Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

All the iPhone apps a Writer needs

Since my return to blogging, I’ve been trying to develop a regimen to get my writing in shape. A process during which I’ve put together an ideal stable of iPhone apps that enable me to save your fleeting thoughts – write and publish – whenever, wherever.

Every writer has their writing setup.

This is mine.

forrestgump-feather

I think to be a good writer, you’ve got to read, read, and read more. And then when you’ve an idea – write, write and write – wherever you are. Over time you learn how to discern good from bad writing, understand sentence structures, how to play with them, and finally through that knowledge how to break rules. Robert Louis Stevenson says it best.

All through my boyhood and youth, I was known and pointed out for the pattern of an idler; and yet I was always busy on my own private end, which was to learn to write. I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in. As I walked, my mind was busy fitting what I saw with appropriate words; when I sat by the roadside, I would either read, or a pencil and a penny version-book would be in my hand, to note down the features of the scene or commemorate some halting stanzas. Thus I lived with words.

If you choose to do the same – “live with words” – in today’s smartphone world, there’s a slew of apps to check out, but the sad fact is most of it is crap. After wasting hours investigating these apps, I’ve curated the best; 4 reading and 4 writing apps, that’ll help every writer keep their New Year resolutions this year.

Reading iOS Apps

My two biggest sources of daily reading are: Twitter, and Google Reader. Anything I see there that I don’t have time to read I schedule for end-of-day on Instapaper; also sent daily to my Amazon Kindle, which is my fourth reading app.

One of the main reasons I picked the apps below is their multi-platform capability. You start reading a book on your Kindle, pick it up on your iPhone’s Kindle app later or maybe read it when you get home at the end of the day: all synced up. Same for the other three apps below.

By syncing a book across platforms, including a Kindle smart phone app, a dedicated Kindle reader, and the audio version, we can read more by reading in smaller chunks. We can get a bit of reading done whenever we have a few minutes. And then we can transition to longer stretches of pleasure reading with our dedicated Kindle reader.

In general I prefer web based apps for twitter and like @Tweetdeck a bunch, but the main reason I switched to Tweetbot was the ability to sync up tweets based on were you read it (Mac, iPad or iPhone).

I was stuck on @reeder, a very pretty Google reader app on Apple’s iOS universe, but given the number of feeds I subscribe to the entire process of reading became a chore.

What I needed was an app that made it easy for me to skim through hundreds of feeds and Newsify is the solution. Works great on the iPad and the iPhone.

This one’s a doozy. I’ve oscillated between Pocket and Instapaper, back and forth, for a while now. But, this past week as I figured out my writing style, I settled on Instapaper. I bet Marco’s smiling. Here’s why.

Search archives: I knew this feature existed, but as a writer, I didn’t realize how critical it was. As I mentioned above, reading is critical, and with a lil digital savvy you shouldn’t have to struggle finding great pieces to link to or re-read just because Chrome does an awful job with their not-so-Awesomebar.

Now if you route all the articles you find, whether it’s on Twitter, Google Reader (Amazon Kindle: can we send highlights and notes to Instapaper?) to Instapaper, now you can search through all of them later so you can link to exactly the right article you’re looking for.

Amazon Kindle integration: There’s magic in the power of habit, powered by the habit of one.

The goal is to channel as many of these curated, high-quality articles, you stumble upon during the day, into one distraction-free reading app just for your eyes, for the end of the day.

Instapaper has this amazing feature to route the day’s read-laters to Amazon Kindle at a specific time of day. I usually set it up for end of day and read these before I get ready to blog for the next day. That routine works great for me. Here’s how to create that setup for yourself. Hat tip @_davidsmith.

Before diving into the details I want to try and explain why this feature is so incredibly useful and has changed so fundamentally how I read content from the web. The Kindle is a device with a singular focus, reading. While it isn’t without flaws, the experience of reading long-form content on the Kindle is the best of any device I’ve tried. The e-ink screen is gentle on your eyes. The insane battery life and tiny size means that you can always have it with you. But most importantly it can only be used for reading which enforces a mental focus that I find very relaxing.

Within that context reading my Instapaper queue on my Kindle is the most comfortable experience I’ve found. I even find it better than the iPad app, which will good in its own right but provides far too much opportunity for distraction.

Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

Writing iOS Apps

Inspiration strikes anywhere. Just ask Galileo.

