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iPhone Navigation in an iPhone 4 / iOS 4 Age

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photoAs I have mentioned before, I seem to collect Navigation apps for the iPhone. Back in the days of my 16GB 3G, I only had room for one at a time on my iPhone. With my new 32GB iPhone 4, I have them all loaded on there temporarily, while I sort out which one I like best and will keep on the device. And, since Navigon was slow getting to the iOS 4 upgrade, I seem to have added another paid app, and, oh, I picked up another free one as well (why not?).

iOS 4 has added a whole new dimension to turn by turn GPS. No matter what other app you have open…iPod, Phone, Maps, Around Me, etc, etc. you nav app will continue to keep track of where you are on your route and give you turn by turn instructions. In fact…you can’t shut it off unless you open the App Tray and specifically quit the app. The Home button just puts the app in the background. Sounds simple, but it is truly revolutionary!

So right now I have the following Navigation apps on my iPhone 4 (in the order in which I acquired them).

Navigon North America (iOS4, $79.00 + lifetime traffic subscription charge)
CoPilot Live  (iOS4, $19.99 + yearly traffic subscription charge)
MotionX GPS Drive (iOS4, $.99 + monthly turn by turn and traffic charge)
Magellan RoadMate (not iOS4, $59.99, no traffic )
TomTom USA (iOS4, $39.99 + yearly traffic subscription)
MapQuest (free with free traffic)

Let me say up front that any one of these apps will get you where you are going relatively painlessly, most of the time. With the exception of MapQuest, they all have similar basic feature sets. MapQuest is the odd app out in that it does not have destination up mode, which for me is a deal breaker, no matter how good the rest of the implementation is or how cheap it is. That said, each app brings at least one or two unique, or at least rare, features to the navigation experience…and one app (not, interestingly enough, the most feature rich) has definitely emerged as my favorite for day in day out navigation.

What you can expect from all of them: audible turn by turn instructions with at least one voice that does text to speech and reads street names. Music controls with in the app (though is is far less critical in iOS4). Routing with at least some customization. 2D or 3D map display. Day and Night modes. Navigate to Contacts (the most problematic feature on any Nav app). POIs. All the apps that offer live-traffic (that would be all of them except RoadMate) also offer live local search (generally via Google).

So briefly, app by app.

Navigon Navigator: on-board maps.  The first turn by turn navigation app on the iPhone, and still the clear leader in the features war. Now fully iOS4 able. Not only 3D maps but Panorama View 3D, with elevations (hills, valleys, mountains, etc) mapped in a realistic landscape. You have to see your road wind up a mountain pass. Way cool! The most comprehensive speed limit information with speeding warnings (Caution she says, gently but firmly). Excellent lane assist on major highway intersections. Well implemented traffic and local search. And, very unique, a my route feature that maps 3 routes for you to choose from and learns from your choices. The life time traffic and local search subscription somewhat mitigates the high initial cost of the app.

On the down side, the most complex, awkward, and slow UI of any navigation app. Maxes the processing ability of any phone less able than the iPhone 4, and pushes the limits there. Noticeable lags in typing, choosing, searching, etc. Occasionally, in my experience, makes questionable routing decisions. Only reads one of the possible choices for a street or road name with more than one name on the map…and often not the most logical or helpful. And, another little thing, the text to speech voice has no way of saying “continue on this road” so she is always telling me to keep left when she means go straight ahead.

I pretty much trust this app, and really like the slick Panorama display…but I find that I do not use it due to the slow interface, if I have an alternative available.

CoPilot Live: The second turn by turn app on the iPhone, and always among the most affordable of the apps with on-board maps. I really like the look of the maps…colorful, cartoonish, fun…however this is not an door to door app. It gets you to a section of a local street with a range of numbers and that is as close as it gets. Also, in my experience, the maps are, by a narrow margin, the least accurate of any of the nav apps. And there is no real lane assist for most intersections. The turn by turn voice gives more complete instructions than Navigon. Despite its limitations, the price is right for a app with on-board maps, and it will do a credible job of getting you there.

Motion X GPS Drive: another absolute bargain, even if you pay the monthly subscription fee for turn by turn and traffic. However, this app depends on a live internet connection (wifi or 3G) for maps and routing. No on-board maps.  While in most urban situations, that is not a huge drawback, where I often travel it makes this my back-up app of choice, but not my primary choice.

