Socially App release another new version

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

This week Socially App have released v1.40 of their Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN client, and added the following features:

  • Ability to geotweet (ie include your location within a twitter message), although you do need to enable this within your twitter account too before it will be visible to others.
  • Ability to search on twitter limiting the search to “nearby” people.
  • Ability to define the preferred WiFi and Data access point to use; the app will use WiFi whenever within range, but will then use the GPRS / 3G network when necessary.

I’m really impressed with Socially App, especially as it’s free.  Whereas Gravity is still struggling to implement full GPS access under S60 3rd Edition FP1 (think Nokia N95, Nokia N95 8GB, Nokia E71), Socially App has managed it just fine (I should add Gravity also supports the use of the Google Maps API to locate you via WiFi or cell ID, so still offers location services on FP1), and I really like the way that when you want to see your current position, Socially App fires up the local Ovi Maps to show you where you are (see below); it would be nice, in time, to see even more use of Ovi Maps integrated into the application.

As before, Socially App can be downloaded direct on your phone from their website at m.sociallyapp.com


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Update to Socially app

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It’s not often a new app can come along and provide similar features to an existing application, yet still be worth installing, but Socially App seems to be one such app.  If you are a heavy Twitter or Facebook user on Symbian, chances are you are already running Gravity, which is by far the best overall Social Networking client for Symbian, but that does not mean that there is not a place for Socially App on your device.

The main benefit to Socially App is that, when a call comes in, it will display the latest information that it has on the individual, based on their posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN.  That last point can’t be missed; Gravity does not (currently) support LinkedIN, so this app does provide a convenient way to access and update your status on a wider range of platforms.

Of course, one must not forget that if you set it to regular updates and you have Gravity doing likewise, then you run the risk of running into the API limits on Twitter that could impact the experience on both tools.

If you only have a few friends and they don’t tweet / use facebook all the time, then you can turn on Desktop alerts in the Socially App, which will put the information onto the homescreen when updates come in, but with more than a few friends, and this gets unmanageable.  Another nice touch is going into Contacts you can long press * or Fn and it will display your online contacts as opposed to your local contacts; it would be nice to see more integration along the likes of fring which creates a single list of all online and local contacts, but it’s still useful.

One other feature that the Socially App offers is the ability to screen your calls; I need to play with this some more to see how it works, and whether it’s useful in the long run, but after a brief play, it’s fair to say Socially App is definitely worth a look; not necessarily as a tool for providing updates of your status to others (and Gravity still wins here, especially as it can connect via ping.fm, which therefore allows posting to many more sites than either tool natively provides), but as a way of getting status updates of others and providing that information when phone calls come in seems a powerful feature.

If you want to try it out (and it’s currently completely free) then point your Symbian phone to m.sociallyapp.com and download the latest version.


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Kin One & Two coming to the UK!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Kin One and Kin Two

Quite often when new devices are released in the US, they never make it to the UK, or only make it a long time afterwards.  Today, Microsoft launched the Kin One and Kin Two, and I can confirm that Vodafone will be carrying at least one of the devices from this Autumn.  I’m not sure when they will be available in the US, but that doesn’t sound like a long wait after their US release.

The main feature of these Windows 7 Mobile phones is the homescreen contains what Microsoft are calling Loop; ie allowing you to be kept in the loop; social networking updates, website and other updates will appear on the homescreen.  These phones could be seen to be the latest generation of Sidekick devices (a company Microsoft bought), which were never heavily marketed in the UK, so it will be interesting to see how well Microsoft can make these devices appeal to their planned audience.

As you can see, both devices are QWERTY keyboard devices, with the Kin One having a squarer look to the device, and a 5 megapixel camera, whereas the Kin Two is a more traditional side slider with 8 megapixels, and twice the internal memory.  More news and specs as they become available, but for more (general) information, head over to the Kin website here.

I can see these devices being successful if there are priced correctly…


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New features in Socially App

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Socially Symbian App

Socially App is a new Social Networking application for Symbian phones.  At first, it didn’t really catch my attention as Gravity is a much more complete Twitter / Facebook / Google Reader / FourSquare client, but as Socially continues to develop, it’s functionality can’t be ignored.

