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VodiPhone 3GS

July8

Today VodafoneNZ finally announced the iPhone 3GS plans, or should I say re-announced the iPhone 3G plans? They are exactly the same as the current plans. Disappointing still. I would have loved to go on the iPhone 40 plan if it was any good, but $40/m would get me 20 minutes, 100 SMS and 250MB of data. I require more SMS than that, 100 is a joke. That also would have taken the 32GB iPhone 3GS down to $899 dollars, from the regular $1379.

I would like to know why the price of the phones went up. Is the recession to blame? Were Vodafone selling the 3G at lower prices but since it can now be taken over to other carriers they’ve increased it to cost price? I was hoping that it would be at the $1199 price point like the highest model 3G was but no, they’ve jacked the price of the highest iPhone model up further.

What am I going to do then? Initially I wanted to switch to XT, I still do, but I am going to stay on Vodafone so those poor people that can only SMS other Vodafone people can still SMS me, unlike those lucky Telecom people that can SMS everyone. I need a national SMS plan (TXT600) which is not available on Vodafone Prepaid so for that I need to go on a plan. I am thinking the Starter 600 would be a decent one for me. It includes 30 minutes, 600 SMS and 1 Bestmate. That costs $29.95 a month, and with the Broadband Lite add-on (100MB,) that brings it up to $40 a month. We’ll see what I do on Friday. Hopefully I’ll be the proud owner of a 32GB Black iPhone 3GS. :)

mobile phone deals

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5 Reasons To Jailbreak

June28

Recently, the iPhone 3.0 software came out. I did not get it straight away because I would only update when a jailbreak was out for it.. As soon as that happened, I updated to a jailbroken 3.0 and then went through the painful process of restoring my Cydia apps and such. Anyway, here are my 5 reasons why I need to jailbreak.

The iPhone 3GS added video recording the the iPhone. Unfortunately for us iPhone and iPhone 3G users, we are left out. Well lucky for us, there is Cycorder. This allows for our devices to record video. It may not be as nice looking and smooth as the 3GS video, but at least it’s something. It’s good enough to just whip out your phone when you want to take a quick, dirty video using your phone.

The YouTube app in the iPhone is great. It does what you would expect it to do and does it really well for a phone. Unfortunately it is only really useful when you have Wifi or 3G data. Well for when you don’t have that, there is MxTube. No, it doesn’t save every video on YouTube to your phone, but you can get it to save you favourite videos or any YouTube video you want to view offline, or even online to save mobile data. This app is great for that and a lot of people like having their favourite videos on their iPhone to watch and to show others whenever.

There are many reasons why you’d want to get into your phone. For me, that is looking at files in my phone, modifying files in my phone, even backup files in my phone. This would only be possible with OpenSSH. This app has helped me back up some files before updating to 3.0, mostly stuff on my phone from jailbroken apps, but I would have lost over 500mb of files without this app. It is extremely useful.

I wish Apple had a simple way in the OS to toggle different things such as Wifi and Bluetooth from anywhere in the phone. Well for us jailbroken users, there is SBSettings. With a simple swipe of the top menubar, a box comes down with various toggles including Wifi, Bluetooth, Phone, Location Services and a few more. SBSettings makes it easy and elegant to get to those options without having to navigate out of our apps and deep into the settings on the iPhone.

This last one isn’t as useful as the other app but is more a interesting app. SMS Counter shows the number of SMS sent and/or received by your contacts between any date you specify and also shows this on a pie chart for you to see. It is really interesting to see how many SMS I’ve sent and received and to and from who since I first started using the iPhone. This app is pretty cool and can show you quite a bit about your SMS habits in a cool way.

And that is pretty much why I jailbreak. Hopefully one day Apple can include some of these things with the OS and loosen up on the apps to allow more interesting and useful apps into the App Store. I’ve been using jailbroken apps since the get go and have become heavily reliant on them. If I had to choose between 2.1 with jailbreak or 3.0 without, I would definitely pick the first. I couldn’t live without those apps. And that is why I waited a while to get to 3.0.

