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.

dkny-logoWith the iPhone's popularity growing every company out there are trying to think of ways to get in onto the platform and hype. Some of these companies deliver their online services to the iPhone and others used their custom developed iPhone application simply as an advertising tool. The latter are the ones that fail and turns out to be a waste of resources to create.gucci-logo Now fashion brands are jumping onto the bandwagon with DKNY and Gucci each creating their own iPhone application to promote their respective clothing lines. The former actually trying to offer advice to its users on the Cozy wrap in its iPhone app. Now Kipling is trying to get in on the hype with its Kweather iPhone application. Kipling's application displays the local temperature, which is not that accurate (not sure of its source), and a built in function to help locate the closest Kipling outlet.Kipling-logo

Although all these applications are free, I believe only the biggest fanboy of the respective brands will download these application as they really do not offer too much for the average iPhone user.

I think companies should take the necessary time to analyze the added value of their iPhone application and all associated Use Cases before spending the efforts and resources to create an iPhone application.

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

MissionsNASA iPhone App LogoNASA is an iPhone application released by USA's National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It is loaded with all sorts of information about the past and present missions of NASA, and is ideal for space enthusiasts plus anyone who has a slight interest in space exploration and wants to find out more.

ImagesVideosThe organization of the information presented in the application is very intuitive. One can search the content based on a particular mission or scan through the image and video libraries. While scanning through either of these libraries, one can search using keywords or filter the images and videos by source of the videos.

TweetsFor images NASA included images from the Hubble Telescope.

You can use this application to track path of any NASA satellites include the International Space Station.

NASA included Twitter feeds from its various Twitter accounts it has. These can be accessed either from the dedicated Updates icon in the bottom toolbar or from within a mission or satellite's page.

With a price of FREE this is definitely a must download from Apple's iPhone App Store for anyone who are interested in space exploration.

Hong Kong 720º LogoToday Thomas B. (@thomashk) introduced me to an iPhone application, Hong Kong 720º, released by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). It is designed to promote Hong Kong attractions while assisting visitors with locating famous tourist spots, and getting a virtual tour of the attractions before they arrive to help plan their visits to Hong Kong. Best of all this application is available in the iTunes App Store for free. The application contains QuickTime VR tours of all the major tourist locations, including Google Map of the location, English and Chinese phrase for the tourist to show taxi drivers or others when they are lost, recommended travel directions, and photo gallery of the tourist attraction.

Additional to tourist attraction information, it also contains tourist promotional videos of Hong Kong, locations of the Visitor Centers around the city, important telephone numbers for any travelers.

It is very encouraging to see an Asian government body adapt new technology to promote a location to the world.

This application was released by HKTB back in May 31, 2009, and since then there were 2 updates. Unfortunately, I cannot find any mention of this application on the HKTB web site, and none of the first two result pages from a Google search included pages from HKTB web site. When I went directly to HKTB web site the only page the mention the iPhone resulted is a 404 Error (page not found).

On one hand it is good to see that HKTB spent the effort (and money) to create the application, but it is unfortunate, they they did not promote the application; not even on their own web site.

Hong Kong 720 - Information Hong Kong 720 - Phrase Hong Kong 720 - Google Map

AutoStich LogoI was introduced to this cool little iPhone application, AutoStich, that enables easy creation of panorama (pano) photos on the go. AutoStich Select PhotosMost pano maker applications on the Mac or on the iPhone (like PanoLab Pro) require the user to painstakingly aligns the different photos that make up the final pano image, including skewing any photos to adjust for the distortion (parallax), a side effect of not rotating the iPhone on the pano pivot point of the lens.

Amazingly, AutoStich does not require any assistance from the user, plus it is able to reorder the set of photos to their correct order, to ensure a smooth alignment of the final pano image.

At the price of FREE this little iPhone application is definitely worth more than its developer is asking for.

AutoStich Panorama Photo

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

TweetDeck LogoI had been using Twitter for since 2006 and the iPhone since its initial release in 2007. Through out these times I had been searching for the ultimate Twitter client on the iPhone and on my Mac. Before I can get into the review of TweetDeck for iPhone, I have to provide some context. To understand this I must first explain my personal requirements.

My requirements for a Twitter client are quite different from the average Twitter user, but they should be very similar to most people in my situation. I personally do not believe in gaining as many followers as possible for my personal Twitter account, but more the quality of the people (peeps) I follow. Of course, that's another story for the company Twitter accounts I manage. As a result the timelines for the different Twitter accounts I manage are huge and the updates fly by very fast.

