Apps & Reviews
John Gruber recently highlighted Google searches for “finally” and “iOS5″. It seems a lot of people think iOS has now hit a point where it has matured into a really solid platform.
I’ve been using the new version of Touchnote’s iPhone app – out later today – and I feel exactly the same. All the niggles that I complained about before have been worked out.
If you’re not aware of Touchnote, it allows you to send postcards – real, physical ones, not eCards – using photos from your iPhone. I loved the idea when the Touchnote app came out in 2009, and used it to send a few cards on holiday.
Let’s face it, iOS devices have pretty crappy built-in data tracking. Settings –> General –> Usage gives you this mightily useful piece of information.
Enter DataMan. It uses location services to determine where and when you use wifi and mobile data; you don’t have to keep it running in the background, by the way.
The app gives you local notifications when you hit daily, weekly and monthly limits, based on percentage of allowance thresholds you set. A really good idea if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
In keeping with my policy of not writing about things when they’ve been perfectly well covered elsewhere, take a look at Craig Thornton’s review of DataMan if you’d like to know more.
There are two additional things I’d like to see, or rather remove:
- Daily and Weekly notifications
- Two of the four percentage usage notifications
I don’t need to be notified that much about my data. Saying that, you can work around those by setting daily and weekly allowances to the same as the monthly allowance, and percentage usage alerts to above 100%. But the developer has also told me that options to turn some things off is en route. Actually, I’ve just noticed that DataMan Lite only has the monthly usage, so if that’s all you need, give that a go.
I’ve also come across an app called Download Meter that does the same sort of thing – I haven’t tried it, but here’s the iTunes link.
You can currently stream BBC Radio shows on your iPhone for free using FStream and BBC Streams. But I’ve been hanging on for BBC Streams’ promised free iPhone app, for a cleaner app experience tailored to BBC Radio. I even donated some money to make it happen, but it’s turned out to be absolute vapourware. I don’t think the app will ever materialise.
So I started looking around for alternatives, and came up with TuneIn Radio. And you know what? You get what you pay for. This is a superb app.
We all need a calendar in one form or another. Some prefer the comprehensive, do everything option such as Pocket Informant (a favourite of mine). Others prefer something less complex and ambitious such as the app I recently reviewed called [twitch] Agendus [twitch, twitch]. The less said about ‘the A word’, the better.
Now, though, there’s Refills to play with and it turns out to have a twist that I think has a lot of potential.
Every couple of weeks, I’m out and about with my iPad and iPhone. Anyone here like mobile data? Thought so.
I have a wifi-only iPad, and I’m too cheap to pay for a MiFi*. Besides which, I’m already paying Vodafone for 1GB of Internet usage through my iPhone contract. But with both a jailbroken iPhone and a jailbroken iPad, I can keep the cost down by using two handy apps: TetherMe and iTether.
I’ve written up a little setup guide, plus my thoughts on how it works in practice.
iOS 4.1 just went live. Among its many updates and improvements is a feature that is specific to the iPhone 4. iOS 4.1 when running on the iPhone 4 adds an HDR photography option to the camera app.
The HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique has been around since the 1930s, but this is the first time that it has been offered as a default option on a smartphone. What does it mean and should you use it instead of the standard photo option? Let’s find out. (Non HDR shots on the left, HDR shots on the right).
When you take a photo with the iPhone the exposure is automatically set to render the best possible range of luminance based on the centre of the scene or, if you tap on a part of the scene, that area. As I’m certain you have noticed for yourself, this means quite a bit of experimentation to find the best compromise between under and over exposure. Under expose the photo and you risk crushing all the blacks and dark colours, over expose the photo and you’ll surely end up with washed out colours and very little detail in the highlight areas.
I’ve already reviewed the CoPilot Live satellite navigation app for the iPhone, which I found to be almost like having a whole extra gadget inside my iPhone. One of the commenters on that review suggested I take a look at Trafficmaster Companion, which integrates routing based on live traffic data.
This is a very different kind of satnav app – there are no maps included at all, and very few user-configurable options. The philosophy of this app is very different to the traditional, “do everything” satnav from TomTom and Garmin.
So in this case, is less more?
The native calendar app on the iOS is one of its weakest features but one that seems common among mobile devices. All of my past phones had poor native calendars that needed replacing with better third party options and the iPhone is no exception.
I’ve previously looked at Pocket Informant and was very impressed. The regular updates since my review have meant it continues to be an excellent replacement. After all this time though, I was curious to see if PI now had serious competition with the appearance of Agendus from iambic inc.