Posts tagged Mobile

Google maps now has SA direction information

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Anyone that regularly uses Google Maps or Google Earth would have noticed that the level of detail and the correctness of the detail for South Africa has been improving significantly over the past few months.

The first thing I noticed in Google Earth was the addition of some 3D buildings to the Cape Town CBD area. Shortly afterwards there was a marked improvement on the amount of street level data that was available.

I’ve also seen the Google Streetview car driving around Cape Town a number of times. I assume all the fuss is to provide tourists with decent mapping information when they arrive in their droves for the World Cup next year.

streetview-prius.jpg

Today I caught a tweet (thanks @kishyr) saying that direction information is also working in Google maps. I quickly tried it out myself and I’m happy to announce that it is working and appears to work pretty darn well. It even sensibly calculates different directions based on whether you are in a motor vehicle or on foot. The transit direction information doesn’t work yet, but then again neither does our public transport system.

google-map.png google-list.png

Above are screenshots from my iPhone 3GS detailing directions from the Cape Town CBD (my current location) to Hout Bay for a motor vehicle. When I change to “on foot”, it redirects you along Victoria road all along the coast.

Good work Google ! But remember, don’t be evil.

SIP clients for the iPhone

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For quite some time now I’ve been on the hunt for a decent SIP client for the iPhone. At one point I almost gave up completely as it seemed that the only people that were interested in releasing SIP clients for the iPhone were companies that provided a “pay for” SIP service. There was no generic SIP client that actually delivered acceptable voice quality.

I know there are some great applications if you have a jailbroken iPhone, but I was looking for something mainstream, especially if I was going to evangelise the solution to less technical colleagues and customers.

Having access to a corporate SIP service at the office I was keen to find something that worked really well, primarily because everyone that had a Nokia device running Symbian could make VoIP calls and I couldn’t.

There are now finally a handful of decent clients available in the App Store that do almost everything that I needed them to do:

– ability to use my own SIP server configuration.
– ability to use the built in address book.
– support for the G.729 codec.
– ability to make GSM calls from within the application.

Ideally, I’d also like the application to be free, but so far this hasn’t happened. All three of the applications that I feel are worth considering carry a £3.99 price tag from the UK iTunes store (click here for instructions on how to create a UK iTunes account without a UK credit card).

The only feature that all of the applications fall short on, is the G.729 codec support. With bandwidth constraints in South Africa G.729 compression for voice over IP has become commonplace.

After reading a few reviews and comparing feature lists I eventually settled for iSip, knowing that the lack of G.729 support would mean that I would be restricted in the destinations I would be able to call. After the initial configuration (which was incredibly simple) I was happily making calls to certain destinations. The call quality was excellent and connection time was extremely quick. The ability to have multiple profiles meant that depending on whether my iPhone was connected to the corporate VoIP network or a general Internet WiFi hotspot I was still able make calls without having to change settings.

I have put in a feature request in with the application developer, but as yet I have not received any feedback as to if or when this is a possibility. I know there are some licensing issues when making use of G.729, but I’m pretty sure they could just work that cost into the price of the application.

Below is a list of the applications that you should consider if you are looking for a Generic SIP client sans G.729 support:

isip.png WeePhone.png Acrobits.png
iSip
WeePhone SIP
Acrobits Softphone

I thought I would also make mention of Nimbuzz and Fring. These two applications are free in the App Store and they allow for custom SIP settings, but both require an active connection to their respective servers to “log in” and actually make calls. This results in a terrible speech delay and I’ve found them to be almost unusable. Others may have better luck. Also,most corporate VoIP networks probably won’t allow connections to the Internet, which renders the applications completely useless.

Nimbuzz.png Fring.jpg
Nimbuzz
Fring

The quest continues…

Update: I received a response from the developers saying that they are in negotiations with the G.729 license holder and that they aren’t able to include support for the codec until they have concluded the discussions.

EA launches EA Comics, plans comic books for iTunes…

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When it was released a few weeks ago I bought and downloaded the Mayhem (iTunes link) comic and I really enjoyed the way in which the content was delivered. The images are really high quality and you can choose to have it read to you or to read it yourself. The Mayhem comic came with an exclusive Tyrese track as well which was specifically written for the launch of the comic.

EA don’t really have a large library of comics that I am interested in, but I’m sure that if they make a success of it, or maybe even they don’t, that DC and Marvel will jump on the bandwagon as well.

I stopped reading comics when CNA started charging R50 for a new release and stopped have the bargain bins where you could pick up an older edition for under a Rand.

If I could start getting my content online at a decent price and possibly even have the option to take it with me on my iPhone or on my Apple netbook/tablet, I’ll definitely get back into it.

EA launches EA Comics, plans comic books for iTunes…: “

We know Apple enjoys a better relationship with games industry chiefs than it ever has before, on strength of its iPhone and iPod touch. Now it looks like a key gaming partner is laying the ground to make a little comic book push when Apple launches its first tablet device early next year.

Electronic Arts has announced a new brand, EA Comics. This company will license comic book brands and franchises for publication both in print and through iTunes.

EA, in collaboration with iDW Publishing, will pick and choose titles from among big names which include Transformers, Star Trek, Doctor Who and more.

