Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Want iPhone Multitasking. Now!

While folders were my #1 most desired feature for the iPhone, multitasking was more of a nice-to-have for me.  Those days are long gone however as I now find myself wanting multitasking for more and more apps by the week.

It use to be that I couldn't read someone demanding for iPhone multitasking without the first (and usually only) example listed was so that they could keep listening to Pandora while switching to use other apps.  While I started using Pandora years ago and it was one of the first iPhone apps that I downloaded, my personal listening habits are such that I rarely use it.  And whatever my old iPhone usage habits were, it seemed the lack of 3rd party app multitasking (since the Apple apps included with the iPhone already have it, which is why you can listen to the iPod app while using any other non-music app with your phone) wasn't that big of a deal.  But lately I've been using WunderRadio a lot and it stinks that I can't do something as simple as look up the current song I'm listening to in the iPhone's iTunes app without cutting the music.  Or check up on my bank accounts with Mint, check sports scores on ESPN ScoreCenter, check my twitter account on get the idea.

So while I respect Apple's reasons for being slow to adopt 3rd party app multitasking for the iPhone and - with up to 7 different APIs for developers to choose from to best suit their app - I'm very enthused about how Apple is implementing it, I'm getting anxious - if not foaming at the mouth - waiting for this feature to arrive.

It will be a great leap forward for the iPhone and its users.  Take the example I used above with being able to pull up iTunes from any radio app.  The possibilities for apps working with other apps in a symbiotic fashion are exciting and can only make the iPhone platform more appealing for developers and users alike.

So not only can I not wait for app-wide multitasking on the iPhone, I also can't wait to see how it expands the possibilities of what some of my favorite apps can already do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Response: Why the Number of iPhone Apps is No Longer Meaningful

This is a response to an article from the always excellent John Martellaro of   In the article John opines about how it was once important for Apple to tout how many apps were available for the iPhone.  But now with the number of apps exceeding 200K it ceases to be relevant.  What are the relevant metrics then?  Well check out the article to find out, it's well worth the 3 minutes of reading time.

As for my take, the number of apps available for the iPhone was a Big Deal when the iPhone and app store were still reaching out to new customers. It was important to show that the app store had developers behind it and that it was a thriving ecosystem.  Now after 2 years of having the app store and 3 years of the iPhone, I think it’s safe to say that Apple has achieved the respectability and market penetration it desired to call the whole iPhone ecosystem a success.

From here on out, the number of apps doesn’t really matter like it once did, and as John accurately notes it can only lead to ammunition for Apple’s mobile competitors as the Android ecosystem tries to catch up. Time for Apple to make another trademark maneuver and change the rules before the market catches up. Focus on the few remaining markets the iPhone hasn’t penetrated before settling in as the leader not in total market share, but in high revenue market share - just like where the Mac platform sits today.

In the meantime, I would like to see Apple diverst some of its attention back to the iTMS ecosystem (particularly AppleTV, NOW before GoogleTV makes it irrelevant), change MobileMe's iDisk to allow transparent access to you hub Mac's My Documents folder from any iDevice (just like DropBox), and maybe clean up the OS X GUI a little bit more.  They are amongst the few significant holes in Apple's digital hub architecture, but like any hole left open it's just opening the door for a competitor to come in and exploit it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Want My iPhone Folders. Now!

My #1 most desired feature on the iPhone - by a country mile - was folders for organizing my apps.  So when such folders were announced as a forthcoming feature of iPhone OS v.4, I figured this would satisfy my desires with this knowledge that my wish would be fulfilled in just a couple of months. 

I thought wrong.

Since the announcement, my desires have descended into frustration and is now borderline outrage.  Before I had no problem sitting down in front of my hub Mac and spending 15 minutes (or more) organizing my 11 pages of apps.  But now, forget it.  I've given up on organizing my apps all together.

