iOS 5 is nearly here

iOS 5

Today Apple announced the launch of iOS 5, the new operating system for its devices, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Many Apple fanboys and girls are going crazy over the iCloud announcement that lets you basically do everything over the air (OTA); for me it’s not that mind blowing, but I may come around. What I did like was many of the new functions that the OS offers me, the regular iPhone user. Here are the ones that stand out to me the most:

iMessage: This addition is clearly competing with BBM and the many apps out there on iTunes already. Without using your valuable text messages, you can now text, send phones/videos, locations and contact info to anyone using iOS 5. I’d like to see how many more people make the switch to the iPhone after this because the majority of people I know are with Blackberry only for BBM or the keyboard.

Notification Centre: Making great use of the lock screen, you can now view all pending notifications just with a quick glance. To access an individual one, like a text for example, just swipe it and you can compose a message. This also solves an annoyance of mine by sending you non-intrusive notification when someone messages (and calls, I presume) and you’re playing a game – I hate being interrupted.

New Camera functionality: There have been many times where I wanted to take a picture, but have missed the opportunity because I had to wait for the camera to load. Another way Apple is taking advantage of the lock screen is by letting you take photos with the volume + button. Also eliminating the need for many apps, you can now edit the photos as you take them, and…

Twitter everywhere: You can send those photos links, videos and maps direct from your phone. As a heavy Twitter user this is great!

That’s the majority of the updates, but you can also watch the video below (for those without Quicktime) or visit Apple to see the rest of the specs.

Thanks to pspfano for posting the video to Youtube.
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Netflix is my new entertainment fix

Netflix

Late on Monday night I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a Netflix Canada account, which is free for the first month, then $7.99/month after that. I had been contemplating joining since it came to Canada in September, but I had never bothered to take the plunge.

Content

I have to say, I’m impressed. Since signing up I’ve five movies (four documentaries, one comedy standup) and there is so much more content that I haven’t even sifted through yet. I’ve seen some criticism that there isn’t enough content, but considering the many licensing issues I’m sure they have to deal with, Netflix isn’t doing too bad.

Yesterday’s post by Ryan Lawler over at GigaOM shows just how popular the online movie streaming site has become; clearly people like it:

According to Sandvine’s latest Global Internet Phenomena Report, the subscription streaming service now accounts for 29.7 percent of all peak downstream traffic in North America. That’s up 44 percent from the previous figure released in Sandvine’s Fall Study just six months ago.

Also according to the article, since the September launch in Canada, the number of subscribers has already surpassed 800,000, which is a good chunk of the country’s Internet user base.

Usability

I’m impressed with the usability and reliability of the site, so far. Watching a movie is as simple as scrolling through the genre you’re interested in, or performing a simple search, and you’re there. All you have to do after that is click play. The quality is dependent on what your watching – though that can be attributed to the movie itself, not the service.

Another bonus is the fact that I can watch movies/shows on my iPhone from anywhere. This option is great for those on the go, or if you find yourself in a not-so-entertaining event; just open up the app and you’re good to go.

Conclusion

I know this post seems like it was paid for, but in my limited time with the service I honestly don’t have much to complain about. The one downside for me, is that I don’t have a Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360 or Nintento Wii, so I’m stuck watching shows on my laptop/iPhone instead of my TV.

Have you signed up for the service? If so, what do you like/dislike about it? If not, how come?

Pros and Cons of the Sony Digital Reader

Sony Digital ReaderI’m a fan of technology and try to keep on top of new technology; unfortunately my bills would not get paid if I decided to buy everything that caught my eye. When I won the Sony Digital Reader at HohoTO on December 16, I was excited because I was curious about eReaders, but hadn’t decided if I was going to buy one or not.

I tested out the Digital Reader by reading “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” and afterward, came up with a pros and cons list for the device. If you have more to add please share.

Pros

  • Great for travel/space saver – They’re perfect for long trips where I would not want to pack a few books and riding the subway in the morning can be quite the sardine in a can experience, so lugging around a large hardcover book can be hard to read. With the eReader I had no problem holding on to one of the poles while reading on the jammed subway. This leads to more reading getting done!
  • Environmentally friendly – Of course books are made of paper, so if everyone had an eReader, the effect on the environment would be astonishing, I’m sure. I’m not sure what goes in to making an eReader, so I can’t comment on that being more dangerous to the environment or not.
  • I returned to the library – The Toronto Public Library has eBooks, so being cheap as I am, this is a good option when I don’t feel like spending money and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to return the book.
  • Book-like screen appearance – The difference between the Sony eReader and the iPad for example, is that you don’t have the annoying computer screen shining in your face. I was shocked at how realistic it looked when I turned it on for the first time.
  • Great battery life – The battery on the reader is amazing. While reading the book I had it in standby mode most of the time and I believe I only had to charge it once in the (give or take a week) month I was reading the book. That was a pleasant surprise for me.
  • Touchscreen – My iPod Touch, now iPhone 4 have made using anything without a touch interface difficult, so having the option to swipe the screen or click a button to change the page was perfect. There were times when I preferred one over the other and I was happy for the option.