WWDC 2009

June17

It wasn’t until Sunday night that I finally got around to watching the WWDC 2009 keynote. Apple keynotes are always interesting, no matter what they announce, whether it affects me in anyway or now, regardless of if they announce something huge or just show off a few things that they’ve got. Apple keynotes are the best. This keynote covered 4 main bits, MacBook Pros, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, iPhone Software 3.0 and the iPhone 3Gs.

When I first found out about the MacBook updates, I was a little annoyed. My MacBook is only 6 months old and they update it already. The only changes to it from my one are the FireWire 800 port, SD Card Slot, theoretical 2 more hours of battery life, slight CPU bump, double the RAM and the Pro on then end of the name. After an hour or so i was over it though, I love my MacBook and the features it adds wouldn’t affect the way I use my computer, although the RAM and Battery upgrades would be nice.

Snow Leopard really amazes me. It is a better Leopard. I love Leopard how it is and couldn’t have imagined it any other way. This is a perfect operating system (I come from a Windows background so what do you expect.) Well Apple blew my mind and showed some really cool stuff that they’re including in Snow Leopard. I find the current OS to be blazing fast and the new OS will see increases in speed. I can’t imagine how fast it will be but if it really is as fast as they say, I’m going to be blown away. Maybe Leopard isn’t really that fast, it’s just that I came from Windows. But that wasn’t all, Apple once again blew my mind with Snow Leopard by releasing it for a small $29 USD. Wow, I’m buying this day 1! Amazing price.

iPhone 3.0 stuff had been out in the while for some time so the stuff showed off was really no surprise, it was nice to see them on screen though. The thing that was interesting were the demos of apps utilizing some of the new features available to developers. I’m not a huge fan of in-app purchasing, I could go into more detail but I’d need another post for that. The GPS app that Tomtom showed looked pretty awesome. I would buy it, and the stand if I had my own car and needed a GPS unit. I am really looking forward to seeing apps developed especially for 3.0.

The last thing announce was a new iPhone, the 3Gs. This seems more like a spec bump, similar to that seen by the MacBook rather than a new model. Basically it adds a better camera with video support, a compass and voice control. Someone with a current iPhone 3G would get little out of the 3Gs. Someone new to the platform or someone upgrading from the original iPhone on the other hand, this would be a great next phone. For me, having fast data over the cellular network, the 3.0 megapixel camera and the 32GB of storage is enough reason for me to upgrade to it from the original iPhone model. The only thing I’m worried about is that I’m going to wish I had waited a year longer when the new big revision gets announce next year.

Overall this was a get keynote for me. I didn’t particularly care for new MacBook but it is nice to see progress for when i do eventually upgrade my 13″ MacBook to a 15″ MacBook Pro probably when I finish University. I am really excited for Snow Leopard and will definitely be purchasing it in-store on the day of release. 3.0 seems like a huge improvement over 2.0 adding features people have been wanting since version 1.0 so that will be nice to have. Finally, I think I am going to be getting an iPhone 3Gs. It is about time to upgrade to a model made for current generation mobile technology. WWDC 2009 was better than expected. I can’t wait to see what they have to top this one next year.

The Official Geocaching App

December7

When the App Store for the iPhone was launched about half a year ago, us Geocachers have been waiting to see how the technologies in the iPhone can be use for Geocaching and enhance that experience. After a lengthy wait with a few third party apps, finally Groundspeak, the people behind Geocaching.com, launched their official Geocaching App. This popped up in the store for a small price of $13.99 NZD ($9.99 USD). I didn’t hesitate to buy it because I thought it would be a worthwhile investment. After a few updates with bug fixes and a couple of extra features slotted in, here is where the Geocaching App currently stands.

