Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | July 14, 2009

Documents To Go version 1.1

Dataviz has released an update to Documents To Go that has some new features including the following:

Cut/Copy/Paste across all supported OS 3.0 apps. This is a great new feature as the original version of Docs To Go only had cut/copy/paste inside it’s own application (for Word docs). Now it uses the standard iPhone functionality to allow you to cut/copy from your Word docs or paste into your Word docs. If you have not yet loaded OS 3.0, the program continues to use the in-app cut/copy/paste from Docs To Go version 1.0.

Send Files via email. Another great addition. I mentioned in my original Documents To Go review blog that I expected Dataviz to add this functionality and I’m very happy they did. They have made it very simple as there is now a mail icon in either view or edit mode. Tap the button and you’re in a new message screen with the doc attached. Put in a recipient, subject and message and tap send. The attachment is sent and then you are taken back to the document view. You can only send one document at a time but still a nice addition.

Full screen view. When you are editing documents in landscape mode, you can now hide or view the title bar and toolbar with one button press. I mentioned in my original review blog that in landscape view and the keyboard open you only see a couple of lines of the document. This new functionality makes editing in landscape mode much better.  This is a very nice addition. I have however found one minor bug. When you press the Full Screen button in landscape mode (it won’t do anything in portrait mode) and the title bar and toobar disappear, if you then rotate back into portrait mode, you are still in Full Screen mode but tapping the button will not take you out of Full Screen mode. You have to rotate back into landscape and then press the Full Screen button. It’s not a major deal but something that should be fixed in the next release.

Pinch Zooming. You can now pinch and reverse pinch in your Word documents to change the Zoom level making it more like other iPhone apps. Another nice addition.

In conclusion I will say that the additions included in version 1.1 are all needed and well implemented. There is no Excel editing yet but I expect that to be in the next release and hopefully it will not take too long for Dataviz to get that out.

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Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 30, 2009

Review of Richard Solo 1800 Backup Battery

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We all know that one of the main issues with the iPhone (and most other multifunctional 3G smartphones) is the fact that the battery life is not the greatest. I cannot go through a full day without recharging my iPhone. I am a heavy user and have everything turned on including Wi-Fi, 3G and Location Services as well as an hourly mail fetch. I know that you can turn stuff off to save battery life but really, what’s the use of having such a great phone if you can’t use all the features?

Most of the time it’s not an issue because I have a charger at my desk when I’m working and have one in the family room. Oh, and I’ve got a car charger as well. However, there are still times when it’s not convenient to use a charger and I wanted to have a good solution for those times when my wife and I fly to Phoenix. I like to use my iPhone a lot on a flight to watch movies, play games, etc. and by the time I get to our destination, the iPhone is sucking wind. So for Father’s day, I received a Richard Solo 1800 Backup Battery for the iPhone (and iPod).

I ordered it from www.bestdirect.ca for $48 CDN + $10 shipping. Basically, it’s a battery that you charge up using a USB charging cable and when plugged into the iPhone, charges the iPhone and gives you more than double the regular battery time. Here are some of the features from the website www.richardsolo.com :

  • Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and all other iPod devices except shuffle (Note: If your iPod touch or iPod nano has the earphone jack right next to the battery connector, you can not use the earphone jack while you are charging the iPod.) Works great with the 3G iPhone.
  • Gives you more than double the battery time
  • Small and lightweight for pocket, purse or briefcase
  • High-quality plastic case is light and durable
  • Snaps on to iPhone / iPod instantly — no bulky cable
  • Latching mechanism securely attaches to iPhone
  • Included support brace securely attaches to iPhone, providing additional stability while in the hand. Works perfectly with our RichardSolo Custom Case for iPhone 3G.
  • Ultra-bright LED white flashlight built-in, with on/off switch (flashlight lasts over 100 hours when battery is fully charged!)
  • Red laser pointer built-in, with on/off switch
  • Fits easily to any iPhone case (without support brace in use)
  • Environmentally sensitive packaging
  • Begins to charge your Apple device immediately
  • Complete kit includes USB retractable charging cable, dual USB port car charger, and USA AC adapter [110-240V] wall charger.
  • USB retractable cable connects Smart Backup Battery directly to computer’s USB port, car charger, or AC wall adapter for convenient charging
  • Charge the Smart Backup Battery and iPhone / iPod together [the iPhone / iPod will charge first and then the backup battery — the next morning both are completely charged]
  • Lithium-ion technology does not develop “memory” so you can charge often
  • Smart, automatic on/off charging technology protects the battery from overcharging
  • Advanced circuitry keeps battery cool to touch
  • Blue, green, red LEDs indicate charging status
  • One-year warranty from RichardSolo.com

I have been using this for a week now and can say that it works as advertised. The flashlight and laser pointer work by flipping the on/off button on the back of the battery and pressing one of the buttons. I guess it’s nice to have some added functionality to the unit but I don’t see myself using either of these very often. As for the battery itself, it is excellent. Once charged, you just snap it into the bottom of the iPhone and you can keep using the phone or just put it down and let it charge back up to full power. I was originally concerned that it would be a bulky unit that would make it difficult to keep using the iPhone while it was attached but in reality it’s very light and it audibly snaps into the charging port of the iPhone very securely and I felt comfortable browsing and playing games while it was attached.