Today’s digital world allows you to do things that a moleskine just couldn’t. The most important moleskine notebook you can ever have is the one you carry with you everywhere and that’s your phone.

While picking these apps my goal was yet again multi-platform compatibility and inter-operability. The four apps covers the journey your words make from your mind to being written and published.

This goes without saying: it’s always good to carry a dictionary with you and the iPhone app’s dictionary is stellar, not only allowing you to find meanings and synonyms but also helping with pronunciation. I wish there were a similar app for grammar but too bad there isn’t a Kindle version for “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style” – 85 pages of Grammar Gold. That’s Gold, Jerry. Gold!

All you need is a blank page. Now imagine a blank page with a blinking cursor.

As intimidating as it has been for writers world-wide, for centuries; a blank page is the perfect way to get your ideas down as they flow freely onto paper.

And, I can’t think of a better app that allows you to just [focus on the writing, one sentence at a time], while the rest of your words on that page wait for your edits. I can’t recommend iA Writer enough. The best part is that it syncs up your words on iCloud (preferred method) or Dropbox (which would be my second option since it may lose stuff when offline).

Give it a try.

Of course, in some cases when I’m working on projects I have it saved on Google Drive or Google Docs. It’s definitely no iA Writer but if you have your stuff there, then it makes sense to have their iPhone and iPad apps cos it allows you to edit content (spreadsheets or docs) on your iPhone.

The last piece to this puzzle is publishing your thoughts; a blog being the easiest way to accomplish that. My blog’s been on WordPress for two reasons: it was the easiest to setup when I started nearly 8 years ago and it is great at helping your words reach the right audience when they search for your on search engines like Google (it’s called search engine optimization).

But the downside to WordPress is that they suck at designing beautiful apps and frankly their iPhone, iPad app sucks.

So imagine my surprise when I found Poster, the most beautiful, minimalist WordPress app you’re ever gonna find. And, it works with Markdown which I use on iA Writer to write my posts. Secondly, if I want to publish in HTML, iA Writer makes it super-easy to export-copy in HTML which I can then publish in WordPress. Plus, Poster has Dropbox integration so you can carry your posts on the cloud.

** Markdown is the simplest way to format your posts within the realm of your keyboard.

Now that you have all the tools you’ll ever need to write – at any point of time in your daily life – all that remains is to write like you give a fuck.

A better metaphor I couldn’t have thought of, so here goes. Robert Louis Stevenson, take it away

To know the secret of skating is, indeed, I have always thought, the beginning of winter-long pleasance. It comes as sweet deliverance from the tedium of indoor isolation and brings exhilaration, now with a swift glide to the right, now with a deft swerve to the left, now with a deep breath of healthy air, now with a long exhalation of ozone, which the lungs, like greedy misers, have cast aside after draining it of its treasure. But it is not health that we love nor exhilaration that we seek, though we may think so; our design and our sufficient reward is to verify our own existence, say what you will.

And so, my dear young friend, I would say to you: Open up your heart; sing as you skate; sing inharmoniously if you will, but sing! A man may skate with all the skill in the world; he may glide forward with incredible deftness and curve backward with divine grace, and yet if he be not master of his emotions as well as of his feet, I would say—and here Fate steps in—that he has failed.

Filed under: Social Media Tools, Writing

Get the latest version of LinkedIn’s iPhone app 1.5

I’ve stopped carrying business cards to networking events and conferences cos I can connect with folks when I meet with them, thanks to LinkedIn’s iPhone app. The easiest way to do that was to find out their email and shoot them an invite through the app, but now we just launched v1.5 of the iPhone app that additionally allows you to navigate your Inbox (both messages and invites) on the iPhone when you’re on the go.

What’s New?

A far more robust Inbox pane that allows you to receive and send both invitations and messages. Here’s how it looks.

LinkedIn iPhone app v1.5 Invitations screen

Clicking through a message is similarly gonna allow you to either reply to the individual, reply to all if it’s a group thread or archive the message. BTW, I scrubbed out the message contents in both the above and below screens for obvious reasons.

LinkedIn iPhone app v1.5 Message screen

So, a quick summary of what you can do with LinkedIn’s iPhone app, besides the latest enhancement:

1. Browse Network Updates

2. Search the connections you have and search by keywords (associating the name to a picture definitely helps)

3. Update Status

Got iPhone? Here’s the download link for LinkedIn v1.5 on the iPhone.

