Archive for October, 2010

netTALK Brings Free Calls to iPhone and iPad

Friday, October 29th, 2010

netTalk, a VoIP service provider, has released an app offering free calls to the U.S. and Canada on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. netTALK is known for its DUO product, a device that transforms your broadband internet connection into a phone line allowing you to use a traditional phone connected to your router or to your computer via USB to make phone calls, which was released earlier this year. The free netTALK app hit the App Store this week and works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch running iOS 3.1 or higher.

The app’s full feature list is as follows:

  • Free calling to the US and Canada
  • Connectivity through WIFI/3G/Edge
  • Record conversations
  • Import your contacts from your phone
  • Receive customized support through 611
  • Dial 2663 for FREE conference calling bridge
  • Free 411 Directory Assistance
  • Integrated contacts from the phone
  • Favorite Contacts

netTALK promises that low-cost international calling is coming soon. Users of the company’s DUO product will also be able to link their DUO phone number to the app in order to receive calls through it.

Using the app requires you to sign up for a free netTALK account – you’re directed to Safari to create it and you’ll receive an email with a verification link to activate your account. Once this is done, you can make free calls at will through the app. In-call options include speakerphone and mute as well as a call recording option. Recorded calls can be accessed within the app via the call history list in the Recents tab.

We tested netTALK briefly on our iPhone 4 and iPad on both Wi-Fi and 3G networks and the app works generally as expected though call quality wasn’t perfect. Note that calls made using the netTALK app will show up as “unknown” or an unidentifiable number through Caller ID on the receiving end.

We love seeing free services like this come to the App Store. Tango wowed us with its free video calling and CallCoin disappointed us with its shady surveys to earn credits to make “free” calls. So far, netTALK appears to be a very viable option for those who want to make free outgoing calls from an iOS device with no strings attached.

[applink url=””]

Newsweek Offers Digital Subscriptions for iPad

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Newsweek, the weekly news magazine based in New York City, has released an update to its iPad app offering digital subscription options. The Newsweek Magazine iPad app first debuted in the App Store in June, offering digital issues as in-app purchases at prices lower than the printed versions off the bat. This is the first major news magazine to offer in-app subscription options for digital versions.

Individual issues are still available for purchase in the app for $2.99 apiece. Two subscription options are available – a 3-month subscription priced at $9.99 and a 24-week subscription priced at $14.99. Comparatively, a 6-month subscription to the print version of Newsweek costs $24.99.

In August, People Magazine began offering free access to the digital version of its magazine to subscribers of the print version though it’s not possible to purchase a digital-only subscription within the app. Others, like Wired and Time Magazine, still only offer issues as individual in-app purchases at prices comparable to their printed counterparts within their respective apps.

[applink url=””]

Review: Beep Me – A Streamlined Reminder App

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Since iOS 4 made local notifications – the ability of an app to provide you with a push notification without needing an internet connection– possible, developers have been taking advantage of this feature left and right. One area where local notifications come in handy in particular are reminder or to do apps. We use the iPhone’s original Calendar app religiously but find that we often have small tasks that don’t really merit a full-fledged calendar entry but we still need some way to keep track of them. Reminders to take out the trash or put a Netflix DVD in the mailbox come to mind, and we’d rather not have these kinds of items clutter up our calendar. To meet this need, we tried Yaniv Kalsky’s Beep Me app.

Beep Me is very straightforward to use. You enter the text of the reminder or task in a field that looks like a yellow sticky note and then choose when the alert should sound by specifying a date and time or how many days, hours, and minutes should elapse until the alert. When an alert sounds, you are presented with a push notification dialogue and the option to acknowledge the alert or snooze it.

Setting a specific time and date (left) or defining a countdown period (right)

In the app’s settings, you can set the alert sound, the alert rescheduling interval (snooze time), the wallpaper used within the app, and the app’s badge behavior to show the number of future beeps or missed beeps. A few different alert sounds are also available though you cannot access any custom ringtones or other system sounds here.

Beep Me’s settings (left) and the alert list view (right)

You can view a list of upcoming alerts or switch to a view of all alerts, past and future, and delete items from this list as well. Tapping on an old beep will open up the new alert dialogue set to the current date and time, allowing you to easily “copy” an old alert and use it again.

In Edit mode in this view, you can choose to add any alert to the Calendar app. This brings up the standard new event dialog you find in the Calendar app where you can customize the entry just as you would with any other Calendar item.

Adding an alert in Beep Me to the Calendar app (left) and an alert notification (right)

Using the app to remind us to do mundane tasks not worthy of a full-fledged calendar entry worked well – we saw and heard the alerts to remind us to take out the trash and complete other tasks. Also, we found it quick and easy to set up alerts as needed throughout our day since everything is done on a single screen.

