Category Archives: Mobile

7 Tips to Pick a New iPhone Calendar App

by Brian Heilman

So you have an iPhone and feel you have outgrown or just don’t like the default iPhone calendar app. There has to be more right. But looking through the 3rd party apps is a crazy sea of confusion with each looking very similar, after all they are all still calendars right. So how do you decide what to try? Well let me give you a few tips.

iphone calendar

And yes, full disclusure, we make a couple of the top choices but we will try to stay impartial as there are a lot of great calendars out there.

1. Interface

Obviously this is an important one. If you don’t like interacting in the way the calendar wants you to, or it doesn’t give you enough choices for views to see all of your data clearly and concisely then it probably isn’t your calendar. We have found that most people like to use either a Month type view, a week view, or a list of days. And rarely switch. So figure out which one you are, and find the app with the offering that best matches what you want to see.

And some people visualize their data better in several ways. Just showing text on the calendar, or associating icons to their events, or using blocked timelines, or just dots to give a cleaner look. And the use of colors can be key to really link up visually what events will be for certain categories or family members or however you organize your schedule.

When interacting with your events take into consideration features you might need or want to make things quick and easy. Things like drag-n-drop to quickly reschedule, advanced repeating event options, templates that quickly make often used events, emailing events, natural language entry, and so many others are all key features that ultimately having just one of these might be the reason why you go with a certain calendar.

And remember that, as far as looks go, in some cases what the developer chose for a default color theme might not be all that’s available. Always check out the settings as theming might be available and allow you to choose the look you really want.

Some people just want a few more key features or a different main view and don’t need a power user type calendar, figure out if that is you.

2. Data

Data is key here. Do you want to be exclusively using Google Calendar events? Do you want to be using the developer’s proprietary databases for events, or should you shoot for Apple’s data only.

One of the key considerations for this is syncing. Apple’s data is a good choice in that you can actually setup what is synced in many ways including with things like Exchange, Facebook, and Google in their own settings app. Then this data just syncs via Apple, and is not being handled by the developer. A safe choice but with a few limitations.

If companies are using straight Google or their own systems, then they are also re-writing and handling the sync, which could be a good thing, or could be full of problems, or something you may have to pay extra for, or syncing could just not be available at all.

3. Integration

The main draw of some calendars including some of the more organizer based ones are that the app has other forms of data integrated in. Some may just add reminders into your calendar and show them in the days they are due right along with your events. Others show weather, so you can see what it is supposed to be like as you plan your week. Both extremely handy and can be done without being overly intrusive.

And then the planner type apps go beyond this. Tasks and Reminders with their own views that can quickly be switched to events. Contacts to use as a full address book and help in the creation of events and reminders. Birthdays showing pictures of your contacts right in your calendar. Lists. Notes. Todos. All with search that can check your events along with the other data for what you are looking for.

These full planners can be pretty powerful.

4. Options

So options can be the key to getting what you want. Once you try an app, don’t be afraid to dive into the settings screens. Getting your calendar to look the way you want might involve flipping a few switches and setting a few colors. Not everybody wants to see ISO week numbers or see only timelines or have the week day start on Tuesday. But if you do, hopefully the settings allow for it.

There is a push in apps to not give you as many options and dictate to you want you want. But in calendar apps, hopefully this is not the case. The developer can’t possibly always know exactly what you want to see and do, calendars can just be complicated.

5. Filtering

A big feature found in most good calendar apps is filtering. This is a way to show you only a certain set of events or data. Most offer a way to turn off and on the calendars on your device in a setting screen. But some go beyond that and allow you to quickly do it from your main screen, or be more advanced and filter based on privacy or assigned categories/tags. It makes looking at a calendar so much better if you only want to see your work schedule, your child’s activities, or your sporting event times.

6. Smart Calendars

Ok, so what is this. Well, these are apps that are trying to take it to the next level of integration, with the added catch that to do some of it you need internet and you are giving them all your data. So keep that in mind.