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER

Filed under: Linkedin

iPhone vs. Kindle: Who Won?

Quick Update: Perfect timing. The Boy Genius Report just outed some pics of the second version of the Kindle. The form factor is definitely an improvement over the original, so those wanting to buy a Kindle may want to wait for a bit. Check out the post. (pics here)

Boy Genius Report)

Kindle vs. Kindle 2 (Source: Boy Genius Report)

Back to my original post.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been pretty outspoken in my feelings about the Kindle vs. iPhone debate in the past, going so far as saying: the future of reading is the iPhone, NOT the Kindle. My 2nd post on this topic written more than half a year later, gathered an evolved consensus on where that comparison between the iPhone and Kindle stood.

iPhone vs. Kindle

Original iPhone vs. Kindle comparison

And, it’s official now – the iPhone (despite being a music/browser/phone/app platform) has bested the Amazon’s Kindle at it’s own game – in sheer # of readers!

Stanza, a book reading app on the iPhone, is close to ~400K downloads at a current rate of ~5K downloads per day, while the Kindle is estimated to sell ~380K devices this year. And, let’s not get started on the # of iPhones sold as of date and the passionate following they have acquired.

But, since this is an apples and oranges comparison, let’s look at the major differences between the devices:

1. Price: While the Stanza is free if you already own the iPhone, the Kindle is twice as expensive (~$399) than the iPhone (~199)

2. Book Selection: Definitely the Kindle. It’s Amazon and they have the greatest selection of books on the planet.

3. Reading experience: I love reading on my iPhone. I’ve spent hours reading my Google Reader feeds, but Kindle is rumored to be easier on the eyes, thanks to E-Ink.

4. Battery Life: My biggest pet peeve with the iPhone is the battery life (particularly since it’s an essential utility in my life). It lasts for a day. The Kindle’s battery lasts for four days.

5. Connectivity: Again, the iPhone works flawlessly with Wi-Fi (spotty 3G networks hamper the 3G experience), and I’ve just the right apps to make even my Edge experience bearable. The Kindle: EV-DO.

As you can see, if you’re a voracious reader, the Kindle is your best bet – looks notwithstanding (although I think it’s a really expensive purchase). But, as the Forbes article pointed out:

Stanza users are a different type of reader from Kindle buyers, says Feedbooks Chief Executive Hadrien Gardeur. “Kindle appeals to heavy readers who spend far more time reading than anyone who uses an iPhone,” he says. “But I don’t think the mass market is ready to spend that kind of money. So they really don’t compete with one another at this point.”

But the iPhone definitely has the potential to become a huge hit among average book readers (going by the numbers) and I presume there are many like me – “1 book a month” readers. So, if Jobs can recreate the iTunes ecosystem for books, I’ll pay for the books. And, so will millions of other satisfied iPhone users.

Are you an iPhone or a Kindle? Or do you prefer reading books the old-fashioned way?

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

10 Must-have iPhone Apps while traveling

So, I’m prepping for my Blog World panel discussions (both on corporate blogging – no surprises there) and planning my trip: packing et al. I’m continually amazed at how the iPhone has changed my travel life for good. I even went so far as contemplating a trip without my laptop but relented since I may need to do some blogging there (and blogging on the iPhone is near impossible).

But, I digress. I soon realized that there are 10 iPhone apps (all free, except for RTM’s web app) I couldn’t travel without. They keep me from boredom, get work done and sometimes help me find my way (iPhone – I’m lost without you). Here’s my list:

1. Communicate (Email/Calendar/Tasks): One of the main reasons for getting MobileMe was so I could maintain both my personal (Gmail) and Work email while on the go. The Calendar and Mail apps both get the job done, though I wish there was a way to star emails for reading later.

iPhone's Mail App

iPhone's Mail App

Equally important is my task manager, which is “Remember the Milk” (RTM). Don’t laugh at the name, because this is the most robust task manager out there that also plugs-in to my Gmail and has a terrific award winning iPhone app that’s a breeze to use.

iPhone's Task App

iPhone's Task App

2. Read News: Gone are the days when one would have to buy books or magazines to read as they waited for the flight to arrive. Google Reader has become my news source with over 140 news feeds that I track on topics that are relevant to me. Imagine accessing that content on my mobile device.

iPhone's News Reader App (RSS)

iPhone's News Reader App (RSS)

The beauty of the Google Reader app is its Mac like simplicity and focus on the things that matter. Case in point: the “star icon” and the “Mark the above items as read” features; allows you to skim through your inbox while you star the news items you wish to read in depth for later, the rest (15 items at a time) you can mark as read.

