Apple at it again

From iphoneatlas…..Apple needs to get a grip on itself over things like this, they are dealing with people, acting in good faith, and their livelihoods.

“Riverturn’s VoiceCentral has been available in the App Store for the past four months. The app integrates Google’s GrandCentral and Google Voice with the iPhone.

Until this week, everything was going fine for the developer. He submitted the app and was approved by Apple. He released updates and they were approved by Apple. Then, all of a sudden and without warning, his app was pulled from the store.

What seems to be the most upsetting part of the whole situation is that the developer can’t get any answers from Apple. In a telephone conversation with the Apple representative who was tasked to inform him the app was being removed, the most common answer from Apple seemed to be “I can’t say.”

iPhone Database apps….StoreIt

We go from one extreme to the other with this cheap and cheerful iPhone application. Whereas Bento is all flash and pomp, this one is a bit bare bones in comparsion but strangely provides a much more satisfying user experience…except when it comes to transferring files in…oh dear.

Storeit1 Anyway, on with the review. The developers have more or less just stuck with a stock iPhone interface, nothing wrong with that in fact I like it, so users will feel at home straight away. There are 16 Templates built in and you can save your own customised forms too. Adding a new file on the app is easy, click the plus button and it takes you straight to the page where you can name it and add fields. I found this really intuitive and easy to use within about 20 seconds and it was by far and away the easiest of the three bits of software that I tried. Adding info to your fields was also supremely simple, as you start typing it offers up options of recently added words/names etc. There was no slowdown whatsoever at any time, the app is swift and easy to navigate…(you can tell I'm liking this one) and info is displayed in a clear and logical manner. You have your usual database options as regards sorting and which fields to display first and second plus you can change the "view" by adding your own preferred set up. If you make a mistake in a field title it is easy to change it after the database is set up.

I think there is a sufficient amount of "field" options for most normal user's needs including the ability to add images, checkbox, Notes, numbers but there are not custom fields for things like emails although you can probably just add that as a "text" field entry. I found it easy to add fields and change the field order on an existing database and the whole thing just smacks of a developer who has gone for the simple and easy approach and absolutely nailed it.

When you open an existing file or "category" as the app calls them, the standard iPhone contacts scrolling page appears. There is no alphabetical list on the right hand side though, instead a list of dots. Touching one takes you down the page. It is probably as accurate as having letters though, with my big digits aiming for S will take me to M, and works well.

So, it all looks really rosy but then the problem arrived when I was trying to import data into the app via wifi. I followed the instructions to the letter and tried to upload via their web proxy page, or whatever it is called, but it just did not want to know. I spent nearly a whole evening trying frantically to get it working but it wasn't to be and in the end I had to concede defeat. I tried converting the file on my windows work laptop, using their recommended settings, and then importing via wifi at home on my mac but nope…nothing. I was hoping to get a couple of big database files into StoreIt rather than having to enter them manually but this setback may prove to be a big drawback to me using the app full time, especially when the other two I trialled both managed the import process smoothly. I do however like it best, rather oddly, even though it is the least fully featured of the three. I guess that shows you that specs are not King.

Nonetheless, it is an excellent programme and if you can get the import process working, if you need to, then it is near unbeatable for its simplicity and aforementioned ease of use. I actually prefer it over Bento too. 8 out of 10. Power or eye-candy lovers may need to look elsewhere though.

Fizz Weather updated

I see that good ol' Fizz Weather, the first application I ever bought from the AppStore…sniff sniff…has been updated and now incorporates a 15 day view and new maps, apparantly. I have tried some other weather apps but keep heading back to FizzWeather. They also have a new loading screen which has some nifty animation in it.

It's odd but I have also tried out loads of RSS readers of late but also keep going back to the two that I first bought, Newsstand and ByLine. I wonder if there is some sad and Freudian reason for this trait or perhaps they are genuinely just the best of the bunch?

But what about tying in your Google Calendar to your iPhone…

I found this a few weeks back and set it up myself and it works a treat so thought it might be of use to someone. Sorry, I cannot recall which website I pinched it from so apologies in advance.
Instructions

  1. Visit your Google Calendar account and click on the Calendar Settings arrow under your "My Calendars"
  2. Under the Private Address section, click on the "ICAL" button. This gives you a direct and private URL to your calendar. Copy this address.
  3. Open your iCal application and navigate to Calendar > Subscribe. Then paste your Google Calendar URL in.

On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account > Other > Add CalDAV Account

2. For the CalDAV settings, enter the following information. Note that your username should be the email address you use to access your Google calendar as well as the password.

3. Then tap “Next” and it should verify your information.

4. If you can’t get your account verified, tap “Advanced settings” and make sure that “Use SSL” is On, that the port is 443, and that your Account URL includes the sign “@” in your email address.

That’s it!

Now every time you add an event to your iPhone calendar, it will also show up on your Google calendar, and vice versa. You obviously need to have internet access from your iPod or iPhone for the data to sync. Note that the sync is not immediate. It sometimes takes a few seconds but besides this, it works very well.

 

iPhone Database Apps….Bento

Crikey, I have tried a few of these over the last year or so and was starting to despair of finding anything that would suit my needs…ie basic, cheap and easy to use. I was originally using HandBase as I used it previously on Palm devices and knew how it worked but I don't know, I just sort of don't like the way it displays fields on the iPhone and I have great trouble adjusting the column widths. Nor can I get the text in a column to "centre" itself like you can in Office Excel for example.