So the following are the desired features I look for in any Twitter client:

  • The ability to support multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Since I value the quality of the peeps I follow, I also use Twitter as a source of real time news feed. At the time of writing I am following 1022 peeps; many of them are companies, entities and news accounts. So the ability to place these peeps into groups so that I can read their streams in an organized manner is very important. Otherwise, it is too overwhelming for me to follow so many peeps.
  • The ability to synchronize across devices (Mac <-> Mac, Mac <-> iPhone) is important, since I organize; place them in groups, and add peeps I follow on all different devices.
  • With any popular services on the web they always attract SPAMmers so having the ability to block and unfollow people is important.

I had not tried all the Twitter clients on the iPhone but had tried many free ones: TwitterFon, TweetStack, Twitterific, Nambu, NatsuLion for iPhone, Twinkle and Twittelator, with TwitterFon being my iPhone Twitter client of choice until now. Even though TwitterFon has many of the features I needed, it did not have the support for multiple accounts and Group feature that I needed to manage my timelines.

The Review

TweetDeck had been a great client on the computer desktop written in AIR, and had been my desktop Twitter client of choice on my Mac. Today they released their first iPhone client.

TweetDeck Multiple ColumnsOn initial impression, it definitely does not look like a 1.0 application, but it may be a client too overwhelming for the casual Twitter users.

TweetDeck team had done a great job translating the multi column UI of their desktop application to the iPhone. The multi column is how TweetDeck shows the different groups' timelines the user sets up, including any custom searches. Showing multi columns is not new for a Twitter client. TweetStack had tried but really failed in offering a refined UX in their attempts. You can read about their attempts in my review, as it appears the application itself has been removed from iTunes App Store.

The TweetDeck UI is very iPhone like. For example, from the Home screen the user will use the familiar iPhone swiping gesture to switch between columns. There are the familiar dots near the bottom of the screen to show you which column you are looking at; a bit Palm Pre like with its cards metaphor. At the Top Toolbar is a large Yellow New Tweet icon; which appears on almost all panes, when click will bring up the pane allowing you to enter a new message (tweet). Also tugged a the very top are the statistics of the Twitter API calls and when the counter will be reset.

At the very bottom there is a Toolbar. On the far left, the Update icon shows the total number of new tweets across all your timelines. Followed by a Refresh button, which you should not hit too much, fearing that you will exceed the Twitter API hourly limits. Next is the button to add more columns, but there is a limit like its Desktop sibling of 10 columns, including any saved search columns. After than is the Settings button which brings up the Accounts & Settings pane. Lastly is the More icon which slides up two buttons Quick Follow and Sync Columns. More on those later. The Update and More icons in the Bottom Toolbar is constant on almost all panes.

TweetDeck Accounts & SettingsA few versions ago the Desktop sibling introduced the connection to a user's Facebook timeline, but here this appears to be omitted. On the Accounts & Settings pane is where you add login credentials for multiple Twitter accounts. I trust that these account credentials are not part of the information that synchronized to the TweetDeck server. Which brings up the feature of setting up a TweetDeck account to allow your Group settings to be synchronized across TweetDeck clients. Having a TweetDeck account is not necessary to user the TweetDeck client on the iPhone or on the desktop, but without it you will not gain the benefits of cross client synchronization.

This synchronization appears to be still at 1.0 caliber I added peeps to Groups on the Desktop client and they did not get reflected on the iPhone client. The only times that they synchronization appeared to work are when there there were no columns at all accept for the initial ones and when a new column was added. Given that this is version 1.0, I would expect some glitches.

TweetDeck Multiple AccountsSetting up multiple Twitter accounts in the client was very simply. After the credentials are verified, the list of added accounts are displayed.

Though I do not have so many Twitter accounts that I can test the maximum number of accounts you can add to the list, but I expect that would not be a problem for most users.

Clicking on the right arrow brings up the pane that allows you to edit the credentials of the account and TweetDeck performs a validation after the change, so you will need to make sure you have a network connection when doing so.

TweetDeck Single ColumnGoing back to the Home screen of the application you can click on any column to zoom (bring that column) into focus.

There is a HUD notification on the top left hand corn when timelines are updated with new tweets.

Clicking on the Updates icon on the toolbar at the bottom will either show the number of new tweets in each timelines or a message indicating there are no updates. In this same menu is also where the user can mark all the tweets in each of the timeline as seen.

Earlier I mentioned that the user can use the iPhone's swipe gesture to flip between columns (timelines), when the user is viewing a particular column they also have the option of clicking on the large arrow near the bottom right corner to flip through the columns.

You may think the arrow is too large that it covers part of the tweets, but since you can click on the tweet to open up the TweetDetail pane to view the details of the tweet this becomes a minor annoyance.

