Tag Archives: iPhone

The iPhone 4 Just Needs One Thing…

IMG_0896 I just couldn’t afford to wait 4 weeks for my damn free bumper. The new smaller form factor caused the phone to slip out of my holster today. Can you imagine if I’d lost the phone? It’s not worth risking it, so I picked up one of the cheapest I could find at Best Buy and, frankly, it makes the phone 100% better.

Not only did it completely resolve any variable signal issues, but it now fits in the holster and the unpleasant edges are softened just enough that the phone now feels great in my hand.

Plus, it’s green and I like green. A Lot.

iPhone 4 and bumpers

Back on July 17th, I ordered an iPhone 4.

I knew about the so-called antenna-gate problem, and I waited until Uncle Steve gave the word for free iPhone bumpers/cases to mitigate the problem. I’d also been down to the Apple Store and checked out the issue myself. Even inside the Apple Store it was apparent that signal strength was distinctly altered by the way you held the phone, but, the potential for problem that this might cause versus the benefits was not sufficient to stop me from ordering one. Especially since I had always intended to have some form of bumper case on the iPhone 4. It was clear that Apple would be supplying free bumpers, but details of how that would happen were not yet announced.

Now I can tell you why their plan blows.

I was given an estimated delivery date of August 12th because of the backorders! I would have ordered a bumper at the same time, but they weren’t available to be ordered (for free of for cost) because of the pending free bumper program.

So, would I just get a bumper along with the phone? No, when the details of the program were released, it turns out you have to download an app for the iPhone 4 and order from there. I heard a lot of people say how clever that was. Bullshit, it was.

Until I received my phone, I wouldn’t be able to order the (necessary) bumper. Inconvenient, but I supposed I would be able to live with it for 3 or 4 days until my bumper could arrive after I ordered it.

Last Monday I received shipment notification that my phone had left China, arriving on August 9th, although the Fedex website said August 10th. It arrived in Alaska by Wednesday and there it stayed, and was, according to their site, still in Alaska when I left work Friday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when it was sitting in my house when I got home 30 minutes later!

For grins, I checked the Fedex website and my phone was still in Alaska. 2 hours later and the website was updated to show that it had been traveling down the coast since Wednesday.

My first order of business was to get the phone activated. When you upgrade an existing phone via mail order, when the new phone is plugged in, it automatically transfers the service from the old phone, and this process was fairly painless. My old phone shut down within 5 minutes and my new phone activated within 5 minutes after that. I restored the backup from my old phone and that, ultimately, took many hours. Once it started to sync music, I got bored with watching my new phone do nothing and cancelled the sync and saved it for bedtime.

Once the phone was in my hands, I started checking all my applications. All my passwords were gone, but that’s a minor inconvenience and probably a “good idea anyway”. Once I got that sorted out, we went out to dinner for some field testing.

Without a bumper, in places, I’m having significant problems with signal strength. On some occasions, when I pull the phone out of the holster, I have no 3G and No Service, which is well frustrating. Setting the phone on the table resolves the problem.

It was imperative that I order my bumper right away. Here’s why the program blows. I’ve already waited 3 weeks for the phone, which I have to have before I can order the bumper. Now, I have to wait another four weeks for the bumper! They need to get phones and bumpers into the customers’ hands at exactly the same time.

I’ve tried using a piece of plastic film over the sensitive antenna areas, and that helps, but it won’t stick, so I’m left holding my phone gingerly and awkwardly, or learning to type left handed while I wait for a glacially shipped bumper.

Enough griping about the bumper issue, lets talk about the phone.

I’m not a fan of the new form factor, which surprises me. I think I preferred the rounded edges. That said, the unit feels firm and solid in your hand, even a bit heavier than the old 3GS, but that may just an illusion. I do like the new buttons.

The new Retina display is awesome. Everything looks crisp and sharp. Even under a loupe it looks great.

The “new” camera produces nice pictures, but the flash and video light has a bluish cast to it. Still, it’s better than nothing. The distance of the flash seems pretty short, but adequate for shots in dark restaurants. There’s a certain quality of being lighted by a flashlight to it. The HD video is very nice, but I’ve yet to determine how much video I’ll actually be able to record, since my phone is perpetually 95% full of music.

Phone calls… I don’t know. I’m not due to make a phone call for a another few days. I’ll let you know when I’m forced to talk to somebody on the phone.

The processor is zippy and it feels as quick as the iPad.

