Friday, September 28, 2012

Shopping with the iPhone 5 Passbook app a pleasant experience

Passbook app displays showing Target and Walgreens
Passbook Badge
Update: Apple Inc. is releasing guidelines to developers for an "Add to Passbook" badge that can be incorporated into their apps and websites for devices running iOS 6.

After a few days with the iPhone 5, I figured it was time to go shopping with the Passbook app as my guide. This mysterious app included with iOS 6 will organize gift cards, coupons, passes, tickets and more, with the idea of making your wallet a lot thinner and lighter.

But it requires a few advance maneuvers before you head out to the store or look for your boarding passes. It's not as automatic as you would think.

The first thing the Passbook app will want to do is connect to the App Store through iTunes and this where things can come to a standstill a hurry, as there are numerous reports from iPhone 5 users about connection difficulties. You might see the dreaded "can't connect to iTunes" message.

Passbook app
I experienced the same problem with the Passbook app and iTunes, until I discovered some steps to change the time and date settings temporarily. That worked for me and I hope it works for any other iPhone 5 users having iTunes connection problems.

Once in the App Store, you'll find a rather short list of stores and other companies that are currently Passbook compatible. For my part of the country, Target and Walgreens were my choices, so I downloaded those.

But here is where using Passbook can get confusing, as the digital store cards are not automatically loaded into Passbook. In my case, I had to first sign up for the loyalty card using the store app and then you should see a "Add to Passbook" button in the app. Clear as mud, right?

Think of it this way - the Passbook app is where you'll store the loyalty cards; the store app is where you'll send the card to Passbook.

I managed to get both Target and Walgreens cards into Passbook, where you can shuffle between them on the iPhone 5 display. As more cards are add, your thumb will get a workout shuffling for the right card.

I'm ready to go shopping, so let's jump back to the store app, or my case, the Walgreens app. I was able to see the coupons and weekly ads right on my phone. I zeroed in on a few items and added them to the built-in shopping list in the Walgreens app. Each coupon in the app has their own barcode that can be scanned by the cashier.

As I got near Walgreen's front door, the iPhone 5 determined my location and displayed a "swipe to access Walgreen card" as I entered the store. An audible alert would have been even better, but just having the visual notification was pretty slick. According to Apple Inc., if I was going to the airport, my boarding passes would pop up as I entered the terminal.

I wandered up and down the aisles in true guy fashion, looking for items on the shopping list. At this point in my shopping excursion, none of my grocery items chosen are loaded into Passbook. The selection of items and the shopping list is still within the store app.

When I made it to the cashier, this where I reached for the iPhone 5 instead of my wallet or key chain for a store card. I open up the Walgreens card in Passbook and handed it to the cashier for scanning. She was just as thrilled as I was that it worked and called it a "cool thing."

Now this where the Near Field Communication, or NFC, technology would have been handy, as I could have just paid for items by tapping my iPhone against a special terminal at checkout. But Apple has put NFC on the backburner for now; maybe it'll appear in the iPhone 6. So I pulled out my wallet for some cash.

In the meantime, NFC will be found on several iPhone competitors, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and Victory and the upcoming Nokia Lumia 920, Motorola RAZR i and the HTC 8X. But the stores will also have to come onboard with the necessary terminals to handle NFC payments.

Although the number of participating retailers for Passbook is limited, it does work and I can't wait for my favorite grocer to join the list, so I don't have to give my phone number over and over and over. Having the store card in Passbook will be much easier and I won't lose it.

That wasn't a bad experience at all, so I say bring on more store cards for the Passbook app.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

iPhone 5 replaces my longtime buddy, the iPhone 3G

iPhone 5 and iPhone 3G
I joined the five million or more customers buying the iPhone 5 over the weekend. My longtime buddy since 2008, the iPhone 3G, has found a nice spot on the shelf. May it rest in peace as it gathers dust.

My 3G would no longer power off and I couldn't do a reset. The battery was about shot and the back panel was cracked. It would mysteriously make phone calls on its own accord to the person you last had a conversation with. The list of odd behavior goes on and on.

