Tag Archives: applications

The Mobile App Gap



The history of mobile applications dates back to simple games such as Snake, Pong, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe included with candy bar phones.

As phones became “smarter,” Windows Mobile phones of the mid-2000’s and others included the ability to install third-party software, both paid and free.

Next came the era of the high noise level platform app stores that we know and love/hate today. There are tons of both free and paid apps. Some apps are useful to accomplish very specific, pointed tasks with high efficiency. Others apps are arguably less than useless. The good and the bad, the useful and the useless are packaged together in a cacophony of brightly-colored graphics and flowery sales language, all on equal footing and demanding attention. App discovery is often painful, unpleasant and risks device app bloat.

Mobile device ownership and management requires a learning curve. In phase one, the mobile device novice is at high risk of downloading seemingly every app encountered, while actually making use of very little of that which has been installed.

Phase two of the learning curve is typically marked by out of storage memory errors.

Phase three requires the user to decide which useless apps should be deleted so that the mobile device can continue to be updated and/or functional. When deleting apps, there is a tendency for the user to hang on to installed apps if there’s even the most remote of chances that the user might conceivably use the app.

The key test to determine whether a particular app should simply be deleted is to ask yourself whether or not you would reinstall it after a factory reset.

It should be noted that apps that the user has paid for will tend to have a higher psychological value placed on them, regardless of whether they are actually useful or not.

In this noisy mobile app jungle, where crap is right alongside cream, people are trying to squeeze the most out of their mobile devices, to extract the maximum productivity.

Mobile devices make great content consumption devices. Proof is all around us. At any given moment when people are around, how many of those people are absorbed with their mobile devices?

As mobile devices become ever more powerful, the next step in the evolution of the mobile device usage learning curve is revolving around increasing demand to accomplish real-world productivity tasks. While some productivity tasks can be accomplished, others are difficult or impossible – not because of computing power limitations – after all, today’s mobile devices often have quite powerful processors – no, because of software limitations.

Mobile device operating systems have grown larger and more sophisticated along with the more powerful processors. However, there is a problem plaguing both iOS and Android in the form of an app gap. Apps are wannabe pretenders when it comes to genuine software sophistication. No mobile device apps can compare on equal footing with desktop computer software. Both major platforms – iOS and Android – suffer from this problem.

There is nothing stopping software vendors from developing highly sophisticated mobile software, other than the fact that it’s typically just not worth it. For whatever reason, mobile device owners have a pervasive “it has to be free or very low cost” mentality. We are willing to spend upwards of a thousand dollars or even more for a high end mobile device, but balk at the idea of having to pay more than a few dollars for single apps.

If you have ever tried to push a mobile device to better take advantage of its powerful processing capabilities, you quickly run into a problem. Go beyond a certain level of task sophistication, and the apps typically fall flat very quickly. The ultimate test for mobile apps is to take a mobile device and plug it in to a 1080p or higher monitor. Attach a keyboard and if it’s an Android device, attach a mouse or trackpad. Try to use the mobile device and the installed apps like you would a full computer. For example, try to push the experience to its limits by editing a long, complex video and see how well it goes. The mobile software will play back high resolution videos without any trouble at all, but try to do something really productive and things quickly fall apart. The problem isn’t the processor, but the software.

The mobile app gap situation doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. In the meantime, as mobile device owners and users there are a lot of questions we should be asking ourselves.

How much are you willing to pay for mobile device apps? What has been your experience? Have you ever paid for an app and then realized later that it was a waste of money? What is the most you have ever paid for a mobile app and why?

Why are people willing to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for sophisticated commercial desktop class software without batting an eye, yet close their wallets when it comes to paid apps for mobile devices? Do people perceive mobile devices to have as big of a potential payoff as a desktop or laptop? If mobile computing devices don’t have the same payoff potential as a desktop or laptop, then why not? What is the difference between the two systems? What can be done to increase the potential payoff value of mobile computing devices?


The Future of Mobile Computing



Mobile devices, specifically large screen smartphones, have made significant inroads into the computing spaces traditionally held by full-sized desktop and laptop computers. This incursion can best be measured by personal usage shifts.

