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Posts Tagged ‘App Store’

The Best Free Apple iPhone Apps

Posted by Gary on October 23, 2008

Here at Cell Canada, we are big fans of ‘cheap’ and ‘free’ in all their forms – whether it be cheap cell long distance with Alligato Mobile, or cheap gadget toys at DealExtreme, or the focus of this article, free Apple iPhone Apps.  We have a well earned reputation for being tight with our pennies.

Thus we thought it might be interesting to share our spendthrift-favorite iPhone Applications both to spread our cheapness but also to see if any of you may have a line on great free iPhone Apps that we may have missed.

Here’s our list::

Bloomberg:Classic thorough Bloomberg market and stock information in a smooth and easy to use App for all you market junkies out there.  (Hint, it’s probably down).

Blue Skies Lite: A great helicopter game.  Control the helicopter by using the accelerometer.  Shoot planes, tanks, avoid mines, etc.  Great graphics, great sound, and lots of fun.

Facebook: What can you say.  It’s Facebook on the iPhone.  It’s been widely presumed that one of the motivations for the new Facebook design was to align the online site with the mobile site.

Fring: A multi-IM client that supports Gtalk, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, ICQ, etc.   But even more importantly, a VoIP over WiFi client that supports Skype and a multitude of SIP service providers such as Gizmo, NewWorldDial, etc.  First generation and a bit rough still but it works well enough now and has lots of promise going forward.

Funky Punch Lite: A simple arcade type fighter game.  A simple and fun way to try out your combo moves.

Fuzzle: An addictive puzzle game.  Has all the hallmarks – easy to play, some mental complexity, good graphics and sounds. 

i.TV: A TV directory done right.  Episode guides, ratings, preview videos for movies, etc.

Last.FM: We love this application.  A must have for any music fan.  Stream music based on genres, tags, ‘similar to’, and friends favorites.  Add in artist bios and concert schedules for some reading while you are enjoying the music.

Locly:  Locly finds restaurants, pubs, gas stations, cafe’s, events, dogs, and almost anything else in your local vicinity.  The interface is a bit rough and ugly at this point but the data is great.  Ever been in a new location and wondered where the nearest ATM was? or gas station?  Locly knows. 

Lux Touch:  Can you say the game of Risk without copyright issues.  Well this is it.  Graphics are lame but the gameplay is addictive.  Who doesn’t want to rule the world.

Midomi: A music discovery tool, like Shazam but with more cool features.  Put Midomi up to a song you hear on the radio and after 10 seconds of listening and about 30 seconds of hitting its online database, it will come back with the song.  Amazingly accurate.  The accuracy is even scarier when you try the ‘hum a song’ option.  Yes, it will predict a song based on your humming.

Say Who Dialer– A voice dialer for the iPhone.  Works and works well right out of the download.  No training required.  Just hold down the big button on the centre of the screen and say the name of the person you want to dial and it will pull their data out of your address book, or speak their phone number, and it will dial.

Tap Tap Revenge– One of the original great free games on the iPhone App Store.  Tap out the bubbles to the beat.  Nothing better than gaming to a beat.

Zenbe Lists – A simple and powerful to-do list application for all of you list junkies out there.  Ends off our list.

So did we miss any of your favourite free iPhone applications?  Drop us a line in the comments – we’d like to hear about them.

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Blackberry Thunder – RIM Takes A Risk

Posted by Gary on July 20, 2008

Yes this is a bit premature.  The Thunder is not out yet and at best we have rumours on design and specs and photoshopped images.  However I thought I’d touch on it given that, with all the buzz around competitive responses to the iPhone from the major mobile handset manufacturers, this is the one that I believe has the most potential. 

No doubt the Samsung Instinct, the HTC Touch Diamond, the Sony Ericsson Xperia, and the Nokia Tube will have their strengths and given carrier marketing dollars, will take some market share.  Some, especially Nokia with it’s huge Forum Nokia developer community, will have the backing of developers, and most of them will have superior hardware specs to the iPhone – better cameras, video, etc.  However I don’t expect that any will capture the mass market consumer’s aspirational interest the way the iPhone has captured it.  They will not have the Apple brand image, the incredibly simple and elegant UI, and most of all, the fully integrated and well developed App Store.  Download portals – yes probably – but a simple, easy to use, fully capable application download function with discovery, one touch download and install, and a simple integrated payment mechanism – probably not.  And that is why they will remain also rans.  Many will promote how packed they are with superior hardware functions but the Internet scale innovation that a fully integrated App Store brings will be missing and with it, the weekly and monthly buzz about the latest and greatest must have application.  “Have you heard about Shazam?  It’s a super cool new app that…”

Current expectations have the Thunder arriving in September but given that the Blackberry Bold will probably land around then, expect RIM to clear some PR time for the Bold before beginning the Thunder PR press.  So Thunder in time for the Christmas season or early 1Q2009?   Mobile sales have taken up the retail sales cycle pattern over the last 3-5 years and the Christmas season now represents a significantly disproportionate amount of a carrier’s annual sales.  Given this, expect that RIM’s and it’s partners Verizon and Vodaphone will be pushing hard for a pre-Christmas release.  No word on a Canadian partner or date yet.

