In January of 2007, I wrote that the iPhone didn't qualify as meeting my perfect handheld criteria. Now that I own one, and now that the app store has been open for five months, but mostly because Tawny Press has bought a new iPhone and asked for app advice on Twitter I'm writing to say that I'm close to changing my mind. The iPhone isn't perfect, but it's close.
While having a conversation with Tawny Press in Twitter about her new iPhone, I realized it was time to start blogging again, and what better way to start than with my use of the iPhone apps that have come close to replacing my Palm Lifedrive.
The home page of the iPhone, or the first screen of apps, or the screen that shows when you press the one big round button at the bottom of the phone, is the screen that holds my most used apps. First, let's take a look at my 2005 criteria for a perfect handheld, slightly updated in 2007 for the iPhone:
- Open Source OS but I would take MacOSX, if it was really the full OS - Check
- Lot's of third-party apps - as of today, there are 1573 Games, 705 Entertainment, 141 Social Networking, 204 Music, 320 Prodcutivity, 270 Lifestyle, 301 Reference, 258 Travel, 201 Sports, 135 Navigation, 276 Health & Fitness, 101 Photography, 180 Finance, 166 Business, 413 Education, 41 Weather and 277 Books - that's a lot of apps
- Multiple input methods including [soft] QWERTY keyboard, handwriting recognition, taps and multi-touch gestures, and voice [commands and dialing] - yes on the soft keyboard, handwriting recognition coming through Phatware apps, yes to taps & multi-touch and third-party apps do a so-so job of voice recognition in some areas
- wired & wireless synchronization of ALL my digital life: contacts, calendar, audio/video/photo/eBook media, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases... all files, all the time - yes and no, which is why it's not perfect yet, some of this is available through third party apps, but it's all in individual sandboxes
- wireless PAN, LAN, MAN & WAN and GPS, and keep IR too - whatever the latest protocols, such as those listed above for today, with expandability and upgradeable for tomorrow - again, yes and no, with limited bluetooth for PAN, WiFi for LAN, EDGE/3G for WAN, and iPhone3G gives GPS
- convenient Voice and Data, and SMS, MMS, IM, chat, VoIP, and web & video conferencing - Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes [3rd party], Yes [3rd Party], Coming [3rd Party]
- advanced graphics rendering for data visualization, games, and more - oh yes, indeed
- Storage and more storage, hard drives, solid state disks, and maybe more than one compact flash memory slots, like SD and CFII - not really, no, but maybe in the future
- Full IMAP & POP3 email compatibility with all servers that meet those protocols and with the ability to send, receive and handle all attachment & MIME types - yes on IMAP & POP3 & Exchange, Yes on viewing attachments and many MIME types, but No on sending attachments; there's that sandbox again
- Complete web, wap & location services - Yes, emphatically so, though no need for WAP
- feed syndication reader - third party apps & web apps
- Full encryption handling for SSL, VPNs, etc. - Yep, yep, yep
So, look at what's on the home page, the main screen, the number one of my iPhone. The bottom four are the native apps that come with the iPhone, even before web apps were available. You can decide what four apps are in that bottom area, and the four apps in that bottom area appear in every screen. I stick with the phone, safari, mail and iPod as the four apps. But then, I'm a bit anal. I should also mention that I arrange the apps from the outside in, that is, the apps on any one screen that I use most often are towards the outside of the screen, top or bottom, left or right, and then I move inwards.
The rest are more important. I used my Lifedrive mostly for reading books and taking notes, so the first thing I wanted from the App Store when it opened in June was eReader from Fictionwise and a way to sync my 12 years of memos from my various Palm devices to my iPhone, to take new notes and to edit the old ones. On the very first day, eReader was on the App Store with a very easy way to get my purchased books from Peanut Press, Palm Digital and Motricity onto my iPhone. This was a serious win for me, and was the first step for the iPhone in approaching my perfect handheld. The second area, notes, is more problematic. The MissingSync from Mark/Space allows one to offload notes from the native Notes app onto one's Mac, but no two-way sync. That's not good. The iPhone doesn't have a system wide select/cut/copy/paste clipboard mechanism. That's not good for notes. But TextGuru does have copy & paste, and an awkward but workable two-way sync, and I've been able to get my old notes onto my iPhone and my new notes into Mark/Space Notepad. I prefer to take notes by writing vs. typing, to break up my day from keyboard to cursive, and a third party app may one day fulfill that desire. We'll talk about that later.