TweetDeck Tweet Details

The TweetDetail (I think this should be called "Tweet Details") pane is where you see the details of the tweet. Information like who it is from, the sender's Twitter account, the location of the sender and the tweet itself.

Here is also where you find all the actions you can perform on the tweet, like: Reply, Send a DM to the sender, Retweet (RT) the tweet, send the tweet as email to someone, and mark the tweet as Favorite.

In the Top Toolbar is a button to return to the timeline where the current tweet appeared, and the familiar Yellow New Tweet button.

In addition to the Update and More icons in the Bottom Toolbar there is a icon to bring the user back to the Home screen where the user can flip through the list of columns (timelines).

Although there is an arrow on the right of the Sender Profile summary, you can click on anywhere on the grey area to bring up the peep Profile pane.

TweetDeck Peep ProfileThe peep Profile pane is where you can see a peep's Twitter bio, his real name as entered in his Twitter account, his Twitter handle, the number of followers he has, the number of peeps s/he is following, and you can also bring up the peep's most resent tweets.

The actions you can perform are numerous for most Twitter client. The typical send a public message, send a DM and stop following this peep are there, but TweetDeck also added blocking and unblocking the peep. Of course it also has the functions to add/remove the peep to/from any Group the user has defined.

Again the familiar and consistent 4 icons positioned in the Top Toolbar and the Bottom Toolbar are here also.

Clicking on the Yellow Tweet icon in the Top Toolbar will bring up the New Tweet pane.

TweetDeck New TweetThe New Tweet pane needs very little explanations as it is similar to any Twitter client.

The one things that is strange is the lack of a function to bring up a list of the peeps the user are following to allow for the reference of peep(s) in the tweet.

On the Desktop version of TweetDeck, entering the "@" or "d" character will bring up a auto fill list generated from the list of peeps the user is following, which is quite handy. I hope this was an oversight.

Although, I do understand their potential design logic, where new tweets that are not replies or RTs do not usually have peep references. But I don't think TweetDeck should restrict this use of the New Tweet pane. For example, I often add peep references to a new tweet originated by me to call attention to someone about my tweet. Another would be in FollowFriday.

On the left side of the Bottom Toolbar indicates the Twitter account being used to send the tweet. Clicking on the name of the account will cycle through the list of Twitter accounts the user had associated with TweetDeck. Next on the Bottom Toolbar are the icons to allow you to Add a Link, Add an Image, and Add a Location.

BUG: In the current version, the Add a Link function does not seem to work. Clicking on it does nothing.

It is a bit awkward that to send the composed tweet the user has to move his hand up to the top right hand corner of the screen to click on the Send button. This is again understandable, since the "return" button on the virtual keyboard is use to create  a new line in the tweet, which very few users would do, but without two hands abd a modifier key as in a real keyboard. The strange thing is that the Desktop version of TweetDeck does not use a modifier key and hitting the "return" or "enter" key in that version will send the tweet.

TweetDeck Add New ColumnAfter the sending of a tweet the application will return you to the last pane you're on. Which is another nice touch to make the who interaction much smoother.

On the Home screen of TweetDeck there was an Add Column button. Clicking on this scree will bring up the Add New Column pane.

Here you can choose the account the column (timeline) is associated with, the type of column it is: User Group, Twitter Search or All Friends.

The Twitter Search type column will  ask the user to enter a search phrase to perform the Twitter search and then use the phrase as the name of the column.

Obviously the All Friends type column does not have any options and only one of this kind of column is allowed.

The User Group type column will ask the user to provide a name for the column and offer the Select Users button to add members to the Group.

BUG: Unfortunately, this group adding feature crash the application for me in the current version.

BUG: Matter of fact, in the curernt version, anything actions relating to the alteration of Group memberships will crash the application.

TweetDeck Synchronization

The other icon consistent in the Bottom Toolbar is the More icon, which brings up two buttons: Quick Follow and Sync Columns.

The Quick Follow feature is not available in many Twitter client. It allows ad hoc entry of a Twitter handle (Username) to begin following the peep.

The Sync Columns button initiates the synchronization of the columns between the iPhone application and the TweetDeck server.

If the synchronization process finds any differences, it will first presents a list of these changes. Giving the user the option to apply the changes: addition or deletion, or not.

TweetDeck Settings

This is one of the most useful feature that any Twitter client can have, especially for ones that have an iPhone and Desktop versions.

Earlier I mentioned that the user can add images and links to a tweet. TweetDeck allows the choice of image hosting service, but at the moment these choices are between the popular TwicPic and the new comer yFrog. Strangely it does not offer any choices for URL shortner service like it does in the Desktop version.