When you launch the app for the first time, you are greeted with a terms notice which you have to accept. After this, everytime you will launch the app, it will search for your current location. For a lot of people, this is where your first issues with this app will show up. If you don’t have location services enabled, you will have 3 different popups get thrown at you to “okay” to. This happens everytime you launch the app, unless you enable location services. Otherwise, it will find your location and give you a search page where you can either manually enter a Postal Code, Address or GC code. This will show you the caches that meet the criteria, same as the results on the Geocaching.com website. You can also select search for nearby Geocaches. This takes your GPS co-ordinates and shows you the caches around where you are. If you don’t have an iPhone 3G, this feature is pretty useless to iPhone 2G and iPod Touch users. In the first version of the app, there was an issue with the search coming up with caches you’ve already found. They managed to get it to not show them in an update by entering your Geocaching.com login details into the app. The search is pretty solid and works great when looking for caches. The location services stuff is pretty useless on a non-iPhone 3G device, which is expected.

When you search for a cache, you are given a list of the caches that it finds (unless you enter the GC code.) In this page, it shows you the type of cache it is (traditional, multi etc.) and the direction and distance it is. It also shows the difficulty and terrain info as well as the cache size. When you select a cache, it shows all the same info as on the search results page along with the co-ordinates to the location. From here you can choose to save the cache info into a database, navigate to the place using the built in GPS of the iPhone 3G, or map it which launches Maps.app to pinpoint the location on Google Maps. On this page, you can get the description of the cache, 5 most recent logs, any travel bugs with the cache and the hint. This is all the information you would get from the Geocaching website for the cache, all accessible on the iPhone. If you do choose to save them, you see all the same information but without having to have a connection to the internet. This is very handy if you are going to a place without good mobile reception or you want to store all the cache information so you can access it easily.

Do I think it is worth the $13.99 I payed for it? To be honest, not really. The app isn’t very stable and crashes at random times and when trying to load some saved caches. This can be very frustrating when you are in the middle of nowhere and relying on the Geocaching app to give you all the information on the cache you are trying to acquire. Also if you don’t have an iPhone 3G, a lot of the features of this app are lost. The only useful feature for non-iPhone 3G devices is the ability to save caches onto the device, even then, this isn’t the most reliable app. Only get this app if you are a Geocacher with an iPhone 3G and willing to lay down $13.99 NZD (or $9.99 USD) on this app. It will definitely be a much better experience for you as the 3G was the device this app was mainly developed for. Maybe one day I will get to take this app out for a run with an iPhone 3G and the whole experience with this app will be much much better. Until then, I’d say this app is average at best.

posted under iPhone | 3 Comments »

Podcaster Vs. iPhone Podcast Downloader

December1

Last week, Apple released iPhone Software 2.2. This update had many new features including Google street view, emoji‘s for Japan, improved performance and podcast downloading. Podcast downloading has been on the list of features people want on the iPhone ever since Apple rejected the Podcaster app. Fortunately I was able to get it onto my jailbroken iPhone and had been using it up until IPSW 2.2. Since I have now had a good chance of playing with them both, I can have give my opinion on these two different ways of getting podcasts into your device.

Podcaster is an application available on Cydia and it does pretty much what you expect, lets you download podcasts right on your iPhone. When you open the app for the first time, you will want to subscribe to podcasts. This is a very simple thing to do where you enter the address of the RSS feed and it will look for podcasts. Then you can select the episode you want, go into it and press the download button, and it goes into the download queue. At anytime, you can press the refresh button and it will look for any new podcasts in any of the feeds you’re subscribed to, and shows you that there is a new podcast available to download.

Unfortunately this app isn’t at well built as I’d like. The program crashes randomly or when you try and give it something to do. This is especially bad when it is downloading a podcast, because you lose what you have downloaded up until the last time you paused or quit the application. Another issue I had was when download, it didn’t hold the Wifi connection. Whenever the iPhone turned the screen off, the Wifi connection would drop shortly after, which would cause the program to crash when you woke the device back up again. To get around this, you ould have to stop your iPhone from going to sleep, which would reduce battery life significantly. The last little grip with it that I had was the slow and somewhat unresponsive playback of podcasts. When you push the play button to continue playing a podcast, you would have to wait a while for it to start playing. Sometimes you would have to tap some of the icons multiple times to get it to respond. These gripes are frustrating!!!

