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Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

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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iPhone, gPhone or Windows Mobile?

Posted by robertwright on October 22, 2008

In late September, the initial Google gPhone was introduced: HTC Dream. Google’s strike on the phone market is significantly different than Apple’s, and could, if we measure success by domination of the Internet, be a viable threat to the tumultuous existence of the current mobile industry and cause Apple shareholders some concern.  Is this the wireless battle of this decade?   Since the market has been shifting from PCs to smart phones, this new encounter may well redefine the overall market influence of the various players, with Microsoft mobile being the most at risk, and Google with the most to gain (because it is just entering), and Apple defying all expert opinions by capturing the heart and soul of its customer’s.

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Blackberry Storm vs Apple iPhone

Posted by Gary on October 8, 2008

Blackberry Storm details are coming out fast and furious.  From early reviews, it seems to meet and beat most expectations.  It may certainly be the best corporate device ever built though I’m sure some will argue otherwise.  The keyboard, our big question in previous posts, is getting good reviews and RIM seems to have done a good job of using the capacitive aspects for actions and a hard button interface for selection.  Of course it has the strengths of RIM’s industry leading mail/contact/calendar applications with BES synch.  It appears to be somewhat weaker than the iPhone on the consumer applications side – video presentation, browser, and music.  Especially when it comes to the slickness, design, and hardware graphics acceleration of the consumer application interfaces.  The application store / deck / market has had little discussion so far though it appears from the rumours that carrier’s will control the application they allow in the market.  Payment/account registration etc. details are still unknown.

For us, we are very impressed and can’t wait to get out hands on it.  We don’t know if it will displace our affection for the iPhone – it seems to be missing the lifestyle aspects but it’s our ideal corporate phone. 

Competition is good.  Finally, we can kill the abuse of the term: ‘iPhone killer’.  We now have two very good and different phones to choose from – it’s no longer a one horse market.

Technologizer created a good early comparison table that we’ve copied for you below:

 

The phones
BlackBerry Storm 9530
Apple iPhone 3G
Platform
BlackBerry (Java based)
Apple’s proprietary OS X
Availability
Soon
Now, although supply is occasionally spotty
U.S. carrier
Verizon
AT&T
Price
TBD
$199 for 8GB model or $299 for 16GB model with two-year contract
Data plan
TBD
$30 a month for unlimited data; $5 a month extra for 200 text messages
Locked?
Presumably, to Verizon
Yup, to AT&T
Colors
Just black, as far as I know
Black (8GB and 16GB); white (16GB only)
Size and weight
4.4” by 24” by 0.55”; 5.46 oz.
4.3″ by 2.4″by 0.33″; 4.05 oz.
Screen size and resolution
3.25″; 480 by 360
3.5″; 480 by 320
Input
Multi-touch haptic-feedback touchscreen with QWERTY and SureType keyboards
Multi-touch touchscreen with on-screen keyboard
Buttons
Volume; lock; left and right Convenience; mute/play; send, menu, end, and escape
Home; volume; vibrate
Accelerometer
Yes
Yes
Headphone jack
Standard 3.5mm
Standard 3.5mm
Bluetooth
Stereo
Monaural
Voice dialing
Not sure
No
Voice recording
Not that I know of
No
MMS
Yes
No
Camera
3.2 megapixels; flash; digital zoom; video capable
2 megapixels; no flash; no digital zoom; no video
Voice
Quad-band GSM and CDMA
Quad-band GSM
Data
Both HSPA and EVDO
HSDPA
Use as tethered modem?
It has the ability technically, at least; not sure if Verizon will permit
Violates AT&T’s terms of service; tethering plan is rumored
Data plan
TBD
$30 a month for unlimited data; $5 a month extra for 200 text messages
Wi-Fi and GPS
Nope on Wi-Fi; yep on GPS
Got ‘em both
Battery
5.5 hours talk time; 360 hours standby; removable
5 hours talk time; 300 hours standby; not removable
Web browser
BlackBerry Browser
WebKit-based Safari
Web searching
Presumably in some form, but I don’t know the details
Yes, via Google or Yahoo
E-Mail
IMAP, POP, BlackBerry Enterprise Server
MobileMe, GMail, Yahoo Mail, AOL; other services supported through IMAP
Calendar
Yes, with to-do list
Yes, but no to-do list
Microsoft Exchange support
Yes–hey, it even supports Notes and GroupWise
Yes
Instant messaging
AIM, Windows Live, Yahoo, ICQ
Only through third-party apps
Office Apps
Documents to Go Office-compatible suite, with editing
Microsoft Office-compatible viewers, but no editing
Maps
Yes (BlackBerry Maps)
Yes
Turn-by-turn navigation
Not standard that I know of; apparently available through third-party apps
No, but may be coming from third party developer(s)
Music
Supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WMA ProPlus formats
iPod player and iTunes Store; supports MP3, AAC (with or without Fairplay), WAV, Apple Lossless, AIFF, VBR formats
Video
Yes; supports H.264, MPEG4, and WMV formats
iPod player, YouTube; movies through iTunes Store; supports H.264 and MPEG4 formats
Photos
Yes
Yes
Wireless synching
Yes, through BlackBerry Internet Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Yes, through MobileMe
Desktop synching
Yes, through BlackBerry Media Sync
Yes, through iTunes
Application store
RIM is supposedly readying an application store; apps available from third-party stores
Yes, the iTunes App Store

