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Category Archives: Reviews

iPhone 3GS Review
By: David Kaufman

We’ve all been waiting for the iPhone 3GS since June 8th – its finally here, and it actually delivers. The S no doubt stands for speed, and the briskness of the operation system is just astounding. The 2G and 3G iPhones always felt like they were struggling with standard tasks – web pages opened slowly, applications lagged because of low memory, and the phone sometimes just locked up for short periods of time until it could regain its bearings and finish your command. Well the 3GS literally rips apart anything you can throw at it. The hardware is optimized tremendously and really behaves how the first iPhones should have. The speed is especially notable in graphically intensive games such as Tap Tap Revenge 2 – there is no doubt that the arrival of the 3GS will spur even higher top scores due to the incredible lack of noticeable video lag…

Check out iPhoneWorld for the rest of my review!

The 3GS with voice control!

The 3GS with voice control!

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Many wifi subscription services require the constant input of login and password after each connection to a hotspot.  If your ISP has its own wifi service, like Optimum Wifi, you probably have already noticed how aggravating it is to log in after every random disconnect.

Easy Wifi is here to alleviate the problem. Basically it is able to analyze the hotspot that you are connected to and then input the credentials that you supply in the “My Wifi” tab. The app cannot connect automatically however. You must open the application once after you connect to the wifi. Then it will automatically log in for you; sounds great right!

There are only a few caveats though. First of all, the whole app has a pretty subpar interface. It feels very much like a web application, and the custom tabs can only be accessed with an internet connection. You cannot input passwords unless you can access the net. Also, Easy Wifi cannot log into just any wifi connection. The hotspot has to be on its internal list of providers that it knows how to deal with. Therefore, depending on your situation, it might have limited use to you.

Overall, the application works properly and does what it’s advertised to do.

8/10

Ahh Emoji. The age old mystery. Just kidding. In a nutshell, Emoji are these emoticons that are all the rage in Japan. The iPhones in Japan have these icons, but unfortunately for some people, they are not available on other iPhones throughout the world. Emoji are only viewable to others if your message receivers have iPhones… but some people still really, really, really, really want them.

And so obviously people have made solutions, some that don’t even require Jailbreaking.

 

So lets discuss Typing Genius, which is actually a great application in its own right that adds the little bonus of unlocking Emoji on stateside iPhones and iPod Touches. This app has a myriad of different typing tests to help you improve your CPM speeds and be a better emailer, texter, IMer, googler, you name it. And the practice tests are actually very intuitive. Each run has options for a portrait, landscape, or portrait without auto correct keyboard. There are options for left hand, right hand, common words, phrases, sentences, and more! And your results (as long as the errors <5%) are even added to a graph showing progress over time – now thats good thinking. Overall, the application is very straightforward, but I can definitely see it helping my typing speed tremendously. One extra feature is a competition mode between two users – but I have not extensively tested that mode yet.

From my experience of the app, there is really only one (and a half?) negative(s) that I can think of. First of all, during one of the typing tests, if your characters become displaced one spot to the right or left due to an extra space lets say, none of the letters will match up and your mistakes will increase in percentage before your eyes. Also, and this is not the apps fault at all but just a general idea, enabling Emoji will diminish your 123 keyboard button to half size due to the new international keyboard button to access Emoji.

 

Overall, the typing skills practice definitely makes this application worth the $.99. At this time there is a free application in the app store for Emoji, but get this application – thank me later when you’re typing at double speed.

9/10

Background Info

Internet radio is a hot subject these days. Most people love the idea of services like Pandora and Last.fm willing to provide users with customized radio, free of charge. A relative newcomer to the field is Slacker Radio, which just recently launched its own iPhone application.

Preliminary Summary

Slacker is essentially a mix between the Last.fm and Pandora methods of music discovery. Lets be clear, it does not identify similar music with a “sound” algorithm and instead creates matches through related artists of the same time period. The program constantly provided music that I enjoyed provided that I imputed a song or artist that I wanted to hear more of. However, Slacker has another major advantage to many of the other services, professionally programmed stations. Instead of being like the computerized genre stations that Pandora employs, these stations have much more variety and are generally more interesting since real humans choose the tracks in advance. Slacker has a huge variety of these stations, from dance to rap to country… and even two comedy channels (one clean/one explicit)!

Beautiful album art view of the current playing song...

Beautiful album art view of the current playing song...

Sliding a finger over the art will give a "peek" of the next album in the lineup...

Sliding a finger over the art will give a "peek" of the next album in the lineup...

Sliding over the halfway point will automatically switch to the new track and reveal its name.

Sliding over the halfway point will automatically switch to the new track and reveal its name.

