Avoiding the digital abyss

10 08 2010

Our lives are increasingly becoming encompassed in the digital; our memories, events and moments are captured on digital devices, edited on digital devices and stored on digital devices. As a result, we place a heavy reliance on the reliability of the hard drive that we choose to store our photos, videos, music and documents. We are but a fatal error away from loosing everything to the digital abyss. Consequently, people are increasingly using different back up methods to safeguard against the inevitable hard drive failure. One such service, is that of Dropbox, which combines an online and desktop service, with a recently released Application for the iOS platform.

The Basics

Category: Productivity

Last Update: 26th July 2010

Seller: Evenflow Inc

Price: Free

Size: 4.6 mb

Version: 1.2.5

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later and an account at Dropbox

The Review

The Dropbox App has spawned from the main internet based service, which aims to provide users with a secure area in the cloud for backing up and viewing files. The service provides users with 2 GB of free space and those who need more can purchase up to 1oo GB for a monthly or annual fee. As well as the online service, Dropbox has extended to the desktop, with a client for both Windows and Mac, allowing you to quickly upload, sync and download files with the online account. Linking your Dropbox account with the desktop App, helps extend the functionality of the service, and in turn, the App.

In it’s most basic form, the Dropbox App acts as a front end for users to interact with their files on the service. Rather than go through the browser, the App provides a better user experience that is oriented around input from the iPhone. To achieve this, the App lends much of the infrastructure from the default Apps, such as the side alphabetic scrolling navigation and the photo galleries. The end result, is a simple and plain interface, that is perfectly useable within the context that it is used in.

Like the desktop and the browser iterations of Dropbox, the App mirrors many of same functionality and features. The App uses a data connection to pull down the Dropbox file directory and the files that you have stored online. This will suit the majority of users, since normally files will only be needed temporarily. For more important files, the ‘Favourites’ section allows users to download files onto their iDevice for offline use. Regardless of how you interact with Dropbox files, the App will be able to open most file types, such as documents, photos and videos.

While the Dropbox App may limit the interactions with your files to just opening them, the export feature, allows you to utilise the features and functions of other Apps on your device. A great example of this is with PDF files, which can then be viewed with iBooks, allowing you to highlight, bookmark and look up words contained within the PDF. Another example- photos, which can be saved directly to the camera roll, making them accessible to other Apps on your device.

As well as downloading files, the Dropbox App allows user to upload content, such as pictures and videos from their device to the service. This really helps create a sense of unity between the internet service, the desktop client, and the App, since you can both upload and download from all three services. A user can take a day’s worth of pictures, then upload them directly from the device to the service and then have access to the photos from the browser and the desktop.

The overall service from Dropbox is fairly good, however the free account which gives users 2GB is not as good when compared to other services. Skydrive from Microsoft gives hotmail account holders 25Gb of free space to upload any file type.

Conclusion: Not the most exciting App that’ll be on your iPhone, however it will perform an in-valued service, should something go wrong. The App provides an excellent extension to the existing Dropbox service, in terms of features and functionality. The ability to both upload and download content to the device ensures that not only that your previously stored data is safe, but future data can also be safe, since you can add content to the service. Despite this, I would like Dropbox to increase the free storage space, to bring the product in line, with services such as Skydrive.

Rating:

+ Simple, clean U.I

+ Integrates into the existing service well

+ Allows upload as well as download of files

– More free storage for users

Like Dropbox? – You may like…


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The forgotten victims of iOS 4

7 08 2010

For owners of the 3G iPhone and 2nd Generation iPod Touch, it’s been quiet the roller coaster ride. First, back in January, it was announced that along with the 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad, their devices would be supported in the upcoming iOS 4 software update. This was a relative high, since Apple was doing something that no other phone manufacture had done; continuing to support older Generation phones.

The Announcement of iOS 4

Since then, it’s been a downward spiral for users, as it was later announced that features would be omitted from the software update for iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Generation users. The biggest being multitasking, which while being disappointing for users, was also understandable since Apple was trading a new feature for user experience and speed. However, alongside this, other features, such as a custom background, were also cut out, leaving users with the same black wallpaper. Surely having another image in place of a plain black background wouldn’t of been too taxing on the processor?

