Apple

iOS vs. Android

10 Things I hate about you

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Most people would argue that I’m probably not the best person to write this article as I’m simply not capable of being impartial or objective when it comes to all things Apple. I may have drunk the Kool-Aid, but I’d choose a non-Apple device if I was presented with an alternative that did the job better.
iOS vs. Android

It’s the little things those guys at No. 1 Infinite Loop do that make all the difference.

Some people are trying very hard to convince me to make the move from the iPhone to a device that runs Android. They have supplied me with a Google Nexus One running Android 2.2. Not the newest, shiniest Android phone, but it apparently still does a pretty decent job of showing off the operating system. Some of the criticism I list below is of the device itself and not of Android. I’m sure that later models of Android phones probably address some of these issues.

My top 10 things that will make me go back to my iPhone at the end of the month:

1 – The touch screen isn’t great. It’s not terrible either, but I’ve been using an iPhone since the original 2G came out and I’m used to Apple somehow figuring out exactly what I was trying to push on the screen. I found myself cursing out loud on a number of occasions after repeatedly not being able to tap the link or button I was aiming for.

2 – Global search, or rather lack there of. It’s something I use frequently on my iPhone. If someone sent me an email or text message or if I think I’ve saved something in a note, but I’m not sure, I can use the iPhone’s search function to search the contents of any and all applications on my phone for a keyword. On Android it is limited to looking things up in the contacts database and on the Interweb. I would have though that Android would excel at this, with Google knowing a thing or two about search.

3 – Sometimes there are just too many taps or options to do basic things. Like after installing Skype every time you want to dial a number another dialogue box pops up asking if you would like to use the phones dialer or Skype Out. I’m not debating that it is a cool feature, but it makes dialing painful. Even an option just to turn it on or off would be great.

4 – You can’t adjust the audio volume from the supplied earphones. Ridiculous I know, but super frustrating if you listen to a lot of music on your mobile phone.

5 – If you’re listening to a song and you like it, but you don’t know what it is, you have to go into the music application (you could also use the widget or notification bar I guess) to see what is playing. On the iPhone you just tap the sleep button and you are shown the current songs album art with song and album name. And no, “Car Home” is not a solution. I definitely don’t want to launch an application to change the way I interface with the phone every time I get into a car.

6 – Following on from this, there are no on screen music controls while the phone is locked. This is super annoying when you’re driving and you’re playing music from the device into the cars head unit. Again, you need to unlock the phone and go into the music application to change tracks.

7 – The battery life of the device is shorter than my iPhone. I can’t make it to the end of the day without charging it. I’m a pretty heavy data user so I generally have quite a few apps running in the background and I have most of the services set to synchronise automatically, but I’m not using any services that I don’t use on my iPhone. Push notifications and the limited ability of the iPhone to multi-task is what makes the difference.

8 – This one may be a little unfair as Apple don’t make it easy, but I feel there are enough people in the world that use iTunes to organise, buy and listen to music that there should be an out of the box mechanism to synchronise your music. I found DoubleTwist which does a decent job of getting your music onto the device, but it is cumbersome having to load an additional application to get your music onto it.

9 – Copy and paste. I didn’t know how much I needed it until I got it on the iPhone. Copy and paste on the device is functional, but it’s rather unpleasant to use. On the iPhone it’s almost as intuitive as using a mouse.

10 – Wifi configuration for enterprise and corporate networks is significantly more complex then on the iPhone. I’m not sure how Apple get it right on the iPhone (and in Mac OS X), but all I need to select is “WPA 2 Enterprise”, enter my credentials and it figures out the rest. On the Android device (and on a PC running windows) you need to know your “EAP method”, “Phase 2 authentication”, some other stuff and your credentials.

Now some of these may seem ridiculous, but when it comes to everyday use, the iPhone is a far superior experience when it comes to user friendliness of the user interface.

I do feel that I also need to mention a few things that I really like about Android and where I think Apple could take some direction:

1 – Social media integration on Android is fantastic. Having a view on all the services someone makes use of right in the contacts application is really useful. Media sharing also provides a host of options other than just the Google services.

2 – Dragging the unified notifications bar down from the top of the screen is a great way to get a quick view of all the activity on the phone, especially if you’ve been away from it for a while.

If anyone feels that I’m being unfair to Android because of the Nexus One, please feel free to supply me a device that performs better and I’ll gladly review it and post and update to this article.

Fine volume control on Mac OS X

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I came by this on lifehacker.com.

I often felt that volume adjustment offered by the volume control keys on your Apple keyboard didn’t adjust the volume to exactly where I wanted it and often supplemented the adjustment with turning the volume slightly up or down on my external speakers or headphones.

Turns out Apple thought of a solution to this already.

Simply hold down the SHIFT and OPTION/ALT keys at the same time as you use the volume keys an you will get 1/4 increments instead of a full block.

Awesome.

Vodacom wants to rob you

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Whilst making coffee at the office this morning I was informed that Vodacom have finally enabled the Visual Voicemail feature for the iPhone on their network. This feature has been available on the handset since the launch of the original iPhone 2G some 3 years ago.