What we missed was the ability to repeat alerts on a regular schedule. For example, for whatever reason we often forget to take out the trash every Wednesday evening and the ability to set an alert to go off every week at 6:00 p.m. for this would be great. To accomplish this in Beep Me, we’d need to remember to manually create this alert at some point every week, which is not optimal considering that we tend to forget about the task in question itself.

This missing ability to create a repeating alert brings us to another issue – the fact that the iPhone’s Clock app can essentially serve the same purpose as Beep Me. We can easily set a repeating alarm in the Clock app’s Alarm section and get a visual and audible alert at the scheduled time plus the option to snooze the alarm. Using the Clock app in this way takes a little more time since it requires going back and forth between a few screens to set the repeat schedule, choose a specific sound, and enter the text to define the alarm, but it’s still very feasible, particularly when Beep Me will set you back $2 and the Clock app is included for free on an iPhone.

Overall, we like Beep Me but without repeating alerts, we wouldn’t recommend you buy it if you need regularly recurring alerts since the iPhone’s own Clock app can offer this for free. However, if you just need reminders here and there throughout your day, Beep Me offers a very quick and easy way to create them along with visual and audible notifications to get your attention. Despite the perpetual presence of the Clock app with its competent Alarm functionality on our iPhones, we did find ourselves going to use Beep Me regularly. It is a well-designed and useful app and if it gets repeating alert capability, it will definitely be a keeper.

[applink url=””]

Amazon Releases ‘Windowshop’ for iPad

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Though the Amazon Mobile universal app is still alive and kicking in the App Store, the online retailing giant has released a new app specifically for the iPad dubbed Windowshop. Windowshop was written from the ground up specifically for the iPad and features a more fluid interface than Amazon Mobile on the iPad. The free app debuted in the App Store yesterday and has already earned an average rating of 4 stars.

Amazon’s press release announcing the new app includes a quote by the company’s founder lauding it:

“Amazon Windowshop is a top-to-bottom rewrite of – designed and built without compromise just for iPad,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of “Try it. I think you’ll find it’s an amazing new way to shop Amazon’s millions of items. Same selection, same low prices, same fast delivery, same benefits of your Amazon Prime membership – just a completely new, fluid interface designed specifically for lean-back, touch screen tablets.”

Compared to the Amazon Mobile app, Windowshop features an image-focused grid interface, allowing users to flick left, right, and up and down to browse products and select departments using column headings. Standard features including Wish Lists, one-click buying, the ability to listen to previews of available digital music, and more are available. Unfortunately, Kindle ebooks cannot be purchased within the app – users are directed to open Safari to complete these digital purchases.

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‘iDOS’ DOS Emulator Debuts for iPad and iPhone

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

iDOS, a universal app developed by Fast Intelligence, debuted in the App Store early this morning. iDOS is a DOS emulator that will run DOS and Windows applications on the iPad or iPhone. Our sister site TouchArcade points out the incredible potential of this app with confirmation of the Windows 3.0 operating system running on an iPad in iDOS. TouchArcade forum members have also successfully installed run games like SpellCasting 101 and Knights of Legend and others using iDOS. The app comes with Ms. Pac-Man and digdug installed so you can get your old-school gaming on right away.

Image courtesy of

The app’s full feature list is as follows:

  • PC compatible soft keyboard
  • Mouse support
  • Screen mode: Portrait/Landscape/Fullscreen
  • You can force 4:3 screen aspect ratio
  • Customizable floating keypad for iPhone, and iPad fullscreen mode.

It’s likely Apple did not anticipate what can actually be accomplished with this app so it might not stay in the App Store long and you may want to run–not walk–to iTunes on your computer or the App Store on your iPhone or iPad to purchase it now.

UPDATE: It appears that iDOS has been removed from the App Store and is no longer available for purchase.

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Apple Store App Gets Location Awareness Features and More to Augment Shopping Experience

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Apple updated its Apple Store app early this morning adding a host of features using the iPhone’s GPS capabilities to streamline Genius Bar and personal shopping appointments and improve the overall shopping experience. The free Apple Store app first debuted in the App Store in June and this is the first significant update the app has seen.

The full list of new features is as follows:

  • Add engraving and gift wrapping to select purchases from the Apple Online Store
  • Reserve products for pickup at an Apple Retail Store
  • Check in for Apple Retail Store appointments and call up quick help within stores (iOS 4 required)
  • Add Apple Retail Store appointments directly to iCal
  • View your upcoming Apple Retail Store activity on a map
  • Ability to recognize you when you arrive to an Apple Retail Store and offer you a personalized set of services (iOS 4 required)

Those waiting for a white iPhone 4 may be excited to see that it appears as if the heretofore elusive version of the device can be reserved for pick-up in an Apple Store soon – the white version is listed when reserving an iPhone 4 for in-store pick-up in the app. However, Apple has not confirmed anything about the white iPhone 4’s availability recently since its last statement in July when the company indicated it would not be available until “later this year.” Though since a little over two months remain in this year, the company may simply be preparing for its release within the timeframe committed in July.