Sacrificing User Experience

Despite this, users duly updated their devices when the new software update rolled round in late June. They downloaded the stripped back version of iOS 4, expecting that the trade off between the range of new features and user experience was worth it. However, the reality was far from this. The update to iOS 4 deteriorated, rather than improved the user experience for iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Generation users. All the Apps take longer to load, regardless of whether it’s the settings, camera or Angry Birds. Rather than improve the user experience for users, through the addition of new features while keeping a comparable speed, the update has made the device slower and less responsive. The effects of upgrading to iOS 4 can be clearly demonstrated in the video below, in which two iPhone 3Gs, one loaded with iOS 4 and the other iOS 3.1.3, are compared in speed tests.

Game Centre

To top it off, only iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad users will be able to enjoy Apple’s new social gaming App, Game Centre, since support for older devices has recently been dropped in beta 3 of iOS 4.1.  Not only does this limit the amount of players that’ll be on the service, but it also annoys a solid basis of loyal iPhone/iPod Touch users, since there is little reason why their device can’t run Game Centre. After all, most Apps run on both the iPhone 3G right the way to the iPhone 4.

What now?

For users that are still bitter about Apple pulling support for Game Centre, there are alternatives out there for you. One of the biggest multiplayer services, that existed far before Apple’s Game Centre, is that of Openfeint. You can easily swap scores and view leaderboards with friends and strangers across the globe. Look out for a small ‘leaf icon’ contained within App icons- this shows that the App supports Openfeint. A good example, is Fruit Ninja, a popular fruit slicing game with Openfeint support.

In terms of iOS4, users have three options…

Downgrade- Probably the best option for most users. You lose out on some features that come bundled in iOS4 and more Apps will eventually require the latest version of the iPhone software to run. However, you regain a faster, more responsive system.

Stay with iOS 4- Trading speed and responsiveness for the latest Apps and features. For those who are interested in making iOS4 more bearable, Lifehacker has recently covered tips and tricks that can help speed it up- click here

Jailbreak- Perceived by many as tricky and unethical, boarding on unlegal. Jailbreaking is quite the opposite with a number of tools, such as red snOw and pwnage tool. The process has recently been proven to be legal, although Apple won’t encourage you, and if anything goes wrong, a simple software reset will set things right again. The only problem with jailbreaks is, that user experience, battery life and speed can suffer.

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The world at your fingertips

4 08 2010

Disposable App of the month

This month’s entry comes from the internet giants, Google, in the shape of Google Earth. For those who’ve never come across the Disposable App monthly feature, here’s a quick rundown of what it entails. Each month I pick an App, which is worth trying out on your iDevice, but is unlikely to occupy your interest for a long period of time, resulting in it either lying dormant or getting deleted. Other examples, of Disposable Apps, which I’ve covered, are, Lego Photo, Layar and SmileMaker.

The Basics

Category: Travel

Last Update: 14th June 2010

Seller: Google Mobile

Price: Free

Size: 12.8 mb

Version: 3.0.0

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 2.0 or later.

The Review

Google have taken their highly popular desktop Application, Google Earth, and shrunk it, so the average user can literally have the entire world in the palm of their hand. The App shares many of the characteristics with it’s older, more established, desktop sibling. Both stream the imagery data into the Application to help save space, however, this trade off means that you’ll need a constant 3G connection, or, more ideally, a WiFi connection, to prevent images becoming pixelated or not loading at all as you zoom further in. Both versions of Google Earth also feature the same rich and immersive environment for the user to search and navigate around.

This is where the similarities end, since both versions take an entirely different route in terms of user input. While the desktop client is constricted to the tried and tested ‘ball and chain’, that is the keyboard and mouse, the Application for iOS devices is freed from this. Rather than point and click, users will swipe, pinch and tap their away around the world, and the end result is a more naturalistic experience. Spinning the Globe around with a flick of your finger tip is far more satisfying and visceral, than clicking and dragging with the mouse. The keyboard and mouse emphasis the separation between the user and the experience being offered by the Application, while, Apps for the iPhone/iPad help blur this distinction.

Despite this, the App serves no really purpose- in effect, it’s no more than a technicial demonstration to prove that it was possible. At best, you can show it off to your friends and family- especially Grandma, “look Grandma, I can Zoom in on your house”, regardless of this, she’ll complain about the screen being too small…Back to the point; the App lacks functionality, partly because it’s a cut down version of the Desktop client. Many of the features are missing and even the simple layers, used to overlay information, is restriced to Wikipedia articles and Panoramio pictures.

Conclusion

The Google Earth App for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad mirrors many of the key founding ingredients of the desktop version, meaning that users can easily transition from one to another. Where the App really is shines, is in how you interact with the content- rather than point and clicking, you are touching, pinching and tapping. However, the App likes practical use- one of the key criteria for it being a disposable App.

