Archive for the 'iPhone' Category

Review: BodyGuardz iPhone protector

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

When I bought my iPhone last year I also bought a simple pouch-type leather case to go with it. I’m generally careful with gadgets so I didn’t bother with any sort of screen protector – after all, the screen is made of tough glass, right? I never put my iPhone in my pocket with keys or anything like that.

So I was somewhat bemused last month to discover an ugly scratch on the screen:

[click image to enlarge]

Luckily the scratch is only on the edge of the screen, and it’s not that big, but it’s pretty deep and noticeable (especially in sunlight) and just impinges on the first few pixels on the left side of the display.

I knew that the iPhone hadn’t had any rough treatment, or been dropped. It’s still a mystery to this day. I can only think that a grain of sand or something got stuck between the screen and the pouch case. Whatever – if you think the iPhone’s screen is unscratchable let this be a warning! It isn’t – it can get scratched easily, even if you look after your phone.

The scratch prompted me to look into those plastic film screen protectors that stick onto the phone. My hopes were:

  1. The protector might somehow disguise/cover up the existing scratch. (I read this on a forum somewhere.)
  2. It would prevent the screen getting scratched any further.

After reading various reviews, the two front runners seem to be the ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD and the BodyGuardz.

I went with the BodyGuardz on the basis that it seems to get slightly better ratings (many say the overall finish is smoother) and because you get two sets of protectors in the pack, in case you mess up. You also get an instruction card with minuscule writing (you’ll need a good pair of eyes or a magnifying glass), a bottle of solution (basically water and baby shampoo) and a squeegee:

[click image to enlarge] (more…)

Free iPhone ebook readers head-to-head

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

With its crystal-clear screen and touch-screen interface, the iPhone (and iPod touch) can serve as a very capable ebook reader. In fact some say it’s currently the most popular ebook reader device out there.

This post compares 4 free iPhone ebook readers: Stanza, eReader, dBelement Reader, and Clickwheel Comic Reader.


Stanza ebook reader: online catalogLexcycle’s Stanza lets you read DRM-free ebooks and other documents in a variety of formats, including eReader, Open eBook, Kindle, PalmDoc, HTML, PDF, and plain text. You can also purchase commercial ebooks from the Fictionwise book store right from within the app. In addition, Stanza provides access to a wide variety of paid and free ebook archives, such as Feedbooks, SmashWords, Project Gutenberg and various newspaper and magazine feeds.

You can also use the Stanza desktop app to convert various ebook formats so they work on the iPhone app. The app allows you to share opened ebooks with the iPhone via wi-fi, which means you can load any existing ebooks you own onto the iPhone.

Reading ebooks with Stanza is a pleasure. The text looks crisp and is easy on the eye (even after reading 115 chapters of Moby Dick!). You get a lot of control over text appearance, including text and background colours, font size, text alignment, line spacing and margin width. You can also choose from over 20 font faces. (more…)

The best iPhone apps: 15 ways to find them

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Let’s face it: the App Store isn’t the easiest way to find the best iPhone or iPod touch apps.

Sure, it’s great to have all the apps in one place, but the App Store is a pain to navigate, and you can’t sort apps by rating, making it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Since the App Store now contains over 15,000 apps this can be a bit of a problem.

Fortunately, there are some great sites out there that make finding the best iPhone apps that much easier. Here’s my top 15:

1. Macworld’s iPhone app reviews

There’s a great list of over 250 (at the time of writing) app reviews at the Macworld site. Each app is given a thorough review (with user comments), and the list is sorted by rating. (The Sort by Date option is useful for finding new apps.)

2. App Shopper

This handy site lets you find apps in all sorts of ways. You can look at just paid or just free apps; find recently-updated apps; look at just new apps; and browse different categories. You can also browse the current top 100 free and paid apps.

A really nice feature of App Shopper is that it shows you the pricing history of each app (iPhone apps tend to go up and down in price a lot), so you can see if you’re getting a bargain.

3. Touch Arcade

This blog features tons of iPhone and iPod touch game reviews, often including a handy YouTube video with each review that shows off the gameplay. A great way to get a feel of a game before you download or buy it. Also has news of upcoming games and a busy forum.

4. iusethis iphone apps

The iPhone section of, a site that ranks apps by the number of registered members using them. As they put it, this is “a much more democratic way to rate apps” than the usual five-star ratings system. Interesting idea, and a great way to find and compare popular apps.

