I appreciate my iPod touch more now that I have a BlackBerry

I recently became a member of the CrackBerry crowd. My last three year contract ended in November, and I figured it was time to get something better than my old Motorola phone. I was thinking about the iPhone, but since I already had an iPod touch, I ended up going with the BlackBerry Curve. So far, I love it. Text messaging is much better, email access is fantastic (obviously), and I can hop online from anywhere if need be.

It hasn’t been a perfect experience however. I’ve run into a number of issues trying to figure out how to do things – simple things that took no time at all to figure out on the iPod touch. Here’s a small list of them:

  • One of the first things I did was open up the browser. It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out how to enter an address though! Eventually I figured out the menu button and the “Go to” option, but I found the iPod much easier – just scroll up and there’s the address bar.
  • Another problem was deleting messages. Very quickly I figured out how to delete a single message, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete multiple messages at once! I ended up searching for it, and found the CAPS button trick. The iPod was much easier – nice big edit button, which reveals checkboxes beside each item. Just really intuitive.
  • Settings are another issue. Changing the background on my iPod took barely any effort at all, but I once again had to Google for help with the BlackBerry. The menus just seem to make more sense on the iPod.
  • I like to keep the unread messages count cleared, and one day it was stuck at one. I checked the email inbox, the text messaging inbox, and both were empty. I once again turned to the web and found out that missed calls show up as unread messages! I then opened up the Call Log, but it didn’t clear! Turns out they show up as messages in the combined inbox. Confusing design.

There have been other issues of course, but these few stuck out. In general, I think the interface on the iPod/iPhone is just much more intuitive. I guess that’s not surprising, given Apple’s reputation for good design, but it still caught me off-guard.

Most of my searches end up at the the CrackBerry.com forums. I’m clearly not the only one who has run into these issues! Thanks to everyone who has contributed there – you’ve made it much easier for me to get up-to-speed with the BlackBerry!

The CBC Olympic iPhone site rocks

We’re almost a week into the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Canada still doesn’t have a medal. About a half an hour ago, swimmer Mike Brown finished fourth in what was probably our best shot at making the podium. Much to my surprise, the iPhone site at CBC was updated with the news almost immediately!

Swimming in Lane 5 at the National Aquatics Centre, the 24-year-old Brown touched the wall in a time of two minutes 9.03 seconds, missing the podium by just 9-100ths of a second.

Sad news, yes, but I’m really impressed with CBC. They have by far the best mobile site I’ve seen for following the Olympics.

Visit http://www.cbc.ca/iphone/olympics on your iPhone or iPod touch, and you’re presented with the screen to the right. Along the top is the menu bar which enables you to drill down into news related to your favorite sport. Underneath that are the overall medal standings with the three leaders and Canada. And underneath that are the latest Olympic headlines.

For me, the site is perfect. All I want to know at a glance are the medal standings and the headlines. I can quickly scan both, and if I want to, I can tap on a headline to read the entire story.

When I started looking for a good way to follow Olympic news on my iPod touch, I definitely didn’t think of CBC. The first thing I did was check the App Store, but there was nothing there that looked useful. So I started searching, and eventually came across the CBC site. I’m glad I did!

The only bad part about the site, of course, is that it’s getting tiring seeing the four red zeros beside Canada!

I haven’t watched too much of the Olympics on TV, pretty much just some of the major swimming finals. From what I’ve seen though, CBC has been doing a good job there too. I’ve read nothing but complaints about NBC online.

Five iPhone / iPod touch applications I want

appstoreI finally got my iPod touch updated to the new 2.0 software today. I had tried repeatedly yesterday, but eventually gave up due to all the errors. The download was about 230 MB, and it took about an hour to get installed with all my data restored. The update costs $9.95 for iPod touch owners and is free for iPhone owners.

The first thing I did was poke around the App Store in iTunes. Pretty quickly though I realized that the best way to browse it is actually on the device itself. So far I’ve installed Twitterific, Evernote, the New York Times app, and the Facebook app. The second thing I did was get Exchange working. The applications are cool, but right now the Exchange support is what makes the update worth it for me.

