Archive for September, 2010

Apple Releases iWork App Updates Adding iDisk Integration, More

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Apple has just released updates to its Pages, Keynote, and Numbers iPad apps that add integration with its own MobileMe iDisk cloud storage as well as other cloud storage using the WebDAV protocol. Each app can now copy files from and save files to a users iDisk. Additionally, each app has received a number of feature enhancements and bug fixes. This suite of productivity apps was announced at the same time as the iPad in January and became available in the App Store right as the iPad was released in the U.S. The apps got their last major update in May.

Pages, which has an overall average rating of 4 stars, can now show word counts, open .txt files attached to emails, plus a host of other improvements:

  • Copy documents between Pages and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
  • Option to display the word count for your document.
  • Support for opening .txt files from Mail.
  • Ability to group and ungroup objects.
  • Import and export existing footnotes, endnotes, sections and tables of contents.
  • Import and export Pages ’09 tables with image background fills in cells.
  • Improved export of tables with customized borders.
  • Improved font matching when importing a Pages or Microsoft Word document.
  • Improved creation and editing of hyperlinks.
  • Improved text options for tables including font, size and color settings for individual cells.
  • Improved usability and reliability when sharing documents via public beta.
  • Improved reliability when importing documents with large images.
  • Improved reliability when importing and exporting documents with overlapping objects.
  • Improved handling of fonts when exporting documents to Microsoft Word.
  • Improved reliability and performance when importing Microsoft Word documents.

Numbers most notably now has the ability to export files in Microsoft Excel format, along with many other enhancements:

  • Export spreadsheets to Microsoft Excel (.XLS) format.
  • Copy spreadsheets between Numbers and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
  • Ability to group and ungroup objects.
  • Open CSV files from Mail and other apps.
  • Import and export Numbers ’09 tables with image background fills in cells.
  • Improved export of tables with customized borders.
  • Improved font matching when importing Numbers ’09 or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
  • Improved creation and editing of hyperlinks in text boxes.
  • Improved text options for tables including font, size and color settings for individual cells.
  • Improved usability and reliability when sharing spreadsheets with public beta.
  • Improved reliability when importing spreadsheets with large images.
  • Improved reliability when importing and exporting spreadsheets with overlapping objects.
  • Improved reliability and performance when importing Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Like Numbers, Keynote can now export files in the format of its Microsoft counterpart, PowerPoint, plus a lot more:

  • Export presentations to Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT) format.
  • Copy presentations between Keynote and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
  • Support for audio in builds when importing Keynote ’09 presentations.
  • Ability to group and ungroup objects.
  • Add animated builds to grouped objects.
  • Lens Flare, Spin and Wipe build animations.
  • Revolving Door, Swoosh and Wipe slide transition animations.
  • Improved slide size conversion when importing Keynote ’09 presentations.
  • Import and export Keynote ’09 tables with image background fills in cells.
  • Improved export of tables with customized borders.
  • Improved font matching when importing Keynote ’09 or Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.
  • Improved creation and editing of web hyperlinks.
  • Improved text options for tables including font, size and color settings for individual cells.
  • Improved usability and reliability when sharing presentations with public beta.
  • Improved reliability when importing presentations with large images.
  • Improved reliability when importing and exporting presentations with overlapping objects.
  • Improved reliability and performance when importing Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

We’ve been waiting for some way for these apps to work directly with Apple’s own MobileMe service and it’s nice to see that this has finally arrived. However, the level of integration isn’t as complete as we’d like since you can’t edit files stored on an iDisk – you must literally import files to the iPad within one of the iWork apps and then copy the edited file back to your iDisk after you’re done, so you can easily end up with two versions of a file on your iDisk.

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FileMaker Go Apps Get Photo, PDF Capabilities and More

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

FileMaker, Apple’s subsidiary that creates relational database software, has released updates to its FileMaker Go apps for the iPhone and iPad adding the ability to add photos to databases and convert records to PDF files, as well as other changes. The FileMaker Go apps were recently released in July and have received positive feedback overall from users to date with an average rating of 4 stars for the iPad version and 4.5 stars for the iPhone version.

The list of changes in this update for each app is identical:

  • Add photos to the database and email them as an attachment
  • Convert records to PDF and email file from the database
  • Save a copy of a database and email it as an attachment
  • Import records from FileMaker Pro databases to FileMaker Go via scripts
  • Be able to require users to re-log onto FileMaker Go after iPad/iPhone hibernates
  • Solves compatibility issues running on iPad/iPhone

Note that these apps are intended purely as mobile companions to the desktop FileMaker desktop products. FileMaker Pro desktop products for Mac or Windows start at $299 and FileMaker Server products start at $999.

