Apple iPad: WANT!

When Apple released the iPhone, it was obvious that it was a great device. Great for everything, it seemed, but making phone calls.

AT&T has been the Achilles Heel in the iPhone becoming a true “God Phone”. I know people in San Francisco complain about AT&T reception, but here in Alhambra, working from home, with AT&T cell towers all around me, I could not get a reliable cellular connection. The iPhone was unusable for me. And since I was working from home, being unable to use the phone at home was the dealbreaker.

I have said for a while — at least two years — that if they grew the iPod Touch into a 5.5×8.5″ format, or half of an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, it would be perfect. Well Apple did me one better, going for the 10″ display at 1024×768 resolution. This is slightly smaller than the screen of my old 12″ PowerBook. Intuitively, this feels right.

I have held out on buying an e-book reader. The Kindle and Nook are interesting devices, but aren’t the solution that feels right to me. The hardware is expensive and not nearly as versatile as I would hope. My instinct tells me that the iPad’s color screen alone will be enough to make the iPad a better book reader than any others. The backlit screen, and shorter battery life, will be the tradeoff for using the iPad as a book reader over a Kindle or Nook.

Pair an iPad with the Skype app, wifi, and a bluetooth headset, and you have a media device capable of making phone calls. I don’t know how many iPad users will do this, but that is a usage statistic I’ll be watching for as the polls start coming in.

For web browsing, the 1024×768 resolution is perfect, in my opinion. Most websites will be viewable at actual size without left-right scrolling when in horizontal orientation.

The screen format has gotten some criticism since many movies are 16:9. So you’ll see black bars across the top and bottom of your screen. Tough. You get black bars on the sides when viewing standard definition movies and television on your high def screens. It isn’t ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Deal with it.

Flash? I don’t want Flash. I want Apple to continue to stonewall on implementing Flash on all their products to spur the development communities on to better solutions. I agree with the person who said that Flash was a stop-gap measure — it should never have been used as a platform. Let the people who can’t live without Flash choose a Linux or Windows-based product.

Writing and responding to short e-mail will be better on the iPad than on your smart phone, but you’re not going to be using the touch screen keyboard to write anything very long at all. I hope I’m wrong about that, as it would be nice to do some blogging and writing/editing on the go with the iPad without needing a laptop, but I really hate the iPhone touch keyboard.

Aside from e-books, I expect gaming to really pick up with the iPad. As developers take advantage of the form factor to develop new and innovative games, I expect the iPad to become a really compelling portable game device. I don’t see much difference in God of War on the PSP and Assassin’s Creed on the iPhone. And I would love to see true virtual worlds come to the iPad platform, especially Second Life.

So I have my iPad on reserve. April 3 at 9:00 am, look for me in line at the Pasadena Apple Store.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Shopping for a new cellphone

I’m in the market for a new smartphone. As I look over the market for cellphones, I’m excited by what I see. But I’m disappointed in several areas.

First, let me fill you in on some history.

For many years, I used Samsung flip cellphones. They were great. Small, reliable, simple to use. At the time, I was swimming against the stream — everyone else was singing the praises of Nokia’s products. I had owned a Nokia candybar phone for a while, but once I switched to Samsung I was done: Samsung’s flip phones were a pleasure to use.

I gave up my flip phone once text messaging became a mainstay of cell phone use. The T9 text entry on the flip phone was abysmal. And the WAP web browser was pretty bad, too. That was the point when I decided to upgrade to a smart phone.

At that time, my co-workers were all using Palm Treo’s. I had owned a couple of Palm PDAs, and I wasn’t convinced that a Palm powered cell phone would be reliable or powerful enough. And I just wasn’t a fan of the Palm interface — it was fine as a PDA, but I didn’t trust it for use as a cellphone.

My co-workers thought I was stupid for buying a Blackberry — they essentially said so in front of clients, too. But I had spent some time in the Sprint stores playing with the Blackberry interface, and it was clear I would have a learning curve, but it had a full physical QWERTY keyboard and could load apps to extend functionality. Several years later, I’m still using the same model of phone, the Blackberry 8073e.

The 8073e has been a fantastic phone. I can operate it entirely with one hand, and it has the best speakerphone performance I’ve experienced with a cell phone. The only thing I can say bad about it is the web browser sucks. Everything else has made this my gold standard for how a smart phone should function. And, funny enough, just a couple of months after I purchased my Blackberry, my co-workers ditched their Treos for Blackberries. Of course, they had to get more recent models than I had — “Ooo look, a trackball!” — but I was happy thank you very much with the model I was using.

Enter the iPhone. This game-changing cell phone really rocked the cell phone market, bringing handheld computer functionality, true web browsing, and downloadable applications through the iTunes App Store. So my co-workers decided everyone needed an iPhone. I wasn’t about to turn that down, so for the last year or so I’ve been carrying around two cell phones: one for home, one for work. No doubt, the iPhone is sexy and fun to use. But it isn’t perfect.

