Monthly Archives: September 2014

Infowatch September – The Teks Newsletter

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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Time for September to draw to a close, and time for our monthly newsletter, Infowatch! Hello and welcome to all of you out there – regular followers of Infowatch and first-timers alike. This has been a month of hectic happenings, breaking news, product launches and controversies galore in the tech domain. Without much of further ado, let us straightaway dive into the news bits that grabbed the headlines in September 2014, shall we?:

iPhone 6 arrives, With Controversies

In a grand event at Cupertino, the much awaited 4.7” iPhone 6 and the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus (phablet) made their appearance this month. In keeping with the buoyant predictions of software and iPhone app developers worldwide (and surely, Tim Cook’s expectations!), over 10 million units of iPhone 6 got sold within the first 3 days of its launch. What Mr. Cook had surely not bargained for, however, was the ‘bendgate’ controversy of iPhone 6 Plus, or the way in which Apple’s live streaming of the September 9 show would go kaput during the event. Apple Watch – the ‘one other thing‘ of Mr. Cook, was a noteworthy new gadget too.

Host of new smartphones dazzle at IFA 2014

IFA, one of biggest annual technology trade shows in Europe, was held at Berlin during the first half of the month. Attended by close to 1550 exhibitors and an astounding 240000 trade visitors, the 6-day extravaganza witnessed the launch of a bevy of sophisticated new smartphones. Some of the most noteworthy among them were Sony Xperia Z3 and E3, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (probably the biggest challenger of iPhone 6) and Note Edge, and Nokia Lumia 730 and 830. Incidentally, the Lumia 730 has been dubbed as the ‘selfie phone’.

First Android-powered printer hits the market

It’s not only about tablets and smartphones and wearables at Samsung. The company brought the breakthrough Smart MultiXpress printers (in 10 alternative models) to the market this month. Meant to be used with PCs, these printers have 10.1” touchscreen panels and boast of Near-field communication (NFC) features. Cloud Print and XOA printing platform are supported by these new-age printers too. The Samsung-Android partnership is still on!

Need to file a police complaint? Do it through apps!

At least that’s what Delhi Police is encouraging people to do. Irrespective of the type of FIR to be filed (it might even be traffic updates), people can now visit the official website of Delhi Police (that’s www.delhipolice.nic.in) and download three different mobile applications on their phone. The apps are showcased at Google Play Store as well. Thanks to advancements in the mobile app development industry, manual complaint registration delays are now things of the past!

Google forced to cough up $19 million in refunds

According to a ruling by the American Federal Trade Commission, Google was forced to refund a whopping $19 million to parents. The case revolved around mobile apps for kids – which included dicey in-app purchase options. Children, while thinking that they were spending ‘virtual money’ while playing a game, were unwittingly ending up spending ‘real money’ on unnecessary downloads. Apple Inc. and Amazon.com were sued in January and July 2014 respectively on roughly the same issue.

Facebook, the best friend of introverts?

Pavica Sheldon, a communications arts professor at the Alabama University, has come up with a rather startling research result. According to her, those who are generally shy and introvert by nature tend to spend more time on Facebook – albeit they do not publishing posts or upload photos/videos that frequently. The extroverts interact more with FB, but it’s the introverts who keep a closer watch on their friends’ news feeds.

Samsung to make Galaxy Note 4 commercially available from October

The launch of the 5.7” Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has probably been pushed forward by a couple of weeks. Mobile market and app development analysts feel that this would negate any first-mover’s advantage that the iPhone 6 Plus might have had. Note 4 has been priced at 699 Euros (Samsung’s most expensive smartphone ever), while the digital pens for the device would cost 120 Euros (low-end) and 410 Euros (high-end Stylus) respectively.

Best Android Experience’ at pocket-friendly rates 

That’s precisely what Google is planning to provide to Indian smartphone users, via the all-new Android One platform. Spice, Micromaxx and Karbonn are the three mobile companies that have collaborated with Google to bring Android One to the market (the price range is Rs. 6299-Rs. 6499). Each of the three phones have received favorable reviews, and Google has plans to expand the Android One project to other South Asian countries in future.

Android L might be Android 5.1

Let’s stay with Google Android for a bit. Most mobile software experts and Android app developers had assumed that the upcoming OS version – Android L (the dessert name is yet to be finalized) will officially be known as Android 5.0. That, however, does not look so much a sure thing – after the launch of Karbonn Sparkle V (an Android One handset), on which the displayed time was 5:10. The first Android Kitkat-powered phone had 4:40 shown on its screen, so will the new version be 5.1?

Windows 9 will be unveiled tomorrow

Microsoft will be looking to put the embarrassments of Windows 8 behind it, in the new version of the computer operating system. At a much-hyped event at San Francisco, Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore will be showcasing Windows 9 – during the ‘Windows Technical Preview’ session. Tech geeks are already abuzz with the return of the Start menu on the new platform (that would be a mighty welcome thing). Windows 9 is likely to be released commercially in early-2015.

Microsoft acquires Mojang for a whopping $2.5 billion

Windows Phone is struggling, hardly anyone uses the Surface tablet – and Microsoft is plotting a turnaround in these devices’ fortunes. This is one of the key reasons why the company has forked out $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang, the company that had designed the immensely popular Minecraft game. Interestingly, although Minecraft is the most downloaded paid application at both Play Store and iTunes, its maker Markus Persson had earlier refused to develop apps for the Windows platform. Easily the most important tech acquisition of this month.

Wish to purchase the Xiaomi Redmi 1S handset? You better hurry!

The first lot had been sold out on Flipkart within seconds, and the second lot has performed equally well. In a report published on the 18th of September, it was stated that the phone took all off 3.4 seconds to get sold out (yes, again!) from the Flipkart online store. As many as 40000 units of this Rs. 5999-priced phone was made available, which makes this sales performance all the more impressive. At this rate, Xiaomi Redmi 1S can easily trump its main rival, the second-generation Moto G devices.

Google Play Store gears up for an interface update

No one is yet sure of when Android L is going to release, but Android Police have confirmed an update in the interface (UI) of Google Play Store. Larger headers, Material Design and brighter colors are going to be some of the key features of Play Store 5.0. Apart from the revamped icon for Play Store, there will be 5 ic_launcher files. We will have to wait for the redesign to actually take place, to find out the other changes.

iPhone vs Android…The Battle Continues

If you thought that Apple would launch the large-screened iPhone 6 and quietly hope that Android fans will switch over to it…well, you were wrong. Tim Cook and his team have created a dedicated online support page, to inform users how they can move content from their Android handsets to the new iPhones. The quality and availability of apps have been specially highlighted upon. It remains to be seen though, whether this strategy actually manages to convince people to ditch their Android phones (especially after the Apple ‘bendgate’ fiasco).

Sony in a severe financial strife

For the first time in over 50 years, Sony had to cancel annual dividends. The increasingly disappointing sales of Sony smartphones have resulted in the company incurring a remarkably hefty $2 billion loss over the last financial year. More than a thousand employees are set to lose their jobs as well. Kazuo Hirai, the president of Sony, is optimistic about the company’s smartphone business becoming profitable pretty soon though.

Too much of spyware in Facebook Messenger?

When you chat with your buddies on the Facebook Messenger app on Android phones, your chats might not remain confidential. A study conducted by Motherboard.com has indicated that the FB application has a host of spyware code, apparently meant for enterprise surveillance activities. It’s not yet certain whether Facebook is spying on its users, but analytics are being run on the Messenger app’s usage – that’s for sure. Only recently, the total number of Facebook Messenger downloads on Android phones crossed 500 million.

Now, a mobile app for the blind

No longer do visually challenged people have to do without the benefits of mobile applications. The KNFB Reader app, initially demonstrated in June by Ray Kurzweil, has been launched at the iTunes store – and it helps people without eyesight to listen to music, listen to texts (via audio readback), and engage in day-to-day activities in a lot of other ways. The Android version of the app is due to release in a couple of months too. KNFB Reader is a paid app ($99), and is a classic example of how sophisticated modern day smartphone app development techniques have become.

Now, Sony is into the smart glass market

Google Glass has not done that well? Other companies are not going to be swayed by that initial hiccup in the domain of smartglasses. After the announcement of Facebook Oculus, it is now the turn of Sony to make an entry into this sector – with the high-end Sony SmartEyeGlass. It is compatible with all Android 4.1 (and above) devices, although the video-capture function can be utilized only when the glass is being used with an Android 4.3 (or later) smartphone. The transparency level of SmartEyeGlass will be around 85%. Currently in the prototype testing stage, this gadget is expected to hit the markets by March next year.

Alibaba IPO makes stock market history

It was always a question of how big the IPO was going to be, and now we have the answer. On the day of the IPO (September 19), the share prices of Alibaba rose by 38%. The initial value of the Alibaba IPO was $21.8 billion, and the figure soon became $25 billion – following the sale of some additional shares. This is, by far, the largest initial public offering by any company. Amazon and eBay might just feel threatened by Jack Ma’s online retail company!

iOS 8 gets mixed reviews

Apple has already been forced to roll out the iOS 8.0.2 software update, following complaints about the distinctly ho-hum features of the initial version of iOS 8. For users of iPhone 4S upgrading to the new platform, loss of device speed has been a real point of concern. Shorter battery life is yet another problem that has plagued the early adopters of iOS 8. The official Apple thread has been flooded with complaints about the wi-fi connectivity issues. There have been discontent regarding the audio features too, particularly among iPad users. Apple will iron out these flaws over time – but for starters, iOS 8 is certainly not a flawless platform.