They can add some cool features, but in testing some of their technologies are so new and try to make educated guesses about your schedules or locations or contacts or … and are completely wrong, making the features not only useless, but also very in the way. Some people like to be guinea pigs..

How are they making money? Could it be by eventually selling all your data? Could it be that they will go for a subscription model after getting so many users? Eventual Ads? It is just something to think about.

But some are well done apps that if they have what is right for you and you don’t have any concerns, they might be worth a shot..

7. Price

Obviously price is a key. Just remember that this is not a game, and paying a couple dollars more might make you that much more productive and organized. That little extra will be worth it for you in no time if you find the right calendar.

But watch for things like subscriptions and/or the possibility that if an app is free that somehow you might be the product(selling your data, or eventually ads or…). These factor into what the total price will end up being.

There are some free offerings out there that allow you to try out the calendar before you go all in on it. Its always a good idea to bargain shop if you don’t know what you want, as even just trying these choices might give you an idea of what the pricier apps are offering you..

Oh, and watch for if it is Universal… Or if they charge extra for that. This alone might be the main reason to go with a certain app for you.

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So there you have it. I hope this helps you in finding a great calendar app for your iPhone. We’d love it if you considered our Extreme Agenda line of apps if you want a full organizer or try The Grid calendar for FREE with a lot of the more powerful features, but in a more streamlined approach.

Thanks, and happy calendaring.

What Windows Phone 7 Should Have been.

Well, we don’t have any initial plans to develop any of our Applications on Windows Phone 7. Microsoft just went too far away from where they were in the mobile space and worried too much about asthetics and what iPhone was doing to please a consumer level instead of staying with the flexibility that usually defines them.

What did Microsoft need to do.

Yes, they needed a more refined interface. But really, this is just a skin. I like some of the 3rd party Skins better than the direction that Microsoft went, wish those were still an option… Supposedly this new Zune and Box interface is popular with a lot of consumers, and it has an initial ‘oh how’ factor, but it DEFINITELY isnt for everyone. And If I, who is comfortable with a lot of OS designs, look at it and my first thought is “confusing”, what are regular consumers going to think.

So why isnt this interface design more of the top level, with ways to make an application use them without forcing them too. If I want to build a Zune interfaced app or a box interfaced app give me tools to do so and maybe even encourage me to do so. But guess what, this style will grow tired(which I think is a big problem, which iPhones interface elements don’t suffer nearly as bad from), so let me as the developer not do it if I don’t want too…

Yes, it will be snazzier with Transitions and more ‘smooth’, but that all could have come without re-inventing everything. How cool would it have been if you could turn off ‘Zune Craziness’ and go to Mobile Shell or Sense or even “gasp” the very handy today screen and plugins.

They could have (and started too) create new controls that were more touch friendly and attractive. Finish them off, make them work right, incorporate them everywhere in the main OS’s UI, and give them to developer’s to use…

The OS should simply have been based on the same direction it has always been but completely overhauled. It should have been dropped on a new kernel and taken the time to optimize it and dump some of the legacy support and re-write major communication and other pieces that needed help. It should have been cleaned up and compartmentalized so that OTA updates are possible and easy. Hardware requirements should have been raised and simplified to a more appropriate level and not catered to whoever was offering to buid a device if ‘x and y’ were done. Settings screens should have been simplified and cleaned up, and moved to a better interface. And then if you want to offer new ways for apps to look that don’t follow your long existing standards, well offer those paradigms but don’t strip out the usability of the old ones. And then offer new development tools to compliment the device but allow current development to be re-compiled using the same or similar source code that was the standard before, and not force everything to be re-written from scratch.

They didnt need to take Apple’s closed position that developers need to be babysat on everything for speed and stability wise. Its just not true. The raising of hardware requirements and possibly making the OS actually do what you claimed it always did memory management wise would have been a significant improvement. Or even make up a couple new pieces that most applications should have code wise that do some of the simple things like persisting when application goes to the background, and clearly document it and make it the default so most apps use it… Sadly they even took it a step further than Apple and took away native code development which will actually make some applications slower and defeat the purpose.

Now think of all the Enterprise level solutions and Business oriented users of the old OS that are now out of luck once they slowly phase out the original WM OS… I think they really could have done it so that there was one solution for both sets of users….

They simply went too far. Which is maybe the way they felt they needed to approach it, but then they’ve segmented and lost what they did have on a gamble that consumers will like the trendy interface and snatch this up and the hope that they can then attract new developers away from the other new OSes.

Good Luck.

All-In Poker 3.0 for Windows Phones

All-In 3.0

We are pleased to announce that we have finally released Version 3.0 of All-In Poker. It has a bunch of great new features including the game of Omaha, Multiple Careers, and a slick new interface. We have also put a lot of effort into making it better on the new classes of devices with VGA and WVGA screens and even 320×320 screens for the Treo users out there. Bigger Fonts and making it more finger friendly are just some of the things we tried to do for you. We hope to agree that we have taken the best Poker game for Windows Phones and made it even better.

And we hope that our current users will be willing to pay the small upgrade fee to start enjoying the game with the great new features. We know our competitor’s charge that same price for just a limit version of their game or just an Omaha Version. Why not continue to have it all in one place. Previous users can install the trial version, and if they want to revert back to a 2.x version they can download that off our product page to re-install right over the new trial.

Thanks and we hope you enjoy All-In 3.0 for Windows Mobile.

Update… End of September

Well.. we have some exciting stuff just down the pipeline. Right now we are working on a cool consulting project but we have also done a lot of other work on mainly our All-In franchise.

The long awaited Version 3.0 of All-In Hold ‘Em for Windows Mobile is just about complete! Im hoping it will be done and depending on how the Windows Mobile Marketplace submission process works be ready for the grand opening in just a couple weeks… Its really that close.. What’s in it??? Well, some cool things including a new interface, and ……. Multiple Careers, and ……… Omaha!! Watch for it the beginning of October.

And All-In Poker for iPhone now has a minor update that is planned with a bit of the work already done. If you call this a minor update. The plan is to allow the choice of a couple tables and about 6-8 card backs, choice to rotate screen the other way, a few more pretty it up things, some AI updates, swipe to fold, and Pot Limit Omaha, Pot Limit Hold ‘Em and a new game!! Badugi!!! Watch for that soon as well.

We hope to see you in the AppStore and new WM Marketplace!!

Back to work…

My Mobile Market Guage

I watch the market very closely for all mobile phones and obviously mostly Smartphones. And besides reading all the news sites, reports, and blogs a great tool is to watch the real market around you. And what really is one of the best judges for me is whether or not my friends and family have interest in the devices I write software for.

Obviously there is a transition going where consumers are going from Feature Phones to Smarter Phones and wanting to do more with them. Just as in the late 1990s to early 2000s we saw the main stream consumers all come over to the cell phone darkside. I remember the holdouts like my dad and father-in-law who would never need to have a phone along everywhere. The old system worked so well. Of course now my Father-in-law doesn’t go anywhere without his Razr on his hip and my mom and dad have a pay as you go that they take all over. 

Now my dad would be considered a Techie guy in love with his computers and his digital photography, so I was able to get him interested in PDAs, which lets face it, the overwhelming majority of consumers were never going to fully adopt like they would the phone. But even then he started slowly and bought one more to use as a picture display more than anything else. And he had to get a Palm right when they were going down hill instead of splurging for a Pocket PC. He got that used later for a cheap deal, but the X5 though groundbreaking, wasnt really a great carry-around size…

Another good friend of mine was as they say “an early adopter” and did have an Axim that he used religiously for scheduling and to improve his Poker Game(with All-In) and so he has, like you would expect, moved on to a Windows Mobile Phone(Q) and Im sure will continue to move up the chain… Another friend uses them for work a lot in the Utility industry, but other than that most of my friends are still in the catch up ‘coming soon’ group with a couple having blackberry’s.

