Archives For Software

Pandora pushed out an iPhone app update yesterday that leverages an interesting new feature of iOS 5 — the ability for third party developers to change lock screen imagery and provide textual information. Cues that seem perfectly suited for a music streaming app such as Pandora.

For years we complained about missing iPhone features. But now, while still lacking the customizability of Android, iOS is supremely polished and (for most) well beyond feature complete. Need more proof? While I’ve invested in the fine TrackThis app, at some point the iPhone software was updated to natively link tracking numbers in email messages to their respective shipping companies.

I’ve been flirting with Windows Phone 7, but little touches like these (along with the massive app ecosystem) make it difficult to quit Apple.

Maybe it should have been named Pumpkin Spice given the timing, but the Android 2.3 update, aka Gingerbread, has been rolling out successfully to HTC Thunderbolt owners over the last several days. I left my own Thunderbolt on overnight, and woke up pleasantly surprised to see the OS update installed and running smoothly.

Some of the immediately noticeable differences in the latest software release (2.11.605.5)  include updated icons, a new Quick Settings tab, and a favorites section with frequently-used apps. The Quick Settings tab is useful because it provides shortcuts for turning on and off Wi-Fi, mobile data, GPS, etc. Not that you can’t bookmark these functions anyway, but it makes sense to have them readily available from the get-go. The icon updates are generally nice, and the favorites section is a helpful alternative to scrolling through pages of apps on a regular basis.

Digging a little deeper, the latest software build also adds a few new apps to the 4G smartphone, including Google Books and a desktop mode app. I hit up Google Books for a free excerpt of the Steve Jobs biography, but given my Kindle account, I doubt I’ll make any further use of the Google software. The desk mode app, meanwhile, only works with the official HTC hardware dock, but it’s making me think that a dock purchase (or gift request) might be worth re-evaluating. The landscape view offers time and temperature, a stream of friend updates, and three icons for photos, music, and calendar access.

The other biggie in this release is a security update. When HTC first started sending out its Gingerbread upgrade, there was a major security hole in place that allowed apps to access a slew of tracking information. That issue’s reportedly been fixed, and HTC says it’s improved Bluetooth security as well.  Continue Reading…


We’ve written about Skifta before, but now that it’s out of beta – and I have an Android phone that rates above the 2.1 OS – I decided to give it a try. Skifta is a DLNA app from Qualcomm that lets you stream content around to different networked devices. Sadly I don’t have a DLNA TV, or a media streamer that supports DLNA, so my testing was limited, but I was able to get the gist of the app with just my phone and PC.

First the good stuff. After downloading Skifta, my phone instantly identified my PC as an available content source. I selected the source, and my playback device, and Skifta popped up an option for browsing available media. From my phone I was able to see photos, music and video on my computer. I opened the video folder first, and immediately played an old home movie I digitized for Christmas last year. It was an odd moment. Here was a video recorded on VHS nearly 20 years ago, now available on my smartphone. Surreal. Music streaming worked reasonably too, though there was a bit of a lag when trying to skip between tracks. Continue Reading…


Wondering why you can’t pass HBO Go video from your iPad or iPhone to your HDTV? Josh Arnold did too… and took his query to Twitter where HBO responded:

HBO requires a level of content protection that’s not currently supported by Apple TV.

If you recall, I bought the iPhone HDMI adapter with intentions of streaming HBO GO and came away disappointed. Likewise, even AirPlay Mirroring, from iPhone 2 to Apple TV, is blocked. A couple months back, the logical assumption would have been that HBO prefers folks subscribe to their cable channel and isn’t interested in digitally serving the lean back crowd. Or they were concerned with various content licensing issues. However, after announcing intentions to stream HBO GO via Samsung devices, the Xbox 360, and Roku those theories have been blown. And, now, it looks like we have our answer  — there’s something about the way Apple transmits data via HDMI and/or AirPlay that makes HBO uneasy. But with HBO GO coming to various set-top boxes (that I own) in the near future, it doesn’t much bother me anymore.

Looks like Verizon has finally taken my advice and has begun consolidating their disparate FiOS-related apps into a unified control panel.  Instead of say launching an individual mobile program to change channels on our Verizon DVR and then launching another to manage recordings, those formerly distinct functions are now logically accessed and controlled via the single interface of MY FiOS. Further, Verizon tells me:

The new app will allow Verizon customers to more nimbly enjoy the company’s expanding base of remote-access media and entertainment services, while also making it easier to manage their personal accounts anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices.  It also paves the way for easy access to dozens of new remote applications currently in development by Verizon and the company’s content provider partners.

MY FiOS is now available to Android owners in the Market with the iPhone equivalent expected to hit later this year. I assume Verizon intends to decommission their earlier app smorgasbord, but they indicate both new and old apps will coexist for the time being.

With initial iPhone 4 weekend sales pegged at potentially 4 million units, I’m reflecting on Microsoft’s failure to generate much excitement (or sales) from their competing Windows Phone 7 platform. And, as the freshest mobile experience on the market, the reception surely has been a failure.

Microsoft’s first, primary, and ongoing error is in the branding department. At launch, their arguably late Windows Mobile replacement operating system was titled “Windows Phone 7 Series” … which is saddled with a whole lot of baggage. Like Microsoft’s derivative “I’m a PC” commercials, Windows Phone sounds like a wannabe iPhone. Except I wouldn’t say Windows has the most positive connotation. For many, Windows is a relic and something we’re forced to use at work. With a large number of folks still stuck on XP, this isn’t the message Microsoft should be projecting. Quintuply so given Windows Phone actual innovative, vibrant, and fast Metro UI.

Then there’s the “Series” problem. As Microsoft doesn’t actually create it’s own hardware, a device running this software would have been known by the cumbersome and redundant “Windows Phone 7 Series phone.” While the redundancy hasn’t been entirely eliminated, Microsoft did at least streamline relatively quickly by dropping the “Series” monicker. But it’s all still too pedestrian and not reflective of their software experience. Would anyone have bought a Windows Gaming Console? Boo-ring! But Microsoft “Xbox” on the other hand exudes mystery and sex appeal. And happens to sell quite well. I’m left wondering why they weren’t as aggressive when rebooting the mobile experience. I’d say it’s a lack of vision. Yet, Metro’s execution indicates otherwise. So perhaps this is the result of branding by committee and they decided on something safe. Continue Reading…

Siri, Then & Now

Dave Zatz —  October 15, 2011

As most probably know by now, Siri is Apple’s iPhone 4S digital assistant featuring uncanny voice recognition and conversational interaction. Here’s how Apple describes it/him/her:

Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.

But Siri wasn’t always Apple’s crown jewel and, as an independent company, released an iOS app in early 2010. We briefly touched on it then when Robert Scoble declared Siri the future of the web. Given prior Borg-like Apple acquisitions, I wasn’t particularly floored when the folks from Cupertino acquired Siri just a few short months after launch. But given it’s deep iPhone 4S integration and tent pole marketing, in retrospect, Scoble’s enthusiasm was warranted and I was wrong.

But enough of the historical play by play. When Siri was originally released, I did what any 12 year old boy geek blogger would have and asked it a series of ridiculous questions back in February, 2010. Being curious how Siri has matured in the intervening months, I recruited fellow blogger Andru Edwards of Gear Live to replicate a few of my inquiries on his iPhone 4S… Continue Reading…