All hopes pinned on Blackberry Passport

Blackberry Z10 and Q10 may have wowed no one, but John Chen’s company is not yet giving up on its intention to fight it out in the smartphone business. A 4.5” new smartphone – Blackberry Passport – was launched on 24 September, and pre-orders have been encouraging enough. Mobile analysts and app developers have been critical about the slightly weird square shape of the device, and the absence of basic apps like Instagram and YouTube is likely to stand in the way of the device’s popularity. Having said that, users of Blackberry Passport (powered by the Blackberry 10.3 platform) would have access to more than 240000 Android applications.

Windows 7 to be available only on new machines

It is pretty clear that Microsoft does not want to keep the success of Windows 9 open to chances. Support for Windows XP has already been withdrawn, and from the 31st of October, original equipment manufacturers will be allowed to use Windows 7 only on new machines. Bug-fixes and patches support will be extended till 13 January 2015. The Windows 7 Professional edition has not been included in this announcement, however.

 

Ever wondered what the ‘age’ of Google might be? On the 27th, the online search engine giant celebrated its 16th birthday with a doodle – but if the launch date of the Google domain is considered, it is actually 17 years old (a harmless bit of controversy, right?). The announcement by Eric Schmidt that Samsung had devices pretty much similar to Apple’s iPhone 6 more than a year ago has also grabbed the interest of tech-enthusiasts. Speaking of controversies, there is every likelihood of there being some over the strong resemblance of the soon-to-release Samsung Galaxy Alpha with iPhones. Will there be another lawsuit? We’ll have to wait and watch!

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made the biggest news (in a good and the bad ‘bendgate’ way) in September. The month witnessed the launch of several other high-end, sophisticated smartphones as well. Among them, the 2nd generation Moto G is expected to become really popular in the budget phones sector. If Xperia Z3 and E3 are successful, Sony’s smartphone business will start looking up again. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is more than a worthy rival of Apple Inc.’s very first phablet. The new Nokia Lumia phones have made a bit of a splash too.

 

Okay, now let’s update you about what has been going on at our mobile app company. It has been a cracking month at Teknowledge Software, with one of its recently launched mobile app for children – Kids Tiles – garnering a 90% positive rating at The Smartphone App Review magazine. Tendish, an app we released this month, is doing well at the stores. A new version of Moodifier (with minor bug fixes), a well-received iOS application, has also been launched. Our Australian chapter – Teks Mobile Australia – has started working on 6 new app projects. Wish us luck, so that we can complete them in the best possible manner.

 

Has it struck you yet that Infowatch is scheduled to come out on the ‘last working day’ of every month, and today is the 29th – so what’s going on? As our Indian readers will definitely know, and most people from the United States and UK are also aware – Durga Puja (one of the biggest annual religious festivals worldwide) is kicking off tomorrow, and we will be on a short little break. In case you need a free app quote or wish to contact us for any other purpose, you can email or call us at any time though.

 

Infowatch returns on October 31, with a round-up of all the highlights from the tech domain next month. Till then, enjoy the festive season, let us know if any tech news catches your attention…and stay zapped with, what else, apps!

 

15 Reasons Why Apple Watch Is Destined To Fail

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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The design features and high-end functionality of Apple Watch have come in for praise from most experts on wearable technology. Will the new and long-awaited smartwatch be as big a success as it is expected to be? We do not feel that would be quite possible.

 

After much ado, Apple has finally entered the smartwatch market – with Apple Watch. The device was officially launched along with the two new iPhone models, at a well-hyped event at Cupertino on September 9. Shipments of Apple Watch would start from February, and Tim Cook is eyeing at around 50 million units to be sold by the end of 2015. Here are a few reasons why such lofty expectations are likely to remain unfulfilled:

 

  1. The hefty price tag – Even when you take into account that Apple has always been about ‘premium’ products, the $349 price tag of Apple Watch comes across as more than a little exorbitant. Samsung, with its soon-to-release Gear Live, will cost buyers $200 – which suggests that it would have a much larger market. Even Motorola’s Moto X ships at $249, and let’s face it – Apple Watch does not offer too much extra over that device.
  2. Will those who can afford it buy it? – Last year, close to 30 million Swiss wristwatches were sold – a clear indication that there was no dearth of high-end customers, who did not mind splurging on a wearable that was worth it. Apple will have to fight it out with the already established luxury watch brands in this end of the spectrum (and apart from the real tech-savvy ones, few would actually go for it). What remains are those who do not (or cannot) wear a wristwatch – and they won’t be able to afford Apple Watch anyway.
  3. Cannot serve as a substitute of smartphones – Tech gadgets can never be successful with only beautiful appearances (if that was the case, Apple Watch would be a stunning hit). Sadly, the fact is – this smartwatch is not designed to perform any function that a standard smartphone already does not. The fitness functions are nothing to really write home about (more on that later) – and there’s no ‘single core functionality’. The excessive promotions and the gimmicky features would help in initial sales, but the fad might blow over rather soon.
  4. Nopes, owning the Apple Watch won’t be a status symbol – Back in 2007, when the first-generation iPhone released, it became much more than a phone for buyers. To this day, you will find plenty of people not hesitating twice before spending almost 30% extra, for the new iPhone – because the latter offers a ‘cool way to show-off’. Apple Watch does the same – except for the fact, hardly anyone will be interested to spend all their money on a mighty expensive phone AND a pricier wristwatch. The handset will always be the first preference.
  5. Useless without iPhone 6 – Software and iPhone app development experts feel that this is the weakest point about Apple Watch. Prior to release, all the buzz was about how Jonathan Ive and his team were making the ‘perfect mobile accessory’ – and this smartwatch has turned out to be nothing of the sort. For it to be of any use, a person would have to purchase iPhone 6 or 6 Plus first. We have already highlighted how slim the chances are of anyone going for both the gadgets. There’s a wide market of Android and Blackberry users who would love to check out a new wearable device – but Apple has chosen to ignore them.
  6. Health and fitness support – Apple Watch has a built-in heart monitor, and to give where credit’s due, its interface is very well designed. Many had expected the Watch to have GPS functionality too, and they had to be disappointed. Problems crop up from mainly two fronts: Firstly, there are a lot of equally good fitness accessories (for instance, the Flex wristband from Fitbit) that are way cheaper. Also, the fitness support features fall flat whenever the latest iPhone is not in the vicinity. And frankly, how many people do you think will spend so much for health and activity-tracking features that are, at best, half-baked?
  7. Digital Crown does not really matter – Many general Apple enthusiasts and mobile app developers consider the Digital Crown feature as another key disappointment. Initial rumors had suggested that Apple Watch would have some sort of a breakthrough UI – which totally replaces the need to touch/tap its screen. Once Kevin Lynch, Apple VP, had showcased the device – all such hopes vaporised in thin air. Digital Crown/Crown does away with the need to ‘pinch-for-zoom’ the screen of any smart device, and hence, it makes reading text/figures on the Apple Watch easy. It is only a variant of the general touch feature, nothing more.
  8. Battery life will be suspect – The charger of Apple Watch looks interesting, but there is every chance that it will be called too frequently into action for anyone’s liking. The battery performance of iPhone 6 (as reported by early buyers) is decent enough, but it would be a minor miracle if Apple Watch delivers on this front as well. Till now, every smartwatch in the market has been (in varying degrees) notorious for their low battery lives. Apple Watch would probably be another addition.
  9. Durability will be an issue – For a wristwatch that costs a fortune (at least for some people who wish to buy it), Apple Watch is not going to last for long enough. Even if the user-experience is good in the initial phase – a better smartwatch would come along soon, and many people would switch over (after all, creative destruction has always been a hallmark of technology). There is no assurance that an Apple Watch would last for, say, half a decade, (without major repairs) either.
  10. Non-availability of compatible apps – The app cloud of Apple Watch (which is not a copy-paste job of the iPhone’s app grid) is impressive enough. What is likely to matter is that, more than 50% of all third-party iOS app developers worldwide are yet to come up with new versions of their applications that would be customized for the Watch. Over time, developers will surely shore up their portfolio – but will the hype about Apple Watch live on till then?
  11. First-generation Apple devices are hardly ever the best – Consider the first iPhone or iPad – and you will get the idea. The former did not even have 3G support (pretty much unthinkable now, right?). Introductory iPads faced a lot of flak due to their slow and cumbersome built-in camera. Apple loyalists (but not hardcore ‘fanboys’) might take a cue from this and stay away from the first-gen Apple Watch. There is every chance that Tim Cook will announce a more advanced Watch version in the foreseeable future.
  12. Is Apple Watch weather-resistant? – The longer Apple keeps people dangling on this feature, the chances of Watch becoming a hit will diminish further. While the Samsung Gear watches highlight water and dust-resistance as their USPs, there has been no similar announcement from the Cupertino company. No one will spend big bucks on Apple Watch, unless its promises proper performance assurance (and of course, lives up to them).
  13. Thickness matters – Apple launched two super-slim iPhone models at the event, and it came as somewhat of a surprise that the smartwatch was not a slim device as well. In fact, its width is slightly more than that of Swatch and Rolex – its two principal rivals in the fashion wristwatch category. It remains a mystery how Apple would position its product in an already saturated market – particularly when all the points-of-differences are on the tech front only.
  14. Track-record of existing smartwatches is not encouraging – Sony Smartwatch 2 received lukewarm response, and the more well-promoted Samsung Gear Fit has been a major disappointment in terms of sales. Wearable technology is definitely in, and smartwatch can turn out to be the flag-bearer in this domain – but the world does not yet seem to be ready for it. If Apple Watch is a hit, it will be venturing into a territory no smartwatch has ever been in. The odds are heavily stacked against it.
  15. An unrealistic target – In Canada, a survey was recently held to gauge the probable adoption rate of Apple Watch. Only 1 out of every 10 of the respondents (on an average) said they would go for it, while nearly 25% people were uncertain about it. The response has been somewhat similar in most other countries as well. For Apple Watch to reach its sales target of 50 million+ by end-2015, it will have to be one of the best-selling iOS gadgets ever. At the moment, that does not look a very likely scenario.

