Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Avoid traffic jams, traffic cops

A local developer is currently working on a very interesting app that delivers traffic information obtained by crowd sourcing.

The app will contain a database of places where traffic cops have been spotted as well as roads where drivers are encountering traffic jams. Both of these will be updated by users of the app as they drive around Singapore.

Apart from crowd sourced information, the app will also have a traffic news feed from the LTA.

The app, currently called Traffic, will use push notification so that it does not have to run all the time. Whenever there is a new update, an alert will be pushed to the user.

To view screenshots, learn more about the app or to sign up to test drive the app, go to the website of Explorer Technologies. Explorer Technologies has also developed four other iPhone apps -- Basic Math, Toy Clock, Warranty and Memory.

If it works as advertised, this will be a very useful app indeed. And it can't hurt that the developer is promising to make this app free when it is finally released. (Note that since this app uses push notification, you will need to have the iPhone OS 3.0 installed.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

i-Roadmate now location aware

The web app i-Roadmate has been retooled to take advantage of Safari's new ability to handle geolocation. This means that when you tap on the "Search" button in i-Roadmate, it give you the option to "Locate Me". With the ensuring latitude and longitude, i-Roadmate is able to locate you on a map and tell you where the nearby parking spots and ERP gantries are.

According to developer Kelvin Wu, you may need to clear the browser cache before it will work properly. I've tried i-Roadmate's new feature and it works like a charm.

Neat stuff and nicely implemented! Thanks Kelvin!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Voice-guided, turn-by-turn GPS now available for Singapore roads

Mobile Maps Asia - South East - is the first voice-guided, turn-by-turn GPS app for local roads that I've seen. Apart from Singapore, it also covers Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Produced by Sygic, it costs a pricey US$79.99 but promises no monthly fees or hidden charges. It uses the latest maps by Tele Atlas, downloaded to your device so you won't need to pay for expensive roaming data charges if you are driving overseas.

If I had a car (heck, if I could drive), I would be tempted to buy this. Anyone used this product yet? Is it worth the money?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Singapore developers get leg up at WWDC

If we are lucky, there will soon be a small boom (a boomlet?) in locally developed iPhone apps, thanks to Apple Asia and IE Singapore. This year, Apple Asia sent a bunch of undergraduates from NUS, NTU and SMU to San Francisco while IE-Singapore helped to send a few local iPhone developers including buUuk, Elchemi Education, Orange Gum, Personae Studio, Scoreless Music, Ufinity, Violet Enterprise Solutions and Xsago.

Apart from the chance to attend the various technical sessions with Apple engineers, the Singapore contingent also briefed Apple about developments in Singapore in the lifestyle and enterprise space.

According to the prolific but modest Muh Hon Cheng of buUuk, WWDC was very useful. "Not having a programming background, there are a lot of basics and best practices that I may not know about. Attending sessions and talking to other developers definitely helped. There were also specific topics that I had no idea where to start, and WWDC helped a bit with that."

Willson Cuaca of Xsago says that WWDC helped jumpstart some of Xsago's efforts. "WWDC helped shorten the learning curve of the new technologies. Before the end of WWDC, Xsago submitted two applications for OS 3.0."

It wasn't just the technical seminars that were useful though. Joash Chee of Scoreless Music found the networking opportunities to be helpful too. "The time spent interacting with the other companies that went together with me as the IE Singapore mission team has also brought about several interesting collaborations that I hope to cement in the following weeks," says Joash.

For Joash, the highlight of WWDC was "being in the same room as some key Apple executives, like Apple's WorldWide Developer Relations - Games Evangelist Andy Hess, and having the opportunity to talk about what I do.

"Even more spectacular was hearing from those same people how they would like to keep us on their radar and that we should definitely inform them of all our developments so that they will be able to figure out the best way to support our efforts.

"With everyone fighting for attention in the increasingly crowded iPhone / iPod Touch application space, it is a tremendous advantage to have the attention of people of influence on the 'inside'."

This was the first WWDC for Willson, Joash and Hon Cheng but all of them have plans to return. Notes Joash: "I have set several goals for myself and one of them is to have at least one product that I will submit for the Apple Design Awards for WWDC 2010."

WWDC impressions

Hon Cheng on the keynote: "Woke up quite early on the first day to queue at 5am, hoping to be among the front rows during the Keynote. Didn't feel like a long wait at all (even though the Keynote started at 10am).

Willson on his favourite sessions: "Other than all the technology sessions and crash courses, I loved two other sessions -- "A story of Smule" by Ge Wang and "Creating a company and iPhone apps" by Neil Young. Both were really inspiring and opened your eyes to see the potential of the iPhone."

Joash on meeting other developers: "In general, the people that I managed to interact with were friendly and open with their sharing. There's a very strong sense that we are all in this together and I did not feel any strains of tension found in serious competition or rivalry. During breakfast at a nearby diner, I struck up a conversation with a developer sitting at the counter next to me and she felt that people were generally nice and not 'stuck up'."

Singapore to get 3.0 update on June 18

According to the Apple webpage for Singapore users.

Xsago submits two 3.0 apps for approval

Xsago has updated Foyage to make it 3.0 compliant. Foyage 2.0 uses MapKit 3.0 so that there are now in-app maps. In addition, users will be able to view all nearby categories in a single map.

The company has also developed a new app called MyTrace that will log your whereabouts. Each time you launch the app, it will log your location. You can then see the trail of where you were in the list mode or map mode.

According to Willson Cuaca of Xsago, the idea came about because of H1N1 outbreak. "It can be used by people who are back from affected country (including me :p )"

Local app update - Tung Shing 09 Singapore

Here's a marriage between tradition and technology. Tung Shing 09 Singapore (US$5.99) is a Chinese almanac localised for Singapore. It includes public holidays in Singapore, as well as auspicious dates for signing contracts, getting married or attending meetings.

3.0 version of buUuk submitted to App Store

The latest version of free restaurant guide buUuk is now awaiting Apple's approval. It is 3.0 compliant and features:

1) In-app mail, so users can recommend restaurants or suggest restaurant description without getting out of buUuk

2) Mapkit integration, so that users will be able to pan/zoom map. In the old version, users can only see a restaurant on a map. Now users can see a full result page (10 restaurants) in the map.

BuUuk has also added restaurant listings for Perth, Darwin and Adelaide in Australia, as well as Hong Kong.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Guess which locally developed app made a brief appearance in the WWDC keynote?

At 54:03 of the WWDC keynote, during the video featuring iPhone app developers (at the start of the presentation by Scott Forstall, Apple senior vice president of iPhone software), you will notice the following familiar screen:

Doodlekids strikes again! Congrats Thye Chean and Ding Wen!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

SingTel confirms new iPhones for S'pore in July

According to a Dow Jones wire story (carried on the Wall Street Journal), SingTel has issued a statement confirming that the new iPhone 3G S will be launched in Singapore in July. 

iPhone 3G S to come to Singapore in July

Apple's latest iPhone, the iPhone 3G S, will be launched in Singapore in July 2009 according to the WWDC slides of Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller.

The iPhone 3G S will be sold in the US for US$299 for the 32GB version and US$199 for the 16GB version. It will be available in the US from June 19.

The new iPhone 3G S will have a raft of new features, including:

1. The ability to load web pages faster
2. Better battery life
3. 3 megapixel camera with auto focus
4. Video recording and editing capability
5. Digital compass
6. Voice control
7. A partridge in a pear tree

For more details, see the MacDailyNews story, among others.

According to a Business Times story yesterday citing unnamed industry sources, SingTel's exclusive deal to carry the iPhone will extend to the new iPhone 3G S. 

Singtel to support MMS and tethering for iPhone 3.0

According to the WWDC slides of Apple senior vice president of iPhone software Scott Forstall, Singtel will be supporting both MMS and Internet tethering for the iPhone when OS 3.0 is released worldwide on June 17.