First Impressions

Slacker itself has a very clear music interface as illustrated in the screenshots above. It employs a peek system where the album art for the next song is visible, which is a treat for the eyes and fits the application beautifully. The initial menus are slightly slow to load the channel art but is generally responsive and easy to use. However, the most interesting feature in regards to channel selection is the search. This enables the user to choose any artist or specific song to base a custom channel around. Furthermore, by clicking the small arrow next to the channel name, these custom channels can be “fine tuned” in order to change the popularity of songs, the frequency of favorites, and their approximate year of release. This adds a new dimension to music discovery and is a welcome addition compared to Pandora.

In Depth

In simplest terms, Slacker’s performance is very, very good. Although I do not have an iPhone 3G, I was able to test Slacker on my original iPhone on both EDGE and Wifi connections. Wifi, as expected, did not cause any stuttering or stopping at all, and the music quality was very defined and clear. EDGE also performed extremely well, with only occasional drop outs that occurred when my iPhone signal strength deteriorated to about 2 bars. I have not had enough time to make direct comparisons between Wifi and EDGE quality, but there is little to no difference between them, which is a good thing! To add to your enjoyment of these great sounding channels, Slacker regular service allows 6 skips of songs per hour for each channel. This is more than enough if you have made a good channel, however Slacker provides a $3.99 Plus service which adds unlimited skips and “song requests,” which are a way to listen to any song you want within the next few songs on the channel by clicking the heart button. However, as far as I know, requests only work on the web client and not on the iPhone. I am currently testing the Plus service this month and will report back to post my experiences.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Slacker may be the best music discovery, or shall we say music enjoyment, application on the App Store. It is similar to Pandora Radio in many ways, but has a few major benefits. Overall however, it is personal preference which service you prefer more.

9/10

Background Info

Recently I have been intent on finding the perfect free IM client on my iPhone. For I while I had been using AIM’s own application, which surprisingly most people despise. Yes, it logs you out shortly after closing the app. Yes, it lacks push notifications. Yes, it only supports the AOL protocol (although thats not a problem for me since all my IM communications run through AIM). But its clean, stable, and works pretty well for occasional use.

However, different people desire different features, and while I would like a landscape keyboard, I am sure others desire Skype support. Ergo my quest for success.

Preliminary Summary

Nimbuzz is an interesting contender thrown in fairly recently to contend with powerhouses like Palringo and Beejive. The company actually has a decent history with smartphones on the Symbian platform so I was eager to see if Nimbuzz for iPhone would live up to expectations. For the most part it did, despite some unforgivable flaws.

Rather definitive icon, don't you think?

Rather definitive icon, don't you think?

First Impressions

When I first opened Nimbuzz, I was prompted to sign up for the company’s proprietary service before I could input my own AIM, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, MySpace, Google, MSN, or ICQ account. Now don’t take me as a lazy person, but it’s these unnecessary steps that lead many people to immediately delete apps like this. Now I understand Nimbuzz might prefer streamlining the sign-ins to one account on their distant server, but the extra account brings up security issues such as encryption since all your user passwords must funnel through their systems.

However, this initial registration is far from arduous, or rather, the opposite of arduous, with only a few required fields before you’re all set and ready to roll. The application itself is very nicely presented in an orange and white color sceme, with a rather obnoxious NIMBUZZ! logo at the top of the screen, but otherwise very smooth and pleasing. The communities window helps with entering all of your accounts, which promptly load in the accompanying contacts tab. So far so good.

In Depth

The application itself supports one of the widest groups of “communities” of all social networking apps that I’ve tested. Check out the official iTunes page for the details, but unless you want SIP VOIP chat, you really won’t be disappointed.

So once all your accounts are loaded, a couple of gripes become apparent. First of all, the sorting options are limited to alphabetical and alphabetical with separated communities. There are no settings for sorting by status which is very helpful to limit scrolling on the device. Also, AIM groups are not supported. And by the way, is anyone upset about the lack of buddy icons on most of these multi service clients? I just feel that these icons make identifying buddies so much easier and Nimbuzz disappoints in this area.

Even so, the chat interface is very well done. The whole window will rotate horizontally so that new chats will open with a horizontal keyboard. Yes that’s right! A landscape keyboard makes a huge difference when you need to send quick messages, and the implementation here does not disappoint. Somehow I feel that this is Nimbuzz’s killer feature, although I’m not knocking the rest of the app.

Nimbuzz also has VOIP integration over Wifi. Now I’m not a big Skype user, but calls through Skype, the only supported protocol, are reportedly clearer and crisper than competing products like fring.

Now with all these positives, I must reveal one last problem. When you close the application, Nimbuzz completely severs it’s connection from the main server. Which means no push notifications over email or SMS. And no quickly picking up a conversation after a periodic email or webpage visit.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Nimbuzz is a very worthy adversary to the long list of competing chat applications. The landscape keyboard is a boon to typers and the app has a great interface to boot. The instant disconnection at exit is a major negative, but only for those who want an always on connection.

8/10