• Category Archives iPhone apps
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  • Continuation of Mixing the old with the new. Nokia C5 and iPhone 4S.

    There were a few interesting questions and points made as a result of my post yesterday. Firstly, let me just remind readers that I love getting your Emails and phone calls but it would be nice if you would comment on the site instead of contacting me privately so as other readers can have the benefit of reading your questions and observations.

    Firstly, Jenny asked if the C5 has wifi. NO. It doesn’t although as I’m not using this phone for any data usage this actually makes no difference to me. I’m interested in what you might use wifi for though. Are there apps on the S60 platform that you would use?

    Nicky touched on the idea of using an iPod for listening to Music and using Apps. This is a very good idea. The iPod is smaller, lighter and cheaper and if you’re not using it for phone calls or texting then there’s no need for 3G. However, the iPhone battery lasts for a very long time when not used as a normal phone and there is nothing that the iPhone can’t do that the iPod does so there’s no need to change over if you already have an iPhone. Also, because I could potentially change back to the thinking that one device is just more convenient selling the iPhone would be a mistake because a 64GB iPhone 4S is not a cheap toy at all. I’ve already done this in the past. I moved back to a Nokia phone for a while about three or four years ago but after a while I missed the power of the iPhone so I went back again. However, at that time, I wasn’t running both phones simultaneously so things may be different this time. For me, the iPhone has almost become essential. I use Facetime with sighted people when I need something looked at, I use the many social networking aps to stay in contact with people, I read the local and national news, I keep up to date with Email and I even use it for GPS occasionally. However, I have a tip for you. I have a wireless Vodafone dongle. I usually have my laptop with me when traveling to and from work and this wireless dongle has a nice place in that laptop case. When I really want Internet access on the iPhone while traveling I just turn on that wireless dongle, connect to it from the iPhone and I have the same data access as I had when using it as a phone. Really, the only down side to this is that I have a few more devices to carry around. However, this is more than made up for by the efficiency of being able to make and receive calls and write text messages quickly and comfortably. I’ve been using this method now for just over a week and so far it’s working quite nicely. However, ask me again in a month. Maybe by that time I’ll be tired of carrying an extra phone around with me.

    Just one more note. I have given serious consideration to an iPad or an iPad mini however as a blind person I simply can’t understand why one of these devices would be appealing to me. The larger screen makes absolutely no difference. Why not just use an iPhone or an iPod. The iPad mini feels lovely and sexy. It’s slim, curved and light but once you get over that what’s the benefit if you can’t see the screen?

  • Mixing the old with the new. Nokia C5 and iPhone 4S.

    I’m sure you couldn’t care less what phone I’m using or why, but I want to explain something to you.

    I am now using a Nokia C5 for day to day phone needs. I haven’t completely moved away from the iPhone but for making and receiving calls and sending text messages there’s just no beating the convenience of a classic mobile phone. When I want to dial a number I simply key it in on the numeric key pad. When I get a text I can respond to it with one hand if I want to. When I’m looking for a contact I dial in the first few letters and it searches for it. Finding Frank for example takes me less than two seconds. Finding frank on the iPhone takes a lot longer.

    That’s not to say that I have anything against the iPhone or I have gone away from Apple products. I just got sick of fluffing around with a phone when all I wanted to do is answer or hang up a call. In fact, I’m going to get my frustrations out here by listing some of the things that are driving me crazy about the iPhone. Read on though. I’m going to also tell you why I carry an iPhone around with me as well.