Finally, the big thing is supposed to be battery life. It’s better. Difficult to quantify, though. Last night at about 11, my phone was down to 39% and I hadn’t done a lot of driving (My car stereo charges my phone) so that’s probably a bit better than the 3GS, but I’ve not suffered from the battery problems that other people report, perhaps because I don’t waste my time talking on the phone. I have noticed that when the 3GS has bad signal, batery life is seriously degraded. Since I don’t have a bumper and my signal is all over the place, my battery life may not be up to the capacity it would be if I had a bumper.

I want my bumper.

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Taiwan 2010 – Apples in Taiwan

The changing face of travelling fascinates me. On my first trip to Taiwan, I didn’t have a cell phone, digital camera or laptop computer.

Oh how things have changed!

On this trip, we’re kitted out for every eventuality. Irene and I both have our MacBooks, our iPhones and my iPad.

Linking it altogether, I brought my Airport Express for wireless access for everyone.

You know what? 75% of everything I do is on the iPad. About %15 is on the iPhone and the remaining 10% on the MacBook. If it weren’t for Photoshop and tweaking photos beyond what I can do with Photogene on the iPad (wonderful app!), and recording the Skyped podcasts, I wouldn’t need the MacBook at all.

iPhone 3GS Experience – The “buy”

I haven’t had my new 3GS long enough to really give a good account of what I think of the various upgrades, but I can, at this point, give my opinion on the Apple Store experience that I had getting the upgrade.

For the record, generally, I have had no problems at the Apple Store, and, in the grand scheme of things, my upgrade purchase experience wasn’t as bad as an impacted tooth extraction, but it wasn’t up to the standard I expect of Apple. Here’s how it went down…

I knew that evening that I was going to purchase the 3GS, so I went online to check availability of the model I wanted. I saw that you could pre-process yourself for the upgrade online, so I did so. At the end of the process, you are presented two options (1) Go pick it up at a store, (2) Have it mailed to you at no charge. At this point you have not specified which model of iPhone you’re after.

Since I wanted the phone immediately and live near an Apple Store that had them in stock, I chose the pick-up option. I was a little surprised that as soon as I chose that option I was, essentially, done. No further questions were asked, it simply told me which Apple Stores were nearby my zip code and that I should go see an orange-shirted concierge to complete my transaction.

At the front of (I assume) most every Apple Store are the twin tables of high sales, iPhones on one side, MacBooks on the other. I walked in and trundled right on past the iPhone table and headed for the one orange-shirted concierge visible in the store, who, upon explaining that I had pre-processed myself online for an upgraded iPhone, told me I needed to go back to the iPhone table and talk to one of the “guys” floating around there.

That was strike one. (Hmm, that’s a baseball metaphor. Don’t they have cricket metaphors for this sort of thing? How about, “Going on to hit middle stump, but just slightly pitching outside leg stump”?)

So, I proceeded back to the iPhone table, where there was one Apple employee “floating around.” He was, however, engaged with another customer. A customer who had an iPhone, another iPhone box, a folder full of papers, several of them spread out on the iPhone table, a phone in hand and obviously lots of problems with… something. I never did find out (or care) what.

The thing was, the Apple store guy was helping him. He was answering questions as the guy was on the phone, but most of the time, he was just standing by. After I’d been there for a minute or so, and there was a lull in the Apple guy’s time, I just mentioned to him, “Hey, I know you’re with this customer first, but when you get done, I’m pre-approved for a 3GS upgrade and I’d like to pick up my phone.”

“Great!” he said, “that’ll just take two seconds. Do you have MobileMe?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Oh, that’s great! It’s really useful.”

“Well, I have 6 Macs and the iPhone and it’s great for keeping them all synced up cleanly,” I said, trying to inflate my Apple capital as much as possible in the hopes that the two seconds to upgrade could start right now.

“Six Macs, really?”

“Yeah… about. I’ve got two laptops, an iMac, an eMac, a PowerMac G4… oh and a MacMini, so yeah, six.” (Knowing full well that I gave the G4 to my dad years ago.)

“Cool. Did you know when you buy an iPhone you can get MobileMe for only $69 instead of $99?”

“Well, I’ve already got it.”

“Is it due for renewal? You can still buy it with the phone and get the $30 off.”

Another Apple employee, who wasn’t apparently doing anything, drifted in from over near the MacBooks, and helped, for a few moments to try to sell me on MobileMe… a product I already own… not the product that I had already stated I was there to buy – right this instant, with credit card in hand, if only someone would take my money. Please! Take my money!

Apple guy 2 walked away when someone approached the MacBook table.

