Three Weeks After Launch, Google+ Now Available for iPhone

  • Google launched its new Google+ social network June 28th, and an Android app was made immediately available.
  • Three weeks later, Apple finally approved the official Google+ app for iOS (until Tuesday, iPhone users had to access a mobile Web version in Safari).
  • Similar to the Web version, Google+ for iPhone includes Circles (stream of updates from a user’s contacts) and Huddle (for group messaging within a user’s circles).
  • Google+ for iOS works on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (running iOS 3.1 or later). A dedicated iPad version has yet to be announced.

Review: Olloclip Three-in-One Lens for the iPhone

  • The “Olloclip” is a new iPhone lens attachment that features wide-angle, fish-eye and macro lens functionality cleverly designed in a single pocketable unit.
  • Engadget likes the $70 device: “The accessory brings the functionality of all three lenses to the iPhone 4, and it does so well enough to warrant leaving your pro kit at home on occasion — assuming, of course, that your photographs aren’t responsible for putting food on the table.”
  • Overall, Engadget praised the accessory in terms of design, ease of use and image quality, but expressed concern regarding shelf life since it is currently only tied to the iPhone 4. “We imagine the company will be able to adapt future versions to accommodate new iPhone models (and perhaps even smartphones from other manufacturers), but the current version will likely be replaced whenever the next iPhone is released. Keeping that in mind, we love the Olloclip, and plan on shooting with it as long as our hardware allows.”
  • The post includes sample images taken with the Olloclip and a hands-on video review.

Music Streaming Service Spotify (Finally) Launches in the U.S.

  • Spotify has finally launched its U.S. service — and similar to its widely popular European version, users can listen free to any track, on demand.
  • Users can opt for ad-supported free listening, a $5 Premium ad-free service, or a $10 Unlimited service that allows users to store music offline and use Spotify on mobile devices (the iPhone app is now available). Users can also share their playlists or subscribe to those of other users.
  • Spotify has a reputation for fast, almost instantaneous playback and a catalog containing millions of songs. It will also scan a user’s iTunes library for access to personal tracks in the Spotify app.
  • Although the Wired review suggests “Spotify is just cloud music done right,” it also points out some minor flaws: “Spotify’s recommendation engine, and its radio selections (supposedly Pandora-like auto-playlists) are pitiful. And there is also no sign of an iPad native version, over a year after the tablet’s launch.”

Pop Culture and Media App: Video Time Machine for iOS

  • “Video Time Machine” is an entertaining and informative 99-cent iOS app from Original Victories, Inc. (compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad).
  • The app chronicles more than a century of compiled movies, commercials, TV broadcasts, and other moving images (the iTunes Preview description reads: “Watch over 10,000 hand-picked videos from 1860 to 2011”).
  • A simple interface enables users to select a year and then browse categories, including: news, games, sports clips, ads, movies, TV, and music.
  • For those more interested in entertainment surfing than a specific year or category, the app features a “random” button.
  • According to the Engadget post (which includes a video demo), all of the cataloged videos are available via YouTube, but the Video Time Machine “isn’t designed to simply mimic it; rather, the program’s meant to act more as a history lesson, giving us a unique opportunity to witness a slice of life.”

iPhone Users Lead the Charge in Mobile Gaming

  • According to a recent Nielsen study, the average iPhone user commits twice the average amount of time to playing mobile games as compared to other mobile gamers, suggesting that iOS may have the most engaged gaming audience.
  • The study also indicates that 93 percent of app customers have paid for games in the last 30 days.
  • The average iPhone owner spent 14.7 hours playing games during the month, while the average Android owner spent 9.3 hours (the overall average for smartphone gamers is 7.8 hours/month).
  • The report explains that consumers are typically more willing to spend money on games than other types of apps.
  • Nielsen breaks down the leading categories of most popular apps for Q2 2011 in the following order: Games, Weather, Social Networking, Maps/Navigation/Search, Music, News, Entertainment, Banking/Finance, Video/Movies, Shopping/Retail, Dining/Restaurant, Sports.

