iphone

Introducing Valentines for iPhone

Introducing Valentines, a fun app to help celebrate Valentine's Day. It is now available on the iPhone App Store!

Valentines enables you to create any number of fun Valentine messages with your own text and a photo within a heart-shaped frame. The photo will have a slightly pink tint — see the world through rose-colored glasses. :) You and your valentine can view it on your iPhone or iPod touch, or you can save it to your photo library:

Flipping over, you can edit the message and choose an existing photo from your library or take one with the iPhone's camera:

You can also display a list of all valentines, and add new ones, rearrange their order, or delete them:

Valentines is available on the App Store for just $0.99. A limited number of promo codes are available for reviewers; if you are a journalist or blogger and want to write a review of Valentines, contact me for a code.

Dejal site now iPhone optimized

Yesterday I talked briefly about the updated Dejal website design, but I didn't mention the biggest change: the whole site is now displayed in an optimized state when viewed on an iPhone or iPod touch.

When viewed there, it will use a simplified header with just the Dejal logo, plus special menus similar to iPhone-native ones, and will display the sidebar content after the main body content. It also fits the text to the screen, adjusts image sizes if too large, and other optimizations:

So how do you access the other pages? Simply tap the Dejal logo to display a special menu page, that includes the items from the normal page header in an iPhone-friendly menu. The Mac and iPhone pages are also displayed more simply, too.

There is also a checkbox at the bottom of every page to toggle iPhone-optimized mode off and on (as you can see in the above picture). By default it is on, but if you turn it off the page will change to use the same layout as on your Mac or PC, where you can pinch to zoom etc as normal:

One thing worth mentioning: since the Forum etc tables are too wide to fit, they now scroll horizontally. There's no real need, but if you want to see obscured columns you can use two fingers to scroll horizontally:

I hope you enjoy the changes! Again, please let me know if you notice any issues with any aspect of the new website design.

The iPhone App Store is broken

iPhone App StoreWell, maybe not broken, but definitely showing some cracks.

The iPhone App Store is a great concept. One central place to get all applications for the iPhone; everything is there, and only there, available right on your iPhone.

But is it everything? Of course, Apple rightly filters out malware and illegal applications... but they have caused some controversy of late by refusing entry to generally useful applications. Worse, they've rejected a couple of apps recently because they "duplicate existing functionality".

One such is a podcasting app, which they say duplicates the iPod app... but seems to have offered other benefits. Another is a Gmail reader, which apparently is more convenient than using Apple's Mail or Safari to access Gmail.

Notice something in common there? Both rejected apps would have competed with Apple's own apps. Yet Apple has no problem with dozens of flashlight and sudoku apps. So it seems to a plain-and-simple anti-competitive move on Apple's part. That is not playing nicely, and potentially illegal. Governments tend to frown on that kind of behavior.

Why do I care?

I haven't written any iPhone apps yet... but I'd like to, in due course. I've written up a rough design for one new app, and would likely want to write companions for some of my Mac apps, like Dejal Simon. However, episodes like these make me and many other developers hesitate to begin, or continue.

Writing software is hard; it can take months to write even a relatively small application properly. What if we come up with a great idea, spend months of time designing, developing and polishing it, then submit it to the App Store, only to have it rejected based on some unannounced policy, or whim? That would be a huge waste of time and effort, which makes developers like me concerned about whether it's worth starting.

What Apple needs to do is provide a clear, detailed description of the iPhone App Store policies, and stick with it. Perhaps offer a contact point for discussions early on, to ensure that an app concept is worth pursuing.

And preferably make the policies as open as possible — none of this anti-competitive behavior. If someone writes an alternative email app or web browser, let them release it. If it is superior to Apple's, it will flourish, and everyone will benefit (including Apple, via their sales cut). If it isn't any good, it'll fade into obscurity.

It's really in Apple's interest to do this, to ensure developers put the effort into building quality apps for the platform. Apple, the ball is in your court. Make it right.

My iPhone 3G purchase experience

iPhone 3GHard as it may be to believe, I somehow survived the last year without an iPhone. Not entirely by choice: my wife and I were locked into a Verizon contract. Sure, we could have paid the large cancellation fee, but we opted not to.

It worked out well this year, though, as our Verizon contract expired a week before the iPhone 3G was released.

On release day (July 11), I monitored the release coverage, including reports of the really long lines at Apple stores. I don't enjoy waiting in lines, so wasn't keen to join the queues. My wife and I had to go out to some shops near an AT&T store, so we figured we pop by there to see how bad their lines were. I really wanted to purchase our iPhones at an Apple store, for the full Apple experience, but figured it couldn't hurt to check out AT&T.

When we got to store, we found no lines at all. We walked up to the counter, and were told by a pleasant salesperson that they had only received 30 phones that morning, and were all sold out. They were expecting 100 more the next day, or we could purchase now for "direct fulfillment". This is where the store orders our phones directly from their supply chain, bypassing the gamble of turning up at an Apple or AT&T store when they happen to have stock, and contending with the lines.

With some hesitation, we chose the direct fulfillment option. Sure, the Apple experience would be nice, but waiting a few days for the direct hassle-free method had a lot of appeal too. We had waited a year... what's another week?

It went swimmingly. My wife chose a white 16 GB iPhone 3G, while I opted for the black 16 GB model. We provided the credit card info (which seemed to count as their credit check) and other information, then left the store within minutes. The white iPhone turned up about a week later, and my wife popped in to the store to pick it up and choose the plan etc. Very easy. While waiting, we monitored progress via an online tracking page, and the friendly salesperson called to alert us when the phone had arrived (in case we weren't monitoring it).

The black model has been a lot more popular, so was backordered, but arrived on Monday, a few days after the white one, so we quickly picked that up and added it to the plan.

People have complained about the in-store activation, but really it's not all that bad; it only took a few minutes. I'm sure it would have been nice to take the unopened box home, but it's really not a big deal.

Since then, I've been having lots of fun configuring things, trying third-party apps, etc. We're really happy with our iPhones, and now wouldn't want to be without them. If you've been thinking about getting one, but were on the fence, hop off that fence and into an Apple or AT&T store now!

It seems that AT&T may still be your best bet. Even now, almost two weeks after launch, reports still indicate low availability, long lines and multi-hour waits at Apple stores, whereas AT&T stores are apparently now offering 72 hour availability in some stores. Even if it's a few days longer than that, I found the AT&T direct fulfillment experience to be quite satisfactory.

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