Posts Tagged 'iPhone'

A Couple of Fun Apps, Part II

As promised, I’ve returned to the post I started yesterday about a couple of fun social media apps for the iPhone that I’ve been using.

Today’s entry is called Instagram, a photography-based social media app. It seems like it is somewhat similar to Twitter, but with photography serving as the foundation. When you open up the app, you’re greeted by your feed, which is your shared photographs plus the photos of anyone you’re following. You can also browse popular photographs by anyone on the service, which helps you find interesting photographers to follow. The app also serves as a camera app, allowing you to take photos and apply simple filters to those pictures to further stylize your pics. The filters remind me of the other iPhone photo app Hipstamatic, but simpler. Once you have your photograph, you simply select the filter of your choice from the bottom of the screen. Sliding your finger along the list of choices exposes more options and allows you to preview the photo through the selected filter. While there are only thirteen filters at this point, they work really well and really add something special to an otherwise mundane photograph.

Once you’ve finished editing your photograph, you’re taken to an options screen. You’re given the option to give the picture a title, and you can geotag it so that folks can see where the picture was taken; neither option is required, though. You also can connect to other social networking sites, including Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare. You do have to manually set the photo to share with your various social networking portals each time, though. While some may view this as a negative, this is my preferred method. I would rather tell the app that I want the photo to go to Facebook rather than it automatically updating my Facebook page every time I upload a photograph with Instagram.

One more fun thing about it is that the app can take any photo on your phone, apply the filters to it, and share on the service. It’s been pretty neat to go back to some of my older photos and see how they look with the different filters applied. All in all, this is a really solid little app that’s a lot of fun to play around with. It has me using the camera on my phone far more than I have before, and it’s also causing me to find interesting subjects for photographs. Best part about it – it’s free. Check it out, it’s worth a look. And follow me while you’re at it! My username is the same as this one.

Here are some of my photographs that I’ve taken. Enjoy!

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A Couple of Fun Apps, Part I

Everywhere you turn these days, social media dominates the technological landscape. It’s become a crowded space, to say the least. You’ve got Facebook. Twitter. 4square. Gowalla. Tumblr. WordPress. Blogger. Buzz. I could go on and on. It seems that whatever your needs, there’s some sort of social media answer. Some of the majors have tried to edge in on the more niche markets, too. Facebook tried to implement the mention features of Twitter and the geotagging of 4square/Gowalla with moderate-at-best results. I hardly ever see mentions used and tagging even less so.

Regardless of the proliferation of social media outlets, I’ve found myself enjoying a few of the smaller efforts that seem to be targeted at niche areas. There are two iPhone social media apps that I’ve been using recently that I’ve found quite unique and entertaining. I’ll profile one in this post and the second in a later post, either tonight or tomorrow.

The first is Maphook. At first blush, Maphook is a hybrid of geotagging and journaling. But I think that’s a bit of a crude generalization of the service. Spend a little time with it and you’ll realize just how deep its features are. When you create a post, called a “Hook,” you’re automatically geotagging your location. You first select the category for your hook and create a title. The category option is surprisingly deep, with sub-categories to increase the diversity of your hooks. Then you write your entry, which can be as long as you like it or simply a few notes. Depending on the type of category you choose, you’ll have additional options for rating the location; for instance, if you select “Going Out” and “Restaurants” as your category and sub-category, you’ll be given additional options to give the location an Overall Rating, tell folks whether you’d eat there again, rate the price of the meal and the service. Options also exist to hook into Yelp and Wikipedia. Once you’ve finished with the main body and ratings, you can tweak the location of your hook and add photos that will be shared.

I used Maphook the most during our trip to Colorado back in September. Once you’ve uploaded hooks, you can go on the web and string them together to create a story. This feature is pretty fantastic, because the geotagged hooks serve as map points on your journey. When you share the story with your friends, they’ll be able to roadmap your adventures. I think this is the feature that really kept me creating hooks during the trip. Oh, and by the way, if you want to check it out, here’s a link to my Colorado trip story.

The service isn’t without its flaws. I had some problems with posting to Twitter, and for a while they didn’t have a way to share your hooks on Facebook directly. The service doesn’t seem to have a fleshed-out friends or follow system, which can either be a positive or a negative, depending on your perception. The story feature seems to be something you have to do from the web platform also.That being said, I’ve found the developers to be the single-most responsive and helpful group of folks I’ve interacted with in customer service in a very long time. I started following the Twitter feed @maphook and received a re-follow within minutes. They were very responsive to questions, keeping me up to date on questions I had and workarounds for problems. They’re also constantly updating the service and looking for feedback on how to improve it. These guys are committed to making Maphook one of the most unique services around. If you have an iPhone, check it out.

Ok, I know I said a couple of apps, but this post has run a little long and I’ve got to get moving. I’ll update you with my other app a little later on.

A Little Competition is a Good Thing

I’ve recently been poking fun at both Verizon and Microsoft for their ad campaigns that steal a line from Apple’s ads and attempt to make it their own (to varying results). I don’t think I’ve referred to the latest in this line, the “iDon’t” ads, which push Droid, Verizon’s latest answer to the iPhone. There are some parodies out there already, so I didn’t feel the need to address them directly. What’s funny is that we come to find out today that to have Exchange support on the Droid, you’ll have to pay an extra $15 on top of your existing data plan. Of course, my response was “iDon’t pay extra for Exchange support.” Hiyo!

But I digress. Today Gizmodo posted its review of Droid, and says “it’s the second best phone around, on the best network around.” Additionally, Windows 7 launched within the past couple of weeks, also to generally positive reviews. While there are aspects of the ad campaigns that I continue to find humorous, I am generally happy that both products are receiving positive reviews. Shocking, I know… From my writing, you’d think that I’m a complete Apple fanboy. While I don’t think I meet the complete definition of fanboy per se (complete diehard regardless of a system’s faults), I am an Apple lover and talk it up as much as I can. But their products aren’t without their faults, and I love seeing external pressure to improve.

That’s why I’m pleased to see Windows 7 and the Droid getting positive reviews. Competition is a good thing. We think of competition in the context of sports or battle and we think of one side winning and the other losing; but I don’t want either side to win or to lose. Competition spurs innovation, keeps a developer on its toes, forcing it to continue thinking outside the box and reinventing itself. As a result, we have better products, more choices, and, hopefully, more fun ads and ads to make fun of.

Advertising Antics

I always find it humorous when advertisers try to take a competitor’s advertising success and try to use it against them. I wrote about one of those a little over a year ago in this post. Microsoft continued to push this line of advertising, attempting to show regular folks who say “I’m a PC,” and then attempt to point out some benefit of using a Windows machine. At first blush, I think that the ads are fairly successful. They’re trying to take that label that the Mac ads created and turn it into something positive. The ads are catchy, upbeat, and some even sport a cute little kid making silly animations regarding Windows 7. That’s great, but the problem I see is that they’re still identifying themselves by their opponent’s rival. Apple continues to drive the advertising game in that regard, and Microsoft gets stuck playing catch up.

The latest effort is a knockoff of the ubiquitous “There’s an app for that” iPhone commercials. This one is from Verizon, and is attempting to highlight the difference between the Verizon and AT&T coverage maps. Yep… “There’s a map for that.” To me, these commercials are even lamer than Microsoft’s. With the “I’m a PC” ads, at least Microsoft takes the Apple ad concept and tries to point out why being “a PC” isn’t a bad thing. Verizon’s latest is just a lame hackjob. “There’s a map for that”?! Really? That’s not even differentiation, it’s just ripping off a successful advertising slogan. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they’ve had some incredibly good and humorous commercials (the “dead zone” ads come to mind), but this one is just plain bad.

AT&T and the New iPhone 3GS: Pricing Shenanigans

iPhone 3GS: Not too expensive (unless you are already a customer)!

iPhone 3GS: Not too expensive (unless you are already a customer)!

Yesterday Apple announced its new iPhone 3GS, which sports accelerated browsing, longer battery life, a better camera (that can capture video too!), voice activation for everything from phone calls to the iPod, and increased processing power. I have a first-generation iPhone, and though I wasn’t tempted to upgrade to the 3G, the 3GS has really caught my attention and made me think about the upgrade.

