Blog Archives

AirMusic Streams Your iPhone’s Music Library to Your Xbox, PS3, and More [App Of The Day]

iOS: AirPlay is great if you have a Mac or an AppleTV, but if you want your iPhone’s music on other devices you’re out of luck. AirMusic solves that problem by serving up your iPhone’s library on DLNA-compliant devices like the Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as some TVs and set top boxes. You can even stream to Windows Media Player. More »







Fanhattan Is a One-Stop App for Finding Streaming TV and Movies for the iPad [Downloads]

iPad: The free Fanhattan app is a really well executed all-in-one solution for finding movies and TV shows you can watch on the iPad. The app integrates with Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes and ABC Player, and also pulls in related content from Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, and YouTube. More »







EasySign Mobile Lets You Sign and Send Documents On Your iPhone, Print-Free [App Of The Day]

We probably don’t have to explain why signing and faxing documents is a tedious process for people for people without a fax machine, and even for those with one, so the ability to sign digitally is really useful. EasySign Mobile is an app that takes all the work out of signing documents by letting you do it directly from any iOS device. More »







Picturescue Recovers iPhone Photos from iTunes Backup Files [Download Of The Day]

Mac OS X: Picturescue is a tiny app that quickly finds any and all images stored in old iTunes backup files, which are made whenever an iPhone or other iOS device is synced with with its “home” computer. The full version of the app is available for $4.99 and allows the user to export some or all of the photos found, while a trial version allows viewing of the images but not export. More »







Your iPad’s a Telephone With Google Voice

Out of the box, Apple has you covered on your iPad 2 with FaceTime for video chat with your friends, family and colleagues, so long as they have a FaceTime capable device and a Wi-Fi connection. But let’s face it, not everybody is on FaceTime, and certainly not constantly near a Wi-Fi hot spot. If all you want to do is replicate a phone connection, Google Voice along with a couple of native iOS apps may be just what you’re looking for.

What You Need

Google Voice Account. If you’re not already part of Google Voice, simply log into your Google account and sign-up for Google Voice (google.com/voice, but it’s U.S. only as of this writing). It will walk you through the sign-up process, including setting up a new number.

GV Connect. Google’s strategy for the iPad, including Google Voice, appears to be limited to Safari apps only. Google offers an official iOS-native Google Voice client for the iPhone, but GV Connect is a better option, as it has full support iPad support.

Talkatone. Neither the Safari interface that Google offers, nor GV Connect will make VOIP calls from your iOS device. To enable that functionality, you need to download and install the free, ad-supported Talkatone app.  Yes, this is an iPhone app, but you can control it from the iPad-friendly GV Connect interface.

How to Make a Phone Call

Once you have a Google Voice account, download and install both the GV Connect and Talkatone clients on your iPad, and set up each with your Google Voice account information. Then, in GV Connect, do the following:

  1. Under Settings, set the Start Calls From setting to Google Talk.
  2. Enable the Call using Talkatone setting.
  3. Click on the telephone handset icon in the upper left corner to place a call.

While you are controlling your Google Voice account from within GV Connect, the VOIP call is actually being handled by Talkatone. Talkatone does claim to allow calls over 3G, but the quality of those calls are dependent on the network. I’ve only used it while connected via Wi-Fi.

How to Receive a Phone Call

To direct all your incoming calls to be received on your iPad. In GV Connect on your iPad, do the following:

  1. Under Settings, set the Call Forwarding setting to Google Talk.
  2. Make sure you are logged in to your Google Account in Talkatone.
  3. Wait for an incoming call.

It’s that easy; just make sure you’re not logged in to Google Talk anywhere else. I tend to use the stock earbuds to avoid looking like a fool with the iPad pressed against my face, but unfortunately, Bluetooth headsets aren’t fully supported by either Apple or Talkatone. I have yet to completely dedicate my Google Voice account to exclusive iPad-only calling, but I’d love to hear from you if you end up using the solution described above as a total home or cell phone replacement.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

iPad Usability Study Reveals What We Do and Don’t Like In Apps

iPad users aren’t stingy with their devices, according to a new usability report by the Nielsen Norman Group focusing on Apple’s tablet. In fact, iPad owners who lived with one or more individuals reported that they shared their iPads freely, unlike the iPhone. The report also illuminated many things we like and don’t like about the apps we use on our iPads.