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Apple Opportunity #2 – The iPhone OS

Posted by Gary on August 15, 2008

As we discussed in “Apple Opportunity #1 – An OS Inflection Point”?, there have been some highly publicized numbers coming out of Apple lately:

* Apple is expected to sell over 4 million 3G iPhones by the end of the September quarter.  Roughly 4x the totals from a similar post-launch period for the first iPhone.

* The iPhone App Store saw over 60 million downloads in its first month of existence.

These numbers are all very impressive but the naysayer will hold true and naysay.  Yes, Apple sold 4 million iPhones, but the number in insignificant when taken against the 1.15 billion mobile phones sold in 2007

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Apple Opportunity #1- An OS Inflection Point?

Posted by Gary on August 15, 2008

OSX market share approaches 8% in July 2008.  Up 2% from a year earlier.

Apple is expected to sell over 4 million 3G iPhones by the end of the September quarter.  Roughly 4x the totals from a similar post-launch period for the first iPhone.

The iPhone App Store saw over 60 million downloads in its first month of existence.

These numbers are all very impressive but the naysayer will hold true and naysay. The numbers are still vary small in the grand scheme of things.  Yes, OSX market share is approaching 8% but don’t forget that Windows is still at 90%.  Yes, Apple sold 4 million iPhones, but the number in insignificant when taken against the 1.15 billion mobile phones sold in 2007.

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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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Apple iPhone vs Blackberry Bold

Posted by Gary on July 17, 2008

Side by Side

Side by Side

The early reviews are in on the Blackberry Bold and comparisons with the iPhone are inevitable.  In summary, the comparisons highlight that these are two distinctly different phones with different strengths.  Perhaps the real RIM vs. Apple showdown will come when the Blackberry Thunder comes out later in the year with a large screen and soft touch keyboard.

 Boy Genius has one of the better high level reviews and it summarizes into:

1. If you are a hardcore Blackberry email junky and have a preference for a hard keyboard, then go Bold.  It’s a bit larger than recent Blackberry’s but has great styling, great keyboard, an improved browser and the best Blackberry screen to date.

2. If you are not hooked to Blackberry’s and are a moderate email user then go iPhone.  It’s the best general purpose mobile device.  Great OS, great design, the best browser, good email, and a growing list of easily accessible and innovative applications. 

The Bold looks great though I prefer the smaller size factor of the Curve.  Big anticipation here at Cell Canada for the Blackberry Thunder.  It will be RIM’s first foray away from the hard keyboard tha thas defined their products and success for so long.  If it just keeps up with the iPhone and doesn’t come with an App store, then RIM’s chances of defending against Apple longer term are suspect.

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iPhone – The Mobile Internet Is Here

Posted by Gary on July 17, 2008

It has been an unprecedented few weeks in the Canadian cellular market. 