 

Since Apple Watch comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and other such sophisticated connectivity features, heavy data usage might also be a cause of concern. Right from its general display features and the Taptic mapping option, to the model colors – there is a lot of things in Apple Watch that deserve kudos. Whether they would be enough to make people rush to buy the product is an entirely different question though.

 

And yes, if the Apple Watch is a flop, the entire wearable technology sector will suffer a jolt.

 

AppBoard Tuesday – App Designing Blunders You Should Be Wary Of

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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You know how all good things in life are attained after tough struggles? Well, we did not quite have to ‘struggle’ to bring out this week’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday – but yeah, internet connectivity issues had us in a tizzy since this morning. Any which way, the Teks wi-fi network is back up-and-running now, and we are all set to start off with today’s ABT.

This week, we are highlighting an issue that tends to confuse new (at times, even experienced ones) mobile app developers. Determining the ‘right’ UI/UX design themes is not the easiest task for newbies – and the myth that mobile apps are simply extensions of mobile websites further adds to the problem. Today, we will point out some common design follies that app experts tend to make, and how you can stay away from them:

 

  1. Using bitmaps instead of vector graphics – We are nearing the end of 2014, and low-resolution bitmap design themes have become so passe. The chief problem with this old fashioned mobile app designing theme is that, it does not support high-resolution displays. What’s more – it becomes an issue to customize the displays for phones and tablets that support different pixel density (ppi) levels. You need to move over to vector graphics and start off with high-res, HQ displays. Scaling down the resolution for lower-end devices is always an option.
  2. Using the same app layout for different OS platforms – Are you an Android app developer and have just taken up an iOS project? If yes, remember that a ‘Back’ button is required for all iPhone/iPad apps – something that is not required for Android applications. There are several other differences that you need to be aware of, while creating multiple versions (for different mobile OS platforms) of the same app. Simply porting the same version across the different platforms won’t work.
  3. Using ‘Gesture’ that do not properly respond – Innovative, interactive touch features and other ‘gesture controls’ can raise the overall charms of a mobile app – but you have to make sure that these features are working properly first. Apart from the final-stage mobile app testing, there’s another, easier way to ensure this. Find out which existing apps in your genre enjoy decent amounts of popularity. Implement the gesture control features that have been implemented in them, with a touch of newness (of course!). You need not try to be a path-breaker, and end up with slow, unresponsive apps that irritate users.
  4. Using heavy animations in splash screens – The splash screen of a mobile app should be visible for a maximum of 10 seconds (and even that’s a stretch). New Android and iPhone app development professionals often include animations in the splash screens – which significantly increases the loading time of the concerned apps. Remember, it’s the functionality of the app that people are interested in – no one is holding their breath to check out how ‘stunningly beautiful’ (and painfully long) the splash screen is!
  5. Using navigation themes that make users tap too many times – In the domain of mobile app development, there is an unwritten rule – a mobile-user should not have to tap an application more than thrice, to reach the latter’s main page. Unfortunately, many novice UI/UX designers end up creating complicated in-app navigation paths, which require people to tap many more times. Not surprisingly, it does not take long for the users to lose interest in such apps, and the latter soon get uninstalled from devices. The bad word-of-mouth publicity is an extra.
  6. Not following an app development flowchart – ‘Planning as I develop’ is a strategy you should steer well clear of. Before starting to create the wireframes and mockups of any app, chalk out a detailed flowmap of the different stages of the process. The map will serve as a ready reference, keep things systematic, and ensure that no step is being skipped over. No matter how experienced you might be in creating apps, without an activity flowchart – your activities would be like the movements of a rudderless ship.
  7. Making the app interface cluttered – When you are creating an iPad or an Android tablet app, there is plenty of screen space as well as pixel density levels to play with. That, however, does not mean you can plug in as much content, links, images and other audiovisual elements in each of the screens. An app that appears stuffy and cluttered would never appeal to its targeted users – even if the features are excellent in themselves. At times, certain sections of such overstuffed screens might become invisible. Arrange all the stuff neatly, under different tabs, sections and pages. An app should always provide ‘ample room to breathe’ to its user.
  8. Using too small buttons and tabs – Unless you are working on a mobile app for kids only (and even then it’s inadvisable), you need to make all the buttons, tabs and other tapping areas on the app screens conspicuously large. On an average, the width of users’ index fingers vary between 1.5 cm to 2 cm. If the buttons you have used are too small, users would have a tough time to make the ‘right tap’, there would be a lot of unintended tapping – and overall user-experience will take a hit. Make all the call-to-action areas of the app clear and large enough. Remember, nearly 80% users do not continue using an app that have not performed satisfactorily the first time.
  9. Playing around with standard GUI features – In particular, scrollbars. You will not find a person who loves mobile apps that come with vertical as well as horizontal scrolling options. In general too, people are familiar with a standard image of ‘radio buttons’, ‘checkboxes’, ‘text input fields’, and the like. Do not try to be too innovative with these GUI controls. All that you would ultimately manage to do is complicate things for the final users.
  10. Using features and design styles that users cannot relate to – Leading mobile app companies conduct customer surveys before starting on a project, precisely for this purpose. It is very important to find out the nature of designs, color combinations, audio features, characters (if any), and other in-app elements that a particular group of targeted audience would prefer. For instance, a cartoon character rattling off a story is perfect on an Android/iPhone app for kids – but imagine how inappropriate it would be, if the same character was used to provide serious information (say, stock updates!). The preferences of users are what matters most, and budget considerations are not the only thing you should be concerned about.
  11. Not paying attention to security parameters – The ‘Security 101’ parameters should always be considered as some sort of Holy Grail by mobile app developers. With mobile-commerce activities gaining momentum across the world by the day (the arrival of Apple Pay would provide a further spurt), an app that does not seem ‘secure enough’ is doomed from the very outset. Apart from secure logging in options, you need to pay due attention to data authentication and encryption techniques that are being employed.
  12. Drawing up design schemes that are tough to implement – Let’s make one thing clear first – app designers and app developers should be separate teams, working in collaboration with each other. The design plans and elements you come up with might look smart in theory, but can prove to be next to impossible for the developers (and no, coding and designing should NEVER be done by the same person!) to implement. The trick lies in conceiving such UI designing plans that a) would appeal to users, and b) would be simple enough for the developers to implement.
  13. Using ‘Doorslam’ ads for revenue – Of course it’s important to earn revenue from your applications – but not by compromising on the user-experience front. You will be surprised to find how many mobile app companies do precisely that – by setting up full-screen (‘doorslam’) ads, covering the home screen of apps. Do not make the same mistake and alienate your clients. Arrange ads near the bottom of the screen (no part of the on-screen content should get covered). Users should also have the option to turn off ads.
  14. Not optimising PNG files before uploading – Any app developer worth his/her salt knows that in-app images need to be in PNG format. But that’s only half of the story – and there is no dearth of developers who directly upload heavy 24-bit PNGs, straight from Photoshop. Do a bit of research about image optimization software, like ImageOptim and ImageAlpha. Without sacrificing even a bit on picture quality, you can convert your PNGs to 64-bit files. They are the ones that should be uploaded on the servers.

 

Another thing you should keep in mind is that, app designing is not a one-shot job. You need to make use of in-app analytics software, and seek feedback from users – to find out how well (or poorly!) your app designs are being received. Both Apple and Google offer detailed app design pointers, which primarily focus on human interactions. Follow these pointers at all times. If it’s a mobile commerce app – keep the vital tabs (like ‘My Cart’) above the fold. High-end functionality no longer guarantees the success of any app – an application has to be ‘good-looking’ and easy to use as well. An advanced app that appears lousy is a sureshot #fail!

 

And folks, that rounds up the 18th edition (oh boy, it seems we started only a couple of weeks back!) of AppBoard Tuesday. Most of the mobile app designing guidelines listed in this edition of ABT have been framed after consultation with our in-house UI/UX designers, developers as well as experts from other companies. We really hope they prove to be useful for those who are relatively new in this field.

 

ABT takes a festive season break next week (after all, it will be the week of Durga Puja – one of the biggest annual Indian festivals). We will be back on October 7 with a new topic related to mobile applications.

 

Teknowledge Software wishes hearty season’s greetings to each one of our valued readers. Enjoy the festive days to the fullest, everyone!

 

And, don’t forget to keep zapping with apps!

 

iOS 8 Is Here – But Should You Upgrade Now?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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iOS 8, the default OS on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, has garnered positive reviews from developers worldwide. However, if you own an older phone (iPhone 4S or any of the iPhone 5 variants), you should not immediately upgrade to the new platform. Wondering why? Read on.