The iPhone is great at everything, except for use as a phone. True web browsing using Safari: fantastic. Seemless integration with my desktop: flawless. Tons of cool, entertaining, and useful apps to download and play with: oh yeah. Use as an iPod: serviceable. Use as a phone: horrible. I’ve visited the AT&T stores a couple of times, and complained that I can’t use the cell service — 3G or non-3G — when I’m at home, and they say I’ve got towers all around me. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. And that is a shame. Sorry, Apple — AT&T let me down on that count. And if I can’t use my phone as a phone, that is a dealbreaker. Oh yeah, no laptop tethering modem, at least not now and probably not later without an extra monthly charge. And I HATE HATE HATE the on-screen keyboard. I could probably live with the on-screen keyboard if cell service worked at home. But as it stands now, with AT&T the only carrier, I’m not switching to the iPhone to replace my personal phone anytime soon.

New to the smart phone market is Google with their Android platform. I’ve been eyeing the HTC Hero, which looks interesting, but I really want a physical QWERTY keyboard! The Motorola Droid isn’t available on Sprint. The Samsung Moment is on Sprint and has a slide-out keyboard, so I need to visit the Sprint stores again and investigate that one more fully before making a purchase decision. Unfortunately, no tethering with any Android phone, at least not without hacking, which I’m just not interested in getting involved with. I want my phone to just work, not just get bricked because I tried to jailbreak it or just lose functionality because my hacks got overwritten by a system update. On the plus side for Android is the fact that I’m a huge Google user — integration between a Google phone and my Google apps would be sweet…

So that brings me back to Blackberry. The Tour and the Bold both look very tasty. Full QWERTY keyboard, software I know will just work, and the web browser is much better than the one on the phone I have now. And tethering is available without hacking the phone!

If I could live with on-screen keyboards, I might suck it up and get the iPhone or the HTC Hero. However, the Blackberry Tour or Bold seem to offer everything I want in a smart phone, even if they aren’t the hot, sexy technology right now.

So these are my options. And it is a wonderful thing to have options. The downside is no one phone gets it all just right.

Fliq for Mac tip: print to your iPhone

This tip is taken from the Mark/Space Newsletter #81

Print to your iPhone with Fliq
Here’s a great way to use Fliq for the Mac and Fliq Docs to “print” a document to your iPhone for viewing on the go. This is especially useful for documents and files that the iPhone can’t normally display, such as iWork ’09 documents, RTFs, PhotoShop files, and Delicious Library lists. It’s easy to do.
First, set it up:
1) Create an alias of “Fliq” in your Applications folder
2) Rename it “Fliq PDF to iPhone”
3) Open the “Library” folder (in your home folder)
4) Open the “PDF Services” folder (in the Library folder)
5) Drag “Fliq PDF to iPhone” into the “PDF Services” folder
That’s it! You’re all set.
When you want to print to your iPhone:
1) Launch Fliq on your Mac and Fliq Docs on your iPhone.
2) From any application, choose “Print…”
3) In the print window, select “Fliq PDF to iPhone” from the “PDF” menu (pictured at right)
1-2-3… a PDF is sent to your iPhone into Fliq Docs! By the way, this is also a great way to print or Fliq files and documents to someone else’s iPhone.

Print to your iPhone with Fliq

Here’s a great way to use Fliq for the Mac and Fliq Docs to “print” a document to your iPhone for viewing on the go. This is especially useful for documents and files that the iPhone can’t normally display, such as iWork ’09 documents, RTFs, PhotoShop files, and Delicious Library lists. It’s easy to do.First, set it up:

1) Create an alias of “Fliq” in your Applications folder

2) Rename it “Fliq PDF to iPhone”

3) Open the “Library” folder (in your home folder)

4) Open the “PDF Services” folder (in the Library folder)

5) Drag “Fliq PDF to iPhone” into the “PDF Services” folder

That’s it! You’re all set.

When you want to print to your iPhone:

1) Launch Fliq on your Mac and Fliq Docs on your iPhone.

2) From any application, choose “Print…”

3) In the print window, select “Fliq PDF to iPhone” from the “PDF” menu (pictured at right)

1-2-3… a PDF is sent to your iPhone into Fliq Docs! By the way, this is also a great way to print or Fliq files and documents to someone else’s iPhone.

iPhone apps I can’t live without

Recently I had a burst of downloading and testing out some new iPhone applications. Here are a few I find useful and interesting. In no particular order:

TwitterFon
This free Twitter client is all I need for using Twitter on my iPhone. Twitterific, I’m just not that into you anymore. Twinkle, you’re trying too hard. TwitterFon, you’re just right.

KinitoPro
If you use SugarCRM at all, you need to download KinitoPro for free, now! This app isn’t perfect, but it is the only SugarCRM app out there since Sky Data was acquired by SAP. And for a limited time, the Pro version is free.

Bloomberg (iTunes link)
The built in Yahoo-powered Stock application is just a bit anemic. Bloomberg offers more stock information than I really need, but it makes me feel important just having it there on my screen.

WeatherBug
Current weather conditions, forecasts, maps, videos, and live webcams in the area.

Fliq Notes
Simple note taking, with name, date and category sorting and search. If you are near other Fliq Notes users, you can “fliq” notes to each other.

WordPress
Decent iPhone app for managing your WordPress blog.  Not as full featured as it could be, but I’m sure they’ll be updating it soon.

Brushes
Inexpensive painting program. The artwork people have created using this app are just amazing.

Facebook (iTune link)
The hot social network du jour.