The battery seems well built but it’s small and light so it would not be a problem to either carry it in my pocket or stash it into a backpack or other carry on. As stated above, it comes with a retractable USB cable, the wall charger and a 2 port USB car charger. Also included were 2 support braces (one is marked 2G and one is marked 3G but I can’t see any difference). The brace is used to more securely hold the battery to the bottom of the iPhone but so far I have not seen the need to use it.

Overall I think that this battery is a really good deal as it is 1800 mAh and charges the iPhone for more than 1 full charge, comes with a lot of accessories and can be had for a good price if you shop around. For me it’s an absolutely needed accessory.

Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 18, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0 Review and Thoughts

I got my hands on OS 3.0 and here are my thoughts after playing with it for about 24 hours.

The install was pretty painless. It downloaded quickly and the first time it tried to install I got an error about being unable to connect to the Apple server but I just clicked install again and it installed fine. Took about 20 minutes or so.

First of all lets look at the items listed in my previous blog entry to see how the new features pan out:

  • Cut, Copy & Paste – This turns out to be the best feature of the new OS release. It works great, it works in all native apps and it’s fun to see how many of the third party apps it also works in.
  • Landscape Keyboard (in mail, message and notes) – This works as expected and was sorely needed.
  • MMS – I’m assuming this works well but I didn’t test it and honestly don’t really care as I don’t use MMS.
  • Spotlight Search – This is a great feature. It’s easy to get to as you have multiple ways of accessing it. You can swipe left to right or press the home button from the first application screen or set up your home button to allow access with a double press. It searches everything and it searches super quickly. For any application that’s not on the first 2 pages of applications, this is the way to start them up.
  • Voice Memos – This application works well and is easy to use. It creates a .m4v file that you can email and it will also sync the voice memos into iTunes so you can access them there and convert to mp3 if you want. I was able to delete a third party application now that this is a native app.
  • Improved Calendar – Since I don’t use Exchange I couldn’t test creating meetings with Exchange ActiveSync and CalDAV support. Nothing else is changed that I can see and I’m disappointed in that.
  • Buy TV, Movies and Audiobooks – Looks like at this point there is quite a selection of these including iTunes U which could be interesting. I’m surprised to see some of the US television series. That might be a hole that Apple will end up closing.
  • Enhanced Stock App – it works. Who cares?
  • Safari Improvements – browsing is definitely faster and the autofill feature is great although I had to create a new contact for myself for the info I wanted autofilled into contest pages.
  • Internet Tethering – I tried this out and it works perfectly. I was able to surf on the 3G network on my laptop and the experience was pretty good. This might come in handy at the trailer.
  • Stereo Bluetooth – I had a little trouble connecting my Motorola headphones but once I got it working, it worked great. I was able to pause, change the volume and even take and make phone calls all directly from the headset. I didn’t even know my headphones had that feature. 🙂
  • Automatic Wi-Fi Login – Couldn’t test this.
  • Sync Notes – This did not work. Again, because I am a Vista user, I am unable to sync because iTunes says that I don’t have a supported Notes application. I can’t sync my Calendar for the same reason. I’m starting to get annoyed.
  • Parental Controls – I didn’t test this.
  • iTunes Store Account – you can log out  and log back into a different account right on the iTunes or App store. It’s great for allowing me to log into my U.S. account to update the U.S. only apps that I have downloaded.
  • YouTube login – for some reason I cannot log into my YouTube account.
  • Shake to Shuffle – this works but I don’t see the point really.
  • New Languages – I didn’t test this.
  • Find My Phone and Remote Wipe –I am not going to sign up for MobileMe to test this.
  • Peer to Peer Games – I haven’t testing this yet either. I don’t think any of my games support this feature.

