top picks for 2010 from the appStore

2010 has been an incredible year for the mobile space, and as crazy as things may appear, this is only the beginning. with the advent move of the smart TVs and slated devices, we are bound to see more innovation for both corporates and consumers alike.


here is my short list of top apps for the iphone first, at random order:

VOIP:
skype: veteran at it’s field. skype is affecting the bottom line by saving money. $3/month for unlimited calls in the US, the ability to work over 3g and soon facetime is where the industry will be, no matter how much carriers want to extort the end users. bar none, skype is keeping us all connected. with PBX integration and a future IPO this company will continue to dominate and lead the way in it’s field.

SOCIAL:
facebook: this facebook app is a fantastic example of how apps can pack zest with style. this is the top used app because it’s well done. nothing much to say, we are all on it and loving it.

foursquare: i am a big fan of the NY based company. real time, location based (and soon NFC), 4squre has started something great that is echoing throughout. mayorships, badges and a solid business plan. i hope for more goodness from these guys.

PHOTOGRAPHY:
fotomecha: probably my favorite camera app (for still photos) in the appStore, because it allows me to be creative and capture moments i.e. more than one moment, and create a flow in time.

itimelapse: for video capable iphones, this app allows timelaps video creation with some nifty features for creative control. you need to be patient and stable, or maybe you need the glif.

MUSIC:
FiRe: top recorder which integrates well with soundcloud. i use it often to record music,conversations etc. these guys are fantastic with performance and know the audio frameworks well. money well spent.

SPL meter: i use this app to know when the sound around me is affecting my hearing. hearing gone bad cannot be regained. those tiny hairs in the hearing tube will not grow back. sounds particular and you may call me old fashioned, but no concert/club in the world is worth loosing our hearing for.

READING:
goodreads: bar none, the top app to sync your pdf files for offline reading. i also sync movies to it and this is the reason i get more done. 30m on the subway is a great time to launch this app (both iphone and ipad). with the ability to sync documents from dropbox, google docs and others, this app packs a punch of useful features.

HOME:
airphones: great little app that turns the iphone into a wireless headset over wifi. you will need to install a server on your mac or windows machine.

mobile mouse: while you have airphones streaming audio from your mac mini, which is hooked up to a 50″ plasma, you will need to launch a browser and go on veetle.com. this app is the best i’ve seen and worth every penny. again, you will need a server running on your machine.

Pure West for iPhone and iPod touch on the iTunes App Store

My first iOS app is live on the app store. It is an iPhone compatible schedule for Pure Yoga West, one of the top yoga centers in NYC in the upper west side. The app is free for download from the AppStore.

This project started off when I joined Pure West as a member. Yoga became a big part of my life as I practice on daily basis. Since Pure West offers around 27 different kinds of yoga between 5 studios, starting as early as 6am – you can imagine the teachers they have as staff and the frequency they update the schedule.

Something was broken. The paper schedule provided at the front desk was out of date as soon as it was printed. Could be a minor change to a single class, to time of full moon where ashtanga is not practices (which can not be reflected in a single week sheet), to the twice a month led practice of mysore.

Pure uses spa-booker as their service provider, doing all the heavy lifting with proprietary database system and interfaces to both manage the content and display it to the public. it gets more complicated than that as some classes are special and specific where members (or non members) need to pay and more.

Since spa-booker is working on their own version for the mobile devices, and I knew I am in need of a solution for myself that can probably serve others – I jumped on the challenge to create something.

Working closely with two friends, Tomer and Claudio, together we build this app that does the following well:

– single click to get class schedule and class info
– fast loading of the data
– layout that matches the small iphone screen

Essentially we build a system that scrapes the HTML of the entire week. Then we parse the content diligently and store it in our XML proprietary format. The interface picks up the XML whenever someone launches the application and displays it on screen accordingly.

For performance reasons we are re-visiting Pure’s website every two hours to see what had changed, parse the content and re-write the XML. On the client side only one day is loaded from the server. When a user changes a day, we go back to the XML and look for the content of that day exclusively.

The app is a UIWebView essentially, as the app is developed as a web application. The release to the AppStore will help the discovery, but also for us to learn the process and time line for doing so, as we plan to move forward with other developments of our ideas and our client’s.

