The first screen on your iPhone is usually the place where most users place their favorite or most used apps. The screen on the left is my Home screen on the iPhone. Now let me explain what these apps are in my Home screen. May be you will find them useful yourself.

I will not bother with the Apple built-in apps, since you are probably familiar with them. I will first describe the ones outside the folders then the ones within the Utilities, Social and News folders.

Calvetica

USD2.99 This is my replacement of the built-in Calendar app. It has an elegant display with all the information presented on a single screen.

Without any configuration it picks up all the calendar events that was in my iPhone's Calendar app. Although it is relatively expensive, I think this is a good alternative to the built-in Calendar app.

CameraKit

USD1.99 I use this app as my replacement for the built-in camera app. Mainly because it comes with several features that can make a poorly taken photo look much nicer. Although, with the iPhone 4 camera it is harder to take a bad photo.

This app also has the ability to turn on and off watermarking which is becoming important with so much online photo sharing.

HK Weather

Free The full name of this app in the App Store is "Hong Kong Weather". Since I currently lives in Hong Kong I use this as my replacement for the iPhone's built-in Weather app.

This app displays all the pertinent information from the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) and it is usually updated within several seconds of changes at the HKO site. Now that typhoon season is here, it is helpful to receive weather alerts of Rain Storm and Typhoon warnings right on my iPhone.

This is not the only app that does it, but it is one of the better ones.

Simplenote

Free This is my built-in Notes app replacement. The reason I started using Simplenote is because iOS never used to synchronize notes from the Notes app. Although iOS 3.1.x and 4.x do, I am still sticking with Simplenote.

One of the main reasons is its instant synchronization in the background to the versions on the server, therefore the instant I open Simplenote else where; given an Internet connection, my most up to date notes are immediately available.

I also do not have to worry about backing up my notes as they are always synchronized to my account at the Simplenote service.

Convert

USD1.99 The full name is "Convert ~ the unit calculator" as there is another app of the same name. This is a beautifully designed app from the Tap Tap Tap guys who also made another app, Camera+ (removed by Apple from App Store), I like but falls into my Page 2 on the iPhone due to its lack of watermarking.

Convert is able to convert almost any units you can think of including live currency exchange rates. You may say there are hundreds of conversion apps in the iTunes App Store for the iPhone that does similar functions, so why this one? The reason I stick to this app is because of its ability to perform mathematical calculations right inside the conversion edit field and instantly converts the result.

When you see the user experience (UX) of this app you will fall in love with it as I had.

Things

USD9.99 This is a task manager by the developers at Culture Code, it is based on the GTD (Getting Things Done) system. There is an OS X and iPad version of this app, and they synchronize to ensure all task statuses are up to date.

Since the iOS does not come with any built in task management app this and many other GTD system task management apps are wildly available in the iTunes App Store. The two most popular being Things and OmniFocus by OmniGroup.

Pingle

USD1.99 This is an app that serves as a front end to the Ping.fm message dissemination web service. It allows you to post the same message across many online communities, like: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Jaiku, etc. at the same time, of course only when it is suitable to do so.

I use this when I have a message I want to post to several different communities like an announcement or question.

SimplyTweet

USD4.99 There are many different Twitter clients on the iPhone and I have reviewed several of them in the past, but SimplyTweet is always the one I come back to.

One of the main reasons is its support for multi-account through out the functionalities of the app. There are some areas that still require improvements, but that is another reason why this app stands out among the many Twitter apps in the iTunes App Store. Each time the developer updates the app he lists out almost all the bug fixes and in most cases he will also include new functionalities.

When Apple's Steve Jobs at their annual musical event last Wednesday announces that iOS 4.1 will be available "next week" we all knew it will be some time end of the week as Apple always does. To our surprise Apple UK over the weekend updated their iOS 4.1 Software Update page to say that the update is available on September 8th (presumably US time). Exactly 1 week from when Jobs announced it. Apple UK has since revised their web page to read "Coming Soon" like all the other Apple web sites.

Personally I am eager to receive the 4.1 upgrade. Due to the promised fix for the proximity sensor on the iPhone 4. As for new feature I am eager to receive the HDR capability in the iPhone Camera app without having to buy one of the 3rd party apps to do the same thing.

Over the past years iPod and iPhone capacities have gotten larger and larger. Throughout these times I still advise friends to stay with the smallest size models in the iPod and iPhone lines. You may say, "Isn't larger the better?" Well in this case, that is not necessary true. Especially when people store mostly audio tracks: music and podcast, on these devices.

