Apps with the Assist


On July 22, 2009

A recent article by Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times provides a road map to using an iPhone as a personal assistant. While a half-caf skinny soy latte may be beyond their capabilities, the latest apps will keep you organized and on the move.

Keep it all together without a 20-something sidekick with a headset and a clipboard by trying out the the stand-alone organizational app reQall. With it, users can dictate their to-do lists, calendars, and appointments which are then transcribed to text. A free version works well, while heavy users can opt for a $25-a-year Pro version.

Stepping in as secretary, Manjoo recommends the JotNot ($3) app that turns your iPhone into a scanner and Air Sharing ($5 for the standard version, $10 for more features) that turns your iPhone into a wireless U.S.B. thumb drive.  Taking documents with you is something you definately need if your really going to use the iPhone as a personal assistant.

And finally, since you’ll still have to conduct your own correspondence, the Email ’n Walk (99 cents) program could be something of a lifesaver. Your iPhone’s camera shows a live picture of what’s going on in front of while you busily type away.  We wouldn’t want to walk into NYC traffic while we were managing our calendar now would we?

What other apps have you used to make the jump from the 80s chic of the Filofax into the world of app-driven organization?

A Big Welcome To Our Newest Writer… Amy!


On July 21, 2009

We are super excited to be welcoming our newest writer, Amy to WOiP!

A lifelong Mac user, first-time iPhone user, AmyJ is excited to jump onto the WhatsOniPhone team.

Although it brings her cell phone count to three (oldies but goodies Verizon Q and LG Chocolate, plus the shiny new iPhone), making the move to iPhone was a long time coming. When she’s not compulsively seeking the world’s best Magic 8 Ball app, she’s an editor for a B-to-B mag covering the eyecare market, a infrequent poster at her blog, spinstermiss, and a walker of her dog, Gabby.

Welcome aboard Amy!

I want my iPhone and I want it with Verizon…


On July 20, 2009

The New York Times has an article about Verizon’s willingness to offer their cell phones to small wireless companies that have fewer than 500,000 subscribers and where the phones have been exclusive to Verizon for at least six months.  I applaud this move by Verizon even though the cynic in me says that this is intended as a competitive strike against other wireless providers (including AT&T and their ubiquitous iPhone).

After all, if more callers are using Verizon-style cell phones, then it’s more likely that they would eventually switch to Verizon due to the compatibility of their phones.  Since each wireless provider uses a different type of system, it’s difficult for the cell phones made for that system to cross over.

This is why I’m calling upon cell phone makers to create some sort of cell phone chip that could be used on any wireless provider.  Don’t tell me it can’t be done.  If they can make a DVD player that plays both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, they can do this.

Of course, my reasons are totally selfish.  Verizon gives the best coverage (definately in the Tri-State NY area and probably most of US anyway) and the iPhone is the best overall cell phone.  I want to be able to use both simultaneously.  I like my iPod Touch, but the iPhone has more capabilities and more functionality and if I’m going to have the best phone, i want the best coverage available.

Anyone else feel like this other than me?

Phone in the iPhone…


On July 19, 2009

Every once in a while, a revelation hits me.  In this case, it was while reading this article about the plunge in sales of Nokia phones and increase in Apple shares due to the iPhone.  Then it hit me.

How is the iPhone as a phone?

Let’s not forget the fundamental purpose of the device: to make calls.  Everything else: the programs, the Internet, the GPS… without the "phone" capability, the device would just be a computer.

If anybody wants to compete with Apple, they not only have to expand their app offerings, but they have to make better phones.  More people need phones than computers, so theoretically, that would be the reason someone buys one over another, right?  Better sound, signal availability, etc. all play their important rolls in that decision right?  Or is it something else?

I’ve always liked the "Flip" style of phone.  You know, where it folds like a Star Trek communicator.  A great idea for the iPhone would be, somehow, to make it foldable.  If I could fold the iPhone in half and slip it into my pocket, that would be a beautiful thing.  Will it happen? Probably not.  But it would fit better in my pocket and I would argue against my ear when talking if it was designed that way.

So, let me end by asking you a question:  what do you think of the iPhone as a phone?  Is it loud and clear, or could it use some improvements?  And if it could, what would you add?

Wireless providers need to change their business model



Nothing quite irritates me like wireless companies disabling certain features on cell phones in order to reap a bigger profit.  Case in point: AT&T and Apple might not permit Google Voice to work on the iPhone because it would allow for free SMS services that would cut into texting profits for AT&T.  For a similar reason, the best feature of Skype was disabled on the iPhone and, to the best of my knowledge, Windows Mobile.

I hate to break this to you wireless carriers, but you can’t stop progress.  Eventually, some new telecom is going to offer data-only connectivity for less and with that single connection the user will still get voice and texting at no extra charge.  Your best best would be to simply offer such a thing now.  Will you?  Of course not.  You need to nickel and dime us to death in order to make your profit.

App Store ratings system still needs work


On July 18, 2009

Obviously, no ratings system is perfect.  Long ago the MPAA implemented a ratings system for movies so kids had to actually sneak into the movie theater  to see adult content.  The interesting thing about the App Store is that since Apple is the sole owner of it, the company must be its own MPAA.  It’s even going that extra mile in keeping out the kiddies by not allowing apps rated 17+ to have promo codes.

