From 1910, and some one hundred years in the making, iPhones

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Writing in 1910, Robert Sloss spoke of a device he called a “wireless telegraph”, which was capable of performing an array of functions similar to an iPhone or iPad.

In what was a truly inspired and long-sighted article, Stoll predicted the wireless telegraph would act as a mobile telephone, music player, camera, would be able to access newspapers, and could also connect users to their bank accounts and allow them to perform transactions.

This all happened in 1910, or is some time traveller having us on?

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FaceTime may be a little too in your face for some phone users

Monday, 12 July, 2010

Video phone calling technology has been around since the mid-1960s but ease of use and call/picture quality have – up until now – left much to be desired, thus limiting its uptake. The arrival however of FaceTime with the latest version of the iPhone, may now see video phone calling become somewhat more commonplace.

“The experience of video calling has been pretty poor thus far,” says futurologist and gadget expert Jonathan Mitchener. “You’ve had to know how to set it up – and as far as mobile devices are concerned, the machines and batteries haven’t been up to the task. But with FaceTime, Apple have removed the non-essential stuff and just made it work, without having to open an account and so on. And with something like video calling, which is by no means an essential, it’s got to be made simple, and it’s got to be free or cheap.”

But while FaceTime seems to make video phone calling a lot whole easier, getting used to conducting actual phone conversations in that manner is another matter though:

Ian Hutchby, the professor of sociology at the University of Leicester, says: “While the videophone replicates face-to-face contact, it isn’t the same as face-to-face contact. Your eye contact is mediated by the technology and that’s why many people have a problem with it – it mimics something we’re used to doing every day. But it actually isn’t that.”

Ease of use aside, video phone calls aren’t going to be popular with everyone all the time. For example those who have told the boss or mum they are in one place, but are obviously somewhere else, could be reluctant to enable the feature during phone calls, potentially raising a whole new set social conundrums.

Despite the fact that the recent explosion in popularity of social media means that young people love the idea of being permanently connected to each other, the new social uncertainties thrown up – “Why won’t they take my video call? Do I believe that they are where they say they are?” – are something that we’ll have to spend the next few years negotiating.

To see FaceTime on the iPhone in action, check out this video phone call made by John Gruber and Clayton Morris.

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The smaller the screen the easier the book is to read?

Wednesday, 14 April, 2010

An interesting revelation that people with dyslexia, those who have difficulty with reading comprehension, may find perusing an ebook easier if they are using a device with the same screen dimensions as an iPhone:

So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don’t get lost on the page. Second, the handset’s brightness makes it easier to take in words. “Many dyslexics have problems with ‘crowding’, where they’re distracted by the words surrounding the word they’re trying to read,” says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. “When reading text on a small phone, you’re reducing the crowding effect.”

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The pyramid scheme of technological trance digital distraction

Thursday, 10 September, 2009

A hierarchical representation of digital technologies (larger graphic) and the degree to which they will distract us from our work, as well as themselves.

For example an incoming SMS message will take our attention off an email we are reading, while anything an iPhone does (incoming call, Twitter status updates, etc) will distract us from text messages, emails, and land-line phone calls.

I notice these days that I can spend hours at my computer, in a cloud. A swampy blur of digital activity, smeared across various activities and media and software. Emailing, writing, tweeting, designing, browsing, taking calls, Skyping, Facebooking, RSS Feeding – all blurred into a single technological trance. I seem to switch randomly from one to the other. But actually is there a subtle hierarchy in this cloud? Do I prefer some distractions over others? I think so.

For comparison a number of non-digital items are also included on the pyramid, with a hot stranger for example considerably “trumping” a cool party, but not of course an iPhone.

And while we are at it: iPhone checking is a sickness.

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A comparison of the Android and iPhone virtual keyboards

Monday, 7 September, 2009

A comparison of the virtual keyboards on the Android and iPhones… this appraisal gives the iPhone the nod this time.

