Get the iPhone’s Features Without an iPhone

1 07 2007

Apple made headlines this weekend with its launch of the iPhone. I applaud Apple for pioneering a new design and user-interface, however feature-wise the iPhone is similar to a Motorola RAZR that debuted two years ago. For those of you who want to get the software on an iPhone without purchasing an iPhone, check out this list:

1. Maps

You don’t need Apple’s Google Maps software to get driving directions to a nearby pizza parlor. If you have a Java enabled phone (almost all phone’s nowadays do) check out my review of Google Maps for Mobiles. It has the same features, minus the multi-touch. Point your web-browser to http://www.google.com/gmm for the goods.

2. YouTube

YouTube is exclusive to the Apple iPhone? I think not. Point your mobile web-browser to http://m.youtube.com and watch your favorite videos straight from your phone. YouTube dishes out the video content in a special format (3GP) that your phone will be able to stream over the net.

3. Calendar

The good guys at Google have done it again, point your mobile web-browser to http://mobile.google.com/calendar and organize your life. If you have a Windows Mobile device check out my article on GooSync to wirelessly synchronize GCal with the built in Outlook calendar app.

4. Photos

Most camera phones have some built-in software to let you view them, so I won’t go into any additional photo software. But if you want to upload and view photos online in an album point your mobile web-browser to http://picasaweb.google.com/m.

5. Safari

Apple claims that Safari is the best mobile web-browser because it displays the web the way it should be. Check out my review on Opera Mini 4 which has the exact same features. Opera Mini 4 runs on any Java enabled phone. Visit http://www.operamini.com/download/ and grab the goodness.

6. Mail

Apple says they offer free POP mail access for all iPhone users. This is nice, and the ability to check your e-mail is a must for many people, but you can do this with GMail on your mobile phone. Point your web-browser to http://gmail.com/app
and download the Java program that lets you check your e-mail. You don’t use Google but another type of POP e-mail account? Great – Google lets you POP other e-mail accounts as well so no sweat, you’re covered.

7. Weather

I guess this is a little bit of a stretch, but if you need your phone to tell you what the weather is outside you need to get out more. If you really want to get the weather, you can always text Google (466453) with the query “weather <insert zipcode or city here>” and Google will text you back with the forecast results for the day. Its not as intuitive as I would like it to be, but hey it gets the job done.

If you don’t want to take the SMS route, take a visit to http://m.yahoo.com, Yahoo’s mobile webpage, and configure your start page to include a weather forecast.

7. Voicemail

Visual Voicemail is a great feature to have, but again is not exclusive to an iPhone. The engineers are CallWave have a product that lets you visually choose your voicemails, but it doesn’t stop there, you can even receive voicemails as text messages. This may not be free in the future however, but in the words of Robert Heinlein, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

8. Stocks

Yahoo’s mobile start page is very informative. Visit http://m.yahoo.com and setup the quotes that you want to track. You can also take the SMS route that Google provides by texting 466453 and entering “stock <insert symbol here>.”

As a consumer I look past marketing hype, I hope these tips help you get the most out of today’s technology.





iPhone – Lacking as a Phone, Rising as a Platform

28 06 2007

Though the iPhone does not fare well feature-wise in comparison to existing Smartphones for its hefty price tag, there is one good outcome I see from the Apple Marketing Machine hype:

Web applications can piggyback off of the iPhone’s success.

Since Apple is limiting apps to run from Safari, this means developers must create web compliant applications. How does this benefit us who don’t have an iPhone? It means we can run the same applications from our internet enabled phones/devices too. What does this mean to the developer community? AJAX enabled development will be on the rise pushing the limits of Web 2.0 even further. We will see more tools, and new ways of manipulating the browser to deliver a rich user-centric experience.

Plain simple, the iPhone will help usher in the web application platform. More and more applications are going to the web, and with Apple’s marketing power, the Web 2.0 generation is inadvertently benefiting from the iPhone success.





iPhone Alternative: Safari-Like Web Browsing on Any Phone

20 06 2007

Apple has been generating a lot of buzz about Safari and how it is revolutionizing the way the internet is displayed on a mobile device. Opera Mini 4 beta is a free Java powered browser for any phone which allows you to view the web formatted for your screen. This feature has always been a part of Opera Mini, however you can now zoom into certain sections of a webpage and navigate across a site. The beauty of this, is that a web-page can be viewed in its full form. Try it out yourself by demoing it in the Opera Mini 4 Simulator.