So why is the Thunder so interesting.  It will probably have a weak download portal like the other competitors and RIM has typically received poor reviews for its difficult developer tools.  The Thunder is interesting because RIM, similar to Apple, understands its market very well and knows how to laser focus product into its market.  They usually do not try to pack in the best set of hardware features and a kitchen sink into their high end products but instead understand the basic needs of the corporate market and fulfill those needs better than anyone.  Heavy email, high security, Exchange integration.  No one beats RIM in the corporation.  With the Thunder, RIM is taking a risk going keyboard-less but I expect that it is a well thought out risk and we may be very pleasantly surprised by the innovation in their touchscreen keyboard.  Current rumours list a soft keyboard with tactile feedback, full QWERTY and SureType entry, and multi-touch capability.  Add a Webkit browser and it gets interesting.  A RIM device, with BES integration, an innovative touch keyboard, and the most focused corporate needs execution, could hold back or slow down the iPhone’s push into the corporate world.  Or conversely, if RIM can’t hold it’s corporate turf against Apple, then Apple will own everything – the consumer market and the enterprise market.

 UPDATE: The Blackberry Thunder / Storm on video!

(I know there is a large camp that pines for a white knight in Android but I’m not drinking the kool-aid.  Android introduces more noise in an already noisy mobile OS ecosystem.  If anything, LiMo may be a stronger open source player than Android.  More on Mobile OS’s in another post.)

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The Apple iPhone, App Store, and AAPL

Posted by Gary on July 14, 2008

The introduction of the iPhone in Canada heralds the beginning of a new era in mobile communications.

Though referred to as a phone, it is much more.  It is a networked portable computer with a revolutionary user interface.  It portends the mass market emergence of the mobile Internet – the Internet in your pocket.  As a platform, it is as revolutionary as the first IBM PC.  Though, just as with the early days of the personal computer, there have been other smart phones on the market for several years, the iPhone arrives with the ecosystem elements to drive the smart phone into the everyday lives of consumers.  

The iPhone ecosystem combines lessons learned from Apple’s history in computing and Apple’s more recent dominance in a once fragmented music player market.   Apple is one of a few companies that has a corporate memory that spans the entire period of the personal computer industry, from the emergence of the first personal computers in the mid-1970’s to the present day mass market ubiquity.  Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, helped invent one of the early personal computer businesses in Apple and saw it through several cycles of successes and failures, developing an unparalleled understanding of the zeitgeist of the computing era and technology consumer market.  Apple applied this learning to the fragmented mobile music player market.  Realizing, from the history of computing, that the value of hardware, or the music player, was greatly driven by the value of the software, or the music itself, to the end consumer.  To this end, while other mobile music players relied on consumers to find their own methods to convert music to MP3 files and load the music onto their music player, Apple built a simple and elegant ecosystem, combining iPod hardware with the iTunes music store for easy discovery of music, easy purchase of music, and easy mobile enjoyment of music.  For music creators, it facilitated an easy way to access a large market of consumers and an easy way to charge and collect for electronic music sales. 

In the same way, the longer term market opportunity around the iPhone is not about just the hardware.  No doubt the hardware is more elegant and has an ease of use unparalleled in previous smart phone hardware.   The iPhone differentiates itself from previous smart phones through its consumer and developer friendly ecosystem.  It’s about the software again.  Just as Apple learned with personal computers and with the iPod, innovative software and killer applications will drive hardware sales.  To this end, Apple has built very tight integration between the iPhone and its new App Store.  The App Store is essentially an iTunes type store for iPhone software.  Apple has made it incredibly easy for consumers to discover new software, purchase new software, and enjoy new software on the iPhone.   For the other side of the ecosystem, for developers of mobile software, the App Store enables easy access to a large market of end software customers, taking care of the difficult challenges of being discovered, conducting a sales transaction, and then getting paid for the sale.  This integrated ecosystem creates a well greased reinforcing loop.   A large number of iPhones sold with an installed and simple App Store leads to a large and easily accessible market for software innovation.  This leads to a great amount of software development which in turn increases the likelihood of the development of a killer application.  Killer applications in turn drive more iPhone sales.  RIM, Samsung, Nokia, HTC, and other smart phone makers will continue to improve their hardware and have tried to run App Store type software development and distribution models in the past but they have always missed key components – whether they be ubiquitous distribution, or ease of purchase, or ease of payment and collection.  In many cases, they have been forced to cede control of the software portal to the cellular carrier who has in turn outsourced it to a wireless portal company.  This non-strategic and fragmented approach has led to slow adoption of mobile phone applications. 

Apple on the other hand has leveraged its learning from the personal computing wars and its test case in the music player world to start what could develop into a de-facto market dominating position in the smart phone market by closing the hardware-software loop.

So what does this have to do with the stock (AAPL)?  Buy it.  With the iPhone and the App Store, Apple has the potential to develop a mobile platform near monopoly.  Similar to what Microsoft was able to do with DOS/Windows and Apple was able to do with the iPod.  An ecosystem with a positive loop network effect can quickly eat market share in a fragmented market.  All the pieces are in place and the next couple of years should be very interesting.

 

(For purpose of full disclosure:  The author owns Apple stock)

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