Nikon D700: Quick First Impressions

This is NOT a "review" of the Nikon D700. It only just arrived this morning (thanks to my buddy Gabriel at B&H Photo) and I haven’t really had any time today to take it through its paces. So this is more of just a first look and some random thoughts. I guess the best way for me to describe the D700 is it’s the camera you would get if the insanely popular Nikon D3 and the Nikon D300 had a baby. This Full-Frame sensor body fits nicely right in-between those two great cameras.

I really wasn’t in the market for a new camera. Seriously, I wasn’t! However, I always wanted to have 2 camera bodies for shoots where I’m constantly switching lenses. Although I’d love to have bragging rights on a D3, I just couldn’t justify the $5K price for my "hobby." At some point I was probably going to get a second D300 and then the D700 came along and I said, "SOLD!" It’s like having the best features of the D3 in a D300 body. It has the great low level noise (which I haven’t tested yet) and Full Frame sensor of the D3 with ISO up to 6400, yet it has the sensor dust shaker, built-in Flash (Commander) and relatively small size of the D300. It’s also $2K less than the D3. This is my first Full-Frame DSLR and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve been investing in good glass lately, so this new body comes in just at the right time.

Nikon D700 RAW shooters will be happy with the soon to be released Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 upgrade :) (can’t say any more than that). So far I’ve tried it with my 18-200mm VR lens (DX cropped), and my Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses and I’m very pleased! Most of the controls are the same as the D300. They made a couple of refinements to the things like the Compact Flash door. It just slides open without having to press a switch. Also the multi-selector wheel thingy has a better feel to it. I also noticed that the shutter has a more distinct (satisfying sound). Again, little things in the short few hours of initial play. It uses the same MB-D10 Battery Grip as the D300 and therefore will use the same L-Brackets (like my Kirk Photo one) for your tripod heads.

Nikon is definitely back in to the fight with a vengeance! More later, when I get a chance to do some real testing.

 




How Much Faster is the iPhone 3g?

One of the questions I’ve been getting a lot lately from friends and family is, "what’s different about the iPhone 3g?" I simply respond "faster data." That usually works and is sufficient. Sometimes I get blank stares. So I have to go into a little more detail. So if you just gave your computer a blank stare, let me explain. The original iPhone worked over AT&T’s EDGE data network. Speeds for things like web surfing, email, YouTube videos, etc. was faster than dial-up, but paled in comparison to DSL and Cable.

The iPhone supports Wi-Fi, so whenever you can be on a Wi-Fi network, the experience is MUCH better. One of my favorite speed test sites is speakeasy.net/speedtest/, however, this site uses Flash to display the results, so it’s useless when it comes to testing the iPhone’s speed. Instead, I use bandwidthplace.com.

Apple claims that the iPhone 3g is twice as fast as the previous model. However, by most people’s estimates, Apple is being modest with this claim. I decided to put it to the test. So I used my iPhone 3g in all 3 modes. First I tested it by turning off Wi-Fi and 3g. After a few moments the iPhone connected to AT&T’s EDGE network and here’s what I got:

 

Then I turned 3g back on and restarted the iPhone so it would have a fresh start and here’s what I got:

Not too shabby! Clearly better than twice as fast. However, this is just raw speed. Your mileage may vary from site to site in Safari. This is probably why Apple says "twice as fast." It’s a safe claim that they can achieve 100% of the time.

 

Next I restarted the iPhone again and I turned Wi-Fi back on. The iPhone is connected to my Wi-Fi network (powered by cable modem). Here’s what I got:

 

The Bottom Line

Yep, the iPhone 3g is faster! Easily twice as fast if not more. Um, not much more to say. Have a nice day :)

 




My first blog post from my iPhone

I thought I would give the WordPress iPhone app a spin. It’s pretty cool so far and will enable me to blog on the go. I love the option to post photos from the built in iPhone camera or from one that’s in your library. Unfortunately it doesn’t allow you to position them where you’d like within your post.

I also don’t see a way to do hyperlinks.

It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done and it’s FREE!

The first shot was taken with my D300 and sent to the iPhone via email and then saved to the library. The shot was from the iPhone’s built-in camera and the last two were taken as iPhone screen shots of the WordPress app.

Click the images to see full size…

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GarageSale makes Selling on eBay Fun!

As a gadget guy there always seems to be a pile of stuff that I look at and say, "I need to sell that stuff on eBay." However, if you’ve ever listed something on eBay you know how tedious the process can be. I feel that my auctions bring in top dollar and the best response because of the time I put into creating the listing. I try to take several good pictures. I try to be very thorough with the description and up until now I’ve taken the time to use Adobe GoLive to generate the HTML to spruce it up a bit. I also try to always include all the original items such as the box and user guides. So sometimes (read: most times) it’s just a chore getting everything ready to go.

I came across GarageSale after talking with some friends in my Mac Users Group. After I downloaded the trial and saw what it could do, I bought it on the spot. I almost forgot I had it. Last night I wanted to put one of my old iPhones up for sale on eBay and I decided that it was time to take GarageSale for a spin.

 

How does it work?

GarageSale is template driven. You have a wide range of templates to pick from. The templates are already HTML formatted and you can preview your listing in them. GarageSale is an approved eBay app. So it takes complete advantage of all the eBay listing features. What makes this app so easy and fun is that it’s "Mac like" (sorry, there isn’t a PC version). It integrates beautifully with the iLife apps with a built-in Media Browser as well as support for drag and drop.

