Categories
Apps Fun Technology

Maps or I Pads?

airlines-110705

A few months ago I bought a so called smart phone just so that I could use it as a satellite navigation tool. I never wanted to do it, but now I live in a new country (again) and I really couldn’t do without it.

All went well, I got it together, I could use it offline so I didn’t spend all my money on data, but then….

It stopped working. It will still give me a route plan, with a blue line to follow, but the arrow stays at home, so I don’t know how far I am down the blue line.

Now, I still carry maps in the car with me of course, because I know as well as anyone does that you cannot rely on technology. It will always let you down at the very moment that you need it most. That is what it is designed for.

So I get the maps out and all is good. I am not glorifying the world of map reading though. My dad traveled the country with a suitcase full of AtoZ’s, individual city maps. You need a fair collection at $5 each just to cover the UK, and he had to stop the car to read them.

No need to stop the car now though, when the system works of course.

So it heartens me to read that American Airlines had to ground a load of their multi billion dollar fleet this week because one of their Apps stopped working. Yes we love to be paperless, saves on trees (and fuel if you are flying that paper round the world), but look what happens when something small goes wrong.

I like the story though, they had to drive back to the terminal and connect the I pad to the airport Wi-Fi and download something. Maybe that burnt more fuel and cost more runway time fees than the money saved by carrying a suitcase full of paper around.

When I was a kid each diary had a map of the world, a map of the UK and a London Underground map in the back pages. Now there is a serious piece of technology! You get it out, get your Swiss Army Knife with a built in compass to hand and you can navigate your way round the world without any problems.

Ask yourself a question, how many of the numbers in your phone do you actually know? I don’t even know my wife’s number, I lose the phone and I am like a lost child. But I can still remember the numbers that I used to dial 30 years ago of my school friend’s parents. My brain has lost the capacity to remember phone numbers, ambulance drivers and pilots have lost the capacity to read maps, and pretty soon we will collectively lose the capability to write with a pen and paper.

It alarms me that an airline relies on an I pad and an App, and without it the world of aviation (and the commerce that relies on it) falls apart. It also amuses me though.

How much money would it save the company in fuel if all American Airlines pilots went on a fitness regime and lost half a kilo? Maybe they could ditch the badges and wear lighter weight uniforms instead, I am sure there are more reliable means.

Categories
Apps Reviews

Possession App Review

Watching a soccer match is exciting enough on its own. Imaging taking that experience and making it more engaging by being able to keep your own stats on the game while you watch. You don’t need pencil and paper. Nope, there is an easier and more technology-driven way to do it, keep it, and share it.

Possessions, by John Shackleford, is a neat little app that allows you to keep score and more of each game you attend or watch on TV. You could be watching a game at a youth soccer match, or you could be watching the English Premier League. Either way, this app that works on both iPad and on iPhones will be at the ready, allowing you to tap away game scores, shots and corners without blinking an eye. The app has a bit of a price tag, costing $10.99, but it packs a punch in valuable data, whether you use it to strategize for your child’s team, or you map trends for your favorite team as it treads its way towards the World Cup.

Possession screenshot

Once you download the app, you’ll see how easy it is to use. The main screen features a timer that can be “assigned” to each team as possession of the ball passes between them. This is done with just tapping either Home or Away. The timer will time the game in general and will keep individual possession times for each team as you indicate the switch when the ball changes “hands.” The main screen also shows the number of Goals, Shots and Corners for each team as well as a clear graphic that indicates the percentage of possession time for each team. This is essentially a bar colored in two shades, each increasing or decreasing in width to represent possession time by each team, and is also flanked by a percentage on each end.

Starting stat collection requires you to press New Game and then swipe the Timer ON. Before turning on the timer, it is wise to move over to the Report page so you can enter each team’s name, their gender if you wish, their age and then select whether or not you wish final stat reports to be emailed. On the subject of emailing, you can specify email recipients on the Mail page. This makes sharing much easier and allows others on the team, like the coach and fellow parents to see the stats. If players are older kids, they may want to get in on the action as well.

The easiest way to use this app is to set up the static information on the Report page first, and then move over to the Game screen, or main page. Next, start the timer and select the team in possession. Now, you might want to quickly move over to the Stats page so you can easily tap on Corners and Shots as they happen. Soccer moves fast, so you need the screen up and ready, or you may miss a moment.