    • When I hang up a call I should be able to press the power button but this only intermittently works. It is fixed in some updates but breaks again with the next.
    • Taking the iPhone away from my ear causes it to go to loud speaker. I know this is by design but it’s irritating.
    • A bug that has been on the iPhone since IOS4 has caused Voiceover users to encounter an issue where while on a call the phone intermittently switches back and forth to the loud speaker.
    • Texting on the iPhone on-screen keyboard is horribly slow, cumbersome, unproductive and difficult. Even Flexy isn’t great if you’re in a noisy area and you can’t hear the phone. Also, it’s badly designed when you’re holding it up to your ear to hear the text to speech synthesizer.
    • Bugs are frequently not caught or not fixed. For example, in IOS 6, Voiceover should speak new notifications when the screen is locked if the option is enabled but this no longer works. This senseless disregard of simple bugs has turned me off Apple to a large extent. In fact, because of this I recently sold my Mac book air.
    • The battery life is absolutely terrible. I charged my Nokia C5 on Sunday evening and I won’t need to charge it until tomorrow night. Imagine that. Three days of phone usage on one charge!
    • The iPhone is too big and it’s getting bigger! I don’t like the extra bulk of the iPhone 5. I also don’t like having to put a case on my phone. If it is vital to have a case on a phone to stop it from becoming easily damaged then the phone is badly designed.

    The iPhone is still brilliant. As I said before, I don’t want this post to seem like I’m gone against this product. I still carry one around with me and I use it when in range of wireless networks. I know you might think this is crazy and I would ordinarily agree with you but access to the Internet and apps simply can’t be rivalled by any other phone. The iPhone has more apps than any other platform and with thanks to the voiceover screen reader as blind people we have the benefit and luxury of having access to the vast majority of these. It’s a fact that I simply wouldn’t want to do without the connectivity provided to me by the iPhone however again, as a simple phone and text utility the iPhone has a long way to go before it is efficient in comparison to classic mobile phones. In fact a few people have commented that call quality is clearer when I speak to them from the Nokia C5 and I also find that I can continue a conversation for longer when traveling home by train than I can when using the iPhone.
    I have examined other platforms however although I think they have a lot of merit for most mobile phone users, they unfortunately can’t compete with the accessibility of the iPhone. Specifically Android, Blackberry and Windows phone. The Android platform has a screen reader and it is making slow and steady progress. I would like to see this reach the point where it can meet the expectations of usability and efficiency set by the iPhone. The Blackberry platform has also improved recently but the stability of the screen reader on this platform doesn’t seem to have lived up to the hype. Finally Windows phone. Ah, good old Microsoft. No accessibility for blind users at all. There’s absolutely no screen reader on this platform. I can only hope that they’ll fix this soon because I actually like what I’ve read about this platform so far and I have really enjoyed using previous versions of Windows mobile. I know that since 7.5 the platform has changed substantially but I loved the interconnectivity between the mobile and desktop platforms.

    I want to say something to you about Windows Mobile for a second. In the nineties Microsoft launched a mobile platform. The user interface was based on the PC desktop. This idea was a complete disaster. Microsoft had to completely change their approach to Windows mobile to win any kind of market share. It was acknowledged that the expectations and requirements of users were vastly different for both platforms. This bought about the lovely idea of the today screen that we have enjoyed on Windows mobile for about ten years. In Windows 8 and Windows mobile 8 this today screen has become much more powerful with its evolution into the start screen. In 2012 Windows 8 for the desktop and laptop has taken on a look and feel similar to Windows mobile. About twelve years on from the catastrophe that was Windows CE for mobile devices with its user interface based on the desktop version of Windows we now have Windows 8 for the desktop based on the user interface on mobile devices. So, I have two questions for you. Is Microsoft looking at another disaster or do users really want this new and improved today screen on their desktops. I’m not sure. For me, I wasn’t too happy with Windows 8. I found that even after customization of the environment it was still trying to push its own objectives onto me. Use Microsoft services for sign on, cloud storage, search, mail and chat. Of course they can’t be anti-competitive so alternatives are available but it’s easy to see what the preference is. Your thoughts are welcome.

  • App of the day 10: Twitter.

    We’re finally on day ten of the iPhone apps. Today, let’s look at Twitter. Let’s face it, we use that a lot more than most websites or social media applications. It’s only fitting then that there’s so much choice.

