Friday, October 26, 2007

Free My Phone (by Walt Mossberg)

Here's a link to an opinion piece titled "Free My Phone" by Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg. Everything he points out is dead on, and as a consumer, I can't wait for things to change for the better.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

According to Apple's website, Steve Jobs officially announced that there will indeed be 3rd party apps for the iPhone (possibly coming in February 2008). Finally!

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.


P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch. [Oct 17, 2007]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Symbian S60 platform brings it closer to iPhone

Check out this new video clip on YouTube about the new S60 platform for Nokia and other Symbian based handsets. It's looking like the iPhone is finally getting a run for its money.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, October 15, 2007

My experiences with the iPhone

I finally bought an iPhone! Here are list of pros and cons that I have experienced thus far.


  • Mobile Safari web browser using Wi-Fi or EDGE. You can surf the web just as on a desktop, or you can go to iPhone specific sites that really customize the web browsing experience.
  • Everything you can find in an iPod, plus a mobile phone.
  • The thin form factor and profile is elegant and makes it feel like you're holding something luxurious.
  • Photos taken from camera are surprisingly good. Viewing photos on an iPhone is a joy.
  • Syncing all your songs, podcasts, photos, contacts, and calendar with iTunes is a breeze and brain-dead easy.
  • Wi-Fi Music Store. This is really a long time coming. Basically, if you happen to be at a coffee shop (i.e. StarBucks), and you like a song thats playing there, you can connect to the Wi-Fi Music Store and purchase it on the spot. To me, thats the future of how people will discover new music instead of traditionally on the radio.
  • An active iPhone hacker community.
  • No GPS. The Google Maps application is great, but without GPS you need a copilot with you when you are driving in order for it to work. Plus, it doesn't cache any of the maps. So if you are in an area without any network connectivity, you are pretty much hosed.
  • No wireless sync. This is something that Zune2 got right.
  • Can't record video.
  • No real 3rd party apps (no access to local storage and other advanced hardware features). UPDATE: See later post about Steve Jobs change of heart.
  • No disk mode. Basically, you can't use it as a flash drive as you used to be able to do with the iPod video.
  • Have to pay an extra $0.99 for a ringtone version of a song that you purchased at the iTunes store already. Ringtone maker won't work with MP3s or AAC files that you ripped from CDs.
  • No external battery. Must recharge.
  • Headphone jack is not compatible with other head phone makers. Duh!
  • Locked only to AT&T service provider for 2 years. There is a simple work-around to choose the Go-Phone Prepaid plans that have no contract obligations. Just make sure to call 611 to cancel automatic monthly refills, and you'll have a really expensive Go-Phone in your hands.
  • Apple and AT&T are becoming NOT so consumer-friendly. Just lookup the all the bad rap they are getting with their intentional "bricking" of iPhones and the really bad AT&T customer service.
Ok. There are more cons than pros, but that's the price you pay for being an Apple fanboy. For an alternative smartphone go check out the Nokia N95 8GB version. At the moment, its not available in North America and the price tag is $200 more than an iPhone.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

iPhone Buzz (Fair and balanced)

We are getting close to the launch of the iPhone and there is no shortage of media coverage. At least we are getting some constructive criticisms along with the praises. Here's a listing of some of the coverage that I've been reading...

I have one comment about the iPhone's announced rate plans. It works out the same as the current Cingular/AT&T voice plans plus the $19.99 unlimited data plan. There were rumblings that Apple and Cingular/AT&T would make it more expensive, but I think it was a wise decision not to charge more.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

WWDC: iPhone 3rd Party Support?

The general consensus when Steve Jobs announced that iPhone would support 3rd party apps coded as web applications was not that positive. However, I am here to say that we should keep an open mind as to what kind of capabilities that would be opened up by doing it this way. According to Bruce Stewart's post at O'Reilly:

It is after all a very good thing that Apple has decided to provide URL-based access to the iPhone’s telephony, email, and other services, but that point really got lost on the crowd I think, who were expecting an SDK to access these things. We’ve known all along that web apps would be one possibility for third-party iPhone development, and Steve’s “there’s no SDK, just use Safari and standard Web 2.0 technologies like Ajax to develop iPhone apps” message didn’t highlight the power of what they are actually allowing here. (As one colleague commented, “just try getting your web app to make an actual phone call on a J2ME-based phone.”) Personally, I think that there are a lot of interesting possibilities for third-party development with this kind of access to the iPhone’s main features, and I’m not surprised that Apple isn’t letting us get at the OS or place buttons on the home screen, but his message clearly didn’t go over well with the developer audience here in San Francisco. Read More.
Obviously, having access to basic phone functions isn't entirely new as many current mobile web browsers give this basic functionality (if your web pages are coded correctly). The real meat is if web developers are given access to local persistent storage on the phone, access to iTunes, and access to mail and calendar. Another important thing that we would need is access to the multi-touch user interface events (i.e. in addition to the standard onClick and onFocus events, perhaps we would use onPinchIn or onPinchOut events to trigger actions on the web application. I have yet to see any real specifications on this 3rd party web app API, but it does hold some promise (contrary to what many see as a disappointment).