At this point, the first Apple guy, who was facing the large glass front of the store started staring out the window. He was staring a particular way. He was staring in that way that you do when you’re looking at hot women walking past the store. His head tracking as they passed.

The funny thing is, this being an Apple Store, for some reason, I didn’t want to look. The look should have been reserved for hot chicks in skimpy clothing but, being an Apple Store… I was a little afraid to look. I had my doubts that I’d see women outside that window. And, not because I had any indication that this particular Apple Store employee… as Stephen Fry put in a speech at Lords the other day, “…bowls off the wrong foot…” but just simply the Apple Store environment seems to divorce people from the ordinary world of human interaction.

“Did you just see what I saw?” he said. Apparently oblivious to the fact that I had my back to the window and was talking and looking at him at the time, in a vain hope that, while his other customer was still embroiled in a somewhat heated discussion on the phone, that he might start that two-second transaction I needed to get going.

“No. I didn’t.” Not asking what it was in a subtle hint that i didn’t want to know. I resisted the temptation to say, “If I had my iPhone 3GS, I could have video recorded it.”

“I just saw a bunch of wizards walk by.”

“Wizards?” I said, thinking I hadn’t quite heard him right.

“Yeah, some friends and I were going to go see Harry Potter at twelve, but I guess that means that it will be full.”

I hadn’t, until that moment, made the Potter connection and thought he was actually seeing “wizards.”

At that moment, the customer ended his call, and the employee went back to talking to him. In just a couple seconds, something had been decided, and the Apple guy had to go into “the back room of mystery” at the back of the Apple Store.

OK, the guy was helping the first customer, and I can’t fault him for taking care of one customer at a time, but the fact that he had time to yak with me and try to sell me on MobileMe, rather than just sell me my phone was strike two…. or, in carrying over the cricket theme, “a thick outside edge that didn’t quite carry to first slip.”

If I’d been writing this in a clever fashion, I would have somehow subtly worked into this narrative a passing, imperceptible comment about how I was wearing a dark maroon, almost dried-blood brown polo shirt. In fact, I probably would have called it brown, if asked. I failed to do that cleverly, so let this paragraph represent the ham-fisted foreshadowing of what’s to come.

While I’d been waiting, talking with the Apple guy, a couple had arrived at the table, and were also clearly waiting for help. Another guy, in a bright red polo shirt, entered the Apple Store and went right to an open phone at the iPhone table. He picked it up and started examining it.

An Apple Store employee swooped on him immediately. “So, you want to buy a new iPhone?”

“Um, yeah, well, I’m interested, but I’m not sure I’m going to get one tonight.”

Apple Store employee looks confused and says, “Oh, they told me to come here and help the guy in the red shirt to upgrade his phone.”

I look at my not-quite-but-sort-of red shirt and realize what’s (finally) happened. “I’m the guy in the red shirt.”

First the Apple Store employee looked at my shirt with skepticism, then recognition dawned on his face… you see, this Apple Store employee, who I intentionally didn’t identify as “Apple guy #” was in fact, Apple Guy 0, the employee in the Orange Shirt that I sought out when I first walked in the door, 15 minutes earlier.

That’s a thin inside edge that dragged the ball back onto his stumps for a wicket. (Really, baseball lends itself much better for this type of metaphor.)

Anyway, at this point I was committed, so I let him finalize the purchase, which didn’t take two seconds, but more like 5 minutes. The phone switchover process might have taken “a few hours” but completed before I got the kids away from the iMacs and was out the door.

As I said, it was nothing in comparison to dental surgery, but it was my worst Apple Store sales experience.

iPhone 3GS

It’s probably no surprise that my refrain around my house is, “I want an iPhone 3GS.”

I also happy to report that, despite not getting one for Father’s Day as perhaps I’d hoped, I did, at least, get a promissory note for one in late July/early August. (The issue is not really the upfront cost of the phone but the ridiculous monthly service cost, which is $15 a month more than the original iPhone.)

First let’s talk about my old iPhone. The 3.0 OS upgrade as not been good for my iPhone. Despite the welcome addition of cut/paste, push notifications and all the other iPhone OS 3.0 goodness, my phone is now dog-slow. Keyboard responsiveness is in the dumps, and often gets 10 seconds behind my typing. Some programs (not all) open at agonizingly slow speeds, and while push notices seem to work fine in the background, my e-mail doesn’t. Sometimes the phone will go 4 hours or more without receiving an e-mail, but as soon as I go into the e-mail program, all my mail over the last few hours suddenly downloads.