In my own case, I find myself making much less use of my laptop and desktop machines, with my large screen smartphone making up the majority of my usage. At this point, if it were possible I would shift all of my computing usage to my smartphone, but unfortunately I find that the lack of quality software, and not the hardware, is preventing me from making the full shift.

The high end smartphone hardware of today compares quite favorably to traditional desktop and laptop hardware. If I could only run desktop class software applications on my smartphone, I could pretty ditch my traditional machines to an even greater degree than I already have.

The large screen high end smartphone hardware is closer than ever to hitting a peak, where performance improvements are incremental. From my point of view, the only way my phone could be made even more useful would be the addition of genuine desktop class software applications that would allow me to do real work and truly take advantage of the heavy duty hardware that is built in to a very compact package.

The software we’ve had to this point is at best dumbed-down and lacks capability. Apps such as Garage Band and iMovie on iOS and most of their counterparts on Andriod in the Google Play Store are toy apps aimed at seemingly air headed casual users. For example, where is the ability to import from and export to wider varieties of audio and video file types?

I want a real video editor that would allow me to attach my phone to a large screen monitor, keyboard and mouse and do intense video editing. Ditto with a real sound editor that would run on my phone that would be similar to the depth of an application such as Adobe Audition.

Who will develop these more capable smartphone applications? That remains to be seen. At this point the only real differentiators for hardware platforms lies in better software applications.

I personally am willing to pay for desktop class applications that will run on mobile computing platforms. Unfortunately so far they don’t seem to exist.


Safe Games for Kids by Toca Boca at The Gadget Show



Toca BocaAs a a parent with a tablet-loving daughter, I’m always worried that she’s either playing inappropriate games or else building up whopping a credit card bill via in-app purchases. Being tech-savvy, I can easily rectify the latter by controlling the password to my account, but this doesn’t always negate pester-power. The former is still a concern and I’m not alone as these two issues are relevant to parents everywhere.

To help mums and dads, Swedish outfit Toca Boca, “a play studio that makes digital toys for kids” have created a range of open-ended, non-competitive games that appeal to children where the initial purchase cost is the only time you need to flex the credit card. There are over 20 apps available for Apple, Android and Amazon devices, and include games for young hairdressers, chefs, doctors, vets, chemists, scientists and drivers. The themes are very similar to some of the popular “free” games that are out there; the Toca Boca versions usually cost US$2.99 but there are no subsequent in-app purchases.

I chat to Sonia about the Toca Boca apps and how parents can be more confident in what their children playing on their tablets without the worry of an enlarged credit card bill.


Apple Offers iTunes Credits to Parents after Litigation



Apple LogoThere are so many apps out there that are intended to attract children. It is easy to see why parents are hesitant to let their children go ahead and buy whatever apps they like – especially if those apps allow for in-game purchases (using real money). What if your child does it without your permission?

A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011 against Apple by 5 parents. The parents were upset because their children were able to purchase and download apps from Apple’s online store on the parent’s accounts without the parent’s knowledge or permission.

Earlier this year, Apple agreed to a settlement of this class-action lawsuit. It will end up costing Apple around $100 million. Apple has agreed to provide around 23 million affected customers with a $5.00 iTunes store credit.

Have your kids been downloading things from Apple that you didn’t give them permission to? You might want to read over the details of the settlement to see if you are eligible.

The settlement is specifically about apps or in-app purchases of game currency that were purchased by a minor without the parent’s knowledge or permission in the 45 days prior to May 2, 2013. If you qualify, you must file an online claim by January 13, 2014.

The settlement is only including qualified apps This means all apps from the App Store in the games category with an age rating of 4+, 9+, or 12+ that offer in-app purchases of consumable game currency.


Ten Must Have Applications for a Mac



Macbook Air I have just received my new 11 inch Macbook Air with 8GB of memory, 1.3 GHz Intel Core iS and 250 GB of storage. I have only had it for a day now and so I have been spending most of my time getting it set up the way I want. This will be my secondary machine as I already have a Mac Mini as my main machine. I was therefore setting it up as a new machine. One of my primary goals while setting the machine up was to be selective when adding applications to it. These are the ten applications that I chose to add at this time.

  1. Dropbox
  2. 1password
  3. Omnifocus
  4. Nvalt
  5. Textexpander
  6. Hazel
  7. Quicksilver, or Alfred
  8. Evernote
  9. Fantastical
  10. MultiMarkdown Composer

The following is why I chose these ten applications. The first application I would install on any computer is Dropbox. Many of the applications I use store their data in Dropbox. The next application I would install is 1password. I have 1password installed on all my computers and it is great for generating and securely storing passwords, notes, credit card, and other personal information. The third application I would install would Omnifocus.  It is currently my task management or GTD application of choice . I don’t know about you but I am constantly coming up with idea that I need to write down quickly before I forget them. I use Nvalt for this purpose it is both simple and powerful at the same time. It allows me to write thoughts down quickly and easily search for them later. If you are constantly writing the same thing, over and over again then TextExpander will become your best friend. Once you create a snippet and add it to TextExpander you can invoke that snippet at anytime with a simple keyboard shortcut. I try to keep my files organized and I like a clean desktop.  However like most people when I find something I want to keep, I have a tendency to throw it on to the Desktop. Hazel is the solution to this problem. You can set Hazel up to automatically move files or folders from one location to another. For example I have Hazel set up to move any image file from my desktop to a folder on Dropbox an hour after it was added. I am a big believer in app launchers such as Alfred or Quicksilver. Currently I am using Alfred on my main machine, but am trying out the new version of Quicksilver on my Macbook Air. Both of these applications can be used to quickly launch any application, but they can be customized to do so much more. I use Evernote as my catch-all for receipts, emails and other things I want to save and access everywhere. Fantastical allows me to quickly enter an event without having to open up iCal. Finally I wanted a text editor that works with MultiMarkdown and MultiMarkdown Composer fills that niche.

These are the ten applications that I installed automatically on my new Macbook Air. If you just brought a new Mac and you could only install ten new applications, what would they be?


Apple Keyboard Overlays from KB Covers



KB Cover Keyboard OverlayKB Covers produce lightweight and flexible keyboard overlays for Apple Macs to help make people more productive with complex software applications or type in foreign languages. Andy and Scott find out what’s happening with KB Covers from Bruce Franklin.

KB Covers produces overlays for Apple Macintosh desktop and laptop computers, covering both current and older models. Generally there are three kinds of overlays: those for protection or decoration, for foreign languages and for advanced application use, where keyboard shortcuts are key to being proficient in the app. Each year, KB Covers comes out with additional overlays for extra languages and new applications, often at the suggestion of customers.

The overlays are available on-line from around $20.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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KB Covers Keyboard Overlays



KB Covers offer specialised keyboard covers for Apple Macs and MacBooks. Rather than dust covers, these are keyboard overlays which re-label for foreign languages or show keyboard shortcuts.

KB Cover Keyboard Overlay

A good example for the former is a foreign language student who wishes to use a keyboard with the studied country’s layout and alphabet. Imagine the convenience for students of Arabic or Cyrillic languages. For software packages, the overlays highlight keyboard shortcuts to enhance productivity – it’s much faster to press “alt-f” than it is to use the mouse to select an item from a pull-down menu. All major software is covered – Photoshop, Final Cut, Media Composer, Sibelius, etc.

The overlays are a ultra-thin and made from high quality silicone. There’s a big selection of overlays for different countries and software packages. Prices are in the range $20-$40 and I think they’re great value.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Blackberry Offers Free Apps in Apology. Will You Forgive RIM?



blackberry_logo
blackberry_logo

In result to last week’s Blackberry outtage, RIM profusely apologized for the issues they came up with. In return, they are offering $100 in free applications to their users. Will that be enough for Blackberry users to continue with the phone?

Last week, Blackberry had a nation-wide email and Internet services outtage that lasted 3 days. A “network failure” was to blame for this outage. ZDNet is reporting that RIM has lost $350 million for that outtage.

Today, RIM put out a press release. CEO Mike Lazaridis made a public apology and then announced they will be giving customers $100 in applications as compensation.

“Our global network supports the communications needs of more than 70 million customers,” said RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. “We truly appreciate and value our relationship with our customers.  We’ve worked hard to earn their trust over the past 12 years, and we’re committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect, today and in the future.”

