I was made aware of the iOS app, Localscope, by Cynapse of India. Initially it looks to be yet another local search app like, Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, etc., fortunately after a closer look I finds out that is not the case.

The app allows you to search among various categories for places mentioned in one of the services: Google, Bing Maps, Foursqaure, Twitter and MacVisions Wikimapia, it is "partnering" with. By partnering, I mean the app utilizes API from the respective services to display search results to the user. During these searches it takes into account the user's location, either specified manually or by the built in GPS of the iOS device. The built in categories are the ones you will expect, but the results from these are fairly inconsistent. For example, there are spots that have Google Places entries and are close by, but do not show up in the chosen category or search term when using the Google search. Not sure if this has to do with whether the spots has Google Hotpot entries.

Unlike most other applications of this kind, it allows the user to manually set a location by turning off the GPS feature, making it easy to plan ahead for the place one is about to visit.

This feature is useful for places where GPS signals are not that accurate; like Hong Kong and other cities with many tall buildings.

An interesting usability feature, is the application's ability to automatically saves previous search terms for subsequent access. To make it even easier to access frequently used search terms or categories the app automatically sorts the terms based on last ("number of") access.

This attention to details extends to the app's utilization of common iOS UI to improve its functionalities. For example, the action of pulling the list down will force the list to update, pulling the list up will load more items.

To make the app a more complete local search tool, it allows quick calls to the chosen spot for iOS devices with communication capabilities. This feature is hidden in the Item's Options reviewed by swiping either left or right on the item, the same capability can also be found within the Item's Details page. Within these Item's Options are features to view the spot on the device's map app or share it via: SMS, email, Facebook or Twitter.

Another unique feature this app has over the others is its ability to utilize the built in compass to show the directions of spots from the user's chosen location in additional to the distance. This gives the user a much better idea on the direction to head towards.

The app also combines features from several other similar apps to offer three different ways the search results can be viewed: List view, Map view or Augmented Reality (AR). The AR view is similar to the one found in the most famous AR iOS app, Layar.

Conclusion

With over 400,000 apps in the iTunes App Store it is often hard to find a new app that demonstrates care and thought by the developer. I am glad to see Localscope [iTunes App Store link] is one of those apps. The developer is asking USD2.99 USD1.99 in the App Store.

[Updated: Feb. 22, 2011] WIth the latest release (v1.2) of the app, the developers added integration with TomTom's Navigon MobileNavigator for turn-by-turn voice navigation to your chosen point-of-interest. In this version the developers also added integration to Facebook authenticate each time.

A good feature to add is the integration with Facebook Places, so uses of Localscope can quickly check into places after setting a point-of-interest as the current location.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

If you are a blogger you are most likely using a blogging platform to host your blog. These blogging platforms will come with web based interfaces for users to compose blog posts. When these web based interfaces are accessed from a browser on the computer this works well, but may not be the case from mobile devices like the iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Of course there are exceptions, which I will discuss later. It is hard to find an app that takes advantage of the capabilities of these mobile devices while supports the functionalities of the blogging platforms. There are two blogging platform specific apps for the iOS devices: WordPress and SquareSpace. The former is the first of its kind and its functionalities are fairly complete, but there are bugs that will sometimes cause the lost of blog posts. The latest version (2.6.3) is even worst, so this is not an app that I will recommend. On the other hand the offering from SquareSpace is very well designed. It has set the standards for all blogging apps in the iTunes App Store.

Then there are blogging apps that support multiple platforms, like BlogPress. It supports the following blogging platform/services:

  • Blogger
  • MSN Live Spaces
  • WordPress
  • Movable Type
  • TypePad
  • LiveJournal
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • Tumblr
  • Squarespace

Since my blog is hosted with a WordPress backend I will only be discuss the functionality of BlogPress with a WordPress blog.

Due to BlogPress' multi-platform support the author tells me that the app cannot support all the functionalities of a WordPress blog. Even though this may be a good reason, this app has some work to do to get the functionalities that it does support more elegant.

One example, is BlogPress' terminology and concept of "drafts". There needs to be a distinction between "local draft" and "server draft" (draft stored on the server, not yet published and marked as "Draft" on the WordPress platform). This has been improved in the latest version of the app.

When the user click on the Save button to save a post, a dialog is presented with a daunting 6 options:

  • Publish Now!
  • Save and Preview
  • Save Local Draft
  • Save Online Draft
  • Save & Create New
  • Discard

It is a bit strange to see "Discard" being one of the options for a "Save" action.