The iPhone has finally arrived in Canada with an array of plan options, Bell and Telus have just announced new incoming text message charges, and there will be three new carriers vying for cellular customers by 2010. 

Cell phones have become a fashion item, a personal statement, a lifeline, a business tool, an entertainment conduit — a must-have 24/7 accessory. An estimated 50 per cent of the world’s population now uses mobile phones. This has grown rapidly from just 12 per cent in the year 2000.  

So why the hype around the iPhone? Its introduction heralds the beginning of a new era in mobile communications. Though referred to as a phone, it is much more. 

The iPhone is an Internet connected 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 with DOS. 

Just as during the early days of the personal computer, there have been other smart phones on the market for several years. The iPhone however arrives with the ecosystem elements to drive the smart phone into the everyday lives of consumers.  

From an ecosystem perspective, the iPhone combines an attractive piece of hardware with an elegant, innovative, and class-leading user interface. With Safari, it has by far the best mobile Internet browser. With the unique iPhone App Store, it is the easiest way for consumers to discover, purchase, and install software on a mobile phone. 

This is evident in the 10 million downloads from the App Store in the release weekend alone of the 3G iPhone. According to Apple, there are now more than 800 native iPhone applications available via the App Store, with 200 of them offered free of charge.

The completeness of the developer kit and the focus on creating an easy take-to-market, transaction, and billing and collection capability for developers will ensure that iPhone functionality grows tremendously as software developers create innovative new programs, ultimately leading to further consumer adoption.

So what does this mean to the end consumer? When the first cell phone went on sale in Canada on July 1, 1985, it was seen as a specialized niche business tool rather than the must-have mass market accessory it has become. Certainly, most did not expect to be personally paying around $60 per month in 2008 for this new cellular service.

In the same way that the cell phone and home high speed Internet have become integral necessities of life for many, the mobile Internet will become an integral part of the lives of the majority of Canadians in the next 5-10 years. Whether it is an iPhone or a competitor device, many of us will simply not be able to leave home without it. 

Having all of the world’s information available at all times — the Internet in your pocket — will become an indispensible part of everyday life. And of course, plan to budget an additional $30 to $50 per month to feed this habit.

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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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Apple iPhone vs Samsung Instinct

Posted by Gary on July 10, 2008

Side by Side
Side by Side

Here at Cell Canada, we’ve been engaged in an active debate about whether to go the Bell & Samsung Instinct route or the Rogers & iPhone route. 

Crunchgear ran a comparison on the two and summarized the features in this table:
 
Feature
iPhone
Instinct
Virtual QWERTY
x
x
Visual voicemail
x
x
Video recording  
x
Camera
x
x
Web browser
x
x
Voice navigation  
x
3G  
x
WiFi
x
 
Bluetooth
x
x
Expandable memory  
x
Streaming multimedia  
x
Email
x
x
SMS
x
x
MMS  
x
True GPS  
x
Music
x
x
Maps
x
x
Mobile TV  
x
YouTube
x
 
Live home view  
x
 
The iPhone in the comparison was the 2G version.  The new 3G iPhone picks up 3G and GPS to bring the hardware feature comparison into a near draw.
 
Of course, the iPhone is about user interface and software.  It is essentially a portable computer with a strong OS, a great development framework, and through the developer program and App store, the potential to become a very feature rich tool.
 
The Instinct on the other hand is about basics and price.  Phone, Email, and Web.  The primary applications on the iPhone are well represented on the Instinct.  At $149 on contract, it costs less than the iPhone and most importantly, on Bell, you can add unlimited data on an Instinct for $10/month.  The unlimited aspect balances out most of the wifi advantage of the iPhone.  Over a 3 year contract, the Bell data plan is at least $720 better than the Rogers option.   A detailed Instinct review here on CNET.
 
We are still split here but now that Rogers has positioned a better data plan at $30/month for 6GB and given the upside application/tool potential of the iPhone, we’re leaning towards the iPhone. 
 
It’s all about the App store.  Is the innovation that may come through the App store worth an extra $20/month?
 

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