I took pictures of my iPhone with my Nikon D300 in RAW. I processed them using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and exported JPEGs to a folder. Then I was able to just drag them from the folder right into my GarageSale page using the built-in drop zones.

Using GarageSale I was able to specify:

  • a 99¢ starting price
  • a 3 day auction
  • a starting day and time (if I chose to) or use the built-in scheduler
  • the category for my listing
  • my shipping and payment options
  • a counter on my page
  • extras such as gallery picture, bold listing etc.

Once I was done with specifying what I wanted, I just hit the Start Auction button and my images were FTP’d to my server (an option) and my listing was posted right on eBay. GarageSale also tracks your items right in the same app. So no need to constantly go to the website.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Mac user that regularly sales on eBay, you can’t go wrong with GarageSale. After using it last night I feel that it was definitely worth the $34.99 ($59.99 Family License) admission price. Maybe now I can get to that pile I’ve been meaning to get to.

Hey, if you’re looking to buy my iPhone 16GB, you better hurry. The beauty of this GarageSale generated auction has already gotten a lot of attention and bidders on eBay. Check out the auction here.



WordPress for iPhone Coming Soon!

 

One of the things that will make the iPhone even more useful for me is being able to update this blog of mine while on the go. Often there are times that I’m out and about and would love to blog about something right there and then. However, it’s not always convenient to whip out my digital camera and laptop. Having a WordPress compatible app on my iPhone will make all the difference in the world!

It’s coming soon!


MobileMe – still rough around the edges

Apple took a bold step and made a major claim with its new online service MobileMe (formerly known as .Mac). They billed it as “Exchange for the rest of us”. Now it seems that they have kinda backed off that claim. As a matter of fact I can no longer find the reference on the MobileMe site. Apple has also had to clarify that changes don’t happen on your Mac or PC instantly, they happen every 15 minutes at best. When Apple first showcased MobileMe at the WWDC, they lead the audience to believe that MobileMe was instantly updated everywhere (true “Push” technology) when you made a change in one place, the change happened moments later everywhere else. That’s just not the case, at least not on your desktop. That really doesn’t bother me. I can wait 15 minutes and chances are, if I’m out and about making changes to calendars and contacts on my iPhone, I’m not looking at my Mac anyway to see when the changes take place. No, I actually have other issues with MobileMe…

 

MobileMe – 2 steps forward and 3 steps backwards

I’m ok taking the bad with the good, but in this case there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to have the bad. With .Mac I already had syncing of Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, and other info between computers. With MobileMe I now get that, plus having data pushed out over the air to my iPhone 3g. Great! If I make a change on my Mac (or PC), the change automatically gets syncing up to the “Cloud” (MobileMe), where I can view it on the MobileMe website (www.me.com) or moments later on my iPhone. If I make a change on the web or on my iPhone, within 15 minutes the change happens on my Mac. Cool! I welcome this kind of wireless connectivity with open arms.

However, as a former .Mac user I can’t help but wonder why Apple chose to eliminate a couple of things that were already in place. For example, on Monday I went to send a friend of mine an iCard for her birthday. That’s when I realized that iCards didn’t make the cut over to MobileMe. Granted Apple probably had to license the images for the iCards and hey, this is an expense that could be cut, but there isn’t even the ability to make an iCard using your own photos anymore. Sure, someone could argue that with Leopard Mail we now have Birthday Stationary and I could use my own image there (which is what I ended up doing two days later), but the point is there was really no reason to eliminate this ability from the website.

The next thing that got lost in the transition is the ability to view your Bookmarks on the MobileMe website. This one is way more puzzling than the loss of iCards because Bookmarks ARE sync’d up to MobileMe. So why not offer the ability to see them and use them on the MobileMe website? This was a very handy feature of .Mac. It saved my butt on more than one occasion. I remember being in my eye doctor’s office and telling him about a site that sold prescription swim goggles. I couldn’t remember the URL. So I asked if I could use his PC? I logged on to .Mac via his IE browser. I brought up my bookmarks and went straight to the site. Perfect! Yeah I know, I now would be able to just bring up the site on my iPhone, but again if the Bookmarks are already in the Cloud, why not offer the ability to see them?

 

Calendars, Calendars, Calendars!

Besides missing a couple of features of .Mac, there are some other fundamental problems I have with MobileMe and they revolve around calendars. It’s great to finally be able to see my iCals on the web without having to “publish” them. It’s also great to have them pushed out to my iPhone. However, what I want is more choices! As it stands right now, when you turn on syncing for iCal calendars to MobileMe, it’s an all or nothing proposition. I have a couple miscellaneous iCals that I DON’T need sync’d up to the “Cloud” or to my iPhone. More importantly, there are family member, holiday and non-profit organization calendars that I subscribe to that I DO want on my iPhone. As it stands today, subscribed iCals can NOT be sync’d to MobileMe and therefore are NOT pushed out to your iPhone. It even treats the built-in “Birthdays” iCal as a Subscribed calendar and therefore you don’t get your birthdays on your iPhone! The only way around this is to NOT use MobileMe for your iCals. However, then you lose the ability to have your calendars pushed out automatically and the only updates you would get would be when you physically connected your USB cable and did a sync (a step backwards). Also if you have a corporate Exchange account configured for your work calendar (which I do), you lose the ability to sync your iCals via iTunes/USB, so you have no choice but to use MobileMe if you want to keep your personal appointments separate. The service is too much about “me” at this point :)

There also still doesn’t appear to be a way to view files from your iDisk via your iPhone. For example, the iDisk would be a great place to store sensitive data that you don’t want on your actual devices. You could log in to your MobileMe account with your password via the Safari browser. It would be great to then be able to view PDFs and other compatible files via your iPhone.