Unfortunately, the "Publish Now!" options are not exactly what they mean. If you click on "Publish Now!" it doesn't always means that the post in questions will be published on the web site managed by WordPress. This depends on the settings in the post's options. Fortunately the "Publish Now!" option has been changed in the latest version of the app to always mean "publish the post, making it live on the site".

Within this options window there is a "Publish or save draft online" section, where you can toggle the "Publish" flag to "On" or "Off". Again this is not too clear, but "On" means "Publish" the post to the web site, making the post "live". The setting in the "Off" position means to only "save as Draft online" within the WordPress system. The behaviour after choosing "Publish Now!" from the Save dialog will depends on this flag. In the latest version of the app this option no longer has an effect, which is a good thing. I think the developer just forgot to remove it.

For new users who are familiar with WordPress, they will most likely avoid the "Publish Now!" button at least not until they are really ready to publish their post live onto their web site. Fortunately BlogPress has coloured this button red to warn users from clicking on it accidentally. I would have place this as the last item in the option window.

When writing a post the author will want to save constantly, because they worry that the revisions will be lost during the creation process. It is natural to want these revisions to be saved back on the server, for WordPress users automatically saving revisions while composing a post is the default behaviour within the WordPress backend.

Having said that, I believe users like me will prefer to click the "Save Draft Only" from the Save dialog. Choosing this option will save the post, and the app will move the post to a section called "Drafts". It is not until the user goes back to their WordPress platform to realize none of the revisions are saved within WordPress. What happened is that BlogPress only saved the revisions locally within its app and never transferred to the user's WordPress platform. "Save Online Draft" which causes the revision to be saved on the server rather than locally on the iPad. This is because in most cases the iPad is not where a user will finish a post therefore they will want to have their post in progress available anywhere they may edit the post, including back on the WordPress backend.

While this Save function is a UX design issue and less of a bug. There are some quirkiness in the app that can drive a user crazy.

After saving a post the app will leave a blank space at the top of the post pane for no apparent reason.

Another bug is the app's inability to autoscroll when the text reach below the current visible line of text.

This caret scrolling issue becomes most annoying when the user clicks on a spot within the post to enter the Edit mode. User expects the app to scroll the text so the spot where he clicks and where the caret is placed should be visible.

Aside from these clunkiness the app does have some niceties. One such example is its Insert HTML feature, which allows quick template insertion of some of the more common HTML used within a post.

The app also allows the user to insert images from the device's Photo Album. This has been greatly improved in the latest version on the iPad. Although it is still not too intuitive as the image inserted only serves as a placeholder. Any adjustments to the size and alignments are not reflected on the post until it is published to the server.

Since BlogPress does not really have a WYSIWYG mode, only images inserted using BlogPress can be seen, any other images inserted using other means the user can only see their respective HTML codes like the rest of the post.

This behaviour is very confusing, since most WordPress users using BlogPress will assume they are looking at the HTML version of their post, except for the few elements that are added using BlogPress. To make it even more of an issue is that images inserted using BlogPress do not follow the standard WordPress CSS styling so any HTML attributes added to the image are not compatible to the CSS styling by the theme used for the blog.

border='0' width='250' height='166' align='left' style='margin:5px'

The CSS and IMG attributes applied by BlogPress when inserting an image to the post.

width='250' class='alignleft size-full wp-image-7310'

The CSS and IMG attributes would have applied by WordPress if using the WordPress backend.

Conclusion

Given the state of BlogPress I do not recommend WordPress users to use it to edit or create new post for their blogs. This is disappointing as the WordPress iOS app is not reliable to trust it either.

Having said that, I do see improvements made by the developer of BlogPress between versions; as explained above. Therefore if you like to support the developer, so we may eventually have a great native app for managing your WordPress blog, you may want to pay the USD4.99 (on Sale right now for USD2.99) that the developer is asking for in the iTunes App Store.

