Monday, December 29, 2008

The $99 iPhone from AT&T

AT&T are offering a $99 iPhone. These iPhones are 8GB, black, refurbished, i.e. previously-owned iPhones that come with a two year contract. Check out the AT&T website for more details. Shame I had to pay nearly €500 for my 16GB iPhone in Greece....

The iPhone really is a Mobile Office!

Here is another example of the iPhone's integration with your business office:

Last night while we were shooting a wedding, I could not remember how many hours the client had booked us for. Out comes the iPhone and using Vodafone free monthly data I connect to my iDisk using MobileFiles.

For those who don't know what the iDisk is and what it has to do with the iPhone: It is a service provided by Apple through MobileMe that provides you with an Internet hard drive that can be accessed by any device: a desktop computer (an Internet connection suffices), a laptop or your iPhone, provided you have a program like MobileFiles installed. I put all my important work stuff on iDisk, contracts, business plans, etc. It's like a hard drive that is the same and always up to date on any computer you use.

So out comes the iPhone and it connects to my iDisk through MobileFiles. Voilà. In a matter of seconds I downloaded the contract that was signed by the client and which I had scanned and saved on my iDisk, to my iPhone's screen.

Then last night I also couldn't remember the rate we pay our assistant videographer. Again out came the iPhone, and in a matter of seconds I had connected to our online book keeping software, Kashflow, and found out how much we pay him. All that with the iPhone's inbuilt Internet browser, Safari.

There are many occasions when I feel I have my whole office in my pocket, simply by having the iPhone handy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"cannot view large PDF on iPhone"

The iphone is still having issues with viewing large PDF files, whether one uses AirSharing, Files, MobileFiles, MobileStudio or any other browsing app. The problem seems to be a memory allocation deficit in the actual iPhone OS. If anybody has found a workaround to fixing this problem or an iPhone app where you can actually view large PDFs with your iPhone, please leave a comment right here on the iPhone as a Mobile Office blog.

Merry iPhone Xmas

The iPhone as a Mobile Office wishes all iPhone business users a very merry Xmas!
Will you use your iPhone this Christmas to contact all your loved ones? Will you email them, call them, send them text messages or use cheap VoIP calls? I certainly will.
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New iPhone business app: Accepting credit card payments with an iPhone credit card terminal: Innerfence

iPhone business users can now accept credit card payments with a real iPhone Credit Card Terminal by Innerfence. This is a really significant step into the direction of the iPhone as a Mobile Office.If the iPhone can do point of sale transactions, you can really take your business office with you. This new business app enables the iPhone business user to accept credit card payments on site, without having to go back to the office. Whether I, as a photographer, meets a potential customer who wants to pay their retainer, or whether the business iPhone user works at antique fairs, music festivals, second hand computer shops, conventions, equipment rentals, car boot sales, farmers' markets, home party sales, party services or any other on-site services one can think of.
The iPhone user has to sign up with and pay them a monthly fee plus a per-transaction fee. Sadly, this service is only available to business iPhone users in the USA. 

Think of the possibilities of a mobile Credit Card Terminal! Whether people unfamiliar with the iPhone Credit Card Terminal will be willing to hand over their plastic is another issue, and one that will probably be difficult to overcome at first. 
These are exciting time for savvy business users of the iPhone who work on the go, away from their office!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cheap phone calls for business users of the iPhone: fring, Truphone

How to make cheap VoIP Skype phone calls with the iPhone. Download fring from the AppStore. It's free. Configure fring with your Skype account. Dial the number you want to call with Skype and press "Skype Out". Another similar VoIP solution is TruPhone. Similarly to Skype, you top up your account or buy a special savings pack ( such as the American & Canadian Saver) and make cheap iPhone calls! You need to use a wireless Internet connection to make it worth the while and not use up your data your iPhone service provider might have in your monthly package.
I have used fring successfully a few times, however, there are many times when it just disconnects when I try making that Skype Out call from the iPhone. I am not sure what the issue is here. Connecting to IM (instant messaging) services like MSN, yahoo and Google always works well.
Similarly, I have successfully made quite a few cheap phone calls from the iPhone using Truphone. They have very good customer service: I had bought the American & Canadian Saver package for 1000 minutes of calls to the US and Canada and the Truphone app could not log into my Truphone account from my iPhone for two weeks. When I contacted the Truphone customer services, they immediately helped me resolve the issue and extended my monthly package to reflect on the time I had lost and I went back to making more cheap calls to the US and Canada with my iPhone.
Cheap VoIP phone calls using the iPhone are now only one free visit to the AppStore away!

