Handy iPhone Apps For Staying Connected

If you are like me, you’ve got to live in a mixed OS environment, at home is Mac and at work is Windows. And, you’ve got an iPhone or iPad which works great with Mac, but doesn’t play quite so nice in a corporate environment. Here are some great apps for your iPhone that will help you bridge the gap between those worlds.

DropBox: FREE — sync files — with this iPhone app, you have access to your files on the go. And since the storage is cloud-based, and dropbox works on both Mac/Win you can have your files synced effortlessly. See my previous Dropbox article about the software versions and how to download and install on both platforms with FREE 2GB + 250MB of storage.

Evernote: FREE — sync notes — while the iPhone app isn’t as robust as some other Note applications, it will sync with their incredibly handy Mac and Windows application. So, if you’ve made notes or clipped screenshots at home for your big presentation at work, you can edit it on the way with the app, and then have it synced and ready on your work PC. See my previous Evernote articles for more details.

LastPass: FREE (requires $12/year subscription) — sync passwords — there you are visiting a favorite website at home or on your iPhone, but you can’t remember what password you used. Not any more with LastPass. LastPass works as a browser add-on that will store and sync your login information. Plus, anywhere you travel, you can log into the LastPass.com site to find those passwords. Find out more about LastPass with my previous article on it.

Skype: FREE — cheap talk — sure iChat is great on the Mac, but it’s limited to the Mac. Skype works on both platforms and even on your iPhone. With Skype, if you subscribe to one of their unlimited talk plans (US = $3, Japan = $6), you can not only talk all you want at home, at work, and on your phone. (NOTE: Skype currently requires you to use WiFi to make calls on your iPhone. To get around this limitation, you can use the FREE Fring application, which allows you to make Skype Out calls over the 3G network.)

Pandora: FREE — cheap music — if you love music, this is one app you need to have. Set up “stations” of your favorite music and let Pandora stream that music to you via this iPhone app. Pandora.com works great in Firefox and Safari also, so you can listen to those stations at work or home too.

Toodledo: ($3) — sync to-do’s — with this iPhone app you can edit/add/delete your To-dos. Toodledo’s website offers links to sync your account with both Mac and Windows, so those changes you made will be reflected wherever you go.

Photo apps: — see your photos — there are several good apps to show and upload your photos to a photo site, including Shutterfly (FREE), Flickr (FREE), Eye-fi (FREE), and Picasafoto ($.99, for Picasa) . If you take a lot of photos and want to see them on the road, these apps will help you stay connected to those images.

Yelp: FREE — great tips — Yelp’s iPhone app can help you find local businesses quickly. The “bookmark” feature is really great for keeping your favorite places’ phone numbers handy. So, you can order your favorite Thai dish in advance for quick pickup. User reviews can also give you tips what to order or avoid.

MAC ONLY:

AirMouse: ($2) — control your Mac with your iPhone. This app will work with your local WiFi network to become a trackpad to control your Mac wirelessly. Much more robust than Apple’s free Remote app, and cheaper than a Magic Mouse.

Prowl: ($3) — get PUSH notification on your iPhone from any Growl messages on your Mac. If you have Growl installed to display notifications on your Mac, Prowl allows you to send those notifications to your iPhone. You can be notified of things like disk errors, completed downloads, or whatever you want.

Well, I hope that’s helped you with some cool apps for you iPhone.

[Note: originally published on HMAUS.org ]

iPad: Ebook Reader = yes, Netbook = no

iPads iBook
iPad's iBook

Like a lot of people I was excited to learn about yesterday’s Apple iPad release. Steve Jobs had said it would be “one of the most important things I’ve ever done” [techcrunch]. Apple calls it “magical and revolutionary“. And, also like a lot of people, I was let down by learning the details of the iPad. I think I know why.

Many people assumed that this new device would be along the lines of a netbook — one of those small-screened devices that allows users to do MOST of what they can on their larger PCs, but using more cloud-based services to get around storage and processing limitations. In other words, netbooks are a perfect match for things like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Picnik to help get around less powerful CPUs and smaller drives.