Last November (2010) Jawbone introduced the Jambox portable bluetooth speaker to the world and today CSL introduce it to Hong Kong customers. Although it is similar to the Soundmatters' foxL in terms of technology; it is both based on the technology invented by Dr. Godehard Guenther, the Jambox has a better aesthetic with its minimalist design, it is more attractive to the non-geeks, this is not surprising since the Jambox is designed by Yves Behar. On the other hand the foxL is obviously designed by an engineer. Since the launch of the Jambox, Jawbone has added three more colours to the collection: Blue Wave, Black Diamond (limited), Grey Hex and the latest Red Dot. The sound quality of the both are not bad but the Jambox has less fuller sound compared to the foxL. Fortunately, aside from the aesthetics Jawbone did add its know how in bluetooth, sound cancelations, an impressive voice firmware Jawbone brought over from their Icon line of bluetooth headsets, and most of all a better battery life (10 hours of continuous play). For a portable speaker battery life is one of the most important aside from sound quality.

Aside from acting as an external speaker for music playback and game play, it is also ideal as an external speaker for speaker phone, which Jawbone's noise cancellation technology really shines.

The Jambox is compatible with any devices that support bluetooth A2DP streaming.

Technical specifications:

  • Bluetooth v2.1+EDR (A2DP 1.2, HFP 1.5, HSP 1.1)
  • 3.5mm audio input
  • micro USB for charging
  • Output: 85dB @ 0.5m
  • Frequency: 60Hz - 20Hz
  • AC Adapter: 5V 550mA Max 2.5W
  • Weight: 347g
  • Dimensions: 151mm x 57mm x 40mm
  • All the necessary cables needed for charging and AC Adapter.

CSL also took this opportunity to introduce their Connecting Tone Facebook app. It is a service that allows subscribers to change their CSL Mobile account's connecting tone from within Facebook. The normal Facebook privacy options and sharing options are also available.

Aside from the above, with the introduction of an amazing portable speaker system CSL also announced the availability of exclusive HD Android games from publishers like EA Games in their CSL MyNet Game Zone.

In the US it is sold for USD199.99 through Jawbone's online store. You may find discounts at other online retailers. In Hong Kong CSL are asking for HKD1888.00 (approx. USD243) for it through CSL shops, with the Black Diamond.

The Glif was a Kickstarter project by Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost who had hoped to raise USD10,000.00 to develop a tripod mount for the iPhone 4. In the end of the fund raising he ended up receiving 5,273 backers and raised USD137,417.00 for the project. I am happy to say that I'm one of those backers with USD20.00 + USD8.00 (international shipping to Hong Kong) contribution.

After months of development my Glif came just in time for Christmas. It is made from injection molded rubber with a copper 1/4"-20 thread insert for attaching to any standard tripod head. Aside from using it as a tripod mount you can also use it stand-alone as a portable stand. It can be use in landscape orientation for movie or web page viewing. It can also be use in portrait orientation, which is perfect for FaceTime or alike video conferencing. The Glif is very light and can easily fit into a pocket or purse, making it readily available anywhere and anytime a stand is needed. Anyone can now purchase it directly from The Glif web site for USD20.00 each.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

If you enjoy looking at photos on the Internet you will be familiar with the social photo sharing site Flickr, and may even have an account on it. Aside from Flickr many have also shared photos on the social network Facebook. The user experience for exploring photos on both of these sites are okay but they are rightfully focused on an individual rather than on the photos as they would if it was a photo browsing site, because both are social sharing web sites. Until now there are no tools to view these photos from your social graph on both of these networks together in one place, which the iPad app, Flickpad, is designed just for this purpose.

After you provide your Facebook and Flickr accounts credentials, the app will begin to load thumbnails of the new photos from your contacts on the respective sites. The nice things about this app compare to most photo viewing apps, is that it mimics the metaphor of a group of slides dumped onto a table top. As you can see from the app's Home screen that is exactly what you see. Each photos looks like the traditional slides, and you manipulate the photo slides by dragging them around on the screen. On the edge of the slides there are several useful information:

  • Title of the photo as entered by the photographer/owner of the photo.
  • Name of the person who shared the photo
  • Depending on the service the photo is from you can see either the number of people who viewed the photo (Flickr), or both the number of Likes and number of comments left by viewers (Facebook).

This real life metaphor begins to differ when you start to manipulate the photos. The app takes advantage of the iPad's multi-touch capabilities and created a set of gestures for managing the photos and manipulating them on the screen. Getting familiar with these gestures may take some time. I personally keeps going back to the Info button on the Home screen to review the gestures and I had been using this app for several months; although not daily.