It was time for an upgrade a few years ago, but I was determined to hold out as each new iPhone model was unveiled. I skipped the iPhone 3GS because it looked just like my 3G. I skipped the iPhone 4 because of the antenna flap. Then I skipped the 4S because it looked just the 4.

So the iPhone 5, although it's similar in design to the 4S, got my nod for having a larger 4-inch display, being thinner and lighter, while also being a lot faster with the A6 processor, compared with the 412mHz processor in my 3G. Throw in the eight megapixel iSight camera and the 4G LTE service and I'm the kid in the candy store.

The other determining factor is that the iPhone 5 was just a good deal for me. I paid the exact same amount of $199 for the 3G when it was released in 2008 as I did iPhone 5. But the 3G had eight megabytes of memory and the iPhone 5has 16MB. Apple began offering twice the capacity for the same price with the iPhone 3GS in June 2009 with 16GB model for just $199 and they also unveiled a new 32GB model for $299.

Now, it's great to check Twitter and Facebook with the built-in social networks integration while also exploring all the 200 new features in iOS 6. With the increased speed of the iPhone 5, most apps or Web pages now open between a walk from the couch to the refrigerator.

I did splurge on a protective case, but might not need a screen protector, thanks to the "fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating" on the iPhone 5's display, which also combines the screen and touch sensors layer into one piece for a thinner profile. But I shouldn't be cheap and will probably purchase a screen protector when more choices are available the store shelves for the iPhone 5.

The big fuss about the smaller Lightning connector to replace the longtime 30-pin connector has not bothered me at all. I think we'll see the benefit of this change when the new accessories start to hit the market, such as docks and other devices. I also wouldn't be surprised if the logic behind moving the headphone port to the bottom also makes sense later. I have a hunch the audio port will be utilized in the new products when the iPhone 5 is docked.

I did experience the "rattle inside" that early buyers have been discussing in the Apple Support Communities' forum. But a trip to the Apple Store and the Genius Bar solved the problem. I'm rattle free now.

The Passbook app also needed some tweaking, as it wouldn't connect to the iTunes store. But after a bit of research, I discovered some steps that also got me on my way with the Target and Walgreens discounts apps in Passbook. The participating retailers worth a download will vary by your location and I imagine more will be added soon.

The Apple support forums are full of other concerns and issues about the iPhone 5, but they seem to vary from device to device and not all customers have the same experience. If you're researching a problem, the support forums would be a good place to start before heading back to the retailer. There might a trend among concerns and issues that Apple will need to address.

I think I made a good choice and I'm a happy camper so far.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The wait is over; iPhone 5 sales move into the weekend

Friday was the big day for the iPhone 5 to go on sale in retail stores. Having two million devices in pre-orders was a good start and I imagine it'll rocket on past three to four million or maybe even five million in sales this weekend.

I was at one of the AT&T retail stores bright and early Friday morning, where the lines were modest and pleasant. I didn't notice any dancing, but wouldn't have been surprised if some of the fans cut a few steps.

The iPhone debuts have been drawing crowds since day one, or on Friday, June 29, 2007, at 6 p.m., when the original iPhone was available for purchase. The headline on the website of my newspaper simply said "Come and get it" at the magic hour.

It was called a revolutionary device at the time, and according to Apple Inc., was one of the reasons Apple retail stores were created so that customers could touch and experience a ... new product and get the most from their new iPhone with Genius Bar support.

Now here we are with more than 300 stores in eleven countries and some of them will hand the sixth generation of the iPhone across the counter. If you're out of luck for an Apple Store in your area, the Apple Online Store, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and certain Apple authorized resellers are ready for your business today. C Spire Wireless will have their iPhone-mania day on Sept. 28, along with a worldwide roll out to 22 more countries.

If you're buying this weekend, I'm sure you have your money counted out, but here is a reminder. You'll need $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB model. Then you might have the toughest decision of all, which will be choosing between white & silver or black & slate.

In a nutshell, the big day was Friday and I imagine weekend sales will be just as big. Everything will be counted and added up by Monday for the number of iPhones sold and it'll be something worth bragging about. Here we go.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Hello iPhone 5 with the Lightning Connector; goodbye 30-pin connector

iPhone 5 with Lightning Connector

The iPhone 5 has started out with a bang, as pre-orders were sold out in around 60 minutes on Friday. So now, we can probably expect lines of fans when the retails stores open their doors on Sept. 21.

