Where’s the Beef?

What a turd of an iOS app.

Skype software update tackles startup crashes.

It’s been ages since I abandoned the Skype app on my iPhone for any sort of serious communication. The push notifications are totally bogus, and their ability to actually handle an incoming call is pathetic. Not to mention this little thing called the iPad 2 with a front-facing camera that they seem to have ignored.

Now that Microsoft has purchased them, I hope there’s some sort of renewed interest in the iOS app. Otherwise, stay away from this one and go with the much better TextFree for making calls and/or Tango for video chat.

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Getting It Done

DONE AND DONE

Anyone who knows me understands that my mind is mush of things I haven’t done, things that I’m about to do, and things that I’m just not gonna do. Somewhere in there, somehow, I manage to get some stuff done. I know, it’s a mystery to me, too.

That being said, there are a ton of apps out there that are designed to help keep your life on track and relatively ordered (not that anything can order the desolate wasteland that is my mind, but it’s always worth a shot). Some of these apps are stellar, and some aren’t. I’ve used a couple of these apps in the past, but they’ve always fallen just a little short of my expectations and/or usage case because they’re all lacking some specific feature or service integration and just don’t measure up to my expectations. Again, because my mind seems to take all incoming information and immediately smash into a million tiny fragments, I have to intercept stuff and put it in some form that is manageable and understandable later on before I lose it. For instance: If I need to write a letter to someone, I cannot simply create a “To-do” item or task labeled “Write a letter to Bob.” Later that day, or even five minutes later, I might look at that to-do and wonder why I’m writing a letter to Bob. I’ll see no clear purpose for writing the letter, so I’ll just delete the “to-do” or task and move on with my day (which usually involves looking up pictures of koalas or pandas or pallas cats.

You see the dilemma.

I need to spell everything out for my future koala/panda/pallas cat-drunk self, or else I’ll forget it lickety-split. I also need all this information to be ubiquitous so that I can’t possibly miss it, meaning that it has to sync with everything I could possibly need it to sync with. If it could sync with my coffee mug or shaving soap dish, believe me I’d be in 100%.

There were two main candidates to this process that I found and have been using for a little while. The first was an app called BusyToDo, made by the guys who make BusyCal. The latter has received high marks for its integration with iCal on the Mac. I never use iCal on my Mac, so I wouldn’t care about that. I mean, it’s there, but it’s not important to me, because it’s basically just a way to get stuff into the cloud. The BusyToDo app, however, is for iOS, which I use only all the time constantly always, so that’s gotta be stellar. Sadly, it’s good, but it’s not super awesome. The killer feature of this guy is that it syncs as you make changes, which means that startup and shutdown times for the app are essentially nonexistent. They make the whole thing really fast, but the app itself is really simple. Make a task, maybe add a note to it, but that’s about it. I haven’t yet discovered a way to make this app work for me. Sure, you can schedule repeating tasks, but I’ve never been one for these “repeating” tasks, because if it’s something I do every day, I’m not gonna friggin’ take time out of my day to check a box, AMIRIGHT? Don’t care about that. I had high hopes for this app when it was only for iPhone, since I thought that an iPad version would be awesome. It’s sorta meh. Not bad, not great. Gets the job done for ten bucks, if you wanna drop that on a so-so app.

I dropped a fiver back when it cost a penny less than that, so I’m not too disappointed, and I got good use out of it. Maybe I’ve got a healthy dose of OCD or some other crazy disorder, or maybe I’m a little bit autistic (everyone seems to be somewhere on that spectrum, these days), but I have this crazy obsession with tagging just about everything I do to give it some sort of context. As such, I’ve found that there’s another stellar app out there that needs mentioning: 2do.

Oh man. Awesome. I’m expecting to drop $15 on this bad boy, but no, the app itself was $7, with another $3 for the ability to sync with MobileMe, for all of $10. Lemme tell you folks, this is the real deal. I can create lists, projects, tag each to-do I create with places, people, things, add notes, audio, pictures…this thing does it all. For people with dysfunctional short-term memories (uh…guilty), this app is a life-saver. I know I have stuff going on, and this app pulls it all together beautifully in an interface that feels really great to use. It’s a top-shelf app with top-shelf features and at a middle-shelf price. If you’re looking for a rawsome to-do app that syncs with the cloud, you need to get this app NOW.

Although it syncs across devices through the MobileMe service (which is awesome), there are limitations. Sure, there are notifications that pop up, but they’re local notifications, not technically push. So yeah, you’re getting popups on your li’l screen there, but they’re coming from 2do. Normally, not an issue, but since this is a universal app, it means that if I add a notification on my iPad, I have to make sure I open 2do on my iPhone so it picks up all the changes (and vice versa), otherwise I may not get the memo I left for myself. This is also partly Apple’s fault. They have notifications enabled for calendar events that push to your iOS devices, but not for tasks (yet). I’ve been hoping that they add native support for tasks for a long time, so maybe iOS 5 will surprise me nicely with that.

That being said, I still love the app. I think Apple will get their act together and update MobileMe to support task notifications, which will add even more to the functionality of this app. Even if Apple does work their magic and updates MobileMe, it will be really, really hard to compete with 2do. It’s just that good. I highly recommend it, and I think you should give it a try to see how much it’ll do for your life.


The Target Demographic

One of the things that blows my mind about publishing, apps, etc. is the inability of most developers and/or app reviewers to actually get the target demographic and review said app from that perspective. It’s mind-boggling, really. It’s like all the different flavors of dog food at the store. We look at the “gourmet chicken and rice” that we’re holding in our left hand, and then turn our heads ever so slightly to the right to look at the “savory lamb and herb” in our right and decide either a) the gourmet chicken and rice is better because that sounds healthier, or b) the lamb is better because hot damn I love lamb. The dog? The dog doesn’t give a hoot.

As such, apps for kids are sparse because they’re designed for the people who are buying them- the parents. Kids aren’t buying apps, so the developers want to make apps that parents can look at and say “Wow this is really nice.”

Then there’s this app, which says to parents: “You really have no idea what your kids want,” and then it gives kids something fun to do with just enough silliness to keep them interested. Bravo.

TechCrunch’s take:

So how on Earth is this a product, let alone a real product, and a tech product? Because the founders seem to understand how kids think.

And:

Everything Butt Art is a children’s educational book and app that teaches step-by-step drawing. That’s where the crazy name comes in: every drawing begins with the kid drawing the shape of a butt.

Good stuff all around. Well done, EBA.


and another thing…

just about everything that i’ve read about the lack of iPhone/iPod/iPad multitasking goes something like this:

“…which means you can’t run pandora while…”

are you serious?  this is the argument against the iPad?  everything else, it does.  what else do you need to do?  seriously.  what else are you doing?  are you encoding video?  ripping a cd?  batch-editing photos?  this is a focused machine, and SURPRISE! it will play music in the background, just like the iPhone.  you can get emails pushed, chat notifications pop up right there, right in front of you, and texts come through just fine.  meeting appointments have a little alarm, i can get stock alerts from apps pushed to me if i want.

and you’re complaining about pandora?  please.

i just don’t think that’s a valid argument.