Thoughts on iPhone 4

I have now had my iPhone 4 for nearly two weeks and wanted to give my feedback.  At first I thought it was just another iPhone, slightly smaller, with a nicer display.  But I have to admit that I have been using it even more so than I had my old phone.  It took a while to get everything sorted out like getting my SplashID passwords migrated and my complicated setup for email and shared calendering working.

But here is what I love about the new iPhone 4 and that is the multitasking, which I had mentioned in my first post on the iPhone 4.  I love being able to switch between email and browser.  I do not use push email, as I get mail at all times of the day and night, so first thing I do in the morning is start the mail app and then I switch to the browser to read the news while the mail app downloads mail.  I know you could do this in the past, but I switch back and forth between the mail app and the browser frequently as the email often has embedded links, but now the browser loads much faster and does not refresh the page.

I also find that I am taking way more pictures with the camera and short video clips.  The picture quality is great and I always have my cell phone on me.  I look forward to the day when they offer optical zoom on an iPhone camera.

The speed of the phone is also great, so loading reference apps makes it so much quicker to look up things immediately and then because of the multitasking going back to the app is all that much faster.  I still think that the user should be able to choose what apps to run in the background.  Every now and then I do a clean up of apps that I know I will not use for a few days.

I have not used Facetime again, maybe I will if my wife gets an iPhone 4.

The antenna issue is not an issue for me,  I have seen the signal strength bars go down, but I do not seem to hold the phone the “wrong way”.  If I do notice low bars I change my finger positions, but it is never an issue for calls.

Syncing with iTunes is also going much quicker, which is an added bonus as that means my phone will be backed up more often.

All in all a great phone, you should buy one.

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iPhone 4 Day!

Today was iPhone 4 day!  Yesterday for some very lucky folks.  Yes it is a great phone, and a big upgrade compared to my old 3G.  So there were a few upgrades for me that other people have already experienced with 3GS like the compass and voice control.  Finally multitasking, I knew what I was giving up when switched from Palm Treo all those years ago, but I did miss listening to the radio or Pandora in the background while I checked my email or surfed the web.

The display is truly crisp.  You can see the difference with the images and text.  I plan on testing some of my apps to see if upgrading the images is worth while.  I was so impressed with the 3G display, but now that I have used the Retina Display the 3G is not so great anymore.  It is amazing how quickly we become used to superior quality.

The phone is nice and fast, so responsive, I used my 3G quite a bit for small tasks and think that the new found speed is going to result in me using the iPhone 4 even more.

Having multitasking again is great.  If I remember correctly on the Treo you had to hold down a button to get back the home screen if you wanted to keep an app in the background.  I seem to remember that I had to consciously make the decision.  On the iPhone 4 all the apps are put into the background automatically, which I don’t really like as I now have to consciously remove them.  Maybe I will forget what is running in the background and let the system handle it.

Facetime is great, I tried it and it worked well so long as you do not pan too quickly.  Being able to switch between the front and back facing cameras is a fantastic addition, especially when you are trying to take a picture of yourself and friends.  The flash is a another nice addition.  I noticed that you can make the flash stay on when you do a video shoot.  No doubt someone will make a better flashlight app.

I had been reading that people had been having problems with the signal strength based on the way you hold the phone.  I am a lefty and this has not been and issue for me, my hands are usually quite dry so that could be a possible reason.

I took a couple of shots with the camera.  It works pretty well, but I find that images can easily become over exposed as can be seen in the photo I took with the rear facing camera.

I found the video quality to be great, and being able to record in HD is a big plus.  But also noticed the same washed out issue with the video as you can see in this short clip I took.  BonePony at Rhythm on the Rails.  I need to try the camera under different lighting conditions.  In general the colors seem to be enhanced to give a livelier image quality.

The one extra software feature that you can purchase is iMovie which you can download from the iTunes store.  iMovie will only run the iPhone 4.  This is very much reduced version of iMovie on the Mac, but you can make some cool little presentations.  I need to play around with that some more.

Time to play some more.

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SafetyWeb is Live

SafetyWeb is an app that I worked on quite a while back, but it was not released to the iTunes store as I was waiting for the marketing material to go with the application. It took just 7 days to be approved and that was with one rejection for using bad keywords. It is a neat application for parents of kids who are online. It allows you easily monitor their public information, or make sure that their information is not public. The app flags posts that are public, or have key words that are deemed to be warnings. SafetyWeb does require a subscription and also provides newsletters to help parents keep up to date with the trends and issues in the online world. You can download it here.

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iPhone ordering Woes

I tried to order my phone online as soon as I woke up and had issues like the many other tens of thousands of people.  I tried the Apple website and then tried the AT&T website, which failed too.  I soon realized the issue was with AT&T and after exacerbating the issue by having multiple browsers open I decided to call AT&T.  After all, being the old company they were I figured that they probably had a mainframe that took the orders and that by bypassing the web the line would be shorter.  I was talking to a rep in no time, but had to get transferred  to the dreaded ordering process system that was a mess.  I was told it was a 5 minute wait, but after 40 minutes I gave up and called my local AT&T store.  Once again I was talking an employee quickly and they told me that the system was down, but that they were taking orders at the store manually.  10 minutes later I walked into a nearly empty store and placed my order and they ran my credit card using the old paper process.  10 minutes later and I was done.  Later that morning I was called by the sales rep as he was placing my order and had forgotten the CVV code for my card.  This was a good sign that my order was going it.  Sure enough about 2 hours later I received an email confirm and I verified online that my order had been placed.  Now for the waiting and the hoping that AT&T will ship on time.  I am not sure if AT&T will ship the phone or simply send the order to Apple.  But here is to waiting.

