Saturday, July 12, 2008

IPhone 2.0 impressions so far

So I've had some time to play with all the new apps that are now available thanks to iTunes 7.7 and the iPhone 2.0 software. Yesterday was hardly the smooth transaction that Apple and AT&T may have planned for the iPhone 3G launch, it was pretty close to a catastrophe. Even iPhone owners like me, who had not gone out to buy the newest phone, got nailed when Apple's activation servers crashed and left everyone out in the cold. About 4pm EST they were finally able to get the servers back up, after being down since sometime between 8 and 9am. But that is all behind me now, I wanted to go over some of my impressions of some of the applications I picked out to install on my original iPhone.

I'll start out with the App Store itself. I had jailbroken my iPhone before the release of the 2.0 software. This had given my insight to how an installer program could work on the iPhone. For all intents and purposes, the jailbroken Installer App did its job, but it was often difficult to try and find new and useful applications. Most of it was trial an error, with no rating or feedback available on the phone. I'm sure all of this was available on the web, but I never went that far to look up apps online, I just installed them and tried them out. This resulted in a lot more misses than hits. Out of all the apps I installed from the jailbreak installer app, most were uninstalled. Only a handful became useful to me, those being the e-book reader, springboard (theme application for the iPhone), and Twinkle (twitter client). I'll return on those three a bit later. In comparison, Apple's App Store is wonderfully laid out. It's easy to find what is available, and even easier to get a general impression of what to expect from the app description and product review, all available both on iTunes and the iPhone itself. Right off the bat, Apple got it right with App Store. 5/5

Now onto the applications themselves. As I said before, I had experience with 3rd party applications on my phone prior to the 2.0 update, but most were not that useful to me. Even out of the few I liked, I only really miss Twinkle, which was the only reason to jailbreak your phone for me. This time its a whole new ball park, I have already found several apps that I love. Some have a lot of potential, they just need some work. Also, with the reviews and description page from the App store, I've been able to avoid the stinkers this time.

First app I played around with was the eReader. Its set up for digital books, and has a nice streamlined interface. Not too many bells or whistles, but it doesn't need that. I like this app, it is an improvement over the reader that was available from jailbreak. General impression is high, don't know if I will use this app too much, but I'm pretty sure I would enjoy it if I did. Don't look for this to knock off the Kindle or Sony's e-book, but I can see storing works you really enjoy on it to peruse at one's leisure. I'd give it 4/5

Mark this one on your calendars, it may be the true nail in terrestrial radio's coffin. Pandora has the potential to be one of the killer apps for the iPhone. I was blown away by it. How it works is you are able to customize a stream of music down to something as narrow as a single song. How it works is Pandora will look at it's analysis of that song, group, or genera to identify specific traits. Love Bitter Sweet Symphony? You can create a station, and Pandora will stream music that also has vocal harmony, vamping, and other traits similar to the song. Its an excellent tool to expand the breadth of your musical knowledge. The website has been around for awhile, but expanding the network to your pocket is what is key here. The whole concept is to create personal music stations tailored around your interest, not a demographic. You are also able to bookmark songs that cause you to rise up and take notice, for either investigation or purchase later. The other thing that really impressed me was the Edge network was able to handle the stream when I was outside of a wifi hot spot. So this is a toy that all iPhone owners get to take out and play with. Not only does this put final notice to radio companies, but the recording industry should pay attention too. This is how new media will work, the individual will go out and find what they like, not what they are told to like. This app is the most exciting of all I've played with so far, it may even prove to be a reason to go out and purchase an iPhone if you've been holding back. 5/5

This one is for the science geek in me. Its and interesting app to allow you to look at the 3-D structure of proteins. Hard to describe the functionality of it all, but you are able to download other 3-D models from a website. I'm not sure its something that will have any true impact beyond just playing with the models. I can't see a chemist or research scientist breaking out their iPhone to look for the active sites of a protein group, there is much more advanced software for that. 3/5

Shazam is a very interesting idea that could be golden, but it will all depend on the execution. The app is designed to record a sample of a song via the iPhone and send it back for analysis. The purpose is to identify the song and report back to you what it is. The need for this is obvious, from TV commercials to radio broadcast cut short, we've all heard songs we love, but never find out more about them. They just linger as haunting melodies that quietly fade from memory. With Shazam, the chance to capture those tunes becomes possible. The tricky part is how accurate the application is going to be when reporting back. You are only able to capture several seconds of audio (8-15 seconds max). I also see this as only being a one shot, two a the max, deal. The time it takes to break out your iPhone, fire up Shazam and get the sample you need may be pushing it for a commercial or TV broadcast of a song you want. Once its captured, you also have to wait for the results to comeback. If your sample wasn't good enough you may not have enough time to catch another. The software also relies more on instruments versus vocals. That's probably something that will require a bit of adjustment on the users end, as most people will try to capture the chorus over the instruments. Again, we have an app with huge potential here, I just need to take it out and field test it a bit before I can comeback and give a final recommendation. 3/5

Twitterrific is one of three twitter clients I saw. I selected the free add-supported twitterrific. It presents a nice clean interface which made general sense in its navigation. A hint screen is enabled to help you discover the tricks and functionality, which can be turned off once you get the hang of things. They have the ability to geo-tag your tweets so those following you are able to see where you are, but this is something that needs to be done with each post. Pictures are also possible to attach to your tweets via twitterrrific. The free version that I selected (over paying $10 for add free) inserts adds interstitially amongst your tweets. For now, this doesn't seem to obtrusive, but my twitter isn't the most active of feeds so it may be based off the amount of traffic that goes by, hard to tell. The only thing I can fault with Twitterrific is that I have been using a much better client, Twinkle, for awhile now. There are similarites between the two, but what I love about twinkle is that is pulls from others posting in a defined radius and posts them in a separate channel. It does a wonderful job of creating a community feel. If you have a rant or rave about a new restaurant, someone in New York isn't going to care about it unless it is in New York. Unfortunately, Twinkle didn't get the magic blessing of being included in the first round of releases. I don't know if that was because it wasn't ready yet, or if they we passed by Apple for inclusion in the initial release. Looking at some of the crappy apps that did make the cut, I find it hard to believe Twinkle wasn't included if it was ready, which leads me to believe they are either finishing it up, or waiting for Apple's blessing. I'll keep using twitterrific until one of two things happen, Twinkle shows up in the app store, or I can jailbreak 2.0. 3/5

Hmm, I've got several more apps to review, but I think I'm going to put that up later, I don't want a monster of a post here. I will tie this up with my impression so far and that is I LOVE the new 2.0 version of my phone. The software is the unsung hero for the newest iPhone, sure 3G grabs the spotlight, but its the applications that is going to make this version sing. The newest iPhone 3G owners can be happy with their upgrades to the beemer class of the iPhone world, but for me, I'm more than happy with the move from the civic to the accord thanks to the new software. I feel that is a good comparison for the two, the 3G definitely has the status symbol attached with it was well as some performance elements that it can hold over the original iPhone. But just like a 3 series compared to an Accord, they are both very nice cars, which have similar performance overall, with the 3 series BMW edging out the Accord. I'm happy with near BMW performance with a slightly lower price. Check back later when I plan on giving my impression of the New York Times app, the Remote control for iTunes, Weather bug and several others. Until then.

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