The UI is among the slickest and quickest, the POIs are, of course, since they are always live, the most up-to-date., address entry is the simplest and most logical of any app…you type in the address naturally…number, street, city, state, zip…rather than the reverse pick one at a time method all the other apps apply. There is a lot to like. The Bing maps as quite good. If you are on a budget and don’t travel where 3G gets thin, then there is really no reason to spend what an on-board map app would cost you. Motion X will get you there just fine.

Magellan Road-Mate 2010. Don’t go there. Slick interface, but slow and limited turn by turn (no turn now for instance, just a beep). The least accurate rendering of where you are on the maps. No iOS 4 ability. Just don’t go there. A real disappointment from one of the leaders in stand-alone GPS.

MapQuest: a great app for free. No destination up mode (North is always up, which means you are traveling across the map horizontally much of the time). Not for me.

TomTom USA: So, the last is, imho, the best. This is the app I use 99% of the time, and the more I use it, the more things I find to like. Fast, logical, elegant and attractive UI that is a pleasure to interact with. Excellent maps. Comprehensive lane assist. The most complete turn by turn directions of any app by far: she reads all the names of streets or roads with multiple possible names, just in case…gives audible warning of close second turns, directs you toward signed landmarks, tells you when to go straight on, gives multiple warnings of upcoming turns, gives audible lane guidance (in addition to the excellent lane assist diagrams), etc. etc. The first time she said “at the end of the road, turn left onto Ridge Road, State Route 6 , Maine Street, toward Lancaster College, and keep in the left lane…” it was love. This lady knows how to tell a fella where to go!

Though the speed limit system is not as comprehensive as Navigon’s (less rural roads and village streets), the warning system (visual and audible) is great. The maps are attractive and, in my experience, remarkably accurate…and TelNav (supplier of the map data) maintains and easy site for users to submit updates. I have submitted three and gotten responses confirming my input and promising revisions on the next issue of maps.

Live traffic is handled well. Traffic and time of day is taken into consideration in all routing, and, when a  route slows down enough for there to be a quicker alternative, you are offered the option of taking it.

And routes are highly customizable. The app computes the most logical and fastest route (if that is what you ask for) but you can tell her you want to go via some POI or address (including an address from your Contacts) and she will reroute you that way. You can also call up a map of the route and touch to select an alternative routing, and she will obediently send you that way. This is a great way, by the way, to test alternative routes. Very very cool. (And that is in real time…there is a Planning mode that allows you to do all this at your leisure and save the route for when you need it…amazing!

Finally, like Navigon, TomTom is integrated with Around Me, my favorite alternative to Google search on the iPhone for finding specific types of POIs by category or name…restaurants, convenience stores, drug stores, doctor’s offices, etc. Around Me will often find an obscure POI like a state or regional park when nothing else will, and you can instantly send the destination to TomTom for routing. I use it a lot.

I have now used TomTom in rural Maine and urban California, and it is yet to let me down. I trust it. It gets me where I am going, and makes the trip as stress free as possible.

I have, almost literally, tried them all, and TomTom just does what I need it to…which is, basically, to get me where I am going…better than all the rest. Motion X GPS Drive will stay on my iPhone for backup, but TomTom will be the app I keep on board for all my day to day navigation needs.

There. that is done. Now I can take about 6 Gigs of apps off my iPhone!

Written by singraham

August 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm

iBird Pro for iPhone Revisited: still the best (and even better)!

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IMG_1000000410While we wait for iBird Pro for iPad to appear in the app store, it might be a good time to revisit iBird Explorer Pro for iPhone, in some detail, for those who are not familiar with the application, or who have not considered it in a while.

IMG_1000000421Version 3.0, just released, is a major upgrade…adding, first and foremost, over 5 hours of reference standard sounds from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, both songs and calls, with multiple recordings for many birds. This removes, to a large extent, the only clear competitive advantage some iPhone field guides have had over iBird. (Note also, the Similar Sounding list…it is much more extensive on some birds.)

In addition, version 3.0 offers multiple Favorite lists and, if you are using iOS4 and the latest iTunes, the ability to sync both Favorite Lists and Species Notes to your desk/laptop. This makes it possible to use one Favorite List as a Life List, and another as a trip list (not ideal yet, but possible). If after syncing you store the lists and notes in separate folders, you can even keep multiple sets. (There is a through tutorial on the More page that helps with the use of multiple Favorite Lists and sets of Species Notes.)