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House Keeping…House Keeping?

1 08 2010

This post is just to cover some general house keeping with regard to the site and upcoming changes. First of all, I apologise for the slow posting this month- the “I’ve bought an iPhone, now what?” posts took far longer to research and write up than I anticipated, and incidentally I shall be releasing the final part of the trio sometime in August. Speaking of the new month, I plan to get back to posting more regularly with the usual concoction of reviews, rants and news pieces.

Now that’s out the way, let’s talk changes. I’ve decided to break up the monthly news update and spread it across the month with smaller posts. This ensures that news items are up to date and relevant, while avoiding overly long posts at the same time. Fans of the Disposable App of month, should fear not. The monthly feature shall not die an early death, but rather it shall inherit a post of it’s own, meaning you can expect a more thorough run down.

Round up of July’s Posts

Updated: I am T-Pain

In the early days of Appjudge, I reviewed the first iteration of the I am T-Pain App, which was a unique App that made use of the Autotune technology. The App scored a mediocre three stars out of five because despite the great user interface, the technology powering the App gave sporadic end results. Since then, the developers have released a major new update that takes advantage of the iPhone 4, as well as expanding the feature set for the 3GS users.

Default Wars : Battle of the Browsers

For a long time, the only choice in terms of web browsing on the iOS platform was through Apple’s walled garden- mobile Safari. However, with increasing pressure from competitors and users, Apple eventually allowed the first real alternative browser onto the platform, in the shape of Opera Mini. Unlike Mobile Safari and other browsers on the Appstore, Opera is not powered by Webkit, but rather their own compression software, that claims to not only save data charges, but also give users a significant speed boost. I explore, compare and contrast the two browser to work out if either is victor.

I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 1

In a three part post, I cover the whole Appstore from top to tail, by picking three Apps from each category. In the first post I cover the following categories: Books, Business, Education, Entertainment, Finance and Game.

Cloud computing : Is it already here?

The cloud, the internet and online services are the future of computing, apparently. I explore just what is meant by the term, Cloud Computing, and whether the future is far away, or, if cloud computing is already here.

I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 2

The second part of the three posts, in which I handpick the best Apps from each of the categories from the Appstore. In this post, I cover the following categories: Health and Fitness, Lifestyle, Medical, Music, Navigation, News and Photography.





I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 2

30 07 2010

Welcome to the second of three posts covering all the categories in the Appstore. This post has been a long time coming but it’s finally here. As before, to download an Application, click on the corresponding icon and those Apps mentioned with a review on the site will have a link to the review.

Health and Fitness :

Runkeeper- This app aims to get us all off our sofa and out into rain and pounding the streets. The Runkeeper App is heavily focused around it’s core function- that of accurately recording your run data, using a combination of the device’s GPS and timing. A good example of the level of care that’s gone into ensuring this level of accuracy, is the traffic light system that has been employed for symbolising how strong the GPS signal is. The feature set of the Application is further extended when it’s linked with a free account at runkeeper.com, which primary role is to allows user to upload their data from the App, to their account on the site. The site provides further statisical breakdowns of your run data and allows you to do other things, such as join a street team, which is a group of locals runners. (Free and paid version, £5.99 , scored 4/5 in an Appjudge review)

iFitness- An App that is aimed at the majority of us, who’d like to do more exercise but don’t know how. The App boasts the biggest array of exercises over any other comparable App on the store, with 300 unique exercises for you to try out and with more being added with new free updates to the App. Each exercises comes with a text and picture demonstration and with an increasing amount also coming with a video demonstration, that helps reduce the learning curve when attempting to learn a new exercise. Exercises can be searched through a number of ways and the App comes with a number of pre-set routines. (£1.19)

Weightbot- Provides an easy way to record, compare and work your way to a new weight. The App features a streamlined interfaces that makes everything from recording your daily weight, to viewing graphs, to setting a new goal, really easy and simple. Weightbot allows you to record your weight, work out your BMI and set and track your progress towards a goal. The App really helps provides an incentive for those who are looking to lose weight, since your progress is easily shown through the created charts. (£1.19)

Lifestyle :

Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals- The App covers 60 meal recipes in glorious detail, each with the all important instructions, ingredients list, voice prompts and step by step photographs. Alongside the impressive catalogue of recipes, there are 21 cooking video tutorials, hosted by the man himself, Jamie Oliver, as well as a shopping list, portion calculator and kitchen essentials guide. All the recipes can be easily sorted through using the comprehensive search feature and the whole app is contained within a gorgeous looking interface that really encourages you to get into the kitchen. (£4.99)

AroundMe- An App that places your device in the centre of your life by telling you what’s around you. You can search for a number of different things, such as Apple retail stores, banks, bars, coffee shops, hospitals, petrol stations and cinemas, just to name a few. AroundMe also pulls down relevant Wikipedia articles based on your location. The App makes use of Google maps to display your chosen category on a map. Once you’ve chosen your destination, you can then import it into the Maps App so you can get directions to it. AroundMe is perfect for finding your way round a new place, and finding new things in places you already know. (Free)

SAS Survival Guide- Written by an EX SAS solider, the App aims to teach you a set of world survival skills from the heart of Britain’s elite army force. The App includes a wealth information, since it includes a 400 page SAS book that has been optimised for the iPhone, videos, Morse code functionality, quiz, sun compass, survival checklist and a first aid section. The sheer amount of content that comes with this App is staggering and is a must have for anybody that hikes, camps or just likes living dangerously. (Free and paid version, £3.99)

Medical :

SOS 4 Life- Health Records- Picture this scene; you’re in a foreign country and you start to feel really unwell, but you don’t speak the local language- how do you convey to  the doctors your medical history, such allergies and medication that you take? Well, SOS 4 Life aims to solve this problem by allowing you to input your medical history into the App and then in an emergency, the App can translate, without the need for a data connection, into Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch or Portuguese. (£2.39)

Baby Bump- Pregnant Mothers take note- this App is for you. Baby Bump allows you to track your pregnancy through a journal with common problems and symptoms and cravings that you should expect, as well as weight tracking. The App also comes loaded with other features such as a kick counter, pregnancy forums, weekly info and images, graphical charts and integration with Facebook and Twitter. (£2.99)

The Journey- An App that is designed to help you step outside your hectic life for a few minutes and chill out. The App uses a mixture of animations combined with a rich and dynamic environment and a complementary soundtrack to relax you. The App is simple and light on features, but it allows you to transport yourself away from your life and relax for a bit each day. (£0.59)

Music :

Shazam- Most people will have come across this App in their time with an iPhone or iPod Touch, since Shazam is a unique App, which performs it’s function well. For those who don’t know, Shazam is a music tagging service for the iOS platform. So, say you hear that song on the radio, and you want to identify it, simply fire up Shazam and it will comeback with song name, artist and album. From there, you can purchase the song through iTunes and notify friends of your discovery through Facebook and Twitter. Although this App isn’t one that you will use on a regular basis, the accuracy and easy of use of the App ensures that when you do use it, the end result is good. (Free)

Tunein Radio- One feature that is missing from the iPhone and iPod Touch line, is a radio, and Tunein Radio attempts to bridge that gap. The App boast a massive catalog of radio stations, from local ones that are specific to your area, to national, to international stations. To help the user find their desired stations, the radio stations are sorted by a number of different categories. Users can browser by genre, language, location and local radio stations, which uses the GPS on the device to find the nearby stations. The App works flawlessly over WiFi and a buffering system ensures that playback over 3G is good. Thanks to multitasking, introduced with iOS4, you can now listen to the App in the background. Furthermore, the ability to run the App in the background helps highlight one of Tunein’s best features; recording. The App allows users to setup recordings of shows for later playback, which effectively makes this the ‘Sky Plus’ of the Radio App world. (£1.19)

Spotify- This is an absolute must for those who have a Spotify premium account and a great excuse for free account holders to upgrade to the £10 per month service. The App gives the user the ability to stream their entire Spotify library to their device as well as access to all the songs that are available on the service and any changes made between your computer and the mobile are synced. While for the majority of the time you’ll need a data connection, in the form of either WiFi or 3G, playlist can be selected as ‘Offline’, which means that the App can play the music without a data connection. The App has also been updated to fully support background multitasking meaning, you won’t have to keep the App open all the time. The Spotify App opens up an exciting opportunity for Premium account users, in which they could go without syncing any music from their iTunes library, and purely stream music, while having the ability to find and stream new songs. (You must be a premium Spotify account holder,  App- free)

Navigation

Where to?- A unique interface that allows you to search for places via catagories- through a speed dial style of navigation. Where to? has one the most comprehesive lists of places and each can be easily searched for, via ac atagory method, or simple text search. Similar to AroundMe, this App is great for finding shops, restaurants and public services in an area you don’t know, as well as finding new places in areas that you are familiar with. (£1.79)

CoPilot Live UK & Ireland- This App turns your iPhone into a fully functioning Sat Nav, with the ability to safely and quickly guide you to your chosen destination. CoPilot features both 3D and 2D graphics which help you navigate and more detailed maps are stored on the iPhone, meaning that you won’t have to wait for content to be downloaded. The App comes with a number of features such as text to speech, speed limit warnings, speed camera warnings and lane indicator. Other premium features, such as live traffic alerts are available through in App purchase. CoPilot is also far cheaper than rival Application TomTom, since it doesn’t require a ‘TomTom car mount’ to work and the App is about half the price. (£19.99)

Plane Finder- This App caters for those who travel a lot or who are generally interested in aviation and air traffic control. Plane Finder gives you searchable access to flights taking place across Europe, North America, Australia and South Scandinavia. A zoomed out map view allows you to see all the planes in the area, which are symbolised by little red plane icons. Zoom further in and you can see the flight paths and tapping on planes will give you further details, such as a picture of the aircraft, flight plan, type of aircraft, speed, direction and flight number. (Free and paid version, £2.99)

News

Instapaper-  Allows you to save website that you come across for later offline reading. The App works best when you install the internet plugin for your browser, which allows you to easily clip parts of the web. The clippings are not only synced with your free Instapaper account, but also to your device, so you can consume media on the move. The App comes in two different flavours, one being free and the other ‘Pro’, which come with some nice, but not necessary extra features, such as ’tilt to scroll’, which uses the devices accelerometer to automatically scroll the page. Instapaper can also bring in articles from RSS feeds and other Apps also support syncing with Instapaper, such as the below mentioned Newsrack. This App is a great way to continue enjoying content while on the move. (Free and paid version, £2.99)

NewsRack- The iPhone has encouraged us to consume an increasing amount of content while on the move and the websites and more specifically the news that we consume is no different. One solution to this comes in the form of NewsRack, which is arguably, one of the best RSS manager for the iOS platform. RSS feeds can be entered in the App in a number of ways, with the simplest being the extensive catalogue that comes with the App, however users can opt to enter them in manually using the URL and Twitter feeds can be aggregated into your RSS stream. Viewing your feeds is where the App really comes to life, since you can do it in two ways; One is a simple list view, in which articles are grouped together under their source, while the other focuses more on U.I by displaying the different source as newspapers in a rack. Once read, your articles can then be exported to a number of different services, such as sharing with friends on Facebook, but more handily, the App can also move articles over to Instapaper. (£2.99)

The Guardian- The best official Newspaper App comes rather unsurprisingly from the Guardian. Rather than just offer users a more useable version of the website, the Guardian have provided users with a content rich experience that is tailored made for the iPhone platform. The App has full access to the full array of content, with all the written articles, photo galleries, as well as audio and video podcasts been available through the App. All of this is easily navigated around and searchable thanks to the great user interface. (£2.39)

Photography

Camera+- One of the features that has been neglected on the iPhone is the camera. By now, most of us know that it’s not all about megapixels, but rather, a number of factors- the lens, ISO and shutter speeds. Camera+ is an App that is designed to help you get the most out of your iPhone camera, so you don’t end up with a bunch of blurred and out of focus photos. Camera+ has an arsenal of features such as, scene modes, flash, effects and touch focus and exposure control. The most impressive feature of the App is the image stabiliser, which works by only taking the photo when movement of the iPhone as at a bare minimum. The App also ships with a ‘Lightbox’ from which you can review all the photos that you’ve taken, before you save them to the camera roll. (£1.19)

Hipestamatic- Arguably the most popular photo Application on the store, Hipestamatic has taken the platform by storm, by allowing users to relive the early years of analogue photography. The App ships with three different lenses, three films and two different flashes, with each producing different end results that are clearly defined from each other. Additional packs of lens, flashes and films, known as ‘Hipstapacks’ are available for purchase through the App for 59p each. The App is beautifully displayed, and really gives the user the sense of shooting with an old camera. This is a must have for any photo buff.(£1.19)

iMovie- The highly powerful and popular OSX desktop application has been distilled down for the iPhone platform. The introduction of the iPhone 4 has given users a HD video camera that shoots at 30 frames per second, so it’s only suitable that they have the right tools to transform their raw footage into a polished final product. As with all Apple products, the App is designed to ‘just work’, and this is clearly demonstrated through the user friendly interface that allows you to easily create a film using five pre-set themes. Familiar gestures, such as pinch to zoom and the ability to ‘scrub’ the timeline, only aid in the creation process. Music and photos can also be added to help fill out your movie and the finished product can then be uploaded to YouTube. (iPhone 4 Only, £2.99)

Got an App that you think should be in here? Let’s hear about it, in the comments section below. Part one is available here and Part three is available here

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Cloud computing: Is it already here?