 

The Bottom Line

MobileMe has promise. I believe that Apple will work out these issues in time. However, I would be hard pressed to recommend MobileMe at this time to anyone that has more than the most basic needs. MobileMe goes for $89.99 at Amazon ($99/year list price) or $129.99 for the Family Pack ($149/year list price).

 

Update: I just got this email from Apple:



iPhone 3g review

See my NEW iPhone 3G S Review – June 2009 Here. Last year I wrote one of the most detailed unbiased iPhone reviews on the net. It has drawn over 97,000 reads to date! So I thought it only appropriate to follow it up this year with a review of the NEW iPhone 3g. When I wrote my review last year I was comparing the iPhone to all other devices I had used including the Palm Treo 650 and Motorola Razer. This year, I'll be comparing the iPhone 3g to the original iPhone. 

 

My buying experience

Last year's iPhone launch was VERY organized. This was the biggest hardware launch in Apple's history and quite frankly, they nailed it! I thought to myself "this should be the model for releasing new hardware to the masses." You could tell that months of planning had gone into it. Granted it wasn't without problems, but for the most part things went very smoothly. Last year, you stood in line, got to the counter/checkout person and said either 4GB or 8GB iPhone. You gave them your credit card and they gave your iPhone and emailed you your receipt. The whole process took 5 minutes for me once I got to the front of the line. Then you went home or back to the office and activated your iPhone using iTunes. Yes there were some issues on day one (and throughout the weekend) with the activation servers being overloaded and some people having to wait longer to get their iPhones activated. Overall though, the launch was a huge success. This year things didn't go so smoothly. There were MAJOR issues on day one. Apple chose Friday, July 11th not only to release the new iPhone 3g, but also to release the 2.0 software update for the 6 million iPhone users out there and to roll out the newly revamped MobileMe online service. Some would call this ambitious! Some might call this stupid. Hind sight is always 20-20 and I guess Apple severely under estimated the demand that these simultaneous launches would have on their servers. The problem was that not only did Apple/AT&T require you to activate your iPhone on the spot at the time of purchase, but they also require people updating their original iPhones to be reactivated at the very end of the 2.0 software update process. This was quite frankly too much for the servers to handle and they crashed/timed out early in the day. Even though Apple was quoted as saying that the average activating would only take 10-15 minutes before the iPhone went on sale, it just doesn't work that way. Apple/AT&T even handed out iReady rate sheets to people in line so that they would be prepared to walk up and ask for what they wanted. However, people are going to have questions. Each question is going to delay the purchase process and make the people waiting behind them wait even longer. I would guess that the average activation was taking more like 20-35 minutes. You might ask, "why would Apple go away from just selling the device and letting you activate it on your own time?" The problem with the last launch/iPhone was that there were thousands of iPhones that were never activated on AT&T. These phones most likely ended up in other countries on other networks. Therefore, both companies lost money. So to prevent that from happening, you have to signup for your 2 year commitment before you leave the store. It's clear that this was not a limit of the technology. When the activation servers crashed, reports say that some Apple Stores just sold the iPhones and told people to activate them when they got home. I would have much rather seen Apple offer an "optional" pay, let's say $599 up front and the difference in price would be credited back to your credit card immediately upon activation. This would have made things go much quicker for those that didn't want to activate there's on the spot. Friday, July 11th 2008, 6:00 AM PST I was in Los Angeles on Friday the 11th getting ready to deliver my InDesign Seminar to a FANTASTIC audience of over 600 people. My seminar started at 10AM and I had to be there to get setup no later than 9:40AM. So my plan was to head over to the local AT&T store by 7AM. The doors were to open at 8AM and I figured I'd be out by 9AM. Before I headed over, I was talking with my buddy Scott and he told me that the iPhone 2.0 software update had just come online. So I hung up the phone with him and decided "well I can install the update while I'm showering and getting ready." That was a mistake! While the update downloaded in a about 15 minutes and installed in about another 20 minutes, I was STUCK at the "Accessing iTunes Store" stage. The last part of the process which talks to the iTunes activation server could not complete. I was running out of time. So I disconnected the iPhone which did no harm, but I was basically holding an iBrick. Without completing that last step, the iPhone could only be used to make emergency 911 calls. I had to leave if I was going to get to the store!