The only thing that I found to be a bit tricky in using this app is the need to switch between the Game and Stats screens. It would be easier to use if you had controls to switch possession and update shots, goals and corners, all on one page. Yet, overcoming this one issue, Possession can make data collection on games much easier and produce a wealth of knowledge for your team for seasons to come.

Categories
Apps Smartphones

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird, for those of you who don’t know, was a smartphone game where users had to try and get a bird through as many obstacles as possible. I say had, as the app has been removed from the iTunes and Google Play – more on that later. I’m not sure I can really explain it much better than that, so take a look at this video to see it in action.

As you can see people take this game pretty seriously. The chap says how he has been playing it for about a week and that “it has totally consumed [his] life“. I tried the game on a friends phone and sensing that it was something that I was likely to get addicted to I decided not to install it myself. I am very glad I made that decision. In fact I have decided to take a total detox from all smartphone and tablet apps recently, and it really does feel great.

A screenshop of the Flappy Bird appUsually I install an app when I have some time to kill, but after a while, I seem to be wasting far too much time on pointless apps. I took a step back and saw that playing games such as Flappy Bird was just a waste of my time. This article is not asking you to stop using apps, but I do want to make people think.

I want to make people think, much in the same way that I suspect Dong Nguyen wants to make people think. Dong Nguyen was the creator of Flappy Bird and despite the fact that some sources report the game to have been earning around $50,000 per day in ad revenues, he took it down. The game was very addictive and didn’t really add any value to the lives of players. If anything, for many it just caused a lot of stress and aggravation.

Anyone who downloaded the game still has it, but if they uninstall it it is gone forever. Some people are selling their handsets with the game still installed on it, although many manufacturers advise against this on privacy grounds.

What I want to know – in the comments below – is what are your opinions? Was the developer right to remove the game? As a society are we getting more addicted to such games? If so, how are they affecting culture – or are they just a bit of harmless fun?

Oh and folks, please don’t go taking a hammer to your phone. 🙂

Categories
Apps Reviews

Hirred App Review

Are you looking for work? Do you enjoy social networking and find that you sell yourself best when you talk rather than write? Then Hirred is for you. Wiink Inc. has come up with a this social networking app aimed at bringing employers and candidates together through short 30-second video clips. You are probably wondering how that works. Imagine just listening to a short description of a quick task that needs completing. You don’t have to read anything, you just watch and listen. You become interested. So, you reply, or apply, with a short video clip about why you are the best candidate to get the job done. Flip it around, now. You are looking to have a small app for iPhone written, or need a few short blog articles for your new website. Come to Hirred and make a quality 30-second infomercial about the great task you have at hand, and watch as the replies post to your clip, with offers of talent that knows no bounds.

Hirred works well for those in an industry where creativity abounds. People who just can’t describe in words how great their talent is, can do great justice in 30 seconds by saying a few words, giving the right facial expressions, and making contact; because, at the end of the day, it’s the contact and familiarity that gets you the job. For employers, this means striking the right chords with potential hires with a description of your needs and what needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, words alone do no justice. It takes a bit of moving art to make something come to life; and, in 30 seconds, enough can come to life.

Hirred iTunes image

When you first download the app, you will have a chance to setup your profile. From the main page, you can view Pitches or Calls. Pitches are clips about people and their talents. Calls are clips about jobs. Under each category of viewing you can select the level of video clips: Rising or Live. Rising is essentially “just starting out”, while “Live” is a user that has been using Hirred for a while, and may have had a few jobs or even hired a few folks. Use of the app is fairly simple, as all you are doing is recording yourself in response to a Call, or creating a Call.

Logistics behind the app reside in the Main Menu, which sits at the bottom of the screen. The menu fades away to a small blue domelike icon when minimized. This renders greater screen viewing real estate. It does get a bit awkward when trying to conjure up the main menu, as many times I found myself pulling up the iPhone’s menu instead. This should be changed.

Other than that, Hirred has some potential. It may not do too well on just the merits of 30-second video clips. Descriptions that short serve as attention getters and teasers… to attract interest. This app will do well if it adds the ability to link clips to resumes or websites that offer more details.

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Using the Galaxy S4 Mini

This is the third article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Last week I finished by saying:

“In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21′s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. :-)”

I lied.

I haven’t had a chance to use the case as much as I would like, so have delayed the article a week, so I can write a better review.

In this post I am instead going to talk about my experience of using my S4 Mini on a day to day basis.

