WWDC 2014 – iOS 8, OS X 10.10 – Apple opens up iOS a bit more!

Well…Not a very exciting event from Apple, but, there are some points that could stretch Apple’s lead in the mobile and desktop market to some extent.

  1. Apple has opened out more APIs on the iOS side allowing app functionality, officially, that was previously available only on jailbroken devices. Given the wide developer base, we could see some exciting apps coming up in the near future. iOS 8 Enterprise features have also been enhanced and could spur wider enterprise adoption.
  2. The introduction of a new programming language, Swift, which could accelerate the development on iOS and OS X platforms far more than ever before.
  3. The integration and extension of the functionality of the 10+ year old Nokia PC Suite into Yosemite is a welcome addition. Most people using iOS devices would probably understand that this could be quite useful on occasion. This page has details.

A word of caution for early adopters. Do not attempt to try iOS 8 just as yet on your primary phone. Most of the current applications will not work as expected and a vast majority would simply crash, including the stock apps. Yosemite, although usable, is quite laggy and slow, which is to be expected from a developer preview. The same applies to Xcode 6 beta.

Continue reading

Happy New Year 2014!

Wishing You All Very Happy New Year 2014.

As our learning through the years continues, here are some apps that iOS users can check out. Some of these are also available on the Android platform.

Udemy offers quite a few courses on a variety of subjects for free. These apps also allow you download the content for offline viewing later.

CodeCademy is great for learning to code.

Coursera is a massive collection of open online courses (MOOCs).

The MIT OCW is yet another great resource.

Khan Academy needs no introduction. In case you want some of these for offline viewing, check out the Khan Archiver app. For selected courses from Khan Academy, check out the this link.

Happy Learning!

Apple iOS 7 – GM & iPhone 5C and 5S

Well…after trying to come to terms with the “nothing” Apple event of September 10th and a day with the GM of iOS7, I can probably echo the thoughts of many Apple device users and the stock market…Apple has lost it.

While most people would agree to the fact that Apple has some of the best talent in terms of developers and designers, they alone, cannot really do much. The current Apple “leadership” has to shoulder the responsibility for this.

They legacy that they (Apple) inherited is so strong that the momentum will continue to make money for some years to come. Given the fact that the other mobile OSes are not really anywhere close to the iDevice ecosystem, the current Apple “big guns” will continue to make money while the company faces a downtrend.

In an earlier post, I had mentioned the fact that if Apple brings out another cheap variation of the iPhone, then, we could be sure that the company had lost it.

When the rumours of the iPhone 5C (I still call it cheap, even though it’s not) surfaced, it was disturbing. Then, there was the thought that…why not? People who had not used an iPhone because of the price barrier, would probably go for it. The drawback might be that Apple might not be able to deal with the massive traffic caused by a cheaper iPhone variant.

Alas, that was not to be. The Apple “leadership” had other ideas. The iPhone 5C is not cheap by any standards. Then, one has to wonder as to why the 5C was even created…? Logically, it would seem that the 5C was created to make a lower end iPhone 5 so that the 5S would look like a premium option. If we compare the iPhone 5 and 5S, I have serious doubts that the majority would pay a premium for the 5S. To be honest, I would wonder why people would pay a premium for the 5S since the 4S would be free on contract. If all I wanted was a faster device to play games, I would not be purchasing a phone.

Again, I already mentioned in an earlier post that for the majority, a phone is a phone. People who go after the latest and greatest will pay for the 5S, but, people who use the iPhone as a “smartphone”, will probably skip it.

If we look at the track record of Apple since Jobs, it has gone just one way…down. The iOS 6 and the so called Apple “Maps” disaster continues even in iOS 7 GM. iOS 7 itself, was a disaster to begin with. Although somewhat toned down to be just about usable now. The UI might be acceptable just because it needed a change, the UX remains terrible. The built-in apps are completely inconsistent in terms of UI and UX. The calendar app remains unusable. The choice of colours is absolutely atrocious, specially in the case of calls.

While some people, myself included, would have accepted any incremental change in the UI simply because it was needed, the iOS 7 UI was not it. It lags iOS 6 in terms of usability and consistency.

While Apple claims to have added “n” number of “new” features, they forget to mention the fact that all of these “n” number of features existed in the 10+ year old Nokia phones. Of course, the usability of these “new” features is questionable. For example, none of the lists in iOS 7 GM are indexed even now. You can keep scrolling up and down even in the notifications under settings and spend a lifetime there. The block list is scattered across 3 different locations with no navigation/grouping or anything to make it usable…not even stats of blocks! Pathetic!

The entire history of Apple devices, since Jobs, reflects the same pattern. The same applies to the laptops and OS X. A company, once known for it’s attention to detail, design and innovation, seems to be going off on a tangent now.