One the other side, we have the new Podcast downloading support that iPhone Software 2.2 brought to the device. For iPhone podcast downloading, you go into the iTunes Store, search for the podcast you want and then tap the download button beside the episode or episodes you want. You do this for all the podcasts you want. This puts them in the download queue and they go and download in the background and go to the iPod app when they are done for you to play. The podcasts pretty much behave in the same way as they do if you synced them over from iTunes. From each of the podcast pages in the iPod app, there is a button which takes you to their page in the iTunes Store so you can download any new episodes when they come.

There are limitations to this app, all of which Podcaster doesn’t have. These include the lack of any RSS feed downloads. You are limited to the selection of Podcasts they have in the iTunes Store. Although they have the majority of podcasts and for most people, have all the ones they would want, but it would be nice if that restriction wasn’t there. Another issue is that you can’t subscribe to podcasts. If you want to download podcasts, you have to manually navigate through the iTunes store to their page and tap the download button. There is no notification of new episodes, no notification of podcasts currently on your device, nothing. It is all manual, no automated downloading or anything. This is something they really missed the ball on because it would make it close to perfect. The last problem I had was with iTunes syncing. In the iTunes application, I have it set that it won’t sync podcasts. You would expect this to mean leave podcasts on iTunes and the iPhone alone, do not do anything. Well what it turns out to mean it sync all the downloaded podcasts on the iPhone and delete them from the device. This is not what I want. I want to keep them separate and I want them to stay on my iPhone and out of my iTunes library. This is by far the most frustrating feature/bug with the podcast downloading and hope it is fixed in the next iTunes/iPhone update.

Both of these app have their ups and downs. For Podcaster, I like having my podcasts separate from iTunes and my music library. I also like being able to subscribe to podcasts and check for updates. For iPhone podcast downloading, I like having the experience the same as when I listen to music and the better integration with the iPhone features and functions. I also like the stability of the whole process and the background downloading. What I dislike about Podcaster is the crashing, instability and unresponsiveness of the app at times. I also wish it could hold the Wifi connection and make the downloading process smoother. It would be nice to also have better integration with the media player already on the iPhone. What I dislike about the iPhone podcast downloading is the whole manual process of downloading podcasts and the lack of subscription and automatic downloading. I also hope they fix the iTunes syncing issues I have because they are just a huge pain in the arse.

As you can see, I am very torn between the two apps. They both have very strong good points, but they also are weak in others. If only each of them could take the strengths of each of the applications and fix all the problems, we would be left with two amazing apps. For someone who manages their podcasts in iTunes and only wants to be able to download podcasts on the road, the podcast downloading in 2.2 is perfect. For someone who keeps their podcasts separate from their music and enjoys a less messy way of getting their media, Podcaster is a great app for that. I hope that they can both sort things out so they can both be used by any podcast consumer.

The Cut List

October11

Sometimes, not even the best apps can stay on my iPhone. This could be for many reason such as I never use the app, maybe because I am not connected 24/7, unlike most iPhones. Here is a list of applications for iPhone and iPhone Touch that I have used, but no longer have on my iPhone. They are great apps and worthy of mention, some free, some paid, some for jailbroken devices. This is the cut list.

Evernote – This app is great for taking notes. It can also take picture note or images from your photo albums are use them too. All of this syncs with the Evernote web service which also syncs to the desktop app. This tool is very powerful for making notes, much more than the default note application. Since your note sync back and forward with the cloud, you will be able to access your note from anywhere.

