Archive for the 'iPhone' Category

Nice Cycle Ride

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Went on a nice little bike ride from my gym. I’m trying out a good little cycle GPS app called Cyclemeter, which does everything a basic cycle computer does – speed, duration, pace, distance – but not the highly complex stuff like cadence and presents it all in a much more intuitive way than even high end bike computers. You’ll need a contraption to attach the iPhone to your bike, but there’s a small company in the States, Bicio, that produces a great mounting system. Admittedly it’s for the 3G/3GS version, but it does for the iPhone 4 just as nicely.

It’s another example of the iPhone and their developer partners like Abvio exterminating the opposition by making things simple and well designed. It does everything a £50 – £150 bike computer does, but it’s in colour, in real time and generates a pile of easy to understand, easy to use and share online statistical information, none of which my former bike computers could be arsed with. All for a total cost of approximately £25 (iPhone not included obviously).  In the same way as I’m worried about Nokia’s future as the World’s premier mobile phone manufacturers, I’d be very worried for specialist sports computer manufacturers like Polar and Cateye, who can look forward to losing a large chunk of their market to smartphones like the iPhone.

Archive for the 'iPhone' Category

Stuff I Liked 2009 – iPhone apps

I don’t think it’s a secret that the last decade was all about the internet, and it’s possibly even less of a secret that the next year/decade is going to be about the mobile internet. Sure we’ve got a long way to go before our mobile ‘service providers’ can actually provide a halfway decent service (they’re still working on providing a mobile signal to large parts of West Sussex), but the groundwork has been done. Not least by the arrival of the iPhone. The revolutionary change in charging, so that you get unlimited data connection, meant that you didn’t constantly worry about being ripped off for actually daring to look at the internet while on the move, while the geolocation element meant that you could have a whole host of apps that gave you specific info based on where you were.

And that wasn’t all. In addition to being a great iPod and a vaguely OK phone (woefully crap reception in central London on O2), the iPhone is a mobile computer platform, which creates space for all those apps, some great, some useless and some so utterly pointless it’s a wonder anyone actually downloads them, let alone makes them. I’ve been thoroughly caning my iPhone for the last year, stuffing it with tons of apps many of which have lasted less than 24 hours. Now it’s time to sort them and find the ones worth keeping.

Best App

Jamie Oliver in his app

Jamie Oliver in his app

Fundamentally, I use my iPhone apps to take, manipulate and upload photos, Twitter, Tumblr and occasionally add to my WordPress blog, play games,organise and keep track of tasks, notes and stuff, do gym and sports routines, check social media, play around with music, play more games, get local information and, very occasionally do online shopping. So I’m kind of stunned that my best app for 2009 is all about cooking.

However, Jamie’s app, Jamie Oliver 20 Minute Meals,  puts pretty much all other info/instructional apps to shame – and here I’m talking about apps like the National Gallery’s Love Art and the Louvre’s, both of which are pretty decent. It looks like something that has actually been specifically designed for the iPhone and has had a load of thought put into it. It’s got a fair amount of good recipies (sure it could have more but that’s just quibbling), each of which has a ton of well presented info and is beautifully laid out with loads of photos. It’s got a shopping list area, which links seamlessly into the recipies as well as letting you add on your own items. But it also comes with a pile of excellent instructional videos that are pitched at exactly the right level for inept-but-enthusiastic cooks and will change the way you do your cooking. Personal favourite at the moment is the How To Cut Onions, but there’s basic advice about a whole load of things from chilies and buying fish to what you need in your kitchen and how to keep that chopping board in the same place. I’ve cooked more stuff from this app than I have from pretty much any of the other cooking books I’ve got, which is saying something. And it even tasted good.

Best Photo app

Along with being only an adequate phone (poor reception and the lack of a real button to let you hang up calls), the original iPhone has what can only be described as a shit pinhole camera. And it’s saying something for portability and the way it can link to sites like Flickr that I’ve totally ditched my 5Mb Ixus for this, but it’s also down to the way I can manipulate my photos prior to uploading them that makes all the difference. Now, I’ve used (and dumped) a load of image apps, but basically it boils down to two or three that I use all the time. For manipulating images I use Photogene (way better than the rather shit PS Mobile – hang your heads in shame Adobe), ColorSplash (for making those neat black and white with a little bit of colour images), Polarize (to make them look like polaroids) and TiltShift (to make those ‘lil people images). I have tried all those filter packages, but basically only CameraBag makes the grade and has any regular use. And for uploading I use Mobile Fotos (total connection to my Flickr content) and Pixelpipe (uploads to any/all my numerous social media sites). So it’s a tough choice pinpointing just one of them, but if I have to (and I have to) then my photo app for 2009 is Photogene as it’s the one I use first and always to correct the levels and colour of the original image.

