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Giving the iPhone a little personality!

I upgraded to the iPhone 4S from the 4 to purely mess with Siri.  Other than a desperate need you may have to use Siri it’s not worth it in my view.  The 4 is a perfectly good phone and I really loved it compared to the 3GS so my advice would be to hold out for the 5.  Don’t get me wrong Siri is pretty damn amazing but it’s still very much a tech at the beginning of its capabilities.

However once I got my hands on this new device I wanted to personalise it just a little bit with something other than a run of the mill cover as iPhones are everywhere.  I decided to add the Apple light logo and change the rear cover on my white iPhone to black as with the black rear the light stands out a lot better.  To finish it all off a black gloss bumper and some protective front and rear covers.  So it’s not exactly high Diamond encrusted gold fashion but enough of a change to be mine.  More money than sense I hear you say but the whole lot cost me about €60 euro so not too bad considering some of the nicer covers cost as much and more than that.

I love the Apple logo lighting up.  I am surprised Apple don’t offer this as an optional extra as many that have seen it really like it. It doesn’t impact the battery too much that I have noticed although fitting it was a little bit more of a challenge than the website might have you believe but still worth it.

I wonder when the day will come that these devices are not such a throw away item.  Instead of upgrading the whole thing we can swap out parts like what Samsung plan with their new smart televisions.  We can change the processor, add more memory or upgrade the wireless antennae. Like Lego pieces we could customise and personalise these powerful pieces of tech while being just a little bit more responsible with our rare natural resources (Yes I know if I really cared I wouldn’t have wasted resources on modding this device but boys will be boys!)

For anyone interested here is a link for the Luminescent Logo Mod Kit for iPhone 4/4S

The future of mobile and what it might mean for us.

Over the last week I cleaned up a number of blog posts that I had started at various times over the last year but never got around to finishing. Some were just out of date, a few I didn’t have the cojones to publish and others were just something about nothing (which may actually be a good title for this post – something about nothing….).  One of them from October I want to particularly shine a light on.  I sat on my high horse ridiculing those that were running out to upgrade their iphone 4 to 4S when something else I felt was more important and should have been their focus.  That being the new iOS 5 and the iCloud offerings and not the little physical shiny new piece of tech(OK yes there are many levels to this but upgrading seemed ove the top!).

I then saw Siri in action.  A piece of tech not available on the older models with a simple iOS upgrade.  Feel in love with it and just before Christmas I bought a new iPhone 4S.  Glad I didn’t publish that post or I would have looked kinda foolish now. (Yes yes I know!)

Arrogant unfinished blog post aside and ignoring the fact of the hypocracy as I succumbed to the marketing and fell in line to get the latest tech I do think the basic premise of my post still holds true.  The premise being that soon the device in our hand will be somewhat irrelevant, not that we won’t need it, but that they will all offer closely the same functionality be it Android, Windows or iOS.  Very fast, touch screen with voice recognition\control.

So what then? Well it’ll be the data and services that the device can tap in to (and how) that will be the difference (and this obviously is also true at present but at varying degrees of integration and success).  Amazon are offering a service via their Kindle.  Sony (and the relatively recent Sony Ericsson news) are heading the same way.  Apple obviously have their offering.  The Microsoft, Skype, Nokia tie up have their effort of cloud services.  It’ll be the data in the cloud that we will want to access.  Materialism will take on a whole new meaning as the items that once clogged our houses, the picture albums, music CDs, DVDs, box sets, books, magazines, newspapers, will all disappear.  We will want access to everything but yet will not physically be able to touch the vast majority of these things.

Mobile when combined with the cloud is not just about handheld devices.  Its about, strangely enough, mobility.  Access your music from any device such as your TV not just your mobile phone.  Access your data from any computer, read your local newspaper anywhere in the world.  This is not new and the tech is not in the future its now.  However the impact on materialism is an interesting one to ponder.  Materialsim is a topic that has been on my mind a while now as for many others in this post Celtic Tiger era.  Don’t get me wrong I am not about to donate all my worldly possesions just yet but I do think we might be taking a big step in a positive direction even if not fully intentional and not even fully realised at present.  The more we put into and access online the less we will clutter that space around us with physcal things.  The more we are online and share, communicate and seek information the more the data becomes important and not the device we use to access it.  When the information, collaboration and sharing is what we crave and not the physical device or tactile object won’t that be a exciting time?

Is the iPad the best personal gaming device out there?

F1 Game

Yes it is! OK so I am not a huge gaming person and have spent very little time on devices like a PSP or Nintendo DS or other variants so you may ask what qualifies me to judge just what the best one is.  I can obviously appreciate the basics that they offer (or at least try!) and have at times been somewhat envious on long trips watching people pass the hours saving the universe or other such heroic deeds.  However I never once wanted to purchase one personally for a multitude of reasons but there are kids in my house now so there are DS’s and a PSP.  I have spent a little bit of time on them and either the small screen or button location and/or configuration meant I soon put them down.

I wrote another blog post here about a game Modern Combat 3 I downloaded recently for the iPad and really liked.  For the first time in a long time I got the urge to continue playing a computer game.  The game is excellent but a big piece for me was the fact it was on the iPad. While I had talked and wrote about the flexibility of the iPad for such pursuits I hadn’t really gotten submerged in using it in such a ‘pastime’ as it honestly has mostly been more work\learning focused way.