I made it to the AT&T store a few minutes later than I had hoped. I was 112th in line. One of the AT&T reps walked the line and counted and assured everyone up to about the 125th person that they would get an iPhone. After that person, you were not guaranteed to get one because they were not going to have enough. 8AM came and the doors opened. The line moved a bit. 8:15 came and went. 8:25 came and went. The line didn't move again until about 8:30. This was not looking good. I had my MacBook Pro with me in line (still trying to connect to the iTunes activation server to reactivate my phone). When 9:00 came, I knew that I might as well leave. There was no way that the line was going to move fast enough for me to get in and out before my seminar. So now I had no iPhone. My old one was still bricked (un-activated) and I couldn't get the new one. I finally got connected to the iTunes activation server during my lunch break and got my original iPhone back up and running again. After my seminar was over at 5PM. I called the Apple Store (knowing that AT&T was now out of stock) and I was quoted a 4 hour wait!!! I decided that it wasn't worth it. So I went to dinner and then on to the airport to catch the redeye home. After about 2 hours sleep, I made it over to my local Apple Store (Somerset Troy, Michigan) at 9AM. There were about 30 people ahead of me. I walked out with a 16GB black iPhone 3g at about 10:50 AM on Saturday morning. When I left the store, the line had grown to about 100 people. On to the review…

 

Let's start with the new hardware

The iPhone 3g looks very similar (read almost identical) to the original iPhone, especially when you're looking at them from the front. However, when you look at the from the sides or the back you'll see that Apple has added a few more curves. The side volume control buttons and ringer on/off switch are more sleek and the stainless steel back plate is now a shiny black (or white) plastic. Although it's technically no thinner, it feels thinner in my hand. The slick black plastic also feels easier to hold. This is one of those things that's hard to convey in text. You'll have to hold one in your hands to get what I'm talking about here. By going away from stainless steel on the back and going to plastic, reception should be improved. My calls do seem to be very crystal clear. I'm also happy that the iPhone 3g fits nicely into my favorite iPhone case, the DLO Hipcase.

3g data and GPS The iPhone 3g includes not only a 3g data transceiver but also a GPS unit built-in. Although I loved surfing the web on the original iPhone, I would always hesitate to do so when I wasn't connected to Wi-Fi. The previous model relied on EDGE and while EDGE speeds were OK, it wasn't something that you would look forward to using for hours on end. The big new thing about the new iPhone 3g is that it can use AT&T's (and other carriers around the world) faster 3g (3rd generation) faster data network. Apple bills the iPhone as twice as fast and I would have to agree. In some respects they may even be being a little modest. The iPhone 3g is definitely much much much faster at loading complex websites. It loads text based websites almost instantaneously.

 

Although Apple includes a GPS with the iPhone 3g there is no turn-by-turn navigation feature. I've heard several theories on this including one that suggests with the case design, and power to the GPS, it's just not strong enough to do this. However, the GPS is strong enough to show and track your location on the Google Maps app. I tested this by plotting a route from my house to a local video game store. Once I got in my car and tapped the Locate Me button, the iPhone 3g showed my location with a pulsing icon. As I drove the route the iPhone 3g was VERY accurate in showing me where I was. It does work, but turn-by-turn with voice prompts would have been much better. Perhaps whatever the limitations are can either be overcome by a 3rd party developer or by Apple in a future software update. Smaller lesser phones have this, so how hard can it be? Geotagging your pictures! Another benefit of the GPS and Location Services of the iPhone 3g/iPhone 2.0 update is that when you take a picture with the built-in camera, the GPS data (longitude and latitude) are now stored in the metadata of the shot.

 

Here's a shot I took with the iPhone's built-in camera. The iPhone automatically put my location information in the file. If you click the photo it will take you to Google maps and show you where I was standing :)

 

If you import these shots into apps like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you'll be one click away from seeing exactly where you were when you took the shot. Headphone jack and dock connector Apple did away with the funky recessed headphone jack from the original iPhone. Thank God! It was a pain in the butt to have to not only buy an adapter to use your favorite headphones, but also remembering to carry it with you. Now just about any set of standard headphones should work for listening to your iPod content. Although the iPhone 3g uses the same dock connector as all previous models and other iPods, I'm hearing reports that you can no longer use the old Firewire based chargers. There may also be issues plugging your iPhone 3g into the various iPod speaker systems out there. Typically Apple now provides a dock connector adapter with each new iPod they introduce. However, I haven't seen one yet for the iPhone 3g. Backwards compatibility The one bad thing about the slightly more curvy back is that the iPhone 3g doesn't fit properly in the original iPhone dock. Nor does the iPhone 3g come with a dock. If you want a dock for your iPhone 3g you'll have to buy it as a $29.95 add on. That doesn't bother me as much as the fact that I have the Apple Bluetooth Headset which comes with a dock that charges both the iPhone AND the headset. With the iPhone 3g I can't use that dock and Apple hasn't announced or shipped a replacement for it. So I either have to use just the iPhone Bluetooth Charging Cable which does work (charges both the iPhone 3g and the Bluetooth headset) or charge the iPhone and Bluetooth headset separately. Although Apple no longer includes a dock, strangely enough they do include a SIM eject tool so that you won't have to sacrifice one of your small paper clips. Granted I've swapped SIM cards on occasion here and there with my previous iPhones, but I can't imagine the average user doing this often. So I'm not quite sure why Apple included this tool. Perhaps it's for troubleshooting.

