Tag Archives: iphone

If the iPhone is So Great. . .

Then why can’t it do so many things that so many other phones routinely do?

Like MMS?

Like tethering?

Like Google Voice via an app?

Like Google Latitude via an app?

Like watch videos via a SlingPlayer?

Like stream live video?

Like take a flash photo?

Like run flash apps?

Like swap batteries?

Like multitask?

I’m just sayin’.

Apple Faces a Revolution at the Crossroads

It will be interesting to see if the rising number of denunciations and protests over Apple’s banning of Google Voice apps will have any effect.  During last night’s podcast, I said I thought Apple was an extremely arrogant company and asked my podcast mates if they could think of an example where Apple reversed a decision due to popular outcry.  We couldn’t think of any good examples.

Meanwhile, the protests continue.

Today, Mike Arrington quit the iPhone, expressly as a result of the Google Voice debacle.  I applaud Mike for doing that.  I don’t often- or even usually- agree with him, so if he and I are on the same side of an issue, we must be right.  Stated simply, it’s foolish and unnecessary for Apple to side against its customers and Google.  If people are forced to choose between Apple and Google, Apple may be surprised at how many puppies run to the other side of the room.

And there’s more at stake here than meets the eye.  While the App Store/Google Voice thing is important on its own, I believe it is a barometer for Apple’s future.

Do the right thing, and everyone falls immediately back in love with all things Apple.  Stay the inconsistent and illogical course and this issue could be the beginning of the end of Apple’s golden era.  You can’t call yourself a hero and act like a villain.  You can’t be the people’s choice if you don’t choose the people.

One interesting subplot to all this:  Google wins either way.  Think about it.

Harry McCracken believes Apple may come around.  I hope he’s right, but I’m not so sure.  The price cut Harry mentions was a nice, but isolated gesture.  I suspect Apple views the wall it has erected around the App Store as more sacred- and more profitable- than what amounted to a glorified coupon (recall that the credit Apple handed out was good for future, marked up, purchases).  To reverse course now on the Google Voice decision- even though it would be the smart and just move- would set the stage for more second guessing of Apple’s erratic app approval/rejection process.  And we know that the one thing that Apple loves almost as much as money is control.

The most amazing thing about this whole app approval brouhaha is how easy it could be fixed.  All Apple has to do is three simple things:

1. Be at least semi-transparent.  Tell people what is going on.  In life and business, a little explanation goes a long way.

2. Tell the truth.  Don’t speak in riddles or half-truths.  Don’t let ATT take the blame if the blame is not theirs and toss them in the grease if it is.  And don’t hide behind the duplicate functionality canard.  If you simply want to control the experience to the detriment of customers, Google or whomever else, just have the stones to say so.

3. Be consistent.  Inconsistency is the great motivator of unrest.  Apple has been the model of inconsistency as far as the App Store goes.

That’s how to make it better.  But it could also get worse.

Lately we have been seeing more and more signs that Apple is struggling with the jailbreaking thing.  First came the warning that jailbreaking could result in terrorism.  Now we read an official support article warning folks about the risks they assume by choosing the apps they want to install, rather than letting Apple decide for them.  I wonder if the great irony that it is precisely Apple’s iron grip on the app approval process that is driving people to jailbreak their iPhones is lost on Apple?

So for now Apple tries to educate us away from jailbreaking.  What’s next, when that doesn’t work?  Will Apple start disabling jailbroken iPhones?  Or perhaps take a page from the record industry’s book of bad strategy and try to litigate the cat back into the bag?

As you can see, this issue is bigger than just our desire to have Google Voice apps on our iPhones.  Apple and its customers have come to a crossroad, and we need to at least try to point Apple toward the right path.  We need to continue to express our concerns, displeasure, questions, etc.

We have looked out for Apple, now Apple needs to look out for us- by siding with the legitimate desires of the customers who made Apple what it is today.

And who will make it what it will be tomorrow.

How I Read the ATT Comment on Google Voice

Here’s how I read the latest on Apple and/or ATT’s absurd and utterly annoying rejection of Google Voice apps.

