Posts Tagged ‘Universal’

Coverage for iPhone and iPad Shows You LTE Network Maps for US Carriers

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Apple finally jumped on the LTE bandwagon with the iPhone 5 and while US carriers have been frantically upgrading their networks, coverage isn’t even close to complete throughout much of the country. If you’re looking to get a new iPhone but want to know which carrier offers the best coverage for your area, there’s a quicker way to do your research than digging up each carrier’s coverage map: Two Steps Beyond’s Coverage for iPhone and iPad.

We first heard about Coverage in early 2011 when the iPhone 4 hit Verizon and US users could choose from another official carrier for Apple’s smartphone at long last. Since then, the app has seen regular updates to show the most recent network coverage for all official iPhone carriers plus T-Mobile in the US with the most recent update to version 2012.9 arriving this week to include the latest LTE coverage maps.

Using Coverage is dead simple. A map view is front and center and a few on-screen toggles in the top right corner let you select the carriers you’re considering and a few more at the bottom let you choose the network type you’re interested in. You can allow Coverage to locate you via your device’s GPS receiver and easily view the coverage in your immediate area or browse around the map to check out other locations.

Click to enlarge

If you travel often and want to have an idea of the type of coverage you’ll find in various places, Coverage can be indispensable for you. Yes, you could navigate to each carrier’s website and look up their coverage map to find the same information (Coverage gets its maps directly from the carriers themselves) but it’s far more convenient to have them all in one place at your fingertips.

Something to keep in mind is that the quality of network coverage is not something that’s visible in these maps since the carriers don’t provide this information (and Coverage can’t show what the carriers don’t even share) so you may want to do some informal research by polling friends and family to check their experiences. LTE network coverage is pretty good in my area according to the map and I’m seeing some great speeds (50 Mbps down and 28 Mbps up as reported by the free app) on AT&T’s LTE network on my iPhone 5 in the suburbs but I’m sure this will vary in downtown Boston proper where there will be more people to crowd the network.

Coverage is a universal app and it’s a great value at $2.99 to have this information on hand anytime you need it. Note that you’ll need iOS 5 or higher for Coverage and if you already have an iPhone 5, its interface has been optimized to take advantage of its longer screen goodness.

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Dark Sky for iPhone and iPad Gets Push Notifications to Alert You of Impending Rain

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Though our focus is on back-to-school apps this month, I wanted to post a quick bit of news on an app we featured in July, Dark Sky, since it received a couple of key new features this week in an update. Dark Sky, which aims to offer more precise weather predictions for your exact location, can now give push notification alerts to let you know when it’s going to rain 15 minutes in advance and provides a radar view for the entire continental US.

The full list of what’s new in version 2.0.0 is as follows:

  • Push Notifications. We’ll warn you before it rains! (still a bit experimental)
  • National radar view. See all the storms in the country at once (amazing on the iPad)
  • VoiceOver support for improved accessibility
  • Better icon!
  • Added the darksky://your%20location protocol for integration with third-party apps (e.g. Launch Center Pro), and link sharing
  • Touch-and-hold on the map to change your forecast location
  • A whole bucketful of bug fixes and performance improvements
  • Ability to turn off “Clear Skies Are Boring” message
  • Increased app version number by more than 51.5%!

A new toggle in the top right corner is where you can access the push notification settings to choose to turn on alerts, designate “do not disturb” hours so you can avoid interruptions during work or sleeping hours, and select the precipitation notification threshold.

In a blog post about the 2.0.0 update, Dark Sky’s developers describe that the alert feature is really still in beta and they’re asking for feedback if it doesn’t work the way you’d expect. A follow-up post today provides some answers to concerns they’ve heard from users about privacy and battery consumption. They’ve clarified that Dark Sky uses a less power-hungry mode, cell tower triangulation, to determine your location when the app is not active and that no information that can identify you to anyone other than Apple is transmitted with your location information.

The new alert feature was the main item on my wish list for a future update when I first looked at Dark Sky and it’s nice to see it implemented. Dark Sky still won’t replace Fahrenheit as my go-to weather app on my iPhone since it lacks more comprehensive forecast information but it’s getting there.

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Dark Sky Brings Personalized Weather Predictions to iPhone and iPad

Monday, July 30th, 2012

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the weather in the northeastern US after several years living in sunny California, it’s that weather conditions can change on a dime and ruin your plans with little notice, even in the summer. Fortunately, there are creative developers like Jackadam who are willing to help you maximize your time outdoors and avoid surprises from Mother Nature with Dark Sky for the iPhone and iPad.

Dark Sky promises more precise “minute-to-minute” predictions based on your location with a focus on the next hour to give meaningful short-term information to help you plan your outdoor activities. The app evaluates raw weather radar data and reprocesses it to remove the noise and give more accurate weather predictions. You can read more about how Dark Sky’s predicts weather in this blog post written by its developers.

I tested Dark Sky on a day when rain was expected to see how closely it would track the rain heading my way. Here’s the sequence of screen shots as I tracked the arrival of the brief storm.

At first, Dark Sky told me light rain would start in 25 minutes, then it revised prediction just five minutes later to say that is was now sprinkling and that rain would start in earnest in 20 minutes and last for 30 minutes. At that moment, I didn’t see any sprinkles but there were ominous clouds around and it was clear that it was going to rain.

It actually began to rain about 15 minutes later and this is what Dark Sky showed me then:

The rain did indeed continue for about 20 minutes and then stopped. A test on another day when rain was expected yielded a similar experience where Dark Sky predicted incoming weather within a 25-minute window with minor changes as time passed.

Predicting the exact start and stop times of any weather event is impossible to do perfectly but Dark Sky seems to be reasonably good in giving you a heads up about incoming inclement weather. However, it is missing a feature that would be key for me to keep Dark Sky on my iPhone: the ability to get push notifications to notify me of incoming rain.

For example, I like to walk my dog in the evening after work but sometimes other tasks get in the way and I don’t get to this until later than planned. Occasionally, rain cancels the walk entirely when I finally grab his leash and get ready to head out. (Before you suggest it, dragging a 125 lb Great Dane who hates water on a walk through the rain is incredibly difficult and entirely unpleasant for all involved.) If I’d known rain was coming in the next hour or so, chances are that I’d drop what I was doing and take the dog out right away to beat the rain.

Of course, some parameters around these alerts would be useful since I wouldn’t want or need to be notified every time it’s going to rain. A simple switch in the app to turn on a single notification to let me know of any upcoming rain one hour before it hits within the next four hours would be perfect for my use.

Dark Sky was borne out of Kickstarter, reaching its funding level in November 2011 and debuting in the App Store in April. It’s is a universal app for both the iPhone and iPad and costs $3.99. It works only in the US at this time since it uses information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an American federal agency that monitors the oceans and atmosphere. If you’re in the US, it’s worth a buy to keep closer tabs on the weather as the summer vacation season winds down.

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