Geomium: initial thoughts

I have used location based check-in apps for some time with Gowalla being my app of choice right now.  I have also used Foursquare, BrightKite, Rummble and Facebook Places.

I like location based check-in apps as they serve as a way to let family and friends (and thieves and stalkers alike) know where I am and what interesting places I am visiting.  It’s a way to be a part of my life where previously it wasn’t possible.

I am a particular fan of Gowalla as it’s quick, accurate and has some great features (like photo’s, for example).

I think location based services, check-in apps and the like are in their infancy and the future will see them all make much more sense.  There are many ways to develop these services and Geomium is seemingly stepping in the right direction.

“Not another location based social media app?” I hear you cry.  Why, yes it is.  However, it is fair to say that Geomium are helping to take these services along the right path.  Geomium, whilst offering the ability to check-in to places, also lets you see who is nearby (People), what is nearby (Places), what’s happening nearby (Events) and what deals can be found nearby (Deals).

I particularly like the idea of being able to see nearby Deals.  Given it’s relative infancy there is already a surprising number of “Deals” to be found so it appears that Geomium are pulling in some good data.

It is early days for Geomium and I and although I like what I see I know we need to spend a lot more time together.  Consider these my early thoughts.  I will post more as we get to know one another.

If you have the first version of the app I advise you to download the update.  My exerience of the first version of the app was frequent crashes and a very slow UI.  The current version appears to have fixed those issues and it now runs very smoothly and appears stable.

Twitter integration, which in my opinion is a must, is apparently imminent.

Have you tried Geomium?  Have any thoughts?  Please drop a comment and let me know what you think.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

2Do Task Management App for iPhone

It’s true I have tried many To Do apps and programs.  It is also true that I have a tendency to stop using them within a few days.

Perhaps it’s because updating a To Do program is yet another thing “to do”.  Perhaps I have a passion for trying out new programs, services and products which, once tested, are abandoned and forgotten the moment something new comes along.  I think, actually, it’s because I have yet to find a To Do manager (be it computer program, web app or iPhone app) that, if you pardon the punn, ticks all the boxes.

Having used so many such programs I have a fairly good idea what exactly I want them to do, what features I need and how I need it all presenting.

For some time now, I have been using Checkvist.  It has a very simplistic UI with some nice features (tags, colouring etc) making it nice to use.  However, I once again find myself “forgetting” to use it.  Again I think it’s because it isn’t exactly what I’m looking for.  Checkvist runs exclusively web based and while that’s perfectly fine (a lot of what I use is web based) I want a To Do list to be accessible all the time and I want it to run very quickly (not having to wait for pages to refresh or, worst, not load at all because I don’t have a data connection).  As I always have my iPhone with me, an app seems the logical choice.

Enter 2Do by Guided Ways.

I have been using 2Do for quite some time, more so recently as I use it extensively for work.  It packs in some great features but, in my opinion, does so in such a way that they don’t interfere with the every day use of the app.  Mostly I want to quickly create a to do item and be on my way.  With 2Do I can do that.  None of the many features ever get in the way.  That’s very important (in my opinion) for an app (program) of this type.  Getting bogged down by (albeit useful) features every time you fire up the app to add a quick item is frustrating and quickly renders the app forgotten.  2Do lets you fire it up, add an item and leave.

Occasionally I want to create a project and embed multiple tasks within it.  2Do lets me do that.  Sometimes I want to tag an item, set a reminder alarm, add a picture and so on.  2Do lets me do all that and a lot more.  The features are all there but they never get in the way.  That, to me, is key to why I find this an excellent app.

In addition to that, there’s a very well thought out and implemented UI that is both pleasing to the eye (I love the leather theme!) and easy to use.

Overall this is by far the best task management app I have used and remains key to my every day productivity.

The fully blown app retails for only £2.39 although there is a “Lite” version to enable a test drive.  The Lite version limits use to 3 calendars and up to 25 To Do’s in each calendar and dispenses with Push/local/email alarms (which alone are worth the small price to upgrade).

Do you use a Task Manager?  What do you think?  Please drop a comment below.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

iPhone Visual Voicemail Problem: Solved

After a recent upgrade from non-iPhone to iPhone tariff, I decided to take a look at the previously unavailable “Visual Voicemail” feature.  So, I tapped the call icon, then the voicemail icon and was presented with the following screen.