5. AppVee

If you prefer your app reviews served to you in video format then this is the site for you. Each app is accompanied by a video review and walkthrough of the app’s main features. This is a great way to get a quick overview of an app. If you’re really keen you can even download the AppVee app to your iPhone, letting you browse, search, and watch the video reviews right from your phone. (more…)

15 secret iPhone tips and tricks

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Happy New Year! 😀

I’ve been using my iPhone 3G for a few months now. Along the way I’ve discovered a few “less-than-obvious” tricks and shortcuts that save me a fair bit of time, and I thought I’d share them. While most of these are in the iPhone User Guide if you dig around, I’d say they’re useful enough to deserve a mention in their own right.

(By the way, most of these tips also work on the iPod touch.)

1. Quickly get to the first Home screen

Say, like me, you’ve gone a bit wild on the App Store and currently have a large number of apps installed. I have 101 apps, which means 7 Home screens to flick through. Your most important apps are on the first screen, right? Say you’re currently on screen 7, and want to get to the first screen. Simply click the Home button to jump there. Nice!

2. Flip between pages by tapping

Many iPhone apps feature a paging system with dots at the bottom of the screen, such as:

  • The Home screen
  • Safari
  • Weather

You probably know that you can flip between pages in these apps by swiping left or right across the screen. As an alternative, you can also tap the areas either side of the row of dots at the bottom of the screen:

(I find that, with a bit of practice, tapping is slightly quicker than swiping, but your mileage may vary.) (more…)

Pastebud: Copy and paste comes to the iPhone (sort of)

Friday, December 19th, 2008

A major complaint from many iPhone users (myself included) is the lack of text selection and cut/copy/paste between apps. It still strikes me as amazing that Apple left these pretty fundamental features out of an otherwise advanced phone. What’s more, Apple has thwarted pretty much any attempt by third parties to add copy and paste functionality between apps.

Pastebud is a clever new Web application that attempts to address this issue. Rather than being an iPhone app as such, it gives you limited “copy and paste” functionality on your iPhone by sending the text to copy to the Pastebud web server, at which point you can paste it back into an app on your iPhone.


Installing Pastebud is straightforward, but you need to do it from the Mac or PC that syncs with your iPhone and you have to use Safari or IE7.

The process involves dragging a COPY bookmarklet and a PASTE bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar, and adding your unique Pastebud email address to your address book. Then you sync the iPhone to add the bookmarklets to the Mobile Safari bookmarks bar, and the Pastebud contact with your iPhone contacts.

Copying from a web page

To copy stuff from a web page, you tap the Bookmark icon at the bottom of the screen:

… then tap the COPY bookmarklet in the Bookmarks Bar folder:

This takes you to a page on Pastebud’s site that includes all the text from the web page. Tap the start of the text you want to copy, drag until the text is highlighted, and tap the Copy button top-right to store it in your Pastebud clipboard: (more…)

iPhone 2.2 hands-on: A worthy update?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The latest revision of the iPhone software – version 2.2 – hit the streets a couple of days ago. But does it hit the spot?

Well, yes and no. Street View is certainly fun:

…and walking/transit directions could be useful if you live in a city (I don’t). Other Maps enhancements aren’t revolutionary, but they’re useful nonetheless. After you drop a pin, tapping the pin reveals the address at that point:

You can also email a URL of a location by tapping the Share Location button on the location’s Info screen. (more…)

Ocarina: Turn your iPhone into a “real” instrument

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I’ve been playing with Smule’s Ocarina iPhone app for a couple of days, and it’s quite fun. It emulates a real ocarina, an ancient wind instrument with four or more holes for controlling pitch. Instead of holes, you touch four circles on the iPhone’s screen in various combinations, and you blow into the iPhone’s mic to play notes. You can also tilt the phone while playing to add vibrato.

It’s supposed to be easy to learn, though I found it quite tricky to start with (then again I’m rubbish with real wind instruments). After a couple of hours, though, I could play a few scales and Amazing Grace, which was immensely satisfying! There’s a “how to play” section within the app, and a video tutorial online, which helps.

I’ve heard a few concerns about the fact that you have to blow into the iPhone’s mic to play the Ocarina – apparently blowing into a mic might damage it. Not sure if there’s any truth behind this theory – after all, the iPhone’s mic is presumably designed to handle the odd bit of spittle! We’ll see I guess.