Some of the natural gestures:

  • "Click on a Photo with one finger" = zooms into the photo view, displaying the full size of the photo with details of the photographer/owner and any captions they may have added. On this photo details page there is an option to view and contribute to comments for the photo. There is also an Options menu to enable the user to:
    • Email the photo
    • Open the photo in Safari
    • Even save the photo into the user's photo library

    The Favorite button allows use to add a photo as favorite or Like it depending on the site from which the photo is from; its icon changes accordingly to reflect the function. Initially it may not be obvious but the Slideshow button here will scroll through the individual photos of the set you were previously viewing.

  • "Flick the photo off the screen" = mark the photo as seen
  • "Pinch on a photo" = Pinch out will zoom in a single photo or a group of photos. Pinch in will zoom out or close a view.

Some hidden but useful gestures:

  • "With two fingers clicks on a photo and drag slightly" = will bring all the photos in the album together; remember sometimes there may be only one photo in an album. With the two fingers still on the group you can flick the group off the screen to mark them all as seen.
  • "Pinch" = in many cases you can use this gesture to close the screen you are viewing.

Conclusion

Overall there this is a well polished app for the iPad to address the purpose of browsing photos from Flickr and Facebook. Even if you only want to view photos from one of the two sites this is a great tool. The developer had recently updated the app to make many of the above functions behave even better. If you enjoying browsing photos this is definitely an app to get for your iPad.

Like all apps there are several features on my wish list I will be forwarding to the developer. One very useful addition will be to invoke a 3rd party helper apps to share a link to a photo or album. For example, invoking one of the iOS Twitter app to allow the user to tweet a link to one of the chosen photo. Similar to the behavior in the Mashable iPhone app, but definitely not the way the Mashable iPad app handles this same function.

Also, it will be nice to enable the actual display of the photo in the native service web site within mobile Safari.

Where to Get It

The developer, Shacked Software, is asking USD4.99 for Flickpad Pro available in the iTunes App Store and there is a free ad support version also.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad, review

Over the past 4 years there had been many Twitter clients created for the iPhone, Blackberry, OS X and Windows platforms. With the arrival of the Apple iPad, a new class of Twitter clients arrived. Some recycled what they had done on the iPhone; like TweetDeck, some simply recompiled their iPhone app to run on the iPad. Then there are ones like Infoxenter, a Hong Kong developer, who decides to rethink the iPad platform and tries to utilize the full dimension of the iPad's 9.7" touch screen display. Infoxenter released Twitepad [iTunes App Store link] as its attempt to create a Twitter client for the iPad. Was it successful? I will try to explain below.

Before I get in to the review of the app I want to separate the different types of Twitter users into two distinct groups:

  • users with one Twitter account and;
  • users with multiple Twitter accounts

The current version (v1.31) of Twitepad is really not designed for the latter type users, I will focus this review on the former type users.

The app starts off with two main areas: a column on the left showing the Twitter stream and a wider column on the right which serves as a built-in browser. Unfortunately, this layout is the same for both landscape and portrait orientation of the iPad. As you can imagine when the iPad is in portrait orientation the Browser column is way too narrow.

I agree that having a built-in browser is convenient for viewing links from tweets, but having it stuck in a particular column that the app does not automatically reveal is clumbersome. I am not suggesting Twitepad's developer copy what other Twitter iPad clients (TweetDeck, Twitterific, Echofon, etc.) have done. Although, these other clients' implementations for viewing link's content within a tweet by displaying the web page in a new screen that automatically occupies the width of the iPad screen, along with options to view the said page in Safari on the iPad, share it, send it via email or save to Instapaper, is much more intuitive than Twitepad's approach.

Speaking of the browser column, there are icons in the browser's toolbar that are familiar to the users of mobile Safari. The Stop, Reload and "←" ("Back") behaviours are as expected, but the behaviours of the remaining buttons on the toolbar are not.

Strangely there is a "←" ("Back") button but there is no "→" ("Forward") button. In Safari the "+" button is use to save the current web page to the browser's bookmarks list, but in Twitepad clicking on the "+" button will set the current page as Home page.

On the browser toolbar there is a Tab/Browser icon, in Safari clicking on this button will bring the user to the list of opened tab/browser windows. But in Twitepad clicking on it reviews a thumbnail of a new browser window loaded with the current web page's content. To make this function even more confusing there is an arrow icon in the footer of the browser window. When this arrow icon is clicked, it toggles between "up arrow" and "down arrow". The former will reveals the list of thumbnails showing the opened browser windows, the latter will hide the list of thumbnails. Although, this sounds logical, in practice it results in an awkward UX.