Organisation

One of the main features I have benefited from thanks to my ‘smarter’ phone is that it has improved my level of organisation. I was already a reasonably organised person before I got my phone, however having a calendar which comes pretty much everywhere with me and can create alarms and reminders, is pretty useful!

Because I always have my calendar with me, I am able to make decisions and plans more instantaneously, which can be advantageous. That said I am now heavily dependant on my phone and were I to be without it, I would struggle to keep track of my diary. Hopefully I would be able to retrieve my schedule from Samsung, as I do try and keep my contacts and calendar backed up with Samsung sync.

Battery

In June last year, (so 15 months ago now) Joe questioned (here on Technology Bloggers) if smartphone battery improvements were on the way. I can tell you now that they weren’t! Major improvements are yet to materialise. :-/

A BlackBerry Curve 8900 in its case
My BlackBerry Curve 8900.

I used to have a Blackberry Curve 8900 which would last around two to three weeks between charges. Despite using as many power saving features as I can, I am charging my phone pretty much every day. If I had mobile data, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications on all the time, with full screen brightness, and was using my phone a lot, I reckon I could drain it (from full) in just a few hours. The camera is a big drain on the power, as are all other processor intensive activities. That said, considering its size, the camera is amazingly good.

With regard to charging I try and turn my phone off if I am doing a full charge, but usually just trickle charge. I have researched how to maintain the battery life and have found that modern smartphone batteries are designed to be charged little and often, and they don’t like being pushed to extremes (empty/full and also high/low temperature). Keeping your battery between 30% and 90% is the best area. My battery seems pretty healthy, so the trickle charge appears to be working. 🙂

Overheating

One thing I’m not impressed with is how my phone sometimes overheats, so much so, I have to remove it from its case and can’t hold it as the back gets really hot. Considering the storage space and processing power my 124.6 mm tall phone houses, I am frankly amazed that it doesn’t come with a huge fan attached to the back. My 67.98 cm³ (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t!) phone houses two cameras, one of which is a brilliant 8MP, a HD screen, 1.5GB of RAM, and, among other things, a 1.7GHz processor!

It is no wonder when I put my phone under stress by using a lot of features at once (like for example SatNav functions, as these are quite processor intensive and uses mobile data, GPS and the screen) it starts to overheat. For the size it is, I can’t complain, however I think future phones should be slightly bigger to incorporate better cooling systems, in order to prevent internal component damage from overheating.

Apps

One of the main reasons I chose an Android phone is because of the huge range of applications available. Most of the apps for Android are free, which is a bonus! Some do take liberties however, and demand unreasonable privileges; like the Facebook one, hence I haven’t installed it, but Facebook were going to want to glean all they could from you, weren’t they.

I now have an app to wake me up at the best time in my sleep cycle, an app which can send an SOS message via the backlight, an app to scan barcodes, an app with the latest news, oh, and amongst others, Angry Birds (although I am trying not to use it as it is a real time zapper)!

I have often been known to say ‘there’s an app for that’ but that’s because it is true; almost anything you want to do, there is an app to help you!

Android

On the first article in this series, David from The Only Cog asked about what he called the ‘Disney layer’ that Samsung add to Android – i.e. their slight OS tweaks. He asked the following questions:

“Can it be turned off? How do you find it? What version of Android is it running?”

Google Android's LogoHere are my answers. I have looked into it, and as far as I can tell, Samsung’s altered version of Android is fixed, and you can’t downgrade to the standard OS. That said, I think the changes they make are just to make things look better and also to add a further level of control for users.

The second question therefore doesn’t apply. In response to the third, I am currently running Android 4.2.2 (which came pre-installed) although I think the S4 Mini will be among the first to get 4.3, (Android KitKat) probably just after its big brother the S4 receives the upgrade.

Slogan

Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini is “Minimalism Maximised”. I completely agree with what they are saying, the phone has the convenience of a small phone, but the power of a bigger one. I prefer “tiny but powerful”, maybe the S5 Mini will adopt that one. If so I want royalties Samsung! 😉

Next Week

As promised, next weeks article will be a review of Tech21’s D3O infused case. See you then.

Categories
Apps Reviews

Coach Guitar App Review

Coach Guitar enables users to learn guitar without any music theory or tablature. The animated black fret-board represents a guitar and the fingers are marked with different colors to specify the positions efficiently for both hands use. The colored dots signify the different chords of an acoustic guitar to be strummed. These instructions are available in Help menu on the start screen.