AT&T announced a sales record for the iPhone 5 over the first weekend of pre-orders, making it their fastest-selling iPhone ever. Some of the hype so far has been all about the revolutionary - for Apple at least - 4-inch display.

I say for Apple only, because the iPhone 5 joins several other smartphones with 4-inch displays that have been on the shelves for a while. These include the Samsung Galaxy S, which arrived in mid 2010 and the Motorola Atrix, which made its debut in January 2011. And let's not forget the Google Nexus S 4G1 that came along in April 2011, or the Nokia 808 PureView in February.

But perhaps the biggest area of discussion about the iPhone 5 has centered around the redesigned dock connector. The 30-pin connector is history, replaced by a smaller Lightning 8-pin digital connector. Now the worry is about all the 30-pin accessories and how to transitioned to the new guy. First a little history.

The 30-pin dock connector first appeared on the third generation iPod in April 2003. Up to that point, the iPod models had been using a firewire port to update the songs or charge the battery. The 30-pin connector allowed USB to be used instead of firewire.

Although the 30-pin connector had a nine-year run, the end has come and Apple is going digital with the Lightning connector. Some say it's because the iPhone 5 is thinner and the designers needed the space in the area where the speakers and the EarPods port are located. At any rate, it's done and we've got to deal with it.

Lightning 30 Pin Adapter
Apple was quick to say a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter is available for all our clock radios and other accessories that also serve as iPhone docks and charging stations. I must say, these accessories have been pretty handy over the past several years, especially when you lose that white 30-pin cable for the umpteenth time.

There was some confusion in the beginning about whether Apple would throw in the 30-pin Adapter when you buy the iPhone 5. The very latest is that it'll cost you $29. Of if you want a Lightning to 30-pin cable, count out $39. I also hate to break the news to you, but Apple says by way of an asterisk, that some 30-pin accessories are not supported. So that dependable iPhone accessory that you fancy may or may not work with the iPhone 5.

USB Power Adapter
What Apple will give you with the iPhone 5 to make connections is a Lightning connector to USB cable and USB Power Adapter. Now you might say "hmm" to the latter, because that's the one item you can salvage from your old 30-pin cable setup. Since one end of the new Lightning cable is USB, you should be set to go with an extra power adapter. Do don't throw that part out with the 30-pin cable.

About all we can say about the 30-pin-cable saga is "oh well" and move on. I'm sure the Apple engineers had a good reason to make change. Maybe the iPad Mini, if it makes an appearance in month or so, will use the same Lightning connector.

By the time the iPhone 6, or whatever, comes along, we will have forgotten about it all anyway.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple unveils the iPhone 5 with larger display, 4G LTE

iPhone 5
It's here. The iPhone 5 has been introduced. It was called "an absolute jewel" by a top Apple guy.

Apple Inc.'s sixth generation iPhone, made entirely out of glass and aluminum, is sporting lots new features that includes a larger 4-inch display, a new 8 megapixel camera, and the capability to add a 5th row of icons to the home screen. A new A6 chip, which Apple says is two times faster than the A5 chip, will provide processing power.

The battery life is rated at 8 hours of 3G talktime, 3G browsing and 8 hours LTE browsing.

Apple is calling it the world's thinnest phone at 0.30 inches in depth and around four ounces in weight. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S III is rated at 0.34 inches in depth and 4.5 ounces in weight.

As expected, the iPhone 5 will run on 4G LTE networks, such as AT&T, C Spire Wireless, Sprint and Verizon. T-Mobile customers will have to wait awhile longer for network upgrades.

The pre-launch rumors of a redesigned dock connector were on target, as the iPhone 5 has an all-digital 8-pin Lightning connector to replace the nine-year old 30-pin connector. A 30 pin to Lightning adapter is available to allow access to existing iPhone accessories.

Some of the other features that have already leaked out were a new maps apps to replace Google maps and a fine-tuned Facebook integration.

The biggest surprise is the lack of a Near Field Communication, or NFC chip. But Apple also is rolling out a Passbook app in iOS 6 to serve as a virtual wallet for future mobile payments. While other mobile payments options are already on the market with Google Wallet, Square, PayPal and several others, Apple seems to be taking a more cautious approach and let the enterprise market get more comfortable with this emerging technology.