I always understood that the feature wouldn’t be available on the Vodacom network as they would have to build some kind of additional functionality into their existing voicemail platform. This didn’t really bother me and I made peace with it years ago.

After a little digging it appears that it is relatively simple to enable VVM.

To activate: SMS “VVM ON” to 123.
To deactivate: SMS “VVM OFF” to 123.

The only catch is that Vodacom will rob you of R10 every month to have this feature enabled.

It’s not like they had to build a whole new voicemail platform to enable this service and I’m pretty sure that part of monthly subscription covers the voicemail service I currently don’t enjoy.

I’ll keep an eye on things over the next few weeks, but I’d love to hear some comment from someone at Vodacom to justify how they can charge for a service that was free from day 1 on AT&T’s network.

Thanks to http://www.marcforrest.com/2010/02/17/vodacom-launches-visual-voicemail-for-iphone/

Quick App for Xbox 360 Owners: 360 Live

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Most of the apps I’ve installed that claim to deliver a great Xbox Live experience have fallen very short. This new app by Juan Xavier Larrea finally delivers the goods.

I guess you need to be a bit of an Xbox Live freak to see the value in an app like this, but I’ve found myself in a situation before where I wanted to check on either one of my own or a friends achievements, online status or some such.

xboxlive.png

If you are a big online gamer and own a Xbox, 360 Live [$1.99 – iTunes Link] is the app for you. There are many apps within the App Store that perform many of the same functions as 360 Live but none of them are this well integrated.

  • Sign in securely using your Xbox Live credentials. 360 Live automatically retrieves your friends.
  • Complete Gamertags management. Add, remove, accept or reject pending requests.
  • An organized Friends List. Grouped by status (Online, Offline, etc.)
  • Gamer Profile and details including gamerscore, bio, location, country, gamercard, avatar, etc.
  • Check your friends complete games history.
  • Compare locked and unlocked achievements per game and gamertag.
  • Send and receive messages. You can even send messages to multiple recipients!
  • Gamercard coverflow style carrousel on landscape mode!

The only negative that I’ve seen testing this app out is that at times, it can take some time to load. Hopefully that is cleared up with an update or two and if it is, this will be hands down the best Xbox Live companion piece.

(Via The iPhone Blog.)

Handbrake Video Encoder Hits 0.9.4: Not Dead, Just Pining for the Fjords

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Anyone that owns a Mac and a portable media device that is capable of video playback has no doubt used Handbrake to rip and/or convert a DVD or media file to an appropriate format or size so that they could have it with them on the go.

It’s been a while since the application has been updated, but the it has been worth the wait. The speed improvements and the presets make faster and simpler than ever to drive the sometimes scary task of fiddling with video.

Best of all, it’s still free. If you’re using anything else, stop it. Download Handbrake today and put it through its paces.

A year to the day after the previous version was released, Handbrake has hit 0.9.4, and boy is it faaaaaaaaast:

There’s an old proverb in the video encoding world: “Speed, size, quality: pick two.” It means that you always have to make a trade-off between the time it takes to encode a video, the amount of compression used, and the picture quality. Well, this release of HandBrake refuses to compromise. It picks all three.

If you have video you want to get onto your iPhone, Handbrake is the way to go — and it’s free. New, streamlined presets still include Apple Universal, iPod, iPhone & iPod touch, and Apple TV (as well as others if you’re rocking the Xbox, PS3, Zune, or whatever floats your video boat).

Improvements include much better H.264 encoding via the x264 project, a new build system, new soft subtitles, live preview, and constant quality encoding. As can be seen by the list above, they’re all about x264 now, so they’re also winding down support for AVI, OGG/OGM, and XviD — they’ll tell you why via the link above, but basically they want to pull you kicking and screaming into the better looking future. Love them.

Here’s the direct link to downloads for Mac OS, WIndows, and Linux.

Note to 64-bit Mac users: If you decide to go with Handbrake 64-bit for OS X, and intend to rip DVDs, know that Handbrake uses VLC for the task and VLC 1.0.3 doesn’t yet have a 64-bit version, so you’ll have to stick to 32-bit Handbrake, or downgrade your VLC to 1.0.2 64-bit.

If you give it a spin, let us know how it transcodes for you!

[via TUAW]

This is a story by the iPhone Blog. This feed is sponsored by The iPhone Blog Store.

Handbrake Video Encoder Hits 0.9.4

via The iPhone Blog


Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone

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(7/10)

C64-icon.pngAfter some initial hiccups with getting (and keeping) the application in the iTunes App Store, Manomio are back with C64 (iTunes link) and 8 free games.

At first you may find yourself questioning your sanity, but after dropping £2.99 in the iTunes store and playing one of the old classics, you’ll be pulled right back to you gaming roots.

Now maybe it was just because I was stuck on a two hour flight and had nothing else to do after I had finished reading my Stuff Magazine, but after playing Dragons Den for 10 minutes, I just couldn’t stop. It was clear that my life depended on me getting to the next level. I had my headphones plugged in and turned up loud to allow the 8 bit beeps and boops to be enjoyed at their optimum monaural magnificence. The people on either side of me clearly thinking that there was a crazy man bashing some ancient technology with his thumbs about to go postal on the flight.

