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iPhone Notes

Entry 1180, on 2010-03-31 at 19:57:52 (Rating 1, Computers)

The iPhone has become very popular but I have noticed that there are two types of iPhone user: one, the people who use it to its full capability; and two, those who just use it like an expensive phone. Of course, as a serious iPhone user and connoisseur of fine technology I think it's a waste when people don't use high-tech toys to their full capabilities.

So there are two things you can do to make the most of your iPhone. The first is to make use of the capabilities it has built in, and the second is to install some apps (an app is an application or program which runs on the iPhone) and get extra functionality that way.

It's surprising how many people don't use the audio capabilities of their iPhone. When it was released Apple said it was the best iPod they had ever created. That's right, the iPhone is a very good iPod and I think everyone should use that function. I'm not saying everyone should walk around listening to music all day (although that's not a bad idea for many) but their are other ways to make use of the audio abilities: podcasts, lectures, and audio books, for example.

I think that everyone could benefit from subscribing to some podcasts which fit into their interests or professional expertise. I certainly find podcasts are an essential way to keep up with some of the details in areas which interest me, such as: computers, technology, science, skepticism, philosophy, and general news. There are so many podcasts that I think everyone should find something they can use.

Photos are another area where I think the phone is useful. It's easy to synchronise an iPhoto library with a phone and I find that having my photo collection with me at all times can be quite useful. The screen is just big enough to make it suitable for displaying photos without being too big to always have with me.

Using the calendar and address book is more common because that's a traditional function of smart phones but anyone who hasn't got their calendar synchronised with their computer should do that. It works well through Apple's MobileMe service but corporate Exchange servers also work OK.

All of the above can be done with little effort using the functionality built in to the phone. To extend that there are plenty of iPhone apps. Actually "plenty" doesn't really begin to describe it because there are so many that it's difficult to sort through them and find the ones which are genuinely useful!

The iPhone is a closed platform which means Apple controls all of the programs that can be run on it. That's bad because they can block stuff they don't like and it sometimes delays availability of new stuff but it's also good because there is a quality check on new programs and a single place where they can be found (that is the iTunes app store).

So, unless you have "jailbroken" your phone you will need an account on the iTunes store to get apps. Many apps are free but you still need this account set up even if you aren't intending to buy anything. Note that this account can also be used to buy other media such as music from the store.

The biggest problem with the app store is that there is just so much there. That's a nice problem to have I guess, but it makes downloading a good starting set of apps difficult. So I have come to the rescue and am going to recommend a few of the more useful ones I own! Some of these are free and others may be paid (usually only 1 to 10 dollars) and I really can't remember which I paid for now but I hope this isn't too inconvenient.

AppBox Pro is a useful multi-purpose utility which replaces many other small single-purpose apps. I find this useful because it reduces the amount of clutter on my screen. Here's some of its more useful functions: currency conversion, date calculations, a flashlight, a level, loan calculator, ruler, translator, unit converter, and many others.

Air Sharing makes it easy to transfer files from a computer to a phone over a wifi network. Once the files are on the phone it also makes it easy to view them. It supports formats like Word, PDF, text, JPEG, etc.

AroundMe uses the iPhone's GPS to locate useful businesses and facilities around you. For example you could ask for the nearest coffee shop and it will list them in order of proximity plus provide a map and directions to get there.

Dictionary (actually I have two apps called Dictionary) is a dictionary which includes a thesaurus and pronunciation. It's very handy for looking up definitions anywhere and is much faster than using a paper dictionary.

Evernote allows you to take photos of stuff that interests you and store it "in the cloud" so you can access it from your phone of computer later. Information can be tagged and classified for easy access. You can store a smaller number of items for free or pay for greater capacity.

Facebook is the official app used to access the popular Facebook social web site. It's really well designed and makes it easy to make new posts (including photos) and read your friend's posts as well.

Google Earth is the iPhone version of the well known program. It's nice to use because you can move around the world using gestures (for example using the pinch gesture to zoom in and out).

Shazam is a neat technology demonstration and one which is also useful. It will listen to any music and tell you what it is as well as displaying the album artwork and offering various ways to download it (legally).

Starmap is currently my favourite astronomy app. It displays a map of the night sky for any location on Earth at any time so I find it useful to plan observing sessions and identify objects I may have forgotten.

Tweetie is currently my favourite Twitter iPhone app. The problem here is that there are so many good ones it's hard to choose. Anyway I find it really easy to use just to tweet my latest activities, including photos which can be easily taken with the iPhone's camera.

WordMaster is useful if you do crosswords and other word puzzles. It will look through hundreds of thousands of words in a second and give a list of matches. It has really helped with solving some puzzles which dictionaries and dedicated electronic dictionaries have failed on.

The iPhone doesn't have a built-in FM receiver but WunderRadio allows you to tune in to thousands of internet radio stations from all over the world. It works really well but you do have to be careful of streaming too much information if you have a limit on your cell data.

So that is about a third of the general apps I have installed on my phone (about 4 pages of them). I also have one page of utilities and two pages of games but I might leave a description of them for another blog entry. By the way, I wrote this on my Mac laptop because entering a lot of text is one thing I just can't do efficiently on the phone!

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Comment 1 (2646) by SBFL on 2010-04-21 at 16:08:16:

4G iPhone not leaked: blogger

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Comment 2 (2647) by OJB on 2010-04-22 at 09:21:57:

Yes, I've been following that story for a couple of days. Consensus is that it is the real thing. Whether it was lost deliberately or not, who knows. The feature set is sort of what we were hoping for so I think I'll be in line to get one when they're available (the contract on my 3G will run out just as the 4G/HD becomes available!)

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Comment 3 (2648) by SBFL on 2010-04-24 at 11:24:20:

And we see some typical bully tactics from Apple:
Adobe abandons iPhone code tools ...but I'm sure you'll find a way to defend your favourite multi-national conglomerate on this issue as well.

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Comment 4 (2649) by OJB on 2010-04-24 at 22:04:58:

Actually I do dislike Flash but until the alternatives (especially HTML5) are more widely available I would like the option to use it on the iPhone, iPad, etc. To be clear, I don't like Apple as a company (I'm beginning to think a good multinational is impossible) but I do like their products so I'm prepared to put up with some of the bad points. Also, they have shown a remarkable ability to know which technologies to throw out before anyone else did (floppy disks, serial ports, etc).

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