Some say, "I have a collection of several thousand tracks, how can I store them all on an iPod or iPhone with small capacities." My question to that is, how many hours do you have in a day to listen to audio tracks? For most that is 8 - 10 hours during a normal day.

My suggestion to these people who I recommends to buy the samllest size iPod or iPhone, is to use the "Smart Playlist" feature within iTunes to help select a set of fresh music tracks to synchronize to the iPod or iPhone each day or however frequent.

This above is just an example of the filters (criterions) to use for your Smart Playlist. Of course your filters may be different, but the goals are to not choose too many tracks and to always select new tracks each time the iPod or iPhone is synchronized with iTunes.

The first filter is to choose the list of tracks that had not been played in the past day. You can increase these if you do not mind listening to the same track as the day before.

Next, among these tracks I choose only the ones that I had given a rating of more than 3 stars. How you use the rating system within iTunes is up to you. I personally use it to mark tracks that I really like to listen to or will want to appear on my iPhone.

The "Limit to" checkbox I set the total selection to fill 8 hours and these tracks are chosen randomly. I also checked the "Match only checked items" checkbox, because when I rip (import) a CD I normally rip the entire CD for archive purpose, but I may only like one or two tracks on the CD, so I only check the tracks that I like and leave the others unchecked.

The above Smart Album is only about 740MB in size which means that even for a 8GB iPod I still have a lot of room for customized playlists (ie. "work out"), podcasts and video files.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Yesterday I reported Smartone-Vodafone's (SMV) tariff plans for the soon to release iPhone 4. Not long after my post was published the other competitors in Hong Kong also release their respective tariff plans for the iPhone 4. With the help of @abc1230 (on Twitter) I have created an English version of the spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/iphone4hkplans) comparing the tariff plan offerings from these carriers in Hong Kong.

As we are only 2 days away from the official iPhone 4 release in Hong Kong. One of the three Apple mobile carrier partners, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) released their contract prices for the iPhone 4. Note that the only difference among iPhone 4 sold through mobile carrier partners, Apple authorized resellers and Apple HK store online is that the ones through the mobile carriers comes with a 24-month contract.

There are two hidden costs in the above tariff plans. One is that you must sign up for one or more of the VAS (value-added-service) valued at HKD36.00/month or more. The second is the HKD12.00 administration fee that all subscribers of any carriers have to pay.

Since the HKD12.00 administration fee is the same for all mobile carriers in Hong Kong. The actual price for these contracts are:

(all amounts in HKD) 100MB
Included Data
500MB
Included Data
Unlimited Data
Actual Cost $138 + $36 = $174 $248 + $36 = $284 $398 + $36 = $434
iPhone 4 16GB
Upfront Cost
$3480 $980 $0
iPhone 4 32GB
Upfront Cost
$4280 $1780 $580
Equivalent
Non-iPhone 4 Plan
N/A N/A $298
Actual Cost of
iPhone 4 16GB
N/A N/A ($434 x 24) - ($298 x 24) = $3264
Actual Cost of
iPhone 4 32GB
N/A N/A ($434 x 24) - ($298 x 24) + $580 = $3844

Also none of the above plans includes the SMV's X-Power service, this is a HKD36/month additional charge. So this can be the required VAS you add to your plan.

Although none of the plans states, according to SMV Customer Service, Tethering is included in all three plans. Of course the first two plans will have a data limit the subscriber keep an eye on.

[Updated: July 28, 2010, 15:05] Smartone-Vodafone now informs us that thee prepaid amount for the iPhone 4 are as follows: iPhone 4 16GB = HKD4480 iPhone 4 32GB = HKD5280

The differences between these prepaid amount and the "Upfront" amount mentioned above are rebated back to the customer through the terms of the 24-month contract.

[Updated: July 28, 2010, 20:00] Thanks to abc1230 (aka A網誘) on Twitter for putting together a spreadsheet to outline the different iPhone 4 tariff plans from 5 of the Hong Kong mobile carriers.

I have translated this spreadsheet into English (http://bit.ly/iphone4hkplans), but due to my limited Chinese comprehension there are still some work to do in the translation. Please feel free to contact me if you want to help complete the translation and or help update the information on the spreadsheet.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

As the pending arrival of the iPhone 4 next week (July 30th) and the re-availability of iPhone 3GS 8GB in Hong Kong, the Apple mobile carrier partners, 3 HK and Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) have began to compete in tariff plans.

The only difference between the two plan; from an iPhone user point of view, is the extra 100 free inter-network voice minutes that 3 HK includes in their plans. Both have a 24 months contract commitment.

One very important note to be aware of, is SMV's ability to transcode most Flash video to enable them to be playable on the iPhone while using SMV's 3G network. Such capability is not available to other carriers in Hong Kong.