In the browser toolbar next to the URL field is a blue Bookmark icon, clicking on this icon will review the browser Bookmarks, unfortunately this is separate from the iPad's Safari Bookmarks.

The remainder icons in the browser's Footer are the "Twitter" and "Instapaper" icons. The latter saves the current web page to your Instapaper account, but there are no progress indicator so if the network connection is slow or for whatever reason Instapaper did not immediately respond, the web page will be saved multiple times into the Instapaper account. The "Twitter" icon is for when the Browser column is scrolled all the way to the left of the screen as a result hiding all the Twitter Stream columns. Clicking on this icon will slide the Browser column to the right revealing the next left column of the Twitter stream.

There is a group of app settings in the iPad's Settings app, and another group of settings can be found in the Options pane, accessible from any Twitter Stream column title's right most icon.

The set of options available are a combination of settings for the app and the column. Hidden within one of the column setting, "Account", are the settings for the Bit.ly and Instapaper credentials associated with each Twitter account.

Aside from these unusual UI decisions, the features of the Twitter Stream column are as functional as the other mentioned iPad Twitter clients above. It has the ability to Retweet tweets (both new and classic methods), replies to the tweet originator or all mentioned, DM the originator of the tweet, marks a tweet as Favorite, translates the tweet to English, and email the tweet.

Clicking on the Avatar image, the name of the tweet originator or any twitter accounts mentioned in a tweet, will bring up an information pane displaying the vital information about the tweeple who originated the tweet. Information like the tweeple's Followers, Friends, Favorites and Tweets, his bio paragraph, whether the tweeple is following the user and if the user is following the tweeple.

In this information pane the user also have the ability to Follow, Unfollow or add the tweeple to a list. With the latter function it points out the app's lack of consideration for multiple Twitter accounts. The user is only able to add the tweeple to a list from the Twitter account that is currently following the tweeple.

For each tweet that has the colorful Conversation icon, the user can click on it to bring up a pane showing the full conversation relating to the tweet in question.

The other icon you may see within a tweet is the blue "globe" icon (a better icon would be the pin, flag or Google's geo location icon), this icon indicates the tweet is geo tagged. Clicking on this blue "globe" icon will bring up a Google Map showing the geo tagged information.

Clicking the New Tweet icon on the left hand side of the Twitter Stream column title will bring up a pane presenting the user with the options to create a new tweet or send a Direct Message. The only difference is that clicking on the Direct Message option the app will automatically places a "D " at the beginning of the New Tweet pane.

In this New Tweet pane, the options are: add a photo from the iPad's photo album, toggle the geo location for the tweet, add a "@" or "#" symbol to the tweet, delete the tweet, shorten the URL and change the sender of the tweet to a different Twitter account. The icons representing the latter two functions are a bit misleading, this is just one of the examples that this app still require polish and work. One very unintuitive button is the "Bird" icon which happens to be the "send" or "post" button for the New Tweet pane.

One of the app settings in the iPad's Settings app is to set either to use one or two fingers to scroll the columns. Yes, Twitepad has the ability to have multiple Twitter Stream columns, similar to TweetDeck. Unfortunately the navigation and manipulation of the columns are not as intuitive and smooth as those used in TweetDeck. The more columns active the less efficient the app will run. Having 4 Twitter Stream and Browser columns running I found the app tend to crash frequently. In conclusion, this is a good attempt to develop a Twitter client that is different from the others. Has it taken full advantage of the iPad screen real estate to present a great user experience, I cannot say it has. I hope the developer will now focus on deliver a great user experience for each Use Case rather than adding any more functionalities.

Lastly it has recently released a free version of the app called "Twitepad One" [iTunes App Store link] for users who only has one Twitter account. I hope that the developer will give more focus on multiple Twitter accounts after it has improve the UX for each of the existing Use Cases.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesiPad, review

The iPhone has always been a great platform for developers to innovate and invent new uses for the device. Recently L5 Technology did just that with their L5 Remote hardware dongle + iPhone app [iTunes App Store link]. The L5 Remote is an universal remote control. It comes in two parts: a hardware IR dongle attached to the iPhone (3G/3GS)/iPod Touch Dock Connector, and an iPhone app. The hardware dongle cost USD49.95 + shipping and the L5 Remote iPhone app is free from the iPhone App Store.

