Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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  • CNN Launches iPhone App, Includes Lazy Reporting Feature

    cnn_iconAs a major news outlet, it’s a little late to the iPhone party, but CNN has finally released an official app that covers its entire news network, unlike the previously available CNN Money application. The paid app features text, video and photo updates throughout the day, including breaking news updates that make use of the iPhone’s push notification features.

    I was looking forward to a Wolf Blitzer splash page, but so far, none has been found. Maybe it’s an Easter egg. CNN for the iPhone also includes support for iReport functionality, the scheme by which you can become a reporter simply by snapping a photo or shooting some video and sending it off to the giant news corporation without hope of compensation.

    Pricey and Polished

    My own personal distaste for CNN’s crowd-sourcing lazy reporting scheme aside, they do provide a pretty slick app, especially compared to some of its peers. And it should perform well, since the cost of entry for the end user is $1.99. Since it’s a paid app, I’d also expect not to be burdened by intrusive advertising. CNN does however sport the occasional banner ad, sandwiched lovingly in between news items. Not unforgivable, but irksome in a paid app.

    cnn_headlinesNavigation is nice, though, with stories loading quickly, and appearing in a list-style view when the device is vertical, or in a cover-flow type interface when you hold the iPhone horizontally. Tapping a story in cover-flow mode brings up a summary with the key points in bullet form, so you no longer have to go through the hassle of actually reading an article to stay relevant and informed.

    Social News

    You can also click through to the full article, and share any piece quickly and easily via email, SMS, Twitter or Facebook. When you tweet a story, the app asks for your Twitter account credentials, and allows you to customize the post before it’s published. Facebook sharing uses Facebook Connect to automatically post content with optional comments to your wall. CNN really has nailed down the social media aspect of this app.

    cnn_sharingAs mentioned earlier, iReport is built in, so you can browse user generated stories, sign-in to your account if you have one, or just anonymously post photo and video content using a guest account. Truly, the culmination of responsible journalism. It is admittedly cool to be able to browse through and watch multiple first-hand accounts of events that would’ve maybe been caught on one or two surveillance cameras 10 years ago, though.

    My CNN

    Like AP News, CNN allows you to customize the content you see using location information you manually input or the location info taken from the device’s core location services. You can also “follow” a developing story, so that as new content is published relating to the topic, you’ll receive notifications via push. Interestingly, I couldn’t follow the topic “tsunami” when I tried just now, although the term “baseball” worked just fine.


    You can also stream live video or watch on-demand clips from the app, which is a big plus considering CNN’s extensive commitment to live multi-stream video news via the web. Finally, if you want to access stories later when you’re not connected, you can save any story for viewing. Good news for iPod touch users.

    Is it worth $1.99? That depends on how much you like the news, and on how much you like CNN’s coverage of said news. It feels a lot more professionally done than other apps in this category, and video feeds and archived footage seems to load and play quickly and without issue, but there is the occasional ad and you have to pay for the privilege. Ideally, I’d like to see a scaled down free version, but don’t expect that to happen unless CNN sees lackluster sales during the launch of this current iteration.

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  • Apple Pushes Software Onto PCs Again…But Not for Long

    A few days ago, Ed Bott reported that Apple was “up to its old tricks,” pushing unwanted software onto the PCs of unsuspecting Windows users everywhere. As you might expect, it caused something of a storm in a teacup, with Windows enthusiasts jumping on the Apple Bashing Bandwagon.

    Now, as anyone who reads the tech-press will confirm, Ed is a Windows man through-and-through, and, although he occasionally appears to pay lip-service to Apple’s Mac OS X, he’s never slow to criticise the boys and girls in Cupertino.

    So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that Ed happily spent about 700 words complaining bitterly and, at the end, throwing in a (somewhat unrelated) note of dissatisfaction with the size of the iTunes 9 installer.

    Before I continue, and, at the risk of disappointing the more fervent Apple Fanbois among us, I’m not demonizing Ed. He’s an accomplished and fair writer. He’s just as quick to criticise Microsoft when they deserve it. This is not an Ed Bott Bashing article, m’kay?

    Apple Software Update - iPhone CU

    Here’s what happened. Over the weekend, Apple released an update to its “Apple Software Update” utility on Windows. As well as QuickTime and iTunes updates (which were automatically selected), the Updater listed Safari (not pre-selected) and, at the top of the list, “iPhone Configuration Utility” (pre-selected).

    Any Windows users accustomed to simply hitting “Install” would have downloaded software they will, in all likelihood, never need.

    According to Greg Keizer at Computerworld, Apple removed the software from the update utility later that day.

    It’s sad to see Ed Bott so readily waving virtual fists in the air, though it’s entirely understandable. In 2008, Apple used the same Software Update method to push its Safari browser out to PC users who had likely never even heard of it before. Those actions caused Mozilla CEO John Lily to accuse Apple of “bad practice” and behavior that “…ultimately undermines the safety of the Internet.” But, all those amateur-dramatics aside, it’s probably safe to say that most of those PC users who mindlessly clicked “Install” at that time have still, to this day, never even booted Safari. Not once.

    I suspect the inclusion of the iPhone Configuration Utility was a simple mistake. After all, Apple has nothing to gain by installing the iPhone Configuration Utility software on ordinary end-user’s PCs. At first blush it seems Apple has much more to gain getting Windows users to move over to Safari, but last year’s aggressive Safari push hasn’t made too much of a dent in browser-share over on Microsoft’s dominant Windows platform.

    With this in mind, it’s not so clever insisting Apple is being intentionally ’sneaky’ or ‘tricky.’ A touch careless, perhaps, but none of this cloak-and-dagger stuff, please. In this case, I don’t think Apple is doing anything even approaching interesting.

    To his credit, Ed updated his article with a short sentence reflecting Apple’s quick actions changing the Updater contents, though he still took a swipe at the pre-selected iTunes and QuickTime items. There’s just no pleasing some people.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • Tweetie 2: The Complete iPhone Preview


    The sequel to Tweetie, the Twitter client that earned itself the much-coveted Apple Design Award earlier this year, is on its way to the App Store as you read this.

    For the past few weeks I’ve been part of Loren Brichter’s Tweetie 2 beta program, testing out new features as the former Apple engineer constructed his new Twitter client.

    Brichter has rebuilt Tweetie from the ground-up. The sequel incorporates features such as app persistence, offline mode, drafts, threaded conversations, landscape support and much more.