IMG_1000000432IMG_1000000436There are also a few refinements to the UI…most notably Size and Length sliders where appropriate in Search mode, and, though a simple thing, shadowing at the ends of the navigation bar at the bottom of the Species screens that makes it clear (for the first time, see the screen shot above) that the thing slides left or right to reveal more options! A simple thing, but it should eliminate some initial frustration on the part of new users. The Help section has also been refined, with a new, more graphical delivery of the basics, and that should also ease the new user’s pain considerably.

Those are the most important new features, but let us revisit the feature set that makes this the best of the field guides currently on the iPhone. We will begin with the reference section.

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Basic illustrations of all 924 species

Supplemental illustrations of many

Multiple photographs of almost all

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Full size portrait mode for detail

Access to 1000s of Flickr images
And Birdapedia, (No screen shot)

Detailed, accurate, range maps

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Pages of identification detail

Table of interesting facts

Conservation status information

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IMG_1000000419

IMG_1000000428

Family information

Illustrated similar Species list with live links to the species.

ability to add notes to species

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ability to use multiple favorite lists

Where the female is not illustrated…

photos are provided.

But the reference section is only half the program. The search section offers the most comprehensive and useful set of search criteria of any of the iPhone filed guides…setting a standard that will be hard to match. As mentioned above, where appropriate, sliders and pickers are employed, but the real strength is the graphical approach to criteria. Anything that can be illustrated, is.

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Pages of search criteria organized into logical groups.

illustrated, icon driven,  search criteria…

Icons

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Icons

Icons

sound sample for song search

As criteria are selected the number of species that match is shown at the top of the search screen.

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Matched birds update with each criteria.

as so…

you can view any group.

 

A complete list of criteria looks like this:

Basic Group
Location (Common)
Location (Uncommon)
Shape
Size
Habitat
Color Primary
Color Secondary
Backyard Feeder
Family
Conservation Status
Observed State/Month

Song
Song
Song Pattern

Body Related
Length Range
Weight Range

Flight Related
Wing Shape
Flight Pattern
Tail Shape
Wingspan
Leg Color

Pattern Related
Head Pattern
Breast Pattern
Belly Pattern
Back Pattern

Head Related
Crown Color
Forehead Color
Cere Color
Throat Color
Nape Color
Eye Color
Bill Shape
Bill Length
Ear Tuffs

Miscellaneous
Game Bird
Order

As I have mentioned in past reviews, iBird’s search mode can be an excellent tool to teach new birders the kinds of things they should be looking for as they are observing birds in the field.

With this breath of features and depth of solid information, iBird Explorer Pro for iPhone 3.0 continues to set the standard, not only for what a birding field guide can be on the iPhone, but for what any iPhone field guide can aspire to. There is more information here at the tips of your fingers than any birder could digest in a lifetime…but it is all information that a birder might need, sometime, somewhere. The magic is that, with iBird Explorer Pro, it is right there in your pocket!

Written by singraham

August 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

SimplyTweet 3.1: Back at the Top of the Twitter heap!

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Note: as of 5/8 this version is pending review in the App Store. It should be available next week.

Of course, with Tweetie now the property of Twitter, and its first release as the one and only official twitter app for the iPhone impending (simply Twitter for iPhone), there is somewhat of a scramble among twitter client developers to get their apps well positioned to survive the advent. And that is not going to be easy. Tweetie already has one of the richest feature sets of any client, one of the most elegant interfaces, and one of the strongest followings. One wonders what Twitter is going to do to it…but unless they somehow make it worse instead of better, Tweetie as a free Twitter for iPhone is going to be tough competition for any other app.

Still there are two features that Tweetie lacks that have always kept it off my home screen. 1) native push notifications and 2) unread counts and unread marks. I know you can use Boxcar for push, but as I have said before, there is no comparison between well implemented native push and a side-car push experience. They are two different things altogether. Native push is clearly the way to go. (We will have to see what wrinkles multitasking brings to this mix with OS 4.0.) And, personally, I value unread counts and marks. They help to make sense out of my stream, and any help there is appreciated! 🙂

I have used just about all of the feature rich twitter clients, and the one that keeps working its way back on to my home screen is SimplyTweet. It has a simple, elegant UI, all the standard features, and a few still fairly unique features that I use every day. For a while before 3.0 came out, SimplyTweet fell behind the curve in implementing twitter-native retweet and twitter lists. The native retweet thing was critical, since they did not appear in the ST timelines at all. That was awkward. And, while ST had its own list function, it was not integrated in any way with Twitter’s own new lists.

