on the next update. Hewitt noted on Twitter, Sunday night “As excited as I am about 3.0, I am *really* excited about 3.1, which I get to start working on tomorrow. Tonight I can relax.”

It’s News to Me


On August 14, 2009


In a time when newspapers are struggling to stay relevant—and alive—European publisher Axel Springer is making news with its use of the Apple iPhone 3G. A recent release at highlighted just how the German-based firm utilized iPhone technology to the benefits of employees and readers alike.

“Apple is the new IT standard for Axel Springer,” says Michael Zurheide, senior manager Axel Springer Media Systems. “iPhone is a great mobile device that increases productivity in the enterprise. Moving to iPhone has been a positive change that has helped the company shift to digital information.”

For employees, the iPhone has turned into a mobile office, providing push email and calendar as well as business information. Writers are able to track the latest news on the wire from iPhone’s Safari app and keep up with their sources and competition alike. On the management level, the iPhone is being used to track sales and revenue data.

Readers are also benefiting with digitization of popular news content such as soccer scores (or football if you’re continental). Notes Hans-Christian Pahlig, team lead for the BILD Newspaper Production Systems at Axel Springer, “Our BILD newspaper is very famous for its sports section. So we have with “Mein Klub” (My club) a mobile application that keeps readers up-to-date with the soccer schedule — it looks great on iPhone. Having an overview of soccer on iPhone is a big benefit for our readers.”

 Is this digitized work plan the wave of the future for newspapers?  I wonder if the iPhone is finally starting to break into the corporate market?


App Spam Crackdown


On August 10, 2009


Last week, Apple revoked the developer’s license of Khalid Shaikh. About 900 apps came from Shaikh, founder of Acumen, and his Pakistan-based staff of 26. All of the apps have been removed from the App store.

According to Gagan Biyani at MobileCrunch, Khalid specialized in $4.99 apps that used hundreds of eye-catching topics for apps that provided aggregate content pulled from the web provide little actual information and a trace to a complete absence of original content. In an interview with the site, Khalid noted, “he says, he’s going for “less product value” and “more monetization.”

The pulling of the developer’s license came, in part, as a result of complaints from users, MobileCrunch notes: “Apple claims that it has asked Khalid about more than 100 of his applications and that it ‘continue[s] to receive the same or similar types of complaints regarding [his] Applications despite [Apple’s] repeated notices to [Khalid Shaikh].’"

While Khalid is not the only one creating spam apps, he was one of the leaders in the quantity- over-quality school of product offerings. As a result of the removal of his team’s apps, the apps world is a little richer in content and more valuable to consumers—for now.

One might ask, what took Apple so long? Or, how did these apps get approved in the first place?

What about those who already shelled out their $4.99 for “Top Sexy Ladies: Audrina Partridge” and discovered that the app featured just five pictures pulled off of the Internet? Will these folks get their money back or is it a matter of “buyer: beware?”

Have you ever purchased a spam app? Do you think you should get your money back or is it just the price you’ve paid for trying something unknown?


The Apps of Music


On August 5, 2009

Music lovers have more apps by the day to satisfy their listening interests. Just this week, iLike was the newest offering to jump into the app universe. On the web, iLike describes itself: “iLike is a service to help you organize your music, share your music tastes, and discover new music through your friends. iLike provides a buddy-list for your iPod – it helps you discover new artists based on what you’re already listening to, and it helps you browse your friends’ music libraries and share music suggestions with each other.”

With its initial launch, the free app for the social music engine provides info about nearby concerts, no matter what your neighborhood and provides links for tickets and even directions for shows. Future versions are expected to tap more deeply into iLike’s other features, such as music organization.

iLike links artists and current or potential fans by acting as a landing space for bands’ apps. The iLike app presents 250 band apps and provides a simple demo and pricing structure for bands to create their own apps that will sync on iLife and Facebook.

Other offerings for Music Apps: On the free side, the app for Swing Out Sister (all of you 80’s light music fans might remember them) provides not only concert info, but also the band’s videos and photos, and samples of new songs.

One of the most exciting aspects of this growing home for musician’s apps is the possibility of really getting to know the bands next big tour, or their next tune.  Its the easiest way to get the latest information quickly.  With so many apps in the app store now, lots of them being music based, which ones keep you moving?

From Jailbreak to Heartbreak?


On August 3, 2009

While jailbreaking may seem like an easy way to get unlimited free access to apps, the folks at Apple have issued a warning for users of the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone  3GS, and the second generation of iPod touch about the consequences of the hacking process.

 Apple support updated its article HT3743 citing a variety of issues including “instability, disruption of services, and compromised security.” The article then notes, “Customers who have installed software that makes these modifications have encountered numerous problems in the operation of their hacked iPhone or iPod touch.”

 A checklist of potential problems cited in the Apple’s service article includes:

 Device and application instability: Frequent and unexpected crashes of the device, crashes and freezes of built-in apps and third-party apps, and loss of data.

Unreliable voice and data: Dropped calls, slow or unreliable data connections, and delayed or inaccurate location data.

Disruption of services: Services such as Visual Voicemail, YouTube, Weather, and Stocks have been disrupted or no longer work on the device. Additionally, third-party apps that use the Apple Push Notification Service have had difficulty receiving notifications or received notifications that were intended for a different hacked device. Other push-based services such as MobileMe and Exchange have experienced problems synchronizing data with their respective servers.