Share the love

In keeping with Smule’s other apps, such as Sonic Lighter, you can also view a globe of other Ocarina players around the world, and hear what they’re playing. (It’s not clear whether you’re hearing them in “real time” – I suspect not.) You can also send some “love” to the player if you like their tune by clicking the little heart icon. However I couldn’t find any way to view a list of the most “loved” tunes.

And in conclusion…

Definitely a fun app, but will it end up being used seriously as a real instrument? Time will tell. Meanwhile you can get it on the App Store for a special introductory price of $0.99.

Things: Elegant task management on the Mac and iPhone

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Before I get into reviewing this app (or rather, apps), a bit of background is in order. I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, which I have been using on and off over the years with my trusty combo of my iMac with iCal, a Palm Tungsten T2, and Missing Sync to glue everything together. It’s worked well enough, though I find it can get a bit overwhelming once you start having lots of actions and projects.

We don’t need no stinkin’ To Dos

Being a bit of an Apple convert, I’ve obviously been interested in this thing called an iPhone for a while. If you’re a keen follower of this blog, you’ll remember that I was put off buying an iPhone by its inexplicable lack of a To Do list system, which makes it kind of tricky to replace my Palm with an iPhone. (Mind you, it’s hardly the only feature missing from the iPhone.)

So before rushing out to buy an iPhone that would have less functionality than my 4-year-old Palm (ha ha), I started researching third-party To Do apps for the iPhone to see if I could close the gap that way. That’s when I came across Things. Not only is it a To Do app, but it even follows the GTD methodology of projects, contexts, Someday/Maybe actions and areas of focus. What’s more, it’s available for both the Mac and the iPhone, and the two apps sync together over wi-fi.

In fact, the whole setup sounded so impressive that Things ended up being the catalyst that led to me finally buying an iPhone. So was it worth it? (more…)

Is Apple dropping the ball on iPhone features?

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I do really like my shiny new iPhone – it’s a thing of beauty, both hardware- and software-wise – but waiting for new features from Apple can be a frustrating experience.

The newest iPhone firmware, version 2.2, looks set to hit an iPhone near you soon. Its main new feature appears to be Google Street View incorporated into the Maps application. Now, Street View is pretty cool (and getting cooler all the time), and the transit directions do look genuinely useful (if you live in a city). But I do wonder what goes on inside Apple execs’ heads sometimes. How is Street View a more important feature than:

  • Text selection
  • Cut/copy/paste
  • Flash
  • To Do lists
  • Syncable notes
  • MMS


At least the update features a revamped Mobile Safari, which hopefully fixes the crashing bugs that plague the current version (I’ve had my iPhone for just over a week, and I swear Safari has quit on me at least 20 times). However I’ve started to get really quite frustrated with no text selection and no clipboard. It makes things like deleting large amounts of text very hard work, and sending multiple links or photos in an email message is next to impossible.

I’m not a big fan of Flash-based websites, but I have come across at least two sites in the last week that I simply can’t view on my iPhone due to no Flash support.

I’ve managed to solve the To Do list problem myself with the excellent Things; however it seems bizarre that Apple doesn’t include To Dos in the iPhone when they’ve even shoehorned them into things like Leopard’s Mail. And what’s the point of a built-in Notes app if it can’t sync its notes with the Mac? Unbelievable.

Oh well – roll on version 2.3…

iPhone: It’s the little things that make it great

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

So I finally caved in and bought an iPhone 3G the other day (I’m not exactly an early adopter you know). I have to say, it’s more impressive than I expected. A lot of what makes it so good is the attention to detail that’s gone into the design of the hardware, software and user interface. Here are some first impressions of its loveliness:

Proximity sensor

When you hold the phone to your ear while on a call, the phone temporarily shuts off the screen (saving power) and locks it (so you can’t accidentally “tap” on the screen).


I wasn’t convinced by the on-screen keyboard at first. But actually it’s possible to type quickly and accurately on it thanks to the predictive word input. You just have to trust it and let it do its thing! A nice touch: you can double-tap the spacebar to quickly add a full-stop (period for my American readers) followed by a space.

Conveniently, the keyboard layout changes depending on exactly what you’re doing. When entering a URL, you get extra “.”, “/”, and “.com” buttons instead of the redundant spacebar; for email address fields, you get “@” and “.” buttons, and so on. This really exploits the idea of a soft keyboard to its fullest.