Should I buy an iPhone?

Many people are asking the question whether they should get an iPhone and whether an iPhone is worth its contract. My answer to the iPhone question is: Yes! Get an iPhone now! Is an iPhone worth its money? Yes it is.
You can listen to music on the iPod, you can sync all your contacts, sync all your calendars, send emails, surf the net, edit Microsoft Office documents, use the best iPhone business apps, watch videos, read PDFs, iWork files and MS Office documents, make cheap Skype phone calls and play iPhone games. Should you buy an iPhone? Yes, you should buy an iPhone.

Free blogging with the iPhone

I am using Blogwriter Lite from my iPhone to post this blog entry and this is my first time doing mobile blogging on my "Mobile Office". Writing this blog entry is even easier than using Microsoft Word or writing a Microsoft Office document. Blogwriter Lite is a free business app that I downloaded from the AppStore. I love the idea of using one single small tool like the iPhone for business. The only technical issue I found is this: If you have several blogs on one account, and want to switch to the next blog, you will need to log out of the iPhone Blogwriter Lite and log in again. Otherwise, it is really very easy to use your iPhone to blog for free.You simply write what you want to write and then you post it to your blog with a single click, and yes, that's you blogging with the iPhone, whether you're in the office or out of the office.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review and comparison of best iPhone Finder-like browsers and viewers: AirSharing

As a business and leisure iPhone user, one of the first things I searched for in the AppStore was an iPhone browser with which I could navigate through folders, files and documents and also view them on the go. In other words, I was looking to find something like a Mac OS X's Finder for the iPhone (Microsoft Windows users: the Finder on a Mac is the browser with which you view your files and folders).
Not having a clue where to start, I downloaded some of those applications from the AppStore and started using them. Here are my findings:

- AirSharing by Avatron Software (currently EUR 5,49- I downloaded it when it first came out for free). According to the info, this program is made to view your documents on the go. Using the app, you can also mount your iPhone as a wireless hard drive on your PC or Mac, drag-and-drop files and folders between the iPhone and your computer and view many common document formats, such as 
- iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers)
- Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint and Excel)
- Downloaded web pages or web archives (packaged by Safari)
- Plain text (e.g. .txt files),  RTF (rich text format), RTFD (TextEdit files with embedded pictures)
- PDF 
- Source code 
- Audio, Images, Movies (these have to be in iPhone-compatible format)

AirSharing is the most intuitive of all browser apps. It mounts very easily (at least on a Mac). All you have to do is go to your Mac's Finder Menu, select Go, "Connect to Server" and enter the address AirSharing gives you when it launches. This, obviously requires a WiFi connection. With AirSharing I have watched movies, listened to music (I could do that with the iPod on the iPhone too of course!), but most importantly, taken business and Office documents with me to view while on the go. For instance, I scanned in all my correspondence as .jpgs of a case I am working on at the moment and simply dragged-and-dropped it onto my iPhone. Whenever I went to the public office in question, I had all my paperwork and correspondence with them handy in my pocket! I also keep my company's logo in these folders,because I will be going to my graphic designer's soon so they can design our new studio signage. More importantly, this is where I keep e-books and read them on the go. Sometimes I download whole web pages (for instance, PDF versions of a Google Map when I am abroad and don't want to incur costly data roaming charges). I have also put in Lyrics and Guitar Chords (as .txt files) of my all favorite songs, because you never know when and where that next jamming session is going to start!
I have scanned in whole comic books as PDFs and put them on my iPhone to read!

All in all, AirSharing is an absolutely necessary app for any serious professional user of the iPhone. One flaw it has is its mediocre stability, especially with large PDF files. It either does not copy them to the iPhone, or even when it has copied them, they do not open or even when they open, they crash after a few pages. This is very annoying and will hopefully be fixed in the near future. However, as far as I know, this is not a fault of the developers. This has to do with allocated memory issues that are intrinsic to the iPhone. I say this because I have encountered the same issue in all other browser apps I am using.