Being able to organize your apps in iTunes was a much needed step for the iPhone, but it always was a crutch solution.  The real problem was that 11 pages of apps was just ridiculous.  I gave up on scrolling past the 5th screen a long time ago and have now gotten quite comfortable using Spotlight to find the app I want.  I'd say that's quite a pretty impressive behavior change coming from someone who still rarely uses Spotlight on the Mac.

So how's that working for me?  Not as bad as you might think.  The Spotlight search is awesome as I can find most apps just by typing in 3 letters.  And it's smart too.  When I was following the NCAA men's basketball tournament using CBS' March Madness app, I would just start typing "NCAA" and Spotlight found the March Madness app before I was finished typing, even though NCAA doesn't appear in the app name.  Cool stuff!

Still, I find myself denouncing my iPhone more and more for not giving me a better way to organize my apps than trying to keep related apps (ex. news, sports, weather) together on the same page.  How much longer can this behavior continue?  Please Apple, don't make me find out.  Give us iPhone OS v.4 sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Fine Print: Goodbye Canon i9100, Hello HP PhotoSmart Plus

It's a day that was long coming and now it has finally arrived. My long-in-the-tooth Canon i9100 met its successor on Tuesday, a new HP Photosmart Plus printer/scanner/copier combo. Getting a new printer was on my to-do list for over a month, but all of a sudden it just seemed like a good belated Mother's Day/early wedding anniversary gift. And much to my wife's shock (and a little of my own), I did not research my purchase one bit.

I just went to Target, looked at what they had - which was about 12 printers all within all between $80 and $135 - and just went with the most expensive model. I tried to compare features, but they all seemed the same. Except this HP seemed to be the only one that supported wireless printing, something that I don't see myself needing but could be very useful in the future, in addition to several other features that I really don't think I need either.

But to really understand why I got this printer, you would have to have lived with my Canon i9100 for a while. I've had it for almost 7 years and even then I bought it used off of E-Bay as I was cheap back then. The appeal then was that Canon i9100 allowed you to print your own 17x9 prints. I had dreams of filling my walls with awesome prints of my awesome photos.

However the dream quickly led to reality, and it wasn't pretty. For example:
  • Keep those ink cartridges fresh: there was nothing worse than starting one of those large 17x9 prints and watching white lines appear in the middle of the photo because at least one of the ink jets got clogged. At roughly 75 cents for a sheet of 17x9 paper and expensive ink, you could see your money go down the drain.
  • Oh, and just because each color comes in its own cartridge means that you just have to change that much more cartridges. I swear the ink would evaporate if the printer sat.
  • 17x9 photos are a little wider than your typical 4x6, and if you frame your photos are carefully as possible this could have a dramatic affect on your prints
  • Also while 17x9" was a nice wide print, good luck finding any frames that can fit them.
  • Back when I first got the printer, most of my photos had been shot on a 3 megapixel camera. Even though 3 megapixels are more than enough for good 4x6 prints, printing them up to 17x9 often meant the prints were blurry when viewed up close.

Ultimately it became apparent that this was the kind of printer for someone who runs their own photo labs. Someone who prints every day. So it was with great sadness as I watched this printer drain my pocketbook with every $50 set of ink cartridges (and that was off of eBay, retail price would be $78 + tax!). Actually I didn't realize it, I denied it. But in the last year even I could not ignore the fact that the printer couldn't produce any color besides red and black accurately and having to run the printer utility to unclog the print head before almost every use. I finally had to admit that I not only needed a new printer, but this printer has been one of the worst investments I've ever made.

I briefly considered getting another Canon 17x9 printer. But with their current model running $450 on Amazon, knowing that I can comparably sized prints from Walgreens or Sam's Club for well below $20 and remembering how much hassle the i9100 was, I gave up the dream.

So here am I with a new printer in front of me ready to be setup this weekend. Will I finally be able to print my own prints when I need them now? Will I still have to replace ink ever few months even if I haven't been using the printer? Stay tuned, I'm excited to put an end to one of my worst chapters in home electronics and open a hopefully much happier new one.