 

Even the staunchest of Android fanboys cannot ignore the fact that Apple’s new flagship device – iPhone 6 – is off to a flying start, in terms of pre-orders and sales figures. Tim Cook and his team launched the new mobile OS platform, iOS 8, with the device. iOS 8 has now been made available for iPhone 4S and 5 as well. While your first instinct on receiving a notification to upgrade is to go for it, here’s why you should wait for a bit:

 

  1. Doing an iOS 8 jailbreak won’t be easy – Professional software developers and hackers will soon come up with viable techniques to ‘jailbreak’ an iOS 8-powered device. However, no such jailbreaking software has yet been discovered – and until it is, you would be better off with your already-jailbroken iOS 7 phone. Why be in a tearing hurry to upgrade, and sacrifice phone customization options in the process?
  2. iCloud Drive requires OS X Yosemite – Make no mistake – Apple has done a splendid job with iCloud Drive, which enables users to keep their iPhones and Mac systems in sync. However, for this property to be functional, your Mac has to run on the new OS X Yosemite (10.10) – and that has not been commercially released yet. Even if you make the move to iOS 8 now, you will have to still rely on the old iCloud storage system. Wait for a few weeks, and then you will be able to enjoy all the features of the mobile OS.
  3. Software upgrade is necessary first – Installing iOS 8 before ensuring that all the pre-installed software in your device are updated ain’t something you should do. Look for a wi-fi hotspot or plug in your handset, and do a ‘Software Update’ (you will find it under ‘General’). In addition, you will need certain third-party apps – like Extensions and Swype. In fact, without the latter, you won’t be able to use third-party keyboards – one of the most talked-about features of iOS 8.
  4. Storage space might be an issue – The new operating system platform from Apple needs only 1.4 GB of free space. However, you should ideally have at least 3-4GB of free internal memory space, before doing the upgrade. Otherwise, the speed of your handset might get compromised. A note to those who have hundreds of apps installed in their phones – you will have to get rid of some of the old, unused apps. This is your chance for doing a proper phone cleanup!
  5. Some of the apps might not work – Professional mobile app developers got their hands on the preview version of iOS 8, weeks before its official release at the 9 September event. Hence, they have had enough time to customize new iPhone apps according to the features and software of the new platform. Even so, chances are high that there would be some apps for which upgraded versions are not yet available. You might also find that some of the older apps have disappeared from iTunes. Wait for a couple of weeks, make sure that all the apps are upgraded, and then make the switch (for instance, Dropbox on iOS 8 still does not work). Do not lose out on functionality.
  6. Older phones and tablets won’t get Continuity – Heard a lot about the ‘Continuity’ feature of iOS 8 that enables you to share tasks (calling, checking email, etc.) between your Mac and your handset device? Well, unless you own an iPhone 5, you won’t be able to check it out in real (sorry, iPad 2, 3 and iPhone 4S users!). Unless Apple is planning to phase out the older devices (not really likely), ‘Continuity’ should come to these handheld device models too. And, as already mentioned above, Mac OS X Yosemite is not yet ready.
  7. You won’t get Handoff either – Yet another iOS 8 functionality that is in the final stage of beta-testing. To keep your stuff synced between iMacs and iPhones, ‘Handoff’ promises to be a really useful feature – but you won’t probably get the maximum benefits if you upgrade right now. Once again, the problem stems from the fact that the latest version of Mac OS has not been released till now. According to reports coming in from software and mobile app development forums, Apple is eyeing a late-October release for it, along with the next-gen iPad.
  8. There might be bugs and technical snags – iOS 8 is not as big an overhaul over iOS 7, as the latter was over iOS 6. However, that does not mean that everything will run just perfectly on the new platform from the very outset. As is common with any newly released software, there will be minor snags and glitches, which Apple would iron out over the coming weeks. It makes a lot more sense to stay loyal to iOS 7 and move over to its successor when it is completely bug-free, right?
  9. Taking Backup of your documents is vital – It would be a folly to try to be one of the earliest adopters of iOS 8, and lose valuable documents stored in your mobile in the process. You won’t get to use iCloud Drive yet, but kindly remember to keep backups of all your important files in iCloud storage (you will get the option under Settings → iCloud). In case the ‘Available’ space has whittled down to less than 1 GB, buy a new 20GB/200 GB (as per your requirements) from Apple. The prices are $0.99 and $3.99 (monthly) respectively.
  10. You won’t have an option to downgrade – When iOS 7 was first released, many people tried it, did not quite like it, and downgraded to iOS 6. Till now, there are no reports that this would be possible – once you have upgraded to iOS 8. In fact, if you are not aware about the ‘blobs’ that are used to downgrade a mobile OS version to its predecessor, it would become an impossible task for you. It would be a good idea to learn about these blobs and other such files commonly used for downgrading, before moving to the new platform. Unless you have just bought iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus, there is no reason to get stuck with iOS 8 – which can be initially problematic.
  11. Consider the speed of your device – Users of iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPad 3 please take note – the new mobile platform can slow down your iGadget. This can occur mainly due to compatibility issues between the device features and the software requirements/configurations of iOS 8. iPhone app developers feel that some of the ‘heavier’ apps might not work properly on the older devices – even if the apps are updated. As things stand now, you are better off using iPhone 4S with iOS 7.
  12. Enterprise features would require permissions – Wish to use your iPhone/iPad as a part of the overall software/IT department setup at your workplace? If yes, ask the system admin for the requisite permissions, before downloading the new Apple platform. Right from government-standard encryption and high-end passcodes, to corporate roaming and VIP messaging – iOS 8 comes with a host of new and useful business features. It would be a shame if you could not take full advantage of it.
  13. The latest version of iTunes is required – This is for the users who plan to install iOS 8 via iTunes. Replace the older version from your Mac/iPhone, and install the 32-bit iTunes 11.4 in its place. The advantages are two-fold – the iOS 8 installation will be quick and easy, and you will start getting all the advantages of iTunes as well. For more information on how to use iTunes in a smart, efficient manner, click here.
  14. Apple servers might get overloaded – Remember how the live streaming of the iPhone 6/6 Plus/Apple Watch launch event went kaput on September 9th? The same might occur if too many people are trying to download iOS 8 from the Apple servers at the same time. Hardcore Apple fans would rush to get a first-hand feel of the new platform, even if it is not fully functional at present. You need not be in a tearing hurry. Remember, who uses iOS 8 first ain’t important – getting the best out of the OS is what matters.

Try to gather information from fellow-users who have the same-generation iOS devices as yours and have already migrated to the iOS 8 platform. The actual process of upgrading is easy enough – and you will find the download links online. We feel that you should wait till OS X Yosemite arrives, and then make the switch. Otherwise, the initial chaotic days of iOS 6 (remember the Maps app?) might just be back!

 

Do let us know if you plan to upgrade to iOS 8 right now, or will be patiently waiting for a few more weeks…

Android One: Now In India!

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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The homepage of Google India proudly proclaimed ‘Meet Android One’ on September 16 – the day when Sundar Pichai (senior VP, Google) announced the launch of this new, low-cost mobile platform. Here’s a roundup of all the key points about this innovative project from Google.

 

In all the buzz and excitement about the soon-to-release Android L platform, many mobile enthusiasts missed out on a relatively low-key announcement during the annual Google I/O event (held in June).  A low-cost version of the Android platform – codenamed Android One – has been announced for the Indian market (there might be expansions later on). With this platform, Google is trying to strengthen its already dominant share in the smartphone sector. In what follows, we have summed up all that you need to know about Android One:

 