Pricing for the iPhone is now $99 for the existing 3G, $199 for the 16GB 3GS, and $299 for the 32GB model. Not too shabby, right? Not at all… unless you’re an existing customer that doesn’t qualify for an upgrade. Check out the fine print from Apple’s page:

Requires new two-year AT&T wireless service contract, sold separately to qualified customers; credit check required; must be 18 or older. For non-qualified customers, including existing AT&T customers who want to upgrade from another phone or replace an iPhone 3G, the price with a new two-year agreement is $499 (8GB), $599 (16GB), or $699 (32GB).

WHOA. Seven hundred dollars for the 32GB if you’re a “non-qualified customer,” which includes existing AT&T customers? What’s up with that?

This is something I don’t understand in the slightest. Just days before this announcement, my wife (an existing non-iPhone AT&T customer) checked into her upgrade options for a 3G. $400/$500 for the upgrade. At that point, it’s pretty much a dealbreaker. I would suspect that to be the case with most existing customers. Who wants to pay $500, or even a ridiculous $700, for a phone? It seems to me that AT&T is punishing their existing customers for having signed contracts with them. What does AT&T stand to lose by selling the phone to existing customers at the same price? They still have to re-up on their contracts for another two years… To me, it seems as if AT&T is telling their existing customers to shove it just because they already signed a contract with the carrier. It makes no sense to me.

If anyone has any insight, please enlighten me.

Brrrrrr!

The past couple of days have been extremely cold on the slopes! Yesterday it was sunny, but the temperature didn’t get above 10 degrees. It snowed today, and the highest temperature I saw all day was 11 degrees. Interestingly enough, it was colder yesterday than today, or at least it seemed that way. My fingers and toes were frigid most of the day yesterday; today I only got really cold right before lunch.

It was snowing lightly all morning this morning. The wind wasn’t really a factor, so it made it really beautiful to see. It was picturesque, riding up the lifts among the snow-covered trees while snow fell lightly all around us. Of course, that didn’t last all day. My brother decided to head into Two Elk restaurant at the top of the mountain to warm up and grab us a table for lunch, and the rest of us hit another run. We decided to make one more run to the lift before heading in for lunch, and just after we started off, the blizzard hit. Suddenly a gust of wind hit us, bringing with it blowing snowfall. Visibility dropped to near zero. We made our way down the run and onto the lift to get inside and warm up. At the base of the lift, the lift operator remarked to my wife and me that we needed to get inside, because our noses were turning white with the beginnings of frostbite! Thankfully the lift is short, and we were able to get inside and warm up quickly. No major damage.

Anyway, here’s a shot out one of the windows of Two Elk.

Two Elk Lodge

You can see that it was near white-out conditions. The lift is probably about 100 to 150 yards away from the restaurant, but you couldn’t see it because of the blowing snow.

I took the photo from my brand-new iPhone, a gift from my former employers as a thank-you for the work that I did with them over the past year. I’ve had it with me every day on the slopes, and it’s been a really nice thing to have. I’ve used it to snap photos here and there whenever the desire strikes me or I see something interesting. It’s not the world’s greatest camera, but for a phone, it’s pretty dang good. I have also been using it as my iPod while I ski, which has also been really nice. I was always singing under my breath or humming a tune, so having music on the slopes is nice. I’ve even been able to email friends a photo here and there when we stop in for a bite to eat. Pretty cool!

I have to say that this has been one of my best ski trips… I can’t remember a time when I’ve skied as well as I have this year. In the past, I will have a day or two that I’m off my game, not skiing up to my potential. This year I haven’t had that at all; I’ve felt great each day. Tomorrow’s the last day of skiing, and I’m hoping that I’m able to finish off the trip with one more great day of skiing.

I think the forecast calls for sun tomorrow, which would be great. I’d like to take our camera up onto the slopes and get some shots of some of the mountains. Hopefully I’ll get one or two really good ones, and I can make some prints of them for the apartment.

What a great trip this has been.