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iPhone: Context over consistency

Monday, October 1st, 2007

37signals, the makers of Basecamp, Highrise, and my favorite: Backpack just blogged about the iPhone’s user interface and Apple’s conscious design decisions which favor context over consistency. Personally I trend slightly more to consistency because I’m mildly OCD about organization and repeatability, but the article is an interesting read that rings true.

To-to-too mmuuuch caffeine

Monday, October 1st, 2007

iTunes WiFi Music Store

I just got done blogging the rollout out their new Starbucks WiFi Music Store here in Seattle and I’m aquiver with coffee as a result. This morning I happened to stop into the Starbucks for a latte when I remembered that the new partnership for free iTunes access at Starbucks retail locations was lighting up in Seattle this morning so I whipped out my iPhone to check it out. The new Starbucks review is a good sister article to they soon to be posted in-depth review I did of the new iTunes WiFi Music Store.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me in the morning so I had to come back to review it over lunch about 90 minutes later. Between the quad shot earlier, and a triple over lunch I’m completely wired. *Bzzzt* *Bzzzt* *Bzzzt* *Bzzzzzzt*

Luckily I don’t have anything left on my to-do list for today so I’m pretty much free to lay on my couch watching movies with Skype. Finally getting a long weekend is really helping me feel a lot more relaxed from all the activity at work recently. Now for the rest of The Matrix Revolutions and then perhaps a little Lord of the Rings to continue on with the epic feel.

iPhone 1.1.1 is out – my frustrations with the WiFi Music store

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

This morning Apple released updates for the iPhone bringing forth a bevy of new features including the slick new WiFi music store, better iPod controls, your choice of incoming SMS alerts, and other minor tweaks and refinements throughout the iPhone. The iPhone gained a few features already introduced in the iPod Touch like bringing up media controls when the home button is double tapped and a cool trick where double tapping the space bar inserts a period and a space to help cut down on finger taps.

The WiFi music store lets users purchase songs on-the-go using any WiFi hotspot which essentially puts the entire multi-million track library of iTunes in your pocket – perfect for a quick impulse buy from time to time. It would be perfect for the impulse-heavy consumer like me – if it worked on my iPhone!

I’m having store authorization problems so I can’t actually buy anything right now. It’s rejecting my credentials to the point of locking my account, when I know I’m entering them correctly. I even verified my credentials on a desktop just to make sure I wasn’t having a senior moment.

Password attempts

I wrote up up a more detailed report of my WiFi Music Store experience for Gear Live if you want to know more. For now I’ll have to sulk about with my existing library while on-the-go and be content with the other features released today.

iPhone reviews, studies, and commentary of the day

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster for the iPhone

I just posted a couple of great articles to Gear Live on the Apple iPhone. First up is a bit of commentary and a link to the usability study performed by Computerworld which pits Apple’s iPhone, the HTC Touch, and the Nokia N95 against each other in a usability battle royale. Obviously the iPhone scores high marks, but there are some other interesting insights to be garnered from the review relating to how it differs from it’s main competitors in the touch-based phone world.

Next up I posted my in-depth review of the Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster case (featured in the image above) which is my current favorite iPhone accessory. It’s both stylish and protective – a great combination for a sexy device like the iPhone. You can check out the full review here.

Vaja iVolution Top SP Holster for the iPhone” by sparktography

Happy with EDGE?

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

iPod Observer just posted about an Information Week article about AT&T’s upcoming HSUPA upgrades for their network which will increase 3G speeds up to sixfold in some cases. AT&T’s president Richard Burns commented that iPhone customers are happy with the EDGE (2.5G) network.

We’re surveying them in large numbers week in and week out. They’re telling us their EDGE experience is great.

I’m sorry, but I have to call plain and simple bullshit. The newly improved EDGE network is faster than the old one, and makes browsing the web possible on an iPhone, but certainly not “great”. The fantastic iPhone WiFi experience makes up for it, but whenever a hotspot is not handy life on the EDGE network is barely faster than dial-up internet access in a day when modern web content is designed with broadband network connections in mind.

Apple needs to hurry up and drop with the 3G iPhone – the modern capabilities of the device paired with a more modern network connection would make for the true killer phone.

iPhone ringtones now available through the iTunes store

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Just as I was heading to bed I connected my iPhone to sync and charge for the night when iTunes informed me that the ringtones feature of the iTunes store has gone live. Not many of my tracks supported ringtone creation, but one of my old favorites (Bytecry by Weevil’s Drunk on Light album – the OS X 10.4 intro music) was eligible so I decided to take the plunge and convert it.

Create Ringtone menu screenshot

After clicking through an obnoxiously long EULA I was able to click “Create Ringtone” to begin the process.Once clicked the main ringtone authoring pops up. The ringtone authoring interface allows you to select how long you want your ringtone to be (up to a maximum of 30 seconds), and position where you want the start and stop of the ringtone to be within the track. There are also fade-in and fade-out options to help the ringtone sound smoother as it comes to life on your precious, shiny iPhone.