When you first starts the app you are presented with a blank slate and a row of controls at the bottom of the screen. You can either drag preset controls to the workspace or drag one control at a time to the workspace to design your remote.

One of the controls is the macro control, it can be programed to invoke a series of existing controls to produce a sequence of events upon pressing just one key. For example, turning on the TV, AV receiver and cable box with just a click of one button on the L5 Remote app.

Each set of controls can be grouped into individual panels. These panels can be labeled whatever the user wants. The user can add an unlimited number of controls to each remote workspaces. The remote workspaces can also be labeled by the user.

Most of the controls can be label and these labels are resized to fit the controls by automatically reducing the font size of the label; with a minimum font size of approximately 8 point. The height and width of these controls can also be adjusted as necessary.

After the remote is designed, the user can click on the Assign button in the toolbar to switch the app into learning mode. Of course this learning mode is only functional when the hardware IR dongle is connected. When the hardware dongle is connected the app will automatically rotates 180 degrees; making the bottom of the iPhone/iPod Touch the top so the hardware dongle is oriented upwards.

The controls are assigned by pointing the original device remote to the front of hardware dongle, select the control on the L5 Remote to assign, then pressing the button on the original device remote to copy from. Releasing and repressing the button at appropriate times by following the on screen instructions on the L5 Remote app.

The assignment (learning) process is fairly fast and accurate. The speed in which a control is assigned depends on the original device remote. It works best for remotes which emit IR signal continuously when a button is pressed, rather than those which only emit a signal burst each time a button is pressed no matter how long the button is held.

List of remotes can be chosen either by using the swipe left-right gesture on the screen or by clicking on the Remotes button in the middle of the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.

Using the remote is self explanatory, especially if you have reproduced the labels for each controls from the original device remote. Each time a control on the L5 Remote is clicked a sound will emit and the Remotes button in the toolbar will light up for a fraction of a second. Both of these serve as a UI feedback for correctly pressing on a control.

After using it for a week I found the IR signal from the hardware dongle to be quite directional, and it comes out at a very narrow angle from the end of the dongle. Therefore to use the L5 Remote effectively, one must aim the hardware dongle directly at the device's IR receiver for the signal to be received. This makes the use a bit cumbersome especially when.

The company tells me that in an upcoming release designed remotes can be backed up and/or transferred to other iPhone or iPod Touch. This features is very important especially a number of original device remotes was reproduced on the L5 Remote. I hope in the future L5 Technology will publish predefined remotes with learnt controls like Logitech does for its Harmony Remotes.

If you are in the market for an universal remote, I think the USD49.95 that L5 Technology is asking for is quite worth the money.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

A bit over a month ago Twitter (the site/service) purchased the popular iPhone app "Tweetie". During the announcement Twitter also announces that they will rename the app to "Twitter for iPhone" and reduce the price to free. The name is not that original but that was intentional, because Twitter wants people to find their client of the same name when they perform a search in the iTunes App Store. Since the acquisition the Twitter 3rd party client development community has been shaken up. The thinking from analysts is why would any user pays for a 3rd party client when there is a free official client from Twitter.

With the name change Twitter also changed the icon of the app. I think they have chosen a great icon, because it is the same as the default avatar icon in the Twitter service.

Even prior to the purchase Tweetie 2 users had already have a great deal of anticipation for the next update, Tweetie 3, so they are glad that the newly released app is basically Tweetie 3 with a name change. In this new version of Tweetie (aka "Twitter for iPhone") there are several speed improvements and bug fixes, the most noticeable are:

  • The ability to view tweet Trends without logging into the app. Perfect for the people who only consumes Twitter as a news feed.
  • Supports for corporate Twitter accounts that has their own server.
  • Supports for Bit.ly's new J.mp URL shortener.
  • Supports for customized URL shortener like ones at your own domain.
  • Supports 3rd party image and video hosting sites that are not in the default lists.

Access Twitter Without LoginCustom URL ShortenerCustom Image ShortenerPrivate Corporate Twitter Accounts Recommended ListsAfter logging in with your Twitter account for the first time. The application presents the recommended list of "featured" people to follow in various different categories.

Aside from these new additions, the basic UI of Tweetie had not change too much in this rebranded version of Tweetie.