The iPhone 5 will come in black and slate, or white and silver, and will be available on Sept. 21 for $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB. Pre-orders will start on Sept. 14. If you need a bargain iPhone, the previous 8GB iPhone 4 is now free and the 16GB iPhone 4S is $99.

From looking at the specs and the features of the iPhone 5, it appears that maybe Apple has hit another home run, but we'll see how long the lines are when it's available.

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The new iPhone arrives today facing tough challengers

Today is the big day for Apple Inc. to show the world the next iPhone, which might be called the iPhone 5.

This device will be the sixth generation of the iPhone since Jan. 9, 2007, when Apple unveiled the original iPhone to revolutionize the mobile landscape.

When the original iPhone arrived, most the mobile handset manufacturers, such as Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, RIM's BlackBerry and other were using QWERTY or alphanumeric keypads, along with small displays and navigational buttons.

There has been some early attempts at touchscreen technology by Nokia, IBM with the Simon Personal Communicator, Ericsson, HP, Palm and a few others.

But the first-generation iPhone got everything right and brought in a new era of touchscreen displays, icons, digital keypads and something called apps in 2008.

Now today's smartphones are just as smart and innovative as the iPhone and it's going to be tough for Apple to stay ahead of the pack and continue to hit home runs. There are touchscreens galore, apps, voice commands and music stores. The emerging Near Field Communication, or NFC technology, is already included on several recent mobile devices and should be a must-have for the new iPhone.

When the Android platform arrived, Apple's job became tougher and the Windows Phone 8 operating system is getting ready for their shot at iOS. The latest Nokia Lumia and Samsung Ativ announcements using WP8 are not to be taken lightly.

We should know today if Apple still has it what takes to set themselves apart from the competition with the latest iPhone.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nokia Lumia 920, 820 joins Microsoft Windows Phone 8 camp

Nokia and Microsoft launched new Windows 8 smartphones today at a press event in New York. We can say hello to the Lumia 920 and 820 devices.

The two longtime technology powerhouses, who have been in a partnership since February 2011, vowed to use their "complementary strengths and expertise create market-leading mobile products."

The new Lumia 920 smartphone is chock full of new features, such as PureMotion HD+, wireless charging and Nokia's PureView camera technology, first seen on the PureView 41 megapixel phone announced earlier this year. The 920 will have a 8 megapixel camera.

This new device, shown in a new yellow color that Nokia says won' scratch off, is powered by a sizable 2000mAh battery and a Qualcomm 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. It'll also be available in red and gray.

Nokia is bring their notable mapping technology to the Lumia 920 that'll include daily commute drive times, routes and walking directions, indoor maps and Augmented Reality using the City Lens app while exploring your surrounding.

The live tiles in the Windows Phone 8 can be customized to show difference sizes for apps and other information that updates automatically. A new feature is the ability to capture screenshots and share them like regular photos and videos. A pinch and zoom feature is now available.

Probably the most unique feature for the Lumia 920 is the wireless charging and the accessories that support it. A "Fatboy" charging pillow, plates and stands will keep the 920 charged and ready to go. For music lovers, JBL Power Up wireless speakers headphones with Near Field Communication, or NFC, will require just a tap to transfer audio from the phone to speaker.

Nokia also announced that Nokia Music in the United States.

The Nokia Lumia 820 has many of the same features as it's more power sibling, such as NFC, City Lens and Carl Zeiss optics. The 820 is powered by a smaller, 1650mAh battery.

Nokia is banking on Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system to regain the prominence they once held in the mobile phones industry. While a few devices still use Nokia's longtime Symbian operating system, these new devices are hoping Microsoft's unique tiles display will gain traction among consumers who are also being bombarded with Android and iOS smartphone choices.

Samsung also is on-board with Windows Phone 8, as they announced their new Ativ devices last week. But some say they were only prototypes and the real devices are coming soon.

The Lumia 920 and 820 are the latest devices to get behind Microsoft's new mobile platform.

Now it's up to the consumers to give the new OS and the new phones a thumbs up.

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