Tag Archives: Apple

Pay for your groceries in the future by waving your iPhone or iPad

Could you carry around your iPad or iPhone instead of cash or credit cards?

It seems that the latest rumours circulating around the upcoming iPad 2 is that it may contain an NFC chip.

What’s NFC?

NFC stands for “Near Field Communication” – basically a technology that will allow an electronic device to communicate wirelessly with other electronic devices – yes like RFID, Infrared, Wifi or Bluetooth, but with less range, faster and less complicated setup and compatible with existing RFID.   NFC is a technology primarily for mobile phones, and people are hoping that in the future, you could use NFC devices to pay for stuff, validating tickets for concerts, or interactions with electronic posters.

So, imagine this – if your iPhone 5 or iPad 2 had an NFC chip, and Coles or Woolies supportd it, and your bank supports it – you could just wave your iPhone or iPad in front of some scanning machine and PAY for your groceries!  No cash or card required.

Well, to me, it would seem totally impractical to carry around your iPad in your pocket just to pay for groceries.  Using your mobile phone seems to make a lot of sense though – I carry mine everywhere. 

But like many things – Apple are a little behind the ballgame here.  It seems that Nokia has already rolled out an NFC enabled phone in 2008 (http://www.engadget.com/2009/04/09/visa-rolls-out-its-first-commercial-nfc-payment-system/).  However, with the market share of iPhones and iPads, if Apple picks it up and promotes this, I’m sure most other mobile phone manufacturers will have to follow suit, and this could kickstart new trends.

For me, I’m most worried about the safety and security of the system.

What happens if you lose your phone?  How quickly can you cancel payments from it?

Could someone create another NFC device that could steal money from you electronically and wirelessly by just placing it next to your phone/pocket without knowing?

If it’s secure and safe, it’d be great to replace EFTPOS with this – imagine paying buying movie tickets online then just passing your phone over some sensor at the movies to get in, or paying for petrol or groceries with your phone?

Would you use something like this if it was available and safe and secure?

More here:
http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/28/apple-job-posts-point-to-built-in-nfc-capabilities-for-ipad-ip/

http://www.eetasia.com/ARTICLES/2006MAY/PDF/EEOL_2006MAY01_STECH_RFD_TA.pdf?SOURCES=DOWNLOAD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_field_communication

MacWorld Expo 2011 in San Francisco

If you’re a geek, you gotta keep up with the big expos around the world.   That’s where major product announcements are made and the latest gadgets demo’d.

Right now, the MacWorld Expo is being held in San Francisco.   This expo used to be the one where Apple officially participated and announced new products but it pulled its support in 2009.

Still, many companies selling Apple accessories and software have come out in force.    This device called the iFusion caught my eye – converting a mobile phone for use as a deskphone with charging and speakerphone capabilities!

For those of us who can’t get to San Francisco, you can follow the action online:

MacWorld Expo official web site – http://www.macworld.com/

MacWorld coverage from TUAW – http://www.tuaw.com/category/macworld/

MacWorld coverage on Engadget – http://www.engadget.com/tag/macworld/

App Store for Macs

Wow!  Apple is clever…   they seem to have recognised and acknowledged the ease and success of the App Store on the iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch platform and expanded this to their personal computer market.

Yep, if you haven’t heard – the latest update of the OSX operating system introduces the App Store to Macs.

What a great idea!!  I can definitely see myself buying and downloading apps and games, especially if they’re competitively priced.  So consumers will now get more out of the Macs.  And this will also encourage developers to write more applications and games for Macs since the distribution model is all there – the App Store is just too easy to buy and install a new application or game!!   I wonder if this will convert users who have iPhones but Windows computers at home to a Mac too.

The first thing I looked up was the new iLife 2011 upgrade.   I was thinking – maybe I can upgrade the parts I want, like maybe just iPhoto.   So I did some price comparisons between the Australian Apple Store and the AppStore.

Retail Store Price – iLife ’11  (iPhoto 11, iMovie 11, GarageBand 11 + existing iDVD and iWeb) = AUD $69

Retail Store Price – iLife ’11 Family Pack (As above but install on up to 5 computers in the house) =  AUD $99

App Store Price –  iPhoto $17.99 + iMovie $17.99 + GarageBand $17.99 = AUD $53.97

So, it looks like if you only have 1 Mac at home to upgrade to iLife ’11, it’s cheaper to buy it through the App Store than off the shelf.  But if you have more than 1 Mac, it’s already cheaper to buy the Family Pack off the net.   But if you don’t need all the new iLife applications for the whole family – for example, if I only wanted to upgrade to iPhoto and no-one else, it’s definitely cheaper to buy it through the App Store.