    The main Twitter apps that I have used are: Echofon, Tweetlist and of course, the official Twitter app.

    Each app has its positives and negatives but there’s no doubting that each of them have a place on most of our iPhone.

    Firstly, let’s look at Echofon. This got a lot of bad press over the past six or eight months. In IOS 4 a bug was introduced when using Echofon for Voiceover users that caused Echofon to crash when a user tried to swipe to the search field from the top of the screen. This problem does not seem to exist in IOS5 so it might be worth giving Echofon another look when IOS5 is released in September. Echofon supports the following features:
    Firstly, Echofon is great when you regularly move between devices to read tweets. It works on the iPhone, the Mac and Windows so when you’ve read a few tweets and you want to continue from another device you can pick up where you left off. This is a major selling point of Echofon pro.
    Echofon supports lists and allows you to modify and create lists from within the application.
    The app comes in a free version that includes ads and limits certain features and a pro version that costs €3.99. Both versions now come with push notification. Push notification is not something that is available with all twitter clients on the iPhone.
    Echofon does not require you to enable geo tagging every time you want to show your location. It is on enabled or disabled globally but you have the option of turning it off temporarily in a tweet you are composing if you need to.
    Echofon has probably the nicest interface for reading and replying to tweets of any of the other twitter clients for the iPhone.
    Unfortunately Echofon does not show real names. It only shows the Twitter username when reading through the list.

    Tweetlist also comes in two varieties. The Free app only allows you to use one account and includes advertisements in the interface. The paid version costs €2.33 but allows you to have as many accounts as you can shake a stick at. Some of the features of Tweetlist are below:
    You can see users by their display name and not just by their twitter username. This is something that can be configured within the settings.
    Replying to a message requires less tapping. There’s one button and no additional menus are shown. This is the same for retweeting and direct messages.
    You can easily choose the link to open in a tweet, response or direct message and you can also choose to open this in safari instead of using the basic imbedded browser.
    Unfortunately Tweetlist does not have the ability to provide push notifications. These can however be obtained by using a second app called Boxcar. This however has a few limitations. When you tap view when a notification is received, Boxcar opens then redirects you to Tweetlist. You may however not be on the screen where the mention or direct message is shown so the process of navigating to the tweet is significantly slower than when using the native Twitter app or Echofon.

    The Twitter app is now reasonably integrated into IOS5, the latest version of the software used on the iPhone. When configuring Twitter preferences in the settings screen, you are given the option to download Twitter directly from the App store. This app is free but lacks some functionality found in both Echofon and Tweetlist. Most significantly compared to Tweetlist, the Twitter ap does not show real names. Accessibility with Voiceover has however undergone a major improvement lately so if you haven’t tried this App in a while it might be worth having another look More features and disadvantages are shown below:
    The Twitter app includes the ability to provide push notifications. These allow you to see responses and direct messages when you are not in the Twitter app. For example, if your phone is locked but you receive a DM it will be displayed in a similar way to when a text message is shown.
    I like composing tweets in the Twitter app. The options are very easy to find by switching between keyboard and options views.
    The main downfall of the Twitter app is although it can be configured to show the full name / real name in the settings, this setting has no impact on the names shown when looking at the main list of tweets. If this one issue was resolved I would probably use Twitter as my main app.

    Sorry if this wasn’t as detailed as you might like however please leave a comment with any questions and I’ll try to answer them all. Unfortunately today, I’ve been much busier than I anticipated.

  • App of the day 9: SSH, RDP, WordPress and Drupal

    I’m coming to the end of the ten iPhone apps in ten days series so today I thought I’d spoil the system administrators and website developers out there by telling you of four little apps I just couldn’t do without.

    If you use a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal you’re going to want to look at the apps for these available on the iPhone. Write posts, approve or reject comments and even look at visitor stats. The wordpress and drupal apps provide quite similar functionality and they’re both very easy to set up.