Access to Month-Long iTunes Festival Available via iOS App

  • The annual iTunes Festival kicked off Friday in England, streaming select performances live in HD to iPads and iPhones for those who downloaded the free app.
  • The event is scheduled for 31 consecutive nights at the Roundhouse in London.
  • Paul Simon was the first artist to take the stage. Additional headliners include Coldplay, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Moby and more.
  • Apple funds the event by recording the live sets and selling them exclusively on iTunes.
  • Wired suggests an alternative business model: “But it makes me wish more festival organizers would do this the other way around — free recordings of the gigs you paid to see at festivals. Or perhaps a handful of free tracks to choose from an entire festival’s lineup, with the complete collection put on sale. There’s no better live recording than one created during the night you attended.”

Positive Review for the New Tumblr iPhone 2.0 App

  • Social blogging network Tumblr announced the release of its Tumblr iPhone 2.0 mobile app this week.
  • According to Digital Trends: “Users can now manage multiple Tumblogs, reply to messages and save drafts — important functionality that was completely lacking from the first version.”
  • Another positive addition includes the ability to sign up directly through the mobile app, rather than on the Web.
  • Digital Trends offers a positive review and suggests: “If you’re on Tumblr (and have an iPhone), definitely download this app right now.”

Will Apple Offer a Free Version of its iPhone?

  • Apple may soon “amp up competition with Android” by offering its iPhone 3GS for $0 (with a qualifying service contract).
  • The iPhone 3GS was launched in the U.S. in June 2009.
  • RBC Capital Market analyst Mike Abramsky suggests the free phone will be made available the same time that Apple releases its successor to the iPhone 4, providing options for different demographics.
  • Abramsky also forecasts the free 3GS could “expand the iPhone’s worldwide marketshare from some 64 million users to more than 150 million users.”
  • Google’s Android is currently the top-selling smartphone platform in the U.S.

News Affiliate Surprised by Top-Selling Murder Trial App

  • WESH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, launched a 99-cent iPhone app for updates in the Casey Anthony trial (involving the Florida mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter).
  • The app recently reached the #1 spot in paid iPhone news apps, and is currently holding the #2 position.
  • The app features liveblog, breaking updates, court documents, photos, video recaps, courtroom footage and packages produced by the station.
  • A major surprise has been the public interest in more than 20,000 pages of court documents.
  • Since the app is targeting national and international audiences, the branding focuses on Hearst Television (not the local TV station).

Hauppauge Broadway Box Delivers Live TV to iPhone and iPad

  • Hauppauge Digital is expected to release its $199 “Broadway” box by late July or early August.
  • The device enables viewers to use Wi-Fi signals to watch TV on mobile devices or via a Web browser.
  • It features a multi-format TV receiver that can tune QAM digital and ATSC over-the-air SD and HD channels.
  • Broadway operates much like the Slingbox device, but without an extra fee for mobile viewing.
  • The box currently works only with Apple’s mobile devices (iOS 3 or higher), but can be used with both Mac and Windows PCs.

Reporter Abandons Bulky Production Equipment and Opts for iPhone

Washington DC reporter Neal Augenstein discusses how and why he has abandoned his collection of bulky production equipment to report via his Apple iPhone 4. Augenstein is an award-winning reporter with WTOP-FM and a frequent contributor to CBS News Radio. Thanks to new apps and progress in digital recording tools, he’s been able to ditch much of his older equipment for professional broadcasting via his smartphone. According to Augenstein: “Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.”

For those interested, the write-up provides a simple step-by-step overview of the tools Augenstein is using with his iPhone and iPad for audio capture, video capture, photography, mobile VoIP, and Twitter integration.

Augenstein addresses whether his new approach is working: “A year in, iPhone-only reporting isn’t perfect. While audio editing works great, with the phone’s built-in microphone I’d estimate the sound quality of my field reports is 92 percent as good as when I use bulky broadcast equipment. Getting better audio for my video is a real challenge. And if I ever have to cover a story from a subway tunnel or location where there’s no WiFi or cell coverage, I won’t be able to file until I resurface.”

The PBS MediaShift post features several iPhone-generated audio reports from Augenstein in addition to a very helpful video tutorial regarding how he performs audio editing on his iPhone 4.

Apple Announces iPhone Update to Address Location Data Concern

Most of our readers have probably been following the recent news regarding consumer fears that iPhones and other smartphones are tracking users’ location information. It was recently discovered that phones operating on iOS and Google’s Android platform transmit the devices’ locations back to the respective companies.