Best Game app

This is a really tough one. Mainly because although I have spunked cash on way too  many games, I really don’t play them all that seriously, so most of those clever ports from Gameloft really don’t get the attention they possibly deserve and I’m not convinced that we’ve really seen a proper game done for the iPhone in the way that Jamie’s app or indeed Super Monkey Ball has been. Also gamewise, I’m more of a puzzle game type person than a swift-fingered action adventurer, so the bit in Assassin’s Creed where you have to carefully jump in a specific direction while double-tapping or something drives me into an uncontrolable frenzy of anger when I can’t do it and I tend to blank the game for a while afterwards to punish it. So based on a ‘how much do you actually play them’ test, my choice is down to Real Racing (way the best racing/driving game), Moonlight Majong and Sol Free Solitaire, with special mention to Sentinel 2, which the Boon really enjoy on a compulsive level. And, while it’s tempting to say none of them are really inspiring, I’d have to say that my best game app is Sol Free Solitaire. Hmmmmmmm.

Best Connection app

This is really what makes the whole mobile connection work. It’s not so much the provision of information that relates to where I am (step forward Time Out, FixMyStreet, Rightmove etc), but my ability to link what I’m doing to the digital world. And while apps that connect me to my cloud data are cool (iDisk, OmniFocus and Evernote), what really rocks is my ability to communicate instantly with the world. And this basically boils down to Twitter clients and other updating apps. Now I’ve tried a load of Twitter apps (Tweetie, Tweetdeck etc), but I’ve settled on Twitterific Pro as my client of choice. It’s simple, lets me do most of what I like and can track a variety of sources. The other updating apps let me link into my various social media spaces, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, WordPress and Tumblr. And while I have used the WordPress app to actually add new stuff to my blog, the ones I’ve really used on a regular basis are Tumblr (my site is essentially all about stupid stuff I’ve taken photos of), Pixelpipe (which lets me post photos to multiple sources) and Mobile Fotos (which is effectively my Flickr client). They’re all impressive and certainly increase my posting and interaction online, but my favourite has to be Mobile Fotos as it has completed that link between taking a photo (and manipulating it on my iPhone) and posting it directly to my Filckr account, and given me a level of instantaneous satisfaction that has meant my Ixus/Aperture combo now lies a distant second.

Best Music app

I have spent altogether too much cash on music apps, and I’m still not entirely convinced that the iPhone is a genuine music creation platform. Sure it packs way more potential than my first ever four-track (ahh the nostalgia of it), but it’s fucking tiny and fiddly and it’s hard to get stuff on and off it. They also suffer from the lack of any widely established space to share tunes and the built-in capacity to share them a la Flickr or Facebook – in fact I’m thinking that making music with the bloody thing is a right bad idea. But on we go… There are essentially 3 types of music making apps which have their own particular styles, some provide the music clips and make the process about messing with them and sequencing them (deadmau5’s app, iDrum and Looptastic), others find a super-complicated way of letting users add samples and rearrange them (Beatmaker), while the really extreme give you the world’s smallest piano to actually make music on (MusicStudio) albeit with a very limited number of different sounds. Now, they all work and some are great fun and I love iDrum Underworld, but it’s not really about making music, and while MusicStudio is, it’s bloody complicated and you need fingers as thin as matchsticks to really use it. So, based purely on the fact that I have actually used it to make some music at 4am one morning when I couldn’t sleep, my best music app is Beatmaker. To see whether it was actually worth it, check this out.

01 First Stab

Apps in 2010

So where are apps going to go? It’s clear that the keys to moving many apps forward are an understanding of location and the ability to share and possibly even collaborate on material with other users. And most apps are going to want to have some way of sharing with more than just Facebook and Twitter – if only to publicise the app. Apple needs to seriously upgrade the iPhone camera and the telcos are going to have to make 3G (and subsequent networks) actually work properly to enable us to really take advantage. And I’m probably going to have to upgrade my original iPhone.