  1. Why? – There already exists several low-cost Android phones, so why bother creating a whole new variant of the OS? Analysts from mobile app development companies feel that the reason is two-fold – firstly, it would do away with the customizations that the individual carriers and OEMs do on the original Android codes. Also, the presence of a new platform would serve as a buffer against the threat of Samsung’s Tizen OS (whenever it releases).
  2. How affordable? – All of us are aware of how Apple promised affordability with the iPhone 5C, and then royally messed things up on the price front. Google seems to have learnt from its rival’s mistake. The Android One phones will be priced from Rs. 6399 (around $ 99). In other words, there WILL REMAIN a significant difference between these handsets and the high-end Android phones.
  3. On which devices? – Android One is set to debut on three handsets – Spice Dream UNO, Micromaxx Canvas A1 and Karbonn Sparkle V. Since the hardware specifications of these phones are almost identical (under the hood), there would be a feel of uniformity across all One devices. What remains to be seen is whether (and if yes, how many?) other OEMs can be roped in for the Android One project.
  4. Which OS will power Android One phones? – You will have to wait for Lemon Meringue Pie (or will it be Lollipop?) for some time more. Android 4.4.4 KitKat will be the mobile OS powering the devices included under Android One. If the project turns out to be a success, critics who have been doubting the commercial viability of KitKat will be silenced, at least for some time.
  5. It’s low-cost, so will the phone specs be sub-par? – Sundar Pichai and his team have promised nothing short of the ‘full Android experience’ on all the Android One phones. Users will be able to download Android apps directly from the Google Play Store (without additional skins), while automatic updates will be available for free as well. The built-in Newsstand and Translate apps have been worked upon, to make them more user-friendly than their earlier versions. Google Now – the digital voice assistant – will be available too. The devices will, understandably, focus more on India-based searches.
  6. What about the phone display? – Nothing to write home about – but most mobile app developers and analysts in India feel that Android One has promised more than decent value-for-money. The screen size is a not-too-bad 4.5” (only a couple of inches lesser than the ultra-hyped iPhone 6). Apart from generic FM radio and dual-SIM features, the One phones will also come with a surprisingly impressive 845×480 pixel resolution level. It’s nothing out of the world, but it’s definitely better than many phones bearing higher price tags!
  7. Will Wi-Fi be always necessary for updates? – No, it won’t. Google will be rolling out automatic installs and updates that would work even when a user is not in a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is not yet clear whether free updates will be available on the more basic apps for Android, like Gmail, as well. Oh, and there will be an option to save YouTube videos without streaming them, and view them later offline. If watching videos on mobile is your thing, you will love this feature!
  8. What about storage capacity? – Once again, the storage features of the Android One platform belies its extremely affordable (read: low) pricing. The three One phones will have 1 GB RAM, along with an internal storage capacity of 4 GB. With microSD cards, the latter can be expanded to a maximum of 32 GB. When you consider that 35 GB of Google Drive space would also be available to Android One users – the deal seems really good indeed. Monthly data usage of upto 200 MB (only on Airtel) will also be supported.
  9. What is carrier billing? – Carrier Billing is, in fact, one of the standout features of Android One. The phones are targeted towards the lower end of the market spectrum – where making mobile payments via credit cards is not at all common. Carrier Billing offers a convenient alternative to that. After every premium downloads/paid data usage, users will be charged according to their specific carrier charges and plans (pre- or post-paid).
  10. What will be the battery performance and connectivity features? – The Android One phones will run on 1700 mAh battery, which would give them a battery life (under normal usage) of around ten hours. The latest Bluetooth connectivity platform (Bluetooth 4.0) will be supported on the phones. In the wireless environment, the 802.11 b/g/n connectivity promises a robust performance.
  11. What processor would be used? – The three introductory Android One handsets will run on 1.3 GHz Quadcore processors (MediaTek). This, in turn, would keep the device speeds fairly high. To minimize chances of app crashes and non-responsive screens, later phones might come with Qualcomm processors as well. According to Android app developers and researchers, the recent tie-up between Google and Qualcomm was an indication of that.
  12. Will Google offer mobile software support? – Oh yes, it will. On all Android One phones, software support will be available directly from Google (just like on the Nexus devices) for 2 years. What’s more – phones will be compatible with the highly-anticipated Android L platform, which should be launched this fall. There will be no carrier-specific customizations – ‘equality’ will be the main point of the Android experience on these devices.
  13. Will regional languages be supported? – Well, this is a no-brainer. Given that Android One is making its debut in India, it obviously boasts of multi-language support. To start off with, seven different local languages are supported on the low-cost Google mobile platform (including, of course, Hindi). If the phones are well received, there is every chance that more languages will be included in the project.
  14. From where can the Android One phones be bought? – For the time being, Android One phones can be bought from ONLINE RETAILERS ONLY. You can get the Karbonn, Micromax and Spice phones at Snapdeal, Amazon, and Flipkart respectively. Depending on the user-feedback received, the next set of devices might become available for sale at physical stores.

There is a buzz among mobile app experts that Android One will bolster the popularity of the Facebook application. Google is going really big on this project – with its ‘Showroom On Wheels’ slated to showcase Android One across 20 Indian cities, at over six hundred locations. It is expected that the project would be rolled out to several other South Asian nations by the end of 2015. Asus, Xolo Lava, Lenovo and HTC are some other leading mobile manufacturers that are likely to join in the Android One bandwagon soon. Apple burnt its hands while trying to make a ‘budget iPhone’, but it seems that Google would fare better with its new low-cost series of smartphones.

AppBoard Tuesday – Are Mobile Apps Risky?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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At the ‘mystery’ event on the 9th of September at Flint Center, Apple announced that the total number of apps at the iTunes store has officially reached 1.3 million. Google Play Store has a roughly similar number of Android applications as well. Couple these with the available Blackberry and Windows Phone apps – and the total app-count (across platforms) becomes huge indeed. Right from gaming applications and business-related apps, to mobile apps for kids – people hardly think twice before downloading them from the stores. In today’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday, we will focus on a topic that is often glossed over – exactly how risky can a mobile app be? Let’s take a look:

  1. Risks from ‘rooted’ apps – It’s fun to do an iOS jailbreak or ‘root’ an Android device. The former, in particular, gives users access to third-party apps (via Cydia). Two-fold complications can crop up from this apparently great option for smartphone customization. Firstly, rooting a device for installing external apps generally renders all the default warranties null and void (i.e., you do it on your sole responsibility). Secondly, the external apps are often from untrusted sources, and can adversely affect the performance of a handset/tablet.
  2. Risks of unauthorized server-side access – This is something that companies moving their business to the mobile platform for the first-time need to be wary of. When a new mobile application is being created, all the server-side APIs it is connected with can access the inter-business network. It is not particularly difficult for a hacker to steal/misuse such confidential information. The server-side controls (read: security software) need to be really robust, to make sure that creating a mobile business app is safe.
  3. Risks due to absence of Defense-in-Depth – Never heard of this concept? Not a problem – let’s explain. ‘Defense-in-Depth’ is a term that professional mobile app developers use to refer to the layer-wise security measures implemented during the development stages of any app. If the security protocol is violated at any stage, the flaw would be rectified at the next stage. Unfortunately, barring the best mobile app companies across the world, ‘Defense-in-Depth’ is not really considered to be important by developers. As such, there always remains a leeway for malware to make an unwelcome entrance.
  4. Risks of inadequate testing – Okay, maybe not on the iOS platform (the approval procedure is really rigorous here) – but for most Android or Blackberry apps, there are no such security assurance. It’s all very well to find an app that really catches your fancy and looks like it would work fine on your phone. However, it is always advisable to check out the user-reviews for the same first, and contact the concerned app development agency. Unless the standard practices for mobile app testing have been followed, it’s always dicey to install an application.
  5. Risks stemming from blind trust – High-end mobile apps typically have a host of functions, and you do not necessarily have to use all of them (doing so can, in fact, lead to problems). Let’s cite the example of an email client and a third-party document-editing software. When you download an attachment (might be an image, might be a critical official document) and sync it with the app – its confidentiality automatically gets shared. It is never a good idea to share the controls of sensitive mobile data with apps that you have downloaded relatively recently. Consider it this way – the Facebook mobile app allows you to ‘Check In’ at any place, but do you use it all the time?
  6. Risks of malware attacks on business networks – It takes a couple of lines of malicious code to corrupt the entire mobile network of a business. Now, you might be aware of such risks – but that does not mean everyone else in your company have the same awareness as well. If even a single employee downloads and includes a buggy enterprise app in the business network, the entire system can crash. The onus is on you to train your co-workers on the guidelines to follow, while judging if an app is safe for work or not.
  7. Risks from outdated encryption methods – There are several renowned mobile app agencies around the world that still use SHA1, MD5, or similar such outdated methods for app-cryptography. These methods were great once – but the burgeoning number of mobile security threats have rendered them practically useless. Android or iPhone app developers should ideally use 256-bit AES method (or similar such sophisticated techniques) for encryption purposes. A backdated cryptography framework can undermine the activities of an otherwise sincere app company.
  8. Risks of lewd, obscene applications – The iOS platform has a firm stand against any mobile app that has adult-specific connotations/functions/displays. At Blackberry App World and Google Play Store, there are no similar restrictions though. It’s easy to discover a range of double-meaning (and of course, useless) apps, which can best be classified as ‘inappropriate’. These apps may or may not harm your device, but what’s the point of downloading an application that reeks of obscenity?
  9. Risks cropping from data storage – You love it when you are automatically logged in to your favorite mobile shopping app every time (no need to enter passwords each time and all that!), right? What you are overlooking is that – since your password is being stored by the app, it can easily be hacked by connecting (even remotely) the handset with a computer. There are many apps that even store debit/credit card numbers and other financial transaction details. Mobile commerce is on the rise across the globe, and its vital that you look for apps that do not store any personal information.
  10. Risks from apps that ‘leak’ data – Many big companies conduct mobile app marketing, survey studies and similar promotional activities – and not necessarily in a secure way. For instance, a fitness app can monitor the health status of a user on a regular basis. If a hacker gets access to the analytics of that app, (s)he can easily gather other personal health information of the person. Dedicated marketing apps also store name and contact details of a huge pool of prospective customers, and if the security firewalls are not strong enough, the data can fall in the wrong hands.
  11. Risks due to the absence of parental controls – This one is specific to all kids’ apps. With the worldwide proliferation of education technology, there has been a spurt in free Android and iPhone apps for kids – which blend in gaming and educational elements. While it’s obviously a good thing if an app keeps a child happily engaged for prolonged periods, no parent in the world would want his/her ward stay up till – say 3 AM – to read stories on a tablet or a smartphone. Absence of parental controls also opens up the risk of accidental, unnecessary downloads. Make your kid familiar with mobile technology by all means, but ensure that you can monitor his/her activities.
  12. Risks of a free app – Users love freebies (why pay for an app when a similar one is available for free?), and most app developers prefer making free apps as well. Although paid apps have become a minority, so to speak – it is not always advisable to opt for free applications. The latter generally collect revenue in the form of in-app advertisements (which are invariably distracting) and they often collect user-data (mostly for providing personalized services). Many so-called ‘free apps’ also require payments for app updates. There is the chance of malware getting circulated through the mobile ads as well. Once again, be alert, talk with the developers, before actually getting a free app on your phone.