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PBS for iPad Debuts, Coming Soon to iPhone

Monday, October 25th, 2010

PBS, the not-for-profit television network, announced the release of its iPad app today and the upcoming release of an iPhone/iPod touch app in early November. The PBS app offers access to full episodes of a number of the network’s national programs as well as local station information. The release of the free PBS iPad app coincides with a major revamp of the PBS website that now includes improved online access to the network’s programs at the national and local levels.

PBS described in a press release what can be accessed through its new iPad app:

PBS for iPad is designed for viewing full episodes from national programs, including FRONTLINE, NATURE, NOVA, MASTERPIECE, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, PBS NEWSHOUR, NEED TO KNOW, SECRETS OF THE DEAD, HISTORY DETECTIVES, and AUSTIN CITY LIMITS. The app also features web-original productions such as “Secret Life of Scientists” from NOVA scienceNOW and “FutureStates” from INDEPENDENT LENS.

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VLC Media Player Gets iPhone Compatibility

Monday, October 25th, 2010

VLC Media Player, which first arrived for the iPad only in the App Store just last month, has been updated to universal format adding iPhone compatibility. Version 1.1.0 hit the App Store this morning with a few other new features in tow as well:

  • Runs on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and the recent iPod touches
  • You can now delete files from the application, without having to go through iTunes
  • Many more extensions are being recognized.
  • Much faster decoding thanks to assembly optimizations

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.

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‘Angry Birds Halloween’ for iPad and iPhone Released

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Rovio, the developers of the wildly popular Angry Birds, has released special Halloween versions of the game for the iPhone and iPad. The apps debuted in the App Store last night and feature spooky music, Halloween-themed scenes, and pumpkins as targets in addition to the usual chortling green pigs.

This special Halloween edition offers 45 levels and is exclusive to iOS, so Nokia, Pre, and Android device owners are out of luck on this one. Rovio has posted a short video to demo the Halloween edition:

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Apple Announces iLife ’11 and New MacBook Air, Previews Mac OS X Lion

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There were a plethora of announcements at Apple’s Back to the Mac media event today, including the introduction of new MacBook Air models, a new version of Apple’s iLife software suite, FaceTime for the Mac and previews of new features coming in the next version of Mac OS X, dubbed Lion.

iLife ’11, which is available starting today, was up first on the agenda, featuring major updates in iPhoto ’11, iMovie ’11 and GarageBand ’11. iPhoto ’11 gets new full screen modes and Facebook integration to post photos along with better in-application photo emailing features and new slideshow effects. iMovie ’11 has new audio editing features plus new themes and movie trailer templates. iMovie ’11 also gets face detection capabilities in its new People Finder feature. GarageBand ’11 gets new Groove Matching and Flex Time tools to help edit songs as well as additional guitar and piano lessons.

The next version of Mac OS X highlighted some exciting new features, all inspired by iOS. First, a Mac App Store is coming and it will operate much like the App Store on the iPad with app descriptions, user ratings, and one-click downloads. Dowloaded apps will be managed on the Mac through the new LaunchPad where apps can be viewed and organized into folders as they can be on iOS devices. The Mac App Store will be available in 90 days and developers can start submitting apps for inclusion in the new store in November. Apple plans to release Mac OS X Lion in the summer of 2011.

FaceTime, a new video calling feature that debuted with the iPhone 4, is coming to the Mac and a beta version of the software is available today. The new Mac FaceTime application enables video calling between Mac users and other FaceTime-capable devices including the iPhone 4 and 4th-generation iPod touch. The beta application, which requires Mac OS X version 10.6.4 or later, can be downloaded from Apple’s site here.

Two new MacBook Air models were the “one more thing” announcement at the close of the event. Steve Jobs introduced the 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch ultra-thin portable computers, starting at an aggressive price point of $999. Both models feature only flash storage from 64 GB up to 256 GB instead of traditional hard drives and have Core 2 Duo processors, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics, glass trackpads, unibody construction, and stereo speakers. Both models are available starting today.

Additional coverage of today’s announcements and discussions are available over at

As we expected, there were no announcements made today about the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or App Store though we have the release of iOS 4.2 to look forward to in November. Also, Apple usually holds an event in early January each year and we expect to hear some iOS-related news in just a few months.