For example, the study found that users aren’t crazy about using their iPad devices to deal with complicated forms that require lots of user input, especially if those forms are found in non-optimized websites, rather than housed in an app. Users would skip registrations processes rather than deal with inputting information in many cases. The solution to such a problem would be to make forms simpler, requiring less information, and reduce the need for repeat entry of information (so apps that offer to remember login details are better, for example).

iPad users also aren’t as able to decipher non-obvious control systems as some developers might think. In cases where it wasn’t made clear what tapping an item that wasn’t obviously a button (i.e., a logo) would do, users often missed the functionality. Examples cited in the report include the logo in the top left of The Daily app, which returns users to the app’s home screen. USA Today  originally used a similar mechanism, but changed their logo to include a “Sections” label to tell users that it was in fact designed to be tapped and tied to a function.

Likewise, gestures in apps can sometimes cause trouble when there are no visual cues to provide information about how they work. Don’t think that placing an instructional video or graphic at the beginning of the app will solve the problem, either. Many users don’t read instructions, though visual instructions that are incredibly obvious, like those used by Bing for iPad, tested well with those participating in the study, since users couldn’t avoid grasping their meaning even when they quickly dismissed them. Nielsen Norman Group advises developers that they’re much better off including visual markers throughout, indicating that swipes and other gestures can be used. For example, magazine apps like Wired include arrows that show the direction a user should swipe to unveil more content.

Another alternative is to provide explicit tips in the form of dialog boxes, like Adobe Photoshop Express does. The iPad Photoshop app uses gestures to control effects like “soft focus,” and pops up notifications to alert users of what to do. Tips can be hidden at any time, so they won’t become annoying.

What users find very annoying according to the report are splash or loading screens. No matter how clever, or how easy on the eye, splash screens and animations become annoying very quickly. Startup sounds, in particular, are singled out as especially bad, because of the potential they have for unpleasantly surprising people who open apps in surroundings where noise might not be appreciated.

Also, almost universally, apps will benefit from having back buttons on nearly every page, and should aim for a simple homepage-like table of contents over more complicated navigation schemes. Users prefer a home base from which to operate without having to hunt through carousels or wade through long columns of thumbnails, and they always want the option to go one step back from their current position, because of accidental taps or to refer back to something they just saw.

As mentioned above, iPads tend to be communal devices, at least within the household. But the report also highlighted some other interesting points regarding how we use the Apple tablet. Generally, we use it for gaming, checking email and communicating via social networking, watching videos/movies and reading news. We also tend to shop, but the participants in the study generally preferred shopping on their desktops, and some even perceived iPad shopping to be more risky from a security perspective. iPads also tend to be carried around by many users, or at least taken along for the ride when long waits or trips are expected.

Now that the iPad is more than a year old, it’s interesting to see how people are using it, and what is and isn’t working when it comes to app usability design. No doubt there’s still plenty of innovation left in iPad app interface design, but this report illustrates that some things never go out of style when it comes to user experience.

How does your experience with the iPad either agree or disagree with the findings described above?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

Top 10 Ways iOS Outdoes Android [Lifehacker Top 10]

We love both mobile operating systems and their corresponding devices, but just like Android has its many advantages so does iOS. Here are our favorite parts of iOS that outdo their Android counterparts. More »







TripLingo Teaches You Foreign Language Phrases You’ll Actually Need When Traveling [Downloads]

iPhone: If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t speak your language and you want to be able to communicate without dedicating most of your free time to learning the language, TripLingo can help. It’s an iOS app that teaches you useful phrases you’ll actually need when traveling, and you can learn different variations so you can speak formally, casually, or like one of the cool kids. More »







iPad Keyboard Shortcuts

I was pretty excited to hear that the iPad supported a hardware keyboard. With my history in Unix, I’ve become pretty comfortable as a touch typist, enough so that there is no faster way to get words out of my head and into the text editor. My excitement was short-lived, however. Soon after receiving my Bluetooth Apple keyboard in the mail, I found that most of the keyboard shortcuts I was hoping for were not there.

So, after trying every keyboard shortcut I could think of, here’s a rundown of all the shortcuts that work on the iPad.