The list of applications are:

  • SIMS 3 – Electronic Arts
  • Bejeweled – Electronic Arts
  • N.O.V.A. – Gameloft
  • Texas Hold’em Poker 2 – Gameloft
  • Bubble Bash 2 – Gameloft
  • Photo Editor Ultimate – Ice Cold Apps
  • DriveSafe.ly Pro – iSpeech.org
  • iSpeech Translator Pro – iSpeech.org
  • Drive Safe.ly Enterprise – iSpeech.org
  • Nobex Radio™ Premium – Nobex
  • Shazam Encore – Shazam
  • Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant – Vlingo
Are Free applications enough to customers? What if I already bought all of these applications already? Will I get a refund?

These Applications are only $35

Apparently, these 12 applications are $8.33 each? Well, no – Each application is probably on average $2.99 each. I even thought a couple of those applications were free already.
You have 4 weeks to download all of these titles between October 19th and November 16h (4 weeks). But 12 applications at $2.99 each is only $35.
RIM states other applications will become available as they go, but this is not compensation. What is compensation? Maybe a FREE MONTH of service?
Whether or not it will keep customers remains to be seen. But it is important to call your carrier and complain. This is not the first time a phone had a major outage (Remember in October 10, 2009, Microsoft Sidekick had a outage that deleted user data). But it’s all about how customers can be reimbursed for the issue.

250 Best iPad Apps at The Telegraph



In the off chance that you’ve got a an iPad and you can’t find the best apps among the also-rans in the App Store, the UK’s Daily Telegraph is doing a “250 Best iPad Apps” series of articles.  Starting from the 23rd May, each day a different topic area is being covered and so far, fashion, motoring, social media, food & drink, health, travel, education and games. Presumably more will be posted in the coming days.

Some of the apps are for the British market only, such as the UK Driving Theory Test, but most will be of interest to anyone with an iPad. Some will be already familiar, but many were new to me.

For overseas readers, The Telegraph is one of the UK’s broadsheet newspapers and covers real news rather than salacious gossip, the implication being that the apps selected might actually be quite good.


The Web Perception Trap



We seem to be moving into the age of the apps. Are apps just a passing fad, or is something more substantial afoot?

We have come to think of the Internet itself as being synonymous with the World Wide Web. However, that’s a wrong perception that may have many of us caught in a perception trap making it difficult for us to “get” what is happening.

The Internet itself is a platform on which to run applications, a fact we would do well to remember. In the early days before the Web, there were data moving applications such as Gopher, IRCP, Telnet, etc. along with many others. HTTP just happened to be one of the major protocols that in combination with other protocols gave foundation to the websites we are all now familiar with. The Web itself is not the end of the story, but just a data delivery application.

Though we don’t think of it this way, many websites themselves are really applications.

The apps that seem to be taking over our smartphones and have given rise to tablet computing are more than what they appear to be. Though today the best of these apps seem to be giving concentrated bits and pieces of the full-blown functionality of websites, I believe a larger fundamental trend is going on than we currently realize.

The apps themselves are in the process of evolving into new Internet applications and will ultimately give rise to new services that go beyond computers and browsers. One day in the future, apps may well eclipse the Web as the data delivery applications of choice. Applications follow the form of the devices on which they are executed.

Apps are just now beginning to invade televisions. We are still in the earliest stages, and things are still clunky. Moving beyond the clunky stage, imagine what form these new web-based TV apps might look like in the future. Forget about browsers, and forget about existing web services that run inside them. For example, think in terms of a networked app running just on a connected TV – what could be done with that? Would it be possible to create an app that just delivered a live IPTV network stream (or a bunch of them)? Of course it would, and it would be an advantage over having to scroll through clunky, often near-useless lists and near-worthless descriptions because that’s the way websites running on computers seem to work best.

It could be argued that connected gaming consoles are data delivery apps, delivering specialized services to the end user that go well beyond browser-based or browser-conceived functionality. The Microsoft Kinnect attached to a connected X-Box with end-users using their bodies to interact with the games and ultimately other Kinnect users is moving data back and forth that has nothing to do with the Web.

Ultimately we must begin to think about the Internet as a global data retrieval/delivery system that is independent of computers and browsers. Computers and browsers are just one application of potentially thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions that have yet to be thought of. Therefore, apps must conform to the devices, machines, or appliances they are running on. App designers would do well to forget about computers and browsers and begin thinking outside the computer/browser Web perception trap.