21 07 2010

Cloud computing is a term that is banded about all too easily today, with many believing that the future of computing lies in the cloud. For those who don’t know what cloud computing is- the idea is that in the future we will have computers, or more likely smaller devices such as phones, that will be less focused upon hardware specs, such as processing power. In other words, the programs, storage and services that we will use, will be online and as such our data is no longer tied to a single machine- our information and data travels with us, and so the cloud metaphor is complete.

Online Services

The transition began along time ago, we just haven’t released yet, since it’s pretty likely that you are using many cloud services right now. One great example is, YouTube, which in it’s early days was a video dating site- a stark difference from the all encompassing video sharing site and broadcaster that it is today. Owners, Google, plan to continue the expansion of the site with the introduction of Google TV, in which YouTube will be at the epicentre. The service, that is set for release later this year, will provide users with a new layer of interface on top of their existing setup, with universal search for shows across the TV programs and YouTube.

Staying in the realm of television and video, our American cousins will be all too familiar with the great service that Hulu provides. The service is now expanding from just computer to the Playstation, iPad and other media centre services. No longer is the viewing experience constricted to the single screen, the television, people’s viewing experience can be moved from device to device, and all this is made possible with an online account- a simple username and password.

Online services aren’t just restricted to video, other such examples can be seen with Flickr, the photo sharing site from Yahoo!, and online streaming services such as Spotify and Grooveshark. The most starkly different function- from that of media and content providing services- is how people are increasingly moving and backing up all their data online, whether that be document, emails, photos- their entire digital identity and life. Service such as Dropbox and Windows Skydrive, allow people to upload anything to the web, and then access it anywhere they can get an internet connection and a web browser.

The rise of Apps

In terms of the iOS platform and the emergence of the app culture one could argue that this is signalling the future of computing and is part of cloud computing. Rather than our devices having fully blown programs, users are opting for bite sized experiences that are contained within a closed environment, which has been developed to fulfil a certain number of functions. As Steve Jobs said, people aren’t searching on their mobile devices; their opening an App instead. So rather than search for online food recipes, users are more likely to open up Epicurious.

Furthermore, the rise of apps has positioned the iPhone and iPad as more than a iPhone- bordering on the functionality of a computer but with less processing power and defiened user experiences. Apple has noticed this and responded accordingly with the timely release of the iMovie App and the iWork App on the iPad, and soon on the iPhone, if the rumours circulating the internet are to be believed.

Chrome OS

This is one of biggest and most obvious steps towards a cloud computing future, from the company that lives and breathes the internet, Google. The traditional notion of the desktop with the standard icons is done away with and in it’s place, the operating system centers around the browser. As a result, local file storage and interaction is replaced with interacting with files from external sources. One such example of this would be, to edit a document in Google Docs and then save it online, rather than create it and save it on the computers hard drive. A similar stance is taken to other file types, in which the operating system gives the user the tools to view the file and edit it, through the use of an online services, but it doesn’t encourage the user to then save the file locally. As a result, the Chrome OS, while be mainly marketed towards netbook manufactures, since there is less emphasis on the overall specs of the machine, since the standard desktop is replaced with a browser, and the creation and consumption of media and files are handled on the internet, rather than on the machine.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see how the big companies in the computing space, Apple, Microsoft and Google, adapt to meet this challenge, because right now, I don’t see any of them as set to dominate the area.

Microsoft have the most work to do, since they are a company that has always been based around  a users sitting down in front of a computer. Cloud computing, moves the user away from this classic depiction, and replaces it with a much more mobile lifestyle. In the mobile area Microsoft has struggled and as a result the windows mobile platform has struggled. They are pinning their hopes on the reboot of the operating system with the introduction of Windows Phone 7.

While Apple may have nailed it in the mobile space, with the brilliant iOS format,they are struggling with online services, such as mobile me, which needs a lot of work. The implementation of the rumoured upcoming streaming iTunes service will play a big part in how success the company is in this area.

Google does have a great array of online services, however they lack the usability and user experience that Apple is famed for. How well the Chrome OS is spread and accepted by users will play a big part for them.

