links for 2008-07-12

iPhone App Store, Day 1

After I played around a bit with the new firmware, I got on the App Store and started downloading. I got my hands on Exposure, At Bat, Band, the Google app, Bloomberg, the BofA app, CheckPlease, Evernote, Facebook, AIM, Jott, midomi, the AP’s Mobile News, NetNewsWire, Remote, Salesforce, iPint, and PhoneSaber. I won’t be able to review each of them, but a few quick thoughts on the ones I’ve tried:

  • iPint: deleted. Not enough fun to make up for the big Carling logo that comes up on the beer pint at the end.
  • At Bat: A much nicer way than the Red Sox web site to find out if Storrow Drive will be jammed up because of a home game at Fenway.
  • Exposure: I agree with The Unofficial Apple Weblog: Photos Near Me is creepy but kind of a cool way to explore the area around you. It was with Exposure that I first saw the request to use my location, and I was relieved to see it again this morning. Apparently authorizing the release of your location data is not just a one time thing. The app is a little slow over Edge, though.
  • BofA: doesn’t seem that much improved over their mobile web experience. A few of the graphics appear to be included in the app, but most of the rest is just like the website. Of course, the automatic location based ATM finder is good, but is that enough of a reason to install an app, even if it is free?
  • PhoneSaber: a giggle and a fun demo of the phone’s capabilities. What would be really cool is if you had two iPhones running PhoneSaber, and you could tell that they were near each other, that you could do a real duel.
  • Band: Bought it for the keyboard. Love it for the 12 bar blues mode.
  • Bloomberg: is slow over Edge, but not as slow as I would have guessed. Missing: a way to share stories from Bloomberg News.
  • Jared: Oh, Jared. So glad to see my old friend here. The voice of the Butcher of Song has not improved with age, and that’s how we like it. (Incidentally, does Jared win the award for the app ported to the most Apple programming environments? Classic, Newton (!), Mac OS X app, Mac OS X Dashboard widget, iPhone…)

Regarding the economics and revenue model from the App Store: First, I have to give kudos to the folks at MacRumors and TechCrunch for their ingenuity. Alas, it looks like they spilled the beans too soon, as all download counts have been re-zeroed out. But the preliminary indications ($55K in revenue from the US store before it even opens) should hopefully prove the viability of the revenue model.

And I definitely echo Daring Fireball’s point about the store’s reliability, a point thrown into even sharper relief by the fact that MobileMe is, as I speak, continuing to stagger about like a starlet in rehab: very pretty, a promising future, and completely incapable of standing upright for more than a few minutes at a time.

iPhone Firmware 2.0, Day 1

When I got home last night, I tried Software Update and found iTunes 7.7, but it didn’t find the new iPhone firmware. So I tried the path laid out in the TechCrunch post of direct downloading the firmware package. Tip: use Firefox. Safari automatically expands the package, and while there’s probably a way to re-zip it so that iTunes will recognize it, it’s easier to download it with a browser that doesn’t automatically unzip.

I plugged my phone in and started the firmware upgrade process. Then I went off to do something time consuming (the upgrade using this method performs a full backup, wipe, and restore, and full restore takes a while if some of your content, in my case music, is coming from a network attached disk). So after spending time on our basement project (and getting hands liberally covered with microscopic dots of primer), I finally got on my iPhone to start checking out some of the new features.

First: there’s gotta be a better way to manage application icons than just spreading them over three or four screens as they get installed. Yes, obviously I can manually spread them out over screens, but I found myself yearning for … folders. Or something. I think some of the jailbreaker guys may have come up with some concepts that would be worth copying buying here.

Second: man, it’s great, but also weird, to have mail coming in in the background without my manually fetching it. And it’s great, and not weird at all, to be able to delete multiple mail messages at once. That’s the killer feature for me right there. No more slide–click Delete–slide–click Delete–repeated ad infinitum.

I’m really, really glad that Apple made the Contacts feature an application instead of burying it in the phone menu. That was one thing that always made me wonder: why did the designers think that the only time I would need access to my contacts was when I was making a phone call?

I was hoping to give the VPN and Exchange integration features a crack, but I need to get some settings from our IT guy and he’s not in; that will have to be a later post.

The on-phone App Store is very nice. I frankly found browsing the store through iTunes to be something of a pain, and the experience on the phone is much nicer. I don’t know why–perhaps it’s the fact that the browse views in the store don’t show the app icons?

The scientific calculator is a nice blast from the past. One minor quibble–I hadn’t realized until playing with it that the calculator uses a font with proportional width numbers. It’s not noticeable unless you’re rapidly changing the numbers in the display–say, by repeatedly hitting the Rand or sin buttons–but seeing the leading zero jiggling around in response to the keypresses is a little disconcerting.

Mobile Safari hasn’t crashed on me yet. It used to reliably crash on loading certain long or complex pages. So that’s something.

Oh, and those nice screenshots? Built in feature. Hold the main button and tap the power button, and a screenshot is saved to your Pictures, where you can email it or upload it (if MobileMe is working).

So that’s the base OS: nice, and featureful. But of course the excitement of the new firmware is the App Store, so we’ll talk about that next.