When you open this app, the page shows options such as My Lessons, Library, Help and finally Settings. After going through the Help option, you need to start with My Lessons where there are few popular songs pre-loaded. Then, you have to choose one among them and proceed for the coaching sequences. Just like a true professional, this app provides a step by step teaching facility which helps the users to play each verse of the song with perfection.

Coach Guitar Navigation

This version also contains two amazing songs for free- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and secondly, Wake me up when September ends by Green Day. Another interesting aspect of this app is the availability of video lessons in HD. You can watch and learn in no time. In the Library, you can buy and store your favorite tracks available which you want to learn. The Library is updated quite frequently for the convenience of users. Also, the developers have provided the settings option to configure this app as per your wish.

The appearance of Library is quite similar to that of a normal playlist in your phone only with a single modification of the price tag on the extreme right of the songs. This can be considered one of the flaws of this virtual guitar teaching concept. You have to pay a certain amount for adding up your favorite tracks further. The customers have complained about this attribute and rightfully so.

Looking at all the pros and cons of this guitar teaching app, I am pretty much satisfied by its functioning. This app skillfully acknowledges its name and acquires relevant features to teach users how to play a guitar. Coach Guitar version 1.7.3 requires only 13.2 MB of phone memory. With the presence of a large display screen in iPhone and iPads, the working of Coach Guitar becomes easier.

Categories
Apps Reviews

Zappix iPhone App Review

There are apps that do just about anything these days, including starting your car for you. And while you are waiting for your car to start up, why not make that annoying phone call to the cable company about your monthly bill? If you answered, “Because I don’t want to wait on hold forever,” Zappix could be your one app for your customer service needs. This app provides the user with a simple way to maneuvering through irritating automated customer service wait times.

The simplicity of this free app arises in the very beginning when the user signs into the app. After entering the straightforward information one can access a large number of major companies, non profits, and government agencies, with new ones to come all the time. So whether or not it is the cable company or the court house the user needs to call, Zappix has you covered. If the company the user is trying to get a hold of and is backed by Zappix then the appropriate menu appears for the user to significantly cut back on the wait time.

Companies list in Zappix

Zappix uses a visual means that even the not so savvy smart phone user would understand. You can connect it with all the popular social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which in the end connects you to the companies Twitter and Facebook pages; making it that much easier for you to get a hold of someone. A user can also find the customer support email, and write to the company if the issue calls for more than a minimum number of characters.

Everyone has those days where it seems that everything is happening at once. Bills need to be paid, kids need to be picked up, soccer practice and ballet lesions after dinner all come with one thing consumers want more of – time. With the direct links to mobile websites and information pages Zappix takes out the need to Google the information and jot down the phone numbers which the user then needs to find time call. And to make it that much quicker the app uses stores the “Recent” contacts and “favorites” the contacts that the user specifies.

Since there is nothing perfect in life, though this app may seem to the user like the closest thing, Zappix also has its downside. Because the app is so new the number of companies does have an ending point. Though more and more companies are being added to the list daily, some users find that not every company specific to their needs can be found by searching the company name.

Categories
Apps Reviews

eventseeker iPhone App Review

As a recent transplant to Oklahoma, it was very difficult to find events and gage whether we wanted to take part and attend them or not. With eventseeker, I tried to find events near my new home. The categories are very well-organized and include a lot of variety in events.

I would like to see a category for annual events as well. While this may not be helpful to some people, I think it would be beneficial to people in my situation (people who move often), military families, or even travelers. Another addition could be a traveling feature.  This feature should outline your travel plans and identify events along the route. That would be simply fantastic and extremely useful!

eventseeker also utilizes the content on your device (with your permission, of course) and suggests events and artists to follow. On top of that, in the list of artists (based on your device’s content), it shows which artists are also touring. That is very helpful to me in selecting which artists to follow on eventseeker – if I am not a huge, die hard fan. Obviously, there will be some artists you will want to follow even if they aren’t on tour.

eventseeker "following" screen

After selecting an artist, you can view a vast amount of information. News on the artist or band, information on the band (such as when and how they got started, popular songs, etc.), content posted by the artist, and upcoming events can be viewed. As a user, you can follow the artist via eventseeker or like the artist on Facebook.

Should you find an event you want to attend, you can select the ‘ticket’ option and see what is available online. The usual, Ticketmaster, is listed, but other avenues to obtain tickets are also listed, when applicable. If available, the pricing is shown for each option.  You can also purchase the tickets through eventseeker on your desired website.

