Imagine this scenario, you're listening to your favorite music track on your Mac and had to leave the house, don't you wish your iPhone or iPod touch can seamlessly carry on playing the track from where you were at in iTunes on your Mac? Or if you were deeply engaged in a podcast just before you had to head out, so you have to wait for the iPhone or iPod touch to synch using iTunes before you leave. This happens to me often especially the latter. Fortunately, Five Details, the 2008 Apple Design Awards winners and maker of Flow, has a solution and it is called Seamless.

This little utility comes in an iOS/OS X duo, a free OS X app and a USD0.99 iPhone app components. The OS X app is a background app that only appears as a menu item on your Mac when running.

Before anything is to work you will first have to pair the iOS app with the OS X app. This is done easily:

  1. Have both the Mac and the iOS device on the same WiFi network.
  2. The OS X app needs to be running.
  3. Starts the iOS app then;
  4. Clicks on the "Add A Mac" option in the iOS app.

The Mac will immediately recognizes its iOS component, and presents a dialog to confirm your action.

Seamless - Add iOS Device

Acknowledge the iOS device by clicking on the Allow button. Now the Mac will become one of the Near By Macs in the list within the iOS app. There does not appear to be any limits to the number of Macs the iOS app can be paired with or vice versa.

Seamless - Track To PlayWhile the OS X app runs in the background it monitors the currently playing track in iTunes. When you have to get away from your Mac all you have to do is start the Seamless iOS app on your iPhone of iPod touch. The iOS app will immediately picks up the current playing track from iTunes on your Mac and presents you with a large button to "Transition music from Mac".

Clicking on the "Transition Music from Mac" button will immediately plays the track in the iPod app within your iOS device. Of course the said track will need to be already on your iOS device. Seamless will not magically transfer tracks that are not already on the iOS device or the Mac.

Seamless - Track Not Found Seamless - Transition To MacIf the track is not found the iOS app will show a screen telling you to synchronize your music between the Mac and the iOS device.

Note: currently Seamless can only recognize tracks within a Playlist synchronized between the Mac and the iOS device, but this bug should be fixed in the next version.

Going from the iOS device to the Mac is just as seamless. An added bonus is that the iOS app will quietly fades away the track on the iOS device while it transition the track to the Mac.

Overall this is a well polished 1.0 app for from this award winning developer. For the inexpensive price of USD0.99 it is well worth it to have this function that Apple should have built into both OSs.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/20154325[/vimeo] Seamless from Five Details on Vimeo.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

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

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