Compromised security: Security compromises have been introduced by these modifications that could allow hackers to steal personal information, damage the device, attack the wireless network, or introduce malware or viruses.

Shortened battery life: The hacked software has caused an accelerated battery drain that shortens the operation of an iPhone or iPod touch on a single battery charge. 

Inability to apply future software updates: Some unauthorized modifications have caused damage to the iPhone OS that is not repairable. This can result in the hacked iPhone or iPod touch becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone OS update is installed.”

Do you have any horror stories about the impact of jailbreaking on your iPhone?


iPhone Nano Patent Surfaces


On August 2, 2009

 A recent report by uncovered the possibility of a nano-phone coming down the line from Apple. The patent application for the 3.6-inch tall, 2.5-inch wide, and one-quarter-inch thick device was a U.S. Patent with an Australian filing.

According to the report: “The design involves a very sophisticated yet complicated dual-surface user interface. The full face-side of this device will be nothing more than a display, much like the iPhone is today, while the back-side will be primarily dominated by a force-sensitive touch based surface.”

The concept includes the possibility of a dual-sided display instead of a force-sensitive controller surface. Other features include phone, text messaging, iPod capability, camera, and other modes of operation.

The unit will be controlled by finger, and the report adds: “The design involves a very sophisticated yet complicated dual-surface user interface. The full face-side of this device will be nothing more than a display, much like the iPhone is today, while the back-side will be primarily dominated by a force-sensitive touch based surface.”

The design for the unit is credited to John G. Elias, and he was listed as the sole inventor in the patent application. Elias was formerly part owner of FingerWorks, now defunct, and is presently focusing on touch-related patents at Apple.

I wonder what type of advantage this type of design would provide for the end user, I can’t think of any off the top of my head.  Have any ideas how you might use this?




FCC investigates iPhone/AT&T app policies


On August 1, 2009

 Washington is getting involved in the day-to-day the operations and applications of the iPhone with a letter from the Federal Communications Commission to Catherine A. Novelli, the vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple.

Exploring the growing issue of rejections such as the Google Voice app, the FCC ask Apple to comment on why Google Voice and other third-party apps had been approved and then rejected from the App Store. The FCC then asked for a full rundown of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications that have been approved for the iPhone and if they were permitted to operate on the AT&T 3G network.

The agency also questioned the role of AT&T in the approval process for apps as well as the general approval process for apps and whether consumers at the App Store are informed about the approval process.

We’ll see on Friday, August 21, how Apple will respond…or not.

According to the letter, "If Apple requests that any information or documents responsive to this letter be treated in a confidential manner, it shall submit, along with all responsive information and documents, a statement in accordance with section 0.459 of the Commission’s rules."

So, is this another dent in the armor of the AT&T stronghold on iPhone exclusives?  Do you think this is really going to make AT&T or Apple change or clarify their process for approval and disapproval?  Only time will tell.


A tale of two devices…


On July 26, 2009

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview designer Michael Kors about his eyewear collection, luxury, and the joys of Internet shopping for my day job. Chances like that don’t come up every day, and I was nervous about testing my shorthand speed in that situation.

Instead, I ran out to Staples and picked up the latest in digital recorders, tested it out, and prepared my questions. The night before, I was playing with my iPhone and its Voice Memo recorder. Tried a couple of brief interviews with the pets (very non-responsive) and recorded the TV for about 20 minutes at various distances. Being the paranoid former Girl Scout that I am, the iPhone seemed like a good backup.

Although he was a little surprised to see two recorders, Kors did say it was a good decision because he was a fast talker. The interview went very well. What initially was supposed to be a 30-minute sitdown stretched to almost an hour and Mr. Kors was happy to share his thoughts on Project Runway, his latest collection, and this darn economy in speedy, savvy, New Yorker’s voice that would have tilted out my speedwriting skills.

The next morning, it was time to work on the story. Press play on the digital recorder…nothing. Go through its files. No observations. No pithy insights. No Michael Kors.


Thank goodness for the iPhone. The Voice Memo function worked like a charm for over 55 minutes and the interview in its entirety is stored safely on the phone. Guess which of the recording devices will be returned to the store tomorrow?

One disappointment on the iPhone: the file was too large to email to my computer. There’s an option to send a portion of the memo, but am nervous about doing any editing since it’s now my only version of the interview.  So now all I need to do is figure out how to get the file over to my Mac!

Any thoughts on downloading a huge memo to a MacBook Pro from the iPhone?

More than an Apple a day


On July 24, 2009

 As a lifetime Apple user—I’ve literally never owned or worked on a PC—a guest on “The Charlie Rose Show” on Thursday night / Friday morning made me scratch my head and wonder about how much of a good this really is.

In his interview with Rose, blogger Michael Arrington from Techcrunch said that one of the major points of resistance for him jumping on the iPhone bandwagon was having too many pots on the Apple stove. He pointed to the Pre as a strong option that could run many apps and had a preferable keyboard—the iPhone’s optional keyboard was cited as uncomfortable anyplace that wasn’t a flat surface such as a desk or table. The other point in Pre’s favor was that it was a non-Apple product. Is that really an advantage?

In the end, he went with an iPhone for its multitude of strengths. But he did raise a question: How much Apple is too much?

For me, Apple just plain makes sense; it’s my native tongue. Much like Ford trucks and Robot Chicken, there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to Apple.

My current count is five Apples—a nano, an iPod, a MacBook Pro, a Power Book, and my shiny new iPhone.

What’s your tally?

And what’s your limit?