  • CMD – c (Copy selected text)
  • CMD – x (Cut selected text)
  • CMD – v (Paste)
  • CMD – z (Undo)
  • CMD – shift – z (Redo)
  • CMD – Up Arrow (Jump to top of document)
  • CMD – Down Arrow (Jump to bottom of document)
  • CMD – Left Arrow (Jump to beginning of line)
  • CMD – Right Arrow (Jump to end of line)
  • CMD – Delete (Delete everything on the current line to the left of the cursor)
  • Option – Delete (Delete the word to the left of the cursor, and its preceding space)
  • F1 (Dim Screen)
  • F2 (Brighten Screen)
  • F7 (Back one song)
  • F8 (Play/Pause Music)
  • F9 (Skip one song ahead)
  • F10 (Mute)
  • F11 (Volume Down)
  • F12 (Volume Up)
  • Eject key (Show/hide on-screen keyboard)

Luckily, all of the standard shortcuts for special characters still seem to work, like our beloved option – shift – k.

If I’ve missed any shortcuts, please let me know in the comments!

Apple’s keyboard dock has additional keys for locking the iPad, search, and home. I’m disappointed that those keys did not find an equivalent on the Bluetooth keyboard. I’m also disappointed that not all applications have full access to the key events sent from the keyboard. Most third-party apps that I’ve tested only have access to basic text entry and ignore the escape key or control characters.

The good news is that the shortcomings of the iPad’s keyboard integration are software, and can be fixed. I’ve heard rumors of good things coming in iPhone OS 4, so I’m hoping that CMD-q, CMD-tab, CMD-i, and CMD-b make a comeback. I’m also hoping for some better integration of the keyboard with Safari. Safari will recognized the keyboard for any text entry, but little, if anything, beyond that. The biggest missing feature for Safari for me is the ability to search for text on a page, CMD-F. CMD-I would be great for sending a page via email, and CMD-1 through 9 would be nice for bookmarklets like Instapaper.

Part of the problem with keyboard integration is the melding of the old world and new world. The iPad is meant to be touched and gestured to, but many tasks still require text entry. Typing is faster, far faster for me, than handwriting, and not as awkward as voice recognition software like Dragon Dictation (App Store Link). Looking at Apple’s track record for developing its products, it introduces a new product with very, very few features, and then hones and perfect those features over time, and adds new ones as the product matures. I’m confident that the iPad will one day mature into a writers companion, and a power user’s dream.

PC Games on Your iPad, Courtesy of HTML5

The iPad is already a strong entry in the mobile games realm, with its large, high-resolution display, touchscreen interface and support for external devices like keyboards. Plus it has the iPhone/iPad development community cranking out innovative games all the time, too.

In addition to all that existing gaming goodness, it looks like you might very soon be able to play a whole host of your favorite PC games on the platform, too. Not natively, of course (though ports of classics seems to be the thing to do these days), but via game streaming service Gaikai, which, much like OnLive before it, aims to remove the steep hardware barriers associated with many advanced video games.

Gaikai was shown running on an iPad (on Touch Arcade), and playing World of Warcraft on the device. Whether it’s a good thing to put WoW in the hands of addicts wherever they happen to go is another question entirely, but the promise of PC games running untethered on a device in your lap is intriguing indeed. I’m not a WoW player myself, but Starcraft II is landing late this July, and I somehow doubt it’ll be accompanied by a native iPhone port at the same time.

But will the gatekeepers at Apple allow Gaikai to invade its playground? The move could potentially have serious consequences on the App Store’s economics, since conceivably, Gaikai could stream any game to the iPad and other Apple devices, not just ones sanctioned by the Mac maker. Gaikai’s Dave Perry says Apple basically can’t block the service.

The reason being, Gaikai is HTML5-based technology. That means that its browser-based player will work fine on mobile Safari out of the box, unless Apple goes out of its way to shut down access to Gaikai specifically, which would fly in the face of certain recent correspondence by Steve Jobs himself regarding the closed nature of Flash versus the open nature of HTML5.

Gaikai shows the way to sidestepping iCensorship altogether, at least in terms of streamable web content. At this stage in the game, Apple has basically painted itself into a corner wherein it has to condone anything done using the HTML5 standard, versus rich media that uses browser-based plugins like Flash and Silverlight. It won’t work for all apps (like the one that allows you to sync wirelessly, for instance), but it should allow content providers to publish whatever kind of iPad and iPhone-targeted material they want without blocking fears.

We’ll see the Gaikai North American beta launch in the comings weeks, and then we’ll find out just how much openness Apple can tolerate. Hopefully it’s just enough to see me playing Civilization 5 on my iPad this fall.

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