A virtual keyboard lives and dies by the details. It’s not that there’s a single feature which makes the iPhone’s virtual keyboard better than Android’s; it’s death by a thousand cuts. A number of small differences end up making a huge difference. Apple obviously spent a lot of time getting every little detail just right (well, except for the ducking dictionary), while Google decided to go ahead with what they had – which is usable, but no match for what the iPhone offers. I have no doubt that Android’s virtual keyboard will be improved in the future, and I’m looking forward to what they will come up with.

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iPhone predictor foreshadows brain implanted net access

Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

Vint Cerf, “chief internet evangelist” at Google says the next stage of the internet’s development will see it interface with humans – by way of cochlear brain implants – while extending its reach into the depths of space.

His current predictions that the falling cost and rising sophistication of programmable devices will allow the internet to be widely embedded in inanimate objects, in our bodies, and in outer space are already starting to be realised. Cerf’s wine cellar is internet-enabled, sending him a text message when the temperature and humidity reach unfavourable levels. Cheap, passive computers, embedded in objects and activating sensors, will become ubiquitous, he predicts, leading to advancements in automated shipping and inventory control.

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Today we censor the dictionary, tomorrow we will burn books

Friday, 7 August, 2009

Ninjawords, an iPhone dictionary app, has apparently been censored by Apple, who have removed words that they feel are “objectionable”.

But Ninjawords for iPhone suffers one humiliating flaw: it omits all the words deemed “objectionable” by Apple’s App Store reviewers, despite the fact that Ninjawords carries a 17+ rating. Apple censored an English dictionary. A dictionary. A reference book. For words contained in all reasonable dictionaries. For words contained in dictionaries that are used every day in elementary school libraries and classrooms.

The mind boggles – and if we take this line of thinking to its logical though thoroughly absurd conclusion – will print dictionaries one day require the same classifications movies have, will booksellers refuse to stock dictionaries, or only sell them to people aged 18 or over, and will some schools ban them from the classroom?

Update: A response from Apple to the Ninjawords controversy has been posted at Daring Fireball.

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Real time bus and train delay information direct to your iPhone

Thursday, 2 July, 2009

After a false start earlier this year (due mainly to one or two over-zealous bureaucrats) Sydneysiders will soon be able to install an app on the likes of their iPhones or Android handsets, which will provide bus, train, and ferry timetables.

The new official app will include more features than existing offerings and will support most mobile phones including the iPhone, BlackBerry, Google Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms. Bus, train and ferry information will be available from a single app, which will incorporate service interruptions and take advantage of a mobile phone’s built-in GPS. This would “allow the system to identify the present location of the user and map relevant transport services from that location to their required destination”, said MoT project manager John Vandyke.

Initially the timetable data will be static, but in time the app will supply real time updates… useful for when a bus or train is running late.

Of course such instances are so very rare in Sydney but it’s reassuring to know the app developers are taking that point into consideration nevertheless.

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Manage multiple girlfriends, ok, so what can’t iPhone apps do?

Monday, 29 June, 2009

I’m not endorsing the Amazing Girlfriend Manager iPhone app, rather just making mention of it due to the sheer virtue of the fact it actually exists.

Improve your relationships by applying concepts of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) on your girlfriends. Think about your girlfriend as a client! What information and tools you need to improve your relationship?

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My iPhone just called to say that… I’m over the BAC limit

Monday, 24 November, 2008

Is there no end to the variety of iPhone apps that are being churned out? How about this one that will calculate your blood alcohol content after a night on the booze, and let you know whether you’d be better off taking a taxi home.

At long last, I have finally found a third-party iPhone app that I’ll use every day. It’s a free app called Last Call, and it calculates your blood alcohol content based on how much you drink, what kind of booze you’re chugging and how much you weigh. And here’s the best part: If you surpass the legal BAC limit (e.g., 0.08 percent in the United States), there’s a button to find a taxi or look up a directory of nearby DUI lawyers if you get pulled over.

I’m sure it goes without saying that calling for a taxi will be far, far, less costly than calling for a lawyer.

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