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Comparison Review: GV Connect and GV Mobile +

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Native Google Voice apps are back in the App Store! Shortly after Apple’s release of its Review Guidelines earlier this month, Sean Kovacs, the developer of one of the first native Google Voice apps, stated that he was planning to re-submit his app to Apple. Kovacs’s GV Mobile had been in the App Store previously in early 2009 but was removed that summer since it was deemed to “duplicate features that come with the iPhone.” An updated version of his app, GV Mobile +, was approved over the weekend, along with another Google Voice app, GV Connect, by Andreas Amann, developer of the Google Voice widget for Mac OS X and other iPhone and Mac applications.

While both apps provide the same general functionality, there are nonetheless some differences between them and we’ve taken a close look at both to help you decide which one to buy.

Note first that you need a Google Voice account first to use either app – accounts are free and can be requested here (Google Voice is currently only available in the U.S. only). If you’re not familiar with Google Voice, Google provides a number of overview videos on a special Features page. In short, Google Voice is a free service that provides users with a phone number, advanced call management features, voicemail transcription, and free text messaging. Contrary to what those unfamiliar with the service might think, it is not a VoIP service.

Set-up and Settings

Both apps require you to first log into your Google Voice account in order to do anything. While this doesn’t matter when it comes to each app’s functionality, GV Mobile + provides a slightly more welcoming introduction when the app is first opened.

The log-in/intro screen in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)

The key to getting Google Voice to work the way you prefer (which phones will ring for incoming calls, choosing how calls are screened, which voicemail greeting is used, etc.) is through the service’s settings, of course. Both apps allow you to select the phones that should ring with incoming calls, enable/disable the Do Not Disturb function, and change the Call Screening and Call Presentation settings.

Settings in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile +(right)

GV Connect goes a bit further here, offering more customization and visibility of the service’s settings, including displaying the current credit balance available for international calls, turning voicemail transcription on and off, enable/disable email notifications for new voicemails, text messages, and missed calls, and more. In this respect, GV Connect has the edge over GV Mobile +.

It is possible to have more than one Google Voice account and GV Mobile + is the only one of the two apps that allows you to log in to more than one account and choose which one to use.

Making calls

Both apps present a virtual dial pad that looks similar to the one in the iPhone’s Phone app. Each app also lets you access numbers already in your iPhone’s Contacts list, though GV Mobile + limits you to the current active Group while GV Connect lets you access all Groups.

An individual contact in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)

When it comes to calling a saved contact, GV Mobile + saves you one step by initiating a call right after you select the number to dial. GV Connect only displays the selected number in the virtual dial pad’s number display and requires you to press Call to initiate it.

The dial pad in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)

Both apps place a call to you first (you can change the number the service calls you at within each app), which you answer using the iPhone’s phone app, and Google Voice handles the connection to the phone number selected. GV Mobile + is the only one of the two to offer an Offline Dialing setting which allows you to place a call if you have no internet connection. UPDATE: Reader John points out in the comments that GV Connect automatically switches to an Offline Dialing mode when no internet connection is available.

Calls made with both apps will show your Google Voice number in the Caller ID information on the receiving end.

Both apps offer a History tab that shows all recent incoming and outgoing calls. While GV Mobile + shows a simple list, GV Connect provides a search bar and sorting to make finding a specific entry a little easier.

The History in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)

Text Messaging

Both apps present a very straightforward interface for text messaging, showing your text message history and conversations in a threaded view as found in the iPhone’s own Messages app. New text messages can be addressed using the Contacts list (GV Mobile + lets you select contacts from all Groups here, unlike the behavior it exhibits when making calls) or manually by entering a number through a virtual dial pad.

A new SMS in GV Connect (right) and GV Mobile + (left)

GV Connect has a slight leg up here for avid texters in that it offers a character count to let you know where you stand in relation to the maximum of 160 characters that can be included in a single text message.

SMS history in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)


Google Voice will automatically transcribe received voicemails into text, and while this is quite handy it’s often fairly inaccurate, sometimes hilariously so. This transcription is done by Google and neither app has anything to do with the actual transcription, though both will display them. GV Connect does so a little more readily, showing the full transcription when you tap on a message, with the audio playback controls at the bottom of the screen. GV Mobile + makes the audio playback of a selected message easiest to get to, and the transcript is shown in whole on a separate screen when you tap on a small “TRANS.” button in the lower right corner.