3. Chat:

Another great way to pass your time while waiting, is to chat with friends and colleagues (if you wish to talk business). At work, I use Adium that pulls together all my chat clients (Gmail/Facebook/Mac) but the iPhone boasts of three great apps to help accomplish that:

a. Gtalk: Painfully simple and surprisingly fast. Most of my contacts reside here and are accessible while I travel.

b. Facebook: Frankly, I haven’t tried Facebook chat on their native iPhone client, but I’m aware that in case I can’t find someone on gtalk, this is a secondary resource for me to tap.

c. Twitterrific: Of course! This app (free version) is a pain to use since I have miles to scroll each time I load the page, but I guess that’s the price to pay for free. The pros of this app includes the ability to tweet pictures I take with the iPhone’s camera.

4. Keep track of Friends: If you’ve an appetite for information overload (esp. it’s about your friends) then Friendfeed is the app for you. While Facebook and Twitter share facets of that information, reading Friendfeed is like drinking from the fire hose. But hey, if you’ve time to kill – that may not be a bad idea after all.

iPhone's Lifestreaming App

iPhone's Lifestreaming App

In addition to Friendfeed’s fire hose feed, you can also post your iPhone photos, Search (killer feature) and access the best of the day/week items and rooms in their iPhone web app.

5. Schmooze:

Now this is for all ye who are travel on business and concerns “my preciousss” LinkedIn app (Did you know: I work there). As my friend & colleague Jerry writes, there are a few things you can do with the LinkedIn app: search, research, and most importantly add to the network folks you schmooze with at the conference. My earlier LinkedIn iPhone app post.

iPhones Professional networking App

iPhone's Professional networking App

I’ve actually stop carrying business cards around, since I can now send an invite to folks I meet at conferences and events. That’s what I’ll be doing as I travel to Blog World Expo later today. Read about my panel discussions (Fri/Sun) at the event.

And, did you know, you could listen to music while you do all the above on this magical device called an iPod 🙂 Are there any other iPhone apps, I’m missing here that require mention?

My other iPhone posts: here and here

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Business as unusual. iPhone gets LinkedIn.

Let me explain: while all bloggers (including myself) have praised iPhone’s app ecosystem to the skies there hasn’t been a business app that really made you go – Wow! Now with the launch of LinkedIn’s very own native iPhone app, that may have changed. (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn)

As my colleague, Jerry Luk, says on our company blog; this is a substantive upgrade over our previous iPhone web app. However, in this post, I’d like to give you a quick rundown of my three favorite features of the LinkedIn’s native iPhone app:

LinkedIn iPhone app’s 3 killer features: 

1. Rolodex to go

Those contacts that you find invaluable. Those contacts that you gather at every event and networking opportunity you attend. They’re now at your finger tips (literally) via your iPhone. Whether or not business cards are relevant is a religious discussion (hear my colleague, Jim’s thoughts on that topic here), but I’ve stopped carrying business cards when I travel.

Why? I consolidate all my contacts on LinkedIn and use my iPhone (or any other phone you carry) to be the single repository of all those business contacts. This iPhone app just makes it so much easier to store and search for them – when you’re on the move.

Store and Search your LinkedIn contacts on your iPhone

Store and Search your LinkedIn contacts on your iPhone

The best part of this app is that it allows you to invite people to your network right at the point of contact, when you meet folks at a conference or an event. You don’t have to collect business cards anymore and better still it gives you the control.

Professional Networking just got easier

Professional Networking just got easier

2. Communicate when traveling

What’s the use of adding all those contacts when you can’t communicate with them, especially when you’re on the move. As most LinkedIn users probably know, you can message the folks in your LinkedIn network directly on LinkedIn.

The iPhone app extends that functionality by allowing you to either send a message or call them. All you’ve to do is launch the connections tab and then click through to any contact you’d like to communicate with.

Contact your LinkedIn network via iPhone

Contact your LinkedIn network via iPhone

Alright, let’s say you don’t want to ping a contact, but would rather like to broadcast your travel plans to your entire LinkedIn network. Try LinkedIn Status.

