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Posts Tagged ‘iphone app’

FIRST LOOKS: Navigon Lite Navigation App for iPhone 3G/3GS

July 23rd, 2009 No comments

The first crop of GPS navigation applications are starting to appear in the Apps Store.  AT&T’s version will run you $10/month, which is a little rich for my tastes, especially when I consider how much I’m paying them for my cell/data access.  So when I ran into the free Navigon app, I was interested in comparing it to my current GPS, a Mio 520C.

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So the first thing to note is that the icon is clearly labeled “Lite”.  This is because this version does no dynamic routing.  It’s basically intended to be a proof of concept to familiarize potential users with the interface and capabilities before Navigon asks them to shell out serious coin for the full version.  And I’m sure that these apps will not be cheap, btw.

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Above is the boot screen for the app.  I’ll be frank – it takes a WHILE to boot.  And this is without the routing logic being loaded.  I have an iPhone 3G, so memory is definately at a premium.  On average, from launch of the app to clear the above screen ran about a minute and a half or more, sometimes entering into the 3 minute range.  And that’s just to boot to the main screen – GPS lock-on could take another one to five minutes beyond that.  Considering that my Mio can get GPS lock from cold boot in about 3 to 4 minutes tops in the summertime, the Navigon app is way slow.

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The above screen shows the primary options in the main menu.  To choose a destination, just tap the first option.

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You can enter a ZIP code or a city name.  If you enter a ZIP, the app will have a lot less data to filter through.  This is important because of the Navigon’s next screen.

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Note the list of streets that are populated once you select a ZIP or city.  The smaller a universe you can provide, the faster it will perform.  My Mio does something similar, narrowing the universe as you type the street name.  Navigon’s approach allows you to scroll to an address, but I can see it getting out of hand if the list is really long (and entering a major city like Philadelphia will produce a LONG list).  I would have liked to have seen Navigon provide a quicknav list on the right a la the Contacts app so that I could quick jump to a letter of the alphabet.

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The above screen shows how Navigon allows you to select an intersection.  I thought this was pretty useful – my Mio’s intersection entry is annoying and very hit-or-miss.  This approach is much more intuitive and easier to identify a cross-street location.

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In the Lite version, you can see the destination and simulate the trip.  I assume that this is where the real version will allow you to confirm the endpoint and initiate routing.

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The above shows the app “calculating” a route and displaying progress in the 3D view.  I’m not sure how much dynamic re-routing will add to the memory footprint.  I’m also concerned about the speed of recalculation.

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This is the same route in 2D view.  Note the large number of POI references.    I’m using this in portrait mode, so the screen is rather compact and hard to read.  The landscape view would probably not be as tight and give better spacing.  I didn’t see a way to limit the POIs to only a specific set, but I’m sure that will be there in the final version.

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This is the night mode view in 2D.

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Here I’ve looked up a POI and had the app plot me  a route.  Note that you can change the route profile to modify the path taken.

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This is the map view in 2D mode.  I was viewing this while on the bus.

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Here’s the 3D version.  Yes, we actually are going 0 mph.  Traffic was a mess that day.

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Hey we’re moving!

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Widescreen view.  The widescreen view is much closer to my Mio’s interface and will probably be the default view when using this app.

Overall, the Navigon app is impressive.  But my concerns are really around its ability to dynamically route, which you can’t experience in the Lite version.  My 3G definately felt pushed to its limits by the app.  I was listening to music over a Bluetooth connection while using the app and I definately noticed more stuttering of the music stream.  I’m also curious how phone calls would be handled while the nav app is running.  Since the iPhone OS doesn’t allow multitasking, I wonder if the app continues to maintain a route when a phone call comes in.

All in all, I am intrigued by the app, but my concerns about performance would make me very hesitant to sink a large amount of funds into it.  If there was a way to actually try the full function app without paying full price, I would definately recommend that as the way to go.  The other concern I have about the app is its sheer size.  The Lite version is almost 2GB.  I don’t know how much of the full map universe is in the app, or how much the dynamic routing functionality will add to that size, but it took a good 10 minutes or more to sync my iPhone to install this app.  Owners of 8GB iPhones are not going to be happy.

Any 3GS owners out there wanna comment on their performance?  I’d really like to know if it will be a big improvement on the faster hardware.

UPDATE:  Since this post was released, the Navigon app has gone live.  For a limited time, it’s $70 in the iTunes store.  iLounge has a very thorough review of it, which I highly recommend you read if you’re even remotely thinking about buying this app.  They give it a “C”, which matches my impressions based on the Lite version.  Also, there are some screen changes that I did not encounter in the Lite version.

REVIEW: Pocket Informant lets you chuck iPhone’s Calendar and To Do apps

June 4th, 2009 No comments

Over the weekend I paid more for an iPhone app than I’ve ever paid in the whole time that I’ve owned the device.  Overall, my view of iPhone apps is that if I’m going to pay more than $3 for it, it better be incredible.  With my purchase of Pocket Informant from WebIS, I’ve found an app that is pretty freakin’ incredible.  So much so that the 12.99 I paid for this app is well worth it.