I foresee two problems with this.  The first is that objectionable content is always subjective.  As the article notes, Wobble iBoobs is unrated and Doom is rated 12+, but any app that makes use of the Internet browser (since the Internet is a gateway to porn) is automatically rated 17+.  That seems unfair to me.  The second is that if there is any interest by the children to get to these "adult" apps, they will find a way.  No system is 100% secure.

Not allowing apps that are rated 17+ in the App Store to have promo codes is the equivalent of giving a movie an NC-17 rating.  Sure, people will know it’s there but there is no way it will generate sufficient word of mouth sales to make a good profit.

Apple is actively trying to discourage the creation of adult apps.  This is an exercise in monopoly power and an intrusion into freedom of speech.  Using iTunes security, let the kids not have access.  If adults get a promo code and want to exercise it, they should be allowed.

What do you think?  Do you agree?

Apple’s banning Palm Pre from iTunes…


On July 16, 2009

In the war between the new Palm Pre and the iPhone/iPod Touch, Apple is taking no prisoners.  The latest software upgrade for iTunes banned non-Apple players from syncing with the software.

Honestly, what was Palm thinking?  It was actually promoting the fact that the Pre synced up with iTunes, thus giving Apple the push to stop it from happening.  And of course, some hackers have already figured out a way to do it anyway, but the average user is probably not going to go through the trouble of hacking their iTunes to do it.

It seems that this approach is simply built into the Apple culture.  Apple didn’t ignore Psystar either and that litigation is still going on.

I think its really more a question of whether Apple should open up their software systems rather than of legality.  Apple is well within its rights to protect its copyright and the exclusivity of its product line.  While it would be nice for the user to have every operating system and program interact with each other, it’s just not practical or fair from a competitive standpoint.

On the other hand, nothing is keeping the makers of the Palm Pre from opening their own iTunes Store and selling music.  Yeah, good luck with that.

Apple has taken a small bite out of the Pre, and obviously its an indication that Apple considered the Pre a threat.  If Palm were smart, maybe they can use this to further claim that Apple holds a monopoly in online music and therefore has an unfair advantage (I’m sure that the music executives would love that).  Good luck with that too.

Need some money? Start an iPhone business


On July 15, 2009

If the economy has left you in the lurch and you need some quick cash, you could always start your own iPhone software development company.  That’s where venture capitalists are currently investing over 100 million dollars of their money.

This sounds like the beginnings of yet another tech bubble (at least, a small one).  Given the low barriers to entry of becoming an iPhone developer, plus the standard cost of 99 cents per app (and less than that in profit), it seems that it would be difficult for investors to make back their money.

Of course, that depends how much is being invested in each individual company.  If you look at the stats, the minimum investment is $15,000, and the maximum, a whopping $15 million!  What?  15 million dollars?  I don’t know what kind of app (or apps) that the 15 million dollar company is creating, but it better be amazing.  Particularly in this economy, venture capitalists have a low tolerance for a lack of profit.

On the other hand, with over 1 million 3GS phones sold in a few days around launch, the potential audience is only growing  (and at this rate is projected to surpass even the mighty Nokia by 2013).  Maybe the VC’s know something we don’t about the time it takes to make back 15 million with that kind of audience.  It’s a big gamble in order to find that killer iPhone app,  but, the market is still growing and who knows what the future will bring with regards to iPhone development?

iPhone’s Uphill Business Battle


On July 14, 2009

The iPhone still has a great deal to prove when it comes to being used in a business setting.  RIM Blackberry still holds that championship.

Fortune posted an interview with four CIOs to check how open they were about using the iPhone as a business device.  Only one company uses it in any capacity for business.

So what’s holding up the iPhone from overtaking the Blackberry.  Well, for one thing people are used to the Blackberry at this stage.  Switching them over would be a change in corporate culture and that is notoriously slow.  For another, Blackberry still seems better at centralized management.  I say give Apple some time.

The bad economy is obviously not helping things.  Another factor is likely iPhone’s association with the Mac.  Most of the companies in question are Windows only.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the really annoying factor that the iPhone is currently an AT&T only device.  That must put a crimp in those plans.

I would think that companies would also be hesitant to use a mutlimedia device for business purposes.  What would stop an employee from listening to a personal MP3 or watching a personal video on company property?  In my experience, companies are notoriously protective of how their hardware is used.  One free download of women in bikinis could get someone fired.

In short, Apple has a tough fight ahead if it wants to break into the business world.  I suppose the company will have to be satisfied with its dominance of the consumer market.  For now.

Have you used the iPhone for business in your office?

Rumor: Apple Tablet coming in October


On July 13, 2009

According to Gizmodo, the Apple Tablet will be coming to market sometime around October of this year.  Keeping in mind Gestapo-style secrecy of the people in Cupertino, and the amount of times we’ve heard this before, this rumor has a pretty big chance of just being wishful thinking.  It does however, seem like it would be time for Apple to put one out, though.

Of course there are a thousand questions about this particular device.  How big will it be?  What kind of OS will it run?  Is it a competitor to the iPhone, the MacBook or both?  If it does have one of the major wireless providers behind it, which one will it be?  AT&T, whom Apple has had some friction with as of late?  Or perhaps Verizon?

The rumored price of the Tablet is