LinkedIn Status for business traveling

LinkedIn Status for business traveling

3. Consolidate your contacts

Now, for those of you who hate using the iPhone when you’re not on Wi-fi zones but still would like to have a consolidated list of contacts on your iPhone. No worries. All you’ve to do is add them to your iPhone contacts. Again, this feature can be launched from the individual profile you click through via the “Connections” tab.

Add contacts to iPhone from your LinkedIn Network

Add contacts to iPhone from your LinkedIn Network

Well, networking and business travel will never be the same again, at least for me and for my fellow iPhone users. And, for those of you who are not on an iPhone you can still access LinkedIn’s mobile version (m.linkedin.com). I think Sarah Perez (Read Write Web) said it best:

The LinkedIn app holds universal appeal for anyone anyone who works for a living, but more importantly, we hope that, through its adoption, developers will see the potential for building iPhone apps for business as well.

Read my other iPhone app posts:

1. Top 10 Free iPhone 2.0 Apps
2. Top 15 iPhone Productivity Apps
3. Only 3 iPhone app reviews you’ll ever need to read

What is your favorite iPhone business app?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Top 15 Free iPhone Productivity Apps (1.0 and 2.0)

This is the 3rd post in my coverage of iPhone apps. As Kara Swisher says: “Apple has built a platform for adults” although IMO the free ones, in the midst of the 59 productivity apps, cannot be easily discerned by the average user.

What one also forgets are the FREE productivity enhancing apps already existent in version 1.0 of the web app ecosystem. This post is meant to help you navigate free apps in the iPhone (1.0 or 2.0).

Brace yourself for the FREE iPhone productivity goodness at your fingertips (right after the jump).

iPhone productivity apps

iPhone productivity apps

I’ve broken down the productivity apps into 5 categories, which include Office style, Mobility, Lists, Tasks and Knowledge Apps.

I. Office Style Apps

When one says productivity, the first thing that comes to mind are office style apps that help us get the job done. You know, mail, docs, calendar and news consumption apps. And, it looks like Google has cornered the market in the iPhone with simple apps that enable you to very easily to extend your online experience to the mobile platform. Here are five of them.

1. Gmail

Of course an alternative would be to use the iPhone’s own mail client, which (in it’s latest avatar allows for POP and IMAP access.

iPhone's Mail Client

iPhone's Mail Client

2. Google Docs

If you use Google Docs and Spreadsheets regularly, their optimized iPhone client allows you to view all the documents created. Unfortunately, you cannot edit the documents as of today.

Paid Alternative: File Magnet (Read Mossberg’s review here)

FileMagnet, which costs $5, places a small program on your computer, and then wirelessly transfers any files you drag into it to the FileMagnet program on the phone. It works with Microsoft Word files, PDF files, images and more.

3. Google Calendar

Frequent users of Google Cal and iCal are probably aware that you can subscribe to separate Google calendars in iCal, which is then reflected both on your Macbook as well as your iPhone.

Another Free Alternative: iCal (Apple’s own existent iPhone/Mac app)

4. Google News (Google Reader)

Google Reader is the best RSS reader out there IMO, and their iPhone app further fine-tunes the service to provide you only the necessary information in summary form, yet allowing for starring, viewing entire content, sorting by feeds, tags and all other Reader goodness.

Another Free Alternative: NetNewsWire (Read Joel’s review here)

I’m a user of NetNewsWire on the Mac, so this app had me excited. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the experience I had hoped for, and not only that, but it won’t seem to download my entire collection of feeds as synced with Newsgator.

II. Mobility Apps

If you travel a lot, you need information at your finger tips without the hassle of navigating crappy mobile apps. On the iPhone the following three apps, helps you find information, people and places in a very user-friendly manner.

5. Google Search

And, the killer app of them all: Google’s prized search engine, fine tuned for the iPhone. Let me tell you, you’ve got to use this on the iPhone to feel its productivity in terms of time saved searching on your iPhone. There’s even a tiny scroller that’s used to provide a macro level overview of results to direct you.

Google's Search App

Google's Search App

The best part of it all, is the ability to search through your phone book on iPhone (which surprisingly thus far does not possess search capability).

Google's iPhone Book Search

Google's iPhone Book Search

Let me add a couple more Google Apps that are equally important productivity god-sends esp. when your job’s a traveling salesman.