Next to eReader, and below TextGuru, you'll find TwittelatorPro. Now, I never tweeted from my Lifedrive but I use TwittelatorPro all day long to keep in touch with my tweeps. Twitter has been the best social networking medium I've found, and TwittelatorPro allows me to use all the features of Twitter with ease. Next is the web app leading to m.newsgator.com/iphone and that is my preferred feed syndication app for the iPhone, as the mobile page of Newsgator was for my Lifedrive and earlier Palms. Later you'll see that I also have NetNewsWire, and it's good for a pared down list of my feeds, for reading offline, such as when traveling, but it becomes too unstable with all my feeds, and I'm rarely away from a connection around the Bay Area.
And now, in the lower right hand corner, you'll find my new favorite app, Pandora. Pandora radio has been around for about three years, but it really became useful to me on my iPhone and has replaced my car radio as I drive around the Bay Area to meet with clients, work out of my café offices and run errands.
TextGuru also provides for other files to be brought onto the iPhone, and it has viewers for MSoffice, PDF and other file formats, but the viewers aren't great. One powerful capability that TextGuru provides is to share files between mobile devices that also have TextGuru [that sandbox principle again]. By mobile devices, I mean iPhone, iPhone3G and either generation of iPod-Touch devices. Next to TextGuru, you'll see AirSharing. This app provides a more streamlined way of moving files from a desktop/laptop to your mobile device and it provides very good viewers for MS Office, iWork, PDF and other file formats.
The remaining apps on the home screen are from Apple, standard on the iPhone, and apps to which I want quick access.
Now what else do I have on my iPhone?
The second screen has apps that I use somewhat frequently, or, such as Hahlo3, a web app for Twitter, that I moved while checking out a native app. EccoNotePro is my favorite of the voice recorders. Facebook is a native app for accessing Facebook - doh! Sketches provides a very nice way to draw and to annotate pictures, drawings and google maps, and is nicely integrated with the iPhone apps. As you move across that row, you'll see other media oriented apps, MediaShare, from Brancipater, the TextGuru folk, allows for sharing media file formats, as TextGuru allows for sharing of other formats. MyShow accesses pictures on the web, according to your search terms, and creates slide shows: a great screen saver. Next is Photos, from Apple.
The next row are news oriented. Instapaper allows one to bookmark web sites, transfer them to the iPhone for offline reading in their original or text only format. Seismic ties into the USGS and provides updates on earthquakes worldwide. AP Mobile news provides world, US, local, whacky, etc news from AP for both online updating and offline reading. NetNewsWire is the best iPhone feed reader for me, as it syncs with Newsgator and NetNewsWire on my Mac.
Palringo for IM and Fring for IM plus Skype for communication. Fliq is from Mark/Space and provides a way to send contacts as VCF files and media files from one Fliq user to another.
The third screen has some good apps for translations, social networking, such as LinkedIN, another file sharing app, and two types of terminal apps: VNC to control my Mac remotely, and iSSH to log into our linux server out in the Internet.
The fourth screen is a mish-mash from Obama'08 to Uiqloq: performance art and a clock, another screen saver sort of thing. Shazam and Midomi listens to songs and identifies them for you; you can even purchase a tune through iTunes from them. The rest are self-explanatory, I think.
Screen 5, above, has some good ones. SplashID, which syncs with Mac or PC, and is available for PalmOS, WinMo, etc, etc, etc is a great way to generate and securely store passwords and private information of all types. eMailContact is a great way to share contact information with others. I use it to introduce folk that may want to do business together. Wikipanion reformats wikipedia for the iPhone and stores searches, great app. Most of the rest show that I'm a geek. One app for which I have great hope is WritePad, handwriting recognition for the iPhone; this is a proof of concept only, and I'm waiting less than patiently for a note taking app that takes advantage of it. The last app, EasyWiFi has proven to be
useless useful once you RTFM and know to enter the information for each public WiFi network manually, even if you don't actually need login information; it does n't keep me connected to free WiFi at Tully's or others that require web logins.
Screen 6 has some games, which I rarely play. Sorry, I try, but gaming just isn't my thing.
The final screen has the web apps that I used before the App Store opened, and I rarely use them now.
I'm still looking for an outliner to replace BrainForest on my Palm. The app, Outliner may be it, especially as it now imports OPML, which BrainForest exports, so I can have my old gift lists, business plans, corporate values, etc. There is also mindmapping software for the iPhone that might do the job even better, and of course, there is the renowned but troubled and expensive OmniFocus.