    Read on for an in-depth look at what to expect from Tweetie 2.

    Look & Feel

    While Tweetie 2 incorporates an updated aesthetic, it won’t be difficult for both new and veteran users to get to grips with the app. More so impressive is how the app incorporates a raft of new features without overwhelming the user.


    Even after playing with Tweetie 2 for a few weeks, I’m still discovering new functionality. For instance, when replying to a tweet you can now drag down with your finger to “peek” at the original message.

    It’s a small feature indeed but finding these kind of miniscule updates brings to mind that satisfied glow we all get when discovering new features in OS X. In essence, skimming through tweets, tapping out messages and finding new folk to follow looks and feels great with Tweetie 2.

    Writing & Replying

    Composing richer tweets is easier now. Tweetie 2 lays out the different options clearly so that you can quickly add content to your latest 140 character micro-opus. In a given tweet you’re able to access your Twitter address-book and @ messages, search current hashtags, geotag your tweet and add photos too.


    Plus, just like with Tweetie on OS X, you can now shrink URLs with the tap of a button. Obsessively attentive readers may have noticed me video tweeting from Big Bird over the past few weeks, that’s because Tweetie 2 also incorporates video tweeting from the 3GS.


    There’s also a wealth of options available beyond simply retweeting a message from someone that you’re following. Now you can quote the tweet, post a direct link, translate and even e-mail the tweet to a friend — all without leaving the app itself.


    For prolific Twitter users there’s now a drafts manager. This means that you can write and save a stack of tweets for posting later on. I’ve found that it’s particularly handy to have several drafted tweets ready to go just incase you get hit by a case of tweeter’s block.

    Browsing the Timeline

    The app now features full persistence. This means that if you’re, say, tapping through a prolonged conversation and then you quit the app, you’re able to pick up exactly where you left off. Every single time you exit, the app remembers your place and drops you right back there.


    Offline reading has been incorporated too. You’re now able to compose those witty little one-liners while offline, save them to your drafts, and unleash them on the Twittersphere next time you’re online. Even users or tweets you follow, block or favorite while offline will be synced back to the server.


    Exactly like the desktop version of Tweetie, there are now threaded conversations, making it much easier to jump into an ongoing discussion and catch up with what you missed. Also, although I don’t use any read this later services, some users will be pleased to note that there’s Read It Later and Instapaper support too.


    One of the most ingenious little additions to the timeline view is the “drag to refresh” gesture. Instead of tapping a refresh button, you simply scroll to the top of the timeline and then drag down. It works as intended and, thanks to the gesture combined with a sound-effect and flippy-floppy arrow, it feels tangible and satisfying.

    Landscapes & Locations

    Not only can you compose a tweet in landscape view, the entire app can be browsed in landscape view. I appreciate that some users may have been waiting for this, however it’s not a feature that I particularly wanted, nor do I make use of now that it’s here. If I could find the button to turn off auto-rotate, I would do so.

    Setting that little niggle aside, the Nearby tweets feature has received a much-needed overhaul too. The original Tweetie displayed an odd looking radar animation before loading a basic, but functional, timeline of tweets nearby your current location.


    The new Tweetie loads up a Google Map and then pops up tiny speech bubble icons representing all the tweets in your vicinity. It’s an effective way of sorting through local tweets and is a more creative approach than the standard timeline view.

    And There’s Even More…

    There are details and small features that you almost certainly won’t come across within the first few days of using the app. For instance, Brichter has now included profile editing from within the app.


    Another feature that I just picked up on today is the ability to tweet simultaneously from multiple accounts. When composing a tweet you simply tap the “New Tweet” header at the top of the screen and then select the other accounts that you’d like to post the message from.

    The Bottom Line

    The app is a standalone purchase, as opposed to an update/upgrade. It’ll be available in the App Store soon for only $2.99, just like the original iPhone Tweetie. There’s also an update to the Mac version on the way, however this will be a free update to current owners of Tweetie for OS X.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the current state of Twitter clients, we’ve got a great roundup here on TheAppleBlog. It’s worth noting that the original Tweetie came out on top as one of the top clients.

    The new app definitely gets a thumbs-up from me, although I’d be interested to know which of you will be upgrading to Tweetie 2 when it comes out.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • Dropbox: Now Native on Your iPhone

    Dropbox Icon

    Of all the file syncing solutions available, one of the most popular is Dropbox. As one of the solutions that is also cross-platform compatible, many Mac users have embraced Dropbox as a more reliable and robust solution than other alternatives, like MobileMe's iDisk. Diehard Dropbox users can now rejoice as the Dropbox team is at it once again with the release of a native iPhone app, allowing users to access their dropbox on the go.

    For a while, Dropbox has provided users with an iPhone-optimized web site for accessing their contents on the go, but that left many users desiring more. Even with 3G speeds, web browsing through Mobile Safari is not as fast as an application that can read/write to its own resources and sync with a server.

    Native App, Native Features

    With a native application, the Dropbox team has managed to provide full access to your dropbox contents as well as several interesting iPhone-specific features.

    One of these is the ability to take photos or video directly within the application (or use existing content on your device) and have those photos synced to your dropbox automatically. Dropbox then gives users quick access to generate an email with an appropriate link to view the content and share it with others.

    The application itself is very usable and functions like most other native apps. As expected, you can delete items from your dropbox just as you would an email (swipe to delete). To prevent users from experiencing lag (as would have happened with a web app), the application caches a copy of the directory structure once you've viewed it at least once. (This later is re-synced if changes occur elsewhere.)

    Typical application file types that are supported on the iPhone (images, PDFs, Keynotes, Pages documents, Word documents, etc.) are all supported within the application. Word documents even support copy and paste! If you have video files that are of a supported type (QuickTime and the like), they will also stream from your Dropbox. For those who love sharing content, just like the aforementioned photos, a mail icon in the lower left corner allows users to generate emails for any content stored on their dropbox.

    Dropbox also supports a “Favorites” feature which allows you to sync your favorite files directly to your iPhone, even further speeding up response time. To favorite a file, simply tap the star icon at the bottom of the screen when viewing the file.

    A Few Shortcomings

    One little complaint that I have is that Dropbox uses its own picture browser. As such, when I load an image, I’m unable to pinch to zoom like what happens when browsing photos elsewhere on my phone. Support for the accelerometer is present, though, as rotating my phone allows the photo to reorient itself. I’m assuming this is just a bug and something the Dropbox team will work out in a future update.