For example, take iTunes. Even though the iOS 7 has reached GM, there is not even a beta that supports the folders in iOS 7. Never before, in the history of iOS or iDevices, has this happened.

To summarize, given the fragmentation of Android, the state of affairs of BlackBerry and the similar state of the Microsoft-Nokia combine, the iDevices and iOS, despite their faults, will continue to rule the premium segment for sometime to come. The only hope of something better, might come from Microsoft, if at all. Of course, there is a slim chance that it could come from a completely new source.

Lastly, like most iDevice users, I can only hope that there is some serious re-jig at Apple which would change it’s current direction and go back to being the company we all admired and invested in. Not a company that goes into selling leather jackets/covers and docks for devices just to try and make some more money…

WhatsApp for iPhone – Free for a limited time

Want to have a common chat platform with people on the Android platform? WhatsApp is currently free for iOS for a limited time. Get it here.

In case you are looking for a better alternative, check out Viber. This is free on all platforms including desktop versions. Viber also features great voice calling quality with the ability to transfer a call from the desktop to the phone and vice-versa.

Apple iOS 7 – After more than a day of experimenting!

Well, after checking some more, I am back to iOS 6 as the beta or pre-beta or the developer preview of iOS 7 is not really usable as it stands.

For one, it does not sync notes and calendars. Events are not marked out on the calendars that you can see at a glance. Besides other issues, It also has problems with notifications. The UI changes will make a large number of existing apps practically unusable. The battery life is also down substantially.

So, I would agree with the term used by the Apple iOS developer site and say that this is just a developer preview (DP) and not a beta as mentioned in the WWDC 2013.

iOS 7 DP takes a lot more space to display the same information as iOS 6 and the folders also shows lesser apps than in iOS 6. In short, the iOS 6 UI is far more efficient in normal usage. The lack of visual indicators in iOS 7, specially considering the high resolution retina display, is definitely a step backwards. The text, on the other hand, seems to be far better done in iOS 7.

If you are like me and organise your apps into folders, then, iOS 7 can look really terrible compared to iOS 6. You cannot really make out the icons inside the folders. If that was not enough, the transparency also contributes to making it illegible. There is also the issue of the bright, new icons. Now, you would be hard pressed to figure out between a variety of apps. For example, I could no longer just pick out between “Photos”, “NewsStand” and “Game Center” offhand like in iOS 6. Now I have to squint to figure it out. Of course, since I organise the apps into folders, I would know which is where, but, just looking at these app icons, you really need to squint, more so if you have a white wallpaper/background.

The all new FaceTime application I mentioned earlier, is actually the older Contacts app. It is simply renamed to FaceTime with a new icon and UI.

I came across an interesting comparison related to the “all new” iOS 7 “design” at “iOS 7 looks familiar – can’t quite put my finger on it“. Although Apple is known to “pick up” features from jailbreak tweaks in the past, this one is really interesting!

Let’s wait and see what the actual iOS 7 beta would look and feel like…

HowTo: Figure out location from Apple “maps” in a real map like Google maps

In an earlier article, I mentioned that I had a lame work-around in case you ever needed to figure out a location from Apple “maps” or “Find my Friends”. Unfortunately, this approach will not work for “Find my iPhone”, as the application does not support sharing a location.

For “Find my Friends”, tap on the friend you want to figure out the location for. On the iPhone, tap the “Open in Maps” button. On the iPad, tap on the “Contact Info”, scroll to the bottom of the contact information, and tap “Open in Maps”.

Now that you have the location open in the Apple “maps”, it is the same that you saw in “Find my Friends” and would tell you nothing. Now, you can tap on the “i” (information icon on the pin location) to share the location. Select “Share a Location” and then select either “Mail” or “Message” and send the location to your own email or your iMessage ID on the same device.

Tap the location attachment in the email or Messages and you will see the Info drop-down as follows:


Now tap and hold the map url till the “Copy” option appears. Copy the map url and paste it into Google maps either in Safari or on the Google maps app on the iPhone. Edit the url so you have only the “lat,long” numbers and then tap search on Google maps. You will now be able to see the location which Apple “maps” cannot tell you.

You can also change the URL to something like “comgooglemaps://?q=00.200000,00.100000 (Home)” for the iPhone to open the link directly in Google maps, or, “http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&q=00.200000,00.100000 (Home)” to open the link directly on the web in Google maps.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 7

In this part, we will look at some paid apps. In general, you will need to purchase some apps on either of the platforms. The only exception to this would be people who purchase a smartphone, but, really need only a phone and therefore apps do not make a difference.

There are a few categories where one would make some purchases. In my case, those categories are personal finance, password management, business apps, navigation, reference, utilities/productivity, games (no one can escape this one), and some music.


This is possibly the best password manager for OS X and now extends the same to iOS and Windows. In todays connected world with a variety of gizmos, a password manager becomes a necessity. Some years ago, after I got the first iPhone, I also started experimenting with the Mac. When the AppStore was finally introduced on iOS, I was lucky enough to get 1Password for iOS as well as the Mac for free. Although the desktop version of 1Password was no real match for my existing Windows password manager, it was just about usable. Today, I have purchased the new iOS version of 1Password and have a family license for the desktop editions. Highly recommended for all now. 1Password is also available on Android as well and actually works much better on Android since Google does not have the “artificial” limitations like Apple puts on iOS.


This is possibly one of the oldest personal finance apps on the mobile device scene. It was just about okay and was stagnating. Once the iOS AppStore came into being, for the first time, development on PM was galvanised. It just a few months, it was really usable and kept getting better and better with every iteration. I don’t mind admitting that I purchased a few other such apps, including a current, very highly rated app, only to discover that these “highly” rated apps were pathetic and light years behind PM in every respect. Personally, I look at my purchases as a price paid trying to find something equivalent or better. This has not happened so far. I continue to use PM (from Catamount) and now have over 4 years of data in it. Highly recommended for both iOS and Android users.


I purchased this office suite as a well known and functional one. The current recommendation would be to purchase Apple apps for iOS and find alternates on Android. Since Google took over QuickOffice, it has stagnated on iOS and I would not recommend this for any purpose anymore.

Abbyy Business Card Reader

The Abbyy OCR, although the most expensive around on the desktops, also happens to be the best so far. Having worked with the Abbyy SDKs in the past, I had no hesitation in purchasing this app when it was introduced. No surprises, it remains the best on the device as well. Highly recommended if you need a business card reader.

Sygic India Maps

As far as maps for India are concerned, MapMyIndia is the only one that has usable maps. Sygic partnered with MapMyIndia and uses their maps. If you are looking for maps and navigation in India, do not be mislead by companies like Navigon and the likes that claim to have maps for India. There are only 2 apps on the AppStore that use MapMyIndia maps. The other alternate came much later and is more expensive that Sygic. Either of the MapMyIndia map apps should be good enough. Sygic is a legacy app and I would still not bill it as an iOS UI/UX compliant app even after quite a few updates. The UX is still dated and almost terrible. Still, only 2 apps fit the bill if you are looking for maps and navigation in India.

IM+ Pro

This is actually a legacy requirement from a few years ago when we had very few people on actual “smartphones” and the world still used messaging from providers like ICQ, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google etc. IM+ Pro does almost all such known messengers. It also includes features like saving the conversation history and email notifications. I don’t really use this anymore, but, if you do need a multi-IM on iOS, this is probably one of the best if not the best.

Mercury Browser Pro

Although this is an iOS only app, the idea applies to all platforms. I wanted an Ad-Blocking browser. Keep in mind that mobile bandwidth is expensive and there are quite a few occasions (with me) that I need to lookup stuff and that would include getting into a lot of ads. Although, I don’t mind ads on regular broadband/leased lines, on 3G, it is expensive. So, although I would recommend Mercury Browser Pro, almost any similar ad-blocking browser would do.


Although this is a new app on iOS and is currently free. I only mention it here for two reasons.

  • I forgot earlier in the free apps 🙂
  • Is a decent free alternate for GMail and notifications on iOS.

Ever since Google stopped the Active Sync (Exchange email) for free accounts earlier this year, you cannot get GMail notifications on iOS by default.

You can setup MailBox with all your GMail accounts and then delete the accounts. MailBox will still continue to deliver notifications and you would still enjoy the seamless email experience (almost) as you did before.

And now, some more ranting from my side…

Mostly when you see benchmarks being published across devices, one of the most common one is a “browser” benchmark. Specifically, how fast javascript performs. Hey, this spanking new xxx core processor based device loads this particular page (which, most people would never visit anyway) 2.x times faster than the other device. The difference? Zilch…nothing in practice. How do I care if a browser renders a page I never visit 2 times faster? If we talk in terms of time, the difference is there only for benchmarks. If we talk in terms of the data transfer (cost of 3G) it is the same. So, how do I care if the un-visited page is rendered in .01 seconds on one device and .02 seconds on another? Benchmarks are good for perception and competition. For the end user, it should be taken with a pinch of salt (so to speak).


Well, I have purchased all of 3 games till date (well…maybe some more that I don’t recall). Although I will not go into any preferences here since I am not a gamer, I would like to mention the name of a company and it’s mal-practice which is allowed by Apple on the AppStore on iOS. It could be the same on Android, but, I cannot comment on that since I have not tracked this on the Android platform. I wrote to this company and the final reply was that it was “company policy”. I wrote to the AppStore support and got no reply on this issue, even though the Apple support, otherwise, is extremely prompt and good.

Normally, I would not mention these specifics, but, since this mal-practice continues on the Apple AppStore even today, it deserves mention.