The beauty of iOS apps is that they strive to keep things simple. When you launch the application, it is really hard to judge how much work was put into it, and how much lifting is done in the background. Things just work as they should, both in layout, style and user experience, including performance specifically.

One of the advantages of designing this app abstractly, is that now we can custom create it for any spa-booker customer within the day.

We are in touch with Spa Booker who are supporting our efforts. Future plans may include using their API’s to book classes directly from the phone, add more specific information to classes, like which element of zenyasa is being practices today, and provide a delta of changes since a user last visited the schedule.

The Pure East application (the 2nd location for Pure on the upper east side) is pending approval by Apple. Based on the approval of Pure West, it is a matter of days before that one will be approved as well.

Why Apple TV and Ping will fail

Major snore from Apple in my opinion. I think that the event itself, and the fact it was streamed to Mac machines and Safari browsers only is THE reason why Apple had failed and will continue to fail (in my eyes) with the latest announcements. I am talking about a close eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple failed with the TV expenditure. Steve did not show us numbers, but clearly it was a failure. The big changes were sizing, pricing of shows and streaming, as opposed to storing. Is that what the users really want? To a certain degree, yes. Users do not want to worry about storage, they want to pay less for a device and for content. Apple did deliver on this, but it will not be enough, I believe, to be a killer device like the iPhone, and take over the living room with a storm. WHY? Because of the closed eco system and spoon fed experience.

Apple did a great job in educating the users and providing a great user experience across the board. I argue that user experience is what Apple is really selling and why people are using it. Coupled with the motivation to challenge and innovate, and you have a winning strategy.

This does not and will not work for the TV because only Apple fanboys will forget everything they know, and start a fresh with Apple TV, and forget all they know and do with their many years of habit. The TV is one area where users do not want to get the Apple filter applied to. Users don’t mind it with their iPod shuffle. They don’t mind it with their Mac OSX based machines, and to a certain degree they agree to it with their iPhone (mainly because Android did not step up it’s UX game to be considered a worthy competitor. yet).

Apple will gain a small market share and will have to come up with something much better than that to capture the imagination of the bigger market. I believe that can be done by turning the Apple TV into a real entertainment center to compete head to head with the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo Wii as a console, introducing the iOS appStore for the TV. That can be killer. But even that is not enough. An Apple TV can only be better than, let’s say, a Mac Mini hooked up to a TV, if it is open. By open I mean I can do whatever I want to do, as opposed to whatever Jobs wants me to do (buy his content that he chose for me).

Examples for this behavior are ample and sad. Apple removed Camera+ from the AppStore recently because TapX3 released a hack which allows you to fire up the camera from the volume button. Apple initially declined the feature, claiming it will confuse people. So Apple is stepping up to the plate as our parents (more like a big brother), deciding what is confusing for us. Clearly, releasing the shutter speed in an ergonomic way may confuse us. I feel over estimated, and I do not think it is for Apple to decide for me what’s confusing and what’s not.

Apple’s attempt at social media is probably the most interesting news to date from that event. A social network around music, which is mutually exclusive from Facebook. Did I snore yet again? While I do believe this is a GREAT idea and a fantastic opportunity for Apple to increase sales on iTunes – the segregation is peculiar. Even worse – who wants to live inside iTunes? Though revolutionary, iTunes is hate by many. Looks and feels old and clunky. Navigating through your music sucks and discovery with genius is, well, boring…

Apple’s notion that people will have iTunes open to see what their friends are listening to is optimistic at best. Not web based, not facebook integration. Only one hope – it integrates with iTunes on your mobile device. I cannot imagine myself opening up iTunes when I want to listen to some music, and getting up to speed with what’s going on with my music buddies.

Apple can definitely relax a little. Let go of the grip and think of a more open way to provide users what they do best. Or not. My personal opinion is that they will not do that, and continue to thrive with a small market share that pays hefty sums to be a part of the cult.

the next stage for smart phones

no doubt apple revolutionized the smart phones industry. apple gave the market a real shuffle when it introduced it 3 years ago. it was the user experience that made the difference – just like any apple product – from their software to their stores: it’s all about the user experience.

what helped the iphone take off was the community of developers. believe it or not, it is the early hackers who put their time and wits into action, to jailbreak it. jailbreaking means you free the phone from the exclusivity of the appStore, and are able to install apps from other developers (for free or for $$). there are several alternative appStores out there, like cydia and ‘rock your phone’.