Note: as a reminder all iPhone sold through official channels are SIM-unlocked, meaning SIM cards from any GSM carrier can be used inside.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Several months ago a reader (Kit) told me about his ordeal with 3 HK; one of the 7 mobile carriers in Hong Kong. From my non-scientific analysis, 3 HK is disliked by many of its subscribers, many of them are friends of mine. Some of them even created Facebook groups, 聲討 3HK iphone 服務奇差 !!!, 3HK PCCW 李氏大財團屈錢噤住黎搶申訴專區, and I love iPhone but I hate 3HK !! to share their dislikes for the company and its service.

Now let me share with you Kit's experience with 3 HK. It started off with his purchase of the iPhone 3G in July 2008. He bought the subsidized iPhone 3G from 3 HK by subscribing to their most expensive tariff plan at HKD498/month, with a 24 months contract. This gave him a "free" ($0 payment up front) iPhone 3G.

When Apple released the iPhone 3GS in July 2009, he asked 3 HK to upgrade to the new model, 3 HK accommodated his request by asking him to extend his tariff plan contract for another 12 months for HKD398/month. Since his HKD498/month plan does not expire until July 2010 the new 12 months contract at HKD398/month does not start until then.

During this second year using the iPhone 3GS he experienced drop calls at his home (Hong Kong Island), at work (Kowloon tourist district) and during the MTR (subway) rides between the two locations. He complained to 3 HK about the drop calls issue over 5 times, each time 3 HK Customer Service's response is that they will get back to him after their technical colleagues investigate his complains. Of course, each time there were no call back from 3 HK Customer Service.

Kit finally proposed to 3 HK to allow him to drop to the lower tariff plan to reflect his lack of use of the iPhone, due to connectivity issues. 3 HK refused his proposal so Kit asked to be removed from his commitment due to 3 HK's failure to deliver the promised service. 3 HK again refuse but counter offer to discount his remaining months in his contract by HKD30/month. Kit did not agree with the counter proposal, but offered to pay the difference between the subsidized and non-subsidized prices of the iPhone 3GS so he can get out of the contract commitment, but 3 HK still rejected his request.

After being frustrated with the whole ordeal Kit decided to write a letter to Consumer Council for help. In the end with the assistance from Consumer Council, Kit was able to get out of his contract 12 months earlier by paying the difference between the subsidized and non-subsidized prices of the iPhone 3GS.

The lesson here is not to allow any corporation to push you around when you are not receiving the service or product promised. Be persistence in your search for a resolution and if needed seek Consumer Council for assistance.

Hong Kong mobile carriers are notorious for treating its customers poorly but among the 7 carriers there are a couple who have shown signs in the past several years to do better. I am sure by speaking to your friends you will know who these two carriers are.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Before I begin I want to review what happened last night (HK time). Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs held a press conference about the iPhone 4 antenna issue at Cupertino, California.

He claims that the iPhone 4 antenna issue is common to all modern day mobile phones and showed videos of the fact.

Having said that Apple will give out free cases to all iPhone 4 owners. For any users who had purchased Apple Bumpers Apple will refund these users. But Apple is not able to make enough Bumpers so they will source other cases, and make all these cases available for iPhone 4 customers to apply for on Apple.com starting next week. Apple will evaluate the situation on September 30th and assess if this program needs to be extended.

During the press conference Jobs also confirmed that the iPhone 4 second phrase launch is on schedule and will happen on July 30, 2010. Many of you already know about this from my previous report, but now we have an exact date. One thing changed in the iPhone 4 second phrase launch is the omission of South Korea from the list of original 18 countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

I still recommend you wait for the general availability of the iPhone 4 in late August and purchase from Apple store online or from one of its authorized resellers in Hong Kong. The only differences for purchasing from non-mobile carriers are, you will have to wait about a month more to get your iPhone 4, and most importantly you do not have to commit to a 2 year contract.

If you choose my recommended method of purchasing your iPhone 4, you will need to know that none of the mobile carriers: Smartone-Vodafone (SMV), 3 HK and PCCW, that offer micro-SIM cards are giving them out to customers who do not own an iPhone 4. So there is no way for you to get a micro-SIM before the massive influx of customers demanding them, nor to get these micro-SIM ahead of the delivery of your iPhone 4.

I think these decisions of the mobile carriers are wrong, but I think it is due to the limited quantities the carriers have in their inventory at the moment. Hopefully these practices will change later when supplies become more prevalent.