I’m going to assume (hope) that these are teething bugs in the 3.0 version of the OS and that a 3.0.1 will be out any day soon (much like 2.0 had very similar problems) to fix them all, rather than the inevitable obsolescence of my original phone. Since there’s not that much technological difference between the iPhone and the iPhone 3G, I can’t imagine that this is the end for the iPhone just yet.

I even went as far yesterday as to wipe my phone and load it from scratch. What a pain in the rear that is! I didn’t want to re-load any problems from my backups, so I had to do the clean sweep and manually re-configure the phone. It took hours. To be fair, it helped a little, but the phone is still not receiving mail regularly and the keyboard starts to lag very quickly. Here’s to the arrival of 3.0.1 (and hopefully not having to wait for 3.0.2.)

So, that said, a co-worker and I went down to the nearby Apple Store and gave the 3GS a good 15-20 minute, side-by-side comparison to my iPhone for speed tests. Wow! Fast barely describes it – and I don’t mean network speed. The new phone has a huge improvement in operational performance. Programs zip open, even Google Earth is more responsive than on my desktop. It’s just one mean, fast phone. I can hardly wait.

Adventures in Objective-C – Part 2

On the subject of the Stanford University (iTunes U) iPhone Programming class.

I had a professor at university who walked in the door on the first day, slammed a book on the podium, and in a loud Germanic accent bellowed, “There will be no stupid questions in this class! The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.”

To my young, impressionable 17 year-old mind, it made so much sense that I thought it almost profound.

The problem is, youthful idealism can be rapidly eroded away.

There are stupid questions. The ones that used to particularly annoy me were when a fellow student would ask the professor a question that had just been covered or had just been asked by a different student and answered by the professor.

I remember sitting in class thinking, “Pay attention next time. You’re wasting my time.”

These unpleasant memories all came flooding back to me during the first few videos of the Stanford iPhone class and I really thought I might have to give the whole endeavor a miss. When I was 17, I didn’t have to take blood pressure medicine.

Fortunately, within the first few classes either the offending students were gone, or they’d gotten with the program. Since then, it’s really been invaluable to my study of iPhone programming. Typically, books have never worked well for me hen learning a new programming language/paradigm/whatever.

Hands on is what works for me but even that needs some “seeding” with some information. The iPhone developing environment/community was stifled for some time. Apple’s (some say) draconian non-disclosure agreement for early developers prevented source code and discussions from appearing on the net. It even prevented books on the subject from being printed. Thorough as Apple’s documentation is, it’s better as a reference than as a starting point. There hasn’t been a whole lot out there until recently.

I’ve completed plowing through “Beginning iPhone Development: Exploring the iPhone SDK” (Dave Mark, Jeff LaMarche) and am most of the way through initial development of my first iPhone application – more on that another day – so I’m not coming at this class completely cold. Nonetheless, it has helped me resolve numerous logical problems with my in-development application. This is not because the detail or content of the course is far-reaching, but simply because…

Let me digress for another moment.

Here’s another thing that I learned very quickly at university. Not all professors are created equal. In the Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering they had two kinds of professors. They had staff professors who carried a typical teaching workload and they had professionals who worked at some of the local companies who came in and taught the 7:20AM classes and then nipped off to to their real jobs.

You could guarantee those 7:20 classes were the best. In Computer Science knowledge and theory are essential but there is no substitute for solid, real-world experience. The professors who had both were awesome.

So back to the class. The two lecturers, Alan Cannistraro and Evan Doll, both Apple employees working in iPhone development, really demonstrate their knowledge of the subject. It comes across best when they’re answering some of those (good and/or not-so-good) questions from the class. More than once, when they switch over to do some code on-the-fly or respond to something that’s just askew from their prepared lecture I have those, “A Ha!” moments that get me closer and closer to understanding.

I feel this class is really a good example of what iTunes U can do. While I’m not exactly sure what the incentive for universities are to put things in iTunes U, this has convinced me to check out some other courses.

I read yesterday that the Stanford iPhone class has had over a million downloads. Impressive. Of course, if that represents 1 million viewers, (which I doubt it does, but we’ll just use that number for giggles) that still means that at least 900,000 will do nothing with what they learn. That leaves a 100,000 who will try and 90-95% of the them will probably have to go buy Macs to do Xcode development on. I can see why Apple seems happy to share its employees in this project.

Book Recommendation – iPhone Development

Since I started programming computers a scant 31 years ago, I’ve had to learn many different programming languages – from ancients like COBOL, FORTRAN and RPG to more modern languages like Java. It’s all part of the game, but undeniably the programming paradigm has shifted beyond all recognition since I wrote that first TRS-80 Basic program all those years ago. They are increasingly more complex.