But then I had an idea – one really valuable aspect of the iPhone App Store is that I can buy a game once, and then my family can also install this for free on their iDevices thanks to Home Sharing.  I’ve done a bit of Googling but can’t seem to find any mention of Home Sharing for the Mac App Store, which is disappointing.  Why should I be able to share Angry Birds between my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone and Little Miss 11’s iPod Touch, but not Angry Birds for the Mac to my wife’s Mac?   Apple – any Home Sharing planned?   I guess not being part of the iTunes framework might make it technically hard to do this?

So how does the purchasing and installation experience work?  Just the same as the iPhone platform.  After signing in with my App Store account, I clicked the “Free” button for a few of the free applications like EverNote and MindNode.   My dock showed them downloading and they just installed seamlessly to my Applications folder.  I did notice that downloaded applications seemed to be pinned to the dock by default.   Arghh!!   Does this have to be the default?   I guess it might help the newbie Mum and Dad who wondered where their purchase went, but this could cause a lot of clutter!!!!

Actually, on clutter – I think people’s Macs will now get cluttered with useless applications and games!

Anyways, I can see my whole weekend taken up by browsing all these apps I never knew existed for the Mac.  I expect that it will take a few weeks/months for the App Store rankings to settle down and be more meaningful too.   I can’t wait until more commercial and common software is available through the App Store for easy purchasing and/or installation – Adobe, Sibelius, Firefox, Chrome?

Disappointed with Apple Store customer service

If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you will have notice I’ve turned into an Apple fan.   I just love their design.

I was really excited when Perth got its first real Apple store.  Awesome!!!  No, I didn’t line up to be the first in on opening day, but I did visit it on opening day.

And so yesterday when I had a day off with the kids, we went into the city and made a pit stop at the Apple store.

Now, recently the mute button broke off my iPhone.  I thought that this would be a good opportunity to ask someone for help.

So I looked around the store.  An army of employees in blue T-shirts.  Most of them seemed busy with other customers.  Others looking busy behind a Mac.  Others seemed to be busy walking from point A to B.   Hmm…  Who do I approach?   There doesn’t seem to be a dedicated general customer service person or location.

So I walked up to the counter where you pay for stuff.   The dude there was busy and I couldn’t even make eye contact with him.  Some other Apple guy came out from the back and talked to him, then walked right past me – I couldn’t even make eye contact with him either!  So far, not so good.  I would’ve expected one of them to say “Hi”, that they’re busy and will get to me soon.

After more waiting and no employee even acknowledging my existence, I had to approach the guy at the counter myself and say, “Hi, I need some help”, explained my mute button is broken and what can I do.

“You need to make a Genius appointment”.

The guy then proceeds to lead me to a free Mac and tells me that I need to make an appointment on the computer and tries to show me how to do it.   Shouldn’t he be engaging me as the customer and booking the appointment for me?   ARGH! 

I’m wondering why couldn’t anyone quickly tell me if it’s something that they can fix or not or what the general fixing policy is or rates are?  Not sure if this is a widespread issue, but it would be nice if the floor staff can handle simple queries without needing to make a Genius appointment.  Now I have to go back into the store a second time 😦

Ordered my iPhone 4!

I only have about 4 months left on my 24 month contract with Optus for my iPhone 3G.

I know a few of my friends had been contacted by Optus, asking if they wanted to upgrade to an iPhone 4.   But not me!!!

So on the weekend, I headed to an Optus store to see what options I had.   And amazingly, they had some “special weekend offer” where if I signed up for another contract, they would waive the remaining 4 months of handset payments, as well as early contract termination fees.    Sweet!  Basically, I keep on paying the “same” amount and get an iPhone 4.

How could I resist?

Wifey didn’t seem to mind – probably because she can’t wait for me to hand over my iPhone 3G.

So, in the end, everyone’s happy.   Now just to wait until they get one in stock so I can pick it up.    And to find a good plan for Wifey to go on.

Upgraded to iPhone iOS 4!

Not sure if existing iPhone 3G/3GS owners are aware – but you can upgrade your iPhone to the latest firmware that comes on the new iPhone 4’s.   Yep!  New features!  FOR FREE!  And you don’t need to buy an iPhone 4.

There’s a whole ream of new small features.  But as I have an “old” iPhone 3G, I don’t get the whole lot.

What I like

Playlist management

Before this update, the only way to create a playlist on the fly was using the On the go playlist.   It was definitely not the best way of saving a collection of favourite tunes or tunes you wanted to listen to.

At last, now you can create as many custom playlists as you like!

But one feature that is missing – the ability to add the currently playing song to a specific playlist.  I would have thought that this would be a common use case – you’re listening to a song that you like, then want to add it to a playlist.  Aargghhh!

Merged Inbox

I have an iiNet account and a Gmail account both for personal use.  Previously on the iPhone I would have to navigate up and down the tree to check emails on both accounts.  Now, I don’t have to.  Fantastic.

Folders for applications

Alright – this is a great feature!  Hands up who had screens and screens worth of applications?  Me!

I’ve now re-organised my applications into groups on my first main screen.  The result is just 2 clicks to get to my most used applications and games.  Yes I hear people complaining that you can’t add more than 12 applications into one group.   But hey, if you had more than 12 I don’t think you’d save any extra UI interactions to get to the application you want – you’d need more than 2 clicks/swipes.

Too many folders

I’m just struggling with the most suitable way to group the applications.  Where should I put Flickr?  In an “Internet” group for internet related applications, “Photography” since it’s all about photos, or “Social” since it’s all about sharing and engaging with friends?

Expanded folders in iOS4

I started with heaps of folders on my home page, but then realised that I only really used a handful of these applications all the time, and I now introduced two clicks to get to them.  So I’ve now re-organised my applications so the most used are directly on the first screen, and folders can flow into the second screen.

Consolidated my folders

iBooks

Yay!  Another digital book application to add to my existing Kindle, Borders and Wattpad apps.   I spent a whole evening downloading as many free books as I could find thanks to Project Gutenburg – http://www.gutenberg.org/.

iBooks

What could be improved

No multitasking

I was really looking forward to this, just so I can swap between applications quicker.  A friend showed me how it works on his iPhone 3GS and it’s really quick to switch apps.

Unfortunately for him, he left a GPS application running in the background accidentally and it chewed up nearly all his battery without him realising!  Hmmm..

5x Digital Zoom

It’s responsive, but hey, it’s just digitally zooming a 2 megapixel picture so the result is quite pixelated, especially at the 5x end of the zoom.  I’m sure I would use a little bit of zooming if I can’t actually get closer to the subject I’m taking, but otherwise *yawn*.

Upgrade experience

So first thing I did was upgrade my iTunes, and then proceeded to upgrade the OS on my iPhone.  But the first thing iTunes does is backup your phone which took hours!  Then it puts on your OS, then puts all the applications back on it.  For me, I had to leave this to run overnight – it was just taking too long.

And then the next morning when I checked to see how it went, I found that I had lost all my email configuration and emails and contacts!  Even my Safari bookmarks were gone.  Basically all individual application data was lost.

Since then

Since upgrading, I’ve found that the UI can be a bit sluggish at times.   There was one time when my iPhone got “stuck” in the Phone application and pressing the Home button didn’t even go to the home screen anymore.

I decided to upgrade Miss 11’s iPod Touch to the latest firmware, and after that she found that she couldn’t play music anymore!   The iPod music application would keep on quitting.  A restore of a backup seemed to fix things.

So final verdict?  Don’t upgrade yet.   I’d recommend friends to wait until the next firmware update if possible so that these issues can be ironed out.

Next gen iPhone

You may have read that just a few days ago, a technology review website somehow got hold of the not-yet-release iPhone.

Let’s take it in chronological order that it happened:

March 18 – Apple employee went out for drinks, was carrying next generation iPhone, left it at a bar (http://gizmodo.com/5520438)

April 12? – Gizmodo gets hold of the new iPhone

April 19 – Gizmodo publishes article with photos and comments on the new iPhone (http://gizmodo.com/5520164/this-is-apples-next-iphone)

April 19 – Apple apparently sends letter to Gizmodo asking for device back (http://gizmodo.com/5520479/a-letter-apple-wants-its-secret-iphone-back)
Don’t know whether this is the real next iPhone or not, but it looks like production quality and certainly has Apple chips inside it.  Of course, Apple may have various prototypes flying around and this could be one of many designs.

But I’m intrigued (as well as many others on the internet) – is this all just a marketing stunt by Apple?  It’s disappointing that Gizmodo didn’t take it apart like what iFixit does (http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown).

If it was all planned – what will Apple gain out of this?  iPhone 3G and 3GS sales will drop as people will now wait for the iPhone 4.  But maybe sales numbers for those were declining anyway?  (For example, Wifey is holding out on getting one until the next model comes out).  What’s probably more important for Apple is that it may stop people buying competitor’s smart phones for a while.  It could sway people to hold off buying other brands for 2 months until this new iPhone comes out.

But more importantly, it’s kept Apple in the news, faboys excited and anticipation growing for their latest products….   I can’t wait!

Apple iPad Thoughts

The iPad has been launched!  Yes, it looks like a giant iPod Touch.  Unfortunate name (but then again, look at the Nintendo Wii).   But I think it looks great and I want one now! 

But I’ve read a lot of iPad hate comments out there on the web today.  It’s not a PC, my iPhone can do that, my netbook can do more, I can only run Apple endorsed apps, it doesn’t multitask, even, there are other touch PCs out there that are “better”, etc.

I still think the iPad will be a success because it will fill a niche and grow (and of course of all the Mac fanboys out there!).

Arguments

Let’s take the PC argument.  Yes, it’s not a PC.  But it’s not trying to be.  Apple would have discontinued its entire line of laptops and desktop PCs if the iPad was the only device you’d need.  But they haven’t.  I’ll still need to use a PC/laptop for advanced photo and video editing, or sound recording, etc.  No way Lightroom is going to run on the iPad.. yet…

How about the iPhone argument?  Yes, the iPad can’t fit in your pocket.  But neither will you try to fit a netbook in your pocket either.  I don’t think Apple intended it to be a mobile phone somehow.   Actually, if I had an iPad, I’d have to carry it in a small laptop bag/sleeve, and then, only for certain situations – like a video player for the kids on a long car or plane trip.  I’d still need the iPhone for day to day in your pocket commuting.   

Now what about netbooks?  Of course there will still be netbooks, just like how there are still Windows CE mobiles, or even other mobile phones even though the iPhone exists.  But the iPad will eat into the netbook market share.   Netbooks are really just for surfing the web and checking email.  The iPad can do just that, looks cooler next to your latte, and the price is quite competitive.  Just like how you didn’t see netbooks in cafes 3-5 years ago, I think people will be flashing these in cafes in 3-5 years time instead of netbooks.

Then there’s the comments that users will be stuck with Apple apps only whereas on a netbook you can run anything you like.  This is such a technology focussed argument, and not a user needs argument.  I think people have to ask what do they want to DO on their netbook, instead of what application do they want to run.  OK, there’s no or not much choice – you’re stuck with Apple Mail and Safari.  But who cares?  It works – I’ll still be able to check my email and surf the web and check Facebook and Twitter.   And then there’s Apple’s App Store.  I’m keen to find out what weird Windows application people find compelling to run on their netbooks that isn’t available on the App Store.

The argument should really be about lack of choice – but if you buy an iPhone/iPad – you’re buying one with the knowledge of how the platform works, and that you’re stuck with those choices.   But in my opinion, I’d rather an Apple endorsed and controlled App Store than thousands of free Linux applications that are not polished or easy to use or seemless.

Now, onto the multi-tasking argument.  Yes that sucks.  But I thought more about it.  Hasn’t anyone run so many Windows applications that the task switcher is 2-3 rows deep and the task bar is jammed with applications?   Is this manageable?  No.  Are there CPU cycles and battery life being wasted keeping all these applications running in the background when I only interact with one at a time?  Yes.  

What if CPUs came faster and faster (which they will), and switching from one application to another is nearly instantaneous – and it restored the last state of the last application?   Wouldn’t that “appear” to be multi-tasking?   I’m not a big buyer of the multi-tasking argument.  It’s not like I’ll be checking my email WHILE watching a video.  I’d want to watch the video.  Switch to look at my mail.  Then switch back to the video.  As long as the switching is very fast, it’s easy to switch between the applications, and video picks up where it was before, or applications or data can be downloaded in the background, I don’t really see the problem.  