That lead me to an app called Osfoora (see reviews here and here). Osfoora has most of ST’s features (except for push) and is blazingly fast. Excellent app and another app which is rapidly developing. Still I was really waiting for the new release of ST.

SimplyTweet 3.0 was a long time coming because it was a complete rewrite…all but a complete recreation…in essence a whole new app. The UI changes went well beyond 2.5, which was itself a significant upgrade (see review). 3.0 added all the new twitter native stuff, and the engine under the hood was completely reworked.

Unfortunately, because of that, 3.0 was essentially a 1.0 version with a few really awkward UI corners and obvious patches still showing. Though I bought it the day it appeared in the app store, it never did make it to my home screen. (Since it was completely new app from the inside out it was not a free upgrade…though, under protest, the author did lower the price for a time to appease his faithful following. My attitude on this is somewhat different…as it was with Tweetie 2.0. iPhone apps are inexpensive. iPhone app developers, if we expect them to continue developing, have to make some $$ for their efforts. Having to repurchase ST, considering all the work that has gone into it, over past upgrades and in this new version, is only fair. 🙂 Or that’s what I think.)

I have mentioned before that ST’s author, Hwee-Boon Yar, is among the most accessible and responsive of developers. If you check his twitter profile you will see that he has over 10,000 updates…most dealing with his user’s suggestions and concerns. That is impressive.

And SimplyTweet 3.1 shows that he is still listening. He took the suggestions of his users after 3.0 and added the final layer of polish to the UI, finished a few features that were hanging, and managed to speed up the app significantly in 3.1. SimplyTweet is back on my home screen!

Features it retains that I value:

  1. multiple accounts with easy account switching (even while composing a tweet).
  2. native push, with all notification options
  3. load all since last unread (it will load over 1000 tweets first thing in the morning), with tweet counts on the control bar at the bottom, and unread marks in the list
  4. unread marks which disappear as you scroll up the list (tweet count decrements as well)
  5. full TextExpander integration.
  6. repost this tweet function
  7. ability to post multiple images with a single tweet
  8. swipe control for instant access to common functions (and, in the Settings app, you can set which function icons appear when you swipe)
  9. reply to multiple tweets by selecting them a list view (elegant solution for #ff)
  10. reply to author and all mentions function in tweet view
  11. # symbol on the compose screen for quick access, plus your saved hashtag list
  12. easy access to the chain of tweets for @replys, both forward and backward
  13. image search (Twitpics, yFrog, TwitGoo and img.ly)
  14. excellent Profile view which auto loads user’s recent tweets and still has access to the user’s lists, favorites, @replies, tweets between you and the user, followers, followed, etc. etc….and all while still managing not to look too complex.
  15. general look and logic of the UI (it just works the way I need it too)
  16. full screen rotation, in any view
  17. ability to edit the control bar at the bottom and the More screen

New features of 3.0/3.1

  1. native retweets with dual avatar display in timelines
  2. native lists (now in 3.1 with easy access in the control bar if you want to put it there)
  3. hidden control panel in the compose screen for additional functions (url shortner, #s, location, pic upload, etc.)
  4. pull down Compose box to view tweet being replied to (surprisingly handy)
  5. image indicator in list view for tweets with images attached (as a fotog this one is particularly important to me)
  6. thumbnail image preview in tweet view (ditto)
  7. redesigned, single screen, Search interface (takes getting used to but actually works very well)
  8. both search for user and go to user in Search. (may have been in previous versions but I never appreciated it until the redesigned UI)
  9. Tweet translation
  10. Tweet now playing on iPod
  11. cached tweets, so you can read tweets while off-line
  12. general speed enhancements, especially on opening app

What does Simplytweet still lack? (both of these continue to surprise me! but neither is a deal-breaker since they are features I don’t use much)

  1. conversation view of DMs!!! 😦
  2. nearby tweet mapping (it does a list, but there is no indication in the list of the location of the tweeter and no map view 😦 )

I have said it before, and now, with 3.1, I can say it again. SimplyTweet is, in my studied opinion, the best of the currently available Twitter clients for iPhone. Twitter is going to have do something spectacular with Tweetie to even equal it…let alone to better it.