 

 

The other new item in the package is the newly redesigned USB charging adapter. It's much smaller! As a frequent traveler I do appreciate SMALLER electronics. However, the one thing I liked better about the older larger model is that the prongs folded down when not in use and for travel. On the new one the prongs are extended all the time. Phone Reception After all at the end of the day the iPhone is a phone! Therefore, nothing else really matters if you can't make or receive calls. I'm happy to report that the phone reception is BETTER! I would even say MUCH BETTER. There is a AT&T dead spot near my home. If I drove through that intersection while talking on my previous iPhone (hands-free of course), I would drop the call 100% of the time guaranteed. So the ultimate test was driving through that area today. Not only did I not drop the call, but the sound quality of the call remained consistent. As a matter of fact there are 3 dead spots on the way to my studio. I held a conversation today all the way from my house to the studio without a single drop. So therefore I'd have to say that the iPhone 3g definitely has better phone reception. Also I have to note that the speaker/speaker phone is definitely louder. Today I found myself needing to turn it down because it was too loud! Bluetooth Hands-free My car has Bluetooth hands-free built-in and it's compatible with the iPhone. The iPhone's Contact list downloads directly to the dashboard and I can look up numbers, make and receive calls without touching the iPhone itself. I noticed two differences with the iPhone 3g/2.0 update. The first is that now my contacts are listed last name first on the car's display. Before the update they were listed first name then last name. So if I were looking up Joe Smith, I'd go to the J's. Now I have to remember to go to the S's. No big deal, but I did notice it immediately. Also I now notice a slight echo when I'm on a hands-free call. It's not bad, but it is noticeable. I don't think the caller can hear it, but I sure can. Other than that, pairing and voice quality remained unchanged. It just works. Battery Life? It's hard to judge battery life at this point because I haven't had a "normal" day of usage yet. Like any other new toy I've spent most of the time playing with it, testing and reconfiguring settings, etc. So of course I've drained the battery faster than usual because the screen is on the whole time I'm playing. If you pinned me down. I'd have to say that battery life is less than what I had before, but again that's not fair as I haven't really used it the way I normally would yet. So let's just say the jury is still out on this one. 

 

The NEW 2.0 Software

Granted the addition of 3g data speeds, a GPS and a standard headphone jack are all welcomed additions to the iPhone 3g, however the big news is the updated OS. iPhone Software 2.0 comes on the iPhone 3g and is available as a FREE update to the original iPhones. It's also available as a $9.95 upgrade for iPod touch users. With the iPhone 2.0 update Apple fixed some long standing issues. One of the issues I had was an intermittent syncing problem. That issue seemed to be resolved. They also not only tweaked some of the existing apps, but made it possible to add native 3rd party apps. Search your Contacts (it's almost there) I have over 1,000 contacts on my iPhone and it was a pain in the butt either having to scroll up and down the long list or break them down into groups. Now Apple has included a search feature right at the top of the Contact window. I was very happy to see this addition. It works, but it's not quite there yet. In Address Book (Apple's contact manager) on the desktop, Apple got search right! You type in what you want and no matter where it is in the contact record, it finds it. However, that's not quite the case in the iPhone search. For example, let's say you have a contact that is listed as a business, "BMW Dealer", but you also have the sales rep's name in the name field "Jim Edmondson". If you do a search for BMW, it comes up. However, if you search for Jim – it doesn't! Searching for either BMW or Jim in Mac OS X's Address Book would find the contact. New and Improved Calculator The original iPhone calculator was basic, but had a big flaw. There was no "Clear Entry" key. So literally there was no room for error. If you were keying in a bunch of entries and made a mistake, hitting "C" would clear the whole thing. Now in iPhone 2.0 hitting "C" performs a Clear Entry (of the last entry) and you can correct your mistake! YAY! FINALLY!. If you need a Scientific Calculator just rotate your iPhone and your basic calculator turns into a Scientific Calculator. Neat! New Contacts App Apple has provided an additional way to get to your Contacts. It may seem like duplication of effort at first and it is. However, from what I'm told, this was one of the most requested features. The ability to get to your Contacts in one tap without having to go to the Phone app first is welcomed. I must admit that I've used it a few times already and I like having this additional way to get there. Microsoft Exchange and Cisco VPN! – Official Enterprise Support At Last!!! This is BIG! Most major corporations use Microsoft Exchange for their Email, calendar and contact serving. The original iPhone software only supported Exchange via (relatively limted) IMAP support. Most corporations weren't willing to turn on Exchange IMAP support for their users to use iPhones. iPhone 2.0 changes all that! This is largely because IMAP just doesn't offer enough in terms of features/security such as remote wipe and requiring a password on the device. Now there is Microsoft's Active Sync support built right in. My employer's IT department is the best! They were very eager to see this support in the iPhone. Not only were they one of the beta testers, but they had corporate email, calendaring and LDAP contact support up and running for iPhone 2.0 users on day one! It's a joy to be able to get work email pushed out to my iPhone seamlessly and better than I've had on any previous device. I can also access web pages on our intranet for the first time with the iPhone's built-in Cisco VPN support. This also alleviates the worry of losing my iPhone or having it stolen and someone accessing my data. Corporate IT departments can institute a password requirement and remotely wipe a missing iPhone once it's reported stolen or lost. The remote wipe is secure and writes 1's and 0's repeatedly to the iPhone. Even if they pull the SIM card or turn off the iPhone. Once the iPhone is back on the wipe will continue. There is no way to stop it. Setup was a breeze and done over the air. I had it up and running on Friday before I left LA. This will mean that the iPhone will now be open to millions of business users that couldn't have used the original iPhone (software). This is probably one of the most useful additions to the 2.0 version for me. Push Email, Calendars and Contacts for the rest of us Apple also rolled out MobileMe on Friday. MobileMe replaces Apple's aging .Mac service. The new MobileMe service is cross platform now for both Mac and Windows users. The $99/year service gives you 20GB of online storage, an email account and access to your contacts, calendar, pictures and files from any internet connected computer. What's new and more relevant to iPhone users is that this service offers "Push" email, contacts and calendars for iPhones. Similar to what a corporate Microsoft Exchange user would get. The idea is that you wouldn't have to plug in your iPhone just to sync a new calendar entry or contact update. These updates would happen in both directions over the air. Once the MobileMe servers actually came online and stabilized, my "Pushed" information worked as advertised. My buddy sent me an address and phone number change. I made the change in Address Book on the Mac and noticed the change just happened automatically on the website version of MobileMe. Then I checked my iPhone 3g and it was there as well! I added a calendar appointment on the iPhone and checked my iCal and it was there. Although MobileMe seems to work as advertised there are a couple things I'd like to see improved. The first and probably the biggest thing is that I have multiple iCals, "work", "home" etc. Then I have some that aren't important enough to have with me on my iPhone. However, with MobileMe you either have to sync ALL or NONE of your iCals. There is no way to pick which ones go out to the iPhone and which ones don't. Worse is that if you subscribe to other people's/organization's calendars there is no way to have Subscribed calendars pushed out to your iPhone via MobileMe. For example, my wife and I share each other's personal iCals. She subscribes to mine and I subscribe to hers. Now with MobileMe "push" there is no way for me to see her iCal on my iPhone. This is a serious omission and I hope this gets resolved/added in an update. Yes it's for both Mac AND Windows users! I can't stress enough that while .Mac was for Mac users only, MobileMe AND the iPhone are cross platform. That's one of the reasons why Apple changed the name from .Mac. So on the Windows side, MobileMe and the iPhone 3g/2.0 offers support for Microsoft Outlook. You'll get the same "Push" abilities with your Outlook calendar and contacts. 