The iPad screen size for gaming is fantastic and so much better than any of those other gaming devices.  It is light, easy to use and I can move and place the buttons for game play anywhere I want (at least in some games).  The battery life is superb and best of all is the price of each game.  Instead of paying €40, €50, €60 or more for a game as they are on other personal devices they range mostly from free to €10.  My favourite was only €5.49! To enhance the experience you could purchase something like the fling joystick for iPad or a Padpivot and your iPad is supported and your device becomes the perfect steering wheel for a driving games or is just help for you while you play.  See video below:

I have a first gen iPad but those with the iPad 2 and an Apple TV can output the game to their TV and the device just becomes the controller.  Imagine those games on a 42″ TV as you sit with you personally customised controller and take on the world as you jump online as with any gaming console or device and play multiplayer games.  How very cool is that? If I was looking for a gaming device for anyone now I would only look at the iPad.  A very cool game platform with all the other uses tagged on.  An absolute arsenal of devices in one.

The best iPad game yet – Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation

I haven’t played a whole lot of games on the iPad, or at least not for any signficant length of time other than to see what they offer and this one Modern Combat 3 started out no different.  I downloaded it and like some other games I was very impressed with it overall.  Great graphics and game play and all for only €5.49.  However, I found for the first time since probably playing Medal of Honour: Allied Assault (which is before I got married and that is not today or yesterday) I wanted to spend more time on it.  Not just with the game itself but going online and pitching myself against some serious gamers who had obviously spent signficant hours playing based on their rank!

I always liked first-player games more so than any of those platform games.  Castle Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake and Medal of Honour-Allied Assault were the shoot me up games I had previously really liked (So I am not 18 or close but a little older ;-).  I  always played on a PC and never a console.  I never liked the consoles, the controllers specifically.  I could never find a button configuration that I liked and would end up very frustrated after a short time. Yes I am that finicky and awkward.  When I used the keyboard I could always assign any action to any key and thus could create a controller I liked and could use.  I can now do the same on the iPad.  I can move any button\action around the iPad screen to exactly where I want it.  I can also resize each button to be as big or as small as I want.   See the screen shot below.

Modern Combat 3 - Customizable Controls

My ability to compete and play the game at a semi-decent level significantly improved as I seem to have an inbuilt reaction to specifically where the fire button is.  The flexibility to put that button and the rest of them exactly where I wanted meant no more hitting the wrong button or slow reaction times due to having to remember where each action was located.  I was able to fine tune the setup over time in the game as I realised moving the buttons even fractionally significantly helped.

The graphics and the game in general I think are excellent.  Considering a game of this quality is so cheap is fantastic value for money.  The online option is really worth a look and probably where you will spend most of your time once familiar with the controls.  You can play people from all around the world and really test your skill level.  The fact that I can play it anywhere on the iPad or iPhone is fantastic.  I am not limited to a console connected to my TV or I don’t need to purchase something like a PSP and carry that around as I wouldn’t (either buy or carry one!).  So yes there is a large part of my love of this games that is down to the flexibility that the iPad brings but this game is the first that makes me appreciate first hand just what the iPad offers as a gaming console. But that is for another blog post.  This game, while yes is just a tad violent, is definitely worth a look as if like me you long for games of old like Duke and Quake then this one won’t let you down.  Top marks – 10/10

Does the ‘Back in Time’ iPad app give a glimpse of the future?

Back in Time is an app that really utilises the power of  the iPad for delivering beautiful content in an easy to use format. It begins with the Big Bang and ends with the Human Genome Project. A timeline of major events from the beginning to now (whether the beginning was defined by a single event or has there there multiple ‘Big Bangs’ is a different thing and for another debate but this starts at our beginning).  It’s visually stunning and beautiful to navigate through.  The first night I got it I spent hours exploring it.  I couldn’t put it down.  The video below on YouTube from the makers gives a sample of just what it is like.  The sequence you see of the app is exactly as it appears, dragonflies and insects included walking across the screen.  The ability to slide so beautifully backwards and forwards through time either by the graphics or via the clock is fantastic.  The mix of text, pictures and video is so very nicely put together.  They have successfully been able to condense billions of years into a small app and allow us to understand and visualise just how small that portion of time for which man has existed.  They have tried to break away from the book type feel that normally accompanies many such apps and this new format works so much better while still providing vast quantities of easily accessible content.  When I was a child this was my World Encyclopedia, my Space  Encyclopedia, books that I would spend hours reading and flipping through.  This experience for my kids is so much richer, accessible and enjoyable.

This app for me is the future of books in many ways.  Imagine learning geography or history in school in this format as opposed to the traditional book.   I don’t mean simply digitizing the current books and putting them on a iPad type device.  I mean immersing yourself in a truly interactive app for example in a piece of history where you could read about it, hear it, watch it.  A speech from Martin Luther King, pictures of the 1916 rising, a video of protests in Tiananmen Square or the walk to freedom of Nelson Mandela.  How much better could we educate, excite and instill knowledge and curiosity into those young minds.  How much better would it suit all types of kids and learning types and abilities.

All that aside I said a glimpse in the title as I think it is only a glimpse as its not complete.  I said ‘truly interactive’ in the paragraph above on what the app should be like.  This app while excellent is not truly interactive .  I want this app to interact with the outside world.  And yes by that I mean the internet and not washing your dishes. I want to be able to enhance the experience and access to knowledge and material by easily incorporating the resources on the web.  Yes I could close the app and simply Google the topic of interest or search for a video on YouTube but what if I could just click on a word in the app that gave me even further options? What if I could touch the word ‘civilization’ and it brought me to the page on Wikipedia.  What if when I touched the word ‘Maya’ it auto built a Google search with that word, or it gave me options to go to the Maya National Geographic page, or Google Maps showing where the Mayan people lived.  I look forward to when this app is truly interactive with it and the web.  When I don’t understand a word its definition is only a touch away, a place named in the text is only a touch from viewing on Google maps and a topic I would like to learn more about can be explored simply by a touch!  Am I asking for too much? I really hope not.