Some of the other features not previously listed or “hidden” are:

  • vcard support – You can now sent contact information via email or MMS. Nice feature. I had a third party app to do this that I can now delete.
  • adjustable song and video scrubbing speed – I don’t really see the point in this but you can change the speed that you “scrub” forward or back in songs and videos by dragging your finger up or down on the screen.
  • New Special Characters – they have added a bunch more  new “special” characters accessed by holding down a letter, number or character on the keyboard. They have added the ° special character which I am pleased about.
  • Quote fragment reply in email – you can select text in an email using the cut and paste feature and then when you hit the reply button, it creates the new email with the selected text under the email. Neato.
  • Remove individual text from a conversation – since I don’t use text messaging much, I don’t really care about this.
  • Open link in new tab – Safari now has a feature where if you tap and hold on a link it will bring up a selection box allowing you to open up the link in a new tab. I like this feature a lot.
  • Force Quit – They have changed the way that you do a force quit on a hung program.
  • Shake phone to undo typing – gimmicky feature. Another button on the Cut/Copy/Paste box would have been fine.
  • Unlimited number of apps – this is a truly hidden feature. They have changed the maximum number of application pages available from 9 to 11 but you can actually add more applications that you cannot access from these screens but you can still use the new Search function to use them.

Now for something I don’t like with the new upgrade (besides no Notes sync and no helpful Calendar changes). When you watch a video podcast, the screen now switches from landscape to portrait when you turn the phone. Arggggh. I hate this. I watch my podcasts at night and when laying down on my side, I could previously watch my podcasts in landscape mode. Now unless I hold it at just the right angle, it keeps flipping to portrait. I love the accelerometer features of the iPhone but if they use it in an application, they HAVE to give you a lock function to keep it in the correct orientation.

All in all, it’s a really good update and now that Documents to Go has an application and cut and paste is now doable, it’s going to be a lot easier to get information onto the iPhone.

Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 16, 2009

Documents to Go for iPhone

Dataviz has just announced Documents to Go for the iPhone. I used this application on my Palm units and I loved it. It was very robust and allowed full editing of all kinds of Office files. The simple iPhone version is $4.99 and at this point you can only edit Word files but they are offering free upgrades and Excel editing will be next.  They also offer a version for $9.99 that includes “Exchange Attachments”.

I purchased the $4.99 version and downloaded it onto my iPhone and here is a mini-review.

Overall, it looks really nice. Very professional and easy to navigate. You start off with 2 folders – Local Files and Desktop Files. Local Files are files created on the iPhone that reside only there. Desktop Files are files that reside on both your iPhone and on your desktop and they are synced to be the same so if you change the file in either location, the other will stay the same. I haven’t loaded the included desktop client for syncing so I will have to review that later.

You can view all Office documents including Word (Older versions and 2007/2008), Excel and PowerPoint as well as iWork files, pdf, text files, HTML and various image files. They have sample Word, Excel, PowerPoint, pdf and text docs and they all look very nice. I haven’t imported one of my docs to see how much formatting is kept but in the Palm version they did an excellent job (even better than Microsoft’s mobile office suite). You can view all docs in portrait or landscape.

Creating a document is easy. Just tap the “new document” icon and you are presented with a blank screen and the keyboard pops up. You can edit in portrait or landscape but landscape only shows you a couple of lines of text at a time so it may not be the easiest to navigate even though the keyboard is much easier to use effectively in this orientation. There is a strip along the bottom with icons with the following functions:  Save/Save As, Cut/Copy/Paste, Character Formatting, Paragraph Formatting, Bullets and Numbering, Indents, Search, Zoom, Go To, Undo/Redo, Word Count, File Properties. The strip shows you 5 icons in portrait view and 8 icons in landscape view but you can drag the bar left or right to see the next group of icons. Tapping an icon brings up further icons that give you the choices for that function. For example if you hit the Character Formatting icon, you get 5 new icons for Bold, Italics, Underline, Font Colour, Shading Colour. The only thing that I see missing is the ability to change font size and type.

There is a keyboard button that brings up or closes the keyboard as you desire. You can double tap on a word to highlight it and triple tap to highlight a paragraph. You can also tap and hold on the screen and when the magnifying glass “pulses”, you can drag it to highlight sections of text. Pretty slick IMHO. To save a document, you can tap on the Save icon which allows you to save or “save as” or you can exit the document and it will prompt you to save.

The files list allows you to sort it by File name, Last Modified, Size or Type.  Currently there are only a few settings including the default New File Format (Office 97-2002 or 2007-2008).

This is a good start and based on past reputation, we can expect a lot more functionality including Excel editing and allowing you to add your documents to an email other than using Exchange. Documents to Go for the Palm was a highly rated excellent tool for viewing and editing all forms of Office documents and I fully expect the iPhone version to be as well.

You can find more info on Documents to Go for the iPhone here.

Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 12, 2009

Agendus for the iPhone

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UPDATE: Since posting my iPhone blog yesterday, I received an email from Iambic that they now have an Agendus application for the iPhone.  http://www.iambic.com/agendus/iphone/

It’s $7.99 and at this point looks really limited compared to the Palm application. It is just tasks and contacts with various views (like a today view). It’s really good to finally see this application appear and I hope to see updates that add more features especially calendar support.

Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 12, 2009

iPhone 3G and 3Gs/OS 3.0

I have owned an iPhone 3G since it has been available in Canada. Now that the new iPhone 3Gs and OS 3.0 have been announced I thought I would put together a post about how I ended up with my iPhone 3G and what I think about the 3Gs (and OS 3.0)

I had been a Palm guy for many years but more recently became disappointed with Palm’s decisions and deliveries. My list of Palm devices includes:

  • Palm Personal (with 2Mb memory card upgrade)
  • Palm Vx
  • Palm M505
  • Palm Tungsten T
  • Palm T3
  • Treo 700p

The original Palm Personal was groundbreaking. There was nothing like it anywhere and for many years they were the runaway leaders in the PDA market.  I loved my Vx because it was the coolest and most useful device available.  However, Palm let their development slide over the next number of years and when I finally broke down and went from a PDA and phone to a smartphone and purchased the Treo, I was disappointed with it. I didn’t think it was a very good phone, it dropped calls, the volume controls were a constant struggle, the Bluetooth stack never worked correctly, applications constantly caused it to reset and the small screen was something that I never really got used to. I think that they rushed the Treo model out the door to be one of the first real smartphones but because it was just a PDA with cellular technology jammed in, it never really worked that well and they had no way of upgrading when other players started bringing out much better solutions.

I was hoping that Palm was going to come up with something new and exciting for a long time. There was a lot of talk of Linux and an all new design but it never materialized. When the first iPhone was announced, I thought it was the coolest thing but it didn’t do the things I was currently doing on my Treo and it didn’t have the ability to add apps so it was not a real option (also being in Canada made it complicated). When Apple put all the iPhone features into the new iPod Touch, I got excited. I didn’t really have a good mp3 player at the time and I thought the ability to browse the web and watch videos and podcasts on a small device was very attractive. I purchased one and within a couple of days I was totally hooked. A fantastic interface, great browsing experience and video podcasts in a great size to watch in bed. I made the decision at that point that when the iPhone was available in Canada and if it had the ability to add applications, I would be purchasing it. And that’s what happened. On July 11, 2008 it became available in Canada and at the same time, the app store was born. I spent the next month working to get out of my Telus contract and get rid of my Treo (this turned out to be more costly than I had anticipated) and then I finally bought my iPhone from Costco on August 9th.

Now I’m not saying that the iPhone is the best smartphone ever but just that it’s the best smartphone for me based on my wants and needs even 10 months later. It’s got a fantastic user interface, a great browser and the music and video interface is terrific (not surprising since it was Apple that put the term iPod in our lexicon forever). I had a few trepidations leaving the Palm world because I had been using my various PDAs for a huge number of things and I knew that at first the iPhone would not be able to completely take over all those functions but with the app store up and running I was encouraged that at some point or another either Apple would update the OS or somebody would come up with an app to do everything I was able to do on my Palm. The eReader software was available immediately so that was one box I could check on my list of things the iPhone needed to be able to do. Next eWallet became available shortly thereafter and I was able to take my Palm eWallet file and import it directly into the iPhone version and soon I had all my secure information with me. Another box checked off. In the 10 months since I’ve owned the iPhone, I have downloaded and tried many many apps and some have become staples that I use everyday. I am currently at 114 apps on my iPhone and counting.

However there are still a few issues with the iPhone that I would like resolved either with an Apple update or by a third party developer.