What I’ve found is that, with each language, there’s usually a key concept or concepts that “flips the light switch” to understanding. My latest endeavor, iPhone programming, involves learning both XCode development methods and Objective C. Objective C being an extension of C and a cousin of C++ – neither language is one that I’ve had much call to use. So, I’m really starting from scratch on this one.

Now, this “flip the switch” concept is probably different from one person to another, and, of course, it reflects certain cognitive biases towards certain forms of language and means of explanation – in short, your mileage may vary.

I was struggling trying to use Apple’s documentation, and even some of the other books on the market were not doing whatever it was that I needed. My latest acquisition, though, Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche’s “Beginning iPhone Development – Exploring the iPhone SDK” has finally done what I needed to do, and the light has finally dawned.

Therefore I’d recommend this book to others looking to get their start with iPhone development. They do a nice job of explaining the (frankly bizarre) drag and drop use of Interface Builder to link the nib files to the Objective C code, which was one concept that was really giving me grief. (It all seems almost logical, now.)

Pity my plans for an iPhone Duckworth-Lewis calculator were scuttled to trade secrets. It’d be a handy tool for non-professional teams for use back in the pavilion.

iPhone OS 3.0 – The Press Missed the Boat

I just watched the Apple presentation on the iPhone OS 3.0 and I was amazed at how lame the reaction of the crowd was.

While they oohed and aahed over cut-and-paste, the practically slept through the most significant change to the iPhone and maybe even computing as we know it.

With iPhone OS 3.0, you can attach an iPhone to a third-party device via cable (and other means) and read and control data from it! You know have an actual field computer that can acquire data. Yes, the examples given were a pair of speakers that you can control the equalizer with, a blood pressure measure that tracks you blood pressure and a blood sugar meter for diabetics, and those were rather yawn-inducing.

But the fact that you can extract data and control a device opens up a whole new universe for the iPhone.

I’m sure there’ll be limitations, like Apple-approved cables only, but there are so many potential implications where someone could simply “dock” their iPhone with a device for a few moments, collect all the data it has, perhaps update it, do calculations – you know, all the things you can do with a computer.

The first thought that comes to mind are reading the data ports on automobiles. Yes, you can buy a device that does that already, and you have to buy the right one for you car, and it reads diagnostic codes, extracts MPG performance, emissions and other information.

Of course, there are data cables to attach that to a laptop, too. But isn’t that technology oh-so-much more accessible on your cell phone?

It’s a game changer. It’s absolutely the biggest new feature in iPhones OS 3.0

Why the iPhone Rules the World – Shazam and SnapTell

I just picked up two new free applications at the iTunes store today and both of them are fantastic beyond belief!

The first is SnapTell Explorer, a program that will, no doubt, get iPhones banned from bookstores inside of 6 weeks. Just use the iPhone to snap a picture of a book, CD, DVD or video game and the image is transferred to SnapTell, identified and links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Wikipedia, Google and other sources are sent back to you. Perfect for when you don’t want to pay $39 for a computer book you can buy for $26 at amazon.com.

I tested this program on about 25 technical books, 5 to 10 old paperbacks, several DVDs and at least 2 video games (WII) and had about a 95% success rate. (And I have some pretty obscure stuff.) This is the application I’ve been dreaming about since the first cameraphone was invented.

Second, not quite as useful to me, but even cooler, is Shazam.

Like SnapTell this is a program to identify and purchase things. Instead of the camera it uses the microphone to record 12 seconds of audio and then identifies the song for you. I’ve been putting this one to the test since I got home and it’s also had an impressive hit rate. It’s only missed one “popular” music genre song – something a little obscure by Herb Alpert. It’s also done a darned fine job identifying music only tracks from various James Bond soundtracks.

Here’s a little story I think I forgot to blog: I watch international cricket and, when possible, English county cricket. In English cricket, there is a song they play when a Six Boundary is hit, it’s an instrumental piece, a rather jazzy trumpet or horn segment. I love that song, I also had no clue what it was. Google searches were to no avail. I put two separate friends who had both resided in England during the 80’s trying to help me identify it.

After a very long afternoon one day, one of them an I spent hours looking at videos, listening to various audio clips, etc until we finally identified this song: Tom Hark, by the Piranhas. In the US, it’s an obscure 80’s song that really never got play here. After identifying it, I was finally able to get the song.

Shazam identified it in 12 seconds.

That’s impressive indeed