Apple has defended the need for location data to provide optimum service and provided clarification by explaining an individual cannot be located using the data. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple defends its process, but nonetheless announced a planned software update that will reduce the size of the database cached on the phone and hopefully alleviate user concern.

According to WSJ: “Apple said it maintains a database of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers around users’ locations, a process that helps the phone calculate its location. The information is used to quickly find global-positioning-system satellites, a process that otherwise could take several minutes, the company said.”

Related CNNMoney article: “LocationGate was a ‘bug,’ says Apple” (4/27/11)

Related Wall Street Journal article: “Q&A: Jobs and Apple Execs on Tracking Down the Facts About iPhones and Location” (4/27/11)

Related Macworld article: “How the iPhone knows where you are” (4/28/11)

iPhone Poised to Become the Most Popular Camera on Flickr

According to Flickr’s “camera finder” feature, the iPhone 4 is heading towards becoming the most popular “camera” used to submit images to the photo-sharing site. Is the iPhone (and other smartphones with improved camera features) disrupting the point-and-shoot market?

Flickr’s camera finder provides a graph detailing the most popular cameras in the Flickr community, with the Nikon D90 currently at the top. However, the iPhone 4 is on the rise, while traditional point-and-shoot cameras are steadily declining. If the trend continues, the iPhone is poised to take the lead in the near future.

This isn’t the first time a phone may prove more popular than a traditional camera on Flickr. PC World reports that in August 2009, the iPhone edged by the Canon Digital Rebel XTi as the most popular (back when the best iPhone camera only featured 3.2-megapixel resolution).

We recently reported that Cisco had shut down production on the popular Flip camera line, possibly in response to smartphones’ ability to shoot HD video. Is the iPhone still proving disruptive, four years after its initial release? According to GigaOM: “The takeaway is that smartphones are nearing the tipping point in terms of camera quality when it comes to the needs of most average users (professional and prosumer DSLRs continue to do well), and the iPhone 4 is leading that charge. Phones provide a much more convenient on-hand camera experience than do dedicated devices, and the trade-offs in terms of quality and feature are becoming less significant all the time.”

Related PC World story: “iPhone 4 About to Be Most Popular Camera on Flickr” (4/18/11)

Luci Live Enables Live Broadcasting from Mobile Devices

Netherlands-based Technica del Arte, maker of the LUCI series of broadcast software apps, recently announced that its popular Luci Live software is now available for Mac OSX Snow Leopard or higher (MSRP $450).

Luci Live turns mobile devices into portable recording studios, ideal for journalists who want to quickly record and edit video and audio content for HD streaming and live broadcasts. Macworld reports that TV and radio field reporters are using phones and laptops to cover events in locations such as Egypt, Japan, and Libya where traditional broadcasting techniques have recently been impacted by technical limitations.

As long as reporters have an Internet connection, Luci Live (also available in iPhone and Windows versions) is a viable solution.

Click here for more details regarding the $400 iPhone/iPad app.

David Hockney Goes Digital for His Pixelated Period

NPR interviewed David Hockney who has been using his iPhone and iPad to create drawings with the help of a painting app called Brushes. The 73-year-old artist recently held an exhibit of his new artwork in the Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent Foundation in Paris. Hundreds of digital works were displayed on 40 screens (20 iPhones and 20 iPads) during the “Fresh Flowers” exhibition that ran through January 30.

Hockney initially became intrigued by the process while observing the morning sun enter his bedroom in Yorkshire, England. He would dip his fingers into the virtual paintbox on the phone’s screen, “paint” some flowers digitally in the morning light, and email to friends. “Incredible little thing, really, because it was like a sketchbook and a paintbox all in one,” the artist says. “No cleaning up. No mess.”

When he made the switch from the iPhone to the larger iPad, Hockney was able to expand upon his work and found he could use more fingers to create his art. Now he travels with the iPad as a substitute for the sketchbooks he always had with him. Old habits die hard, though. “He says he sometimes gets so obsessed that when he’s going, he rubs his finger on his clothes to, like, clean his finger — as if he was using real paint.”