why would anyone be interested in installing apps that are not on the appStore? mostly because they extend the capabilities of the device beyond what apple allows or is planning for the time being. for example: tethering. how long did we hear from ATT that tethering is arriving? why can’t we share our internet connection with our laptop and have the iphone serve as a hub? ATT is planning to do so (they claim they are making way for the bandwidth load they are experiencing altogether) for an extra (yes, u heard it right) extra $30 a month. so you pay $30 on your iphone to be constantly online with an unlimited bandwidth (it actually is capped if u check your account page online), and you will pay $30 more to tether.

if you jailbreak your iphone you can install an app called myWi which allows you to tether for a small one time fee of $20. sounds like a good deal right? it is.

another good example is using your data plan as you wish. the internet neutrality act proposes that each and every one of us can use his/hers connection as they please without the internet provider throttling and/or blocking the connections (which happens in spades, though most providers do not admit this). in fact, chile is the first country in the world to anchor network neutrality within it’s constitutional right.

currently ATT does not allow skype calls to be made over the data plan. only wifi. the same goes for ‘face time’ with iphone 4. you can see the other side only if both are over wifi. that pretty much sucks doesn’t it? well, ATT has been putting billions of dollars into infrastructure and i can attest that their signal has gotten better (not much but better) here in NYC. however, i cannot understand what reasons they had (besides greed) to up the data plan cost from $20 on iphone g1 to $30 for the exact same package.

back to business. if you install my3g you can fool the phone into reporting it is over wifi while you are actually over the data network.

want more examples? they are a plenty: sbsettings (allows you to control the phone via a swipe jesture, turn on the phone, the data connection, blue tooth, kill processes and more) proswitcher: allows you to multitaks, meaning putting an app in the background (now partly available in os4) ultrasnow: allows you to unlock the phone, so you can use it with other GSM carriers in the US or over seas (something ATT must provide you by law when traveling abroad – which they don’t). and many many more.

so now back to the title – the next stage of smart phones. well, the title is misleading. it should really read the next stage of smart devices. and that is exactly what they should be: smart devices.

the revolution had already started with the micro sim cards for the ipads. take a device and connect it to the internet – you are golden. forget about minutes, rollovers – all we really have is our data connection. do you want to make a call? launch skype. you can make unlimited calls in the US for $3 a month. face it – a phone is just an application, just like your painting tool or recording device. whatever you want to do will be %100 over the network without extra fees or hidden charges.

and they are all afraid of it because they will loose tons of money right? all the fees on our bill, state charged nickel and dimes for F charge and G cost. the interent scares that scavengers because what will you charge on top of the data plan?

and that is all i really want and the next phone i will get: a device that has the ability to connect to the internet without a phone attached to you. an ipod touch with a micro sim card will do fantastic for me and i will gladly give up my iphone for it.

the future is all about our freedom and ability to connect. it is all about us spending much less (think annually) and getting much much more bang for our buck.

– plug your guitar into your iPhone and rock out!

AmpliTube iRig is just one of those ideas that can make people buy an iPhone. not often do i get to see apps for mobile that can serve as game changers and this is – in my humble opinion – is. as a life long big fan of music, i both play and compose music, and let me tell you: owning equipment is not something i enjoy. in fact, i do not have an amp for my guitar because i can’t be bothered to carry it around… let alone have multiple effects, pedals and what have you.

AmpliTube iRig may have solved this problem by creating a digital instrument encapsulated in an app, that holds various effects and amps, and it runs on your iphone. to make things sweet, you purchase what they labeled the iRig: a small device that allows you to plug in your guitar to the iphone, and then have the wet sound routed out to your headset or home stereo system (wet means sound with the effect and/or amplification applied to it).

how fantastic is that? for a fraction of the cost you now have minimized your setup to the iphone and the iRig. i love it!

some questions before the video:
1. what about latency? it is fair to assume it is not an issue, otherwise the app would fail and there is no room to create it from the get go.
2. how quality is the quality of the sound? yet to be seen (or heard). as far as the audio samples on their website – it sounds freaking awesome and top notch.
3. where is the competition? seriously, hats off for the vision and innovation of this company.
4. what’s missing? battery power that will have the iphone last longer than several hours of playing around. maybe it will run better on the iPad 🙂

video time: