Monday, July 28, 2008

iPhone/iPod Touch Primer

Over two weeks ago, Apple had one of its biggest launch days in recent memory. One week before people flocked to theaters to see The Dark Knight, they were waiting in line at Apple Stores and AT&T shops in eager anticipation of the new iPhone, iPhone 3G. 3G stands for 3rd generation; that is, this new iPhone uses the 3rd generation of cell phone data transfer technology. To put it simply, Apple says it's "twice as fast" as the previous iPhone. Plus, it has some new features such as GPS.

But while the general media was focused on the new iPhone launch, there were some things that went unnoticed to all but those most in-the-know. Another huge unveiling that occurred on that day was "MobileMe," a re-naming and enhancing of an existing Apple service, previously called .Mac (dot-mac). MobileMe is a suite of internet services, including an email address, web space for storing whatever files and for hosting websites, and other really neat computery things. It integrates with the iPhone, Macs, and Windows PCs, allowing you to keep all your data accessible anywhere. The MobileMe concept is fantastic, but the execution has so far been awful.

Next is the App Store. Up until now, the iPhone has been a closed platform. This means that no one but Apple was allowed to make programs for it, leaving users and third-party developers disappointed to say the least, since the iPhone platform has enormous potential to a multi-talented device. Well, July 11 also saw the launch of the App Store, in which dozens of developers, from individual programmers to major software companies, put their programs up for sale. These programs are designed specifically for the iPhone, to expand its utility just as programs on your computer allow it to do more stuff. Companies like Google, AOL, Electronic Arts, and Sega are in the mix. Many of the programs are games, and many are free. Puzzle games, racing games, board games, and action games are being downloaded by the tens of thousands. Social networking, blogging, and business software companies are making iPhone apps that take advantage of the elegant and powerful touch screen interface. What started out as a neat little device with some neat features is now a killer, must-have for anyone who can afford it.

Finally, we have the main topic of this entry. All of the above has been about the iPhone. Do I have an iPhone, or am I just an envious, drooling fan who wishes he had one?

Actually, I am neither. I have an iPod Touch. I am still amazed how just about no one I meet has heard about the Touch. Most of my peers (college-age people)cannot afford the iPhone and all of its awesomeness. It's a $300 phone (formerly $500) with a pricey, pricey monthly fee. What sets it apart from other phones is its beautiful touch interface and real web browser (a mobile version of Safari). Guess what? You don't need an iPhone to enjoy those goodies. The Touch can do everything the iPhone does, except make phone calls, take pictures, give GPS directions, and record audio. And it's waaay cheaper.

I apologize if this is sounding like a sales pitch, but people need to know this. Just about any program released for the iPhone through said App Store will work on the iPod Touch, because it is basically the same platform. When I say "iPhone App" it's generally the same as saying "iPhone or iPod touch app". You get on the internet via Wi-fi; it works just like your laptop. It is truly an amazing device, and I've had a ton of fun with it since I got it back in October.

Now, with that in mind, we can get into some fun details. Stay tuned...

Monday, July 14, 2008

App Demos

With the launch of iPhone 3G and the App Store for iPhone/iPod Touch programs last Friday, I've been spending a lot of my time at the App Store checking out what developers have come up with. The App Store is a subsection of the iTunes Store for music, movies, and TV shows. You may have to update to version 7.7 first in order to see it.

Even though apps in the App Store have a review and 5-stars rating system like all other things sold on iTunes, along with screenshots of the action, I don't really get a good sense of how the app really behaves. Some apps have YouTube videos at their developer's website, but YouTube is the worst place to host your video if you want to give a high-quality impression.

If you're curious or skeptical about how cool the apps really are, you NEED to check out the keynote video from the Apple Worldwide Developer's conference earlier this year. Several developers went on stage to show off their programs, and, even after playing with some apps already in the last couple days, I was still amazed by what their apps could do.

To check it out, you'll need iTunes and a high speed connection. Follow this iTunes Store link and download "WWDC 2008 Keynote Address" (click Get Episode). It's a little over 1GB due to its length and great quality, so you'll need some time and patience. About 21 minutes in the demos begin. Skip to that point if you want to avoid the programming stuff.

Don't worry, it's all free for you to watch.

EDIT: if you don't have iTunes, you can click this link to view in your browser. Either way, you need Quicktime. I never understood why Windows users seem to want to avoid quicktime. It's as prevalent (or more) than Windows Media on the internet. Just get it.

Hopefully I'll have time to write more about the new toys that I got... iPod Touch software 2.0 plus tons of new apps.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Song Summoner

While most of Apple and iPhone fandom waits (im?)patiently for the launch of the iPhone 3G and iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0 firmware along with the promise of a plethora of new native apps and games, Square Enix decided to do something a little different.

There's tons of anticipation for what kinds of things developers will come up with to take advantage of the accelerometer and touch screen on the iPhone/iPod Touch. But while we weren't paying attention, Square Enix, the company that brings us Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, as well as dozens of other RPG series, has released Song Summoner, a strategy/RPG for the iPod Classic. This means no touch controls, no widescreen, no accelerometer usage. So it uses the good ol' click wheel. If I had an iPod Classic I'd buy it in an instant to check it out. Apparently it uses the songs in your music library to create characters for your party. I'd imagine it also uses your music library as its soundtrack. Wow, this was unexpected. Check out the link for a video and more explanation.