Being able to link my eventseeker account to my Facebook account is amazing. It helps us keep our families involved in what we are doing.  This feature is one of my favorites for that reason. It is super easy to use and shows a great bit of information on the post that is available to our friends and family even if they don’t have this app.

When I selected the name of the area (whether it was the city, area, county, or what have you), a detailed representation of the event location was great. I enjoyed being able to read about the area in a concise yet detailed avenue while deciding on attending an event. Although using the event searching feature is fantastic, being able to search via artist’s name or venue is equally remarkable. Like many people, we have our favorite venues and artists that we follow. Although the artists or venues may not be nearby, we can easily find events for them.

eventseeker can help people who want to find local events in an easy fashion. This free app is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation) and iPad. It requires iOS 6.0 or later.

Categories
Apps

Apps to Help Your House Move Run Smoothly

Moving house is one of the most stressful times of your life. Up there with your wedding and starting a new school or job, you’ve got enough to worry about without where the things are going to go, what the parking is like and if the lights work adding to your list.

With all kinds of forms to sign and people to meet at certain times in certain places, anything that makes life easier is a Godsend. Like with most things these days, the answer appears to be on your smartphone or tablet. There are now a number of apps designed specifically to take the stress out of moving house, and here are just a few of the best:

Moving House

A screenshot of the iDevice app: Moving HouseIf you’re only going to download one app to help with your house move then let it be this beauty; Moving House. Not only does it allow you to craft to do lists to help you remember what you’ve packed, what time your new furniture is being delivered and when u-ship are coming to help you with your furniture removal but is also preloaded with more obscure tasks that often get forgotten.

When you have loads on your mind let this app take some of the strain. Its cool open and closed box icons let you know when you’ve completed a task, which is another nice touch. This app is useful for the weeks running up to D-Day, to the actual day itself and following that, a handy tab for the weeks following. This app transforms the most scatty individual into an organized machine, a must have.

Royal Mail-Moving Checklist

This offering from Royal Mail is very impressive and a wealth of information as well as helpful hints and reminders. As do all of the apps, it has a list making feature, but more importantly it has help and advice on where to source items for your new home as well as details on the local amenities near your new home and also information on how to change your address with all of your service providers in one easy step.

This app is a real gem, other useful features are the ‘home progress’ dashboard as well as the count down to moving day and how many tasks you have left to complete.

My Mortgage Mate

This app is a blessing when deciding on budgets and mortgages as well as the financial aspects such as interest rates. Formulated for the UK market this clever tool calculates stamp duty as well as estate agents fees and repayment plans. Easy to use with an immediate response making the house hunting task bearable.

This is especially great for first time buyers who don’t have much experience of the housing market or the rates that accompany it. You are also able to take into account your monthly salary, this app really does do all your calculations for you, letting you see which houses are within reach.

Categories
Apps Reviews

PDF Reader iPad Edition App Review

Before the arrival of tablets, I used to read books on my computer. Then I moved to iPad, because of its mobility and the tactile feel in my hands. As I started using it, I had to try a few PDF reader apps for reading eBooks. Let me review one such app.

PDF Reader iPad Edition was a bit pricey, especially given that I was looking at the app in order to save money on eBooks, but because of all the positive reviews and interest on the web I decided to go with it. The interface is easy to use, it has the balance between simplicity and many functions that every app should look for, and it enables you to carry as many books with you as you could ever read. Plus, the ability to download almost any .pdf file from the internet on the go can be a real life saver. It’s not without its issues though, like a few interface errors that can sometimes lead to crashes.

PDF Reader iTunes Store image

You can jump to your .pdf library to open and read your stored PDF’s, jump to the Import section to add new content to your library, even scan and compile new PDF’s from photographs. Managing files is not difficult, and reading your stored. This PDF Reader is is as intuitive as any eBook reader out there. This simplicity of use is important for any utility that could potentially be one of the most used apps on an iPad, so this is definitely something the makers of PDF Reader iPad Edition did well. Users can also copy and paste text from your files, edit them, comment on them, even fill in signatures with the touch screen.

The only issue with the interface was a tendency to stutter while trying to scroll quickly through large lists or through a PDF file. This can be quite a frustration, but only very rarely leads to more complete crashes or bugs. If you read or work from your iPad in almost any capacity, iPad Reader PDF Edition will quickly pay for itself. This app is compatible with iPad and requires iOS 4.3 or later.