Of course, the real test of twitter apps is yet to come. OS 4.0 is going to be a whole new game, with new potentials and opportunities. Which twitter app will best realize all that 4.0 goodness…that is the real question now!

Lots more screen shots of features mentioned in the text below.

Search screen features: also note the elegant Profile view layout.

Stuff you can do with a tweet:

 

Written by singraham

May 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

Osfoora Updates: now this is getting really good!

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Osfoora has had 2 updates in the short time it has been in the App Store, and since my first review. Considering that it was a strong entry in the iPhone Twitter client sweepstakes, right out of the gate, what could the author have added/changed this quickly?

A few of the changes are evident right here on the Home view. Apparently I was not the only user who found it difficult to navigate into and out of Timeline view with multiple accounts. As you see the Home view has been rearranged, in the very first update, and a large, unmistakable Timeline icon added. The subtlety of this is that you no longer have to get to the Timeline through the accounts manager, and there is now a Home button on just about every timeline view to take you directly back to this master view. Nice. Manage Accounts gets its own button at the bottom of the screen and only needs to be accessed when you actually want to switch accounts or add accounts. Very nice.

In addition to highlighting new features and changes in UI, I want to take the opportunity here to point out some features that I have come to appreciate more as I have used the program since its original release.

First, I may already have mentioned that Osfoora is, hands down, the fastest Twitter client I have ever used on the iPhone. From start up to timeline loads to internal navigation, to the inline web browser…the program is fast and responsive: noticeably faster and quicker when compared to any other Twitter client on my 3G. Actually I know that I already mentioned it…at least twice in the first review, but it is noticeable enough, and important enough to me as a user, to be said again.

Then there are a whole bunch of nice little touches: The reply icon in the timeline views that tells you the tweet you are looking at is a reply to some other tweet (and the In Reply button at the bottom of the tweet view that opens the chain of replies as a conversation), the little image icon that tells you the tweet contains an image (much easier to see the icon when scrolling than it is to look for twitpic or yfrog urls), the elegant retweet presentation with avatars of both tweeter and retweeter and the retweeter’s name at the bottom of the tweet, the double tap to mark all read action on the icon unread counts (see screen shot immediately below for these features), the way DMs are grouped by sender and displayed in conversation style (image 1 below), the comprehensive popup action menu that appears when you touch a tweet longer than it takes to open it (2), the filer tweets text box at the top of timeline views that allows you to search for tweets by username or subject (3), the way your common lists appear at the bottom of the more screen without opening your profile (this actually may be new feature…not sure…but I know I like it! image 4 below), the three icon action bar hidden under the top of every timeline view (5), the quick search engine that pulls up user’s profiles under Find User and when you press the @ icon in the compose view (for addressing tweets, image 6), the way the app remembers your hastags and gives you quick access to them in the compose view, being able to save tweets as drafts, being able to attach multiple images to a single tweet (7), the way the app auto senses when the tweet contains more than one @user and adds Reply All to the reply menu (8)…even the neat way the refresh icon zooms up before it begins to spin when you load a list! All very nice and useful, and simply elegant as well. I appreciate that.

Osfoora1

As far as new features goes: TextExpander integration was added in the first update, which I also really appreciate as I use it all the time. If you do not know TextExpander, it is separate app that allows you to create and save snippets…short letter sequences that stand for longer words or phrases. With the proper integration, typing a snippet in any app with integration, like Osfoora, will trigger the autoexpand TextExpander engine and replace your snippet with the full word or phrase. Just like magic!

This update added Posterous integration, also a feature I really appreciate. The integration even preserves the body of your tweet as text in the Posterous post, using the first 40 characters as title, which is better that sticking the whole tweet in as title as some other apps do…though we will have to wait for a future update to get automatic Posterous galleries when you attach more than one image to a tweet. We also now have inline previews of images from supported image services in the tweet view…very nice…and it would have been even nicer if the previews were actual thumnails and not a crop of the full sized image…the crop often leaves you without enough significant detail to be useful in deciding if you want to open the image viewer (9).