I know that more applications will appear over time, but right now it seems like there aren’t very many useful ones. Here are five applications I’d love to see:

  1. Remember the Milk – They’ve already got a web app for the iPhone, but I’d love to see a full app complete with offline access to my task list. I’d be surprised if they didn’t create one, actually. This is the app I want most.
  2. Buxfer – I use this app all the time to manage my personal finances, and I’d love to have on-the-go, offline access.
  3. Brightkite – Apparently they have one in the works, and it should be ready by the end of the month. I hope it has some sort of auto-check-in feature (based on the network I’m connected to or something).
  4. Ping.fm – The current web app works great, but it would be better to not have to open up the web page and possibly log in.
  5. WordPress or Windows Live Writer – I’m not sure how often I’d post to my blog from my iPod touch, but it would be cool just to know that I can.

A couple of honorable mentions: a better weather app than WeatherBug (from Environment Canada would be wicked) and some sort of FriendFeed app.

What applications do you want?

Apple Service Experience was AWESOME

apple logo As you may know, my beloved iPod touch died recently. On Sunday, April 6th, I went to plug it in to charge it, and it fried. Wouldn’t turn on or reset or anything. I poked around the support website for a bit, but I was fairly certainly I’d have to get it serviced.

I found myself wishing this had happened after Canada Day – a new Apple Store is opening up in West Edmonton Mall on July 1st, 2008. I had no choice but to fill out the service request online. It told me to expect a package with instructions in two business days, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

Then, on Tuesday the 8th, I received the package. Count me as surprised! The instructions were really easy to follow, so I packaged up my iPod and dropped it off at UPS later that day. I figured waiting for the replacement would take a while, so I sort of forgot about it. And of course, I traveled to San Antonio this weekend.

Less than a week later, on the afternoon of Monday the 14th, my replacement iPod touch was delivered! How’s that for turnaround time?! Of course, I didn’t get back to town until last night, so I didn’t get to restore my iPod until today.

Restoring, by the way, was dead simple. I plugged it in, registered it with my Apple account, and then chose the option to restore my previous iPod. After a few minutes I found myself with everything exactly the way it was before. And I do mean everything (well except the passcode lock, which makes sense). Even the last page I had opened in Safari reloaded!

I’ve heard some good things and some bad things about Apple’s service, but I had never needed to use it until this happened. I’m so happy to report that it was a superb experience.

Thanks Apple!

iPhone

Post ImageI am not crazy about Apple’s iPhone. Obviously it doesn’t work in Canada yet anyway, but it will, eventually. I think gadgets generally fall into two categories the day they launch: there are gadgets you “must have” right away, and there are gadgets where it’s wise to take a “wait and see” approach.

The difficult thing is that you can’t predict which of the two categories a particular gadget will fall into. I figured the Xbox 360 was in the first category, so I lined up and bought one the day it was released. That turned out to be a good decision (minus the lack of HDMI output). When the Wii came out, I figured it was in the second category. Turns out I probably could have bought that one right away! I think the iPhone falls into the second category, but I guess we’ll find out over the next few weeks.

Today is the first day where the lineups to buy the iPhone will be insane, though some individuals got started a couple days ago. The rules are basically that you can only buy two per person, and it’s first come, first serve.

It’s already hard to ignore iPhone-related news, and it’s not going to get any easier, at least for the next few days. That said, I’d be disappointed to look back in five years and not find a post about the iPhone. Most of the things I have read so far are kind of the same, but I did like Paul Colligan’s list of reasons for not lining up, especially his last point:

Ratatouille Opens On Friday Too! Shorter line, better snacks, my kids can come and Steve Jobs still makes money off of me.

Well said 🙂

If you are especially stoked about the iPhone, don’t miss Engadget’s coverage.

Apple drops "computer" and launches iPhone

Post ImageThe main story people are buzzing about today is the launch of the iPhone from Apple. I don’t know how they can use the name, considering Cisco has already used it, but there it is. Engadget has a ton of photos up from the announcement, and I have to admit, the phone looks awesome. Okay, okay, it looks downright sexy.

Sweet, glorious specs of the 11.6 millimeter device (that’s frickin’ thin, by the way) include a 3.5-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen display with multi-touch support and a proximity sensor to turn off the screen when it’s close to your face, 2 megapixel cam, 4GB or 8 GB of storage, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and A2DP, WiFi that automatically engages when in range, and quad-band GSM radio with EDGE. Perhaps most amazingly, though, it somehow runs OS X with support for Widgets, Google Maps, and Safari, and iTunes (of course) with CoverFlow out of the gate.

You can see more at the official Apple site.