    Looking at wordpress for a moment, this app allows you to write, edit and publish pages and posts, it allows you to reject, delete and approve comments, the app also allows you to attach images and format text in posts and pages with almost all the control you get from the web based editor and if you have the stats plug in installed and your account is connected to wordpress.com you can even look at your site usage statistics. The wordpress app works with sites hosted on wordpress.com and self hosted wordpress sites downloaded from wordpress.org. The app is free although there are more powerful statistics apps with an attached cost that plug in to wordpress if this is important to you.

    The apps available for Drupal are either simply called Drupal or iDrupal. Both require additional modules when using both Drupal 6 or seven and both provide very similar functionality to the WordPress app. Because I’ve already covered this, I won’t go into much more detail. Drupal 6 requires modules for uploading images into posts and pages so if possible I’d encourage you to use Drupal 7 with this app.

    The next two apps are simply life savers. Fortunately, I haven’t had the need to use them in quite a while but they always stay on my phone for that day that I know will come when I’m away from a computer but a service goes down somewhere or someone’s getting a funky error message that can’t be fixed through the various web control panels that are installed.

    The first of these apps is RDP. This is a remote desktop client for the iPhone. Obviously, a Windows desktop was never meant to be viewed through such a small screen so this is usable only for a short time and due to the limitations of using Windows on such a small screen it’s not very nice to use however, it is secure, it is very fast and when it comes right down to it and you have no other choice but to log into a server remotely this is really useful. The app is simply called RDP and it is free from the App store. Unfortunately when you are in an RDP session you will not get any information from Voiceover. This is because for what are likely obvious reasons, the remote Windows interface cannot give any useful information to Voiceover to enable it to read.

    Finally the last app for today is SSH terminal. I don’t know how many times this saved me when I first configured these servers. Thanks to the VPN connection on the iPhone I was able to log onto the network and check logs or start and stop services as needed. This app isn’t all that accessible using voiceover with speech output but it’s not through any fault of the app developer or the developers of Voiceover. It’s just the nature of console applications. It’s either all or nothing. You can read the entire screen or you can read nothing. With a Braille display you have a little more control so it’s a lot easier to get tasks done independently.

  • App of the day 8: Shhmooze.

    The both great and terrible thing about the Internet is when using social networks, you can go weeks, months or even years without knowing what the people you’re talking to look or sound like. That’s great! It allows you to hide behind your keyboard and mumble things you wouldn’t ordinarily are say but when it comes to those blog awards, twitter meet up or just a pint or two with people from a mailing list it can be a little difficult to know who’s who.

    Calling in Shhmooze to take the stage. Shhmooze is a nice little app that lets you check into whatever location you’re in. When you get the app first you write a small bio and add a picture. This allows people to see who you are and if they don’t know yet, the bio allows them to see what you’re interested in and what you’re all about.

    For example, an organizer of an event might invite attendees to use this app. When they get to the location of the event they take a look and they immediately can see other people who use the app that are in the same location. They’ll see the digitalDarragh username and a short description of me. They’ll also see my picture so if they want, they can pick me out of a crowd to introduce themselves. On a side note, obviously I can’t pick them out of a crowd so I make sure that at the end of my profile / bio I write something like: “You’ll see me a long time before I see you so come over and say hello”. I wouldn’t want to come right out and say hay I’m blind. Where the hel are you so I think and hope that’s a better approach.

    I like Shhmooze because it tells me who’s there and with that information, I can make sure I get talking to people I know from Twitter, linked in and Facebook. Of course, there’s a messaging feature so if you just want to tell someone to stick around because you’ll be over there in a moment that’s quite easy to do also.

    Shhmooze isn’t just available on the iPhone so almost anyone with a smart phone will be able to avail of this functionality.

    To add one final note, Shhmooze isn’t just a social networking app. It’s also a great way of helping with professional networking. By including information about your industry and what kind of work your available for you can also attract perspective clients.

  • App of the day 7: Jelly SMS.

    I’m sorry to say that this is the second app that’s specific to Irish iPhone users. Sorry about that but it’s an app that’s really worth writing about.

    In Ireland we have quite good phone tariffs that provide a certain amount of voice, text messages and data depending on the tariff you choose. However, unless you’re on a customized plan or the company you work for provides you with a phone with a tariff that has been tailored to your business needs to allow you to freely or very cheaply call or text contacts outside Ireland, you will find that keeping in contact with friends or family abroad can be quite costly.

    However, companies such as Vodafone and O2 provide an method that will allow you to freely text people outside Ireland using web based text services. Of course, that’s little good when you want to respond to a message someone sent you from England but you’re out for the night and by the time you get home you’ll probably forget to turn on the computer and sign into your customer portal. Of course, you can alternatively just use the web browser on your iPhone and sign in but you’re out to socialise, not to spend ten minutes signing into a website to send a quick text message.

    This is where Jelly SMS comes in so useful. This app basically connects to your phone provider’s web text facility and sends text messages through this. This means that when using Jelly SMS you do not eat into the number of text messages provided monthly as part of your tariff. If your phone provider allows you to send text messages to international numbers from the web then you will be able to benefit from this using Jelly SMS also.

    Jelly SMS will allow you to use the contacts on your phone so you will not need to create a web based contacts list or even worse, type in the number manually every time you want to send a text message from the web.

    The app allows you to send pictures however this functionality is a little misleading. It uses something that SMS aggregators call MMS push. This means that the content is not sent directly to the recipient’s phone. Instead, a message is sent with a URL included. This URL when opened will show you the picture or sound clip that was attached to the message you sent using Jelly SMS. I’m not entirely sure if this is a limitation of Jelly SMS or the web text providers however it is something that should be more clearly documented in the app.

    One great feature of Jelly SMS is its integration with maps. A few months ago I had no GPS solution with me but I needed to find a building in an unfamiliar part of Dublin. Using Jelly SMS I sent a message and included my location. When another iPhone user opened the message they were able to see my location with reasonable accuracy and provide me with specific instructions to find my intended destination. Of course, I doubt this is what the functionality was intended to be used for however it’s very helpful in certain situations.

    There are two versions of Jelly SMS. The free version limits you to less than 161 characters in a text message as at the end of every message you sent it places a small advertisement in to say that the message was sent using Jelly SMS. The paid version does not include these advertisements and costs €3.99. The add-on to enable you to send pictures in messages was I think €1.79 however I’m guessing here. It may have just been €0.79 but I think I’m right with the larger amount. Of course, it should be kept in mind that this functionality is not what you might expect and does not actually send the pictures in the message. Considering this is a purchasable add-on I would hope that a more clear description is made available within the app of its limitations before consumers purchase it.

    Overall, this is a very useful app. The price could come down a little and I would like to see more clear documentation within the app regarding limitations but it’s great at what it does and the developer has ensured flawless accessibility for Voiceover users.

  • App of the day 6: TaskList.

    Continuing with my ten apps in ten days posts today I’m going to look at a cool little app called TaskList. As they say, this does exactly what it says on the tin. It doesn’t sync with any services, it’s not flashy, it’s purely functional but it’s very useful.

    This functionality will largely become redundant with the reminders app that comes with IOS5 however for voice over users I think the Tasklist app will still be quite useful as it’s very clean and provides fields and descriptions that are quite standard compared to Outlook and windows mail etc.

    I like it because although I like to think I have a great memory; it’s inevitable that throughout the course of a meeting I’ll forget a crucial thing that I need to do as a result of a discussion or a point someone raises. The iPhone is fantastic and it really puts as much information as you can Handel at your finger tips however when in a fast paced work environment it’s often more important to enter and retrieve information quickly than to have dozens of apps with an overwhelming array of functionality. I could put items into the calendar but Tasklist is a lot more efficient. What I really find helpful though is that when glancing at or reading with voiceover the task list item on the home screen it shows the number of outstanding tasks for that date and can even present a notification to inform you of a due task. It’s basically an outlook style reminders / tasks function for the iPhone.