This update also brings TwitLonger inline previews to the tweet view, though, among my tweeple, very few actually use TwitLonger.

There are more features to this excellent Twitter client…in fact I can now say, that with the exception of push notification, Osfoora does everything I expect of the best Twitter clients, and easily ranks right up there with Tweetie, Twittelator, Echofon, and Simplytweet. When you factor in the speed and quickness of Osfoora, it has earned pride of place in the application bar at the base of my iPhone’s home screen! Osfoora has become, in a strong initial offering, and two excellent updates, the one Twitter client I use every day on my iPhone.

1) 2)

3)4)

5) 6)

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Written by singraham

March 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Osfoora: Twitter spelled differently

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Osfoora is Said M. Moroof’s second Twitter client. His first, Landscape Tweets, is still in the app store, and when introduced was unique in being the only Twitter client which offered landscape view in all views, not just in compose. Unfortunately, within a month of his publishing the app, many of the better known and better established clients also went full landscape. Landscape Tweet got lost in the crowd.

Osfoora is completely new app, written from the ground up to take advantage of Twitter’s newest features. Osfoora, by the way, means “Little Bird” in Arabic. Hence half the pun in the title of this review…but only half the pun. Osfoora does an excellent job of implementing Twitter standard features, most of what we have come to expect of an iPhone Twitter client, and a few that are still fairly rare…but it does it just differently enough to stand out a bit. (Not, certainly, as differently as Twittelator Pro 3.x…the UI will be familiar to anyone who has used any of the other major Twitter offerings…but different enough to notice).

Before getting into the feature set and UI, though, let me say that Osfoora is among the fastest Twitter clients I have used on my iPhone 3G. It loads fast, and is particularly responsive within.

The feature and UI difference begins with the big bold Home view, with a set of icons for every major function. This is a nice touch, and would be even nicer if it were easier to access from the other views. Sometimes the only way to get there is to use the back button at the top of views to back through the other views you have had open. Personally I would replace the Profile icon in the hidden top toolbar with Home and solve the problem.

Ah yes, the hidden toolbar!

Pulling down the view from the top on most views exposes three icons: Profile, Refresh, and To Bottom. Pull down until it says "release for toolbar” and it will stay long enough for you to choose one. This only works if you have already scrolled the view to the top, but is is both clever and handy. In the best of all worlds you would be able to choose the icons presented there.

Another somewhat unique feature is the full menu of options that pops up from the bottom when you hold your finger on a tweet for more than a second. I might note that Retweet on this menu is Twitter native retweet, and you are not given the option of commenting. If you choose Retweet on the Tweet View, on the other hand, you are given a choice between Twitter native and the old RT style with possible comments.

While we are on the subject of Retweets, Osfoora offers full integration of Twitter native system, with My Retweets, My Tweets, Retweeted, and Retweets by others options in the user profile. (See screen shot below.)

Note the Translate in the pop-up menu. Osfoora joins a still fairly small group of Twitter apps that provides instant translation of tweets (I can think of 2 others off hand.) Translation is also available on the Tweet View, in the action menu.

Profile opens the sender’s profile…you are not given a choice if there are @user mentions within the tweet. (To view @users’ profiles you can open the Tweet View, where all @users are displayed as links.) You can also view the sender’s profile outside the menu on the Time Line (or other list views) by tapping the user pic.

Osfoora also offers full Twitter List implementation. My only quibble on the lists is that it often takes a lot of taps to get to the list you want to view. Either you have to get back to the Home view, which, as above, sometimes requires lots of taps, or you have to get there through your own profile, in which case any list is at least 4 taps deep. A simple two tap route would be nice…three at most. But that is just a quibble…I could easily live with Osfoora’s list implementation.

Another Osfoora feature, shared by only one other client that I know of, is the ability to attach more than one image (or other media) to a tweet. For some strange reason, you can not do this if you select an image directly from the camera. That wipes out your other attachments. Note in this compose view that you can also directly access a searchable list of your friends, put in the location, call up your frequently used hastags, and shorten either text (Twitlonger) or urls. You have a choice of two short url servers and can use your custom account if you want.

One final feature, now pretty common, but worthy of note: the ability to view @replies in conversation view. Note the little “in reply” icon at the bottom of the Tweet View above. Tap it and it opens the whole chain of referenced tweets in a new list view.

