Hard to ignore the iPhone 4 design flaw

The influential US consumer advocacy magazine Consumer Reports released a report about the new iPhone 4 yesterday with the bottom-line conclusion: “We can’t recommend the iPhone 4.”

The magazine, which has more than 7 million subscribers and an annual testing budget of about $21 million, tested the iPhone 4 to see whether reports of poor cellular reception in certain conditions – as in, incorrectly holding the phone in your hand – were to do with a fault in the phone or not.

Consumer Reports’ video report makes it pretty clear – it looks like it’s a fault in the phone.

Full story – Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can’t recommend the iPhone 4.

Art on the go

If you’re an art lover who owns an iPhone or iPod Touch, you will rejoice today as you can visit the Musée du Louvre in Paris right on your device, wherever you happen to be.

The museum just launched an iPhone app that offers a glimpse into the rich works of art and other treasures you find in the museum galleries in Paris.

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Get to know the Mona Lisa. Explore the works of Tintoretto, Titian and others of the Renaissance period. Tour the museum through a collection of videos. Get information about opening hours so you can plan a real-world visit.

This English-language app – not yet mentioned anywhere on the Louvre’s website – is available free (App Store link), is a delight and is very well produced.

Even if art’s not your thing, you’ll enjoy a tour of the museum and learn a little history.

nationalgallery-iphone One other art app I’ve had on my iPhone for the past few months is Love Art, an excellent pay-for app (£1.79 in the UK App Store) produced by Antenna Audio for the National Gallery, London.

This is in another league compared to the Louvre’s app as its various sections are more deep audio-visual tours of the content you want to explore.

And what content! Over three hours of video and audio, in fact, covering such a range of all you would find in the gallery if you visited.

Rembrandt is here as is Van Gogh, complete with detailed commentaries and visuals on their major works. You can watch or listen to compelling content on other masters whose works are displayed in the gallery including Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Renoir.

Delightful tools, ones that add real value to your mobile experience.

Now if only there were an app for other iconic museums and galleries. Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, for instance.

Oh, wait…

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Antenna Audio again. Nice work!

Is your iPhone with OS 3.1 crashing too?

Apple released an updated version 3.1 of the operating system for iPhone two weeks ago which brings some great new functionality.

It also brings some not-so-great instability and bugs, it seems, certainly what I’ve experienced a couple of times since that OS upgrade.

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After my iPhone just totally died for a while this evening, I tweeted the comment above – and just look at what others said:

os31dicknieuwenhuis

os31lfmolivieira

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[Read more...]

Share your iPhone app recommendations with Appsfire

appsfirelogo One of the great things about iPhone apps is telling everyone about the ones you like as well as discovering what your friends like.

Here’s a new service that lets you use email and social media to share your recommendations in a way that’s far more useful and effective than simply talking or tweeting about an app and linking to its website or iTunes location.

Appsfire does it better. You run a little program on your PC or Mac which scans what iPhone apps you have installed. Then, you go to your private area on the Appsfire website, select the apps presented as icons on a mock-up iPhone you want to ‘fave’, and choose how you want to share.

appsfirefaves In my first go with Appsfire, I chose to create the widget you see (screenshot) here. [Later update: the widget has some odd behaviour so I’ve removed it and replaced it with the screenshot you now see. Click on the screenshot, or here, to go to the webpage at Appsfire with the widget.]

The widget itself is dynamic – you can click on any icon and it will take you to that app’s place in the App Store on iTunes where you can download and install it there and then (and if an app requires you to purchase it, you can do that). Use the scroll bar to see more.

You can also share the widget via social networks (currently, Twitter, Facebook and Delicious and as a link to the webpage.) and email. I tried that with Facebook, clicking the link in my private page. Nothing seemed to happen, though, and I don’t know if anything appeared on Facebook: nothing’s in my profile (the app didn’t ask me to login to Facebook so no surprise) and I see nothing in the Appsfire Facebook page.

Appsfire is in beta. That’s apparent to me as the apps you see in the widget aren’t all the ones I count as faves. No FT app, for instance. Nor Sky News or WSJ. Appsfire didn’t index those and quite a few more. (The email I received from Appsfire did say the Windows version might be a little flaky at the moment.)

Still, it’s early days and no doubt improvements will come. I especially would like to be able to run my ‘recommendations engine’ right from the iPhone rather than from my PC (and that’s in the pipeline).

Incidentally, if you hover your mouse over the links to the apps I just mentioned, you’ll  note they’re short URLs rather than the lengthy ones typical of iTunes App Store links.

appfirelink

That’s a good demo of Appfire’s Link Maker service which shortens iTunes links. Useful – 22 characters instead of the 80 in a typical iTunes link.