AirSharing is a real time-saving app and necessary for all those professionals looking to work efficiently and organized with their iPhone as a "Mobile Office".

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Microsoft Office on the iPhone: Create, Edit, Share

The average iPhone business user and professional would like nothing more than having the ability to edit, create and share Microsoft Office compatible documents.
This would be the epitome of the iPhone as a Mobile Office.
So far, there isn't one app in the AppStore with full Microsoft Office functionality. 
At this point in time, we can only view Microsoft Office documents as well as PDF files, iWork documents, MP4 videos and more with programs such as AirSharing, MobileStudio (formerly "MobileFinder"), Discover, MobileFiles et al. 
MobileStudio actually lets you create .txt files which can then be shared wirelessly with your computer.

There are signs that developers are actively pursuing apps with full Microsoft Office capability. For instance, it has been reported that DataViz are developing a program called Documents To Go for the iPhone. Their website promises "Word, Excel and Powerpoint files on your iPhone". 
Palm and Blackberry operating systems already feature this product and it is expected that the iPhone version, too, will provide full editing capabilities. There is no official release date as of yet but the DataViz website offers a sign-up that will inform of product availability. 

Quickoffice, the makers of MobileFiles, also seem to be working at Office compatible editors. When you fill in the MobileFiles Survey, it is asking you how high you would rate the ability to edit Microsoft Office files on your iPhone and how much you wo
uld be willing to pay for it. I wouldn't be surprised to see them releasing something similar.

Up until today I have only seen one iPhone app that comes close to full functionality of a Microsoft Office program. This app is called Spreadsheet. With it you can create, edit and share Microsoft Excel compatible spreadsheets. It is available from the AppStore for EUR 4.99. 
I have played with a few times (see screenshot), and so far I must say that I am impressed. The great thing about it is the inbuilt sharing capability using the WebDAV protocol. This means that at the press of a couple of buttons ("Import/ Export" and "Enable File Sharing"), Spreadsheet connects wirelessly to your computer and acts as a WiFi hard drive. One can easily drag and drop Excel compatible documents (.xml files) onto it or from it. The only time I ran into trouble was when I opened an .xml file from the shared iPhone with Microsoft Excel for Mac and edited it. When I tried saving it on the shared iPhone, Spreadsheet crashed.
 I will post a more detailed review for it soon.

All in all, business iPhone users and professionals looking for a Mobile Office with full Microsoft Office capacities live in exciting times- when DataViz or any other developer release their new program(s) we will be able to radically increase our productivity, efficiency and organization even when we're on the go.

iPhone Notes business productivity tips and techniques. From "the iPhone as a Mobile Office"

Notes. the app that comes pre-installed with your iPhone, is a very simple but handy little tool.
Of course it creates notes, as the name implies. Anytime I have a nice business idea, I can jot it down in Notes and reorganize it later (e.g. in my business plan). I simply need to email it to myself.

Also, at this very moment, for example, I am using iphone Notes to write this blog article because I have no WiFi coverage and don't want to connect over the mobile provider- I want to save up some of my free monthly data that came with my iPhone plan. Later on I will email this note to myself and copy and paste it into the blog.

Another very useful business use for iPhone notes is creating some standard email responders or email signatures. On our Mac's Mail program I have the ability to create ready signatures. I exploit this ability not only to create standard email signatures with my name and contact details but to have ready responses to standard client enquiries such as when I send out a detailed pricelist. However, Mac Mail Signatures are not available on the iphone Email program. Nevertheless, one can create the same standard responses in iPhone Notes and then press the email button (the envelope icon). This will automatically copy-paste your note into a new email in the iPhone email program. Very handy productivity and efficiency tool for business users with a Mobile Office, i.e. their iPhone in their pocket.

Apart from business uses, I use Notes for writing down books, music and cinema films I am interested in. For example, I have one note that I call "films" where I note films of interest when I hear or read about them. This way, I immediately know what I'm looking for next time I walk into Blockbuster's. When I have seen a film I delete it from the note.