Cons

  • Not a real book – One of the reasons why I hadn’t bought an eReader was simply because I like the tactile feeling of reading a book. Turning the pages and seeing the progress made to the end feels like more of an accomplishment to me than just clicking ‘next’ 500 times and finishing.
  • Lack of ownership – I like to buy books and have them on my shelf; I own them. With digital content, for any device, not just eReaders, it doesn’t feel like it was worth buying because I don’t have it in my hand. I got over that for music, but I still have DVDs and books on my shelves – something I don’t see changing any time soon.
  • Harder to share – eReaders have the option (I believe) to send a book to a friend, but that means your friends have to also have an eReader. With books I like to lend them out to friends and family when I can, so until everyone has an eReader I’ll stick to the old fashioned way.
  • Not great in all light situations – While the screen looks great, I found with an actual book I was able to read in bed with my not-so-bright lamp, but with the device, I had to lie awkwardly so the light hit it better. I tried adjusting the settings but it didn’t compare.
  • No more shopping for books – I enjoy going to book stores for the fun of it – just about the only shopping I can tolerate for long periods of time. If I had to search through an online store I’d be missing out on that great in-store experience.

Overall I had a good experience with the Digital Reader and I’m definitely ‘for them’ in theory, but I prefer to an old-fashioned book more often than not; I can’t justify buying ebooks just to read them on the subway (but if I could find them in the library’s online archive I would gladly do so). Also, for long trips I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my Digital Reader with me because I think it is perfect for that situation.

Breakfast at Cora’s

I’m a huge Cora‘s fan and many may have seen my tweets about the progress of the new Scarborough franchise’s construction. The first time I noticed it was when I was at Starbucks with my nephew and saw the familiar Cora sunshine logo in the window (Twitpic). After that I paid close attention each morning on my way into work since my bus passed by the plaza.

One day I noticed the sign had gone up on the restaurant, so I tweeted about that. With the help my friend Coleman (@ColeYeung) I found out it was opening on September 7, which ended with us planning our outing on Saturday with May (@aMAYzin). I can’t speak for them, but I had a great time. My usual meal, the Crepomelette was perfection on a plate, I got to spend time with two really cool people and last but not least, got to use Facetime on my iPhone 4 for the first time ever (albeit across the table with May).

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I’m back yet again, this time with my girlfriend. I promised I’d take her on a date for her first Scarborough Cora’s experience, so before heading down to the TIFF block party, we grabbed some food. I moved away from my delicious Crepomelette and had the Cora’s Special, which was filling but not the same. One added bonus to the breakfast was my new Foursquare Mayor title, but I’m not sure how long that will last, to be honest.

Long story short, it was a Cora’s-filled (and filling) fun time. If you haven’t been, go! Just go early or else you’ll have to deal with lineups.

10 of my must have apps for the iPhone

Apps are what make iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches worth owning. With my iPod Touch I had quite a few, and I’ve been able to add some others that only make sense to have on the iPhone. Here’s my list of apps that I can’t do without:

1. Twitter for iPhone – When this app was first brought to my attention I was skeptical. I use Tweetdeck on my Macbook and I did use it in my iPod Touch, however there was a glitch that prevented horizontal typing, which is my preference. After looking at a few apps I decided on Twitter. I like it because it actually works for me, for starters. It’s simple and I’ve gotten used to the one column, compared to the many on Tweetdeck.

2. Foursquare – Putting a smart phone in my hands means I’ll check-in everywhere. I have no clue why I’m such a fan of Foursquare, and I’m sure many others feel the same. I guess it boils down to it being a fun app. It’s fun to compete with others for mayorships. It’s also fun to get deals at participating retailers from time to time too.

3. TTC Mobile – A simple app that takes the arrival times listed on TTC.ca and allows transit-dependent people like myself to quickly find out when the next bus is coming. I use this one often and now I can check wherever I am.

4. Tim Hortons – I haven’t had to use the locator yet, but if I’m ever in a need when I’m jonesin’ for a Timmies coffee, then I’ll know what app to bust out.

5. Facebook – Even though it’s not the best app, in terms of design, it’d be a lie to say it wasn’t a must to keep Facebook on the list.

6. The Edge – Each morning I like to listen to the Dean Blundell Show, but having the window pop up on my computer screen at work is distracting, especially when I have many others on the go. This app is perfect because now I can listen to the radio from my iPhone 4 without clogging up my workspace.

7. Yelp – The monocle feature makes this app worth downloading on its own. You can turn  in all directions and see where restaurants are, click through, and read/write reviews. So far it’s been a bit more effective in higher density areas like downtown.

8. Maple Leafs – Here I can find the latest on my favourite hockey team, along with other hockey scores.

9. Rogers My Account – From what I’ve been able to see with this app, it looks pretty sleek and it’s definitely something I’ll keep coming back to to check my data usage (though with my 6GB plan I likely won’t come near it.)

10. TD – I hopped on this app as soon as it came out because I really like the chance to find out my account balance and pay bills with the click of a button, should I need to.

I’ll always be picking up newer, fancier apps as they’re released so be sure to watch out for my future recommendations. Also games are something I can also make a list for..

What are some of your favourite apps out there? Paid/Free – doesn’t matter.

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