The company is Playrix. They make stunningly beautiful games. Almost every aspect of their games is really outstanding. With such immense talent, one would have to wonder as to why they resort to this kind is mal-practice. What Playrix does is that they occasionally release “premium” or “full” games for free. Within hours or day(s), the same game gets an in-app-purchase (IAP) to unlock the full game or becomes fully paid only.

You will see similar comments in reviews on the AppStore as well. If your re-install the game that you had a full version of, you would need to pay for it again. If you paid for the IAP, then, you might land up paying for the full version. Interestingly, all their games also have non “premium” or non “full” versions which have IAPs. There is absolutely no difference between the two. I have, from this company, on email, that this is their “company policy”. I also have sent email to Apple iTunes support with no response. For the end user, my advise would be to keep a check on all Apple AppStore purchases and there may be a lot more companies following the same pattern.

Once again, like I already ranted in an earlier post, none of this happened while Steve Jobs was around.

The next post, would be the last in this series. In this, the last one, I would present my own conclusions based on my own experience as well as the experiences of friends and colleagues. Hopefully, the conclusion would help you make a better purchase decision on the next device.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 6

We now look at some free 3rd party apps for both, iOS and Android. Some of these applications might come pre-installed on some Android devices. This application list is primarily picked from iOS since there is a far larger variety. Some of these apps might not exist on the Android platform.

Another point to note here is the fact that the iOS app ecosystem is a lot older than Android’s and is fairly mature. We have “aggregator” like apps for apps on iOS, which, currently do not have any equivalent on the Android platform. I will mention some of these apps as they would allow you get some usable apps on iOS for free.

Since we will start with the most commonly used and knowns apps, it would be prudent to mention that the well known Skype is an exception to how most of the other communication apps work today. While Skype still retains the legacy of using a login and adding friends, the modern communication applications will use either your phone number or your email ID for authentication and will automatically add “friends” from your address book. The current approach is obviously superior to what Skype does as you discover “friends” automatically instead of the dated, manual process. Fring, a Skype competitor, changed to the modern way a while back and is in line with the other such apps.


All these free apps need no introduction. Facebook comes pre-installed on a wide variety of devices. WhatsApp is also pre-installed on a variety of Android based devices. The others may or may not be pre-installed, but, all of these are free downloads for Android. WhatsApp, the only exception in this list, is a paid app on iOS. Personally, I would recommend Viber over WhatsApp anytime.


This is a free app and is available for almost all mobile platforms now even through it started as an iOS only app. Viber does voice, messaging, and video on the recently released desktop edition for OS X and Windows. Viber offers a seamless experience between the desktop and mobile versions. For example, you can pick a call on the desktop and transfer the call to your mobile and vice-versa. Besides the rich feature set, Viber also sports a decent UI and the UX is also good. The voice quality and the bandwidth it consumes is probably the best in it’s class. Viber remains a personal favourite for me and a lot of my colleagues and friends regardless of the platform, iOS or Android (and some others as well).


As already mentioned, Fring started off as a competitor to Skype. Today, it offers a far better alternate to Skype and most other apps. The voice quality of Fring is at par or generally better than Skype and the video quality is far superior. Fring also offers group calls on devices which Skype does not. The main drawback of Fring is that it does not support non-GSM/phone devices directly as yet whereas Skype does.


Tango is yet another VoIP app. It offers voice, video and messaging. It works on all devices and the setup is fast and easy. Is fairly well featured and is very usable.

Vonage Mobile

This app, like some others, allows you free calls/messages to any +1 number, i.e., US and Canada. A recent update to this app adds video as well. There are additional charges for calling out to other countries. The voice quality is amongst the best around.


This is possibly the best such application in it’s class. This app is categorised into the “social news” class. It aggregates news from a variety of sources including other social sites like Facebook. It has a really neat UI and the UX is also very pleasing.

Documents by Readdle

This is an iOS only app. The iPhone edition was a paid one. Now, this is a universal app (works on all iOS devices) and is free. This is possibly the best file/document manager that you can get for free. Although I already purchased a couple of iOS apps quite some time back to store and organise my documents, I highly recommend this free app to all now.


There are a large number of app aggregators and the like for iOS. Although AppZapp does exist as a beta on the Android platform, it is no where close to the iOS version in any terms. These apps allow you to see top apps, new apps, apps on sale, hot deals etc etc. My own usage is to keep a watch for apps that I want to purchase as and when they are on sale; and generally look at apps on sale that are free 🙂

In the next part, I will run through some of the paid iOS applications that I use. No, I never purchased any Android apps so far since I did not find the equivalents when I wanted them (a few years ago). Even though I have a couple of current Android devices, my primary device remains iOS for a variety of personal reasons. I will talk about the reasons for the iOS device being my primary device and why it might not be suitable for all.