The ATT statement doesn’t say that ATT- or the requirements of ATT’s agreement with Apple- is not the reason why Google Voice apps have been banned.  It simply says that ATT does not manage the App Store and is not part of the approval process.  There are four ways to interpret this:

1. That Apple decided on its own to ban the Google Voice apps for some inexplicable Apple reason, which seems to be what ATT would like us to conclude.  This could be accurate, given that other phones on the ATT network have Google Voice apps.  If so, the torchy mob should immediately descend on Apple’s castle and demand a straight forward explanation.  Don’t buy the duplicative feature canard.  All kinds of duplicative apps are allowed.  It’s only the one that would most improve the iPhone experience that is not.

2. That the agreement between Apple and ATT requires, either directly or indirectly, that apps that might take money out of ATT’s pocket be excluded.  This would be consistent with the wi-fi-only Skype limitation.  The rub here is that we’d be talking about SMS charges only, and there are tons of apps- Beejive for example- that already allow you to send free text messages.

3. That Apple decided to ban the Google Voice apps because it knows that ATT’s network is crappy and fears that any significant additional load will grind things to a halt.  This could also explain the Skype limitation, and the crippled SlingPlayer (though nothing can explain Sling’s ridiculous $30 app money-grab).

4. That Apple decided to ban the Google Voice apps because it gets a share of the money that ATT makes, and Apple wants to squeeze an extra dollar out of the faithful.  I would find this the most irritating.

It may just be that ATT sees the writing on the wall as far and the iPhone exclusive gravy train goes and is tired of getting kicked around every time someone has a bad iPhone experience.  Maybe ATT decided to try its hand at posturing by press release, and is feeling out Apple in the first round with these vague and non-inflammatory jabs.

We may never know the real story.

What we do know is that we want our Google Voice app, and our Google Latitude app, and all kinds of other apps that have not and may not see the light of day.  The more we run into these walls of nonsense, the more likely we are to go rogue and jailbreak our iPhones.  I’ve never seriously considered doing that.

Until now.

One Bad Apple Does Spoil the Whole Bunch of Apps

So I write a happy, hopeful post about how Apple is going to save the tablet space and maybe even break Amazon’s stranglehold on the e-book market.  Then I walk all aglow out to the garage for my nightly treadmill run and The Wire watching, certain that the tech world was a wonderful place.

A couple of hours later I come back, all sweaty and tired and sad about the beat down that Bunny Colvin took at the end of Season 3, and read that Apple is removing Google Voice apps from the App Store.

Are you shitting me?  People have made careers out of crapping on Microsoft for making people spend 10 minutes downloading and installing a third party browser.  Where is the outrage here?

Look, I too have worried about Google taking over the world, and all of our data with it.  Shoot, it was just the other day that I finally capitulated to Google, and admitted that eventually it will contain my entire life.  That was after I fell in heavy like with Google Voice, but before I realized how cool and useful Google Latitude (another app that Apple has apparently squashed for no legitimate reason) can be.

Either Apple has lost its collective mind or it is once again doing ATT’s dirty work.  I’m guessing it’s the latter.

Here’s the thing, Apple.  It’s not ATT or any other carrier that put the iPhone where it is.  It’s the loyal, evangelical, tech-loving customers, many of whom really want to use Google Voice, Google Latitude and all kinds of other apps that ATT- the same ATT that can’t get it together enough to accommodate MMS and tethering- might not like.  Oh, and the developers, who write the apps that give Apple such a commanding lead in the apps race.

If ATT’s network can’t handle the demand of the greatest mobile phone ever made, then why in the world did Apple give ATT the exclusive for so long?  And doesn’t that agreement require ATT to have some level of network capacity?  Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems backwards to me.  If ATT can’t (or won’t) play ball, then let the other carriers in the game so there can be network sharing.  And if it’s not ATT, then I hope someone at ATT says so, so the torchy mob can run howling back to Apple’s door.

This is messed up.

I don’t care that Apple and/or ATT nixed the SlingPlayer app.  Sling’s ridiculous $30 app price makes me pull against them, and I have a Slingbox.  I don’t care all that much that I can only use the Skype app via wi-fi.

But Google?  Not only can you not survive on the internet without giving Google its propers, but even Google, who is bent on internet domination, gives almost all of its stuff away.  Google ought to start charging ATT every time an ATT customer uses Google’s network, and see how that works out.