The first two EA Comics comics will be Army Of Two and Dragon Age, and will be penned by established writers Peter Milligan and Orson Scott Card.

We’re pushing the boat out on speculation here, but somehow expect these releases will be similar to that of the Mayhem comic most recently released in the iTunes Extras format, aiming to produce deeper multimedia experiences than you presently find inside print titles, and using EA’s games and graphics development expertise. But that’s just a notion at the moment.

(Via 9 to 5 Mac – Apple Intelligence.)

When will todays smartphone be a “dumbphone” ?

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I read this article on TechCentral this morning (thanks for summing it up Duncan) and had some assumptions that I made and communicated to an overseas company reaffirmed.

The power of mobile technology and more specifically mobile Internet technology is the only answer to bring online services to the masses in South Africa. I’m definitely not the first person to make this revelation and there are a number of local organisations that are pioneering mobile technologies to deliver services to people that don’t have access to the Internet from a computer.

Less than 10% of our population has access to the Internet at home. I don’t see this changing much over the next five to ten years either. The barriers in place for a man in street to get access the Internet from home are almost insurmountable. Firstly he would need electricity at home, a luxury that a large percentage of our population does not have. He would need a computer (in whatever form), a telephone line (OK, there are other options to having a telephone line, but 3G usage rates are still way to high for them to be a feasible option), some kind of modem and an account with some form of ISP. No mean feat for someone that may earn less than R2,000 a month.

The problem that the man in street faces today is that the cellphone in his (or her) pocket is probably not a smartphone. The small screen and limited browser capabilities on his device limit his ability to view content and interact with online services. More expesive mobile devices (smartphones) solve this problem, so the question is, “When will the smartphone of today be the dumbphone of tomorrow ?”. At the rate that mobile technology is progressing, probably not that long. These advancements are what will make the Internet truly accessible to the South African public.

Imagine the possibilities that exist once everyone has a phone that can render a web 2.0 site. Accessing (well designed) government websites that provide you with valuable information, allowing you to see your rates account, paying your new vehicle registration, booking your drivers license, applying for a new ID book, etc etc. There are obviously some other challenges around security and verification, but at least part of the process can be online instead of waiting in the same queue three times before being able to get your drivers license renewed.

In the meantime I hope companies like Google continue to develop SMS based services that enable people in Uganda to benefit from online services with their dumbphones.

Cellphone users to hit 4,6bn this year: “The world will have 4,6bn mobile phone users by the end of the year, according to new research from the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU). At the same time, mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to reach 600m.
According to the ITU’s ‘The World in 2009: ICT Facts and Figures’ shows there are now more mobile […]

(Via TechCentral.)

Apple, AT&T, the FCC, Google and Skype remark on AT&T opening VoIP over 3G

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I wonder if this will spill over to our local networks.

Well done AT&T. Along with MMS and tethering, we can finally welcome you into the 21st century !

Apple, AT&T, the FCC, Google and Skype remark on AT&T opening VoIP over 3G: “

AT&T said late Tuesday that it has informed Apple and the FCC that ‘it has taken the steps necessary’ to enable Voice over Internet Protocol — or VOIP — services on the iPhone over its 3G wireless network. AT&T said it made the decision ‘after evaluating our customers expectations and use of the device compared to dozens of others we offer.’   The company already allows subscribers to make Internet calls using its 3G network over other wireless devices.

Apple: Spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said Apple welcomed the the announcement. ‘We are very happy that AT&T is now supporting VOIP applications.  We will be amending our developer agreements to get VOIP apps on the App Store and in customers hands as soon as possible.’

Skype President Josh Silverman said: ‘Since launching our iPhone application six months ago, people have downloaded and installed Skype on 10% of all iPhone and iPod touch devices sold – making it clear that people are extremely interested in taking Skype conversations with them on the go. All of us at Skype applaud todays announcement by AT&T (in an FCC filing here in PDF format) that itll open up its 3G network to Internet calling applications such as Skype. Its the right step for AT&T, Apple, millions of mobile Skype users and the Internet itself. Nonetheless, the positive actions of one company are no substitute for a government policy that protects openness and benefits consumers. Were all looking forward to further developments that will let people use Skype on any device, on any network.’

Update:

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said: ‘When AT&T indicated, in response to the FCC’s inquiry, that it would take another look at permitting VoIP on its 3G network I was encouraged,’ Genachowski said in a statement. ‘I commend AT&T’s decision to open its network to VoIP. Opening wireless services to greater consumer choice will drive investment and innovation in the mobile marketplace.’

A Google representative said Apple hadn’t informed it of any change in the status of its application.

There was no word yet from Vonage who just got their application into the App Store yesterday.

The FCC was also silent this evening, but they probably played the biggest role in getting AT&T to allow VoIP traffic.  Theyve been pushing their Net Neutrality stance on the wireless carriers since this administration took over a year ago.  While it was a long time coming, the move was inevitable as both 4G standards, WiMAX and LTE both only support only VoIP, and not the traditional wireless voice product, for telephone calls.

(Via 9 to 5 Mac – Apple Intelligence.)

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