6. Google Maps

Yet again, fine-tuned for the iPhone. The new version (even in the non 3G phones helps triangulate your location, hence allowing apps to serve you location specific data.

Google Maps on the iPhone

Google Maps on the iPhone

7. Google Chat (on the go)

Works flawlessly!

Google Chat on the go (iPhone)

Google Chat on the go (iPhone)

Alternative Free chat client: AIM (Read Mossberg’s review here)

It lacks some of the more rarified features of the PC or Mac versions, but does the basic text-chat thing quite well. One downside: because Apple isn’t allowing third-party programs to run constantly in the background, you can’t receive new messages in AIM while doing other things.

To learn how to set up different bookmarks for Google Apps on the iPhone, check out the Google Mobile blog.

III. Lists

There’s a slew of paid apps out there that allow you to make lists. But, the easiest way for you to take notes would have to be iPhone’s own native Notes app. A simple, no-frills solution to note taking. In addition, the 2.0 version has two new FREE apps that allow you to take notes with audio (Jott) and pictures (Evernote).

Since I’ve already reviewed these two apps, I’m not going to repeat myself. Check out the reviews here.

8. iPhone Notes

9. Jott

10. Evernote

IV. Tasks

This is the one area of productivity that I’d rather not get a free app, but rather a fully functional app. My choice has been to purchase the web based version of the RTM app, which plays well with Gmail (there’s a terrific Firefox plug-in that displays your tasks in Gmail).

But I digress, theirs was one of the best version 1.0 apps built for the iPhone made better by their ubiquity and ease of access, whether it’s on Google Apps or the iPhone. However, you can also access RTM for free in a not so great looking app, if you access this site here.

11. Remember the Milk ($20.00) – iPhone 1.0 web app

Alternative Paid version: OmniFocus ($19.99) – iPhone 2.0 web app (Read Joel’s review here)

OmniFocus is a great GTD task management application. It’s a “port” (and I use that word loosely) from Omni Group’s popular desktop application of the same name. Though it’s on the pricier end of the available iPhone apps, the functionality offered can be accounted for.

V. Knowledge Apps

What’s more important than knowing time, money, language and knowledge itself and having those at your easy disposal through apps that make that process simple. Here are four apps that help you do that, two of which belong to the native iPhone app system and the last two of which belong to the old iPhone 1.0 web app system but equally worthy of mention.

12. Clock

Ah, an app for the globe trotter in you. Well, how many times has setting up a meeting with disparate teams been a headache for you. I’ve always been impressed with how simple yet effective, the iPhone’s native clock app has been. I guess the screen shot below pretty much sums it all up.

iPhone Time

iPhone Time

13. Calculator

I know there are a lot of futile senseless paid apps out there that for e.g. allow you to calculate the tip in a restaurant. C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding me. The iPhone has the best calculator out there, which has been upgraded with a scientific calculator which reveals itself when you turn the iPhone.

iPhone's Basic Calculator

iPhone's Basic Calculator

Now, that must be a selling point for any student in any part of the globe. Screenshot below.

iPhone's Scientific Calculator

iPhone's Scientific Calculator

14. Dictionary

This is a terrific web app that formats the dictionary in such a way that it makes it very easy for me to pull up words, both from the dictionary and thesaurus, when I’m reading books and come across words that are mind-twisters.

iPhone Dictionary App

iPhone Dictionary App

15. Wikipedia

Looks like this web app comes from the same company. Formats the wikipedia in such a way that allows you to access it in a very user friendly manner formatted for the iPhone’s screen.

iPhone's Wikipedia Web App

iPhone's Wikipedia Web App

And, that pretty much covers it all, I’m sure. Wait… have I missed anything? Let me know if I have, by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post. Thanks for reading.

Are there any FREE iPhone productivity apps this list misses?

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Three Top 10 iPhone App reviews you shouldn’t miss

It’s only been a week since my review of the Top 10 FREE iPhone apps, and since then I’ve amassed a ton of information on the coolest free apps on the store. And, I’m glad to announce, there’s not much that you’ve missed.

If you’re thirsting for more, here are three other reviews you shouldn’t miss. Interestingly, I found an interesting app I’d missed from each of the reviews below.