Apple needs to immediately reverse course on this, and accept not only the third party Google Voice apps, but also Google’s own Voice and Latitude apps.

One caveat: I am assuming that Google isn’t going along with this nonsense or suppressing its objections in some harebrained scheme to give Android devices some perceived advantage. Outside of that, I think there should be a general uprising until Apple comes to its senses and, if necessary, tells ATT what’s what.

In sum, this is stupid and needs to be fixed.


Morningstar Launches an Uninspiring iPhone App

Morningstar, the company that, via Bank of America, CarMax and Western Union stock recommendations, recently surpassed Jim Cramer as the single biggest source of my epic stock market losses, has a new iPhone app (iTunes link).  The free app offers investing ideas, real-time quotes, analyst research, financial news, Morningstar ratings, company profiles and more.

imageNotwithstanding all my losses, I am a long-time and more or less satisfied Morningstar subscriber.  Everyone has lost money in the stock market over the last year or two, and at least Morningstar isn’t brokering the stocks it recommends.  I want some sort of stock market analysis, and I still think Morningstar is less bad than just about any other source.

Morningstar’s web site is full of data, analyst reports, portfolio tools and news.  At the moment, I am pretending I never heard of the stock market, but when my head gets above sand level, Morningstar is my primary investing idea and analysis source.

The iPhone app, however, is no great shakes.  The app does not allow access to all of Morningstar’s premium content or the stock portfolios and watch lists you have set up on Morningstar’s web site.  In fact, the app is not even tied to your Morningstar account.  As a result, there’s very little this app does that you can’t get in another, more mature financial app.  There is a dearth of content- and there’s no reason for Morningstar to be so stingy, given the massive amount of resources on its web site.

On the plus side, you can get access to portions of the Morningstar analyst report for stocks and mutual funds, quotes and the Morningstar rating.  If I wasn’t a Morningstar subscriber who is used to having all of the premium content accessible, I would probably feel a little better about this app.

A premium app with “enhanced functionality” is promised for “later this year.”  That’s very close to perfectly vague.  If Morningstar releases a premium app that syncs with your Morningstar paid account and allows access to a lot more Morningstar content in an iPhone-centric design and has the good sense not to charge paying members for it, they’ll have a winner.

Until then, I’d look elsewhere for my iPhone financial information.

Hanging by an iPhone

beach0309 We spent the weekend and today down in Galveston, celebrating the first weekend of the kids’ spring break.  It was my first trip to Galveston since the hurricane, and things looked about like I expected.  There is a lot of damage yet to be fixed, and quite a bit of damage that doesn’t look likely to ever get fixed.  For example, there’s one house nearby that has an entire exterior wall missing.  You can literally see entire rooms, with furniture and all.  It looks like a dollhouse someone left out in the rain.  On the other hand, most of the obvious parts of the city are open and appear to be engaging in business as usual.  Casey’s had a big crowd tonight, and though there was a long wait, there were unused tables in our room.  Maybe this was a Monday night staffing issue, or maybe it was because the people at a nearby table came absurdly close to getting into a fistfight with a waiter.  I was like a little slice of the blogosphere, island style.

Because I was only there for a couple of days and because the local unsecured wi-fi quotient is painfully low post-Ike, I decided to leave my laptop at home and rely on my iPhone to keep me connected to the office and the internet in general.  It worked reasonably well, but a few things were very apparent to me.

One, email, including corporate email, is a lot better via the iPhone that on a Blackberry.  Blackberry lovers will freak out over this, but it’s true.  Email is easier to read and write, and the handling of attachments is better than it was a year ago (when I last had a Blackberry) and at least as good as on a Blackberry today.  I carried Blackberries for years, and the simple fact is that the iPhone is a far superior device, even for business stuff.

But, there is room for improvement.

When I tried to write this post from the island, it again became clear to me that there is no decent blogging software for the iPhone.  I again beach0309a tried to use iBlogger and again I gave up in frustration.  I wish Microsoft would release a Live Writer iPhone app, but I’m not holding my breath.  In the absence of that unlikely event, the space is wide open.  If someone released a reasonably full featured blogging app- that would support photos and maybe a Photobucket integration, they could own the space from day one.  The fact that there is not a single decent blogging application for the Mac, however, does not bode well for the iPhone.  It also became painfully obvious to me that the iPhone really needs the tethering feature, so you can use it as a wireless modem to connect your laptop to the internet.  That was, by far, the most useful feature of my last Blackberry- and a feature I miss dearly.

