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iDevice Update

Entry 1252, on 2010-12-09 at 12:11:12 (Rating 1, Computers)

I like to occasionally update the status of my iDevices. I use that word to mean Apple's iPod, iPhone, and iPad, in other words the devices which run the iOS. So what's the latest? Well, since last time I posted a major status update I have updated my phone to an iPhone 4, various operating system updates have appeared, and many new apps have been created. So things have changed quite significantly really.

I was initially a bit worried about the iPhone 4 because of the reports of signal loss and the possible problems with the glass back breaking or being scratched. The signal issue is confusing because the cell network is so bad here anyway that it's hard to tell where problems are Apple's fault and where they are Vodafone's. Judging by the issues I see on other phones it seems that I get about the same number of problems on the iPhone 4 as I would expect on any other device so I primarily blame Vodafone for any problems I do experience.

I am amazed at how resistant to damage the new phone is. It stays in my pocket with no protection and it has been dropped from a moderate height twice. Not only has nothing broken but there are not even any signs of scratches: it's practically as good as new. Whatever glass material Apple is using it is certainly very resilient although apparently it does shatter if it lands at the wrong angle when dropped on a hard surface.

The biggest recent bonus is multitasking on the iPad. The recent release of iOS 4.2 for the iPad has finally given us that ability which has been absent for so long. As well as that we get an integrated email inbox, wireless printing (although very few printers are currently supported), wireless music through Airports to stereo systems, folders, and a few other features. The update went fine for me: all my apps still run and the device doesn't seemed to have slowed down, so it's a very worthwhile upgrade.

So that's the new hardware and the new operating system out of the way. What about new apps? What are my current favorites? I run apps on the two devices designed specifically for them (with a few exceptions) so the pad and the phone tend to do slightly different things. The pad is more for presenting information, typing up short documents, surfing the internet, and handling email. The phone is my mobile communications system: it does GPS, Facebook and Twitter updates, podcasts, and photos. Of course, most functions are available on both and I have my phone with me everywhere so it's really my "do everything" device. Oh, and there's games too of course, which are better on the pad because of the bigger screen but are also common on the phone.

Now to get to the major purpose of this blog entry: which apps are actually useful? I have 7 pages of apps on each device classified as Apple, general, utilities, reference, news and books, games, and simulations. Each page also has a folder with extra apps of the appropriate type which I use less often.

The apple bundled apps I use are calendar, camera, phone, messages, Mail, and Safari. There's nothing too unusual there. On the iPad I also have the iLife apps but I only use Pages regularly although Keynote and Numbers are solid, useful programs too. The other Apple app I use more than any other but often forget about is iPod because I listen to hours of podcasts most days.

What about general purpose programs are useful? Well heaps actually. There's Evernote, Facebook, Genius Scan, GoodReader, Tom Tom, PriceMe, Solar Walk, Starmap, and Tweetie; plus PCalc and Friendly (an alternative to Facebook) on the iPad.

I've talked about Evernote before. I use it for storage of notes and photos (often of text from newspapers, etc) for later reference. If I see something on paper I want to refer to later (for example to comment on in my blog) I take a photo and have Evernote sync it to my computer and iPad.

Facebook, Friendly, and Tweetie allow me to interact with Social networks. I also have Sociable which adds Digg, Flickr, and Redit support as well as Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook app on the iPhone is particularly nice: it makes posting photos really quick and easy.

One of the reasons I use the iPad a lot is to avoid paper. I'm aiming for a paperless office so I need a way to get the occasional piece of paper I do receive into an electronic form by taking a photo of it. In the past I have used Evernote but I now use Genius Scan because it has better tools for cropping photos and correcting perspective errors. Of course this only works on the phone since the current iPad doesn't have a camera.

GoodReader is a very useful program for displaying documents of various types. I use it mainly to store documentation and the notes I use for work. Even 3000 page PDFs like the PHP manual are easy to browse and search in GoodReader.

I recently bought one of the more expensive programs on the app store: the Tom Tom GPS app. It works really well on the iPhone (and on the iPad although it is an iPhone app) but it uses the Tom Tom UI. As far as standalone GPS user interfaces are concerned the Tom Tom is good but a real iPhone UI would be better still. It is nice the way it multitasks though. I can leave it in the background and use the phone for other things (such as listening to podcasts) and the GPS voice just interrupts when it needs to give me the next instruction. It does use up the battery fairly quickly though. I can listen to podcasts and get directions from the GPS for 5 or 6 hours though, which is actually quite impressive.

The average person probably doesn't need many utilities but as an IT consultant and programmer I have a few I find useful. Dropbox would be one of the more useful ones for many users because it allows easy transfer of files between different devices. Basic amounts of storage is free and extra storage is fairly cheap. Obviously the Mac (or PC) version needs to be installed on the computer as well.

If you are a technical person there is one program which is really useful. That is iSSH. It provides both SSH and VNC access to computers. SSH gives access to the terminal command line on the target computer which is really useful for monitoring and configuring systems. VNC let's the iPad or iPhone take control the screen of the target computer. While that is a little bit awkward because of the difference between the UI on a computer and an iDevice it's really just so cool that you can do it at all!

I have only covered the first three screens of apps on my devices so far but I think I will have to leave the rest for another blog entry. One more thing: this entry (and many others) was written in Pages on my iPad!

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Comment 1 (2845) by Anonymous on 2010-12-11 at 09:12:14:

Can you comment on books and magazines on the iPad. Is it a good environment for reading books and other material? Should I get a Kindle or other book reader instead?

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Comment 2 (2846) by OJB on 2010-12-11 at 15:45:16:

A good environment for reading books? Well yes and no. I will cover this in my next blog entry on the subject which should appear next week so stand by!

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Comment 3 (2854) by SBFL on 2011-01-18 at 08:42:52:

You will be interested to read this:
Steve Jobs, romantic

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Comment 4 (2855) by OJB on 2011-01-18 at 11:33:13:

Yes, no surprises there. Of course Steve is a romantic: he's not really a techie at all. I am familiar with the old logo, of course. Interesting that Newton (the person) was so important to Jobs then yet the first thing he did when he returned to Apple was kill off the Newton (PDA) project!

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