Another reason to wait before you buy an iPhone 4, is due to Apple setting a deadline for iPhone 4 customers to receive free Bumpers. I speculate that the September 30, 2010 deadline may be the date they gave themselves to come out with a design modification to the iPhone 4.

In either case Hong Kong is still the best place to purchase an iPhone 4. This is because Hong Kong is the least expensive place in the world to purchase any Apple products, as proven again by the list prices of the official HK iPad. It is expected that the iPhone 4 (non-subsidized) prices from Apple store online and its authorized resellers will also be around those non-subsidized prices from UK, France and Canada; the three other locations also selling SIM-unlocked iPhone 4.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

If you think the iPhone camera is not up to par, you may want to think again. Lee of FStoppers.com decided to proof that you can take very beautiful fashion shoot style photos with any camera, even the one from his iPhone 3GS. So he recruited a few friends.

You can check out the before/after versions of the above photos on their Flickr page.

Lee and friends also documented the photo shoot in a video.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOoGjtSy7xY

If this is the kind of results a group of professionals can do with an iPhone 3GS, imagine what they can do with an iPhone 4.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Like Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) last week, 3 HK also begins to accept registrations for the iPhone 4. Unlike SMV, 3 HK has the foresight to ask for more details from the potential iPhone purchaser. Like, colour and capacity of the iPhone 4 they intend to purchase. Not sure why SMV did not ask similar questions, since these information will give the carrier a much better idea of the different models of iPhone 4 to stock. It could also be the experience of 3 HK as Apple Carrier Partner for the past 3 years, but SMV had also became an Apple Carrier Partner in Hong Kong since earlier this year. Another reason SMV did not ask specific questions from its potential customers may be the limited supply of iPhone 4 Apple HK has prepared for the initial launch in Hong Kong. Given the high demands in the 5 initial launch countries and the number of countries (9) in the second phrase launch.

For either carriers there are no commitment on the part of the registerer to purchase the iPhone 4, so in anticipation of the high demand will people register with both carriers?

Remember all iPhones sold through official retailers in Hong Kong are SIM-unlocked. The iPhone 4 is expected to be the same, along with the iPhone 4 sold in Canada, France and UK.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

Recently you may have just purchased one of Apple's latest gadgets, the iPad WiFi+3G, from the 9 countries officially selling them, or plans to get one of the iPhone 4 from either Canada, France and UK. This is because all iPad WiFi+3G (except the ones sold in Japan) and iPhone 4 sold in Canada, France, UK and Hong Kong are SIM-unlocked. Meaning they will not be locked to a particular GSM carrier, therefore users can choose to put GSM SIM cards from any carriers into these devices and they will work. That's true with a small exception, these GSM SIM must be the micro-SIM format rather than the more commonly used "mini-SIM" among GSM carriers around the world.

At the moment micro-SIM cards are only available from 3 HK, but these cards are for data access only and does not include voice capabilities. For Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) and PCCW they both offer micro-SIM cards but only for customers who have subscribed to their data tariff plans and without voice capabilities.

So if you're looking for a micro-SIM to put inside your iPhone 4 from one of the Hong Kong carriers, you will have to wait until the official launch of the iPhone 4 in Hong Kong. Fortunately Hong Kong is one of the 9 countries in the second phrase iPhone launch initially planned for July 2010, but recent sales and high demands in the 4 initial launch countries may cause the second phrase to be delayed.

I had contacted SMV and PCCW and they both tells me that they have no availability date for micro-SIM card, only that both will have micro-SIM cards when the iPhone 4 is officially available for sale in Hong Kong.

If you cannot wait, the alternative is to convert your existing mini-SIM to a micro-SIM card. It turns out the contacts for these two types of SIM are the same. The only different being the dimensions of these cards 15mm x 25mm (mini-SIM) compared to 12mm x 15mm (micro-SIM).

The following step by step instructions are from iHackintosh.com and they are provided here for your convenient. There are no guarantee by iHackintosh.com or myself (Vinko.Com). Also note that most carriers charges a fee for replacement SIM cards.

What you you will need are: mini-SIM, marker pen, ruler, sharp cutter and filing tool (Nail File).

  1. Get a GSM mini-SIM card. Your existing GSM SIM card will do.
  2. Mark the mini-SIM with the dimensions of the micro-SIM card (12mm x 15mm).
  3. Make initial cuts along marked lines with a cuter, bend along the cuts and then finish with a scissors.
  4. Use the file to file down the conners and edges.

If you ever want to use this newly created micro-SIM card in a device that only accept mini-SIM cards like the original iPhone, iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS. You can purchase a micro-SIM Adapter from Vinko's Treasures for USD5.15 including worldwide shipping.