Articles in the ‘iPhone’ Category

I could really do with an iPad right now

I’ve found my use case for an iPad: working without wi-fi.
I’m sat on my sofa watching the superbowl and my Internet connection is down. I’m left trying to write blog posts on my iPhone, which, by the speed of my typing, is not going to be fun. At this point, I’d like an iPad. I’d like a laptop which isn’t quite a laptop, it just does what I need it to do. Thanks to lots of apps, the only thing I couldn’t do on an iPad would be code, and I’m sure that won’t be far away. All I want to do is write a blog post from the comfort of my sofa, without getting cramp in my hands or the battery running out.

The wi-fi only version is an interesting prospect, though wouldn’t solve my current internetless problem unless I could tether the iPhone to it. I wouldn’t be against the 3g version, though the data would have to be allowed to be shared with my current plan, or I simply couldn’t justify the expense.

I’d also love it if it was intelligent enough to use the home sharing feature that iTunes 9 introduced. Music over wi-fi seems like a no brainer to me.

Well, will I get one in April? Maybe. If the price isn’t as silly a conversion as Macs are, it may be worth a look. Otherwise, it looks like i’ll make do with my old laptop

Tablet usability – the future can’t come soon enough

ASUS eee tabletLast weekend I was sat on the tube (London underground to international readers), picadilly line to be exact, heading into central London. A young man got on and sat down opposite me. He got out a little ASUS netbook, turned it on and swivelled the lid to use it as a touch screen. “Awesome”, I thought, “he’s got one of those cool touch screen netbooks running Windows 7, I’d love one of those, it’d be so convenient”.

I watched the man use the laptop for a while, tapping at the screen, using two fingers to scroll on a page and it looked ace; it looked simple. Soon, the experience turned sour.

I watched as the man pulled a stylus out from the side of the computer and starts to tap at the screen. I had thought styluses had been banned by international law since the introduction of the iPhone nearly two and a half years ago. Still, if there are some things that can’t use the OS zoom function then maybe a stylus has to be used.

I then received an even greater shock.

I watched in amazement as the man lifted up the screen to try and use the keyboard. Upside down. A control + something command that was not present in the touch screen menu.

Naturally, as a usability practitioner, I was horrified but continued to watch the bloke struggle. It took five stabs and glances back at the screen to confirm the action was successful. By this time, the man looked thoroughly frustrated with his program’s choice of shortcut. Soon after, he packed up his laptop and got off the train.

What appears to be the moral story, is that no matter how advance your OS is, the applications that you run can still scupper the experience, especially with tablets. There are two solutions to this problem:

1. The iPhone way – touch is the only interaction option. No legacy apps are allowed. It’s an OS designed for touch and for touch only.
2. The full screen keyboard way – Windows 7 may have a good touch screen keyboard, but it isn’t implemented in all apps (the iPhone way). You would need a true full-screen multi-touch keyboard, adaptable to different screen sizes, to make it function correctly.

Hopefully there’s a third way, the Apple tablet way. We’ll wait and see about that

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011 (prediction)

If you’re like me, with an eye on Google Reader even over the holidays, you won’t have failed to notice the upcoming Apple event at which the Apple touch-screen tablet, likely to be called iSlate or the Slate, will be announced. Such is the predictability of this event, given the number of rumours that have appeared, it is now completely without interest. Even the stock market takes more notice of Apple’s rumours, rather than their product announcements.

So, I’ve gazed into my crystal ball, looked at the last few years of product announcements, and have come up with the major headlines for the next two years of Apple products.

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011

The major events, spread throughout the year, all have very specific themes. January is iLife/iWork and major product announcements, March is a developers preview of new software, WWDC in June is a major product launch, September is a big iPod event and November is pre-Christmas product refresh time. For those reasons, the above list shouldn’t be too surprising to most people in the know.

I’m predicting next year will be the Slate’s year, rather than the iPhone. It’s too soon for a form factor change and it’s got all the features it could have at this time, so 2011 will be the next iPhone update. The Slate will fit into the iPhone’s product release schedule, now being Apple’s flagship product, with yearly updates for the first few years depending on its success. The Macbook Pro line will be somewhat ignored until the end of 2010 when it gains Intel quad cores like its iMac brother. At this time, I believe the first details on OS X 10.7 will come out, probably with a new UI paradigm, potentially merging with the Slate’s modified iPhone OS.

2011 will see “Westmere” Mac Pros, though it’s possible that this will be quite a quiet event, given i7 iMacs are more cost-effective than Mac Pros. An updated iPhone/Slate OS will follow in March, and a second generation Slate in June (which will be the one I’ll get). Some controversy to follow then with a new iPod on the horizon; my thinking goes that the whole product line there needs a kick to keep people buying them, and by this time, technology will be good enough for something amazing. Finally, after that will come Intel i9 iMacs, with those processors being available for Macbook Pros by the end of 2012.

Honestly, you could probably try and predict further ahead than that with some accuracy, but forecasts become quite hazy more than two years down the line. Still, if there’s any betting shops out there willing to give me good accumulator odds on this, drop me a line!

Update 1 (March 2010): I got the Slate/iPad right, though not the release date. Still, by the time it reaches the rest of the world it probably will be July. Not so sure about a March “Town Hall” event, though I’d still expect iPhone OS 4.0 with the iPhone update this year. Also, people keep going on about potential Core i3/i5 updates for the Macbook Pro line. This hasn’t happened yet and I still think I’m in with a shout of November. The problem will be power consumption and heat, which may need a bit more work to keep the 8 hour battery life promise that Apple have made.

Update 2 (April 2010): it seems I got the iPhone 4.0 OS announcement right at the town hall event, just seems that it was in April rather than March. Unfortunately, the i5/i7 Macbook Pro announcement was in April, not November as I said. Better luck next time for that one

Why iPhone Web Apps are Still Worthwhile

I’ve been playing with iPhone development for a month now and I’ve understood the concepts and am ready to make my first app, but I haven’t.

See, my first exposure to the iPhone world was through a web app my company made for its partner group. It was a simple ruby on rails web app that used my patched version of iUI to drive the experience. It was such a big hit that I’m currently finishing up a third demo branch of this for a client, hoping to convince them that even large organisations can get on the mobile bandwagon. So, you may ask, why isn’t it being done as a native app? Well, there’s a lot of good reasons, but what it really boils down to is that if you’re writing a native app for the iPhone, you’re only writing it for the iPhone.

At Mobile World Congress this week we’ve seen new Android devices, new Windows Mobile devices and more of the Palm Pre, devices that have one important thing in common with the iPhone, a web connection and a browser.

The best thing about all of them having a browser is that 3 of the 4 run a version of Webkit with Apple’s transforms and animations built in (Windows Mobile users can download Opera ;-)) So, really, when you’re creating a web app for an iPhone, you’re creating a web app for all other mobile devices with a half-decent browser (S60 included).

How much work would it be to port an Objective-C (iPhone)-based app to Java (S60 and Android) and then to .NET (Windows Mobile), only to have to create a web-based version for the Palm Pre! What all these iPhone developers need to understand is that if they want the full potential of the market they’d better start learning HTML5 databases and Javascript. Web apps are certainly still worthwhile.

All that said, App stores can’t push web sites to your phone, which is the main source of advertising and how the iPhone apps have become so successful. Maybe Apple should allow you to browse web apps too?