Maybe the key is the effort required to switch between applications.  I guess that’s what the home button is for.   But I also know that on my Windows 7 laptop here, I often spend a while trying to find the application I want to switch to because I have so many running at once!  As far as I understand, the iPad will still allow Apple core services to multi-task in the background, so you should be able to get new mail notifications (and other notifications like Facebook ones?).   Maybe Apple needs a “recently used” list of something. 

As for other touch PCs that already exist that are “better” – well, again back to the iPhone argument – there are heaps of other mobile phones out there, but Apple managed to design one with the right aesthetics, right functionality (and right marketing) to make it work.  I’m sure they can do that again with the iPad.   Heck, that argument even works with applications and games in the App Store now!  There are usually multiple applications that do the same thing, but one usually sells much more than others.  It’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it 🙂

Shortcomings

I am disappointed that there’s no camera.  Why couldn’t they put a camera on it?  There are little cameras out there that have the iPad’s resolution of 1024×768.   Then you could use the iPad for video conferencing with your family or friends which would be awesome or PhotoBooth type applications. 

Also, I wonder if they should have included a stylus and hand writing recognition.  Maybe something that can be added on later, but I would imagine that would make the iPad excellent for note taking in lectures or meetings.  Did they even look at uni students and what they may typically need from a computer as a use case actor? 

The last thing that it’s missing is a memory card (SD/CompactFlash) and/or USB slot.  Then the iPad could make a dent in the portable media backup device market.  I could then leave the laptop at home on long holidays as I would be able to download photos from my camera onto the iPad.  Actually, if it had more than one, then it would open up being able to add additional memory to the iPad easily in the future.

Why would I buy one?

So why would I buy an iPad when I already have a laptop and an iPhone already?   For our family at home, we’ve transitioned one of our MacBooks into a nearly iPad role.  It sits in the kitchen, we look up recipes on it online, Wifey checks her email and Facebook, we check the weather and we surf the web on it.  That’s about it.  It’s a “kitchen” / family room computer.   It does take up some space with the keyboard, but an iPad that perhaps is docked onto the fridge or a kitchen wall would be ideal.  We could then undock it to look at photos or videos or surf the web on the family room couch if we need.   Actually, the iPad would be excellent as a kitchen computer.

Now, just to wait…

MasterChef’s Apple Tarte Tatin

OK, I started getting adventurous and wanted to try a MasterChef recipe. I love apples, so I couldn’t go past the Apple Tarte Tatin.

One problem was that I’ve never ever cooked apple. Actually, I think a bigger problem is that I’ve never eaten Apple Tarte Tatin in my life either. What is it meant to look like.. or what is it meant to taste like?

Cooking the apples was no problem.  But I started wishing I had one of the MasterChef judges near me when I had to put the pastry on top.   Was I doing it right?

Cooking the applesPutting the pastry on top

Putting the whole pan into the oven was certainly a novelty for me.  I had visions of my cheap pan melting or the handle breaking off, but luckily it was fine!   It certainly looked nice when it was cooking.

But the true test was when I flipped it.

Cooking in the ovenUpside down

I was like, s#(%!  It didn’t look like the picture on the MasterChef website at all!  It was too dry, my pastry was too big.  Maybe I should’ve tucked it inside the pan instead of outside?  And the apples were the wrong colour altogether.  Hmmm…

The kids had a taste but didn’t like it at all..  but I managed to gobble down half of it before I was too full.   I think I’ll have to try this one again another day.

The MasterChef recipe is here: http://www.masterchef.com.au/apple-tarte-tatin.htm

Made the switch

I’ve made the switch.

Unboxing MacBook Pro

In the school holidays, I scouted around Perth to buy a MacBook Pro 13″ 2.53GHz.  It seems that this particular model is extremely popular in Perth – so much so that it was sold out in all central Perth stores!  I had to make a long trip to an outer suburban shopping centre to get mine.   Yep – I bought one of the last ones in Perth…

Contents

I couldn’t wait to get home to unbox it.  Like the iPhone, I love the way Apple packages its products.   It’s all so simple, clean and elegant.  Just like the MacBook Pro itself.  My new “silver diva”, I love everything about it – the backlit keyboard, the multi-touch touchpad (four finger swipe for Expose is great!), the sleekness, the battery life.

Backlit keyboard

Most annoying things so far are the sharp edge around the top base of the laptop.  It can get uncomfortable.    The only other annoyance for me – is having to relearn things and find equivalent programs for the ones I used in Windows.