1. Walt Mossberg’s Top 10 iPhone Apps review (click here)

2. Lifehacker’s Top 10 Free iPhone Apps review (click here)

3. Mashable’s Top 10 iPhone Apps (click here)

Expect another iPhone post shortly. This time on the serious stuff.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Top 10 Free iPhone 2.0 Apps

So, many of my friends and over 1000 followers on Twitter must have been barraged by my incessant tweets on how awesome the new iPhone 2.0 Software is. My ecstatic reviews continued today, with my discovery of a couple of really cool semi-intelligent apps (more on that later).

But first, here’s a quick snapshot of my iPhone 2.0 Apps [as of Jul 13, 2008] – all free apps.

I’m going to categorize the apps I downloaded and loved. The only app not in the list below that I run is the Google App, which provides a single dashboard for you to access any Google web app. Plus, it does a great job of searching your iPhone contacts (I wish it’d search my Google Contacts as well).

But, I digress, here are my favorite 9 free apps for the iPhone 2.0, the 10th being the Google app I just mentioned above:

1. Social Networking Apps

  • Facebook – More robust Facebook-iPhone app than the previous one. Includes Chat, a more robust news feed, a status only mini-feed, ability to upload pics taken w/ the iPhone camera, and an address book that complements your iPhone’s Contacts database.
  • Twitteriffic – Love the ability to upload pics to your twitter feed, the way direct messages (blue) and replies to you (brown) are highlighted. Simple and effective. Want more? Pay $9.99.
  • Pandora –  Wonder how I forgot to mention my music favorite, Pandora, which actually is an untapped social network. This app renders your existing Pandora stations on the iPhone in exactly the same format your regular music works. The stations work great over Wi-Fi, but I heard it works on EDGE as well (not as well, though). Definite add-on for Pandora/Music lovers.

2. Location specific Apps

  • Yelp – helps search for restaurant reviews sorted by distance from your location
  • Box Office (deleted this app) but it’s another example of an app that shows you movie theaters/timings/tickets around your location

3. Smart Apps

  • Apple Remote – while my iPhone holds only 8GB of songs when my entire collection is closer to 20GB, this brilliant Apple app allows me to navigate the entire 20GB collection (hitherto not possible) and search for any song/album I like through my iPhone interface. Seriously, this one’s unbelievably cool & utilitarian. Changes your music listening habits (at least within your house).
  • Jott – Impeccable transcription service for voice. Great to-do list creator. But the killer feature is the ability to send this just transcribed text to a slew of services. I’ve added (a) Google Calendar, (b) Remember the Milk Task Management, and (c) Twitter! So, now I can tweet my thoughts without typing it in, just speaking.
  • Evernote – Thanks to OCR, evernote allows you to create tagged notes from pictures, websites and audio. Plus, you can then search through them effortlessly. Imagine taking a picture of a book with the title “America” and then searching for America and finding that image. It works!
  • Shazam – How many times have you listened to a song and gone, “what song is that”. Worry no more? Now, all it takes is for you to extend your iPhone to towards the song and the software pulls up the exact song. You can then purchase it if you’d like. I tried it with three songs and it accurately pulled it up. Very, very cool!

Anyways, this is just the beginning, but I thought you’ll be as fascinated as I am about the future of mobility, productivity and entertainment on the go. Many times, I forget there’s a phone beneath all these cool features.

What is YOUR favorite iPhone 2.0 App? Leave a comment.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

The Future of Reading is the iPhone, NOT Amazon’s Kindle

Update: Brian Caulfield from Fortune echoes my thoughts on the iPhone being Kindle’s competition, albeit for a different reason. He seems to think that free content on the web (powered by Google Book Search, maybe) could make the iPhone far more attractive than the Kindle.

The ability to grab free books online points to the device’s real competition: not paper books but Internet-friendly laptops, tablet computers and smart phones. The amount of content available online is growing fast, and devices for accessing the Net are getting better and cheaper quickly. One such device is already here. It’s called the iPhone.

Read on with my post on why the iPhone IS a great book reader and not the Amazon Kindle! (with a comparative chart showing the two side-by-side)

Summary: Well, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I have a ton of catching up to do. But, what better way to start off the week than with a HOT piece of news on Amazon’s new e-book reader – Kindle! — Methinks iPhone would be the perfect e-book reader — (check out the comparative chart below) — Bonus: Trivia on dramatic quotes said while launching tech products

vs.
Amazon Kindle vs. Sony Reader

Or would you rather have this?

The original article by Steven Levy (Newsweek) suggests that “though Bezos is reluctant to make the comparison, Amazon believes it has created the iPod of reading.” I personally think that Apple has already created the iPod of reading and its called the iPhone.