Oh, and one last thing. I also want to be able to run Java ME on the iPhone. I already have two Java ME apps that I use constantly. Gmail and Opera Mini. It would be sweet if the iPhone could leverage the Java ME space. However, I do recall that Steve Jobs once quoted as saying that Java is too heavy weight and isn't likely to be in its future plans. Therefore, I'd assume that Java ME on the iPhone will most likely never happen.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mobile Web Browsers button element

Here's something to keep in mind when creating forms for the mobile web.

Time to stop using the button element because it doesn't render on many of the mobile web browsers.

Using your phone as a web server

Zec from Zec Online Journal wrote about a new concept from Nokia demonstrated at MobileCamp event in New York for the first time - Nokia Mobile Web Server:

It's the concept of serving web pages directly from a mobile phone connected to the network.
The plan is that every mobile web server will be provided with global URL.
If every mobile phone or even every smartphone initially, is equipped with a webserver then very quickly many websites will reside on mobile phones. That is bound to have some impact not only on how mobile phones are perceived but also on how the web evolves.
Further reading at the Nokia OpenSource Wiki - Mobile Web Server describes some very interesting scenarios for possible use cases. In particular, one such scenario:
When every phone has a URL and there is a web service interface to calendar, it becomes straightforward to create a peer-2-peer based distributed calendar application without any centralized server.
This is really really cool stuff coming up. Can't wait to see how this pans out.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Amusing video about advanced Japanese mobile phone usage

Amusing and instructional film about the advantages of being a smartphone user if you live in Japan!

This is why mobile phones in N. America still suck compared to those in Japan. Let's see how the Apple iPhone starts to promote changes needed to catch up.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Need better user input mechanisms

It is really hard for non-qwerty keypad mobile phone users to input text into their mobile web browsers. This fact alone hinders the adoption of using the mobile web to do many of the things we normally do on the desktop web browser.

If only there was a way to save common canned responses to some datastore on your mobile phone, and simply paste them into form fields that you need to enter. I have a Windows Mobile smartphone device, and that is a feature that I most wished for. Sure... the platform supports copy and paste, but only for phones that have pen-based input. Surely, there must be a copy-paste mechanism for those smartphones that only have the joystick/keypad-based input. I have tried several mobile web browsers for my Cingular 2125 Windows Mobile smartphone device, and they all fail on providing this key feature. I tried Opera Mini (J2ME), Pocket IE, and the Opera Browser beta for Windows Smartphones, and it is an incredible chore to input text. A simple copy to datastore and paste mechanism would help alleviate this annoyance.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SXSW 2007 - Brian Fling speaks on Mobile Web

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the SXSW, as it looks like Mobile Web will be more prominently discussed this year. Brian Fling of Blue Flavor gave a presentation at SXSW, and here's his blog page on the subject. He includes a link to his presentation in PDF. I just finished taking a look at it, and he makes some very good points for designers and web developers looking to make a mobile version of their website. Until mobile phone web browsers have reached the same feature set as the desktop web browsers, all the things that Brian covered in the presentation are good to adhere to.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mobile AJAX from PavingWays

Here's a neat little blog post about Mobile AJAX written by PavingWays Rocco Georgi. He also has a PDF of the slides presentation that he gave in the XML conference 2006 in Boston and during the “Webmontag” in February in Munich. He says he will keep updating that page, and I'm curious to see what other web developers have to say.

My hope is that someday the mobile browser space will be advanced enough that it will rival that of the desktop browser space. That way, web developers can simply write their code once, and that it will render properly on all web browsers - desktop and mobile versions.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Mobile Phone vs Mobile PC

This picture says a lot about how mobile phones and mobile PCs have overlapping features. Someday, this overlap will only get bigger.

Mobile Phone vs Mobile PC

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Another article about Mobile Ajax

Check out this article from The Register entitled "iPhone boosts Ajax and fluid UIs". Says pretty much the same thing as my previous post entitled "Mobile AJAX Browser Wars".

