Briefly Noted: Apple Updates Remote, AirPort Apps

Yesterday afternoon, Apple released updates to their Remote and AirPort Utility apps.

Evident from the app descriptions, the AirPort Utility did not receive an iOS 7-like remake.  It still looks like it’s older iOS 6 version of the add.  The jump to 64-bit native code should make the app run smoothly on the new iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and the soon to be released, iPad mini with Retina Display.

The Remote app, received a complete iOS 7 design make over.  While the functionality of the software does not appear to have changed, the UI has.  Remote now has the Help screen overlay that flies in when you tap the help question mark icon located at the top right of the screen.  The Menu button now appears a circle icon with a text label “Menu” at the bottom center of the screen, with additional playback controls on either side.  The large “track pad” area still dominates the majority of the screen, however, now appears as a frosted pane allowing you to “see” your wallpaper in typical iOS 7 blurred effect fashion.

Both applications are available in the iTunes App Store for free.

A Pair of Often Rumored Phones About to Get Real?

We have been hearing and reading rumors about smartphones from Facebook and Amazon for a long time now.

The Facebook Smartphone

Facebook phone rumors are nothing new.  I recall reading a TechCrunch story about it in 2010.  At the time, Facebook spokesperson Jamie Schopflin told Mashable that, “[T]he story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone.”

That was then, and this is now, and judging by the “media only” event invitations that went out, something’s up.  I seriously doubt that Facebook would be holding a media event for a major new release of their mobile app for Android or iOS.

The Amazon Smartphone

Amazon smartphone rumors are a little bit more recent.  They didn’t start until people saw that Amazon could build a credible tablet beyond the Kindle e-reader as CNet talked about back in 2011.  Will we see the book-seller-turned-tech-giant CEO Jeff Bezos on stage later this year hawking a Kindle Fire smartphone?

According to AppleInsider.com, DigiTimes has been at it again leaking information about Amazon’s Android powered smartphone shipping this year.  The rumors of a new Amazon smartphone flared up again when DigitTimes indicated that Amazon was witching from a 4.3″ display to the larger 4.7″ “phatablet” size.  Lending credence to that idea, that an Amazon smartphone is still be months away, is this little snippet that appears in the AppleInsider story:

“Development of Amazon’s rumored handset reportedly remains fluid, and the retailer is said to be “working on or enhancing other specifications” of the device.”

Take Aways

So, what we can gather, if any of these rumors are accurate, is that both Facebook and Amazon are hard at work on their smartphone plans.  Facebook looks to be closer to the finish line as they are calling a major tech event next week.  It is unclear how Facebook would position a smartphone.  Would they view themselves as a premium brand go try to complete directly with Apple and Samsung on the high end?  Would they go after the smaller Windows Phone and BlackBerry market?  Or would they they to complete on the “free with a new 2-year contract” level?

Amazon, still looks to be refining their device to get the most bang for the buck, which makes sense because the Kindle Fire isn’t about profit margins on the hardware, it’s about how much can the vendor sell with their own “a store that fits in the palm of your hand” smartphone.  With that in mind, I can’t see Amazon trying to position their phone any higher than the mid-market.  Since Amazon is more about selling things and content, it makes more sense to me that they would have their own phone on the low end side, and continue to develop their mobile apps for iOS, Android, and all the rest to maximize the number of people viewing the goods they have for sale.

[Via AppleInsider.com…]

Thanks to Mike C. for the tip…

Third-Party App Invasion

I’m a stock iOS guy.  I don’t jailbreak my iPhone.  (Go #TeamPure!) I don’t tweak it.  I do install apps, games, and utilities.  But my every day go to apps have always been the stock Apple apps: Mail, Safari, Calendar, and Siri.  Until today.

Starting today, I’m going to try out some third-party applications as my every day go to apps.  Why? you might ask?  Well, I’ve been reading a lot about how Apple is being ‘out Appled’ by Google.  In other words, Google is getting much better at hardware design faster than Apple is getting better at software and services.  That doesn’t really mean much to us common folk, but it has inspired me to try out and use new software and that is a good thing.

On my iPhone and iPad 3, Mail has been replaced by Gmail, Calendar by Fantastical, Safari by Chrome, and Siri by Google Search.  I also installed Google Maps in addition to Apple Maps, but honestly, I don’t use either maps app on my iPhone very often for it to make a difference.

I though about using Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Cloud Player or Rdio to replace iTunes but I didn’t want to switch to a streaming service because I don’t want to run my iPhone’s battery down any faster than it already does.

I’ll run my experiment for 2-4 weeks and then post my thoughts about things here.

If you have a favorite app that replaces a stock Apple app, let us know and post it in the comments section below.

PopCap Plants vs. Zombies Free in Amazon Android App Store

Amazon.com is offering PopCap’s zombie shooter, Plants vs. Zombies for Google Android devices free today only.

Normally, $2.99, Amazon is giving away copies for Plants vs. Zombies for people who sign up for their new AppStore for Android.  To get started, you need to enter your phone’s telephone number or email address from the Amazon.com website.  You will receive a new text message or email with the link to download and install the Appstore for Android application on your device and then you can download the game.

Plants vs. Zombies is a fun game in which you plant flowers and other forms of vegetation to prevent the zombie horde from making it inside your house.  I’m not exactly what you call a zombie or horror film fan, but don’t let the name of this app scare you away.  The plants and zombies that show up through out the game are loads of cartoon-y fun.

A word of caution before you go hog wild downloading and installing applications on your Droid smartphone.  To install the Appstore for Android application, you must first turn on the ability to install applications for other sources than the Google Android Market.  While this step is not dangerous in and of itself, it does require that you be more vigilant about what software you install on your device because you are turning of a feature that Google perceived to be a security concern; if it the security is to address customer lock-in to the Android Market.

For more details and to download Plants vs. Zombies, head over to Appstore for Amazon website.

pReader for WebOS – Unlock Your eReader Books

Do you have a new webOS Palm Pre or Pixi? Do you have eReader or Fictionwise account with a lot of ebooks that you can’t read on your new phone? Problem solved! Enter pReader for webOS devices.

pReader, currently at version 0.8.3, is a free third-party application, written by MHWsoft, that allows you to read a number of popular ebook formats. pReader supports plain-text, HTML, PalmDOC, MobiPocket, eReader, ePub, and Amazon AZW files. That’s a lot of ebook formats for an application that doesn’t cost you a dime.

Getting started with pReader is easy. First you download and install the application from Palm’s App Catalog. (Search for ‘preader’.) Next, connect your Pre or Pixi to your computer, and put the phone into USB mode. In my Pre’s storage space, I created a new folder called “pReader eBooks” and copied some of my old eReader Pro ebooks into that folder. Lastly, unmout your webOS phone and that start up pReader.

When you start pReader, tap the Add Book To Library button, select your book, and then, if you have a DRM encrypted ebook like those sold by eReader.com, enter your unlock information, and then the book becomes available for reading.

With pReader, you have a free way to read your ebooks without having to purchase MotionApps Classic which, in my opinion, is a little bit on the expensive side.

For more details, check the pReader description page.