    Another interesting piece that is missing is the fact that Dropbox supports Growl on its desktop version. Though it may be annoying, some users may be wishing for push notifications for any updates to their dropbox. Again, as this is an initial release, this is something that could come in a later update.

    Dropbox is a free download from the App Store but does require a valid Dropbox account. Users can sign up for a free Dropbox account (limited to 2GB), and there are paid options for greater storage (50GB or 100GB). As someone who has used Dropbox for over a year now, it’s a very robust solution for file syncing and in my tests, a lot more stable than MobileMe’s iDisk. If you've used Dropbox or the new Dropbox app and have thoughts on the matter, tell us your experience!

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • BlackBerry Desktop Manager Hitting the Mac Oct. 2

    MacDesktopSummaryWe reported earlier that BlackBerry would be delivering its Desktop Manager software for Mac in September of this year. Keen readers will note that, in fact, that was not the case, since it is now the last possible day for that software to appear, and that software isn’t coming.

    It is, however, going to arrive just a little outside of the originally announced release window. On Oct. 2, which is this Friday, BlackBerry customers who are also Mac users will finally be able to enjoy equal status with their PC counterparts. About time, RIM. Be honest, you were just holding a grudge about the iPhone’s success, weren’t you?

    As of this Friday, you’ll be able to use BlackBerry’s own software to sync contacts, calendar items and appointments, notes and task from sources such as iCal, Address Book, and Entourage, among others. You can also add and remove software downloaded via BlackBerry’s App World using the Desktop Manager, which is good news for people who’ve been trying to manage their fledgling collections all via the device itself.

    BlackBerry users will also be able to sync playlists from iTunes, so long as the format is compatible. Last time I checked (just last week), the Tour still didn’t play back .m4a files. It recognized them and was able to retrieve track information, but it wouldn’t actually play them.

    People with RIM devices will also be able to schedule and encrypt backups for their phones, and install software updates from the desktop. BlackBerry Desktop Manager is designed to run on OS X 10.5.5 and above. BlackBerry devices used with Desktop Manager for Mac must be running OS 4.2 or higher. Set your alarm for 10 a.m. PDT on Friday, because that’s when the download goes live at the official BlackBerry site.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • The 10 Million Mac Year

    With the end of September comes the end of fiscal year 2009 for Apple. While the company won’t be releasing the numbers for another two weeks or so, consensus estimates from Wall Street for the fourth quarter will fill in the blanks, as Apple always beats estimates. For 2009, during what is arguably the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Apple will have its best year ever.


    For FY 2009, Apple can expect sales of approximately $36 billion, up from $32.5 billion last year. While the increase will only be half that from 2007 to 2008, that’s against severely curtailed consumer spending. Conventional wisdom suggests premium products like those from Apple would be hit hardest in such an environment, but Apple has been selling strong since 2005. However, looking at net income over the long term, the picture is a little different.


    That bump during the late 90’s is largely due to the original iMac, introduced in May 1998. The iMac probably saved the company. It’s hard to imagine Apple losing money or barely profitable until 2004. That year the company earned net income of a quarter of a billion dollars. The next year it was more than $1.25 billion, beginning that nice linear trajectory to $5.5 billion for FY 2009, but enough about the money. For those who use the products, the real numbers are in the success of the platform, and the Mac is about to have its best year ever.


    Fiscal year or calendar year, it just doesn’t matter, either way 2009 will be the first year the company sells 10 million Macs. Sales estimates for the quarter ending September 30 are for 2.7 million Macs, putting Apple just over that magical base-10 for the fiscal year. That will top last year’s record of 9.7 million Macs, which was also a new record, but then every year since 2006 has been a new record. The question then becomes whether this year’s “slowing” sales are due to economic conditions, or a plateauing of the Mac like the iPod has seen.


    The bad news is that the phenomenal growth the iPod enjoyed from 2004 through 2007 appears to be over. The good news is that’s still more than 50 million iPods per year. For FY 2009, projections are for just under 54 million iPods to be sold, which would be just under the record of 54 million sold last year. However, further solace can be had in the theory that iPod sales are being cannibalized by iPhone sales, and iPhone sales are looking a lot like iPod sales used to look.


    Analysts are all over the place on iPhone sales for FY 2009, with somewhere in the range of six to seven million iPhones sold in the fourth fiscal quarter. Splitting the difference at 6.5 million means iPhone sales for the year will come in just under 20 million. That would nearly double last year’s total of 11.6 million. With the imminent introduction of the iPhone into China, it’s a safe bet that iPhone sales won’t be leveling off anytime soon. The iPhone is undeniably the biggest success in a record year, but what brought that success?

    Two words, one name: Steve Jobs.

    That’s the biggest earner for the year past, and every year going back to 1996.  Although Jobs became “iCEO” in the summer of 1997, Apple acquired NeXT in late 1996 for what would become OS X, and got Jobs for free. It was the best deal the company has ever made. Just look at the numbers.

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  • Quick Look: Bento 3


    The whirlwind development of FileMaker’s consumer database software continues with the release of Bento 3. Bento 3 adds several new features, including shared libraries, iPhoto integration, security options, and best of all, an upgrade price.

    First released in November 2007, Bento was supposed to be the database for the rest of us, touting ease of use over the flexibility of complex relational database applications like FileMaker. Bento 1 was priced at $49, as was Bento 2, released just over a year later. That price caused some consternation among Bento 1 users opining Bento 2 was the “real” first release. Apparently FileMaker has listened, and is now offering current users of Bento a $20 discount. While the price for new users remains $49, Bento 3 has enough “new” that those using or needing a simple database application should at least consider the free trial.


    As to what’s new in Bento 3, the first thing you see is a redesigned Template Screen. Bento 3 adds 10 new templates, bringing the total to 35, as well as a direct link to the Bento Template Exchange. The online exchange has nearly 300 database templates created by users and developers at FileMaker.


    The biggest change to the interface of Bento 3 is Grid View. While database users will be familiar with the spreadsheet-like Table View, and Form View for individual database objects, Grid View is reminiscent of iPhoto Events. If there is a single image in a record, you see a thumbnail, with multiple images being cycled through via mouseover. This is actually pretty useful, be it with home inventory or recipes. If there are no images, you can look at a thumbnail of the Form View, which is not so useful. Something else that is useful is iPhoto integration.