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mobile AJAX browser wars

Apple's new iPhone has really put the spotlight on the mobile web experience. Up until now, mobile handsets have had a limited dumbed-down type of browsing experience from their desktop counterparts. The iPhone uses Safari webkit code which basically allows Safari Mobile to render web pages just as they were intended for the desktop. This technology is also being used by the S60 web browser that Nokia is supporting. What does this mean for web developers that wish to target AJAX for the mobile browser platform? Firstly, AJAX-enabled sites can now run on the mobile handset with little to no extra coding effort. Unfortunately, not all mobile handsets have the same web browsing feature set as the iPhone's Safari Mobile or the S60 platform. We can only hope that the iPhone will cause other handset makers to adopt the same web browsing experience and wait for the old mobile web browsers to disappear the way of Netscape 4 or IE 4. Unfortunately, we cannot wait that long.

Web developers in the desktop world have had to deal with cross-browser incompatibilities when writing code. The same can be said for the old class of mobile handsets and their fragmented support for WAP, XHTML, JavaScript, and AJAX. To my knowledge, there are only a few mobile web browsers capable of rendering AJAX.

If your phone runs on the Windows Mobile platform, IE Mobile is the default web browser installed. According to the IE Mobile developer blog, AJAX is supported on IE Mobile. Unfortunately, the JavaScript DOM support is limited. Therefore, most AJAX toolkits out there will NOT render their AJAX widgets correctly on IE Mobile. Come to think of it, I am not sure that any AJAX toolkits even consider testing on IE Mobile or any other mobile web browser for that matter.

The Opera platform is probably the most well-known mobile web browser that is capable of supporting AJAX. The only thing slowing its adoption is the fact that it is not free, and it is a separate download and install. Opera does have a free version called Opera Mini, but it is not known to support AJAX. Opera Mobile is also only targeted for Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. This leaves out Blackberry users, which is significant base of mobile web users out there. The only other way for Blackberry users and other handsets to adopt AJAX-like functionality is through the use of Java MIDlets (J2ME). However, this requires the handset to include a J2ME runtime, and it is a separate application install. Speaking of J2ME, Mojax is yet another platform that promises to enable AJAX in a large subset of mobile devices.

To recap... Full AJAX supported mobile web browsers are far and few between. The iPhone's Safari Mobile and S60 Platform is a giant leap forward for mobile AJAX. The other players include Windows Mobile, and Opera Platform. Blackberry and the rest of the field can use J2ME technology to fill the gaps for AJAX-like web content, but it really is not a true mobile web browser experience (as it is a separate application install required). Any bets as to who will lead this pack? Let's just hope that more and more mobile web browsers will support AJAX, and that everyone works together to ensure that we do not have the same cross-browser incompatibilities that have plagued the desktop web browser world.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 12, 2007

Why No Apple iPhone 3rd Party Apps?

Although many OS X developers out there were salivating over the prospect of potentially creating apps for the Apple iPhone, the consensus on the web and blogosphere is that Apple is not about to do that. I believe there are two big reasons why they are right.

Firstly, Apple is renowned for its tight control over the iPod. They never opened up the iPod for 3rd party apps, so why should they start opening it up for the iPhone (which essentially is an iPod with phone functions)? Let's imagine that they let poor quality 3rd party apps to be installed on their iPods. The result is a poor image of Apple when Joe Schmoe decides to show off the app to his friends. Of course, the opposite could hold true where a killer 3rd party app gets shown, and the result is that Apple gets free good publicity. If you were Apple, would you take that chance?

Secondly, remember that they have a relationship with Cingular. Cingular would crap their pants if some 3rd party developer (i.e. Skype) created a VOIP application that allows people to by-pass the Cingular network to make calls. Think of the potential loss of revenue on Cingular's part and you can understand why Apple would be hesitant to open up the iPhone for 3rd party apps. Of course, this assumes that Apple does indeed care about their partner Cingular and that it is not just a case of the "tail wagging the dog" syndrome. If Apple does call the shots (tail wagging the dog), then this argument goes out the window.

Finally, let's not lose complete hope for 3rd party support. Apple did show off widgets functionality which in essence is really just Dashboard widgets for the phone. Dashboard widgets are really just a sandboxed web programming environment using JavaScript. Also, you have the Safari mobile browser built-in. There are a ton of web apps out there, and if people are willing to live online exclusively for their 3rd party apps, then this should not be too much of a problem.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Apple iPhone's Mobile Safari browser

For me, today's announcement of the iPhone was revolutionary. The killer app isn't the phone itself, or the wide-screen iPod functionality, it was the Internet functions (specifically the mobile Safari web browser). I said it before in a previous post, and Apple took it to heart and did it. I am now ready to proclaim that the Mobile Web 2.0 revolution is about to begin. Let's see if Apple will release some iPhone AJAX APIs. If they do, it'll mean some really great killer apps waiting to come out. 2007 will truly be the year of the mobiles.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button