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New AT&T data plans

As of tomorrow there will be two new data plans from AT&T. I have to admit that at first I was disappointed to hear the end of the unlimited data plan. AT&T has been under fire for many years as there service can really be below par in some cities. They have often blamed heavy data users for hogging the bandwidth. Unfortunately the data hogs are not likely to switch from the all you can eat plan to a metered plan. So in the short term I do not for see better experience for most of us.

The new plans start at $15 for 200MB and then $25 for 2GB. After reviewing my data usage I realized that I typically use less that 200MB. So I could save myself $180 over a year. The other nice thing is that when you do go over you simply start a new 30 day cycle, so there are no big penalties that can happen when you go over on your voice minutes. It would be really nice if the family plans would allow you to share your data plan like you can share minutes.

As there is now a much cheaper data plan getting an iPhone is now more of an option for a much wider range of consumers. I wonder though if AT&T will make you buy a more expensive plan to get a new subsidized iPhone.

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Off to WWDC

WWDC is Apples big developer conference held once a year in San Francisco. This is my first time attending and I am looking forward to learning more about development for the various Apple products. The conference is typically focused on the iPhone and now the iPad too. This is also when the new iPhone is announced and we most likely will not be disappointed seeing as Gizmodo has already spilled the beans. I know there are going to be surprises and seeing as Google offered its developers a free phone I wonder if Apple will try to match them. I for one am looking forward to a better integrated camera. Plus the voice dial as I am still on a G3. I would say that I am a heavy user, so multitasking Is going to be a big plus for me. Better battery life is also always a plus. I have downloaded the WWDC app and now need to decide what sessions to attend.

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New Website

I have finally updated the website.  I have been wanting to update it for a while as the data was getting very old.  I did not realize how old it was until I started reviewing what I want to keep.  The update took quite a while for a few reasons.  Firstly I have been busy working on doddle doing updates and working on the Pro version that has call sheets.  Secondly I was not sure how to go about updating the website.  I had thought of getting a professional designer to create the website for me.  I knew I would get a great design, and someone else would be spending the time.  But my problem is keeping the website relevant.  Doing the HTML myself was also out of the question.  I needed a template system that could be easily changed.  I dislike iWeb, and using iWeb was the main reason why I was not update the original website.  The theme I had used was absolutely ridiculous, as far as page weight is concerned.  One simple background image was over 1MB, way too big for the web.  Dreamweaver was another option, and is used by the pros, but I am not a pro web designer and seemed to be overkill for me.  I gave  Rapid Weaver a try and was not totally satisfied.  Rapid Weaver is kind of like iWeb, but with a bit more power.  After investigating Rapid Weaver a bit more I discovered that the functionality could be extended by adding plugins.  Their website however is terrible for trying to find plugins and descriptions.  Google however came to the rescue and I found a plugin called Stacks, that looked just perfect for me.  After seeing what Stacks could do I knew I was onto something.  The next thing was to find a theme as I did not like the themes that were bundled with Rapid Weaver.  Once again Google came to the rescue and I found a great theme called “Backlight 2” created by Henk Vrieselaar.  I just love the Internet as it turns out that Henk Vrieselaar is located in the Netherlands.  How would I have found him pre Internet days.  (Guess I would not have needed a website).  After a quick purchase of the theme and Stacks I was on my way.  I had a look at a few other iPhone developer websites to get a feel  for what they were doing and then came up with what I wanted to do.  I wanted to present a more professional look as I am doing more business type apps, but still wanted to keep some of the playful aspects for the kids apps.

Stacks has nice features, but I found that if I rotated images they would end up having jagged edges, so I previewed the images using Rapid Weaver and then did a final rotate of the images in Gimp to get a better quality picture.

I said goodbye to the old website look and feel and updated it with the new files and within a few minutes I was up and running with a new look.  I still have more work to do to finished it, before it is outdated, but now I can update it when I need to.

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doddle Update

We have a new version of doddle in the iTunes app store. I added some nice upgrades to the app to allow for faster searching of categories. We originally had category search in our early drafts and then removed it as the thinking was that you could easily browse through the categories to find what you want. But it soon became apparent that was not the case once people started using it. This is a great example of why I like to get the app out and into users hands before you spend a whole lot of time building the wrong thing. We fortunately did not build the wrong thing, but I would have done some under the hood things differently that would improve performance even more.

It is great seeing the listings being added. As we get more data the app will become more useful and we will get the snowball effect as more users sign on. Have you signed on? Have you bought a banner ad. I am sure you can get an early bird special if you buy a banner ad now. See for details.

doddlePro is going well, I have completed a big section of the call sheets, but have quite a bit more to do. But the first alpha testing of the app is just beginning.

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NAB Trade Show

Back from the NAB Show in Las Vegas. It was great to meet the entire Doddle team under one roof. We all have virtual offices and so don’t see each other very often. Plus we live all around the country.

The NAB trade show was a great success. Nearly everyone who saw the app had a “wow that is really cool” moment. We now need to get the data loaded so that the app goes beyond, “that is really cool” to “this is absolutely useful” and “I use it everyday”.

I have the opinion that everyone is in sales, so while I am the iPhone developer it was good to get out there and talk to the end users and hear their questions. Some customers had great ideas on what they would like to see in the app down the road.

We had terrible Internet connectivity which was good in some respects as I feel that some of the data transfers can be changed to give the app a snappier feel. I do have some data caching built in, but want to enhance that to make it more useful.

I am going to add some updates to the current version and then it will be time to work on DoddlePro which will have integrated Call Sheets.

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TableView Tutorial

I finally wrote a tutorial on how to add some bling to your tableviews. I unfortunately  spent more time working on the markup of the web page than the actual tutorial. I need to find an easier way to do this.

If you want to have a table view that looks like this, then check out this tutorial TableViewGradients which also includes the source code.

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