Mobile apps – which, incidentally, outstrip mobile internet in terms of usage by a fairly large margin – have become a part of life, both for casual and professional users. Over the last half a decade or so, people have become increasingly app-savvy, and companies have released zillions of new applications. Even so, it would be way too naive to indiscriminately download any new application that is launched. You should always be aware of the risks we stated here.

 

Okay, that was all we had for this week’s AppBoard Tuesday (ABT). A sneak peek into what’s the buzz is about at our mobile app company now – our developers and designers are currently working on a new restaurant app (iOS), named ‘Tendish’. It should soon be at the store.

 

ABT will return next week, with a new topic, discussed from a fresh perspective. We hope our tidbits, pointers and advice are being of help to all readers. Do send us your feedback, and check out our Facebook page too – for regular updates. From the entire ABT team, see you next Tuesday!

 

Blackberry 10.3: 14 New Features To Look Out For

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Is there any life left in Blackberry yet? Before you scoff at the idea, do check out the features that the soon-to-release Blackberry 10.3 platform would boast of. Blackberry Passport and similar high-end devices might just serve as a fresh lease of life for the ailing company.

 

Okay, so iPhone 6 has released – and Apple fans are counting down the days to September 19, when the shipments would start. While the fight between the latest iOS platform (iOS 8) and Android promises to be absorbing, hardly anyone is giving Blackberry a semblance of a chance to re-emerge as a strong competitor. The Canadian smartphone company – for long a market leader – has events lined up later this month, at London, Toronto and Dubai (to be held simultaneously), where the Blackberry Passport device would be officially unveiled. The new BB mobile platform, Blackberry 10.3, would make its debut on the relatively well-hyped device. From the developers’ previews that have been available since May this year, the following features of Blackberry 10.3 have stood out:

 

  1. Better email service – The push mail notification has been the strongest suite of Blackberry over the years, and the company would give the BB Hub a further lift. On 10.3-powered devices, users would be able to download all email attachments faster, and at one go. This would surely be helpful if time is a factor, and internet connectivity is not strong or stable enough.
  2. More space for Blackberry apps – Blackberry App World comes a cropper in comparison to Apple iTunes or Google Play Store – but at least the developers have realized the importance of convenience in app-usage. On Blackberry Q5 and Q10, the home screen would have extra space for additional columns of apps. According to reports and leaked images from mobile app development forums, the Blackberry Z-series phones would also have extra space for rows of applications. Of course, the overall app availability also needs to increase. Is John Chen listening?
  3. Taking still photos while recording videos – For those who feel that Blackberry has become a veritable dinosaur – well, here’s an indication that it is trying to keep up with the times. Blackberry 10.3 would have the unique ‘Flip To Wake’ option, which would allow people to take still snaps while filming real-time videos. Finally, the company is starting to take cues from the Android platform!
  4. Quick Settings and Running Apps Grid – The jury is still out on whether Blackberry’s decision to move to touchscreen handsets (after all, it made QWERTY keypads popular) was ill-advised or not. However, the company is pulling out all stops to make the touch features smarter and more efficient than ever before. A 2-finger swipe movement would be all that’s required for a ‘Quick Settings’ menu to be displayed. In addition, the ‘Running Apps Grid’ feature would let users view their phone wallpapers (by keeping the screen empty), after the last app has been closed.
  5. Weekly Agenda on Calendar – That’s right, the Blackberry Calendar is also set for an overhaul. On Blackberry Passport and other devices running on BB 10.3, there would be a ‘Weekly Agenda’ feature, via which users can set up reminders for their activities/assignments. Notifications will be generated automatically, and would be turned off on their own (the ‘Meeting Mode’). Even if you forget about an important meeting, your Blackberry handset won’t!
  6. More and more folders on home screen – Yet another factor that would bolster the popularity of Blackberry apps (hopefully). On the new platform, there would be no limits on the number of folders that can be created and stored on the home screen. If multiple folders have to be merged into a single one, the drag-and-drop functionality can be used. Rather disappointingly though, the platform won’t support folders within folders.
  7. Enhanced IMAP support – Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is another feature that would be made more robust and useful on Blackberry 10.3. Thanks to the remote IMAP feature, people would be able to access emails and attachments that were stored in earlier BB devices. In other words, the risk of losing critical emails (or the need for taking frequent backups) would be minimized. A mighty useful addition for corporate users.
  8. The new-look icons – Well, the preview SDK does not include them, but Blackberry loyalists are hoping that the company indeed brings ‘new-look’ icons on the 10.3 platform. Reports from the official Blackberry blog suggest that the focus would be on making the icons appear neater, more streamlined, and less cluttered. The box that surrounds icons on present Blackberry 10 devices would disappear. Considering that this feature had come in for quite a bit of criticism, it seems the right way to go.
  9. Equalizer for music-based applications – With Apple having acquired Beats, no sound equalizer is going to rival that of the new line of iPhones anytime soon. Even so, it would be interesting to find out exactly what sort of equalizer RIM is bringing on the soon-to-release Blackberry 10.3 handsets. One thing is clear from this new addition though – Blackberry is definitely opening up to innovation. They should have probably done so earlier.
  10. Signature Action feature – This one has got mobile app developers really interested. On the default action bar on the phone screens, the most common action would be highlighted – with other ‘actions’ being present on either side. This, in turn, is likely to make customized mobile app development for Blackberry 10.3 devices just a tad easier. For every app, the signature action would remain static.
  11. The Hub Reset option – For the more busy (and the more forgetful!) Blackberry user, this would be a handy functionality. If the Blackberry Hub is left inactive for thirty minutes, all the active contents/emails would be auto-saved, and the Hub would automatically close. This would: a) lower battery drainage, and b) do away with risks of mobile data loss. Toggling between multiple screens would also become quicker and more simple.
  12. Reordering the Settings menu – iOS 8 is more customizable than its predecessors, and the same is the case with Blackberry 10.3. The most noteworthy feature in this regard is the Phone Settings menu, which would have personalization options. You can reorder the menu items according to your precise requirements and convenience. The device would ‘remember’ your preferences, and the default Settings display would be changed accordingly.
  13. New camera UI – The camera features of Blackberry devices are modest at best, in comparison with the new line of iPhones and Android handsets. The competition is likely to get a whole lot closer, with RIM bringing a revamped user-interface for the built-in camera on BB 10.3 devices. While transferring pictures from the file manager, the ‘Album View’ option would now be available. With unique camera-switching features also reportedly present, Blackberry phones can finally start doubling up as decent-quality cameras.
  14. Blackberry Remember gets a lift – The much-maligned Blackberry 10 platform had few high points, with the Remember app being one of them. BB 10.3 would build on this feature, by making it more user-friendly. The default display on the app would depend on the requirements of users, and there would be a tab to separate the saved notes and tasks. Blackberry fanboys/girls would be delighted with how the company is falling back on what made it popular in the first place – the capacity of phones to keep tasks/actions organized.

Although there would be no apps or widgets to conserve battery, Blackberry 10.3 would come with an embedded tracker for monitoring mobile data usage. Among the other changes in the email client, the options of filing/saving Sent Mails in folders and erasing original texts before composing a reply are good additions. With a current worldwide market share of less than 1%, Blackberry is down in the dumps now – and the new platform is not going to make BB a worthy challenger to iPhone 6 or Galaxy Note 4 overnight. However, if it is a hit, Blackberry might be set on a road to recovery.

iPhone 6 Arrives: Roundup Of Apple’s September 9 Event

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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In a ‘mystery’ event at Cupertino two days back, Apple officially announced iPhone 6, Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Millions of people worldwide caught the live streaming of the event – and at the venue, each new product was welcomed with raucous applause. Let us do a wrap up of all that happened on September 9 – one of the biggest days in Apple’s history.

Putting an end to all speculations, Apple has finally launched the eagerly-anticipated iPhone 6 handset. Tim Cook and his team selected Flint Center – the place where Steve Jobs had released the first-generation iMac three decades back – as the venue of the ‘mystery’ event, which kicked off from 10:30 PM IST (5:00 PM GMT). Here’s a quick roundup of all that happened at the event every developer and general mobile enthusiast had been looking forward to:

 

  1. The phones – Everyone knew that the latest iPhone would be coming in two models – with 4.7” inch and 5.5” inch (phablet) screens. According to rumors, the latter model was expected to be announced a couple of months later. Apple sprung a surprise by announcing a simultaneous release of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Tim Cook dubbed the phones as the “biggest advancement in iPhones”.
  2. The REAL surprise – There had been talks about Apple working on a smartwatch (reportedly named ‘iWatch’) for nearly a year now. No one was sure when it would debut though – and many experts on wearable technology were sounding sceptic as to whether the iWatch would at all release or not. All critics have now been silenced – thanks to the grand release of Apple Watch (that’s right, there’s no ‘i’ in this product). Effectively, the Watch is Tim Cook’s first baby as the CEO of Apple.
  3. Payments get easier and more secure – While it remains to be seen whether Apple Pay proves to be commercially viable at the stores – there’s no doubting the element of payment convenience and enhanced security its promises. From an iPhone 6 and/or an Apple Watch, users will now be able to make payments via a single-touch. No more frantic searching of the wallet for the right credit card!
  4. iOS 8, the developers’ delight – For the last 48 hours or so, professional iPhone app developers have not been able to stop gushing about the features of the new version of iOS. The tech specifications of iOS 8 (which will become available from September 17, and will power iPhone 6 and other new iDevices) have more than impressed the international developer community. After the relatively lukewarm response to iOS 7, Apple has pulled out all the stops to make iOS 8 a monster hit.
  5. The glitz and glamor if Apple Watch – Apple Inc’s first entry into the domain of wearables has been a grand one. The company has announced two separate editions – the Standard Edition and the Luxury Edition – in which Apple Watch will be available. Of particular interest will be the gorgeous luxury model with 18 carat pure gold. To fit the wrists of everyone (thoughtful!), there will be two alternative sizes of each Watch model – 38 mm & 42 mm.
  6. The security factor – Mobile app development experts have always been unanimous about the security aspect of iDevices. Apple Pay takes this factor to an altogether new level. All transactions conducted via it remains confidential between users and their banks. Apple will not be recording the amount, time, or any other details of the transactions. Non-intrusive? You bet!
  7. Arrival of the A8 processor – The latest flagship device from Apple is almost four times faster than its predecessor, iPhone 5S. This has been made possible particularly due to the presence of the all-new A8 processor in the former. The processor supports two billion transistors on a single silicon chip – and is ideal for high-definition 3D gaming. The graphics support is excellent too. Oh, and the A8 processor will prevent excessive battery drain as well.
  8. Brilliance in phone display – That’s what the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus promise. The former supports 1334×750 pixels, while the latter has a whopping 1920×1080 pixels – clearly explaining what Philip Schiller (chief of marketing at Apple) meant by “stunning displays”. Both the phones will be available in three different configurations – 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB.
  9. Slim smartphone, great camera – Experts from software and iOS app companies worldwide refer to Apple events as benchmarks in the context of style and innovation. The September 9 event was certainly not a dampener in this regard. 6.9 mm and 7.1 mm will be the respective thicknesses of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – making them the slimmest Apple smartphones ever. The 8 MP iSight camera (nopes, there is no increase in the MP level) will have a breakthrough optical image stabilization system. Engineers from Cupertino have also worked on the exposure and autofocus of the phone camera. And what was used to explain the camera specs? High-resolution images of a huge lizard and a colorful butterfly!
  10. Apple finally embraces NFC – Near-field communications, for long a feature which helped sophisticated Android handsets to score over Apple devices – has finally been accepted by Tim Cook and his development team. With NFC, making purchases via Apple Pay will become easier than ever, and finance biggies like Mastercard, American Express and Visa have already pledged their support to it. Across the world, nearly 230000 retail stores would accept payments in the new mode.
  11. The focus on health – As had been the buzzword for weeks now, the new iPhones have dedicated health apps. The built-in barometer in the devices has, however, come as an interesting addition. Apple Watch has an embedded heart rate sensor, which will double up as an activity tracking monitor. The company has already got into a tie-up with Mayo Clinic, and the Watch definitely has the potential to be the ‘next chapter’ in the realm of mobile healthcare. The only catch is, users will need to have an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6 Plus – to enjoy all the functionality of Apple Watch.
  12. Taptic Engine is now here – Staying with Apple Watch for a bit longer – this is the very first smartwatch to implement the breakthrough Taptic Engine. The technology facilitates Real Touch messaging among users. In other words, people would no longer have to type out messages to each other – one tap on the watch screen, and the other person would feel it. To make maximum usage of the watch screen, Apple has moved away from the traditional ‘pinch-to-zoom’ method to the ‘Digital Crown’ display. No wonder Cook referred to Apple Watch as his company’s “most personal product”.
  13. Metal and M8 – If you thought that the 64-bit Apple A8 processor is a breakthrough, well, there’s more surprises. For hardcore mobile gamers, Apple has used high-end Metal software development tools. At the event, it was said that HD games can now be played at a rate of one million polygons per second, on iPhone 6 Plus. The M8 motion processor is yet another significant addition. The new graphics chip is purported to be eighty-five times faster than that in the previous iPhone. That is, indeed, quite an achievement!
  14. Price and availability – Following the bitter experience with iPhone 5C, it was always expected that Apple would go back to making devices priced in the premium range. $199, $299 and $399 will be prices of the 16GB, 64GB and 128 GB variants of iPhone 6. For iPhone 6 Plus, the price tags would be $299, $399 and $499 (with two-year contracts). Pre-ordering would start from September 12, and shipments would begin a week later. Apple Watch is scheduled to hit the stores in the first quarter of 2015. It will be available from $349. The relatively late arrival of Watch drew groans of disappointment from the audience at the event. Tim Cook assured that the smartwatch will be “worth the wait”.
  15. Celebs at Cupertino – Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Fry, Dr. Dre, Gwen Stefani – there was no shortage of celebrity attendance at what was Apple’s biggest event in a very long time. Live tweets poured in as the activity on the social microblogging site went into overdrive during the event. Reactions were mixed – with some going ga-ga about the ‘revolutionary’ products, while others resorting to sarcastic criticisms. Simon Caine criticized the way in which Apple tends to glorify its new products and projects the older ones as ‘rubbish’.

 

At the Flint Center event, it was also announced that the total count of mobile apps at the iTunes store has officially touched the 1.3 million figure. For fans of U2, there were more reasons to savor the occasion – with the Irish rock band giving a terrific live performance onstage, and announcing that their forthcoming album will be available for free via iTunes. Interestingly, the share prices of Apple (AAPL) on Nasdaq fell by 0.38% on the day after topsy-turvy movements – a clear indication that most shareholders had already checked out the leaked images and videos of the new iPhone. Whether the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch meets projected sales figures remains to be seen – but there’s no denying that Tim Cook had masterminded a truly grand event (the first under his watch). The man’s career depends on the success of the new products, and he is clearly aware of that!

AppBoard Tuesday – Guidelines For Choosing Great Mobile App Titles & Icons

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hello everyone, and a hearty welcome to yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday (oh boy, Tuesdays come along pretty regularly, what say?!). This week, we will be considering an issue that every mobile app company frets over, regularly. There are literally millions of apps at iTunes and Google Play Store – how to make a particular application stand out from the crowd? You guessed it – with the help of the icon and title that you choose for your app.

It’s easier said than done to zero in upon a good title-icon combination though. For starters, there would probably be many similar apps already present at the store – and you cannot very well select names that are ‘too similar’ to theirs. Trying to second-guess what would capture the attention of prospective buyers/downloaders is no easy task either. Even so, these broad guidelines should help you in choosing an app title and icon that trigger off decent download figures:

 

  1. Avoid using text in the icon – You have the title section for that, right? Presence of text will only make the app-icon look messy and cluttered – you can rest assured that hardly anyone will bother to read what’s written in those miniscule fonts. Instead, a graphic designer should focus on creating an icon that serves as a teaser of the overall UI of the app.
  2. Think over ideas, prepare a shortlist, and then choose – No matter what your app is all about, there will always be multiple ways to convey information about it to potential customers. For instance, an airport dating app icon can have the snapshot of any real airport, or simply the picture of a plane. The  icon for a mobile storytelling app for kids can showcase smiling children tapping on mobile devices, or characters from the in-app stories. Once the app-concept has been locked, prepare a shortlist of such icon ideas (make a list of at least 4), and run them by your colleagues, client, creative heads, and, if possible, an external focus group (i.e., a survey). Choose the one that is best-received.
  3. Special characters in app title is a ‘no-no’ – Nopes, they are not ‘smart’, they are, in fact, damaging from an app’s sales perspective. If there are weird special characters (the ‘@’s and the ‘#’s!), people would be confused as to what the correct pronunciation of your app’s name would be. What’s more, your online visibility would also be hurt – since search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines do not support special characters. Keep things simple, it always works!
  4. The title should not have too many characters – Although there are no specific rules regarding this, leading mobile app developers prefer app titles that are 24-26 characters long (maximum). The reason for this is mainly twofold. Firstly, it would be easier for general people to remember the app’s name, and with better recall value, chances of higher downloads increase. In addition, a compact title would also show up better in the search results. Your app, in other words, would get better exposure.
  5. Resize the images in your app icon properly – And ‘properly’ does not only refer to what ‘looks good’ to you. If you are into iPhone app development, you are probably already aware that there are specific guidelines regarding image sizes – spelt out by the iTunes approval team. Make sure that you are abiding by these instructions. There will be certain pre-specified rules for choosing image filenames as well. The icon should be simple, creative, correctly sized, and, as we have already mentioned, text-free.
  6. Avoid trying to piggyback another successful app – Consider this: There is an app (say, its name is ABC), and you have developed a similar application. It seems a pretty good idea to simply choose a variant of ‘ABC’ as your app’s title, right (some people will come across your product while surfing for ABC)?. Remember, this is a completely unethical policy – and might even land you in copyright violation lawsuits (particularly if you have done a direct title copy-paste!). Users are no fools either – they’ll soon realize that you are pursuing a shady shortcut to make your new mobile application popular.
  7. One icon, one idea – Sadly, UI/UX designers new to the profession often ignore this pretty basic guideline. Any good, user-oriented app focuses on delivering a single key benefit to people (for instance, as a social networking companion, or a mobile personal finance manager). Accordingly, the icon should also convey that SAME, SINGLE idea – a preview of the app’s functionality. If an app icon includes too many images, people would get confused, and that’s something you do not want!
  8. Repeat words/letters in your title – A cool trick to make your app name easy to remember, and of course, pronounce. We can cite the example of ‘Candy Crush’ (see the ‘C’s) in this regard. One of our soon-to-release mobile apps, ‘Queueu’ plays around with three letters only – and we feel that it is going to be one of the most easy-to-remember apps in iTunes, ever. Do not make your target customers tax their brains too much while trying to remember your app’s name. It should always be on the tip of their tongues.
  9. Do not join any color bandwagon – All travel-related apps at the store have maroon icons, you have a travel app, so you need to choose a maroon-themed icon too, right? That would be the perfect way to get lost in the crowd of other applications. Find out which colors/designs are being used by developers who have released apps that are similar to yours – and go for something completely different. The objective is to ‘stand out’ and not ‘blend in’. Keep that in mind.
  10. Icons need images, not photos – If your mobile app agency does not have a creative design department, this is one mistake you are extremely likely to commit. Apart from the fact that there would hardly be any readymade photos that would correctly indicate what your app is all about, it can also be shown that a scaled-down photo does not look nice as the icon of the app. You might even run into copyright issues. Get creative and strive for uniqueness.
  11. Do not be vague – Abstract work is for new-age painters, not an iPhone or Android app developer. In your bid to really sound ‘different’, do not choose a title that people find trouble understanding the meaning of. The same goes for icons as well. The title-icon combo should give a clear indication of the app’s overall functionality. A great app can fail if people do not understand what its benefits/services are.
  12. An app-icon should not be a riot of colors – There’s no harm in designing a colorful, vibrant app-icon, but do not go overboard with this. Do not take more than 3-4 colors from the overall palette of your application, and use them in a smart and elegant manner in the icon. A mishmash of too many colors in the icon tends to irritate users, and lends a frivolous air to your app.
  13. Test the display compatibility of your app – Before finalizing on any app icon, ensure that it remains properly visible in almost all types of background colors and textures. No one in the world purchases a smartphone and keeps its default home screens and themes. Whatever might be the personalized display features on your users’ mobile devices, the app icon should appear equally smart. For this, you need to test the icon in the backdrop of a wide range of color palettes.

