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.

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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.





3D User Interfaces of the Future

3 06 2007

As we only begin to scratch the surface of the information age, it seems as if the traditional GUI brought to us by Apple or Microsoft (or XEROX if you want to get historical), are beginning to face its limitations. With so much information, organizing all of this data from a user-perspective must go beyond our basic 2D desktop. A 3D desktop can give computers a real-world touch – here are some user interfaces that may become mainstream in a few years:

Bumptop

Bumptop is a master’s thesis by Anand Agarawala. It is currently being integrated into a workable desktop solution. Wouldn’t it be cool to organize your files the way you organize them physically in real-life?

Metisse

Metisse is currently integrated into Mandriva Linux 2007. It is not a 3D desktop manager like Beryl. It would be great to see the Compiz/Beryl team to implement Metisse as a plugin. I could see myself saving a lot of space by folding windows =).

Project Looking Glass

Project Looking Glass is a project started by Sun Microsystems, the same guys who brought you Java. Project Looking Glass is an entire desktop management system written in Java, and is completely 3D. Though Beryl is known as a 3D desktop manager, it is still used in a two dimensional way. Project Looking Glass seems to be a cross between all of the technologies mentioned above. This video is showcasing how Project Looking Glass can be used in the Ubuntu environment.