Opera has made it easy to download the software. Choose which method you would like, and start browsing the web in style. Just remember, you don’t need $600 to view a website on your phone.





Apple Fanboyism

11 06 2007

fanboyis a term used to describe an individual who is utterly devoted to a single fannish subject, or to a single point of view within that subject, often to the point where it is considered an obsession. Fanboys remain loyal to their particular obsession, disregarding any factors that differ from their point of view. Fanboys are also typically aggressive and hateful towards the opposing brand or competition of their obsession regardless of its merits or achievements.

It seems I may have caused a stir amongst certain members of the Apple community in my last post 5 Reasons Why I’m Disgruntled With The Apple Store Reps. Based on the uncensored comments left on my blog I have made a few conclusions:

1. Fanboys prove my “Holier than thou” stance

Quotes such as “You were never in the market for a Mac computer, [sic] Windows dork”, “stay the hell out of apple stores” or “please, stay out of the Apple Store, we don’t need you” re-iterate the fact that certain Apple fanboys feel I am not worthy of a Mac. So my question is, what makes a customer a worthy of Apple’s hardware, or a welcome guest inside of an Apple store for that matter?

2. Fanboys are incompetent

Certain fanboy’s feel as if Apple computers are not PC’s. A commenter wrote, “Go buy a pee cee.” If by “pee cee” you mean PC (personal computer) commonly associated with the x86 architecture you failed to realize the minute Apple started putting Intel chips inside of their machines they became a PC retailer.

3. Fanboys assume non-Apple users are out to attack you

Calm down, I didn’t enter the Apple store to prove I was technically brilliant, “feed my ego”, or debate with the sales representatives. I simply wanted to know about Macbook’s, and the update to the Macbook Pro refresh. If I want to know about running Windows, OS X, and Linux, you should not feel hostile towards the fact that sometimes OS X doesn’t “just work.” A certain commenter noted, “Just say you’re a Windows guy” (mind you I am a Linux kind of guy) – when you are in the corporate world you have no choice but to live with Windows, why not embrace the fact technology is at a point where we can run multiple operating systems? We have the freedom of choice. Please, leave your hostility with your non-fat latte at the coffee shop.

4. Fanboys have fallen to Apple marketing, thus making them incompetent

“Gee, there weren’t any hardware engineers available at the Apple Store, imagine that.” Gee, does it really take a hardware engineer to get some specifications of a processor? Incompetence. Any non-Apple retailer will post the kind of processor you are purchasing. Last time I checked, hardware engineers worked on improving battery life and implementing new features, for example the Santa Rosa platform. Fanboy’s seem to think the questions I asked were too specific. I’d like to get the most bang for my buck. Features such as improved video, better battery life, wireless-N networking, and faster computing mean something to me. Are you telling me that these are “questions that no one else in the world gives a shit about ?” Fanboy’s believe that you do not need to know about these details, except that it is “brand spanking new.” When you go beyond “checking your e-mail” and uploading photos at a coffee shop, this simple marketing strategy will not cut it for those expecting premium service from a premium brand.

5. Not all Apple users are fanboys

I received one intelligent comment from an Apple user and he provided me with good resources to help me find my answer. No hostility, no evangelism, just the pure truth. This is how the community should behave, and is one of the reasons why the open-source world is so powerful – they embrace new-comers with open arms.

For those Apple users who are modest and have not succumbed to fanboyism, I salute you.





5 Reasons Why I’m Disgruntled With The Apple Store Reps

9 06 2007

I am in the market for a new notebook. As any technology aficionado I like to do my research so I can get the most bang for my buck. I visited the Apple store this weekend, with an open-mind but came out an irritated customer:

1. Holier than thou mentality

I have specific needs. I need to run Windows, OS X, and Linux. The Apple reps repeatedly tell me that I don’t need any OS aside from OS X. Then they start to get into a pitch about how Apple’s operating system is the greatest software known to mankind. I just wanted to know if I could run all three on the same machine – I didn’t want to be evangalized.

