My Killer iPhone App: Instapaper

I finally caved an picked up an iPod Touch this past weekend after learning about what to me is a killer app: Instapaper.

Here’s what it does:

You sign up for an account at Instapaper.com (free) then add a bookmarklet to your browser called “Read Later”. Then when you find yourself staring down a long online article that you’d really like to read – but not right now – you click the button.

Clicking the button snags the article on the page, takes out a lot of the junk (ads and images depending on how you’ve set it up), and stores the copy in your Instapaper account.

Now the fun begins. You can access those articles a number of different ways:

1. Via the web.

2. Via a smartphone’s browser (the articles are very mobile friendly compared to many of their original sources).

3. Or, via the iPhone app which syncs down a copy of your stored articles.

#3 is the one that convinced me that I needed an iPod Touch. My best catch-up time for longer articles is on planes, and the Instapaper App makes it easy to gather and consume the content during those hours.

There is a free and paid version ($9.99) of the app. I went with the paid because it offers more flexibility on fonts, night reading, and has a very cool tilt-to-scroll feature where you can gently tilt the iPhone back a bit to scroll the article – a great one-hand feature.

After my first Instapaper-enabled flight this week, I’m sold on this new workflow for processing longer online content.

DoApp: Climbing the App Store Rankings

Minneapolis, Minnesota based widget and mobile application developers, DoApp, is climbing the rankings of the Apple iPhone store with their myLite Color Strobe and Flashlight application. It’s quickly moved from 47th to 14th among free applications since Monday. Impressive.

So, what is it? Here’s a video someone shared on YouTube showing off the application:

DoApp’s marketing VP, Graeme Thickins, breaks down what the company has learned about how to succeed in the iPhone App Store.

In this case, they started this application at 99 cents and later changed the price to free. While that may be a questionable business model long-term, I think they have proven that they can build popular software.

Minnebar: Intro to iPhone Development with Jesse O'Neill-Oine

iPhone Development Session

Jesse O’Neill-Oine from Refactr presented on development for the iPhone at Minnebar (his slides can be found on the Refactr blog).

O’Neill-Oine opened by explaining how he was turned onto iPhone development: “I’m into iPhone development because I frickin’ love my iPhone.” This seemed to be a shared perspective among the audience.

Apple takes a 30% cut on your app’s cost. You can only distribute through the App Store, which is both a weakness and a strength. You must be part of the developer program to be eligible to publish applications to the App Store.

Current versions of iPhones have only 128mb of RAM. Apple does not allow any background processing within apps. Plus: you get access to the whole machine when your app is running. Weakness, can’t run an always-on application. This could be hackable, but that would prevent your app from distribution through the App Store.

Development Requirements: You have to be on a Mac (maybe an Intel based Mac)? Within Organizer, you can manage iPhone settings, firmware upgrades/downgrades, and capture screenshots among other things.

iPhone OS is derived from 10.5. Cocoa Touch is where developers will spend most of their time. Windowing, graphics support, buttons, sliders, and event handling such as touch events will happen at this layer.

The media layer is where core animation is done. Allows you to go beyond what can be done at the cocoa layer.

The core services layer is where SQL Lite is found. If you’re writing a data-intensive application, this is recommended. XML and XLST are also supported at this level.

You can access both Edge and WiFi from the the iPhone Simulator during development.

Apple provides a lot of example applications that demonstrate functionality of iPhone coding.

The developer’s site has great documentation but no community. Cocoa Dev is a pretty good site, but still looking for a strong iPhone development community. If you know of one, please drop it in the comments.

Where are the Women?

Amazingly, there was not a single woman in the standing room only discussion of iPhone development. That’s pretty of scary considering that the iPhone is a universally popular device. While the guys in the room seem perfectly capable of building apps, it seems like there is a huge opportunity for iPhone development with a woman’s perspective.

Is the iPhone the Ultimate Blogging Device?

Kiltak at Geeks are Sexy points to this iPhone advertisement and asks if the iPhone is the ultimate blogging tool. The girl in the video explains that the iPhone can be used to take pictures and blog them directly from the phone:

But is it the ultimate blogging device? No.

The Palm Treo is a better device for the hardcore blogger. Take a look at the dancer’s situation to understand why.

If she had a Treo, she could take much higher resolution photos using a typical point & shoot camera like the Canon SD line, then swap her SD card into the Treo to share a much higher resolution photo of an event. This would also allow her to take better low-light photos than the iPhone could handle. I have a hard time believing she captures great photos of ballet considering the light conditions and speed involves.

She could also use the point & shoot camera to take video clips of dancing rather than just stills. The clips could be blogged by emailing them to Blip.tv and posted directly to her blog from Blip. The iPhone can’t do video, and it wouldn’t be as high of resolution as what you could get from the point & shoot.

The Treo, on Sprint or Verizon, has faster data speeds than the iPhone which makes it possible to upload large photos in relatively tolerable times.

The keyboard on Treos makes it easier to type more descriptive blog posts to accompany your photos or videos in less time than one could type on an iPhone.