Conclusion

We had not seen a Twitter client of this caliber since Tweetie for Mac. TweetDeck has definitely raised the bar on Twitter client quality, functionalities and UX. From now on any Twitter clients that do not at least match the features of TweetDeck for iPhone will be seen as under par. Of course, these new clients will also have to have a very polished UI with a even better UX to win demanding iPhone users' hearts.

If you are just getting into Twitter, I recommend you use TwitterFon for now, at least until you are familiar with all you can do with Twitter. When you are comfortable then graduate to TweetDeck for iPhone at a later date, or before you jump in you can give TweetDeck a try on your computer.

Eveeryone else what are yo waiting for? For the price of TweetDeck for iPhone, FREE, how can you go wrong? Go get it now on the iTunes App Store.

EatWillGrow Game ScreenEatWillGrow is another one of those retro arcade style game with a twist. The goal of the game is simple as with others games of this genre. You have a little green ball figure; with a smily face, that you manipulate on the screen collecting different sizes balls, while trying to avoid land mines; diamond shapes with red dot, if touch that will be game over.

The balls you collect come in different sizes and they flow down the screen in various patterns. I wish these patterns are random but they are the same each time. Mixed in the field of balls are bonus balls. Some of these balls when captured can slow down the game offering you a moment of rest, and others will speed up the game so that it can be even more challenging.

If that is all EatWillGrow does, it will be no different than the many cheap games on the NDS, fortunately there is more. How can an iPhone game, with any salt, be sucessful without using some of the native capabilities of the iPhone?

In the game you can choose to use the Steve Jobs stylus (your finger) to manipulate the little green ball figure around the screen, but that will be too lame even for the iPhone. So the devloper offers the player the option to use the iPhone's built in accelerometer for manipulating the little green ball figure.

To move the little green ball figure around the screen, you can tilt the iPhone in the direction you like the green ball figure to move. But I find this analogy a bit hard to get use to, as it is more natural to have the opposite behaviour. Although after several sessions or after reading my instructions here you will start to get use to this behaviour

EatWillGrow Send Score to Twitter

This is not enough for the developer. He also implemented a viral marketing element into the game by allowing each player to tweet his score onto Twitter.

As with any retro arcade style game, like Sticky Licky that I reviewed in April, the ultimate goal for the player is to get onto the top of the players ladder board. Again the developer took a different approach by comparing the player's score with others on the Twitter network, and then announce to everyone on the network how many more points the player needs to move up the ladder board.

All these approaches serve to promote the competiveness of the game and to convert each player into a marketer for the game every time the game is played. For this, I say the developer Kode80 is brilliant!

In conclusion this little game is well worth the USD0.99 the developer is asking for in iTunes App Store.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

Sticky LickyFrom the folks at Vision Wise Inc. comes a game called Sticky Licky. It is as addictive as any of the old arcade genre games you spent hundreds of quarters playing at the arcade parlor in the 80's.

What it reminds me of is the old "Space Invaders" game. Of course, with much better looking graphics, even though Sticky chose to adapt the hand drawn simplicity style graphics.

Sticky is simple enough to play, even if you do not want to drill into its, built in multi pages, instructions. All you need is to arm yourself with the knowledge that clicking on the toad will extend its long tongue to draw insets into its mouth. Eating different types of bugs will score different points, and the goal is to get as high of a score as possible to reach the next level in the game. Sticky also takes advantage of the iPhone accelerometer for its game play. Titling the iPhone to the right will cause the head of the toad to look to the right, and tilting the iPhone to the left will cause the toad to look to the left.

Sticky Licky Level

There is even an arcade style ladder board to compare your score with the scores among the players who played on your iPhone.

If you achieved the highest score on your iPhone's ladder board and you like the humiliation, then with a click of a button in the ladder board, you can compare your score and ranking among the players in the online ladder board.

Not sure how many levels are there in the game, but I reached Level 7 with my high score, and at the time of writing I see a person at the top of the online ladder board who reached Level 19 with a score of over 1.6 million.

If you take some time to read the instructions you will find tips and tricks to gain higher scores allowing you to move up on your local ladder board and may even challenge the standings of the leaders on the online ladder board.

This is not only a great time killer, but also a fun and additive game. Well worth the USD1.99 that Vision Wise is asking for on the iTunes App Store.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, review

I got a copy of the iPhone application called "Poddio" created by the fellow Canadian, iPhone developer, VeriCorder Technology Inc. in Kelowna, British Columbia. Poddio is an audio recorder with built in audio editing functions that you can only expects from a desktop application, at least until now.

