Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Field Testing of Apple Peel 520 with Ipod Touch 3G

Just posting here to inform that I managed to buy the Apple Peel accessory (from Yosion) at SLS and confirm it works with the Ipod Touch 3G. If you don't know what the Apple Peel is, well, basically it is a Ipod Touch case that has a simcard slot to convert the Ipod Touch into a phone with voice call/receive and sms call/receive capability.

(warning: modifying/jailbreaking the Ipod voids Apple warranty)

Summary of Events:
1. Brought Ipod Touch 3G with os 3.1.3 to shop
2. shop took 10 mins to jailbreak the Ipod
3. Handed over my Ipod (with Cydia installer) + Apple Peel
4. Went home, installed Appsync, mobile substrate, Yosion calling and sms apps.
5. Insert singtel post-paid card.
6. It works! Phone call and sms incoming/outgoing tested ok!

1. Allows Ipod Touch 3G and below to make incoming/outgoing calls and sms like a normal phone
2. Casing is not too bulky (Thickness is like an external battery casing)
3. Meets requirements of Military bases and Companies that do not allow employees to bring in phone with camera. It is probably most advanced and attractive phone without camera (closest competitors are HTC Touch and Snap and other phones I won't even mention)
4. Apple Peel even has vibrator mode

1. Voids warranty, requires software modification of Ipod Touch.
2. May be too much work for the non-technically inclined to install appsync + yosion apps(shop will not do this for you)
3. Casing may be too bulky for some people. It is about 30% heavier and bigger than Iphone 4. Iphone 4 or Iphone 3GS with contract may be better option.
4. Only supports phone and sms incoming/outgoing. Appstore access and data transfer is using wifi only. 3G/GPRS data transfer not supported by Apple Peel 1st Gen. GPRS rumoured to be activated for 2nd Gen Apple Peel.
5. Vibrator mode may be a little mild for some people.
6. Sms messages received will become gibberish if the sms exceeds 160 characters.

Update (Day 2 of testing):

Based on the pictures of fake vs real apple peel, it looks like the one I bought in SLS could be a very well made fake. even though the phone and SMS capabilities work, yosion tech has been warning of these 'high class' fakes that have flooded the china market. If you read mandarin, you can trawl the forums to check out the pics. Pirated goods are called 'Shan zai' in Chinese.

It is quite funny. The Yosion moderators have responded to the fake vs real apple peel by saying that there is no difference in capability (wtf???!!). However they reserve the right to deny the fakes of any future firmware updates or even brick the fakes.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

GIEC GK110HD Internet Media Player

Warning: Not an Apple-product related post!

I just bought the GIEC GK110HD Internet Media Player @ S$150 from a promoter on lvl 4of the famous Sim Lim Square in Singapore. She threw in a free HDMI cable :)

GIEC is a big electronics company in China. Based on how well this media player worked, I think GIEC is a company to watch. They should consider making an Apple TV clone at half the price.

The internet media streaming player market is really competitive now. I was walking around on lvl 3 and 4 of Sim Lim, listening to various sales pitches, asking for demonstrations, checking out what internet connections speeds the promoters were using and comparing pricing, model features etc.

You have to be careful whether any specific media player model supports internet streaming. If it's cheaper than S$100, there is a high chance that it is just a stand-alone mediaplayer (which cannot stream direct from the internet). If in doubt, just check whether the mediaplayer has a LAN socket for internet cable.

Seriously, given that many internet media player with HD/HDMI support is priced at less than S$160, no one should be getting those without at this point in time. The GK110HD does have RCA connectors (yellow/red/white) to support legacy connections.

My GK110HD works surprisingly well considering I only have a 6mbps internet connection (my telco is starhub) - the streaming HD movie quality is as good as my Blu-ray movies, though there were some occasional image stuttering that didn't bother me. (Though my wife noticed it more than I did).

The remote that came with the media player also allows fast forwarding of ppstream movies (something I understand is not common for most internet media streaming players).

Most PRC and HK channels connect well but Taiwanese channels tend to be a little iffy (some sites give the 404 or file format error). Cached/Archived movies and programmes tend to fare better than live streaming TV. The streaming sites packaged with the player are:

PPstream (best streaming experience, even at peak hours)
Union Voole (movies - but very laggy streaming)
HDPFans (for CCTV)
Youtube (many videos unable to play from the GK110HD)
RSS Streaming

The promoter was also offering the GK220HD at $170 with internal space for a HDD but otherwise I couldn't see much difference feature-wise so I decided to go for the GK110HD.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

iDos Emulator gets pulled a second time from the Appstore

I’ve had wonderful memories when as a kid, I spent several blissful years with my IBM PC XT clone experimenting with Dos programming and played cutting edge games like Ultima IV , Wizardry, Autoduel and Star Control.

(screenshot of Ultima IV taken from abandonia.com)

The iDOS emulator ported by Fast Intelligence was able to deliver an unmatched wave of nostalgia and within a day of installing iDOS on my Ipad, I was trying out some of these classics again – mostly just to see them again in all their glory - 256 VGA colour and adlib sound. There wasn’t even a need to jailbreak to get the programs to work.

iDOS 2.0.1 re-appeared on the Appstore as a free app after first appearing on 26th Oct as iDOS 1 (price $0.99) which got pulled within a day for not meeting App policy requirements. Sad to say, history repeated itself and iDOS 2.0.1 disappeared just as quickly.

To the amazing folks at Fast Intelligence, I just have this to say:

Thank you for creating this emulator. It shall be on my Ipad for a very long time.

To those who decided to pull it:

We are a small and endangered breed, those of us who were fortunate to see the birth of the gaming industry through Dos. You were never there and if you were, you never understood.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Apple Peel 2: Allows Ipod to make calls, text messages and 3G data transfers

You might have heard of the Apple Peel, or perhaps the ZTE Peel Ipod accessory offered by the US Telco, Sprint that allows the Ipod to make calls by tapping into their 3G network.

(Picture of Apple Peel accessory from the manufacturer's website)

In my opinion, the Apple Peel that was invented by a pair of Chinese brothers is a superior and comprehensive solution because it takes this one step further. Basically, it is an Ipod case with a simcard slot that allows the Ipod to makes calls and text messages. It requires the installation of an app for phone calls and a text-messaging app, onto a Jailbroken Ipod. (Note: Jailbreaking voids all Apple warranties!) If you read mandarin, their website is over here.

(screenshot taken from online store Peel520.net)

The 1st gen Apple Peel had some major drawbacks because it does not support data transfer over 3G nor does it fit well on the Ipod Touch 4G. However, according to their website, this capability and the latest 4G Ipod Touch models will be supported by their 2nd gen Peel that is due for a launch date of 20th January 2011.

There are various online stores such as this one that claim to be able to ship Apple Peels worldwide with a retail price of US$89. I haven’t tried any of them but they are useful at least for being able to explain in English (with pictures) how the Apple Peel works. If you happen to be in Shanghai and Hong Kong, I’m told that it is easily available at any of the major electronics bazaars.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Email Interview with JVL MOBI, developer of game app Balloonia

(This article was also posted at my blog post with iphonelife.com here)

My kids have tried this pipe strategy game Balloonia from Canadian game developer JVL MOBI and liked it. Pipe strategy games have a long pedigree in hand-helds and Balloonia is among the first to have ported it nicely to the Iphone/Ipod platform. I had never heard of JVL MOBI before, and recalling a similar pipe strategy game on the Palm V (which kept me company for several years in the 90s), I was spurred to write their spokesperson Brian Williams with a request for an email interview.

(Note: For those of you who are not familiar with pipe strategy games, it is a casual but addictive puzzle genre that usually involves re-arranging a series of unaligned pipes to form a complete connection in a race-against-the-clock format .)


Tell us about JVL Mobi.
JVL Corporation was founded more than 25 years ago. What began as a small, coin-operated machine repair service quickly grew into a fully integrated engineering company – conceptualizing, developing, and manufacturing a wide range of multi-media consumer products (amusement, music, gaming, and most recently, mobile applications). We created JVL Mobi in 2008 in order to enter the game app market and have thus far achieved upwards of 3 million downloads on Apple’s iTunes store.

Where are you based?
JVL MOBI is based out Toronto, Canada.

How long has your team/company established itself and how did it happen?
JVL MOBI is now 3 years old. However, JVL Amusement has been developing and publishing games for years. With 150 titles and counting, we have among the largest inventory of casual games out there, many of which have been rendered in HD. So, it was a logical next step to begin converting our games for use on a portable device. We have released 11 games to date, and will continue to port our other titles to mobile platforms.

Can you tell my readers how your game/app was inspired? Given that there has been a long history of pipe strategy games going back all the way to the Palm OS, how did you set about to differentiate your app?
We’re all big fans of strategy games, here at JVL MOBI, and needless to say “pipe-type” strategy games. When discussions commenced about creating our version of such a game, our design team took creative license and envisioned a Salvador Dali-like world where a mad scientist ruled all; his environment ordained by imagination to no limit. It is in his whimsical production factory, that he plays conductor, orchestrating and controlling the manufacturing of each element of pipe. With a few key flicks of the organe de couleur, he guides the multi-colored tubes through their many twists and turns, creating perfectly linked pipelines to the hot air balloons of tranquility.

How long did it take to plan, develop and program the game/app?
We put in a lot of effort in the conceptualization and development of all of our games, and although our turn-around time is impressive – our designers will always make the necessary effort to incorporate unique, interesting nuances to make JVL games fun, and keep players engaged. We feel players want games that are enjoyable to play, will keep them interested over time, and are both nice to look at and listen to. We strive to provide that in each of our offerings. So, it is never a rushed process, and like fine wine, the more time invested in refinement, the better the wine in the glass.

What other apps and projects has your team/company undertaken recently? What are your plans for your next app? Are there any interesting news that we can watch out for in the next 6 months?
We will continue to adapt games that have seen success in countertop amusement play to a variety of hand-held gaming platforms. Our hugely popular “What’s The Difference?” app will soon grow to offer players the same, great game-play experience, but with additional versions, and new, exciting themes to be enjoyed alone, or among friends and family. Recently we have also launched a new social media marketing strategy and in-app advertising campaign with the intent of positioning JVL MOBI as a top game app producer and to help build a community of loyal gamers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Aftermath of Skype-Fring Split: Comparison of Int’l Calling Rates to Mobile lines

(Blogpost also appeared on my Blog for Iphonelife.com)

In the aftermath of the Skype-Fring split in July last year, Skype has finally caught up with Fring’s smartphone video-call capability by introducing its own. Since Skype has a larger user-base given that it also has software for PC and Mac while Fring is only available for smartphones, Skype clearly has the upperhand now and will probably grow its market share at the expense of alternative VoIP providers like Google Voice and Fring, even though some skeptics may say that the video call feature isn't necessarily a key feature at this point in time. (Picture taken from article on connectedphone.com)

Skype has disclosed that it reached 560 million users in June 2010 with a revenue of $406.2 million in the first six months of 2010. Fring on the other hand, has a user base of an order of magnitude smaller, estimated to be in the tens of millions. However, there is clearly room for alternatives to Skype even without considering the importance of video calling to the mass market given that international call rates to mobile lines are still relatively pricey on Skype:

Note: This list was compiled on 5th Jan 2011 based on posted rates on the Skype and Fring sites which may change at short/without notice. Check out the latest Fring rates here and Skype rates here.

*Skype rates are based on the non-subscription Pay-as-you-go rates including VAT, and excludes any connection fee charges that are not listed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Updated Top 10 App List for Ipad & Iphone 4 (Jan 2011)

Updated Top 10 App List (Jan 2011)
My Top 10 Ipad app list:
1. Cut The Ropes HD
2. Kindle HD
3. Stanza (for reading .cbr files, that's comics!)
4. AirAttack
5. AppsFire
6. Scrabble
7. Skype
8. Perfect Browser
9. Pleco (chinese dictionary)
10. Broken Sword: Director's Cut

My Top 10 Iphone 4 app list:
1. Kindle
2. Ibooks
3. ComicGlass
4. Veggie Samurai
5. Soundhound
6. Nightstand
7. Skype
8. Facebook
9. Straitstimes
10. Google Apps

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rumorpad: What will Ipad 2 be like?

(Blogpost also appeared on my Blog for Iphonelife.com)

Lots of articles and bouts of investigative journalism have delved into the “will it-won’t it” subject of the ipad 2. However, I prefer to rely on the tried and tested methods of gut instinct and rumour mongering :) ; I will also be supplementing these tools with impressive tables and graphs (if available).

Clearly, ipad 2 or 2G ipad could have:
• A Front facing camera (hello iphone, meet ipad)
• Maybe a Rear facing camera (but who would use the Ipad for photo-taking?)
• At least 1 USB port, thus allowing USB printing and more accessories
• Extended battery life
• Extended storage
• Thinner hardware
• Support for new standards such as 4G services.
• Perhaps Retina display (but some industry observers cite the high cost of having a 10’ Retina screen)

However, Apple has often surprised many fans and observers by choosing to take the road less travelled (such as dropping Flash support) and unlike Android and Windows hardware manufacturers, their business model doesn’t involve packing all sorts of hardware support into their products. They have resisted the temptation of packing all possible features into their phones, tablets and laptops, and eschewed Flash support, external storage solutions (like SD cards) before, and there is therefore little reason to believe that they would do the same for a 2G ipad.

Typically it seems that they identify 1 feature that would be game-changing and implement it very well, thus differentiating itself from the other industry players. For example, it was the focus on the AppStore that made the iphone such an incredible success even though Androids and Symbian phones typically have more hardware features. The Macbook Air went for manila-envelope slim while the 1G Ipad was all about the user –interface: 9.7’ Capacitive, glossy IPS backlit colour touchscreen.

Some of the game-changing features and technology that have made news recently are:
• 3D images without the need for eyewear (like Nintendo 3DS)
• Gesture recognition (think Kinect or PS3 move for ipad)
• HD front facing camera for Facetime in high definition
• Roll-out of 4G services in many countries, enabling even faster download/upload speeds and its facilitation of a comprehensive Apple-hosted cloud computing experience.

I’m guessing that one of these will be introduced into the 2G Ipad, even if it means that the 2G ipad launch slips into 3Q or 4Q 2011. Given Apple’s leading industry position now, just a statement from Apple to hint at a 2G Ipad launch late 2011 will suffice to kill the sales of any Android 3.0 tablet launch early to mid 2011.