I entered the required PIN number (and again to verify) and selected the standard greeting (I’m in a deathly quiet office and didn’t want to bellow out the voicemail greeting for the fear of ridicule and torment).

I called my phone, ignored the call and left a voicemail.  The icon changed to show a new voicemail message and I could play it via the Visual Voicemail interface (see below).

I deleted the message and then cleared it from the deleted messages screen.  So far so good.

As I don’t like leaving apps “running” in the background I killed the phone app and went on my merry way.  Curious and wanting to try it again (yes, sad) I launched voicemail again only to be confronted with the setup screen. Strange. I tried this process a couple of times, called 1750 to ensure voicemail was enabled and power cycled the iPhone but every time the phone app was switched off all voicemail settings were apparently forgotten.

So, I carried out a “Reset All Settings”, re-installed my wallpapers, tweaked sounds and other settings back to where I like them and then ran through the process of setting up the visual voicemail, leaving a message and verifying that everything was now working.  It was and is.

Are you missing anything by not having visual voicemail? No.  Other than a visual indication (badge) that you have new voicemail it’s just a different way of hearing your messages.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BT Car Kit

For the last three years I have been using a Motorola IHF1700 Pro-Install BlueTooth car kit.  It’s an excellent kit, with full voice control and a nice, simple to navigate, user interface module (UIM) comprising 5 buttons for volume up and down, on-hook, off-hook and a central menu button.

The kit works well but it has it’s limitations.  There’s no A2DP support for streaming audio via BlueTooth, no AVRCP for controlling the connected device and no PBAP to transfer the address book to the kit.

So I welcomed the arrival of the Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BlueTooth car kit.  The kit features an up-to-date UIM featuring four push buttons and a job wheel, also with a push to select feature.  Alongside the buttons is a single line display which is a particularly welcome feature over the old kit.  Obviously the display allows full menu navigation as well as displaying caller ID, the song you are playing and so on.

Features

Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
MultiPoint (connect 2 phones at once)
HFP (Hands-Free Profile)
A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile)
AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile)
PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile)
iPod/iPhone connector for playing music and charging
Noice reduction
Voice prompts
4-channel, 60W hi-fi sound (4x15W)
OLED display
Multiple connection options (BT, iPod/iPhone, 3.mm, USB)
Upgradeable software
Full duplex audio
ISO connection for ease of installation

The full low-down of features is available via the Motorola website.

Installation

Installation is very straight forward.  The TK30 uses standard ISO connectors so actually connecting the kit was simply a case of plugging it in.  The MIC and UIM obviously need to be carefully placed and the corresponding wires routed but it’s a very straightforward process and the installation instructions are very clear about how to place each.

The only issues I had with my installation were the placement of the control box and the size of the UIM.

While you could argue that the control box isn’t that big it does have connections along both sides.  This means that you aren’t just looking for space for the control box but also for the connectors and a length of cabling on each side of the unit.  I wasn’t able to place the control box in the same (and very convenient) location as the IHF1700 control box (underside of the drivers side dash) and had to opt for the (very tight) space above the stereo head unit.  This is a temporary location as there is a storage unit that fits above the stereo which has left everything very tightly packed in.

The UIM is, inevitably, quite large as it now incorporates an OLED display.  This makes placement of the UIM also tricky (at least it does in a 2003 Laguna II).  The issue I faced was finding a large enough flat area on which to mount it.  In the end I opted for the included bracket and ball jointed mount, as can be seen below.  While this provides for a convenient location of the UIM I do find there’s a lot of flex in the mount when pressing the various buttons.  It doesn’t feel like it’s going to break but the movement caused by the flexing is a little off-putting.

Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BT Car Kit

The UIM does come with the top and bottom buttons apparently missing.  In fact, these are left for the installer to fit as the device can be mounted in either right-hand or left-hand orientation.  The in-built installation menu (accessible by holding the button closest to the display whilst turning the unit / ignition on) enables the display orientation to be set as well as other features such as language.  The buttons are then simply pressed into place (sticky backed).

In use

In use the TK30 offers very good audio quality.  I always make a point of asking the person I’m talking to how they find the call quality and I’ve not had any complaints.  Most have said it is very good.