    As a serious iCal user, the seamless integration Bento affords is invaluable. As an example, Bento allows me to create Smart Collections of events, like auto maintenance or trips to the vet. Not only can I add fields in Bento, like cost, but I can edit fields that iCal uses. Now, Bento has added iPhoto to the list of integrated OS X apps: Address Book, iCal, and Mail. Unfortunately, what happens in Bento, stays in Bento with iPhoto integration. While I can associate new record fields with photos in Bento, I can’t edit iPhoto fields. Anyone who struggles with iPhoto’s awkward keyword editing understands how big a letdown this is. To balance that letdown for me, we finally have sharing in Bento 3.


    To those who bemoan the lack of shared, editable calendars with iCal and MobileMe, Bento 3 appears to offer a workaround. Bento 3 sharing is a lot like iTunes sharing over a local network. It’s as easy to set up as the preference pane above, but even more useful. Up to five people, each needing their own copy of Bento, can edit shared databases. While I have not tested this yet, I’m assuming that editing iCal and Address Book data will be reflected for respective users.

    The last big addition to Bento 3 is the option of database security, but there are numerous other small enhancements that can be experienced in free trial. Bento 3 requires OS X 10.5.7 or 10.6.1, costs $49 (or $29 for qualifying Bento 1 and Bento 2 users). There will also shortly be a new release of Bento for iPhone, free to current users and $5 for new users.

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  • iPhone Application Sketch Book Rights Sold to Apress Publishing

    Little more than a month after releasing the iPhone Application Sketch Book its creator, Dean Kaplan, has already sold the publishing rights to Apress Publishing House for an undisclosed amount. Kaplan says the move will allow the book to reach a broader market and free up some more time to work on “other projects that will compliment the sketchbook.”


    According to Kaplan, future publications of the sketchbook will remain largely the same except for a few minor changes suggested by current users, like perforated pages or different page sizes. “Customers love the look and feel of the book, that it lays flat, and it’s one place to hold all their designs,” he says. “Future modifications will no doubt be slight.”

    The opportunity to work with Apress came about after Kaplan “threw the idea out there and they jumped on it. Amazon did a great job but they don’t offer the same impact. I like the PR and advertising [opportunities] the new company offers.”

    Apress announced the deal today at the 360 iDev Conference in Denver, CO, and gave out books to everyone in attendance

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  • Supply Constraints Portend iMac, Mac mini Updates


    AppleInsider is reporting on a supply advisory from Apple to its retail stores stating certain Macs have “entered a period of constraint,” suggesting that hardware updates may be imminent.

    The specific models include all configurations of the iMac, as well as the low-end Mac mini, whose SKU has reportedly been discontinued. While the low-end Mac mini is still listed as shipping within 24 hours at the Apple Store online, is currently listing the model with a “1 to 2 month” wait.

    At $599 for a Mac with a measly 1GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive, perhaps Steve Jobs has realized that what he once praised as the “most affordable way to enjoy Mac OS X” has become something of an embarrassment. This could mean the company is about to make the high-end Mac mini, at $799 with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, into the low-end, offering a single model at $599. Those specs would still be anemic by PC standards, but would nonetheless be an improvement. Such a move would also make sense in light of rumors about the iMac.

    Current speculation suggests the next iMac will sport “slimmer aluminum enclosures, and that they will indeed be cheaper than their predecessors, ” as well as the possibility of Blu-ray. Certainly, reducing the price on the low-end iMac to $1099, or even $999, would put downward pressure on the price of the Mac mini.

    As for a Mac mini with Blu-ray…

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  • Future Fodder: Apple TV the Center of Your Media Universe


    Looking through Apple’s current lineup of products, there’s one that stands out as the sad little orphan: the Apple TV. Apple itself has gone out of its way to lower expectations for this product, with Steve Jobs calling it a “hobby.”

    The problem with the Apple TV is that its feature set just isn’t particularly compelling. Streaming my music to my television? My television is for watching stuff, not listening to stuff. Renting movies? Netflix or my local video store offer a much larger selection with better prices and terms. Buying movies and television shows? TV is free and DVDs are cheaper and more flexible than iTunes movies.

    As you can see, the Apple TV has a problem. Behind that slick interface is a product that’s outclassed by competitors like Tivo, Roku and game consoles. So how can Cupertino save Apple TV? How about turning it into the center of your digital media life? Today, the Apple TV acts as a peripheral component of your computer, instead let’s turn the tables and turn your computer into a peripheral component of the Apple TV.

    How It Would Work

    Here’s how I imagine it would work. Turn on the Apple TV and it would immediate scan your networks, both wired and wireless, for Apple devices. After a simple pairing process, the Apple TV would immediately begin copying every piece of digital media found on any paired Mac to its own hard drive. If you have two or more computers in the house, it would compare your libraries and combine them so that you have a central repository for all of your digital media. You could then choose to synchronize missing items back to individual computers automatically, or copy items manually from the Apple TV to your Mac.

    Apple has already taken a step in this direction with iTunes 9, which can tell you if other computers in the house have music you lack, and even synchronize automatically. The problem with a direct computer to computer solution is that with the growth of laptops, the amount of time two computers are in the same place and turned on is much less. With an Apple TV you have what amounts to a single-use computer that always sits in the same place and can handle all of the synchronization needs.

    In fact when you think of the Apple TV as a computer, the possibilities become much greater. While you’re away, the Apple TV could download new television episodes and podcasts, which would be automatically synchronized to your laptop when it arrives back home. It could also monitor your iTunes account, so if you purchase a song on your iPhone while out and about, the Apple TV would automatically download that song and share it with computers at home before you even get back. And while we’re at it let’s also download software updates for your Mac and have them available for install when you walk in the door.

    Hub for iPhone and iPod

    Of course Macs are hardly the only Apple device on which we want our digital media. There’s no reason why an Apple TV couldn’t sync directly with your iPod or iPhone. Mac users have been hoping for wireless sync for a long time, but the slow speed of wireless networks have been a problem. Once again you can take advantage of an always on device. There’s no need to set up sync between your Mac and iPhone, instead the minute you walk into your home your iPod/iPhone would begin synchronizing with the Apple TV. If there’s particularly large content, like television shows or a movie, the synchronization could happen overnight while you sleep. You could wake up in the morning and walk out of the house with all the latest content in your pocket. Oh, and let’s also have the Apple TV download any app updates and install them automatically while you’re at home.