What do you think? Which company is set for cloud computing? Is cloud computing even the future? Let me know in the comments below.





I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 1

15 07 2010

So, you’ve done it, you finally taken the plunge and bought yourself an iPhone…congrats. The device you have just bought is one of the best smartphones on the market, but, only when it’s coupled with the best Applications. So, I have taken the time, to prepare a ‘starter kit’, a set of ‘must have’ Applications for every new, and old iPhone owner. I will be covering the 20 App categories, over three posts, and each category will feature three of the best Apps in that genre. To download Applications in this post, click the corresponding App icon. If there is a review on the blog, for an App mentioned below, then there will be a link to it.

Books :


iBooks- Apple’s offering to the eBook market, that has all the hallmarks of a quality Apple product, with the premium price tag for books. The app allows you to highlight, look up words in a dictionary and sync settings and bookmarks across multiple iDevices. iBooks is strangely not part of the iTunes store, but instead, only accessed through the app. The store offers a growing selection of both paid and free books for download. (Free)

Kindle- Access the vast Amazon eBook store, with over 600,000 titles for you to pick from, with a free sample of the first chapter of every book. Amazon is also starting to include additional video and audio content within their eBooks which can be played within the App. Like iBooks you can add notes, highlight words, and Amazon have their own sync service, in the shape of Whispersync. The service acts very much like it’s Apple counterpart, in the sense that it syncs bookmarks, last page read, however the difference between the two is the range of devices you can sync across. iBook allows syncing across iPod Touches, iPhones and iPads only. Whispersync will sync across all the above, as well as, the Kindle program on your Mac, PC or other mobile device, such as Blackberrys. (Free)

Marvel Comics- A new way of experiencing comics, through a beautifully constructed App. The App is free but comes with no content, only the ability to browse through the comic store. Comics are sorted into a number of ways and readers can rate individual comics, just like in the Appstore. Free previews are available, but to add to your electronic collection, you will need to make use of the in App purchasing system. There is also an identical DC comics app, for those who prefer Batman to Ironman. (Free with in App purchasing)

Business :

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite- When you are away from the Office and your computer, it’s time to turn to your iPhone and the Quickoffice App to make those last minutes changes to that important Word document. The App can work with pretty much anything that you care to throw at it, since it supports a number of file formats, such as DOC,DOCX, PPT, PDF and iWork, just to name a few. You can import files from cloud services such as mobile me, Google docs and Dropbox. The App supports an intuitive and simple interface that helps promote the functionality of the App, with the tools confined to along the bottom of screen, allowing you to focus on your work. The size of the iPhone means that you’re never going to be typing your next novel on it, however for making small alterations and last minute changes, this App is perfect. (£5.99)

Genius Scan- This App turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner. What differentiates this App from a standard camera app is that, Genius Scan has built in page detection. This means that when taking pictures of receipts, whiteboards etc, the app will recognise this and crop out any unwanted background. The App also comes with perspective correction and post processing to ensure that the final image is good enough to view again. (Free)

PDF Reader Pro- Is a multifunctional PDF viewer for the iPhone platform that allows you to upload, scan and view PDFs along with many other file types, such as MS Office files, image files, video and audio files. The App excels at viewing PDFs, with an array of features such as pinch zoom, remembering the last viewed location and bookmarking. The App can pull down PDFs for emails and website and can upload PDF zips files. If you need to view files and documents on the move, then, this App is tailored for you. (£0.59)

Education :


myHomework- Provides a free way for students to track homework, classes and projects across a school year. The user interface is heavily inspired from a school book, with a note pad style background and a hand written style font to match.Once you’ve entered information into the App, tasks can be sorted by day and month, and data can be synced back and forth from the Mac desktop client. (Free)

Cram- The exams are looming, and your revision has taken a back seat as usual, so how do you salvage a respectable grade? Turn to Cram. The App has taken the prompt card format and digitised it for the 21st century. You create flashcards on your iPhone, using text and images. Cram, then does all the hard work by creating tests based on the information that you’ve put in and owners of the Mac desktop application, can import their tests from that, into the App. But that’s not all, the App also ships with a large test database from which you can download thousands of tests, that range from learning a new language to driving tests. (£2.99)

iStudiez Pro- Is a complete planner for students, which covers planning for lessons, assignments and grades.The App has a beautiful interface with individual polished icons to symbolise different tasks and an overall professional feel. iStudiez features a calendar which helps highlights upcoming tasks and a smart today view that automatically displays the upcoming events for that day. Push notifications means that you will never forget that assignment on Karl Marx, and back up functionality means that your data is safe. A must have for all budding students. (£1.79)