One of the main functions, and shown in the screenshot above, is that it provides information on the latest SocNet updates of the person ringing you.  Now this is a useful feature; to know what’s going on with a friend just as they ring you can be very useful, especially as Socially covers Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN (this last option something that Gravity does not currently support).

Even better, Socially App continues to develop; last week a new beta version was released which includes a lot of new functionality, but for me the key interesting feature is not about adding better Twitter support for DMs, or the ability to retweet messages, nor it is detailed information about Connections from LinkedIN; no, it’s a simple feature which has caught my attention on other platforms, and currently missing on Symbian (until now); the ability to sync Facebook photos into the local Contacts addressbook.  Although some people change their Facebook picture more often than they post on Facebook, for most people, this offers a way of keeping the pictures within your Contacts up to date without any effort, and for that, I support this feature.

If you want to try out this beta before a formal release occurs, head to m.sociallyapp.com/beta on your phone and try it out.  If you don’t want to try beta software, then head to m.sociallyapp.com for the standard release (or head to the Ovi Store).  Obviously to work, it needs a data connection to provide the information, so this, like many recent apps, isn’t really suitable without data support on your contract.


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Pixelpipe add FourSquare support

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Pixelpipe Android Geo Status

Not content with just offering traditional photo and video sites, Pixelpipe (which is in essence an aggregator service, allowing you to upload your media to them once from your mobile, and they organise sending it out to multiple destinations; very much like ping.fm offers for Social Networking sites) have now added support for FourSquare.  You can now use the Shout function in FourSquare to send information including a shortened pi.pe link back to your photo, audio or video file.

Although with most platforms you cannot yet Check-In with Pixelpipe, this does start offering the ability to use the service; with Pixelpipe’s latest Android client, however, you can even Check-In directly with their application (and any photos uploaded and distributed on to Flickr from their Android client will also contain the relevant foursquare:venue_id machine tag too).

For Symbian users, you can use the Pixelpipe Share Online function (available in the Ovi Store) to allow you to upload your content to Pixelpipe; and although you can’t Check-In as already stated, you can, of course, use the new FourSquare support in Gravity to Check-In using that application too.

I’ve been a ShoZu user (which offers similar features and distribution options to Pixelpipe) for some time, but given the memory usage that ShoZu takes constantly, I can understand for those who don’t want automatic upload of every picture / video (something that ShoZu is still unique in offering), then something like Pixelpipe (and their Share Online support for Symbian, or their native Android client) is a sensible way forward.

To get their Android Pixelpipe Pro client (free of charge for a short while), head to http://tr.im/pixelpipe directly from your mobile.

To get their Share Online support for Symbian, simply go to http://m.pixelpipe.com/nokia direct from your mobile.


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More Detail on Ovi Maps & Maps Booster

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Nokia Maps 3.0 with Ovi

On Friday I mentioned that v3.04 of Ovi Maps was available from Nokia Beta Labs.  Since then I’ve discovered that one of the main ways that this version can claim “Improved positioning speed and accuracy” is that within the application Ovi Maps now includes support for WiFi positioning.  Now, many of us are used to seeing this feature within Google Maps, which uses both Cell ID and WiFi positioning as well as having GPS support.

This now makes 3 different solutions available for Symbian; Google and their Cell ID and WiFi positioning within Google Maps (Google positioning is also used within the latest Alpha version of Gravity, the Social Networking client for Symbian via the fairly new public API), Skyhook Wireless and their Maps Booster solution (which we covered here, and adds support for Cell ID and WiFi positioning into the OS, making it available to all apps), and now Nokia are supporting WiFi positioning within Ovi Maps (in a similar way that Google support it within their Maps application).

This is a nice feature to see, although personally I would have preferred Nokia to either work with Skyhook Wireless, or to integrate the solution into the OS in the same way that Maps Booster does, as just providing it within their own application seems a little selfish, however, it’s a good start.  After all, on the iPhone there is a single positioning system used by all applications, although I do note that Android is expanding; whereas the base OS uses Google’s system, GoWalla (a social location app similar to FourSquare) now uses the Skyhook Wireless Cell ID and WiFi positioning information.

Apparently Nokia have been working on this for some while, to the extent that for the last 6 months Nokia employees across the world have been collecting WiFi location data for Nokia, allowing them to start with a fairly comprehensive database, as opposed to starting with no data at all.  I’m still waiting to understand from Nokia how exactly the WiFi location system will work in the long term; for example, if you have GPS enabled within Google Maps, then you will help Google self-learn new Cell IDs and new WiFi access points by providing the data to Google.  This self-learning also helps when an access point moves due to the consumer moving house (something I experienced when I purchased a WiFi access point from a friend, where Google constantly placed me in the old location of the access point until sufficient GPS-based survey data lead Google’s self-learning system to move the location to my house).

In comparison, Maps Booster from Skyhook Wireless relies upon their own data collection, although there is a website where you can notify them of errors in the database, which (again, based on personal experience) only takes a few days to update with the new information.  Having said that, I don’t know whether the iPhone location positioning (that is provided by Skyhook Wireless) has any element of self-learning.

As I said, at this stage, I’m not sure what method Nokia are using for learning of changes, although I hope to be able to report on that soon.

On the other hand, I have been using Maps Booster on a couple of Symbian phones since writing about it, and I am finding it very useful.  It has had the odd little blip, where it has put me in the US a couple of times, but then over the same period of tested it, Google Maps has placed me hundreds of miles away from phone too.  It seems to me that Maps Booster has some element of caching of data, as when I am at home and in range of a number of WiFi access points, my location appears pretty instantly in Ovi Maps, whereas at work, where it relies upon cell ID only, it seems to take a little longer to place me.  Although this still relies upon having an internet connection, using it with Ovi Maps (with the maps already downloaded via the Nokia Map Updater) it uses a lot less data than Google Maps for a similar journey, which is good news.  For longer journeys, I would still recommend using the GPS to keep the location information accurate, but for short journeys, especially walking (and especially when in between tall buildings, such as London), then Maps Booster is proving to me to be as useful as Google Maps’ equivalent.

Of course, ironically just after I wrote about wondering whether I could live without Google Maps and use Ovi Maps instead, Google released Google Buzz, which shows Google is still innovating within their client, and which has probably lead to me using both clients; I would love to switch away from Google Maps, but until Nokia integrate more sharing options into their client, or applications take advantage of the Ovi Maps SDK, I’m pretty tied into Google Latitude (more than I realised when I thought I could move away from Google Maps).

Finally, over the weekend I asked Nokia to comment on the situation regarding coverage on elder phones, and received the comment “It’s coming”.  Now I can’t guarantee that was aimed at FP1 (as opposed to supporting more FP2 phones which is still formally missing), but I think we’ll see an announcement from Nokia on this issues soon, but not immediately (I would suggest another few months before we see anything definitive).


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Location Based Services & privacy

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

FourSquare Logo

Although I was tempted to write a “War and Peace” article on the issues of privacy surrounding Location Based Services, I won’t.  Last week a website was set up called Please Rob Me, which tries to show the risk of providing too much information on the Internet, which could lead to impacts in the real world; the point the website is making is that by providing information as to where your home is, and the fact you aren’t there, could increase your risk of being robbed.  Now, although it’s unlikely a robber is sitting watching your FourSquare / Brightkite / Google Latitude check-ins, the risk still exists.

So, what can be done about it?  Well, first of all, it’s well worth reading these articles (here from FourSquare, and here from Brightkite), but in essence, here are some key thoughts:

  • When you check-in, think carefully about the settings you use, and whether you want (or need) the world to know about you are at this location (especially if the location is your home).
  • Think about whether it’s wise to then have this information passed over to Facebook and/or Twitter.  Whereas FourSquare and Brightkite especially offer privacy controls, once you publish the information and location on Twitter (and increasingly Facebook with their new privacy settings), it’s available for anyone and everyone to see and search for.  Oh, and a lot of people are getting fed up with Twitter streams filling up with FourSquare check-ins, so it’s wise to turn this broadcasting off, if only to not annoy your friends.
  • Don’t forget other services, such as Plazes, Dopplr, TripIt and Upcoming also reveal where you are going to be in the future, which you may want to think twice about too; although some, like TripIt, allow you to set some trips as private so they won’t display in public information until you change that per-trip setting.
  • If you are using Fire Eagle to broker your location information (and it’s a very useful tool in this respect), again, remember it has the ability to control whether applications / websites can read and/or write your location information, and if reading it, what level of accuracy you give them access to.
  • As Brightkite mention, if you realise afterwards it might not have been a wise move, look for a delete option to remove the information.

If you look at my profiles on these services (and others like it, let’s not forget this problem isn’t new, it’s just FourSquare and Brightkite are getting more and more users), you’ll often find the I don’t broadcast any location unless it’s to friends, and even then, I may not reveal all the information; on Google Latitude for example, I can set some people to only getting city-level location information, so instead of being able to precisely pinpoint me on a map, they simply get a rough location; this is a useful feature for people you may speak to online occasionally, but don’t have enough information to be able to implicitly trust them (note: this isn’t about not trusting them at all, in my opinion it’s about whether you would tell them your whole life history warts’n’all).

As a passing comment, the latest version of Gravity, v1.30 (6350), includes support for FourSquare, as well as offering geo-location facilities; for S60 5th Edition and S60 3rd Edition FP2 devices (Nokia E72 etc.), this can be either cell ID location information, WiFi positioning information, or GPS information, whereas for S60 3rd Edition FP1 devices, it’s currently only cell ID and WiFi positioning (due to needing to get each version of the app through the long Symbian Signed process to allow access to the GPS information on an FP1 device).  If you are not a FourSquare fan, we’ve recently covered the S60 5th Edition Brightkite client (see here) that could be used instead.

So, although you’ll find I have accounts on most of the location based social networking services (Plazes, FourSquare, Brightkite, Google Latitude, TripIt, Dopplr, Upcoming), you’ll often find I’m (as FourSquare nicely phrase it) “Off the Grid”, or only visible if we’re already friends, and equally, although I have the ability to provide geo-location information on my tweets, I rarely do, as (in my opinion) it’s often not relevant where the tweet was actually written.

Also, you’re more likely to find me using location based services that have a range of privacy options, in the way that Brightkite used to (unless I’m mistaken this isn’t possible now) and Google Latitude still does; allowing not just control over who can access the information, but how accurately they can access it.


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If you want a Nokia 5800, be quick…!

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Nokia 5800

We’re hearing that Vodafone will be removing the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic from their range by the end of the week, and it’s likely as we progress into March that the other networks will follow suit.  As the phone has been out for a while, it seems it’s being replaced by the Nokia 5230, which although is a nice phone, has some less features compared to the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.

Firstly, it’s got a 2 megapixel camera, compared to the 3.2 megapixel on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, and it doesn’t have WiFi (not a problem for many people, but still worth pointing out; whilst at home, my phones often download larger files and data, which would quickly cut into the data limits placed on phone contracts).  It does, however, have built in social networking features (although adding a copy of Gravity to a Symbian phone only costs around £8, and is well worth it in my opinion).  It does also have more flexibility when it comes to the home screen layout, which may appeal to many.  With the move to Ovi Maps v3 now being free for S60 5th Edition phones, both can have free Navigation, although with the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic you may well need to update the software and maps before you get free navigation, whereas it’s more likely (although not confirmed) that the Nokia 5230 will ship with the free version out of the box.

So, if you are after a new phone, the Nokia 5230 is worth a look, but if the lack of WiFi will be an issue, then you might want to act quickly before the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic disappears from the shelves for good!


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INQ Chat 3G Review

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

INQ Chat & INQ Mini

In terms of the majority of the software on the phone, it’s very similar to the INQ Mini 3G that I covered here and here, so what’s different about the Chat, what’s good, and what’s bad?

Well, that QWERTY keyboard is the main physical difference, and it is a very nice keyboard.  It’s similar to the Symbian QWERTY layout, and just slightly different to the BlackBerry layout (the Symbol and Shift keys are reversed compared to a BlackBerry, which makes it a challenge to get used to if you are a long term BlackBerry user).