Will this always be the case? Probably not. Networks will get faster, future iPhones will have better cameras, and they’ll surely add video support at some point. But for now, I don’t think the iPhone is the ultimate blogging device.

Decide for yourself. Here are links to two ballet related posts I found on Kristin’s blog in the past 5 months. Capturing indoor photos of people moving would be nearly impossible with today’s iPhone. Just look at the quality of images of non-moving objects.

How Could You Overpay for an iPhone?

I’ve been in Canada the past couple days, so it’s quite possible that I’ve lost touch with the nuances of the American retail system.

For example, all I could do was scratch my head when I read this quote about the iPhone price reduction in the NY Times:

IPhone Owners Crying Foul Over Price Cut

The rebate, at least, was enough to mollify some early iPhone customers like Kevin Tofel, a blogger in Telford, Pa., who writes about mobile phones at a blog called jkOnTheRun. Mr. Tofel was so annoyed with the surprising iPhone price drop that he was planning to make T-shirts that read, “I was a $200 iPhone beta tester for Apple.”

“I just felt so used as a consumer,” he said. “They hyped up the iPhone for six months and built up our expectations, and then they grabbed our extra $200 and ran.”

Huh? Help me understand this. Did Mr. Tofel pay more than he was willing to pay for his iPhone? Absolutely not. In fact, based on the 80 iPhone related posts he’s written for his blog, the iPhone seems to have been a valuable asset that’s inspired his writing.

80 posts? He shouldn’t feel used. His iPhone should.

People like this should have hoped for a $200 price bump to $799 since it would have generated some exclusivity for their iPhone related blog posts. Now everyone’s going to be able to write iPhone blog posts, thus diluting the value of iPhone blog posts from the $599 suckers buyers.

People like this could learn a thing or two from Technology Evangelist’s in-house gadget geek, Ben. He has an innate ability to pay full retail for technology products, somehow beating the clock on even the most obvious retail discounts that will be just around the corner.

If you’ve ever wondered who the guy is who’s selling all the like-new barely-used gadgets on Ebay, that’s Ben.

But Ben’s not complaining. He’s acknowledged his problem and is comfortable with his over exuberance for full priced shiny things.

To those who feel duped, why are you blaming Apple for lowering the price on something you talked yourself into buying at the higher price?

Is the iPhone Ruining Conference Panel Discussions?

At last week’s Inman Connect Conference in San Francisco, moderators including Curbed.com’s Lockhart Steele and Inman conference founder Brad Inman, took questions from the audience over SMS to their iPhones.

This had mixed results. On the positive side, it allowed people to ask questions much more efficiently than they could using a mic since time would be wasted shuttling mics around to questioners. It also allowed moderators to, well, moderate the questions posed via SMS.

Inman Connect

However, there were some downsides too. Moderators who were perfectly prepared and capable of asking relevant and interesting questions from panels were occasionally distracted by the barrage of incoming text messages they were receiving, causing them to miss opportunities for follow-up questions. Swiping and scanning questions is not the best use of a moderators expertise and time.

But the most annoying part was the interference caused by the GSM phone radio frequency interfering with the wireless mics used on stage.

From the audience, I could tell when a new text message was received first by the interference on the mics, which drew me away from the conversation I was there to watch.

The concept of taking live questions via SMS is awesome. However, I think it could work better if someone off stage and away from the mic was processing the questions for the moderator. Or, at least use a non-GSM phone like the iPhone if wireless mics are going to be used.

5 iPhone Nags from Users

We’re now living in day 11 of a world with iPhones, and are starting to find out
that the beautiful device isn’t perfect.

I’ve yet to hear of someone switching back to their previous phone, but for
those who haven’t made the leap yet, here are a few things to consider before
doing so:

1. Apparently, you can
max
out the SMS storage
. While this is common on some basic phones, I don’t
think it’s possible on Treos or most other smartphones. This could be a problem
for heavy Twitter users.

2. Transferring numbers
isn’t
as easy as it should be
. I’ve never understood why you can’t pick any area
code you want for a phone. You can with Skype, so why not with a regular phone?

3. Mailbox navigation
can
be tedious
. The inability to select multiple items leads to inefficient
inbox housekeeping.

4. Photos
don’t
sync to your computer
during the standard sync process. It takes a second
step to pull them off your phone.

5. Power users may
run
into battery issues
. Running out of juice before the day is over is a very
bad thing.

Releasing of the iPhone Line at the Mall of America

This is quite possibly the most boring video ever published to the Internet. Unless you happen to be one of the people who waited in line for an iPhone at the Mall of America or know someone who did.

The first iPhone customer managed to get in and out of the Apple store in under three minutes with the phone he waited 11 hours to buy. Impressive.

However, at just over 3 minutes long, I’m sure there will be enough viewers to justify publishing this. That’s the power of the Internet over traditional media, who’d never consider running 3+ minutes of people filing into a store.

If you’re not interested, just move along.