Ringtone authoring screenshot

After previewing my ringtone to my hearts content I clicked the “Buy” button and was charged the ass-raping $0.99 for a track I “already owned”. It’s a pity that Apple decided to cash in on the multi-billion dollar a year ringtone market – offering them for free on any track you own would have been a great differentiating feature for the iPhone.

It’s as easy as Steve made it sound in his keynote address – making my ringtone took less than 4 minutes including a fair amount of fussing around with the preview to get it just the way I wanted it. A quick sync later and now my phone erupts into a glorious chorus that’s far more unique and “me” than any of the included by default iPhone ringtone. Hazaa!

Steve Jobs: PR ninja

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Not only can he keynote like a rockstar, not only can he make the right technology and style choices to please consumers, and not only does he understand and connect with his customers but Steve Jobs knows how to make brilliant business moves. Yesterday he rocked the digital media ecosystem by releasing a whole new line of iPods for the holiday season, but he also dropped the price of the 8Gb iPhone by $200 and dropped the 4Gb iPhone entirely. This move will help move units and solidify Apple’s place in the cellphone marketplace early and strong.

Unfortunately a lot of early adopters were a little peeved to have paid a $200 ‘early adopter tax’, but again Steve managed to turn this around and make it into another business gem: in an open letter to iPhone customers he has promised a $100 store credit to all early adopter iPhone purchasers. This move not only appeases the early adopters, but will help capitalize on the iPod/iPhone halo effect (many Mac switchers introduction to the world of Apple has been an iPod) by encouraging more new-to-Apple consumers to spend a little more money. Yes it’s $100 that Apple won’t make in profits, but how much do you want to bet that a majority of these new customers are so impressed with their iPhones that they go the extra mile and put the $100 credit towards a new iMac, Mac Mini, or Macbook and give OS X a spin as well. Given the margins Apple makes on their computers a $100 hit cuts into profits in the short term, but will likely increase profits in the long terms as more and more consumers “join the Mac club” and help grow the Apple user base.

Bravo Steve, bravo!

The iPhone: laptop competitor?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

iPhone vs. Macbook

I just sat down to watch another episode of the Planet Earth on HD-DVD, and reached for my Macbook only to discover its battery was entirely dead. In thinking back I suddenly realized that whereas once I used both my iMac in the bedroom, and the Macbook in the living room on a day to day basis I haven’t actually touched my Macbook in well over a week. Strangely my iPhone is to blame!

Back in my Windows Mobile days I treasured the mobility offered by my cellphone – being able to check my email and do basic web browsing is a modern marvel indeed, but the experience was clearly that of a cell phone – second rate at best when compared to a full blown computer with a big screen and full-blown keyboard. While checking a movie time on the go was possible (and useful) with Windows Mobile and Symbian devices it simple wasn’t the fun, easy experience one looks for in a portable computing experience.

The iPhone makes it easy to browse the full blown web and communicate quickly without getting in my way that it’s overcome the arms reach barrier and become my device of choice for quick internet tasks even with my perfectly serviceable laptop sitting next to me. Since both devices can accomplish the task with similar ease why reach over and open the laptop when the iPhone is already in hand, just begging to be used. The overcoming of the arms reach barrier has reached further than my living room – I now find myself doing almost 50% of my personal communications via my iPhone.

One might say that not reaching for the laptop is the heights (or depths) of laziness, but I’d much rather point the finger at the wonders of engineering that Apple managed to cram into their diminutive ultra-portable computer, the iPhone.

Is the iPhone honeymoon over? It’s more than two months later and I’m still writing blathering blog posts about how great it is, so I guess not!

A triptych of mini-reviews

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Twitter – I first experienced Twitter back in February and didn’t really get into it at the time, letting my Twitter page fade into distant memory. Recently I got the unlimited SMS textng plan from AT&T and decided to give it another go via my mobile phone – a much better experience all in all. I’ve been having much more fun with it of late – not only are more of my friends on Twitter, but I’ve found new meaning and writing inspiration in the art of concisely crafted content fitting within the 140 character confine put in place by the medium.

iPhone – I still love my iPhone! I’m really surprised at how long the honeymoon is lasting – I’ve had my iPhone for about two months now and I still find myself quietly gibbering about how cool it is. Most gadgets have a 2-3 week honeymoon phase with me before I take a flight of fancy to some new toy, and the best of gadgets sometimes make a month – my iPhone has not only blown past that limit, but doubled it. What makes it so worthy of praise I ask myself: a fun to use, well implemented device that does pretty much everything I need it to.

PAX – The Penny Arcade Expo happened this year in the Washington State Convention Center, a big improvement over the overcrowding of last years shoulder to shoulder overly-olfactory cluster of un-bathing gamers. The extra breathing room this year helped make for a more open experience – much easier to get around. When compared to other technology conventions I’ve been to PAX has a certain charm in that it’s much more focused on the consumers (gamers in this case) than the technology. This leads to a more causal vibe than so many other events.

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