 

A couple of undocumented features

With every new iPhone software update there are usually a couple of features that don't make it into the headlines. This iPhone 2.0 update is no different. The first one I am very thrilled about as I'm a co-author of "The iPhone Book", this one will be a tremendous help in finishing the update and that is the ability to natively take a screen shot of the iPhone screen. Simply hold down home button and press the power button to snap a picture of the screen. The picture is then added to your Camera Roll and can then be downloaded to your computer or emailed. The next one is a smaller, but welcomed addition and that is the Mail app now has a BCC (blind carbon copy) field. Also you can now switch the outgoing account that the mail is going to come from on the fly (this only works if you have multiple email accounts, of course). 

 

3rd Party App Support

Aside from getting my work email and pushed content from my contacts and iCals, 3rd party App support is the next biggest favorite of mine. No software company can do everything. Apple is no different. Therefore, I'm very happy to see Apple open the iPhone up to 3rd party developers. There are some really great apps for the iPhone and on day one Apple announced over 500 apps that are available in the iTunes App Store! Many of the apps are either free or very low cost. Some of the new apps even addressed some of my early criticisms of the iPhone. For example, I was surprised that Apple didn't include iChat (instant messaging) on the iPhone in addition to SMS. No worries because AOL has made AIM for iPhone available as a FREE app. Also I couldn't believe that there wasn't a Movies widget that would let you see theaters, movies and show times. Now I have two. Movies.app was my favorite web based iPhone app. Now it's a native iPhone app. I also found BoxOffice. I haven't decided which one I like best yet. They're both FREE! Apple makes it pretty easy to add 3rd party apps to your iPhone. You can either download them using iTunes and then sync them to your iPhone or you can use the new App Store icon right on your iPhone to buy/download free apps. If you grab an app directly on your iPhone, it will be backed up to your your computer the next time you sync. Some of these 3rd party apps are really clever and take advantage of the built-in features of the iPhone. For example, Bank of America's "Mobile Banking" app uses the iPhone's location services. If you ask for the nearest ATM it will give you the option of keying in a zip code or simply finding it based on YOUR current location. The game Super Monkey Ball uses the built-in accelerometer and motion detectors of the iPhone to turn the entire iPhone into a game controller. Simply tilt and turn the iPhone to control the monkey through the game. Having 500 apps available on day one is just the beginning! I expect to see hundreds more apps in the coming months. 

 

My top 10 favorite iPhone apps

Remote, AIM, eBay, Movies.app, Mobile Banking, PayPal, Blackjack, Super Monkey Ball, MySpace OK and then there's PhoneSaber because it just makes me (and everyone I show it to) laugh :)

 

However, the app that I'm most anxiously awaiting is Slingbox for the iPhone! That will be a killer app. 

 

Still room for improvement

The iPhone 3g along with the iPhone 2.0 software update goes a long way towards improving an already great device. However, there are still dozens of things I'd like to see added! For starters, the one thing keeping the web experience from being perfect or near perfect is the lack of Flash support. Hopefully Adobe can get this on the iPhone soon. It is in the works! The iPhone still lacks some other basics such as MMS messaging (the ability to send/receive pictures/movies/sounds from phone to phone directly), voice dialing and video recording. Here is my original list of "50 Ways To Make The iPhone Better" (via software updates). The ones that Apple has added via iPhone software updates recently are colored blue and the ones that were added either via iPhone 2.0 or 3rd party software have been colored green. The ones in black are still on my wishlist:

1 – Ability to use My OWN ringtones (sounds, music, etc.) The iTunes store will NEVER have some of the sounds I want to use.

2 – Sync Notes to the computer

3 – Cut/Copy Paste system wide

4 – Email anything (besides notes, photos URLs) Contacts, maps, directions, voicemail messages as attachments, etc.

5 – MMS (Multimedia Messaging – send pictures/movies directly to another phone)

6 – Consolidated Mail inBox and an easier way to jump between accounts than going back, back, back

7 – Flash support in Safari (this is now my number ONE request).

8 – Video and Voice (Memo) Recording (3rd Party)

9 – Color coded or Separate Calendar views (just like iCal does today)

10 – Searchable Contacts (there but still needs improvement)

11 – To be able to assign ringtones to groups of Contacts (it's really a pain doing them one-by-one)

12 – Wireless Syncing iPhone to Computer over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (MobileMe Push)

13 – Voice dialing (3rd Party app – Speechcloud Voice Dialing – I haven't tried this app yet)

14 – Dial-up Networking (use the iPhone as a modem)

15 - iPhones on AT&T corporate plans (discounts or not, I shouldn't have to setup a personal account to use the iPhone on AT&T)

16 – Landscape Keyboard entry in all the apps

17 – Additional Audio email attachment support for files in Vonage (u-LAW encoded) WAV format

18 – Email to a group of Contacts

19 – iChat/AIM built-in (3rd Party)

20 – Calculator CE (clear entry) key

21 – Native Microsoft Exchange support (MS Direct Push or 3rd party support).

22 – Wireless stereo music playback over Bluetooth and AirTunes

23 – A one button Redial feature (example: triple tap the Home button)

24 – A "Dialed" list in addition to "Recent" and "Missed Calls"

25 – Ability to play music directly from the Slideshow feature

26 – Built in Unit Converter (I expect a 3rd party app for this)

27 – To Do's, sync'd with iCal/Outlook

28 – Password/Pin protected Notes

29 – An option that lets me choose what screen I land on when I wake my iPhone; it can either be (a) whichever I screen I was at last, like it does now, or (b) I can choose to always start at another screen (like the phone favorites, or the Home, etc.).

30 – Being able to rotate Mail 90 degrees

31 – Keynote app (now with TV out, you could use your iPhone for slide presentations without needing your laptop)

32 – Pseudo GPS based on cell towers to tie in with Google Maps feature (iPhone 3g includes a real GPS too)

33 – General file storage like a USB drive (Enable iPhone as a Hard Drive)

34 – Support for Stereo Audio over Bluetooth headphones

35 – Support for a Bluetooth Wireless Remote AND the ability to use the iPhone as a Remote

36 – Sound Profiles (example: I would create a profile that turns off all sounds except incoming calls for traveling)

37 – Auto dialing of a string of numbers/pauses (ie. you dial your company voicemail and tap a button to dial your ext. and pin)

38 – Built in "Movies" widget (show times, buy tickets, trailers) Yes I know there are good web based ones. Having one built-in would be faster to access and could remember your settings. (3rd Party)

39 – Safari password remember/store feature (Keychain for the iPhone)

40 – Multiple email signatures (also the ability to assign default ones per account)

41 – Mail spam filtering

42 – Mail Rules

43 – Full Bluetooth support on the Mac (Browse the device, dial from Address Book, etc.)

44 – Delete multiple items at once such as emails

45 – iPod songs as Alarm sounds

46 – A true RSS reader (the one in Safari desktop would be a good start) (3rd Party)

47 – Call duration display

48 – SMS to multiple Contacts

49 – .Mac Push Email

50 – The ability to direct ALL of the Audio sources over Bluetooth (such as email attachments, audio on web pages)

51 – Built in Dictionary/Thesaurus (3rd Party)

52 – Add a ".com" button on the MAIL keyboard as well.

53 – view PowerPoint attachments and now iWork files too. Â So as you can see Apple has made progress towards my list :) 

 

The Bottom Line

I still feel the same way I did a year ago. The iPhone is not perfect! However, in my opinion it is the quite simply the best smartphone out there! The iPhone 2.0 software update brings 99% of what's on the new iPhone 3g to ALL iPhone users at no additional cost. Although Apple bills the iPhone as "Twice the speed, half the price", the iPhone 3g will end up costing you more than the model it replaces. This is due in part to the fact that AT&T raised the charge for unlimited data from $20/month to $30/month. They also no longer include the 200 SMS text messages like they did before. To get the same 200 messages as before it will cost you $5/month more now. When Apple says "Half the price", they are really referring to the cost of entry. The iPhone 3g now starts at $199 for the 8GB. That's a far cry from the original price of $599 (then dropped to $399). Also since this is a subsidized phone, in order to get the $199 or $299 price for the 16GB model, you have to either be NEW to AT&T or eligible for an upgrade. I watched a guy storm out of the Apple store because he hadn't had his existing AT&T (non-iPhone) phone for 18 months and therefore didn't qualify for the upgrade pricing. The iPhone 3g is available in a black 8GB model or your choice of black or white in the 16GB model. The iPhone is available here in the US by either visiting your local Apple store or AT&T store. To see many of the new iPhone features in action, check out Apple's iPhone 3g Guided Tour.

 

iPhone 3g News Since My Review: iPhone 2.0.1 Software Update Speeds Up The iPhone

 

See my NEW site for App Reviews and News – bestappsite.com

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Apple preps for iPhone 3g/2.0

The iPhone 3g goes on sale in about 24 hours here in the states. Apple has begun prepping for the new iPhone by releasing iTunes 7.7 which will be needed for the new iPhone as well as original iPhones/iPod touches with the 2.0 software update.