Since I like taking notes on my handheld, you may ask why I don't use Evernote. Two reasons: no cut and paste, and I don't want my notes stored on a web service that may or may not be available in ten years.
So there you have it. The apps I use now. The apps that are making the iPhone close to my perfect handheld, and have very much replaced my Lifedrive.
I did not get to blog yesterday but I thought this is an interesting article by SFGate.com: Some AC Transit buses to offer Wi-Fi service Wireless Internet on crossbay routes to S.F., Peninsula
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I guess it is hard to pull out a laptop in crowded bus but it is still a good idea for long bus rides. A smaller form factor like a lifedrive would be convient. Anyway, what I like about it is, it is free Wi-Fi. I know, I don't really ride the bus but maybe I'll try it when the service is up and running. Yup, even for just the experience.
If you have bought songs in iTunes and want to play it in your Palm or other devices (in my case using PocketTunes for my Palm LifeDrive) and need a mp3 format to do it, here are some ways to do it.
Use Audacity, an OpenSource software to convert it
Try this method:
1. From your iTunes, burn the CD of the songs you purchased using the iTunes preference Disc Format: Audio CD. Just go to Edit -> Preference -> Advanced -> Burning. Note: iTunes will not allow you to burn MP3 CD for songs you bought. To Burn CD, just click on the Burn Disc icon
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2. Use your mp3 ripping software, in my case, I used, Windows Media player. Click on the Rip tab. Right click the Rip tab and a pop up menu comes up. Choose Tools -> Options . From Options, click on Rip Music. Under Rip Settings, Format choose: mp3.
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3. Rip the songs you bought and burned to the Audio CD. The songs converted to mp3 format will be created in the directory as specified in your preferences directory in Windows Media Player. Media Player created a subdirectory under this called Unknown ArtistUnknown Album (Date TimeStamp), e.g. D:myhomedirectoryMy MusicUnknown Artist\Unknown Album (5-13-2006 10-58-55 AM)
4. Transfer your mp3 files to your non-iPod MP3 player, in my case the LifeDrive
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"Handhelds will Replace Laptops" and desktops, and clip boards, note pads, planners, sticky notes and more. This is a concept to which I subscribe whole heartedly. The question is what's an handheld?
Is an handheld a PDA, a smart phone, a Linux Slate, a Windows TabletPC, a wireless network appliance? What does the UI look like? How does one present information in a meaningful manner? What data visualization tools make sense on the available screen size? How do you deal with the casually connected state of most, if not all, wireless systems? I've been pursuing solutions to these questions since I first worked with Oracle Mobile Agents in 1994 using snail-slow wireless modems and greyscale handhelds that could be used for strength training.
Times have changed quite a bit, but I'm still amazed at how many people don't use - or want to use - an handheld of any type. Or at how many people, young professionals even, need to print something out before it becomes real to them. While many technical challenges have been solved, and while millions of folk use computers and handhelds and smart phones, there are still many challenges to be overcome, both technical and behavioral.
I agree with the following
"Now mobile users are just as hooked into corporate networks as their desk-bound brethren. Their data is as fresh and accurate and their response time is nearly comparable. Data in the field is no longer untimely or out-of-date; it is just as accurate as data available at the desk top."
"All these consequences, generated by wireless applications, will continue to squeeze inefficiencies out of operations."-- Jim Chard in Handhelds will Replace Laptops
Though I would replace each "is" and "are" in that quote with "may". The statement could be true, but it rarely is. But I like the "will". Things are headed in that direction, the quicker the better. I'll be pushing all the way.
We've been writing about our frustration with finding a signal, and the even more frustrating prospect of selecting a new phone, and maybe a new carrier, only to discover - after your two week trial, that you don't have a good or consistent signal everywhere you need one. We've written about T-Mobile's online service and Cingular's limited in-store kiosks that allow you to get the carrier's opinion of the signal strength they supply at the street address level. Anecdotal evidence suggests that not everyone's exiperience aggrees with the carrier's engineering plans.
It turns out that you can see these same street-level coverage map details, hard copy usually, at any carrier's store. You'll probably have to beg, threaten or start to walk out though, before the salesperson will admit you to those inner secrets.
So, ask for the map, and discuss the sensitivity of that new phone your buying, and demand at least a two-week trial before the contract's cancellation policy kicks in.
Maybe next decade Wi-Max and VOIP will save the day - if the infrastructure can be built out less expensively and more quickly - and thus more coverage - than 3G.