My Brother who is also a Developer(who even does a lot of Mobile Development) has just purchased a Mogul for his main phone. I thought he was going to hold out longer as well though he is the target guy for this phone. He always had work devices around but never would make the leap until recently, though him and his wife are the people I have seen utilize WM devices as Entertainment devices the most out of anyone I know, usually on car trips. 

But the True Guage that the Majority Market is outgrowing their Razr’s and is moving this way is that my wife just not only said how she was interested in an eeeePc type device out of the blue, but also that she played with my development Treo 700wx all last night and said how much she liked it and wanted one for texting, organizing and because Bubble Breaker is so addictive!!! Wait until she tries some Astraware or PDAMill games… 🙂  I may have to get 2 Treo 800s in a few months…

 Here comes the Consumer majority market. Fun!!

 

Windows Mobile’s Bum Rap

A post over at one of my Favorite Mobile Blogs (JustAnotherMobileMonday.com) got me thinking. Why is the media being so harsh on Windows Mobile.  A lot of Bloggers and Media are hard on WM and how it is not Innovating. I know some of it is “fanboy” type attention from mobile guys that believe another OS(iPhone, Palm, Symbian) is somehow superior, I understand that, but… I made a reply post over there and will re-iterate some of the same points here.

Windows Mobile 6.1, which offers a bunch of pretty nice updates including new applications and even built-in Threaded SMS(competing with our Extreme Text), but yet the poster and a reply from some very in the know guys(and Ive seen many others) wrote how lackluster it is and how they expect more. 

For one thing, Windows Mobile 6.1 is a point release. Windows Mobile 7 (as some leaked screenshots have shown) and WM8 is where the real innovation will happen. And they are already well on their way so you know Microsoft has most of its Mobile Development Resources working in that direction. And people are quick to point out that WM6 isn’t doing what newer things are doing… There are 3 things wrong with this… 1. Windows Mobile is still arguabley the best out there. 2. WM is different. It is an open platform. Carrier and Manufacturers can license and develop anything they want to use with it. 3. It is competing with Applications for itself, Locked down platforms, and early APIs for overhyped Os’s that are still being created.

People think that Windows Mobile’s Internet Explorer should work as well as iPhone Safari.. And it should to an extent. And the features added in WM6.1 help that tremendously. It definitely needed work. But we are dealing with different form factors and almost exclusively smaller screens. Then people mention that the new SkyFox type browsers can do it better. Well but most people dont want everything they browse run through a server first. Privacy just went out the window and the idea just isn’t that ideal for Millions of phones…

And Programs like PointUI and the Touch Interface are neat. But they are the reason WM is an open platform. They can be developed or licensed as they are now. But a lot of them give slick simplicity and trade it for flexible power, Im not willing to do that and Im sure others aren’t either. And I think they can and will be done a lot better, hopefully in the new OS…

Now take iPhone. We still don’t have an API for it, but the promise of one has been more than enough for so many supporters. If Microsoft was dealing with 1 device in a single form factor with no 3rd party application support yet and only 1 set of drivers, well…Then they could ‘innovate’ faster as well. Instead they have to deal with Multiple Form Factors from multiple manufacturers and multiple carriers(consider all of the processors, memory, screen sizes, peripherals). And they understand the always overlooked need to protect the Large 3rd party developer base they have built up. So with flexibility they need to be a little more careful in their ‘innovation’.

And yes the Google Android OS API looks pretty. But it wasn’t complete on release and they are still working on the OS. It won’t even be ready and released for quite a while but yet it is almost considered “the next big thing” on word alone. I’ll be surprised if among any of the first devices there will  be a ‘Home Run’. And the kinks will still need to be worked out. So… It may be BIG, in 2 or 3 years… But wait, WM7+ will be around then too…

People tend to think that the Mobile Phone market moves faster than it does, and want to see cool-ness now. But consider that some of the biggest selling Smarphones right now are still running the Antiquated Palm OS…  Windows Mobile 5 was already light years ahead of that…