Instapaper Free – What makes this app really useful is the ability to read webpages offline. What you do is mark a link using the Instapaper bookmarklet either from your computer or iPhone and then you sync the iPhone app with your web account and it downloads the webpage onto your iPhone for reading offline. You can read the page in web format or text format for faster loading an no added rubbish. There is also a Pro version which ads a couple of extra features but nothing you will really miss. Definitely look at this app if you are interested!

NetNewsWire -This is the best RSS reader app in my opinion. It syncs with Newsgator Online which syncs with the the Newsgator desktop clients. This allows you to get the latest news that you haven’t read and read it online or offline and then later sync back up where it marks what you have read. This is a great product as it makes all your feeds synchronised across the board. This app performs great!

Talking German Phrasebook – If you are ever going to go to Germany and don’t really know the language, then this is the app to take on your travels. It has a load of phrases and words a tourist in the country may need to use. It has the English and German for the phrase and even has an audio recording for the spoken phrase. There are even some interesting phrases you can use to pick up some those hot German chicks :) Its also a great application if you find the German language interesting or would like to pick up some words for your general knowledge. So worth the money, do get this!

Tumble – Want to quickly post something on your Tumblr tumblelog while you are out and about? Well this app makes that easy. Just launch it, select the type of post you want to make and go for it. You can do most of the usual methods. You can even use it to take a picture and upload directly to Tumblr, caption and all. Great app that saves time by not making you log in and use Safari.

WordPress – This app allows you to write full length posts for your WordPress blog, right on your iPhone. You can type away your blog post, save it, and post it online right from the app. It does exactly what you would expect it to do. The unfortunate thing is that typing for an extended period of time on the iPhone virtual keyboard isn’t ideal so I doubt you will be writing massive essay post to your blog, but maybe shorter posts. If you need to blog away from your computer on your iPhone, this is definitely the way to go about it.

Air Sharing ($6.99/$9.99) – I managed to snap up this app while they were giving it away from free. This app allows you to transfer files onto the iPhone using your computer. You attach your iPhone as a networked drive and you can paste files in there. The iPhone can even open and view most well know file formats such as word, excel, pdf, html etcetera. You can also access the contents of the drive via a web browser. I did find the transferring of files and accessing the drive a little bit slow, but that would be anything, not necessarily related to the app. If you need this type of functionality from your device, this has to be the app you go for.

PocketMoney ($9.99/$13.99) – This app give your the ability to manage your money on multiple accounts and cards. You can add different types of accounts and manually manage and keep an eye on money going in and out of the accounts and the spending on your cards. It’s password protected so your financial information is hidden from any suspecting people using your device. I personally use it to keep track of the money I am spending on my credit card so I don’t spend more than I have and know how much more I need to purchase something. It is really good for that.

Spore Origins ($9.99/$13.99) – The objective of this game is to get your unicellular Spore organism through the levels and eat guppy things which increase your DNA bar. The controls are basic, using the accelerometer steer and move forwards and backwards. Most of the levels consist of collecting DNA, except they start including unique creatures for you to attack or defend against to make the game more interesting. There are also special levels where you have to traverse a maze-like setting and your goal here is to get to the end without being killed by other creatures. This is a challenging and fun game to play.

Buzzer (Cydia) – This is a fun game which is similar to Buzz! The Music Quiz on the PlayStation 2. There are multiple rounds of the game where they give you a snippet of one of the songs in your library and you have to guess either on of the following, song title, artist, or association depending on the round. They also show you a zoomed in version of the album art and you have to guess it as it zooms out. Lastly, they have a round where the music is garbled and you have to guess what it is. This game was intended to be for 2 players but it is fun to try it yourself. If only they had a proper 1 player mode and scoreboard.

My Top Cydia Apps

October10

Unfortunately, the official App Store can be restrictive and limited for some developers. With jailbreaking and Installer.app and Cydia, this allows them to create and distribute applications that can do things that the restrictive SDK wouldn’t allow them to, or Apple. I’ve used quite a number of these jailbroken apps on my iPhone and here is a wide selection of ones I have on my iPhone. These are my top Cydia applications for iPhone and iPod Touch.