    Internet Availability

    What else could you do with an always on, always connected computer? How about making all of your media and files available over the Internet anytime you want them? Just connect to your Apple TV and stream all of the media on the device directly to your Mac, iPod or iPhone. Flip a switch in the preferences and the Apple TV could store a copy of your home folder, available anywhere, anytime through a slick online interface. Once again this is something Apple is already doing with Mobile Me and the Airport Extreme, but let’s make it easier and automatic.

    With the 40GB Apple TV consigned to the dust bin, most users will have plenty of storage with the 160GB model, but just in case, Apple could finally make use of that USB port on the back and let you plug in any external hard drive to gain more storage. Once connected it would automatically be configured to provide overflow storage without any need for configuration on your part. Again, we want the power of a small computer, which the Apple TV is, without the complexities.

    A Simple Software Update

    All of this could be done with a software update, so every Apple TV already purchased could receive these features. Of course much of this could also be done with a Mac mini, Chronosync and some hackage, but the value proposition is a $229 set top box that not only puts iTunes content on your TV, but manages all of your digital media across all of your devices. Media servers have been around for a while now, but it’s time for Apple to do it better than anyone else, and cement the Apple TV’s place in the digital living room at the same time.

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  • iWork '09 & Updated


    Yesterday Apple released the latest patches to its iWork ‘09 productivity suite, bringing the software up to version 9.0.3. As usual, Apple vaguely mentions improved compatibility and stability in Keynote, Pages and Numbers.

    Looking through the detailed listing on Apple’s Support site, it appears that most of the update takes the form of bug fixes and refinements for Keynote and Numbers. Pages gets the least love with ‘just’ four updates. The Forgotten Cousin

    Waaaaay back in early January, shortly after its launch, I wrote a positively-glowing opinion piece about, Apple’s seemingly-forgotten online collaboration service. Nothing has happened with in the intervening eight months. Nothing.

    So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the current round of updates for iWork ‘09 include some modest updates to, too. What do I mean when I say “modest?” Well, here’s the entire list of updates to

    • Enhanced security with 128-bit SSL encryption and document password protection
    • Improved document reviewing capabilities with Comment notification features
    • E-mail invitations are now sent via instead of using Mac OS X Mail

    <sarcasm>I know. I was also completely blown-away. </sarcasm>

    While Apple has spent most of 2009 doing apparently nothing with, Google has forged-ahead refining and expanding its (free) Google Docs service and even Microsoft has taken its first tentative steps into online productivity with its web-based (free) versions of Office Apps (still in closed beta). Even Adobe has thrown its hat into the ring with its own flash-based online productivity suite (also free for most of the basic functionality and features).

    Apple, on the other hand, says of its neglected that “Fees may apply to future versions of the service.” And let’s not forget that, unlike all the other competition, is limited to Sharing & Collaboration only; that is, you can’t create new documents on

    How sad. I’d have hoped for a more substantial update after eight months. But for the five of you (me included) still using Beta, I know we’re all super-grateful for the effort. And who knows — perhaps these few changes signal the first of many more to come.

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  • Vodafone Getting in on UK iPhone Party

    Vodafone_epsVodafone announced today that it will begin selling the iPhone in the UK beginning in 2010, according to Reuters. The news comes on the heels of an announcement from France Telecom’s Orange yesterday that it would also start selling the popular smartphone, following the end of O2’s exclusivity deal this month. Orange will reportedly be offering the device for sale in three weeks.

    Vodafone also will be selling the device in Ireland. It will begin selling the phone in both places at the end of this year. Analysts see the move as a huge boon for Vodafone’s business, which had been suffering in the British market because of O2’s exclusivity deal. If you’re not keen on waiting, you can already pre-register online for iPhone updates through Vodafone’s web site.

    Once it becomes available on Orange and Vodafone, the iPhone will be officially offered by three of Britain’s five mobile operators. The exponential increase in competition could have significant benefits for the consumer, if price wars ensue. The iPhone is already one of the most heavily subsidized devices on the market, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how far into profits cellular network operators are willing to cut to win consumer favor.

    The iPhone is such a valuable property because of its data-intensive nature. Cellular providers are seeing profits from talk and text steadily decreasing as talk time becomes cheaper and plans become more competitive. Look at the U.S., where Sprint recently introduced free calling to any mobile on any network for those subscribed to its top-of-the-line Everything plans. Data use has become the real money maker for wireless companies, since customers still regard it as a premium and are willing to pay more for it.

    Bernstein analyst Robin Bienenstock emphasized the role of the iPhone in O2’s recent success:

    We estimate that the iPhone represents more than 100 percent of O2 UK’s growth, 6 percent of subscribers, 14 percent of service revenues and 13 percent of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. In the UK, O2 has consistently taken contract share from competitors (in particular Vodafone) since its sole distribution of this iconic brand began.

    Clearly, Vodafone wants to take that contract share back, and now it has the means to do so, when it begins to offer the iPhone 3G and 3GS through 13 of its operating companies early next year. Hopefully, this is a taste of what’s to come for U.S. markets somewhere down the line. As Liam mentioned yesterday, the real show will take place when these three vie for consumer attention following the launch of whatever iPhone iteration Apple has in store for 2010.

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  • Rumor Has It: Apple Tablet Arriving January 19

    appleinsider_tabletThe mythical beast that is the Apple tablet is becoming less of an amorphous wonder device, and more of a properly spec’d piece of hardware, at least if you believe iLounge. The site is claiming to know at least 10 definite things about the upcoming device, including its street date.

    iLounge’s source is said to be reliable, based on past information they provided that turned out to be accurate, detailing the iPod nano 5G, the iPhone 3GS, and the Chinese iPhone 3G. Not a bad track record. For that reason alone, don’t be too quick to judge some of the more incongruous parts of this report.

    The device has gone through three distinct incarnations thus far, though the time line for development isn’t provided in detail. It currently sports a 10.7-inch screen, an improvement over the first prototype’s 7-incher. The tablet runs iPhone OS, which could come as a disappointment to graphics professionals and other business users.

    Appearance-wise, the tablet is said to resembled an iPhone 3G, and have a curved back like said device. I assume that also means plastic casing, rather than metal. The display will operate at approximately five to six times the screen resolution (around 720p) and have seven times the touch-sensitive surface area. I’m wondering what kind of bezel a device this size will have to make it more usable while holding. It definitely won’t be a one-handed piece of hardware like the iPhone can be when necessary or convenient.

