MonthJuly 2008

MacJury: ‘Re-ordering Apple’s iPhone priorities’

In what may be the most pretentiously titled session yet, I joined a great panel of Mac and technology pundits for the latest installment of Chuck Joiner’s MacJury podcast. We discussed Apple’s financials for a bit, then launched into our thoughts on what should be next on the feature list of the iPhone. (Voice dialing was a unanimous choice.)

Please forgive some of the choppiness of the audio — we had Skype issues throughout the taping, none of which were helped by the fact that I was connecting from a Boy Scout camp in rural Pennsylvania.

It was a lively and typically fun session. I think the MacJury has found its voice with its lighthearted tone and the occasional joke interspersed with the punditry. This session’s panel was a pleasure to be with, and along with host Chuck Joiner, included Jeff Gamet, Galen Gruman and Terry White.

Yet another reason not to use my regular phone

I use a VoIP service from AT&T called CallVantage for my home phone. One of the services features is that it sends voicemail as a .wav attachment to my email address. Unfortunately, my iPhone could never play the type of .wav the service creates, meaning I could see that I had a voice message, but I couldn’t listen to it. (Yes, I could dial in to my voicemail, but I can never remember how.)

Last night, I discovered that the iPhone 2.0 update fixed the issue and the files play perfectly. My short list of missing iPhone features is getting shorter and shorter (and yes — cut-and-paste is still number one.)

‘It was a lot rockier than we expected’

MobileMeMobileMe customers are getting a note from Apple regarding the shaky transition to MobileMe services. As an apology for the transition trouble, the company is extending all MobileMe subscriptions by one month. I love the straightforwardness of this line, the second sentence in the letter: “Unfortunately, it was a lot rockier than we expected.” The ability to just plain admit there were problems is very refreshing, even from Apple.

Microsoft would never be so direct.

Please stand by…

Back when this was a full-fledged journalistic endeavor — a real news site, if you will — things like re-designs and the development of additional features took place on a development server — behind the curtain, if you will.

Now that we’re “just” a blog, though, I have no hesitation to do these things right out in the open. It’s easier for me and hopefully won’t trouble you too much.

So, dear readers, please bear with us as layouts change, blank boxes appear and disappear and my photo gets smaller (or goes away completely), and enjoy this look at how Internet sausage is made.

Early thoughts on iPhone 2.0

After finally getting my iPhone re-activated (thanks to the free WiFi at the Livingston, NJ public library), I spent much of yesterday examining the new features of iPhone 2.0 and happily downloading apps from the App Store.

The new iPhone OS is impressive, full of wonderfully polished touches and new features. One that I didn’t know was coming was the ability to take a screenshot (hat tip to Jason Snell): just press the Home and Power buttons simultaneously, and an image of the current screen is added to your Photo Roll, ready to email, sync or be sent to a web gallery — or added as wallpaper, if it’s not your phone and you’re in the mood for a prank.

The availability of iPhone applications makes my 1st Gen iPhone feel like a brand new device. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the difference the additional functionality would make in how I regard the phone. There’s a subtle but profound shift in seeing the iPhone as an essentially closed ecosystem versus the boundless potential it has through third-party apps. The mind can’t help but think of new possibilities that no longer seem remote, but rather inevitable. It brought me back to the early days of the Palm PDA, when you could find an app for almost any function you could imagine. Thank goodness iTunes lets you manage which apps are synced to the phone — app management is sure to be the next “First World Problem” for iPhone owners.

Speaking of apps, the quality of applications available already ranges from incredible to appalling, and for that reason alone, I’m glad third-party apps weren’t available when the iPhone first launched. It was much better to build a baseline for expectations around quality, battery life and stability.

I’m fairly confident that the market will shake a lot of the crappy developers out of the space over the next few months, but right now, there’s a lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat, and a lot of developers who are not familiar enough with the Mac market. Lousy UIs, cheesey implementations and overpriced one-trick ponies abound, but are already getting hammered by bad reviews. Pricing, too, should stabilize, but there’s a lot of naivety on both the developer and user sides. It will be interesting to see what the market settles on as a “fair” price for most iPhone apps.

Some of my favorite apps so far:

  • Pandora
  • Cro-Mag Rally
  • WeatherBug
  • Remote
  • TapTap
  • Twitterific (although it seems to crash my entire phone every fourth or fifth launch)
  • French Phrase Book (other languages are available, too)
  • MobileNews
  • BoxOffice

My battery life is certainly suffering, but it’s too early to tell if it’s the result of all the new apps, or the increased amount of time I’m using my phone because of them.

Oh, and if someone would create a WordPress admin app along the lines of TypePad, I’d really appreciate it.

Appel d’urgence

I was too busy patting myself on the back for realizing I could update my iPhone’s firmware from my company Mac (rather than my home machine, where the iPhone is “registered,”) that I completely missed the possibility that my corporate firewall might block access to the Apple servers necessary to re-activate the phone. (It did.)

Until I get the situation rectified, I am the proud owner of an emergency-use-only phone that tastefully advertises itself as such in at least five languages.

Notruf, everybody!

iTunes update out; MobileMe, iPhone 2.0…sort of

It’s starting out as a day of fits and starts for Apple’s new mobile computing-related releases. The company’s Mac.com service went down last night, as scheduled and it’s replacement, MobileMe, has poked its virtual head up a few times, but was not up as of this writing.

In the meantime, a new version of iTunes has been released through Apple’s Software Update mechanism. The update mainly provides access to Apple’s new Apps Store, through which it will sell applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Speaking of which, the iPhone 2.0 firmware update is not yet appearing within iTunes, but an observant MacRumors reader apparently found the software’s URL by scouring XML files. To apply the patch, you must hold down the Option key when pressing the Check for Update button within iTunes. Some readers are reporting what they consider long restore times, but so far the update seems to be working for iPhone users. The update for iPod Touch devices is a paid upgrade and apparently not part of this software.

For those willing to take their chances, the patch can be found at http://appldnld.apple.com.edgesuite.net/conte
nt.info.apple.com/iPhone/061-4955.20080710.bg
t53/iPhone1,2_2.0_5A347_Restore.ipsw

If your download appends a “.zip” extension to the file, simply remove it — don’t unzip the package.

‘Last year’s iPhone…a year late’

In a post for TUAW, Erica Sadun focuses mostly on the unlocking prospects of the iPhone 3G, but comes to the same conclusion I did.

“The 3G iPhone that goes on sale Friday, represents nothing more than last year’s iPhone–that finally got delivered a year late.”

Shawn King also nails it in a post on Twitter: “I think 3G is for those who don’t already own one. Next model for those of us who own the original.”

Amen to both.

Comment spammers find me ‘insightful’

I get quite a bit of comment spam on the postings here. Because of the way the site is set up, not much of it gets through. I’m frequently amused, though, at some of the tactics the spammers use to try to get their posts on the site. A lot have taken to pulling words or phrases from either the headline or article itself and complimenting it. I got a kick of how that formula worked for a posting about an Apple store opening in NJ — aka, “The Garden State.”

Hello webmaster Wow what a fantastic article about Garden State Parkway! Your keen insight into Garden State Parkway is informative and creative. I look forward to reading other articles you have. Thanks.

Nice try.

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