The control system allows for a joystick and a single button – that is all we needed back in the day. You can also orientate the the phone in portrait or landscape to either have a view of said button and joystick or not. Playing the game fullscreen in landscape was my choice as the additional screen real estate made everything that much bigger. The only problem is that with this orientation your thumbs can block out some of the graphics. Nothing serious though.

The emulator is responsive and tracks your finger movements for the joystick and copious amounts of button mashing pretty well. I’d give the app a higher rating, but at the moment the games library is a little limited. When they release more content and they say they will, there is a change that this little gem could deserve an 8 or maybe even a nine.

C64-screen.jpgIf you can still remember loading games on that beige C64 tape drive and waiting hours just to get to the good part, you’ll love how your old favourites now load instantly !

Check out the video below to see what you’re missing out on.

Plex and the ultimate media center setup

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(10/10)

I’ve been using XBMC on my old Xbox as a media center for a few years now and it has served me well. In fact, it is still serving me well, but it doesn’t have the horsepower to get HD content onto my TV. It also doesn’t have some of the features that I’m after in a media center.

Plex for Mac

Plex for Mac

Some time ago I started playing with the free app Plex (Plex was born out of XBMC) on my iMac at home and I was very impressed with what it could do. The only problem was that my iMac was nowhere near my TV and it is used for all sorts of things other than watching movies or listening to music.

I lost interest in the application as I didn’t see a way to integrate it with my existing media setup. I was sad to see it go as the interface was really slick, it worked with the Apple remote (it actually doesn’t work with the mouse at all 🙂 and it was exceptionally good at going to sites like imdb.com and tv.com to fetch movie posters, box art, plot outlines and theme music.


I’m now in the process of putting together a new setup which I think is the ultimate combination of features and cost.

An older Mac mini

An older Mac mini

You can pick up an older Mac mini with the appropriate video adapter for a pretty decent price and it will easily deliver the goodness I’m after (just make sure that it has at least a 1.8Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo if you want HD). It will run Mac OS X and will boot straight into Plex. I’ll use an Apple remote (with a view to upgrade to a Logitech Harmony at some point) to control the whole setup, with the option to use a wireless keyboard and mouse if I need to hop onto the Internet or use iTunes. I use my iMac as a NAS (it has Terabytes of external firewire storage courtesy of Lacie) so all I’ll have to do is point the Plex at my “Movies”, “TV Series” and “Music” shares and it will do the rest. Depending on the size of your media library it will take some time for Plex to go and fetch all the stuff it needs from the Internet to populate its database with the relevant text, images and sound and then you’re set. Sit back on the couch and enjoy.

Logitech Harmony

Logitech Harmony


Whenever you add something to your media library, Plex automatically detects it and goes and fetches everything it needs. For TV shows it automatically sorts everything into seasons, it keeps track of what you’ve already watched and plays the theme music in the background while you’re choosing and episode.

Plex also has plug-ins for just about every decent media service on the Internet: Hulu, TED, BBC iPlayer, Youtube, Flickr and iPhoto, just to name few. So even if you don’t have your own media on a local server, you have access to hours of entertainment at your fingertips.

 

It almost seems to easy, but with the initial testing I’ve done and reports from other people on the Internet, I’m confident that it will be money well spent and will see me well into the future.

 

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

Plex showing you everything you need to know about BSG

Protect your iPhone

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(9/10)

I’ve never really been a fan of cell phone covers or cases. Usually because you end up compromising on the functionality of your device or you end up doubling its size. My 2G iPhone ended up looking like a expensive German bathroom fitting that had been attacked by a child with an angle grinder. Not a pretty site, but I never saw a cover that appealed to me. Mind you, I wasn’t really trying very hard to find one.

I was determined not to let my shiny new iPhone 3GS suffer the same fate. I saw a few covers that didn’t look too bad and decided to head out on a Saturday morning to pick one up. I was quickly reminded why doing your own research online and then ordering from an e-tailer is always the best option. All the staff in all the stores I went to were completely useless. I was really impressed with how little they knew about the products they had for sale in their respective stores.

In the last store I visited (why is it always the last store you go to ???) I finally found something that I liked. A little surprising as the cover was completely different to what I originally had in mind for my 3GS. As soon as I saw it I got flashbacks of Portal. It was brilliant white with grey buttons and hugged my iPhone like they were made for each other – which they obviously were.

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

They iPhone Candyshell from Speck

The Candyshell from Speck is a little pricey compared to some of the other covers that are available, coming in at around R350 depending on where you shop. It also comes with a screen protector (and a great little cloth to polish the screen before you apply it) which a lot of the other covers don’t have, not that they are expensive, but it’s great that I only had to buy a single product.

My 3GS now feels almost indestructible. The rubberised edges also give you that extra sense of security when you put it down on a hard surface or drop it. You can access all the buttons and the dock connector without any issues and the camera isn’t obstructed at all. I’ve also had zero issues with the phone overheating with the cover on.

If you love your iPhone and I know you do, buy it this cover and it will be with you till your next upgrade and beyond.

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