Rex Hammock echoes my feelings best on what an ideal e-book reader would be like – an Apple product! Rex suggests a larger version of the iPod touch, although I think the extremely portable iPhone is a potential Kindle killer, more so because of its multi-faceted utility and its amazing readability given the pinch capability. In the midst of all this chaotic blog chatter is Arrington’s piece where he succinctly describes Amazon Kindle’s differentiator

The reason Sony failed? Perhaps because their device requires syncing with a computer to download content. That’s the Kindle’s killer feature – cellular and (probably) wireless internet access that will let users download content directly to the device from the Internet. And the cellular connectivity, which generally costs $60 or more per month, will be included with the device for free says a source close to the company.

Well, I don’t know if that’d suffice, particularly when compared to a killer device like the iPhone, which could really ride the wave if only they came out with reader like functionality. Plus, as Rex says, iTunes is the commerce engine that can drive these book sales. The only advantage Amazon has is their seemingly inexhaustible river of book content, which is probably what Bezos is betting on right now. Will consumers buy? I don’t know, but I’ve put together a simple comparative chart between the iPhone (a site for sore eyes) and Amazon’s Kindle, which you don’t want to be caught with! (positives in blue)
Marketing Nirvana’s comparative chart showing why the iPhone kicks Kindle’s butt (see the name sounds worse when used in a sentence. For those of you interested, apparently it was named Kindle “to evoke the crackling ignition of knowledge” he he)

Adding Books and GPS to the iPhone will definitely fulfill it’s destiny of being the coolest and greatest device ever assembled! However, much like iTunes holds the key to music content so does the Amazon Store for books, which could prove to be the only reason Apple hasn’t ventured into this territory!

Anyways, the iPhone is turning out to be a great way to consume content (just try out Google Reader or access a website on the iPhone and you’ll see what I mean). Moreover, it shouldn’t be a big deal to add reader functionality into the iPhone (methinks). If any of you’d like to speculate how feasible it is, feel free to do so in the comments section.

Trivia Quotes:

Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything! Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone”

Jeff Bezos announcing the Kindle (I hate the name): “This is the most important thing we’ve ever done…It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.”

Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook Social Ads: “Once every hundred years media changes. the last hundred years have been defined by the mass media. The way to advertise was to get into the mass media and push out your content. That was the last hundred years. In the next hundred years information won’t be just pushed out to people, it will be shared among the millions of connections people have.” (More on this, later this week)

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Why Apple needs a blog | the iPhone Mess

Quick update: Apple bullies bloggers, again!?


I’ve forever been a strong advocate of corporate blogs and am happy to see the increased number of corporate blogs. However, one of my biggest questions in recent times has been why Apple and Google, shy away from blogging. Probably, because they don’t find the need for evangelism owing to their enormous buzz? Maybe. However, it is moments of crisis/controversy that highlight the need for a blog.

Anybody on the planet would have stumbled upon Steve Jobs stupendous iPhone presentation last week, which bordered on perfection. However, what’s drawing more recent attention is the controversy surrounding the iPhone trademark, which Cisco claims it owns since 2000. While Apple’s official stance has been via traditional PR:

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling called the Cisco lawsuit “silly,” adding there are several companies using the term iPhone for VOIP products, and Cisco’s trademark is “tenuous at best.” (Source: WSJ, via BoingBoing)

Cisco’s response has been via a blog like press-release/commentary put forth by Mark Chandler, Cisco’s SVP and General Counsel:

I was surprised and disappointed when Apple decided to go ahead and announce their new product with our trademarked name without reaching an agreement. It was essentially the equivalent of “we’re too busy.” Despite being very close to an agreement, we had no substantive communication from Apple after 8pm Monday, including after their launch, when we made clear we expected closure. What were the issues at the table that kept us from an agreement? Was it money? No. Was it a royalty on every Apple phone? No. Was it an exchange for Cisco products or services? No. (Source: Cisco blogs)

The tone is informal, yet wordy. Was it ghost-written? I dunno. But it sure has a blog-like feel and given the fact that it’s technically coming from the general counsel himself, it definitely is a step in the right direction for the corporate blogosphere.

Round 1. Cisco.

As for Apple…

Do you think their response on a blog vs. official PR really matters?

Filed under: Business Blogging