Some iPhone apps work great and almost circumvent the need for a laptop, but sans wi-fi some of them are pretty spotty.  Tweetie worked the most consistently, though my partially self-imposed Twitter exile did not allow me to take advantage of it (unlike the hand picked music I used to manually post there via Blip.fm, Live Writer automatically Tweets my new blog posts, so for the time being I’ll just use it as a billboard, like everybody else).  On the other hand, neither of my RSS readers (Feeds and Byline) worked worth a crap over the telephone network (about half and half between 3G and Edge in the Beachside area of Galveston).  I got so frustrated trying to read my feeds, I thought about giving up the internet altogether and subscribing to a newspaper for the first time in a decade.  We can huff and puff all we want, but until those who aren’t in the heart of a big, big city can access online content reliably, online content will continue to be a luxury and not a necessity.  Dropbox, which despite being my online storage service of choice, still inexplicably lacks an iPhone app, worked pretty well via Safari.  I was able to access data over both the 3G and Edge network.

The camera, with a little help from Darkroom, also worked reasonably well, though the iPhone desperately needs a flash.

Make no mistake- the iPhone rocks.  But take it or any other mobile device to the edge of the grid, and things get a little dicey.

Essential iPhone Apps Scoreboard

The other day, I summarized what I believe to be the essential iPhone apps.  Since then, I have uninstalled some apps and added some others.  Here are the recent changes.

pboard i.TV (free) has been uninstalled.  As I noted, I think it tries to do too much.  I want something simpler with better Netflix integration.  In its place, I installed Now Playing (free) (iTunes link).  I like the Netflix integration much better.

iTalk Recorder ($4.99, but there is a free version that I haven’t tried) is gone.  As noted, I use Note2Self ($1.99) for all my audio recording needs.

I added Pinboard ($1.99)(iTunes link), largely because I thought it might be useful as an outlining tool in connection with speeches and other public appearances.  It needs three tweaks to be a good tool for that purpose.  The ability to color the note boxes, the ability to change the note box color on the fly (e.g., when you have covered the outlined topic) and the ability to have multi-page pinboards.

The iPhone really needs an easy way to exchange vCards that is not dependant on both parties having an iPhone or the same card sharing app installed.  I have not found a solution yet, but my current best hope is Easycontact ($2.99) (iTunes link).  Apple needs to add this functionality to the OS to ensure universal compatibility.  In the meantime, at least Easycontact makes it easy to email a card.

Finally, I’ve used Byline ($4.99) as my mobile feed reader for a while, but the promise of faster Google Reader synchronization was enough for me to give Feeds ($2.99)(iTunes link) a try.  I won’t keep both apps, but right now they are fighting it out for a place on my screen.

With those changes, here is my current iPhone app lineup, not including games, which I’ll cover in a later post.

American Heritage Dictionary ($29.99, but I wouldn’t pay that much if I could start over)
AOL Radio (free)
AroundMe (free)
Beejive IM ($15.99)
Bloomberg (free)
Box.Net (free)
Byline ($4.99)
CameraBag ($2.99)
Darkroom (99 cents, but there is a free version that I haven’t tried)
Easy Wi-Fi ($1.99)
Easycontact ($2.99)
Evernote (free)
Feeds ($2.99)
Google Mobile (free)
GothPix (99 cents)
iBlogger (99 cents, at least for the moment)
iSports (free)
Juxtaposer ($2.99, but there is a free version that I haven’t tried)
Melodis Voice Dialer (free)
Mobile Fotos ($1.99)
Mobile News (free)
Note2Self ($1.99)
Now Playing (free)
Pandora (free)
Pinboard ($1.99)
Pocket Aid ($1.99)
Remember the Milk (free, but requires a $25/year premium description at Remember the Milk)
Sportacular (free)
Squiggles ($4.99)
TouchType (99 cents, but there is a free version that I haven’t tried)
Tweetie ($2.99)
Urbanspoon (free)