Appsfire has a video on youTube that shows you what their service can do for you. ReadWriteWeb has a good review including an interview with Appsfire co-founder Ouriel Ohayon.

I think Appsfire has a great deal of promise in how it (is planned to) connect you easily with your community on your social networks. Worth asking for a beta invitation.

iPhone security fixed with OS 3.0.1

When I connected my iPhone to my PC earlier this morning, I got a dialog to tell me that a new version of the phone’s operating system was available.

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Version 3.0.1 of the iPhone OS fixes a security issue concerning text messaging (SMS) that Apple (and everyone else, it seems) saw as critical.

Here’s how Gizmodo described it a few days ago:

[…] The flaw involves invisible SMS bursts that allow hackers to gain total control over your phone. The two dudes who discovered it plan on unveiling it at the Black Hat conference on Thursday. They say they told Apple about it a month ago, but nothing’s been done.

So how do you prevent your phone from being hijacked? Well, if you get a text containing only a single square character, turn your phone off. Fast.

And this plea:

Hey Apple, wanna fix this please? That’d be great. Thanks.

Apple did just that, and fast. That’s impressive.

Plug in your iPhone today and get it fixed.

Easy FT on the iPhone

The Financial Times has joined the growing group of media companies offering an easy means for readers and subscribers to access the newspaper’s online content from wherever they happen to be via a bespoke app for the iPhone.

Today the FT launched its new FT mobile app for iPhone (iTunes link) that combines clean and fast access to FT.com content with the iPhone’s oh-so-easy user interface.

And a pretty experience it is, too, as this Animoto video at YouTube that I made from screenshots suggests.

I downloaded and installed the app early today from the App Store and ran through all it offers: FT news, comment and analysis, markets data, currency converter and access to your stock portfolios (you have to set these up on the FT.com website first).

If you’re an FT subscriber, you have full access to FT content, much as you do at the FT.com website. So when you load the app, you log in using your same credentials as you use for the website. Couldn’t be easier.

If you’re not a subscriber, then you have similar access to content as you do currently at the website: three stories a month and access to markets data without having to register. Wired magazine thinks this is a bad deal, calling the app “severely crippled trialware.” Well, I’m a paying subscriber to FT.com (and so probably a bit biased), but I think it’s a great deal: there are plenty of other choices for financial news if you don’t want to register or pay to subscribe.

The FT’s approach is different to that of the Wall Street Journal’s iPhone app, launched in April, the one I would tend to think of as a comparison (possibly because I used to subscribe to the Journal as well as the FT). In my experience, the WSJ blocks you with the subscriber firewall on the website if you’re not a subscriber but lets you access pretty much all content on the iPhone.

So if it’s business- and financial-oriented news and information you want on your iPhone (or iPod Touch) when you’re out and about, you’re now spoiled for choice with the FT’s app as well as apps from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

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iphone-reuters iphone-bloomberg

To me, though, this is about affinities. News is the same everywhere; it’s one person’s or brand’s take on that news or other information that’s likely to make you favour one source over another – and possibly pay for access to it.

I like the FT for its columnists and other bespoke content that I can’t get anywhere else. I can imagine many FT users will love the scope and scale of financial information in this iPhone app – something none of the others offers to the same extent – presented so attractively and usefully, as well as being able to manage your stock portfolios from wherever and whenever you happen to be.

By the same token, I like the WSJ for it’s very American approach to its reporting as well as unique content (and on the iPhone, its video and audio reports as well as being able to save bookmarks to favourite content – something the FT doesn’t yet offer).

Last week, I was able to get a look at the app pre-launch thanks to Steve Pinches, Lead Product Development Manager at FT.com (and thanks to Drew Benvie and Ben Matthews of 33 Digital who set up our meeting).

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Over a pleasant lunch (in a rather noisy restaurant), Steve walked me through the app and I recorded our conversation – you can listen to it here with the in-page Flash player at the top of the page, or download the MP3 (6.3Mb, 13:41)

Listening again to the recording, I jotted down these key words I noted from that conversation:

development, user research, navigation, content caching, no-furniture screen reading, news functionality, stock charts, everything on FT.com is here, market data, tear sheets, pinch and zoom charts, investor tools, 20-minute delay, Blackberry version to be developed, open up new user base, free app, same access rules as FT.com, portfolio one of most-requested features, currency converter.

In that conversation, you’ll hear Steve clearly position the FT’s app against Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg. Not the WSJ, you’ll note.

And when I asked Steve to highlight in a succinct, pithy phrase what the prime benefit of the FT’s iPhone app would be, he says:

Everything you need to know about business when you’re out of the office.

A pretty good description.

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