Apple has also taken down .Mac in preparation to roll out MobileMe. It should be an exciting weekend as Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that there will be 500 apps in the App store of which 25% will be FREE! 90% of the Apps will be $9.99 or less. I can’t wait to see what the developers have come up with.

The iPhone is about to kick some major booty!

I’m headed to Los Angeles today. Look for more sporadic updates throughout the weekend, plus my full review once I get my hands on an iPhone 3g. Sleep, who needs sleep?  :)




Getting faster uploads with Comcast

I’ll be the first to beat up on Comcast when they screw up. So I thought I would take a second to commend them for doing something good (yes it’s still easy to complain, but let’s not for a moment). I’ve had Comcast Cable Modem service since 1999. The service has been relatively reliable and has not really been down much in the last 8 years. I think my longest outage was about 18 hours. My sister on the other hand was down for an entire week and was pulling her hair out as well as mine. So your mileage and experiences will vary. After all for the most part we’re at the whim of a aging network of cables strung across wooden poles. It’s a mircle it works at all.

Comcast has the monopoly in my area. Sure I can go with DSL (as a matter of fact I also have DSL as a backup) or other services, but none of them are as fast or even come close. I keep waiting for FIOS or AT&T’s rumored Fiber Optic service, but it’s just not here yet. So Comcast Performance Plus is it for me, for now.

 

I work from home. I need the speed!

Even though the (Comcast) service is considered to be expensive by some (If you’ve been to some other parts of the world, you’ll know it’s not. I have friends in other countries that pay a lot more for a lot less), it has been worth it. I work from home and I need the fastest most reliable internet service that I can get. It’s not uncommon for me to download gigabytes of files from work. This is also why I have AT&T’s DSL service as a backup. If and when Comcast goes down, I can’t call in and say “sorry, I won’t be working today AND I don’t know when I’ll be working again.” I have the DSL service on a separate Wi-Fi network. If Comcast does go down, I simply switch to my other network and keep right on working.

 

A welcomed email message

Having fast download speeds has become the norm. However, upload speeds have lagged way behind and still do. Granted we’re usually consuming more information than we’re publishing, but that is changing rapidly. We’re pushing more and more content out these days and the upload speeds have to keep going up. I’m FTPing stuff up to servers all the time. I do video podcasts, photo galleries, large email attachments, etc. on a daily basis. So when I got this message from Comcast, I just smiled and thought “bring it on!”

 

Putting it to the test

I immediately went to my favorite internet speed test site and ran my usual test against the Chicago server (the closest one to me). I was thrilled with my results for both download AND upload speeds (see the top of this post for the final results). My upload speed was indeed testing much faster (compare to last year’s test) than before and I welcome this improvement.

testing in progress (love the animation of this site)

 I also took this opportunity to do a couple of comparisons:

I tested my DSL connection by simply switching the ethernet cable coming out of my MacPro (which I used to do the above tests) from my gigabit ethernet switch that is connected to my cable modem and plugged it directly into the AT&T supplied DSL router. I expected the speed to be much slower and it was. However, this is the fastest DSL connection available to my home:

I also asked my team member Lynn Grillo to send me a test from her Verizon FIOs connection (keep in mind that she ran this test on a slower MacBook Pro AND over Wi-Fi. She also tested against the NY server. Her upload speed was still faster than mine (so not apples to apples, but still interesting):

Just to even things out a bit, I tried a test using my MacBook Pro over Wi-Fi (802.11n) and here is the best result:

and the worst result running the test 5 times in a row:

Even in the test that yielded the slowest download speed, my NEW Comcast upload speed remained pretty consistent.

Comcast, I’ll take more! I know you can turn it up to be even faster. If Fiber comes into my area with faster service, I’ll drop you like a hot potato. If you want to keep me as a customer, keep the prices competitive, the service relaible and the speed up. So let’s get it going!


There is nothing that I want that bad!

I made a joke about people lining up already to get the iPhone 3g when it was announced back in early June. Sure I knew people would start lining up a day or two before they went on sale. However, I can’t believe that people started lining up A FULL WEEK before they go on sale this coming Friday!

The good folks over at MacNN posted this report and picture above about people lining up this past Friday at the 5th Avenue NYC store.

 

The true meaning of “get a life!”

Sure, I plan to get the new iPhone 3g as quickly as I can (mainly to report on it here and update my book), but not if it means camping out overnight (let alone for a week!). I’m almost tempted to hop on a plane, fly to NYC and ask them “why?”

If last year’s launch is any indication of the availability of the new iPhone, there should be plenty to at least last throughout the weekend. Especially now that you have to do in-store activation and it will be one per person activating the phone. You’ll probably be able to walk right into a store on Saturday morning or even Sunday and buy one with no waiting. Is being first really that important?

Here’s a test?

Remember the guy who got the first iPhone last year?…………….. Exactly! No one cares.

 

I’m sure they’ll be handing the first person in this line their iPhone with a stick. :) I feel sorry for the Apple Store employee that has to sit there with him while he gets his phone activated. PU!

I pray that there is never anything I would want that bad that I’d be willing to live on the street for a week to get it! If you happen to be one of those folks in line already reading this, please respond below with your reasons. C’mon, I gotta know! Good luck!

UPDATE: Apparently the group is trying to set a world record for the longest wait in line to buy something. See their website here.


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