2. Incompetence

As an Intel employee, I have the insider scoop about processor technology. I wanted to know which family of Core 2 Duo processors are in the Macbook, and they simply told me it was the Intel Core 2 Duo. The reps seem to only know what they are told from their God Steve Jobs. I even visited the Apple site and nowhere does it tell me the exact processor I will be receiving in my new hardware. After being passed around to multiple sales reps, someone at the Genius Bar told me exactly what I needed to know, however it was on a need to know basis. I came to the realization that Apple treats their customers as idiots.

3. More Incompetence

I asked about the new Santa Rosa platform that were in the Macbook Pro refresh. I wanted to know about Intel Turbo Memory which is 1GB of solid state flash, speeding up data retrieval that is in the cache. The reps didn’t know what I was talking about, and told me that if it is there that would be “cool.” Instead they tried to console me by saying that the refresh is “brand spanking new.” Wow, thats really going to get me to buy your product.

4. Incompetence^3

Back to my needs of running multiple operating systems, the reps realized that OS X wasn’t going to just cut it for me. I asked them if I could do a dual or triple boot with Boot Camp, Apple’s beta software allowing you to run multiple OS’s natively on seperate partitions. They told me it was beta software, and I should run Parallels which runs the OS’s in a virtual environment instead. Due to RAM restrictions, I don’t want to do that, and would like to do a dual-boot as I do on my laptop right now. The rep’s seem to think a “virtual environment” is not emulation. I thought these guys who work behind the Genius Bar were geniuses?

5. Fail to realize that the customer is always right

I have a specific budget I want to stay within. I want the Macbook, but no matter what, the rep’s are always trying to sell up to the higher model. This is fine the first time around, but to continously sell up to a consumer who does not want to is flat-out bad sales.

Apple has great design, hardware and innovative software (by innovative I mean, taking open-source software and branding it as their own) , but the Apple representatives are misinformed elitists. Maybe it was just this one bad experience, but in the sales and marketing world, everything is based on your first impression.

UPDATE:

I have a response to the comments left on my blog.

https://sheehantu.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/apple-fanboyism/ 





OpenMoko – The iPhone Alternative?

5 06 2007

Recently I have been following the development of OpenMoko – the world’s first open source communication mobile communications platform. OpenMoko runs the Linux kernel, and everything from the operating system to the firmware to the actual software is completely open-source.

The main reasons why I would support OpenMoko over the iPhone are:

1. $350 vs $600

Lets face it, the iPhone is $600+2yr contract with Cingular. OpenMoko is unlocked and will cost you only $350. This is even cheaper than most Windows Mobile smartphones.

2. Integrated GPS

From the iPhone commercials, the Google Maps application looks great. However, you need to get on EDGE or wi-fi to use it. OpenMoko comes with a built in GPS chipset which will pinpoint your exact location.

3. User Replaceable Battery

If you’ve ever used an iPod you will see that it becomes dead weight in about two years. Batteries have a specific life-cycle and deteriorate over time. The iPhone will not let you swap out your battery, so it will either die in two years, or with its estimated 5 hour battery life you won’t have the option of using a backup battery.

4. Open Platform

The iPhone currently has a list of 12 applications that will ship on the phone. Only Apple/Authorized developers can provide software for the phone, and has closed off the platform to 3rd party developers. Current rumors speculate an iChat application is not available yet for the iPhone so IM-generation kids will have to wait. With OpenMoko any piece of software written for it, can be installed without having big brother breathing down your neck.

5. No Carrier Lock-In

Though the iPhone is a GSM phone, Apple/Cingular will not give you access to the SIM. This means you can’t enjoy the benefits of switching phones, or switching providers for that matter. Plain simple, you are limiting your freedom. Say you wanted to travel overseas, your iPhone won’t work because your SIM will not work in another country. If it were unlocked like OpenMoko you could swap in another SIM that works in the country you are in and do business as usual.

6. Corporate E-Mail Support

Yahoo POP access doesn’t cut it when it comes to the business professional. The iPhone does not support synchronization with an Exchange server which almost EVERY business uses for their corporate mail system. OpenMoko will ship with Evolution which allows you to not only connect to an Exchange server – but is also FREE.

7. Availability

The iPhone is limiting its sales in certain volumes. Remember when you stood in line for your XBox360 when it launched only to find they ran out of shipment, and more will come in the next quarter? This is a mobile phone not a toy. OpenMoko will be available worldwide 9/11/2007.