  • App of the day 5: KyPass.

    Day five and the iPhone apps just keep on coming. I’ve discussed password strength and security on this blog a few times over the past few years. I can’t over state this at all. If you don’t have strong passwords, it’s entirely your own fault if your security is compromised. I have no sympathy for people who use names, dates of birth, addresses and other easily identifiable passwords when they find that their credit card details are stolen or someone is impersonating them on a social network such as Twitter.

    The problem of course is that after a while, all of these complicated passwords become impossible to remember. The average person should have a password for logging into their computer, a password for their Email and different passwords for every website or social network their a member. This probably adds up to a minimum of five passwords for the average computer user. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect someone to remember all of these. That’s why password managers are so useful. Something like Keepass can be installed on your computer and provides for quite a secure method of storage for passwords. At most, you’ll need two passwords. One for KeePass and another for logging into your computer. Wow. How many times have I just written the word password?

    The great thing about Keepass is that it allows you to store passwords on a dropbox account. This means that every computer you use can access the same encrypted password file therefore you can access the information easily without using pen drives or other methods to transfer the passwords around.

    With the usage of Dropbox, you can even get access to your passwords from your phone. KyPass is a brilliant little iPhone app that brings Keepass off the computer. Simply download the app, within the settings, configure it to use your Dropbox account and it will do the rest.

    Unfortunately Kypass only supports authentication using passwords whereas the desktop application KeePass supports windows authentication, certs and passwords separately or in conjunction for authentication. This is much more secure than a password alone but if access to your passwords is required on the road, the slight reduction in security may be something you can justify.

    KyPass is €1.99 from the iTunes app store and it’s worth it if like me you use a lot of different passwords to secure your data and personal information

  • App of the day 4: iSocialize free

    Welcome to day four of the ten iPhone apps in ten days series. Today, I’ll look at a social network app that I use primarily for Facebook but that also works with Twitter, Google plus, YouTube and loads of other social networking sites.

    iSocialize is a very simple app. It’s basically a connecter to other social networking sites. The nice thing about it is that it remembers credentials so you don’t need to enter them every time you want to look at something. iSocialize follows ideas by companies such as AOL with their instant messenger and Microsoft with windows live. The app tries to bring all your social networks into one place. This is very nice for some users. The one consistent interface makes it quick and easy to learn.

    As Facebook users that require Voiceover for accessibility are aware, the Facebook app is less than usable and there are no signs that it will ever improve. iSocialize free is far from perfect however it’s a major step forward in comparison. iSocialize allows you to look at your feed, like and comment on entries posted by your friends and update your own status.

    It would seem that iSocialize simply loads certain parts of the Facebook, YouTube, Google plus and Twitter mobile web pages however it seems to also strip away some clutter.

    For users that are not concerned with Voiceover accessibility, iSocialize is still beneficial. Because it connects a number of social networks in one app it’s a very efficient and easy to user interface.

    As indicated by the name, iSocialize free does not need to be purchased to avail of this functionality.

  • App of the day 3: Email Signature Pro.

    Day three of my ten iPhone apps in Ten days series will look at Email signature pro. Again, without meaning to focus on this kind of thing, this app adds a feature that I’m sure many of us would really like to see incorporated into the iPhone by default.

    Email signature pro provides the ability to create custom signatures that you can use for multiple Email accounts. For example, your signature for personal mail may just include your name and possibly a website or Email address. However, the signature for your work address might need to include various contact numbers and disclaimers.

    Email signature pro allows you to add properly formatted links, lines to separate the signature from the main Email and even allows you to include an image such as a logo in the signature.

    This application costs €3.99 from the iTunes store however a light version of the app is available for free. The light app allows you to attach images to signatures etc. however only works for one account.

    In my experience, this app is a must-have for anyone who uses more than one Email account from the phone. It saves a lot of time and it allows for very professional signatures.