A GPS is the other key difference to the INQ Mini 3G, and to be honest, it sometimes took it’s time to get a fix, but generally worked ok.  The included Google Maps worked well with the GPS.  Unlike Symbian devices, there is no configuration control over the GPS settings, so no facility for changing the Positioning Server over to Google to help speed up the initial fix.  One downside of Google Maps was it was expecting numeric key input, and that meant pressing the Symbol and the relevant key to emulate a number; it was a shame it wasn’t aware of the QWERTY and mapped keys allowing a single key press for functions.  As with all Brew OS devices, there is no cell ID location function within Google Maps, which limits you to waiting for the GPS to find a fix; if you are used to a device that can also use cell ID location information, then this seems to impact the fast “locate me” type functions when you know roughly where you are and just want to seatch for something local to your position…

In general terms, the integration of the Social Networking apps remains a key selling point of this phone, bringing together Skype, Facebook and Twitter, and linking the first two into the Contact List too.  Personally, it felt like the Twitter app was more of an add-on, with less integration than the other two, and no facilities for downloading contacts or avatars like the Facebook and Skype apps offer.

It’s nice to see the INQ Hub included as standard on the INQ Chat 3G (see here for how to access from the INQ Mini 3G), and overall the phone seemed a nice device.  For a device which can be described as a smartphone (although only just, given it’s limited to Java apps) the battery lasted well over a day, and unless you are using Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and Skype constantly, should easily last two days.  With all 3 apps turned on, it still managed to last over a full working day, which is certainly a key timeframe.

Compared to Symbian, the lack of worrying about Access Points and just letting the device go ahead and connect to the Internet for you was a nice refreshing change, although for many it may fell like a level of control has been taken away from you.  Of course, with no WiFi support, the only option is 3G connectivity, which helps with the simplification.

So, overall, you may think my opinion is that this is a good, cheap phone worthy of consideration…? Well, I’m afraid it wasn’t as perfect as I would have liked…  Firstly, start running all those Social Networking apps together, and the phone often freezes when one of them is performing an update in the background, which can leave the phone locked for a minute or two, and although it doesn’t come with the Social Networking support out of the box (yet), buying a Nokia E63 and adding Gravity (plus the 3UK specific Skype and WLM apps) gets you very close, with the additional benefit of a true multitasking OS, and WiFi support too (although no GPS).  If it wasn’t for the device feeling so underpowered, then I would be supporting it as a worthy device, but it did occasionally leave me very frustrated.

So, if you don’t want to run all the Social Networking apps all the time,but want a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and the ability to use your favourite Social Networking sites out of the box, then certainly go and try out the INQ Chat 3G; you may be pleasantly surprised at the functionality on offer given the price, and hopefully a firmware update, or software updates will resolve the responsiveness issues I found.

As always, thanks to 3mobilebuzz for the loan of the device, and if you want more information, or to purchase an INQ Chat 3G, then head to the 3Store to see more.


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Boxee Beta

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Boxee splash

This is a screenshot from the latest Boxee Beta.  Boxee is an XBMC spin off which should work on Windows, Mac, Linux and Apple TV, and there have been a number of worthwhile articles about it if you are interested.

Firstly, Lifehacker have produced a Beta Walkthrough, which covers looks of detail over the software, including looking at some of the application addons that include Social Networking sites.

Now, if you are looking for a complete guide to installing Boxee, then head to Liam Green-Hughes site, where he has covered the install on the Acer Aspire Revo in sufficient detail to allow anyone to be able to get it installed and working.

Of course, if you are not keen on installing the software yourself, or don’t have an Acer Aspire Revo, then one option is to wait for their own hardware (in conjunction with D-Link) to be released…

Boxee hardware

This will be produced with a nice stylish RF remote (with a QWERTY keyboard on the back for performing searches and entering information).  It’s due to go on sale in the US for only $200, although it’s not clear what it will cost (or whether it will even be available) in the UK.  Just in case you’re worried that it’s a large ugly box, the height of that box is about 6 inches!


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