I wonder which carrier(s) will be selling the phone in Canada. Hopefully it’s not just Rogers. I would totally buy one of these if Telus sold them (or, alternatively, if we had number portability)!

Apple announced a bunch of other stuff today, but perhaps most interesting is that it has dropped “Computer” from its name and will now be known simply as “Apple, Inc.” If that doesn’t scream where Apple’s focus is, I don’t know what does.

Read: Engadget

What would Apple do without any content?

Post ImageImagine for a moment that the record labels restricted or entirely removed Apple’s access to their catalog of content. What would Apple do? I’m not suggesting the record labels are going to do this anytime soon, but it seems Microsoft has gotten smart and come up with a way to attack iTunes, and it’s not related to the hardware:

Nobody partners like Microsoft. The company is one of the shrewdest deal makers on the planet, when it isn’t competing with partners…There has been buzz for sometime that labels were unhappy with Apple’s single pricing and were looking for a cut of iPod sales…Seems to me: Microsoft is looking to suave labels’ hurts as it seeks to get the deals that could make table stakes for taking on Apple. After all, Apple doesn’t control the content.

When you consider Microsoft’s deal with Universal Music, the possibility of similar deals with the other record labels, and it’s recent Xbox Live Video moves, it becomes clear that access to content is at the heart of Microsoft’s new strategy.

Apple’s strength is hardware, it’s what they do best. Without any content for that hardware however, it becomes a much tougher sell.

Read: Microsoft Monitor

Apple Podcasting Site Broken!

Post ImageThe new nanos are great, Apple still rules digitial music with the iPod and all that, but they’ve broken podcasting. Well, they’ve broken their own podcasting site anyway. I went to look at the iTunes Podcasting spec, and noticed that the page can no longer be found! Seems the redesign for the new stuff broke the website. Well done Apple!

And it’s a shame too, because http://www.apple.com/podcasting was such a nice URL, wouldn’t you say?

A search for podcasting on the support site only gives the Podcasting FAQ. And the link on that page to the podcasting page remains broken. Fortunately, Google comes to the rescue. You can see cached versions of the podcasting page and the tech specs.

Maybe they are going to be updating the spec?

Coming Zune from Microsoft

Post ImageTurns out the rumor is true! Microsoft is working on a new project to take on Apple and the iPod called Zune. Information is flying fast and furious around the web, but Engadget has come to the rescue with a pretty good status check of what is known thus far. They also posted a quote from Microsoft’s GM of Marketing, Chris Stephenson:

“Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together.”

From the CNET News.com article on Zune, I found the teaser website which is pretty unimpressive, though it does give you the ability to sign up for news and updates.

As has been noted elsewhere, this marks a significant change in Microsoft’s media and entertainment strategy, which thus far has relied upon partners to build and sell devices. I don’t think it will be quite the problem that many believe though – Microsoft competes with partners all the time, in a wide range of different industries. In fact I hope Zune turns out to be great, so Microsoft’s partners can follow their lead and improve their own players.

With keyboards, mice, webcams, the Xbox 360, and probably other stuff I don’t know about, Microsoft’s hardware business is already somewhat substantial. Add media players to the mix, the rumored portable gaming device, and maybe Microsoft sees a future in hardware? I wonder how long it will be until they manufacture their own Media Center PC.

In any case, bring on the Zune!

Read: Engadget

Podcasting more popular than beer?

Post ImageYou may have heard the recent story about iPods and how they are more popular than beer among US students according to a biannual study. It’s apparently the first time since 1997 than beer has been knocked from the top of the list. Naturally, one wonders why the iPod is so popular? Managing partner of Student Monitor Eric Weil thinks he knows why:

Part of the explosion in its popularity may be due to the iPod’s use as a learning tool in the form of “podcasting”, technology that allows students to download lectures directly into their handheld devices to be listened to and viewed at their convenience, suggested Weil.

“Professors are using whatever way they can to jam information into students’ brains,” said Weil.

Wishful thinking Eric! I don’t seem to recall any colleges or universities making a big deal out of podcasting just yet. Sure there’s a few professors who have started using the technology, but hardly enough to cause students to give up beer!

A more likely reason is that there are simply more students who like music than who like beer. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there are a bunch of students who call their MP3 players “iPods” even if they aren’t. I’m expecting beer to be back on top again next year.

Read: Yahoo News