    Two varieties of the new device will be released. One will feature built-in 3G networking, and the other will not. iLounge suggests thinking of one as a big-screen iPhone 3GS, and the other as a big iPod touch. They don’t say anything about it, but I wonder if this means that the 3G-enabled version will be able to make calls and have SIM card capabilities.

    The purpose of the Apple tablet is said to be to expand upon the all-media concept of the iPhone and iPod touch, creating a slate-sized reader for e-books and magazines, in addition to video, audio, and gaming capabilities (though I’m finding it very hard to picture gaming on a device this size with on-screen controls without laying it on a flat surface). It’s not designed to compete with netbooks, then, but to operate as an extension of the iPod line.

    The official announcement and unveiling of the device is said to be coming either on or before January 19, 2010, so start saving that pocket change. Prepare to possibly be disappointed, though, since it still has to receive final approval from Steve Jobs, something the source claims only has about an 80 percent chance of right now.

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  • Apple Rehires Veteran Newton Developer


    In an interesting and exciting development, Apple has rehired Michael Tchao, one of the developers of the original Apple Newton personal digital assistant, the New York Times reports. Tchao left Apple 15 years ago.

    Most recently, Tchao has been general manager of Nike’s Techlab, finding innovative ways to get your sneakers talking to your iPod (and other clever stuff, too).

    Michael Tchao

    Michael Tchao

    Tchao takes on the mantle of vice president of Product Marketing, and will report directly to Phil Schiller. The NYT’s Brad Stone says there’s no official word yet from Cupertino on Tchao’s new position, but a source identified only as “another former Apple employee” is quoted as saying, “He's got the scars and the great ideas” regarding tablet computing.

    According to the Newton Hall of Fame, Tchao was “largely responsible” for the creation of the Newton:

    Apple’s advanced R&D had been working for years on slate computers that read handwriting and beamed data across the room (’Alien technology’ Mulder would say). Yet these technologies were meant to be incorporated in high-end $5,000+ super cool computers of the future. He and Steve Capps came up with the idea of using some of these technologies in a small consumer device to be sold today.

    Apparently, the head of advanced R&D at Apple completely rejected the idea, so Tchao pitched it directly to John Scully who was won over.

    I can’t help but wonder why Tchao is going back to Apple now. Three guesses, anyone?

    Photo courtesy of eschipul on Flickr.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • Zipcar App Finally Hits the iPhone

    zipcar_iconIt was one of the apps shown off at Apple’s WWDC Keynote speech talking about iPhone OS 3.0 back in June of this year, but Zipcar has taken its sweet time making an official appearance in the App Store. The application is finally here (iTunes link), so urbanites who’ve been waiting to make a trip to Costco to load up for the winter, you’re in luck.

    For those who aren’t familiar with Zipcar, it’s a car-sharing service that allows members to rent a car during the day for running errands, etc. Cars can be picked up from convenient parking lots located throughout the urban areas served by Zipcar and dropped off again in another designated area. Zipcar members pay a monthly subscription fee and hourly and daily rates for use of the car.

    The Zipcar app was one of those touted as taking advantage of new iPhone OS 3.0 features to deliver innovative functionality for users of Apple’s wonder device. And it seems to work just as advertised. The app uses your location as a starting point to find nearby cars available for booking. You can filter your results by time, type and model, which will highlight pins on the map in green that fit your criteria.

    zipcar_carsAll of Zipcar’s automobiles are named, and once you find one that fits your needs and schedule, you can book it directly from the app, so long as you are a Zipcar subscriber. If you’re not, you can still try out the free app, you just won’t be able to book any cars. Clicking on a car at any location provides you with further information, including the hourly and daily rate for the vehicle in question, and supplementary information, including things like cargo capacity and any special features.

    zipcar_detailsThe iPhone app also includes a virtual wireless entry key fob that connects with a car once you’ve booked it. If you’re not a member and you’re just playing around with the app like I was, you also won’t be able to use the remote car unlocker/horn honker, although you can use it to make noise on your device itself. If you are a member, the inclusion of this feature means you won’t need anything besides your iPhone to get on the road.

    zipcar_remoteEven though I don’t have a membership myself, I can tell this app is an impressive example of using the iPhone to help make people’s lives easier. It further simplifies a process which is meant to be simple to begin with, and I only hope other companies are watching and follow suit.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • Pay Attention 007: The iPhone Is Cooler Than You


    How the world has changed. When my father was my age, there was nothing more cool or impressive than driving an Aston Martin, toting a Walther PPK and ordering your dry martinis shaken, not stirred. That’s what James Bond did. And Bond was seriously cool.

    Bond was the debonair British secret agent who was usually pimped out with all manner of extraordinary (often miniaturized) gadgets. Remember that wristwatch with a tiny, built-in camera? In the ’60s, that sort of gadgetry was wishful thinking — very cool, though.

    So it's kinda poetic, really, that the iPhone — arguably the ultimate multi-purpose high-tech gadget — has secured first place in the annual British CoolBrands Survey, knocking quintessentially cool Aston Martin, Bond's favored tricked-out car of choice, off the top spot.

    The CoolBrands Survey is managed by the Centre for Brand Analysis. Here's how the CBA describes the survey:

    A comprehensive database of the UK's coolest brands is compiled using a wide range of sources, from sector reports to blogs. From the thousands of brands initially identified, approximately 1,100 brands are short-listed. An independent and voluntary Expert Council scores this list, with members individually awarding each brand a rating from 1-10. Council members are not allowed to score brands with which they have a direct association or are in direct competition to.

    So how do you determine the "cool"-ness of a brand? Fear not, the CBA has a set of guidelines to help;

    Cool is subjective and personal. Accordingly, voters are not given a definition but are asked to bear in mind the following factors, which research has shown are inherent in a CoolBrand: 1. style 2. innovation 3. originality 4. authenticity 5. desirability 6. uniqueness.

    It's all supremely silly, and I'm skeptical about the "research" they mention so breezily, but still, it's nice to see the iPhone win. Also in the top 10 are "Apple" and "iPod," further cementing Apple's "coolness" — for 2009, at least. It’s interesting to note that, of the top 10 coolest brands, a solid eight of them are rooted firmly in consumer electronics, or the Internet. The remaining two (Bang & Olufsen and PlayStation) are still firmly rooted in the Land of Tech.

    Here are the top 10 in full:

    1. iPhone
    2. Aston Martin
    3. Apple
    4. iPod
    5. Nintendo
    6. YouTube
    7. BlackBerry
    8. Google
    9. Bang & Olufsen
    10. PlayStation

    How would Q have put it?

    "Now pay attention, Bond. This is your iPhone. Thirty-two gigabytes maximum storage, capacitive touchscreen interface, full virtual keyboard and 64,000 apps in the online App Store. Of course, it also includes the usual rocket launcher with heat-seeking missiles, and underwater breathing apparatus good for two hours. Try not to break it."

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  • O2's Reign Ends: Orange to Sell iPhone

    orange-logoAnd just like that, O2's reign of terror comes to an end. This month sees the end of O2's exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in the United Kingdom, and Orange has already announced it has a deal in place with Apple to sell the device. From the Orange UK news page:

    Orange UK and Apple have reached an agreement to bring iPhone 3G and 3GS to Orange UK customers later this year. Orange globally now offers iPhone in 28 countries and territories.

    Orange, which has the largest 3G network covering more people in the UK than any other operator, will sell iPhone in all Orange direct channels including Orange shops, the Orange webshop and Orange telesales channels, as well as selected high street partners.

    Orange doesn't say anything about pricing, plans or even the date the iPhone will become available, but does offer a webpage where customers can register their interest.

    At the time of writing this article, O2's home page, news pages and much of their usual website is "temporarily unavailable", but Macworld UK has the text of a statement issued by O2 (though they don't offer a link to the source):

    According to Macworld, O2 says:

    We’re proud that we’ve been able to offer an exclusive iPhone deal to our 20 million customers for the last two years. We always knew that iPhone exclusivity was for a limited period of time, but our relationship with Apple continues and will be an ongoing success. We have over 1million iPhone customers and they remain very important to us.

    Interestingly, while speaking of a continued relationship with Apple, O2 has (somewhat paradoxically) used the opportunity to talk-up the Palm Pre.

    We aim to offer our customers the best devices on the market, including becoming the home of Smartphones and we are really pleased to now add another device in the Palm Pre.

    Home of smartphones, eh? In the dark ages before the iPhone, I was, for many years, a Windows Mobile customer with O2. And life was hard. Those phones were expensive and inexpertly supported by O2 who, it seemed to me, treated its premium-paying smartphone customers at best as something of an oddity, and, at worst, second-class citizens. It might have been the home of smartphones, but in my experience, it wasn't a happy home.

    And yet, life as an iPhone customer with O2 hasn't been so bad — and certainly not as appalling as our American friends' experiences with AT&T. We're lucky not to have been plagued with dropped calls and painfully limited service. We also got MMS months ago, pretty much when Apple announced it, and not many months later.

    But life on O2 has been expensive. Unlimited data comes with a fairly high price when compared with more reasonable data plans available elsewhere. (O2, apparently, knows it can squeeze its iPhone customers for the extra pennies.)

    Hopefully the competition from Orange (and, potentially, other operators down the line) means that prices will start to fall, not only on the tariffs themselves but also on the actual handsets. We may also see an end to insanely expensive upgrade 'settlements' such as the one UK customers faced earlier this year, when the only way to 'upgrade' from the iPhone 3G to 3GS was for a customer to "buy out" their contract as well as pay the premium price for the new handset. (For anyone mid-way through their eighteen month contract, that was far more expensive than simply buying a 3GS handset sans-contract and simply swapping the SIM cards.)

    Of course, competition-induced lower prices doesn't necessarily mean the return of the attractive subsidy pricing we saw when the 3G was released, but it surely should mean lower prices across the board than those we have endured since 2007.

    I can't wait to see how the competition affects the pricing and promotion of Apple's next iPhone revision in 2010…

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • App Store: 2 Billion Apps Served


    Marking another base-10 milestone, Apple has announced that as of today, more than 2 billion applications have been downloaded from its wildly successful App Store.

    Further, there are now more than 85,000 apps available to more than 50 million iPhone and iPod touch users in some 77 countries. The iPhone Developer Program now has more than 125,000 participants.

    Those are some big, big numbers, and not surprisingly pleasing to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Noting that more than half a billion apps were downloaded in just this quarter, Jobs declared that the “App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it."

    Well, except for those Google Voice customers, maybe, but there is no denying that the App Store is the latest Next Great Thing from Apple. Its success has rivaled that of the Last Great Thing, the iPod, and in a shorter time frame. It took four years for the iPod to become the standard for media-playing devices, but the App Store has achieved its current position in 14 months.

    The App Store opened on July 11, 2008 with 500 available apps. Six months later, some 15,000 apps had been downloaded half a million times. About three months after that, the App Store had its billionth download and a catalog of some 35,000 apps. Now, five months later, downloads have doubled again and the catalog has more than doubled. Despite legitimate concerns over the app review process, it appears there is no stopping the App Store, especially with the imminent introduction of the iPhone in China.

    Ten billion apps downloaded in 2010, anyone?

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • EU Says iPhones Will Be Pulled, If Proven Dangerous

    iPhone_boomThe European Union isn’t taking reports of potentially dangerous iPhone malfunctions lightly. EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva issued a warning today that iPhones will be pulled from store shelves if it turns out recent screen explosions are hardware-based problems.

    Kuneva says the issue is now in the hands of independent labs checking to see if it is in fact something integral to the devices that’s led to the incidents. Apple maintains that the problems are freak exceptions, and seems to have suggested to the EU Commission investigating the matter that users overheating lithium-ion batteries is what’s to blame.

    For those not up to date, iPhone owners have reported several separate exploding screen incidents in a number of different countries, including EU member states. The similarity of the accounts and the behavior of the devices up to and including the actual explosions themselves, in addition to the mounting number of incidents reported, led the EU’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection to mount a full-scale investigation into the matter.

    Apple’s line has always been that the problems are due to user abuse, not something wrong with the devices themselves. Claims by Commission members that Apple is specifically citing overheated lithium-ion batteries is the closest the company has come to pointing out a specific cause for the incidents.

    Commissioner Kuneva also discussed what information she needs to act, and cited another case in which a product was proven dangerous and removed from market:

    We need to have 100 percent certainty from one member state that these goods are dangerous. If I receive from the French authorities information that they are dangerous, I will act in the interests of the consumer. I will ask my network for a recall of the product as we did with the Italian (Senseo) coffee machines. There, it was proven that they burned the hands of consumers.

    If confirmation comes from any member state investigating the matter in which one of the incidents occurred, a group which includes Britain and Germany in addition to France, the EU will stop the sale of the iPhone across all member countries. This won’t directly affect sales in other international markets, like the U.S., but other countries may be prompted to impose bans of their own following the EU’s findings.

    There is little Apple can do at this point besides await the commission’s decision, since any admission of a hardware defect on its part would lead to a product recall and a cessation of sales anyway. Better to wait and see what independent lab testing shows, and have its hand forced in a worst-case scenario.

    Subscribe to GigaOM Pro and gain access to our Webinar, "Biggest Opportunities in the Smart Grid," on Oct. 7, 2009.


  • iPhone Roundup: 10 Jewish Apps for the New Year

    For some readers, it’s the start of the year 5770. The High Holidays are over and meeting your spiritual goals is fresh on your mind. There is an extensive amount of Jewish-themed iPhone apps available. Even if you aren’t Jewish, these apps highlight some of the great features of the iPhone 3.x software and the GPS and compass functions. Religions such as Judaism have rituals based on time, location and direction, and even if you aren’t Jewish, you might find some of these apps interesting for their ability to take advantage of all the iPhone has to offer, as well as providing a glimpse into another culture.

    296880247Kosher ($4.99)

    Apps like Yelp help you find the best restaurants nearby via your GPS, but if you keep kosher, you want slightly different information about a restaurant. First, obviously, is if they are kosher, but the Kosher App also includes reviews from users of the website as well as the certification authority used to determine if the place was kosher (some authorities are accepted more widely than others). The application can also work without an internet connection since the database is downloaded during setup. The app also contains the blessings for the meal, although the average user of Kosher probably already knows them.

    322753120Kosher Cookbook ($4.99)

    There are lots of recipe apps out there, but the average app doesn’t consider the restrictions on types and combinations of food kosher cooking requires. Similar to other applications, Kosher Cookbook has a large database of recipes and allows you to create custom shopping lists and meal plans. I liked the organization of the recipes in such a way that the kosher home would approach it: dairy, meat and parve. Additionally the virtual “shelf” of cookbooks contains the secular categories as well, such as appetizers, breakfast and dessert. For anyone who keeps a kosher kitchen, or wants to cook for kosher guests, this cookbook will steer you clear of ingredients and combinations that would be inappropriate.

    koshermeKosherMe ($6.99)

    Originally this started out including just the blessing over food (hence the KosherMe title). Unique to most of the Jewish applications is the fact that prayers and information are also in Hebrew and until recently the iPhone didn’t support Hebrew. Most other applications simply render the Hebrew as an image. KosherMe actually renders it like text and allows you to choose Hebrew, English, or transliterated Hebrew (Hebrew words “sounded out” for those that read English but not Hebrew). The newest version expanded to practically all common Jewish prayers and I use it to enhance my spirituality. See a beautiful rainbow and don’t know a prayer for it? There’s an app for that.

    287750769iBlessing (99 cents)

    If you just want the blessings over food and not sure which one to say, or how to say it, iBlessing is for you. For only 99 cents, it tells you all the proper blessings for food as well as washing hands and grace after meals. Instead of showing you the text, it says the blessing for you in Hebrew and in English and gives you time to repeat each word. If you can’t read Hebrew at all, this is great. Bonus prayers include the Shema and Modeh Ani. Unfortunately, even with iPhone sound turned off, it plays introduction music which can be disconcerting if you only want the blessing.

    286478367Siddur ($9.99), Siddur Lite (99 cents)

    In sharp contrast to KosherMe is Siddur. Siddur is, pardon my cross-cultural reference, the whole enchilada. Not only does it contain practically every common prayer and blessing a Jew would need, but it subdivides those prayers into the various cultural backgrounds such as Ashkenazik and Sephardic. The folks at Rusty Brick really went all out to make this program the center of your iPhone Jewish life. On the basic level, Siddur includes the morning and evening services as well as most major blessings in all the Nusuch. Unlike KosherMe, there is no English transliteration or transliterated Hebrew. You have to know what you’re saying. Siddur Lite stops there. The non-lite version includes a Zmanim which uses the GPS to tell you the proper prayer times for your current location (push notifications coming?!), a Luach to tell you the current Hebrew date and upcoming Hebrew events, and a public misheberach prayer list.

    synagoguesSynagogues (99 cents)

    So you only go to synagogue twice a year and aren’t sure how to get there? Synagogue uses your GPS coordinates to find the closest synagogue. Maps is ineffective for this search because it pulls up day schools and other places affiliated with synagogue, but not houses of worship. Additionally, Synagogue tells you the religious affiliation of the synagogue (Reform, Conservative, and so on) as well as the rabbi’s name, the website, and the number of households in the congregation (in case you want a smaller or larger one to attend).

    291083594Shabbat Shalom (Free)

    What time does Shabbat start? What time is it over? What’s the Torah portion for the week. This application I use more than any other to answer these questions. Since many of my friends are observant Jews and do not answer the phone on Shabbat, being able to see what the start and end times for Shabbat where either I live or they live is very helpful. You can add multiple locations so I know not only when I can call local people, but when I can call observant friends and family living out-of-state.

    321274850Mizrach (99 cents)

    During many Jewish prayers in America, you must pray pointing East, towards Jerusalem. Mizrach, which means “east” in Hebrew, uses the 3GS compass feature to accurately and elegantly tell you where east is (technically, slightly southeast). Sure, you can use the actual compass, but it isn’t as pretty. Mizrach will accurately direct you towards Jerusalem no matter where in the world you might be praying.

    ShabbatclockShabbat Clock (Talking Version) (99 cents)

    One of the restrictions of a traditional Jewish Sabbath is the inability to use electronics such as an alarm clock. Generally, you can set the alarm clock in advance, but you can’t snooze the alarm because that would be using electronics. You can’t even wake up the phone from sleep because that would be “using” the phone. Shabbat Clock keeps it’s app open and prevents the iPhone from going to sleep (make sure it’s plugged in). At the appointed time, it will play an alarm for up to a minute. It will even automatically call someone if you’d like.

    For those so inclined, an iPhone might be your must trusted tool in the synagogue next to your siddur. Just please put it on vibrate during services!

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