The voicemail transcription view in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)

Both apps will play audio of recorded voicemails over the earpiece speaker, speakerphone, or wired headsets. Neither app plays audio over a Bluetooth headset.

The main Voicemails tab view in GV Connect (left) and GV Mobile + (right)


Both apps offer a comprehensive native interface for Google Voice on the iPhone though there are a few areas where you may be drawn to one over the other. If you regularly use more than one Google Voice account, GV Mobile + is the only app that will let you do so easily right now. If you absolutely need a character counter for text messaging and want more in-app control over more of Google Voice’s settings, GV Connect is the app you need to get. While it’s a small preference that has no bearing on an app’s functionality, we find GV Mobile +’s icon to be more polished and pleasing to the eye compared to GV Connect’s.

Unfortunately, neither app offers push notifications to let you know immediately when new text messages or voicemail messages have arrived. Sean Kovacs, GV Mobile +’s developer, has indicated in his blog that this is planned for a future update. For us, neither app feels entirely complete without push notifications and this will be a deciding factor. For now, GV Connect’s ability to control more of Google Voice’s settings, history searching and sorting, and text message character count give it more of an edge over GV Mobile + though the we admit that our purely superficial sides really prefer how the GV Mobile + icon looks on our iPhone 4’s home screen.

Both GV Connect and GV Mobile + cost $2.99 in the App Store. After Apple removed GV Mobile from the App Store in the summer of 2009, Kovacs started making his app available to jailbreakers via Cydia and he’s offering these users a chance to avoid paying for the app again by offering it for free on the evening of Saturday, September 25.

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BGStar Blood Glucose Monitoring Accessory and App Coming Soon to iPhone

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

iPhone and iPod touch users with diabetes will soon have an accessory and companion app that will help them monitor blood glucose levels. Sanofi-aventis, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in France, has announced (via Diabetes Mine) its upcoming BGStar glucose monitoring accessory that will plug into the dock connector of an iPhone or iPod touch. The companion iBGStar Diabetes Manager app will offer management of data obtained through the accessory.

The ultra-compact BGStarTM can be plugged into an iPhone® or iPod touch® and displays results on a full-color, touch screen. It can also be used separately for on-the-go testing. The specially-designed and simple iBGStarTM Diabetes Manager App will allow data to be easily managed and communicated to healthcare professionals.

Image courtesy of Diabetes Mine

The company’s product page offers additional information on the plug-in accessory and accompanying app:

  • Samples are analysed using Dynamic Electrochemistry® – an intelligent technology for results you can trust.
  • The iBGStar™ is an innovative blood glucose meter with a compact, stylish body that can be used on its own or connected to an Apple iPhone® or iPod® touch to easily display, manage and communicate your diabetes information.
  • You will be prompted to automatically download the iBGStar™ Diabetes Manager App (available soon on the App Store℠) the first time the iBGStar™ is connected to your iPhone.
  • Your iBGStar™ will automatically sync data each time it is connected to an iPhone® or iPod touch® and the iBGStar™ Diabetes Manager App is launched.
  • The iBGStar™ Diabetes Manager App (available soon on the App Store℠) helps you keep track of blood glucose, carbs intake and insulin dose, with even more to come to manage your diabetes in ‘real time’ and on the go.

The BGStar accessory and iBGStar app will be available in early 2011. Pricing has not yet been announced though the BGStar module is expected to cost around $80, according to Diabetes Mine.

There are currently a number of apps available for diabetics to help track and monitor blood glucose levels, though none offer an iPhone-specific accessory for direct blood glucose level measurement. A few of the most highly-rated of these apps are as follows:

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VLC Media Player for iPad Now Available

Monday, September 20th, 2010

As expected based on reports earlier this month, VLC Media Player for the iPad has hit the App Store. Developer Applidium created the app with the support of VideoLan, the non-profit organization that creates free and open source media software. The VLC media player software plays most video formats and media codecs and is available for free for multiple platforms, and the source code is also freely available on the organization’s site.

Video files must be loaded onto the iPad using the File Sharing feature in iTunes. According to the app’s description, it can play nearly any video codec:

VLC has all codecs built-in. It comes with support for nearly all codec there is. And what is more it can even play back the file or media if it is damaged! Missing or broken pieces are no stop to VLC, it plays all the video and audio information that’s still intact.

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Fring to Bring ‘fringOut’ Low-Cost International Calls to iPhone

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Fring, a free communications service available for a number of different mobile platforms that most recently brought 2-way video calling to the iPhone 4, announced that low-cost international calling starting at just $.01 per minute will be coming to the iPhone. Over the weekend, the company announced that fringOut is now available for Nokia phones and is “soon to be launched” for the iPhone and Android devices.

Comprehensive fringOut calling rates can be found on fring’s site here. If the release of fringOut for Nokia S60 devices is any indication, the fring app for iPhone will get an update with the new feature and users will be able to buy credit within the app to make fringOut calls.

We’ll keep an eye out for the release of fringOut and let you know when it becomes available for the iPhone. For AT&T customers in the U.S. fringOut will likely be a compelling alternative given AT&T’s international calling rates that start around $.15 per minute (mobile to mobile) for most European countries and go up to more than $4.00 per minute for other countries under the company’s  WorldConnect add-on plan that costs $3.99 per month.

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Napster Debuts in App Store

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Napster, the paid music service now owned by Best Buy that started out as a free peer-to-peer file sharing service in the late ’90s, now has its own iPhone app. Napster debuted in the App Store late last night and offers access to over 10 million songs for a monthly fee of $10.

The app also offers good flexibility for offline listening plus several other features:

  • Save songs, albums, and playlists to play even when you’re offline
  • Kick back with playlists, recommendations, and Billboard® charts dating back to 1955
  • Create your own playlists for a customized listening experience
  • Save your last 100 songs played so you can easily replay favorites
  • Automix your favorite song to create an instant playlist blending similar artists

New customers can try the service out for free for seven days and get a 20% discount off of the annual subscription plan. Unfortunately, users must select a paid service plan and enter credit card information to even start the 7-day free trial.

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EA Mobile’s Tetris for iPad and iPhone Now on Sale

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Though Tetris has been around for more than two decades (and we’ve been playing it for a larger portion of that time than we’d like to admit), it’s still a game that entertains us regularly in those periods of downtime as we go about our day. EA Mobile’s official Tetris apps for the iPhone and iPad contain all the requisite eye candy and play modes to keep it fresh despite the game’s age and we wanted to flag a substantial price drop for these apps that will last through this weekend only.

The iPad version of Tetris has gone from $7.99 to $2.99 and the iPhone version is down from $2.99 to $.99. These are the lowest prices ever for both of these apps to date. If one or both of these apps have been on your Wish List, now would be a good time to make your move.

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ABC Releases My Generation App with Audio Sync Feature

Friday, September 17th, 2010

ABC released My Generation yesterday, an iPad-specific app that offers live interaction during the broadcast of the My Generation TV show. ABC already offers two other popular iPad apps – ABC Player, which offers streaming of a number of the American network’s top shows, and ABC News for iPad.

The My Generation app is unique in that it “listens” to the audio of the My Generation show playing on your TV and synchronizes with it after a short wait. The app will then display show interactive content in sync with what’s happening on the show.

The app’s sync technology connects your iPad to your TV allowing you to participate in real time with the show. Take polls and quizzes, get behind the scenes info. All in real time. No additional equipment required. Turn on your TV, tune in to ABC’s My Generation, launch the app and hit the sync button to get started. You can use the ABC’s My Generation sync app while watching recorded episodes of My Generation as well.

Like the other iPad apps currently offered by ABC, My Generation is free.

[applink url=”’s-my-generation-sync”]

Facebook for iPad On the Way

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Business Insider reports that Facebook is working on an iPad-specific app for its wildly popular social networking service and that it is set to debut soon. The most recent update to the current Facebook app for the iPhone added Places, the service’s new location “check-in” and sharing feature, arrived last month with no hints about future iPad-specific compatibility given at the time.

Business Insider spoke to Cyril Moutran of Oecoway, the developer of Friendly, a Facebook browser app for the iPad, who revealed Facebook’s plans:

Moutran says he’s been told from people at Facebook that it is building its own iPad app, and it will be coming out soon.

Friendly is one of many iPad-specific Facebook apps by third-party developers that have tried to fill the void left by the social networking giant. Other current apps that offer Facebook access on the iPad include U and Facebook, sobees My Friends, and Sociable, among others. We expect that the official Facebook app for the iPad will be free like the current official iPhone app and it will likely pose some serious competition to these paid unofficial apps.

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