So, all in all, Osfoora has enough going for it to be worth serious consideration as a full time Twitter client…unless you want or need push. In this first version at least, there is no native push integration, and Osfoora is, of course, too new to have made it into Boxcar’s list of supported apps. If push is a deal-breaker, Osfoora is broken.

Still, Osfoora has a lot to recommend it, and very little left out that you might miss. Especially if you are looking for a speedy client, you should take look.

A somewhat random set of screen shots follows, just for flavor.

For more info visit the iTunes preview: Osfoora

 

 

Written by singraham

February 15, 2010 at 8:13 am

iGmail Update (v4.0.3): faster, better!

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It is always a pleasure when an app I have come to rely on continues to get better. I use iGmail (See iGmail, GMail finally done right on the iPhone) almost more than any single other app on my iPhone, maybe more than Twittelator and SimplyTweet, certainly more than Facebook.

So I immediately downloaded the update. After a false start (I had to delete and do a fresh install to get the app to work*), the new version is, as advertised, considerably faster on my 3G. That is what I notice first and most.

You can now set the shake motion to a variety of actions, instead of check all. There are a few other minor tweaks, and a new in app purchase premium package that adds pinch and zoom and a favorite icon. The premium package is only $.99, and since the base app, without push, is free, it is one more way to support the development of the app. The log out/log in process has been improved for those who have both a Google Apps account and a regular GMail account.

If you are a new user, of course, you will not notice the speed improvement…but for those of us who have used iGmail for a while, it is an impressive effort, and makes the app just that much more usable! Your inbox loads faster. Individual emails display faster. Controls work faster. I especially notice the difference on the Delete button. Very nice!

*(A note on the app store now says that the old preference file from the Settings App is causing the problem, and recommends a delete and reinstall instead of an upgrade.)

Written by singraham

February 5, 2010 at 6:12 am

BirdsEye: something different in an iPhone birding app

with 6 comments

The iPhone is hot, hot, hot. Taking over the smartphone portion of inernet traffic, and providing such an explosion of apps as never seen before on any platform.

Birding is hot (notice the difference). Fastest growing outdoor recreational activity by some counts, and certainly an activity that attracts many millions of us, and puts us out in all weathers to enjoy nature. Some reckon it is closer to a religion than it is to a hobby. It has its own born-again-experience, and often produces changes in life-style similar to classical conversion. It has its revival meetings (you can be at a birding festival just about any weekend of the year, and have your pick of several most weekends during peak migration seasons). It has its evangelists, and it has it Bibles: Field Guides, beginning with Peterson’s epic work. In the past few years it seems that anyone who is anyone in birding is publishing his or her own field guide. Count the current guides in print. Amazing.

And, of course, the internet is hot, hot, hot, hot. Who can live without it? Nuff said.

Birding and the internet have been married for a long time and are now having smartphone children. (Okay, cut me some slack here.) You have, as the best example, iBird Explorer, arguably the most extensive birding reference ever published in any format, spawned by the WhatBird.com site, and fostered by the iPhone.

And now we have BirdsEye, the legitmate offspring of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird site, also appearing in the iPhone household…er…App Store.

(And that is not to mention the iPhone birding apps with print parents: Nat Geo, Peterson’s, and Audubon all have iPhone versions of their guides…however, the print folks have yet to demonstrate a real understanding of the potential of the new platform. In each case the app looks a lot like someone tried to jam a book inside the machine…closer to a Kindle experience than a real iPhone adventure.)

I can see the thought process behind BirdsEye now.

“Like wow. We have all this data on bird locations in eBird. Whouldn’t it be really neat if there were an iPhone app that could call up that data instantly by location and tell you what birds are being see, or have been seen, right where you are, or near where you are…or anywhere you might be going? Wouldn’t it be good to include some basic id materials for folks who might be seeing the bird for the first time, or who might need a reminder…like we have all the Vireo photos, and we have this huge Macaulay Library of Sound collection of bird song recordings…what if we linked those in? And, what if we got someone really famous and cool (like you know, a birding rock star) to write brief descriptive text about each bird species? (Like maybe Kenn Kaufman?) What if?”

“And what if we found a clever iPhone developer to put it all together?”

Hay presto. BirdsEye!