Bento I put off trying Bento as I have some issues with the company behind it. Namely, I have Bento version 1 for the Mac which I bought when it came out and when they launched version 2 earlier this year the stingy buggers would not offer any sort of discounted upgrade path. Plus, and this is black mark number 2…..the iPhone software only syncs with version 2 and not version 1 which I consider underhand tactics. So, stuff 'em I thought. Of course, being the miserable wimp that I am, I gave in and purchased Bento for the iPhone at the weekend and frankly wish I hadn't. I knew I was in trouble when I realised this application has no "settings" option. This smacks of arrogance to me…."our app is so bloody good that you miserable little end users better not deign to change any of the settings"….is what I imagine them saying. One last thing that concerned me was that I didn't particularly like Bento on the desktop in the first place, finding it powerful but confusing and I haven't touched it for about 6 months.

Notwithstanding my aforementioned antipathy towards FileMaker and trying not to let that influence my opinion on Bento for iPhone I ploughed on with it. For some reason they have stuck your address book in there as a Bento database file, one which you cannot delete…thanks. I'm not sure whom they are aiming Bento at but the majority of the templates seem aimed at business users and not the likes of me. This is at odds with the initial marketing of the desktop version. The only useful looking template I found is their "Blank" one. Sure you can change the fields and everything but I found going through the process of editing/replacing/amending fields to suit what I was after initially pretty darn difficult. After about an hour I was getting really irritated by it, lots of nice flashy eye-candy but difficult to use but then I got the hang of it and things went smoothly. A couple of niggles with this though:

  • there is no ability to set up "picks" for adding frequent text
  • in other database apps I have used recently, if you start typing a record that has already been entered elsewhere then a quick pick list appears below the typing bar for easy selection. This does not happen in Bento unfortunately.
  • it does not take advantage of the iPhone built in double tap of the space bar to add a full stop and capitalise the next letter
  • adding "numbers" does not present you with the nice and big easy enter iPhone phone keypad
  • after entering a bit of data I noticed slowdown, considerable slowdown.
  • I would like the ability to hide the "date created" and "date modified" fields which are included in every database. I like the idea of having that info but I don't want to see it in every record unless I need it. I couldn't see a way to turn this off at all and when you open a record, it just makes the record look even longer than it is.

It has lots of fields you can include, including images, star ratings, currency, checkbox and all the usual stuff so you are unlikely to be caught short on the field front. I couldn't find a way to name a new database right up, I had to go through the adding fields and then go back to the main screen to edit the title. It displays your database entries in the same way that the iPhone displays your contacts which I don't like as a scrolling page with the alphabet on the right hand side. For me, the big advantage of Bento, as a mac user, is the easy sync with the desktop application. I downloaded a trial version of Bento 2 (I still find it a difficult application to use) and the sync was a cinch to set up and work. Files transferred into Bento transferred via wifi to the iPhone in the same format. Another advantage of Bento is that it is easy to import xls and csv files and they appear virtually identically as they were in their original windows office format. I had real problems doing this on the other apps I demoed at the same time but more on that later….Bento handles this area superbly.

I started off not wanting to like Bento but ended up grudgingly liking it however the only advantages I could see over others I tried (reviews to follow) were its fantastic native mac integration and the seamless way you can import existing files. This however comes at a cost, that being £29 for the desktop version. I suppose you could just download the trial version of Bento 2, import your files, transfer them via wifi to the iPhone and they would probably still be there after the desktop 30 day trial has finished. FileMaker would be hoping that you;d be so impressed with the desktop app that you would end up purchasing it but I'm not so sure. It looks good and when you know what you are doing, adding in new databases is a breeze. On a scale of 1-10 I 'd give it a 6.5, marked down as I suspect it was slowing down my iPhone and I found entering text and info to be less easy than the other apps I tried out at the same time.

Archive your Gmail on a BB

A potentially very useful set up detailed here at BBCool about how to archive messages you delete on your BlackBerry via Gmail. The instructions are a bit long winded but if it works then great. Gmail and BB integration are a bit disappointing at present, more the fault of RIM than anything else. Although there is a good Gmail app available it sort of duplicates notifications and can't override the default RIM message apps so working with the two is a bit tiresome.

If there was 1 desktop app I could transfer…

…to the iPhone I think at this point in time it would be SpamSieve.I say this because I have changed back from using Gmail to MobileMe in order to get the push email that I am paying for through the annual sub. I might as well use it….plus, I know many prefer Gmail's "label" system but I just don't feel comfortable with it for some reason.

Mac mail Anyway, I use SpamSieve on the mac Mail application and it does a sterling job filtering out pap once it has been sufficiently trained. The problem is, it works best for people who are sitting with their mac on all day and the Mail application open and constantly downloading email. That way it catches and disposes of spam prior to it being forwarded to the iPhone via push. My problem is that I only ever open Mail when I am fannying about on my laptop in the evening by which time I have had a full days worth of spam already delivered to the iPhone.

The SpamSieve developers suggest disabling push on the mobile device but even then, during the course of the day I am still going to be opening it to check mail, albeit manually, and as the desktop Mail app has not been open checking and dumping email junk then spam will still show up on the iPhone. It's not going to work then and plus I would lose the benefit of push.

So, it would be great if there was a mobile version of the application available but of course that is highly unlikely as Apple churlishly won't allow 3rd party software access to what they consider to be core apps. And email certainly falls into that "core" category. It's a shame and Apple should realise that allowing a well respected developer, with an extremely mature and tested app like SpamSieve, to develop a bit of kit that is going to benefit all mobileme subscribers is hardly going to work against Apple's interests is it? Quite the opposite in fact.