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Google iPhone Application roundup

Google iPhone launching pad

Todays post is a 2009 midyear round up of the status of the Google Mobile applications: Latitude, Voice, Docs, Mail, Maps and Reader. My focus is on the iPhone mobile platform.

  • Google Latitude

    Google Latitude is their location and status message product. The application up until now has been available on other phone platforms such as Android, but lacking on iPhone.

    In the mean time, iPhone users have had to look elsewhere. There are other similar products that perform locational “check-ins” and integrate with services such as Twitter. Brightkite is an example of a well written locational application.

    Google had actually written a Latitude application for iPhone, but it was rejected. Apple were concerned that it was too similar to the Maps app shipped with iPhone.

    Google decided to go ahead and rewrite Latitude as a webapp for the iPhone. It was announced late July 2009, and can be accessed from the Google mobile home page or by using the Google Mobile application.

  • Google Voice

    The recent controversy with the rejected Google Voice application hangs in the air. This week David Pogue (via Mashable) blogged about Google rewriting their rejected application as a webapp, much the same as Latitude now runs.

    If they get this stood up, this will be the next step in the move from the old school to the new, being VOIP. With Skype possibly on the way out by 2010, Google may fill the void – albeit with many more functions than a simple VOIP application.

    For the time being, there is no iPhone capability for Google Voice.

  • Google Docs

    Google docs is currently accessible on the iPhone from Google as a mobile web application.

    The current limitation with the mobile web application is that it is view only, and does not allow sharing of your documents. To perform all the functions you need to use a full browser

  • Google Mail

    The iPhone has you covered when it comes to mail. You can either use the built in email application to access Gmail via IMAP, or access the mobile web Gmail. The mobile web Gmail is full featured, and makes use of iPhone/AJAX specific web features to give you an almost dedicated app like experience.

    On the other hand, the benefit of using the built in Mail is offline reading/composing and excellent integration the the iPhone V3 cut/copy/paste features; even for photos and voice memos.

  • Google Maps

    Google maps is one of the core applications of the iPhone and iPod line. It comes pre-installed from Apple. The quality of this application has increased with the current V3 firmware providing outstanding features.

  • Google Reader

    There is no native application for Google reader. But don’t let this stop you. A couple of avenues are available.

    The mobile web application for reader is as mature as Google’s mobile Gmail. It allows you to perform almost all the features that the full web based reader does, and it makes use of the iPhone safari features.

    If you want something Application based – a new alternative is emerging. The NetNewsWire/FeedDaemon product suite is an RSS reader from NewsGator for the Mac/Windows platforms, respectively. They have a dedicated iPhone application that syncs with the desktop products. NewsGator recently announced that their Beta desktop products now sync with Google Reader, and that an update to their iPhone app is on the way. This solution will allow synchronisation of RSS feeds and unread item status across your Desktop and Google reader, but the dedicated iPhone app is not out yet. You can watch for their iPhone announcement from @newsgator on Twitter, or at their blog.

You can download the Google Mobile application from the iTunes store.

iPhone on Telstra NextG Cap Plans – Why there is no customer loyalty

I bought the iPhone 3G in July 2008 on a 24 month contract with Telstra. At the time they refused to allow iPhone users to utilise their “Cap Plans”, and as such became the only carrier in Australia to offer iPhones without Cap plans. I signed up to the $80 per month “iPhone plan” and that includes $70 worth of calls.

As of June 26th 2009, the iPhone 3GS was released. Telstra now offer iPhones (the new or old model) on the original plans, but you can now sign up to the Cap plans. Comparing these plans at the $80 per month spend level shows:

iPhone PlanNextG Cap Plan
Minimum Monthly Spend$80$79
Included Call Value$70$450
Bonus Mobile call credit$0$100
Call rate per 30 seconds26c35c
SMS Rate25c25c

Note: For data usage you need to pay an additional cost per month if you don’t want to incur AUD$2 per Megabyte of data. This is the same for iPhone or Cap plan, so I wont compare these in this post.

As can be seen from the above data, the original iPhone plan versus the NextG Cap plans now offered on the iPhone differ significantly. Discounting the flag-fall:

  • With the iPhone plan you get 259 minutes of talking time, roughly 4.3 hours.
  • With the Cap plan you get 608 minutes of talking time, roughly 10 hours. (Not including the extra $100 credit to Telstra Mobiles).

Hopefully you can see now why the Cap plans are better value. What does one do in this situation? One would think that you could call billing, change plans to a practically exactly the same priced plan – and change over.

With the hope of a changeover, I called billing. I wouldn’t mind taking the hit of having to sign up for 24 months again, and I learned that this would be required – BUT – and there is always a but with Telstra, this wasn’t all. If I wanted to change my iPhone plan to a Cap Plan I would have to agree to the following:

  1. Sign up to the Next G cap plan for a full 24 months again
  2. Pay out my current plan (in other words pay off the iPhone)

Paying off the current plan would cost me $850 upfront, or $70 per month for the next year.

Telstra – where is the incentive to keep customers. This is not a way to show it. Had you allowed a plan change to one now offered to newcomers to the iPhone on your network, I’d still be a paying customer for another 2 years (an additional year on top of my current obligation). Money grabbing to “pay out” my current plan and THEN signing up to a full new contract is a customer loyalty killer. Next G speed and coverage be damned.

Skype Update for iPhone – missing Push notification

An update for Skype on the iPhone has been released. Version 1.1 of the update offers some additional fixes and localisations, but the major addition is ability to send SMS.

This update is compatible with the iPhone 3.0 Firmware, so many people were hoping that Push notification would be included. It has not been, so the functionality of Skype on the iPhone is limited. Apple does not allow Applications to run in the background, so one can’t receive calls or message notifications in Skype without the app continuously running. The moment you jump out to the iPod, Contacts, Phone or any other part of your iPhone OS, Skype quits.

Without push notifications V1.1 of the Skype App for iPhone remains a novelty for Skype users, and only mildly useful for “away from the desktop” users who need to make a call over wifi.

Tweetdeck for iPhone is released

Tweetdeck for iPhoneTweetdeck, one of the better Twitter desktop clients, has now been release for the iPhone.

I used to use Tweetdeck, until Tweetie came out for the Mac (a native client). However on any other non-apple platform I recommend Tweetdeck or DestroyTwitter (both Adobe Air apps) to my friends.

In the last 24 hours Kevin Rose, of Digg fame, blogged about getting hold of the Tweetdeck beta. Since then the blogosphere has gone mad about it. Mashable reports that the app is now live in the Apple appstore.

You can get it for free from the App Store.

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