  • Calendar – The Apple calendar built into the iPhone seems to have been forgotten about when they were building and refining the basic PIM applications. Unlike Contacts, there are no linked fields  like addresses and phone numbers that you can later tap and either bring up Google Maps or dial the phone. Even though a new event in the Calendar does have a field for location, this location does nothing besides display in the event view. Why can’t I tap on this and bring up Google Maps. Why can’t I put a phone number in this field of a conference call event that I can tap and dial the number. It would be nice if I could add a contact to an event and then be able to tap on that contact name and bring up their profile in the Contacts app.  The repeating events dialog also needs to be upgraded. All you have is every day, week, 2 weeks, month and year. You can’t repeat every 3 weeks, or every 2nd monday of each month or every 2 years. It just seems unfinished. Another problem with Calendar is the Alerts. Unlike the Alarms or the Phone ringer, you cannot change what sound is played for an alert and the default one is not loud enough to really alert you unless you are in a quiet room. Also, why can’t the alert just keep going until you attend to it (like the Alarm app)? You only have a choice of 1 alert or 2 and the alert only lasts for about a second so hopefully you heard it. I would also like more options for the alerts like 0 minutes before (i.e. at the time of the event) and 3,4,5 or more hours before. I was hoping to see some developer like Agendus come up with an app to do all this stuff but because Apple doesn’t allow background applications and also is a little picky about allowing applications that duplicate native functionality, I am concerned that this may never happen. Maybe when they FINALLY give us push alerts some developer will step up to the plate.
  • voice dialing – This is something that baffles me. My old Motorola phone used to give me this capability but yet my 2 smartphones which are supposed to be the top of the line of “pocket computers” can’t get this right. Even with the new iPhone 3Gs, you still have to push a button on the phone itself to initiate the voice functionality. To be really useful, voice dialing needs to be activated by a bluetooth headset so you can keep the iPhone tucked away somewhere and never need to bring it out to make a call.
  • cut and paste – This is included in OS 3.0 finally but it’s something that should have been there since day 1.
  • Notes and ToDos – The current Notes application is pretty basic and not being able to sync notes is an issue. There also needs to be a basic ToDo app that also syncs.

Now that OS 3.0 is about to be released (c’mon June 17th!), let’s look at what’s included in that update and whether it fixes any of my issues:

  • Cut, Copy & Paste – as stated before this should have been there since day 1 but I’m glad it’s finally here.
  • Landscape Keyboard (in mail, message and notes) – it will be nice to view and type emails in landscape.
  • MMS – meh. I don’t send or receive MMS messages.
  • Spotlight Search – I’ve have to wait and see how useful this ends up being but with 8 pages of apps, it might be my main way of starting up apps.
  • Voice Memos – I already do this with a third party app but I’ve only recorded 1 or 2 memos so I don’t think this is a big deal.
  • Improved Calendar – on the Apple website they talk about creating meetings with Exchange ActiveSync and CalDAV support. If this is all the changes they’ve made with Calendar and nothing of what I mentioned above, I’ll be very disappointed.
  • Buy TV, Movies and Audiobooks – don’t care about this. TV downloads will be very limited as I’m in Canada, and I don’t buy movies or audiobooks from Apple.
  • Enhanced Stock App – I don’t think ANYBODY cares about this.
  • Safari Improvements – faster browsing sounds great and I love that they are adding autofill.
  • Internet Tethering – looks like Rogers is going to allow this but personally, I don’t think I’ll ever end up using it. But for that 1 time I need it, it’ll be worth it.
  • Stereo Bluetooth – this is another thing that should’ve been there since day 1. I mean you’ve got a bluetooth transmitter in the device, why wait to give us A2DP?
  • Automatic Wi-Fi Login – Good
  • Sync Notes – as I said above, this was needed but where’s the To-Do app?
  • Parental Controls – don’t need ’em. However, forcing apps and media to add age ratings could possibly mean that Apple will allow more risqué stuff to go through the iTunes store.
  • iTunes Store Account – allowing me to log into more than one account from the iPhone will be nice.
  • YouTube login – don’t care.
  • Shake to Shuffle – don’t care.
  • New Languages – don’t care.
  • Find My Phone and Remote Wipe – I don’t want to pay for MobileMe to get this service so I don’t care. Hopefully if I ever do need it, I can sign up at that time, use the service and then cancel my account. 🙂
  • Peer to Peer Games – This could be really cool.

Now let’s look at the iPhone 3Gs:

  • Faster Processor and more memory will make using the iPhone that much more pleasurable. It’s a great upgrade.
  • Video – this is a good feature but I just don’t take enough video for this to appeal to me.
  • New Camera – 3 mega-pixel, auto-focus is a nice improvement over the original crappy camera.
  • Voice Control – as I said above, it you cannot initiate this feature from a button on a Bluetooth headset, it’s useless for me.
  • Compass – it’s an OK feature but not something that I feel needs to be there.
  • Accessibility – Great for Apple to include this but not applicable for me.
  • Nike + iPod – Don’t care.

Overall the new features of the 3Gs are nice but there is nothing there that’s groundbreaking and OS 3.0 alone will add a lot more features for no extra cost. Since I’m not even 1 year into my 3 year Rogers contract, there is no upgrade path at this point anyways.

Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 11, 2009

Stay tuned for iPhone posts

I though I might use this blog to enter my thoughts on new iPhone features, functionality and any apps I find and love.

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