Even the standard iPhone apps that came pre-installed can be used smartly to increase your efficiency and productivity while you're on the go with your "Mobile Office".

Getting the most out of iPhone Maps and Google Maps. iPhone 3G. The iPhone as a Mobile Office.

Business iPhone users who love being productive and efficient even while on the road eagerly anticipated the GPS functionality of the new iPhone 3G. I was dreaming of a real GPS navigation system that I could use like a Garmin Nüvi (or a TomTom, a Magellan, a Navigon, etc). I saw that other manufacturers have also exploited this opportunity, for example Garmin has released Garmin Mobile XT, a mobile phone software for Blackberrys and Smartphones such as Palm Treo, Samsung Blackjack, Motorola Q, T-Mobile Dash etc.
The bad news is: the iPhone is not quite there yet. 
The good news is: iphone Maps still is a very useful tool in order to navigate yourself through unknown territory and it still is one of the best iPhone business apps. What is more, it comes pre-installed with your iPhone 3G. It's basically like Google Maps on steroids!

In simple terms, iPhone Maps works like this:
- it connects to Google Maps on the internet via a wireless (WiFi) connection or through your mobile provider's (e.g, Vodafone, Rogers, Bell, AT&T etc. depending on your country) mobile data network.
- it uses GPS to determine your current position.
- it creates "directions" from location A to location B. These locations can be manually entered by the user as addresses or pointed to by hand.
- it provides explanatory directions for each deviation of the way, such as "turn right at .... Street" or "take exit 25 and head towards Athens Center"

This is how I use iPhone Maps:
I press the bottom left symbol (the crosshair) to determine my current position. Then I press the Directions button.
The "start" field should be automatically filled with the words "current location". Now I fill in the destination address into the "End" field, such as "18 Akadimias, Athens, Greece".
I can pinch and zoom in the screen to see the map from up close. I can also press the "start" button for the iPhone Maps to give me step by step explanatory directions as in the above example.
Of course, unlike a proper GPS navigation system, iPhone Maps does not give you voice directions. The other downside in comparison to a Garmin, for instance, is that the mobile has to connect to the Internet in order to load the maps from Google. Real GPS navigation systems have the maps in their internal memory.
In order to avoid connecting to the Internet through your mobile data provider (and to possibly incur very costly charges or to deplete a lot of your monthly free data allocated by your coverage plan) a little trick is to zoom the map in to a level that is close enough so you can see where you are going but far enough so that iPhone Maps does not have to reload Google Maps every few seconds. Maps only reconnects to the Internet every time it needs a new portion of the map you are navigating.

Another trick, if you don't plan on connecting to the internet while on the go- for example because you're in a foreign country and don't want to incur extortionate Data Roaming costs- is to download the portion of Google Maps to your iPhone and view them offline.

Please note:
Below instructions require Mac OS X, a WiFi connection, and an iPhone file browser app like AirSharing, MobileStudio (previously "MobileFinder") or Discover.

- If you do have a Mac and an internet connection, but not a wireless one, you will need to create a wireless network with Mac OS X's inbuilt "Create a Computer-to-Computer Network" capability. Go to the wireless network icon in Mac OS X, press "Create Network", name your network, and press OK (I have not gone into any depth about setting up a WEP password for it).

First of all, assuming you use AirSharing, open AirSharing on your iPhone, read the IP address it give you at the bottom (for instance and in your Mac's Finder, go to the menu item "Go" and then "Connect to Server".
Enter the given IP address into "server address". Now your iPhone is connected to your Mac wirelessly. Do not exit AirSharing
Go to Google Maps on your Mac's favorite browser (e.g. Safari or Firefox), press "Get Directions", enter your starting point and your destination.
Press "Print" and in the print window will open. Now press the "PDF" button in the lower left hand corner of the Print window and "Save as PDF". Save this PDF directly into your iPhone (by selecting it in the "Shared" section of your Finder's side panel). 

This is a good idea when you're abroad. I navigated myself through Montreal on some occasions when I visited Canada recently without actively using iPhone Maps or having to connect to Google Maps. This is another great example of how the iPhone as a Mobile Office can increase your efficiency and productivity when you're on the go.

Lukas likes sleeping- if you want him awake for more posts, you can buy him a bottle of Coke ($1)