[See Kenn Kaufman’s response below…he rightly points out that the intent of the text is not id…but rather further info to help you locate the bird: habitat and habits, etc. Very smart! For Kenn’s announcement/review of the app, which includes a more accurate rendering of the development history, see his own blog entry.]

And the amazing thing is: they pulled it off. BirdsEye does all that, and does it with a certain classy nonchalance that is at least iPhone-like enough satisfy most technophiles, and easy enough to use to satisfy most iPhoning birders.

Yup. You can use the auto-location on your phone to specify a location, or manually enter an an address, and then view, with the touch of a control, all the recent and/or historical bird sightings within 50 miles, 100 miles, 200 miles, 500 miles and beyond 500 miles. (Internet connection, either wifi or 3G, required!!) Once you set up a life list, the app will even show you just the birds being seen which are not already on your list. Each species appears in the checklist with a picture, the common name, and a date for the reference. Along the side of the list are a set of icons for the different families. Those with dainty fingers will be able to touch the family icon to jump right to that section of the sightings list. Even normal sized fingers might do the trick with practice.

Touching a species in the sightings checklist list brings up the id pages. You have at least one picture, descriptive text by Kenn Kaufman, and sounds from the Macaulay Library for over 400 of the most commonly sighted species (developer claims it is 95% of the species recorded by the top 500 submitters to eBird, and I have no reason to doubt him). The rest are available by in-app purchase from the App Store, either in one go (another $20), or in family groups (various prices).

Whether or not the app includes id info for the species, you can view a map with pins for each of the sighting locations (Hot Spots)! Way cool. Each pin opens the sightings for that location (not just the bird you are looking at, but all the birds seen there). You can see this same information as a list, which includes the distance from you. Finally, you can get directions to the spot from Google Maps. I kid you not: Directions.

And of course, the final icon on the species view is the sound icon, which calls up a little sound bar at the bottom with the recordings.

That’s one way of doing it. You can also jump right to the Hot Spots view, and explore the locations first, using the map and list tools outlined above, to see if there is anywhere you might like to go.

And, as a third possibility, you can search by a species by name, and the app will tell you all the places it has been or is being seen. Pretty amazing.

A word about the life list feature. This is the easiest life list to set up that I have ever seen. Edit Life List presents you with a master checklist of all species. You just touch the little check box to add one to your list, and you can add as many as you like in one go. You can also add birds to your list from the species view for that bird. Could not be easier really.

All well and good, but does it work?

Simple answer. Yes!

I have not done extensive testing, and I suppose there might still be areas where there is not much eBird data…but they must be few and far between these days. Southern Maine, where I live is not the most heavily birded area in the country, and yet there is plenty of data for my area, and I can not think of a spot where birds are regularly seen that is not already in the Hot Spot data base. A similar check of the Tucson Arizona area yielded predictable and satisfying results. By all indications, yes indeed, the app works as advertised.

And it is a lot of fun! There I said it. It is a lot of fun. Maybe, of course, it is just me, but I found it to be a lot of fun.

And I expect it to be eminently useful as well. I am planning a trip to Phoenix and Tucson this month and I will certainly check out what birds are being seen where using BirdsEye. What could be easier?

If the app has a weak point it is the id section. With all due respect to Kenn Kaufman (birding rock star extraordinary), the folks at Vireo, and the Macaulay Library, there is just not enough meat here to satisfy. I am not certain the id stuff is even needed in this app, and it certainly will not substitute for a real field guide…and certainly not for iBird on the iPhone.

On the other hand, as a companion app to iBird…now that is a combination to reckon with! Even to bird with!

And, of course, BirdsEye simply cries out for a way to record and upload your own sightings to eBird. Now that would be something! That would be so, so, cool. All that BirdsEye already does and the ability to record and submit trip lists…that would make BirdsEye an absolute, positive necessity for any serious iPhoning birder. Nuff said. BirdsEye guys, do it please!

BirdsEye is another wonderful example of what the iPhone is best at…easy, quick, anywhere access to masses of data from the internet… implemented in a way that makes the data useful, and even fun to use. Congratulations to all who were involved in this. Cornell Lab’s eBird team, Vireo, the Macaulay Library, and the developers at BirdsInHand. This is one great iPhone birding app…totally different…serving a totally different purpose…but right up there with iBird Explorer. It earns a permanent place on this birder’s iPhone, I know that!

Written by singraham

December 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm