Mobile

Issues with Push Notifications for iOS

iPhone Push Issues

With the news that the Gmail app for iOS was updated two days ago, I decided to give it a go as a replacement to the native iOS Mail app. And for the first time in three years, Google apps are dominating the lower app bar on my phone. (Pictured above!)

However, and this isn’t a knock against the app because it’s wonderful, I have a rather weird quirk about iOS Push Notifications: the notification badge remains despite being corrected elsewhere.

For example, with the Gmail app, if I see a notification for a new email pop up and I am at my desk, I will go ahead and look at it on my web browser, because why look at it on a smaller screen with a larger one available right? Unlike the native Mail app, however, if I clear a notification off of the device, the push notification (especially badges) still remain.

This isn’t just for Gmail, but it happens with Facebook Messenger, Fitocracy, Twitter, and every other app that uses push notifications to alert you of messages, interactions, and whatever else.

I’ll have to dig around a bit, but is this just an oversight by the app developers, or is this a technical limitation for push notifications?

Touch Screen Gaming is Different

I play a lot of games. It should come as no surprise that a lot of the games I play are also for the iOS, especially considering that I used to run an iOS Game Review site.

Lately, I have been playing a lot of FIFA 11. I’ve been playing the English Premier League as Arsenal and have been completely obliterating everyone in my way. The game itself is really fun, save for a few headache inducing moments, and I genuinely enjoy playing 2-3 matches during my commute.

However, the game causes me pain. Literally.

The game is controlled through a virtual joystick and buttons. This causes my hand to contort into a weird angle and gives me a lot of wrist pain, which is amplified by the fact that I am pretty sure I have carpal tunnel in these bad boys.

This post isn’t a complaint about my pain, rather a request: iOS game designers, or even touch screen game designers in general, please find more fitting ways to control your games on a touch screen device. A non-tactile joystick can become extremely aggravating, mentally and physically, with prolonged usage. It can be non-responsive, it can go the wrong direction, and I often find myself just letting go to let it re-orient itself. It’s difficult to make a sports game without a joystick, I know, but I am sure there is a way.

Touch screen gaming is different from handheld consoles, so let’s try to break convention here and build a more exciting control scheme, shall we?

(If someone wants to recommend sports games to me that use a great way to control the players, please do so in the comments!)

Fragmentation Theatre

Yesterday, I read about and tweeted about Netflix working on an Android app, but it won’t be available for all phones. Why?

Netflix product development guru Greg Peters blogged yesterday that “the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android” has prevented the company from expanding to the rapidly growing smartphone platform.

The number of different form factors and software on the Android is actually holding it back. Keep in mind, Android has grown into its dominant position because of the sheer number of phones and providers it has available to it, and yet that may be what hurts its app ecosystem.

My hope: Google takes the reins and determines a specific direction for their phones and creates a generic and complete platform that works all around. However, it seems far fetched with how far they have come along already.

Staying Fit – Best Apps for Biking / Exercise

As a self-employed individual, you often have to find ways to stay in shape without the luxury of a gym when you’re just starting out. I have managed to run into this problem myself, so I decided to stay proactive by getting on an exercise program that I can run out of my own house. Of course, I wanted to track my progress and ensure that I was actually making gains!

One of the first problems I ran into was having trouble tracking my running or cycling – at the gym, the machines that I use would clearly display your distance, your speed, calories burned, etc and I missed that when just cycling or running around my neighbourhood. Knowing that my iPhone has a huge arsenal of apps available to it that would probably do just that, I asked around and received three great answers: RunKeeper, iMapMyRide, and MotionX GPS.

Here is the quick and dirty run down of the pros and cons of using each:

RunKeeper

Pros
- Simple and easy to use interface
- Tracks everything beautifully
- Gives you all the details clearly and neatly
- Great integration with RunKeeper.com

Cons
- No music control (Not really an issue)
- No sharing in-app

iMapMyRide

Pros
- Works quite well
- Accurate
- Web integration

Cons
- Not very intuitive user interface
- Website is just cluttered and ugly
- Registered as metric, still measured as imperial (Didn’t auto update in settings)

MotionX GPS

Pros
- Works well and accurately
- Detailed information
- Email sharing works very well

Cons
- Ugly user interface, very cluttered and not intuitive
- Email sharing works but is riddled with advertising

Overall, all three of the apps were accurate and worked as desired, but iMapMyRide and MotionX GPS were both so clunky and did not have intuitive user interfaces that I decided that they just weren’t for me.

At the end of the day, I decided to go with RunKeeper for its well designed user interface and fantastic integration with runkeeper.com, a beautifully designed website that shows all of the information you could ever ask for and much more. I know this is a really quick and brief post without many details but it really comes down to preference – all three apps I have listed have Lite versions (They’re what I used!) and you should make the judgment call for yourself.

Happy exercising!

Zoompass Tag: My Impression + Field Test

Usually on a Friday, I’d have a Featured Album Friday blog post up, but because I’m apparently hitting the books hard, I haven’t had a minute to really check out new songs – regularly scheduled posts will be back soon time, I promise.

Anyway, while in the middle of studying today, I received a registered letter that I had to sign for and everything, and lo and behold, it was a letter from Zoompass, informing me that I was lucky enough to be one of the first in Canada to experience the Zoompass Tag! I immediately applied my sticker to my iPhone, and ta daaaaa.

I make it rain with my phone.

I am not fond of what it does to my iPhone aesthetically – it creates a really big bump on the back of an otherwise smooth surface, and turns it into a walking advertisement for Zoompass and Mastercard. Aesthetics aside, the utility of the Zoompass Tag currently outweighs the way the phone looks, so I will have to let it slide.

Of course, being a huge dork, I wanted to try it out right away. Here was the real test: I was going to leave my wallet at home, and just get out there equipped with just my phone and my keys. My target of the day was the nearby Tim Horton’s.

I walked inside, waited for my turn and ordered a double double. The woman told me how much I owed – $1.58, and I told her that I was going to be trying out a fast pass that was attached to my phone, and I showed it to her. She smiled and mentioned that she had never seen that before, but I should just hold it in front of the fast pass hub.

Well... that was quick.

I wish I were joking here, but it literally took two seconds for the payment to go through, I was mightily impressed. With my large double double in hand and phone in the other, I thanked the cashier and was on my way.

Conclusion: Zoompass is shaking up mobile payments in a big way, and the Zoompass Tag evidence of just that. I’m getting VERY excited (or that may be the large double double I ordered) about the future in the mobile space, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store! Huge thank you to the people behind Zoompass for letting me try out the Zoompass Tag! :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

WorldCard Mobile (Review)

Welp, I was recently given the chance to try out a great little application called WorldCard Mobile for the iPhone that uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to read pictures of business cards and export the information into an address book entry.

Now, I haven’t heard of many applications like this for the iPhone because I’m assuming the previous iterations of the iPhone (Pre-3GS) had such a terrible camera that it just wasn’t possible. Of course, with the 3GS, the camera received a much needed upgrade in both quality and clarity, so WorldCard Mobile was made possible. I know that while playing around with a Samsung Omnia, one of their heavily touted features was this very same concept: being able to take pictures of business cards and creating an address book entry. Of course, I personally hate the Omnia, so this feature alone wouldn’t have sold me on the phone.

So onto the actual application, how is it? Well, let’s just get technical details out of the way: it has seven (7) different languages that it can recognize, all of the information recognized is editable, and the full process can be as short as 20-30 seconds. But does it work well?

Surprisingly, yes, with a but. It works extremely well on traditional business cards with all of the information presented nicely on one side. I tested it out on both of my business cards – one for Up+Atom and one for LIVE Conference 2009. Here are pictures from both:

Up+Atom

LIVE Conference 2009

You can see, because my business card from Up+Atom is so unconventional, it has a bit of trouble recognizing most of the information, but you can hardly blame it on the application. With the LIVE Conference 2009 business card, it does a pretty fine job of recognizing everything, with a few minor glitches.

So, should you get it? Well, for a decent price of $9.99, you get a mobile app that utilizes great OCR technology and will probably save you quite a bit of time when you are out and about networking and you bring home a stack of new business cards to enter into your address book. There are definitely some issues that need to be addressed, like better recognition and/or maybe adding the ability to set certain regions in a picture for other address fields, but overall it is a solid app. Of course, all of these glitches and issues will slowly disappear as the proprietary OCR technology in the app continually improves, so definitely pick it up if this is something that can benefit you.

App: WorldCard Mobile
Author: Penpower Inc.
Price: $5.99

ZoomPass: What’s to Like, What’s to Not

In case you haven’t heard, ZoomPass opened its doors on June 15, 2009 for any and all users to sign up and join their service. If you haven’t heard of ZoomPass before, here is a description from their website:

Zoompass is a unique mobile payment service that offers a new way for you to send, receive, and request money quickly and securely, using a mobile device operating on the Bell, Fido, PC Mobile, Rogers, Solo, or TELUS network. With a mobile application that can be downloaded onto your mobile phone and synchronized with your phone’s contact list, you can use Zoompass anytime, anywhere while on the go.

Zoompass funds are held in a stored value account that is linked to your personal bank account or credit card, which makes loading your Zoompass account and transferring money simple and convenient. You can also use the optional Zoompass Prepaid MasterCard® card with PayPass™, linked to your Zoompass account, to make purchases in-store and online or withdraw cash from an ATM.

Innovative stuff eh? Well, I’ve been hoping for something like this for a long time and it has finally come, albeit not in the exact form that I had been looking for, it is a step in the right direction. While I have not actually used the system yet, this is just a quick list of things I like and I don’t like, and hopefully a more in-depth review of the system a little later on, when more users have adopted it and it has gained traction.



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What’s to Like?

1. Multi-platform!

Thank goodness for this, ZoomPass has three different platforms that allows users to use it in practically all walks of life. There is the ZoomPass website (Similar to Paypal) as well as the mobile application, and the ZoomPass Pre-Paid Mastercard. They are all linked with each other, and you can send payments directly from your mobile application, accept payments from the ZoomPass website, and spend your ZoomPass balance with your Pre-Paid Mastercard.

I feel the Mastercard is a nice little touch until all mobile phones are retrofitted with RFID technology that we can use to pay with at any retailer. Initially, I was skeptical of ZoomPass because I had only heard about the website and the mobile application, because then it was basically Paypal for the phone, but once I discovered that a Pre-Paid Mastercard was also being offered, it seemed like a great idea.

2. Supported by all most carriers.

On the About page itself, it says that the big three (Rogers, Bell, and TELUS) as well as their budget carriers (Fido, Solo, and Koodo) all support ZoomPass. As the majority of mobile phone users in Canada use one of the big three carriers, ZoomPass makes itself very accessible and easy for almost anyone, anywhere to use.

3. Uses your phone number to send and receive payments.

This is pretty self explanatory, no real need to send using an email or username, just send it to someone’s phone number and they will be the only ones who will see it. Here is the process as described in the FAQ:

You can send money using Zoompass on your mobile phone or logging in to your account on the Zoompass website. To send money, enter the person’s name, mobile number, and the amount and press the Send button. You also have the option of sending money using the funds in your Zoompass account or from your linked credit card instead. A confirmation screen will then appear that asks you to verify the name, amount, and mobile number of the recipient. At this point you can change the information or confirm the transaction.

Seems easy enough.

What’s to Not Like?

1. The Fees!

It’s only natural that there would be fees attached to using ZoomPass, and you can find them here. They seem reasonable, especially since there are three different platforms we can use, as opposed to Paypal. But… what if we compared the core service of ZoomPass of sending money to each other with Paypal?

ZoomPass vs Paypal Fees

Paypal has quite a bit more free features, but once again, since there is a mobile component as well as a pre-paid Mastercard, one can’t really complain.

Until you see the fees associated with the Mastercard and the limits imposed on it.

2. Limited to ONLY the big three.

This felt like somewhat of a competitive move from the big three carriers, they had a project going on several years ago called WPS Pay, which quickly dissolved under, what I was told, as disagreements between the big three. And yet here we are, ZoomPass is released in the year that competitors are finally set to enter the Canadian mobile market. Something tells me the new competitors will have quite a delay before ZoomPass is available to their customers.

3. Requires a lot of traction.

This may be true for a lot of businesses, but for ZoomPass to really succeed, they will have to capture mainstream usage from the Canadian market, which is no easy task. Without the traction they need, ZoomPass will never be a necessity to Canadians.

But that’s enough of my nitpicking, I’m hoping to use it and really get some mileage out of it. I’ll use it for a few weeks and really go through what I like and what I don’t like.

Have I missed anything? Leave a comment!

What should Nokia do?

Earlier today, I tweeted about my feelings regarding the status of Nokia as a cell phone brand and company, and how their smartphones were being disregarded for the most part. Keep in mind that I myself carry a Nokia E71 and for the most part have been pleased with it, but several issues have turned me off from the phone and brand completely.

But what can Nokia do? They have been completely brushed off in North America in the race for the latest and best smartphones. Quite a shame, because Nokia has historically made very solid phones with great features.

So what SHOULD they do? Simple: skip the smartphone generation, take the next quantum leap forward in mobile phones.

Alright, not so simple, but it would be a game changer in the mobile industry. Think beyond touch screens, think beyond multi-touch, and think beyond what a smartphone is.

Don’t play catch up with everyone else, be a trail-blazer.

Technologically stagnant

Considering that Rogers has more than 6 million postpaid wireless subscribers (Source) where a good number of them still pay their System Access Fees, why are we still paying an arm and a leg for complacency? Let’s crunch the numbers:

$6.95 – System Access Fee
6,451,000 – Approximate number of postpaid subscribers, as of December 31, 2008

ASSUMPTION: 80% pay their System Access Fee (Because many people, like myself, have had it waived. VERY conservatively low number, as I believe almost no one really waived it, but this is to be safe.)

$6.95 x (6,451,000 * 80%) = $35,867,560 per MONTH

Can someone please tell me why, with an extra $35 million per month in what is essentially profit, is Rogers not vastly improving our service by leaps and bounds? If someone wants to correct me as to what that System Access Fee goes towards, then please leave a comment!

UPDATE: Just found this article from the Toronto Star, here’s an important little snippet:

The investigation also revealed that many customer service agents employed by the various cellphone companies were incorrectly telling subscribers the fee was a mandatory government charge collected on behalf of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Such a charge, while it was required two decades ago when the cellphone industry was just getting started, no longer exists. The fee, however, is still being collected.

Well then!

To my brand new best friend: Nokia E71

Here’s my official review (More like comparison!) of the Nokia E71 that came in for me today. Summary for the lazy: I am absolutely in love, and it’s an amazing phone!

You can read about tech specs and whatever features it has elsewhere, so I’m going to compare it to the Samsung Jack as well as the transition process I had gone through.

Samsung Jack versus Nokia E71

Samsung Jack versus Nokia E71

Nokia E71 on the Left, Samsung Jack on the right

Thickness: Nokia E71 on the Left, Samsung Jack on the right

Backplates: Nokia E71 on the left, Samsung Jack on the right

Backplates: Nokia E71 on the left, Samsung Jack on the right

As you can see, the Nokia E71 already looks quite a bit smaller and has a more “smooth” look to it compared to the pointed edges (Those corners really hurt) of the Samsung Jack. The screens are very close in size, but the Nokia definitely has a crisper display.

Sorry for the blur, I have shaky hands.

Sorry for the blur, I have shaky hands.

With aesthetics out of the way, here is a direct comparison of features I used on the Jack.

Text Messaging – The biggest difference between Windows Mobile 6.1 and Symbian S60 is the lack of threaded messages, which kind of sucks, but Conversation does alleviate that problem. The text input on the WinMo also generally lagged, whereas the Symbian inputs are speedy and lag-free, and it manages to keep up with my extra fast typing! Definite plus!

GPS – I used to use Google Maps on my Samsung Jack and it worked perfectly well except for one thing – it took about 5 minutes for the GPS satellites to be found. The E71 was preloaded with several mapping and GPS programs, that were quick to catch GPS satellites. I will install Google Maps on it later, or perhaps just install a standalone navigational based GPS to replace Telenav. UPDATE: Just installed Google Maps and it found 3 satellites in less than 30 seconds, in the basement. MUCH improved over the Jack’s GPS!

Picture / Video – The camera on the Jack is 2MP and the E71 has a 3.2MP so I was expecting quite a difference in image quality. Here’s how it looks:

Samsung Jack's Camera

Samsung Jack's Camera

Nokia E71 Camera

Nokia E71's Camera

Not a huge difference but keep in mind: I completely forgot to take off the protective film on the camera for the E71. Not that it’s going to change a lot of things, but just keep that in mind. Also, the E71 has a built in flash, which might make low light situations much easier for taking pictures!

Calls – Simple enough, the Nokia E71 has crystal clear reception and I can’t even compare to the Jack properly, because they both sounded great!

All these features clearly put the E71 above the Jack for just those features, but here are several more features that I have began to use BECAUSE of the E71!

Fring – Not exactly a built in feature, but Fring works flawlessly on the Symbian OS, where I loaded my Skype account and called my friend with crystal clear reception. I have to attempt this on the 3G network, and I assume it’s not going to be as clear as my Wifi, but hey, it works great and I can use MSN on it!

WifiThe Jack had no option for Wifi (Despite Rogers telling me there was.) The E71′s wifi option was quick and easy to set up, without any difficulty connecting to my wireless at home! Quick and easy, gotta love it.

Radio – The E71 has built in FM radio that has great reception from my room (The basement!) and you can save preset frequencies with easy. I now have Flow 935, Virgin Radio 99.9, CHUM FM 104.5, and CHFI 98.1 all saved on my phone!

QikQik is a fantastic program that lets me create a streaming video from my phone that would be viewable on my Qik site (http://qik.com/JonLim) and anyone can view any past streams! You can see the stream I was testing out with @verneho earlier, and it worked fantastically!

I couldn’t have asked for a better phone. What was even better was the transition! I had feared that there was no syncing with Microsoft Outlook, but the Nokia PC suite did it quick and easy, without any hassles. Not only that, but it syncs the SMS/MMS messages that you receive on the phone as well, which is another added benefit over the WinMo phones!

So to you, my new best friend, thank you for making my life much easier.