Like the previous versions it supports multiple Twitter accounts, but it still does not offer the option to view these tweets from different accounts together in the same stream like CoTweet does. Accounts ScreenLoginRead Later OptionsSignup Screen

The previously available set of 3rd party sites and services for URL Shorteners, Image and Video hostings are still there. As mentioned there is now a change in the Bit.ly support to instead use the service's new URL shortener J.mp. Image Hosting ServicesVideo Hosting ServicesLogin Screen

There is a strange UI element in the Accounts Details screen, where an "Accounts & Settings" button is placed at the bottom of the screen after the Lists for the account. The reason this is strange is because users can go to the same part of the app simply by clicking on the Accounts button at the top of the screen.

Aside from this strange UI element allows the user access the account's Profiles, saved Favorites and Draft tweets.

The old favorites are still there including:

  • Swipe to the right on a tweet to quickly bring up the Reply, Retweet, Favorite, Profile, Act on a Link and Quote/Post/Mail/Translate a tweet.
  • Saved Searches

Saved SearchesSettingsSettings: Advanced

Strangely this newest Twitter client still does not have Push Notification like SimplyTweet has for several versions already.

Although at the price of FREE, Twitter has definitely set a high bar for all other 3rd party Twitter clients out there. I hope developers will not give up with Twitter's entry into the client market and continue to innovate.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

Last year I had an in depth review of SimplyTweet 2.3 and later 2.5. With the release of SimplyTweet 3 [iTunes App Store link] MotionObj has improved on a Twitter client that is already amazing. As mentioned in my review last year, many of the features in SimplyTweet 2 were later adapted in Tweetie 2, it is surprising why Twitter did not purchase SimplyTweet instead of Tweetie.

In this latest update, the developer has made some bug fixes but also added the following features/enhancements:

  • Improved offline caching.
  • Faster application startup.
  • Improved Twitter List access.
  • Added new style RT to swipe menu.
  • Added support for tweeting current song (with #nowplaying).
  • Added support for TwitLonger.

I had tried many Twitter clients on the iPhone: TweetDeck for iPhone, Tweetie, TwitBird Pro for Twitter and Twitterrific, but had to go back to SimplyTweet mainly for the following reasons:

  1. First and foremost is its built in Push Notification. Yes, I understand BoxCar is a common solution for applications that do not have built in Push Notifications, but for whatever reasons I never have too good of an experience with it.
  2. Link shortening seem to be the only one that works correctly for me. This is one of the most important feature to me as I share many links among my followers.
  3. Since I manage my Twitter stream using Twitter Lists, SimplyTweet's ability to customize the icons at the bottom is invaluable to me. Although it is a bit limited with only 4 spots, but TweetDeck's implementation is a bit hard to manage also. I hope the developer will improve this UI behaviour.

For more screen shots of the application please see my previous review of SimplyTweet.

I spoke with the developer about the future of SimplyTweet given Twitter's recent purchase of Tweetie and the pending release of an official free Twitter client. The developer tells me that he is still examining the situation.

This sort of thing happens often in the software development community, where independent software developers create applications that link with a service/platform, and the service or platform owners decide to release their own applications. Often this actions eliminate all 3rd party applications for the service/platform, but in many case these 3rd party software developers is challenged to differentiate their application from the official application from the service or platform owners. One such example is BusyCal from BusyMac. It is an excellent replacement for Apple's iCal, calendar application. There are many more examples like this on the Mac OS X platform.

I wish the developer of SimplyTweet luck and hope he can afford to stay on this excellent client. If you too agrees with me, please do spend the USD4.99 that the developer is asking for in the iTunes App Store.

A pair of iPhone app from Omar Rabbolini, an Italian application developer currently resides in UK. These pair of iPhone apps: CantoNotes and Hanzi Lookup, will help Cantonese speaking users not familiar with writing Chinese; like myself, learn to write Chinese characters.

CantoNotes will allow users to enter Chinese characters using the LSHK (Linguistic Society of Hong KongJyutPing standard phonemes input method and CantoNotes will respond with the corresponding Chinese character. Characters displayed can be copy and paste into the built in Hanzi Lookup screen. Rather than using the built in copy & paste feature of iPhone OS, the app use its own Copy and Paste buttons. Although the iPhone OS built in copy & paste feature also works. After pasting the desired Chinese characters into the Hanzi Lookup screen, it will display the Chinese character in a medium size font, along with the Cantonese pronunciation beneath it one character at a time.