That assumption — that iPad would be a netbook — was what led to my disappointment. The iPad doesn’t do a lot of the things you need a netbook to do: multitasking (multiple applications running at the same time), Flash in web sites, and file and document control.  In fact, several sites have lists of why the iPad fail: gizmodo, pcworld. But I think they are missing the point.

Classics App page example
Classics App page example

As far as most of the features on the iPad, they are available already (albeit in smaller screen space) on iPhones and iPod Touches: Safari, Mail, Video, Photos, YouTube, iPod, iTunes, App Store, Maps, Notes, Calendar, Contacts, Home Screen, Spotlight Search. The biggest NEW feature is the “iBook” which makes the iPad an eReader for electronic books. (Yes, iPod Touch and iPhone also have this ability — Classics app, for example, looks amazingly like what iBooks became.)

What the iPad does do, though, is “revolutionize” Apple’s money stream on iTunes. They will now be selling e-books (along with music, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, and apps). They will now be competing with Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Ebook Readers.  They will also be (indirectly perhaps) taking on Google’s Books.

So, if you consider iPad as an eReader (with the ability to do some apps and multimedia) it’s a great, little device. Pricier than the competition, but with more functionality and style.

Just give up your notions of netbook (Apple has the Macbook Air for that (cough, cough)), and consider this iPad as the missing eReader device in their already excellent music (iPod) and cell phone (iPhone) device line.

Evernote: Syncing Your Notes (and Files) Wherever

Evernote Man, I like this product! Evernote is like Yojimbo with tentacles, “Tako Yojimbo”. Let me explain. Evernote is like a journal that you can type in, paste in, add screen shots, even drop files into, and it will sync those across multiple platforms. Evernote is available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Windows Mobile. Plus you can log into their site and add/edit/delete notes there. Or, send an email to your Evernote account and that will get synced.

In other words, you can write up your ideas from work, edit them in the car, tweak it some on your friend’s browser, and have it complete to print out when you get home! You can tag your ideas, like Yojimbo, to make it easy to organize and find. Evernote will even search within your PHOTOS for text to add as tags!

So, let’s say you want to write a journal of your life and work on it wherever you go. Or, a blog article (yep, this one was an Evernote). Or, you find a cool product on the web — take a screen shot and save it for later. Or, for researchers, it’s perfect for keeping track of those “finds”!

Sounds good so far, right?! Well for FREE, it is good! But for $5/month you can also sync any type of FILE, not just photos, pdfs, and text with the free account. Wow! You could even skip Dropbox if you upgrade!

Evernote is a great way to keep your thoughts in sync: a notepad in the clouds…

[Note: originally published on HMAUS.org]

More on the Palm Pre: why it might just be able to take on iPhone

From a Newsweek article about Palm and their new Pre smartphone, comes some interesting comparisons to iPhone’s underlying operating system (OS X):

If this is true, it means that the Pre could allow apps like website pingers to continually check the status of your site and notify you when it is down, even while you are working on other applications, like posting blog articles.

Related article:  Can Pre save Palm?

iPhone/iPod Touch Platform: Apps a’plenty

I recently purchased an iPod Touch and have REALLY been enjoying it. Besides the beauty of the form factor — fits in your hand so well and lets you control it with simple finger movements on its touch screen — is the application platform. Visiting iTunes App Store, you can see the huge variety of what’s currently available. And this is all still new for developers.

Last Tuesday, HMAUS (Hawaii Mac Users), held a presentation with Rich Warren on the iPhone platform. Besides picking up some great tips on cool apps and why the SDK is worth signing up for, Rich demonstrated the Japanese keyboard entry with word/character suggestions. Very cool! For example, just typing (in Romaji) “iyu” came up with “一週間”. For me, that’s really handy. (Of course, there is the problem of learning to type on a “virtual” keyboard where there are no buttons, but the auto-suggest does help, in any language.)

One of the beauty points about the iPod Touch is that it has all the features (except the camera! 😦 ) of the iPhone without the phone part — and therefore, no worries about having to sign up for an expensive monthly contract with a company that doesn’t always have it’s customers’ best interests in mind. In other words, you can get the same “coolness” of the iPhone (using wifi) but using your existing phone and plan.

Even if you don’t buy one, at least visit an Apple store to see for yourself how they feel to operate.