While talking about both MMS and tethering (using your iphone as a wireless modem for your laptop or desktop) on Monday in San Francisco, Forstall's slides clearly showed the Singtel logo when he spoke about the carriers worldwide that would support these features immediately.

However, it looks like Singapore is not on the list of countries to get the new iPhone 3G S when it is released on June 19. Apart from the US, the other countries to get a first bite at the new iPhones are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Another six countries will get it about a week later. The new iPhones will be rolled out to the rest of the world in July and August.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Better battery life

The latest from the well-sourced blogger John Gruber (Daring Fireball) says the new iPhone hardware (codenamed iPhone3GS) will have 15 to 20 percent better battery life, on top of everything else. See his latest post for full details and read his older list of expected updates here.

WWDC is now some 18 hours away (from 2am Singapore time), and being the old fogey that I am, I'll be fast asleep when the major announcements are made. However, if you wish to track the live coverage, here are some links you'll find useful:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

iPhone Rumour Roundup

A good roundup of rumours on TGR. See chart and sources. (via Cult of Mac)

Local app update - StationAlarm SG

Have you fallen asleep on the MRT? I know I have. However, if you have StationAlarm SG running on your iPhone or iPod Touch, there is a good chance you won't miss your stop, promises the developer Mugunth Kumar.

Set your current station and destination and this app will wake you up just before your stop. If you need to change trains, it will automatically ring a minute before the interchange station. Neat idea.

StationAlarm SG is available on the App Store for US$1.99

Below is an interview I conducted with the developer:

What made you decide to write this app?
Two things. Firstly, I used to commute from Boon Lay to Expo every day and have overslept at Tanah Merah. First and primary reason is to help myself ;-)

Secondly many tourists often get confused with Singapore's sophisticated MRT. They often don't know where to alight and where to change trains. This app can help them to decide how to move around singapore using the MRT.

How long did it take you to develop this app?
I'm a new iPhone Developer. I've literally zero experience developing for iPhone/Mac.
In fact I'm new to Mac platform itself. However programming is not something new to me. I'm a hard core Windows Developer. I have been developing Windows Apps as a part of my job as well as in my free time.

For learning basics of Objective-C and Mac, it took me around 3 months. The app development took me about 4 weekends.

Due to my intense work schedule, I work only on Saturdays and Sundays on iPhone app development.

What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was to get used to "Mac". As for programming, it was kind of a cake walk for me. I know I can do it. The language as such was not difficult. 

Second challenge came in the form of "real on device testing". I had a feature complete version of my app running on iPhone simulator. But when I registered for the developer program,
and got the necessary keys to test drive my app on my real device, everything crashed!! The dijkstra's algorithm used way much memory it should. The timer UI was pathetically slower on the device. Because the simulator was running on a mac, I couldn't fix these issues upfront.

What's your background? 
I'm not a full time iphone-developer. I've completed my masters in NTU (I'll be graduating next month) and started working in Honeywell in software. My job focusses on object oriented design architectures for windows apps.

What are your plans for future iPhone development?
If I'm successful with this app, i'll be continuing to write more "utilities" kind of apps. I don't think I'll enter gaming/Open GL-es kind of apps. I'm more interested in writing apps for the Singaporean market rather than worldwide as I prefer developing something that I would be using in my day-to-day life.

Palm Pre reviews are in

Early reviews of the Pre are pretty positive though I've seen complaints about the keyboard (see the review by Jason Chen of Gizmodo for example). Most reviewers love the Web OS though.

Will this be an iPhone killer? Unlikely because as a few reviewers point out, thanks to the iPhone, apps are now an important part of the buying decision for smartphones and Palm currently doesn't have a very good app store (not many apps). Downloading an app also managed to wipeout the data on Walt Mossberg's Pre.

Reviews from around the web:

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal.
David Pogue, New York Times
Joshua Topolsky, Engadget
Jason Chen, Gizmodo