Not sure what the built in Hanzi Lookup screen is for, as the shown information is already shown in the main screen of CantoNotes. The program does have a reference in the Hanzi Lookup screen to the iTunes App Store page for the separate Hanzi Lookup app.

The Hanzi Lookup app allows users to locate meanings of Chinese characters in English, plus it provides pronunciations for the Chinese character in both Mandarin and Cantonese, along with the phonemes to enter the Chinese character in JyutPing and PingYin.

The developer is asking a relatively steep USD1.99 and USD0.99 for CantoNotes [iTunes App Store link] and Hanzi Lookup [iTunes App Store link] respectively. Given the functionalities of these application, I suggest you give it a pass.

The maker [Headnix] of the very useful iPhone/Mac application "Finger" has release another new iPhone/Mac application, "Numbric". Numbric is one of those cool iPhone apps that enables the transform of the iPhone into something other than a simple smartphone. This time it converts the iPhone into an external numerical keypad.

Ideal for anyone using the recent models of iMacs that only come with the new Apple Keyboards. These new Apple Keyboards do not have the extra keys and numerical keypad like the old Apple Extended Keyboards. Of course anyone who has a frequent need for number entry and is using a new Apple Keyboard, MacBook or MacBook Pro will find this little application useful.

I always associates Headnix with beautiful UI and elegant user experience, with Numbric they have not disappoint.

The idea of using the iPhone as a numeric keypad is not new; I had used app like NumberKey [iTunes App Store link] in the past, but Numbric does it a bit different.

Instead of just reproducing all the missing keys from an Apple Extended Keyboard, Numbric has the normal 18 keys of the numerical keypad, but falls short of reproducing the remaining missing keys from the Apple Extended Keyboard. It appears omission is the results of the developer's analysis of how users may use the software. In lure of these missing keys Numbric has a set of "symbol" keys that can be invoked by pressing the "$" key in the toolbar next to the keypad. These symbol keys will be very handy during the number entry process.

Speaking of the icons on the toolbar, from top to bottom:

  • The "i" key will bring up the app's Settings screen.
  • The "$" key will bring up the Symbols screen.
  • The "lightning" icon indicates whether the iPhone app is connected to the Mac counter part. Green means it is.
  • The "light bulb" icon toggles the dark and light versions of the keypad.

The process of connecting the iPhone app with the utility installed on the Mac is simply and elegant.

In the Settings screen, there is an option to "Add Connection". Clicking on this brings up a screen that displays 4 digits and ask the user to enter these into the Mac client.

On the Mac as soon as it sees its counter part from the iPhone, will presents a window similar to the above screen asking the user for the 4 digits code from the iPhone. As with Headnix's previous application, Finger, soon after the 4 digits are entered the iPhone and the Mac are connected.

One other setting in the Settings screen is the Auto-Lock or sleep mode on the iPhone. This setting will prevent the iPhone from sleeping and turning off the screen.

There is also a setting to introduce a 19th key, "Zero key", on the keypad. This key can represents either double or triple zeros, which is a useful key during number entry. Another sign the developer has given a great deal of thought about the use cases of Numbric. When this Zero key is enabled the normal "zero" key is reduced in size to make room for this 19th key to the right of it.

For USD1.99 it may sounds a bit steep for this application, but when considering the competitors who are charging the same amount, in comparison Numbric [iTunes App Store link] is well worth it. Especially when you are someone who often have long sessions of number entry and does not have access to a numerical keypad.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

I to come to aware of the iPhone/iPad app, HoloToy [iTunes link]. It is classified as Entertainment in the iTunes App Store. There are a total of ten (10) screens: Fish Tank, Scarab Attack, HoloBall, HoloBot, Cornell Box, The Impossible Triangle, Planet Earth, The Moon, Mars, Jupiter. I guess the developer will refer to these as "toys". Only two of the ten screens are games: "Scarab Attack" and "HoloBall", the rest are 3D images where the user can change the point of view by tilting the iPhone or iPad, or animate the object in some way by tapping the screen.

The developer is not asking much for the app; USD0.99 in the iTunes App Store. I do not believe even that is justified, but USD0.99 is the lowest a developer can charge form an app in the App Store other than making it free. My suggestion to the developer is to drop it to free, add some ads and focus on just one "toy". Make this toy the best he can so it is worth more than he is asking for, then introduce more toys through in-app-purchase.