Poddio Home Screen Poddio Record Screen

Even with the upcoming Voice Recorder application built into iPhone firmware 3.0, it will not make this application obsolete. Actually according to the developer, "firmware 3.0 will allow us to bring enhancements to Poddio that was more difficult to implement before 3.0."

If you are a journalist, a podcaster who conducts interviews, or anyone looking to record audio notes; prior to firmware 3.0, you will find this application indispensable. Admittedly this application may be an overkill for the latter group of users.

Poddio Edit Screen

The audio editing capabilities are very extensive. It allows you to choose the exact in and out points, down to milliseconds, to extract audio clips. You can drag and drop these clips into new audio sequence. During this audio sequence creation, it also allows you to bring in previously recorded audios, but not audio stored in your iTunes library; most likely due to copyright issues.

With all these amazing audio editing features bundled in a single iPhone app, it is almost too good to believe, even at the relatively high USD9.99 price asked for on iTunes App Store. Unfortunately, all is not perfect, as UI and UX are definitely not VeriCorder's strength. Whoever says that it is hard to create a badly designed iPhone application had not use Poddio. The many features are embedded inside non-intuitive cryptic controls. Fortunately, VeriCorder has a video tutorial that shows off much of the features in Poddio.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ1ZmJMIO2E

I think VeriCorder should do what many small iPhone developers have done, and collaborate with a developer whose strengths are UI and UX designs. One such company is Hong Kong's, BeansBox, who recently collaborated with Headnix to create Finger on the iPhone.

Often a developer will want to add any many features to an iPhone app to make it attractive, so they can recoupe the cost of creating the application. In the case of Poddio I believe it may have been better to release less functionalities, pefect them both technically and UX. These sort of approach is ideal for the upcoming 3.0 firmware's in app purchase capability.

Now that the iPhone has been officially released for over four months, in four different countries. What is the most desired native application you wish someone, other than Apple, will release? By "native" I mean application that runs on the iPhone without Safari (MobileSafari).

Before anyone say it, I do know about the vast number of 3rd party applications alresdy out there. I have used many of them, but what I am talking about here are the sanctioned 3rd party applications released by developers utilizing Apple's official iPhone SDK.

My most desired is something that will be the IM (instant messenger) consolidator, like Adium on the Macintosh and Trillian on Windows. Currently there are MobileChat and Apollo from 3rd party developers, but neither works consistently nor do they allow simultaneous logins to multiple IM services at the same time.

The other thing that I really really wish the iPhone has is copy-and-paste. Apple being the first to made popular the concept of copy-and-paste in its Macintosh OS 24+ years ago, did not release a subset of Mac OS X for the iPhone with copy-and-paste, is very surprising. Now with 6 revisions of the iPhone firmware, we still have yet to see this feature on the iPhone. I wonder if a 3rd party using the official Apple SDK will be able to bring us this feature prevalent across every user interface and applications in the iPhone.

Another cool app will be something to do with the built-in camera on the iPhone. A simple application like MobilePhotoBooth or a more complexed application which will assist with uploading taken photos to the various photo sharing sites: Flickr, Smugmug, etc.. I know there are currently iFlickr and Pushr, but both are flaky and unstable.

GoogleEarth

Our counter parts on the Windows platform had been playing with Google Earth for almost a year.

As for Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Google made the Mac version of Google Earth public.

If you do not know or have not seen Google Earth, then I ask you to read Google's description on the Google Earth home page, rather than me describing it to you. Better yet, download the application and check it out for yourself to see what the Mac community has been missing all this time.

BTW: Google had this well before Microsoft decides to launch their Live Local... Local Live... what is it called??

After playing with it for an hour. I can see that Google still have a long way before they are able to make Killer front end applications. The feel of Google Earth for the Mac is like that of the Windows version. The interface feels awkward and definitely not Mac app like.

I guess this opens up an opportunity for 3rd Party to build something more Mac like, that is if Google would release the API for Google Earth as they did for Goolge Map.

You may say, can you be a bit more specific about the deficiency of Google Earth's UI? Well I can give you one example, since I do not want to get into the details for obvious reasons. The process of adding a Placemark is a bit cumbersome. It requires the user to bring up a web page (wizard) within the user's default browser. This web page is simply for Google to ask the user to acknowledge the verification of any previous identical Placemark submitted; a manual and user honest process. The subsequent submission form does not copy the title of the Placemark from Google Earth to the form except for the description.

It is obvious, why Google is advertising for Macintosh Developers.

Please don't get me wrong, this release of Google Earth is very welcomed, and the application fully capable of demonstrating the power and features of Google Earth. I just wish it was more of a Mac-like appliction. I am sure version 2.0 will be much better.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesGoogle