iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

In the weekly iPhone roundup there’s actually a good reason to reconsider the iPad if it looks like a meager performer upon first glance. Virtualization software on a large display could meet the needs of those wanting a full-fledged operating system.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news. The most recent iPhone buzz actually revolves around Microsoft (s msft). Business Week today reports that Apple (s aapl) might replace Google’s search with Bing for default searches on the mobile handset. While this alleged alliance sounds odd given the competitive history between Apple and Microsoft, it does make strategic sense. That is, if you believe that the real mobile maelstrom is left with just two players — namely, Google (s goog) and Apple. And while Google is constantly improving its mobile offerings, my use of Bing for iPhone shows it to be quite a competent search application.

To use Bing for native search wouldn’t be a bad thing in my experience, and it hedges Apple bets against Google. Plus, it opens up the iPhone potentially more Microsoft services. I’m curious what folks think of this move — will you use Bing on the iPhone for search?

Whichever search engine you use on the iPhone, I know what the top result will be for “White House.” Apparently that’s not good enough — Washington, D.C. wants you to live the full White House experience, so they’ve debuted an app for that on the iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s free so there’s no sales tax or need to sign up for selective service. The software features news, photos, and video  — even live video streaming of certain White House events. That’s good to know because every time I see President Obama playing basketball, it’s nothing but net. Something tells me I’m only seeing the good shots. 😉

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news. It seems to me that we’re almost in a quiet period when it comes to the iPhone and Apple’s (s aapl) mobile strategy. Is it just me or are you getting the same sense as we draw closer to the last month week of January? At that time, Apple is holding some type of event — many are anticipating the introduction of some type of slate tablet device. I’m not going to add to the rumors, although there appear to be many slate stars aligning in terms of component orders and such. Maybe we’ll start a pool next week on different expectations!

While waiting for the next mobile Apple device, what’s happening with apps on the current ones? Although the App Store Economy is huge, piracy is pretty darn big too from what I read. Could it be true that the iTunes App Store is losing out on nearly $450 million due to software piracy? Considering how locked down the Apple ecosystem is, that figure is astounding large to me. Then again, I’ve never gone the jailbroken route so I’ve never installed apps from outside the store.

However, I have been known to install a racing game or two on my iPhone. And I do have plenty of old LEGO parts lying around in the basement. What happens when you combine an iPhone with accelerometer, a racing game and LEGOs? You get a miniature steering wheel control that’s fun for all, of course! Have a look because the visuals are far better than the description. While you watch, I’m heading down to my basement.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news. We all know that no matter what you want to do with your iPhone, there’s likely an app for that. The problem is finding the good ones amongst all of the chaff out there. When trusted sources share not their favorite, rather their most-used apps, that’s when we listen. Houston Chronicle’s own Dwight Silverman has shared a list of the 16 most-used apps on his iPhone, and it has some good finds. His list includes a lot of the old standards, but also some nice new ones such as Drync Wine.

As good as Mobile Safari is on the iPhone, a simple utility to keep browser bookmarks synced would be much appreciated. Until that day, a sharp iPhone owners has shared a method to keep Firefox bookmarks on the desktop in sync with those on the iPhone. The method uses one of my favorite Firefox utilities, Xmarks, and along with some slightly clunky steps keeps the bookmarks the same on the iPhone as on the desktop. Me, I use the beta Xmarks for Safari to keep Firefox synced with Safari on the Mac, and then sync the Mac with the iPhone.

AT&T has been slapped around for having a network that can’t keep up with demand, but if O2 in the UK is to be believed the problem may lie with the iPhone, not the networks. O2 has apologized to customers for less than stellar network performance since they began handling the iPhone. AT&T recently stated that its network has tested to be outstanding, except for customers using iPhones.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news. Earlier this week, I read about my6sense — a free iPhone application that helps float the most relevant RSS and social network information to the top of your reading list. I imported my Google Reader feeds and after just a few days of using the software, it’s doing what it claimed to do. Think of my6sense as Pandora for information — an algorithm learns what content is most relevant to you and then surfaces the top 5 percent of that content. my6sense does take time to learn your content habits and there are five levels of “digital intuition” as it learns. The app is only at the first level on my iPhone, but I’m already gaining a benefit in what I read while on the run. Even better: you can share interesting articles with one touch to Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook or via email. Louis Gray shares a tour of my6sense that explains the concept far better than I could:

Also on the near horizon is an alleged unveiling of everyone’s favorite rumor: the Apple tablet. Silicon Alley Insider seems pretty confident that a product announcement — but not a shipping product — will hit within a few weeks. The idea is to give iPhone developers a peek at a larger device running on the iPhone OS. Presumably, the devs can then adjust their code to fit a 7″ or 10″ display of such a device. If I had to stake a guess as to the resolution devs wil have to work with it would be 1280 x 720, which is quite a bit more than 480 x 320 currently supported by the iPhone hardware. Why did I pick that resolution? My gut says that such a tablet is meant for portable media playback as much as it is for software functions and the web. And 1280 x 720 is about the lowest resolution you can use to justify forking over $4.99 for a high-definition movie in the iTunes store.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news! Did you hear the sound of the latest iPhone application? I did — Bing (s msft) is here with a bang. Microsoft’s app for iPhone and iPod Touch is already garnering solid reviews around the web and in a just a few minutes this morning, I can see why. The dedicated search app supports voice transcription, maps, directions, news, movies, images and local businesses. And it does so with the grace of any good iPhone application. Animations are fluid, voice transcription worked well in my tests and I actually prefer the maps over Google’s offering. It’s free to download, if it sounds like your thing, Microsoft has the Bing.

Also hitting my radar is some scuttlebutt around Apple developers making a move to web-based apps using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Hmm… that sounds familiar. What might be driving such a move is the coming of HTML5 and its advanced features. But not all agree that the new web standard will enable web apps. Jon Gruber makes some good points at Daring Fireball:

“One area in particular where iPhone web apps fall short of native iPhone apps is scrolling…  …With iPhone web apps, you can make a list that looks almost, maybe even exactly, like a native iPhone list view. But all web views on the iPhone scroll with almost no momentum. You can’t fling them. iPhone web views feel like they have a lot of scrolling friction.”

Gruber also mentions that Mobile Safari “can’t make a toolbar that stays put at the very top or bottom of the screen without having it scroll away when you scroll the content.” Either I’m missing a very subtle detail here or I’m not understanding what Google (s goog) has done with their Gmail web app on the iPhone. Since April of this year, it has supported the “floaty bar” that visually stays put. To Jon’s point, the “floaty bar” is not really staying put, but instead is re-rendered after scrolling — regardless of the method it works well enough for me.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news! Earlier this week, I noticed that the ZumoDrive application for iPhone received an update. The new version adds quite a bit of valuable functionality: support for iWork 09 and plain text files for starters and more important — to me, anyway — are upgrades to the streaming music functionality.

I store MP3 files on my ZumoDrive in the cloud. Using the iPhone app, I can stream that audio, but the client previously was pretty bare-bones. Now you can seek to any position in a song while it’s playing. At some point, ZumoDrive added support for album art too — I’m not sure if that just appeared in this version or a prior one, but it’s there now. I originally used this method to “carry” my 11 GB music library on my 8 GB iPhone, but I’m still using it from time to time on the iPhone 3GS. While many folks sync their entire music library on the handset’s local storage, I’m not a big “syncher,” so this method works out well.

Also hitting the headlines this week are more recurring rumors of a giant iPhone-like slate tablet. I’ve tried to refrain on these rumors lately but as CES approaches, I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll hear anything official from Apple on such a product or platform next month. That would put the rumors to rest — finally — and give us a glimpse of where Apple might be headed with any potential new products. With Cupertino so heavily invested in both audio and video digital media, I’d gather that any product would focus mainly on content consumption.

Speaking of content, you can now broadcast your own, thanks to Ustream’s iPhone broadcast application for the iPhone 3G and 3GS handsets. Expect only a QVGA stream and a few second delay if you decide to use your iPhone as a live video camera for all the world to see. The new free app also includes support for video sharing via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook as well as video geotagging and usage over either 3G or Wi-Fi.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone this Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news! The holidays are approaching and that means the college kids are nearly done with this semester’s studies. Since they’re nearly done with their textbooks as well, the timing of an iPhone app to buy back books is serendipitous too. The software from BookCircus takes either the ISBN number or title of a textbook and returns a buy-back price. Once you select which books are worth the sale, BookCircus will mail you a packing slip and mailing instructions. Too bad you can’t scan the ISBN with the iPhone’s camera, no? That’s OK, just a little text input can return some green to your pockets if you’re looking to unload those texts.

Another Swiss Army use of the iPhone cropped up today as well — a $188 dock that turns the iPhone into a Universal Remote Control. The RedEye personal remote control device won’t pause or mute the world “Click” style, but you can channel your inner Adam Sandler by controlling home electronics with it. The Red Eye hardware and software convert touch actions on your iPhone or iPod Touch from Wi-Fi to infrared signals using a special base dock. Codes can be programmed in for different devices and you can skin the remote on your handheld as well.

Probably the biggest new iPhone function noticed this week is the credit card payment system called Square. This small card reader attaches to the iPhone through a headphone jack and scans credit cards. The card information is converted to an audio signal on the iPhone, encrypted and sent to the Square servers for payment processing. Although many are expressing security concerns, I see Square as an innovative and cost-effective solution to payment processing for both consumers and merchants. I’ll be curious to see if Square develops any harsh angles as it evolves.

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

Time for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news! On a personal level, the biggest iPhone (s aapl) news for me is the arrival of Star Wars: Trench Run (iTunes link). The $4.99 title offers intuitive gameplay and controls, but can be quite challenging. And the graphics are more than adequate for a handheld game. What I like most about it is what I like about many iPhone games — you don’t need to block an hour or more out of your day. You can simply play whenever you find a few free minutes, which ironically holds true for most iPhone apps: they’re generally offering bite-sized chunks of functionality when you need them.

While I’ve been honing my Jedi skills, the rumor mills have ripened with news of an expected Concierge application for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. AppleInsider explains that the Apple-created software will assist with scheduling appointments at the Genius Bar or for Apple’s One on One training services. Normally, most folks would use the phone to call for an appointment, but a few button presses might be quicker and give us more training time in our X-Wings.
My training got a boost this morning, but not in my fighter — my knowledge of what’s really in the iPhone App Store. Sure, we all know that there’s a 100,000 applications, but I read this morning that 1 in 5 apps added to the store last month was actually a book. If that’s the case, does Apple really need to enter the e-book market as some have said? I’m not sure they do because they’re already earning revenue from the phone as well as the e-book applications. What’s to be gained?

iPhone Informer — Touching the iPhone This Week

iphone-3gTime for our Wednesday feature that highlights some of the latest iPhone news! The biggest news item hitting the radar is Apple racing past Nokia in the smartphone market — not in terms of sales or share, but in 0perating profit. Nokia earned about $1.1 billion last quarter, while Apple’s handset division raked in $1.6 billion. Clearly, Nokia sells far more phones than Apple. But Apple doesn’t sell cheap feature phones and they’ve negotiated great subsidy deals on every handset they sell. Smart business and a solid product usually makes for boatloads of money, no?
Speaking of solid products, did you see the Gigaware HD Radio tuner for iPhone? This $80 add-on brings the goodness of HD Radio to your Apple handset and as one would expect, allows for song tagging for later purchases in the iTunes store. Personally, I really like this feature that’s baked into Microsoft’s Zune, but not enough to drop $80 for it on my iPhone 3GS. It doesn’t look all that mobile as it uses a cable to dock to the iPhone. For stationary, docked iPhones it might be appealing. It has to be more appealing than static, which you can’t even listen to on today’s iPhones. 😉
So you can’t listen to terrestrial radio over FM on an iPhone, but you can Tweet until the cows come home. (That’s around 4:30pm in my neighborhood — for realz) Last week, I bought Tweetie2, but I’m already looking at adding the free TweetDeck to my iPhone. There’s a new version out and it incorporates some useful new features like Facebook support, video uploads, landscape composition and more. Have a look and you’ll see why I’m about to “buy” this free app for my iPhone.