Entertainment :

EyeTv- This App is for those of you with an EyeTv, which is a device which allows you to watch and record live TV on your Mac. For owners of the EyeTv, this app really extends the functionality of the device by allowing you to watch live TV, previous recording shows, check the program guide and set up recordings anywhere you go via either WiFi or 3G. (£2.99)

Remote- Most people have come across this Application in their time with an iDevice. The original remote App in the Appstore, that follows the Apple mantra of, ‘just working.’ The App uses your home WiFi connection and works with PC ,Mac and Apple TV, and allows users to control their iTunes library. Users can create and update genius playlists, control music playback and search the library. As mentioned before, you can use this with your Apple TV, to navigate around the interface, instead of using the Apple TV remote. Remote borrows the iPod app interface for playback, with the controls along the bottom and album artwork being displayed. In terms of usability, there is no better way to control your iTunes library from afar. (Free)

RunPee- The idea behind RunPee is to provide weak bladdered moviegoers with some much needed relief by providing them with a massive databases of movies, each with their own ‘Pee times’, in which they can leave momenterially without missing any important parts. Each ‘Pee time’ comes with a basic narration of what you’ve missed and the App ships with a timer, so you know how long you have before you have to dash back in. The App features an enhanced user interface that when compared to the website, makes browsing and viewing content far easier and unlike other websites that have created an app, Runpee is free. (Free)

Finance :


Expenditure- A finances App that focuses around the user interface and simplicity. The interface is based on a calculator, with input being done through the number pad. The App can cover both income and expenses and this is dealt with via two simple buttons, green for income and red for expenses. Users can sort expenses by a number of categories and transactions can even by added in other currencies and the App will convert it. The App also supports photos, so you can upload pictures of receipts as part of your transactions. (£1.19)

Spendometer- A simple finances Application that focus around a giant, ‘spendometer’, that provides a visual key as to how much the user has left to spend. The App features a number of customisable categories to sort your expenses and you can set an overall weekly budget, and individual budget from the categories. Overall, Spendometer makes for a good, but basic, guide for people who want a casual way of tracking their expenses. (Free, scored 4/5 in an Appjudge review)

iXpenseIt- One of the most sophisticated and comprehensive financial Apps on the Appstore, this is not for the faint hearted. The App not only tracks your monthly expenses, but your income as well. IXpenseIt boast a plethora of features such as the ability to set multiple budgets, each with their own sub categories and preset limits. Users can take advantage of their iPhone’s camera and import paper receipts into the App. The App also covers the analytical side of your finances by providing detail graphs that represent monthly expenses and incomes. All of this comes with the safety and security of knowing that your data can be protected by a password, and backed up and restored over WiFi. (£2.99, and free version, with ads and reduced features)

Games :

Flight Control- The first line drawing App for the platform, and arguably the best. The App combines frantic gameplay with intuitive controls that take full advantage of the multitouch screen. Flight Control offers the user a number of different levels, each with their own unique factors and challenges that helps prevent the game from becoming repetitive and easy. (59p, scored 5/5 in an Appjudge review)

Angry Birds- It’s been in the charts for ages and is currently occupying the second position. The App has you playing as a bunch of, you’ve guessed it, angry birds, who are venting their anger at a group of pigs. The oddly coloured green pigs made the mistake of stealing and attempting to eat the bird’s prized eggs.The pigs have taken refuge in fortified protection and over 165 levels, it’s up to you to see their destruction. Your weapon of choice is a catapult and the birds willingly line up to be fired. The levels present increasingly peculiar and harder challenges. (59p)

N.O.V.A- The first quality first person shooter for the iOS platform. Features some of the best graphics on the iPhone with rich 3D environments and a variety of enemies. An important aspect of any game on this platform are the controls, and Gameloft have nailed it with N.O.V.A. The App comes with three different control schemes, however I believe the default setup works the best, with a stick either side of the screen- left controls movement and right controls where you aim. The campaign boasts a solid 13 levels, and players can take on friends via multiplayer deathmatches over WiFi and Bluetooth. (£2.99)

As you can imagine, restricting myself to just three apps per category was very hard. An especially tough category to do this with was the Games category, since the Appstore is blessed with many great games, such as the above mentioned, and others such as Edge.

Got an App that you think should be in here? Let’s hear about it, in the comments section below. Part two of this post is available here. Part three of this post is available here.

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