The phonebook sync feature (PBAP) is particularly welcome, giving full access to the whole of  the address book on my iPhone (the IHF1700 didn’t have this feature which meant manually entering contact details).

iPod connectivity via the iPod connector is also a very welcome feature.  Previously I had a separate iPod Nano wired in to the stereo head-unit’s CD Changer port via a Connects2 adapter.  Now I have full access and control of the iPod functionality on the iPhone (you can also stream music over BT but of course this doesn’t offer any control via the UIM of the car kit).

The quality of the audio when playing music (via iPod) is very good and there’s an equalizer option to tune to your specific tastes.

Control of the vehicle entertainment system works very well, pausing all relevant audio sources for incoming calls and resuming when the call completes.  When playing music the UIM also offers up control of the volume via the jog wheel.

Issues

I have noted a number of issues which have all been reported to Motorola in detail and most are specifically related to interaction with the iPhone.

The most obvious issue I’ve noted is a lack of audio when connected via the Apple dock connector.  It’s seemingly hit or miss as to whether audio is routed through the connector or not after the first connection of the iPhone.  Motorola report this as an iPhone issue and that despite being plugged into the dock connector, the iPhone defaults to routing audio via BT when the BT connection happens before the physical dock connection.  Disconnecting and reconnecting the dock connector fixes this for now. iOS4.1 doesn’t do anything to address this unfortunately.

Another obvious issue happens when connecting a call.  Upon making an outgoing call, the UIM display alternates between the connected call and “call ended” three times before correctly displaying that the call is connected.  There is a corresponding click as though the audio channel is opened and closed in accordance with the on-display messages.  More an annoyance than problem but again this is reported to me as an iPhone problem (again iOS4.1 doesn’t fix this).

Other issues I’ve noted and reported include poor management of audio routing during playback of music.  I have noted on several occasions, when reducing the volume to zero via the TK30 UIM, audio is still routed to one or both of the right-hand speakers.  Likewise, at higher volumes it appears that audio is not routed correctly to some of the speakers as they appear muffled.  The TK30 does seem to eventually catch up and correct the routing but it seems fairly random as to when this happens.

Conclusion

The Motorola TK30 is a great kit.  It boasts some good features, audio quality (both in-call and music playback) is very good and the UIM is reasonably well thought out and implemented.  Installation is very straightforward, especially if your stereo head unit already sports ISO connections (if it doesn’t it just means plugging in an adaptor cable which will need to be purchased separately).

The issues with the iPhone connection (which according to Motorola are iPhone specific) leaves the TK30 a little short of where I want it to be.  The features are all there they just don’t work as they should.  Whether this is the TK30 or the iPhone has yet to be fully determined.

What’s next?

I like the kit and shall continue to use it.  I am hopeful that between Apple and Motorola that a fix to the issues are imminent.  Having said that the problems aren’t critical.

As always, if you have a TK30 I would love to hear your feedback or comments, especially if you use an iPhone.

The Motorola TK30 retails for around £120 (based on a quick search via Google).

Visit the Motorola product page and the fact sheet for further information and detailed specifications.

Disclaimer: I should point out that I am an ex-Motorola employee although I am no longer connected to the company and therefore offer up this review as an independent individual.

Update: I am using a development build of SW on the TK30 although the issues reported above are common to both the release version and the development build.  The development build does improve the general responsiveness of the kit and allows much faster scrolling through the menus as well as fixing a previous issue of the unit crashing when selecting “Genres” via the iPod menus.

Update 16-Sep-2010: Update: 15-Sep-2010

I have run the TK30 with the iPhone upgraded to iOS4.1 for a week now and can report the following:

The existing issues (as I noted in the original review) have not been fixed.  All the issues, as reported, remain evident with iOS4.1.

In addition to the previously listed issues iOS4.1 has introduced an annoying problem whereby it drops the BT connection.  On several occasions I have noticed a couple of variations of the bug.

The first is that, once connected, the link is dropped momentarily and then re-established.  This may happen immediately after the initial connection or a few minutes afterwards.  The good news is I haven’t noticed it drop more than once.

The second is that the kit and iPhone don’t automatically connect and I am forced to manually connect the iPhone via the TK30 menu.

iOS4.11?

@icraigt