BossPrefs – This is a very powerful tool and I don’t even know exactly what this app can do. I use this app to turn off data and SSH when I don’t need it. This is so it doesn’t suck up my money, and no one can hack into my device. It is also good for respringing, restarting and shutting down your iPhone, if you needed to do that for some reason. There is plenty this thing can do.

Poof – I also like Poof, which I can access through BossPrefs. It it can be a stand alone application or come with BossPrefs if you would rather it. This allows you to hide icons from the home screen. This is very handy if you want to make those pesky icons you never use or are sick of seeing disappear. You can always easily put them in view again if you need to, its not permanent, it’s just a toggle of a switch.

Cycorder – One thing the iPhone is missing, a video recording application. It can a decent enough camera for taking pictures, so why can’t it be used for video? Well with this app it can. The quality of the video is decent enough, especially for YouTube. It does on the fly compression of video and they can be played back through the app. The annoying thing is that this app doesn’t have built in export tools. You have to get into your iPhones filesystem, navigate through the directories to find all your videos. I’m sure exporting is on the list of things coming soon to the app but it is still worth giving a go.

MxTube – The YouTube app that comes with the device is great, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time I am without an internet connection. This is where MxTube comes to the rescue. It allows you to download videos and save them onto your device for offline viewing later. I use it to save some of my favourite YouTube clips in high quality so I can show people later on, without the need for any connection. It can also save on time and bandwidth too, because you will no longer have to reload that video you’re always watching or showing.

Pushr – If you take pictures regularly with the built in camera on the iPhone and you use Flickr, this is the perfect app for you. When you launch the app, it will show you the pictures you’ve taken since the last push and allow you to name and tag them and upload them to Flickr. It does it easily and the images are full resolution with all their various tags in tacked.

Qik – Use Qik or would like to stream live to the internet? If so then this app is for you. It allows you to stream using the camera on the iPhone and sends it up to Qik for everyone to see, over Wifi and 3G. This allows people to see exactly what you see, live! It is also saved on the site for further viewing after you’ve finished streaming.

WifiToggle – This adds a button on the home screen for fast connecting to Wifi. No longer do you have to go into Setting and navigate through to the Wifi menu just to get connected to the internet. With one push of a button, and a 3 second wait, you will be connected to your Wifi. It’s as simple as that. If only it had a nicer looking icon.

Five Icon Dock – The dock only lets you have 4 icons on it at a time, although there is room to squeeze one more. That is what this app does, it allows you to drag one extra icon onto the dock if you so desire. If you already have 4 apps you want down there, and lets say you just got WifiToggle, it would be handy down in the dock, but you don’t want to give up one of your other apps from down there too. This is the prefect solution to that. It may look a little strange at first, but you will get use to it, fast.

OpenSSH – This app allows you to SSH into your iPhone so you can hack it, transfer files to and from the device, or whatever you desire. If you’re going to modify system files, change the theme, install some apps then this is a must. It is also needed for some apps like Cycorder for getting videos off the device. It can also be used to backup some of the files on your iPhone. There are many reason why you could want to get into your device, and this app is a must for any of those.

Scrobbled – If you use Last.Fm, this is the app you’re looking for. This allows you to scrobble straight from the iPhone or iPod Touch. No longer will you have to sync and hope that the desktop software scrobbles your plays. This app scrobbles to the site live if you’re connected to the internet, but if you’re not don’t worry, it will scrobble all those offline plays the next time you are connected.

Veency – There are many apps, official and unofficial, that allow you to VNC into another system, but this does the opposite. This app lets you VNC into the device. From here you can control your iPhone or iPod Touch right from a computer screen. You could use this to type things on the device with a real keyboard, or to access apps when it’s away from you. This is a fun little tool to play around with.

Note: These apps are for jailbroken iPhone and iPod Touch only. All are available through Cydia.

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