 

They say ‘Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover’ – but if you replace ‘book’ with ‘app’, the phrase no longer holds true. A new app simply has to grab eyeballs through its unique, attractive, and smart title and display icon. That would ensure a fair number of downloads by app-enthusiasts – and only after that happens, do you get the chance to impress users with the top-class functionality of your application. Like most things in life, the first look is often the best look for a mobile app!

With that, we round up the 16th edition of AppBoard Tuesday. We would be more than happy to hear about any other title/icon selection pointers from you. Write to us if you want any specific topic related to mobile app development covered – and we will do our best to delve into it. By the way, all of you are aware that the much-awaited iPhone 6 is scheduled to make its debut later today, right (you can even follow Apple’s countdown at http://www.appletimer.com/iphone/)?

 

ABT returns next week with a new topic. Keep zapping with apps, and we’ll soon be back!

 

Do You Know These Smart Tips To Use iTunes?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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Do you have iTunes installed in your computer? If yes, the following pointers would come in handy for making the best use of this hugely popular online music and app store.

 

Close to 600 million people worldwide have active accounts at the Apple iTunes store. Apart from being the one-stop virtual destination for music, iTunes has nearly 1.3 million mobile applications – with the number rising steadily over time. Surprisingly though, many users are not aware of the little tidbits that can enable them to enjoy iTunes services in the best possible manner. Over here, we will update readers in that context. If you have an account in iTunes, or are planning to open one, read along:

 

  1. Adjust the EQ setting – EQ stands for equalizer, and for that great quality music, you need to adjust it – ideally, for each separate song. You will find the EQ option under ‘View’ – and setting up the different sound parameters (for instance, bass) is easy, since sliders and a drop-down menu are present. Of course, there is no such thing as a ‘universally optimal equalizer’ setting – but you can definitely enrich your listening experience by tweaking it a bit.
  2. Know the value of ‘Command-L’ – Shortcuts are the name of the game when you are using iTunes, and this one is probably the most important (and often overlooked). When you are hearing a song while browsing along the different sections of the Apple app store, you can directly toggle back to the currently playing song by using this shortcut. In case the Sidebar View option is active, ‘Command-L’ will take you to the playlist of the currently playing number.
  3. Turn on Sound Check – Not the most reliable of iTunes controls, but very useful nonetheless. You might have songs of high notes and low notes in your playlist – and turning on Sound Check (look for it under Edit → Preferences) will reduce the difference between two differently pitched songs. To put it in another way, Sound Check brings more uniformity in iTunes music.
  4. Get the ‘Remote’ app – If you feel you need to sit in front of your iMac to avail iTunes services, kindly move out of the Stone Age! There is a ‘Remote’ app in the store, which you can download and install in your iPhone/iPad – and manage all your iTunes activities while on the move. Since this app is activated by a secure passcode, most iOS app developers feel that it is one of the best mediums to pair iTunes with your mobile device.
  5. Music-sharing is a great option – Okay, let’s start off cautiously on this one. If you violate music copyright regulations while sharing media files – you will be: a) harming the music industry as a whole, and b) probably be facing legal hassles pretty soon. Don’t be too discouraged though – for you can share playlists with your buddies, with the help of approved iPhone applications. You can check out what others are listening, and ask permissions to share music from their playlists too – completely legally!
  6. Use the iTunes DJ feature – Yes, yes, we all know that iTunes 11 (for reasons best known to those at Apple) no longer has this functionality, but you can make your own makeshift DJ easily. All that you have to do is select your playlist library, and turn on ‘Shuffle’ (under ‘Controls’) – and your in-store DJ will be ready. There’s no knowing whether iTunes DJ will ever make a comeback or not, but there’s no need for you to miss it too much.
  7. Organize videos the way you wish – iTunes stores ‘Movies’ and ‘TV Shows’ separately, but you can work your way around such demarcations. The trick lies in sorting your downloaded movies/video files as custom TV shows – and selecting personalized names for each them. Next, when you are under the TV Show section, turn on the ‘Album View’ option. Since iTunes displays files according to their names, you will be able to view your videos (for instance, home movies) under the TV shows section.
  8. Look out for free downloads – Many Apple software and iPhone app development experts feel that account-holders on iTunes, more often than not, miss out on the wealth of free stuff that the store has on offer. In addition to the ‘Free Single Of The Week’, you can download three other songs, without spending a single penny. Log on to your iTunes account and navigate to the ‘Free On iTunes’ section. Click on the link, and you’ll be delighted. And no, there are no hidden charges or other catch involved!
  9. Get familiar with AppleScript – If you are relatively tech-savvy, regularly use iTunes on your Mac system, and would love to enjoy a richer song experience – you need to invest some time to learn the AppleScript tweaks. The default programming language for Apple can be modified to alter the sound effects of iTunes, the interval between consecutive songs, and a whole lot of other features. A word of caution here though – do not play around with AppleScript unless you have thorough knowledge about it. Erroneous changes in the script can lead to system crashes.
  10. Check out the multitasking status reports – Listening to a song, burning a disc, and converting the format of an audio/video file in iTunes? Not only can you perform such multiple tasks seamlessly, you have the option to track the status of each of them as well. In the ‘Player’ window, you will find two small (up and down) arrows, which would help you to see the progress bar of any task that you are performing in iTunes.
  11. Clean Up Tracks & Get Rid Of Duplicates – If your iTunes music library is fairly large, you must be experiencing a teeny-weeny problem. There would probably be several unnamed songs in your collection, along with quite a few duplicate items. That, in turn, makes the task of searching for your most favorite songs unduly time-consuming. Under ‘File’, you will find a ‘Display Duplicates’ option – which facilitates quick deletion of such duplicate files. With the help of certain free iTunes applications, you can clean up your tracklist and update album images as well. When you are using iTunes, you need to be organized!
  12. Are you using the latest version of iTunes? – Plenty of people feel that using an older version of iTunes does not really make a difference – and they are sadly mistaken. Apple keeps adding new software, better navigation options, and other handy features in each of their major iTunes updates. The latest version is iTunes 11.3.1 – and if you are planning to buy a new iMac, make sure that the computer has this version pre-installed.
  13. Sync photos with Apple TV – A new feature of iTunes 11 that you may or may not be aware of. Provided that you have Apple TV set up as a part of the framework, you can select entire photo albums (from iPhoto) and share them on the former. The option to do this is available under File → Home Sharing. Additional convenience and personalization, that’s what this feature is all about.
  14. Learn to use Sizzling Keys and/or iRemote – Listening to music on iTunes while working is all very fine – but you might need to pause a song quickly at any time. Hotkeys like Sizzling Keys (for Mac OS) and iRemote (for Windows systems) come in useful in such cases. You can toggle between different tracks, manage your playlist from a minimized iTunes window (instead of the original screen), and pause/play songs with these remote function hotkeys. Particularly helpful if you are listening to music at your workplace on the sly!

 

You should regularly upgrade your iTunes archive as well, to filter out outdated stuff. The ‘Alpha Navigation’ feature can also be instrumental in enriching your iTunes experience. The mobile apps at the store are, of course, quality assured – thanks to the rigorous screening procedure of Apple. Don’t be just another registered iTunes member – implement these tips, and make your music and app-downloading activities smarter than ever before!