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Pocket Informant (or PI) basically replaces your iPhone’s default Calendar and To Do applications with a single app that is light years beyond those simplistic toys.  It features full synchronization with Google Calendar, without the five calendar limitation that Apple forces on its Calendar app.  I have ten calendars I’m using or following in GCal right now, and PI pulled them all in without any problem.  The one calendar it can’t pull in is the new Google Tasks calendar, but that’s only because Google hasn’t released the APIs to allow them to do that.  I’ve emailed the developer and that functionality is planned as soon as Google allows.  Until then, you can either manage tasks manually using PI or you can sync it to a web service called toodledo.com.

What makes PI truly worth its price are the ways they display your calendar.  First, there is a Today view, that shows you all events and activities for the current day (I’ve blocked out the event descriptions because they’re from my real calendar).  The Today view allows you to see at a glance everything that’s going on today, plus it allows you to see upcoming actions that are coming due.

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The List view shows you only your schedule, and allows you to scroll up and down to see past/future events.  This is just like the List view in the Calendar app.

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Similarly, the Day view is much like the Day view in the Calendar app, but with a great twist.  Rather than using forward/back arrows a la the Calendar app, PI allows you to flick left or right to move back and forth in time.  Much easier to flick through one-handed.

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Where PI really shines, however, are in its Week and Month views.  The Week view is not even available in Calendar, and it’s probably the single greatest thing about PI, in my opinion.

week-view1In one screen, I can see everything about my week.  There are several subtle things about this view that make it incredibly useful.  First, like the Day view, you can flick left or right to move back and forth in time.  Second, if you have too many events in one of the compressed days to see clearly, you can select that day and PI will pop up a custom view for that day that includes your events and activities.  You return to the Week view with a single tap.  Brilliance.  The Week view can be organized so that the same day is always shown as the wide day, or you can set it to have the current day as the wide day.  You can also arrange the other small days either top to bottom or left to right.  Note how each day has a graphical representation of time under each day’s heading, with color coding to represent when you have appointments.  And even within those tiny squares, you can scroll up or down within the day to see events that are off the screen.

The Month view is another great PI innovation.

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Note how PI goes above and beyond Apple’s Calendar app to give you an overview of what your month looks like.  All day events, as well as scheduled events are clearly indicated.  Need to see what you’re doing on a specific day?  Just tap that day to bring up a detail view.

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You can see what’s happening for that specific day, plus you have a representation of your schedule for the week.  A single tap returns you to the Month view.

The To Do view is pretty standard.  To Do’s are classified by Projects and can be given Start/Due dates.  I’m sure there’s tons of functionality in here that I’m missing but honestly I didn’t want to get too into the To Do’s because I want to wait until Google Task integration is released.

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Finally, the Search function allows you to search Events, To Do’s and Contacts.

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I’m hoping that this means PI will be expanded to include a Contacts function as well, because I’m not a huge fan of the Contacts app either.  The developers seem committed to continuing to evolve the app, and they’ve even got a version ready for when iPhone OS 3.0 is released.  All in all, I love PI and recommend it highly.  If you are hesitant (like I was) to spend so much for an app, WebIS makes a free trial version that limits you to syncing of 15 activities and two weeks of events, plus it doesn’t have the Today view.  I used that for a couple days before taking the plunge.

Official Stanley iPhone Level

April 14th, 2009 No comments

There are lots of apps in the iPhone App Store.  There are lots of apps that provide leveling functions.  But there is only one level app published by Stanley, the hardware people.  The official Stanley level is apparently the most accurate level app available.  I just downloaded and tested it (it’s free), and it seems to detect that my walls are indeed level.  I would dispute this, because I’m pretty sure this house was built by a bunch of drugged out sailers on shore leave.

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I’m looking forward to using this next time I’m trying to rebuild my retaining wall with adobe bricks.  Is it bad to use baked mud to hold back water?  (btw, that pic was taken from my iPhone – first time I’ve ever used that feature.)

via Gizmodo

Categories: iPhone Tags: , ,

Pana-ramic images via your iPhone or iPod Touch

March 22nd, 2009 No comments

Check out the picture below.  I recommend clicking on it to see its full size cause the compressed version doesn’t quite do it justice.

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This is a picture I took this weekend via my iPhone 3G and an app called Pano.  This is one of the most amazing apps I’ve ever seen for a handheld device and gives you an idea of just how powerful software and hardware have become.

Pano (link to iTunes store) is by a company called Debacle Software.  The app allows you to take six portrait pictures or four landscape pictures, which it then stitches together into a single panoramic image.  It’s amazing watching it work.  After the first picture is captured, a “ghost” area is provided for each subsequent picture so that you can roughly align an item from the previous frame as a reference for the current frame.  The alignment doesn’t have to be perfect – I took the above shot in dim light (around 5pm) and had trouble making out the ghost guide (thus the reason behind my girlfriend’s truncated head).  Even so, that picture looks pretty impressive.  Consider that only a few years ago, that kind of processing power required a fairly hefty desktop computer and some serious software.

The only downside to the app is that you HAVE to take all the pictures.  You can’t just have it stitch together 2 or 3 photos – it’s either 6 or 4, depending on whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode.  I hope they address that issue in future versions, but otherwise, this is a pretty amazing app.  I can’t wait until there’s a sunny day in Love Park.  When I get that image, I’ll be sure to post it.

Update:  I had an email exchange with the developers of Pano today.  Apparently, if you choose to cancel any time after you start taking pictures, Pano will give you an option to merge the pictures you’ve taken so far.  So the 4/6 picture requirement is not really a requirement after all and you can use as few as 2 or as many as 6 images to create your panorama.  Awesome.